Post 24: Chutney

One thing I have realized since the time I have been blogging is that I would not make a good food blogger. The reason is simple. I forget to take pictures while cooking and whenever I go dining else where, I cannot resist the urge to jump on the food before taking pretty pictures of presentation. Most of the recipes that have been handed down from my mother do not come with standard measurements and have to be based on what you see and taste while cooking. so why another food post? – Blogging about food has been a good way to chronicle some of the recipes that I have learnt.

The word ‘Chutney’ or ‘chutnee’ (pronounced CHətnē ) refers to a condiment made of fruits or vegetables, usually savoury with some tangy flavours thrown in. The chutney is very often ground to a paste like consistency (a barring a few recipes that are chunky in texture). The chutney is usually tangier or spicier than the food itself since it is supposed to enhance the favours of plain dishes. Here are two of the chutney’s I have learnt from my mother-in-law as they happen to be my husband’s favourite condiments to go with idli’s or dosa. Whoever said ” the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach”, knew what she was talking about.

Tomato chutney

You’ll need:

Shallots- a handful

Green chillies- to taste

Tomatoes- 2 medium sized, diced

Garlic -6-7 cloves

Mustard seed- 1/2 tsp.

Curry leaves

oil

salt to taste

Grind together the garlic cloves, green chillies, tomatoes and chopped shallots or mini onions (you can use onions if you want but choose the one that is not sweet) to a fine paste. Heat oil. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the tomato-garlic paste, salt and let it cook till the chutney thickens to a desired consistency.photo 1-1

You would know the taste is right when you can taste the tang from the tomatoes and a slight flavour of garlic. This chutney serves as a good marinade for chicken and will remain in the fridge for upto a week. I often use it as a base for curries when I am slightly pressed for time.

Ridge Gourd Chutney:

Ridge gourd or turai or beerakai is a common vegetable in India. You might know it as Luffa. yes , Luffa…the bathing loofah is made of this vegetable once dried. You may find different regional variations of the ridge-gourd chutney online but the recipe I have learnt only uses the outer skin of the vegetable.

ridge+gourd

Image via.
You’ll need:

One medium sized ridgegourd- peel the skin(or the first few millimetres with a paring knife)

Garlic cloves-5-6

green chillies,

salt to taste

mustard seeds and urad daal – 1/2 tsp.

tamarind- 2 marble sized (Soak in water and extract the pulp)

Curry leavesphoto 2-1Heat Oil. Add mustard seeds, urad daal and curry leaves followed by the ridge gourd skins, green chillies and garlic. Cook till the skins start to soften. Add salt and cook some more.

Let it cool and grind with the tamarind pulp. add the tamarind pulp in small portions , taste often to check that the sourness does not overpower the flavour. A good chutney would have a balance of spicy and tangy.

The remaining vegetable can be cut into chunks and used in sambhar or mixed vegetable preparations.

Phir Milenge!!

Post 18: sugar and spice

It has been a long time that I tried a new recipe. Especially an Indian recipe. There are as many  different cuisines in the country as there are languages (Wikipedia says , and I quote, “According to Census of India of 2001, 30 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000”)  and chances are you can find some hidden gems in every local cuisine you try! I recently tried my hand  at a new mutton (goat meat) curry  from a recipe I got from my sister who got it from her husband’s uncle who lives in Ranchi, India and for some reason, not known to me, calls it “atte”

This recipe is slightly unconventional in two ways. One, It uses sugar as a flavor enhancer for the curry (some Gujarati and Bengali savory dishes use sugar too!) and secondly  it uses the ready-made,store bought meat masala (spice-mix). Most recipes from back home call for making the spice mix from scratch but this one takes the easy route!

ATTE MUTTON

You’d need:
1 kg mutton or beef(beef takes longer to cook)
500 gm onion, thinly sliced
500 gm tomatoes
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1-2 Bay leaves
1-2 Basic ilaichi (black cardamom)
Red chili powder to taste.
3-4 tbsp Meat masala
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp Ghee
Coriander for garnish

1. In a thick bottomed pan, heat some ghee and add the sliced onions. Saute till the onion starts to brown. Add ginger-garlic paste.

2. Separately steam the tomatoes and remove the skin. Mash up and add to the browned onions. Let it cook.

3. Add the sugar, red chili powder, meat masala and rest of the spices. Cook well till ghee separates and add the mutton. Let it cook well in spice mix in high heat.

4. Cover with a thick lid and cook on low heat till the meat is tender.

5. Garnish with chopped coriander.

If you use a pressure cooker, add a little bit of water and cook till 5 whistles on slow heat. This is best served with roti’s or naan but rice will do just fine too. I am looking forward to try some more recipes with the sugar and spice mix and will keep you posted on how it turns out.

Phir Milenge!

Apples of the Earth

My French word of the day is “Pomme de terre” or Potato in simple English. Translated it means Apples of the earth and I think that name is totally appropriate.

Every culture in the world has its own potato variation and I like potatoes of all shapes and sizes..baked, fried, boiled, mashed you name it. Back home in India, potatoes are cooked with any and every vegetable possible- spinach, green beans, peas, green bell peppers to name a few and all kinds of meat. This weekend I celebrated potatoes and made two different basic versions that were cooked in my home.

Recipe-1 Fried Potatoes.

Chop the Potatoes into small chunks. The thicker the chunks, the longer they will take to cook.

Add Cumin seeds to hot oil. Let splatter. Splattering is what infuses the flavor of the seed into the oil and it is important that the oil is hot enough. My mom says she can taste “raw oil” if you add the cumin or mustard seeds in cooler oil that does not splatter but I cannot tell the difference to be honest.

Add chopped potatoes. Let them cook in oil for a minute or two.

Add turmeric and salt to your liking at this point.

Potatoes will cook to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, much like french fries. Remember to keep a steady flame throughout the cooking process, if you put it on sim the potatoes will become soggy.

10 seconds before removing the potatoes , add red chilli flakes to your liking.

fried potatoes can be served with boiled rice and some lentil curry or mor-curry (yogurt-curry)

Recipe-2 Puné Potatoes

I call them Puné potatoes because I had this style of potatoes in a place called Puné. I don’t know the real name for this recipe.

Boil the Potatoes till soft, peel and cut into eighths. Basically the potatoes are cooked and all that remains is to season them.

To one table spoon oil add Mustard seeds, Green chillies- split lengthwise and curry leaves.

Add turmeric and salt to the hot oil and immediately add Boiled potatoes. Turmeric can burn in oil and give a bitter taste so be very quick.

Mix it up and smash the potatoes as you do but don’t fully mash them !. Turn off the heat. 10 mins to boil and 5 minutes on the cook-top and delicious potatoes are ready to serve. I usually serve these with poori – a type of fried bread or roti (flat bread)

Tip – Potatoes absorb salt and you might need to add more salt as compared to other vegetables

Trust me by simply switching two ingredients – cumin seeds and red chilly flakes with mustard seeds and green chillies- and two cooking methods – frying v/s boiling –  you would get two different flavors for your potatoes.

Phir Milenge!!

Green Beans for Jess

My friend Jess is a trooper. She loves Indian food and is willing to brave the hardships that come with it – Red face, excessive perspiration, heart burn and digestive discomfort. It has got the makings of true love I tell you.

Indian foods are spicy as compared to continental food but what you eat at the restaurant is something hardly anyone consumes on a daily basis. To tell you the truth ,  There are a lot of simple every day recipes that are non-spicy, non-oily and non life threatening. They are simply not restaurant worthy. I love cooking at home for Jess and I can find comfort in fact that she will not be downing Pepto-Bismol next morning.

Here is a recipe for making Green beans – its a dish from south of India and its commonly called “Thoran” and you would find this served in a restaurant that offers a south-Indian ‘Thali’ (platter).

Wash and Rise the green beans. You can use french beans and flat beans for this recipe too as well as cabbage. Chop Green beans very fine. Chop Yellow onions as finely as you can.

 

Other ingredients you would need are: Mustard seeds, green chillies – slit length wise and curry leaves. You can replace curry leaves with coriander leaves too if you want.  If you don’t want too much heat, remember to remove the seeds from the chillies.

 

 

Heat one tablespoon of Oil in a pan. The oil should be hot enough that the mustard seeds start to splatter as soon as they hit the pan.  Add the chillies, curry leaves and onions to the oil.

 

When the onions are little tender , add turmeric and salt. Add chopped beans.

Cover and let it cook on low heat for some time. I would say keep checking at regular intervals to see how it is coming along.  The beans are cooked when they are Al dente – cooked but not soggy.

Just before removing it from heat, add grated coconut for garnish , if you would like.

 

This would generally be served with boiled rice and Yogurt-curry called “Mor-Curry”.  The idea of putting my cooking into a post did not strike me until I was half way through and I do not have pictures of what I made but there is a very good instructional video on Youtube. Click here.

It is a simple south Indian meal which is easy on the stomach. If you do try to make it , Let me know how it turned out and if you liked it.

Phir Milenge!!

Sunday Morning – Storm in a “Chai” cup

I call my self a seasoned tea-addict.  These days there are so many flavored and herbal teas available on the market; some without having anything to do with the actual tea-leaves; that making a choice can be overwhelming for a tea-newbie. I have tried so many teas but my heart is stubbornly still stuck to the strong Indian Tea – Chai latte as some big coffee chains call it and referred to as masala tea else where.

I have fond memories of having cup of chai and reading the newspaper sitting alongside my dad who himself is a tea-lover. That was then but now  read my news online and my mornings start with an instant coffee or juice. “Chai” still is my perfect Sunday indulgence.

Generally the recommended ratio is half a cup of water with half a cup of milk to make a cup of chai, I usually go with a ratio of 1:1.5. 1 cup of water and 1.5 cup of milk to make two cups of Chai.

If you cannot find Assam or Darjeeling tea in your grocery store, the Orange pekoe tea comes in as a close second.

I flavored my tea with some cardamom today. Although I also use ginger on some cold Canadian nights and if you have sore throat that hurts try adding (only) a few crushed peppercorns and you will feel warm with in and all over. If you can get yourself some holy basil leaves (tulsi) or a few drops holy basil oil available at natural food stores, your chai would beat chicken soup for relieving colds.

The trick is to let the water come to a running boil before you add anything. Patience is key :). Add sugar and cardamom let it boil for few more seconds. The base idea is that all the ingredients are  fully ‘cooked’.

Add your Tea bag and let boil. The longer it boils the stronger and bitter your chai would be. Then add milk. The tea leaves continue to seep into the milk. I like my chai more milky and I let it  simmer on medium heat for a minute or two.

I love to see the foam rise to the rim of the pan before I remove it from the heat and serve.

My perfect ” Chai ki pyaali” (cup of tea) with a few arrowroot cookies to go with it. I know it’s been a long post. You know what I think the Japanese got it right , making and serving of tea is a ceremony to be enjoyed and its good for us. 🙂

Phir Milenge!!