20 December 2006

Kaala Chana - North Indian black chick peas curry

I have been tinkering with my blog template and have got some of the desired results. So please don't be surprised at the new look - wanted to surprise you with the cute reindeer wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year ahead. This will be my last recipe for you before I leave for holidays.


Black chick peas - Dry


I have learnt of this recipe from a dear friend who is relocating to Riyadh this week. She learnt it from her friend. And that's how traditional family recipes go around from a Punjabi kitchen into a Tamilian kitchen. S had a tough time explaining to me what Kaala chana - the base ingredient was. I asked her if it was Sundal chana and she said NO. It is just kala chana.

I take pride in the fact that I have a fair knowledge of most Indian and quite a few global ingredients. And that I couldn't place this bean was just not an easily digestible fact. On my way back from her house, I stopped by at a local 'kirana' (grocery) store and asked for 250 g of 'Kaala chana' - the bigger variety. There are two sizes of the same beans.

I also bought two of the other main spices that go into this uniquely Punjabi recipe. My friend's mom also brought to light the fact that it is this chana that is served on the way to Vaishno Devi temple before the crack of dawn. The piping hot chana on a dark cold morning is indeed a welcome treat. That too when offered as a prasad, it is relished even more.

The recipe will come up in a while, but until then can you guess which are the two all important spices - in fact the only two whole spices that will be used in this one.

Folks - this is one such time, no one's guessed right. The two magical spices are black cardamom and Shah Jeera.
More about black cardamom here with the pictures of this camphor like spice. Shah Jeera or Caraway seeds are used here along with black cardamom to give this chana a distinct flavour.


Kaala Chana (Black Chick peas)

Time taken - Overnight soaking plus 1 hour cooking time
Category - Beans & peas, Indian curry, North Indian cuisine
Serves 2 people

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dry kaala chana (black chickpeas) - around 100 g
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)
2 black cardamoms
1/2 tsp of Shah jeera (Caraway seeds)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste - roughly ground in mortar pestle would be best
2 medium sized onions - very finely chopped
Water 2 cups
2 green chillies slit
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Mint sprigs or coriander leaves and slices of a tomato for garnish
Special Equipment:
A small pressue cooker is almost a must-have for this recipe, or else these tough beans could take almost 2 hours of boiling to get cooked. A slow cooker would be the other best option.
Preparation:
In a large pot, fill lots of water. Put in the dry chick peas with a pinch of baking soda. Soak overnight. They will swell up to almost 3 times their original size by morning. Drain and keep aside.
Method:
1. Place the drained chick peas in a pressure cooker and cover with 5-6 cups of water with a pinch of baking soda and asafoetida. After 4 whistles, keep the flame at Sim for around 10 minutes and remove cooker from flame. Open after 1/2 hour after the cooker has cooled off.
2. In a heavy bottom cast iron pan / kadai (Don't use non-stick pan here if you want the best results) - heat a tbsp of oil. Throw in the black cardamom and shah jeera. After 30 seconds, put in the ginger garlic paste and saute till golden in colour. Put in the finely chopped onions.
3. Now comes the call for patience. Keep the flame between medium-high. Let the onions get brown and as they just start sticking to the bottom, add a few tsp of water to 'deglaze' the pan or loosen up the burnt bits. Let the flame be on medium high and keep repeating this procedure of letting the water evaporate, onions starting to stick to the pan and deglazing with water some 5-6 times. You would be using roughly 1/2 cup of water during the entire process which will take upto 20 minutes.
The result of this process will be blackish brown caramelized onions, turned extremely soft and superbly RICH in flavour - both from its own caramelization and infusing the flavours of the spices used. Using a non-stick pan will not give you the depth of flavour that is the cornerstone of this recipe.
4. By this time, the chana in the cooker would have cooled off. Open the cooker lid and check if the Chana are cooked to a soft consistency. They should crush easily between your thumb and index finger with a slight pressure. Black chickpeas are quite thick skinned so they will never cook to a mush, which is why you can safely overcook them in a pressure cooker without expecting a slush in the end.
Drain the cooked chana. Reserve the liquid. Add the cooked chana to the onions. Also put in the slit green chillies and salt. Keep the flame on medium high and let the chickpeas cook some more with the onion mix. Add the reserved liquid little by little if you find the curry going too dry. In all, let them all simmer together happily for some 15 minutes. If by chance the chickpeas were old and they didn't succumb to pressure cooking, you can do one more round of the whole curry in the cooker for around 5 minutes.
5. Remove from flame. Garnish with some fresh mint leaves. Serve hot with fresh tomato slices and some puris or phulkas or any bread you choose. Anita says you must have halva by the side too. I take her word for it.
A few more words:
  • Please don't skimp on the onion sauteeing time or the second simmering time. Trust me, slow cooking brings out some amazing flavours. And I'm surprised the hasty cook in me is actually telling you this. The long cooking time makes up for the lack of too many ingredients and spices. This is simplicity at its best. Although this is the first time I've made this one, it's definitely going to be a regular in my home. Try it and you'll be happy you made this. So will your guests.
  • I'd also like to reiterate 'No non-stick pan for this one please'.
  • You could easily try this in one of those slow cookers, plug it in and wake up to a beautiful breakfast. If you do try that way, please let me know the results.
  • The chickpeas are a tad heavy on digestion if you eat it for dinner. Breakfast or lunch are the best times so that it gets digested by the time you go to sleep.
Shammi of Food in the main has also blogged about her version of the Kaala Chana curry here.

18 December 2006

Peanut sesame balls


This is another such recipe that turned out accidentally. I buy half a kilo of peanuts at one time. Due to the humid Indian weather, they have to be either stored in the fridge or roasted and stored in air tight containers, in order to protect them from fungus and other pests. Coarsely crushed roasted peanuts are wonderful as a garnish on most Indian salads. A handful of those make a healthy snack at tea time for a protein kick. When my house-help fine ground a whole cup of peanuts instead of pulsing them coarse, I knew I had to do something with them. I keep finely powdered roasted sesame seeds in a bottle for all those recipes that ask for Tahini. Tahini or sesame seed paste in sesame oil is something that I don't find regularly in supermarket shelves here.

Combine finely powdered peanuts with powdered roasted sesame seeds. Sweeten them with natural jaggery. Flavour it with cardamom if you please and what you get is a nutrition blockbuster which is a treat for tastebuds as well.

That is all there is really. And it takes you less than 10 minutes to make this nutty Indian sweet. But if you must have the 'recipe' - here it is.

Peanut Sesame Laddoos

Time taken - Under 10 minutes
Category - Healthy sweets, Indian sweets, Sugar free sweets
Recipe source - My own idea


Ingredients

1 cup peanuts
1/2 cup white sesame seeds (til / ellu)
1/2 cup dry jaggery powder
Cardamom powder to taste

Roasting peanuts in a skillet is a time consuming affair. That's where the microwave comes to our rescue. Spread the nuts in a single layer in a microwave safe dish. For a crisp texture, nuke at HIGH for about 4-5 minutes under supervision. Cool for 5-10 minutes. I didn't remove the skins. You may do so if you like. It doesn't affect the taste.

Roast the sesame seeds in a deep skillet until they are aromatic and start popping. This will take around 3-4 minutes on a medium flame.

In a food processor, pulse the roasted peanuts first till you get an almost fine powder. Do the same with the sesame seeds.

Add all 3 ingredients together in the end and pulse for 2 minutes or so, until the natural oils are released and they come together.

Remove onto a plate. Add cardamom powder. Mix well and shape into balls of desired size. You don't need any extra ghee / fats to hold the laddoo together. The natural oils in the nuts and seeds do a great job of it.

Ideas
  • Try dipping these balls in melted chocolate and cooling them to have chocolates with an Indian filling.
  • You could also roll them in dried coconut shavings for another layer of taste.
News from the food-blogging scene

JFI stars coconut this time and Ashwini of Food for thought is the garcious hostess. Check out event details here.

Weekend Breakfast Blogging has been announced too. Its Christmas Special and you'll find the details here.

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, Indian sweets, , , ,, , ,

17 December 2006

WBB # 8 - Christmas Special



It's warm and cozy inside. The spirit of Christmas is vibrant outside. Your home is fragrant with the aromas coming out of your hearth. The mood is upbeat. You want to do your best. Put out the best food on the table, the best of gifts for your loved ones and pray your best for everyone's happiness.


Are you surprised when I ask you to send me your favourite Christmas breakfast for Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 8? It can be as decadent as you like it to be. Whatever is your favourite on the menu this Christmas, is going to be a part of the round up.

The announcement comes in a little late as I'll be away during the Christmas week. The round up will happen after Jan 7th which is the last date for you to send me your favourite breakfast entry.

The usual -

1. Please post your Christmas breakfast entry between the 17th Dec 06 to 7th Jan 07 - preferably in the Christmas week. Link it to this post. If you use Technorati tags - use the tag WBB8.
2. Email me the URL of your entry with your name and location at saffrontrail@gmail.com with the mail titled WBB8 latest by 7th Jan, 2007.
3. If you'd like to have a picture posted too, resize it to 160X120 pixel or 120 X 160 for a vertical pic and mail it along with the url.
4. Your recipe should be servable at breakfast.


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Picture courtesy: Getty Images

See what's going on for Christmas at Daily Tiffin - our food and family blog.

11 December 2006

Gobhi Mutter - Try something Indian

gobhi mutter


Indian food isn't the same as BALTI cuisine. Born and brought up in India and staying here nearly all my years, I haven't heard of this term 'Balti' ever. Imagine my shock on landing in the US and seeing Balti this and Balti that as a part of the menu in the so-called Indian restaurants. I realised later that Balti was Bangladeshi cuisine but was merged into Indian cuisine so that it could easily partake some of the limelight. With due respect to all cuisines, it is hurtful when someone tries to club the whole nine yards of glorious Indian food into something Asian or Middle Eastern or Oriental.

When Rihanna of Garlic Breath from France wrote to me about her totally Indian Thanksgiving menu , I was so thrilled. Just like how excited we are to hear someone else speak our mother tongue, it is exactly that elation I experience when I see Americans, Europeans and so many others take an avid interest in Indian cuisine. Barbara, Emma and Susan, are some of those wonderful people who aren't afraid of the variety of Indian spices. On the contrary, go all out and embrace the various colours, flavours and textures of the great Indian food fabric. Food blogs have made it so convenient to get straight into the kitchens of the world and take a page out of their family traditions of food.

I can't imagine a more diverse cuisine where a single country's cuisine is sub divided into some 20 other varieties, each one as dissimilar as chalk from cheese.

This simple vegetable side dish is dedicated to all the people of the world who are totally in love with Indian food.


Gobhi-Mutter
Cauliflower and peas sauteed in Indian spices

Time taken - 20 minutes
Category - Indian vegetables, Side, Low fat, Antioxidant rich




Ingredients
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds and cumin seeds
4-5 cloves garlic, mashed
300-400 gm Cauliflower cut into small florets - stems discarded
Handful of fresh green peas
Pinch turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander cumin powder (can use curry powder)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp or more salt
1-2 tsp of cooking oil

Putting them together

Wash the cauliflower florets thoroughly in salted water and drain. Keep aside.

In a kadai / wok, take 1-2 tsp of vegetable oil. Splutter the mustard and cumin seeds. Throw in the mashed garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Don't brown / burn it.

Put in the florets and green peas, along with the spices and salt. Cover the wok with a fitting deep dish (thali) and pour a cup of water over the dish. This will dry cook the vegetables without adding water into the wok and the steam generated will also keep them from sticking to the bottom of the wok or burning.

After 10 minutes, carefully lift up the covering dish with a pair of tongs and check if the veggies are cooked. 10 minutes are enough for the dish to be cooked well, if the vegetables are fresh.
Check for salt and remove into a bowl. You may garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

Serve hot with chapatis or as a side dish with meat.


~~~~~~~~~
This is I'd put together for you at Saffron Trail for a totally Indian Christmas

Whet your appetite with Masala Mor (spicy buttermilk).
Start with the crunchy, delicately flavoured C
arrot Peanut salad.
Serve rice cooked in a stock flavoured with Indian spices like cinnamon, clove and star anise along with the bold
Lasooni Dal Palak (Garlicky Lentils with spinach).
End your meal with a distinctly South Indian food-for-Gods kinda
Cashewnut Payasam (Sweetened milk with cashewnut paste).

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chai
Some related interesting links -

Discovering Indian cuisine
Demystifying Indian cuisine
Indian cuisine cookbooks

And then something to laugh about here.

A good cup of Masala chai felt like bliss in this slightly chilly December afternoon, while I was writing this post.


9 December 2006

Spicy pumpkin coffee cake

Let me share with you the winter vegetable scene in Bombay. Unlike most parts of the world, winters are when we get the freshest produce at the best prices. Markets and supermarket shelves are brimming with tomatoes, cauliflowers, apples, oranges and fresh green peas. Green peas that generally cost around Rs.50 a kg in the summers are at 20 Rs a kilo (over 2 pounds). If you have a few bored kids at home or a house help you can use, it's great to have fresh green peas on hand. Use them in Pilafs, Alu-Mutter, Savoury bakes, Peas soup or eat them just like that. I use frozen peas the rest of the year, not only because of the prices but also because, being off-season, the produce may just not be fresh.

Along with cluster beans, French beans and Haricot beans, tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs, I wonder what made me pick up a large wedge of red pumpkin as I was shopping for vegetables in our nearby supermarket yesterday. I had blogged about this one for From my rasoi - Pumpkin in September. This red pumpkin was cooked and mashed into a batch of lentils, greens and spices to make a Parsee Dhansak.

It's a replay for Pumpkin on Saffron trail. Today we've had a kind of cool afternoon (around 25 degrees celcius) Saturdays are my favourite day of the week. It's a day to laze, catch up on friends, watch some perfectly useless movies running on TV or just catch up with the hubby. Since we have a beautiful concert lined up for the evening (Remember Shakti - see youtube video below), I knew I wouldn't be cooking dinner. Also since I haven't baked anything in a while, this beautiful Saturday afternoon felt like the perfect time to raise up some warm, enticing aromas in the kitchen. After scouring through the FMR pumpkin round up and a whole lot of blogs that featured pumpkin recipes all through Thanksgiving, I shortlisted the following:


Steamed pumpkin cake - Recipezaar
Pumpkin bread pudding - Spicyana
Pumpkin Coffee cake - Cook's hideout
Pumpkin Raisin bread - Fivestarrecipes

Finally decided on the pumpkin raisin bread because it was low on fat and low on sugar too. Red pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, ginger and cinnamon are great spices to warm you up for the winter while jaggery is rich in irons and essential minerals.

The result was a DELICIOUS, bursting with tastes, soft, brown cake. All without the guilt of having used sugar or butter. This one is a keeper. I might do experiements with the recipe using other vegetables / fruits.

I almost followed the recipe except for using a tbsp of finely grated ginger. But here is the recap for you.




a slice of coffee cake

Spicy Pumpkin Coffee cake
Time taken - 1 hr 10 minutes including baking time
Category - Low fat/cal baking, Healthy dessert, Diabetic dessert

Source-www.Fivestarrecipes.com






Preparation - Take a large wedge of red pumpkin. Peel of the skin with a strong handled peeler. Using a fine grater, grate the peeled pumpkin chunk. Microwave / steam the grated pumpkin for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Keep aside.




Ingredients


Ingredients
1/3 rd cup vegetable oil (I used soybean oil rich in Vitamin E)
Packed half cup powdered jaggery (Can substitute with brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 packed cup - Grated and steamed pumpkin
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
2 tbsp Zero cook and bake (sugar substitute)

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat flour (atta)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins ( I used organic Greek black currants)
1/2 cup skimmed milk (can use orange juice too)


In a large bowl, beat together the oil, jaggery, sugar substitute, eggs, ginger and pumpkin until light and fluffy.




Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt,cinnamon and raisins in a bowl. Stir into the egg mixture with the milk.
Pour into an oiled 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 F / 175 C for 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove from the loaf pan and cool on a wire rack. Cut into thick slices and serve with your favourite coffee or tea.
A slice of this Spicy Pumpkin Coffeecake goes to WHB hosted by Swank Caterers at What's cooking in Carolina?

Notes:
~You may adjust the jaggery / sugar used depending on the sweetness of the pumpkin. I used more than what the recipe asked for because the pumpkin was pretty bland.
~If you'd like to use this as an after dinner cake, you can soak some dark rum into the cake once it is cooled. Rum makes this cake real exotic. Don't ask me how I know.
~If you'll be sharing it with kids, use 1/4th cup of orange juice to soak into the cake to make it softer and richer in flavour.
~This a wonderful dessert for diabetics and weight watchers alike.
To complement these spicy flavours, a video of a beautiful performance by Remember Shakti.....

Remember Shakti: La Danse du Bonheur




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7 December 2006

Current favourites

This song has been haunting me ever since I heard it. It is about a dad lamenting the abortion of his child, and the lyrics are ever so touching. Do check it out, this video has the lyrics too.

Flipsyde -~Happy Birthday~-


I've discovered some positively addicting blogs this week. Thanks to Anna's grand Festive food fair.

One of them is
TriniGourmet.com is a culture-rich blog managed by Sarina. In her own words, her blog stands for Mouthwatering Trinidadian “Fusion” Recipes and International Cuisine. In my words, its a treasure of Carribean food and culture.

Her blog makes me want to break into
Africa, one of my favourite tracks by Totos while I drool at the Trinidad Black Cake and the Sorrel drink.

The Happiness Project has been a favourite ever since I discovered it a few months ago. Gretchen's Wednesday tips are so do-able and encouraging. Check out her blog which is a project that she's taken up along with the book that she's writing by the same name.

Check out my this week's post for the Daily Tiffin - Makeover your food habits.

I so want to bake a fruitcake for Christmas, or rather - before Christmas, since we're planning to head out someplace for the hols. Most recipes I've seen on the net have ingredients that I don't seem to find here. Anyone with a fruitcake recipe with simple ingredients? I'd be very grateful if you shared it with me.



5 December 2006

Instant tomato soup (not from the packet)

Tomato soupThere are times when I'm already hungry and then I start cooking. Result - a dish comes together in under 10 minutes. Ideally I'd pressure cook / boil the tomatoes, peel them and puree them to be made into a soup. But there is a time lag between the boiling and pureeing because I have to wait for the tomatoes to cool off. Unless ofcourse I want a red spray paint on my kitchen walls.

I took the reverse route here. Puree whole tomatoes, skin and all with a few cloves of garlic. And then turn it into soup.

Cooked tomatoes are high on lycopene and lycopene is good for you. It helps in preventing various cancers especially of the colon and prostate. More about lycopene - here.




Instant tomato soup

Tomato soup
Time taken - Under 10 minutes
Category - Soups, Low fat food, No-prep food
Makes one large bowl of soup


Ingredients
3 medium sized tomatoes - roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cornflour
Few leaves basil - torn
Salt to taste
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of cumin powder
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the tomatoes and garlic in a blender and make a fine puree.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, throw in the cumin powder and the puree. Bring to a boil. Add the seasonings.
Dissolve the cornflour in 1/2 cup water. Add to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Take it off the heat. Serve into a bowl and garnish with freshly torn basil leaves.
Keep a crusty bread on the side for dipping in. (The no-knead sourdought that I baked was the perfect accompaniment to this one.)

The flavours are fresh and yummy. This is one of the best meals you can make in under 10 minutes. A bowl of soup with a slice of bread and a fruit is a perfect light lunch.

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Check out the array of scones made by Priya of Akshayapaatram which got left out from the Baking for breakfast - round up due to blogger's eccentricities.

1 December 2006

WBB # 7 - Baking for breakfast - Round-up


I've silently been watching entries for WBB # 7 fill and overflow from my mailbox. In fact I didn't open it for the last few days, just to wait and see how many turn in. 34 plus one of mine ( plus two that I fished from technorati) is a deluge and sorry folks for not writing summaries or intros for these. I decided to spend the time posting pictures instead. As they say, a picture is equal to a 1000 words.

My own offering to WBB #7 is the one of the most emailed write-ups from NY times. The no-knead bread. Already, dozens of bloggers have made it, written about it and I made it too. As the article says, this bread just needs the time and nothing else. Make it and you'll fall in love with this sourdough bread that needs no kneading.

Since I followed the recipe as it is, I'm just giving you a link to this beautifully written piece from NY Times - The no-knead bread.
(If you are bored to do a sign-in, I shall email you the recipe or probably post it on the blog along with the announcement for WBB# 8)



Bars and cookies


Oatmeal bars - Priya, Sugar and Spice








Peanut butter cookies - Vaishali, Happy burp







Muffins and scones



Eggless chocolate and nut muffins - Mandira, Ahaar






Blueberry muffins - Padmaja, Spicy Andhra








Banana nut muffins - Rooma, My khazana of recipes







Date walnut muffins - Kathryn, Limes and Lycopene








Ricotta strawberry choco-chip muffins - Anna, Morsels and musings







Blueberry Muffins - RP, My workshop








Chunky mango muffins - Usha, My cooking memoirs






Pineapple coconut muffins - Vaishali, Happy burp









Mixed berries cream scones - Asha, Foodie's hope






Cakes



Persimmon Spice cake - Meeta, What's for lunch, honey?









Cranberry cake - Nabeela, Trial and error







Apple cake with cinnamon and nutmeg - Mantu, Spice and curry






Saffron Walnut eggless cake - Mythreyee, Try this recipe






Tropical Fruit slice - Anh, Food lover's journey







Breads and more


Cinnamon Swirls - Maheshwari, Beyond the usual







Bagels for breakfast - Anita, A mad tea party






Grainy Low-fat Cranberry Nut Bread - Alison, Full Tummy








Guiltfree banana bread - Alison, Full tummy







Honey wheat bread - Lakshmiammal, Cook food serve love








Savoury Onion quick bread - Smita, Smita serves you right







Banana bread - Lakshmi, Flavours of Indian rasoi








Jammy Buns - Madhuli, Food Court







Healthy wheat triangles - Pooja, Creative Ideas




Carrot potato rolls - Vinaya, A whirl of aroma








Orange Bread - Ashwini, Food for thought







No-Knead bread (Sourdough) - Saffron Trail










Eggs & others


Zuccchini Frittata - Monisha, Coconut chutney






Baked beans and egg toasties - Praveena, Clothed cook







Onion and goat cheese tartlets - Indosungod, Daily Musings








Meatless sausage bake - Pavani, Cook's Hideout






Baked vegetables - Menu today








Handvoh - Trupti, The spice who loved me







Wheat puttu - Maneka, Kerala Kitchen







Kalthappam (Rice cake with jaggery) - Shaheen, Malabar Spices









Spicy chocolate strawberry bread pudding -
Cooking in Westchester, Rinku