Friday, August 27, 2010

Recipe: Tomato Omelette (Vegan) aka Besan Ka Chilla

As a child of 8 or so, I was suprised when the drive-in restaurant in our home town that was run and managed by Brahmins started offerring a dish called Tomato Omelette. While many Brahmins in Mangalore did eat fish and eggs, - it was unheard of, for an Udupi menu restaurant to actually serve eggs.

As a child of my generation you did not put such questions into words and since I'm not a great fan of fresh tomato chunks, I never tasted this dish until much later. It was then that I realised that what was called a Tomato Omelette in Mangalore, was a close relative of the besan ka chilla of North India.

While the chillas that I have had in North India, are much thinner (more water in the batter) and have a mix of onions, tomato, chilli, ginger and fresh corriander, the tomato omelette is a thicker batter with tomatoes and fresh corriander as the main ingredients.

What I make at home, is a combination of the 2. With the cuttings of North India and the thickness of South India almost like an Utthappam.


Ingredients:
1 small tomato
1 small onion
1 green chilli
a pinch or two of shredded ginger
a few sprigs of fresh corriander (dhaniya)
salt to taste
pinch of haldi
pinch of corriander powder - optional
2 small katoris of besan
Water - as required

Method:
Chop the tomato, onion, chilli and corriander. (My chunks of tomato are larger, so I can pull them out - still don't like taste/texture of fresh tomato)
Make a batter of the chopped cuttings, ginger, the besan and water.
Add a little turmeric powder, so that the omelette is yellow when cooked. (close to what an egg omelette colour is like)
Add salt to taste.
If you want to make it like Utthappams (thick and fluffy) add a bit of eno to the batter to aerate it.
Lightly grease a pan.
Pour batter and fry the omelette

You can flip it over and fry it on the other side too if you like.

This can be served with any number of combinations.
In Mangalore it is served with coconut chutney as a breakfast or snack item.
The husband prefers it with bhujiya or sev, so I serve it to him with a bhujiya ki sabji
For myself, I was in the mood for something sweet and spicy, so I had it with some homemade Jalapeno Jelly that a friend had given me.
With the humidity, the jelly was running all over the omelette, but it tasted excellent :)

You can even serve this with a vegetarian side dish, if you want to make a complete meal out of it.

Recipe: Bhujiya ki Sabji

The husband loves to munch on sev and bhujiyas of different kinds. He enjoys the crispy taste and texture as a topping to most breakfasts - upma, poha, dosas etc.

He also enjoys it as a snack between meals. While sev and bhujiyas are extremely tasty, they are not the healthiest of options, being deep fried, high on salt and commercially made with preservatives etc (I avoid deep frying at home as far as possible)

To help fill his stomach faster and with a dose of healthy bits in it. I sometimes make a sev/bhujiya ki sabji inspired in parts by dishes of this kind served in Gujarat and Maharashtra and a bit by bhel puri.

I do this by adding chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies and fresh corriander and mixing it all up. You can add a dash of lime juice too if you like a bit of tartness in your snack.


It has to be eaten as soon as it is mixed up, else it will turn soggy from the water content of the onions and tomatoes.

You can try adding chopped cucumbers or grated carrots too.

Kitchen Essentials: Besan / Gram Flour / Sanya Peet

Many Indian recipes call for gram flour or besan. It is the main ingredient for batter frying pakodas, making dishes like kadhi and desserts like besan ki laddu and mysorepak among others.

It is high in proteins and low on gluten and sometimes used as an egg substitute by vegans.

American stores may sell this as Garbanzo flour or Chickpea flour.

I did not find this ingredient in Egyptian markets, even though garbanzo beans - hummus are very widely consumed. But I did find the chickpea lentils in Egypt.


The first bottle to the left, contains chickpeas /  garbanzo beans / channa / hummus.
The middle bottle has the chickpea lentils / channa dhal which is available commercially. Essentially this is chickpeas that are cooked, cooled, roasted and dried.
The final bottle contains besan which is normally a pale yellow shade.

Besan can be made by powdering roasted chickpea lentils, in case you cannot find it easily in a market in your city.

Its also available on Amazon.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Onam Sadya with Mrs. Leelavathi Menon (Recipes Included)

I know I've been remiss about blogging for the last couple of months. Onam is a time for new beginnings, so it seemed like a perfect reason to get back to writing. A Malyali friends mother invited us over to join the family for their Onam Sadya and Aunty very kindly explained to me the details of the traditional meal. Errors, if any, in this article will be due to my own incomplete understanding or regional differences in practices.

Onam is a festival celebrated in Kerala to rejoice in the rice harvest among other reasons. Most South Indian states will also be celebrating their own Rice Harvest Festivals in the coming days. My community in Mangalore, celebrates it on the 8th of September each year. (we follow the Western calendar) I may just write about that next week. (fingers crossed) :)
 As Onam is also the festival of rain flowers, beautiful designs are created on the floor with different flowers called Onapookkalam or Rangoli as it is known in Hindi speaking parts of India.

While traditionally Onam is celebrated over 10 days and sadyas (meals) are eaten over plaintain leaves, it is difficult to find these traditions in their entirety outside of Kerala. Convenience and lack of availability of key ingredients means some things have to be planned way in advance or compromised upon.While our meal today wasn't as traditional with banana leaf et al, the spirit and enthusiasm of Mrs Leelavathi Menon's family made it a wonderful experience.


Like most cooks of her generaton, Aunty cooks without precise measurements. Its a handful of this and a pinch of that. The recipes that follow are hers and without measurements. If you would like me to try and pin down the measurements for something, do let me know. Hopefully the pictures of the finished products will help you decide on quantities.

Traditionally, there is an order in which food needs to be served and where it is placed on the leaf. I have seen this in other South Indian Brahmin communities, but have not observed this in the North Indian style except for Rotis before Rice

The first course of an Onam Sadya is always Parippu & Nayya with Appalams & Rice.
Nayya is Ghee. Appalams are the Kerala papads that have to be deep fried traditional style, no nonsense of roasting or microwaving them.

Parippu is a preparation involving Moong Dhal.
Roast the Moong Dhal for a bit and then add water and cook it with some salt and a coarsely ground mixture of coconut, jeera and green chillies.
When cooked, season it with raw ghee and raw curry leaves.
(The consistency is thick like a Dhal Makhni, but much lighter on the stomach)
Serve with hot rice, ghee and Appalams


  
From Left to Right: Sambhar, Olan, Parippu, Avial and Cabbage+ Carrot Thoran. The Central large dish is the Kalan









Olan is next. A dish made with Red Lobia.
Presure cook the red lobia with a little salt.
When done, add some pumpkin (kaddhu and cook again until the pumpkin turns soft.
Mash the mixture slightly, like you would while making chhole.
Add some coconut milk and take off the fire just before it bubbles.
Season with coconut oil (uncooked) and raw curry leaves

Avial is the next dish on the menu.
This is a dish most easily identified with Vegetarian Malyali cooking.
Any combination of vegetables is cut into crudites
The vegetables are cooked with turmeric, salt and a pinch of chilli powder.
When cooked, add finely b eaten curd to the mix.
Then add a coarsely ground mixture of coconut, cumin (jeera), green chillies and curry leaves.
Season with fresh coconut oil and fresh curry leaves.


Thoran is the dry dish served with all these Vegetarian curries.
Thoran can be made with beans or cabbage or carrots or a combination of vegetables.
For this dish, the vegetables need to be grated or sliced thinly
Coarsely, dry grind some coconut, onions, cumin (jeera), green chillies and curry leaves.
Heat some oil in a pan.
Add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add urad dhal or raw rice to complete the seasoning.
To this seasoning, add chopped onions and curry leaves.
When the onions are between translucent and light brown, add the vegetables and some salt and cover and cook till done
(Note: Do not add any water to the vegetables unless you are cooking beans)
When the vegetables are cooked, add the coarsely ground coconut mixture.
Stir well and remove from the flame.

Sambhar or Kalan is the next course.

Kalan is a curry made with Yam (Jhimikand), Ash Gourd (Petha) and/or Kerala Bananas (Nandarkai)
Kalan can be made with a combination of these vegetables or any one of them.
Lightly cook the vegetables with a little turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.
Finely grind some coconut with cumin and pepper corns. You can add water or curd/yoghurt to smoothen and moisturise the mix.
Add some beaten curd and the coconut mixture to the cooked vegetables.
When it starts to boil, remove fromheat and season with mustard, fenugreek seeds (methi), dry red chillies and curry leaves.

Kerala Bananas (Nandarkai) are a major part of the Onam Sadya. They are served as chips - both savoury (salted) and sweet (coated with jaggery and deep fried)
Often times it will also be served just chopped up (1 banana chopped into 3 equal pieces)

Pulinji is a ginger-tamarind chutney that is made in large quantities during Onam.
Finely chop fresh ginger and green chillies.
Heat some oil, season with mustard seeds, then add the ginger and green chillies and fry till the ginger turns light brown.
Add tamarind juice (imli paste), turmeric powder, salt and curry leaves.
Boil well until the mixture turns slightly thick.
Add jaggery and cook well.
This chutney will keep well for awhile.

Pulinji and other chutneys and pickles are also an integral part of the sadya.

Sweets as always, are an extremely important finish to all Indian feastive meals.
Ada or Paalada Payasam is a kheer made with ada.
Ada is made by grinding rice, rolling it into thin sheets on banana leaves, boiling the leaves with the rice paste and then cutting it into small pieces. Nowadays, readymade ada is available in specialty markets. Kheer is then made the same way, just substituting Ada for rice or vermicilli (sevaiyan).


Parippu Prathaman is a kheer made with moong dhal and sago (tapioca pearls / sabudana) but with jaggery and not sugar. This gives a hint of saltiness to the kheer.
This preparation is supposed to be so good, that even if you are absolutely stuffed, you will always have enough space for a bowl. That's what Parippu Prathaman means.

Both sweets can be eaten either hot or cold.

Like most good and healthy Indian meals, even though we ate until we couldn't eat another morsel, it has been extremely light on our stomachs. The dishes are all easily digestible and even the endless supply of rice with all those curries hasn't made me sleepy or lethargic.

Thank you Aunty Leela for a wonderful evening and we look forward to many more. Aunty also makes the most awesome idli sambhar that I have eaten. But I have never been able to stop to take pictures before eating. oh well, there will always be a next time :)

Onam Ashamsagal!

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