Friday, December 20, 2013

Recipe : Gujarati Style Fresh Turmeric Pickle - Kaccha Haldi / Amba Haldi Achaar (Vegan)

Come end November - December and the laaris (local hand carts) in the markets of Gujarat have a corner dedicated to Rhizomes -  kaccha haldi (tender turmeric) and amba haldi (literally- green mango turmeric - it looks white like ginger, but has the sour taste of green mango and a mild flavour of fresh turmeric).

Locals regularly buy these items through winter and serve it up as a pickle with every meal as these 2 spices are supposed to help keep the cold of winter from affecting your body, and builds immunity and resistance against winter infections.

In its simplest form, a small piece of tender turmeric or amba haldi is chopped/julienned and sprinkled with salt and lemon juice just before serving on the table, with chilli powder being optional.

In its fancier form, it involves drying, tempering etc.

I personally prefer the flavour of the simple one, but for 2 people it doesn't make sense to keep chopping up a tiny piece daily, so after looking online and speaking to a few Gujarati friends I created a recipe that I liked.

Please Note :
While my photos will show that I used some of the lovely fresh red winter carrots in the pickle, from experience, I would now say that don't use carrots if you plan to store the pickle for more than a couple of days, as it turns soft.

Also, we preferred the flavour of amba haldi to the regular fresh turmeric, so I've upped the quantity in the recipe below.

The recipe that follows is what I've fine tuned based on experience and taste, but my pictures will show what I actually used, so don't let it confuse you. Follow the recipe words and don't worry about the quantities in the pictures, they are for illustrative purposes only. Also feel free to play around with the quantities to evolve something that suits your families taste buds.

Ingredients :

100 gms kaccha haldi / tender turmeric
100 gms amba haldi
5-30 green chillies (depending on spiciness and your families spice tolerance. I like mine spicy, so I used 30 spicy green chillies, if you want a mild flavour 5 green chillies is fine. But use the thin crispy style chillies - Indian chillies and Thai Birds eye chillies work well)
20-30 limes (you need the juice to completely cover the turmeric, so quantity will differ based on juiciness of limes, don't use limes that are very sour or bitter)
salt to taste - at least a tablespoon

Wash clean any mud on the surface, then scrape clean the kaccha and amba haldi and julienne it to around matchstick length.
Slit the green chillies lengthwise into 2 or 4 slices depending on thickness.
In a clean, dry glass / ceramic jar layer the turmeric and chillies, sprinkling a little salt at intervals.
Once the jar is full, squeeze the juice of the limes into the jar (taking care not to get any seeds in)
Cover with a thin cloth or tissue with a string or rubber band holding the mouth closed.
Keep it in the sun for 2 days, then give a nice stir or shake and refrigerate.

Take out as required and serve as a side with meals (2-6 sticks per person per meal is normal consumption)

1. Make sure the bottle that you use has a plastic / glass or ceramic cover (not metal)
2. Make sure the bottle is completely dry before you use it and use a dry spoon each time you take anything out of the jar.
3. If a thin white film forms on top, it hasn't gone bad - its a normal phenomenon for pickling in brine (salt water), just bob the solid pieces below liquid level and give a stir and continue to use as normal.
4. Don't return pickle pieces back into the bottle once they have been exposed to air (if you serve it up for dinner in a plate and it doesn't get completely consumed), store it in a seperate box/bottle and use up before opening your main bottle again.
5. The fresh turmeric stains very very badly. My hands remained yellow and the nails looked jaundiced for at least 4-6 days. Watch out for your clothes. You may want to use gloves. I personally don't like to use gloves when prepping food, because my style of cooking enjoys the tactile sensations of the cooking process, If you do use gloves, use the thin ones that give you control and grip over the tiny turmeric pieces.
6. Choose the straightest and longest pieces of turmeric that you can find, it helps ease and hasten the skinning step.
7. I chopped off the tiny bumps and washed them and kept them in a little bowl in the fridge. I substitute one bump (smash before use) for powdered turmeric in my recipes, especially dhal.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bacardi Breezer Cranberry #Catchtheflavour

Bacardi Breezer is currently running an online contest #CatchTheFlavour, where they have asked bloggers to choose their favourite flavour from Jamaican Passion, Lime, Cranberry, Orange, Blackberry Crush and Island Pineapple.

When I first tried to participate, only positions on Team Pineapple were open, but Pineapple is my 3rd favourite flavour among the breezers. So I waited for a week and lo & behold, my first choice Team Cranberry had spots open again. YAY!!!

While I cannot buy or drink Breezers in Ahmedabad where we have been based for the last year and a half, I still enjoy them whenever I travel out of Gujarat, which is at least once a month.

I've always been a rum drinker and these pre mixed drinks by Bacardi (the first entrant in this segment in India) are perfect for parties. You don't have to mix them and serve them in fancy glasses (which you always worry will start getting broken as the night wears on) or in plastic cups (while worrying that you might come across as a a cheap/lazy host/hostess).

You just chill them in the fridge and open and serve, what could be easier?

The fruit flavours that they come in, also psychologically feel like they are healthier and less toxic than the normal aerated mixers.

Coming to the Cranberry Bacardi Breezer, why is it my favourite?
1. Its base is Bacardi Rum (so what if its only 2% alcohol in India, if I want something stronger, I top up my breezer with a little more Bacardi)
2. Cranberry juice is supposed to be great for women and specifically for urinary tract health (couple this with the fruity goodness and its easy to convince yourself, that this drink is good for you and your health)
3. I love the tangy, yet sweet, with a slight hint of bitterness flavour of the Cranberry version.

Yes the pineapple version has it too, but without the puckering effect of cranberry.

So, if you've been paying close attention, you now know what my 1st and 3rd choices are, what do you think my second most favourite flavour is?

PS: I'm waiting for Bacardi to introduce the watermelon, coconut, chocolate, pinacolada and raspberry flavours in India too.

Note: Pictures are downloaded from the web for representational purposes only, since I don't have access to the real bottles here in Gujarat.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Recipe : Kheema / Mince Parathas

This is a great way to finish up leftover mince - whether it is  chicken, mutton or beef mince. And it turns into a complete meal, with just some raita on the side, especially if you have peas or carrots in your mince.

Ingredients : 
1 portion leftover mince
wheat flour
salt to taste
water for the dough
a little oil or ghee for frying

Mash the mince a bit if you have large vegetable chunks in it and dry it out, if it is liquidy.
Bring the mince back to room temperature.
Make a dough with wheat flour, salt to taste and water.
Make lemon sized balls and flatten them into circles, thick in the center and thinner at the edges.
Put a spoon of kheema in the centre and fold the edges over the kheema to form a ball.

Flatten and roll the disc in plain wheat flour.
If using a roti maker, put a dab of oil on each side (without rolling in flour) and make rotis as normal.
If using a tawa, fry on each side on a low flame, putting just a little oil or ghee on each side to help crisp it up.
Serve hot with cold raita.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Recipe : Tamdi Bhaji / Laal Bhaji / Red Amaranth Greens - Vegan

My college friend May, from The Chef moved to Ahmedabad, a couple of months ago and its great fun to have her here in town, even though she stays a bit of a distance away from my place.

However, she recently discovered that the farmers on the little plot of agricultural land in front of her house, sell fresh produce  on a daily basis. The produce is the freshest ever, plucked in front of your eyes and washed and clean. So the next time I went to visit her, we went together to pick up some fresh veggies. Our haul for the day included methi bhaji, lauki (bottle gourd), brinjal, corriander, radish and tamdi bhaji.

When I brought the bhaji home, it was so clean, that it took me much less time than normal to clean it and it was so fresh and tasty.

Ingredients :
1 large bunch Tamdi Bhaji / Laal Bhaji / Red Amaranth chopped (about 500gms)
1 tsp oil
12-15 cloves garlic chopped (you can use less if you don't like the taste of garlic)
1 large onion chopped
1 large tomato chopped
6-12 green chillies slit in half or chopped (quantity depends on spice levels)
salt to taste
1 lime

Heat oil in a pan.
Add the chopped garlic and cook till it browns and starts to crisp up.
Now add the onions, tomatoes and green chillies.
Cook till soft.
Add the Tamdi Bhaji / Laal Bhaji / Red Amaranth and cook till done

Add salt to taste
Squeeze the lime juice over the bhaji, stir well and take off the fire.
Serve hot with dhal-chawal or rotis

When cooking bhaji, a lot of people use just the tender stems, I used the thicker stems too, but I cut them up much finer than the leaves and added them with the tomatoes.
If the bhaji dries as you are cooking it, add a tsp of water at a time.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Recipe : Lebanese Cucumber with Minted Yoghurt

This dish is often served as an appetiser - a dip with pita bread or as part of a main course - sauce with kebabs. Similar to Indian Raita, what makes it unusual is the addition of fresh garlic in the dish. This dish can also be served as a side with Biryani. If you can't find Pita Bread, use any rolled breads you can find, the taste goes well with kulchas or khakhras too.

Ingredients :
2 medium cucumbers (roughly 250 gms)
200-250 ml thick yoghurt (curd / dahi)
1 tight handful finely chopped mint leaves (discard the stalks)
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 tsp cumin / jeera powder
1 tbsp lime juice.
salt to taste

If your cucumbers have hard seeds, then cut the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds.
Chop the cucumber flesh finely.

In a bowl, gently beat the yoghurt, so that it becomes smooth.
Add all the other ingredients and gently mix them all adjusting lemon juice and salt to taste.
Serve chilled as a dip or as a side.

Garnish with some cumin powder if you like.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Recipe : Bagdadi Restaurant's (Mumbai) Paneer Bhurji

Ever since I saw Chef Vikas Khanna's "Savour Mumbai - A Culinary Journey Through India's Melting Pot" at a bookshop, I've been itching to cook from it. My copy arrived on the 30th and since I had some Paneer in the fridge, the first recipe I decided to try was the Paneer Bhurji from Mumbai's Bagdadi Restaurant.

The recipe is extremely simple and quick to make. However, I used Goverdhans packaged paneer which turned out to be smooth and on the creamier side, but I think the taste and texture would be much better with fresh paneer or homemade paneer, especially on the day that you are upset that your paneer hasn't set well (tight).

This recipe reflects my higher heat, lower oil variation

Ingredients : 
300 gms fresh cottage cheese (paneer)
1 tsp oil (I used refined, 2 tbsp were recommended)
1/4 tsp cumin / jeera seeds
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 medium tomato finely chopped
6-8 green chillies finely chopped (original recommendation was 2)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp corriander powder
salt to taste
fresh coriander to garnish - finely chopped

Method :
Crumble the paneer roughly with your hands and keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan, add jeera seeds.
When they crackle, add onions and saute till they soften.
Add chillies and tomatoes and cook till tomatoes are soft and pulpy.
Now, add turmeric, corriander powders and salt and cook for 2 minutes or so.
Add paneer, mix well and cook until the water dries up.
Take it off the heat, garnish with corriander leaves and serve hot with dhal-chawal, rotis, parathas or on toast.

Book Review : Savour Mumbai - A Culinary Journey Through India's Melting Pot

In "Savour Mumbai - A Culinary Journey Through India's Melting Pot" Michelin Chef Vikas Khanna takes the reader on a journey across Mumbai to some of his favourite restaurants and eateries. He selects some of their signature dishes and modifies them for a home cook.

Its also his attempt to show the wider world, that Indian food is not all about Punjabi food.

The reason I picked up this book, is that a lot of the restaurants covered are favourites of mine too and I jumped at the chance to get insider dope on their recipes. Restaurants covered are Bademiyas, Bagdadi, Banana Leaf, Dakshin, Diva Maharashtracha, Goa Portuguesa, Good Luck, Govinda's, Ideal Corner, Kangan, Kebab Korner, Kebabs & Kurries, Khyber, Lucky, Mahesh Lunch Home, Nawab Saheb, Noor Mohammadi, Oh! Calcutta, Raj Bhog, Saffron, Soam, Soma, Soul Fry Casa, Temple Flower, Trishna and Vrindavan.

So, how many of these are your favourites?

As you can see from the restaurants covered, there's plenty of cuisines represented in this book: Parsi, Goan, South India, Gujarati, Malvani, Maharashtrian, Konkani, Manglorean, Malyali, Irani, Mughlai,

Multiple 'Biryani' recipes from Lucky, Good Luck, Govinda's, Ideal Corner and I'm itching to try out each of them, even though they all look sinfully rich, especially the Chicken Rashida with biryani.

There's a short section on Mumbai's iconic street food too with recipes too for the Bombay sandwich, vada pav, golas and many other items anyone who has lived in Bombay will have fond memories about.

Savour Mumbai is a full-colour book filled with beautiful pictures that capture the spirit of Mumbai. Each recipe has a accompanying picture too, to show you what the ideal finished product should look like. Even if you never attempt to cook from this, its a beautiful coffee table souvenir - an ode to Mumbai's thriving food culture.

I can't wait to get cooking from this book, so much to try, so little time.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Monday, December 02, 2013

Recipe : Manglorean Snake Gourd (Podwole / Parwal) Sukke - Vegan

Snake Gourd / Podwole / Parwal is a lovely vegetable, that's low in calories and good for health.

This is a typical Manglorean Konkani way of preparing the vegetable. The distinctive taste comes from the Manglorean Vegetable Powder. But if you can't find Manglorean Vegetable Powder, you can use any other (red) Vegetable Powder.

Ingredients :
1/2 kg Snake Gourd / Podwole / Parwal
1 tsp coconut oil (regular oil will also be ok, coconut gives it a better flavour though)
1 tsp split black gram (urad dhal)
1 - 2 sprigs curry leaves (about 12 leaves)
2 - 4 dried red chillies
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 - 3 tbsp vegetable powder (to your spice levels)
salt to taste
1/2 coconut grated
pulp extracted from a marble sized ball of tamarind (or juice of lemon to taste)

Method :
Clean the Snake Gourd / Podwole / Parwal, you can use the skin, you don't need to peel it.
Cut it in half down the length and deseed.
Make thin slices.

In a pan, heat the oil.
Temper with urad dhal, curry leaves, red chillies and mustard seeds.
Now add the Snake Gourd / Podwole / Parwal and fry lightly.
Add the vegetable powder, cover and cook on a low flame.
If it dries up, add water a tsp at a time.
When the Snake Gourd / Podwole / Parwal is almost cooked, add the coconut and tamarind pulp/lime juice. Stir well and cover and cook till done.
Serve hot with rice and dhal or a side with any poli.

In the picture above, I've served it with appams and a chicken coconut curry.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Recipe : Kolhapuri Chicken Curry & Dry Kolhapuri Masala

The trick to making Kolhapuri Chicken Curry is in having a good quality Dry Kolhapuri Masala. However, this is difficult to source outside of Maharashtra, but don't worry you can make some yourself. I keep my excess masala in the fridge and use it as a vegetable powder or general spice mix when cooking later on. It keeps well for more than a month.

If you have the spice mix, its reasonably easy to cook this recipe, but be warned, this dish takes a little time. However the end result is worth it.

Dry Kolhapuri Masala
5 dry red chillies (preferably Kolhapuri Chillies or any spicy chillies will do)
3 tbsp red chili powder (for additional heat)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
2 tbsp dessicated coconut (kopra)
1 tsp white sesame seeds (til)
1/4 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (jaiphal) grated / powder
1/2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus)
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/4 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1/4 cup coriander seeds

In a heavy bottomed pan,roast each of the ingredients separately (except the spice powders, those are pre-roasted before powdering and will burn) on a low flame, without burning.
Cool the ingredients and blitz in a food processor / grinder.
These quantities should give you about a katori of spice powder.

Ingredients for the Curry:
1/2 kg chicken
2 tbsp oil
2 large onions sliced thin
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves (dhaniya)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
coriander leaves for garnishing

4 tbsp yogurt / dahi / curd
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
3 tsp red chili powder
3 tsp dry kolhapuri masala

Method :
Mix all the marinade ingredients to a smooth paste and marinate the chicken in the mixture for an hour or overnight or even a couple of days in the refrigerator. (if you marinate meats over the weekend for the coming week, this is a good one, but remember to bring the meat back to room temperature before cooking.)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add the sliced onions and ginger garlic paste. Fry till the onions are browned.
Remove from heat and let it cool.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, blitz it in a food processor / mixi / grinder with the 1.5 cups coriander leaves until smooth.

Heat the other tbsp of oil in the same pan and fry the marinated chicken in this.
(Don't add the marinade to the pan right now, we will add it later)
Fry the chicken for about 10 - 12 minutes in the pan on medium to high heat. Keep stirring gently to prevent sticking.
Add half the ground masala to the pan and fry till it starts reducing.

Then add the remaining masala and leftover marinade.
Cover and cook till chicken is done.
Now add the coconut milk and cook a little longer.
Adjust salt to taste
Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.

Serve hot with phulkas, chapatis or bhakri.
You can also serve it with rice,  and if you want a thinner curry, add more water or coconut milk.

Also in the thali is Maharashtrian Chawli Usal & Groundnut Chutney.

Variation :
You can use this recipe to make egg curry too.
Hard boil 6 - 8 eggs, peel, make 2-4 small slits on the boiled eggs and put them in the marinade.
Don't fry the eggs, the way you would the chicken. (it will make the eggs hard on the outside)
Start by directly cooking the masala and when almost cooked, add the extra marinade and cook till done.
Then add the marinated eggs and give a boil till the raw smell goes.
Now add the coconut milk and garnish with corriander leaves.


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