Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Recipe : Bihari Mattar Ghoogni Chiwda - Peas and Puffed Rice Flakes - Vegan

When we were in Jaipur in January this year, we stayed with our friends Anand & Anisha who are excellent hosts. they love food as much as we do, if not more and we had a lovely holiday with them, eating and catching up.

Surprisingly, although I lived for 2 years in Jamshedpur (which was still a part of Bihar in those days), I now realise, I never had the opportunity to eat Bihari food. All the cooks at our hostel were Bengali or Odiya, so that is the kind of food they served us. Plus with Jamshedpur being the Tata's Industrial town, there were a lot of restaurants serving Tandoori, Mughlai, Chinese, Pizza, South Indian etc, but there weren't any places serving litti chokha or anything else that could be classified as traditional Bihari food.

On our second morning in Jaipur, we were served this dish and we fell in love with it, so we kept asking for repeats at tea time and for breakfast on almost all the days that we were there. The taste and texture  is so addictive, that you can't help going back for seconds.

During winters, the dish is made with hara channa (fresh green chickpeas) or else it can be made with peas. Fresh peas are best, but frozen works quite well too. (Don't use dehydrated peas for this dish)

The peas or hara channa can also be served as a side with rotis or rice and dhal.

Anisha always has a big jar of homemade puffed rice flakes in her pantry, as they use it in many dishes. She says its just a matter of deep frying rice flakes (poha) and mixing it with salt and fried groundnuts. Here in Ahmedabad, I have found a ready made roasted version, to which I just add some roasted groundnuts. I've alsoo seen a recipe which says you can roast 1 bowl of poha in 1 tbsp of oil.

I tend to make the peas in large quantities - even half a kilo at a time because it gets wolfed down very quickly between the two of us. It keeps well in the fridge and can be reheated later.

1 cup shelled peas / mattar or hara channa / fresh green chickpeas (if frozen, defrost by holding under running water)
1 medium onion chopped (less than 1/3 cup volume)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds / jeera
1" ginger grated (or to taste)
2 -3 green chillies chopped (or to taste)
salt to taste
juice of 1 small lime
1/2 tsp oil

Heat the oil.
Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to pop.
Then add the onions and stir fry until soft.
Add half the green chillies (if you don't like spicy, add all the chillies with the onions itself and cook them out), ginger and stir twice.
Add the peas / hara channa at room temperature.
Cook till done (don't close the pan while cooking, you might get a pool of liquid at the bottom)
When almost done, add the other half of the green chillies.
Give a quick stir and turn off the flame
Add salt and lime juice to taste.

Serve hot with  the puffed rice flakes + groundnuts mixture.

Mix the two and eat immediately. Its really tasty either for breakfast or a snack.

These peas can also be served with rotis or rice and dhal during a meal.

The drink in the background of these pictures is Masala Chaas / Chaach / Spiced Buttermilk / Ayran / Majjige

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Recipe : Masala Chaas / Chaach / Spiced Buttermilk / Ayran / Majjige

Masala Chaas / Chaach is a staple drink during the summers in Northern India where the heat can give you sunstroke. Its similar to the Turkish Ayran with more spicing. While this watered down yoghurt is called Buttermilk in the North, South Indians will disagree. In South India, Buttermilk / Majjige is the liquid you get when churning butter from cream. That too is served similarly spiced, but its obviously much thinner than the North Indian versions.

There are various methods to make this drink and spicing it depends on what you and your family like. The most common herbs and spices that go into this drink in Northern & Western India are black salt (buy from an Indian store), ginger, green chillies, coriander leaves and cumin powder or chaat masala powder.

My nana used to heat a little oil, temper it with 1-2 curry leaves, dried red chilli and mustard seeds. and add this to the buttermilk.

Black salt has a strange smell when it mixes with any liquid, but this bears no ill effects on its taste. If you don't like the smell/taste of black salt or it isn't available, you can easily use just regular table salt.

1/2 glass of chilled plain yoghurt/curd
1/2 - 1 green chilli finely chopped (to taste)
a pinch of grated ginger
1/2 tsp finely chopped corriander leaves
1/4 - 1/2 tsp of roasted cumin powdered (jeera powder)
 black salt (kaala namak)or salt to taste
 chilled water to dilute

Gently beat/stir the yoghurt / curd with a spoon, so no lumps remain.
Add all the other ingredients except the water and stir well.
If you want, you can just refrigerate it at this point and mix water when you are ready to drink. This allows all the flavours to seep into the yoghurt. (Do not keep it for more than an hour or so, it will lose its fresh flavour)
When ready to consume (or immediately) top with water and mix slowly.

I prefer half yoghurt to half water. Some people prefer it thicker, my mum prefers 1/4 yoghurt to 3/4 water. So play around and find the balance that is right for you and your family.

This drink really rehydrates you on a hot summer day and is ideal if you want to avoid sugary drinks like lemonades and iced teas.

Kim's tip:
If you have a fussy child / eater, who doesn't like the bits and bobs in the drink, let the flavours seep into the drink for at least 30 minutes. Then mix in the water and strain out the cutings before serving.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Book Review : 1001 Foods - The Greatest Gastronomic Sensations on Earth

The Covers of "1001 Foods - The Greatest Gastronomic Sensations on Earth" and "1001 Foods to Die For" look remarkably similar (as you can see in the picture above) However, the introduction for the first is written by Terry Durack and the second one by Corby Kummer. The publisher for the first is Pavilion and the Publishers for the second are Andrews McMeel Publishing and Madison Books. So I'm not sure if they are the same or just share a common topic and cover page.

The book that I own and have reviewed in this post is the 1st one - "1001 Foods - The Greatest Gastronomic Sensations on Earth"

The Editor of this compendium - Terry Durack is Australia's top food writer and restaurant reviewer and also a regular contributor to the UK's Independent on Sunday.

"1001 Foods - The Greatest Gastronomic Sensations on Earth" is divided into 11 chapters following the general courses of a classic dinner. Appetizers & Small Food, Soups & Salads, Noodles & Rice, Fish & Seafood, Poultry & Game, Meats, Beans Cheese & Eggs (a surprise chapter), Fruits Nuts & Vegetables, Desserts, Breads Cookies & Pastries and Beverages. This makes the book a quick and easy reference when you are searching for inspiration. There is also a detailed index at the back if you are searching for something in particular.

Do note, that not all 1001 foods have recipes provided. About 25% of the dishes have detailed recipes, the remaining 75% have general descriptions on what the dish looks and tastes like and a bit about its cultural heritage. If you are comfortable cooking without measurements, these descriptions may be enough for you. But even if you can't do that, you can always run an online search for a recipe of a dish that interests you.There are plenty of full colour photographs that will help you visualise what the finished product should look like.

The recipes have been compiled from a number of well known chefs including Julia Child, Heston Blumenthal, Mario Batali, Nigella Lawson, Madhur Jaffrey, Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, Ina Garten, Rick Stein, Claudia Roden, Nigel Slater, Gary Rhodes and Donna Hay among others.

1001 Foods also has some single page features like : 25 Best Nibbles to Eat with Champagne, 25 Favourite Poultry & Game Dishes, 20 Superb Sausages, Smoked Foods, Best Barbecued Meats, Salumi (Cured Meats), 4 Strong Cheeses, 4 Sheep Milk Cheeses, 4 Children's Favourites - eggs, 15 Apple Desserts, 20 Chocolate Treats

The book covers recipes from India, USA, France, China, Japan, South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand), UK, Jamaica, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Greece, Middle East, Lebanon, Morocco and Germany for the most part.

A couple of recipes from Russia, Ireland, Scotland, Korea, Belgium, Sweden, Mauritius, New Zealand, Israel, Iran, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Cuba, Turkey, Balkans, North Africa, Hungary, Poland, Peru, Egypt, Denmark, Nethrlands, Switzerland, Cyprus, Austria, Scandinavia, Balkans and Eastern Europe also make an appearance.

And some recipes whose origins can't really be conclusively traced are classified as European or International.

As you can see, not all countries are covered. I for one would have loved to have seen some SriLankan & Ethiopian dishes in the book and more recipes from South Africa and South America.

But it would be difficult to create a truly comprehensive book on world cuisine that will satisfy everyone.

Rating : 4 / 5


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