2010


Happy New Year 2010
Wishing you good food, good health and good times in the new decade.

Artisan Food ~ Saffron Paneer

Fresh Paneer and Saffron
Fresh Paneer and Saffron

Saffron Paneer
(serves 4 to 6)

Fresh, homemade paneer – half cup
Saffron – half teaspoon
Honey – one tablespoon

Soak saffron in two tablespoons of water for about 15 minutes.

Take paneer in a blender. Add the saffron along with the water it soaked in and also the honey. Blend well to smooth paste.

Serve saffron paneer as a dip or spread for vegetables, crackers or bread. Sprinkle some finely chopped dried fruits or nuts if you wish.

By combining saffron with fresh homemade paneer, this simple dip retains the richness of saffron and enhances the creamy taste of paneer.

Saffron Paneer on Bread
Saffron Paneer with Bread ~ for Breakfast Today
and for Dear DK’s JFI~Saffron

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

With this saffron paneer toast, I wish you my dear readers a wonderful holiday season. I will see you again in 2010.

Malai Kofta for a Potluck Party of 25

“You remember the potluck party on Saturday evening? I am making a list of the dish each of us will bring to the party. What should I put your name on?” …My friend on the phone.

“Let me think for a minute. mmm… Malai kofta. How does that sound?”

“Perfect for the holiday mood. Love it.”

I don’t know what prompted me to say malai kofta. Even though, malai kofta is my all time favorite dish, I rarely make it at home. To prepare it from scratch, some serious work is involved and if I do all the work, I feel like the romance is gone from experiencing this delicious dish. I prefer to keep it as a standard order for an indulgent mood at an Indian restaurant. Well, whatever prompted me to say malai kofta, I was glad I offered it. I had a chance to make it after longtime. The good thing is it came out well and we had some fun time at the party.

This is how I made the malai kofta on Saturday morning.


Malai Kofta for a Potluck Party of 25

Ingredient List:

For koftas (25×2=50 koftas):
1 gallon, whole milk and 2 limes- to make fresh paneer
5 russet or red potatoes, medium-sized
2 big carrots, grated
1/2 cup, cashews
1/4 cup, golden raisins
1 teaspoon, salt
1/2 teaspoon, chilli powder
To deep-fry the koftas:
1 cup, chapati flour
3 cups, peanut oil

For Malai Sauce:
2 red onions, jumbo sized
10 roma or vine ripe tomatoes, big size
2-inch ginger piece, skin peeled
2 plump garlic cloves, skins removed
1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup each, cashews and golden raisins
1/4 cup each, fresh paneer and grated fresh coconut
1×1-inch, cinnamon stick
6 cloves
1 tablespoon, coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon each, cumin and fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon each, black pepper and turmeric
2 teaspoons, salt
1 teaspoon, chilli powder
1 cup, whole milk or 1/2 cup, cream

Method:

To prepare malai kofta from scratch, for a party of 25, it would take at least two hours, four burners of heat and decent amount of concentration. We need to make a minimum of 50 koftas and enough malai sauce to accommodate them.

Step 1 – Preparation for Paneer and Sauce: Prepare the ingredients for koftas and for malai sauce by placing four pots on four burners. Cook simultaneously for energy and time efficiency. Here is how I did it.

Burner 1 for Paneer: Pour one gallon of milk in a big, wide pot. Bring the milk to boil. Cut and add limejuice from 2 limes to the boiling milk. Milk starts to cuddle immediately. Stir continuously. When the white, fluffy clouds of paneer get big and separated from watery whey, pour the entire contents into a muslin cloth lined pot. Twist and squeeze the cloth several times to strain the paneer completely whey-free. Hang to drip-dry if possible. Divide the paneer into two parts – 3/4 (for koftas) and 1/4 part (for malai sauce).

Burner 2 for Potatoes: Wash and cut each potato into two. Take potatoes in a pressure-cooker. Add just enough water to cover them. Cook to fork tender. Drain the water. Peel the skins and mash the potatoes coarsely.

Burner 3 for Tomatoes: Place a pot on the stovetop and add a cup of water. Bring water to boil. Add tomatoes and cover the pot. When tomato skin starts to break, turn off the heat. Remove the cover to cool.

Burner 4 for Onions: Peel the skin and cut onions to chunk pieces. Heat a tablespoon of oil in an iron skillet. Add onion, and sauté to brown on high heat, stirring in-between.

Step 2 – Preparation for Koftas and Malai Sauce: Grind the prepared ingredients for koftas and for malai sauce. Connect a food processor and a Sumeet style mixer into power outlets and follow the procedure.

In food processor, add paneer, mashed potatoes, grated carrot, salt, chilli powder, cashews and golden raisins. Pulse few times first and then run the processor to combine the ingredients well. Remove the mix to a bowl. This will be shaped into koftas.

Clean the food processor. Put the tomatoes and blend. Add the water tomatoes simmered in for smooth run. Remove the tomato puree to a bowl.

To the food processor, add roasted onions. Blend into fine paste. Remove the onion paste to a bowl.

In a mixer, take cashews and grind to smooth paste. To this paste, add coconut, paneer, ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro leaves, golden raisins, black peppercorn, cumin, fennel, coriander seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. Grind the ingredients to fine consistency. The masala paste has to be extremely smooth. So run the blender for at least 5 minutes, adding few tablespoons of water when required.

Step 3: Simmer the Malai Sauce and Fry the Koftas

Simmer the Sauce: Place a wide, deep pan on the stove-top. Add and heat a tablespoon of oil. When oil is hot, add the roasted onion paste, masala paste. Saute for five minutes on medium heat, constantly stirring. Add the tomato puree, turmeric, milk or cream and 2 cups of water. Combine well. Have a taste and add salt and chilli powder if required. Cover and simmer the sauce on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring in-between. Avoid high heat and take care not to blacken the sauce at the bottom of the pan. When the sauce starts to thicken, turn off the heat.

Make Koftas: In another burner, place a skillet suitable to deep-fry. Add and heat peanut oil. While oil is getting hot, shape the koftas from the paneer mixture into small rounds of 1-inch diameter. Roll the paneer rounds into chapati flour, lightly coating the surface. This will keep the koftas intact during deep-frying process and prevents any breaks or spillages into hot oil. Prepare them all this way and line them in a tray.

When oil is hot, add the paneer rounds in batches and deep-fry to gold color. Remove and place them on a paper covered tray.

Step 4 – Serving Suggestions:

Keep the sauce and koftas separate in two containers until the party time. Because koftas are so delicately made, they tend to disintegrate when soaked in sauce for long period of time. When the food is arranged on the table and just before mealtime, gently place the koftas in rows in malai sauce. Warm the tray in oven for ten minutes on lowest heat setting, if required. Serve with chapati, paratha, naan or rice.

Malai koftas are without a doubt one of the best tasting Bharath recipes out there for parties, and I was glad to have a chance to enjoy them with friends during this holiday season.

I did manage to take few photos of the process. Here they are:


Grated Carrot, Mashed Potato, Freshly Made Paneer, Cashews and Golden Raisins ~ Ingredients for Koftas


Tomato Puree, Masala Paste and Roasted Onion Paste ~ For Malai Sauce


Blending the Ingredients for Koftas in a Food Processor


The Blended Mixture is Shaped into Round Koftas and Covered with Chapati Flour


Deep-fried Koftas


Malai Kofta, Mingling with Others at a Potluck Party


Malai Kofta, One Among Many, Finding its Place in Someone’s Plate

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Lemongrass Rasam

What can be better in a bittercold winter than a bowl of hot, savory rasam! I like rasam and I also enjoy experimenting. The result is today’s recipe. To a traditional toor dal based rasam, I have added lemongrass. The bright, lemony herbal flavor of lemongrass could really cheer up casual rasam, I thought, and it did. Recipe is easy. Simmer the cooked dal with lemongrass and other regular rasam additions. No tomatoes, but ghee tadka is incorporated at the end to harmonize everything. Serve the rasam hot in a bowl and sip. Heaven must taste like this.

Lemongrass

Lemongrass Rasam
(serves 4)

Ingredients:
2 fistfuls of toor dal and 2 cups of water
1 shallot, finely chopped lengthwise
1 tablespoon, finely sliced lemongrass
1 tablespoon each, tamarind pulp and jaggery
1 teaspoon each, salt and rasam powder
1/2 teaspoon, chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
few sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

For Ghee Tadka:
1 tablespoon, ghee
1 small sprig of fresh curry leaves
pinch each, cumin, mustard seeds and asafetida

Method:

Take toor dal and water in a pressure cooker. Cover and cook until the dal is tender. Gently mash the dal to smooth.

To the cooked dal, add shallot, lemongrass, tamarind pulp and jaggery. Also stir in salt, rasam powder, chilli powder and turmeric. Add a cup of water. Partially cover and simmer for additional 10 minutes until you see froth coming up on top of the vessel. Switch off the heat and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a small skillet. Add curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds and asafetida in that order. Saute, stirring constantly. When mustard seeds start to pop out of skillet, pour this sizzling tadka over lemongrass rasam. Mix well and serve immediately. Sip the rasam or eat mixed with rice. Comforting and nourishing, the rasam experience will warm the wintered soul.

Lemongrass Rasam
Warm Bowl of Lemongrass Rasam ~ for Meal today

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Cabbage-Carrot Kosambari

I always thought I would not enjoy eating raw cabbage. That has changed when I tried a kosambari Vijay made last weekend with cabbage and carrots. I was surprised by how much I liked the combination. It is a simple recipe with barely there India-Inspired dressing. Vijay’s curried coleslaw can be prepared hurriedly, looks festive enough for a party and tastes wonderful. Thanks to this treasured trifecta, now, I think cabbage is one of the most versatile and underrated salad ingredients. This changed thought opens up so many cabbage combinations, which I can’t wait to try in future.

Shredded Cabbage and Carrot

Cabbage-Carrot Kosambari
(a side dish, for 1 or 2 meals)

1 cup, shredded cabbage
1 cup, grated carrot
1/2 teaspoon, chat masala powder
1/4 teaspoon each, salt and crushed black pepper
1 tablespoon, limejuice
1 teaspoon, honey

Take cabbage and carrot in a bowl.
Sprinkle chat masala powder, salt and black pepper.
Add limejuice and honey.
Gently combine. Serve.

Cabbage and Carrot Kosambari
Cabbage-Carrot Kosambari ~ for Dinner Today

Kosambari = Salad of South India with “Raw Rocks” attitude.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Winter Bloom ~ Camellia

Pink Perfection ~ Camellia
Pink Perfection ~ Camellia in Bloom

You know how some first impressions last a lifetime? First time I saw a camellia in bloom was about 20 years ago, during a college trip to Kodaikanal botanic gardens. It was a quick glance, may be few seconds but I remembered those palm sized big beauties and their endearing perfection. It was on my must have plants since then, and I was finally able to plant camellias last November. The variety photographed above is called Pink Perfection and is in full bloom this winter. The flowers are so gorgeous; I think the photo really does not do justice to this pink perfection.

Weekend Politics: Needs and Wants In A Divided State

Many of you would have already noticed the plight of politics in the name of dividing the state of Andhra Pradesh. There is total chaos in all parts of the state. Schools, colleges, universities, businesses are closed. Transportation stalled, vehicles burned and damaged.

The real reason is not the question of justice or injustice to any selected area. The real reason is a selected few control the voice and needs of the majority. And, these selected few voice that their wants are the majority people’s needs.

Even today, even though we are in this so-called digital world, the majority people’s needs are education, health care, safe drinking water, and nutritional food.

Have you ever seen any present political leader fighting this hard and this violently for the real needs of the majority of people? There is a clear line between the needs of people and the wants of people. Majority of the people who have real needs do not raise their voice.

Politicians are fighting for their wants in the disguise of people’s needs. Is this for development or destruction?

If they are truly for the development of the state, why haven’t they ever fought this vigorously before for any development causes?

Would the change and development being promised in the name of dividing the state really benefit the majority of the people? Or would it benefit the selected few as it has always happened?

There is a clear distinction. Everyone has to raise the voice about the needs of the majority and not about the wants of the few.

Gobi Chole (Cauliflower with Chickpeas)

“Have you ever met a vegetable that you didn’t like?”

“There is no comparison to the comfort you bring.”

“You are a charming legume.”

“Cuddle with me.”

The result of this legendary love affair between cute cauliflower and charming chickpea is a hearty stew called Gobi Chole. This classic of Bharath cooking is very easy to make and very forgiving. No need to fuss or fidget over the ingredients or lack of. All it needs is love.

Cauliflower and Chickpeas

Gobi Chole
(for 2 or 4 for 2 or 1 meal)

1 tablespoon, peanut oil
1 tablespoon, kasuri methi
1/4 teaspoon, cumin seeds
1 onion – finely chopped lengthwise, about 1 cup
4 ripe tomatoes – finely chopped, about 2 cups
1 small head of cauliflower, florets cut, about 3 to 4 cups
1 cup, cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon each, garlic-ginger-cilantro paste and garam masala powder
1 teaspoon each, salt and red chilli powder or to taste
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric

Place a large, wide pot over high heat and add oil. When hot, put in the kasuri methi and cumin. Let them sizzle for few seconds. Add onion and sauté to soft brown. Add the tomatoes. Stir and cook until they collapse to soft mush.

Add the cauliflower florets and chickpeas to cooking tomatoes. Stir in ginger-garlic-cilantro paste, garam masala powder, salt, red chilli and turmeric. Add about a cup of water. Cover, and turn the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

To thicken the gravy, I usually blend two tablespoons of coconut, cashews or poppy seeds, depending on what I have at that moment in the kitchen and add the smooth paste to simmering gobi chole along with other seasoning. Alternately, blend and add few tablespoons of cooked chickpeas for a low calorie thickener.

Serve the warm gobi chole over hot chapati/paratha/naan or rice. Simple relish made with onion and chillies, and some homemade dahi adds an authentic dabha experience.

Gobi Chole
Gobi Chole for Meal Today

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Nippattu (Pappu Chekka) on a Snow Day

Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston
Snow Day in Houston

We never thought snow would follow us to Houston. We really thought we left snow back in Pittsburgh and in Seattle. But we were wrong. Like a dear dream of deep sleep, though it took some time, it found us here in Houston. We had beautiful snow scenery last Friday and early Saturday mornings. Thick white snow covered homes, lawns and neighborhood roads on Friday, cold crisp sunny morning on Saturday. It seemed like the weather followed us to bring all the beautiful memories from yester-years.

That rare occasion called for a culinary celebration. A cold quiet weekend needed something that would warm and spice up the time. That is why we made Nippattu: a popular snack of Andhra and south India that is crunchy and moderately hot.

Nippattu (Pappu Chekka)
(makes about 20 to 25 palm-sized Nippattu)

2 cups, rice flour (Biyyam Pindi)
1/4 cup, besan flour (Sanaga Pindi)
1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons each- rehydrated chana dal & roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon, coarsely ground green chilli
1 tablespoon, ghee
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin, ajwan and sesame seeds

Take the flours into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Work the softened ghee into the mix and add just enough water to make a firm dough.

Tear out small portion of dough and place it on a wax paper. Flatten it a bit and using your fingers, spread out the nippattu in a circle until it is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Nippattu come in all sizes and shapes, so don’t worry about the perfect shape.

Heat oil in a pan, suitable to deep-frying. Add the nippattu gently into hot oil and deep fry to pale gold. Remove to paper-covered tray. Make all the Nippattu this way.

Cool and store. Nippattu stay fresh upto a month or more when stored in a airtight container. They make best tea, coffee and movie time snack.

Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Cold Day
Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Snow Day

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Chocolate Gulab Jamuns

One can say sugar stimulates thinking. And one does not even need to be very active, the thoughts simply come when one eats sugary desserts – such strong thoughts that they even generate powerful dreams. In one such sugar induced dream, a chocolate chip in jamun belly was visualized. Follow your dreams. So, chocolate jamuns for a birthday bash were prepared. They were so easy to make, no fussy ingredients or procedures, and cooks right on the stovetop.

My twist in classic jamuns was a hit. Jamuns’ refreshing taste and texture is enhanced, but not overwhelmed, by an excitingly sweet chocolate center. Served with gulab flavored syrup, the jamuns tasted superb. I hope you too try the twist and enjoy this dessert with family and friends during the holiday season.

Chocolate Chip in Jamun Belly
Chocolate Chip in Jamun Belly

Chocolate Gulab Jamuns

Gulab jamun mix
Mini chocolate chips
Sugar
Rose (gulab) syrup

Prepare Jamun Dough: Prepare the jamun dough following the instructions on the box. Add water to jamun mix and make a firm dough. Rest the dough for 15 minutes. Then divide it into small portions and roll each portion into a perfect round using your clean hands.

Add Chocolate Chips: Make a dimple with your finger in each jamun round and add a chocolate chip. Bring the edges together and roll the dough into a smooth round, covering the chip completely. Prepare all jamuns in this way. Place them in a tray and cover.

Prepare Rose Syrup: Add sugar to water and bring to simmer. The ratio I follow is 1:1, for one cup of sugar, one cup of water is added. When sugar dissolves in water completely and starts to simmer, turn off the heat. Stir in few drops of rose(gulab) syrup.

Make Jamuns: Heat oil in a wide skillet and deep fry jamuns to deep burgundy color. Add them to rose flavored sugar syrup. The jamuns soak up the syrup, expand, almost double in size in an hour.

Enjoy: Serve the chocolate jamuns warm or chilled with some rose syrup.

Chocolate Gulab Jamuns
Chocolate Gulab Jamuns ~ for Cheerful Occasion

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

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