Dahi Mirchi with Pequin Peppers

One good thing about Houston’s radiant weather is I could do my culinary sun salutations with ease.

Here is a traditional Bharath culinary sun salutation with Mexican pequin peppers. I bought a small pequin pepper plant last year from FBMG. It survived the snowy winter and now thriving with fresh growth and abundant fruit. A general rule of thumb with mirchis is the smaller the mirchi, the hotter it tends to be. It’s no exception for pequin peppers. The itty-bitty pequin peppers pack a punch both fresh and sun-dried as dahi mirchi. I started adding them to tadka that we season the daals and curries. Salty, sour and hot, dahi pequin peppers are a real treat.

This age-old Bharath technique of preserving the chillies in dahi is easy. The process needs some patience and lots of sunshine. Here is the photo pictorial.


Fully Mature Pequin Pepper on 5 Rupee Coin


Add a cup of pequin peppers to a cup of dahi (Indian Yogurt). Mix a tablespoon of salt. Keep uncovered for three days on the kitchen countertop. Stir once a day. Dahi acts like preserving agent here.


Drain the dahi and reserve the pequin peppers. Spread them on a cloth and sun dry under hot afternoon sun until they are completely dry. Takes about 2 to 3 days depending on the sunshine.


Salty, Sour and Spicy ~ Sun-dried Dahi Pequin Peppers


Sun-dried Dahi Pequin Peppers ~ Toasted in Tadka

From Yesteryears:
More about Dahi Mirchi (Majjiga Mirapa)
Dahi Mirchi with Cayenne

Bean Sprouts with Bell Peppers

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos: the plants, the clouds, everything.” An old proverb says. Here is a hope that this north Indian kadi inspired recipe will contribute to the cause. Garden fresh green bell peppers are cooked with moong bean sprouts in dahi sauce. The cooling dahi sauce provides an interesting and characteristically North-Indian contrast to somewhat earthy bell peppers. This nutritious and easy to prepare recipe can be served as a main course accompanied with rice or roti.

Bell Pepper Stuffed with Moong Bean Sprouts

Bean Sprouts with Bell Peppers
(for 2 to 4 for 2 to 1 meal)

    Recipe:
    2 cups moong bean sprouts
    4 bell peppers, remove the end&seeds and chop to chunks, 2 cups
    1 semi ripe tomato, finely chopped, 1/2 cup
    1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped, 1/2 cup
    1 cup, dahi (Indian yogurt)
    1 tablespoon besan (gram flour, chickpea flour)
    1/2 teaspoon each – salt, red chilli powder and garam masala powder
    1/4 teaspoon – turmeric
    1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

    for Kasuri methi Tadka:
    1 tablespoon peanut oil
    1 tablespoon kasuri methi
    pinch each- cumin and methi seeds

1. In a large skillet, heat peanut oil. When oil is hot, add and toast kasuri methi, cumin and methi seeds in that order to fragrance.

2. Add onion, tomato, bell pepper one after another and saute until softened, about ten minutes.

3. Add moong sprouts and salt, chilli, garam masala powder and turmeric. Pour about half cup of water. Mix well. Cover the skillet and steam-saute until the moong sprouts are soft and tender.

4. In a cup, take dahi and add besan flour. Mix them well without any lumps.

5. Reduce the heat to low. Stir a little of this dahi-besan mix into the subji, then gradually add the entire mixture. Simmer on low heat for about two minutes. Turn off the heat. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve warm.

Bean Sprouts with Bell Peppers
Bean Sprouts with Bell Peppers ~ For Meal Today

Houston Finds: Seema Chintakaaya (Camachile Fruits)

Seema Chintakaaya
Seema Chintakaaya
(Koduka Puli, Jungle Jilebi, Bilayati Imli, Pithecellobium Dulce, Camachile, Makhaamthet)

I found these dried seema chintakaayalu at Canino Farmers Market, Houston. Here they are sold under the name Camachile fruits, shelled from the pods and partially dried.

In Nandyala, India, they were my childhood delicacy and we used to eat them fresh. They are readily available from trees lining the village fields and roads and on sale at the roadside stalls and public markets. The fresh, green pods ripen to pinkish red pods and that signals snack time not only for humans, but also for monkeys, parrots, and other creatures. The mature pods have whitish-pink flesh around shiny brown seeds and the soft flesh taste sweet and tart. We love this nutritious, nature’s snack and it’s a delight to find them here in Houston again after over a decade.

Pudina Potatoes

One other vegetable I brought from weekends Canino farmer’s market trip was baby red potatoes. They were so tiny, round and fresh, I just couldn’t resist their cute appeal. Half of them went into a weekend special meal Dum Aloo. With the remaining ones, I prepared pudina potatoes for today’s meal. This new recipe is inspired by village style methi aloo. The combination of pudina and potato might sound odd, but wait until you try it. Pudina’s strong herbal flavor lends a charming personality to potatoes making pudina potatoes a pleasure to serve and have.

Homegrown Pudina (Mint)
Homegrown Pudina (Spearmint)

Pudina Potatoes
(for 2 to 4 for 2 to 1 meal)

Potatoes: Place 10 tiny red potatoes in a large pot or pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover by at least half inch. Bring to boil and cook the potatoes to tender. Drain. Cool and peel the skin. Set aside.

Pudina: While potatoes are cooking, take a fistful of fresh pudina leaves. Wash and take them in a mixer or mortar. Add 2 to 3 fresh green chillies, a tablespoon of fresh grated coconut and a pinch of salt. Blend them to coarse paste without adding water.

Pudina Potatoes:

    In a large, cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add a pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds and saute to fragrance. Add a cup of thinly sliced onions and fry to golden.
    Add the potatoes. Sprinkle the pudina paste, quarter teaspoon of turmeric and half teaspoon of salt over the top and mix well. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Serve hot.

Pudina Potatoes makes a tasty side dish to rice, roti or pasta with dal, dahi or subji combination.

Pudina Potato (Minty Aloo)
Pudina Potatoes ~ for Meal Today

Nimma Uragaaya of Nandyala

Last weekend, we went to Houston’s wholesale produce market called Canino Farmer’s Market for mangoes. In the market, limes were also available abundant. Key limes were 30 for a dollar and Persian limes were 20 for a dollar. I bought 60 key limes and 20 Persian limes for a total of 4 dollars.

Key limes are small sized, Indian type limes with relatively thin skin, so they are great for pickle base. Persian limes are seedless and full of juice, good for pickle juice. I made same kind of preserve last year with key lime and Persian lime combination and it was wonderful, both size and juicewise for nimma uragaaya.

The pickle I have remaining from last year lasts for just another few weeks. Now the weather is right, ingredients are right and it would take at least two months for key lime’s eye-crossing bitter-sourness to mingle with other ingredients and mellow. I know now, why our folks craved making these pickles year after year, every year. They are comfort food, particularly during cold, winter months. What also attracts me more is the texture, the color and the aroma. The whole process is addictive and enthralling.

Key Limes for Nimma Uragaaya

Nimma Uragaaya:
For detail recipe directions – click here.

Prepare with fresh ingredients, add enough salt and keep the pickle making area and vessels dry and moisture free. Follow these pickle precautions for successful tradition of nimma uragaaya.

    60 keylimes – wash, dry with a towel and sun-dry for an hour. Then, cut into quarters.
    20 persian limes – Wash and wipe off the moisture. Cut and squeeze juice. We need at least 3 to 4 cups of limejuice. The more juice we add to uragaaya, the tastier the uragaaya will be.
    cups, iodine-free salt or sea salt
    1 cup, red chilli powder
    1/8 cup, methi seeds – roast to red in an iron skillet on low heat. Cool and then powder to fine.
    Pickle Popu: Heat two tablespoons of peanut oil. When oil it hot, add quarter teaspoon of hing. Toast for couple of seconds to fragrance. Turn off the heat. Keep aside to cool to room temperature.

1. Pour salt, red chilli powder and methi seed powder over key lime pieces. Mix well with your clean, dry hand or big wooden spoon.

2. Pour lime juice and pickle popu over keylime pickle. Mix well. Spoon into a ceramic or glass jar. Keep the jar loosely covered with a non-corrosive lid. Place the jar on the kitchen countertop where air circulates freely. Mix once a day with a dry, wooden spoon, for a week.

3. Cover loosely and leave the pickle undisturbed for a month. With time, the skin softens and nimma uragaaya achieves a special mellow sourness with echoes of ancient world.

Nimma Uragaaya will keep for several months to a year without refrigeration.

Nimma Uragaaya
Nimma Uragaaya Worship with Salt, Chilli Powder and Methi Powder

Nimma Uragaaya
Nimma Uragaaya ~ Comfort Food for Winter Time

Summer Fruit Harvest ~ Kharbuja

Kharbuja (Cantaloupe)
Kharbuja on the Vine

Kharbuja (Cantaloupe)
Ripe Kharbuja with Sweet Scent, Freshly Plucked from the Kharbuja Vines

Kharbuja (Cantaloupe)
Summer Sunday Treat ~ Kharbuja with Icecream

Weekend Kittaya

Kittaya

Kittaya Days of Summer

Adorable Kittaya, Our Cat

Brinjal Cilantro (Vankaya Kottimera Kura)

An authentic Andhra dish to be eaten with Sona Masuri rice or sorghum roti, this superb recipe came with high recommendation from Lakshmi chinnamma. She has been following my vegetable harvest updates and when she saw the fresh and familiar brinjals, she highly recommended I cook this recipe and I did. What a joy it was to rediscover the forgotten taste. Chinnamma, you are my muse, thank you.

Brinjal and Cilantro

Brinjal Cilantro (Vankaya Kottimera Kura)
(for one or two meals for four to two)

    8 palm-length, fresh and firm pinkish mauve colored brinjals
    2 cups, finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    4 green chilli, Indian or Thai variety, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon, grated fresh ginger
    1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste

    For tadka: 1 tablespoon, peanut oil and
    from masala dabba: tadka ingredients (cumin, mustard seeds and few fresh curry leaves)

Brinjal: Fill a bowl to half with water. Add a teaspoon of salt and mix.
Remove the ends and cut the brinjals lengthwise thinly and then crosswise to about one-inch length pieces. Drop the pieces into salted water. This old-Bharath technique is to prevent brinjal bitter-browning.

Cilantro: Take cilantro leaves, chillies and ginger in a mixer or mortar. Add a pinch of salt and blend them to coarse paste. (Or, if you prefer, skip this step and add the three ingredients as they are.)

Brinjal-Cilantro: Place a wide skillet on stove-top and heat. Add oil and when oil is hot, add and toast curry leaves, a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds to fragrance. Add brinjal pieces. Sprinkle turmeric and salt. Cover the skillet partially and cook the brinjal pieces to soft on medium heat. Add the cilantro paste at the end. Stir-fry for few minutes until the home is filled with wonderful cilantro scent.

Serve Vankaya Kottimera Kura warm with rice or roti and dal or dahi. Soft brinjal pieces with rich, jari like cilantro accent taste spicily silk. Imagine an edible Dharmavaram silk. This could be it.

Vankaya Kottimera Kura (Brinjal-Cilantro Curry)
Vankaya Kottimera Kura ~ For Meal Today

Mango Mirchi (Aam Stuffed Anaheim Chilli)

Homegrown Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim Peppers from My Veggie Garden

In mango mirchi, chillies are stuffed with green mango and pan-fried to golden. Easy to prepare and a tasty side dish, this is a must try recipe for sour mango-hot chilli flavor fanatics.

Anaheim Peppers and Mango Stuffing

Mango Mirchi
(for one or two meals)

4 chillies, (banana pepper or anaheim variety)
1/2 cup, cut mango pieces
1 tablespoon, sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon, cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon, salt or to taste
1 tablespoon, peanut oil

Mango: In a cast iron pan, add and dry-toast sesame seeds and cumin seeds to fragrance. Cool. Take them in a mixer. Grind to fine powder. To this sesame mix, add mango pieces and salt. Blend to fine paste without adding water. This is mango stuffing.

Mirchi: Cut off the stem and make a vertical slit. Remove the seeds. Gently open and stuff the chillies with mango stuffing. (If chillies are long, cut into two equal length pieces and then stuff.)

Mango Mirchi: Heat a cast-iron skillet. Add oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, place the chillies in a single layer. Cook until golden brown. Using a spatula, gently turn the mango mirchi to other side and cook to brown. Remove and serve hot.

With sour-spicy taste, Mango mirchi makes a memorable side dish to rice and roti with dal, dahi or subji combination.

Mango Mirchi
Mango Mirchi Cooking in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Mango Mirchi
Mango Mirchi ~ for Meal Today

Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Mangoes

In a culture where the pride of the garden is mango and spices rule the kitchen, mango aavakaaya is a prayer answered for heavenly meals. South Indian people around the world prepare aavakaaya during summer time, wherever green, unripe mangoes are available. This centuries-old culinary tradition has roots in Andhra Pradesh. Aava means mustard in Telugu and the pickle prepared with mustard base is called Aavakaaya. This is a much-loved pickle in many families and traditional bhojanam would always have mango aavakaaya as part of the meal. Words really do not do justice to describe the aavakaaya taste; I think one must have to experience the exquisite flavor of this culinary royalty.

Aavakaaya is all natural ingredients and easy to make at home. Prepare it with fresh ingredients, add enough salt and keep the pickle making area and vessels dry and moisture free. Follow these pickle precautions for successful tradition of aavakaaya. The most difficult thing is finding green mangoes, particularly if you live in the US. Green mangoes are unripe mangoes plucked prematurely in their earlier stage of growth. Green, unblemished skin, hard and crisp flesh with mouth puckering sour taste – this type of green mango is optimal for aavakaaya.

Mango Aavakaaya
(Makes about 75 oz Aavakaaya)

Ingredients needed:
We need 8 ingredients for basic aavakaaya preparation

4 large green mangoes (about 9 cups cut mangoes)
1 cup, red chilli powder
1 to 1+quarter cups, sea salt or iodine free salt
1/2 teaspoon, turmeric

3/4 cup, mustard seeds (aavaalu)
1/4 cup, methi seeds (menthi)
2 cups sesame oil, Indian variety
1/4 teaspoon, hing (inguva)

Green Mangoes:
1. Pick rock-hard green mangoes with unblemished skin. Wash under water and then dry with a clean cloth. Make sure they are completely dry and do not peel the skin.
2. On a clean, dry cutting board, with a dry, sharp knife, slice the mango through the center going from top to bottom. The inner stone covering the seed in green mangoes have not had a chance to harden completely so we can actually cut right through the seedstone with a sharp knife. Discard the seed. (Seed is not edible, remove it completely.)
3. Cut the mango into slices, with the stone wall included and then cut the slices into 1/2 inch dice.
4. Take the mango slices in a big and dry stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Sprinkle with red chilli powder, salt and turmeric. With a wooden spoon, gently mix well. Set aside. Do not cover the bowl.

Aavakaaya Base:
Aavakaaya Powder: Heat a cast-iron kadai or skillet. When skillet is hot, add first methi seeds and then mustard seeds. Roast them on low heat for couple of minutes, stirring constantly to fragrance. Turn off the heat and cool the ingredients. Take them in a mixer, grind to fine powder. This is aavakaaya powder.
Aavakaaya Oil: In the same skillet that was used for aavakaaya powder, pour sesame oil. Warm the oil on moderate heat. Add hing and gently mix. Turn off the heat. Cool the oil. This is now aavakaaya oil. We could also add peeled garlic cloves to prepare garlic aavakaaya variety.

Mango Aavakaaya:
Add aavakaaya powder and aavakaaya oil over mango pieces. Gently mix well. Transfer the pickle to a clean, dry, wide mouthed ceramic or glass jar with a non-corrosive lid. Close loosely and place the jar on the kitchen countertop where air circulates freely. Mix once a day with a wooden spoon for a week.

Within hours, mango pieces start to take in the aavakaaya powder and oil. As a result, volume also reduces. Aavakaaya keep maturing with time and the mango pieces become from just sour to a potent combination of hot-salty sour with mustard-methi pungency mixed in.

Mango Aavakaaya will keep for several months to a year without refrigeration.

Amazing Aavakaaya:
Mango aavakaaya may be eaten within 2 days of making it, though it continues to mellow with time. For daily meals, what we do is take small portions from the main jar into a small cup or jar. In this way, the main pickle source won’t get disturbed daily and the chance of spoil would be less.

Mix few pieces of mango aavakaaya with hot, cooked rice, any kind of dal and warm ghee. Combine the four well. Make small, round sized portions (mudda). Enjoy the mango aavakaaya mudda!

Mango Aavakaaya Preparation in Images

Green, Unripe Mangoes
Green Mangoes with Unblemished Skin For Mango Aavakaaya

Quarter the mangoes and discard the seed
Slice the mangoes lengthwise, cutting through the Mango Seedstone.

Cut Mangoes
Discard the Seed and Slice the Mango, About 1/4-inch Thickness

Mangoes cut for aavakaaya
Cut the Mango Slices to 1/2-inch Dice

Mustard and methi powder for aavakaaya
Prepare Aavakaaya Powder (Methi-Mustard Powder)

Mangoes mixed with aavakaaya powder
Mix Mangoes with Aavakaaya Powder, Chilli Powder, Salt and Turmeric

Mangoes with aavakaaya powder and sesame oil
Add Aavakaaya Oil to Mango Pieces and Mix Well.

Mango Aavakaaya
Store the Mango Aavakaaya in a Jar

Meal Today
Mango Aavakaaya Bhojanam ~ An Andhra Experience

Aavakaaya is our cherished culinary heritage. I feel fortunate to prepare it at home and share it with you here on Mahanandi.

Notes:
for 7 big mangoes, for 13 cups cut mango -
1+1/2 cups each – sea salt, chilli powder and mustard powder, 1/4 cup of methi powder and 2 cups of sesame oil.

The Art of Andhra Aavakaaya with Mangoes

Green, Unripe Mangoes

Quarter the mangoes and discard the seed

Cut Mangoes

Mangoes cut for aavakaaya

Mustard and methi powder for aavakaaya

Mangoes mixed with aavakaaya powder

Mangoes with aavakaaya powder and sesame oil

Mango Aavakaaya

Andhra Aavakaaya ~ Tomato Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes

Aavakaaya is a type of centuries-old pickle tradition from Andhra Pradesh, India. In aavakaaya, the dressing itself forms the base and the green, raw vegetables are used subordinately to add texture, flavor and color. Freshly grounded dried red chillies and mustard seeds play leading role, supported by methi seed powder, salt and sesame oil. This aavakaaya base goes exceptionally well with green, unripe mangoes, lemon-cukes and also with green tomatoes.

Tomatoes, when they are immature and unripe have lemon-cuke like firm texture and sour, acidic flavor, so they are suitable to this style of traditional pickle making. This 100 plus year old recipe source is amma, Nandyala and the recipe suggestion came from a friend over dinner conversation. Thanks Kousalya and Sanjeev for the excellent suggestion.

Green tomatoes

Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes
(for a small batch of about 3 cups pickle)

Green Tomatoes:
Pick about 6 medium-sized green tomatoes. They have to be firm with no damage to skin and when cut open, the insides have to be in green without any hint of pink or red ripening colors.
Rinse the tomatoes under water. Pat them dry with a clean cloth. On a dry cutting board, chop tomatoes finely into half-inch pieces (about 3 cups). Take the tomato pieces in a clean, dry glass or ceramic bowl.

Aavakaaya Base:

    For Aavakaaya Powder: Heat a skillet. When skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of black mustard seeds, half teaspoon of methi seeds and 10 ring finger length dried red chillies. Roast them to fragrance, constantly stirring. Cool the ingredients to room temperature. In a clean, dry mixer, take the roasted ingredients and grind them to fine powder. (About half cup of powder.)

    Aavakaaya Oil: In the same skillet, add quarter cup of Indian sesame oil. Heat the oil and add quarter teaspoon of hing powder. Gently mix and turn off the flame. Cool the oil to room temperature. Instead of hing, we could also add peeled garlic cloves and fresh sprig of curry leaves to oil for different ruchi.

Tomato Aavakaaya:
Sprinkle aavakaaya powder over green tomato pieces. Add quarter cup iodine-free, sea salt. Using a clean, dry wooden spoon, gently combine. Pour the aavakaaya oil. Mix well.

Ladle the pickle into a clean ceramic or glass jar. Cover loosely with a lid. Keep it undisturbed on the kitchen countertop and after three days, mix well again and start having it. This rest period will give enough time for tomatoes to absorb the aavakaaya seasoning.

Tomato aavakaaya tastes great with all types of traditional breakfast items and particularly with rice/roti -dal/dahi combination. It stays fresh up to a month as long as pickle precautions (no wet stuff, enough salt) are taken.

Here is the Tomato Aavakaaya preparation in images:


Chopped green tomatoes for aavakaaya


Green tomatoes mixed with aavakaaya powder and aavakaaya oil


Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes

Note: The proportions I used above are for a general, mild preparation. Some people prefer using more Aavakaaya Powder and Aavakaaya Oil for their pickles. If you prefer making the pickle with more base, you could use one-and-half or two times the proportions, or to your liking.
For aavakaaya, we need Indian, untoasted sesame oil, available at Indian grocery shops. This is different from Chinese sesame oil.

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