Category: Biyyam & Grains

In Season: Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles

Houston has spring like weather since third week of February. That means the beginning of planting season. I had been in the garden, cleaning the garden beds, starting seedlings and planting vegetable plants. Kind of lost in spring sunshine, and who can resist the spring charm?

Spring means asparagus is in season. I bought a bunch of tender asparagus last weekend and prepared a Thai inspired Buddha’s bowl for today’s meal. A complete vegetarian one-pot meal with asparagus and buckwheat (soba) noodles in homemade sweet and sour peanut sauce. You can of course, buy ready-made sauce but the sauce is easy to prepare at home using the ingredients that are already in pantry and that’s what I did. Buckwheat noodles which are prepared from buckwheat flour have a unique texture and flavor that I enjoy. With fresh asparagus and in flavorful sauce, it was a nutritious, filling Buddha’s bowl. Imagine PF Chang’s restaurant but without all the hoopla and waiting to get a table.

Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles
(serves 4)

    12 ounces of buckwheat (soba) noodles
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    1 cup, shallots or red onion, cut into matchstick length thin strips
    2 cups, fresh asparagus, cut into matchstick length pieces
    2 cups carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
    2 cups unripe, green papaya, cut into thin matchsticks
    1 cup, fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup, roasted pistachios or peanuts
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    For the sweet-sour peanut sauce:
    1/4 cup, roasted, unsalted peanuts
    2 teaspoons, chilli flakes
    1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
    1 tablespoon, palm or cane jaggery pieces
    1/4 teaspoon, sea salt
    Add the above in a mixer and blend to creamy, smooth sauce.

1. Cook the buckwheat noodles according to the instructions on the package, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

2. Heat sesame oil in a wok or wide pan until hot. Add onions, asparagus, carrot and green papaya. Saute for 10 minutes, turning frequently, until the vegetables are tender and browned.

3. Add the sweet and sour peanut sauce to roasted vegetables. Sprinkle salt and quarter cup of water. Simmer on low heat for five minutes.

4. Toss in the buckwheat noodles and stir coat them in the sauce. Heat through for two minutes and then spoon into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle cilantro, pistachio and little bit lemon juice on top and serve immediately.

Asparagus with Soba Noodles
Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles ~ Under Spring Sunshine

Variation: Use whole-wheat or rice noodles instead of buckwheat noodles, if you wish.

Spicy Spaghetti with Indian Spices

Throughout the past, spices sacrificed India. Spice routes were formed, land was looted, blood was shed and a lot was lost due to others’ search of Indian spices. After all that sacrifice, you would think that adding spices would receive approval and appreciation. It seems not. Particularly adding spices to “pasta” group. Some sneer at any effort to spice up the spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle Indian spices, the severe sermons start. “Do not violate the sanctity of spaghetti with garam masala, it’s sacrilegious to spaghetti sauce”, they lament and ridicule the efforts.

If you disagree with this thought process, then this recipe is for you. The bland spaghetti mingles with moderately Indian-spiced tomato-garlic sauce. And the end result is delightful tummy filler, worthy of India’s spice sacrifice. Spices are no small matter. Long live spices. May they always enliven our food and guard our health!

Spicy Spaghetti with Steamed Vegetables
Spicy Spaghetti with Steamed Vegetables on the Side

Spicy Spaghetti with Indian Spices
(for 4 generous servings)

1 tablespoon, olive oil
1/4 teaspoon, cumin seeds
1/4 cup, Kasuri methi
1 small red onion or shallot, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup of diced carrots and fresh peas mix
4 cups, homemade or store-bought, organic tomato sauce
1 tablespoon, garam masala powder
1/2 teaspoon each – chilli powder and turmeric powder
Salt to taste

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add to it the cumin seeds and kasuri methi. Toast on low heat to fragrance. Add onion and garlic. Saute on moderate heat. When garlic and the onion are transparent, add the vegetables and tomato sauce. Season with garam masala powder, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Mix well and partially cover the pan. Simmer on moderate heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve the sauce hot over freshly cooked whole-wheat spaghetti for tasty, spicy spaghetti.

Semiya (Vermicelli) Upma

One of the first recipes from my beginner cooking days I was confident to cook was the utterly delicious semiya upma. Like Maggi noodles for this generation, comfort and quick college food was semiya upma for us in those days. Fry the onion, boil water and add the roasted semiya. A one dish meal with minimum utensils and effort, and a tasty end result, it’s very easy to latch on semiya upma for comfort.

Semiya is Indian vermicelli. Made with durum wheat and free of egg, it’s available very thin, broken and in packets in Indian grocery stores.

I have been craving semiya upma for some time and made it on Ekadashi. Semiya upma, aavakaaya and avocado – it was a blessed meal.

Roasted Semiya
Roasted Semiya

Semiya Upma
(for 2 to 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

    2 cups, semiya (Indian vermicelli)
    1 medium sized red onion or shallot, finely chopped
    2 fresh chillies, finely chopped
    1/4 cup fresh peas, shelled
    1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
    1/4 cup roasted, cashew pieces
    1/4 teaspoon, salt or to taste
    1 tablespoon, peanut oil
    from masala dabba, for curry leaf tadka: 10 curry leaves, and
    1/4 teaspoon each- urad dal, chana dal, mustard seeds and cumin

1. Heat a wide pan over medium heat. Add semiya. With a slotted spoon, turn the semiya over and over again and roast until the semiya is uniformly pale red. Transfer the roasted semiya to a plate. The roasting process prevents the semiya becoming a gooey mudda in the end and increases the ruchi very much.

2. In the same pan, heat peanut oil. When oil is hot, add curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, mustard seeds and cumin. Saute the tadka ingredients to fragrance, constantly stirring. Add onion and chilli pieces. Saute to soft. Add peas and 3 cups of water. Sprinkle salt. Mix well and cover the pan with a lid. Increase the heat to high.

3. When the water comes to a rolling boil, remove the lid and constantly stirring, add the roasted semiya to water. Reduce the heat to medium. Partially cover the pan and cook the semiya till the water is all absorbed. Turn off the heat.

4.Garnish with cilantro and cashew pieces. Gently mix and leave the semiya upma for ten minutes for flavors to mingle well. Then serve the semiya upma hot with pickle, chutney or podi. Kids love it with some sugar sprinkled on the top. Tasty semiya upma can be had for breakfast, evening snack, or for meal.

Semiya Upma
Semiya Upma with Mango Aavakaaya and Avocado ~ for Meal on Ekadashi

Kitchen Notes:
for 1 cup of semiya – add one and half cups of water

Mango~Carrot Pulihora

No people have been more appreciative of the culinary possibilities of rice than the people from India. Biryani, bhats, pongal and pulao are some of the many well known rice preparations. Then there is Pulihora.

Pulihora is a celebration of the south-Indian penchant for rather sour flavors. In pulihora, the rice says no to baser onion, garlic and garam masala, and gets bridal. The aromatic, individually cooked rice grains are adorned with turmeric tadka in attractive yellow -the traditional symbol of joy and happiness, and absorbed in sourly sweet agents from nature. This flavorful dish is a must have on south Indian festival days and special occasions. There are several variations of pulihora depending on the sour agent. Common and crowd favorites are pulihoras prepared with grated unripe mango, tamarind pulp and lemon juice.

Today’s recipe is inspired by mango pulihora. I added little bit of carrot for sweet touch. Mango and carrot with rice, it was a delicious levels of flavor. This is the mango season. Just the right time for pulihora.

Grated Unripe Mango
Grated, Unripe Mango

Mango-Carrot Pulihora
(for 2 to 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

Recipe:
2 cups sona masuri or basmati rice
1 firm, unripe mango
1 small carrot
Wash the rice in water, then soak in 4 cups of water for at least 15 minutes.
Lightly peel the skins of mango and carrot. Grate with a grater or in a food processor. We need about two cups of grated unripe mango and a cup of grated carrot.

For Turmeric Tadka:
2 tablespoons, peanut oil
1 tablespoon, chana dal and urad dal
1 tablespoon, finely chopped green chilli
1 sprig of fresh curry leaves (10 to 12 curry leaves)
2 tablespoons, roasted, unsalted shelled peanuts (or cashews)
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
Pinch each – cumin seeds, mustard seeds and hing

1. In a large, heavy pan, add the rice and the water it soaked in. On medium heat, cook until the rice is tender but still firm, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

2. In a large, heavy wide pan, heat peanut oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add one after another, from big to small, the ingredients listed in turmeric tadka in that order. Constantly stirring toast them to red and to fragrance. When you see mustard seeds pop, then add the mango and carrot gratings to the skillet. Sprinkle half teaspoon of salt or to taste. Stir and saute for about five minutes on medium-low heat. This is done to remove the mango and carrot rawness.

3. Add mango-carrot mixture to cooked rice. Gently mix well. Serve warm. Sour and sweet, mango-carrot pulihora makes a tasty one-dish meal.

Mango-Carrot Pulihora
Mango~Carrot Pulihora ~ Meal on a Rainy Day

Strawberry-Oats Cake

Farm Fresh Strawberries

Spring is in the air and fresh berries are making an appearance in grocery stores. I bought a box of fresh strawberries yesterday and with some of those berries I baked a strawberry cake for the weekend. It is a substantial cake with a simple recipe. The surprise ingredient is oats and they make the cake more moist and gooey than crumbly. I also added mashed banana (to make it egg-free) and pecans for some extra sweetness and crunch.


Strawberry-Oats Cake

2 cups, all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1/4 cup, oats (old fashioned, Quaker brand)
1 and 1/2 cups, sugar
1 teaspoon, salt
1 teaspoon, baking powder
1/2 teaspoon, baking soda

1 ripe banana, mashed with a tablespoon of lime juice
1/2 cup, plain yogurt
1/2 cup, peanut oil
1 cup, cut strawberries
1 cup, coarsely chopped pecans

In a big bowl, take flour and oats. Add sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix well.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the mashed banana, yogurt and oil. Mix well until thoroughly incorporated. Add the strawberries and pecans. Gently combine.

Lightly oil a deep 7- inch round cake pan. Spoon the mixture into the pan and smooth the surface.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes until firm to the touch or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool for 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Strawberry-Oats Cake
A Slice of Strawberry-Oats Cake to Welcome the Sweet Spring Season

Fennel Farfalle ~ India Inspired

Fresh fennel not only tastes great, on research I found that fresh fennel is low in calories, contains beta carotene and foliate. It is good for digestion and has a calming effect on the stomach. All the above makes fresh fennel a power food in my food dictionary. Needless to say I am enjoying being a follower to fresh fennel flavor. And, this is what I have made for dinner today with fresh fennel bulb purchased from last weekend grocery trip.

I paired the fennel with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Pasta is the carbohydrates. Chickpeas and almond butter filled the protein need. I omitted the routine pasta fare, tomato sauce, oregano etc, instead experimented by adding some traditional Bharath masala. Fennel looked like it was in turmeric heaven and the meal tasted light and delightful.

Fresh Fennel, Sliced Thinly

Fennel Farfalle Pasta
(for 2 to 4 servings for main meal)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon, fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, skin peeled, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 fennel bulb
4 cups of spinach, coarsely chopped
8 sundried tomatoes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup, cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon, almond butter
1 teaspoon each – garam masala powder and red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
salt to taste
2 cups, farfalle pasta

Method:
Cut the fennel bulb in half. Remove the outer layer and hard core. Slice the fennel into thin strips. Cut and prepare garlic, onion, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the fennel seeds and garlic. Toast to fragrance. Add the onion and fresh fennel. Saute for five minutes on moderate heat to pleasant pink color. Add the spinach, sundried tomatoes and chickpeas. Saute, stirring frequently, until the leaves collapse.

Add the cooked pasta and about half cup of water pasta simmered in. Stir in the almond butter, garam masala powder, red pepper flakes, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook on low heat for another five minutes. Serve the fennel farfalle immediately.

Fennel Farfalle
Fennel Farfalle ~ for Bhojanam Today

Brussels Sprouts Borugulu

The beneficence of the vegetables in gastronomical matters is well known. In ingestion, the well-treated vegetable pleases the palate and in digestion, it gives no cause for problems. In this Bharath inspired recipe, you can see that brussels sprouts are well treated. They are on intimate terms with herbs and spices, and they combine smartly with other glories. Yet they seem to believe wholeheartedly in their own importance. Resulting in a tasty dish that would delight the brussels sprouts believers.

Brussels Sprouts and Borugulu (Murmura)

Brussels Sprouts Borugulu
(serves two to four)

250 grams of Borugulu (Murmura or puffed rice) from Indian grocery
12 Brussels sprouts, cleaned and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 red onion, skin peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 carrot, grated, about a cup
1 cup, sprouted moong (mung)
2 tablespoons of minced, fresh green chilli
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons each- Fresh cilantro and roasted, shelled peanuts
For curryleaf tadka: a tablespoon of peanut oil, a pinch each -cumin&mustard seeds, a sprig of fresh curry leaves

Borugulu: Take a big pot and fill half of it with water. Add borugulu and with your hands push into water to soak them well. After about 5 minutes, take handfuls of borugulu and firmly squeeze the water out. Place them in a colander. This is done to clean the puffed rice. What must stay behind in water are any sand, dust and chaff of the puffed rice. To see this process in photos, click here.

Brussels Sprouts: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add and fry curry leaves, mustard seeds and cumin to fragrance. Add onions and sauté to brown. Then add the brussels sprouts, carrot and moong sprouts. Cook, until they are barely tender. Add green chilli, salt and turmeric. Sprinkle cilantro and peanuts. Stir and sauté turning the vegetables over and over again for about five minutes.

Brussels Borugulu: Add the puffed rice to this hot brussels sprouts mixture. Squeeze some lime juice if you prefer. Combine well gently. Serve as soon as you prepare.

I also added some pappula podi at the end, for some extra ruchi. Vegetables, sprouts and borugulu, it was a simple yet wholesome, tasty meal.

Brussels Sprouts Borugulu
Brussels Sprouts Borugulu ~ for Meal Today

Brussels Sprouts Basmati

Wakeup, Work, Watch. Wakeup to wintry silence.
Wakeup. Work. Watch. Work an endless whirlwind.
Wakeup. Work, Watch. Watch the world pass by.

In a rhythmic routine that revolves around night, dawn, noon, dusk, and night…, bed, work, prayer, table, TV …, sleep, work, eat, meditate and watch… once in a while, for a change, having a bowl of basmati… It’s a refreshing experience!

Brussels sprouts are in season right now and I wanted to cook something new. When I added them to biryani, these wintry, cute ‘cabbage mini me’s’ woke up wonderfully to the flavor warmth of Bharath basmati. Excellent recipe for that special occasion. Give it a try.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts Basmati
(serves four or six)

Recipe happens in four steps.

Step 1: Basmati
2 cups of good quality, aged basmati rice and 4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric or saffron soaked in a tablespoon of milk

Take the basmati rice in a wide pan. Add water and turmeric or saffron infused milk. Mix, and cover the pan. Cook over medium heat until the rice is done to tender individuality.

Step 2: Ruchi
2 tablespoons, grated fresh coconut or cashews
1 teaspoon, grated ginger
1 plump garlic clove, skin peeled
2 sprigs, fresh cilantro
2 fresh green chillies
Take the above in a grinder. Add two cloves, 1-inch piece of cinnamon, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, quarter teaspoon each, cumin and black peppercorn. Grind the ingredients to silky-smooth paste. Add few teaspoons of water if necessary for easy blending.

Step 3: Brussels:
1 tablespoon, ghee or peanut oil
2 tablespoons, golden raisins
2 tablespoons, cashew pieces
1 red onion or 2 or 3 shallots, sliced thinly lengthwise
12 brussels sprouts, sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

In a skillet, heat ghee or oil. When it is hot, add the cashews and golden raisins. Sauté until golden. Add onions and cook until brown. Add the brussels sprouts and sauté to tender. Sprinkle salt and turmeric. And add the masala paste from step 2. Mix well and stir-fry, stirring often for about five minutes.

Step 4: Brussels Basmati
Spoon the brussels sprouts mixture on top of the cooked basmati rice in the pan. Cut and juice a lemon or a small sweet orange. Mix well and adjust salt to your taste. Serve hot with kurma or raita or with some boiled eggs for an excellent meal.

Brussels Sprouts Basmati in Boiled Egg
Brussels Sprouts Basmati in a Boiled Egg ~ for meal today

Sajja Rotte-Upma (Bajra Roti-Upma)

I made my grandmother’s recipe today. My grandma is about 80 years young, full of vitality, from Nandikotkur and now lives in Hyderabad with my uncle’s family. She used to (still does sometimes) prepare either sorghum or bajra roti for breakfast everyday when we were growing up. The leftover rotis are made into a roti-upma for evening snack. Roti-upma (or Rottupma) may sound unique, but it is pretty common in Nandyal and Nandikotkur areas of Andhra. The recipe is simple. Take rotis, preferably leftover and hardened. Break them into small pieces. Sauté with upma ingredients. Easy and tasty, I love my grandma’s roti-upma.

Sajja Rotte (Bajra Rotis)

Sajja Rotte-Upma (Bajra Roti-Upma)

Bajra rotis – 3 or 4
Onion – 1 big one
Green chillies – 3 or 4
Fresh cilantro – 4 or 5 sprigs
Turmeric -1/4 teaspoon
Salt – 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
For tadka: a tablespoon of peanut oil and a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds, and few curry leaves

Tear rotis into small, bite-sized pieces. Finely chop onion, chillies and cilantro to small pieces.

Heat oil in an iron skillet. To the hot oil, add curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. Sauté, stirring constantly. When seeds start to pop, add onion and green chilli. Cook until onion pieces soften and turn brown. Add the roti pieces, turmeric and salt. Sprinkle cilantro. Stir-fry for five minutes, mixing in-between. Serve the tasty roti-upma hot.

I also added a cup of sprouted moong beans at the end to increase the nutritional value and make the meal substantial. Millet and Moong sprouts, that’s good food.

Sajja Rotte Upma
Sajja Rotte Upma ~ For Meal Today


Bajra rotis are available at Swami Narayan Mandir for interested Houstonians.

Avocado Puffed Rice (Avocado Borugulu)

Avocado and Puffed Rice
Avocado and Puffed Rice

Puffed rice is to rice, like popcorn is to corn. Puffed rice, known as borugulu in Telugu, is a staple food in many parts of Andhra, India. Traditionally they were made fresh daily by heating rice in a sand-filled oven. The processing makes rice less perishable and the puffed shape, the crunchiness makes them quite a favorite among all age groups.

We often prepare upma style breakfast called (B)Uggani with puffed rice. While making this today, I thought, “why not add avocado?” Why not, indeed. This is how I introduced avocado to parents. It was great and we all loved the avocado borugula breakfast this morning.

Avocado Puffed Rice (Avocado Borugulu)

(for four for a light meal or breakfast)

8 cups crisp, puffed rice
1 avocado – ripe flesh finely chopped
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1 semi ripe tomato, finely diced
4 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
½ tsp each- turmeric and salt
1/4 cup- cooked chickpeas or roasted peanuts
Few sprigs of fresh cilantro and one lime or lemon
1 tablespoon- peanut oil
From masala dabba: cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves

The preparation is a two step process.

Step 1: Take a big pot and fill half of it with water. Add puffed rice in it and with your hands push the puffed rice into water to soak them well. After about 5 minutes, take handfuls of puffed rice and firmly squeeze the water out. Place them in a colander. This is done to clean the puffed rice. What must stay behind in water is any sand, dust and chaff of the puffed rice. To see this process in photos, click here.

Step 2: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add and fry a sprig of curry leaves and a pinch each – mustard seeds and cumin to fragrance. Add onions, green chilli and tomatoes. Saute for five minutes to tender. Add chickpeas, turmeric and salt. Stir and fry for two more minutes and turn off the heat.

Add the puffed rice to this hot onion mixture. Add avocado, cilantro and lime juice. Combine well gently. Serve as soon as you prepare. Tastes great when still hot.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

Traditional Borugula Recipes:
(B)Uggani for Breakfast
Borugula Laddu for Dessert

Avocado Puffed Rice
Avocado Borugulu ~ for Breakfast Today

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