Friday, August 31, 2012

Mysore Mallige idlis - soft & fluffy breakfast essentials

Now, nobody needs an introduction to the joy of this very South Indian breakfast breakfast right? I googled the word 'Idli' for fun and came up with hundreds of hits, there are blogs that talk about the idli recipes (many variations and complications on the basic recipe included as well) out there, so why do I need to write about it here again? Just for the very simple reason that it will be available as a reference to me or anyone that desires it readily. But then since you are being patient with me and humoring me by reading this extremely common recipe, I will give some tips at the end that makes some really soft and white colored idlis which are great to look at and delicious to devour on.

When I started cooking on my own, Idlis and chapatis were the two disasters in my kitchen. Idlis hardly turned anything but hard with an achingly dull muddy color especially in the cold winters and I had stopped making Idlis altogether. But then it always poked my pride since nammamma makes some of the fluffiest idlis ever known and never once gave the excuse of the outside temperature. So some theory (phone sessions with amma), some internship (watching her make idlis) and some practicals(making it on my own) have brought me to where I am and I can confidently say I make good idlis no matter what the thermometer reads.

Broadly, there are two ways of idli making, one generally made in the kitchens of Tamil Nadu and Kerala where rice is soaked and ground, these idlis have a bouncy texture. The other is made in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh by mixing pre-made rice rava into ground urad dal. This has a grainy texture. I love idlis both ways and if I have the time to grind rice for another 30 minutes, I take that route or go the rice rava way. You get pretty decent rice rava in all Indian grocery stores now and I don't have to soak, dry and powder them in the kitchen like my mom did. I usually bring either Laxmi or Deep brand of rice rava which works fine.

Oh, I haven't explained the 'Mallige(Jasmine)' part in the title, right? Mysore is famous for the Navaratri or Dasara celebrations and the huge procession on the day of Vijaya Dashami. As part of the celebrations, Mysore also hosts a Dasara exhibition which has all kinds of stalls from clothes to toys to soaps in addition to the cultural programs every evening for about 3 months. The exhibition attracts vendors from all parts of India and there are specialty places displaying and selling goods. It used to be the favorite hang out place as kids when cousins were visiting. From a pig tailed girl hopping with my older sister & cousins to a teenager visiting stalls with friends to a newly wed roaming with her husband to a new mommy carrying her infant, I have been to this exhibition at various stages in life.

What is a hang out without food, right? The Dasara exhibition was (I haven't been to one in 12 or so years) also known for the numerous eateries, these were all temporary stalls and mostly fast foods from and one of them advertised their Idlis as 'Mallige Idlis' and a small kid would call out to all people in a high pitched voice 'Bisi bisi idli, mallige idli, Mysore mallige idli (Hot, hot jasmine idlis)', it was the first time I heard mallige used in the context of Idlis and it has stuck with me. Mallige is the Mysore jasmine known for its delicate white blooms and the pleasant smell. Since nammamma's idlis were always soft and white, we started calling it 'Mallige idlis' at home too. So here is how I make the Mallige idlis.
What do you need to make Mallige Idlis? 
1 cup urad dal
2.5 cups idli rava
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1 heaped Tblsp cooked rice
1 Tsp salt

How do you make Mallige Idlis? 
  • Soak urad dal & fenugreek seeds in 3 cups of water for 5-6 hours.
  • Wash the idli rava in 2 changes of water, drain the water and keep it aside.
  • Wash the urad dal in atleast 3 changes of water, drain the water. 
  • Grind urad dal into a very soft dough by adding spoonfuls of water at a time. 
  • Add the cooked rice towards the end of grinding cycle and continue to grind. 
  • Idli rava would have soaked up the water, squeeze handfuls to remove any extra water and add it to the ground urad dal. 
  • Mix the two together into a uniform batter, cover and keep in a warm place overnight to ferment. 
  • The batter should rise and increase in volume by the end of the fermentation period. 
  • Grease the idli plates with drops of oil, spoon the batter into the idli plates and steam it for 15 minutes. 
  • Take out the idli plates and let it stand for a minute before removing the hot steamed idlis from the plate with the help of a butter knife. 
  • Serve idlis with any combination of chutney, chutney pudi, sambar and dollop of ghee. 
  • A stone grinder (electric or manual) works best as it can take the longer grinding periods needed to make soft idlis. If you are using regular mixie, use ice cold water to prevent the motor from becoming hot.
  • The urad dal paste should become very soft and fluffy else idlis will turn out hard. 
  • Use smaller grained idli rava for a better texture, some of the brands have really thick grains. 
  • Addition of the cooked rice helps idlis to become softer and also adds to the color of the mallige idlis. 
  • During cold season, I preheat my oven on at the lowest setting, switch off and set the batter to rise in there over night. 
  • If you are using a pressure cooker to steam the idlis, remember not to put the weight and lower the heat when the steam comes out in full force and continue to cook for 15 minutes before switching off. 
For all those of you  enjoying a long weekend with Labor day Monday, have a wonderful time. This is our last weekend before school reopens on Tuesday, I will see you next week. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Godhi(Wheat flour) dosa and peanut chutney - delectably addictive combination

Do you all agree marriages expand horizons including those of culinary kind? When families come together as part of a marriage, there is so much sharing that goes on. I got to taste the Godhi dosa for the first time after my sister got married, it was a very common dinner item at her in-laws place that it actually had a name - 'GoDoKaCha', one of my BIL's smart commentaries :-). GoDoKaCha is an acronym derived from Go(Godhi/Wheat), Do(Dosa), Ka(Kadlekayi/peanuts) and Cha(Chatney). I remember all of us gaping when my BIL and his siblings decided to make GoDoKaCha for dinner one day and only realized the delicious combination when we sat down for dinner. Akka's FIL used to eat cooked greens (mostly spinach)with this as a side and I am hooked to that combination as well. Though I don't cook spinach every time, Godhi Dosa and peanut Chutney is a standard combination in my kitchen. Both are easy and quick to fix and delicious when eaten together.

As you might tell, I favor thin dosas (not necessarily crisp but just thin) so all my dosa pictures usually show a thin dosa. I will have some notes to make thicker dosas and you can follow these pointers if that is your preference. Godhi dosa typically turns out soft just because of the wheat flour in it unless you roast it with a lot of oil.

I consider Godhi dosa a very good and easy alternative to chapatis/rotis. If you are a beginner and looking for a healthy, sumptuous meal, this is for you. This does not need any fermentation and you can expand the basic batter with any flavor with only your creativity to limit/set boundaries. It doesn't have to be accompanied by the peanut chutney but I am sure you will be hooked once you try the combination :-). DD is so addicted to this combination that she will make an instant chutney with the peanut powder I always keep in stock if we are too tired to make fresh chutney, another time on the instant chutney perhaps?
What do you need to make Godhi dosa? 
Makes about 4-5 regular size dosas
1 cup whole wheat flour/regular chapati flour
1 Tsp rice flour
2.5 cups water
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1/2 Tsp red chili powder (optional but recommended)
1 Tblsp finely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
1-2 Tsp oil to fry dosa

How do you make Godhi Dosa? 
  • Take a big vessel, add all the ingredients except for water and mix them well. 
  • Add water slowly into the vessel and mix into a batter of pouring consistency without any lumps.
  • Heat a dosa pan/griddle on medium high. 
  • Pour a ladle of batter and move it quickly into a circle (thickness depends on your preference). I usually do not work it a lot but let the batter find its way and just do a gentle move of the pan.
  • Drizzle a couple of drops of oil around the dosa, let it cook for a minute before flipping it over with a spatula.
  • Let the other side cook for 30-45 seconds. 
  • Serve it hot off the griddle with peanut chutney (<Grin>, ok I will give you a break, you can eat this dosa with any other chutney of your choice)
  • Repeat for the remaining batter and enjoy the hot Dosas.
What do you need to make peanut chutney?
The below ingredients make a slightly spicy, tangy and sweetish peanut chutney. Adjust the spices to suit your palate. 
1 cup peanuts
3-4 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
Small piece of tamarind or 1/2 Tsp tamarind concentrate
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp crushed jaggery or brown sugar
2 cups water
1 Tsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin (optional)
1/4 Tsp Asafoetida powder
How do you make peanut chutney? 
  • Roast the peanuts well until the raw smell disappears (you can do either the stove top or the microwave method), keep aside.
  • Roast the red chilies for a minute in the hot pan, switch off and add the tamarind and cumin seeds. 
  • Let the ingredients cool off before taking them to the blender with salt and jaggery. 
  • Grind into a smooth paste with water.
  • Heat the oil, add ingredients under seasoning, let the mustard crackle before adding the sizzling seasoning into the chutney. 
  • Some suggestions for making Godhi dosa more interesting - Add cumin, ajwain, finely chopped green chilies, curry leaves or onions, any combination or each on its own will provide a different flavor. 
  • Notice that I have added raw mustard, it will get cooked on the hot pan along with the dosa and you get a nice crunchy bite and flavor when you eat it. 
  • I do not cover the Godhi dosa while it is cooking, this along with the oil drops helps it develop some crispy parts which I love. 
  • If you prefer soft dosas, cover the pan with a lid after you drizzle oil and let it cook for a minute before turning it over. The moisture that forms inside the cover helps the dosa to become soft. 
  • Peanuts can be roasted in microwave by spreading them a wide MW safe dish, you will need to try out the timings on your device as it depends on the power settings. Mine usually takes 4 MW runs of 3-2-1-1 minute. 
  • I add the tamarind to the hot pan so it softens up a little and will be kinder to the blender :-)
  • Cumin gets roasted very quickly, add it only after you switch the stove off and it will be just done right.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ragi dosa - take a diversion from the routine and enjoy the protein rich dose

Are you one of the Dose(a) lovers? How do you like your dose? Paper thin and crispy or soft and delicious? In my house, dose is an all time favorite and when everybody enjoys it, I can't really make the same versions again and again, can I? There are umpteen number of different varieties of dosas out there while every one of them may not be palatable, some definitely appeal to your senses.

I don't know how many of you prepare Ragi dosa, I started making it recently. I love finger millet or Ragi for all its nutrition. I make a plain ragi flour dosa (similar to godhi dosa) but had not tried it with urad dal. I got the recipe from one of my friends S. I knew she made it regularly, but had never asked her for the recipe until recently. I have made this 3 times already and loved it. As is Sattvaa tradition, I do not post my recipes until I get consistent results with it, so you can be confident that this is a tried and tasted recipe.

This Ragi dosa doesn't need fermentation like the regular dosa and hence scores over for a quick fix. All you need to plan is the soaking time for the Urad dal preferably about 4 hours and the grinding time. While it doesn't need to be fermented, you don't have to fret if you made a large batch because I did that the second time, the dosas turned out delicious even after a 10 hour gap. It was one of those cold days and I had not refrigerated the batter either and we enjoyed the very slight hint of fermented taste. So, go on and make these healthy dosas for a breakfast or dinner.
What do you need to make Ragi dosa? 
Makes about 15 regular size dosas
1/2 cup urad dal - I used the deskinned whole urad
11/4 cup ragi flour - you get this in all Indian stores
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
4-5 cups of water - approximate, see notes below
Couple of Tsp oil to make dosas

How do you make Ragi dosa? 
  • Soak urad dal & fenugreek seeds together  in 3 cups of water for 4-5 hours.
  • Wash the soaked dal in 2-3 changes of water and grind into a fluffy, soft batter using water preferably in a grinder, see below for useful notes on using regular mixer/blender. 
  • Take out the urad dal paste and add the ragi flour and salt into it and mix it in with hands making sure there are no lumps (small or big) by adding water. 
  • Play around with the consistency to get the type of dosa you like, thinner the batter, thinner you can spread it for crisp dosa.
  • Heat a flat griddle/pan and pour a ladleful of batter on to the hot pan and spread it out using a circular motion. 
  • Drizzle oil around it, let it cook for a minute until the edges start to rise from the pan. Using a flipper turn the dosa over and let it cook for half a minute before serving it with any chutney or other side dishes of your choice.
  • Use cold water to blend the urad dal into a smooth paste. Add water spoonfuls at a time and take care not to heat up the motor. 
  • You need to adjust the consistency of the batter based on your preference for paper thin or thick dosas. If you want thinner dosa, make the batter thinner so you can spread easily

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mirchi Ka Salan - not for the faint hearted

I love regional cuisines especially if I can try them at the source. Every place is known for its authentic dishes and based on the freshness of the ingredients and the cooking method adopted, the dish gets that very individual flavor. I have been to Hyderabad 4 times so far and it has always been a packed visit spending time with family and friends and we get fed so much at each place we go to, I have never had the opportunity/time/need to eat at an authentic Hyderabadi joint. I am still waiting for my turn to enjoy the famous Hyderabadi biryani (vegetarian version) and the mirchi ka salan and end with a dessert of double ka meetha. Yes, while all these are on my top 100(00) things to do before I die, for now I make them my way with generous help from other bloggers and cook books.

Searching for the mirchi ka salan recipe some time back I came across many links, some looked authentic and some didn't, Here & here are a some I noticed, took help of and then made some variations of my own. I have made this many times over the last couple of years and my family likes it this way. I make the gravy not very spicy because the mirchies/chilies are meant to provide the heat, you can adjust the spice quotient to suit your taste buds.

Typically a thicker skinned green chili such as Jalepeno or Anaheim varieties are used in this recipe so it gives the dish the required heat and also holds the shape under cooking. These are not made with the regular small Thai green chilies. My backyard garden is not where I want it to be yet but I still had some nice hot peppers growing from the plant and DD called dibs on it from the first day we noticed the small flowers as she loves her mirchi ka salan with chapati. A couple of years back, she never ate the chilies but dipped her chapatis in the gravy (like she does in most gravies) but lately has graduated into a few bites of the chili itself. Time just flies..

Coming back to the recipe, it is very simple and I cut down on the oil content drastically and let the other ingredients play center stage. While this may not look like it is served from a Hyderabadi restaurant since you don't see oil floating around the corners, nevertheless the taste is fantastic and makes you go back to the dish for second helpings. I usually like fresh spices in my recipes and hence fry the masala, you can use ready made powders as replacement if you like. I added a small green bell pepper I had got from a farmer's market to the home grown hot peppers this time. For all the hype created, at its core this recipe is roasted chilies floating in sauced up, glorified peanut chutney and is very easy to prepare. If you haven't tried it, go ahead and give the recipe below a shot.
What do you need to make Mirchi ka Salan? 
6-8 fresh chilies (jalepeno or other hot peppers)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tsp oil
1+1/4 cup water
Masala ingredients:
Small piece of tamarind or 1/2 Tsp tamarind concentrate
1X1 inch piece ginger root
2 Tblsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - optional but recommended
To roast:
3/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 Tsp coriander seeds
2-3 pieces of 1 inch cinnamon sticks
1 clove
1 dry red chili (adjust to taste)
2 Tblsp chopped onions
How do you make Mirchi ka Salan? 
  • Remove the stem end of the chilies and scoop out the seeds (this is optional based on your heat tolerance).
  • Roast the peanuts and sesame seeds separately on medium heat until they start to pop, keep aside.
  • Roast the coriander seeds, cinnamon, clove, red chili(if using) until you get a nice aroma, keep aside. 
  • Heat 1 Tsp of oil in the same pan and fry chopped onions for a couple of minutes until it turns soft. 
  • Take all the ingredients under masala ingredients and blend them to a smooth paste with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Add the remaining Tsp of oil to the pan and arrange the chilies in it. Let it roast until dark colored blisters form on the skin, flip them over and roast on the other side. Keep aside. 
  • Add the ground masala to the pan, add salt and water to adjust the consistency. Remember the gravy thickens quite a bit as peanuts cook. Start with a pouring consistency. 
  • Taste and adjust any spices and let the gravy come to a gentle boil. 
  • Add the yogurt and continue to boil for another couple of minutes. 
  • Add the fried chilies, mix well and switch off the stove. 
  • Let the chilies soak in the gravy for atleast 30 minutes before serving.
  • You can use bell pepper in this dish for a milder taste, cut the bell pepper in half, remove seeds and chop each half into 2 pieces lengthwise. Follow the same process as above. 
  • Make sure you roast the chilies well until the skin has big brown spots and also do not cook them for long in the gravy. They need to be crunchy to the bite when you eat them.
  • You can add garlic to the masala but I like to keep the peanut flavor in this and not overpower it with other ingredients. 
  • Peanuts & sesame seeds can be toasted in microwave by spreading them in a wide MW safe dish, you will have to try out the timings on your device as this depends on the power settings. Mine usually takes 4 MW runs of 3-2-1-1 minutes each. 
  • If your yogurt is sour, reduce the quantity of tamarind or skip it. Use only plain yogurt. 
  • If you noticed in the above steps, there is lot of scope for using just one pan, start with the wide pan in which you can fry the masala ingredients and also cook the mirchi ka salan to reduce your cleaning effort later on. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bell Pepper Chutney - a very amenable side kick

Work has been busy and I am not finding as much time as I would love to spend on the blog. Also since DD has another 2 weeks of Summer vacations, right now the priority for any non-working hours is to spend time with her. I am cooking and taking pictures, it is just that I haven't sat down to write about them.

By now, you all know I am a chutney gal and love them in all forms and shapes. If you love chutneys as much as I do, I guarantee that you will have your own variations of whipping up a new chutney every day, actually I made something like that today with a blend of two of my favorite chutneys and it turned out a keeper. But more on that later just because I didn't expect it to be blog worthy and hence didn't take pictures :-(. All chutneys essentially have some kind of base or ingredient to give them volume such as fried dal or nuts or vegetable peels or vegetables, then there are flavoring agents like coconut, tomatoes or onions and add ons such as ginger, mustard, coriander or fenugreek. And then the usual suspects - salt, tamarind/lemon, chilies(red/green), jaggery/sugar, if you achieve balance of these you end up with a perfect chutney no matter what you have put into them. Amma yesterday was mentioning a 'gaddi chutney' or chutney made with hay that had a King licking his fingers and brought riches to the poor old lady who served him the chutney. She just couldn't remember which place in Andhra Pradesh had that story after its name :-). As you keep experimenting, you will find many that work great together and some that do not.

Here is an easy bell pepper chutney with some roasted peanuts to give it body. BH bought me an electric grill recently and made me the happiest of the wives in the world. Blogging has its advantages when BH notices what you cook and actually works on the subtle hints you drop about gadgets that are (needed) wanted in the kitchen. Although I could have gone to the store and bought one myself, there is no fun in that as much when he gets it for me, don't you agree ;-). So, I dropped generous hints and was one happy camper to get the grill home. I have been roasting a lot of stuff on it and will post the recipes one by one.

Back to the bell pepper chutney, in the 'pre-grill' era, I used to put the slices of bell pepper in my regular oven and bake them at 350F until it turned brown on both sides. So, you can very well do this with a conventional oven or if you don't have one, no need to fret. Heat a flat pan (preferably cast iron), smear a drop or two of cooking oil on the bell pepper slices and arrange them in a single layer in the pan. Let it turn brown on one side before turning it over. Do not keep stirring but keep on eye on it to prevent burning. The idea is to roast the bell pepper and if you can get a smoky flavor (which you will with the grill or the cast iron pan), it adds to the flavor.

So choose any of the methods above and get to cook up a delicious chutney that goes well with idli, dose or rice. Added bonus, this chutney hardly uses any oil.
What do you need to make Bell Pepper Chutney? 
2 sweet bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
2 Tblsp peanuts
1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery/brown sugar
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 dry red chili (optional)
1/2 of a small red onion
1X1 inch tamarind piece

How do you make Bell Pepper Chutney?
  • Wash, pat dry the bell peppers, cut them in half, remove the seeds.
  • Slit lengthwise and make 4 pieces from each bell pepper. 
  • Cut the onions into wide pieces. 
  • Heat a grill, coat the bell pepper and onion pieces with a couple of drops of oil, arrange them on the grill and let it roast until they are tender and cooked well. 
  • My grill took about 40 minutes on high setting. 
  • Heat a pan, roast the peanuts and red chili (if using) until peanuts start to pop and show small black spots on the skin. The raw smell should go away completely. 
  • Let everything cool down to room temperature. 
  • Take the roasted pepper, onion, peanuts, chili, tamarind, salt & jaggery and blend it in your blender. Start with the pulse mode to break the ingredients down and then run it full speed. I like to stop it just before reaching a smooth paste. Add water only if absolutely necessary. 
  • Enjoy with idli, dose or plain rice. 
  • Use the sweet bell peppers for this recipe and not the green ones, as they alter the texture and taste greatly.
  • Do not chop bell pepper or onions into small pieces, wider cuts ensure uniform roasting without letting them burn. 
  • You may remove the husk of the roasted peanuts but I like to put them in anyway. 
  • If you are using the conventional oven, turn the pieces over half way through and switch to broil mode for not more than 2 minutes at the end just to get the charred flavor. 
  • As always it is important to let the ingredients cool down before grinding them. 
  • Pulsing the ingredients breaks them down and also adds moisture from the onions and bell peppers to make the grinder work smoothly. Do this before adding any water. 
  • The bell peppers and the red onions make this chutney mild, so addition of jaggery is optional.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rave Unde/Rava laddoos - easy breezy dessert

Nammamma is not a perfect cook by any means but there are some masterpiece dishes that she makes and when I eat these from other sources they never measure up to the standards :-). I agree I am partial because she is my mom hence the prejudiced opinion but everyone that have tasted her cooking tend to agree with me. She was not very experimental in kitchen mainly because she was always on the run to feed a large, growing family with different needs and wanted to stick to her tried and tested recipes but a simple uppittu she made with just cabbage and (lotsa) coconut have satisfied loads of unannounced cousins and family. She has always been keen on the quality of the ingredients she uses and I believe that makes a lot of difference. I used to wonder why she worried so much if her coconut burfi turned a little less than pure white, after having cooked for some years in my own kitchen now I understand the feeling when I mess up something.

Rave Unde is one nammamma's signature dishes and I do not deviate from her recipe. She uses upma rava and not the fine chiroti rava, she uses a little bit of warm milk to bind them and does not use a heap of ghee in this recipe and the rave unde turns out soft and delicious. When we were kids, my brother used to fill his shorts pockets with these and always got caught by amma with the crumbs sticking to them when she took them for washing :-), but then he used to stuff his pockets with all kinds of things from pencils and erasers to snacks taken stealthily from the pantry and it would be an unrecognizable mixture in the pocket by the time it went to the wash. My brother had such a sweet tooth he loved the rave undes and never eat them less than one unde in the mouth at a time :-). I was sneakier and would eat them without leaving traces of the crime.

A few years ago (read a couple of decades back), pure saffron was either unavailable in most grocery stores in India or it was exorbitantly priced. One of my cousins visiting from the US at that time had brought a small box of saffron for amma and she was so thrilled with it, she started using it in every conceivable thing. We used to tease her that she puts saffron in coffee too if allowed. She would put it in most sweets and rave unde was no exception. I love the color it gives the unde and the mild flavor of saffron in them. Then saffron became a common enough commodity and my brother brought her bigger quantities a couple of times.

This is oh-so-easy to prepare as there is no syrup to be made or consistency to be reached. So here is a recipe for melt in the mouth, delicious rave undes with a touch of saffron.
What do you need to make rave undes/rava laddoos? 
Makes about 10-12 golf ball sized undes(balls)
1 cup upma rava (slightly coarser than the fine sooji)
3/4 cup sugar - I like the sweetness with this proportion, adjust according to your taste
1/4 cup grated dry coconut(Kobbari)
1 Tblsp cashew nuts - broken into small pieces
1 Tblsp raisins
1 Tsp ghee(clarified butter)
2 Tblsp luke warm milk
Generous pinch (about 10-12 strands) of saffron
 How do you make rave unde/rava laddoos?
  • Roast rava on medium heat with frequent stirring until it turns light pink and starts to give a nice roasted smell. 
  • Soak saffron in warm milk for about 30 minutes until the milk changes into a beautiful saffron color. 
  • Heat a pan, add ghee and fry the broken cashew pieces and raisins - raisins plump up and cashews turn light brown. 
  • Add the grated dry coconut to the pan as soon as you switch off the heat and let it stay in the warm pan so it browns slightly.  Keep aside.
  • Take the roasted rava into a wide bowl, add sugar, fried cashew, raisins, coconut gratings and saffron soaked milk while the rava is still warm. 
  • Mix everything together making sure that the saffron color gets coated uniformly on the rava, check for sugar. 
  • The warmth of the roasted rava mixed with sugar, milk and the spoonful ghee should be sufficient to shape these into balls, if needed use a few drops of luke warm milk to bind it together. 
  • Shape the mixture into golf sized balls and let it sit for 30mins or so for them to firm up. 
  • Plop these delectable undes one at a time into the mouth and enjoy :-)
  • It is important to roast rava on medium heat so it doesn't burn or stay uncooked.
  • Do not use coconut flakes sold in jars or packets in this recipe. If you cannot get the dry coconut sold in Indian stores as Kopra/Kobbari, use fresh or frozen coconut and roast them until it turns light pink and slightly dry. 
  • Sugar I get here is very fine (though not powdered) and I use it as is. If your sugar is grainy take it to the blender and  powder it by pulsing a couple of times.
  • I like to break the cashew nuts into small pieces as it helps to keep the unde together when you make the balls. Big pieces protrude out and generally cause the balls to break apart.
  • The rave unde is soft as soon you make it but after it stands for about 30 minutes, it becomes firms and stays in shape.
I made these when we went on our CA trip 2 weeks back and shared it with family.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baalaka (Dried, stuffed green chilies) - Preserved Summer flavors

When we moved to the Pacific NW, the most common reaction I heard from everyone (residents and people that had only visited the area for a week or less) was that it would rain 'all the time'. No stranger to different climates having lived in various parts of the country, weather was not a deterrent for me, infact the moderate temperatures were a welcome change from the harsh winters and hot summers we lived in before coming here.

We did move and I just fell in love with the beautiful mountain range, majestically tall ever greens and everything else. For us as a family, it was a much exciting phase as BH stopped travelling  and we would have him home for dinner every evening instead of the after dinner before bedtime calls from hotel rooms. As we settled in, one thing was in the back of my mind pertaining to the weather, from what I had heard from people I assumed there was no expectation of a decent Summer and hence had to give up my Summer activities of making and storing the traditional papads and other goodies :-). But mother nature has been graciously supporting my every project so far and I have no complaints. We have been having really warm weather and bright Sunshine though with some gray skies and cloudy days thrown in between for good measure. I didn't want to extend my good fortune too much this season and started small and glad I did it.

Couple of weeks back, I found some really fresh Thai chilies in my local grocery store and as we were looking up weather for weekend outings I knew it was  going to be rain free for a while atleast. So I brought home a bag of those green chilies and got to make the delicious Balakada Menasinakayi :-), there are 2 versions of this that I am aware of. One in which the green chilies are soaked in salted buttermilk for 3 days to marinate and then spread in the Sun to dry up, the other is where we stuff roasted fenugreek powder and salt into the slit green chilies and let it dry until it is crunchy. I went with the second one because I love the fenugreek flavor in these stuffed, dried chilies and also was not sure if the bright weather will hold up for another week after   I had a chance to marinate them in buttermilk.

In Mysore, I used to go with Anna on his scooter to the vegetable market in December and bring those long winter chilies especially for baalaka. Nammamma would make the fenugreek powder and I would stuff the chilies and help dry it. I don't know when this practice started, nammamma always made this in December when Sun would shine brightly in the mornings even though it was kind of chilly as opposed to the other Happala(Papads) & Sandige(also called vadiyaalu in Telugu these are preserved fryums you will find in Indian households made with different ingredients that can be taken out any time you desire and fried in oil for a yummy, crunchy side for your meal) made typically in Summer.

For those of you familiar with project management when things are estimated at the beginning of work we have two measures - one is effort (actual time without break it would take to complete the work) and second is duration (period it will take based on the availability of resources). Similarly, this process of making the dried, stuffed chilies will take 4 days if you have good temperature and sunshine but the duration might actually extend (as it did in my case) if the heat is not sufficient.

Although BH says we should buy these from the stores instead of making it at home, I know it tastes better this way and he agrees with it. It is just a small way of mine to preserve not only the chilies for the year but also a tradition for as long as I can.   DD loves these fried, stuffed chilies with her mosaranna (yogurt rice).
What do you need to make dried, stuffed chilies?
50 fresh green chilies
1/4 cup methi seeds
1/8 cup salt (adjust to taste based on your salt)
1/2 Tsp amchoor powder (optional)
How do you make dried, stuffed chilies? 
  • Wash and pat dry completely all the chilies.
  • With a sharp knife, make a vertical slit in the chilies from top to bottom taking care not to separate the chili completely.
  • Dry roast fenugreek seeds on medium heat until they are pink and start to pop, let cool and grind to a fine powder. 
  • Mix the salt, fenugreek powder and amchoor powder (if using) homogeneously. 
  • Fill the slit chilies generously with this powder, arrange them in a single layer on cookie sheets or wide plates. 
  • Let it sun dry (preferred temp: above 75F) for atleast 4 days or until the chilies turn crisp. 
  • Store in air tight containers or ziplock bags. 
How do you use dried, stuffed chilies? 
  • Heat oil for deep frying, put 4-5 chilies (depending on the size of your pan) and fry until the chilies turn a dark brown.
  • Enjoy with hot rice and dal or yogurt rice. 
  • You can also use these fried yummies in seasoning.
Chilies in various stages of preparation and drying here..
  • I used amchoor powder to give a slight tangy flavor, it is completely acceptable to skip this ingredient. 
  • Use a small spoon to fill the chilies and wear gloves if you are not chili hear tolerant. 
  • Dip your hands in buttermilk if you get reduce the burning sensation from handling the chilies.
  • Salt in the stuffing oozes moisture and helps hold the stuffing intact, make sure your hands and any spoons you use are dry. 
  • When you hold a dried chili, it should feel crispy and brittle to touch without any moisture. Make sure it reaches this stage before storing it away otherwise you face the risk of it turning moldy. 
  • Frying until the chilies turn deep brown reduces the spice level. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mosaravalakki - creamy yogurt poha to celebrate the birth of baby Krishna

There was once a small kid named Gopal who lived in a village with his widowed mother, they were poor and hardly made ends meet with the mother's meager earnings. When Gopal grew up to be old enough to go to school, his mother had one of the neighboring village teacher take him as a student in his school. Gopal had to walk through dense forests to reach his teacher's house every day, as his mother couldn't leave work and go with him, the little boy had to walk all alone. When he returned home the first day he was tired and completely scared. He didn't want to go back to school because of the long walk in the dark forests and his mother told him to call out to Krishna and said he was Gopal's elder brother who lived in the forest. The next day Gopal came back home and excitedly explained to his mother that his brother Krishna had come and walked with him until the edge of the forest, the mother was completely flabbergasted. This continued for the entire school year and Gopal was a happy child learning well at his school.

As the school year came to an end, the teacher organized a lunch for the students and told them to bring something special from home to share with all their friends. When Gopal asked his mother, the poor lady was very sad as she had nothing to send with him, so in order to pacify the crying boy she told him to ask his brother for something. Gopal went on his way, met his brother in the forest just like everyday and told him about the school lunch. The elder brother went inside the forest and came back with a small covered pot. Gopal went merrily to the school and gave it to his teacher. The teacher looked at the small pot and realized it wasn't going to be sufficient even for a couple of boys let alone the entire school but didn't say anything to the child. When everyone sat down for lunch, the teacher opened the pot and found thick, creamy, sweet smelling yogurt inside. He wanted to distribute atleast a drop of it to each kid and started spooning it out to another dish with the intention of thinning it down by adding water. But to his utter surprise he found that the small pot never seemed to become empty. He had his wife bring huge containers and as they went on filling those containers, the little pot was still full seeming to smile divinely at them. Everyone had their fill with the yummy tasting yogurt and thanked little Gopal.

This is a story from my childhood favorite Amar Chitra Katha comic books. I have told this to my daughter countless number of times. For me Krishna is synonymous with avalakki (beaten rice or poha) and mosaru(yogurt). Mosaravalakki is thick yogurt mixed with paper thin avalakki and garnished with seasoning. This was one of the treasured childhood snacks. One of my doddamma's (mom's older sister) didn't eat rice in the night and most days this would be her dinner and mosaravalakki is always distributed to everyone and never eaten alone. We used to sit expectantly and patiently in the kitchen until she mixed it well and dropped big dollops of the creamy mosaravalakki into our palms, I used to lick slowly and try to extend the moment of bliss for as long as I could :-).
Today is celebrated as Gokulashtami (Gokula~ Lord Krishna's Childhood home, Ashtami~Eighth day of the calendar) or Krishnashtami all over India to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. I made the mosaravalakki as an offering to the God.

I pack this in place of regular yogurt rice for a change when we go on our trips, it stays well. Just carry extra yogurt to mix in before eating.

What do you need to make Mosaravalakki? 
4-5 cups thick yogurt (preferably homemade)
1 cup paper thin avalakki/beaten rice
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp sugar
1 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp chana dal/kadle bele
1/2 Tsp urad dal/uddina bele
2 green chilies - chopped small
4-6 curry leaves
1/2 inch piece of ginger root - peeled and chopped into thin julienes
How do you make Mosaravalakki? 
  • Take avalakki in a bowl and wash it under running water once and drain the water. 
  • Whisk the yogurt, add salt, sugar and the washed avalakki and mix well.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add all the ingredients under seasoning and let mustard pop and dals turn pink. 
  • Pour the sizzling seasoning on top of the mixed mosaravalakki and mix it in. 
  • Share and enjoy this simple yet unbeatable tasty dish.
  • Do not skimp on the yogurt, good yogurt takes this dish to its next level, remember it is mosaravalakki and takes lot of yogurt to get the creamy texture.
  • If you do not have home made yogurt, use plain store bought yogurt.
  • Use only the extra thin or paper thin avalakki in this recipe, the thinker varieties change the texture.
  • It is sufficient to just wash the avalakki once in running water for it to become soft.
  • While making the seasoning, make sure the chili pieces turn light brown. If you do not like spicy food, reduce/skip green chilies.
  • You can add cashew nuts to the seasoning and roast it until they turn pink for a richer flavor, I kept it simple.
  • You can add chopped cilantro instead of curry leaves and asafoetida instead of ginger for different flavors.
  • The yogurt gets absorbed if you keep it longer, add more yogurt and mix it to bring the right consistency.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bittergourd Raita - Addition to my BG recipes

We went on a slightly extended (Monday off) weekend trip to California to visit near & dear ones. DD had a great time with her cousins and was not in any mood to come back home as did we :-) but come we did and are back at work since yesterday. That explains my infrequent visits and comments on your spaces lately, hope to catch up on all the yummy posts out there quickly this week.

Today is another Blog hop Wednesday post and I am really enjoying my trysts with hitherto unknown blogs because of this event. Radhika paired me with Roshni of Roshni's kitchen this time and I have been going back and forth on what I would make from her blog as I found so many interesting recipes :-). Roshni, you have a wonderful space and I will definitely be trying out other recipes in the near future.

For today though I chose Roshni's bitter gourd raita since it had 2 of my favorite ingredients - bitter gourd and coconut :-). I make a similar raita with okra but never thought of making it with bitter gourd. Thanks for the recipe Roshni, this is a keeper definitely. We all enjoyed the crispy bitter gourd in cool yogurt.

Here is Roshni's bitter gourd raita with slight modifications. I made the frying of bitter gourd oil free and hands free by baking it instead of pan frying.
What do you need to make bitter gourd raita? 
2 medium sized bitter gourds
1 Tblsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 Tsp cumin seeds
2 green chilis
3/4 cup yogurt
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
For Seasoning:
1 Tblsp oil
1 small shallot or red onion - about 1.5 Tblsp thinly chopped
1 Tsp mustard seeds
4-5 curry leaves
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make bitter gourd raita?
  • Wash and lightly scrape the ridge of bitter gourd, remove the ends and cut into thin disks.
  • If the bitter gourd is big and has seeds inside, you can scoop out the seeds from the disks easily with a slight push using fingers. If the gourd is tender, skip this step. 
  • Spread the cut bitter gourd in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for an hour (or until it crisps up) at 350F removing it once at 30 minutes to flip them over. 
  • Grind coconut, green chilies, salt and cumin into a a coarse paste with a Tblsp of water and then add the yogurt and blend into a smooth paste. 
  • Heat a Tblsp of oil, add asafoetida, mustard and curry leaves. Let the mustard splutter, add the chopped onions and fry  till it softens. 
  • Mix the baked crispy bitter gourd rings, ground paste and fried seasoning in a bowl, let it sit for 10 minutes and enjoy with rice or roti. 
  • If you are not a fan of the bitterness of the gourd, mix the cut pieces in a Tsp oil, pinch of turmeric and 1/2 Tsp salt, keep aside for 30 minutes. Wash and use. This reduces the bitterness a lot. 
  • Peeling the outer ridges reduces the bitterness of the dish.