Sunday, July 26, 2015

Halasina kaayi (Tender green jackfruit) Palya (Dry curry) - some 'home alone' ramblings

My pantry doesn't seem to be shrinking at all, I am on a voyage (read my last post) to clean up my pantry and refrigerator and until then I have promised myself I am not going grocery or produce shopping. The refrigerator is pretty much bare (used up most stuff and threw out some) and it is no longer easy to just stick your hand in the dark inside the refrigerator and come up with something edible and yummy :-). The progress on the pantry has been really slow for various reasons primarily that my family has decided to or having to go on out of town trips while I am the only one at home. While DD is still getting pampered in India, BH is travelling this week on business which leaves me all by myself at home except when I am at work. Well, I did caution you in the title of the post itself that today it is all about me being home alone, I will try and make this sound less 'whiny' and 'clingy' than it feels to me :-). Let us move onto other things in life..
I didn't cook much this past week, whatever I made on Sunday night before BH took off was enough to give me company until almost Wednesday and I ate salads for a day. Even large doses of boring things on netflix, didn't motivate me to get up and cook something during the evenings. Friday was a work from home day and as I was contemplating on what to put together for lunch, I discovered this can of tender jackfruit in the pantry shelf. I must have got it on one of my trips to the store and never found an opportunity to cook with it.

What is a vegetable that is called fruit? Tender jackfruit :-). Yep, that is how rusty my stand up comedian skills have become with no one home to target or practice on :-). But when I say that jackfruit is one of the most delicious fruits in this creation and jackfruit also makes an equally delicious vegetable when it is young, tender & green, I am not exaggerating. I am sandwiched between 2 jackfruit crazed ladies - nammamma and dear DD, they both can eat this fruit anytime, anywhere. While I am not that big a fan of the ripe fruit (Mainly because I don't even stand a chance with even one of them around cut jackfruit), I love the tender green ones used as vegetables even more.  This is a big part of coastal Karnataka & Malnad region recipes - everything from papads to curries to dosa to idli to snacks are made using both the tender and the ripe ones. Unfortunately for me no-one in the family appreciates this vegetable like I do. BH feigns allergic to halasina kaayi or all matters related to jackfruit and I don't feel good about cooking it around him. So with both BH & DD being away, I decided to treat myself to the simple deliciousness of this stir fry and after making sure the expiration date was still long ways away(it is a critical precaution to take especially when you pull out things from the back of the pantry :-)), I set about making the dish.
One of akka's friends in Mysore had this tree in their backyard that yielded deliciously sweet fruit when ripe. The fruits are gigantic and they would normally get distributed among friends but the tender ones were more sought after since they would cut when small in size. While the friend's mom generously shared atleast part of one fruit every season, the tender ones rarely made their way to us :-). If it was my friend, I probably would have come up with some sneaky barter to get hold of the unripe ones but akka never bothered. On the bright side though, the vegetable markets would be flooded with this fruit and vegetable during the season in Mysore. Nammamma made a Huli (sambar) from the vegetable with some black chickpeas thrown in and this simple stir fry as a side dish and I loved both. Making it from a tender jackfruit is labor intensive and I took the easy way out with my store bought can of tender jackfruit and totally avoided all the sticky glue, oiled knives experience :-)
Andhra weddings typically serve a side dish with tender jackfruit. I had never eaten the dish in my long married life but had heard enough from various family members on different occasions about 'Aava pettina panasa pottu koora' (I know it is a mouthful, so let me break it out, aava - mustard, panasu - jackfruit, essentially indicating the ground raw mustard mixed in with chopped jackfruit). I went to a niece's wedding couple years back drooling just by the thought of eating this during the wedding but was majorly disappointed with what was served :-), It had pieces of jackfruit floating in a gravy which was not very tasty and completely masked off the jackfruit taste, personally a 'no-no' for me. It seemed like someone's desperate attempt to serve a non vegetarian dish in a pure vegetarian fare. So instead of attempting the curry with gravy, I made this simple sauteed version from nammamma's kitchen, it turned out so delicious and I had a bowl of the palya with a glass of buttermilk for lunch and repeated the dose for dinner too :-).
The little heat from the red chilies, slight tang from tamarind, hint of sweetness from jaggery perfectly complement the inherent taste of jackfruit.

Note: Sorry for the sub standard pictures today. I never thought of blogging about this dish when I started making it and so no intermediate steps either. After tasting a spoonful, I felt so happy and wanted to share this deliciousness with all of you, grabbed the camera and shot as well as I could at the time. Sorry about it and don't let the pictures dampen your enthusiasm to make this dish at home. It is delicious. 

What do you need to make Halasina palya? 
2 cups chopped tender jackfruit
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/8 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
4-6 curry leaves
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste, note canned ones have some sodium already)
3-5 dry red chilies (adjust to taste)
small piece of tamarind
1/2 Tsp jaggery/brown sugar
How do you make Halasina Palya? 
  • I am going to assume you have cleaned jackfruit pieces to start with :-)
  • If using canned ones, pour out all the preservative brine, wash thoroughly under running water atleast a couple of times. 
  • Cut the pieces into bite sized chunks unless you want to chop them up small and end up with a spaghetti squash consistency :-). 
  • Add coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin and red chilies along with a couple of drops of oil in a pan. 
  • Roast for a minute and half or until the seeds sizzle slightly and give out a whiff of aroma. 
  • Add asafoetida and mix. 
  • Take them out into a blender jar, add coconut, tamarind piece and jaggery and blend them to a coarse mix. Do not add water if you don't have to. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add mustard, curry leaves and let mustard pop. 
  • Add sliced onion and let it sweat a bit for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add the jackfruit pieces, turmeric powder, salt and the blended spices and give a good mix. 
  • Lower heat, cover the pan and let it cook for 20-25 minutes (stir once every 8 minutes or so to avoid burning) and have the flavors mingle well. 
  • Check to see if the jackfruit pieces are tender and absorbed the flavors, switch off and serve hot or warm. 
  • Skip onion if you do not like but it enhances the taste delightfully. 
  • Do not go overboard with coriander, cumin as they tend to take over the flavors. Keep in mind you want to taste jackfruit more than the spices. 
  • Add extra red chili powder if the spice mix is not hot enough. 
  • Cutting the pieces too small makes them break apart, I like the bite a little bit and hence made them bigger pieces. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bhutte ke khees (spicy corn mush) - Delicious & saatvik corn chat for a lazy Sunday

BH & I are not serious hikers by any standards, but we do like to climb some hills for the exercise it provides but more importantly for the exhilarating feeling we get after hiking for a couple of hours. It always feels good to go out in the open air, breathe some fresh breeze, generally change the routine of the weekdays where we sit at the desk and stare at monitors for more than 10 hours usually. We did some climbing last summer and back to it this year too as weather & time permits. Last weekend I posted a few pictures from our Olympic mountains visit, we went up one of the easier trails in the Hurricane ridge. As you walk up the trail, it is almost as if you are on top of the world because everything else is below you except for the sun and the blue sky. There are friendly wild animals on the path and if you are lucky, you can spot a few, we saw fearless little birds, and a very active mermot (type of squirrel but much larger) who I think was also a diva and was very used to posing for pictures :-)
Since I am not cooking very seriously nowadays (is it a violation of foodie world to say such things for a self proclaimed foodie and a food blogger?), I have more time on weekends to just set out for a hike with BH. Oh, about the non cooking part, don't be alarmed, I am still as passionate as I ever was, it is just that I am still getting used to the suddenly reduced number of consumers in my household and the heat wave from last week left me in no mood to switch on the stove and make the house resemble a furnace. I heartily agreed with BH to sustain on fresh salads and gallons of spiced buttermilk.

Also I am on a mission to clean up my storage. Here is what happens, I am very much into grocery shopping. I love to go for vegetables and pantry shopping more than any other shopping, it is the best form of retail therapy for me. I love to bring loads of veggies, fruits as well as pantry supplies of every conceivable kind every week. If you have a large family, you probably will finish the stored items pretty fast but right now with just the 2 of us at home the supplies are very slow to dwindle. I haven't switched on the oven in a month almost and the cooking is very limited. All this keeps the backup in the refrigerator and the pantry as high as ever.
So here is what I did 2 weeks back, no more grocery shopping until everything in the pantry is gone. There are a dozen varieties of lentils, a number of pulses, different types flours, numerous varieties of rice etc, you get the picture. So BH has been fairly forewarned that he might be served some hitherto unheard of experimental dishes or a repetition of dishes until the ingredient is over. As always, he is game for my crazy ideas and so we are working successfully albeit slowly at our 'clean the pantry' march. I am very proud of some of the dishes (though experimental) and how tasty they turned out. Will start posting them on the blog sometime. Stay tuned.
Before I go off on to the recipe today, I do want to share some tips if you are interested in hiking. Like I said, I am just a hobby hiker, I do it for my own joy and here are some practical tips if you are setting out on a hike -
  • Always carry water even on the shortest & easiest of the trails. 
  • Sometimes looking at the very end of the peak when you start out can be daunting, keep your head down as you walk the path and allow yourself to stop and get a glimpse of the end goal for perspective. 
  • Always take a step at a time or keep a bend in the path as your next goal and you are bound to feel good as you get closer to the peak.
  • Enjoy the journey as much as you can, it is not a race you are in, reaching the top first is not the intent (someone has already done it), so take the journey to be equally sacred to the goal. 
  • Keep the cameras inside (leave them in the car or better still don't carry bulky stuff) unless you are on the trail for the purpose of taking pictures. Some views are meant to be stored in the eyes of your mind and no expensive camera can do justice to what you can hold in your eyes and heart. And practically, it is one less thing to worry about as you are walking up.
  • Things do get rough if you really want to go high, the paved trails ultimately end in rugged, unpaved path. Stay focused and keep moving ahead. 
  • If your knees seem to become jelly and refuse to carry you any further, it is ok to stop, take a deep breath and then get back to walking. 
  • Hiking & walking are akin to meditation, whether you do it for 10 mins or an hour, as long as you stay in the moment, you will have the best experience of your life. 
Ok, now that I am done with parting my hiking wisdom, let us move onto the recipe for today, shall we? 
Do you like sweet corn? I do, something about the fresh, juicy corn with those Unicorn soft silk hair makes me all happy and warm. With that said, I avoid bringing the frozen corn just because I love the feel of the fresh ones. I wait for summer to get my hands on them. Though you get dehusked, cleaned and packed corn in the stores, my hand invariably goes to the ones with the outer cover even though it means one additional step to remove them before cooking :-). What can I say, the silky hair feels good on the skin. If you are a sweet corn person like me and looking for recipes and corn stories, I have some here, here & here on the blog. All very yummy, so make them before the season is gone.
I saw this recipe in a cookery show and had wanted to try this for a long time. And there were 3 sweet corns tucked away in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator and threatening to spoil my 'clean & not waste' theme of the week. The lady who was from Madhya Pradesh (a state in central India) was very enthusiastically introducing her home town recipes and mentioned this to be a very popular street side snack in Indore. I have not been to the place but something in the combination of fresh corn, green chilies and ginger kept telling that this was a sure winner of a recipe and my instincts didn't let me down. The lady's recommendation was to use real butter and cook on slow heat to evaporate milk and absorb the flavors. Both are the life line of Indian street chats, cook with heavy dose of fat and keep cooking till a unison of flavors is achieved. I skipped the lecture on butter but stuck to the slow cooking to get the flavors happy together and the result was a delicious snack for a cloudy, slightly cool & breezy Sunday afternoon - slightly sweet from the corn but with a great flavor of green chilies & ginger, made a little tangy by the lemon juice. I am a corn happy girl.

What do you need to make Bhutte ke khees? 
2 fresh corn cobs (I had a white & a yellow cob)
2-3 green chilies
1X1 inch piece fresh ginger
2 Tbsp oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 Tsp mustard seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/8 Tsp asafoetida/hing
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
1/2 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 Tsp chopped cilantro
1/2 Tsp lemon/lime juice
How do you make Bhutte ke khees? 
  • Remove the outer husk from the corn cob and grate them, collect all the juice/corn milk. 
  • Finely chop green chilies, grate ginger and keep ready. 
  • Heat a pan with 2 Tbsp oil, add mustard and cumin. 
  • Once mustard starts to pop, add asafoetida, chopped chilies and grated ginger. 
  • Roast for a minute. 
  • Add the grated corn along with any milk collected. 
  • Mix well and cook on low flame for 6-8 minutes until color changes slightly and you get a heavenly aroma from the kitchen. Make sure to stir a couple of time so it doesn't burn. 
  • Add salt, turmeric powder and 1/4 cup milk. Give a good mix. 
  • Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until milk evaporates and you have a solid but moist mixture in the pan. Stir a couple of times in between.
  • The mixture feels light when you turn it over (it is like making a spicy Mysore Pak :-))
  • Switch off, add the lemon juice, grated coconut & chopped cilantro and mix. 
  • Serve hot. 
  • You can grind corn instead of grating but make sure you retain the texture and not grind into a fine paste. 
  • Use butter instead of oil if you prefer for a richer taste. 
  • Don't skimp on asafoetida, it adds to the flavor and the aroma. 
  • Use only fresh corn and not frozen in this recipe for best results. 
  • Covering and cooking after milk is added is important since the moisture stays in the pan and locks the flavors in. When you life the lid off to stir the mixture, make sure you drop all the moisture into the pan. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Akki Sandige (Rice sandige) - home made and a pictorial

Hope all my friends in the US had a good 4th of July weekend and watched fireworks or did other fun activities. Happy 4th to all!
It has been a roller coaster 2 weeks since coming back from the short and exhilarating week in India. Flora has seen enough bags being packed and people travelling all around her, I am sure she is hoping it ends soon and things return to normal. She doesn't know there is a new normal awaiting to happen once our little girl and her big sister goes off to college in 2 months, and this is a trial period for what is coming :-(. We finished the graduation, grandparents left for India after 5 months of stay which jerked us to reality a little and then the next day, DD was travelling on her first 'by herself' India trip without parents. She has been dreaming of this for a while now and we didn't have the heart to stop her. So she packed her bags and was on the flight before we even settled down to the home without the grandparents. The nest seems so quiet and still without her chirping all over, I miss the grunts, whines, complaints, fights and most of all the hugs :-). It has been a little over 10 days and we are already counting the days to her return.
We knew as every parent inherently does that the baby will grow up and will have to find her own way in this world. Ever since she started high school 4 years ago, I have thought about this almost every moment with a tinge of dread but mostly pride at how she has been growing up. But no preparation is enough in these matters of heart. It is not easy to hold back the tears when she calls and says, "Amma, we went to eat this thali meal today and I thought you would have enjoyed all the powders and pickles they put out as part of the meal" but I am happy that the child is thoughtful and the gesture makes me all warm inside. I can tell she is having a good time in India, I am proud of her enthusiasm, courage to go on this trip but we also see the vulnerable little girl as she ends every call with, "Love you guys, miss you too".
With DD out, the long weekend did look really long and threatening to begin with. It is also made by the reality that we have never had a vacation for the last 17 years which DD has not been a part of. We had no plans and with the jet lag worn off, it wasn't like we would sleep the entire weekend either. Didn't feel ready to entertain and when we called up a few places, everything was already booked and not a decent hotel was available. So we resigned to stay home and thought of finishing up the errands that always get piled up on the list but we never get to :-). Good plan but then life has a way of playing tricks on the best laid plans right? First it was the sun, did I tell you he has been shining way too much and too bright & hot that is unusual for this part of the world? It has already gone way above the tolerance limits of most locals here. Sky continues to look completely clear and temperatures stay put at a steady 80+F even after a week now. There is no sign of rains anywhere on the weather map. So with the unexpected extra dose of sun and hot weather, I decided to make some sandiges. Oh, I have already shown you how to make the most popular and tastiest of all sandiges here. What I have today is an equally tasty sandige variety made from rice flour. Very simple ingredients and a little bit of patience, you get to eat these home made delicacies and enjoy them over a year.
Nammamma and doddamma (my mom's older sister) are experts in making these summer condiments. Though a little labor intensive, these are fun activities for the entire family and foster bonding time. I love making them whenever I can. BH chips in too and takes care of all the set up process while I run the cooking side of the job. This dish is an inbetween for a papad (a flat, thin and wide wafer) and a sandige (more rounded, glops) and since there is a rice papad (akki happala) recipe that is different (will feature on the blog sometime), we called this as rice sandige.
With my sandige project occupying the early morning of Friday, I had a good surge of dopamine in the system and we were ready to get out and have some fun :-). Believe me when I say outdoors, fresh air and sun shine can solve most problems in life, the ones that are left behind will be solved with family, love and good food :-). While my sandiges were out drying, I had a very unexpected call from classmates I had not met in over 2 decades. The couple called up to say they were in the area and would like to visit, so we met late at night and that made a perfect ending for a day which had already started off promising.
We did go out for the rest of the weekend to some picturesque mountains, did some hiking and came back home feeling wonderful. Also watched the new Pixar movie, "Inside out" - well made movie about relocations, uprooting - sounded all so familiar to us. Pixar continues to amaze me with their animation skills with every one of their movies, I think their characters emote so much better than some of the human actors/actresses. It  all started with a simple sandige and the positive vibes continued and flowed through the weekend. Now I am ready to get back to work tomorrow. Ah, that reminds me there is a heat advisory in the area with temperatures soaring at 92F tomorrow but it should be alright :-). But I am done with sandiges for this year, rather BH has made it clear he is done. So until next year..
Here is the recipe for the delicious akki sandige, if your weather is still hot, go ahead and make them, store them away for a cooler day later in the year. We brought all the sandiges (yes, I made more than the akki sandige but a couple of recipes are already on the blog - aralu sandige, baalaka)inside today, stored them in separate boxes for each variety. With the heat wave, we are mostly eating drinking buttermilk and salads for our meals at home but since I made a quick vegetable uppittu for the visiting friends, I also fried some of the freshly dried sandiges to go with the leftover uppittu the next day. It was delicious, more than delicious! Rest of them are now stored away until the weather cools down to bearable temperatures (may be in November or December). Stay happy, stay positive, enjoy what life gives you.
What do you need to make akki sandige? 
1 cup rice flour
7 cups water
1 Tsp asafoetida
8-10 green chilies
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp oil

Other requisites:
Bright, hot sun for atleast 30 hours (think 80F & above)
a place to dry sandiges (without intruding birds, rabbits or other curious animals :-))
clean plastic sheets or wraps to spread
2-3 Tbsp buttermilk

How do you make akki sandige? 
  • First get the place you are going to dry sandiges clean, make sure it has a continuous supply of hot sun for an entire day and half. 
  • Spread plastic sheets and secure them at ends from flying or folding off.
  • Cut green chilies into half, blend them into a paste along with cumin and keep aside.
  • In a wide bowl/pan, heat 1 cup of water with 1/2 Tsp oil, salt until it comes to a gentle boil. 
  • Take the remaining 6 cups of water in a big bowl, add rice flour to it and using your fingers, mix it well until it is a watery liquid without any lumps. 
  • Once the water starts to boil, add green chilies paste and asafoetida. 
  • Add the rice flour mixed in water slowly into the boiling water while constantly stirring the mixture. 
  • Lower heat to medium and keep stirring for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens up. It should be pouring (between flowy and dropping). 
  • Switch off. 
  • Sprinkle spoonfulls of buttermilk all over the sheets and using a spoon, scoop out the rice mixture on to the sheet. Leave a mm gap between 2 sandiges. 
  • Once you drop the mixture on to the sheep, flatten them slightly with the back of spoon.
  • Let it dry until the edges start to fold upwards. 
  • Flip them over and let the other side dry completely before storing them in airtight containers. 
  • Once dry, the sandiges become almost half their original size. 
How to use sandiges: 
  • Once the sandiges are completely dry, heat up enough oil in a pan to deep fry them. 
  • On medium heat, check if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of sandige, if it comes bubbling up to the surface immediately, you can start to fry the rest. 
  • Always fry sandiges in batches dropping only a few at a time into the pan so they have space to expand, they usually become double to 2.5 times their dried size. 
  • Enjoy as a side for any meal. 
  • I always remember the flour to water proportion as the # of week days - 1 cup flour to 7 cups water. It is important to start the liquid thin and let it cook to a thicker consistency. 
  • If you like the sandige plain, skip green chilies.
  • For a different flavor, use red chili flakes instead of green chilies.  
  • Stored in dry containers in moisture free, cool places, sandiges stay good for an entire year. 
  • Always take a wide pan to heat oil and enough oil to provide free space for sandiges while deep frying them. 
  • Tip of the day: Put a small amount (1/4 Tsp) of asafoetida in a plastic bag and put it in the sandige container to keep it fresh for longer.