Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to cook dal: Arhar

Another recipe for the number one search on Timid Cook: How to cook dal!!

Am learning to buy in smaller quantities despite the hassles of shopping more. Larger quantities, I have learnt are not really economical because they attract weevils or worse (eeks). Also, I am cooking in smaller quantities. Just enough for one meal. That way we are eating hot fresh food and not storing them away in the fridge and re-heating (where they lose their taste and sometimes I forget about them and discover later, lurking in a corner and looking distincly alien with variety of growth in it not to mention the smell)!!

I didn't look up the recipe. I just followed my hunch or rather memory of the dal from the local dhaba. And I'd say it turned out pretty well and cooking time was 20 minutes max. Just the thing for a cold winter night.

What I used:

Arhar dal: 1/2 small cup about 3 full tbsp (to be precise)
Water for pressure cooking the dal: 2&1/2 cups
Turmeric: 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
Onion: 1 small
Garlic: 1-2 pods
Tomato: 1 small
Hing (asefoetida): 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillie: 1
Mustard seed: 1/4 tsp

How to:

  1. Wash the dal with several changes of water, drain and put in the pressure cooker with the turmeric, salt and fresh water. The rule for pressure cooking is that water should be approximately slightly less than double of the other ingredient in this case, dal. But given the cold weather and the fact that arhar dal takes a bit longer to cook than say masoor or moong dal, I added 2 and 1/2 cups of water. Let it cook for quite a few whistles. (I let it cook for 7 whistles of the cooker and found that the dal was still a bit hard. So I simply added a bit more water and let it cook for another 5).
  2. Chop the onions, garlic and tomatoes.
  3. After the dal is cooked, add oil to a small kadai or pan. Add the mustard seed and hing powder.
  4. When the seeds start popping, add the garlic, onions and stir till they are browned. Keep stirring or they might stick to the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and fry till the tomatoes release their juices.
  6. Then, add the cooked dal. If the water has evaporated while pressure cooking, add more water. Arhar dal is usually thicker than other dals, so don't add too much water.
  7. Bring to a boil, adjust salt and remove.
  8. Eat with chappatis!

Note: The red chillie can be added while tempering (before the mustard)....but A can't eat anything remotely hot. Also, while serving, add a generous spoonful or lump of ghee and if not, then buter! This step I omitted (lower calories for A)!

PS- We finished it all up and really fast and so there are no photos to show....alas!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is it Pizza?

It looked liked it, smelt like and tasted like it too ... but dare I call it a pizza? Well why ever not? And it was quite easy to make. I actually made it in the commercial breaks while watching Gerard Depardieu in "My Father the hero"!

What I used
(I made two. The following are the ingredients per pizza)
Pizza base: 6" diameter
Capsicum: 1
Tomato: 1
Onion: 1 (A insisted)
Salami: 2 slice
Olive oil

What I did

  1. Brushed the pizza base with olive oil.
  2. Sliced the capsicum, onion, tomato in to thin rings. Quartered the salami slices.
  3. Layered the the pizza base, in order - the tomato, onion, capsicum, salami.
  4. Topped it up by grated cheese.
  5. Grilled the pizza in my OTG at 210 deg for 15 minutes. And viola!

Note: The cheese had melted nicely all over but the base had become crunchy. That wasn't bad to eat...but I still have to figure out how to keep the base soft.

Friday, January 18, 2008

R' Coffee-honey-cashew cake

Hmmm...both A and I were suddenly yearning to eat a coffee cake. Now that I have the werewithals (an OTG - a diwali gift from A), I googled to look up a recipe and I found as expected tons of recipes of cakes to eat with coffee...all sorts of cake. Not the recipe I was looking for which was well...a cake with coffee. So, e-mailed R for a recipe for cake with coffee as an ingredient (and honey too, A added) and trusty R promptly sent back one and subsequently revised the proportions for a very small cake mould which would fit inside my small OTG. And yesterday, with shaking hands, heart thumping wildly, I tried it out.
You will need:

Flour: 1 cup
Baking powder: 1 tsp
Clove and cinamon powder: 3/4 tsp
Ground nutmeg: 1/4 tsp
Chopped walnut/almond/cashew: 1/3 cup (I used cashew. R's says walnut is the best but others will do.)
Instant coffee: 1&1/2 tbsp
Hot water: 1-2 tsp
Powdered sugar: 1 cup
Honey: 1/4 cup
Eggs: 2 lightly beaten
Butter: 150 gms
Milk: 1/4 cup

Here's How:

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, ground spice and a pinch of salt ina bowl.
  2. Add the chopped cashew.
  3. In another bowl mix the sugar,honey, butter and water and coffee well.
  4. Then add the flour spice to it along with egg, milk.
  5. Mix to form a smooth batter.
  6. Grease a mould and pour the batter in to it and bake for 40-60 minutes till a knife inserted comes out clean. (I baked the cake for 40 minutes at 210 deg C).

Note: Lightly dust powdered sugar on top of cake or Spread coffee cream on top of the cake

For coffee cream: Mix 250 g butter, 2& 1/3 cup icing sugar, 3tsp heaped instant coffee, 6 tsp hot water well, to form a creamy paste and spread on cake top with a spatula or cut the cake horizontally into two and use it to sandwich it.

(I didn't do either....just served the plain cake as is, fresh from the oven).

How simple the above recipe reads doesnt it? And it is too. But if I described my would take pages and probably be a primer on how not to do it but despite or perhaps inspite of it all, the cake was quite OK. It was rapidly eaten up and pronounced quite good for a first effort. And what's more, if I can do can anyone...So try it out.

Thanks to A for mental support.

Thanks to R for the recipe, long distance encouragement including answering three phone calls on silly issues like I have added the milk before the water or how does one grind the nutmeg etc?

Thanks to J who didnt say anything at the enormous amount of dishes to be cleaned although she did say that while this cake is nice, the one didi (R) sent was BETTER!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Arusuvai Friendship Chain: Amaranth Spinach Tomato Mushroom Soup

The secret packet that Bhags sent me contained Amaranth seeds also called Rajagiri -- completely unknown territory to me. In fact, Bhags took pity on me and told me what it was!! I found a recipe which I altered a wee bit and it turned into one of my favorites: A hearty, healthy soup meal!

You will need:

1 cup amaranth seed
3 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch spinach (or young amaranth leaves if available - I used spinach)
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound mushrooms (I used 6-7) stemmed and sliced
1&1/2 teaspoons basil
1&1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tbsp onion, minced
Salt and pepper to taste (the original recipe called for Sea salt or a salt substitute)

How to:

A good place to start was to stick up the recipe on the kitchen wall.

Add one cup amaranth seeds to 3 cups of boiling water

And cook for 12-15 minutes. This is how it will look...a bit messy.

While amaranth is cooking, stem and wash spinach, then simmer until tender. Drain and chop it. Blanch tomatoes in boiling water to loosen skin, then peel and chop. Mince the onion and garlic.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add garlic and onion. Saut̩ approximately for 2 minutes. Add tomato, mushrooms, basil, oregano, salt, pepper. Add tomato. Cook for 10 Р15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lightly mash tomato as it is cooking.

Then pour the amaranth into the spinach-tomato mixture. Raise flame to high and let the whole mixture come to a boil, adjust for seasoning, remove...

...and treat yourself to a hearty soup, with bread of your choice.

    Thanks due to U for loaning me his (a bit blurry) up on Timid Cook for the first time.

    Thanks to A, for bravely tasting it altho' spinach and tomatoes are a no-no for him and he is kind of allergic to mushroom :-(

    Thanks Bhags...I found out that I could!

    And lastly.......

    Umm...what a load of dishes to be cleaned....

PS- I know I have to pass it on....but blogging has taken the wind out of my sails....I will get around to it, in this post, I don't have two names to pass it on to...yet.

PPS - Sushma of Cookspot is the next link in the Arusuvai Friendship Chain. I have sent her a secret packet and am waiting eagerly to see what she cook's up!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shahi Bharta

Bhags sent a mail to me yesterday convinced that I had chickened out of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain. Afterall, I couldn't even figure out the contents of the secret package she sent me!! I assured her that I would be coming up with my post on it soon, in the next few days, infact. Till then, here is a recipe that R sent me. It combines brinjals with prawns

You will need:
Eggplants: 2 large, seedless variety
Mustard oil: 3 tbsp
Onions: 2 minced
Garlic: 1tbsp minced
Small prawns: 1/2 cup, shelled
Oil for frying
Egg: 1
Salt, sugar and red chilli flakes

How to

  1. Cut the eggplants into halves , boil, de-skin, cool, mash and then keep aside.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp mustad oil in a pan, add the minced onion and garlic, saute.
  3. Add the shelled prawns.
  4. Fry for a while and then add 2 chopped tomatoes and the mashed eggplant.
  5. Stir fry till the oil separates.
  6. Gradually add salt, sugar, red chilli flakes and finally a shredded fried egg. Mix well.
  7. Serve with rotis

Viola! Although R has written serve with rotis, a hard core bengali like me would obviously prefer it with rice!!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pabda Curry

Ask a bengali about his / her's favorite dish and more often than not, the answer would be: Mach-bhat (Fish and rice). And yet, we (A and I) don't eat fish all that regularly. Not because we don't like it all that much, rather we haven't got a fixed schedule for shopping or even a menu plan. Whenever we happen to be in the vicinity of the three good fish shops (aren't they called fish mongers?), we might pick up some. I had picked up some pabda from David's in E Block Market in Gurgaon. And now that our water supply was back to normal (after four harrowing days without), I felt brave enough to cook the pabda!

There are many other ways of cooking pabda, but this is the only one I know. So here goes. (This is how I make it. There will be slight variations from person to person. This is just in case there are people out there, who like me, in my early days, thought each recipe learnt was the ONLY way to make it. Anything else was not the correct way)!!

You will need:
Pabda: 1/2 kilo or 4 fish
Brinjal / Aubergine: 1
Kalonji / Kalo jeera: 1 tsp
Turmeric: 3-4 tsp
Fresh coriander: a handful
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

How to:

  1. Wash the fish, pat them dry and smear well with turmeric and salt. Keep aside.
  2. Slice the brinjals lengthwise into 1 to 1&1/2" strips. Wash the pieces, smear with turmeric and salt.
  3. Heat oil in a pan (about 2 tablespoon) and lightly fry the brinjals. They don't have to be deep fried. Remove the brinjals.
  4. Heat oil to smoking in a pan. Then add the fish. If they are big in size, fry them on or two at a time. Warning: Stand well away from the pan. The pabda's splatter hot oil, everywhere! I solved the problem by holding the lid of the pan in front of me like a shield!!
  5. Each piece takes about 2-3 minutes frying on each side. Remove the fried fish.
  6. You can make the curry in the same pan, but I like to use a kadai for the curry or 'jhol'.
  7. Mix 1 and 1/2 tsp turmeric in a small bowl of water. Stir well to ensure that the turmeric is dissolved and there are no lumps.
  8. Add 1/2 tsp oil in the kadai. Add the kalonji and wait till it splutters (about 30 secs).
  9. Add the turmeric water into the kadai.
  10. Stir briskly, on high flame till the water dries up.
  11. Add half cup water and repeat the process at least two more times.
  12. Then add water for the curry: about 500 ml or half of a normal mineral water bottle. Bring to a boil.
  13. If you don't mind chillies, add couple of green chillies and 1 tbsp grated ginger to the curry.
  14. Add the brinjals.
  15. Add the fish.
  16. Let it boil along with the curry for 3-4 minutes.
  17. Lower flame and cover. Let the curry cook for another 7-10 minutes.
  18. Uncover, add the chopped coriander.
  19. Remove from flame and serve hot with rice.

Note: Having enjoyed your meal of pabda and rice, don't forget to clean the splattered oil. The turmeric in the oil leaves dreadful stains! But I am sure you will agree, that's a small price to pay! Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hearty Soup for a cold winter day

First day of the new year dawned cold, crisp and a minor crisis of taps running dry. (It has now developed in to a major crisis since we are still without water second day). We were constantly assured of the problem being resolved in the next half hour which kept getting delayed. Around 2, I tore myself away from the net and went into the kitchen and cooked up this one dish meal...a winter favorite for us and really easy to make.

The original recipe is a non veg one with "lardon fume". But the veg version is equally easy and tasty as well.

You will need:
Onions: 1
Spring Onions: 3-4
Garlic: 3-4 (or less if you dont much care for garlic)
Bay leaf: 1
Peppercorns: 5-6
Tomato: 2
Carrots: 2
Cabbage: 1/2 a medium sized one
Pasta: 1 cup
Chicken stock cubes: 2
Salt to taste
Olive Oil


How to:

  1. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a deep pot (I use a pressure cooker).
  2. Add the bay leaf and peppercorns.
  3. Add the onions and spring onions and fry till they turn pink.
  4. Add the tomatotes and the veggies, lower flame, cover and cook till the tomatoes release their juices.
  5. Add the pasta, the garlic (which I smash using a heavy spoon), the stock cubes, 2-3 cups of water and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Then lower and cook till the pasta is done (as per the instructions on the pasta packet which is normally 10-12 minutes).
  6. Adjust for salt, you could add some chillie flakes if you like and hey presto...

Ah! Hot thick soup warming your belly on a cold winter day or night....

The Non-Veg version differs only in one ingredient and in the first step. The rest is identical:

In a pot, add the strips of smoked bacon directly, without the oil. As it fries, it releases its fat and then follow steps 2-6. tastes out of this world. And beware, this heavy soup is somehow siesta inducing. So be ready to crawl under a heavy quilt after this meal, and so logically keep this dish for a lazy weekend!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Arusuvai Friendship Chain

Oops! I have gone and done it. Said yes that is to the Arusuvai Friendship Chain. Where a food blogger sends a secret ingredient to another and the recipient has to then use that secret ingredient to make a dish and then pass it on to two or more people.

Well, one fine day Bhags asked me if I'd like to participate and in a moment of utter fearlessness I said YES. And I have been quaking ever since. Well, today, she tells me that she has mailed me the secret package. God...I know, I just know, the same postal system which manages to either delay or lose all my regular mail, will very promptly and in perfect condition, bring me the secret package any day now.

Although the whole idea is to well make a chain of friends who blog about food, I hope I have some left at the end of this...