Monday, August 14, 2017

Bitter Gourd Gojju Feedback

I am pleased to inform you that the gojju recipe that I posted a couple days ago has been tried and tested with positive results. Yash, from Wisconsin followed the recipe and said that it was delicious! She even sent me a picture! It looked exactly like the picture I posted. She changed it up a bit in a couple places: instead of using bitter gourd (she is not a fan of this unfortunate bitter beauty like I am!), she used eggplant and bell pepper. Nice! And she reduced the quantity of the red chilies by half. Okay, yeah, I completely understand that not everybody likes their food screaming hot and spicy. ;)

Thanks, Yash! Glad you and your family liked the gojju!

Yash's Eggplant Bell Pepper Gojju

Just to show you how similar the above picture is to the picture I took:

Bitter gourd Gojju

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kakarakaya Gojju- Hot, Sweet, Tangy Bitter Gourd

If you are thinking- what on earth is kakarakaya gojju, here, allow me to explain:

Kakarakaya is the Telugu name for bitter gourd, aka bitter melon, whilst Gojju is a Kannada word that means, and this is my interpretation- a mishmash of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, okra, aubergine/eggplant, capsicum/bell pepper, etc, and of course, bitter melon. Fruits such as pineapples, apples, grapefruit, raisins, etc can also used to make gojju.  The final flavor profile is hot, sweet, and tangy. So I suppose one could call it ketchup or jam of sorts, or achaar or a chunky pickle or a chunky salsa. The optimum way of enjoying gojju is by mixing it up with some cooked rice, and adding a spoonful of ghee to it. YUM!

Bitter gourd is called karela in Hindi, and haagalkaai in Kannada. According to yours truly, only the elite foodies like this bitter beauty. For reasons unknown to me, most people cringe at the mere mention of bitter gourd. 

Now that the meanings are out of the way, here's a recipe for kakarakaya gojju that I learned from my sweetie's grandma. It's easy, and tastes delicious.




Ingredients: 
Yield: Enough for 2 karela-lovers

1. Sesame seeds- 4 tbs
2. Cumin seeds- 1 tbs
3. Urad dal- 1 tbs
4. Red chilis- minimum 7 (If you don't  have red chilis, can use red chili powder- 4-5 tsp)
5. Black pepper powder- 1-2 tsp
6. Mustard seeds- 1-2 tsp

7. Bitter gourd from the Indian store- 4
8. Oil- 7-10 tsp (skip skimping!)
9. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
10. Asafetida (hing)- 1/2 tsp
11. Salt to taste

Quantities of the following two ingredients depend more on your preference for sweet and tang, so adjust accordingly:

12. Jaggery powder- 4 tbs
13. Tamarind pulp- 4 tbs

14. Water- 1/4-1/2 cup, to adjust consistency of gojju according to your preference

Method: 

The gojju masala:

1. Dry roast ingredients 1 through 6 until the mixture turns fragrant, and the sesame seeds begin to "dance" in the pan (and may start jumping out of the pan too!), and the urad dal turns brown.

*If using red chilis, add them towards the end, else they will burn. If using red chili powder- it can be added directly to the bitter gourd.

2. Transfer to a food processor or a coffee grinder and pulse into a fine powder. Set aside.

The bitter gourd:

Note: I have become a hardcore bitter gourd fan, and so now I merely wash it, chop it, cook it, and eat it. I don't do the whole pre-prepping by soaking in turmeric and salt, and then squeezing the bitterness out. I mean, instead I might as well suck on a honey stick!

1. In a pan, add 7-10 tsp of oil, heat, add a pinch of asafetida (hing), splutter 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds, and then throw in chopped bitter gourd, as well as a pinch of turmeric, followed by salt to taste. Stir fry for 5 minutes on high flame, and then sprinkle some water, lower flame between medium and low, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the bitter gourd is tender, and yet retains some crunch.

2. Uncover. Add gojju masala to the above and stir. Add some water to thin it out a bit. Now add tamarind pulp and jaggery. Stir. The sesame seeds act as thickening agent, so go ahead and add quarter to a half cup of water. Taste. Add salt and chili powder if required. Taste. Cover again and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Switch off.

Enjoy with hot rotis or rice.

Check out these other bitter gourd recipes that I posted a while ago:

Jalapeno and Bitter Melon

Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Karela Stir Fry









Monday, August 7, 2017

India 2017- Annual Report

Dal Chawal 101: 

It was exactly thirty years ago, around July-August, that I was officially introduced to the art of cooking by my first cooking teacher- my dear Dad. One morning, as I sat in my room, probably day dreaming and missing my Mom and baby brother, I was summoned to the kitchen. Dad was going to teach me how to cook the two basic foods a true Indian must know- dal chawal- lentils and rice, utilizing the most important cooking utensil that a real Indian must know how to operate- the pressure cooker. Once you know how to cook your dal and chawal in that noisy yet nifty pressure cooker, you are set for life in the cooking department. And so I stood beside him observing, as he showed me how to cook. I have come a long way since then!  

This time when I visited Wellington, when the car stopped in front of that old flat in Gorkha Hills, a strange mixture of pleasant and not so pleasant, mostly the latter, memories came flooding back. My most vivid memory is of that afternoon when Dad came back from the MH (Military Hospital), and headed straight to the guest bathroom. I quietly followed him and saw him cry for the first time in my life. He sobbed, and I just stood there watching him. There was only one thought that crept up in my twelve year old mind- is my brother dead? He splashed water on his face multiple times, and I still just stood there, watching. The next thing I knew, I was blankly staring at my six year old brother in delirium with IV drips poking his tiny body, while my mother sat beside him crying. I felt relieved at seeing my brother alive. That was the only thing that mattered to me- that he was alive. For the next entire year, that was how it was going to be. Dad and I in the house, Mom and brother in the hospital.

Those houses are now abandoned, and some passersby told me that they were soon going to be demolished. It felt, for lack of a better word, strange. The next time I go there, the house will no longer exist.

The House where I learned to cook from Daddy


Annual Food Report: 

My annual trip to Bangalore this time was filled with food aplenty, with most of it being insanely delicious. My holiday always begins with my Mom's special preparation of either sabudana khichdi or poha. This time it was sabudana, and as always, before I put a spoonful into my mouth, she delivered her disclaimer of how enthusiastically she made it, but it didn't turn out as well as she wanted it to, and then the drill is that I taste it and say, are you kidding me? This is yummy, mummy!!! And then, as always, I gobble it all up, while she tries to hide her joy, and fails. Yep, it's the same every time! :)

Mom's sabudana khichdi 

Then come the benne masala dosas. I like to always begin with THE CTR benne masala dosa, followed by Vidyarthi Bhavan. Dad likes to take me to Hotel Janardhan too. Well, there's many more dosa places he wants to take me to, each of them somehow serving "the best" dosa ever. But then there's never enough time to do so. My favorite dosa by far is the one I eat at CTR. It is an attractive golden brown color, crisp on the outside, spongy on the inside. Delicious!

My favorite benne masala dosa at CTR

Vidyarthi Bhavan Masala Dosa

Hotel Janardhan's Masala Dosa

I am usually not into idlis, but this time I tried the "thatte" idli. Thatte in Kannada stands for plate. They pour the idli batter into small plates and steam it. At the end of the steaming process, what comes out is this extremely soft and spongy deliciousness. First I poke a hole in the center of the idli, pour some ghee into that, and then eat away with simple coconut chutney. Mm!

Other than the dosas, idlis, and vadas, I unabashedly over-indulged in umpteen plates of chilli fish, gobi, and chicken manchurian, chicken tikka, seekh kabab, and more chilli fish and chicken manchurian. Every time I ate, I cried a little inside. That's your Instagram hashtags- foodporn, foodgasm, foodcoma- all clubbed together. Literally!

RSI Dosa 

RSI Vada Sambar Chutney 


RSI Appam with Vegetable Stew

Rasovar food- ate and ate and ate....

Jilebi topped with Rabdi- Mmmmmmm! 


To Wrap Up: 

Overall this India trip was extremely pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Somewhere along the trip, I realized that now there's only two things that take me back to India each time: My parents, and the food, in that order. Then again, the food is replaceable.

In case you are wondering what happened to my baby brother- he is a Dad of two now. And a mighty good one too, I must say! I have a feeling that he might be his kids' first cooking teacher too, just like our Dad. The only thing that causes him major delirium now is a restaurant menu!! ;)  











Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sunset Dinner Cruise

Last weekend a few friends and I went on this dinner cruise called Sunset Dinner Cruise, run by  Waterways Cruises and it was quite a lovely experience. The weather was surprisingly good. It was overcast and cold, with intermittent drizzling. The sun had probably not even risen that day to really "set," BUT it was good weather. If you are a Seattleite, you'd understand!

The Meal: 

It was a four-course plated meal, which included corn chowder, salad, entrée and dessert. Also included was a complimentary glass of champagne or sparkling cider. I went with zero expectations. Because frankly, the menu sounded like a typical affair. The choices were steak, chicken, salmon, and vegetarian. I picked salmon because I like salmon. 

First the chowder arrived. Took one spoonful of it and I thought, hmm, okay, at least it was hot temperature-wise. I like my food not just hot, as in spicy hot, but also hot, as in temperature hot. It was just low on salt, and my Indian taste buds were crying out for some kick. Thankfully they had kept salt and pepper on the table, which I added in ample amount to the chowder. 

Next came the salad. It looked unassuming in the form of a bed of standard greens. But as I dug that fork into the salad, I found underneath the bed of greens tiny bits of sweet pear, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, and the star ingredient was this light and refreshing vinaigrette dressing. It was simply delicious! 

And then came the main dish- a good portion of grilled salmon drizzled with a beautiful mustard sauce, garnished with micro greens, a side of pearl couscous, and sautéed veggies. The presentation was inviting. I took one bite of the salmon, and was impressed! Very delicious! The couscous, with capers mixed in, was cooked to perfection. The sautéed veggies added a nice bite to the dish. The salt was perfect, and surprisingly my spice-loving Indian taste buds actually were happy- the flavors were on the spot. And well, the food was chomped down in no time.


Salmon drizzled with mustard vinaigrette, pearl couscous, and sautéed veggies


Finally dessert arrived. Looked okay- you know, strawberry over whipped cream, a wafer stuck on top. Didn't look very crème brûlée-ee to me, really. But one spoonful into my mouth, and I couldn't stop until everything was gone! Super delicious end to the four-course dinner!


Crème Brûlée

I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner cruise. I went there with no expectations, and came out feeling very content. It sounded like a typical affair in the beginning, but it sure was a tasty one! *SLURP*

Aparna's Quote: 

Never judge a salad by it's greens, for underneath that modesty you might find candied pecans! 





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Raw Mango Relish

Not sure what the real name of this dish is, because some call it aam ki sabzi, some aam ki chutney, some aam ka achaar, and therefore I'll just call it raw mango relish. I mean, I could possibly call it A's Amazing Aout Auf Azis Aworld.... okay, okay, let's just stick with raw mango relish. It's easy, quick, tasty, and has a decent shelf life of about 7-10 days in the refrigerator. It can be eaten with rotis, chapatis, parathas, bread, or even on the side with some rice and lentils. It is hot, sweet, as well as sour, and perfect for these still-chilly January days.  

Ingredients: 

1. Unripe (raw) mango (available in Indian Store): 2, chopped into bite sized pieces. 

Note: Some recipes call for the mango be peeled. I think that's such a waste of the beautiful fruit. I also save the mango pits for later. I use them in rasam.   

2. Cumin Seeds: 1-2 tsp

3. Fennel Seeds: 1-2 tsp

4. Mustard Seeds: 1 tsp

5. Nigella Seeds: 1 tsp

6. Fenugreek Seeds: 1 tsp 

Note: Can use the Bengali panch-phoron if you happen to have it in your pantry

7. Red Chili powder: 2-4 tsp (or according to your liking)

8. Turmeric powder: a pinch

9. Salt to taste

10. Jaggery (grated): 2-4 tsp. Again, this is more of a personal taste. So adjust accordingly. 

Alternatives to jaggery: Sugar, brown sugar, or agave syrup 

11. Cooking oil: 2 tsp 

12. Water: Just enough to cover the mango

Method: 

1. Splutter cumin, fennel, mustard, nigella, and fenugreek seeds in oil, and throw in the chopped raw mango, followed by salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and jaggery. Stir for about a minute or so. Then add water just enough to cover the mango. Bring it to a boil, cover, simmer for 7-10 minutes. 



Unripe Mango

Mango, Spices and Water


2. At the end of 10 minutes, uncover. The mango will have softened up nicely, and the sauce will have thickened up a bit. Gently smash some of the cooked mango with a spoon, so that there's whole pieces, as well as smushed up mango. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and the hot, sweet, and sour mango relish is ready to be err, relished. Come on now, that's chuckle-worthy!! ;)  


Ready! 

Delicious! 



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kashmiri Pink Chai- an Ongoing Experiment

I drank my last cup of authentic kahwa back when I was a kid at the Vaishnavis' residence back in Delhi. Kahwa is Kashmiri chai/tea and is the most delicious type of chai I have ever had. I remember it being a beautiful pink colored concoction, sweet, with a hint of savory, full of nuts and munakka, i.e. golden raisins, and simply delicious. The other evening I suddenly craved for kahwa and decided to make it myself. After searching online, I kind of got the idea. And with great enthusiasm, I began. 

Ingredients: 

1. Green tea leaves, good quality (not the tea bag kind)- 2-3 tsp 

2. Baking soda- 1/2 tsp

3. Salt- 1/2 tsp

4. Cardamom- 2 pods

5. Almonds, crushed- 2-3 tsp

6. Golden raisins- 7-10 

7. Water- 2 cups

8. Milk- enough to maintain pink color

9. Sugar (optional)- 1/2- 1 tsp 


Method: 

1. Add 2 cups of water, green tea leaves, and cardamom to a pot. Get the heat going.


Water, Green Tea, Cardamom

2. Bring it to a boil. Add baking soda and stir vigorously for a few seconds, until the water starts turning red! Yes, it will turn red. 

Fun Fact: There's chemistry behind it! 

Green tea reacts with NaHCO3 (Sodium bicarbonate i.e. baking soda) in water and turns red under high temperature. 

I tried and tried to find out the exact reaction that occurs, but I couldn't find it. So for now, I just take joy in the fact that Kashmiri Chai making is in fact a scientific experiment that I can conduct in the comforts of my own kitchen!!   


Baking Soda + Green Tea in Water, boiling temperature= Red!! 


3. Continue boiling for a few more seconds, reduce flame, and start adding milk until a lovely pink color is achieved. Stop. Add salt. Stir. 

Optional: I like my kahwa a bit sweet too, so I add sugar as well. 

4. In a cup with crushed almonds (or pistachios) and golden raisins, pour this lovely pink chai, stir, and enjoy! 

Now for the truth: 

*I have tried making this chai 5 times so far. I was successful twice. 2 out of 5, not bad, I suppose.

*For some reason, I seem to get to the red color stage, but then, after adding milk, it stays pink for a few seconds, and then it just turns brown.

*Taste: Quite delicious 

*BUT: Why doesn't it stay pink?? 

Some pictures: 

Attempt 1: Disaster 


Boiling, froth, looks alright



#1: Disaster!! 


Attempt 2: Not bad.... but still, not quite up to the mark

#2: Nope! 


Attempts 3 and 4: Successful!!

Looking red, looking good! 



#3: Yessss!



Red- good! 

#4: Oh yessss! 


Attempt 5: Disaster!!

#5: What? Where's the pink?? 


Factors to consider for next attempt: 

1. Time (?)
2. Temperature (?)
3. Type of green tea leaves (?)
4. Will figure out.....

Conclusion: I haven't quite mastered the technique and art of making Kashmiri kahwa. It definitely is an experiment of its kind. I suppose practice makes perfect..... so I'll just continue practicing until I experience that eureka! moment.

Oh, most important ingredient: Patience, my friend, patience











Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Juice and More

America has a new Mr. President. Wonder how much longer it will take for this "first world" nation to have a Ms. President. Meanwhile, back in my birth country, India, "Operation Black Money" is the talk of the town. Exciting times! Btw, India, a "third world" nation, has had a woman prime minister as well as a woman president..... just saying. And that's about as much politics that I can really talk. Because one- I'm not passionate about politics. 
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I have a new addition in my kitchen- a Breville juice machine. It's lovely! Every morning I make fresh juice for the family, my favorite combination being carrots, oranges, apples, and ginger, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The result is an extremely delicious, gorgeous bright orange colored juice. One sip, and you-can't-stop-glugging-it-down-delicious!!! Now here's a fun fact: I call this particular juice, "Sunshine in Seattle." The best part is that the words can be played around with- so for instance, in the morning I call it- "Sunrise in Seattle," in the afternoon- "Sun Shines in Seattle," and if I make it in the evening, "Sunset in Seattle." ;) 

This one I called "Sunshine in a Cup" in the morning: 


"Sunshine in a Cup"


The one thing that I am not too crazy about this new juice machine: the pulp that ends up being wasted. It extracts the juice out of the veggies and fruits, but then you end up with this huge amount of "waste." And every time I discard it into yard waste, I cringe. 

However, here's the good thing: I have started incorporating that "waste" into my cooking, and it is working out quite well. What I do is that I first run the carrots and after the extraction is done, I switch off the machine. Then I gather up the carrot pulp (all the good fiber) and store it in a container for use later. And then I run the rest of the ingredients. 

I am not much into dessert making--- but am sure the fruit "remains" could be very well incorporated into desserts (/baking).

Another idea: Smoothies

The carrot pulp from the morning's juice was later used to make a delicious carrot-peas pilaf.



"Sunshine with Peas"

Delicious Pilaf

I am quite enjoying the early morning juice ritual. It's a little bit of extra work in the mornings, but it's totally worth it. Especially because the kids love it. Apparently it gives them more energy. Maybe it does or maybe it's placebo. Whatever it is, it's all good and delicious.
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And because two- Life Goes On!