Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jackfruit- Kathal ki Sabzi- Vegetarian Meat

If I were to ask somebody to name a few Indian dishes, the immediate answers are most likely to be matar paneer, saag paneer, aloo-gobi, naan, dal, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, and oh, samosas, of course. Sometimes I might hear baingan ka bhartha, or bhindi masala, and that would make me happy. If I hear masala dosa, idli, vadarasam, sambar, I will be delighted. But if someone were to say kathal ki sabzi, I would become their fan!

In all the 16 years of living in this country, I have eaten this delicacy only in one Indian restaurant, when we visited Vancouver. Oh wait, that's BC! And in all these years, I've seen only one friend make it for a party, and yes indeed, I am her fan!

Kathal stands for raw jackfruit. Jackfruit resembles the very infamous durian- that stinky fruit, that supposedly tastes heavenly (I have never tasted one). Ripe jackfruit is yellow in color, sweet, juicy and delicious. The seed can also be used in cooking- when roasted, it has a nice nutty flavor, and just delicious. Unripe, raw jackfruit is of course, not yet sweet, and in this stage, can be used as a vegetable. Neat! Here's some more info on the Jackfruit.

For our convenience here, we get to use the canned stuff- first of all, you will not find fresh raw, or ripe for that matter, jackfruit. I have seen it sometimes at the Asian store, but it always looks so sad!

Here is the recipe that I learned from my friend. This is with 1 can. If you want to make it for more than a couple people, then obviously increase the quantity of the ingredients (Did you just go Duh?!).


1. Young Green Jackfruit- 1 can

Canned stuff (that thing behind is my nifty can opener)
2. Onion- 1/2 a medium size, thinly sliced

3. Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp or more, per your liking

4. Cumin powder- 1/2 tsp to 2 tsp or more, per your liking

5. Red Chili powder- per taste

6. Cumin seeds- 1/2 to 1 tsp

7. Turmeric powder- a pinch

8. Oil to cook- a few tablespoons

9. Salt per taste


Note: If you want to prepare this dish for lunch, I'd do the following in the morning itself, or at least a couple hours in advance.

1. Open the can(s), and transfer all contents into a colander, so as to drain out all the liquid.

Drain out liquid, retain the jackfruit

2. Give the jackfruit a good rinse with cold water, and leave it to air out. The idea is to get rid of the "canny" smell- so I'd do this whole airing-out thing for minimum 2 hours.

3. After you are satisfied with the above step, lay out all the jackfruit pieces on a towel/couple paper towels, so as to blot out any remaining moisture. And now you are ready to cook!

Blot out that moisture!

1. Pour in a few tablespoons of oil (the more, the better! No, really!) in a pan. Get the heat going. Splutter some cumin seeds, and throw in the sliced onions, followed by a pinch of turmeric, and sauté the onions.

2. Just as the onions start becoming translucent, throw in the jackfruit. P.S. I like to cut the jackfruit pieces into halves, to get nice bite-size pieces.

3. Add salt per taste, cumin powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, and continue frying. You could add some slit green chilies instead of red chili powder, if you'd like, or both.

4. You don't really need to add any water to cook the jackfruit, because it is anyway quite soft, since it is after all from a can. Just lower the heat, and cover the pan for about 5-10 minutes, to sort of get all the flavors going.

5. That's pretty much it! Remove the lid, and continue frying for another 15-20 minutes. Give it a taste. Adjust spices if needed. And if you think it tastes good, then switch off the stove, and serve it with hot rotis, parathas, or as a side. Garnish with some fresh coriander leaves/cilantro before serving.

Note: You could add some aamchur i.e. dried mango powder, for some sour factor, but I have found that canned jackfruit already is slightly sour, and so I don't add aamchur.

Kathal ki Sabzi

I simply love this vegetable/fruit. There are a couple more recipes that I shall post in the coming weeks. I believe there is a lovely dessert too, that they make with the ripe fruit. And jackfruit chips are simply amazing.

The next time you have a party, ditch the same old matar paneer, and instead make kathal ki sabzi. Your friends will appreciate it!

Interesting to Note:

*Because of the texture of the very versatile jackfruit, a lot of pure vegetarians dislike this preparation, because it makes them think of meat.

*At the same time, a lot of people love it, because it makes them think that they are eating meat. Hence the term, vegetarian meat. ;)

*Then again, some pure meat eaters dislike it coz they'd rather eat the real stuff! Kinda like the real meat versus soy "meat" scenario….

*And then there is the no-fuss kind, such as yours truly, who simply love it, no matter what! ;)

Special Thanks to my dear friend, M, for rekindling my love for kathal!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Swiss Chard Chips- Take One

Remember the beautiful swiss chard I grew in my very own backyard, and was so proud of? I was going to make something fantastic with it. I thought why not try swiss chard chips? Kale chips seem to be the in-thing in recent times, and so I decided that swiss chard chips ought to gain some popularity too......


To make swiss chard chips, that will taste fantastic.


1. Swiss Chard- nice and clean

2. Salt

3. Pepper

4. Garlic powder (or a couple cloves of crushed garlic)

5. Olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet.

3. Sprinkle salt, pepper per taste, as well as garlic powder. If you use crushed garlic, just sort of distribute it evenly over the leaves.

4. Drizzle some olive oil all over, and toss everything together.

Swiss Chard with seasoning, all set to get into the oven
5. Set inside the 250 degree oven on the middle rack for 20 minutes.

6. After 20 minutes, remove it from the oven.

Expected Result:

Nicely crisped up leaves.

Observation and Result: 

Nicely wilted (down) leaves. Not to forget, all reduced to barely a spoonful! Sheer disaster!


Upon Tasting, however: 

Delicious, real delicious!

Back-up Plan:

I added the wilted, yet delicious swiss chard (chips!) into the matar paneer that was cooking on the stove. And well, it was matar-swiss chard paneer for dinner that evening, that tasted just fine.

Into matar paneer

Matar-Swiss Chard Paneer

1. Gotta make sure that every swiss chard leaf is DRY. Yep, yours truly was too excited, and did a pretty sloppy job of it.

2. Gotta use LOTS of it, if you want a decent amount of end product.

3. Perhaps I was a bit too hasty in the baking cycle. I found out later that after the first 20 minutes, you must turn the leaves over, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

4. Perhaps my garden swiss chard was a little too tender, and not suitable for making chips.

5. Therefore, next time, I will just buy that bunch of that humongous swiss chard from the store- that'll definitely make good chips.

Final Note: 

Take Two coming up. I already know that it will be successful! ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Swiss Chard

Here's my first crop!! Swiss Chard, purely organic, grown without any chemicals, in my very own backyard. I shall be harvesting it today. I can already tell that this is going to be delicious! :)

Look out for my next post. As soon as I cook something fantastic with these greens!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sabudana Vada

Low temperatures and clouds in the sky,
Equate to a hot cup of chai,
And pakoras with some ketchup on the side,
And I kind of lost that whole rhyming thing......
But hey, that's beside (the point).
OK, now, people, do not snide,
For fall is here! And don't we all,
Simply love fall?!

Uh, yes, I shall set aside my poetic genius for now, and jump right into the subject of this post. Sabudana Vada is one of my favorite kind of pakora/fritter. Made of sabudana, i.e. tapioca pearls, also referred to as sago pearls. In fact, I have an older post on Sabudana Khichdi that I would like you to skim through. Note down the first part of the recipe, "Prepping those Pearls." That is exactly what you would do to start off with the fritter recipe. Also get those peanuts ready (in the same recipe).

While the sabudana prepping is going on, cook a few potatoes. I like to use my pressure cooker to cook potatoes- the job gets done in 5 minutes.


1. Sabudana

2. Cooked potatoes- 2 or 3 (or more, depending on the quantity of sabudana)

3. Green chilies, sliced or chopped, your choice. Qty per your liking.

4. Salt per taste

5. Red chili powder (optional)

6. Pinch of sugar (secret ingredient!)

7. A pinch of asafoetida/hing (good for the tummy)- if you have it

8. Cumin seeds (jeera)

9. Coarsely ground roasted peanuts

10. Chopped fresh cilantro/coriander leaves


1. Mix up the soaked sabudana with the cooked potaoes and all the other ingredients. Mash it all up together. Give it a taste, and adjust accordingly.

Note: Potatoes are basically the binding agent here.

2. Make little patties of the whole mash-up. You could make little balls too.

Sabudana vadas- ready to be fried
3. Take a kadhai/wok/pan/pot, pour in a good amount of cooking oil, and get the heat going.

Tip: I just make a very tiny ball with the sabudana-potato mash-up and throw it into the oil. If the tiny ball immediately floats up, I know that the oil is nice and hot, and ready to go.

4. Start frying those patties/balls. You know they are done, when they are nice and golden brown in color. Ladle them out with one of those slotted spoons/ladles onto some paper towel(s), so as to drain of excess oil.

Frying the sabudana vadas
Golden brown delicious sabudana vadas
Yum yum! 
Eat away!! 

Serve immediately with some ketchup, or mint chutney.

The perfect sabudana vada is cripsy on the outside, and soft, and almost gooey on the inside. Best when served hot, off the oil. The coarsely ground peanuts and the cumin add that crunch, and well, I am salivating right now.......

Don't forget that cup of chai! Happy Fall, y'all!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer 2013 India Trip- Herur, Kolar, Savan Durga

I spent a good month with my folks in India. It was lovely, as usual. My idea of a vacation is do nothing, absolutely nothing, and that is exactly what I did! Visited a few people, went to a few places around town, and rest of the time, just relaxed at home. And this might seem strange, coming from someone who claims to be a foodie, I was on a complete break from the kitchen!! Forget cooking food, I did not even have to make a cup of coffee or tea! I was not allowed in the kitchen, period. Well, I figured, might as well enjoy while I could!

I dunno if I told you this- my grandma, who I fondly called, "Avva," passed away earlier this year. I was pretty attached to her, and the funny thing is that I still think that she is right there, in that same old house, in the same old kitchen, in front of the gas stove, cooking away..... she was a big time foodie herself. Anyway, so my mom brought back a few of Avva's things, and guess where a few of those things are now?

1. Her mirror, that she bought in 1951- my mom got it re-touched, and now it sits, nice and pretty, on my wall in the family room.

Oh, and do you see that bell right on top of the drawer? That's hers as well! Cute, don't you think?

2. A little stainless steel pot. She used to make rasam (lentil tomato soup) in this pot, if I remember correctly.

I also got back two of her shawls, that are tucked away in my closet. And check this out- I brought back her pickle jar, and it now serves as a planter, which I think is brilliant!

My Avva's pickle jar- now a planter! 

One of the main highlights from this trip was the day trip to my husband's family's ancestral village, Herur. It is so green out there, so quiet, and just beautiful. There are lots of areca nut/betel nut trees, betel leaves, coconut palms, plantain, teak plantations, etc. My son was having a blast, until he started getting attacked by a gazillion bugs! Poor guy got bitten pretty bad, and his arms and legs were all bright red, and swollen the next day. But other than that, it was real nice!

Areca Nut/Betel Nut in the front yard

Betel Leaves plantation
I saw this real old stone pestle and mortar in the home we were visiting. They still use it to grind chutneys, etc. So cool!

And we had fresh-off-the-tree tender coconut water- a thousand times better than Vita Coco for sure! And this is me, enjoying some cool, sweet, refreshing tender coconut water:

Another highlight from this trip was my visit to Savan Durga. Right from childhood, every time we visited the place, my dad and I would climb up the hill- which is in fact one of the largest monoliths in the whole of Asia! The last time I climbed up was when I was in high school. This time I realized that it is actually a pretty tough one to hike up. Hard to imagine that I used to hike all the way up, in my sandals, and sometimes, without shoes! No snazzy gear involved whatsoever! I really wanted to go up this time, but my first thought was, uh-oh, I don't have my hiking boots! Gosh, I have become so spoiled! Well, I hope to go up Savan Durga the next time- with or without my hiking boots!

Couldn't take any pictures at Savan Durga, as my camera ran out of charge..... bummer! Well, it is all in the head, though!

One more major highlight from this trip was our visit to the town of Kolar, to my aunt's place. She and her husband are avid plant lovers- they have grown a very impressive collection of plants all around their house. My aunt has grown an avocado tree, yes, an AVOCADO TREE! Those avocados were unbelievably tasty-- ohhh, I can taste them even now--- buttery delicious!

And once again, major major bummer that happened- while transferring those pictures from my camera to my computer, the Kolar pictures somehow totally vanished!!!! I am SO disappointed! Therefore, sadly, I cannot show you that beautiful avocado tree. :'(

Oh, I mustn't forget to mention the very neat Zojirushi bento box that my husband used back in school. His mom gave it to me this time, to bring back. And I now use it to pack up his lunch! Perfect portions, and super neat! In addition to 3 little boxes, it comes with a tiny little water bottle as well, and one of these days, I just might fill it up with some whisky, and surprise, rather, startle him! Haha! ;)

Zojirushi Bento Box

So there, that's my little summer report for you. After that nice, long vacation, it is back to business, and back to cooking, and cleaning, and setting up appointments, and shopping for school supplies...... uhh, the same old stuff! I know, I know, there's the whole withdrawal symptom thingy goin' on...... but I'll get over it, I know!

Enjoy the last few days of Summer 2013, you all! Cheers!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Squid Ink Pasta

We made our very last trip to Spokane last weekend (insert as many sad face emojees as possible). My brother and sister in law are moving out of WA state, all the way to WI, of all places! *shake head* My brother moved to eastern WA 8 years ago- and ever since, we have visited each other umpteen times. Our visits involved food, of course, but more importantly, unending bouts of laughter, and togetherness. I will miss him like HECK (insert as many teary face emojees as possible)! Then he got married 3 years ago- and luckily, we hit it off- my sister in law, and I. And we continued visiting each other umpteen times. I will miss them like HECK (and now insert those very sad face emojees, and a couple mad face emojees as well)!

With moving comes packing, and with packing, there's a lot of discarding that happens. And often times, a lot of food is thrown away..... from the refrigerator, from the pantry, from kitchen cabinets, from the oven that you used for storage, etc. Yes, even from those bedside table drawers where you stash away a few midnight snacks! Well, since I was there over the weekend, my dear bro and sis in law figured why not give some of that food to someone who would actually use it. And lucky me, got to bring back quite a few things, including some interesting stuff, that I would otherwise have never even thought of buying. One such interesting item was Squid Ink Farfalle.

Squid Ink Farfalle
My first thought was, uggh, not sure if this is going to be good. However, I went ahead, and the result was pretty darn good! Of course, I first looked it up online- and from what I read, the best recipes for squid ink pasta incorporate some sort of sea food, so that the flavors complement each other.

I cooked the pasta for 5 minutes (the instructions said 3-4 minutes). That pasta water turned dark- obviously the squid ink had something to do with it!

Squid Ink pasta, al dente


1. Cooked Squid Ink Pasta (this was farfalle)

2. Some garlic powder (crushed garlic would work well too)

3. Some Italian seasoning (you know, oregano, thyme, basil, pepper etc)

4. Some veggies of your choice. I used colorful sweet bell peppers, and green olives.

5. Seafood of your choice- I used tuna for this one. You could most certainly use calamari, that happens to be squid, actually- that'd make it even better.

6. Salt per taste

7. Some oil to sauté

8. Lemon juice


There isn't a big procedure here, really. I mean, you've made pasta before.....

1. Sauté the sea food, the veggies, throw in the cooked squid ink pasta. Stir it all up.

2. Don't forget the garlic powder/crushed garlic, italian seasoning, and salt per taste.

3. I like to zing it up with freshly squeezed lemon juice right in the end. Done!

Squid Ink Farfalle- YUM! 
The squid ink pasta tasted pretty good. Simple, and elegant. And it wasn't "squiddy" at all. The kids loved it, until after they had finished eating, when I informed them that it was squid ink pasta! *Clever Mom* ;)

So there- getting some squid ink pasta from my bro and sis in law was nice- though them moving away, to the land of moos (get it?), and cheese is certainly not nice! *smirk* But well, the positive thing is that we can make longer road trips every summer, and they can do the same every winter- perfect! That long desire of going RVing might come true after all!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Horse Gram, the Wonder-Bean

Everybody's heard of garbanzo, kidney beans, black eyes peas, red adzuki beans, cannellini beans, etc.... you find them in any grocery store. But do you know the horse gram? If you do, then great (and you can skip the next paragraph)! If you don't, then well, it is time to introduce you to this wonder-bean.

The wonder-bean- Horse Gram (cooked) 
Horse Gram, the wonder-bean: Used widely in Ayurvedic medicine, here are some important health benefits, in no particular order, of the horse gram:

1. Natural remedy for gall, and kidney stones

2. Reduces flatulence, and acidity, and keeps your innards in great shape (good fiber)! 

4. Used for treating rheumatism.

5. Used to treat obesity- and this one is a BIGGIE, especially in these times of biggie fries, super-sized cokes, double whoppers; heck, even those venti frappuccinos and whatnot! 

6. Used to treat menstrual problems in women. Forget those dozens of ibuprofen capsules that you ingest. Try incorporating some horse gram into your diet, instead!

7. Lowers cholesterol

So there, now that you have been introduced to this truly wonder-bean, here are a couple recipes for you. These two are in fact popular South Indian dishes.

First, and Foremost, before anything:

1. Soak the beans in water overnight. This will allow for easy cooking the next day. I haven't seen canned horse gram anywhere- if you do find it, then you can skip this step altogether, and proceed to the recipes.

2. Cook the soaked beans, along with the water that it was soaked in, and with extra water, in a pressure cooker. Add some salt, and a pinch of turmeric powder to this as well.

Note: If you don't have a pressure cooker, you'll have to cook the beans in a pot, like you would cook lentils in a pot. I prefer the pressure cooker, as it does the work in half the time- about 15 minutes.

Horse gram cooked in the pressure cooker
3. Once the cooking is done, separate out the beans from the water, and save that water- that is a key ingredient!

The Water

Cooked Horse Gram
And now we can jump right into the recipes!

Recipe 1- Horse Gram Soup/Hurali Saaru

You need:

1. The water from the above-mentioned cooking-the-horse gram-step

2. 1 teaspoon of ghee/clarified butter, or oil

3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4. Some curry leaves (key to a proper south-indian recipe!)

5. Some tamarind water/concentrate- to add the tang factor. OR lemon juice.

6. 3-4 tablespoons of cooked horse gram, mashed into a paste. You could use a pestle-mortar for this, or just mash it up with a spoon.

7. Some salt, if needed. Remember- we had already added salt in the very first step, so there's salt in that water already.


1. Take a pot, add a teaspoon of ghee/clarified butter, get the heat going, temper some cumin seeds, throw in the curry leaves (careful here, the leaves tend to splatter up, so cover the pot with a lid immediately).

2. Then add the horse gram water into this, and the mashed horse gram to impart some texture (sort of acts as a thickening agent). Bring to boil. Spoon in some tamarind water/concentrate for tang, else squeeze lemon juice in the end.

3. Taste, and add salt if needed. That's it! You got yourself a wonder-soup, that can be eaten as it is, or if you can't do without your starch, mix with rice, and enjoy! We call it Hurali Saaru back home.

Note: If you love garlic, you could add some crushed garlic in Step 1. That'll add extra flavor.

Horse Gram Soup/Hurali Saaru
Recipe 2- Horse Gram Salad/Hurali Usali or Sundal:

You need: 

1. Cooked horse gram (remember, the one you get after separating the beans from the water)

2. Grated coconut- 2-3 tablespoons. Fresh coconut would be the first choice, but frozen, as well as dried coconut flakes will work just fine.

3. Curry leaves

Curry Leaves
4. A couple green chilies

5. Salt (again, don't go overboard with this, since we had salted the entire thing in the very first cooking step).

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. A pinch of asafetida- I don't think I have ever mentioned this very important spice/resin used in almost all Indian cooking. I will have to dedicate one entire post highlighting the asafetida- known as Hing/Heeng in India. In fact, most of our cooking, almost always begins with a pinch of hing, especially when we cook legumes, beans, lentils-- all those proteins. But more about this in a later post.

8. 1-2 teaspoons oil


1. Get a pan going on the stove, add a couple teaspoons of oil, heat, add a pinch of hing, followed by a teaspoon of mustard seeds- get them to splutter. Then throw in the curry leaves, and the chilies. Cover with lid.

2.Once the spluttering (and potential splattering!) is over, switch off the stove, take off the lid, and add the cooked horse gram, with the coconut. Give it all a good stir. Add salt if needed.

And you got yourself a super-healthy horse gram salad! Yeah, that's it! We call it Hurali Usali or sundal back home.

Horse Gram Salad/Hurali Usali/Sundal
You could get creative, and add some chopped cucumber to this, or even finely chopped onions, and tomatoes, squeeze some lemon juice--- your choice.

Make this wonderful horse gram salad instead of the same old five bean salad. It might just become your new favorite dish to take to the next potluck! Don't forget the soup!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Shrimp Balchao

My brother made this really, as in REALLY, spicy HOT shrimp dish, called Shrimp Balchao, and believe you me, my tongue was on fire! And yet, since I am this crazy hot & spicy fanatic, I thoroughly thoroughly (yes, I had to say that twice) enjoyed it.

Traditionally, Balchao (pronounced Baal-Chow) is a form of cooking meat, usually pork, or sea food in a hot-sour-sweet sauce, that incorporates vinegar, red chilies, sugar, and tomato paste. It is almost like pickling, and the dish, or the pickle, really, can be easily stored for a few days. 

Here's my take on Shrimp Balchao, taking inspiration from my brother: 

The Balchao part: 


1 Onion

10 cloves of garlic (oh yeah!) 

1 inch (or more) ginger

I use 4-5 habanero chilies (My brother used 12-15 thai chilies!) 

Note on habanero: 

Like any other hot chili, don't touch your face after you have handled the habanero! I can assure you that you will be in trouble!! 

1 tablespoon vinegar (rice vinegar) for the tang

1 tomato 

A couple teaspoons of sugar


I take all the above ingredients, and blend them all together in my food processor. Easy! Don't be tricked by the color- that paste is fiery! 

Balchao Masala
The Shrimp:

I marinate the shrimp with salt, garlic powder, and pepper for 30 minutes or so (or overnight, if it needs to be thawed in the fridge). 

Shrimp marinating
When it is time to cook, I sauté the shrimp in a little bit of oil. You know that the shrimp is done when it turns pink, and curls up. Takes max 2-3 minutes! 

Cooked Shrimp 

Final Steps (I have underlined the extra ingredients you need):

1. I take a pot/pan/kadhai and pour in a few teaspoons of oil, and get the heat going. 

2. Splutter a teaspoon of mustard seeds, followed by some curry leaves (optional), a pinch of turmeric powder, and then throw in the Balchao paste. And start frying it all. 

Frying the Balchao paste
3. Fry it until the paste has gotten rid of the water, and oil has separated from the rest of the paste. At this point, I add salt to taste, as well as a teaspoon of garam masala. Fry it again for a couple minutes. 

4. I add about a cup to a cup and a half of water- based on how much shrimp I'm using (it is all about estimating!). And then, just for more color, I mix in a couple teaspoons of concentrated tomato paste. I give this a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. 

5. In the end, I fold in the cooked shrimp, and simmer for another 5 minutes. I don't like to simmer too long, else the shrimp gets overdone. 

Folding in the shrimp 
*My daughter doesn't like shrimp, and so for her, I add a couple potatoes. I first cook the potatoes in the balchao gravy, and then in the end, throw the shrimp in. 

Shrimp Balchao
Eat it with steaming hot, plain rice, and get ready to set your tongue on fire!! Don't forget to cool off with a nice, cold cup of buttermilk! 

Set your tongue on FIRE!! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cracked Wheat Pilaf/Dalia Upma

Cracked wheat is basically whole raw wheat kernels that have been crushed into smaller pieces. Cracked wheat and bulgur look very similar, however, they are different, in that the latter cooks much faster, because it is already pre-cooked. We call cracked wheat dalia or broken wheat back in India. The popular dishes they make are dalia khichdi, dalia upma, and also dalia kheer (sweet version- which is yum!). And of course, since this is whole grain we are talking about, this stuff is loaded with nutrients, is diabetic-friendly, good for the heart, etc.

Cracked Wheat/Broken Wheat/Dalia

Here's how I make cracked wheat pilaf, or dalia upma:


1. 2 cups of cracked wheat

2. Veggies- I like to use finely chopped onion, some green chilies, maybe a potato, carrots, bell pepper, and peas. Since I like tomatoes, I add a tomato as well

3. Peanuts- about a handful- I just like the crunch factor

4. A few teaspoons of oil

5. Mustard seeds, salt, chili powder (optional), a pinch of turmeric powder

6. Water (lots of it, to cook the cracked wheat)

7. Curry leaves- if I want a South Indian twist to the dish, just for the fragrance (available at the Indian Store)

Curry Leaves

1. I first toast/dry roast the cracked wheat. Just to get the nutty flavor going. And then set it aside.

2. Meanwhile I get the pan/pot going, add a few teaspoons of oil, heat, fry the peanuts, temper some mustard seeds, followed by a pinch of turmeric powder, and then I throw in the chopped onion+green chilies+curry leaves, and fry for about 5-7 minutes. I then add the other veggies. At this point, I salt it, and add some red chili powder.

Note: I sometimes add "vaangi bhath" powder, for extra flair. For those of you who may not be familiar with this, "vaangi bhath" powder is a special spice blend, that is used in South Indian cooking.

3. I then add the toasted cracked wheat into this, and mix it all. Meanwhile, on the other burner, I have a pot of water boiling. This water will be used to cook the whole pilaf/upma.

Cracked wheat+veggies
4. After about 5-7 minutes of frying everything together, I add the hot boiling water into the mixture of cracked wheat and veggies. (Be careful here, the contents of the pan/pot tend to splatter a little bit-- so watch out!) I add water so as to cover the entire mixture- so say, about an inch higher than the mixture.

Ready to cook....
 5. I bring this to a boil, and then cover it with a lid, and simmer it. It takes a good 30 minutes for the cracked wheat to really cook. After about 20 minutes, I add peas, and then let it all simmer again. Another 10 minutes, and I remove the lid, and this is usually what I see:

Note: I taste it (of course!), and if I think that the grain needs to be more tender, I just add some more of that hot water, give it a quick mix, cover, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Cracked wheat pilaf or Dalia Upma is ready to be enjoyed! Super delicious, and super healthy! I like to spoon in a little bit of ghee or clarified butter on top--- mm mmm! ;)

Dalia Upma/Cracked Wheat pilaf

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rajasthani Gatte Ki Sabzi

Gatte Ki Sabzi is a Rajasthani delicacy that my brother, and I were introduced to by our next door neighbor "Aunty," back in school days. Whenever she would make it, which seemed like pretty much every day, she would give us some, and it was so delicious, that we would literally gobble it all up within minutes! And then of course, our mom learned the recipe, and she would make it for us. And now I know how to make it too. Sadly, neither my kids, nor my husband really care for it, therefore I don't cook it very often. The only time I get to make it is if my brother happens to visit, which he did, a couple days ago.

Before I start off with the recipe, to those of you who may be unfamiliar with this dish, Gatte ki Sabzi is basically chickpea dumplings in a mildly spicy, tangy, yogurt based sauce. Can be eaten with Indian bread, or plain simple rice. This is not one of those quick recipes, so gotta give yourself at least an hour. Also, be warned that the gatta/chickpea dumpling making can get a bit messy. Typically the gattas, or the dumplings are shaped like sausages, but I like to shape them into discs. More about the shape towards the end.

The Gattas/Chickpea dumplings: 

You need: 

Besan (chickpea flour): If this is your first time, I'd start off with a cup and a half besan. Once you have figured out how to deal with this, you can increase the quantity.

Salt per taste

Red Chili powder- per your heat level

Turmeric powder- a pinch

Garam Masala powder (or coriander powder+cumin powder)- 1/2-1 tsp

1 teaspoon ghee/Clarified butter or a couple teaspoons of oil

Water to mix- you will need maybe 1/4 cup, or even lesser.

Gatta making: 

1. Mix up all the dry ingredients, followed by ghee, and then start adding water, in small quantities. As you add the water, start mixing the dough with your fingers (like you would knead dough for rotis/chapatis or pizza). Yes, it'll start sticking to your fingers, but be patient- use a butter knife to sort of scrape off the gooey dough off your fingers. This is how it'll look once everything is mixed:

Sticky mess! Not to worry! 
2. Then spoon in some oil on your other (clean) palm, and start making balls with the dough.

Ghatta on its way!
3. I would stop here, but if you prefer the sausage shape, you can go right ahead, and keep rolling until you get your desired shape.


4. Finish making all the gattas, like so:

Gattas ready to be cooked
Cooking the Gattas:

Now that the gattas are ready, they need to be cooked.

1. Pour some water (enough to hold all the gattas) into a pot/pan, and bring the water to a boil.

2. As the water starts boiling, start adding the gattas very gently, one by one into the boiling water. And reduce the heat a tad bit, and let them all cook for about 7-10 minutes.

Gattas cooking 
3. After they have cooked (you can check by cutting up a gatta- if it is hard, you know it is done), remove them from the water, and set them aside to cool. Don't be put off by the color- it'll come back! And do not discard that water- you will get to use it in the sauce. It has all the flavor!

Cooked gattas
4. After they have cooled off a bit, you can either leave them the way they are, or, if you prefer smaller pieces, like I do, just cut them up into whatever size you like. And see, the color comes back!

Gattas cut up into smaller pieces 
Phew! The major part of the cooking is done! The next part will take only about 15-20 minutes.

The Sauce:

1. Take about 1/2 a cup of yogurt, and whip it so it is nice and smooth.

2. Chop some onion, green chilies, garlic, grate some ginger. In a frying pan/pot/kadhai (wok), pour in a few teaspoons of oil. Get the heat going.

3. Temper some cumin seeds, and then throw in the chopped aromatics, fry until it is done.

4. Then add the cooked gattas into this, and stir fry it all. Add salt to taste, a pinch of turmeric powder, some red chili powder, if you so desire, followed by that water that you saved after cooking the gattas. Don't add all the water- just enough to cover everything. I like to add a chopped tomato, though the traditional recipe doesn't really call for it.

5. Finally fold in the yogurt. And stir everything.

Looks yum already! 
6. And now just simmer it, until ready to be served! Well, don't simmer it too long, though- because the more you heat it, the thicker the sauce becomes, because of the chickpea flour in the gattas. Make sense? So once you have achieved the desired consistency, you can switch off the stove.

Serve over a bed of jeera (cumin) rice, or alongside some rotis/parathas (Indian bread). Mmm mmm!

Gatte ki Sabzi
The Bizarre aspect: 

To a first-timer, gatte ki sabzi might appear a bit off-putting- especially if the gattas are shaped like sausages. I am trying hard not to say this-- but OK, I'll just go right ahead and say it- you might think it looks like turd curry! But give it a try- be open, you will like it! I'm pretty sure Andrew Zimmern would love to try this one. It is definitely not as bizarre as most of the foods he gets to eat on his show, but it could still pass off as bizarre, because of its appearance.

Final Note: Before I sign off, I'd like to point out that this dish is very diabetic friendly, because of all that chickpea flour.