Monday, February 23, 2009

Peanuts galore

I just tried out this Gujarati chutney made from peanuts and it tastes fabulous, so had to share :) It tastes great with toast, bagels, chips, rotis, chillas - just about anything, really.
3 tbsp peanuts
2 cups full of coriander leaves
3-4 green chillies
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sugar
Lightly dry-roast the peanuts without any oil until they are pale brown. Puree them along with the coriander leaves, ginger and chillies and a little water until it turns into a smooth paste. Flavour with the sugar and add salt and lime juice to taste.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Delhi 6 Salad

I have been tripping on the score of this movie for the past few days. ARR has done a superb job and this is truly one of his stand-out efforts. I liked much of the music in Jaane Tu but felt it wouldn't stand the test of time. Similarly, in Ghajini I only thought the Guzarish song was special. But here he cracks it and lets you know why he is the Maestro! I am in love with this city of mine, Delhi, and the title song of the movie catches a wonderful mood – the hot, nothing-stirs summer afternoons, long lazy scooter rides around India gate watching urchins splash in the fountain pools, the jamun trees swaying in the monsoon breeze and raining fruit down on passersby, Janpath and the myriad stalls there, the winter mornings of hot mugs of chai and the sun on your shoulders…

Another very Dilli thing is the wonderful varieties of chaat one gets here - tongue-tickling, a melange of sweet, sour, spicy and salty and each bite an adventurous explosion of flavours on your tongue. So when I told myself I had to come up with something Dilli 6-ish, I went for a bold burst of flavour - salty, tart, flavoured with spices and zingingly fresh. Here it is:

Teaspoon cumin seeds
Handful coriander leaves and stalks
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Half cup plain yogurt
Few stalks of mint leaves
Rock salt to taste
Pound the cumin seeds, coriander leaves and stalks, mint, garlic and rock salt together in a mortar until everything forms a smooth paste. Beat into the yogurt with a fork until well-mixed. Pour onto a bowlful of your favourite mix of salad vegetables – sprouts and spring onions, garbanzo beans and tomatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, spring onions and bell peppers…And enjoy to the tunes of the song which can be found here!

PS. My photo of the salad sucks so here are some pics of Delhi…
PPS. Did I mention I used to live in the Red Fort? Yes, in this life!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yaay, I Won!!!

Guess what? I won the SippitySup contest with my recipe for McAloo Tikki burgers!!! I am feeling thrilled. Especially because I never imagined my gourmandizing would lead to anything but a larger waistline :)

So I'm looking forward to getting my Jamie Oliver game; and of course to lots more cooking! Thanks, Greg!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Legume Love Affair - Pateele Wale Chhole

This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan, who began it all...

Delhi is famous for its incredible variety of street food, from chaat - which literally means finger-licking good - to sweets to seasonal specialities. One of my favourites, and yet a recent discovery, is Pateele wale chhole. Pateela means deep vessel, and chhole is a Delhi shorthand for legumes. In this case, the chhole refers to dried white peas, and the pateela refers to brass pots - wide mouthed and wide based, in which the chhole is cooked. This is served with kulcha, one of the few leavened breads of India. Kulche, plural of kulcha, are white, spongy, flat and oblong in shape and apart from a slightly sour tang from the leavening process, practically tasteless. They do have the advantage, however, of being fat free and a perfect accompaniment to anything that's tangy.

My mom in law loves this dish and used to frequently buy it from one of the streetside vendors for lunch. The vendors somehow always get the taste just right, and as they wheel their carts into place, your mouth starts watering from the remembered deliciousness of the dish. I recently had this after a long time at an office lunch party and my tastebuds thrilled to the taste and told me I had to figure out how to make this at home.

Turns out, it wasn't that hard. Of course, it takes a little patience - for one thing you have to soak the peas overnight. But otherwise they're a breeze to make. And easy to customise as to level of heat, since each portion is dished up and garnished individually. And they are delicious with rotis, bread, toast or just by themselves as a healthy snack. Tart and tangy, a little spicy and salty, they are addictively chatpata ( which means tart and tangy, a little spicy and salty!). Somehow they bring out the meaning of the word chaat even while being healthy - the best kind of food!

1 cup dried white peas, soaked for 8 hours and then boiled/ pressure-cooked in salted water until soft, almost pulpy
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander seed ( dhania) powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a wok. Once hot, turn the heat down and add the coriander and cumin powder. Stir and continue to cook for 1 minute, till they start turning a darker shade of brown. Drain and add the peas, reserving about a cupful of the water they were cooked in. Add salt and the reserved water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices and salt are well-blended with the peas.
To serve, dish up in a bowl, top with some of the chopped onions, then garnish with the coriander leaves and as much of the chillies as each person cares for, and add a squeeze of lime.
Tip: To make them less gassy, add a tsp of baking soda while boiling the peas. You can also add julienned ginger to the garnisg for the same purpose.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Strawberry Fever

I had never tasted strawberries, though I had heard about them from my parents when they returned from England. Strawberries held a peculiar fascination for me, since my favorite authors from childhood, all British, from Enid Blyton to Noel Streatfeild, had mentioned them as inevitable accompaniments to summer. I used to wonder what they tasted like, tasting them in my imagination as something out of the world. Perhaps nothing could have lived up to the taste conjured up by my mind.

As it is, in my growing up years, I had to stay away from many food stuffs since I had Bronchitis. Ice creams, heavy milkshakes, grapes, bananas…My parents used to keep trying to make up for this – mom would pressure cook a banana once in a while. My aunt would boil grapes in water to make grape juice. Dad would buy me an icecream cone when we went to India Gate – just the cone, because the icecream would have made me ill. Then, when we moved to Bangkok when I was twelve, it was liberating in many ways. The hot climate and the Bronchitis treatment I got there meant I could finally have icecream. And milk shakes. And fried foods. Even bananas. Strawberries, alas were unavailable there too, but the flavour was ubiquitous, so my sister and I, in our first three months there, had everything we could lay our hands on that had strawberry flavor – milk, icecream, cream biscuits, wafers…

Sadly, though, after the first three months, that syrupy sweetness palled on us and we moved onto other flavours, never to return to strawberry flavor with the same fervor. Somehow the artificial strawberry flavour seems to fous more on the colour than on replicating the intense taste of the strawberry. Even the colour is off-putting - more like Digene or Pepto Bismol than anything else, hardly any relation to the vibrant red-pink of real strawberries. And the taste is just blandly sweet - no fragrance and certainly no tartness to round out the sweetness. Artificial strawberry flavouring is actually revoltingly similar in taste to Digene!

Much later, by the time I was in college in Delhi, I suddenly found little plastic baskets of fresh strawberries being sold at those Diplomat haunts, INA market or Khan market. I had no idea how to pick them so I usually ended up being cheated by the shopkeepers into buying baskets which had red sour fruit on top and green, sour ones at the bottom. I really wasn't sure whether the song and dance about strawberries was just another example of British cuisine. But I was entranced by the way they looked - the lovely heart-shaped fruit, the intense colour, and the whole delicate body being crowned by pretty little green leaves.

Then, on my first visit to Europe, I was in the Eurostar going from London to Paris and found that they were selling punnets of strawberries. I had never seen strawberries like this – they were the size of the peaches we get back here in India. Despite the expense on my limited budget, I had to try them – and finally understood what all the scrumptious mystique was about. Juicy, sweet and yet delightfully and addictively tart, I could have made a meal of them, and nearly did. Ever since, every winter in Delhi, between January and March when the strawberries are out, I pounce on them, hoping to recreate the same flavor that I experienced in England. But maybe that's something that just belongs there, amidst Wimbledon and Boat race night, driven by the terroir?

However, what I can manage is to make strawberries and cream, the cream slightly whipped with sugar to add a little more sweetness to the largely tart flavor of Indian strawberries. Fluffily and palely pink if you refrigerate it for half an hour, it looks like a visual representation of Cloud 9. Add a few ruby-red pomegranate seeds and you're not quite sure whether you're supposed to eat it or just stare at it in delight!

Home Made Burgers

Like all kids these days, my son loves burgers at McDonalds. In fact, the first logo he ever recognized was the McD one. We were taking him to his paediatrician for a checkup and as we drove past Basant Lok market, a large M in the characteristic font appeared atop one of the buildings. His head swiveled around in interest and he lisped in his 2 year old baby voice, “Mamma, I’m yoving it!” Ever since, one of the joys of his life has been the rare outing to a McDonalds outlet for a McAloo tikki burger, fries and fruit juice. There had come a time when the toy that came with the Happy Meal attracted him more than the meal itself, but since then he’s down to appreciating the food. In fact, that was one of the few meals we could count on him wolfing down without any trouble or need to resort to threats/ bribes.

He’s lately been invited out to quite a few playdates at friend’s homes and we’ve been unable to reciprocate until lately, what with the house renovation, my travel and of course, the baby. So when we finally called some of his friends over, lunch for them had to be a production number. He wanted to impress them by ordering a meal in from McDs, but I figured by the time the meal got here it’d taste like cardboard so I offered him home made McAloo Tikkis instead.

I have to admit, they’re among my favourite things to eat at McDs. Delicious, unlike soy burgers, I totally indulged in them during pregnancy. In fact, I'm surprised that McDonalds has not adopted these as part of their worldwide menu, because there are just so many vegetarians out there, never to mention Indian tourists, who would love a tasty vegetarian option.
I had a challenge on my hands, because the home made version had to taste authentically McDs. I must say, I never envisaged the day that I’d be trying to emulate a mass-produced fast food item in my kitchen, but here I was, flipping burgers like a pro!

The boys loved these and the frozen fries we had freshly fried (that sounds like something out of Dr Seuss’s Oh Say Can You Say, Doesn’t it?) and had a gala time at the playdate. They turned out so well A was asking for seconds, so I’m planning to make them a monthly treat.

Ingredients (for 4 burgers):
Potatoes – 1 per person if the size of a cricket ball, 1.5 if smaller
Onions – 2, finely chopped
Shelled Peas – half cup
Salt to taste
I cup breadcrumbs
4 hamburger buns, cut in half
8 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
7-8 slices of tomato
7-8 slices of onion
Fun Foods Sandwich spread (basically Thousand Island dressing)
Salted butter
Cheese slices if you want
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
Boil the potatoes in salt water, peel them and mash them until pasty. Boil the peas. Add the peas, the chopped onions and salt to the potatoes and shape into circles that just fit into your palm.Roll them in the breadcrumbs. Flatten them into 1 inch thick disks.
In a frying pan, add the oil. When hot, shallow fry the potato burgers until lightly browned on all sides. Spoon up the oil onto the sides of the burgers while frying so the sides get nice and crisp too.
In another frying pan, add a knob of butter and lightly toast the cut sides of the burger buns until browned and crisp.
Assemble the burgers by applying a layer of the Fun foods spread on the cut side of the bottom half of the burger bun. Top with a lettuce leaf, add tomato slices until the bun is covered, then add the potato burger. Top the potato burger with another lettuce leaf and the onion slices. Slather the cut side of the top half of the burger bun with more Fun Foods spread and cover your burger. Add cheese slices wherever you want. Serve hot, with ketchup on the side.