Monday, May 31, 2010

Great Beginnings...

Some time ago, when I was shopping at a nearby Mother Dairy, a lady who spotted me with a bunch of drumsticks asked what I do with them. She said she had only ever seen South Indians or Bengalis buying them. I told her they make a great sambar, or aviyal, so she asked me, Do you cook South Indian very often and how and so on. Naturally it tumbled out that I was a South Indian, so the next thing you know, she's asking me, "Do you know how to make dosas? I can never get them right." I said I always botch mine too while spreading them on the tawa. Then she asks, "So what proportion of urad do you use to rice?" "I haven't the faintest. I only make them from the MTR mix", I confessed to which she shook her head in disbelief. "I've never heard of a South Indian who uses the ready mix", before disappointedly going off.

Honestly, I confess, I do regularly and freely use the MTR idli and dosa mix. They spare me the pain and the time of soaking, grinding, then fermenting and then waiting to see if things turned out right or not. MTR's ready to eat food sucks, the North Indian dishes in their repertoire, rather, but their khaara bhaath is another winner. When we lived in France, on Sundays after our grocery shopping and walking home lugging heavy bags that cut grooves into our fingers and an extended session of house cleaning, we'd have khaara bhaath for a sumptuous and satisfying lunch.

MTR's rava idli mix is another winner, the catch being that you have to put in the right amount of sour curds ( yoghurt). The recipe printed on the pack specifies about 750 ml per 500 gm pack but I like to put in about 900 ml - basically, enough so the idli batter has the consistency of honey or pancake batter. That way the idlis turn out super-moist and light. Another trick is to ensure one doesn't overfill the idli moulds - put in enough to barely cover the cup, it definitely should heap up on top.

Today, with something as simple and yet perfect as rava idli, we've had such a great start to the day that it seems like the rest of the day will be awesome. I mixed up a batch of MTR's rava idlis, duly liquid-ey. We made a simple coconut chutney sans coriander leaves today. And I had made the classes huli ( sambar) with sambar onions yesterday in preparation. Add to it litchis, cold from the fridge, rich with juice and sweet as honey, fresh watermelon juice, the kids eating in blessed and rare silence, and a brisk breeze wafting in from the garden...And such a sense of wellbeing flooded us that it seemed like, at that moment, we could ask for nothing more in life.


Rava Idli
I packet MTR mix ( will yield up to 30 idlis)
900 ml sour yoghurt
Pinch salt

Mix half the yoghurt into the idli mix, along with the salt. Wait for 2 minutes, then mix in the rest of the yoghurt slowly and blend well. Make sure the batter has the texture of pancake batter.

Grease the idli moulds lightly. Add about 250 ml of water into the pressure cooker. Pour the batter into the greased idli moulds ( don't heap the batter in), and steam in the pressure cooker, with the whistle off, for 12-14 minutes. Take the moulds out and let cool slightly before using a knife to prise the idlis out. Serve hot, topped with homemade tuppa (ghee).

Coconut chutney
I fresh coconut, grated
3-4 green chillies
1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in 1 cup warm water
Handful of roasted chana
1 inch piece of ginger
Pinch hing ( asafoetida)
1 tsp urad seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 handful curry leaves
Salt to taste

Squeeze the tamarind so it releases all its pulp into the water, then strain the water. Grind together all the ingredients with half cup water until finely ground.

Prepare seasoning: heat the oil. Then add the mustard seeds and wait until they splutter. throw in the urad seeds. When they are pale brown, add in the heeng and the curry leaves and switch off the stove. Quickly pour on top of the chutney, add salt and mix well.

Huli/ Sambar
1 cup arhar dal, cooked until soft and then whisked
2 cups sambar onions, peeled and then parboiled in salt water, strained
2 tbsp sambar powder
1 limesized tamarind, soaked in half cup warm water, squeezed and the water then strained
1 limesized jaggery lump
Salt to taste
Pinch turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 handful curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Put a large saucepan on to the heat. Add in the arhar dal, sambar onions ( store the water for thinning out the sambar later, if required), tamarind water, sambar powder ( instructions for making it are on my blog someplace), jaggery, turmeric, salt and chili powder and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Make the seasoning by heating the oil, tossing in the mustard seeds and waiting for them to splutter and then throwing in the curry leaves. Add the seasoning to the huli and serve hot.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Healthy Chaat - MLLA 23, Weekend Herb Blogging

I love chaat. I can have it any time of day/ year...but the only thing that is a hindrance is that most forms of chaat are made of fried goodies - aloo tikki, papdi, fried potatoes...Given my constant attempts at losing weight and at eating healthy, that does pose a problem.

But recently while having some failed dahi wadas at a friend's house, I had a brilliant inspiration. The things that are really fabulous about chaat and that make it so tongue-ticklingly fab are the contrast of flavours - sweet, sour, spicy and salty - and textures - crisp, soft, mushy all at once. How about recreating that in a calorie-friendly form?

So here's what I came up with, and it was a huge success at a lunch party - so cuccessful that it's become standard lunch fare for me in this hot Delhi summer.

Green chutney
Date-tamarind chutney ( sonth)
1 chopped onion
1 cup sprouted moong beans
Chaat masala ( optional) - 1 tsp

Mix the sprouts with the onions. Add the chutneys and yogurt and mix well ( check if salt level is right, you might need to add some). Top with chaat masala, if desired and garnish with a few green grapes cut in half, or pomegranate bits. You can also add a sprinkling of sev if you like.

Green Chutney
Given my love for green leafies, I love chutneys that are green. This one is simple and a winner - I always have some on hand in the fridge and the freezer, and it goes with everything - toast, sandwiches, rotis, pakoras, chips...

1 handful coriander( just chop off the root end of the stalk, but you can use the rest of the stalks)
1 tbsp raw peanuts (I prefer using the ones with skin on)
3-4 garlic pods, peeled
Juice of 1 lime
2-3 green chillies, depending on how hot you like it

Just blitz until it becomes a smooth mix and add salt to taste

Date-Tamarind Chutney
Chaat cannot be made without this tongue-tantalizing chutney, which blends the sweet thickness of dates with the tartness of tamarind to form the perfect Indian melange of sweet, sour, salty. I got this recipe from Tarla Dalal's chaat cookbook. This can be stored in the fridge for upto 1 month.

2 cups dates deseeded
1/4 cup tamarind deseeded
1 cup jaggery, grated ( or use brown sugar)
1 teaspoon chilli powder
a pinch asafoetida (heeng)

Wash the dates and tamarind and place them in a saucepan. Add the jaggery, chilli powder, asafoetida, salt and 4 cups of water and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and strain the mixture through a sieve. Use as required. Store refrigerated.

The measurements given here should work - remember that the taste has to be aggressively sweet-sour.

This is my entry for
MLLA23, hosted by the original creator of this wonderful event, Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook , and for Weekend Herb Blogging # 232, hosted by Lynnylu.