Monday, November 26, 2007

Chapati (Indian layered flat bread)

A staple on Indian dinner tables that goes with pretty much every curry or simply spiced yogurt!

Ingredients needed:
  • Atta (available in Indian grocery stores, can be substituted with whole-wheat powder) 
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for shallow frying

Begin with mixing Atta with salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add water. Mix well by adding more water or flour to get a consistency that is not to tough or too sticky. Cover and keep aside for about 30 minutes. Knead the dough with clean hands for 4 - 5 minutes.

Make medium-large lemon sized balls, flatten them round (you can flatten the balls on a surface dusted with flour or basted with oil). Rub a few drops of oil to cover the surface of the round, fold it to half and fold it again to form quarter circle. Make these quarter circles with rest of the dough, keep them aside either dusted or oiled so they do not stick to each other. 
Take one of the quarter circles and flatten out evenly taking care - by dusting or oiling- so that it will not stick to the surface.

Heat (on medium-high) and grease a griddle (or tava) lightly, place the flatten chapati. Dot with few drops of oil on the edges and on top. Once you see the air bubble expanding to most of the chapati, turn it so the other side can be cooked. Adjust heat so the chapati do not get burned.
Repeat flattening and cooking with all the quarter circles. Serve warm with any curry or spiced yogurt.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Homemade Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese)

Paneer is fresh Indian cheese that is star ingredients in dishes like Paneer Masala, Paneer Tikka. Although this can be readily found these days in Indian stores, you did not have proper paneer until you had a homemade version. The store bought ones tends to be little rubbery when used in cooking and always have that weird smell. The homemade one smells rather heavenly. :)

Making Paneer at home may sound industrious, but, it is not so. Trust me.

What you need to make Paneer:

  • Half gallon Whole Milk
  • Juice from 1 lemon

How to make:

Pour milk into a heavy bottomed vessel and set on the stove on medium-high heat.
Bring milk to a boil, stirring occasionally to avoid milk solids collecting at the bottom.
Once it comes to boil, add lemon juice and reduce heat to medium setting. Stir gently.
In 2-4 minutes, milk curdles well leaving a clear whey.

Notice the curds floating to the top

Line a heat-resistant colander with cheesecloth and place it in a clean kitchen sink.Pour the curdled milk into it. Drain for couple of minutes.

While keeping the paneer in the colander, twist the cheesecloth few times to secure the curds. Tuck the extra cloth evenly. Place the colander it in a deep plate. Place a flat plate on top of the curd, and put some weight like a can of beans on it.

Transfer this entire setting into refrigerator. Within 2-3 hours. The paneer is well-formed and ready to use.

Wonderful Paneer!!...

Note: The paneer packed airtight and stored in the refrigerator would keep fresh for a week.

Persimmon and Pomegranate Yogurt

Of late, I find myself making this yummy, healthy yogurt very frequently. The beauty of this is, it can be made within no time! I'm not much of a fan of yogurt, but can consume it when that yogurty smell is masked with fruits/spices. Pomegranate has always been the fruit of choice if I have to consume yogurt. Next place is mango slices. Now, am adding Persimmon to the list.  This even got the taste approval from my 1 year old one. (For her, I've mashed the Pomegranate seeds, extracted the liquid and mixed it with yogurt and very finely chopped Persimmon.)

What you need:
1 medium sized Persimmon, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 fistful fresh Pomegranate seeds
1 - 1 1/2 cups fresh low-fat plain yogurt
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon honey

How to make this divine yogurt:
Mix all ingredients gently.
Serve and enjoy!

This makes 2 -3 servings.

Note: It is important to use fresh yogurt that has not gone sour.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stir-fried Shrimp with Sugar snap peas

Chinese cooking is very simple and easy to make. In authentic Chinese cuisines, the use of meat is more for flavoring than being main ingredient and the emphasis is on locally grown vegetables. The authentic Chinese cooking bear no resemblance to the salty & greasy sauce floats we normally see in restaurants across US.

The background star of this dish is Shallots. These have this sweet delicate flavor  when cooked that reminds me of the onions that we get back in India. Until very recently, I used to think, like many, that shallots are a variety of onions. But shallots grow in clusters like garlic versus single bulb like in onions. Shallots are very commonly used in South Asian cooking. Although these are little pricey compared to onions here in US, its worth trying them. Anyways, most recipes call for small quantities of shallots only.

The sweet, delicate flavors of shallots and sugar snap peas compliment the kung pao sauce and shrimp.

What you need:
20-25 large uncooked Shrimp, cleaned, de-veined
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 or 4 fistfuls sugar snap peas, cleaned
1/2 cup baby corn, cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
1/4 - 1/3 cup kung pao sauce
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons good quality sesame oil
Salt, if needed (i.e, if the salt is not enough from the sauce)
Freshly ground black pepper for taste

Prep Work:
Bring four cups of water to boil in a saucepan. Add sugar snap peas, cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain well and place sugar snap peas in ice water to stop further cooking. Once cooled well, drain and keep aside.

How to make:
  • Heat oil on high heat. Add garlic and shallots. Stir-fry for few seconds until the sweet aroma comes out of shallots.
  • Add cleaned shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp is opaque. Add the sauce, baby corn and ground pepper. Stir fry for 2 minutes. Note: Add sauce in a quantity that is suited your taste.
  • Add sugar snap peas, mix well. Check for salt and add if required. Stir fry for few more seconds, add the scallions (green onions) and remove from heat.

Note: As you can notice, my sugar snap peas are cooked a little too much. I've adjusted the time in the recipe given here. The peas should be crunchy and should not form wrinkles (an indication of overcooking).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dosakaya Koora (Yellow cucumber curry - Guntur style)

This is one of those dishes that reminds me of Amma and my childhood memories. Memories of me and my siblings sitting on the veranda while Amma feeds us rice mixed with curry and ghee, mixed to perfection. We would gulp down morsel after morsel, without realizing how full we are. After all, the food came from Amma's hand...

What you need to make this koora:
1 large Dosakaya (Indian yellow cucumber)
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped into 1/4" pieces
2 tomatoes (optional)
1- 1 1/2 cups fresh yogurt (absolutely NO non-fat, low-fat varieties. Plain, whole
milk yogurt)
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

For tadka or seasoning:
1 -2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tsp each, chana dal, urad dal, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds
1 or 2 dry red chilies, broken into 1" pieces
1 sprig curry leaves
Prep Work:
  • Peel dosakaya just as you peel regular cucumber. Slice into half.
  • Check the seeds and flesh for any bitter taste.
  • If the flesh is bitter, discard the dosakaya. If not, Remove all the seeds. If the seeds have bitter taste, peel the membrane that connects the seeds, wash the flesh part thoroughly with water.
  • Slice length-wise and chop into small bite sized pieces.
How to make:
  • Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts "dancing", add all tadka items. Saute until a nice aroma comes out and the mustard seeds stop spluttering.
  • Add onion and green chili pieces and turmeric powder.
  • Saute until the onions are soft and light brown in color, stirring occasionally.
  • Add tomatoes and dosakaya pieces, salt and red chili powder. Reduce heat to medium. Mix well, cover and cook, until done, stirring now and then.
  • Add yogurt, adjust salt (if needed), mix gently and cook without lid until you see the curry starts bubbling on top. Simmer on very low heat for 2 minutes, remove from heat.

Dosakaya or Indian yellow cucumbers are available at Indian groceries. This is not a regular vegetable that makes an appearance in the usual US grocery stores. See picture here. It is the pale yellow one next to tomatoes.)
Serving suggestion: Although this goes better with either rice or roti, it tastes best with warm steamed rice, melted ghee. Yum!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kung Pao Tofu

Cold winters call for warm meals. Few days back, I was craving something spicy, filling, healthy, all the good things one can ask in a meal. Oh, of course, it has to be easy and quick to make :-)
Once you make this dish, you'll agree with me that it has met all those expectations!  Caution though! This will spoil you to an extent that the salty-greasy sauce laden kung-pao dishes in restaurants will be of a thing in the past!

What you need:

1 pack firm Tofu, drained well, cubed into bite sized pieces
2 egg whites (optional)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 dry red chillies
1/2 - 3/4 cup Kung Pao Sauce
1 cup carrots, cut into bite sized pieces. (I used baby carrots)
1/2 cup spring onions (scallions), chopped
two fistfuls unsalted roasted peanuts
Salt and ground pepper for taste

How to make:
  • Make Sauce following the recipe or use one that was made before. If the sauce is cold, heat it on low heat.
  • Whisk egg whites, and pour it over tofu pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil on high heat. Add tofu pieces. Saute until they are crisp outside, but soft inside. Take tofu out and keep aside. Coating with egg whites gives Tofu a velvety appearance and a delicate taste.

  • In the same wok, heat rest of the oil, add red chillies. Add tofu back, add carrots, kung pao sauce, peanuts. Mix gently and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add shallots, saute for 10-15 seconds.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice. Yum!!

Kung Pao Sauce

Many weeks back, I watched Chef Ming Tsai stirring up this wonderful Kung Pao sauce. I got this immense urge to try the sauce immediately and made this Kung Pao Tofu. Ever since, I might have made different Kung Pao dishes many times. The sauce is "Simply" magical!

What you need to make this tasty sauce:

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 inch ginger, minced well,
2 tablespoons sambal oelek
8 medium sized garlic cloves, mincedgarlic
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup soy sauce (I've used Lee Kum Kee's)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
  • In a wok or saucepan, heat canola oil over high heat.
  • Add ginger, garlic, saute for a minute. Add sambal oelek. Mix well for 10 seconds.
  • Add soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar. Bring to boil quickly.
  • Slowly add the cornstarch mix, whisking continuously. Cook until the sauce thickens.
  • This makes about 2 cups sauce.