Saturday, June 21, 2008

RCI: Andhra Festival Foods

First and foremost, a big apology for starting this event so late. I have completely forgotten when June has started and its time for me to host until Asha has reminded me...Thanks Asha!

RCI - Regional Cuisines of India is brainchild of Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine and this month's feature is Andhra Festival Foods, and I the lucky one got to host it :-)

When I was a kid back home in India, I actually looked forward for the quarterly and half-yearly exams, not just because I loved taking tests, but the actual reason was that soon after quarterly, there were Dasara holidays and soon after half-yearly, there were Sankranthi Holidays. On the last day of tests, my sister and I would literally run home and pickup our packed bags and haste to my grandparents' village. We would meet our friends at village, some still very much native there, some like us are kids whose parents have migrated to nearby town.

Meeting friends, catching up on all current affairs and kiddie gossip in the village, pampered by grandparents, new dresses, lots of mouthwatering dishes, are worth the entire wait...

The pictures are still vivid in my memory... the Dasara processions, Sankranti Rangoli, Deepavali (Diwali) lights, Atla-thaddi swings are all very dear memories for me.

On this occasion of RCI event, I invite you all to post your memories and foods associated with Andhra Festivals.

Since I have started the event late, I hope to buy all of us some time. Here are the rules of participation:
  1. Write a post about Andhra Festival foods on your blog by July 15th.
  2. email me at with RCI:Andhra Festival Foods in the subject and with the following details:
    • Festival Name,
    • Recipe Name,
    • Blog Name,
    • Permalink to the post
  3. Please mention RCI in your post.
I will do a roundup by July 20th.
See ya'all with nostalgic memories and delicious festival foods...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ugadi - New beginning

Just few days back, I was debating whether upgrade some of the old pictures on this blog. From my very first picture/post, I've upgraded my camera, my photographic skills (not too much, but decent). Since I make some of the recipes here frequently, I can always take a new picture and replace the old one. As I was browsing through the blog, I became nostalgic and I felt like every picture spoke to me and reminded me of when I made that, the family members present at that time, all the details...I realized, I lose all these memories for prettiness sake of the blog. So, I chose not to replace them. After all, on this blog, they are supporting the protagonists, the recipes. :-)
Introspection of past (sans over-pondering) is good as it teaches valuable lessons, no matter how the past was, good/bad/or ugly. But, acceptance is key. I've accepted that I was not-so-great-photographer :-) (not that I excel at it now...) But, hey, every moment is a learning opportunity.
So, as we move on from past to future via present, on this day of Telugu new year, UgAdi, I wish all of you and your families a very happy new year!
Following the tradition, today I made UgAdi PaCHaDi. This PaCHaDi was originally consumed everyday for the first month of the Telugu lunar year. This was done so to ward-off spring related ailments and to boost immunity. Gradually this has been reduced to a ceremonial one day ritual.
The paCHaDi supposed to have all six tastes (as per Ayurveda)- sweet, salty, sour (tangy), astringent, pungent/spicy, and bitter. The paCHadi uses ingredients that are available freshly in the season: neem flowers to impart bitterness, green mango, new jaggery or fresh sugar cane. All of these are fresh in the season.
What you need to make the paCHaDi:
I don't use measurements for this, nor I taste it before offering it in the prayer. 'Eyeballing' measurements comes very handy in making such preparations.
1 medium sized green mango, peeled and chopped fine (imparts astringent and sour tastes)
2 tablespoons "new" tamarind * , soaked in a cup of water (imparts sour taste)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns (imparts pungent/spicy taste)
1/4 cup "new" jaggery * (imparts sweet taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh neem flowers or 2 - 3 teaspoons dried neem flowers (imparts bitter taste)
Rock Salt to taste (of course, imparts salt taste)
Extract juice from the soaked tamarind.
In a mortar and pestle, crush peppercorns, mango pieces. Add neem flowers and crush again.
Add jaggery and salt, crush to a paste.
Add tamarind juice, mix well.
Alternately, put all the ingredients in a food processor, and grind it into coarse paste.
Variation: Chopped sugar cane pieces can be added to the paCHaDi at the end.
* "new" tamarind and jaggery are the ones that were processed in the very near past, than the ones that were sitting on shelves/panties. Both tamarind and jaggery look paler than their aged counterparts.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eggs kobbari vepudu (eggs in coconut seasoning)

Ingredients to make this dish:
6 boiled eggs (not very hard)
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 green chili, slit vertically
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons freshly grated coconut meat
1 tablespoon coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
For tadka/popu: 1 tablespoon cooking oil, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional), 1/2 teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)
Salt to taste
  • Heat oil on medium heat. When the oil is heated, add curry leaves, mustard seeds, jeera. When the mustard seeds stop spluttering, add onions, green chili, turmeric powder. Stirring occasionally, saute until the onions have softened and are light brown in color.
  • Add salt and red chili powder, mix gently. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add eggs, coconut, lower heat, cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add cilantro, mix gently, remove from heat.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Weekend in Houston

Hidden in the middle of Houston's concrete jungle is this beautiful (green) jewel, maintained by Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. The Gardens are breathtaking. Simply beautiful, elegant and calming. We initially planned for an hour visit. Soon, we forgot hunger and wandered in the gardens for good 4 hours, yet thirsty for its beauty.

Here are some pictures I've taken.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guthi Vankaaya (stuffed brinjal) in old-world way

Many a time, a great meal need not to include extensive list of ingredients or a complicated procedure. This is the recipe that my great-grand-aunt has always made. Two words to describe it...simply superb. Her everyday meals were made with very few ingredients and in a relaxed manner. After a day's work with farming activities, no time toiling around the stove fueled by wood. The meals she made were always full of flavor, thanks to fresher ingredients and simple cooking methods.

What you need to make this flavorful curry:

10-12 small eggplants (brinjals)
3-4 sprigs curry leaves
a handful of cilantro, chopped coarsely
masala Red chili powder (see below)
salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil

Masala Red chili powder:
Usually, this powder would be made well in advance and then used daily in cooking.
2 tablespoons red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon dhania seeds, dry roasted
1/8 teaspoon jeera seeds, dry roasted
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, powder together all the ingredients. Dry it for few minutes (moisture comes from garlic) and blend it one more time.
How to make guthi vankaaya:
  • Pick brijals without any bugs. Trim the ends. Place them in a heavy bottomed, wide skillet. Arrange them in a single layer and pour the oil on top. Cover with lid and saute on medium heat till the brinjals (eggplants) are cooked well on one side. This might take 5-7 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low, and turn each brnjal so that the other side can cook. Bring back the flame to medium-high, cover with lid and cook until the other side also coked well.
  • Remove from stove, cool a little.
    Take out all the brinjals from the skillet. Puncture each brinjal in the middle without breaking it into pieces. Put 1/4 teaspoon (to 1/2 teaspoon) masala red chili powder in the puncture. Close gently ( it would not close all the way...that's ok).
  • Return the same skillet back to medium heat. Add curry leaves and cilantro, salt. Saute until curry leaves are fried well. Place the brinjals back in the skillet and saute gently. Lower the heat, cook for a minute and remove from heat.
Best way to enjoy this is, mash the brinjal and mix very well with rice. Adjust salt (usually this dish will have less salt as the brinjals are roasted full). You may add a teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter). Yum!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eggneer Masala (Steamed egg cake masala)

Eggs are extraordinary food. Nutritious, healthy, tasty and versatile. Can be eaten for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner. This recipe, taught by my Amma uses steamed eggs. I call these steamed egg cubes eggneer (like Paneer). Once you have the eggs steamed, the options are endless. The steamed eggs can be
-cut into cubes added to salads,
-deep-fried, like chicken, seasoned well with some salt and pepper or some spice mixture
-add to a curry
-used just like one would use Paneer

I made a simple masala with some onions, tomatoes cooked well to coat the eggneer cubes

What's needed to make this:

4 large chicken eggs
1/2 large onion, chopped very finely
1 green chili
1 large tomato, chopped very finely
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger-garlic paste
1-2 teaspoon good garam masala
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro (coriander)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
and tadka items: 1 tablespoon cooking oil, 1/2 teaspoon each of urad dahl, black mustard seeds and jeera (cumin seeds)

How to make it:

Beat eggs lightly with a pinch or two of salt. Pour the eggs into a dish that can be used in a pressure cooker or steamer. Cook until done.
If using pressure cooker, take 2 cups of water in pressure cooker and place the dish. Cover with lid and cook until you see steam coming out. Lower the heat and cook for two minutes. Cool for few minutes before opening the lid.

Remove the steamed eggs carefully from the dish onto a cutting board. Cut into bite sized cubes

Heat cooking oil in a wok. Add the tadka items one by one and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds stop spluttering, add turmeric powder. Add chopped onion, slit green chili. Saute for couple of minutes or until the onions turn light brown.
Add ginger garlic paste, garam masala powder. Saute for few seconds. Add chopped tomato, salt and red chili powder. Cook on low heat until tomatoes become paste-like. Adjust salt and add eggneer cubes.
Mix gently and cook for a minute or two. Add cilantro (coriander) and mix gently. Remove from heat.

This goes very well with steamed rice or roti or chapati.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging Round-up: WHB # 115 many delicious dishes from all over the world...I'm so glad that I've requested Kalyn(the brain and a wonderful person behind Weekend Herb Blogging.) to be the host of WHB. I feel as if all these dishes were brought to my dining table, and I invite all of you to savour these lovely, delicious dishes sent by many cooks from all over the globe.... bon appétit!

P.S: I've categorized all the dishes by the featured herb/plant/vegetable just like dear Kalyn does.

Padma of Padma's Kitchen from New Jersey, US sent aromatic Koi Thotakura Fry (Amaranth Stir-fry).

Rachel of Rachel's bite from Chicago, US sent us this warm, delicious Baby Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad with Grilled Shrimp and White Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Baby Peas:
Jennifer of Like to Cook from Southern France sent this creamy Pasta with Baby Peas, Ham and Cream.

Anna of Morsels and Musings from Australia sent her healthy Zucchini & Basil Salad w Verjuice & Currant Dressing and her post alerts us the forgotten acidifiers.

Andrea of Andreas Recipes sent this scrumptious Spinach and Basil Lasagna.

Bitter Melon:
Anna of Anna's Cool Finds from Mill Valley, California, sent a healthy, flavorful Tofu and Bitter Melon Stir-Fry. I can not pass this as it features my favorite vegetable.

Minti of A Suitable Spice (I love the name :-) ) from Massachusetts, US sent us this aromatic Curried Carrot and Apple Soup.

Our lovely Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen sent a salad with a dressing that involves her favorite herb, the Cilantro. Her Red Cabbage and Chicken Asian Salad with Tangy Cilantro Dressing is welcomed warmly at this dining table.

Sher of What did you eat sent this tasty and tangy Nigella Lawson Fishcakes With Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa.

Cilantro and Spices:
Ruth of Once upon a Feast has sent Indian inspired dinner. What's more? She tells, this dinner is South Beach Diet friendly.

Ulrike aka ostwestwind of Küchenlatein from Northern Germany has sent this delicious and warm Gratin of white cabbage & lentils in a Provençal sauce.

Lalaine of The Cook Mobile sent a flavorful, creamy, tasty appetizer, Shallot Toasts with Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon.

This fragrant Oven Baked Zucchini Fritters from Burcu of Almost Turkish Recipes has a special appeal, a combination of Zucchini and Dill.

Fava Beans:
Gretchen Noelle Jones of Canela & Comino from Lima, Peru sent this very refreshing Fresh Fava Bean Salad.

Fennel (Seeds):
Peter of Kalofagas from Toronto, Canada sent this fragrant and hearty Roast Loin of Pork With a Fennel Seed Crust.

A blogger, who named her blog aptly after a herb, Katie of Thyme for Cooking from Vendée, France, sent this comforting and beautiful looking Pulled Pork Stew with Olives and Chickpeas that has appeased a vegetarian like me.

Kale: (Cavalo Nero or Tuscan Kale or Black Cabbage)
Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything from Australia send healthy and tasty Baked Eggs with Cavalo Nero and information about this variety of Kale.

Kaykat of Cooking from A to Z sent this fabulous and yummy Kohlrabi Caponata

Pam of The Backyard Pizzeria sent this delicious and succulent Pomegranate, feta, cucumber and mint salad.

Nectarines & Strawberries:
Arfi of HomeMadeS from New Zealand has sent the only dessert on the table, Sugar-Grilled Nectarines and Strawberries. And, of course, she has sent some summer to this corner of the world.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes sent these mouth-watering Savory Herb Black Pepper and Parmesan Shortbreads. A great snack for kids and adults.

This warm Chicken Tortilla Soup from Kevin of Closet Cooking from Toronto lifts up any soul.

Papaya, Mango:
Mike of Mike's Table from Florida, who loves Mahi-Mahi, has sent some sunshine and flavor through his Poached Mahi Mahi with Papaya Mango Salsa.

Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen sent this warm Autumn Spicy Rice, which can be enjoyed anytime during the year.

Helene of News from the kitchen from Landau, Southwestern Germany has sent this colorful, nourishing Vitaminsalad. Although she has prepared this to brighten the grey and muddy weather, this salad gets invitation anytime.

Laurie Constantino of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska sent us these cute, yummy Palestinian Spinach Pies.

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi from Northwestern US has not only sent a delicious and healthy Citrusy Sprout Salad, but also loads of information on sprouts.

Sugandhi Flower: (White butterfly ginger lily or ginger lily):
Maya of beautiful KonkanWorld has sent us valuable information about this beautiful and fragrant flower.

Sweet Potato:
Desie of Maybahay from Sydney, Australia, who loves to host, has sent these sweet and warm Sweet Potato and Raisin muffins.

Sweet Potato Tops:
Gay, who is A Scientist in the kitchen from Philippines has sent this mouthwatering citrusy Sweet potato (kamote) tops Salad.

Swiss Chard:
Suganya of Tasty Palettes sent wonderful Mashed Greens using western greens (Swiss Chard) in Indian style.

Vegetables: (Carrots, spring onions, dill)
Priya of Food and Laughter has sent us delicious Veggie Twists (roasted vegetables) that are well-seasoned.

Vegetables and Tofu:
Nora of Life's Smörgåsbord from Sydney, Australia, sent us this flavorful Fried Tofu with Sweet Soy Dressing.

There. The table is ready with flavorful dishes from around the world. Dig in and enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Aloo Paratha and Paneer Burji Dinner

(Potato Stuffed Indian Flat-Bread with Crumbled Indian Cheese Curry)

Today, I wanted to have a hearty dinner...something that not only fills my stomach but also feeds my senses and spirituality. Yes, spirituality. Making Parathas is, for me, like meditation. Making this exquisite thing out of flour, water, potatoes is simply amazing. Making the dough and filling, rolling out the bread, and finally frying it on hot tava (griddle) is as calming as meditation.

Although the paraThas are good with just a pickle, I made an impromptu Paneer Burji.
The combination turned out very delicious.

Aloo ParaThas:

  • 2 Cups Chapathi Flour (please see notes)
  • 1 cup or more water
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups cooked potatoes, grated
  • 1/2 Cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 green chili, finely mined (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/2 cup chapathi flour for rolling paraThas
  • Cooking oil for shallow-frying
Prep Work:
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of salt with the onions and keep aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare dough: Take the flour into a mixing bowl, add salt and mix well. Adding water slowly, knead into pliable dough. The dough should not be too stiff or sticking to fingers. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or lid and keep aside for 15-30 minutes.

Making the Filling
Squeeze onions well to take out excess water. Salt helps to extract this water out of onions.
Mix grated potatoes, onions, minced green chili, Garam Masala and salt to taste well.

Making ParaThas
  • Knead the dough well and divide into 12-14 balls (medium lemon sized)
  • Take one dough ball and roll it into 2-inch disc

  • Squeeze the edge of the disc and place a medium lemon sized ball of filling.

  • Fold the edge as shown here make a parcel.

  • Pinch the center where all the folds meet and tuck inside, flatten the parcel.

  • Dust the surface well with flour and roll out into 4-5 inch disc.

  • Heat tava (or griddle) on medium high heat and dot it with a teaspoon of oil. Place the rolled out paraTha and fry for 1-2 minutes.

  • Dot the top of paraTha with little oil and flip the paraTha. Fry until done on that side too.

Remove from heat, repeat with all the dough balls.

Paneer Burji

  • 1 cup crumbled Paneer (please see notes)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 green chilies, chopped coarsely
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons Garam Masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each, black mustard seeds and cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil
  • Salt to taste

How to make Paneer Burji:
-Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat
-Add cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Fry until the mustard seeds stop spluttering.
-Add red chili powder, Garam Masala, turmeric powder.
-Add onions, green chilies and little salt. Mix well.
-Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
-Add tomatoes, cover and cook until tomatoes are cooked well and the curry started leaving oil on the top. Stir occasionally during this step.
-Add remaining Garam Masala and adjust salt. Mix well.
-Reduce the heat to lowest setting. Add the crumbled paneer immediately. Mix gently.
-Cook for a minute, remove from heat and serve.

-I've used Golden Temple Chapathi flour.
-It took 1 cup and couple of tablespoons of water for 2 cups flour for making the dough.
-If making Paneer at home, no need to drain for 2-3 hours like here. Drain for 30 minutes until Paneer has solidified. Crumble and use in recipe.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Cilantro crusted Salmon with Spinach-Cheese Ravioli

This weeknight dinner is made under 30 minutes and is delicious, healthy.

What we need to make this:
2 servings Salmon (I asked the fish monger to cut me two one-serving pieces)
4 teaspoons dry cilantro
Salt and fresh ground pepper to coat the fish
2 tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Extra-Virgin olive oil
1 package refrigerated ravioli (any vegetable kind will do. I used Spinach-Cheese filled ones)
Any pesto that suits taste. I used my Cilantro Pesto: 3-4 fistfuls fresh cilantro, 1 green chili, a teaspoon of toasted pine nuts, a fistful grated Parmesan cheese, one clove garlic, salt, and some olive oil -- grind coarsely in a food processor or in a mortar and pestle.

How to make:
-Clean Salmon, pat dry. I removed the skin as the non-veg eater in the house does not like it. -Rub turmeric powder on both sides. I do this in order to 'clean' the fish.
-Rub in salt and pepper on both sides. sprinkle dry cilantro on one side, rub well.
-Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Place the fish with cilantro coated side down. Do not disturb the fish pieces for next 4 minutes and turn carefully. Cook for 3-4 minutes on this side.
-Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to the directions on the package.
-Remove ravioli and some ravioli water (in which the ravioli was cooked) into a mixing bowl.
-Add the pesto and a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix gently.
-Serve each of the Salmon pieces over 5-6 pieces of ravioli

Few pictures from my not-so-recent India trip

Here the very few pictures I have taken during my India trip late last year. Finally after 3 long months...

First and foremost, Andhra 'Junnu'. Junnu is cooked colostrum (a.k.a thick milk) from Water Buffalo. It tastes like custard. For many Andhrites, Junnu is the original custard and the one made with eggs and milk is the imitation custard, which is popular with mainly city-dwellers, for whom it is almost impossible to get the colostrum.

The colostrum is cooked with plenty of cracked black pepper, grated jaggery and powdered cardamom. It is really a treat and privilege to taste this.

Humanity Note: In villages, where the farm animals are treated like family members, colostrum is obtained ONLY when there is excess or the calf for some reason not feeding on. The farmers take the colostrum out of the animal to encourage milk production.

Next comes Gaare (a.k.a Vada) and Aavada or Perugu Gaare (Curd Vada):
Gaare frying:

Gaare soaking in spiced yogurt:

Gaare and Aavada:
The non-veg eaters in the house are served with this chicken curry to go with the Gaare.

A kind of straw mushrooms make a quick and brief appearance with the onset of monsoon season.
Washed the mud off and snipped the ends to get these edible pearls (with stems)...

Then Amma made mushroom curry and mushroom pulao that were out of this world

This is a delicious preparation by Amma: Lotus seeds and green pepper curry in coconut gravy served with coconut rice.

My childhood favorite and still is, a bread stuffed with candied coconut, dry fruits, aptly called dil-khush (translation: Happy heart). It really mellows one's heart.
A superb Chai by Amma complimented dil-khush.

One of favorite fruits, seethaphal (custard apple): The flavor and texture are to die for.

Some flora and greenery around our home:

And finally, queen of flowers, of course, sharing this title with Jasmine, Sampenga (a type of Ylang-Ylang). Like the sweet smell of sampenga, the memories still linger in my heart...