Monday, July 23, 2012

Quinoa in peppers - A yellow tribute to Barbara Harris

I have heard and read much about cancer through a cousin who is a dedicated oncologist, but not witnessed the trauma with someone in the immediate or next extended family. Cases of distant relatives or some friends of someone would be discussed. That is about it.
It is not easy to write anything about someone you did not know but through her posts, but it does sadden you when you are aware that you will not be interacting with this person anymore however much you desire. Barbara Harris was one such blogger whose posts I read through, but never interacted. All I can say is that she has been very courageous through her battle against her cancer and did not decide to let go easily. She has through her blog created awareness towards and for  the many who are battling yet.
In tribute to the departed, this month's Monthly Mingle is dedicated to A Taste of  Yellow and is hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister in line with Barbara's popular 2007,  LiveStrong with a Taste of Yellow event. This would be my entry to the same.

I had read the many benefits of quinoa (pronounced as keen-wah) the wonder grain when looking up whole grains and through many bloggers who create fabulous dishes with the same. I was hoping that I might find the grain sometime and try cooking the same. I picked up a small packet from one of the superstores in my daughter's town. Yet I was very apprehensive to cook it for there was so much said about the nutty flavour it imparts and the chewiness and so on.
I kept reading more about the health benefits and decided that I shall try a simple recipe to sample our acceptance. And wonder of wonders that one store in my city had stocked organic quinoa and the cooking instructions were simple. That was all I needed to get my motivation, and even more wonder is that both my husband and myself liked it so much that I am off to the store to pick up the two lone packs in the aisle lest they bring more stock!

My husband would have shunned if I made a salad as I would with couscous; I did not want to use it in dosa or pancake for the reason I had to taste the grain as is and not adding it in some form where I might mask the taste. Thus I cooked the quinoa as instructed on the pack and added just vegetables to it with mild and necessary flavours with salt. I retained the lower half of the peppers and filled the quinoa along with the vegetables and put it in the oven to just grill. That was our lunch on the weekend and I must say that it was sumptuously filling.

My yellow and coloured peppers with their quinoa vegetable filling are for the Taste of Yellow Mingle.

1/2 cup quinoa
6 bell peppers of different colours
4 teaspoons cooking oil
1 carrot sliced fine
5 french beans cut fine
1 red onion chopped
2 pieces cloves
1/2"piece cinnamon
1"piece ginger (juliennes)
Salt to taste
One tomato chopped  for garnish

Wash the quinoa well. I had to do just one rinsing as the pack instructed so.
Add 1 cup (plus more if needed) of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Cook cover on simmering heat until the water is absorbed, the grain is soft and translucent and the germinating ring forms around  the grain. 
Cut the bell peppers in half, clean the seeds and retain the lower half in tact. Cut the other halves in small cubes. Also keep ready the chopped onions and other vegetables.

Heat 2 teaspoons cooking oil in a pan and add the cloves, cinnamon and ginger juliennes. Toss them for a few seconds and then add the onions. Sauté until the onions are soft and add the vegetables. Sprinkle a few teaspoons of water and cook the vegetables for a few minutes. They should still be crunchy. Add the salt and mix the cooked quinoa in. The filling is ready.
Meanwhile pre - heat the grill to a high temperature.
Heat some water in a wide utensil and drop the halves of peppers for about half a minute. Drain the water and brush the outer surface of these peppers with the remaining oil.
Fill these with the quinoa filling and arrange on a dish.
Grill on a hot grill for 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve garnished with the tomatoes and a few slices of carrots.
We enjoyed our peppers much and now I am willing to try other options with the grain.

I have not added any cheese or peas as the quinoa is a high protein by itself.
The options are limitless if you like to add more vegetables or flavours.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Godhidha sajjige - Photography exercise : Overhead view

One of the simple breakfast ideas is the upma. When the life-saver idli and dosai batter is not available, most of us think of upma. My husband (and I to some degree) is not someone who will make do with cereals and granola bars. Even bread has to be toasted and be had with a sumptuous vegetable curry for him. So, it is upma in all of its avatars that features often during breakfast in my table. He is particularly fond of the samba godhumai rawa upma and I add this in many packets to my luggage allowance from India. The broken wheat available here is from Lebanon and he is not a fan of the taste.
For this month's photography exercise Aparna had wanted us to capture the overhead view of the food. I tried many options alas to much discontent. Then as I was leafing through the Taj Vegetarian Cookbook, I spotted this recipe with a picture just as I would have wanted to have mine. It was the simple sajjige but presented on a leaf and plated along with some side dishes and captured right from the top!
My earlier photo trial of the Kaala Jamun I made for my husband's birthday dinner (soon will post) is here. But not very unique.

Thus I wanted to make another attempt and this sajjige is what I have brought for the exercise.

It will be a shame to write a recipe with ingredients and method, for it is that simple and easy to fix. Many of us do it in a breeze.

Temper some mustard seeds in few teaspoons of cooking oil, add then some channa dhal, green chillis and curry leaves. Sauté for a few minutes before adding sufficient water and choice of vegetables and some salt. cook until the vegetables are tender and drop the broken wheat in and stir. cover and cook till the wheat is cooked soft. Finally, add about two teaspoons ghee and transfer to a serving dish!
Should you want to add onions, toss them in before adding the water and cook them until translucent.
You may garnish with chopped coriander leaves and some grated carrots too. Options are as many as you can think of. I have sometimes added cooked mung dhal or even added sprouts towards the end of the process for added protein.
As easy as it may sound, taking pictures of food from perpendicular is quite tricky. Some dishes that look pleasing enough did not show as beautifully captured from the top.

One of my friends was discussing food photography sometime ago while she was taking pictures of my mushroom pulav. She had worked for an advertising agency who do many assignments for chocolates and ice cream and in general food products. It was amazing that how much thought and work on details go into making it all appealing.
I hope that I have done justice to the exercise.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


A birthday yet.....this time dear husband's and it was his star. I went about the usual routine and just was not planning anything until quite late in the afternoon. Last weekend when I was at the regular vegetable vendor, I spotted fresh supplies of ash gourd / white pumpkin being brought in from their farm. I asked the assistant to cut a big chunk for me, planning the kootu while my husband asked if that was for another round of Kashi Halwa.
During the last visit I had seen that he purchased the petha from the highway A2B outlet and relish. So I promised him that I will make him that for his birthday. But I clearly had no time on the birthday weekend to read up a recipe thus far not familiar and try it. Then I checked many other blogs and zero-ed in two recipes one from Nags' Agra Panchhi petha
and the other from
Both were clear in detail and I chose to use the indobase recipe just because Nagalakshmi had said that she is only sharing a recipe from the magazine and the pictures of the store bought petha. I have bookmarked it for another day!
Thus I have made good my promise albeit not on the  exact day yet the birthday!

As I proceeded through the recipe I was surprised that it does not use any form of dairy and apart from  the extra small quantity kitchen lime (Calcium carbonate) and the alum powder (potassium aluminium sulfate) for cleansing, and the flavour adding essences, you only use two ingredients.
And the process is not as long drawn as some of the common Indian sweets too.

I have used around 1 lb vegetable that is less than half of the given recipe in the link above.

450 grams white pumpkin / winter melon / ash gourd (after cubing pieces)
350 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon powdered alum
1 teaspoon kitchen lime
Few drops of Kewra essence
Few drops Rose essence
Juice of one half of a lemon

Slice the peel off the ash gourd, remove the seeds and the softer inner layers of the vegetable.
Cube the harder part in 1/2 inch thick cubes. Pick them through with a fork or toothpicks, so that they will absorb the syrup while cooking.
Dissolve the alum powder in about 1/2 cup water and set aside.
In another bowl, dissolve the kitchen lime in about half a litre of water and immerse the ash gourd pieces in this solution for about 30 minutes.
Drain in a colander and wash thoroughly off the lime.
Now transfer the pieces to the alum solution and toss them to coat in the solution.
Rinse this also well.
Drop the cured ash gourd in sufficient water and allow to cook until soft and transparent. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile make a syrup with the sugar and some water in another heavy utensil until you achieve a double thread syrup. To check the consistency, take a very small quantity of the syrup and try to hold it between your thumb and forefinger. The syrup will be very sticky and as you release your fingers apart the syrup will be pulled in two thick threads between the fingers. At this stage the syrup will thicken further very quickly as it cools down. Add the juice of the lemon in order to avoid crystallising the sugar.
Now drop the drained ash gourd in the syrup.
The syrup will become rarer as the vegetable is cooked in the syrup. Allow to cook until the syrup thickens and the ash gourd acquires a sheen with the sugar.
Remove the utensil from the stove. Pick out the pieces from the syrup and set them on a flat plate.
Keep the reminder of the syrup covered overnight.
The next day, transfer the ash gourd pieces back into the syrup and cook until the syrup thickens and thoroughly coats the pieces.
Whilst the pieces are warm yet, add the essences and toss the petha cubes well.

I had cut the cubes quite small. Also that since the vegetable I bought was not very mature and hence very soft. I am also wondering how I did not get the sugar coating crisp, it was well coated over the pieces yet not like tiny crystals all over. It was more glossy and sticky too. Would like your suggestions on these points.

The taste was excellent in any case.
Enjoy the petha!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Khurkuri Bhindi

Many a times I might read a recipe in some book and make a mental note to try that sometime. but there will be some constraint or the other and eventually I might totally forget the recipe and thus a dish goes to 'never tried at home' list. This one however, is something that I neither tasted nor read  anywhere.;  just seen a large picture in a restaurant in Chennai where we had been to drop my daughter off to meet her buddies. They had called it Bhindi Jaipuri or something as exciting. The crisp looking spice added deep fried okras were calling out to try. And this was some two years ago that I had spotted the picture.
How many times would one have purchased the vegetable in two years, especially okra being a commonly used vegetable in a South Indian cuisine? I just did not try the recipe though I had formed an idea as to how it could have been cooked. This week end when I was in my regular vegetable shack, as I was picking out the tender ones, the vendor's assistant passingly suggested that I am going to cook them in an awesome recipe, while I was just thinking in lines of a vadhakkal kari, a usual in my home!
Thus he put the idea in my head and soon the picture came zooming into my mind! And the result is this post on crisp fried bhindis.

It is such an easy recipe though the deep frying makes you rethink about making it often. I needed just 25 numbers of the vegetable for two huge servings.

200 grams / 25 numbers fresh okra / ladies finger
1 heaped tablespoon gram flour
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered carom seeds
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Wash the bhindis and pat them dry. Snip the ends off and cut them in long horizontal strips.
Mix the rest of the ingredients but the oil to the vegetable and allow to coat the surface well.
Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the above mix in small batches until crisp.

Serve as side dish for lunch or as dry side dish with naan or parathas.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pedatha's Greens in Yogurt - what shall I say of this Culinary genius?

Months ago I was the lucky draw winner of Siri's Healing foods event hosted that month by Simone of Briciole with Whole Grains. I received a copy of Cooking at Home  with Pedatha signed by authors Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain. I had promised to use the book and also share my thoughts. I dare not suggest that i would write a review of the book for I am just an insignificant entity who pale against the culinary expertise of Pedatha.
Since August of 2011, when I received the book, I have been cooking often from the book and have tried almost 65 percent of the recipes with the guidance therein. I can confidently say that none of them have failed to inspire and leave you happy that you tried something wonderful.
The book is just a glimpse into a genius' world of cooking. Pedatha's knowledge and expertise are incomparable. She takes you through the recipe in small steps as though she were present around you while you are trying the dish, just as your grandmom or an elderly aunt would help.
The authors have categorically listed the dishes that will feature in any South Indian home cooking and added tips and thoughts from Pedatha which are very useful and the variations that can work just as well with many recipes.
In all whether you cook for just yourself or for guests having this book for guidance, you will certainly receive praises.Wonderful everyday cooking book that is a pride to own by food lovers.
I would love to share one dish I tried more often than others in today's post.
To begin with, I had this tiny amaranth plant in one of my pots that would yield a bunch just enough for cooking a greens dish for one lunch for two. And for my husband to have greens they have to be cooked with much care that he will not complain. This particular recipe was unique and I had not tried prior to reading in this book. It tastefully combines greens, legumes and yogurt in a delicious gravy that goes well with steamed rice. And with the vegetable of your choice, you have a complete meal.

Akukoora majjiga Pulusu - an unusual and tasty dish from rural Andhra Pradesh:

The recipe has been tried from the book Cooking at home with Pedatha, the text has been modified in my words, though the essence of the recipe remains.

Thuvar dhal 1/2 cup
Channa dhal 1/2 cup
Amaranth greens chopped fine 1/2 cup
Thick Churned yoghurt 3 cups
Thick extract of tamarind 1 tablespoon
Turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon
Asafoetida powder 1 teaspoon
Green chillis slit 3 numbers
 Curry leaves 1 sprig
Coriander leaves chopped fine 1/2 cup
Ghee 2 - 3 tablespoons
Oil 3 tablespoons
Salt as required

To grind in a paste
Fresh coconut grated 1/2 cup
Ginger 2 inch piece
Coriander leaves chopped fine 1/4 cup
Green chillis 3 - 4 numbers

For tempering:
Mustard seeds 1 tablespoon
red chillis 6 - 8 nicked at tail with stalks retained

Cook both dhals together in 3 cups of water to a very soft consistency. Add 1/2 a cup more of water and churn well and set aside.
Grind all the ingredients listed for the paste to a very fine paste, using little water. Mix this paste with the churned dhal mix and keep aside.

In a pan heat, oil and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to pop and add the red chillis. Fry until they turn bright and add the washed and chopped greens. Cover and cook until the greens are cooked well.
Add the tamarind extract, turmeric, asafoetida and the salt. Simmer for a few more minutes. add the dhal and paste mixture, green chills, curry leaves and coriander leaves. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes longer.
Finally remove from the heat and stir in the ghee and yoghurt.
Serve with hot steamed rice.