Friday, September 16, 2005

Jicama Raita

I have been quite adventurous food wise off late. This week during our weekly grocery trip to Han-Ah Rheum I went in eager to pick up the first strange looking vegetable to come my way. And believe you me when I say there is no better place to befriend strange and unknown vegetables than the produce aisles of your neighbourhood Korean grocery store. After wandering around aimlessly for some time, my eyes lighted on it - the jicama. I had heard of it being described as a mexican root vegetable and vaguely knew it was used in salads. As I picked out my own little ugly monster my mind was swimming with possibilities. Should I stir fry it or should I add it to a salad? Will it hold up its own in a spicy curry? How about a raita...hmmm...that is interesting?

A raita is best described as the spicy Indian equivalent of the Greek tzatziki. But unlike its Greek cousin, raita is more runny in consistency and can be made more nutritious by adding any kind of summer vegetable to it. Some of the more popular vegetables are onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapple and boiled potatoes. The mild sweetness and the overall crunch of the jicama make it specially suited to a raita. So half of my precious jicama was turned into a nice raita which was served with hot spiach paranthas.

Ingredients:
Chopped Jicama - 1 cup
Minced Garlic - 1 clove
Plain yogurt - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/4 cup
Salt and Sugar - to taste

Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin Seeds -2 tsps

Coriander seeds - 2 tsps
Chopped Cilantro for garnish


Method:

Dilute the yogurt with the water and beat the mixture well with a fork till consistency is that of any creamy salad dressing. Dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds till fragrant. Use a coffee grinder to grind these to a fine powder. Add salt, sugar, chilli powder, garlic and jicama to the yogurt and mix well. Sprinkle roasted spice mix on top liberally and garnish with chopped cilantro.


Coconut Barfi's

Coconut barfi's are a stale during any festival in most coastal regions of India. They might be called different names, have slightly different shapes, they might even be garnished differently but one thing never changes and that is the taste which is best described as yummm....
As far as I remember my mom has always made some variety or the other of these during Durga Puja. She has this set of black concave shell shaped stones with intricate carving inside which she uses as a mould to make the really dainty "narkeler sandesh". These are more fudgy in consistency than the hard naroo which is made with jaggery instead of sugar.

Before leaving for India, Ma decided to make me a batch of barfi's which I am told is diferent from the above even though it is made the same way. I eagerly stood by as she made these and this what I saw:

My mom dumped ( yes, she did just that) the contents of two 400 gm bags of frozen shredded coconut into a wok. To this she added about 600 gms of sugar. She told me one should take equal quantities of sugar and coconut but then she is notorious for cooking without any regard for exact quantities. And since I am the dutiful daughter that I am I guesstimated the amount. She then procceded to heat this mixture while stirring constantly. After about ten minutes she added half a can of condensed milk to the wok. Once the mixture started separating from the wok and forming little balls when stirred( after about 15-20 minutes on the range), it was removed from the heat. At this stage my Mom added some cardamom powder (half a teaspoon I think) into the mixture.
It was then spread out on a 13"X 9" cookie sheet and the surface scored with a knife in the form of a grid. I pressed a raisin into the center of each square since I was feeling extra creative. After about 3-4 hours the pieces had set and I ran the knife along the already scored surface and then...plop....instant gratification!!! See I even saved some and clicked a pretty picture for you guys.


PS: I know the instructions are not very conventional, but then cooking with my mother is not the most rational of experiences. She refuses to give you exact quantities or explain why she dunked the last spoonful of some unknown spice into the pot. She adds a little of ingredient A to a stew, shakes her head after tasting and then decides to add a totally new ingredient B to the concoction. Nevertheless with a recipe as basic as this who can go wrong.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Grump!

I protest... I don't have a camera and if you make it mandatory to post photographs of dishes, I will have to stop posting... very very unfair!!!! Grump!!!!

Meanwhile, go read the Sept 5th edition of the New Yorker... Its a foodie's delight.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Picture == thousand words

You know we need to start posting pictures of the food we cook, if we want this space to evolve into a self-respecting foodie blog...