Sunday, June 11, 2006

When Life gives you Plantains...

This is what you make when your attempts at making green banana kofta's goes terribly wrong because you bought home plantains instead guessed it, green bananas. Wait!! this gets better. You pressure cook the stuff on hand because you have still not realised your mistake and whistle a merry tune while the pressure cooker whistles its own whistle merrily. You sit around and twiddle your thumbs while it sits around and cools down. Sitting done,you open the lid to find two nicely cooked green bananas inside..yippee! Now you take the masher to the big chunks and well, well lets just say the masher does not feel to good after his date with partially boiled plantains. The masher looks postively enraged, the stuff in the bowl eyes you suspiciously and you...realise for the first time that you MESSED up real bad!!At this stage, you can give up and chuck the semi mashed, semi boiled bowl of whatever you think it is into the trash or you can transform it into this lovely dish and act like all that ugly stuff never happened. You could even make a mental note to get home some extra plantains the next time around.

Plantains - 2
Onion- 1 small, sliced
Mustard Seeds - 1.5 tsp
Dry Red Chilies - 2, broken
Curry Leaves - 5 to 7
Asfoetida - a pinch
Fresh Coconut -1/2 cup, shredded
Oil - 2 tbsps
Salt - to taste
Cilantro for garnish

1. Treat the plantain as outlined above or alternately you may cut each in two and pressure cook for two whistles. The skin will readily peel and the plantain will remain half boiled. Now mash this roughly with a masher. There should be some big chunks left. Don't pay too much attention to the masher and his bruised ego. Time shall take care of it.
2. Heat oil in pan and the add the mustard seeds, red chillies, asfoetida and curry leaves. Once the violence in the pan starts reaching epic uncontrollable proportions add the onions.
3. After the onions turn pink add the mashed plantains and season with salt.
4. Add a cup of water and cook covered on low to medium heat till the slightly hard pieces of plantain get cooked. This when you have finally conquered the lowly plantain and cooked its goose>
5. Add the fresh coconut (can subsitute with the dry variety) and check seaoning one last time. Garnish with cilantro, a dashof lemon juice (optional).

PS: I believe this dish was inspired on a sub conscious level by the insipid "kela" dish that was served in the Mera Bhawan mess at BITS...a dish I consumed with alarming frequency during my four years there with even more alarming proportions of Contadina ketchup. Partial credit also goes to my friend Vrishali's avial...which totally bowled me over with its everything (even green bananas/plantains/whatchamacallit) cooked in coconut milk tastes yummity yum philosophy.

PPS: This dish shall have no name.

Chirer Pulao or Bengali Style Pohe

This is one of my favourite breakfast foods. Back home this was a winter speciality, mainly due to the availability of peas, cauliflowers, carrots, gren peppers during the season. But thanks to the frozen aisle at the grocery store, now I can have it any time, I did not have cauliflowers, but if you have fresh cauliflower at hand, add it to increase the yum factor. But remember to chop it into little florets and saute in oil before adding. And another thing, this is my approximation of the Bengali dish called "Chirer Pulao", so I cannot vouch for its authencity in any way. All I can say is that it tastes pretty good and even the Boy agrees!

Thick Poha* - 3 cups
Red Potato - 1 medium, quartered and sliced thinly with skin on
Frozen Peas - 1 cup
Frozen Corn Kernels - 1/2 cup
Carrot - 1 medium, chopped into small cubes
Frozen Mixed Peppers (red, yellow, green) - 1/2 cup (optional)
Onion -1 small, minced
Green Chillies - 2, desseded and sliced
Peanuts - a fistful
Raisins - a fistful
Ginger - 1.5 inch piece, minced
Curry Leaves - 8-10
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Chana Dal - 1 tsp (optional)
Olive Oil - 2 turns of the pan
Salt - to taste
Cilantro for garnish

1. Rehydrate poha in water for about 15 minutes. Do not over soak as poha will disintegrate.
2. Microwave potatoes for 4 minutes on high.
3. Roast peanuts in a pan. Crush lightly after cool.
4. Heat sufficient oil in a pan, add mustard seeds,cumin seeds and channa dal. Once they start sputtering, add ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Stir and then add the onions. Once onions are translucent, add the carrots and potatoes. Cover and let cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat.
5. Now add the remaining vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes.
6. Add the raisins and the peanuts to the above mixture. Season generously with salt.
7. Finally add the rehydrated poha and combine. If the poha starts sticking to the pan just drizzle a little olive oil.
8. Garnish with cilantro and serve with ketchup on the side.

PS: I have a very low tolerance for spices, so I tend to deseed my green chillies and use lower than average amounts. Feel free to add more chillies if you can handle it.

* Poha is to rice what rolled oats is to the oat grain. You can find it any Indian grocery store and use only the thick variety. If unavailable use vermicelli instead.
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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pickle Me Mine

I discovered pickles during my undergrad years when a dollop of some spicy avakkai or a tart lime pickle were the only ways of perking up a bland, tasteless meal which was called “grub”. Till this day I like a little pickled something on my plate if I can have it. Usually it’s the standard mixed vegetable pickle available at most grocery stores, but off late I have been making some of my own pickles. The results have been quite satisfying and hence this post.
Garlic Pickle
The Boy and I love garlic and this pickle is a particular favourite of ours. The recipe came from Sanjeev Kapoor's web site. In the past, whenever I made small batches of this pickle it got consumed really quick. Emboldened by its popularity, I made an extra large batch of it this year around Mother's Day. One batch was given out as a Mother's Day gift to a friend and we are still enjoying the remaining. The recipe calls for jaggery, but it can be substituted by brown sugar in a jiffy.

Garlic - 500 gms, roughly chopped into big chunks
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds - 1 tsp
Mustard Seed - 1.5 tsps
Vegetable Oil - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Tamarind Pulp - 1.5 cup
Jaggery - 1.5 cup
Red Chilli Powder - 1.5 tsps
Ginger Paste - 2 tbsps
Garlic Paste - 2 tbsps

1. Dry roast the mustard seeds (reserve 1/2 tsp for later), fenugreek seds and cumin seeds. Coarsely grind them in a coffee grinder.
2. Heat sufficent oil, add the remaining mustard seeds and the chopped garlic. Cook for sometime on low heat.
3. Add salt and mix. Add the roasted spices, tamarind pulp and cook on high heat for 5-6 minutes.
4. Add the red chilli powder, ginger and garlic paste and jaggery. Cook till the jaggery melts.
5. Add remaining oil and cook to thicken. Let pickle cool. Transfer to clean bottle and refrigerate.

Mango Chunda
This is a sweet relish made from shredded green mangoes. Go-ey with almost a jam like feel, mango chunda goes very well with stuffed paranthas. I looked up a few recipes on the Internet before starting out. Since its such a simple recipe a little improvisation might not hurt. If you still feel uncomfortable follow this recipe, as I followed this quite closely.

Raw Mango - 1 cup, grated
Salt - 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder - ¼ tsp
Sugar - 1.5 cups

Chilli Powder - 1tbsp
Roasted Cumin Powder - 1 tsp

1. Combine grated mango, salt and turmeric and leave for 15 minutes.
2. Add sugar and mango mixture to pot and cook on slow flame till sugar completely melts. By this time the mixture should start coming together and have a consistency of a chutney.
3. Add chilli powder and roasted cumin powder. Mix well and allow to cool before bottling. This pickle needs refrigeration.