Bowing to the Queen…

Written by Meena Agarwal on February 27th, 2006 | 6 Comments


While I do try and bring as many different flavours and tastes to our table at, sometimes a traditional dal-roti-sabzi meal is all we desire. While I can the veggies I actually enjoy eating on my fingers, I make up for the minimal mumber with the oh so many different variations I use to cook them.

There is always a way of cooking any veggie you don’t enjoy so much in a way that will keep you asking for more. Okra, or lady-finger as it is known in India, is one such veggie. Known as the queen of veggies, with its elegantly shaped form and crown-like head, it does require some special care while cooking.

Bhindi Pyaaz

While I don’t usually pounce on a stack of them to pick the best ones at the store, I do sometimes, however, look forward to one of the simplest and tastiest side dishes I know to make. And while I do bring a batch home every other week (hubby dear totally loves it, you see!), this is one of the few ways I relish it. A simple three-step process of chop-fry-serve makes this dish a definite keeper and especially good for a large crowd!!

Bhindi Pyaaz (Okra with Onions)

Ingredients:

  • 10-15 whole fresh okra, washed and dried thoroughly dried with a cloth
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  •  
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Method:

    1. Make sure the okra is thoroughly dried on the outside. Discard ends and cut into half centimeter thick pieces.
    2. In a no-stick pan, heat oil and add cumin seeds.
    3. Once they start to sizzle, add in okra pieces and saute for a minute or two. Cover the pan and allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.
    4. Once the okra starts to cook and lose its sticky texture, add in onions and spices and stir well to mix in spices evenly.
    5. Cover cook for another 7-10 minutes till onions tenderize and start to brown on the edges.
    6. Serve warm with Dal and fresh rotis.


    Healthy Indulgence…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 22nd, 2006 | 10 Comments


    When it comes to wholesome winter comfort foods, I most often get inclined to curry-drowned rice dishes. Except when I’m craving for something with more bang! That’s when I dig deep into my kitchen resources and try and fix up a meal comprising of something in the form of rotis.

    Dosas, Puris and Parathas all fit the bill well, and I just go with my inner craving to decide on my course of action. While I don’t tend too creative with my Dosas and Puris, Parathas are something I just love to play around with. Any leftovers could well serve the purpose of filling their pockets and turning into a wholesome and delicious addition to any meal.

    Mooli Parathas

    Some of my all-time favourites remain this and most certainly, this. But this recipe is a definite keeper in my secret stack of pleasurable indulgences. No doubt, the nutritional qualities of raddish excel all else, but don’t let convince you to try this out. Afterall, everyone needs to indulge once in a while, even if it IS good for you!

    Mooli (Raddish) Parathas

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
  • 1 cup grated mooli (long white raddish), excess water squeezed out
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  •  
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp ghee/oil
  • water as needed
  • Method:

    1. Mix flour (atta) with salt and one tbsp of ghee and form into a smooth dough with water.

    2. Separate dough into golf-sized balls and set aside.

    3. Make sure all the water is thoroughly squeezed out of the grated raddish and mix with salt, coriander seeds, chili powder and garam masala, and set aside.

    4. For each dough ball, roll out the dough into a small circle and put around one tbsp of the raddish mixture in the centre. Bring the ends of the circle together and form into a ball.

    5. Seal the edges completely so that the stuffing does not come out. Roll out these dough balls into a 6 inch circle.

    6. Fry on a heated pan adding a bit of ghee around the edges to crisp it up.

    Enjoy it warm with pickle or onion chutney.



    Taking it easy…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 18th, 2006 | 10 Comments


    When it comes to cooking a fulfilling dinner on weeknights, my keyword, or should I say keywords, are QUICK and SIMPLE! I have many a times blogged on how much I love easy recipes that hardly take any of my time and effort and yet seem to please our over-demanding palates.

    Truly, coming home at seven in the evening after a long and tiring day at school doesn’t leave me even in the slightest mood to cook anything. But eat we must and that’s where I make use of my instincts. A little bit of this, a splash of that, and dinner is on the table!

    Alu Pyaaz

    I always wonder why people look at cooking Indian food with such disdain. According to so many non-Indians I’ve come accross, they all have the same thing to say – It takes a lot of time and many more ingredients to cook a traditional Indian meal! Well, all I can say yet again is that you, my dear are mistaken! Now, if you are one of those who thinks that the traditional Indian meal comprises of exotic dishes such as, Briyani, Butter Chicken, Dal Makhani and Naans, then, well, I think you need to invite yourself to an Indian home for a simple dinner.

    When it comes to food, we Indians know how to make a gala of the mere act of eating. But at the same time, we have our home-grown secrets of making a simple “Dal-Chawal” meal seem fit for a King, or Queen ofcourse!

    One look at my long list of recipes and you can easily see that many of them are simple to the touch. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. Infact, I am known to spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking for parties a day in advance. But sometimes, I just want to take it easy. Afterall, even the greatest rulers of all-time needed to take a break!

    Alu-Pyaaz Fry (Fried Potatoes with Onions)

    Ingredients:

  • 7-8 red baby potatoes, boiled and sliced with skins left on
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  •  
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute cumin seeds till it starts to sizzle.
    2. Add potato slices and fry till they begin to crisp on the edges.
    3. Add salt, chili powder, turmeric and onions, and fry for a few minutes till spices mix well and onions turn tender and transparent.
    4. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with a ice helping of Rice and Dal.


    Nestled by the Window…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 13th, 2006 | 25 Comments


    Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

    ‘Tis is the season for love… and so said St. Valentine as we dedicate the 14th of Feb in his honour. Come February and you immediately know that LOVE is in the air!

    I have often heard people say that as couples grow old together, they begin to look more and more alike. I however, fail to see the resemblance. But what I do notice is how much we have begun to think alike. There have been many times when we would say the same thing at the same time, and then there are those days when we just know what the other is thinking. This may not sound so bad to you. But trust me, when you spend a whole month planning a big surprise, only to have the reciever guess it out the week before, it kinda sucks!

    But nontheless, it’s a big comfort to know that the closeness can only increase. And no matter how frustratingly irritating it may seem that surprises don’t work well between us, its a pleasure to know that we understand each other so well.

    One of hubby’s and my all-time favourite munchies to cuddle up with are piping hot samosas dipped into tangy chutney. I remember times when I lived on Samosas for an entire day! Mind you, I still can, and do when I get those cravings of guilty pleasures.

    Most of the Samosas we find at Indian stores here, are the ones usually made with Spring Roll sheets. Though they do satisfy me at times, I still find myself craving of the authentic pyramid-shaped ones I grew up loving in India. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, and this is no different! It wasn’t until I tried my hand at it last Diwali, that I realized how simple it is to prepare. I often make a big batch and freeze them, frying as many as I want whenever I wish. Try it out, and if you don’t get hooked, I’ll eat it all on my own! :0

    For now, I have a big platter full of these beauties waiting for hubby dear to devour!

    POTATO-PEAS SAMOSAS
    Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 6

    Ingredients:

    For the Base:
    2 cups All-Purpose flour
    1 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
    pinch of salt
    1 tbsp oil
    water, as needed

    For the Filling:

    2 tbsp light cooking oil
    1 tsp coriander seeds
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    1 tsp fennel seeds
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1/2 tsp red chili powder
    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    1 tsp coriander powder
    1/2 tsp amchur powder
    2-3 mid-size potatoes, boiled and cubed into tiny pieces
    1 cup frozen green peas
    1 tsp kasoori methi
    salt, to taste
    fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish

    oil, for deep frying

    Directions:

    For the Base:

    Mix all the base ingredients in a big bowl and form into a nice soft dough. Divide dough into golf-sized balls and set aside.

    For the Filling:

    Saute cumin seeds, coriander seeds and fennel seeds in hot oil, in a large skillet, till till they start to sizzle. Add in chopped onions and fry till tender. Add  chili powder, turmeric, coriander and amchur powder, and fry spices for a few seconds till fragrant.

    Mix in potato cubes and saute till spices mix well with the potatoes. Add in peas, kasoori methi and salt, and cook for a few minutes till the peas get tender. Mix in fresh coriander leaves

    For the Samosas:

    Roll out each dough ball into circular discs about half a centimetre thick. Cut the circles in half, to form two semi-circles.

    Taking each semi-circle, roll one end to the other forming a cone. Press the edge of the cone slightly with your fingers to prevent it from opening. Fill each cone with the potato filling. Pinch the middle of the open end of the cone slightly to form a dent, and press the edges together to tightly close, forming a pyramid-like shape.

    Continue for the remaining of the dough. Deep fry the samosas in hot oil till golden and crisp on all sides.

    Recipe Notes: To keep samosas for longer periods of time, allow the unfried samosas to cool in the fridge for a few hours and then store them in sealed bags in the freezer. When ready to fry, just remove from the freezer and fry in hot oil without thawing them.

    Serve warm with Mint-Coriander and Tamarind chutneys.



    Grilled to perfection…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 10th, 2006 | 3 Comments


    Hubby dear has this undying love for Paninis. Infact, I didn’t even need to tell him twice that I wanted a Panini maker. Just a promise that he would get home-made Paninis to his heart’s desire, seem to convince him enough! Our Honeymoon in the exotic plains of Rome was filled with cups of delicious Cappucino teamed up with warm crispy Paninis.

    Roasted Red Pepper Paninis

    I often try out various Panini combos using mainly whatever I have at home with some Indian touch added in. But this recipe always wins the game. Its simple, light and just plain delicious! This is my way of fusing International favourites with Indian tastes.

    Roasted Red Pepper Paninis

    Ingredients:

  • 2 baguettes (use any kind of bread you like, I love Foccacia for this sandwich)

  • 1 large sweet red pepper

  • a handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  •  
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 tsp garlic butter

  • 1 tbsp butter

  • 1/2 tsp curry powder

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • Method:

    For Roasted Red Pepper:

    1. Spray red pepper lightly with oil and roast over a flame, or broil in the oven at 450 degrees, till charred on the outside.

    2. Set aside and allow to cool. Once it comes to room temperature, peel the outside skin of the pepper and slice thinly.

    For Caramelized Onions:

    1. Heat butter in a non-stick pan and saute finely sliced onions with salt, pepper and curry powder till caramelized and tender.

    For Paninis:

    1. Spread a little garlic butter on one side of the bread.

    2. Layer roasted red pepper slices, caramelized onions, and top with chopped coriander leaves and a dash of pepper.

    3. Top with other slice of bread and heat in a Panini grill till warm.

    4. Serve with a side of fries and warm Cappucino.



    Home-coming fit for a King…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 6th, 2006 | 15 Comments


    In India, when one moves into a new home, there is this tradition of performing a big pooja ceremony to bring in good forture at the new place. Even though the pooja may be the biggest part of the event, what is most looked forward too during this time is the food.

    As with any Indian celebration, food is often the main focus. It is no surprise then that our world revolves around what we eat. The utmost care is taken while planning the lavish menu and needless to say, a great amount of time and effort is taken in its preparation.

    Puris

    Though I don’t have the ceremonial breaking of a coconut and what not planned, I do, however have something deliciously good to offer you all on the occasion of my moving to my very own domain. I hope this blog grows into something I will cherish and treasure forever. I know I already do. I value all the comments you send me with all my heart and hope that I continue to keep you interested and tuned to my wonderful, ever-growing list of culinary goodness.

    So without taking all your time, I offer you the most delicious bread in my world. Say, why does anything deep-fried taste sooo… good?!!!

    Puris

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp ajwain
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • water, as needed
  • cooking oil, for deep frying
  • Method:

    1. Mix flour, salt, ajwain, and ghee with water to form a dough.
    2. Seperate dough into golf-sized balls, and roll out each ball into a circular disc.
    3. Deep fry in hot oil till puris puff up and turn golden on both sides.

    Serve warm with Chole or Alu Bhaaji.



    Simply Irresistable…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on February 2nd, 2006 | 15 Comments


    When it comes choosing between rice or bread, I often almost always go for rice. Rice just gives me the warm and comforting feel I look for in a pleasing meal. But at times I like to get away from the monotony of rice preparations and steer into the exotic world of Indian breads.

    Indian breads vary in size, texture, flavour, colour… er, let’s just say they vary in almost every possible way from each other ranging for the simple everyday Roti, to heavy “full”filling Parathas, to the fit-for-a-king Naan.

    But one that reigns high on my list of favourites is none other than the crisy, fluffy, Puri! Fried to a golden crisp texture, this is little treasure can make any meal extravagant. But alas, I’m not here to talk about puris. No dears, we’ll get into that some other time. I promise!

    Today I’m here to talk about the wonderful accompaniments to this favourite of Indian breads. Yes, the curries we all love to dip our crispy goodness into and relish!

    Alu Bhaaji served with warm, crispy Puris

    One of the most standard accompaniments to puris is no doubt the Chole or Chana Masala. I guess its just the blend of flavours and the combination of crispness to the creaminess of the chick peas that make this team up so well. But in the northern parts of India, especial where I come from, New Delhi, puris are enjoyed with a more simpler, yet elegant little fare.

    Stop by any 5-star restaurant for a weekend brunch and you will undoubtedly be welcomed with a dish of Puri-Bhaaji on the menu. Bhajis are simple vegetable curries, cooked to perfection. Here however, the bhaji is ruled by the potato. This potato curry may be the simplest curry dish you ever get to make, but don’t let its coy demure look fool you. For with every bite, there lies a flavour so grand, it should be condemened from being called a noble man’s meal.

    Alu Bhaaji (Potato Curry)

    Ingredients:

  • 3-4 mid-size potatoes, boiled and broken into bite-size pieces (Don’t cut the potatoes, instead break them by hand to get a more rustic look)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  •  
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • water as needed
  • fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
  • Method:

    1. Add mustard seeds to hot oil in a deep pan. Once it begins to sizzle, add in sliced onions and green chillies.

    2. Let onions tenderize and brown slightly, and then add tomatoes. Cook till tomatoes pulp and form a saucy texture.

    3. Add salt, turmeric, chili powder, coriander powder, and tomato paste, and cook for a minute to blend in spices. Add about a cup of water and allow it to come to a boil. Throw in potato chunks, check curry consistency, adding more water if desired; and cover cook for 5-6 minutes.

    4. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve warm with hot, fluffy puris and a side of mango pickle!



    Bittersweet memories…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 23rd, 2006 | 3 Comments


    I wouldn’t say I was a picky eater growing up. Hard to please maybe, but certainly not picky! I would eat anything provided, (a) it looked good, (b) it had an ingredient I liked, and (c) it was not gooey!

    It must’ve been hard for Mom to try and get us to eat all the veggies she cooked. Out of the many I refused to eat as a child, is something called the “bitter-gourd” or more so, karela in Hindi. I don’t blame myself for this since I truly believe that it is an acquired taste for aduts. I have yet to find a child who relishes this hostile vegetable with delight. But over the years, I began to start enjoying it, until one day, I declared it to be one of my favourites!

    Karela Masala

    The bitter-gourd is believed to have many medicinal qualities, one of the main being a good blood purifier. This was icing on the cake! I could now eat it as much as I wanted, and it would only do good for me.

    I don’t know of many ways of cooking the bitter gourd. But of the very few that I do, this recipe tops my list. The tangy and spicy combination is totally in sync with the hint of bitterness that comes from the vegetable’s natural juices. So try not to get too imtimidated by its intensity and give a shot at this recipe. I guarantee you will be never see the bitter gourd in the same light ever again!

    Karela Masala (Tangy Bitter-gourd)

    Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium-sized bittergourds, seeded and cut into thin slices
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  •  
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchur (dried mango powder, available at the local Indian grocery store)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Method:

    1. Saute cumin seeds in hot oil in a deep pan. once it begins to sizzle, add in onions and green chillies. Fry till onions tenderize and brown.
    2. Add red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder and salt and saute to blend in spices.
    3. Add in chopped tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste and amchoor, and fry till tomato juices dry up.
    4. Add salt and sliced bitter-gourd and cover cook for 7-8 minutes till done. Sprinkle garam masala on top.

    Enjoy with warm rotis and side of piping hot Dal.



    Peas make me go hmmmnnn…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 20th, 2006 | 9 Comments


    I love peas! No, I mean I LOVVVEEE peas – always have, and hopefully, always will. I go through a 2 lb bag of frozen peas every 2-3 weeks.

    With the cold weather creeping up so steadily, I find that my cravings for rice has increased tremendously. Maybe its the comfort that comes from a big bowl of warm rice, I really don’t know. So its no surprize that I find myself cooking more varieties of rice-based dishes in winters as compared to warmer months.

    Matar Pulao

    Often, I make a big batch of plain rice over the weekend, and spruce it up during the week. Of the many variations of rice dishes I make from (purposely) left-over rice, some of my all-time easy-breezy favourites can be seen here, here and here.

    When I decided to make dinner last night, I knew I would once again be cooking what else, but rice. So I settled for a recipe that was simple and so delicious – Pulao or as some call it, Pilaf. Pulao is very common in the North Indian cuisine. It is often served as a side to exotic curries and salads.

    So that was it then, I was craving for Pulao. But not just any Pulao, I wanted Peas Pulao!

    Matar Pulao (Peas Pilaf)

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  •  
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • salt, to taste
  • a pinch of saffron, mixed in 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute cumin seeds and sliced onions, till tender and slightly browned.
    2. Add rice, water, salt, peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaves, and cover cook on medium-low heat till rice is tender.
    3. Add in peas and saffron water and cover cook for another 5-6 minutes till peas heat through.

    Best eaten warm with any curry or on its own!



    A change of heart…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on January 11th, 2006 | 11 Comments


    It was time. I quietly walked into my beloved kitchen and looked around for a bit. “Hmmn… now what should I cook?”, I thought. When a glance at the pantry didn’t give me any inspiration, I decided to try the fridge. Rummaging around the crisper, I noticed him sitting queitly in the corner, neatly tucked away. “Okay, I guess your time has come, my friend.”, said I, and he seemed to agree. Strange! But I still had no idea what do with him.

    I’m not too fond of eating cabbage cooked the Indian way. Never have been. The only reason I seem to buy this big round fellow, is when I begin to crave for a stir-fry. But today was definitely different. Yes siree! I was in no mood for a quick saute of assorted veggies. Nopes! Infact, what was that again, oh yes, the spicy bug bit me again. This time, I must so add, quite hard, since I willing to give Mr. Cabbage a try!

    I’ve always loved green peas (I buy the 2lb bag of frozen peas almost every 3 weeks!!), and seriously believe that have the ability to enhance the taste of anything!! I had this big green ball of leaves, my ever-growing-never-satisfied spice rack, and a cup of delicious frozen peas! The stage was all set and so was I! So take your seat folks, buckle up and enjoy the ride. The show is going to begin.

    Cabbage with Peas

    Cabbage with Peas

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups sliced cabbage
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 tomato, chopped
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil

    Method:

    • Heat oil in a non-stick pan and saute cumin seeds till it starts to sizzle.
    • Add onions and fry for a few minutes till it turns transparent. Add cabbage and fry for a few minutes till it tenderizes and gives out water.
    • Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and garam masala and fry for a few minutes till spices all blend in.
    • Add chopped tomatoes and cover cook for 5-6 minutes. Stir in peas and let cook for another couple of minutes.

    Serve hot with warm rotis, or over a bed of rice with some Dal.