Friday, September 25, 2020

Vegetable Stew (Desi style)


 

September is about to end and it's still pouring here in Maharashtra! The weather gets cold at night and calls for some hot and savoury stew to be enjoyed over dinner.

This is my mom's recipe which I have modified a bit to suit my son's palate. I am not big into soups and stews and I made this one after many years wondering if my son would love it. (Husband usually has everything that I make without much fuss ;)) 

Stew, essentially means something which has been cooked over a long period of time with a closed lid that brings together all the wonderful flavours into the broth. Here I am adding mixed vegetables with some typical 'desi' seasonings in the stew which makes it all the more delightful. Topped with cheese it becomes irresistible :)

Ingredients:

Mixed vegetables (like finely chopped beans, carrots, peas, potatoes, cauliflower, soaked and squeezed soya chunks) - 1.5 cups

Cooked rajma/kidney beans - 5-6 tsp ( I used leftover Rajma from my fridge)

Pureed Tomatoes - 4 to 5 (Puree it in a mixer without blanching them)

Finely chopped onion - 1 big

Bay leaf - 1 

Cloves - 2

Peppercorn - 4-5

Cinnamon - 1 inch

Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)

Maida/cornflour - 1 tbsp (dissolved in little cold water to form a thick paste)

Olive oil - 1 tbsp

Salt - to taste

Sugar/Jaggery powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)

Grated cheese of your choice for the topping ( I used Mozzarella! - Optional)

Water - to adjust the consistency


Method:

Heat the oil in a deep kadhai or wok and add the bay leaf, cloves, peppercorn and cinnamon. Stir it for a minute or two and then add the onions. Fry it well on moderate heat till the edges of the onion start turning brown. To this add the mixed vegetables, cooked rajma, little water and a bit of salt to help cook the veggies faster.  Cook the vegetables covered with a lid, till they are done. This will take around 8-10 minutes. 

To the cooked vegetables, add the tomato puree and little water to adjust the consistency to your liking. Stews are usually thick, so it is recommended to add little water to the preparation. Add the cornflour/maida paste and stir it well. 

Add salt, sugar, chilli powder as per your liking and let the stew simmer for another 5-6 minutes with a closed lid.

The stew is ready. Serve it topped with cheese.






Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Papaya halwa

 



As is the case mostly, Big Basket got me a raw papaya instead of the ripe one that I had ordered. I tried to to ripen it by keeping it in a paper bag. However, that did not help much and to my dismay after cutting the fruit open, it was bland - neither raw nor sweet enough to consume it.

Well, I decided to make a halwa out of this cut fruit so that it would atleast become palatable and would not go waste. ..and that was a very good decision as the halwa turned out to be a really tasty affair...


Ingredients:

Grated Ripe papaya - around 400-500 gms

Ghee - 1/2 cup or slightly more as per your preference

Sugar - 6-8 tbsp ( this depends on the sweetness of your papaya as well; hence would recommend to add spoon by spoon and check the taste)

Unsweetened Mawa/Milk powder/Almond powder - 2-3 tbsp 

Elaichi powder - 1/2 tsp

Salt - a pinch

Dry fruits like raisins and cashews - optional


Method:

Heat the ghee in a thick-bottomed kadhai and add the grated papaya. Mix it well. Keep it covered for 10 minutes or so on a low flame till the papaya gets cooked well. The water should get evaporated and the fruit should get cooked nicely in the ghee till the ghee leaves the sides of the pan. 

Mash it lightly. To this, add the sugar, milk powder or almond powder, salt and mix well. Taste the sweetness and add more or less sugar accordingly. Remove the lid and fry it for 5-10 minutes more on a low- to -moderate heat with intermittent stirring. 

Switch off the heat. Add cardamom powder and mix well. Again keep it covered for 5 minutes. Garnish with nuts and serve.


This halwa tastes more or less like our good, old doodhi ka halwa...best enjoyed when hot.






Friday, September 11, 2020

Satorya -stuffed mawa flatbread

 


Shravan is almost ending and so are the myriad festivals we witnessed this month. I am sure most of you would have gorged on a variety of sweets this month, especially the ever-favorite modaks :) Yes, I made the steamed ones, the fried ones, the mawa ones and then one fine day after having my fill of modaks, I decided to try my hand at making satoris. It is one of my favorite desserts ... after all who doesn't like sweets with a flaky crust covering soft mawa inside!

Satori is a palm-sized small, flat bread stuffed with the goodness of mawa. I guess you can make satoris with other stuffings of your choice like coconut-jaggery mixture as well. 

It is almost a lost traditional Maharashtrian recipe, not found in many places in the state as well.  However, I am glad that Chitale Bandhu in Pune are keeping this traditional sweet alive and kicking! I had forgotten about this delicious dessert when I was in Bangalore and now after relishing the store-bought ones,  I wanted to try making them at home as well. The recipe is very simple and a must-try one.



Ingredients:

Stuffing:

Unsweetened Mawa - 200 gms

Fine rawa - 2 tbsp

Milk - 4-5 tbsp

Sugar - 1/2 cup - add slightly more or less depending on the desired sweetness. Jaggery can also be used instead of sugar

Elaichi powder - 1/2 tsp


For the outer cover:

Maida - 1 cup

Fine Rawa - 1/4 cup

Oil/Ghee - 1 tbsp

Salt - a pinch to taste

Hot Water to knead the dough

Ghee- for roasting and smearing on the satoryas


Method:

Start by preparing the dough for the outer cover. Mix maida, rawa, 1 tbsp oil, salt and mix well. To this add the hot water and knead it into a medium consistency dough (not too soft, nor too firm). Keep it covered and allow it to rest for at least 20-30 minutes.

To prepare the stuffing, heat a pan on moderate heat and dry roast the rawa. To this add the milk and mix well till it gets almost cooked. Next, add the mawa and sugar and roast it till it melts and becomes a uniform mixture. Switch off the heat and add the cardamom powder and mix well. Keep it aside for cooling. 

Now take pint-sized balls from the maida dough and roll it into a small puri. Place a little stuffing in the centre of the puri and bring the edges of the puri together to seal the stuffing inside. Roll this stuffed puri gently, taking care that the stuffing does not ooze out. Roast these satoryas on a tawa using liberal amounts of ghee. Alternatively, these can be deep fried as well.  

The satoryas puff up beautifully tempting us to gobble them up as soon as they are taken off the tawa :) Serve them hot with ghee.






Monday, June 15, 2020

Methi Theplas


Methi theplas served with ghee, raswala tamatar batata nu shaak, dahi and aam chunda 



Today we had a gujarati lunch of methi theplas served with various assortments as shown in the pic above. It is a yummy and healthy meal to relish and also a good change from our regular rotis. Theplas are a regular feature in my house  and I have been wanting to share this methi thepla recipe with you all for a long time now. The recipe is a keeper and comes from my mother-in-law who is born and brought up in Gujarat... So be assured that it is more or less an authentic gujarati recipe which you will cherish for the times to come.

Theplas are good travel food as they keep fresh for a long time and are really convenient to pack in dabbas or just a foil wrap for a memorable journey :) The recipe does not use water and uses curds/oil and the moisture from its ingredients to give it a good shelf life.

Ingredients:

1 cup  whole wheat flour
1/3 rd cup besan
2 tbsp raagi flour (optional, I like to sneak in some millets whenever I get a chance)
1 cup finely chopped methi leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
2 to 3 tsp - powdered jaggery
1/2 cup curd, sour preferred or  1 tbsp lemon juice + 2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp or more - til or sesame seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp garlic-green chilly paste  
A generous pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Water to knead - if required


Method: 

Mix all the above ingredients to a smooth dough. If you use curds, then additional oil is not required in this recipe. However, if you use lemon juice, add 1 to 2 tbsp of oil in here as this keeps the theplas soft for a long time. 

Roll it into as thin rotis as possible with a generous dusting of flour to prevent it from sticking to the chakala - belan (polpat latna). Keep the flame on a medium - high setting. Use a cooking brush to evenly apply oil/ghee on both sides of the theplas while roasting them on the tava. This again helps in keeping the theplas soft and also removes any dusting flour that settles on them while rolling.

Serve it hot with a curry of your choice, curds, pickle or chunda. 











Memoirs of our Trek to Everest Base Camp: Day 1-3: Lukla --> Phakding --> Namche Bazaar


The Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek is a 14-day to and fro trek from Kathmandu that does not require any major mountaineering skills or tools for the journey, but it just requires some sheer will to hike on for long hours in the oxygen-sparse air and freezing temperatures of the region. Doesn't seem difficult, right?

We were a lovely 4-member group who aspired to get to the base of the world's tallest mountain. A young woman from Germany, an experienced hiker from New Zealand and the two of us - the not so experienced hikers from India completed this group ;). We booked this trek with  Himalayan Social Journey (HSJ) through Luxury Escapes and ensured that we enjoyed a memorable and awe-inspiring two weeks of our lifetime!  A guide and a sherpa from HSJ accompanied us all along during the trek. We were allowed luggage of up to 12 kgs per person which was carried by our porters and we ourselves carried only some 3-4 kgs of essential supplies of clothes, food and water on our backs during the trek... Luxury at its best!

One has to fly into Lukla to start the trek and experience the amazing magnanimity of the Himalayas for the next two weeks! I still vividly remember the little details of our trek and here I am going to narrate my experiences till Namche Bazaar - the gateway to Himalayas. Come with me and catch a glimpse of my wonderful journey into this trek...

Day 1: Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakding
Distance covered between Lukla to Phakding: 7.5 kms
Time taken: 4 hours
Elevation: 9100 ft to 8563 ft



Reaching Lukla from Kathmandu:

This is where we landed in Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the whole world! Yes, you heard it right. It is a narrow strip of an airport in a rugged landscape where one seems to fly right into the mountains. Unpredictable weather conditions which change by the minute and stories of previous fatal accidents on this route make this 30-minute ride all the more dangerous and exciting ;)

Lukla strip - almost in the clouds




A busy lane in Lukla



This is the Phaplu airport enroute Lukla in the pic below. Our pilot had to divert the flight here due to bad weather conditions at Lukla. We waited for close to 4 hours here before we could again take off to Lukla. The highlight of this halt was the ubiquitous Maggi that we relished at the only open shop of the airport (yellow structure).

 


Phaplu airport



Lodging @Phakding


It was raining in Lukla when we landed. It was already very late in the day due to all the delays and we had to hurry to Phakding before it turned dark. Hungry, cold and tired, we reached Phakding at around 8 pm. We ordered our food of dal-bhaat-tarkari and enjoyed a nice hot shower - one of the still available luxuries in the trek! We fell asleep as soon as we hit our beds. The next day was going to be a long day to Namche Bazaar with us climbing close to 3000 ft in altitude.




Day 2 & 3: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Distance covered between Phakding to Namche Bazaar: 9 kms
Time taken: > 6  hours
Elevation: 8563 ft to 11290 ft


View of Namche Bazaar from an altitude


After a hot and sumptous breakfast of bread, potato curry and eggs, we started our trek from Phakding at around 8 am. It was drizzling when we left Phakding and the cool mist had pervaded the morning air. 

Our destination for the day was Namche Bazaar, popularly also known as the Gateway to the Himalayas. Namche is the most prosperous and bustling town of the Khumbu valley which holds a weekly bazaar to display its goods from the foothills as well as from across the border( from Tibet). It is the world's highest functioning bazaar today. 

The trek is relatively difficult as we had to ascend close to 3000 ft in a single day. The initial walk of around 3 hours or so seemed a bit easy as we walked mostly on Nepalese flats (The term is used for a somewhat flat terrain). We crossed numerous hanging bridges over the Khumbu river which made the walk a bit more exciting. Here is a pic of us on the Hillary bridge below, one of the highest suspension bridges across the Khumbu river. 



Hillary bridge - One of the  highest suspension bridges across Khumba river enroute Namche. Our porter is seen on the bridge...




Our guide and sherpa on one of the numerous suspension bridges (from L --> R)


This cute kid was waving at us enroute our trek to Namche 


Soon the elevation kicked in which left us gasping for breath. Our lungs were screaming for oxygen as we kept on ascending steeply. To add to this, as we neared our destination, there were scores of mules and yaks carrying heavy goods on their backs, chugging effortlessly along narrow paths. A little push from these strong creatures meant a sure death by falling into the deep ravines below. Slowly but surely, we trodded along admiring the raw strength of these animals of transport who carried heavy loads on their backs in these mountainous terrains. Choppers and planes can get grounded due to bad weather and these animals are the only reliable source of transport in these regions where necessities considered basic by us urban dwellers are a luxury to these mountain folks. They carry food, water, cooking gas cylinders, goods, firewood and keep this entire tourism circuit up and running.




Yak - A reliable means of transport @ Namche Bazaar



We slowly our made our way to Yeti Mountain Home, our hotel for the next two days in Namche. The last 30-40 minutes of our trek were a torture for us as we were literally pushing ourselves to walk towards our hotel. A masseuse came to our rescue at the hotel and really helped us recover sooner with his expert hand & foot massages! We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel lounging in the game room. An unlimited supply of hot tea, popcorn and a nourishing Tibetan dinner of Thukpa helped us get ready for the next morning acclimatization trek.

Not surprisingly, Namche was our first acclimatization stop to Everest Base Camp. An extra day at that altitude helped our body to adjust to the elevation and low oxygen levels without the need of any blood thinners and medications. We were told that drinking lots of water and consuming copious amounts of garlic is the key to overcoming altitude sickness. However, we chose to follow only the earlier advice and kept on sipping liquids to keep ourselves hydrated :) 

Day 3:  An acclimatization trek was planned the next morning at 8 am combined with a visit to the nearby Sagarmatha National Park Museum. It was a morning well spent gazing at breathtaking vistas all around us. 


@ Namche Bazaar Acclimatization trek: The wind speed was so intense that it was difficult for me to stand and pose for a pic




On the Namche acclimatization trek: Our group


Our afternoon of day 3 was spent in trying out pizzas and desserts from the popular German Bakery in town. We also spent some time renting some really thick, hooded jackets that we would need later in the trek. The day ended rather soon for us and we wished for some more cheery sunlight to explore the town before the night descended on us. One can easily spend a couple of days exploring this charming little exotic place tucked away in the lap of the mountains.


More coming up soon...till we reach the Base Camp!









































Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Khamang Kaakdi (Cucumber salad)



Summers in Pune are really scorching hot and what's better than a cucumber salad to cool your senses and perk up your taste buds at the same time! Today, I am going to share with you a simple recipe of Khamang Kaakdi that barely requires 5 minutes to assemble. You don't want to spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen, right? Also, this is another dish from the culinary repertoire of my childhood memories...

Khamang Kaakdi is typically a Maharashtrian koshimbir recipe almost always served on auspicious occasions. I had eaten it as a kid many times in some or the other Marathi household or in a pangat in some function. It used to be served in small portions on the left side of the plate along with salt, lemon and chatni.  I had to keep asking the caterers/servers for more and more till my satiety was reached :)

Khamang is a Marathi word which cannot be translated into English. It is somewhat like Umami when all the flavours of food, especially a tadka, overpower your senses :) I am sure every Indian language would have such words which are difficult to translate or explain to anyone else unless of course, they experience it! 

Kaakdi stands for cucumber and koshimbir means a salad. Pangat as I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, refers to a seating arrangement in rows where the caterers serve food to the guests as per the traditions.

Ingredients:

2 Cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp of pomegranate pearls (optional - I like pomegranate in my salads)
4 tsp of peanut powder 
1 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp sugar/sugar powder
Salt to taste

For tadka:
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped
A pinch of hing
7/8 curry leaves

Method:

Check the cucumbers for any bitter taste before you use them. Mix all the ingredients together except salt and allow it to marinate for 5 minutes so that the sugar melts. Prepare the tadka and add it to the salad. Now finally, add salt and mix well.

Khamang kaakdi is ready!


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Methamba (Instant Sweet & Spicy Raw Mango Preserve)

The sweet and tangy - Methamba


Summer is at its peak and I have got lots of kairis (raw mangoes) hanging down the tree in our backyard. These are the totapairi variety of kairis, really good for making pickles and preserves.  Last week, I made some panha using these kairis and kept aside one big one to make methamba. Although nowadays, we get kairis all throughout the year ( I seriously wonder how!), I try and consume them only seasonally. I am slowly and surely becoming a firm believer in eating seasonally!

My husband loves methamba made from these kairis. I too just love the contrast of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours in this dish along with the richness of its colour. I first saw this methamba being prepared by MiL and got this easy recipe from her.  It is a quick recipe with a few ingredients which can be made in no time.

Ingredients:

Kairi - 1 big raw mango chopped into big pieces (try and go for the totapairi variety if you can)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Methi seeds - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Hing - a pinch
Salt- to taste

Tip: Do not peel the kairi and do cut it into big pieces. 


Method:

Start by tempering the oil with mustard seeds, methi seeds and hing. Once the mustard splutters, add the mango pieces and turmeric, and cover the vessel with a lid. Allow the mango pieces to get soft and cooked for a few minutes.
To this, add the chilli powder, jaggery pieces and salt, and again cook it covered for 2-3 minutes till the jaggery melts. Check the taste and adjust the sweetness and spiciness to your liking.

Methamba stays good in the fridge for more than a week, provided you do not lick it all at once :)