Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ragda with Toast

Breakfast is an important meal in my house. Although I went through most of my college years without breakfast (which one of us hasn't done that, right?) things changed when I got married, since my husband was a great believer of starting the day with a heavy breakfast. This was indeed a challenge...not only did we have to wake up earlier to make it and consume it... most breakfast recipes that we preferred called for a little more planning. Dinner khatam hua nahi ke breakfast ki planning shuru... I used to really hate it initially... especially since I did not want to eat breakfast!! But as years passed by and my daughter grew into a school going kid I realized the necessity and importance of inculcating this habit and took it upon myself to make breakfast interesting. While the usual Idli, dosa, uttappam, did find their way to out breakfast table, they were interspersed with days of plain toast-butter-jam/chutney or grilled sandwiches and other variants of bread based recipes as did the cornflakes, museli, oats etc.
When we first landed in Sweden (we lived there for 7 years) in the early 1990’s , Europe was still a predominantly meat-eating culture. Add to that the fact that there weren’t too many Indians who had migrated to Sweden which meant that there was a limited set of “Indian groceries” that were available. This changed substantially over the next 7 years, but needless to say, variety was a big problem at the time for us Indians. We happened to discover something that was called “gula arter” which basically means yellow peas. The cooked dish that we saw the first time looked completely unappetizing and tasted even worse...however, Arvind identified it as our very own “safed vatana” or ragda (rather the main ingredient in ragda). So, a modified version of “ragda” served with was included in our list of breakfast items. Today’s breakfast is “Ragda-toast”

Preparation soak a cup of dried yellow peas overnight and pressure cook them in the morning with a little bit of salt. Usually one whistle is enough to cook them, but fine-tune according to the variety you have. When you open the cooker, the peas should be whole (skins will separate and float) but when u press them, they should be completely soft.

Ingredients (in the order required)

Oil                                            3 tsp
Mustard seeds                         1tsp
Coriander powder                   3 tsp
Turmeric                                  ¼ tsp
Red chili powder                      1 tsp
Salt                                          to taste
Chopped fresh coriander       
Cumin powder
Finely chopped raw onion
Method –
1.       Heat a pan/wok/kadhai
2.       Add oil
3.       Mustard seeds and wait for them to crackle
4.       Take the pan off the heat and add coriander powder. Keep stirring it till it begins to change colour to darker brown.
5.       Now add turmeric, chili powder and salt.
6.       Return to the stove, add about ½ cup of water and bring to boil
7.       Now add the cooked yellow peas, mix everything well and bring to boil
8.       Lower the heat and let it simmer for 5 mins
9.       Garnish with chopped fresh coriander.
10.    Serve with a sprinkling of cumin powder, chopped raw onion and toasted bread slices on the side.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Indian style Stir-fried Cabbage

While cabbage is one of the most boring (at least for me) vegetables around, it is something that is always very good as a filler when you have unexpected guests or are not too sure of whether the other preparations at the lunch/dinner table are going to be favored by all. The best thing about it is that its cooks very fast so it’s ready practically in minutes and can be made in many different ways, in many combinations and usually, it’s rare that someone doesn’t eat cabbage (they may not love it, but they rarely hate it). As I already mentioned, at this point it was a filler to ensure that there is sufficient food on the table.

Ingredients (in the order you will need)
3 tbsp
A pinch
1 tsp.
Kadi Patta/Curry Leaves
Green chilies
3 (or more) chopped or slit
500 gms roughly shredded or chopped (or however you like it)
½ tsp
To taste
Fresh Coriander leaves
Finely chopped to garnish

Heat oil in a kadhai/wok and add one ingredient at a time till you come to turmeric, stirring in between and ensuring that everything is mixed well. Keep the heat on high and cover with a lid for 2-3 mins. Remove the lid and stir. At this point Cabbage should have shrunk in volume and be almost 80% cooked. It should have a little shine to it to show that the water has evaporated. Continue on high heat. Add salt and mix. Remove into a bowl and garnish with coriander.

Tip –
1.Overcooked cabbage generally tastes bad and looses all its nutrients so it’s best if it is slightly under-cooked. To ensure this, keep the heat high and keep stirring and DO NOT keep the cover on for more then 2-3 mins.
2.  Make your life simpler and shred cabbage when you have some time and store in a zip-lock bag.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tinda (round gourd) Masala Fry

Ingredients (in the order that you will need them)

Oil                                                          3 tablespoons
Hing/asafoetida                                  a pinch
Cumin seeds                                         1 tsp.
Tinda / round gourd)                         250 gms peeled and quartered
Salt                                                        to taste
Turmeric                                               ½ tsp
Chili powder                                       1 tsp (it varies as per the kind you have)
Coriander powder                             1 tsp
Cumin powder                                    ½ tsp
Amchur (dry mango pwd.)               ½ tsp

Heat oil in a kadhai/wok, add  hing followed by cumin seeds. Now add the Tinda pieces and stir well. Add salt mix, cover and cook for about 2 minutes on high heat. Remove the cover, and add the spices in the order they are listed, stirring intermittently. Decrease the heat, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until tinda is cooked. Remove the cover and sprinkle a little bit of water to bring all the dry masalas together. (If you wish, you can add about ½ glass of water and bring it to a boil and you will have a raswali bhaji.) Garnish with chopped coriander

Beetroot Dal

The plan was to make Beetroot Dal and some Tinda Masala fry. But while I was half-way through making dinner, Hubby dear walked in with a guest in tow. Shoot!! Dal will suffice, but the Tinda wouldn’t plus you never know whether the guest would eat Tinda or not. So, decided to make Stir-Fried Cabbage (Indian version :D).  Added a side of Koshimbir and chaas (buttermilk) and we were good to go.

Tur dal                          150 gms
Beetroot                        1 peeled and grated or chopped finely
Onion                            1 small, chopped finely
Green Chili                    3-4 (depending on how spicy you want it)
For Tadka/tempering (in the order you will need)
Oil                                2 tablespoons
Hing/asafetida               a pinch or two
Whole Red Chili             1
Mustard seeds               1 tsp.
Cumin seeds                 1 tsp.
Garlic                            4 cloves (grated or roughly chopped)
Curry leaves                  5-6

Now there are 2 ways to make this recipe

1.      I usually cook about 200-250 gms of tur dal at one go and then keep it in the refrigerator using it over a period of about a week. This is because I tend to use more tur dal then any other kind and it saves me time as well as gas (?). Therefore, since I had precooked Tur dal in the fridge, I used my shortcut cooking J. Into a microwave safe bowl went the grated beet, chopped onion and green chili. A teaspoon of oil and about 50ml of water. Covered and cooked in the microwave for 5 minutes on medium heat. If you are making a larger quantity, please remember to adjust everything accordingly, because otherwise the beets will come out dry and tasteless from the microwave and ruin the dish for you. Stir in the dal along with the beet and adjust the salt and water to get it to the consistency you like. Zap it on high for a minute or so to get it all heated together. And then temper.

2.       If you do not have precooked dal or prefer to do it from scratch, then, add all the main ingredients together in a vessel and place in a pressure cooker and cook on high until the first whistle. Decrease the heat to sim and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Open the pressure cooker once the steam is released and stir properly to ensure that everything is blended well. Adjust salt and water and bring to consistency you like and temper.


Heat oil in a small pan and add the ingredients one at a time in the sequence that they have been listed. Pour over the dal and beetroot mix. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Capsicum Pulao/rice

I had leftover rice in the fridge and lunch is usually a one-dish meal so I wanted to make a quick rice dish. I remembered eating this at my friend Lata’s place and decided to make it. It’s simple, pretty quick to make and light on the stomach…

Main Ingredients
Capsicum              1 medium sized, chopped finely
Cooked rice          2 cups (approx.)

Spices (in the order you will need them)
Cumin (Jeera)
Curry leaves
Green Chillies

Dry Roast and coarsely grind together
Chana dal                             1 tablespoon (dry roasted)
Coriander seeds                  1 tablespoon
Dry red chillies                     2
Asafoetida (hing)                 a pinch

Heat a wok/kadhai, add 2-3 tablespoons of oil/ghee. Add cumin seeds, curry leaves and chopped green chilies in that order. Now add the chopped capsicum and stir. Add some turmeric and salt and stir on high heat. Cover and cook on high heat for a couple of minutes. Now stir in the cooked rice carefully. If you are using leftover rice, its best that you separate the grains a bit before adding it to the kadhai. (tip – apply a little ghee/oil to your hand before you try to separate the rice grains. That way you will not mash up the rice and also prevent it from sticking to your hand and becoming messy). Once you have mixed the rice well with the capsicum, add the ground powder and mix well. Adjust the salt to taste and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. 

A quick word ...

Before I go any further, let me make something very clear.... I am not a gourmet cook and DO NOT aspire to be one. I grew up completely clueless about what happened in the kitchen until I was in my 20's and was not in the least bit interested. My mother was a smart woman and so, while all my friends' moms were giving them a hard time forcing them to spend hours in the kitchen learning how to cook, she was cool and said "when the time comes you will learn… its not a big deal." As the years went by and she continued to be pretty unconcerned, I began to grow apprehensive..So, when I got married some 20 odd years ago, I literally needed instructions to cook rice :D. But imagine my surprise when I actually began to cook and realized that it truly is not a big deal!!!
So, for starters, let’s understand the basic funda here... I do not believe in slogging for hours in the kitchen... see no point in doing something from scratch if you can get it ready-made... and I do not get into fancy presentation either. Shortcuts and using what you got available is my forte… and I can promise you will have a tasty dish each time on your table!!
What I am going to do on this blog is to create a recipe diary... I will put up the recipe/s of what I cook each day (I will try to put in some pictures too... but may not be able to do so all the time).