Thursday, July 30, 2009
So what exactly is this 'comfort food'? And why, after tucking into some 'comfort food' do we feel so good - a feeling that even the best of gourmet food can't bring?
Comfort food, it seems, alleviates stress, fatigue, depression, the general feeling of 'blues' - in other words, all negative states by minds by triggering certain chemicals in the brain that ultimately lead to the 'feel good' state of mind.
So what is my comfort food? Well, different things at different times - sometimes I crave chicken soup, at other times, nothing else but khichdi kadhi will do; sometimes, I yearn for some cheese and there are times when only dark chocolate is what I am after.
But my ultimate comfort food is Tomato Saar. Piping hot tomato saar, poured into a bowl, my hands cupping the hot bowl and the warmth seems to course through my hands all through my body. I could ask for nothing more, it satiates me so completely and yet leaves me craving for more!!
Tell me, what is your comfort food?
Tomatoes - 1/2 kilo
Onion - 1, chopped
Ginger - 1 tbsp, grated
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Cloves - 5
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Crushed peppercorn - 1 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
curry leaves - 8-10
Coriander leaves - 1 tsp finely chopped + some more for garnishing
Coconut milk - 75 ml
Salt and sugar - to taste
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)
Cut the tomatoes into half and scoop out the seeds. Then, boil them in a pan of water (the water should just about cover the tomatoes) with a tsp. of sugar till they are soft. Peel off the skins and puree the tomatoes in a blender.
Heat oil, add the cinnamon and the cloves, followed by the onions. Saute till the onions take on a slight pink hue.
Then, add the grated ginger and the cumin seeds and stir for half a minute.
Slowly, add the tomatoe puree to the pan (make sure that you lower the flame to the lowest, else the puree will splutter) and add the crushed peppercorn, red chilli powder, salt, sugar and the curry leaves and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Now add the coconut milk (this gives the saar a lovely salmon colour) and bring to a boil - I use packaged coconut milk, if you use home-made coconut milk, then you might need to increase the quantity.
Add in the chopped corainder and the ghee.
(the ghee is optional, but there is no denying the lovely taste it gives the saar)
I serve this with piping hot rice and some veggies such as French beans or tindli or snake gourd . But most of the times, I like to sip it just like that. Tangy, sweet and spicy, all at once, all in one sip, it is an awesome explosion of flavours.
This, alongwith Fettucine with Prawns in Creamy Coconut Sauce is my entry to Let's Go Nuts: Coconuts being hosted by PJ this month.
Monday, July 27, 2009
There are books where, as you turn the pages, you form a mental picture of the characters in the story; every page you read adds to that picture.
And then, there are books where the protagonists and the situations seem so real that you don't need to form any mental picture - right from the first page of the book, you feel as if you know them or that you've met them before.
The Space between Us by Thrity Umrigar falls in the second category. The novel revolves around the two main characters in the story, Sera Dubash and her domestic help, Bhima who has worked in the Dubash household for more than 20 years. And over the passage of so many years, the two women have been witness to each other's travails and triumphs in life's ups and downs.
The novel opens to a time where Sera is a widowed upper middle class Parsi woman living with her pregnant daughter and son - in - law. Even as Sera leads now leads a contented life, the memories of emotional and domestic abuse at the hands of her mother-in-law and husband occasionally cloud her happiness.
Bhima, on the other hand, lives in a slum with her orphaned grand-daughter Maya. She is a precocious girl and Bhima's hopes for a better future out of the slums are all pinned on Maya's education which Sera has financed.
However, Maya gets pregnant out of a wedlock and to make matters worse, refuses to divulge the name of the father. Bhima has faced many a difficult situations in her life, but has always managed to overcome those situations in her fight for survival.
How will she fight this crushing blow? And what role will Sera, who has never hesitated in coming to Bhima's help, play?
Admittedly, it is a plot that, at times, sounds very predictable. However, Thrity Umrigar is a very engaging story teller. The plot flits effortlessly between the present lives of Sera and Bhima and their reminisces of the days gone by. It is this narrative and the finely crafted characters and the nuances of their very complex relationship that made The Space Between Us a very compelling read for me.
Let's come to food part, shall we? So, we have Sera shedding tears over onions that she has to chop for making omelets, Bhima tucking into batata wadas at the market, Sera and Bhima's families accidentally meeting at Chowpaty where they've gone for having some bhelpuri, a very cholesterol laden meal at a bethrotal etc.
But, that was not enough for me.....problem was, I had already blogged about bhelpuri and batata wada. No, actually the problem was that I had already decided that I was going to make Dhansak before I had even read the book. After all, the book had Parsi characters in it, there just had to be Dhansak!
But all I got was this:
"Threw it with such force, Sera, it bounced off the table and into Feroz's dhansak".
That would do for me!!
Lentils - 3/4 cup (I use 1/4 cup each of Tur, Masoor and Moong)
Pumpkin/Squash - 1 1/2 cups
Eggplant - 1 cup
Fresh methi leaves - 1 1/4 cup, loosely packed
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Hing - a pinch
Onion - 1 cup, sliced
Tomato - 1 1/2 cup, chopped
Ginger and Garlic paste - 2 tsps each
Dhansak Masala - 2-3 tbsps
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Coriander seed powder - 3/4 tsp
Curry leaves - 12-15 (mine were very small)
Tamarind juice - as per the tartness you desire; I used 1/4 cup of very dilute tamarind juice
Amchur powder - 1/4 tsp
Ghee - 2 tbsps (don't substitute with oil/butter, ghee gives it an amazing flavour)
chicken/mutton - 250 gms
potatoes - 1/2 cup
(this makes enough for about 4-6 people, so adjust your quantities accordingly)
Pressure cook the lentils and the vegetables with tumeric and hing. Once cooked, you may puree this in a blender - I don't. Firstly, I like my dhansak chunky. Moreover, as you stir and cook the dhansak, the vegetables do tend to get mashed.
(If using chicken/mutton, marinate it with some ginger - garlic paste and red chilli powder. Pressure cook alongwith the lentils. Set aside if pureeing the dals, then add the meat back.
And though I love my meats, believe me vegetarian dhansak tastes as good as the non -veg version. In fact, I don't add any meat any more to my dhansak).
Heat ghee and stir fry the ginger garlic paste till fragrant. Add the sliced onions and fry for a further 3-4 mins.
Next, add in the tomatoes and saute till soft and mushy, mashing the tomatoes with the back of the spoon as you stir.
Add in all the dry masalas and the curry leaves, followed by the pressure cooked lentils and the tamarind juice.
Simmer for about 15 mins.
Easy isn't it?!!
Serve it with rotis or pulao; I served it with this Berry Pulao.
Oh and here's what the other members of the book club made:
Dee made the very Parsi Akuri , Curry Leaf made Akuri with Tofu and Simran headed to Chowpatty to enjoy a plate of Bhelpuri!!
Next month, we are reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Join us, won't you?? To join the book club, just drop a line to Simran, her e-mail is: bombayfoodie(at)gmail(dot)com
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"Hey, stop disturbing us. And instead of complaining, maybe you should study a little harder", he said.
The rebuke stung, fingers crossed and with fierce determination, she went back to her test - she would get a good score....and impress him. She had recently joined this study group and primarily because he was in this group - somehow, she had to get him to notice her and a good score would do that.
"Hmmm, divine intervention....why don't you go to the balcony and wish upon a shooting star for a good score? Did you know it's supposed to rain shooting stars this week? " someone else said.
Soon, a plan took form. Test abandoned, they decided to drive to the outskirts of the city to watch the shooting stars. "Lets pack in some grub and have an impromptu picnic!"
He almost didn't join them as his the test was going rather well that night, after a long time. Ever since she had joined the group, he had been distracted. But then, he suddenly realised that she didn't have her two wheeler today - this would give him a legitimate excuse to ask her to ride with him without making him look , well, desperate.
Half an hour later, armed with somes pizzas and sandwiches, they were at the outskirts of the city.
The night was still and the sky was clear. The insects crittered loudly and the mosquitoes formed a huge tower over their heads and buzzed noisily. The pizzas and sandwiches was polished off quickly and still, there was no sign of the shooting stars.
They were about to give up when someone shouted, "Look there's one". Soon, cries of "look" and "missed it" and "one more" pierced through the silent night.
"Saw any stars? Made a wish?" she asked him as they were leaving.
But he hadn't seen any shooting stars...how could he, when he was looking at her all the time. I can't go on like this, he thought. Let me just tell her and get it over with. "My wish is you," he said quitely, looking squarely into her eyes.
She wasn't the coy sorts who would lower her eyes and blush. Her face broke into a wide grin, "I never imagined that wishes made on shooting stars came true...that soon"!
(not based on true incidents and people!!)
Cheese Capsicum Onion Pizza
(for the pizza base - adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess)
makes enough for 2 eight inch pizzas
Bread flour - 1 1/3 cup
Instant dry yeast - 1 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 1 heaped tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Chilli flakes and dried basil - 1/4 tsp each
Warm water - 1/2 cup + 2tbsps
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Dissolve the yeast in 2 tbsp of water with the sugar, set aside for about 10 mins or until frothy.
Add the yeast mixture, the remaining water and the olive oil to the remaining ingredients and knead to form a dough.
Transfer to a well floured work surface or kitchen counter top and knead for a further 5-7 minutes.
Let the dough rest in a well oiled bowl for about an hour or until doubled in volume.
After the rising time has elapsed, knock the air out of the dough by punching it down and then knead it for a minute.
Divide the dough into as many pizzas you want to make and roll each ball to a disc.
Now, this recipe makes 2 eigh inch thick crust pizzas, I used the base of my spring form pan which is 9.5" in diameter. So I rolled the disc to about 9 inches in diameter. And I had enough dough left to make another six inch pizza.
(for the sauce)
Tomatoes - 2 large
Garlic - 1 large clove
Onion - 1 small
Seasonings : Chilli flakes, basil leaves, salt, sugar - to taste
Blanch the tomatoes and peel the skin. Cut into half, scoop out the seeds and chop it up.
Heat oil, saute the garlic and onions for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook till soft. Let it cool and then puree in the mixie.
Return to the pan, add the seasonings and simmer till the sauce thickens.
Once you've rolled the pizza onto the pan, let it rest for about 10 minutes. This allows the dough to rise again making the pizza light and fluffy.
Pre- heat the oven to 250 deg C.
Spread the sauce on the base, top with sliced onion and sliced green bell pepper.
Bake for about 20 minutes, then top with lots of cheddar cheese and bake for a further 7-10 minutes (I put the in cheese too soon, so it browned a bit at the top).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It all started with a simple phone call to my closest friend in Singapore. I was just back from India and had a bunch of goodies for her. After the usual pleasantries, we decided we should meet for lunch.
"Aqua, I really am craving baingan ka bharta, but I just can't stomach the smell of the roasting eggplant. instead of going out for lunch, would you mind making me some bharta?"
Now, you don't ever deny a pregnant friend her food cravings, do you? So, baingan bharta it was.
The next day, however, she called... her cousin and his wife were on a stopover in Singapore, there was some mix up with the dates and they had landed up early that morning.
"I'll take a rain check on the lunch," she said.
After an hour, another call. It's a small world and six degrees of separations and all that - it turned out that the cousin's wife and I lived in the same building many moons ago. We just had to meet....lunch was on after all.
"Aqua, I don't want you to sweat over the cooking, I'll get something along, you please make the baingan ka bharta. I am really craving it".
Baingan ka bharta - for 4 people with from 1 eggplant that barely weighed 500 gms! How does one stretch 1 eggplant to make enough bharta for 4 people?
Trooping off to the market to buy another eggplant was certainly not the option, I was feeling way too lazy for that.
Fortunately, I remembered reading somewhere in some magazine that grated cabbage can be added to a bharta, and decided to give that a try.
It worked...nobody could tell that there was something other than baingan in the bharta and the bharta nicely served 4 people.
Though the use of cabbage is just optional, I now use it regularly in my bharta.
Eggplant - 1 large
Cabbage - 1/2 cup, grated (Optional)
Green peas - 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 2 medium sized
Tomatoes - 2 medium sized
Ginger - 11/2 tsp, grated
Garlic - 1 tsp, grated
Green chilli - 1 tsp, chopped
Hing - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
cumin powder - 3/4 tsp
coriander powder - 1 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
salt to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Coriander leaves - 1 tsp, chopped
Spring onion - 3 tbsps, chopped
Smear some oil over the eggplant and roast it over an open flame. Keep turning it often and cook till the skin gets charred. Let it cool for a few minutes, then put the eggplant in a ziploc bag and leave it in for about 15 mins. This makes it easier to peel the charred skin.
Peel the skin from eggplant and discard the seeds, if any. With the back of a spoon, mash the eggplant.
Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When the crackle, add the hing followed by the ginger garlic paste and fry till fragrant. Then add the onions and fry till pink.
Next add the tomatoes and green chillies. When the tomatoes turn soft, add all the dry masalas and salt.
Now add the roasted eggplant and stir and mash and stir and mash till the eggplant gets nicely mixed into the masala. Add the grated cabbage and the green peas and cook the bharta, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins till the bharta turns a rich brown color.
Squeeze the juice of half a lemon, a tsp of sugar and the coriander leaves and mix it in well.
Finally, add the chopped spring onions, turn off the gas and cover. The addition of spring onions adds a really lovely twist to the baingan bharta. Try it, I am sure you will enjoy it!
Monday, July 13, 2009
If you, like me, still have room for some more mango, here's something you must try.
Called simply Chilled Mango Juice with Sago and Pomelo, this is an extremely popular Chinese dessert. I was so blown away the first time I had it at a local restaurant here - a little like mango milkshake but with a slight tart and pleasantly bitter taste from the pomelo - that I couldn't wait to make it at home. And eversince I've made this many many times!
The best part about this? Cool and sweet, this fulfils my sweet cravings at the end of a meal without the use of too much sugar.
Mangoes - 2 (don't use alphonso you need mangoes that have a slightly tart taste; I used Baganpalli)
Sago - 3 tbsps
Low Fat Milk - 1/2 cup
Pomelo - 1 (you can replace this with any citrus fruit if you don't get pomelo)
Sugar - 2 tsps
Soak the sago in 1/2 cup of water for about 4-6 hrs at the end of which drain and set aside.
Boil 1.5 cups of water and add to the boiling water. Cook for about 10 mins by which time the sago will turn translucent. Turn off the heat, cover and leave for about 10 mins, then drain the sago and let cool.
Peel and chop the mangoes, grind it to a pulp with remaining cup of milk .
Finally, just assemble everything - the mango pulp, pomelo juice, sago and the pomelo bits - together in a jar, stir, add some ice cubes and serve!!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Party time! Presenting the round-up for RCI: Mumbai Street Food. Take a look at these delicious entries and I can assure you, no matter which part of the world you are in, the magic of Mumbai's street food will come alive in your kitchens!!
Pav Bhaji rocks!! I have never met anyone who doesn't like pav bhaji. What is amazing is every version is unique in its own way! Check out the delicious pav bhaji from:
Avisha of Simply Sindhi Recipes .
Shanthi of Shanthi Krishnakumar's Cookbook.
Simran of Bombay Foodie.
Preeti of Khaugiri.
Sana of Prasu Kitchen.
Aloo Tikki Chaat from Dolon of Doloncookbook.
Spicy Aloo Chaat from Chaitra of Aathidhyam.
Dahi Vada from Muskaan of A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine.
Sev Puri from Poornima of Tasty Treats.
Papdi Chaat from Deepti of Dipskitchen.
Pani puri from Chaitra of Aathidhyam.
Bhel Puri from Priya of Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes.
Spicy Daal Chaat from Meera of Enjoy Indian Food.
Vada Pav from Sujata of Mere Chulhe Se.
Vada Pav from Rekha of Plaintain Leaf.
Batata Vada was my entry for the event.
Street Sandwich from Meera of Enjoy Indian Food.
Vegetable Sandwich in Mumbai Style from Pratibha of The Chef and Her Kitchen.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Roger Federer regained his Wimbledon crown and won 15 Grand Slam titles. Apparently, it was a thrilling match. I say 'apparently' because it was a match I didn't watch. You see after Federer lost the first set and was down 2-6 in the second set tie breaker, I didn't have the stomach to watch anymore, certain as I was that he was going to lose in straight sets!
Around 4 in the morning, I tiptoed into the living room and switched on the TV, expecting to hear my belief confirmed - imagine how thrilled I was to find just the opposite!
Fitting therefore that I serve some Strawberries and Cream today(my version is without cream though), in true Wimbledon tradition!
It is said that every year almost - hold your breath - 27,000 kilos of strawberries and 7000 litres of cream are consumed during the Championship fortnight (source - BBC: BluePeter sports section and http://www.wimbledonvisitor.com/)
There was a time when we would happily tuck in strawberries and mangoes with cream, but these days, I try making my desserts as healthy as they possibly can get and so I've been using hung yogurt in place of cream - and we absolutely don't feel the difference, neither in terms of the texture or the taste.
Strawberries and (not) Cream
Strawberries - 20, cut into half
Yoghurt - 500 ml, hung for about 6-8 hrs
Icing Sugar - 3 tbsps (more or less depending on how sour the yogurt is)
Caster Sugar - 2 tsps
Vanilla essence - 1/4 tsp
Macerate the strawberries in the caster sugar for about 15 mins.
Whip the hung yogurt, the icing sugar and the vanilla essence for about 5-10 mins until light and fluffy.
Place a spoonful of the strawberries in a bowl and pipe the whipped yogurt on top, layer with another spoon of the strawberries and finish off with the whipped yoghurt. Drizzle some of the strawberry juice on top.
Delicious, light and healthy! Go ahead, indulge!!
This is also my entry to ClickJuly 2009: Bi-Color hosted by Jugalbandi.
Friday, July 3, 2009
You see, for the longest of time, I was absolutely intimidated of making bread. However, as I blog hopped and saw so many of you making delicious bread at home and also reassuraning that bread making ony sounds difficult, it was only a matter of time before I started making bread at home.
It wasn't all smooth sailing, to be honest. My first few loaves were edible, but they lacked the texture. I almost gave up, but TH kept encouraging me to keep at it...and now here I am, confident enough in bread making to blog about it!
Self raising flour - 1 cup
Bread flour - 1 cup + some more for flouring the work surface and kneading
Salt - 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Butter - 1 tbsp
Lukewarm water - 1 1/3 cup + 6 tbsps
Instant dry baker's yeast - 1 package/11 gms
2. Mix all the flours and the salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Stir the yeast mixture once and pour that in. Add in 1 cup of water and stir till all the water has been almost absorbed. Add in the remaining water (or more) in small increments, as required. At this stage, the dough will be more of a shaggy mess (sorry, no picture of that stage as I was busy kneading!!).
first, press down the dough with your knuckles to stretch it a little. Take the far end of the dough and fold it towards you. Then, pressing the heel of your palm, push the dough away from you. Fold it toward you again. Sprinkle a little flour as you knead should you feel the need.
3. Oil a large bowl and place the dough into it, turning once so that it is completely coated with the oil. Cover and let it rest for at least two hours or till the dough doubes in size.
4. Now the fun part....beat the dough - punch it hard until it deflates and then knead it for a couple of minutes.
Place the dough in a warm loaf pan (I rinse my pan under hot water, quickly dry it and then oil it before placing the dough in it), cover and leave it till it doubles in size. This normaly takes me about 45 mins.
There...enjoy the aroma of freshly baked bread...there's nothing quite like it!!
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!