Aviyal ( mixed vegetable stew in yoghurt ) – Comfort food – Soul speak and more !

Ever wondered how you reach for the thing that speaks to that one spot in your heart or soul or more logically to the EQ of your brain ? Be it a bowl of ice cream or rasam, a favorite movie, a dog eared book, your favorite spot in the house overlooking the garden,  you reach for that one cozy comfort place when your emotions hit a low- be it the weather gods playing snarly, or your mood gods deciding “blue” was your mood hue for the day.

In any case you tend to gravitate towards the one  that fills your belly and soul and sort of reminds you of the comfort of your mom’s wisdom. Today was one such day! Cannot really put your finger on it, but it was  a blah day sort of..I just wanted to cozy up and snuggle in the warmth of the comforters and watch a movie or drink a cup of chai or read  a book or anything but get up drive and work or .. you get the picture. Passive aggression intentions apart, since none of it could actually materialize, even the spaghetti western I started with did not run through the session, and dinner was on the cards, I fell back to the one pot meal trick, and an eternal favorite in our house when we were grew up!

Here’s to soul food, mom’s wisdom and warm hugs 🙂

Comforting stew of vegetables in yoghurt base aka “Aviyal”

  • 3 cups of mixed vegetables in total , cut 1- 1.5 inch lengthwise and boiled/ tender cooked with salt and turmeric –
  • Melange of winter melon, yellow squash, cluster beans, string beans, french beans, raw banana, carrot, yams, drumsticks,chayote squash, tindora etc. ( I normally do not use okra, brinjals, onions in these. These also do not need tomatoes, onions or garlic, Satvic , I say  !)
  • Add these vegetables to boiling water with a pitch of salt and turmeric and cook till tender. The other option is for to   pressure cook these . Just take care that vegetables do not turn mushy.
  • Once cooked , strain the excess water ( using minimal water while cooking will prevent loss of nutrients ) and let the vegetables cool down a bit.

To grind:

  • 6-8 green chillies
  • 2 inches of peeled ,chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 tsp of jeera
  • 2 tbsp of fresh grated coconut or shredded frozen coconut
  • 12 almonds  ( In traditional cooking we do not use almonds. My family does not take too kindly to a lot of coconut hence the substitution 🙂 )
  • Grind all of these to a nice thick paste with little water to ensure a nice smooth consistency.
  • 3 -4 cups of thick fresh yogurt or curd is whipped into this ground mixture.

Final stage prep:

  • In a bit saucepan or cooking pot, on low heat ( Important : please keep it on low heat . High heat will split the yoghurt and remember you do not have any besan or ground channa dal to prevent it!) add the  fresh yoghurt – ground chili coconut mix to the boiled vegetables.
  • Stir in gently and season salt to taste.
  • I generally let this stew  for another 5 –  7 min just to ensure the spices and yogurt mix is nicely coated and then turn the heat off.
  • To add in a touch of authenticity , a dash of pure 100% edible coconut oil could be added.  This stage is completely optional.
  • There are a plethora of variations to this stew. Few people believe in adding curry leaves sautéed in coconut oil. Some add in a dash of tamarind to the ground masala mix to add in the tanginess. I prefer the natural tanginess of fresh yoghurt and personally do not subscribe to the sour version of it.

In any case, you cannot go wrong in any version..Make a big bowl,  and indulge with a side of Paapad and hot steaming rice ! I did and did not regret it a bit..

Veg Malai Kofta ( with Gulab Jamun mix ) – Creative conclusions of a bare pantry

Alright.. Snowed in. No fresh veggies and in absolute cranky , cabin fever mood. I mean really  I love the snow  as long as I can see it not live with it, and for me to be iced in with snow , sleet and rain is like a big Oh No! . With due apologies to folks in the NJ, NY, Chicago and Dc area etc. You see in Cary, NC, a couple of inches of snow and ice is a big thing! We don’t usually get it and when we do, we love it. But this time twice in 3 week span was a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong the first time was amazing  and we sooooo loved it. Second time ,with schools out again for another 3 days, we were so ready to be done with it.

So while the landscape resembled a Yash Chopra film, pretty snow covered grounds, a white blanket of romance awaiting those who are willing to indulge in it I suppose –  Snowman and strong forts assembled, snow angels made, snowball fights and hot cocoa.. Eventually the younglings tend to wander in from the damp cold into the warmth of the house. Their utter fascination with snow exhausted for the day and hopeful of renewing it  the next day ( unlike their mom’s – it usually lasts an hour or two with me ). But then you do need to feed the bellies.. And you want something , hot, nice, with a bit of spice ( blame it on the genes ), maybe even indulging in some deep fried stuff. And something different. And something special!

A1,2,3 all love this fare and A3 my youngest claims “kofta” is his favorite vegetable. In all honesty, necessity is the mother of invention.

Inspiration : Contents of the pantry and the fridge .

Scavenging results yield: 4 onions + 2 tomatoes + ginger + 2 potatos + few sprigs of cilantro +1 can of diced tomatoes + handful of spinach leaves + a few green chillies

And drum roll please… ” star of the show “ :  A neglected packet of MTR Gulab Jamun mix expiring in 3 months time or so.

Thinking hat on :

Gulab Jamun mix is obviously a mix of milk powder and all purpose flour with a pinch of soda bi-carb to it. It has a mild taste to it , which gets deviously delicious after soaking in flavored sugar syrup..( I mean a wallflower all dressed up, and the makeover lands her the prom queen title  kind of analogy ).

In any case, these became the faux malai koftas  of my creation.

FAQ : Prep time : 45 – 60 min ( including frying the kofta balls )  Yield : 24-36 Kofta balls  Consumption time : Instant

A. Dry Spice grind : Initial Grind

Roast all these in about a 1 tsp of oil and set it aside to cool and pulverize later on. Don’t be daunted by the ingredient list or by the exact measurements. Use your own substitutions if required.

  1. Poppy seeds : 1 tsp
  2. Elaichi or green cardamom : 4-6 . I used it in their skins
  3. Cashews – whole or broken – about 12
  4. Almonds with skin – 6-8
  5. cloves – 2
  6. cinnamon stick – 1”
  7. fennel seeds or sauf – 1/2 tsp
  8. Jeera – 1/2 tsp

Roast and grind these well into a coarse powder initially and then add a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste of sorts in the blender.

B. The gravy aka the base :

Saute all these in  the sequential order of listing here in about 1-2 tbsp of oil and wait for it to cool down before blending to a thick , smooth chutney like consistency.

  1. finely chopped ginger – 1 inch
  2. optional : 2 cloves of garlic
  3. Onions  : 3 ( chopping these finely will make them sautéed faster )
  4. Then add in the diced tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes
  5. Sautee well till you see reduction in the mass 🙂
  6. Let it cool before you blend it into a smooth paste. No need to add water.

C. Making the Kofta balls

  1. Boil the potatoes and mash it well.
  2. To this add finely diced 2 green chillies. Remember , the spice is to tickle the palate .. not kill it.
  3. Add in 1 small onion , finely chopped as well
  4. Add in 1 inch of finely grated ginger
  5. Add 1/2 tsp of crushed kasuri methi
  6. Add in a handful of finely chopped spinach leaves
  7. Add in a few spits of finely chopped cilantro as well.
  8. Add in some salt, say about 1/2 – 3/4 tsp of it.
  9. Optional : you can add more spices or masalas to this mix at this point if you feel like it
  10. Add in the gulab jamun mix in stages to bind this . If required add in a few tablespoons of water to bind it well .
  11. Your dough should resemble a big golf ball or a couple of big golf balls depending on the base mix. See that’s the best part, this recipe is entirely scalable to your needs 🙂
  12. Make small lemon sized  ball out of this.  Remember these swell up in the gravy base, so don’t make it too big !
  13. To fry – Fry these in medium to high heat alternate settings in a flavorless vegetable oil.  You need to maintain the temp of the oil using the alternate settings  so you cook it thoroughly . You don’t want burnt kofta balls or a half cooked mess on your hands !

Final prep stages :

  • In a large non stick wide mouth saucepan or kadai , add one tsp of oil. Add in some cumin seeds and on sputtering, add in a tsp of crushed kasuri methi.
  • Add in the purred tomato onion base and the ground masala paste with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Let this boil for a min or two. Check for the salt and pieces and thickness of the gravy, You do not want it too thick or a runny base either. Most likely  you will need to add in 1/2 tsp of chili powder if you need to up the spice ante and some salt to taste. You will also notice a possible oil separation on the top layer. Turn off the stove or maintain it in low heat, until ready to serve.

 To serve: Kofta buildup

Do this just before serving dinner. Nope you cannot do it ahead of time. And if  you do it ahead of time, the kofta balls will get too mushy and soggy.

Place the required number of warm koftas in a serving bowl and add the hot gravy to it. That’s it.

No need to mix or swirl or anything else. A swirl of fresh cream can do wonders and turn this faux dish to near authentic. But honestly, drenching the balls with the gravy and garnishing it with cilantro is just good enough.

Serve it with hot phulkas and a cup of steaming basmati rice !

Lip smacking!!

 

 

Barley dosa(i) and Pearl onion Sambar – Snowed in days and .. cabin fever results!

What do you do when get snowed in for like say 3 days ?

DH half stuck on the other side of the country ( might as well be the other end of the world.. cancelled flights and ice st(r)uck travelers..yikes ).. Anyways to beat the cabin fever blues and to make sure we do have something on hand to fuel the stomachs ( you know just in case, electricity plays truant ), yours truly decided to have a few basics or staples made . It was when I was foraging in the pantry , I noticed a neatly labeled container if whole barley  grains ( yes, yes, I have heard all bout my labeling obsession. You know I have been ragged on it incessantly , when you have  two cousin sisters who make you the butt of their jokes, you have heard it all.… I rest my case ).

I know Barley is pretty good as a diuretic and has a whole lot of other health benefits to it. But I had not really experimented with it much. When in doubt, dosa(i)s are a better bet than idles. No seriously, MTR has this multi grain instant dosa variation available at any Indian store . I mean how tough can it be right to make an alternative version at home.

Generally sticking to the proportions I normally use for dosa , I attempted the same here.

Basic FAQ :

Soaking time : 8 hrs or so.

Grinding and prep time : 30 min .

Fermentation time – based on climatic conditions. Seriously ,be nice to weather god, or fake it in the oven.

Cooking time : pretty quick …Devouring time : Instant

Requirements :

  • 2.5 cups of whole grain barley ( note, I used the grain.  Not the broken version or the flour )
  • 1 cup of Brown Basmati rice
  • 1 cup washed whole or split urad dal
  • 1/2 tsp of Methi seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of Toor dal

 Soaking Preparation:

  1. Wash the Barely grains well  to remove any gunk and soak it in copious amounts of water.
  2. Wash and soak the brown basmati rice as well in a separate container. Again make sure you have enough water covering the grains as you need them absorb it as much as you can.
  3. In a third container wash and soak the urad dal, methi seeds and toor dal together.

Grinding process:

  1. Grind the dals first to yield a smooth and fluffy batter. Remove it in a fairly large container in anticipation for enough room for fermentation volume increase.
  2. Next grind in the rice and the soaked barley . This grind would be quite smooth and you do have to take the time to grind it well. You will notice a good volume and  might even feel the batter to be very very smooth.
  3. The next stage is to mix in both the batters thoroughly . If you are not squeamish, your clean hand will do. If not use a ladle to mix it and salt it and set it aside in a warm dry place.

Fermentation and volume increase:

  1. After about 14-16 hrs you should notice the fermentation process has done its job ! The batter takes on a slightly frothy appearance at least on the surface and volume has increased.
  2. Now mix in the batter once again thoroughly and start making dosa(i)s…

Making the Dosa(i)

  1. In a pre heated flat non stick griddle (  cast iron works great too), drop a ladleful of the batter and swiftly swirl it to make concentric circles . The outcome resembles a crepe.
  2. Do the the edges with a bit of oil.
  3. After a min or 2 , when you notice browning on the underneath and color changes, flipt it tot he other side to finish the cooking

Serving

Serve them with idli chutney podi, any of the chutneys you normally make  or as in my case with a bowl of steaming sambar. ( recipe for sambar coming up soon)