Baby Corn Masala (Gravy style)

It was supposed to be a small remodeling of the kitchen but it put mine out of commission for nearly a couple of months. What’s that saying about humans making plans and the gods laughing on it?  

Sprinkle  in extra chaos of spring break – before , during and after, some 4 year old chores and AP exams and prep for A1 . Then add in some gymnastics meet schedules for A2 and spring soccer for A3 – complete with game schedules, make ups , thunderstorms and more( we won the last game – yay!), I just think we were lucky to just have plain simple fare to fill the bellies.

Add to it a missing contractor. Just when we thought we should put out an APB ( I did contemplate it for a whole min – I promise !) for this chap , he shows up . Yippee ! Now that work is almost done, I can get back  some of the sanity that was in short supply during these couple of months  !!! . And therefore on an impoverished day , canned baby corn come to the rescue. This was got in the hope that some day it would inspire me to make MSG – less version of it from a popular Indo- Chinese fusion restaurant that draws in hoardes near my place.

Baby Corn Masala (Gravy)

This is such a simple and delicious fare that you can add your own twist to it and it still works out handy. A friend of mine sampled it on the day it was made and had nothing but good things to say. Serve it with a wedge of lime, add a dash of cream to make it extra special. Serve it with basmati pilaf, hot phulkas, laccha parathas or fried rice. You just cannot go wrong with this.

Baby Corn Masala (Gravy)
Baby Corn Masala (Gravy)

Of course the main reason why this could be made in 15 -20 min or so is because we pan cook the tomatoes and onions before grinding them to a paste. And also we use readily available dry masala powder to shorten the process time.

Prep time : 5-8 min  Cook time : 8 -10 min Total time 15 -20 min

Ingredients :

  • Canned baby corn : 2
  • Onions : 2 ( diced)
  • Tomatoes : 2 ( diced)
  • Green bell pepper : 1 ( chopped into big pieces)
  • Cashew/ Almonds : 10 ( broken if possible)
  • Cumin seeds : 1 tsp
  • Crushed Kasuri Methi : 1 tbsp.
  • Chopped fresh Cilantro : 1/4 cup
  • Garam Masala : 1 tsp.
  • Kitchen king Masala : 1 tsp.
  • Kashmiri Mirch powder : 1 tsp.
  • Red chili powder ( spicy ) : 1/4 tsp. + adjusted to spice tolerance
  • Optional : 3 Tbsp. light cream, for serving
  • Flavorless oil : 2 Tbsp. + 1 Tbsp.
  • Salt : to taste
  • Water : 1/2 – 3/4 cup

Method :

  • Drain the baby corn of the liquid in the can , wash well with cold water , cut into smaller pieces about an inch long or so and keep it drained in a colander. The idea is to get rid of the brine as much as possible.
  • In a heavy sauce pan or wok, on dry heat roast the cashew or almonds until very warm or slight brown and set aside.
  • In the same wok add the 2 Tbsp. of oil and  fry the onions and then the tomatoes in sequential order for about 5 -6 min so you are left with a very thick stew. The purpose is two fold – one is to cook the onions and tomatoes so the raw edge of the veggies are wiped out and the second purpose is to hasten the cooking process of the gravy. Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. of oil in the wok and add in the cumin seeds and once it sputters add in the chopped bell peppers and sauté till it retains the texture but almost cooked. Say about 3 min or so.
  • Now add in the chopped baby corn and stir it in.
  • Add in the Garam Masala. Kitchen King masala and chili powders and a tsp. of salt and stir for about a min or so.
  • Grind the roasted cashews / almonds and then the sautéed onions and tomatoes with about 1/2 a cup of water till you get a thick gravy. It was about a min in my Vitamix.
  • Add this to the vegetables and let it boil for about 5 min or so. You will see the change in the color a tad bit . Taste for salt. Add in the crushed Kasuri  Methi , stir again.
  • You will have a very thick stew with slightly crunchy bell peppers and tender baby corn !
  • Serve hot garnished with fresh cilantro ! Add a dash of lime or drizzle in some heavy cream and your kids will lick their finger tips !!
Baby Corn Masala (Gravy)
Baby Corn Masala (Gravy) served hot with steaming peas pulav!

FAQ:

  • Can I use frozen baby corn? 

I wish I got those here  in these parts of the world. Definitely would be my preferred choice over canned ones. Follow the instructions on the pack for cooking directions or if there are none, I would thaw and then dunk in boiling water for about a min.

  • What if I do not have the Kitchen King Masala or Garam Masala on hand?

Simply adjust the quantity of one for the other  or use whole masala in their place. Of course it requires additional time of roasting and grinding.

  • Why do you need both the chili powders?

One is of low heat and gives a vibrant color and  the other adds the heat.

Spicy Potato / Urulaikizhangu Masala Podimas

Reminiscent of those Sunday meals where quick but delicious food was the norm and we had a gaggle of family and friends gathered around for one of those inimitable “quality times” at home. The aroma of fresh sambar and potato spicy podimas with a generous dose of onions and spiced just perfect with green chilies . Asafoetida wafting through the siren’s call of hot, steaming, fresh cooked food and aided by a perfect combination of melted ghee and vadams.

Spicy Potato / Urulaikizhangu Masala Podimas ( Spicy potato fry)

A typical south Indian brunch followed very shortly by filter kaapi – the mother of all Starbucks lattes and espresso, in my opinion. Those were the simpler times. Be it an impromptu weekend brunch or any of those big family gatherings, it was a given that house would be bursting at seams with folks.  There was always a smile for everyone and room for one more ..

yin and yang of seasoning
yin and yang of seasoning

This dish dates back to those days. Clean flavors with minimal cooking but bang on the target for taste. Fresh curry leaves were always used – just taken of the tree in the backyard. Cilantro? the kitchen garden had it. Want mint ? Running out of something? Just peek into your neighbors’ backyard and give a shout out. Have a huge lot of veggies you harvested? Neighbors took them and nothing goes waste. Community living at its finest, sometimes.

Spicy Potato / Urulaikizhangu Masala Podimas ( Spicy potato fry)

This was a favorite prep back home. Infact you can make a ton of it and use it  as a stuffing for masala dosa. Or be creative and stuff it into a bun or paratha, make a grilled sandwich. Possibilities ? Endless!

Prep time : 20 -30 min  Cook time : 15 min

This serves about 6-8 people and goes great with samabar or simple rasam  and rice.

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes : 8-10
  • Onions : 2 , medium-sized
  • Ginger : skinned, a big 1 inch piece
  • Curry leaves : 6-8
  • Asafoetida : 1 generous pinch
  • Turmeric powder : 1 tsp.
  • Salt : 1.5 tsp.
  • Green chilies : 6 ( I used very spicy ones )
  • Cilantro :  1/4 cup, chopped finely
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp.
  • Split, washed urad dal : 1 Tbsp.
  • Oil : 2 Tbsp.

Method:

  • Boil the potatoes ( or pressure cook them ) well, peel and mash them roughly ( retain small chunks, don’t make it a gooey mess) and set aside.
  • Chop ginger and chilies finely or coarsely as per preference and set aside.
  • Finely slice onions and set aside. I used 2 golf ball sized red onions. You can increase or decrease the quantity based on personal preference.
  • In a wide bottom  heavy skillet ( use a heavy cast iron or nonstick if available ) add the  oil and heat it. Add in the Asafoetida when the oil gets hot.  Now add in the tempering of mustard seeds ( which will splutter) and urad dal. Once the urad dal is light brown in color , add the curry leaves, chopped ginger and chilies. Sauté for about 30-45 seconds and then add the turmeric powder and  the sliced onions.
  • Sauté the onions till well brown.
  • Now add the mashed potatoes and salt and gently stir fry in the skillet until the spices are well coated and potatoes are evenly salted as well.
  • Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Spicy Potato / Urulaikizhangu Masala Podimas ( Spicy potato fry)

Chana Ghashi – Guest Post

Folks,  I would like to introduce a new series of guest bloggers who absolutely are fabulous at what they do and are a pleasure to interact with. Beginning with a bang is Sreelatha – the first in the firecracker series of new age food bloggers. She marries the traditional cuisine to new age approach and bring in a wealth of those treasured recipes.

Sree and I met while we interacted as a part of a food forum and a  group we were passionate about. The love of good food and her awesome photography skills prompted me to write a few lines to her. And thus began nearly a year of interactions when it struck me – Gasp ! I really should have her write a post for me. After months of messages, kiddie emergencies, summer, navarathri – we finally made it. Presenting to you Sreelatha Shenoy, awesome food blogger and photographer . While you are here, please do visit her blog for more of those framed recipes !

In her own words ….

“I am Sreelatha and I blog at Framed Recipes. I met Jay through a FB food group called Euphoric Delights. The love of food and blogging helped us keep in touch outside of the food group. I was immensely happy when jay asked me to guest author a post for her .Its been a while since I agreed andshe was very patient all this while. Thanks for your understanding Jay.I am happy to share a recipe that my grandmother used to make when I was a little kid. It is a Konkani dish called the Chana Ghashi. Chana is black garbanzo beans and this gravy dish, served with rice, uses soaked and cooked black garbanzo beans, simmered in tangy-spicy coconut gravy. Along with the garbanzo beans, we also add vegetables like Suran (yam) or Kadgi/Kathal (tender jack fruit. Back in India, tender jackfruit was seasonal, but here in the US, a visit to an East Asian store gives me tons of canned tender jack fruit. Of course,it is not the real deal, but simmering it coconut gravy does make it better. :). I like the soft and juicy tender jackfruit in chana ghashi. So, I use a whole can. If you want few pieces of jackfruit, you can definitely reduce this quantity and use according to your taste.I have served this aromatic dish with steamed basmati rice and some pan roasted butternut squash.”

Chana_Ghashi_DSC5516

 

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Chana/Black Garbanzo Beans; soaked overnight
  • 1 can Tender Jackfruit in water; washed and drained (See Recipe Notes)
  • 1 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 2-3 whole red chillies (adjust to your taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 4-5 Methi Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Tamarind Pulp (See Recipe Notes)
  • Few drops of oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Tadka/Tempering
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
  • 10-12 Curry Leaves

Method

  1. Pressure cook the soaked chana.
  2. Cut the tender jackfruit into bite sized pieces.
  3. Heat oil in a small pan and splutter the mustard seeds. When it starts spluttering, add the methi seeds and
  4. whole red chillies. Remove from when the methi seeds and red chillies change color and the mix becomes
  5. aromatic.
  6. Grind coconut with this mix along with tamarind pulp with a little water. 
  7. Add the tender jack fruit pieces and salt to the cooked chana and bring to a boil. 
  8. Add the ground coconut masala with the chana. Bring to boil. 
  9. Adjust the consistency, salt and other seasonings.
  10. Prepare the tempering – heat the oil in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds and when it splutters, add the curry
  11. leaves. Pour the seasoned oil along with the mustard seeds and curry leaves to the curry.
  12. Serve hot.

Chana_Ghashi_DSC5510

Recipe Notes

  • 1 can of tender jackfruit contains about 250g of jackfruit pieces. You can use fresh tender jackfruit instead of the canned ones. If using fresh, cook the jackfruit pieces separately before adding it to the chana.
  •  Instead of tamarind pulp, you use whole tamarind. For this recipe, use about a gooseberry sized tamarind and soak in some warm water to soften it up.

Ennai Kathirikai/ Stuffed Aubergine ( eggplant)/ Bharwan baingan

Ennai Kathirikai/ Stuffed Aubergine ( eggplant)/ Bharwan baingan

Joaquin, the category 4 hurricane mercifully spared the inner city areas of NC while it unleashed a torrential outpour in outer lying areas and SC and submerged quite a few as well . We, in the heart of the city were subjected to cold and drafty weather and incessant rain. The entire week was under its onslaught and to add to its mix a housebound active Labrador , what do you get?  You might just have some America’s Funniest Videos happening right here ( unintentional of course !)…

Maybe I should send in a couple so I can finally hit the jack pot . M alternated between hyper playing in the basement and moping at the front door. Add to drinking copious amounts of water, it was quite funny to watch this one who would not hesitate to roll in pack of slimy mud ( mud bath anyone? Au natural therapy for shiny skin)  to recoil on wet grass. Wet grass really ? Go figure!!

So with soccer games and classes cancelled ( Really the fields were marshes. I could imagine a LOTR scenario. Frodo….step back !)  and a conscious cancelling ( is that even a term ?) of Sunday classes for the rest, it was a day or rather morning of respite. M got to have her bath – A2 and A3  gave her one  and joined in the soapy shower  and I could hear them laughing away like loonies. Yours truly got a bit sappy and sort of Brady Brunch kind and made this for a Sunday afternoon lunch !

Tender Baby eggplants are stuffed with a special blend of spices, lentils and one secret ingredient ( ha ha ha). Trimmed and cut to be filled ( or rather stuffed) with this special dry mix powder/ stuffing , they are then gently slid on to a wide skillet with seasoning and covered and cooked with minimal oil. Yep! You heard me right , reduced quantity of oil and yet these baby beauties pack a punch when had – with a bowl of steaming hot rice and accompanying sambar or with hot phulkas and tadka moong dal.

Prep time : 20 min    Cooking time 15-25 min       Serves : 3-4

Ingredients:

Vegetable:

  • 12 baby purple eggplants

Seasoning:

  • 1.5 Tbsp. of  oil
  • 1/4 tsp. of mustard seeds
  • A generous pinch of Asafoetida
  • 4-5 fresh green curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp of split, washed, de husked Urad dal

Stuffing: to be roasted  and ground to yield coarse mix

  • Oil : 1 tsp.
  • Channa Dal : 1/4 cup
  • Coriander seeds / Dhania : 1/4 cup
  • Sesame seeds/ Til : 2 Tbsp.
  • Split urad dal : 2 Tbsp.
  • Dry red chilies : 8 ( adjust to spice level)
  • Bydagi or Kashmiri chili : 2 ( optional, yield rich red color without heat)
  • Dry tamarind : 1 inch piece
  • Peanuts w or w/o skin: 2 tsp.
  • 1 tsp. of salt. – to be added to the final mix

1

Method:

Preparing the Stuffing mix:

  • In a wide bottomed , thick non stick or cast iron skillet heat a tsp of oil and roast/fry the dry red chilies initially. Drain and set aside. In the seasoned skillet with remnants of oil add in the peanuts and tamarind piece, roast well and set aside.
  • Now sequentially roast the ingredients listed. You do not want these to be roasted all together as the sesame seeds are quick to burn by the time the lentils/dal are done. Trust me it takes only a few minutes , so do it sequentially. Worth it .
  • Set it aside to cool well.  Once cooled very well, grind to a granulated state aka coarse powder.  Add a tsp. of salt and mix well.
  • Use as much as required for the stuffing and a tbsp. or so to sprinkle some on the top. Reserve the rest of it, if any, as seasoning or topping for  other vegetables. Makes an awesome one for potatoes as well. And for tondli too. 

Trimming, slicing and stuffing the eggplant:

  • I personally do not like to retain the tails of the eggplants, hence I trim them out . And quarter them so they open like a flower ( take care not to slice them completely ). 
  • In a wide saucepan fill it with water and dunk these eggplants in them.  Why? Well if you do not you will black oxidized ones on your hands. Very unappealing:-(
  • Once the prep for all these eggplants are done, drain them out one by one and  fill them with dry stuffing mix you have prepared.
  • They should be gently pried apart and stuffed with dry mix. Because they were dunked in water, the moisture will help the dry stuffing mix to adhere to the eggplants.

Cooking the stuffed aubergines:

  • In a wide bottomed skillet ( use the one you previously used for roasting the stuffing), add the 1.5 Tbsp of oil.
  • On heating add the generous pinch of Asafoetida , curry leaves, mustard seeds and urad dal. Let them crackle and the lentils brown.
  • Now gently slide and arrange each stuffed eggplant in a single layer. Reduce the flame to medium high and sprinkle some water – about a couple of tablespoons worth at the most and cover. Let it cook / steam/braise for about 7-10 minutes or so. If they are really tender eggplants they would be cooked near through now.
  • Remove the lid and with aid of tongs, gently flip it so now it roasts on the other side. If the eggplants are completely cooked, you can leave it uncovered at this stage. If not cover it and let it cook again for another 5 minutes.
  • Finish the cooking process with uncovered cooking  for about 5 -7 minutes to aid in removing any sogginess left and to crisp up the eggplants a bit.
  • Note: add a dash of salt if you think you might need a bit more.

 

Serve hot with steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee and fresh Sambar. Ambrosia !

2

 

Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai

This is going to be a super quick post from me. It’s been a  long day and I sure hope to wind down soon. The last week’s trip to the grocery store made sure I  got a good pound + or so of these fresh Ivy gourds. They were tender and heaped out in mounds in the produce aisle. Naturally they had to make their way home. We love these cute little veggies at home and my daughter calls these mini cucumbers Doppelganger, but of course you could not eat them raw. We do cook a lot of these at home and they make delicious stir fry as well a part of mixed veggie masala rice.  I have  another recipe up on the  blog  with cashewnuts and black channa. That was awesome as well. You should definitely try it . This time though I  did want to try something a tad different with these. The best part about these veggies are they are pretty much a blank slate waiting to be gourmet-fied :-)..  This is super good as an accompaniment with a light dal tadka and phulkas. Oh my !

Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai - Dry spices mix
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai – Dry spices mix

The prep would definitely consume a bit more of your time , but since it uses dry spices , this is an awesome make ahead dish as well.  And also the end justifies the tiny bit of labor you would have to do..

Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai - split into quarter
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai – split into quarters
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai - filling it with spices
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai – filling it with spices

 

Delicious and absolutely tender cooked ivy gourd stuffed with dry spices and cooked in minimal oil in a covered skillet. Easy, vegan and absolutely lip smacking!!

 

Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai - ready to be cooked
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai – ready to be cooked

Prep time : 30 – 40 min  Cook time : 15 – 20 min  Serves : 4

Ingredients:

Vegetable:

  • Tender Ivy gourd/ Tondli/ Kovakkai : 1 Lb. approximately

Dry spices:

  • Cumin seeds : 1 tsp.

Dry spice powders:

  • Amchur powder / Dry mango powder : 1  tsp.
  • Red Chili powder : 1 tsp.
  • Dhania  powder  : 1 tsp.
  • Garam masala : 1.5 tsp.
  • Sambar powder : 1 tsp. ( optional )
  • Haldi / Turmeric powder : 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt : 1 tsp + more if required

Water:

  • 2 Tbsp. required for cooking

Oil :

  • Oil of your choice : 1.5 – 2 Tbsp.

Garnish :

  • Finely chopped cilantro

Method:

  1. In a bowl add all the ingredients listed in the dry spice powders mix and mix it thoroughly so the salt and spices are evenly distributed.
  2. Wash the vegetables very well, trim the ends and discard any ripe ones if you discover ( they are usually red on the inside).
  3. Slit the gourd/ tondli/ kovakkai vertically into 4 ( like an open flower) without slitting it all the way through. The idea is to create a pocket to retain the spices.
  4. Now stuff the dry spice mix in all of these. This does require you to employ a bit of patience.
  5. Once done , heat a flat bottom cast iron or non stick skillet with a bit of  depth on its side.  Add the oil and the cumin seeds which will sputter on contact with the hot oil.
  6. Slide the stuffed vegetables gently and arrange so they are in a single layer.
  7. If you have left over of the dry spice masala filling you can either store it to be used later or sprinkle all over these .
  8. Add a couple of tablespoons of water by sprinkling all over it and cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes.
  9. Once they are nearly done, remove the cover and let it roast uncovered in the pan. Gently flip the vegetables over to ensure even cooking.
  10. Remove when completely cooked  and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
  11. Serve hot as an accompaniment with soft rotis, dal and steaming hot rice.
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai - Garnish with cilantro and serve
Bharwan Tondli / Spice mix Stuffed IvyGourd / Stuffed Kovakkai – Garnish with cilantro and serve

Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Pavakkai Crispy Skillet fry – Spiced just right & healthy!

Bitter gourd. The name usually sends shivers down the spine of many . Nope not the scary kind but the Yikes! So bitter kind that I do not want to attempt it at home kind !

 Sources quote that ” Momordica charantia” known as bitter melonbitter gourdbitter squash or balsam-pear in English, has number of uses that are thought to be beneficial treatment of diabetes, fever and infections. Widely grown in the Indian sub continent, it is believed to have made it way to China from there. But we love it here at home here. I know 🙂 Cooked the right way it is delectable one, I say . Back in the golden days of my youth it was a staple part of the diet for us when we grew up. I make it a gazillion ways , but this particular one is popular as well as it could be simply rolled up in the flat bread of your choice.

Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Pavakkai Crispy Skillet fry - Spiced just right & healthy!

There are a couple of ways to reduce the bitterness if one would like to do so. Scraping the skin helps as well as salting the cut slices and removing the water extruded . I have chosen to retain the natural flavor  and the bitterness as I also believe it retains the maximum health benefits that way.

Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Pavakkai Crispy Skillet fry - Spiced just right & healthy!

Near crispy slices of bitter gourd skillet cooked to retain its natural flavor with a mélange of dry spices and mix. The result  is truly delectable. A perfect accompaniment for soft rotis and mild dal fry and steaming bowl of rice.

Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Pavakkai Crispy Skillet fry - Spiced just right & healthy!

Prep time : 10 minutes   Cooking time : 20 min    Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Bittergourd or Bitter melon : 5-6
  • Turmeric Powder / Haldi : 1 tsp.
  • Amchur or Dried Mango Powder : 1-1.5 tsp.
  • Jeera/ Cumin powder : 1/2 tsp.
  • Dhania/ Coriander seeds powder : 1/2 tsp.
  • Garam Masala : 1.5 tsp.
  • Red chili powder : 1- 1.5 tsp. – Depends n your spice level
  • Besan / Chickpea flour : 1 Tbsp.
  • Powdered Jaggery/ Brown sugar: 1 tsp. ( optional)
  • Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp.
  • Split Urad Dal : 1 tsp.
  • Hing / Asafoetida: A generous pinch
  • Curry leaves : 5-6 . Washed well, patted dry and in pieces.
  • Oil of your choice : 1 Tbsp.
  • Salt : 1 tsp. + extra if needed.
  • Fresh Chopped Cilantro for garnish.

Method:

Preparing the Karela/ Pavakkai/Melon:

  1. Wash the vegetable very well and pat dry to remove the moisture from the skin. Trim the ends.
  2. Slice down the center and remove the spongy seed center mass.
  3. Slice each half further into thin strips or you can choose to retain the crescent shape .
  4. Thinly slice the strips to yield half-inch pieces.
  5. Keep aside to be cooked next.

Cooking:

  1. In a big flat skillet ( preferably well seasoned cast iron or non stick ) add the tablespoon of oil and let it heat up. You do not want this smoking so it should only take a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the Asafoetida, it should sizzle and then add the mustard seeds. These will splutter. Add the Split Urad dal next and let it brown for a minute or so.
  3. Add the haldi or turmeric powder next.
  4. Now add the bitter gourd pieces and toss it so the oil is coated evenly. Let it cook for about 6-8 min. You should see them browning about .
  5. Add in the salt now and cook for another 2-3 minutes. You will see hints of moisture and possibly some more because salt will cause to extrude water from the vegetable.
  6. Add the amchur powder, garam masala, dhania powder, jeera powder and chili powder. Toss the vegetables so they coat it evenly and cook for another 5 minutes or so. At this stage if you check the vegetable, a piece would nearly split in half as it should be cooked to near doneness.
  7. Add the sugar if using at this stage and toss it one more time.
  8. Finally sprinkle the besan over the vegetable and cook for another 4 -5 minutes.
  9. The final stage will ensure you do not taste the raw nature of chickpea flour.
  10. Taste for spices and salt and then finally garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve hot with rice, rotis and dal.

Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Pavakkai Crispy Skillet fry - Spiced just right & healthy!

Notes:

If the bitterness of the melon makes it an unpalatable and unpopular choice in your household perhaps  you can adopt one of the 2 methods cooking it so you can definitely introduce it in your weekly cuisine.

  • Scraping the skin and removing the seeds from the center definitely reduces bitterness quotient for sure. 
  • The other method popularly used is to salt the raw cut pieces of karela and set aside for about 15 minutes or so. This  will cause the water to extrude out and you can squeeze out the pieces party dry and use for cooking. 

Substitutions:

  • No Amchur powder?  : Alternatively a tsp. of tamarind paste dissolved in a about a Tbsp.of water can be used.
  • No Garam Masala? :  Try using Sambar powder instead.

 

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry – Masala Vazhakkai Varuval

Raw Bananas / Kaccha Kela/ Vazhakkai/ Plantains  are a great source of Potassium , Magnesium , Vitamins and more. Infact these are a staple in the tropical parts of the worlds. Make no mistake, this very much different from the unripe green bananas and dessert bananas.  Their skin is tough to peel and you need to use a peeler or knife . They also contain less sugar than the dessert bananas as well. The are often treated akin to potatoes in their usage. Often a staple in many south indian households, there are quite a few preparations of this. Kababs, Podimas, Cutlets, kola vadai . stews and so many more to tease your tease buds!

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

 Quick to cook, versatile in its prep , chock full of nutrients and economically available – no wonder it is quite popular.

This particular preparation will yield particularly crispy plantain fry without a heavy dose of oil  and has an awesome crunch and flavor  on the surface  and tender texture inside.  This dish is really good paired with steaming rice and a stew or with hot phulkas and a dal. Or simple fry it to an extra few minutes and pick it and eat it as such. Told you, it is that good !  (I have added preparation methods for barbecue and grilling as well. Do check out the notes section) 

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

Prep time : 10 min  Marinating time :  15 min Cooking time : 15 min  Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetables: 

  • Raw Bananas : 5-6, medium to large in size

 For the Marinade:

  • Chickpea flour/ Besan : 1 .5 Tbsp.
  • Rice flour : 1 Tbsp.
  • Sambar powder : 1 tsp + extra as required for spice
  • Kashmiri Chili powder : 1 tsp.
  • Ginger : 1 inch, skinned and grated
  • Water / Yoghurt : 1 Tbsp. + 1 more if required
  • Salt : 1 tsp . + adjusted to taste 

Seasoning and Skillet Frying :

  • Oil : 1 Tbsp. ( you can add more if you think you can take it)
  • Curry leaves : 6-8 ( washed very well )
  • Mustard seeds : 1 tsp.
  • Hing/ Asafoetida : A generous pinch

Preparation:

  • Fill a bowl with enough water so it can accommodate the sliced bananas.
  • Trim the ends of the Raw bananas and slice/ peel the skin . Slice it in 1/4 inch thick slices and immerse in water immediately. Why ? Well if you don’t, it will start to blacken very soon.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients listed under the marinade. This will not be watery or thick gooey marinade . It will resemble a wet rub more.
  • Drain the slices and add these to the marinade. Toss it gently so each and every slice gets coated very well. The moisture from the slices will now make the rub more wet and help in the coating . Take care to not add too much water / yoghurt in the initial marinade rub please!
  • Let it sit for about 15 min or so. Once marinated it is ready to get pan-fried.
  • In a wide flat bottomed skillet ( preferably nonstick or well seasoned cast iron will work wonders too ) add a tbsp. of oil ( you can add one more if you would like to) and on heating add the seasonings. Let it splutter and then add the marinated raw banana slices in a  single layer as much as possible.  You will need to cook this on medium high heat and let it brown evenly on one side and flip to the other side to cook it nice and brown again. I initially covered it and cooked it for a couple of minutes to hasten the process and then cooked It uncovered so I could retain the crunch.
  •  Gently toss it please, if not you are more likely to split the thinner sliced ones. In about 15 minutes or so you will have nice and crisp fried sliced of raw banana . Check and adjust for salt if required.
  • Serve it hot with rice or phulkas and a stew !

Raw Banana Crispy Skillet Fry - Vazhakkai Varuval

Notes :

  1. Want to add a twist? Add  a dash of tamarind paste , some saunf or fennel seeds and some garam masala and a whole new burst of flavors happens.
  2. Want to grill this? It would be awesome. Make thicker slices, poke some holes to facilitate the marination and let it sit for about a couple of hours and then proceed to grill.
  3. You can add a thick gooey marinade paste as well made of yoghurt and tandoori masala and skewer barbeque it. It would be really good.
  4. Add some mint and cilantro fine ground to this as well. Totally lip smacking !!

Vazhakkai Podimas – Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

Disclaimer : This post had been sitting in the drafts for quite sometime . Why ? No clue but it surely deserves its place in the sun. I hope you too would enjoy  making it.

Back to Basics:

Some days you just want to reach deep down and go all the traditional style.. More like listening to call from your soul and indulge int the food you grew up on.. At least partially for me. While I was certainly exposed to a wide range, but a few just stick by you. Take this  dish made out of raw banana for example. I have just about made anything from kabab to koftas  from it, but this simple steamed version with just a hint of tanginess is so easy to make. Huge plus, it uses just  a couple of tbsp. of oil for about 5-6 of those plantains and uses lime/ lemon for the tart effect. Fresh taste that simply lingers in your mouth ! So when I do talk about the raw banana it is not the banana which u peel and eat. This is the tropical version or plantains which gets cooked.

Vazhakkai Podimas - Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

If you are familiar with the southern part of India, two particular states enjoy these – Kerala and Tamill Nadu. They each have their variations and I suppose each family would have their own spin of it. Well this  is mine 🙂

 Cook time : 25-30 min            Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Vazhakkai/Raw Banana –  5-6 medium numbers
  • Ginger – skinned, 1 inch, grated
  • Turmeric Powder/ Haldi : 1 tsp
  • Asafoetida/ Hing : A pinch
  • Salt  : 1 tsp. + to taste
  • Dry Red chillies ( medium  spice ) : 4 , split in half
  • Mustard Seeds – 1.5 tsp.
  • Split, de husked Urad Dal : 1.5 Tbsp.
  • Curry Leaves : 8-10
  • Oil – 1.5 – 2 Tbsp.
  • Juice of lime / lemon – 1 -2 Tbsp. depending on the sourness level

 Method:

  • Take a huge stock pot and fill it nearly 2/3 with water. The idea being to immerse all the cut pieces of the raw banana in it. Therefore give enough room for it.
  • Trim the ends of the raw banana and cut it into 2-3 pieces depending on the length of it. You are looking for about 3-4 inches of it in length.
  • Add a pinch of salt and bring it boil for a about 5 minutes or so. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT. You just want it a tad tender. A prick in the center of the banana will tell you if you cooked al dente.
  • Strain the water, cool & peel the thick outer layer. If done properly, these would just peel off .  Cool well and grate.
  • Heat a wok, stir fry pan or kadai with oil.
  • Add  the Hing, turmeric powder then mustard seeds  and once it splutters  add grated ginger, and the add the split red chilies and then urad dal and fry till golden brown . Stir it for another 30 seconds.
  • Add curry leaves, and  the grated plantains stir once.
  • Add salt to taste and toss gently. You want to retain the individual grate texture and not mushy it .
  • Cook this on low heat for about 5 minutes or so. Stir it a couple of times gently to ensure the spices are coated well.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Add the juice of limes and toss it once and serve with hot rice and any stew of your choice.

Vazhakkai Podimas - Steamed & Shredded Raw Banana Stir Fry

 Notes:

  • Substitute the red chilies for 3-4 green chillies and 1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut.
  • Do not add the red chilies and ginger  during the tadka stage , but add the dry grind mix of green chilies, ginger and coconut at the penultimate step.
  • Cook, cool and then add the juice of lime. Tastes really good !

Kadai Paneer – Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

My oldest tyke turned 15. A year shy of the quintessential mark of a rebel.. But hey I don’t think a particular year turns the page.

I sometimes think this boy was born as an old soul in a young body. Sigh !

Or maybe just maybe the single liners or the dry remarks are just a genetic influence that has been passed on … Ahem Ahem !

 But this child still has the glint in his eyes when looks forward to certain favorites. This being one of those on his list.. Happy Birthday A1 and may you be blessed with the best of health and happiness always ..

An awesome spicy and tangy gravy of Paneer and bell peppers and onions served with flat bread  ( rotis or Naans) or fried puffed breads ( Pooris) and piping hot Jeera rice.

Kadai Paneer - Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

Cooking time : 30-40 min  Serves : 6

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz paneer : Cut in 1.5 inches lengthwise
  • Bell peppers  ( green , colored mix) : 3-4 cut in thick strips
  • Red onion : 1 big, cut in big fat strips
  • Ginger garlic paste : 1 tsp.
  • Roma tomatoes : 8-9 , pureed
  • Cumin (Jeera seeds) : 1 tsp.
  • Garam Masala : 1 tsp.
  • Kasuri methi leaves (dry) : 1 tsp, crushed
  • Melted butter : 3 Tbsp.
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oil or ghee or butter
  • Fresh Coriander leaves : chopped fine , 1/4 cup
  • Salt : 1 tsp + to taste

 Kadai masala: Dry roast, cool and fine grind

  • Coriander seeds : 1/4 cup
  • Dry red Kashmiri chilies ( low – medium heat) : 6

Optional :

  • Kashmiri chili powder : 1 tsp.

Method:

  • In a big wok or Kadai and add 3 Tbsp. of butter or ghee ( clarified butter ) if using and heat it.
  • Add in the Cumin seeds and let it sputter.
  • Add the ginger garlic paste , fry it for a minute or two.
  • Now add in the cut onions and sauté till translucent.
  • Add the Garam masala, fine ground Kadai masala and Kashmiri chili powder ( if using) and stir for a min or two. Essentially cooking the masala combination.
  • Now add in the pureed tomatoes , stir well , cover and let it boil for about 7-10 min. By now the gravy will acquire  deep red hue from the combination of Kashmiri chilies and the chili powder if using and the tomato puree. That is the color you would typically look out for.
  • The butter would separate and you would see it glistening on the sides, plus there would be a reduction in the gravy volume as well.
  • Add in 1 tsp. or so of salt and about half a cup of water only if you think the gravy is too thick.
  • Add in the chopped bell peppers  and simmer in this for another 5 minutes or so.
  • Add in the crushed Kasuri Methi leaves and the Paneer strips and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

 Notes :

  • Adding the red Kashmiri Chili powder is not necessary but it gives the beautiful hue to the gravy.
  • Don’t feel like making the Kadhai masala fresh?  Go ahead and  substitute with just Kashmiri Chili powder  and 3 -4 tsp of dry dhania powder and adjust the masala to taste. It should be close enough, but if you could take an extra 5 to make the masala fresh.
  • The bell peppers need to retain the part crunch , hence they are added a bit later in the prep.
  • This recipe uses a lot of tomatoes. Don’t have any on hand? Just substitute with canned as per the directions on it.

Kadai Paneer - Indian cottage cheese in tangy, spicy tomato gravy

 This was a part of the lovely birthday dinner served along with pooris , Peas and Carrot simple Pulav , Mixed  Masala Dal and Baingan Bartha.

Enjoy!

And dessert of course was the super delish Guava Ice cream!

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

There was this particular little nook in the city of Chennai ( then Madras) where I grew up which boasted of some great restaurants. Not the fancy shmancy type mind you, but the small ones that bring out the flavors of the cuisine. One particular one had this dish as their signature one and it was always served with flaky layered flat breads aka paratha. Not just any paratha, but this was the malabar parotta, an erstwhile cousin of the lacchha kind , except it was made of APF or refined flour.  Hot piping korma, served with flaky bread and a cup of steaming hot coffee. You would forget about the calories for once and indulge in this fare. This was so worth it on an occasion! 

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 An awesome combination of mixed vegetables stewed in white gravy with perfect combination of spices. Do not be overwhelmed by the exhaustive list of spices. This is a quick prep one.

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 Prep time : 15 minutes  Cook time : 20-25 minutes  Serves : 4-6

Ingredients:

Vegetables:

  • Carrot – 1/4 cup, diced
  • Beans – 1/4 cup, 1 inch pieces
  • Peas – 1/4 cup
  • Cauliflower – 1/2 cup, small florets
  • Potato – 1/ 4 cups, diced
  • Bell pepper ( green/ colored) – 1/4 cup diced
  • Salt – 1 tsp.

For the gravy/ Masala Paste:

  • Fresh or frozen Grated Coconut – 1/4 cup
  • Cashew/ Almonds – 6-8
  • Khus Khus ( white poppy seeds) – 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch piece
  • Clove – 2
  • Cardamom – 1 ( whole green)
  • Fennel seeds  – 1 tsp
  • Green chilies – 4-6
  • Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
  • Garlic – 2 pods- (optional)
  • Oil : 1 tsp.

 Seasoning:

  • Oil : 1 Tbsp.
  • Onion – 1 medium, chopped finely
  • Bayleaf : 1
  • Fresh Curry leaves : 4-6
  • Cloves ( black) : 1

 Garnish:

  • Fine chopped cilantro : 2 Tbsp.

 Method:

 Preparation of the Gravy:

  • In a wide saucepan ( with a lid, so it can be used later too) add in 1 tsp of oil.
  • When it heats up  add in the whole spices to begin with and roast for a minute or two,  adding the ginger and chilies and garlic pods if using next, followed by the cashews to a get gentle brown hue, then the coconut and the poppy seeds.
  • Remove set aside to cool.
  • When cooled down blend it  with a cup of water or so to get a nice smooth sauce or paste. The gravy yield should be nearly 1.5 cups to 2 cups.

Preparing the Korma

  • In the same wide saucepan ( needs a lid) , add in 1 Tbsp of oil . When it heats up add in a clove, the bayleaf , fresh curry leaves. It should sizzle a bit. Add in the fine chopped onion and sauté till well cooked.
  • Meanwhile microwave/ parboil or steam the veggies  with a tsp of salt . Should take about 5-7 minutes in the microwave. The veggies are cooked till they are almost done. ( The final cooking would be done when it simmers in the gravy)
  • Once cooked, add in these veggies to the sauce pan and stir for a minute or two along with the onions.
  • Add in the prepared masala paste or gravy, cover the pan and let it boil or about 5 minutes or so. Lower the heat and simmer for another minute or two.  Over cooking will impact the flavor and consistency of the dish. Would definitely recommend to do a salt and spice taste test at this point.
  • Switch off the heat. Serve it hot garnished with fresh chopped cilantro.

Accompaniments:

I served this korma piping hot with Masala Avocado Paratha or flat breads and a simple Jeera rice.

Masala Avocado Paratha – Whole wheat flat bread, perfectly spiced.

Mixed Veg in White Gravy/ White Vegetable Korma

 

Pan cooked Jeera Rice – Fragrant Basmati rice cooked with tadka of Cumin seeds in ghee or butter .

steaming jeera rice
steaming jeera rice

 Notes:

If you would like to make a richer version of this you can always add in some pan-fried cashews and a dash of cream to this preparation.