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.
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..
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.
Poppy seeds : 1 tsp
Elaichi or green cardamom : 4-6 . I used it in their skins
Cashews – whole or broken – about 12
Almonds with skin – 6-8
cloves – 2
cinnamon stick – 1”
fennel seeds or sauf – 1/2 tsp
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.
finely chopped ginger – 1 inch
optional : 2 cloves of garlic
Onions : 3 ( chopping these finely will make them sautéed faster )
Then add in the diced tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes
Sautee well till you see reduction in the mass 🙂
Let it cool before you blend it into a smooth paste. No need to add water.
C. Making the Kofta balls
Boil the potatoes and mash it well.
To this add finely diced 2 green chillies. Remember , the spice is to tickle the palate .. not kill it.
Add in 1 small onion , finely chopped as well
Add in 1 inch of finely grated ginger
Add 1/2 tsp of crushed kasuri methi
Add in a handful of finely chopped spinach leaves
Add in a few spits of finely chopped cilantro as well.
Add in some salt, say about 1/2 – 3/4 tsp of it.
Optional : you can add more spices or masalas to this mix at this point if you feel like it
Add in the gulab jamun mix in stages to bind this . If required add in a few tablespoons of water to bind it well .
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 🙂
Make small lemon sized ball out of this. Remember these swell up in the gravy base, so don’t make it too big !
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 !
I so seriously am not pregnant. There is no justification for this craving for quinoa, other than the fact that I am now ” flu -recovered”. And I am looking for a quick fix dinner or lunch ensemble that has all the veggies and proteins channeled through nuts ( ok in this case restricted to the peanuts) in a one pot meal. Whew!
In all fairness, I suppose brown rice or broken wheat could provide this similarly. But hey, like i said ..its a craving ! Now until the few years ago, Quinoa blissfully did not exist in my world. I did indulge guilt free in the basmati rice version of this .. Aaah heavenly! What is it about the age and mid riff..I fear they are directly proportional. Wisdoms dawn on you with age and a good cup of tea :-)..
I am digressing , folks. Anyways back to Quinoa..which apparently is a pseudocereal and is related to beets and tumbleweeds ( see what I mean about family 🙂 ..) has taken a rather prominent place of pride in our grocery errand run.
Anyways, back to the one pot meal that can be cooked in a jiffy and can be indulged guilt free and can satisfy the spicy tooth ( hey if you can have a sweet tooth and , I presume there is a spicy one as well ..) and yes actually taste good and not like the “health protein bar , that is mostly tasteless but is g(o)od for you” kind.
Assemble it up 🙂
Cooked Quinoa : 2 cups or so. (Dry Quinoa : 1 cup is to 1.5 cups of water. I just pressure cook it in and it is nice and sprightly. Not mushy at all )
Thai Chillies : Green : 4 : Minced ( adjust the spice according to your plate)
Frozen peas and carrots : 1 cup . Thawed or nuked in the microwave for about a min.
Bell pepper : choose your kind. I used the red one. 1/2 to a 1 ,deseeded, chopped finely
French beans : 1/2 cup chopped finely
Onion : 1 Chopped finely.( I did not have one one hand and had no intention for running to the store either ). Again Viewers/ cook’s discretion.
Dry roasted salted peanuts : 1/2 cup chopped roughly
Olive Oil : 2 -3 tsp
Mustard Seeds : 1/4 tsp
Urad Dal : 1/4 tsp ( the washed, dry, halved kind !)
Turmeric powder : 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida : a pinch
A bunch of fresh cilantro : finely chopped
Salt : to taste
The Process :
In a large wok or skillet, add the oil.
Once the oil is heated, add the tempering of mustard seeds , Urad dal, green chillies and turmeric powder along with a pinch of Asafoetida. ( yep the mustard seeds are sputtering and the dal with turn a lovely shade of light brown.)
Add the Onions if you decide to include it, and let it brown. Then add the peppers and the rest of the veggies. The idea is to keep the veggie cooked but crunchy. This should take about 5-7 minutes depending on a variety of factors including the freshness of the veggies and simmer of your flame on the gas stove.
Once this is done, toss in the cooked quinoa. And add the salt.
Add the chopped peanuts as well. And mix well again.
By now your kitchen will smell heavenly and the mix on in your skillet will resemble the picture below 🙂
Add the cilantro and dig in!
As always, the choice of your veggies are your personal preference. Cauliflower and broccoli are great variations to this fare.
Now most of the spices , I used here are very basic Indian spices. Again you can experiment with fennel seeds and sticks of cinnamon here or a bay leaf to the temper mix and completely have a different flavor to this dish.
This can be made totally nut free.. Just don’t add the peanuts. On the other hand, I have experimented with toasted almonds and it tasted just awesome as well !
A dash of lemon just before serving will refresh the dish as well.
I have been gently prodded, bugged and more or less nudged to compile my list of experiments, recipes and the general affirmations and decimations that stewed in my kitchen!..Well affirmations more so, and decimations when I finally utilize my organic and molecular chemistry aka common sense in most cases to figure out why certain experiments did not really fare well..
Well here I am after so many odd years of kitchen chemistry and well meaning friends to embark on this journey, so to speak!