Sunday, November 06, 2016

Green Chilli Pickle

It was first week of May, 1976. I was travelling with three other friends by the Bombay Janata Express train from Mangalore to Bombay via Arakkonam-Guntakal-Raichur. Our train reached Raichur station in the afternoon, it was burning hot outside as we hurriedly stepped out of the compartment and ran towards the vegetarian refreshment canteen. 

They served us piping hot meals with spicy sambar, daal and tasty side dishes. I tasted the green chilli pickle that was hot, spicy, tangy and full of flavours. It was like dynamite blast in my mouth, but the lemony tang made me ask for more! I must confess, that was one of the most memorable meals I had, and the first, if not the best green chilli pickle I tasted!

Same year same month, I visited my sister's home in Shivamogga. As I narrated my experience to her, she had a surprise for me! She went into the store room and came out with a big bottle full of green chilli pickle! She said she made it herself, following the recipe she got from a relative. No need to elaborate that the chilli pickle was awesome, because my sister is a perfectionist when it comes to cooking. My sister also had told me then, that the main ingredients apart from green chillies were lemon juice, salt, mustard seeds, methi seeds turmeric and hing. 

I very well remember the taste and flavour  of the two pickles I had that year and I being a lover of pickles and spicy treats, decided to make green chilli pickle when I had chance. That chance never came my way, for Meena is not a fan of pickles. Besides, we used to get two or three different kinds of pickles every year from my mother, and I was the lone eater who used to have them over the year myself!

Two weeks ago, our door bell rang, my ex Bank colleague friend Munjandira Appaiah Venu appeared with a bag full of lemons from his family estate in Madikeri! He said, since I am fond of pickles, I can make any good pickle with them. There were around 32 of them.

I told Meena that I am making two kinds of pickles using them. One is 'Kanchi' or the salted lemon pickle while the other is green chilli pickle like the ones I tasted at the Raichur railway station and also the one made by my sister. Meena didn't object this time, as she can very well understand how useful lemon kanchi is for those who are down with illness. She also knew how much I love chillies! Besides, ever since my mother became aged(and subsequently left us two years ago), I have started making pickle at home myself, but never thought of green chilli pickle, because we get 'Presto' green chilli pickle here. Presto pickle has added vinegar and I wanted it with lemony tang. 

So here I am, with this recipe, which I formulated on my own. Green Chillies are abundantly available and so are lemons. It's the season. Weather is also on the cooler side, favouring consumption of spicy pickles. You can savour this with Congi, curd rice, rice and daal or even with idlis, dosas or chapatis.

Hope you all will like it and have a blast! 
Green Chillies(Slim long ones, preferably Mysore or Byadgi) - 400Gms
Lemons - 8
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tbsp
Fenugreek(Methi) Seeds - 1 Tsp
Asafoetida(Hing) - A generous pinch
Sesame Oil(or Refined Sunflower Oil) - 3 Tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 Tsp
Rock Salt - 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup salt

Wash, wipe, cut and deseed lemons and extract juice.
Heat a shallow pan and dry roast salt for 3-5 minutes on medium low flame.
Powder the salt in a mill, if using rock salt.
Wash the green chillies thoroughly, wipe them dry with kitchen cloth, remove the stems and cut each green chilli into 2-3 pieces lengthwise.
Apply roasted powdered salt and keep for 2-4 hours. 
Heat 1 tsp oil and roast mustard seeds until they splutter, roast fenugreek seeds and hing, allow to cool.
Dry grind the roasted spices into a coarse powder.
Heat 2 tsp oil and lightly fry the chopped salted green chillies on slow heat for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to turn them white.
Mix in the masala powder, turmeric powder and lemon juice.
Allow to cool down completely.
Fill into dry airtight bottle and keep for a week at least(preferably for 2 weeks), in a cool and dark place.
Mix the contents with a dry spoon every alternate day.
Green Chilli Pickle will be ready for consumption.
You can preferably store this pickle in a fridge to retain freshness and crunchiness of the chillies.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Karachi Halwa(Bombay Halwa)

Diwali, the most celebrated festival of lights is here again, and I have come out with Karachi Halwa(Bombay Halwa) in two flavours for our followers.
Strawberry flavoured chewy Karachi Halwa
When I talk about Karachi Halwa, my memory dates back to the mid Sixties, when my brother Shashikanth got his job in Bank Of India and settled in Bombay. Every year when he visited home town, he used to bring two types of halwas from Bombay, the popular Mahim Halwa or the Ice Halwa and the chewy sticky Karachi Halwa. Those days we called it Bombay Halwa. This halwa was formulated by the Sindhis from Karachi before Independence, when Karachi was part of India, and trade activities were brisk between Bombay and Karachi.

Karachi Halwa is a chewy Indian sweet meat made with arrowroot powder or corn starch, loaded with the goodness of almonds, pistachios and other dry fruits. In Mumbai it is available in different colours and flavours, sold in every nook and corner by mithaiwalas and this sweet has a prime place among Diwali Sweets. Typically they make this adding hydrogenated vegetable oil or vanaspati, but this tastes awesome when we make it with pure ghee. The chewy sticky halwa releases vivid flavours as we bite into the crunchy roasted nuts embedded within. Fine halwa comes in two textures, soft and sticky. Soft ones can not be preserved for more than 2 weeks and they also smell old sooner. Sticky ones can be preserved for over a month. The whole process requires nothing but patience, for you may need to keep stirring the contents for one to and one and half hours.

I am fond of this halwa which I wanted to make long ago, but somehow never tried until recently. First I tried this recipe from NDTV Food Channel by Chef Niru Gupta, but with my own variations. I also added strawberry crush which is readily available in 750ml bottle. That enhanced the taste of the halwa, making the eater crave for more and more!
Saffron flavoured soft Karachi Halwa
Second attempt was, making this with saffron flavour. This time I reduced the amount of added sugar and also set the halwa faster, which made it firm but soft. You can add amount of sugar in the proportion 1:1 but you can also increase the amount of sugar upto 1:2, that is for 1 cup arrowroot powder, you add 2 cups sugar. My preference is 1:1 for soft halwa and 1:1.5 for chewy one. Adding any fruit crush which has sugar in it, calls for reduction in amount of added sugar proportionately. In such case, my 1:1.5 formula works wonderfully well. Please also note that the total volume of added ghee should be not less than 100 ml for 1 cup of arrowroot powder and proportionate sugar. If you add more ghee, it floats over the top after setting the halwa, and can be used for making some other sweet dish or can also be used for pouring over Puran Polis. I didn't add cardamom to this halwa, as it spoils the flavour of strawberries as well as saffron.

Happy cooking, "Happy Festival of Lights to you all"!

Sugar - 250-500 Gm(1-2 Cups depending on your requirement)  
Arrowroot Powder - 1 Cup(115 Gm)
*Red/Orange/Green Food Coloring(As per the flavour you choose) - 3-5 Drops 
Strawberry/Orange/Pineapple/Lychee/Grape or any similar tangy fruit crush - 1/4 Cup(Optional)
Saffron - A generous pinch(Optional)
Lemon juice - 2Tsp or 1/2Tsp Ciric Acid dissolved in little water(I used lemon juice concentrate)
Ghee - 100 to 110 Ml
Almonds - 40 Gm 
Pistachios - 30 Gm 
Melon Seeds(Magaz) - 30 Gm
Water - 4-5 Cups 

Roast nuts and chop almonds and pistachios.

If you use saffron, soak it in little hot water and keep aside.
Dissolve sugar in 2 cups of water. 
Stir and boil for 5 minutes.
Mix arrowroot powder with sugar syrup.
Add 2-3 cups cold water to make a thin solution.
Strain through a sieve lined with muslin cloth.
Cook, stirring constantly with the wire whisker or wooden ladle, until the mixture thickens into a semi transparent gum.
Add lemon juice, food colour, optional fruit crush or saffron soaked in hot water.
Lemon juice/citric acid prevents sugar from crystalising. 
Keep stirring on medium heat, taking care not to char the contents.
When the mixture starts to stick to the base of the pan, add 1 tbsp ghee.
Keep stirring constantly with preferably a wooden ladle.
Now you can increase the heat to high.
Keep adding one tablespoon ghee every 3-5 minutes until the mass begins to foam, and forms sticky lump.
When stirring becomes difficult, the contents move with the ladle in one sticky mass and ghee oozes from the sides, switch off the flame.
Fold in the nuts. 
Pour into a greased tray. 
Smoothen with a greased spoon. 
Allow to cool completely.
This takes over 2-3 hours.
Cut into 1 inch squares and store in an airtight container.
Karachi Halwa with Lychee flavour
*As per flavours you choose, you can add these colours:
Strawberry/Raspberry/Cranberry - Red
Saffron - Orange Red
Pineapple - Yellow
Orange - Orange Red
Grape/Mixed Berry - Purple
Lychee flavour - No colouring
Plain(Without any added fruit pulp or flavouring) - Green 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Raagi Besan Laddu

"Onam Greetings to all those who celebrate the Festival"
Yesterday, I was planning to make some sweet for Onam. Meena had made Madgane/Chana Daal Payasam just 4 days ago, and I didn't want to make payasam again. As I was checking the ingredients for Besan Burfi or similar sweet in the fridge, I found a pack of raagi flour lying idle since months. Immediately I thought of Besan Laddu with added Raagi Flour.

Raagi or finger millet is a healthy cereal which is used much in Indian cuisine. It is also adapted in baking and making sweets. I am inspired by the Churmundo(Wheat Flour Laddus) that my mother used to make. She used to add little besan or chickpea flour while preparing the ingredients for that extra taste, flavour and stickiness. It is a fusion of Churmundo and Besan Laddu to be precise.

Having helped my mother in making churmundos during my younger days and also having seen how she made them those days, I have made these Raagi Besan Laddus, which are loaded with taste and flavour. One difference is, my mother didn't add raisins and nuts to churmundo, but I added, so that they taste more delicious. Though they look dark, the goodness of raagi will certainly make you turn a blind eye for the appearance and ecstatically indulge in relishing these pick me ups! I guarantee you, once you start tasting them, you will not stop at one! Kids may also keep sneaking into the pantry and ransack the jars to fish them!
Raagi(Finger Millet) Flour - 1 cup
Besan(Chickpea Flour) - 1 Cup
Ghee - 2 Tbsp(30 Ml) + for greasing the hand
Cashewnut Bits - 30 Gm(Small 1/8 or 1/16 size)
Castor Sugar - 3/4 Cup(increase according to taste)
Green Cardamom - 4 Pods
Raisins - 30 Gm

Peel and crush cardamom seeds in a mortar with pestle.
Keep a wide shallow basin or platter ready for mixing the laddu ingredients.
Heat a thick bottom nonstick pan/skillet and dry roast the raagi flour on medium low flame until a nice aroma emanates.
Keep mixing with a strong wooden spatula, and take care not to char the flour.
This may take 5-8 minutes.
Remove and keep aside on a platter to cool down.
Add ghee to the skillet and fry the cashewnut bits until golden.
Drain and transfer on to the same platter containing roasted raagi flour.
In the same ghee, roast the besan until raw smell disappears and besan turns golden red, assuming a smooth pasty texture.
Transfer to the same platter.
Add castor sugar, raisins and crushed cardamom seeds, when the mixture is still hot, mix all the ingredients well with your hand.
Apply little ghee on your hand.
Take two teaspoonfuls of the mixture and shape it with your first three fingers by pressing and rolling into small lemon size laddus(balls).
Make 20-25 such laddus and allow to cool down completely.
Store in an airtight jar.
This recipe yields about 500Gms laddus.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prawn Green Sukkha

Prawn Sukkha is a Tuluva dish, a cousin of Chicken Sukkha originated from Mangaluru and spread worldwide today. Any auspicious function in Tuluva household is incomplete without sukkha. I like Prawn Sukkha, we have been making the regular sukkha adding dried red chillies for too long, and I wanted to experiment with green masala. 

I replaced red chillies with green chillies and added chopped coriander and onion greens instead of cumin seeds while grinding the coconut for the final stage in making sukkha. That gave the brilliant green colour as well as good taste and flavour of fresh coriander leaves. Adding butter while cooking enhances the flavour of prawns, and coconut oil gives the authentic Mangalurian touch.

The dish turned out finger licking good and we ate this with Ghee rice for dinner.
Prawn Green Sukkha with Ghee Rice
1. Jumbo Prawns - 500 Gms shelled and deveined(18-20 prawns)
2. Onion - 1 big, finely chopped
3. Garlic - 8+2 cloves
4. Green Chillies - 4 chopped
5. Coriander Seeds - 1.5 Tsp
6. Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
7. Fenugreek(Methi) Seeds - 1/4 Tsp
8. Black Peppercorn - 1/4 Tsp
9. Tamarind Pulp - A pea size pinch
10. Salt - 1/2 Tsp(Or to taste)
11. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 Tsp
12. Grated Coconut - 1/2 Cup
13. Coriander Leaves - 1/2 Cup Chopped
14. Onion Shoot(Optional) - 1 Sprig chopped
15. Curry Leaves - 1 Sprig
16. Coconut Oil - 4 Tsp
17. Butter - 2 Tsp

Wash and pat dry prawns.
Heat 1/2 Tsp oil and roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and peppercorn.
Grind together the roasted spices, chopped green chillies, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 chopped onion and tamarind adding very little water, until smooth.
Remove the ground paste and in the same mixer jar coarsely grind grated coconut along with remaining garlic, coriander leaves and optional onion shoot.
Heat 2 Tsp oil in a saucepan and fry 1/2 chopped onion on high flame until transparent. 
Add prawns and turmeric powder and fry on high until prawns turn opaque.
Add the masala paste and fry for 2 minutes on high.
Add 1/4 cup water and butter, add salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes until prawns have just cooked.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan.
Add curry leaves and fry until crisp, add  coarsely ground coconut garlic and greens paste.
Saute well for 1 minute on high flame and add this to the cooked prawn masala.
Check for salt and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until the masala is thick and dry.
Serve hot as starter or side dish.
Prawn Green Sukkha with Sannas/Soft Idlis
You can make Chicken Green Sukkha with 700 Gms Chicken pieces instead of prawns.
You can add 2 sprigs mint leaves while grinding the masala for that extra flavour.
You can also add 1/2 Tsp garam masala powder along with coconut in the end.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Theek Paav - Whole Wheat Flour Masala Paav Bun

Those who have visited Taj Mahal Cafe in Mangaluru must have tried a unique spiced poori or Theek Rotti there. Theek Rotti is a Konkani invention and it is made with whole wheat flour adding mashed banana and few masala ingredients. In our household, mother used to make theek rottis most of the times as per my father's demand, and normal plain pooris were a rare sight until the mid Seventies.

I had made Whole Wheat Flour Paav Bun some months ago. I was thinking, why not try making masala paav buns with theek rotti formula. My intentions to blend traditional Mangalurian dishes and snacks with North Indian or western innovation with few simple inventions, have mostly been successful. So I tried this one as well and succeeded. This is a fusion of Paav Bun, Theek Rotti and Mangalore Buns. At least 4 people who tasted these gave me full marks!

The variation I made to the whole wheat flour paav bun apart form adding masala ingredients, was to add mashed bananas and honey. Both add to taste and flavour, also helping in making them fluffy. Adding caramel makes the colour a beautiful brown inside out. You can make them more tasty and nutritious by adding wheat flour and plain flour in the proportions mentioned, or make them with just plain flour.

Why don't you try making this on a lazy rainy monsoon day? These buns will energise you and keep you warm, especially when they are washed down with a cuppa hot tea or coffee. 
Whole Wheat Flour - 1.5 Cups
Refined Flour(Maida) - 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons
Salt - 1 Tsp(or according to taste)
Sugar - 2 Tablespoons
Active Dry Yeast - 2 Tsp
Warm Milk - 3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon for milk wash
Warm Water - 1/2 Cup
Mysore Banana(Optional) - 2 small or you can add Cavendish banana pulp(around 100 Gms)
Melted butter - 2 Tablespoons + 1 Tsp
Honey - 2 Tsp
Caramel(Optional) - 2 Tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Green Chillies - 2 Finely chopped
Coriander Leaves - A handful, finely chopped
Mint Leaves - A handful, finely chopped
Crushed Black Peppercorns - 1 Tsp
Asafotoeda Powder/Hing(Optional) - 1/4 Tsp

Heat 1/2 tsp butter in a frying pan, add cumin seeds. 
Allow them to splutter  and then add the chopped green chillies and fry until the chilli bits turn whitish.
Keep aside to cool down and then add in chopped coriander and mint leaves.
Take the warm milk in a glass tumbler or a non metallic bowl, mix in sugar and yeast, cover and keep for 10 minutes to proof/activate.
Mix 1.5 cup wheat flour, 1 cup maida and salt in a mixing bowl.
Make a pit in the center and pour the yeast milk mixture.
Add 2 tbsp melted butter, honey, caramel, mashed bananas, crushed black peppercorns, optional hing and the cumin green chilli mint coriander masala mixture.
Knead well adding warm water little by little, for 10 minutes, or until you get a moist but firm dough.
Grease the bowl, apply melted butter on the dough ball, cover with kitchen cloth and allow to raise for one hour at warm room temperature.
The dough will have doubled by then.
Prepare baking tin by greasing the inside and sprinkling little flour if necessary.
Sprinkle little flour over the dough, punch it to release the air and knead again adding little flour for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough into a thick rope or log, cut into 16 equal parts if using 8x8 baking tray or upto 24 equal parts, if using 9x12 baking tray.
Shape each part into a smooth ball and arrange them as close as possible to one another in the tray. 
If you can't accommodate all the dough balls in one medium size tray, you can place them in two small trays or even shape the remaining dough into hot dog rolls or regular round buns.
Cover the dough balls and keep for another hour or slightly more, when they double up again, stick to one another and fit snugly in the tray.
Give milk wash over the top surface of the dough balls.
Preheat oven at 180°C for 10 minutes, and place the tray on wire rack, bake for 25-35 minutes or until the bread becomes browned on top.
Remove from oven, allow to cool down for 10-15 minutes, detach the bread from the baking tray using a butter knife and relish.
These go well with a cup of tea or hot strong coffee.
You can also relish them with choice of veg or nonveg curries.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mango Kaju Katli

Kaju Katli is one of the best North Indian Sweets which is more popularly known as Bombay Sweet. No one can resist it for its unique delicious taste and subtle sweetness. Kaju is of course Cashewnut and Katli means kernel. These katlis are made as thin as 5 mm at the most, and are normally cut into diamond shape.

I was working for a bank in Chickpet Bangalore in the Eighties. the managers performed weekly Laxmi pooja on Friday for which a sweet was being distributed as 'prasadam', most of the times some Bengali Sweet like Champakali Chamcham or Malai Sandwich, sometimes Kaju Katli from nearby Kanti Sweets. Kanti Sweets and Arya Bhavan were quite famous those days for North Indian sweets and they made kaju katlis pretty well. They were soft melt in the mouth type with right amount of added sugar. In Mangaluru, we get the best kaju katlis at Shreya's Sweets and Phalguni Cashew center.

I had also seen some of my food blogger friends and home makers making kaju katlis and presenting them on social media. I too wanted to make them at home, but never seriously gave it a thought and got into action. Just a few days ago I was planning to make Mango Burfi again for my niece Deepa and her daughter Sonali who are on a visit from the USA.

Meena said, "Why make mango burfi again and again? Try and make something different". I agreed and decided to make Mango Kaju Katli. Having perfected the art of making mango burfi, making mango kaju katli for the first time was cakewalk for me.

Before making these kaju katlis, others' failures guided me what to do and what not to do. Here are a few tips to make perfect kaju katlis:

1. Making sugar syrup first is mandatory, as kaju katlis become soft but not brittle that way, and they remain fresh for days. Sometimes making one string sugar syrup may get overdone and the katlis may develop sugar crystals which may make them harder. Hence, for plain kaju katlis, there's a wonderful additive called 'Liquid Glucose' which stabilises the sugar syrup and stops it from crystallising. Other alternative is adding lemon juice or honey. So, add a tablespoon of any one of these to achieve perfect texture for the sugar syrup. For Mango Kaju katli it is not necessary to add them, as mango pulp takes care of stabilising the sugar syrup.

2. Add right amount of sugar to kaju katlis. Too less or more may spoil the taste. My calculation is, for 1 cup of cashewnut powder, we can add little over 1/2 cup of sugar. Mixing in little corn flour and castor sugar in the end makes them smooth but firm.

3. Tiny cashewnut bits are fairly cheaper than whole cashewnuts and grinding them into a powder in the mill will also be quicker.

4. Avoid adding cardamom powder if you add saffron, fruit pulp or rose essence to katlis. Cardamom over shadows the flavour of other additives.

5. Spread the hot mixture from the pan on the kitchen work area if you have granite or marble top. Cover with a plastic or butter paper sheet and roll with a roller pin as soon as you spread the mixture. That way you get a even layer of katli which will also be easier to cut into diamond shape.

6. While storing the katlis, better keep a layer of butter paper in between each layer of katlis, so that they don't stick to each other.  

Follow this recipe and I am sure, you can parallel even the best kaju katlis available in the world!
Cashewnut bits - 1.5 cup, finely powdered in a mill
Fresh Mango pulp/puree - 1 Cup
Sugar - 3/4 Cup
Castor Sugar - 4 Tsp
Corn Flour - 2 Tbsp
Saffron - A pinch soaked in 1 Tbsp hot milk and a pinch for garnishing
Ghee - 2 Tsp

You can lightly roast a pinch of dry saffron fronds reserved for garnishing, and keep aside.
Clean and wipe kitchen work area dry, apply a teaspoon of ghee.
Heat a nonstick pan, add one teaspoon ghee, sugar and 2 Tbsp water.
As the sugar starts to melt and foam, add mango pulp and keep stirring until the syrup thickens and becomes sticky.
Add cashewnut powder and keep mixing on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to burn the contents.
Add saffron soaked in milk.
Keep mixing on medium low heat, until the mass starts to leave the sides.
Add corn flour and mix well for 2 more minutes.
Switch off the flame, mix in castor sugar.
Knead the mixture well using a paav bhaaji masher or your palm, flatten on the greased kitchen work area.
Cover with plastic sheet or butter paper and using the rolling pin, roll into 5 mm thick spread.
Remove the covering sheet, sprinkle saffron fronds and roll again to embed the saffron fronds.
Cut into equal size diamond shaped burfis with a sharp knife.
Once completely cool, loosen with the sharp knife edge and store in an airtight box, preferably layered with butter paper.
You can keep them at room temperature for 2-3 days, then shift into a fridge.
You can also make Kaju Katlis adding vanilla or other exotic essence and also with different sticky type fruit concentrates such as strawberry, fig, apricot, pineapple, grape, lychee and orange.


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