Thursday, September 30, 2010

Panaka Punch

This post would have never occurred to me, had it not been for a recipe for panaka  I came across in Madhur Jaffrey's James Beard award winning book 'World Vegetarian' (p. 644) . Its hard to retire quietly at 1.15 am when you see something that is so much a part of ones life, listed as 'Extinct'. A death knell so loud, that I had to vent about it immediately!

The Hindu festival 'Ram navami' is celebrated in the month of April all over India. One of the traditional festive offerings in South Indian temples & households for this event is 'panakam', a refreshing punch like drink made with ginger, gud (jaggery) and lime & flavored with cardamom. A time honored tradition kept alive for the past 3000+ (yes, three thousand) years.

Ideally I should have thought about posting this delicious refreshing beverage in the height of summer, but hey... summer or fall, it makes for a great drink.The recipe varies from household to household, but the taste is singularly delicious.

Disclaimer: I have taken some creative liberties with the basic recipe ( marked with a *), but these substitutions do not deviate from the flavor profile significantly.

You need:
3-4 tsp brown sugar* or Gud/jaggery  (available in Indian Stores)
1 tsp powdered dry ginger
2-3 pods cardamom seeds crushed
Juice of 1/2 a lime
water  as required
or
2 oz water +  lime flavored seltzer water as required*
Ice cubes


Heat the  brown sugar (or gud) and 2 oz water in a microwave for about 30 s till dissolved. add powdered ginger and crushed cardamom & steep for about 5- 10 min. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime in a  tall glass filled with ice cubes and strain the  syrup into the glass.Add the remaining water or seltzer as preferred. Garnish with a slice of lime. Stir & serve chilled.

(For The boozy version follow this link or this one from Monica Bhide's website. )

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review.

Image courtesy Indianfoodrocks.com



http://www.peppertrail.com/php/displayContent.php3?link_id=186 - 33k 


I heard about this book from another Blog that I follow (indianfoodrocks.com), took my own time ordering it from Amazon.com & when it finally arrived today, I was like... 'what was I thinking, putting off buying this book'.


 I don't believe I have ever curled up on the couch & read a recipe book from cover to cover in one sitting. but then, calling this book a recipe book would be severely shortchanging the sheer nostalgic thrill it gave me. Of course, I plan to go back to page 1 & start all over again!

 This book would have been a best selling memoir had it been written by a high end celebrity chef from Food Network but the stories told by this author about her childhood in Kerala are no less in terms of captivating the imagination.

In the first 1/3rd of the book, Ms. Ramachandran talks about her idyllic childhood growing up in Kerala as a member of the  Kochi royal family. Contrary to the fairytale princess stories that one would associate with such a privileged background, she focuses on the elegant simplicity that remains a hallmark of Keralans to this day irrespective of their social background. Their food is not embellished with silver leaves, nor is it served on gold platters, just because they are royalty, a point she brings out so well in talking about her grandfathers fondness for the humble 'kanji' (p. 90), and yet it clearly is food fit for the most royal of kings.

History in school would have been so fascinating had it been explained the way Ammini skillfully weaves the rich threads of Kerala's  spice trade alliances with Europe and the Middle East. The cross pollination of Malabar  spices and new world produce such as chili peppers, potatoes & tomatoes have culminated in a culinary legacy unique to South India.

For those readers who may be daunted by the ingredients, relax, Ms. Ramachandran devotes a generous section of the book to detailed yet succinct descriptions of all the ingredients found in a typical South Indian pantry

The third dimension so well expressed in this book is the intrinsic association of food & religious/social festivals and occasions. If we were to look back at what constitutes pleasant memories from times gone by, The probability that food is somehow part of it is high. (on the contrary, how many of us have enrapturing flashbacks of food from the local McDonalds?). She stirs up memories of intimate ceremonies that many South Indians perform at home that outsiders are not privy to. One ceremony in particular that misted my vision was the 'Ammini Kozhakattai' ceremony that babies are initiated through when they begin crawling & become mobile. The prayer to the almighty is pure & simple.. 'Lord, protect this child as it begins exploring the world'. I could not help recalling the time when my late mom did it for my son, & how immensely I missed her comforting presence the next time around.

The recipes are the classic dishes that you would find in traditional South Indian families that adhere to a vegetarian diet. A refreshing aspect is that she does not make it sound orthodox and stodgy, but instead she makes valuable recommendations of pairings with beer & margaritas. There are sections devoted to breakfast dishes, main courses ( if there is such a thing in traditional southie cuisine), desserts, dishes associated with festivals, religious & social.

In conclusion, this is one book that would make a lot of us pick up the phone & call our mommies, mentally making a decision to pay more attention to what she's been telling you all along... or mentally accept selling your soul to the Devil if it bought you some more time with her..

Grains, Greens and grated coconuts is available in the us through Amazon.com (Borders and Barnes & Noble claim its a print to order.. whatever that means)

http://www.amazon.com/Grains-Greens-Grated-Coconuts-Remembrances/dp/160528016X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284678412&sr=1-1

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tortellini a la Travancore


  The term 'Kerala' to most South Indians, brings to mind a verdant pristine land lush with Coconut, Cashew, Banana & Jackfruit trees, an image of prosperity combined with a certain sense of inner calm. To the rest of the world, it is the land of spices, that indispensable cornucopia of Natures bounty that makes food palatable.
Traditional Kerala Cuisine makes use of jaggery / 'gud'( unrefined sugar before the molasses have been removed) which has a certain 'winey' depth of flavor. This adds an extra dimension to the taste profile of any dish its added to. Other staple ingredients are Coconut, Plantains, Mangoes & Jackfruit.
Today's dessert presentation is dedicated to all those of you with roots in Kerala. It consists of fried tortellinis stuffed with 'Chakka Varatti' (A jam like sweet primarily made with jackfruit & jaggery) to be served with a 'Vella payasam' made with toasted mung & coconut milk, sweetened with jaggery.
A piece of candied ginger rounds off the presentation by adding a touch of piquant spiciness.
(& the dill is just eye-candy)
Ambrosia from Gods own land!

Chakka Varatti
You need:
1 can Jackfruit,drained
1 cup Jaggery, loosely packed
5-6 pods cardamom, powdered,
1 Tsp powdered Ginger,
1 Tbsp Grated coconut (optional)
2 tbsp Ghee
In a food processor, mince the Jackfruit pieces as per taste.
Microwave the Jaggery with 2-3 tbsp water for 2 minutes, till the lumps have dissolved completely. Strain to remove any residual grit and set aside.
Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed skillet and add the Jackfruit and Jaggery syrup. Mix well and let cook on a low flame till the fruit is soft and all the water has evaporated.
Add the grated coconut, Powdered ginger and cardamom. Stir well, remove from flame and cool.
Store in the refrigerator in an airtight jar.




Vella payasam
½ cup Jaggery loosely packed.
2 tbsp yellow mung dal, toasted golden
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup whole milk
½ tsp Cardamom powder
1-2 tbsp water
1 tbsp ghee
Raisins & Cashew pieces to taste.
Pressure cook the toasted mung dal till soft
Add water to the Jaggery and microwave for 2 minutes till the lumps have dissolved. Strain and set aside
In a Saucepan, combine the cooked dal and the Jaggery syrup and heat till well combined
Add the Cardamom, milk and coconut milk. Heat on a low flame till it begins to boil. Reduce the flame to a simmer for another 5 minutes.
In a separate saucepan, heat ghee and toast the Cashews & Raisins till golden.
Stir in the Cashews and raisins to the Payasam . Serve chilled.


Chakka Tortellini.
For the Dough,
1 cup all purpose flour, + additional flour for dusting
¼ cup water
1-2 tsps Sugar.
Chakka varatti, cooled.
Large Pan of boiling water, or Oil for frying.
Using a spoon and oiled palms, apportion marble sized pieces of the Varatti. Set aside
Dissolve the Sugar in the Water. Knead the flour stiff dough using the Sugar water.
Divide dough into 6 balls, Dust the rolling surface with flour and roll into a thin sheet. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out 2” circles.


Place a ball of the varatti on each circle,


fold over as shown (make sure you squeeze out any air)

to make the tortellini.


If you choose to boil the tortellini, heat water to boiling point, gently place the tortellini in the water and cook till they float up. Remove & Set aside
If deep frying, heat oil & fry till golden brown. The sugar in the dough helps caramelize the pasta.


To Serve
Place 4-6 tortellini in a serving dish alongside a small bowl of chilled vella payasam. And serve with a pair of chopsticks for dipping.



Alternatively, place the tortellini in a shallow bowl and pour Payasam over (This works especially for the deep fried version).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Avialtouille


Recall the scene from Disney Pixars movie 'Ratatouille'. The one where Remy the rat prepares the ultimate Provencal peasant comfort food ratatouille, The sauce layer at the bottom of the pan with uniformly sliced veggies layered over & baked to perfection.. The expression on Anton Ego's caricatured face sums up the ecstasy that many of us have felt when biting into that particular comfort food that we all grew up with.
For many of us, Avial is one such food. At its dismissive best, the term 'Avial' implies a hodge-podge of various veggies cooked together & bound by a coconut gravy. & yet it was the vegetable of choice for many a South Indian mother for any special occasion.
The uniqueness of Avial lies in its elegant simplicity. Cumin & Green chillies bound together with coconut & possibly a dash of soured buttermilk. That's it! It leaves you free to add whatever combination of vegetables you prefer.
This variation of Avial has been baked casserole style rather than cooking the individual vegetables separately and then adding the paste as in done the traditional way.

For the paste, you need:
(coconut oil not shown!)

1/2-2/3 can of Coconut milk
1 tbsp grated coconut
1-2 tbsp Jeera,
2-3 Green chillies to taste
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
a pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
Coconut oil to taste
Coriander for Garnish
Combine all these ingredients in a blender & grind into a smooth paste. Set aside.

Vegetables:
You pick 5 (or 6)! Shown: Raw Banana, Carrot, Parsip, Yellow Zucchini, Potato & striped Zucchini

Pick any 3-5 vegetables of your choice from the list given below :
Potato
Raw banana
zucchini
carrots
Parsnip
Japanese eggplant
beetroot (Yellow ones preferred unless you want a deep crimson colored dish!)
Sweet potato,
Arbi/Taro
Bell pepper
Patty pan Squash
Mangetout peas

Slice vegetables into uniform discs preferably using a mandoline
Carrots, Zucchini, Parsnips, raw banana, potato


In a an oven proof dish (brushed well with coconut oil) , Place a layer of potato over the bottom.
spoon a layer of the coconut masala.

Arrange vegetables over the masala as shown below,
Continue alternating layers of masala & vegetables as per your preference,

finishing with a layer of vegetables. Drizzle over the top with coconut oil if desired.

(Remember the ol' mommy rules, the starchy & crisp vegetables are cooked for a longer time compared to the pumpkin/squash veggies, That rule still applies here, try to layer the crisp starchy veggies in the bottom & middle, & finish off with the zucchinis which cook faster)
Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and prick holes for steam to escape.
Bake in a 350 C oven until vegetables are cooked. (~ 20-25 min)

Cut and serve over plain rice or rice noodles or simply by itself as a gratin bake!.

Bon appetit!

Gajar (Carrot) Halwa Blondie (or redhead?) bars

With the approach of Fall, the temptation to nosh on something warm, chunky & satisfying is overwhelming! (for those of you Down Under, One last chance to indulge before the warm weather sets in!)
Winter in New Delhi means usually heralds the advent of warm comfort foods like Jalebi, Coal grilled sweet potatoes & decadent Gajar Halwa, none of which may be defined as soft & melt in your mouth, These are foods to be masticated well to extract every bit of flavor before they go down the hatch. Over on the other side of the Suez canal & the atlantic, I associate fall in NYC with warm chestnuts & those amazing honey roasted nuts that are sold in almost every street corner & decadent hot chocolate from Godiva!.
The flip side of Gajar halwa is that it isnt something that you multitask with, No leisurely stroll with a cuppa joe in one hand & a sticky brownie like treat in the other while window shopping!
This weeks offering combines the satiating feel of warm Gajar halwa with the portability of a white chocolate macadamia Blondie.
its astonishingly simple to make.
 You need:
(not shown, butter & sugar)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 can condensed milk
1/2 cup of evaporated milk or regular whole milk (if necessary)
5 tbsp sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
3 level tsp double acting baking powder (NOT baking soda)
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter melted.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup almond slivers for garnishing
5-7 pods cardamom crushed
1/2  nutmeg powdered

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Sieve together the flour & baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
Combine shredded carrots, condensed milk, sugar and raisins in an oven proof bowl. (rinse out the condensed milk sticking to the sides of the can with the evaporated milk and add to the carrots)
Mix well & microwave for 5-8 minutes till the carrots are soft & have lost their raw taste. Add melted butter and ground spices & combine well. ( I prefer to add the spices after the carrots are cooked to ensure that the essential oils in the spices do not dissipate)


Line a baking sheet with Aluminum foil & grease completely with butter.


Pour the carrot mixture into the centre of the mixing bowl containing the flour. Fold in gently from the sides towards the centre.


Take care not to over mix as this can cause the gluten to bind together, resulting in a tough & leathery  texture.


Spread evenly onto baking tray and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for ~ 20-25 minutes till the top is golden brown.


Allow to cool, cut into squares & serve. These bars freeze well & will keep for upto a month in the freezer.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

ShareThis