Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Galumpkis even an Indian word, leave alone patriotic?


Chanced upon the movie Mississippi Masala on Cable & started watching it out of sheer boredom... Denzel Washington was a definite eye candy redeeming feature, but what tugged at me was the scene where the Tape recorder starts playing that all time RK classic 'Mera Jootha hai Japani' it kind of seemed to add sense to my fledgling food endeavor,      (Yeh dishes  hai Japani, mere styling englistani, naamein hai French aur Roosi, phir bhi food  hai Hindustani), Ahh, the hallucinations that occur when you have no clue how to spend a snowed in afternoon!!

About Galumpkis, this is a traditional East European dish made with cabbage. Leaves are wilted in salted water, stuffed (or should I say rolled ) with rice, meat (usually pork) and seasonings & baked or steamed till the flavors have blended. This is  a staple dish in a lot of Slavic countries like Croatia.

Swiss Chard makes for a fabulous substitute for spinach in all Indian dishes, once the crunchy celery like central vein has been removed. the leaves are also a bit more sturdy compared to the delicate spinach leaves, and will not fall apart as easily when subjected to extended cooking.

This weeks offering is a tribute to the culinaryl mecca that New Delhi truly is. The foods that rule at this time of year with the chilly nip in the air are Makki di roti, Sarson da saag, not to forget the streetside chaatwaalas selling charcoal baked sweet potatoes smoky flavored & redolent with the incomparable taste of chaat masala & lime.

Here is my interpretation of Galumpkis, a baked saag stuffed with marinaded paneer & served over a bed of rice. with a side of sweet potato fries seasoned with lime & chaat masala.

For the 'Galumpkis, you need:
8 oz block of Paneer (Indian Cottage cheese)
1 tbsp oil
Salt & chilli powder to taste
a pinch of asafetida
6-8 large leaves of swiss chard.

Using a vegetable peeler cut thin slices of paneer into a mixing bowl. Add the oil, salt, chilli powder and asafetida & toss well till the spices are evenly distributed over the paneer slices. Set aside for ~ 1 hr till the flavors have set in.

Remove the central white colored  vein of the chard leaf.
Dip the leaf in scalding water for ~ 10 s till the leaf wilts (alternatively, you may steam them for ~ 30 s). dry the leaf and place a tbsp of the marinaded paneer as shown.
Roll the leaf over the paneer as one would for a spring roll.


For the gravy you need:
 1 medium sized onion
1/3 -1/2 cup cashewnuts (depending on how sweet you like your gravy)
1 pod garlic
2-3 green chillies,
1" piece fresh ginger
1 tbsp ghee + 1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp Garam masala
1 cup milk (I used skim since the cashew nuts have a very creamy & rich texture, but any milk shd be ok)

Grind all these to a paste. In a skillet, heat the ghee & oil. add the paste & cook on a low heat till the raw smell of the onion disappears. Add the turmeric and garam masala & mix well.
Continue cooking on low heat till the oil releases from the gravy. Add the milk & whisk well to eliminate lumps. Cook down till it becomes a smooth paste.

To finish the dish:
 Heat oven to 350 C. Pour a thin layer of the makhani gravy at the bottom of an ovenproof dish and spread evenly

Arrange the paneer/chard rolls seam side down in the dish.

Pour the remaining gravy over the rolls, cover with aluminum foil with a few slits to let out steam. and place in the oven for ~ 20 minutes.

To serve carefully remove the rolls and place over a bed of Basmati rice.
The orange part of the dish is simply sweet potato fries tossed with lime & chaat masala!

Since it was not easy to cut open the roll while on the rice, Here is what a cross section of the roll looks after its cooked.
A very happy Republic day to everyone in India! Jai Hind!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Friday night munchies

Whether its a football game or a bollywood masala flick, an essential part of the experience is having the right finger foods to go with it. My idea of relaxing on a friday night is whipping up something other than the traditional  Indian fare & the favorites are usually something Mediterranean or Mexican..
The bad thing about nacho's the difficulty in controlling portions.. the smallest baking tray accomodates 1/2 a huge bag of chip & with the toppings... forget it. When combined with a childhood habit of 'not wasting food' you're pretty much doomed as far as watching your caloric intake for the next week!
 Baking individual portions in muffin pans makes for a visually pleasing hors  d'oeuvres, while retaining all the elements of the incomparable umami.& the interesting part... no deep fried chips!.
For those of you in India where the listed ingredients may not be available in the standard form, I've provided substitutes that do not alter the basic taste & flavors as far as possible.
Ingredients with *: recipes follows.
You need:
 6” Corn tortillas (ready made from your local supermarket)
Oil for brushing
1 can refried beans
1 can black beans drained & rinsed
sour cream or
finely diced lettuce & tomatoes
Salsa*
grated cheddar cheese or a mexican blend if available

Heat oven to 250 F.
Cut slits in the corn tortillas as as you would when making a pinwheel with paper.
Brush lightly with oil & place into the muffin tin cups with the flaps overlapping as in the picture.
Bake in a 250 F oven till crisp. (the rosette shape is a result of the baking) Set aside till you’re ready to make the dish.
Scoop a tsp each of refried beans, and black bean into the centre of the cups. Add jalapenos to taste.
top with grated cheese. bake in a 350 C oven till the cheese is melted & oozy. remove from oven,  top with lettuce tomatoes & sour cream. Serve with a generous bowl of Salsa on the side.

For the Salsa:
1/2 can of crushed tomatoes or 1 cup of fresh peeled chopped tomatoes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste,
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2-3 green chillies finely minced
1 cup loosely packed cilantro chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp cumin powdered
Add all the ingredients together  & mix well till  blended. Taste & adjust seasoning as per personal taste.

Refried beans may be substituted suitably by mashing up some prepared Rajma subzi well & heating it to a thickened consistency .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Root Salad



In India, along with the pongal season arrives a slew of rhizomes in the market that are associated with this festival. Fresh Ginger & turmeric are found everywhere, whole plants with the rhizomes still caked in fresh muddy earth. The aroma is incomparable.
At home, invariably after the festivities were over there would be plenty of the fresh turmeric & ginger left over after some had been replanted in pots (Its quite another story that we needed to eventually buy more next year!)  for the next season, my dad would dice these finely, add finely minced green chilli, salt & a dash of lime to make this yummy relish/salad.. (it was a bit too spicy to load up by the ladleful, but mild & piquant enough to scarf down generously for an 'achar' (pickle/relish), so in later years I took to calling this a salsa). My mother in her characteristic southie tradition would add a tadka of mustard & a pinch of asafetida. This was one of my late fathers signature dishes & I can't take the credit for it.

 you need:
 1/4 cup  Fresh Turmeric root grated or diced fine
1/4 cup Mango ginger ( available in Indian grocery stores) grated or diced finely
1/2 cup tender ginger root grated or diced finely.
Juice of 1 lime
1/4  - 1/2 a jalapeno, seeds removed minced fine
Salt to taste.

For the tadka:
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of asafetida (optional)

Combine the grated turmeric,  mango ginger & ginger in a bowl with the minced jalapeno. add the salt & lime juice & toss lightly. In a skillet, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds once the seeds sputter, remove from fire add the asafetida, stir well & drizzle over the salsa. Serve with any rice dish of your choice.


Appa: thanks for a wonderful recipe.. this one's for you!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gothsu a la Symon!

Before you wonder why I dragged a confirmed meat n potatoes name like Iron Chef Michael Symon into a classic beloved South Indian dish, take a look at this creation of his. http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/michael-symon/pan-roasted-lamb-loin-with-sweet-and-sour-relish-and-smoky-or-grilled-eggplant-puree-recipe/index.html

NO.. NOT the Lamb, the grilled eggplant puree.

It was fascinating to watch how the Iron chef transformed a common man's vegetable into something so elegant!, Got me thinking, Isn't that on the same lines of the humble gothsu that any southie grandma whipped up? & if you go to the basics, this is exactly what chef Symon did for his 'high end' lamb dish.

In the days of cooking with firewood, the eggplant would be rubbed with oil & left to grill on the glowing embers after most of the the day's cooking was done. the charred skin would be discarded & the cooked flesh would be combined with tamarind extract,salt, asafetida &  pieces of dried arbol chillies, a simple 'tadka' of mustard seeds would finish the simple piquant offering to be eaten with idlis or pongal.

In the traditional Gothsu, the cooked eggplant was imply mashed up by hand & combined with a liquid tamarind extract into which the chillies & asafetida had been mixed. the texture was unmistakably rustic  & complemented the smoky flavor very well. This Panfusine version retains the smokiness but the texture is more like that  of a dip. It pairs very well with cocktail appetizers like Pita bread or cocktail idlis

Well,  here is the Iyer-n-chef (wannabe)'s homage to the gothsu.

for the gothsu you need:
1 Italian eggplant rubbed with oil
1 golf ball sized amount of dried tamarind pods
Salt to taste,
2 dried red arbol chillies
a pinch of asafetida
1tbsb sesame oil + 1 tsp for the 'tadka'
1/2 tsp mustard seeds.

On an open stove top flame grill the eggplant till the flesh is soft & the skin is charred well.
(It makes practical sense to put off cleaning your stove top AFTER you do this, as the liquids from the eggplant drip & can create a mess!)
Set aside to cool and then remove the charred skin. If the eggplant is riddled with a lot of mature seeds then try to remove the seeds as much as possible, else leave the seeds in.
try to discard any of the liquid from the eggplant. it tends to have some charred skin that affect the taste.

Add 1/4 cup of water to the tamarind & heat in the microwave for ~ 1 minute. Allow to cool & strain out as much pulp as possible. Discard any seeds and fibrous matter from the tamarind. Add broken red chillies, salt & asafetida.

Add the eggplant and tamarind mixture to a food processor bowl & puree for ~ 5 S.
While the processor is running, drizzle ~ 1 tbsp of sesame oil into the eggplant mix till it emulsifies.

Transfer to a serving dish. Heat remaining sesame oil. Add mustard & let it sputter. Finish the gothsu with the mustard 'tadka'

Serve with Venn polenta (the previous recipe) or with Pita bread &r other hors d'oevres of your choice.
Bon appetit!

Venn Polenta


If Yogurt rice occupies the # 1 spot in a South Indian's list of food faves, then 'Venn Pongal' is usually with in the top five list of comfort foods. Almost every South Indian reading this post has some story about a weekend brunch comprising of a large dollop of steaming hot & thick  porridge of rice & tasted moong dal, with a side of crisp Medu Vada with an almost unlimited supply of tangy piquant Coconut chutney to go with it. the added bonus was licking the plate clean!
 I had been toying with the idea of bringing out a series of dishes using grits & Yellow corn meal for sometime, but the push to get going never came until Shaila Ballal Nigam posted her delish recipe for Cornmeal Dhokhla a week ago. I promise that I'll recreate that recipe & post it.... as soon as I finish up this batch of hominy grits that I have on hand!
Back to Venn Pongal, as I said, Its a mix of well (even slightly overcooked) rice & moong dal ( which is the quickest cooking of all the lentils in the typical South indian pantry).  Precooking the lentils  makes sure that the cornmeal can cook to perfection without under cooking the lentils. the toasted lentils give final dish a subtle nutty flavor and that complements the rich aroma of melted ghee (clarified butter) that is used to finish the polenta. The dish is spiced with Cumin & black peppercorn and ginger & curry leaves round off the flavor profile.

 Cornmeal or Grits is a staple used widely in Africa & the Americas. for details, check out (yeah yeah, you know where!!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornmeal. Polenta is a classic Italian dish made from yellow cornmeal.

Necessity being the mother of invention never applied more than using corn maize as a substitute for rice. My first recollection of this was in the 70's when South Indian housewives living in Kenya used maize meal as a rice substitute for making Idli/ Dosa batter, & they probably still do even today. Just soak the same amount of cornmeal as rice  in water & add to the Urad dal batter.

For the Venn Polenta you need: (4 servings)

1/2 cup cornmeal grits (the white variety)
1/4 cup cooked Moong dal, slightly toasted
a pinch of turmeric
 2 cups water

Seasoning:
8-10 whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin coarsely powdered
1/4 tsp Pepper coarsely powdered
6-8 curry leaves, torn
Salt to taste
1inch piece fresh ginger root, finely grated
5-6 cashew nuts, broken
3 tsp ghee.

Combine the dal, grits & the turmeric to the water & set to cook on the stove top. cook till the water is absorbed & the consistency is that of a tick yet ever so slightly runny porridge.

In a small skillet heat 1 tsp of ghee and add the whole peppercorns. stir for a minute before adding the other ingredients (except the remaining ghee)Stir well for a minute until the spices give off their characteristic aroma. Add to the polenta and mix well till thoroughly combined. Finish with the remaining ghee,

Stir well & pour out into a greased pan. Leave to cool & set.
When the polenta sets, cut into triangles & serve with a chutney or Sambhar of your choice. I've paired this with Eggplant 'Gothsu' which will be posted immediately after this recipe.

Pair with a steaming hot cup of Filter coffee for a perfect weekend brunch! Bon Appetit!

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