January 30, 2007
The choicest ingredient for this month’s JFI event is Ginger, a great pick and event hosted by Rosie of What’s the recipe today Jim?
Ginger is an everyday ingredient in Indian cooking; a few juliennes of ginger in this, or a piece of crushed ginger in that or a squirt of grated ginger in something else is such a routine. It is used in eats, treats and remedies very widely. In my opinion this wonderful rhizome takes the place of a megastar among the spices, not only for the unbeatable taste and punch it imparts to the dish it is used in, but also for the added health benefits it bestows. The properties of Ginger that aid promotion of good health and its healing abilities make it a very widely used ingredient in Ayurveda, the science of health, well being and medicinal practice that is an age old tradition in India. Knowing very well that I would just be repeating myself by listing some of the ailments that are treated with ginger, here is a short list anyway: indigestion, joint pain, simple cold and cough, motion sickness, and even early stages of rheumatoid arthritis to just name a few.
To celebrate this wonderful ingredient, here is my lowly attempt to showcase its use in everyday Indian life. Below is spread of South Indian dishes, beverages etc. consumed during various times of the day. You will clearly see, that in order to avoid a super-over-dose of ginger (yes, you can have too much of good things too), not all of these are served on any single day! Everything in moderation is the rule to stick by, always!
At the crack of dawn, the day is kick started with a cup of hot tea or coffee infused with Ginger; black tea steeped or fresh coffee brewed and mixed with a few drops of ginger juice, milk and sugar. What a way to get that boost first thing in the morning for a long drawn day ahead! Then a typical South Indian breakfast like Idly or Dosa is served with coconut-ginger chutney; freshly grated coconut mixed with a piece of ginger, a few green chilies, a piece of tamarind all ground to a perfect delectable chutney.
At lunch you might see a serving of Ginger dal, yellow lentils cooked with tomatoes and ginger served with rice as a main dish or Ginger chutney as an accompaniment. Ginger chutney is made with pieces of fresh ginger sautéed in Ghee, mixed with various other spices and hand pounded for an unbelievable taste and texture. Various vegetables are also cooked with Ginger for creating delectable curries, dry or gravy based that make a perfect side dish.
Need to quench that thirst in the mid afternoon or evening? Why not indulge in some Ginger lemonade! Freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice mixed with ginger juice and sugar or sometimes even served as a salty beverage with the addition of black salt or kala namak and some ground black pepper. Another unforgettable beverage which I still make it a point to get my share during my visit to India is freshly squeezed sugarcane juice infused with Ginger! The sweetness of fresh sugarcane is perfectly balanced with the pungent kick of ginger for an ambrosial taste. If you ever get to try this, grab a glassful with both hands for a delish experience of a lifetime!
For a light, simple dinner you might see Ginger rasam, served piping hot either to be eaten with steamed rice or just to drink it up as a light soup (the way I prefer it). Typically this rasam does not contain lentils and is made as watery as possible. You may also see buttermilk mixed with crushed ginger and curry leaves served with dinner or lunch or just as a beverage by itself.
Suffering with tummy troubles at bed time? Pop in a piece of Ginger candy (ginger cooked with jaggery/sugar) or a piece of pickled or salt cured ginger to rid yourself of such troubles! A wonderful childhood memory comes to mind when I think of salt cured ginger. My grandfather to this day, keeps an ample supply of “Bhavana Shunti”, pieces of salty ginger made and sold as an Ayurvedic medicine. I would sneak into his medicine chest to get my hands on a few of those salty pieces of ginger, tummy troubles or not!
If I had a hard time picking one single dish to send in as an entry to JFI Ginger, you can see why, with so many choices to choose from! After much deliberation, I completely went in a different direction; I just decided to go with what the taste buds felt like feasting on at that moment – a fresh mix of salad greens with a very ginger-y vinaigrette! I think this dressing does perfect justice in bringing out the punch of ginger to gently flavor a bed of fresh baby greens. I added slices of fresh strawberries and diced dried apricots to bring in some sweetness to the salad. All in all, this turned out to be one flavorful ginger-y salad; almost felt like summer!
To make the Ginger-Cilantro Vinaigrette, you’ll need:
- 2 inch piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 tbsp of chopped cilantro
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chopped ginger and cilantro in a blender
- Add in the vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper and blend until smooth
- With the blender on, slowly drizzle the olive oil until the vinaigrette reaches a smooth creamy consistency
- Serve with a mix of greens of your choice. Makes about 5-6 servings of dressing. Enjoy!
January 21, 2007
Most Indian snacks are loaded with calories, what with all the deep frying of bhajis, bondas, pakodas, vadas, etc. Not that I don’t indulge on those addictive delicious delicacies (how is one to resist those!), but in the interest of being and feeling good, I often turn to various kinds of chivdas for beating that snack craving attack. Plus, given that such cravings for munching are everlasting on bad winter days, having a decently healthy option is a must!
Chivdas are prepared in a bunch of different ways. The store bought ones are often made with deep fried poha and nuts, obviously eliminating that method of preparation in my kitchen. Some fellow bloggers have experimented, with great success, making chivda from breakfast cereals! For more details on this delicious healthy version, head on over to Trupti’s post for cereal chivda here.
Chivdas have nuts making them not so low in fat but nuts are high in good unsaturated fats. That’s reason good enough for me to call this guilt-free!
Traditionally, chivda is made with just flattened thin beaten rice (poha) but I chose to combine poha with murmura (puffed rice) for that extra puffed crispiness. In addition, I dry roasted the nuts and bits of coconut to avoid using too much oil. The crispiness of poha and murmura, crunchiness from the roasted nuts and that touch of sweetness from the raisins make this a perfectly satisfying snack! Give this version a shot; best enjoyed with a cup of hot ginger-cardamom tea!
- 2 cups of poha (thin flattened rice)
- 2 cups of murmura (puffed rice)
- ½ cup of raw peanuts
- ¼ cup of chopped raw almonds
- ¼ cup of chopped raw cashew nuts (optional)
- ¼ cup of golden or black raisins
- ¼ cup of coconut flakes
- 4-5 finely chopped green chilies (adjust according to your tolerance for heat)
- 2 stalks of curry leaves
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp of ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp + 1tsp of oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- In a microwave safe dish, nuke poha and murmura separately for about a minute each. Since microwaves vary, go with about 40 seconds first and go in 10 second increments until poha and murmura are crispy. Set aside
- Heat a large skillet/saucepan (that can hold all of the ingredients) on medium and dry roast the peanuts, chopped almonds and cashew nuts (if using). I mixed these nuts together and roasted them in one go until they turned slightly golden. The nuts continue to roast for a while after you take them off the heat; so ensure that you don’t over roast the nuts. You can also mix them together and dry roast them in the oven at 350F until just done. Let it cool
- Next, dry roast the flakes of coconut. This can burn quickly, so be extremely careful with this step. When the coconut starts to change color slightly, remove from heat and let it cool
- Return the skillet to the stove on medium-low, pour oil and add the mustard seeds
- When the seeds splutter, add chopped green chilies and curry leaves. Saute until they are crisp
- Add the raisins and fry until they turn plump. Mix the roasted nuts and toasted coconut. Combine well
- Sprinkle ground turmeric and mix well
- Add the crisp poha and murmura. Sprinkle salt and sugar and mix well until all the ingredients are combined well
- Turn the heat all the way down to low and let the mixture heat through, for about 5 minutes
- Take off heat and let it cool completely before storing in an air tight container.
January 12, 2007
The human mind is the fastest conveyor that no technological breakthrough can beat. With just your memories for fuel and imagination as wings, off you can go to places with just a blink of an eye. In addition, if you have a lingering, pleasant burst of flavors on your palate that remind you so very strongly of home, it surely promises to be a ride in the first class and back! A preparation that can create such a sensation absolutely deserves a special post on my blog!
You might be wondering what this write up is all about, with such gung-ho. It is about comfort, taste, simplicity, and about a little bit of history. Rava Idlies are probably nothing new to you if you are an ardent South Indian food fan. For those of you hearing about this for the first time, rava idly is a variation of the very famous idly (rice-lentil dumpling) which is a very popular breakfast preparation mainly in southern parts of India. However the idly fanfare is now spread across the country. Rava idlies are made with wheat rava or semolina instead of the rice-lentil combination and uses slightly sour yogurt to give the batter the fermented twist. The taste of these heavenly, fluffy dumplings is enhanced by using golden bits of cashew nuts and ‘tadka’ or seasonings with mustard seeds and other usual suspects to add a nuttier and denser flavor.
And now for the trivia on its history: I recently learnt that rava idlies were first pioneered by the famous restaurant in Bangalore, MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms). According to their website, they ventured into using rava/semolina for making idlies during WWII when there was a huge dearth of rice supply. I sure am glad they experimented! These wonderful creations are now wildly popular, served at fast food joints and sit down restaurants, making it a favorite among the locals and visitors alike.
Rava idlies are served with the very versatile coconut chutney and/or a curry made from potatoes called “sagu.” Read on for the recipes for both of these; you can readily find instant mixes for making these idlies at your local Indian grocer but I find it immensely satisfying to make them from scratch. To steam these idlies, you’ll need an idly mould; I am sure you can just steam the batter in a greased vessel that fits into your steamer and then cut into pieces, but given that I have not tried it that way, I can’t vouch for its success!
There, I made my quick trip to the Idly-land with these wonderful idlies! Wouldn’t you want a ride too?
To make Rava Idlies, you’ll need:
- 1 ½ cups of Rava/Semolina
- 2 cups of whipped yogurt, preferably slightly sour
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp of urad dal (Black gram)
- 1 tsp of chana dal (Bengal gram)
- ¼ tsp asafotedia (Hing)
- 2 tbsp broken cashew nuts
- 2-3 green chilies, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp oil
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
- Heat the oil in a pot/kadai. When hot, make the “tadka” with mustard, urad and chana dal, asafotedia and green chilies
- Add the cashew bits and fry until they turn slightly brown
- Add the rava and fry until it starts to give out a pleasant aroma, on medium heat. Ensure that you don’t over roast/burn the rava. That can be a real spoiler for these idlies
- Take off the heat and let this rava mixture cool down to room temperature
- Add about 1 ½ cups of yogurt to the rava mixture, along with baking soda, salt and chopped cilantro. Mix well to make a thick batter
- Leave this batter aside for 30 minutes. After the resting time, add the other ½ cup of yogurt and mix well
- Grease the idly moulds, pour the batter into individual moulds. Steam on medium heat for 15-20 minutes*
- Allow to cool just a tad before removing these wonderful idlies. Serve hot, drizzled with ghee along with Chutney/Sagu (recipe below)
To make potato Sagu, you’ll need:
- 2-3 medium sized potatoes, diced
- 1 medium size onion, diced
- ¼ cup green peas, fresh or frozen (optional)
- 3-4 green chilies (or according your tolerance for heat)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 tbsp Urad Dal and Chana Dal mixture
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 ½ tbsp gram flour (besan)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 cups of water
- Salt to taste
- Chopped cilantro for garnish
- Heat the oil in a pan, and make the “tadka” with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, the dals and green chilies
- Add chopped onion and fry until they turn translucent
- Add the diced potatoes and fry for few of minutes, until slightly tender
- Sprinkle the ground turmeric and gram flour. Fry until the raw smell of the gram flour disappears, for just about a minute or two
- Add water, green peas if using and season with salt to taste. Stir in the sugar and allow to boil, covered on medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through and the sagu has thickened.
- Take off heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with hot rava idlies!
* I had a little extra time on hand, so I placed a few strands of grated carrot on the greased moulds before ladling in the batter to steam. This just adds to the pretty factor, really, not a must!
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