Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Bhindi Sambhariya

If there is one cuisine (apart from an eclectic mix of many other) I had to eat all my life, I would probably choose Gujarati. Why not? Their spices are mild, every dish is invariably vegetarian, made with fresh vegetables at that, and most of the dishes have a slight sweetness to them. So yes, why not? I first tasted Gujju food in this wonderful little restaurant in Madras called Mansukh’s Sweets and Snacks. It is quite a famous place to eat in my locality back home and the Gujarati Thali you got there used to be unparalleled. Yes, I used the past tense because the quality has pretty much gone down the drain now.
bhindi sambariya2When it used to be an awesome place to dine at, I got a chance to do a feature on them for the Newspaper I was working for. After the interview, the owner of the store gave me and my friend (who was the protographer) some Basundi that s the most decadent dessert I have ever tasted! But apart from a vestige of better known Gujarati fare, Mansukh’s never served anything more native. So I decided to dig deeper and find foods that we can enjoy at home instead of dream about another visit to the restaurant.

My favorite place to look for Indian food, Tarla Dalal’s literature, is where I began. I bought The Complete Gujarati Cookbook off Amazon (thank you very much, Prime!) and proceeded to turn pages, admiring the simplicity of Dalal’s narration and the wholesome Gujarati foods she has featured in the book. I sent her a silent thanks for not including the usual suspects like Khakra and Jalebi and proceeded to examine the book with much care.
bhindi sambariyaMy most favorite dish (and the first I made) in the book is the Bhindi Sambhariya. A close cousin of Bharli Vangi, this tasty side makes okra the star of the show. By stuffing this normally slimy (but very tasty) vegetable with fresh spices(hence the name Sambhariya, where Bhariya means fill or stuff), Gujarati home cooks only hit the ball out of the park. I don’t stuff, no sir. When I get cooking, I am always pressed for time. Moreover, eating stuffed whole okras and the husband don’t go together but let me not go into details on this. You don’t want to know that info on a food blog. Although there are many versions to this Sambhariya, here is mine-

Bhindi Sambhariya (Adapted from Tarla Dalal’s The Complete Gujarati Cookbook)

Ingredients
Two cups fresh okra, diced into bite-size pieces (or one and a half tray, leave it whole and slit a hole in the side)

One fourth cup cooking oil

To be mixed together:
Six Tbsp freshly scraped coconut (no other kind would do)

One tsp ginger-green chile paste

One tsp turmeric powder

Two tsp cumin-coriander powder

One tsp Garam Masala powder

One tsp Aamchur/dry mango powder (substitute with two tsps lemon juice)

One Tbsp jaggery (substitute brown sugar but I strongly recommend jaggery)

One tsp salt

One Tbsp sesame seeds

Two Tbsp ground peanut (optional but recommended)

Method:
If you dice the okra, mix it with the Masala paste. Heat oil in a pan, add the okra mixture, put a lid on and cook it on medium-low heat until the vegetable is cooked. Make sure you give it a gentle mix a couple of times in the middle to prevent burning.

If you slit the whole okras, stuff the Masala into it and cook it exactly like I have mentioned above.

Adapting either of the methods doesn’t alter the taste. I should probably not call mine “Sambhariya” but I exercise my blogger license here since I adapted it from the traditional recipe.

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Paneer Dahiwala, or Anything You Want to Call it…

This dish is loosely based on the other Indian dish called Dahiwala Paneer or Paneer Dahiwala. I came across this recipe on Tarla Dalal’s website once and bookmarked it for future use. Fast forward a year and I discovered today that my book on Paneer had the same recipe (no surprises there since it was written by the same chef). Although I started the Subzi by following the book, I gradually branched out and threw in ingredients that I found fitting. Hence, you can call it anything you want. I won’t blame you.
paneer dahiwala2We bought a huge slab of Paneer last week in Atlanta and Kishore was going crazy trying to decide what he wanted me to make out of it. These days, it is a pretty huge task, trying to find a good recipe for this Indian cheese that would make it the star of the show. I blame this obsession on the lack of fresh Paneer available at our local Indian grocers. Most of the time, I end up making it from scratch. At times like these, I buy it from Atlanta when we go shopping once in two months. Not surprisingly, the hub prefers the commercial version and I kinda don’t blame him for that. It is less crumbly and it doesn’t disappear when you fry it. My mom rightly observed today that taste-wise, the homemade version kicks the commercial version any day!

What I am trying to say is, make it or buy it, that is your call.

Paneer Dahiwala

Ingredients:
Two cups cubed Paneer

Two cups finely-sliced onion

Ten cherry tomatoes

One tsp tomato paste

Cilantro to garnish

One and a half Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

One tsp each of-
Cumin seeds

Fennel seeds

Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

Mustard seeds

A small pinch of fenugreek seeds

Quarter tsp asafoetida powder (optional)

Two tsp Kasuri Methi (optional)

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Two tsp Chat Masala/Pani Puri Masala/black salt

Salt to taste (but avoid if using black salt)

One Tbsp all-purpose flour

Two cups Greek yogurt

Quarter cup milk

Quarter cup water

Four Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add all the seeds and when they begin to crackle, add the sliced onion. Let it caramelize on low heat. When it turns golden brown, up the heat to medium and add the ginger-garlic paste and cherry tomatoes. Saute for two minutes and then add the tomato paste, water, turmeric powder, cayenne powder, Chat Masala and salt. Let it cook for five minutes. When done, mix in the Paneer. Give it three minutes to cook.

(L-R) Sauteed caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes. Paneer in the pan with the seasonings. Simmering the gravy after adding Kasuri Methi

(L-R) Sauteed caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes. Paneer in the pan with the seasonings. Simmering the gravy after adding Kasuri Methi

Now add the yogurt and milk along with the Kasuri Methi and all-purpose flour. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for five to seven minutes. Once done, switch off the heat and garnish with cilantro leaves. If the gravy is too thick, add some water. If it is watery (which I doubt it will), add another tsp of AP and let it simmer for a few more minutes without the lid.


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Why Mommy Should Blog Instead…

mixed veg subziThis here is the reason why my mom should be blogging this post instead of me. I seldom go into the kitchen these days and hardly give an idea for what to make for a meal. Hence, when Amma asked me what we should make for dinner tonight, I, being my ever helpful self, suggested Chapati. I brought Mallika Badrinath’s 100 Delicious Curries book to her and asked her to make any Subzi she fancied from it. And then, I went to sleep. At 2pm. In my defense, I had just put Aarabhi down for a nap and I was excited about taking advantage of the quiet house.

This Subzi, my mother informed me when I tumbled out of bed in search of coffee at 5pm, was a fusion of two sides from the book. It is a wonderful option for Rotis, can be made fancy if you are entertaining and a great accompaniment for Jeera Rice or any fried rice/Pulao/Biriyani you decide to make.

Here is how Amma made it-

Mixed Vegetable Subzi
Two cups mixed veggies (as you know, I always prefer the frozen kind)

One huge onion, chopped

Two tomatoes, chopped

Half cup tomato puree

One Cup low-fat sour cream

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

To be ground into a paste:

One tsp poppy seeds, soaked for half hour in warm water

One tsp cumin seeds

Two tsp coriander seeds

Six pods garlic

Method
Heat the oil in a saute pan. Fry the onion until slightly brown. Add the ground paste. Fry until the raw smell goes away. Add a Tbsp sour cream. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until mushy. Add another Tbsp sour cream the puree and the vegetables. Mix in the salt and cayenne pepper powder. Add the rest of the sour cream. If too thick, add a little water. Let it simmer until semi-solid. Garnish with cilantro.

Now I gotta go!

 


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Beautiful Bharli Vangi aka Bharwa Baingan

I crave eggplant all the time. No, not the huge western kind or the thin, long Asian kind. I mean the mini, fleshy Indian eggplant that is the star of many of my successful recipes. Every region in India has its own signature eggplant dish and the most popular method of making an Indian eggplant curry is stuffing the hell outta these purple lovelies. But what are they stuffed with, is the question. In Southern India, we use a combination of roasted, freshly ground lentils, red chili peppers and a few other condiments. In the upper part of India, they love stuffing them with pickling spices, a puree of onions and tomatoes. In the West, things get more interesting and you will understand why as you read on.

baingan

I found this recipe of Bharli Vangi/Bharwa Baingan (stuffed eggplant), a very tasty Maharashtrian Subzi in one of my recipe books. I’ve been meaning to try it out for such a long time. We had an Indian eggplant scarcity at our ethnic store for most part of winter. The minute they stocked it back a month ago, I’ve been buying them in huge quantities like a crazed person and making different types of stuffed eggplant curries. First came the Enna Kaththirikkai (Oil fried eggplant or as we call it, brinjal), then the Achari Baingan (eggplant gravy stuffed with pickling spices) happened and today, I had to finish off the last of the vegetable in stock. Hence, I made Bharli Vangi and it did not disappoint!

This succulent dish utilizes the Indian eggplant rather wonderfully. The combination of condiments used for the stuffing Masala works surprisingly well together and if you haven’t tried cooking with Indian eggplants, this is your cue. And if you love peanuts, you’ve really got to try it out! It was so good that I am already pining for tomorrow’s lunch…

Bharli Vangi

Ingredients:
Ten baby Indian eggplants

Three Tbsp grated fresh coconut

1/4 cup peanuts

Two Tbsp white sesame seeds

Two dried red chili peppers

One tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds (you can just go ahead and use cumin-coriander powder like I did)

One Tbsp tamarind pulp

Two tsp jaggery (or brown sugar)

1/2 tsp turmeric

Two Tbsp chopped onions plus one head of onion, sliced into strips (I used vidalia but anything is really fine)

Two tsps salt

One tsp mustard seeds

Two Tbsp vegetable oil

Lime wedges and cilantro leaves to garnish

Method:
This dish requires some extra knife work for slitting and stuffing the eggplants so I’ve done my best at photographing the process. I hope it works! 

(L-R) 1. the glorious Indian eggplants 2. Slit the botton, while keeping the stems intact. Stuff the ground Masala generously. 3. Fry it crisp on all the sides in a pan 4. Simmer in the gravy until cooked

(L-R) 1. the glorious Indian eggplants 2. Slit the bottom, while keeping the stems intact. Stuff the ground Masala generously. 3. Fry it crisp on all the sides in a pan 4. Simmer in the gravy until cooked

Slit open the bottom of each eggplant deep enough to stuff the Masala. Leave the stems intact for easier handling. Soak the eggplants in salted warm water for ten minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice mix: Dry roast the grated coconut, peanuts, sesame seeds, chili pepper and cumin-coriander seeds (don’t roast if you use the powder mix) until fragrant. When done, mix in the tamarind pulp, jaggery/brown sugar,  turmeric, two Tbsps of chopped onion and one tsp salt and blend it in a blender until you get a fine paste. Take the eggplants off the water and pat them dry.

Stuff the eggplants with this mixture. Reserve the rest of the mixture for the gravy. Heat a pan with oil, pop the mustard seeds. Add the sliced onions and saute on med-low heat until slightly brow. Add the stuffed eggplants to this party and let it brown on all the sides. You can use the stems of the eggplants for easy navigation on the pan. When the eggplants are brown, add the rest of the Masala, and salt to the pan, pour in a cup and a half of water, turn the heat to low and cover the pan. The eggplants will steam and cook in the gravy. If you notice the gravy drying up, go on and add more water.

The idea is for the eggplants to cook up until nearly mushy and for the gravy to come to a nice thick consistency. It will probably take around twenty minutes to half hour for that to happen. When done, squeeze the lime wedge and garnish with cilantro.

Suggested side for: Chapati, Phulka, Plain Basmati Rice

baingan2