Friday, February 23, 2007

Rajasthani Papad ki Subzi - Extraordinary out of the Ordinary


There are many days when I am so hungry and tired when I come home that the idea of a hot, fresh dinner that is ready to eat in 10 minutes is ........AMAZING. The dish that I am going to talk about today is like that. It also has a plus point - it is made out of the most common, ordinary ingredients that I am bound to have. So there is no planning required - this is almost always the mark of a classic recipe to me. Plus, with the calcium in yogurt and the protien in chickpea are getting the most out of comfort food.

North Indian Papads are crisps made out of besan (chickpea flour) and spices. The flour is kneaded to a dough using some oil and water ( and spices). Then it is rolled out into really really thin taco-like entities. These are then dried in the sun for a few days. After this, they are storable for centuries (almost). How are they eaten? Well, you could fry them....but the healthier, and in my mind tastier way, is to grill them for 30 seconds (each side) on an open flame. But today we are going to use them 'un-cooked' to make a delicious and super-fast curry.


Oil 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds 1/4 tsp
Heeng (asafoetida) 1/5 tsp

Buttermilk 1/4 cup (You can use watered down yogurt) - the tangier the better.
Water 1/2 cup
Tumeric pwd 1/3 tsp
Red chile pwd 1/3 tsp
Corriander pwd 1/3 tsp

Papad (poppadum) 2-3 cut into small pieces
Garam masala 1/3 tsp



1. Heat the oil in a pot till hot, put in the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Let be till cumin seeds have popped.
2. Remove the pot from heat. Wait for 1 minute and then stir in the buttermilk/yogurt. Stir continuously and put on low heat. Add the water now. Stir continuously!
3. Add the powders ( NO SALT yet)
4. After 4-5 minutes of off-and-on stirring, you can turn up the heat to medium. Go about your other tasks....but stir every 2 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling. (Yes, yes I do increase the heat at some point to make it quicker). Once it boils, you can let it boil away for another 2-3 minutes (no stirring required now).
5. Lower the heat and add the papad pieces. Let simmer for another 2-3 minutes until the pices are translucent. But you dont want them to fall apart. So taste. In fact, now would be a good time to taste and add salt. Sprinkle with garam masala and serve!


You can go wrong in two places. First, the buttermilk/yogurt could split if the pot is too hot when you put them in. We have a rememdy for that - 1 tsp of Besan (chickpea flour) will bind everything together again.
Second, if you salt too soon the buttermilk might split and/or the dish is toooo salty to eat. This is because Papads have a lot of salt. It is wisest to wait until the dish is done, taste and then add salt (if needed).

Here is my simple meal of Papad subzi, paranthas and green chilie pickle.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lesson Learnt! The Hard Way!

Ok, dont get me wrong. Its not like I am stupid or I think you are........but I could not understand why most of you have comment moderation etc enabled on your blogs. Then I started recieving some things like "Hey, liked your blog. Buy a house from me...". Theek hai......can tolerate that.

Then today, I was checking the keyword analysis for my blog in StatCounter......and apparently a pretty dirty phrase - when searched- was coming up with my blog!!! OMG OMG OMG. I nearly fainted! There were dirty comments posted on my blog but on really really old I never saw them.

So anyway, I appreciate your use of the tools more now - I guess you could think of this as a "coming-of-age" ceremony in the blogging world. Sigh........ :)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Garlic Chutney - keeping the chills and home-sickness at bay


As I mentioned in a previous post, Laxman makes one of my MOST favourite things to eat -- garlic chutney. There are many variations of garlic chutney across regions and cuisines. This one below is a pretty typical Rajasthani version, adapted towards my preference for extremely high spice levels and preference against actual pieces of garlic. Smooth, spicy, packing a punch and making any thing (even slices of Wonder bread!) interesting. Also, depending on how much you spice it up it can really keep the chills away! Plus it stays in the fridge make a huge batch once and enjoy for months.

Its a pretty long-ish post for a pretty simple thing. But its quite easy to go wrong with this (pro'lly cos you didnt listen to Laxman or thought yourself too clever) and I have learnt from many mishaps. Hope I can save you some of them.


Garlic pods 2-3 cups (!!), pealed
Green chille 3-4 (optional, but Laxman uses it to bump up the spice level so that you dont have to use too much red chille powder)
Cumin seeds 1 tsp
Red Chile powder 4-5 tsp (or to your taste)
Water 2-3 cups water.
Oil 4-5 table spoons (yes, its a lot)


1. Grind the garlic and green chille to a smooth paste. The definition of 'smooth' is really yours. I prefer mine without any solid garlic pieces. You can add water to ease the grinding process.

2. Start heating the oil on medium heat. In the meantime, take the garlic-green chile paste and mix with the red chile powder and salt. Add water.

Note: since you may have added water during grinding, but dont worry too much about the quantity. The consistency should be like dosa batter.


3. The oil must be heating up now. Add the cumin seeds. Once they sputter, SLOWLY add the mixture. The SLOW is essential since we are adding a lot of water to a lot of hot there is going to be spattering!

FAQ: So whats up with the quantity of oil?
Ans: Good question. You NEED it. Skimp...and regret. But here's a trick that Laxman taught me. After a 20-25 minutes cooking time, there will be a thick layer of oil over the chutney. You can leave it there (for maximum flavour) or skoop it out and use it for tempering for dal or veggies. Basically, the oil is garlic-chile infused oil and packs a HUGE flavor punch which can be used for anything....even for dipping bread in.


4. Cook on low flame for ...............20-25 minutes! Yes, it takes that long to cook. Basically, the combination of water and oil will gently cook the garlic and this needs to go on till ALL the water (from the garlic as well as the extra water we added) evaporates.

FAQ: Can we skimp on the time needed? Can we not add so much water when making a paste so that we dont have to cook the mixture for so long???
Ans: Absolutely NOT. Yours truly thought herself very clever and tried doing that a few years ago and ended up with raw garlic goop........and nearly got booted out by room mates 'cos of the smell. You need both the quantities of water and oil for the mixture to cook thouroughly and to have a wonder, coooked-garlic aroma waft through your home.

After about 15 minutes, the mixture will look like..................the picture at the top of the post. As you can see the water is almost evaporated and everything is starting to look (and smell) cooked. But dont give up.......Let things go for another 10-15 minutes on low flame.

Unfortunately, I dont have a pic of the final product - I ate it all!

FAQ: How to eat?
Ans: My favourtite method is to put one big heaping tablespoon in to one bowl of yogurt, swirl and eat with hot, steaming rice. But can and should be eaten with roti's, dosas (out of the world) or on slices on bread (very convenient and the best sandwich ever).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Non-Food, yet Important Post

Hi all, I have been meaning to blog about this for some weeks since I saw this video on YouTube.

Please do watch the video as well as the responses that have been posted. It was very eye-opening and a little scary even to me ( I dont have kids). I guess it really points to the importance of being involved in schools and not taking anything for granted. In this age of super-specialization we have a (natural enough) tendency to defer to the opinion of "experts". However this should not be at the expense of using our own common sense and experience.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

From Russia, with Love - Beet and Pineapple Salads

I colleague and friend of mine (O) is Russian and through her I have tasted some really great unusual Russian dishes. Of course, there is a lot in Russian food that I can not eat and O's constant nag is that she does not know what to cook for me since I dont eat meat! However she herself says that this pushes her to be a little more adventurous and out-of-the-box..........yeah, vegetarians!

Last Fall, O and her husband invited us to their home for a lovely dinner. I fell in love with these two salads to go along with Borcht. Both are super-simple and super-quick to make. Also, they dont require any "special" no planning required -- always a plus point to me!

I introduced my parents to Russian food this time and it was a huge success. They were demanding Borcht pretty much every evening. Of course, beets were in season in India and so it was an ideal soup for cold, winter nights. But for sunny winter days, the salads were in great demand too. So much so that I made them for the 50-60 people lunch party (which eventually became a 90-100 people party!). Again, huge success for very little effort. These pictures are from India.....hence the huge quantities. However, I have scaled down the quantities in the recipes.

O's Beet-Pickle Salad


Beets 1 cup, chopped into small squares
Carrots 1 cup , chopped into small squares
Dill pickle 1/2 cup, chopped (I used the normal, bottled variety)
Garlic 6-7 cloves, grated/pressed finely
Olive oil 1 tsp (dont remember if O adds it or not. I prefer to add)
Corriander leaves chopped, handful
Cheese for garnish (optional)
A twist of lemon juice (optional)

1. Steam the chopped beets and carrots till tender-to-your-taste.
2. Mix everything and garnish.

It is THAT simple and immensely tasty.

O's Pineapple Salad


Pineapple 1 tin (this turns out to be one of the dishes where tinned is actually better than fresh)
Sour cream 1/4 cup (I substituted home-made yogurt in India)
Cream 1/4 cup (optional, can be tried with milk too)
Garlic 4-5 cloves finely pressed
Cheese 1/2 cup (any kind that grates easily) grated not-too-finely
Salt to taste

1. Do not drain all the syrup from the tinned pineapple. Take out the rings and chop into desired size pieces.
2. Mix the sour cream, cream, garlic, salt. Make sure fully incorporated.
3. Put in the grated cheese and pineapple peices. You can add some of the syrup from the tin until you reach the sweetness level that you like. I would suggest that you dont make it too sweet.

The slight tartness of the pineapple, the sweet from the syrup, the punch of garlic....its a whole bunch of flavors packed into a really simple salad.

At O's place, we had the most scrumptious dessert! Hows this for Russian candy?!


This is O's daughter, Z -- the most adorable scamp ever!