Eggplant Salad / Badanekayi Salad

Eggplant aka Brinjal aka Aubergines, are versatile vegetables. They are great in curries, steamed, fried, grilled, in pickles, pizzas, with rice ....the list goes on. I love them. I got to pile them onto my cart every time I look at them in the super market. It reminds me of a friend who I happened to meet in the supermarket, back during my university days. I was as usual piling on more eggplants. This friend smiled at me looking at all the eggplants in my basket and said earnestly, 'Anybody can cook with these many eggplants and not go wrong'. I smiled and nodded. Another friend who was with me was almost giggling. She hated eggplants and could horribly go wrong with them. We looked at each other and reminded ourselves of the dangers of blanket statements.

Today, I have some eggplant salad. Well I would say this is just a twist on good old Badanekayi Gojju . It is just jazzed up a bit and served in a fancy way.

We will need,

Eggplant 1 (the giants one)
Peanut oil 2 tsp (divided)
Peanuts 3 tbsp (about a handful)
Green chillies 2-3 (chopped)
Grape tomatoes 4-5 chopped
Ginger 1" (grated)
Soy sauce 1-2 tsp
Juice of one lemon
Fresh Coriander  a handful (chopped)

To serve,
Romaine lettuce 1

  • Slice the eggplants into 1/4" discs.  Heat a skillet with about 1/2 tsp of oil. Saute the eggplant slices, if necessary in batches. Remove once it is soft.
  • In a separate  skillet, toast the peanuts and remove from heat once fragrant. Set it aside to cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the green chillies, ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice, grape tomatoes and fresh coriander.
  • Chop the cooled eggplants into bite size pieces. Crush the cooled peanuts.
  • Stir the eggplants, the green chillies mixture and peanuts. Check taste and adjust salt-lemon juice. Sit this mixture for a few hours.
  • Clean the lettuce and shred the into large pieces. 
  • Place the lettuce on serving platter and fill the lettuce with spoonfuls of eggplant mixture. Serve immediately.

Caramel Custard

My favorite movie of all times is perhaps 'You've Got Mail'. I love books, I love love stories, I love Tom Hanks, I love internet and there it is. My favorite movie. I watch it when ever I feel like watching a movie but cannot decide on one. Fair enough! right. Well what has a caramel custard to do with an old movie... This time it is a spiced rum called Brinley, which reminds me of Tom Hanks pet dog in the movie - Brinkley. I love the way Tom Hanks describes his dogs eating bagel bits off the street sidewalks!

Caramel custard is one of the dishes I learned to make back when my father was posted in Punjab. This is one of the many dished our erstwhile landlady taught me. She was a petite women, in her sixties, the widow of an army Brigadier. She lived alone and hardly cooked much for herself. But then she offer to teach me the nuances of Punjabi cooking. I fell in love with Punjabi cuisine right then and there. Caramel custard is certainly not Punjabi but very very European. It did assume some Indian characters like cardamon, and of course cooking in a pressure cooker. But these days I like to bake it. The baked version is a lot more creamy than the pressure cooked version. It has been a long time that I cooked one in the pressure cooker.  Will give it a shot sometime.

This is definitely not the best photograph. This version had to endure a very warm journey 50 mile journey. Will do one for a picture sometime later.

We will need,
(Serves 4)
For the caramel custard:

Heavy cream 2 cups
Eggs 4
Vanilla 1 tbsp
Lemon zest 1tsp
Sugar 1/3 cup (upto 1/2 cup if preferred sweet)

For the Sauce
Sugar 3/4 cup
Brinley spiced rum 2-3 tbsp (or more if preferred)
Lemon juice 1 tbsp

  • Pre heat oven to 350.
  • Heat about a third of the sugar mentioned for the sauce with about 1/4 cup of water. Cook till the sugar is golden and caramelized. 
  • Pour the prepared caramel onto the bottom of a souffle dish. Spread the caramel evenly to coat the bottom completely. Set it aside.
  • In a heavy bottom pot, heat the cream and the sugar. Once the cream is very hot, turn the heat off. 
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them lightly. Temper the eggs with a spoonful of the hot cream. Stir well. Temper the eggs again with another spoonful of hot cream and stir well. Repeat till all the cream is used up. Pour this mixture through a sieve.
  • Stir in the vanilla and the lemon zest. 
  • Pour the cream mixture into the caramelled souffle dish. Place the souffle dish in a tray and pop it into the oven. Pour hot water into the tray. Bake till the caramel is set. It tool me about 40 minutes.  
  • Remove and cool on the counter and refrigerate for a few hours before serving with the spiced rum sauce.
  • To make the sauce, place the remaning sugar and about 1/2 cup of water in the same pot used to prepare the caramel and cook. Reduce the syrup to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in the flavorings and bring it to room temperature.
  • Serve the sauce on top of the chilled custard.

Palak Panner

I love Palak Panner, Saag Panner all those green dishes with Panner in it.  Unlike the buttery greasy versions, Palak Panner can be made with very less fat but taste heavenly. I make this dish quite a few ways but this is the simplest version,  my erstwhile land lady taught me decades ago. This was probably the first dish I learned to cook. At first I used to find it daunting,  getting the Palak to be vibrant green, not the sloppy,gloomy brownish mush it turns into if overcooked. But not I can dish it out in my sleep. These days I make it quite often because it is healthy and Sunny boy refuses most vegetables but is ok with this one. Also dishing out this one for parties is easy as this one scales up easily. Besides everyone loves Palak Panner.
The temperatures being what they are right now, it is the perfect time to ladle bowl fulls of Palak Panner and mop it up with warm tandoori rotis! Add a dollop of cultured butter and it is a piece of heaven on dinner table.  Tandoori roti is for another day. For now it is Palak Panner.

We will need,  (This recipe makes a ton. Good for Potlucks and dinner parties. I would say it serves at least 8-10)

Spinach (tender ones preferred 2.5 lbs
Panner 1 lb
Peanut oil 2 tsp (optional)
Green chillies 6-8 (adjust according to taste)
Onion 1 large
Garlic 4-5 cloves
Ginger 1.5" piece
Ghee 2 tbsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Dhania powder 2 tsp

Jeera Powder 2 tsp
Black pepper powder 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala 1/2 tsp (yes that is a lot)
Fresh cream up to 1/4 cup (optional)
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Wash the Spinach and zap it in microwave, high for 3-4 minutes till the greens are wilted but still vibrant green. Remove from the microwave, allow it to slightly cool down and grind it into a puree.
  • It using ready made Panner, heat the oil in a heavy skillet and fry the Panner till golden in colour on all sides. If using home made Panner, this step can be skipped. The deal is Panner that has been sitting on the store shelf is rather sad tasting but once it is fried, it makes it little lively. Fresh Panner is delicate and needs nothing but tossing right at the end.
  • Combine the onions, chillies, garlic and ginger in a blender and puree it adding a little water if necessary. 
  • Heat the ghee in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the jeera. Once it stops spluttering, throw in the onion paste and the dhania-jeera powder.Cook till the paste smells fragrant, about 15 minutes. Add water periodically and make sure the mixture does not burn.
  • Once the mixture is fragrant, throw in the Palak puree. Reduce heat and bring it up to a gentle boil. 
  • Fold in the Panner and Garam Masala. Adjust salt  and lemon juice. 
  • Stir in the cream if using. Milk can be substituted for cream as well and I do most of time. 
  • Remove from heat and serve hot with tandoori rotis. This dish freezes well (save the cream/ milk, and add it after reheating) and can be frozen for months. It can also be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave.

Happy Sankranti

Wishing everyone a very happy Sankranti. Love this celebration of a bountiful harvest. Love the Ellu Bella, sugarcane, Sakkare acchu and of course the riot of colours on cattle back in Mysore. Like a true harvest festival, Sankranti is actually a celebration of peasants and his way of life. Cattles being a major asset along with land in peasant households,  occupies the center stage this time of the year. After a good meal of assorted pongals, boiled sweet-potatoes, Avarekayi and peanuts, evenings are the time to decorate and celebrate the cattle of the household. They are adorned with little bells, tiaras and other pieces of jewelry.
As a little girl I would go out to all our neighbors and exchange Ellu-Bella etc. Love the celebration and festivities. Now it is all about the next generation, unfortunately little guys are not supposed to do much here and my Sunny boy did rather play than go with other girls to exchange Ellu-bella. But the spirits are high and Happy Sankranti

Deviled eggs Kannada style!

We are just past the season of eating. So my inbox is full of stuff I served at dinner parties these past two weeks. We are right now in the season of resolution, mostly of eating well and probably loosing weight. It never worked with me. So this time thinking of the longer horizon, and no resolutions!

Appetizers often are the most unhealthy of all courses (may be except desserts). They are tasty though. I love them, as I have been for a long time a appetizer-dessert girl. The main course be damned. It is actually easy to put together healthy appetizers. Even before the fitness season kicked in we decided to give it a shot. So all through this eating season we did our best to put out healthier options on the dinner table. It was mostly a variety of salsas and baked chips, olives platter, Masala cucumber and deviled eggs Kannada style.
These deviled eggs have nothing in common with their original counterpart except perhaps the name. But they are delicious and very well accepted in dinner parties. I am not happy with the photographs, they really looked prettier in person, but the low light conditions of winter evenings could not have yielded anything better. Here it is..

We will need,

Eggs 6-8
Yogurt 1/4 cup
Lime juice 2 tbsp (adjust according to taste)
Green chillies minced 1-2 (adjust according to taste)

Fresh coriander a handful
Red chilli powder a generous pinch
Chat Masala a generous pinch

  • Place the egg in a wide mouth pan and cover completely with water. Place on high heat. Once the water starts boiling, reduce the heat and cook the eggs are completely set, about 15-20 minutes.
  •  Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle shell the eggs and cut each egg into two lengthwise. Separate the egg whites and the yolks.Reserve
  • Place the yogurt in a cheese cloth and allow it to drain. After about 15-20 minutes, remove the hung-curd  from the cheese cloth into a mixing bowl. It should be pretty thick.
  • Combine the hung-curd and the yolk. Stir them together with a fork. Once the mixture is roughly combined, throw in the rest of the ingredients except the red chilli powder.
  • Taste the yolk mixture, adjust salt and lime juice.
  • Arrange the white halves on a serving platter and  place spoon fulls of the yolk mixture into the cavity of the whites.
  • Sprinkle red chilli powder on the yolk mixture. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Mooli Pomogranate Raita

New year kicks in. This time around, I have no resolutions. It never did work with me, figured out any  day is just as good as the 1st of Jan to do good things. Just not reading News as voraciously as before, to sort of keep the mind away from all the bad news floating around.
Now for a new recipe. I wanted to present a Raita for a dinner party, something that says winter in a mouthful but cools the spicy Chole that went along. That particular day it was Punjabi style meal with spicy Chole, Saag Panner and Pulkas. It reminded me so much of the Punjabi winters that I had to serve Mooli along, just the way they do back in Punjab- a simple salad of Mooli, onions and green chillies.  Dressed it up a bit to use up some Pomegranates procured in bulk from Costco!

We will need

Mooli /Daikon (tender ones) 1 cup (grated and drained)
Pomegranate seeds   1 cup 
Yogurt 1.5 cup (fresh and sweet preferable)
Mint leaves 3-4 chopped
Pepper a dash
Salt to taste
Sugar a generous pinch

  • Press and drain the grated Mooli very well. 
  • Beat the yogurt well. Fold in the Mooli, Pomegranate seeds and Mint.
  • Add salt, sugar and pepper just before serving. Serve it along a spicy main course.