Nimbe Uppinakayi lemon pickles

I ran out of homemade pickles a few weeks  back. Sunny boy being so particular about pickles, I had to make a fresh batch. While shopping at Target stores, I found this Anchor Hocking Half Gallon cookie jar. I fell in love with it. It is so much like our own "Uppinakayi Jaadi" the pale while and yellow-brown ceramic jars, some long ,some stout each one for a different pickle in my Ammaji's (maternal grandmom) kitchen. I am sure she is proud of me for all the  homemade pickles!
I have just one jar unlike Ammaji, but that is sufficient for my family. Ammaji makes Uppinakayi for the entire clan, therefore she needs multiple jars. After years of making Uppinakayi in assorted jars and bottles, I have come to the conclusion that jars with tight fitting lids end up making sticking and slightly off smelling pickles. But jars with loose fitting lids like a cookie jar makes good uppiakayi. Once done, however, they do stay good  in regular glass jars in the refrigerator. It is just initial 3-4 weeks that are critical in  the life cycle of the Uppinakayi.

So here is my newest batch of Lemon Pickles...I had filled it to the brim and look how much it has shrunk!

Recipe can be found here. This time around it is just a 8-9 organic lemons and skipped the bitter gourd the other ingredients are roughly the same. Cannot wait to try them..On the pickle factory list for summer are Mangoes, chillies and bitter gourd and Nallikayi, then I am  set for the year.

Balekayi Gojju / Plantain Gojju

There was a time when I was way younger, every festive feast, like wedding, house warming, naming ceremony etc used to feature Balekayi Gojju and/or pineapple Gojju. It took me a while to realize that menu for such feasts do follow "fashion". Roomali roti and Panner were in fashion a decade back, then came Akki rotti/ Jolada rotti and ennegai and of late I see a variety of salads / Kosambari like Mexican salad, sweet corn Kosambari etc. Fortunately classics like Chiroti, Peni have stood the test of time. The sweet dish playing the second fiddle have again been subject to fashion, from Laadoo to Rasmalai to Malpuri to Jaleebi they have come and gone.But there are times when we remember dishes from the by gone era and lo behold they pop up in our kitchens.

Honey got a couple of plantains the other day and insisted that I make Balekayi Gojju. So here it is Balekayi masale gojju.

We will need,

Balekayi/raw plantains 2 medium peeled and diced
Peanut oil 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
salt and lemon juice to taste

For the masala

Garlic cloves 3-4
Green chillies 3-4 (adjust according to taste)
Kopra/ Dessicated coconut grated 1/4 cup (loosely packed)
Fresh coriander a handful
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corn 1 tsp

  • Combine all the ingredients for the masala in a blender and pulse till very smooth, reserve.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and curry leaves. Once they stop spluttering, add the diced plantains.
  • Add a generous pinch of salt on  to the plantains and  cover. Cook for a 1-2 minutes.
  • Now add the Masala paste and 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook on medium heat till the plantains are soft.
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice and serve hot with Roti or rice.

Tomato Bhaath- Ajji style

To me food is not just about cooking and eating. To me it is also about people, people that love me, the people I love, the people I loved and lost. Food is about memories, the way I saw the world once upon a time. My Ajji passed away a few months back. Unlike my grandfather, I never spent a lot of time with her, but there was always a longing for some time with her. For umpteen number of reasons it never worked that way. But in the time that I got to spend with her a few hours, each time I went home during last decade and half, I got a piece of her, very little at a time, just like the summer rains it left me far from satisfied. If anything it only left me parched and dry looking for more of her. Human relationships are so weird. Unfortunately, this contorted relationship will remain that way.

But I still remember her for all the foods that she made. This past Shivratri, I was reading one of my previous posts, and I noticed that three years ago, I had called her for the Tambittu recipe. This year all I am left with are the recipes I collected from her over the years.  I hold close to heart, her signature dishes, Idli, Sambar,Chutney and sweet Chutney, Tomato Bhaath, Kargalu , Mosaru Shaale, Akki tari uppittuand her Kodbale , Rave unde, Mithai....the list goes on. For  now it is Tomato Bhaath. My sister spend a while with my Ajji and she did pick up a few of her signature dishes. So this time, I borrowed the recipe from her. The trick really was to use very little fat but to get the best of flavors in the dish, just like my Ajji did. I guess it was just her. She could do it much better than any one else in my family.

So here is  Tomato Bhaath my Ajji style.
We will need,

Rice 1.5 cups washed and soaked in water for 20-30 minutes.
Tomatoes 300 grams (about 3 medium)
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seed s1/4 tsp
Fennel 1/2 tsp
Cardamon 1
Cloves 10-13
Cinnamon 1" piece
Onion 1/2  chopped ( small )
Methi leaves from 1 bunch (washed,cleaned and tough stalks discarded)
Avarekalu /Indian beans/Papdi Lilva 3/4 cup
Salt and juice of Lemon to taste.

For the Masala Paste
Coconut 1/2 cup grated
Green chillies 5-8 (adjust according to taste)
Mint leaves a generous handful
Garlic 5-6 cloves
Ginger 1" piece chopped
Onion 1/2 small

  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pot. Throw in the mustard seeds, fennel, cardamon, cloves and cinnamon. 
  • Once the spices stop sizzling, add the onions. Saute for a few minutes and then throw in the Avarekalu and Methi leaves. Saute till the greens and avarekalu are tender.
  • Grind all the ingredients under the Masala paste  and pour it into the onion-methi mixture. Add about 1/2 a cup of water and cook the masala till fragrant. Separately grind the tomatoes into a smooth paste as well and reserve.
  • When the masala no longer smells raw,  add the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil and add about 3 cups of water. Adjust salt, add lemon juice if the tomatoes are not tart enough. Bring it to a boil.
  • Drain the soaked rice well and add it to the tomato and masala mixture.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook till the rice is soft and fluffy.
  • Finish with a tablespoon of Ghee if  desired. (I always do it ) Serve hot.

MIxed Veg

North Indian summers are brutal. So brutal that most vegetables disappear from the markets. During my years in Delhi, summers was a pain. A vegetable lover like me could hardly stop dreaming about Gobi,Karela, Bhindi etc and unfortunately most of them are winter vegetables in North India. I did know that these were seasonal vegetables at all.
On such boring summer evening. I went to my hostel dining hall for dinner and my appetite died a sudden death looking at the cabbage curry. I asked the lady in charge of serving us why they were not making Gobi, Karela ,Bhindi. She looked at me as if I am from Mars and said. "lo! Yaad kiya to kab yaad kiya. Garmiyome kaha banenge Gobi,Karela". I am bewildered! what! you do not get these vegetables in summers. I see that counter lady is seriously convinced that I am indeed from Mars. Then I was smart enough to not look like a Martian any more and proceeded to eat my share of cabbage. But is was such days that reminds of 'mixed veg'. Every self respecting North Indian restaurant will have Mixed Veg on menu. When the weather gods are not benevolent it  is quite natural for ingenious cooks to make a dish of using the spare few vegetables on hand. No wonder potatoes are so 'hot' in Northern India.
So here is  mixed veg. It can be very delicious, or I could be pathetic. I have had both. The key to this dish is the texture. The vegetables must be cooked just right. So here it is..
We will need,

Mixed vegetable 1lb
(i used Carrots, mushrooms and Peppers)
Garlic 2 cloves crushed
Peanut oil 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seed 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Green chillies 3-4 (according to taste)
Dhania powder 3/4 tsp
turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera Powder 1/2 tsp
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Salt and lemon juice to taste.

  • Heat oil in a pan. Toss in the mustard seeds, jeera , fennel and green chillies. 
  • Throw in the carrots (or the vegetable that takes the longest to cook) .Cook till half way through.
  • Now throw in the spices and  salt and  the other vegetables that takes just minutes to get done like Mushrooms and Peppers.
  • Cook for a few more minutes. The vegetables should  be still tender crisp. Remove from heat. The vegetables continue to cook in the hot pan, so turn off the heat while the vegetables are still raw.
  • Serve hot with Rotis.

Malai Mushroom

I was once in love with Mushrooms, back then it was a rarity, something the local HOPCOMS sold seasonally in smalls packets that were rather expensive. But then as time went by, mushrooms became more like green beans and carrots, something we could always pick up. Now  I do not like them as much. I eat them but not with as much relish as before. I think it is yet another case of familiarity breeds contempt!

Mushrooms are like blank canvas, except for texture they are not much when it comes to flavor. So the good part it, it fits into most gravies and masalas that  I make.  Malai style gravy is one of my favorite. It is light, rich and makes any dinner very special. Needless to say I make Malai gravies only if we are having guests. Last week it so happened that we  expecting a friend to join us for dinner and on friday's she does not eat any thing sour. I was at  a loss to feed her. I could not think of many recipes that did not either include tamarind or tomato. Then finally it occured to me that Malai fits the bill. It is one of the rare recipes in my repetoire that does not call for any sour ingredients. But there was yet another catch. I typically make Malai gravy with Panner  but Panner again was fermented therefore my friend would not eat it. So I decided to substitute mushrooms for Panner. The only mistake was I used brown baby bella Mushrooms rather than white button mushrooms. So the gravy turned out to be light brown in colour, though I prefer my Malai gravy to be white, at the most off-white,...taste wise i do not think it matter much.

We will need,

Mushrooms 10 oz (1 pack ) cleaned and chopped into quaters
Methi leaves  1 small bunch (pick and  wash leaves and discard the stalks)
Butter 1 tbsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Garlic 2 cloves (grated)
White pepper 1/2 tsp
Green chillies 2-3 (adjust according to taste)
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Cream 3/4 cup
Salt as per taste

  • Heat the butter in a thick bottomed skillet. Throw in the Jeera and garlic. 
  • Once the garlic is fragrant throw in the Methi. Saute till the Methi wilts down. 
  • Make some space in the middle of the skillet and throw in the green chillies and Garam Masala.  Saute till fragrant.
  • Now increase the heat and throw in the mushroom. Saute for a few seconds and once the Mushrooms starts to soften, reduce heat and pour the cream. 
  • Bring it to a gentle simmer. Adjust salt and  white pepper and remove from heat.
  • Serve warm with  Roti or a bread of choice.