Chocolate Cashew Burfee for Navratri

It is my favorite time of the year! The season of festivals, joy of celebrating the victory of good over the evil and of course great food. Here is wishing you all a very happy Dasara. Dasara celebrations underway in Mysore and in the hearts of people from Mysore all around the world. We have a brand new Maharaja as well, though we do miss Srikantadatta Woodeyar and of course our dear Drona.

Bombe Habba is an integral part of Dasara. Here is our edition this year. As a part of the regular pooja for the Bombe -dolls we have to prepare offerings and good many a sweets have already made an appearance in my kitchen.  Here is the recipe for a relatively easy Burfee. After umpteen attempts to make good burfee at home, I finally think I have a recipe that has some potential. This recipe is still work in progress and needs to be fine tuned.I am making efforts to improve the texture of the Burfee and also make it more fail proof. But I was able to prepare three variations using the base recipe.  Posting the first of the three, the Chocolate Cashew Burfee

 We will need,

Sugar 150 grams
Water 100 ml
Ghee 75 grams
Milk powder about 200 grms
Cocoa 25-40 grams
Cashews (roasted and salted) chopped 2 tbsl
Lemon juice 1 tsp
Salt a pinch

  • Stir together cocoa ,milk powder.cashews and salt, set it aside. Grease a Thali or a tray with a touch of ghee and set it aside.
  • Combine water and sugar and bring it to a boil. Cook till it attains one thread consistency i.e when the sugar syrup is pulled between thumb and forefinger, it should stretch into a single thread.  
  • Pour in the ghee and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for a few minutes till it starts to boil again.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and the milk powder mixture. Stir till combined. Keep stirring till the mixture comes together. Once it comes together, turn off the heat and pour the mixture into the greased tray.
  • Spread the mixture around carefully using a spatula patting it down evenly across the thali. Use a roller pin if needed to flatten it out to required thickness. I like mine about 1/4" thick. Cool completely and cut as desired using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife.
Happy Navaratri and happy eating.

Pav Bhaji (without Potatoes)

Hmmm... What is Pav Bhaji doing on Kannadacuisine? I was actually thinking if I should post this recipe at all. Well there is nothing Kannada about Pav-Bhaji, but then there is nothing Kannada about Rasmalai or Dum Aloo either. But Rasmalai and Dum Aloo was cooked by me, a thorough bred Kannadiga. Well, if Rasmalai can make an appearance on Kannadacuisine, Pav Bhaji can very well. So there we go.

Pav Bhaji presented a peculiar problem in my Kannadiga kitchen. For starters, potato is a huge star here and we Kannadigas particularly the older generation have always been suspicious of potatoes. My grand mother never ate them and hardly cooked them because they were 'Vata' inducing and therefore bad for her arthritic knees. But for the occasional  Masale Dose or Aloogadde Bele Huli, potatoes were pretty much banned in her house and mine as well :)
For some reason, the worm in my mind tells me that my gut is not meant to digest potatoes. The fact that Sabarmati Hostel mess in JNU goaded a truck load of potatoes down my throat in the four years I was a resident does not do any good to my already shaky relationship with potatoes. So I had to eliminate potatoes from this recipe.

The second peculiar problem was the Pav itself. Bread back home is associated with fever! Though my more progressive English-minded father preferred to have his bread with eggs and butter, bread largely meant that some one was under the weather. So I had to make it a little more interesting on that ground as well.

The third peculiar problem was to balance the 'bread' factor with loads of vegetables in the Bhaji.
After putting all these problems in the pot and stirring my magic wand, I had ..... bingo Pav Bhaji on my tables. So here it goes.

 We will need,

Cauliflower florets 2 cups
Carrot 1 big chopped
Green Beans a generous handful chopped
(Optional, Zucchini, Peas, Bell Peppers :Vegetables in all about 4 cups chopped)

For the Masala:
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a generous dash +a generous dash

Onion 1 medium minced
Chilly Powder 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 1.5 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera Powder 1 tsp
Garlic powder a generous pinch
Amchoor Powder 1 tsp
Tomatoes 3 medium chopped
Salt to taste
Sugar a 1 tsp

To Serve :
Fresh butter
Bread of choice (I used Italian onion bread just to make it a little more interesting)
Lemon wedges and chopped onion

  • Wash all the vegetables in running water and drain well. Place them in a pressure cooker along with a dash of Hing and 3/4 cup water. Cook till the vegetables are tender. (One whistle on my Pressure Cooker) Set it aside.
  • Heat the ghee in a Kadai. Throw in the mustard and Hing. Once they stop spluttering, throw in minced onion. Saute till golden brown.
  •  Throw in all the spice powders and saute for a brief 15 seconds. Throw in the tomatoes. Stir well and cover. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook till the masala is fragrant. 
  • Meantime, when the pressure cooker is cool enough to open, remove the cooked vegetables into a wide mouth bowl and mash it with a wooden spoon /Masher.
  • Pour the vegetable cooking stock into the masala and stir in the mashed vegetables into the masala as well. Adjust salt and sugar. Simmer and mash till the dish comes together. Finish with a big dollop of butter though entirely optional.
  • Serve with lemon wedges, chopped onion and bread of choice

Oats Huggi

It has been a long break from the blogsphere. I could not muster the motivation to click pictures after cooking and writing. I was wondering if I had hit the wall and run out of words! That looked like a dangerous possibility. Obviously that was not the normal 'me'. Then after some pushing and prodding myself, I was able to get back to clicking pictures. I still have a list of recipes in my draft and hopefully I will let them see the light of day very soon.

I am not a very big fan of oats. But for occasional quick breakfast I would like to eat some with chopped apples, ground cinnamon, just a tad bit of salt and sugar. That works well with the quick cooking types. A few weeks back I was shopping at Trader's Joe and fell victim to product differentiation. I could not really make up my mind if the ones we typically buy is the Steel Cut variety or the Quick Cooking variety. For some reason some thing inside told me to pick up the Steel Cut ones and made this recipe happen.  Turns out that Steel Cut are the ones that resemble our 'Nucchu' where a whole grain is broken into a few pieces. Obviously they are not the ones that will work in the microwave oven for a quick breakfast. Now I am saddled with a whole box of oats, the variety we don't even use! I put on my thinking cap and zeroed in on Huggi. For one I knew oats being mushy and sort of sticky will work only in mushy rice dishes like Huggi and Bisibelebath. So here is the first attempt with Huggi and Honey loved it. I made this yesterday and he wanted me to make it today as well. Hell no. May be sometime next week.

   We will need,

Steel cut Oats 1/3 cup
Moong Dal washed and split (Hesaru Bele) 2 tbsp
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp crushed
Hing a dash
Turmeric a pinch
Pepper corns 1/2 tsp crushed coarsly
Curry leaves a handful
Green Chillies 2-5 (adjust according to taste)
Coconut grated 2 tbsp
Salt and lemon juice to taste

  • Wash the oats and Moong dal in multiple changes of water. Soak it together for about 2 hours. 
  • Pressure cook with about 1.25 cups of water till the oats is soft and mushy. (Took two whistles in my pressure cooker). Remove from heat and set it aside. Wait for the pressure to reduce to proceed to the next step;
  • Prepare the Oggarane. Heat the ghee, throw in the mustard, jeera, hing and turmeric. Once the spices sizzle throw in the curry leaves, green chillies and coconut. Saute for a few second and remove from heat.
  • Now carefully open the pressure cooker and pour the Ghee and spice mixture into it. Stir well. Adjust salt and lemon juice. Warm thoroughly and serve immediately.

Tender Green Vegetables in Green Masala

Where have I been all these days ? It was summer followed by a vacation in India and then back to work while Sunny boy was not yet back to school. Now that the school has started, there is some degree of sanity.

Northeastern summers are absolutely beautiful. It is the time when there is life all around. The birds tweet and chirp, the leaves swish around in the breeze and the most precious of them all- the joy of noisy children playing in the neighborhood. These are magical days. Just throw a seed and lo behold there will be a creeper or climber all set to go on a squash/tomato over drive. I grew some green beans this time and some herbs on my small deck where there is hardly any sunlight because of the huge oak and maples beyond. But then, my kitchen is overflowing with home grown produce thanks to friends and neighbors. So much so that I am not accepting any more Zucchinis and Tomatoes!

Yesterday a dear friend gave me a bunch of tender green vegetables , a handful of green beans, a handful of cluster beans (Chapparavarekayi) and a handful of Daikon radish pods (Moolangi beeja) along with some okra. I was at my wits end when i peeked at the treasure. Though they looked awesome, the vegetables were not enough to make a stand alone dish with any one of them. So they had to go together and that is how this dish was born.

We will need,

Tender green vegetables ( Green Beans, Radish pods, Okra, Cluster beans etc)  trimmed 2 cups
Avarekaalu/ Lilva beans    shelled 1 cup
Garlic cloves 4 cloves
Ginger 1/2 "
Green chillies 7-10 (adjust according to taste)
Fresh Coriander a handful
Fresh Mint a handful
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Peanut oil 3 tbsp
Cumin  seeds
Salt, sugar and lemon juice to taste

  • Trim the beans and radish pods, clean and wash them well. Wash the Avarekaalu.
  • Combine the garlic, ginger, green chillies, coriander, mint and turmeric in a blender and grind it with as little water as possible till the spices are smooth. Set it aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and stir fry the Okra. Once they brown on the edges and are not slimy remove.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a Kadai and throw in the Cumin. Once they stop spluttering, throw in the vegetables and Avarekaalu. Saute for a few minutes 
  • Pour in the masala paste and toss the vegetables in the masala. Add salt, sugar and lemon juice according to taste. Add a little water and cover. Cook till the vegetables are crisp tender. Keeping checking every few minutes to see that there is sufficient water in the wok.
  • Once the vegetables are done, remove from heat and serve with Rotis and Yogurt.

Chunky Style Mossoppu

Of all my memories, those related to food are still the strongest. Once a foodie, always a foodie I guess.  When we lived in Shankarmutt, Mysore a few decades ago, it was a different world. We could hear our father's bike from more than a kilometer, way before we could see him. We could climb on to our terrace on Sunday to see if the palace had been lit up. We used to wait for that occasional candy, chocolate that came our way, so much so that we did keep its wrapper for a long time between the pages of our books. I had a particular fascination for HaalKova, a little snack that they sold by piece in small Kirana stores. My father never allowed me to buy it because he felt anything in open or which was not branded was unhygienic. So one day when my mother asked me to fetch a package of salt the Kirana store, I got one Haalkova for myself with the change. I savored every bit of it on my walk back home. Later at home obviously I could not substantiate the change I had with me and the package of salt. Amma promptly walked back to the store to check on the change. Oblivious to what was happening I was went about my day forgetting all about the change and the HaalKova. When Amma returned I understood hell hath no fury like a mother tricked!
That was it. My longing for Haalkova remained. I would look at the white one and the brown one wrapped in pieces of parchment paper tied with a piece of sting and drool at them hoping for a day when I did have my own money I would eat up a bunch of them. Money came, Money gone, but that craving still remaines a craving.

That reminds of the old couple who had cultivated a patch of greens in an adjoining plot. They had a small well at the very end of the plot and Spinach, dill, Fenugreek, Dantu, Chikke,Chakkota and a many other greens looked cheerful in neat parallel rows. When ever Amma wanted to make Mossoppu, she did ask me to run over to the old couple with a coin or two in hand and return with the two or three bundles that went into lunch that day. It was as fresh as it could get. That was the only Mossoppu I knew for a long time and realized what was lost only after our tryst with the one made of greens that were grown near sewage outlets as was common in the Bangalore at one point in time.  Here is a toast to that time, a Mossuppu made leisurely when the mood is to relive the years gone by.

 We will need,

Toor Dal 1/2 cup
Garlic  cloves chopped 2
Onion chopped 1
Tomato chopped 1

Green Chillies to taste
Mixed greens washed trimmed and chopped 4 cups tightly packed
Tamarind extract 3/4 to 1 tsp
Ghee 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a generous dash
Byadagi chillies 2-3 broken into smaller pieces
Salt to taste

  • Wash the Dal in several changes of water and pressure cook with 2 cups of water till the Dal falls apart. Set it aside.
  • Heat a tsp of Ghee in a Kadai and throw in the garlic. Once the garlic is golden in color, throw in the onion. Saute for a few minutes and throw in the tomatoes, green chillies and the chopped greens. Cook till the greens wilt down. Stir the mixture into the cooked dal
  • Put the Dal and greens mixture on low heat. Add a little water if the mixture is too thick. Throw in the tamarind extract and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
  • For the Oggarane, heat the ghee, throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and Hing. Once the spices splutter, throw in the Bydagi chillies and curry leaves and remove from fire. Pour the mixture in the simmering dal mixture.
  • Adjust salt, crush the green chillies with the back of a spatula and remove from heat. Serve hot with rice or Ragi Mudde.

Badami Haalu 2 / Almond Drink

We were a generation that grew up watching advertisements for Nutramul, Horlicks, Complan the drinks that were supposed to make kids grow big and strong. Well my mother had her own recipe to make us big and strong. I love that version and make it very often. But for the weekday rush, I have slightly modified the recipe and make the almond mixture ahead of time so that my morning-pick-me-up drink is quick and easy. All it needs is hot milk and I am ready to go.
We will need,

Almond flour 1/2 cup
Sugar 1/4 cup  (adjust according to taste)
Cardamon 2 pods
Saffron a generous pinch
Salt a tiny pinch

And Milk
  • Combine the almond flour, salt and sugar in the mason jar. (I make my own almond flour. My grinder ends up with a slightly coarse flour, that is fine with me. Also the almond skin does not bother me) Check out some here.
  • Crush the cardamon seeds into a fine powder
  • Coarsely crush the saffron . Throw in the crushed cardamon and saffron into the almond flour mixture.
  • Close the jar and shake well. Also stir the mixture with a spoon to make sure it is well combined
  • Store it in a cool dry place. It stays good for about two weeks.
  • To Prepare the Badami Haalu, scald a cup of milk. Place 1 tbsp almond mixture in a  coffee mug. Add a few tablespoons of hot milk and stir to make a paste. Gradually add the remaining milk stirring the mixture carefully. Stand it for a few seconds so that the saffron does it's magic and lo! behold delicious Almond drink is ready.

Bottle Gourd and Panner Kofta Curry

There are time when I crave for rich luxurious foods, like Pooris, Makhani gravies etc. Kannadiga being simple to the core were not all the great at conjuring a dish which could qualify for 'heart attack on a plate'.  The typical Malai Kofta is rich and luxurious. Since I was cooking for my Amma and she is a very picky eater and her no list includes Panner, Mushroom, corn -anything that we as kids did not see on the super market i.e Janata Bazar shelves three decades ago. So Malai Kofta was out of the question. So I married Malai Kofta with Lauki ke Kofte and bingo, there was a dish that satisfied my craving at the same time my Amma could enjoy it too.

So comes the Kofta curry.
We will need,

For the Koftas:
Bottle gourd 1 cup (grated and well squeezed)
Panner 1/3 cup crumbled
Rice flour 2-4 tbsp as needed to get the mixture together
Green Chillies minced 3-4 (adjust according to taste)
Mint a handful chopped
Ginger 1/4" grated
Salt to taste
Sunflower oil to deep fry

For the Curry:

Tomatoes 3 medium
Ginger 1/2" piece
Green Chillies 2-3 Adjust according to taste
Mint leaves a handful
Coriander leaves a handful
Cashews 5-6
Ghee 3-4 tables
Black Cardamon 1
Green Cardamon 2
Star Anise 1
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/4 tsp
Dhania powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala a generous pinch
Milk or water about 1/2 to 1 cup depending on the thickness of the curry desired.

  • For the Curry, combine the tomatoes, ginger, chillies, mint  and coriander leaves in a blender and pulse it till the mixture is smooth. Set it aside. Separately grind the cashews along with a little water into a fine paste. Set it aside.
  • Heat the ghee in a Kadai. Throw in the whole spices. Once the spices stop sizzling throw turmeric powder, dhania powder and chilli powder. Saute for a few brief seconds pour in the tomatoes mixture. Make sure to not burn the spices.
  • Cook till the the fat separates. Now throw in the the cashew paste and a 1/2 cup of water and simmer.
  • Now for the Koftas.Place the oil in a Kadai and heat it on medium.
  • Mix all the ingredients except the oil. The mixture should come together like a dough. I do not typically add extra water because there will be enough in the gourd and Panner. Adjust seasonings. 
  • Pinch small balls of the mixture and roll it into Koftas. Deep fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
  • Once the curry has simmered and has the desired consistency, sprinkle the Garam Masala, adjust salt and cook for a few more minutes. Just before serving, throw in the Koftas and serve immediately.

Chicken Biriyani Kannada Style

Running a series of non-vegetarian Kannadiga recipes has always been on my to- do list but some how it has not materialized. So going one recipe at a time rather than a series is perhaps more doable. Karnataka has a long history with vegetarianism. Jainism was very popular a few thousand years ago. Chandragupta Maurya is supposed to have died of Upavasa Sallekhana Vrata i.e fast unto death in Karnataka. Very small towns in Karnataka has Jain Basadis- temple. Jainism obviously meant vegetarianism. Subsequent Hari-dasa tradition, Veerashaiva movement all promoted vegetarian way of life. So Karnataka used to have a large population of vegetarians. But we do have non vegetarians and a repertoire of recipes. I am not really familiar with the non-vegetarian cuisines of say coastal, north or Malnad Karnataka. My familiarity ends with the plains- the Bayaluseeme.

In the Bayaluseeme area, I have noticed two distinct styles of non vegetarian cuisine one Muslim and the other Hindu style. By calling it the Hindu style I am referring to the cuisine of "Hindu Military" restaurants (I am yet to eat in one!!) and the classic Gowda style dishes like Saaru, Chops, Sukka.
After my sojourn to Lucknow I realize that the Sunni Muslims from our region did learn a lot from their cousins in Lucknow.  Think of chats in Karnataka, we have peas, they have peas too.. No Eid is complete without Muzzafar back home. Well no prizes for guessing! Muzzafar is a classic Awadhi dish. So does their Biriyanis. Muslim cooks do it the Dum - Lucknow style albeit using a lot less number of spices, much more heat and lot less rich than their Awadhi cousins. Food has always traveled well and will keep traveling.

Kannada style Biriyani draw a lot from Lucknowi Pulaos. But it is also way simpler than the rich,fragrant, refined and delicate Awadhi Biriyani just like the Kannadiga herself, very simple. The Biriyanis I tasted in Lucknow( all chicken, no meat for me yet) in the famous Tunde Kababi, Wahid Biriyani and a bunch of other not so famous but still delicious Biriyanis opened my eye to the amazing world of Biriyanis. It is indeed an art to cook Chicken and rice together and infuse the goodness into each morsel. How exquisite the Biriyani was. So much of flavor in each bite. I find the Hydrabadi style rich,royal but also spicy. I love that too, just that I have never been to Hyderabad so reserving my comments to a later day. Biriyanis in other cuisines, sorry I don't consider them good enough for kind words here. Kannada style is simple, unpretentious and very satisfying.
This is my Mother's recipe. She is a pure vegetarian and has never tasted her own Biriyani which have gotten rave reviews everywhere and every time she has made them. I sometimes find it strange that she should be able make the perfect Biriyani without ever having tasted it. But then she tells me that it is like making a Prasada, you just do not have to eat it to know it.

Like a true blue Kannadiga she makes sure to throw in handfuls of Methi leaves, so much so that one of her guests in Tamil Nadu, a doctor who was very fond of her biriyani used to call it herbal Biriyani. So here is Amma's herbal chicken Biriyani. Yes it is off white in color... again keeping with the simplicity of Kannadigas.

We will need,

Rice 3 cups preferable Basmati (rice cups)
Oil about 1/3 cup (enough to cover the bottom of the biriyani pot by 1/4")
Cardamon 2
Bay leaf 2
Star Anise 1 Chicken  1lb cubed, washed and patted dry
Onion 1/2 sliced
Garlic 1 whole head
Green Chillies 18
Ginger 2.5inches

Fenugreek greens 1 bunch, trimmed cleaned and stalks discarded
Coriander a fistful washed and chopped
Mint a scant fistfull washed and chopped
Cloves 6
Cinnamon 1"
Lemon juice and Salt to taste

  • Wash rice in several changes of water and soak it in clean water.
  • Heat oil in a Handi. Throw in the Cardamon, bay leaf and star anise. Once they are fragrant, throw in the chicken. Brown it carefully all over.
  • Throw in the onions, a generous pinch of salt and saute for a few more minutes. 
  • Combine the chillies, garlic and ginger in a food processor and pulse it into a paste.
  • Throw the paste into the chicken. Stir well. Saute till the spices smell fragrant.
  • Throw in the Fenugreek, Coriander and Mint. Saute for a few more minutes till the chicken is almost cooked.
  • Add about 6 rice cups of water to the chicken. Adjust salt, lemon juice. The water should be a tad bit more on the saltier side, the addition of rice brings down the level of salt later.
  • Cover and bring the water to a gentle boil. 
  • Drain the rice well and throw it into the Handi. Stir gently and cover. Cook for about 20-30minutes on medium heat. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for another 15 minutes or so.  
  • Serve warm.

Hesaru Bele Kosambari Vade

We as a society never wasted anything, especially food. We always salvaged the saddest of foods. If nothing else worked, the cattle of the house or neighbor was always there to do the honor! Now our lifestyle has changed and many of us sadly don't care much about throwing that left over or a fruit past it's prime.

So last Ugadi Amma was with us and we had great fun. The initial Bevu-Bella exchange was done, the elaborate supper of Holige, Chitranna, green Beans palya, Kosambari, Payasa  and Holige saaru was done complete on Banana leaf (they are selling fresh Banana leaf for $1.50 in New Jersey), we were left with some more Holige (always welcome and never goes stale) and Kosambari. Poor dear Kosambari typically comes with a rather short shelf life. So no one wanted anything to do with Kosambari the next morning.  My clever mother had this trick up her sleeves. She converted the rather sad and watery Kosambari into deep fried vade and they were gone before everyone had had their fill.. We all were left longing for more.

For the Kosambari, we will need:

Split Moong dal /Hesaru bele 1 cup picked and cleaned
Split Channa dal/Kadale bele 1 tsp 
Carrot grated 2 -4 tsbp
Coconut grated 1/4 cup
Peanut oil  1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/8 tsp
Hing a dash
Green chillies slit or dry red chillies broken 2-3
Curry leaves 8-10
Salt and lemon juice /grated raw mango to taste.

  • Wash the dals in multiple changes of water and soak it in fresh water for a few hours. Mother tells me that for every auspicious feast, we need to make two different types of Kosambari the Moong dal one and the Channa dal one. But in a 3-4 people household, sometimes it is just not worth the effort. So the short cut to the problem is adding that teaspoon of Channa dal! So be it.
  • Once the dal is tender, (try and eat some, and they should not be hard), drain the water very well and place it in the serving dish along with grated carrot and grated coconut along with grated mango if using.
  • Prepare the Oggarane. Heat the oil and throw in the mustard seeds, hing, curry leaves and chillies. once the spices stop  spluttering, pour it over the dal. Adjust salt and lemon juice and serve it immediately.
Once salt is added to the Kosambari it will need to be served immediately. Otherwise it will become soggy and sad!

For the Vade now...
 We will need,

Left over Kosambari 1 cup
Rice flour a few tablespoons ( as needed)
Salt if needed
Dill leaves 1/4 cup chopped (optional)
Ginger grated 1 tsp
Oil to deep fry.

  • Squeeze the Kosambari to remove any moisture. The more moisture the problematic the vada will be.
  • Place the well drained Kosambari in a grinder and grind it into a chunky mixture. 
  • Place the oil in a Kadai and set it on medium heat
  • Throw a tablespoon of rice flour, salt, dill leaves, ginger  into the ground dal and mix. If the mixture can be gathered into a patty, the mixture is ready to go, else if the mixture is too wet, add one more table spoon of rice flour and check. Repeat until the mixture can be gathered into a patty/vada.
  • Drop the patty into hot oil and deep fry till golden in color. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and serve hot. It is delicious.

Navane Uppitti

Navane or foxtail millet is one of those hardy drought resistant grain that could not survive the deluge of green revolution. With every upside new technology ushers in, there will be a few downsides too. Like wise during the past few decades the green revolution and modernization, commercialization of agriculture has lead to decrease in the cultivation and  consumption of millet. I believe there is no policy support for millet, no minimum support price, nor does PDS distribute it as a part of their monthly quota, or for that matter research support like that of wheat or rice.  Populist governments promise rice for a rupee but not millet. 'Ragi for a rupee' sounds weird indeed. It will never fly politically.They say about Griffin's paradox in our Economics text books, unfortunately millet fall into that category.

There is a silver lining though. These days with increasing population of diabetic people, alternates to refined carbohydrates like polished rice - Ragi, millet etc are again finding a place on our tables. So what do I do when I see an attractively packaged, organically grown box of millet in our local Patel bros super market? I pick it off the shelf and put it into my shopping cart :)

There it goes. Buying the packet was one thing but then converting it into a dish that the picky family eats is another thing. So I threw in a whole lot of vegetables to make it look appetizing and colorful. The dish did fly and now it is something we eat once in a while. This dish is pretty hardy. So good to have it on the we head out to museums and long walks.

We will need,

Peanut oil 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Ginger grated 1/4 tsp
Green chillies 5-10 adjust according to taste
Mixed vegetables diced 1 cup
Dill leaves chopped 1/2 cup
Navane/ foxtail millet 3/4 cup

Salt and lemon juice to taste
Ghee optional

  • Heat oil in a Kadai. Throw in mustard seeds and hing. Once the mustard seed crackle, throw in the ginger. Saute for a few brief second.
  • Throw in the green chillies and vegetable saute till they loose their crunch.
  • Now add 1.5 cups of water. Once the water boils, add salt lemon juice and dill leaves. The  water should taste salty enough at this point.
  • Add the millet, cover and simmer. Cook till the millet are tender. 
  • Remove from heat and allow it to cool a bit. Fluff it using a fork once it is cool enough to handle.
  • Add ghee on top if using.

Motte Palya/ Scrambled eggs Kannda style

I love eggs. There was a time in life when one boiled egg and half a liter of milk constituted my breakfast everyday for months at a stretch!

I do same now occasionally, just that this older me cannot really down half a liter like the then me.
In any case I believed eggs were wholesome when they were consumed whole- whites, yolks and all. I am glad to see that eggs are off the bad food  aka cholesterol increasing foods list. So is coconut these days. Now I only hope that the nasty profit makers don't get into Genetically Modified eggs or coconut.

Since I love them and always discount dietary fads, I have always continued to eat eggs in moderation. Moderation is the key because too much is too bad, even for Amrita -the elixir of life. Instead of eating half a dozen egg whites, I did rather eat just one whole egg or perhaps two if I am eating it just a few times a week. On the whole we as a family end up eating a dozen eggs in two weeks. Honey typically buys into all these dietary fads and used to buy those supposedly eggs in pouches with fat content removed. I did try those and they taste horrible! How can any one eat it. To me, whole foods are trustworthy any day and I am naturally suspicious of all stuff that comes out of a package.

Now back to this Palya. As I have said many times on this blog, a true Kannadiga will keep looking out for excuses to sneak in some Methi leaves or Avarekayi when they are in season. Being one, I continue this tradition. Methi as well as ridge gourd are two vegetables that are traditionally used in generous quantities when cooked Non-Vegetarian foods. Steeped in Ayurveda, these two vegetables are supposed to neutralize the 'heating' properties of meats. While Eggs are considered more of 'Vata' than heating adding Methi is not really to neutralize but it does add a lot of body and flavor to the dish. I love it this was and it is an additional way to add some greens to my breakfast. Also, unlike continental style scrambled eggs, we cook the hell out eggs and make sure they are not sort of mushy and moist at all! Julia Child would be rolling in the grave if we ever call this scrambled eggs!

We will need,

Peanut oil 2 tbsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Cardamon 1
Cloves 3-4
Cinnamon 1/2 " piece
Onion 1 medium
Green Chillies 4-5 (adjust according to taste)
Fenugreek leaves trimmed, washed and drained one generous hand ful
Eggs 4
Garam Masala a pinch
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Heat oil in a Kadai, once it is warm, throw in all the whole spices. Saute for a few seconds. 
  • Throw in the onion. Saute till onion is pink. Throw in the green chillies and fenugreek. 
  • Once the fenugreek wilt, make a well in the center of the Kadai and break eggs into the well one at a time. Reduce heat and gently move the eggs as they form curds.  Make sure they do not stick to the bottom of the Kadai and burn.
  • Once the moisture in the eggs have reduced and they start solidifying, throw in the rest of the ingredients and stir. Once the eggs start to resemble soy granules, they are ready. Serve warm with Chapatis.

Vegetable Jalfrezi

Life has changed beyond recognition in the past three decades or so. No one imagined what the dual power of Manmohan Singh's Economic liberalization and the internet boom was to become. Now with the smart phone in everybody's hand life has changed in the east as well as the west. When I came to the States last decade, we used to travel with actual maps in hand. When wee did take the wrong exit and boy o boy, all hell would break loose especially because we did mostly make wrong moves in the confusing concrete jungle called New York City. It used to be soooo difficult to get back on track with just the maps on hand. Now with the GPS life is so much more easy, got lost? fine re-route automatically. Hey we now have GPS signals under Lincoln tunnel and Holland tunnel as well! (blaah!! Delhi Metro has cellphone signals under Chandni Chowk....  Not really sure if NYC metro has caught up. It has been ages since I rode the metro the last time)

Life back in India has changed much drastically. It is not just about little conveniences any more. It is about leap and bounds, the change in the way we think. Every time I go back to Bangalore I notice so many restaurants, eateries etc. Karnataka never really had that culture of eating out like say the extent I saw in foodie cities like Amritsar, Delhi and Lucknow. I assume smaller towns too had that culture. Back in the 1990s when my father was posted in Amritsar, we were surprised to see our neighbors buying sweets/Mithai from the sweet shop even on the occasion of say Diwali and other festivals.  Our friends would be surprised to see that my mother could make Gulab Jamoon (out of the pack!!) at home. "You make everything from scratch, we get everything from the bazaar"..they did always say. Also the culture of street food was widely prevalent. People driving in cars (that was a big deal in early 1990s) stopping to grab a quick bite on one of the street side 'thela' was a common sight. That was not as simple in south Karnataka. Road side shacks were mostly for those who could not afford to eat Dose/Idli at the nearest restaurant/Phalahara Mandira. The most we could get from such shacks was assorted Bhajji's which papa would get from some place quite far from where we lived in Mysore ocassionally to add to the meal Amma had already prepared. I was particularly fond of the Egg Bonda. But that shack opened only during the evenings, sort of patronized by people who had had a couple of drinks or more. My grandparents never ate street food. My mother till date is rather suspicious of street food. Despite the time she has spent in the northern heartland, she is still a very much Vidyarthi Bhavan/Janta hotel types.
But our generation went on the become something else. Now eating out is a part of life style. We are very well exposed to different culinary tradition, we are open to trying out new things, we try new restaurants and try to replicate dishes we liked there at home. Despite the dust and the sweat, we still love our street food.Things have changed, changed quite a lot.

To summarize the change, Sunny boy loves Sashimi! while my mother could not get herself to eat an absolutely vegetarian avocado roll with wasabi and ginger pickle to boot! I am somewhere in the middle.
Strangely enough Sunny boy finds Canola oil smelly and yucky while a perfectly smelly fish curry smells just good. Good for me though, fish being a whole food canola oil is mostly GMO, that story for another day, now for some Jalfrezi, something I love in one of the restaurants here and tried to replicate.

We will need,

Mixed vegetables (Green Beans, Carrots, Broccoli, Bell peppers) cleaned and cut into big chunks3 cups ( keep the veggies separate)
Peanut oil 1/4 cup (yes that is a lot)
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Fennel 1/4 seeds
Ginger match stick cut 1"
Onion 1 small sliced
Green Chillies 5-10 as preferred
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Dhania power 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
Tomatoes 2 chopped
Panner 1/2 cup cubed

Garam Masala
Sugar 1 tsp
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Steam vegetables separately till they are half cooked. They should still remain most of their crunch.
  • Heat oil in a Kadai. Throw in the cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Once they splutter, throw in half the ginger, saute for a few seconds and follow it with onions.Saute.
  • Once the onions change color, throw in the green chillies and the spice powders. Keep stirring making sure the spiced would not burn. Once the spices are fragrant, throw in the tomatoes.
  • Cook tomatoes till they are pulpy and the oil separates from the mixture. Now throw in the Panner toss gently in the spices.
  • After a minute or two, throw in the remaining vegetables, Garam Masala, sugar, remainng ginger, salt, lemon juice and pepper. 
  • Give it a gentle toss.Cook for a few more minutes till the vegetables are a little more tender. Remove from heat.
  • Shift the Jalfrezi immediately from the hot Kadai because the hot Kadai will otherwise continue to cook the dish and the vegetables will become mushy by the time it is served. (I had this problem several times and I hate mushy vegetables in a Jalfrezi)
  • Serve with Roti and dal

Pudina Coconut Chutney

Chutneys define Indian cuisine in a way nothing else does. They are spicy, adds that zing which takes a meal to the next level. They are of course a part of every festive meal. They can be a part of a regular meal too. Here is a a chutney that I love. It particularly goes very well with Masale Idlis and Idlis. 

We will need,

Coconut 1 cup grated
Kadale Poppu/ Putani/Roasted Channa dal 3 tbsp
Fresh mint leaves a generous handful
Green chillies 6-10 (adjust according to taste)
Garlic 1 clove
Curry leaves a handful
Tamarind a small piece (1/4 tsp concentrate)
Salt to taste

  • Heat a thick bottom pan on medium heat. Once hot, throw in the green chillies and toast them till they develop dark blister and char spots. Remove the chillies from heat.
  • To the same hot pan, throw in the curry leaves and toast them till they change colour. Turn off the heat.
  • Combine all the ingredients in a blender and grind it into a paste with very little water.
  • Serve with Idli/Dosa or a bread of your choice.

Masale Idli

Our grandmothers were very creative when it came to using left overs. They lived in a world without Microwaves and Refrigerators so the task of preserving  and consuming left overs was rather hard. Since we have all these luxuries we did rather throw left overs in the refrigerator and heat it up the microwave. But because our grandmothers were so creative we have some really tasty bits to eat. So here is one such recipe. Back in the days when Idli batter was left over and turned a little too tart for regular Idli this is what my Grandmothers and my mother did. Now I make it often not because I have to salvage the best out of a batter past it's prime, but because these are tart,spicy and very addictive!

We will need,

Idli batter 3 cups (preferably a few days old and rather on the tart side)
Onions 1 medium chopped
Dill /Sabsige soppu a handfull chopped
Curry leaves chopped
Green Chillies 2-3 (adjust according to taste) chopped
Peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Salt to taste.

  • Heat oil in a pan, throw the mustard seeds, Jeera and Hing. Once the spices stop spluttering, throw in the onions. 
  • Once the onions are translucent,  add the curry leaves and green chillies. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool down completely.
  • Once the onions are cool, stir them into the batter, stir in the dill leaves adjust salt and prepare to set the idlis.
  • Follow directions on your Idli cooker and prepare the steamer. (Instructions vary so I am not elaborating here) Pour batter into Idli moulds just like regular Idlis and steam till they are cooked.  I use a regular pot with a lid. I fill the pot with an inch of water at the bottom and bring it a rolling boil. I place my filled idli stand and close the pot with its lid. My Idlis are done in about 10 minutes.
  • Once the Idlis are done i.e. when poked with a wet finger it should not be sticky and is  firm, remove carefully and serve immediately with Pudina coconut chutney (coming up shortly) and ghee.

Kadalebele Payasa with condensed milk

Of late food scene in India has exploded. We see so many restaurants, cuisines of all kinds in tier two cities as well. Super market shelves are exploding with new ingredients, sometimes for better and some times for worse. In these times, how do we cope up with such drastic infusion of new knowledge? For instance Australia is dumping oats in the Indian market. Internet and pop scientists are singing the praise of Oats so much so that it is now very difficult to separate the fact from noise. Bloggers have caught up too. Makes Oats Idli, Oats Poha and what not. I see my family members, educated and professional falling prey to the 'Miracle Oats' machine. They say they are eating healthy and that they are eating Oats for dinner. Really?

Oats like any other grain is a rich source of carbohydrate. Well it might be marginally better than rice, or just as good as Ragi, it still remains a grain and carbohydrate. The problem with our generation is that we are eating like our ancestors did plate full of starch while living a sedentary life. So we are consuming more calories than we can actually burn.  But the solution is not just reducing the number of calories consumed, in which case we will have to eliminate fat which happens to be the most calorie dense food group. Not all calorie is created equal. We need to keep in mind that all nutrient groups are vital to our body including fats and protein. Remember high school biology? Vitamin A is fat soluble! Eliminating fat is not a convincing solution. Nor is eliminating Protein. But reducing starch makes more sense. But again, very low starch diet like the Atkins diet might not be for every one. Definitely not me. Being Indian, I am genetically predisposed to like and thrive on carbohydrates.  But given the modern conveniences and my desk- life, I try to cut back on carbohydrates and sweets while generally consuming fats(one of ghee, coconut oil, filtered peanut oil) and lots of vegetables and fruits. My protein includes legumes of different kinds, eggs, occasional fish or chicken. But if I am asked to eat oats Idli, oats Pongal or Oats Poha? No thank you very much. Oats is probably as calorie dense as rice while not giving me the comfort that rice gives me. I did rather eat half a cup of rice and feel contended than eat one bowl of oats. Eating oats does nothing to my soul or for that matter not much better for my body either.

The same philosophy when indulging in treats like sweets. I see fat-free sweets and snacks in the super market all the time. They mostly taste bad, either loaded with sugar or sugar substitute and assorted ingredient that I cannot even pronounce. There are many such crappy food sold as 'organic' as well. Just because they used Organic sugar does not make a product better. I would rather eat a few spoons of real sweets that would make my soul happy than eat bowls of stuff that does not make my soul happy while being just as bad. The saying in Kannada goes (Vrata kettaru sukha padabeku: meaning If at all your penance is disturbed, make sure to have fun).

So here is one such recipe, that to me is soul satisfying, so rich that just a few spoonfuls will make your stomach and soul happy. Kadalebele Payasa comes in two different varieties. One where the dal is cooked till it falls apart, the other where the dal is still al-dente and is cooked in coconut milk like this .

We will need,

Split chickpeas /Kadalebele/ Channa dal 1/2 cup
Sweetened condensed milk   about 1/2 a cup
Milk as required
Cardamon powder a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp

  • Wash the dal in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker. Pour 1 +1/4 c of water along with a drop of ghee and cook till the dal is soft, my cooker does it in 2 whistles. Remove from heat
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the lid and stir in the condensed milk and ghee. Place it on low heat.
  • If the mixture is very dry, add milk by the tablespoon at a time to thin the Payasa to a desired consistency. 
  • Once the mixture starts gently bubbling again, stir in the cardamon powder. Remove from heat. 
  • Serve Warm, room temperature.

Quinoa and Strawberry Kheer

Fashion has not spared food. We come across some fad, some really 'cool' ingredient to work with often. Then comes a deluge of good things about the ingredient. Once people start consuming it in a big way, the bad news starts popping up here and there. But by then who ever had to make money on that particular ingredient would have made money and moved on to the next big thing. Can we insulate ourselves from the deluge of information, marketing tactics? Let us examine the case of coconut oil. Coconut oil was a widely consumed product on the west coast of India. We people from the coconut belt consumed one coconut/meal/family. Back then our people were strong, healthy and enjoyed a good life. However during my teen years, we were told the coconut is very high in cholesterol and we should avoid it. Obviously it was not  true, it is high in saturated fats which is a good thing! I used to fight with my mom when she used a lot of coconut in her Palyas/Huli etc. Mom would defend her action saying coconut was good for hair and complexion. But as a head strong teenager, I thought I 'knew' better than her. Poor Mom, that was the only way she knew to cook but she adapted to using lesser coconut over the years. We started eating refined sun flower oil which had no smell, which stayed good indefinitely and which looked thinner therefore 'felt' much healthier than either coconut oil or our own filtered groundnut oil.
Then I moved to the States and found canola oil was the oil in 'fashion' and started eating it, though I never liked the weird taste and flavor it had.

Now life has come a full circle. Coconut oil lobbies took a decade to realize that if they did not  fight back the battle of information with more information, people would stop eating coconut oil all together and their business would be shut down. So then came the wave to information and research on coconut oil. They some how proved that coconut oil was good for you and eating a teaspoon was heart healthy. The proof of a successful counter attack by the coconut oil lobby? Big cans of organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil on Costco shelves. That is good news for me though. I have gone over several cans of it and absolutely love it. But this was a story of 'good food'-'called bad'-'then back to being good'. But then there are so many bad foods in the disguise of good foods too. It has become so hard for a well informed person to judge what is good and what is not, let alone lay people like us.

I have been one of those people who gets carried away by such fads. Though these days I am a lot of cynical about such researches and do not experiment as much as I used to before. From my experimenting days I had a bag of Quinoa lying in my pantry for ages now.  I have been thinking of using it more often but then buying fad foods is one thing eating it is yet another. We actually did not like it much and I am happy with my Rice-Ragi-Wheat diet. But then I had to use up this bag of Quinoa. So here is something I did with it, Kheer!
I would not recommend people to buy bags of Quinoa to make this Kheer, but if you happened to have some in your pantry and struggling to get over with it, here is a recipe to try.

We will need,

Quinoa 1 cup
Sugar 1/2 cup
Evaporated milk 1 cup
Salt a pinch
Strawberries washed and chopped

  • Wash the Quinoa with a little water rubbing between your palm very well. I was told that it could get bitter if we did not wash it this way. Cannot comment much on it given my limited experience.
  • Once rubbing is done, wash it well with several changes of water.
  • Place the Quinoa in a pot and cover it with 1 and 3/4 cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil. reduce heat and simmer till the Quinoa is soft. 
  • Throw in the evaporated milk and sugar and stir. Cook on low heat till the mixture comes together. Remove from heat.
  • Once the Kheer is cool enough to handle, fold in the the strawberries. Cover and stand the Kheer for a few hours for the Strawberry flavor to seep into the Kheer. Serve cold or at room temperature.