Monday, May 31, 2010

Egg Curry

I love eggs in general, any which way-scrambled, fried, made into an omelete, boiled and cooked into a gravy. Egg curry falls into the latter group. I first tasted egg curry when my sister brought some home from her friend's house one day, and I absolutely fell in love with this dish. Ever since, I have tried numerous recipes of egg curry. Today, I saw eggs in our fridge and remembered I that I hadn't had egg curry in a while. I also had some leftover coconut milk in my fridge and decided to use it up. Now, this recipe is certainly not a traditional one. It contains both typical South Indian components, including coconut and tamarind, as well as classic North Indian components, namely garam masala. However, the taste is delightful due to the amalgam of spices, and the coconut milk adds an entirely new dimension to this concoction.

Egg Curry (Serves 2):
For the gravy:
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. methi(fenugreek) seeds
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic
3/4" piece ginger
2 green chilli peppers
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on your heat preference
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 bay leaf
1 tomato, pureed
1 tsp. tamarind paste
salt to taste
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3 large hard-boiled eggs, halved

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add fennel and methi seeds and let them just begin to brown, until they give off a strong aroma.


Then, lower the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until transluscent. Make a paste with the garlic, ginger and green chilli peppers, and add this paste to the mixture. Cook for one minute. Add all the spices along with the bay leaf and cook for another minute. Add the tomato puree and tamarind paste, and cook the mixture until the raw smell of the tomato disappears, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and water and mix well. Add the halved eggs, and cover each half well with the gravy. Cover the pot, and let the gravy come to a boil. Let the mixture simmer for at least 7-8 minutes.

Periodically spoon gravy over each egg-half. Serve warm. I ate the egg curry with rice, but it would also go well with roti, paratha, or any bread.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Upma

This classic South Indian dish made from cream of wheat is one of my all-time favorites. Upma is one of the first Indian dishes I learned how to make. I was 12 years old the first time I made upma. I liked it so much that when my mom was out of town, I called her up and asked her to give me directions over the phone as to how to make it. I found it very simple, and it came out great. Even today, I love to eat upma anytime. It makes for a hearty, satisfying one-dish meal, perfect for breakfast or lunch, maybe with a chutney to go along with it, like I served it with peanut chutney, or just some plain, homemade yogurt. I have adapted the recipe for upma to incorporate the soaking method, with great results.

Upma:
1 cup cream of wheat(rava)
2 cups water, warm
2 tbsp. yogurt
3-4 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. urad dal
1 tsp. asafoetida(hing)
2 green chilli peppers, chopped(or more depending on your heat preference)
1 large sprig curry leaves
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3/4 cup frozen peas or edammames
3/4 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1.5 tsp. ghee

Combine cream of wheat, warm water and yogurt in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit for 18-24 hours on the countertop. Heat oil in a large pan on high heat. Add the mustard seeds, and let them begin to pop. Then, lower the heat, add the cumin seeds, and let them brown. Then, add the urad dal and let it turn slightly reddish, but not brown. Afterwards, add the hing, green chilli peppers and curry leaves and mix. Add the onion, and cook on medium heat until it becomes transluscent. Add the chopped carrot and cauliflower, cover the pot, and let them become tender. Add the peas or edammames and stir. Next, add the salt. Add the rava-water mixture,and mix well. Cover the pot, and let the mixture cook for about five minutes on medium heat. Finally, mix in the ghee, and serve warm.



Peanut Chutney:
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
Tempering:
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. hing
1 dry red chilli pepper
1 sprig curry leaves

Grind peanuts, yogurt, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper and salt together. Heat oil and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to splatter, lower the heat and add hing. Add the curry leaves and swirl. Finally, add the dry red chilli pepper and turn off the heat. Add the hot tempering into the peanut-yogurt mixture and mix well.



I spent quite a bit of time thinking how I could incorporate soaking into the recipe. Well, this method worked perfectly. The upma had a wonderful taste and texture, extremely moist, just the way I like it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake

I must say, even though I love cheesecake, I rarely eat it because it is so incredibly rich. Even with a sweet tooth as big as mine, I probably eat cheesecake only a couple of times a year on average. As I have already mentioned, I bake a lot, and I have been wanting to bake a cheesecake for months now. But I felt I needed a real excuse in order to bake such an indulgent dessert. I had planned to bake one for a birthday in my family a few months ago, but I was unable to do so for various reasons. Then, a couple of days ago, my sister A. graduated from high school. I definitely wanted to bake her a cake to celebrate her graduation, and she loves cheesecake. I figured, now was as good a time as any to bake one, and so I did just that:) I wanted something a little more special than just plain cheesecake, so I adapted this recipe for strawberry cheesecake from allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Strawberry-Cheesecake/Detail.aspx

1 and 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs(just whirl graham crackers through your food processor if you don't have crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
3 8 oz. packages neufchatel cheese(a reduced-fat cream cheese), softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
20 oz. frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed(if you can't find sweetened ones, add 1/3 cup sugar when you process them)
1.5 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp. water

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom of an ungreased springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Combine strawberries and cornstarch in a blender or food processor, cover and process until smooth. Strain the puree to get rid of the seeds. Pour one tablespoon of water into a heated saucepan and then add the strawberry puree. Let it boil, and boil and stir the sauce for 2 minutes. Let it cool. Before mixing the batter, wrap the botton and sides of the springform pan in at least 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.         

Then, beat in the sugar until well-incorporated. Gradually beat in the condensed milk. Then add the lemon juice and mix. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time, on low, until just combined, followed by the vanilla extract.         


Be careful not to overmix, but do make sure the cream cheese is free of lumps before adding any of the other ingredients. This will probably take about 4-5 minutes. i did not beat it long enough, and I discovered lumps in the batter after I had added all of the other ingredients. So, I had to beat the whole batter until the lumps were gone. However, beating after adding eggs traps more air in the batter, so I had air bubbles in my batter. Fortunately, it did not crack, but just make sure to get all the lumps out beforehand.
Pour half of the cream cheese mixture over the crust.         
Spoon about 1/4 cup of the strawberry syrup over the batter by 1/2 teaspoonfuls. Spoon the remaining batter on top of the syrup. Drop another 1/4 cup of strawberry sauce on top by 1/2 teaspoonfuls. Cut through the top layer with a knife only to swirl the sauce. Refrigerate remaining strawberry sauce and use it for serving the cheesecake. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan, and fill the roasting pan with boiling or very hot water up to about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. This waterbath helps the cheesecake stay moist and helps to prevent cracks in the surface. Alternately, you can fill a roasting pan with boiling water and place it on the rack directly below the springform pan(Note: I have not tried this, but it should work, especially if you are concerned about water leaking into the springform pan). Bake at 300F for 45-50 minutes, or until center is almost, but not completely set(it should still be slightly wobbly). Turn off the oven and leave it in the oven for an hour to cool. Then, remove the springform pan from the oven and let the cheesecake cool for another hour on the counter.                 

At this point, chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight to completely set. When ready to serve, dip a knife in warm water, wipe it dry and slice the cheesecake. Dip the knife and wipe it in-between cutting each slice in order to cut smoothly. Serve each slice with some of the remaining strawberry sauce.  


Not to boast, but I was quite impressed with myself, especially given that this was the first cheesecake I had ever baked :) It was so creamy and delicious. The strawberry sauce is essential, though, to get the full strawberry flavor, as there is very little strawberry flavor in the cake itself. It was also incredibly rich, even with reduced fat cream cheese. You won't be able to eat more than one slice at a time. But just one bite of this pure indulgence will bring you to heaven :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chocolate Mascarpone Cream (Mousse) in White Chocolate Cups

It is often said that whatever else you make for a dinner party, the one thing your guests will be sure to remember is the dessert. So of course, my dinner party dessert had to be something just out of this world!! I am known for baking a lot, which I do, but this time I wanted to do something different from my usual cake or cupcakes. Mousse makes a perfect summer dessert, cool and refreshing. When I came across this recipe by Giada de Laurentis( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/mascarpone-and-dark-chocolate-cream-in-white-chocolate-cups-recipe/index.html) , I knew this would be just perfect. Not only was her mousse simple to make, but it also did not contatin raw eggs, which I did not want to serve to my guests. To top it all off, Giada served her mousse in individual white chocolate cups rather than ordinary glass dishes. Now if that doesn't impress, I don't know what will! The hardest part of this dessert was coating the paper liners with white chocolate. I used a lot more white chocolate than the recipe called for, but a heavy first coat makes the cups much easier to pull away from the paper liners.

I don't think I need to say this, but this dessert was absolutely worth every second I put into it. Boy, was it decadent! It was just as delectable as I had expected. I would definitely make this mousse again. So easy, but so tasty!

Chocolate Mascarpone Cream in White Chocolate Cups:
8 oz. white chocolate, chopped( I used 11 oz. white chocolate chips)
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped(I used chips)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 tsp. grated orange peel(I left this out)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract(I increased this to 1/2 tsp. because I love vanilla flavor)

Line 8 mufins cups with paper liners. Melt white chocolate. The original recipe called for a double boiler, but it worked just fine for me in the microwave at 50% power, sitrring every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Spoon about 1 tablespoon(I did about 2) melted chocolate into each paper liner. Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the bottom and sides of each liner.

Freeze for about 30 minutes, until the chocolate coat is firm. Remelt the remaining white chocolate. Spoon 1 tablespoon into each cup and brush over the bottom and sides of each cup. Freeze until completely set, at least 1 hour( I waited about 2 hours and the paper liners peeled away very easily). I found that the chocolate would soften quite easily due to the summer heat, so I took only 2 cups out at a time and put them back in the freezer before taking any more out.

Melt the semisweet chocolate until smooth in the top of a double boiler(I used my microwave again at 50% power). Then, let it cool completely. Beat the cream and sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form( Chilling the bowl and beaters speeds up the whipping process). Set aside.


Beat the mascarpone cheese, melted chocolate, orange peel(is using) and vanilla extract in a large bowl , using an electric mixer, until smooth and glossy, about 30 seconds.


Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 2 batches.

Transfer the mousse fto a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (I put it in a ziploc bag and cut off one corner to make my own pastry bag). Pipe the mousse into the prepared white chocolate cups.

I topped each cup with a chocolate-dipped strawberry. Just melt an extra 3-4 oz. semisweet chocolate and use that to dip the strwberries, if you so desire. Make sure the strawberries aren't too big. Mine were very large, and they kept foalling off the top. Doesn't that look stunning? :)


Serve right away, or refrigerate. Let them sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before serving (I found half an hour to be more then enough given the summer heat). This is certainly a rich dessert, but if you're like me, you'll have no trouble at all finishing an entire cup :) Sit back and savor every bite of this culinary masterpiece!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Strawberry Punch

For my dinner party, I wanted to serve a simple, refreshing beverage that would go along with, but certainly not detract from, the meal itself. Stawberries are perfect for the summer, and I love anything with strawberries in it. In fact, I make myself a strawberry smoothie for breakfast most days of the week. And so, so I devised this recipe for strawberry punch.

Strawberry Punch:

2 cups strawberry puree
1 32 oz. bottle Italian sparkling lime water
1 16 oz. bottle Tazo Lemon-Ginger tea
1 batch simple syrup,cooled, recipe below

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, mix well, and chill before serving.

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Bring sugar-water mixture to a boil, and let it simmer on medium heat for about five minutes, until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture thickens up. Let cool before mixing with punch. Simple syrup can be used to create just about any beverage that strikes your fancy. It can also be used to soak cakes to makes them sweeter and more moist. You can also infuse simple syrup with various flavors, such as vanilla, mint or a flavored liqueur. So get creative!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Olive Tapenade

For my first dinner party, I served my no-knead bread bread with tapenade, a French olive spread that I first tasted when I visited France in the 8th grade. We were visiting family friends, and when we sat down to lunch, the first thing they served us was bread with olive tapenade. My whole family fell in love with it. Well, we did not realize at the time that the French serve their meals in courses, and so we just kept eating and eating the tasty tapenade until it was gone. Imagine our surprise, when our friends brought out the second course! :) This recipe, adapted from that on epicurious.com(originally from Wolfgang Puck), is the closest I have come to replicating that ever so tantalizing tapenade that I first tasted in France. Enjoy!
Black and Green Olive Tapenade, adapted from epicurious.com(http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Black-and-Green-Olive-Tapenade-234059):
Ingredients:
1 10 ounce jar Ni├žoise olives, pitted
1 cup small green French olives (Picholine), pitted
1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes , drained
1 garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor.


Pulse a few times until mixture is coarsely chopped and well-blended. Turn on the food processor and slowly stream in the olive oil until completely mixed in and the mixture is uniform. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


One word about the olives: make absolutely sure that the olives you buy are pitted! I did not; I only realized when my food processor sounded as if it was about to break down! Much to my chagrin, I had to pick all of the pits out of the tapenade and re-process it. However, once I did, the tapenade provided a bright burst of flavor, due to the fresh olives from my grocery store's olive bar and the fresh herbs from our garden. Any leftover tapenade make for a great sandwich spread or even just a quick snack with crackers. I have a huge amount leftover, so I know what I'm having for lunch today :)

No-Knead Bread

For my first dinner party, I really wanted to create a menu to impress, and so I decided to bake my own bread from scratch rather than buying bread from the store. I was quite intimidated however by the idea of kneading and rolling loaves, which I had never done before. Bread-baking is a serious business which can go incredibly wrong if you make even one tiny mistake. Fortunately, I can across this fantastic recipe for no-knead bread at Jaden Hair's www.steamykitchen.com: http://steamykitchen.com/168-no-knead-bread-revisited.html (see also: http://steamykitchen.com/about-2).This bread was as simple to make as it was delectable. Crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, it was just perfect.

Ingredients:
3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. table salt(or 3/4 tsp. kosher salt)
1.5 cups lukewarm water(see yeast packet for appropriate temperature range-mine was 120-130F).

Directions:

Place the dry ingredients-the flour, salt and yeast-in a large bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients with the lukewarm water:


Cover the dough and let it sit 12-20 hours on the countertop.
The dough right before the first rise:

The dough after the first rise( I let it sit for 12 hours, next time I will try 24 to better incorporate the soaking method):


Dump the dough on a floured surface after the first rise, and fold the ends of the dough over until it forms a ball. The recipe said to flour a towel, wrap the bread seam-side down in the towel and let it rise for 2 hours. I however, just floured the same bowl and let the dough ball rise in the covered bowl; it worked just fine.
Folding the dough after the frist rise:

The dough after the second rise:

When 30 minutes of the second rise are left, slip a large(at least 5 qt.) covered pot into your oven and preheat the oven to 450F. Let the pot sit in the oven for at least 30 minutes to get warm. Make sure that your pot can withstand a 450F temperature. After the pot is heated, reomve it from the oven, uncover it, and dump the dough ball into the pot. Cover the pot and immediately put it back into the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Then, remove the cover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the crust of the bread is golden and the internal temperature of the bread reads 210F. Reomve from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.
And finally, the bread straight out of the oven:

Summer 2010: Dinner Party Number 1

Yesterday, I hosted a dinner party with those of my friends in town for summer vacation. Since it was the first dinner party I was hosting, I wanted to go all-out and make it extra special. So, I decided to prepare a 4-course, sit-down dinner for everyone. The menu was as follows:
Course 1: Homemade No-Knead Bread with Olive Tapenade
Course 2: Warm Goat Cheese Salad
Course 3: Individual Cauliflower-Fennel Gratins
Course 4: Chocolate-Mascarpone Mousse in White Chocolate Cups, along with Salted Caramel Gelato(courtesy of my friend L.)
Beverage: Summer Strawberry Punch

Needless to say, it was a spectacular evening, and everyone really enjoyed the food. The only dish I was disappointed in was the gratin; it turned out surprisingly bland in spite of all the added flavoring and in spite of the fact that the recipe from which I adapted it was rated very highly. Nonetheless, the dinner was overall delicious and gratifying, and I am already looking forward to my next dinner party :) Stay tuned for pictures and recipes!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lemon-Walnut Coffee Cake

I wanted to bake a cake to celebrate the end of my finals, but I was out of eggs and did not want to run to the store. Fortunately, I had Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Joy of Vegan Baking on hand, and its recipes have always turned out really well for me. I found a recipe for Cinammon Coffee Cake. Her coffee cake sounded perfect-not too rich, but still delicious. However, no one in my family cares for cinammon, so I adapted Colleen's recipe to make a Lemon-Walnut Coffee Cake. I also made a simple blueberry sauce to serve with the cake.

Lemon-Walnut Coffee Cake, adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Ingredients:
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 cup milk(I used dairy milk because that's what I had on hand, even though the original recipe obviously called for nondairy)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For crumble:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup melted butter

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheight. Grease a 9" square baking dish. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest and salt.
In a small bowl, mix milk, oil, vinegar, and the vanilla and lemon extracts and set aside.

For the crumble, combine flour, sugar, salt and walnuts. Add the melted butter and work it in with your hands until thoroughly incorporated.



Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish.

Spoon the crumble on top of the batter, covering the entire area.

Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes(I did it for 30 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the Cake cool slightly and serve warm with blueberry sauce.





Blueberry Sauce:
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat until the sugar melts and the mixture begins to boil. Let it boil for 1 minute. Then, mash the blueberries slightly to thicken. Serve warm over coffee cake.



This cake made a perfect summer breakfast. The freshness of the lemon really lightened the flavor and provided the perfect balance. I loved the crunch of the walnuts. The blueberry sauce paired very well with the lemon and walnuts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Smoky Spinach and Cheddar Grilled Sandwich

Grilled cheese sandiwches...mmm. Classic American comfort food. They're so easy to make and so versatile that they can be customzied to suit anybody's tastes and preferences. When I think of a really good grilled cheese sandwich, I don't think of processed American cheese and "bunny" bread. I think really high-end sourdough bread(sourdough is by far my favorite) and a really good quality cheese, preferably organic. I also like to jazz my sandwiches up with condiments and veggies to make a much tastier and a more balanced meal out of them. I particularly like to add heat in various forms, so here is my recipe for a Smoky Spinach and Cheddar Grilled Sandwich.

Ingredients:
4 slices sourdough bread
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced as evenly as possible
1 tablespoon pureed chipotle in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tbsp. butter
Spinach saute, recipe follows


Spinach Saute:
Ingredients:
3 large handfuls of fresh spinach, finely chopped
1/4 of a red onion, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. roasted cumin seeds, ground into a powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste
1.5 tbsp. olive oil

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion, and cook on medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, until onion is transluscent on the edges and slightly tender. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute. Then, add the cumin powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt, and stir. Add the spinach, stir thouroughly, and cook for 30-45 seconds until spinach just barely starts to wilt down. Turn off the stove.


To assemble sandwich:
Preheat a griddle pan to medium-high heat. Evenly divide cheddar slices among two slices of bread. Then, mix together chipotle puree and mayonnaise, and spread this mixture evenly on the other two slices of bread.


Then, divide spinach mixture evenly among the two slices of bread with the cheddar cheese.


Place one slice of bread with chipotle mayonnaise on top of each slice with the spinach and cheese. Spread 1/2 tbsp. of butter on the outside of 1 side of each sandwich. Place one sandwich on heated griddle pan, buttered side down, and place a sandwich press on top, if you have one. Let cook for about two minutes on medium-high heat, until cheese is just partially melted and the outside is golden brown.


While cooking, spread 1/2 tbsp. butter on the other side of the sandwich. When the cheese is partially melted, flip the sandwich, cover again with the sandwich press, if using, and cook until the cheese is completly melted and the outside is golden brown. Remove from heat and enjoy hot. No one likes a cold grilled cheese sandwich with the cheese all-hardened-yuck!

This sandwich was deliciously spicy due to the combination of roasted cumin, cayenne and chipotle. You can, of course, adjust the amount of heat according to your preference. The mayonnaise cuts into some of the heat of the chipotle peppers and provides the perfect balance while adding a great depth of flavor. See the inside of my scrumptious sandwich :)

This entry goes to the Event "Cooking with Seeds-Cumin Seeds" hosted by Saraswathi of Sara's Corner: http://simplysara07.blogspot.com/2010/05/cooking-with-seeds-cumin-seeds-event.html.

The event was originally started by Priya of Priya's Easy and Tasty Recipes: http://priyaeasyntastyrecipes.blogspot.com/2010/01/cooking-with-seedsannouncing-new-event.html

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aloo Puri and Aamrakhand-the Quintessential Maharashtrian Feast

My sister A. is very picky when it comes to Indian food. However, the few things the she does enjoy, she absolutely loves them. Aamrakhand, a Maharashtrian dessert traditionally made from yogurt drained overnight mixed with mango pulp and spices, is one such dish that she relishes. So, to celebrate the end of her exams, I decided to make her a special dinner of aamrakhand, along with aloo curry and puris(a popular fried Indian bread served on special occasions), which is a very traditional celebration menu in Maharashtra. The aamrakhand recipe is adapted from that of our family friend B.

Aamrakhand:
Ingredients
3 16 ounce containers Greek yogurt

16 ounces sour cream

1 can Kesar Mango pulp(available at Indian grocey stores)

1.5 tsp. cardamom powder

3/4 tsp. nutmeg powder

1/2 tsp. saffron powder

1/2 cup sugar, or to taste

Directions:
Combine the Greek yogurt and sour cream and drain for a couple of hours. Then, mix in the rest of the ingredients with a hand whisk. Let sit overnight to allow the flavors to meld together and to let the mango flavor fully develop.



This recipe was designed to make a huge batch for a party. Without thinking, I prepared the whole batch for dinner that night! We spent the next few days eating aamrakhand after every meal and still had quite a bit left over. But, the leftovers can be frozen in popsicle molds to make mango frozen yogurt :) If you’re making this just for your family, I would cut the recipe at least in ½, maybe to ¼ depending on the number of people.

Aloo Curry:
Ingredients:
2 large potatoes, cut into 3/4" cubes
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1" piece ginger
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. hing(asaofetida)
1.5 tbsp. oil
2 large tomatoes, pureed
1/2-1 tsp. cayenne pepper(depending on your heat preference)
1.5 tsp. salt
about 2.5 cups water(enough to make a gravy)

Directions:
Place potato cubes in water to prevent them from browning.



Grind ginger and garlic to make a paste. Gind cumin and fennel seeds together to make a powder. Heat oil in a pot. Then add the mustard seeds and leave on high heat until the seeds begin to pop. Then, lower the heat to medium and add the hing. Then, add the onion. Sautee the chopped onion over medium-high heat until slightly tenderand transluscent. Add the garlic-ginger paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the ground cumin and fennel powder along with the cayenne pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then, mix in the tomato puree. Next, drain the potato cubes and add to the pot. Cook for 1 minute, and then add the salt and enough water to make a gravy. Cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat to low and let the mixture simmer until the potato cubes and almost breaking apart(about 15-20 minutes). Mash a few potato cubes into the gravy to thicken it up. Turn off the stove when the desired consistency is reached.



Serves 5-6

A.'s reaction when she tasted the aloo curry: "Ameya, you're going to have to make this for me when I go away to college and send it to me!" Now that's what I call a compliment, especially coming from A. about Indian food :)

Puris:
Ingredients:
1 cup farina ground into a flour combined with 1 cup whole wheat flour OR 2 cups atta(chapati flour available in Indian grocery stores)
1 heaping tbsp. gram flour/besan
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. hot oil
1/4 cup yogurt
Oil for deep frying
Enough water to form a stiff dough(I used about 5 tbsp.)
Directions:
Combine all ingredients except water in food processor. Stream in water, one tbsp. at a time, until the ingredients just barely comes together to form a stiff dough. Reomve, place in a metal bowl, and cover. Let it sit for at least 18-19 hours, up to 24 hours. Yogurt serves as the acid medium to soak the grains in this recipe. (To learn about the nutritional value of soaking grains, see this post by Lindsay Edmonds:
http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/04/whole-grains-grinding-soaking.html)

When ready to make the puris, put oil in a wok 2" deep. Then, make balls with the dough 1" in diameter. Roll them out to 3-4" in diameter.








When oil is hot, slide 1 round in gently inside, let it cook for about 30 seconds. When puri puffs, flip it and let it cook for another 30-45 seconds and remove with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and serve.







This meal is always a welcome treat in our family. One look at my plate and you'll see why :)
 

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