Cook's Hideout: July 2007

July 26, 2007

Strawberry Jam

My husband is a big Costco and BJ’s fan. I like buying milk, salt, spices, nuts, bread that are definitely much cheaper (although in bulk). But I don’t like buying fruits and vegetables there. To me buying 20lbs bag of potatoes, 5 lbs of apples and 3 dozen eggs is almost putting money down the drain. The reason being we are just 2 people at home eating and how many months or years are you going to feed on the same bag of potatoes and apples? Apparently that’s not what my husband thinks; he says we still spend less based on per lb or per unit price. Well this is a very hot issue that is still under discussion and no outcome has come out of it yet.

Coming back to my Strawberry jam, we bought 4 lbs box of strawberries and I had to use them up before they start going bad. I found the recipe in my “Five-a-Day Fruit & Vegetable Cookbook”and it turned out pretty good.Very easy to make with few ingredients and tastes fabulous.

Strawberries – 4 cups
Sugar – 2 cups
Lemon – 1


  • The night before you want to make the jam, clean the strawberries with a damp paper towel and remove the stems. You can leave them whole if they are small, otherwise cut them into 2 or 4 depending on the size of the berry. Make sure that the berries are completely dry before you do anything.
  • Take the berries in a non reactive bowl, glass being an excellent choice. Add sugar, cover and let sit overnight.
  • In the morning, transfer the berries and their juices to a large heavy bottomed pan. Add the juice of 1 lemon, mix well (preferably with a wooden spoon) and heat the mixture on medium-low flame with occasional stirring. Sugar will slowly dissolve and the berries will start to fall apart. The mixture needs to be cooked till it reaches jam consistency*.
  • Cool the jam completely and transfer into sterilized bottle**. Will store in a cool dry place for almost a year.
* How do you know you reached the right consistency? Book has 2 suggestions, none of which worked for me. First one is to check the temperature of the mixture with a sugar thermometer and when it reads 212ºF it is ready (I don’t own a sugar thermometer and have no intentions of buying one). Second method is to chill a saucer, put a drop of the berry mixture on it, and chill it again for 3 minute. When you try to push the drop it should from ripples (ahhhh.. what?? I didn’t know if chilling should be done in the freezer or in the refrigerator).

So that’s when I had to make an urgent call to my mom, who has jam making experience and she gave me a better idea (that really worked for me). Put a drop of the mixture on a small plate and try to move it around. If it starts flowing then the jam is not ready yet. If it resists movement and doesn’t move, then it is ready; remove from heat immediately. It took about 30-35 minutes for the jam to come together.

**To sterilize jars: Wash in hot soapy water, then rinse thoroughly and drain. Place the jars on a baking sheet and dry in a warm oven for 15-20 minutes.

July 23, 2007

Punjabi Thali for RCI-Punjab

I finally made it before the dead line for the RCI-Punjab event hosted this time around by Richa of As Dear As Salt. I thought I was on top of it till the 15th of this month and never realized it’s already the 23rd.

So here is my Punjabi thali (in Anti-Clockwise direction) Tandoori Naan, Jeera Rice, Tandoori Gobhi, Paneer Makhmali and Mango milk shake.

Both the curry recipes are adapted from Tarla Dalal’s Swadisht Subzi recipe series. I served the curries with store-bought Tandoori naans and jeera rice (sautéed cumin (jeera), caraway seeds (Shah jeera), bay leaves and green chilies in 1 tsp oil and mixed this with rice).

For dessert I made thick mango shake instead of mango lassi, because my husband is not a big fan of yogurt and lassis. For the milk shake, I blended chunks of fresh mango with light cream and sugar till light and fluffy.

On the whole, this is not a very heart healthy thali, but definitely delicious and satisfying. (A 30 minute work-out might help you with the guilt)

Tandoori Gobhi
This can be served as a side dish for rotis, chapathis and naans or as an appetizer (with less gravy). This dish is my new favorite. All the masalas (spices) blend so well that it tasted nothing like I imagined and my husband didn’t even notice the yogurt.

Cauliflower (Gobhi) – 1 small, cut into florets
Onion – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Green peppers – 1 medium, thinly sliced (I used half green, half red)
Cumin seeds – 1tsp
Salt – to taste

For marinade:
Yogurt – ½ cup, beaten
Besan (Chickpea flour) – 3 tbsp
Chili powder – 1 tsp
Ginger paste – 1 tsp
Garlic paste – 2 tsp
Kasoori Methi – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp

  • Microwave cauliflower in some water for 3-4 minutes or parboil on stove top.
  • Mix all the ingredients for marinade thoroughly. Add cauliflower florets and leave for at least 15 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil, add cumin seeds and after they splutter, add onions and peppers and sauté till transparent about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add cauliflower along with the marinade and cook for 7-8 minutes or until cauliflower is cooked through. Season with salt and serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.
Paneer Makhmali

Slightly different take on our regular paneer recipe and tasted awesome with naan and rice.

Paneer – 3 cups, cubed
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Tomato puree – 2 tbsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Milk – 1/4 cup (I used light cream)
Salt – to taste

For the marinade:
Mint leaves – 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves – 2 cups
Green chilies – 3-4
Ginger paste – 1 tsp
Lemon juice – 3 tsp
Cashews – ¼ cup
Salt – to taste

  • Grind all the ingredients for the marinade into a thick paste with little water.
  • Marinate paneer pieces in this mixture for at least 15 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan; add onions and sauté till pink. Add tomato puree and 1/4 cup water, cook covered for about 5 minutes.
  • Slide in the paneer pieces and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  • Add milk (or cream) and cook on medium low flame till the milk cooks and evaporates.
  • Add garam masala and season with salt. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

July 21, 2007

Kakarakaya Kura - Bitter Gourd Curry

Yet another recipe from my neighbor back home. This is a very yummy and not at all "bitter" bitter-gourd recipe. It keeps well for days in the refrigerator.

My mom packed this curry for me to bring back to US during my last India trip. All you have to do it cool the curry completely and pack it in polyethylene bags (same thick plastic bags used to pack pickles). I put the packet in the refrigerator as soon as I was home, then transferred into a Ziploc container and it usually stays fresh for at least 10 days.

Kakarakaya (Bitter gourd) – 3 medium, diced
Tamarind pulp – 2 tbsp, divided
Turmeric – ½ tsp

For Masala paste:
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tbsp
Grated coconut – ¼ cup (fresh or dry)
Jaggery – 1 tsp
Salt & Chili powder – to taste

  • Mix 1 tbsp tamarind in ¼ cup water. In a pressure cooker, take the chopped kakarakaya pieces along with tamarind water and turmeric. Cook for 2-3 whistles (depending on your cooker, I cooked for 3 whistles in mine) until the pieces are tender, but not mushy. Remove, drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze the extra water and keep aside.
  • While the veggies are cooking, grind all the ingredients for masala with little water to make a smooth paste. (You can grind the ingredients raw or fry them in 1tsp oil for extra depth in flavor.)
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan; add the kakarakaya pieces and the masala. Sauté on medium-low flame till the masala paste is cooked thoroughly and turns golden brown and all the moisture evaporates. Serve with rice and dal for a complete meal.
Kakarakaya Kura & Tomato pappu with Rice

July 17, 2007

Eggplant-Chickpea Tagine

I made this for JFI-Eggplant, but couldn’t get around posting it on time. Recipe is from my "Vegetarian" cookbook (Edited by Valerie Ferguson). Recipe takes almost an hour from start to finish, but it is worth every bit of the time and effort you put into it. Spices used make this Moroccan style stew make it taste almost like an Indian dish.

Eggplant – 1 medium, chopped into bite size pieces
Zucchini – 1 medium, thicky sliced
Chickpeas – 1 16oz. can, rinsed and drained
Potatoes - 2 medium, chopped
Onions – 1 large, sliced
Garlic Cloves - 2, chopped
Dry apricots - 8 (I substituted with a tablespoon sugar)
Ground Coriander - 1tbsp
Ground cinnamon – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 2 tsp
Turmeric - 2 tsp
Chili Sauce - 1 tbsp
Tomato paste – 1 tbsp
Passata* – 2 ½ cups (I used tomato puree instead)
Water – 2/3 cup
Salt & Pepper– to taste

  • Put the eggplant and zucchini in a colander, sprinkling salt over each layer. Let stand for ½ hour. Rinse very well and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Preheat the broiler. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant on a baking sheet and toss in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Broil for 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and golden.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy pan and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the spices and stir over the heat for 1 minute.
  • Add the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Pour in the passata, tomato paste and water and cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Add the eggplant, zucchini, chili sauce and chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, partially covered for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with rice.
  • Passata is a cooked tomato concentrate and you can find the recipe for making it here.
  • Recipe also uses 2 cups Brown mushrooms. The dish turned out delicious even without the mushrooms.
  • Also this recipe makes a big pot of stew, you can refrigerate it for upto a week without any problem.

July 14, 2007

Challa Ponganalu (Poha Dosa)

These dosas are fluffy, slightly tangy and extremely easy to make. I had this recipe for a while now (courtesy of our neighbor in India) and when I saw Asha’s Avalakkai dosa, I had to give it a try.

Rice – 1 cup
Poha (Atukulu) – ¾ cup
Buttermilk - for grinding
Salt – to taste

  • Soak rice overnight. Soak poha for ½ hour.
  • Grind rice and poha with buttermilk and salt to make a thin batter similar to dosa batter consistency.Cover and allow to ferment overnight or for atleast 8-10 hours.
  • Make dosas on a non-stick skillet with little oil.
  • Serve them hot with chutney or podi of your choice.

July 09, 2007

Nethi Beerakaya Pachadi-Silk Squash Chutney

I have never cooked with Nethi beerakaya aka Silk Squash before. Nethi beerakaya bajji (fritters) are very famous in Andhra. I bought 2 squashes from the Indian store and made pachadi with one and bajji with the other.

To make the bajjis, cut the veggie into thin circles. Dip them into bajji/ pakora batter (besan+chili powder+cumin powder+salt+water to make a thin batter) and deep fry till golden brown. Serve hot sprinkled with chaat masala along with ketchup. We gobbled down our bajjis before I could take the pictures, so all I have here is raw silk squash pieces.

Here’s the recipe for pachadi.

Nethi Beerakaya – 1 medium, chopped (no need to peel, just rinse thoroughly)
Tomato – 2 medium, chopped
Tamarind pulp – 1-2 tsp
Chana dal – 1tbsp
Ural dal – 1 tbsp
Jeera – 1 tsp
Red chilies – 4
Salt to taste

  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan; add dals, jeera, red chilies and sauté till lightly browned. Remove and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, add chopped beerakaya pieces, tomato, cover and cook till tender. Remove from heat.
  • Once cool enough to handle, grind the dals first to a powder, then add the veggies, tamarind pulp, salt and blend to a smooth paste.
I like mine a little chunky, so I didn’t blend it all the way through. Tastes great with rice/ idlis/ dosas or on sandwiches.
Here's another interesting nethi beerakaya recipe from Indira’s blog.

July 07, 2007

Tomato Rasam

This is my husband’s special tomato rasam recipe. Our dear friend V, gave instructions on phone and fortunately (for me) it turned out pretty good (in his words “restaurant style”) the first time he made it. He is very proud of his rasam and making it used to be a secret ritual for a while. But finally I coaxed him to tell me the recipe for the blog.
So here it is my husband’s very famous tomato rasam.

Tomatoes – 3 medium, ripe
Tamarind pulp – 1 tsp
Rasam powder – 1 tsp (any brand, he uses MTR)
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1tsp
Garlic cloves – 2
Curry leaves – 4-5
Salt – to taste
Coriander leaves – chopped for garnish

  • Make a small “+” cut on the tomatoes; drop them in 1½ cups of boiling water and blanch for 4-5 minutes. Remove from water, cool, peel skin and puree in a blender.
  • In the same water used for boiling tomatoes, add the tomato puree, tamarind paste and bring to a simmer.
  • Add all the powders and salt.
  • Bring to a boil; simmer on medium-high flame for 5 minutes.
  • In a small pan, add ghee and do the popu/ tadka with mustard seeds, minced garlic, curry leaves. Add this to rasam, mix well, garnish with coriander leaves. Enjoy with rice and papad or as soup.


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