Cook's Hideout: October 2009

October 31, 2009

Gulab Jamuns for Indian Cooking Challenge

When Srivalli chose gulab jamuns for this month's Indian Cooking Challenge, I was kind of excited and nervous since I have never made them from scratch before and was expecting a total failure with exploding jamuns in oil. The good news is they didn’t explode but the bad news is my jamuns got a tad bit harder after frying which I assume is because of the excess amount of flour I added to the khoya.

Ok let me back up a little bit and tell you the whole story. I chose Alka’s recipe for my Gulab Jamuns. I started out making the khowa with 4 cups of whole milk which I boiled for 2½ hours on low simmer. The khowa was still a little wet when I took it out of the pan. I let it cool for about 2-3 hrs and then I made the dough by adding the flour & corn starch. I added a tbsp of flour in the beginning and when I saw that the dough was still wet, I added another tbsp of flour and then another and then another and so on.. Well in the end the dough looked pretty good and I was able to make tiny jamuns. I didn’t realize that they formed a crust on the top and didn’t let the jamuns soak the sugar syrup. They tasted pretty good even though we had to struggle to cut them with spoon :-). I was a little disappointed with the end result but now I think I have the tools to make gulab jamun from scratch.

Here’s Alka’s recipe verbatim:

For sugar syrup:
Sugar - 500 gms (This can be reduced as per taste)
Water - 1 & 1/2 cup (bit more or less)
Cardamom - 2-3
One spoon of milk (optional)
Few threads of saffron (optional)
2-3 drops of rosewater (optional but highly recommended)

  • Mix about 500 gms of white sugar in one and half cup water and keep it for boiling.
  • Add a spoonful of milk to remove the impurities (impurities if any, will form a scum on surface).
  • Add 2-3 green cardamoms also in syrup for strong flavor, and a tad of saffron strings (optional).
  • Boil until you get just a tad sticky syrup. Gulab Jamun syrup is not very dense nor too dilute as in Rasgulla.
  • Strain the syrup, add rosewater when syrup is slightly cooled.Always remember two things while using rose water, do not add it while syrup is bubbling hot or on fire, and be particular about the quantity mentioned in every recipe, since even few drops of excess rosewater could lend a bitter taste to the final product.
For Gulab Jamun:
Unsweetened Maawa/ khowa* - 250 gms
All purpose flour - 1 & 1/2 - 2 tsp
Cornflour - 1 tsp
Green cardamom - 1-2 crushed
Oil for shallow frying

* (read my comments above on making khowa.

  • Mix all the ingredients in a wide mixing bowl until soft textured dough is obtained (keep mixing until it is really soft).
  • Make very small sized balls (bit larger than pebbles) as they swell up after frying and soaking in syrup.
  • Make sure that the surface of dough balls is really smooth without any cracks. In case the cracks refuse to go away, slightly wet your palms with water and roll the flour till absolutely smooth.
  • Now take little oil for frying in preferably flat bottomed pan, and heat the oil. But gulab jamuns are to be fried on LOW FLAME or else the surface will be browned while the core will remain uncooked. Some prefer to place an unsalted pistachio in the center of every gulab jamun while making balls, that way the core of gulab jamun is not left uncooked.
  • Fry one or 2 gulab jamuns at a time and always remember to STIR THE OIL with slotted spoon AND NOT TO TOUCH GULABJAMUNS, which means keep swirling the oil without tossing or turning gulab jamun.
  • Fry till light brown in colour, remove on tissue paper and repeat the procedure with rest of dough.
  • Now soak these in COOL syrup for few hours. They will surely swell up.
These can be stored in the same syrup till consumed.
If there are cracks in the balls before frying it will burst open while frying, in that case adding a bit of cornflour will surely help.


October 29, 2009

Soy Chorizo & Corn Stew

I like to try vegetarian/ vegan “fake meats”. I know they are processed and everything but I still want to try them at least once to see how they taste. I’ve had some that I really liked, but some that were totally disappointing and inedible.

So when I saw Soy chorizo in Trader’s Joes I had to try it and I have to say we really liked it and I’m going to buy this again. It was similar to Yves brand Veggie ground round but much spicy and garlicky.

Soy Chorizo – 1 package
Corn – 3 cups (from 3 cobs)
Red Bell pepper – 1 medium, chopped
Green Onions – 1 bunch
Garlic – 2 cloves
Tomato puree – 1 cup
Cumin powder – 1tsp
Chili powder – 1tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a sauté pan; crumble chorizo in the pan and cook on medium flame for about 5 minutes. Remove into a bowl and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, add green onions, bell pepper & corn; sauté on medium-high flame for 12-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Add tomato puree, ground cumin, chili powder and salt. Mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  • Return chorizo to the pan along with a cup of water/ veggie broth. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Check for seasonings and serve hot.
I served the stew with some brown rice. Yummyyyyyyy.

October 28, 2009

Spinach-Tomato Rice

My son absolutely loves Carrots. He can eat carrot all day everyday (this is right now, I’m not sure how his taste is going to change tomorrow). So I’ve started adding carrots in everything, pasta sauce, dal, curries and yes even in rice dishes; much to the discontent of my DH, but the little one’s preferences come first.. right?????

This dish is a clean up the fridge kind of a recipe and it tasted pretty good the next day for lunch.

Basmati Rice – 2 cups, cooked
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Carrots – 2 medium, chopped into ½” pieces
Frozen Spinach – 1 cup, thawed
Tomatoes – ½ lb (I used about 10 cherry tomatoes)
Green chilies – 2, slit lengthwise
Bisibele bath masala – 2tsp (I used homemade masala)
Roasted peanuts – 3tbsp
Salt – to taste

For tempering:
Mustard & Cumin seeds – 1tsp each
Curry leaves – 8-10

  • Cook rice and keep aside to cool.
  • In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp oil and add tadka ingredients; once the seeds start to splutter add onions and green chilies. Sauté till onion turn translucent.
  • Add carrots and roasted peanuts; cover and cook till carrots are tender.
  • Now add the spinach, tomatoes, salt and the masala; cover and cook till tomatoes turn mushy.
  • Check the seasonings and add the veggie mixture to rice. Mix well without mushing the rice. Mix some lemon juice if you like.
Serve with papad and chips. Great for lunchboxes too.

October 27, 2009

Kakarakaya Kura (Bittergourd Curry)

This is a very simple preparation with minimum ingredients but the end product was really yummy & delicious. To me prepping bittergourd (kakarakaya in telugu) to remove some of the bitterness is the most important step. I know some people who really love the bitterness, but prefer it to be mildly bitter; I can’t take extreme bitterness (like broccoli rabe is something I absolutely cannot have, it is way tooooo bitter for my taste).
For this dish, I microwaved the veggie with some tamarind pulp, turmeric and salt for 6 minutes. Then I thoroughly rinsed it under water and completely squeezed the liquid out leaving just slight bitterness in the gourd. For a non-vegan version, use buttermilk while microwaving instead of tamarind pulp.

Kakarakaya (Bittergourd) – 4 medium size, lightly scraped and chopped into ½” pieces
Red Onion – 1 medium, chopped fine
Curry powder – 1tsp (I used my homemade curry powder)
Salt – to taste

For tempering:
Cumin & Mustard seeds – 1tsp each
Curry leaves – 6-8

  • In a mw safe bowl, add the chopped veggie with 2tbsp tamarind paste, pinch of turmeric, ½ tsp salt and ½ cup of water. MW covered on high for 5-6 minutes or until bittergourd is half cooked. Drain the liquid and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Squeeze out as much water as possible from the gourd and keep aside.
  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a sauté pan; add the tempering ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter add onions and sauté till they turn translucent.
  • Now add the prepped bittergourd; cover and cook for 8-10 minutes or until bittergourd is completely cooked. Mix in salt and curry powder. Sauté for another couple of minutes.
Served with steamed rice and sambar makes this a complete comfort meal.

October 26, 2009

Eating out in NYC

Yet another weekend flew by so quickly that I didn’t have time to post for veganmofo. But we had a chance to take our son in the train to New York and he had a blast. He was saying koooo- chuk-cchuk trrrraiiiiin the whole time. It was fun watching him get excited just looking at the trains.
We then went to this cute little place called “Crisp” that serves great falafel sandwiches. And what’s more it is 100% vegetarian restaurant with a good number of vegan dishes too; and their primary focus is on respect and consideration for the planet.
I had their Mediterranean falafel sandwich and my husband tried their African sandwich, both of them were excellent. Their soup of the day was Zucchini soup and it was just cooked & pureed zucchini with spices and it was way beyond my expectations (I thought it was going to be health-food blah tasting, but it was fantastic with great texture as well).
Here are some pictures of the restaurant taken with my DH’s cell phone.

Note: This is not a vegan sandwich and had parmesan cheese on top, I didn't get a chance to take the picture of the other sandwich that was actually vegan.

October 22, 2009

Dalia Murukku

My mom gave this recipe for murukkus with dalia (putnala pappu); I made them for Diwali and they turned out super crunchy and delicious. They are very quick & easy to make too.

Dalia (Putnala pappu/ Roasted chana dal) – 1 cup
Rice Flour – 3 cups
Sesame seeds – 2tbsp
Ground Cumin – 2tbsp
Red chili powder – 2tsp (or more if you want spicy murukkus)
Salt – 1-2 tsp
Hot Oil – 3tbsp (or ghee for a non-vegan version)

  • Update 10/23: Grind dalia to a fine powder. Thanks Pari for pointing this out.
  • Mix all the ingredients; add about 1-2 cups of water to bind everything together and form a dough similar to puri dough.
  • Heat about 2 cups of oil in a kadai. Make small lemon size balls and put them in the murukku press; press directly in the hot oil in a circular pattern to get round interlocked murukku. Fry on medium flame till the dough turns golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon flip and cook on the other side for another minute or until it gets golden. Remove on to a paper towel. Repeat with rest of the dough.
Aside from being very addictive, these are super crunchy; so if you want a little bit less crunchy reduce the amount of rice flour. They keep good in a airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

October 21, 2009

Kaddu Chole

I missed quite a bit of veganmofoing this time around. It feels like I cannot catch up with all the things that are going on, so blogging took a back step, I hope to post everyday for the next 10days.

Hope all of you had a good Diwali celebrations. We didn’t do much on that day, the weather was awful with rain the whole day. I made some dalia murukkus for diwali, I will post the recipe soon.
For today I have this creamy kaddu chole recipe that goes well with both rice & roti. I'm so impressed with my green chole with coconut milk that I can't have chole without coconut milk, so this one also has it and tastes awesome.

Kaddu (Bottle Gourd/ Sorakaya) – 3 cups chopped (a medium sized gourd)
Red onion – 1 medium, chopped
Chole (Chick peas) – 1 16 oz. can, drained and rinsed
Ginger+Garlic paste – 1tsp
Tomato Puree – ½ cup
Coconut Milk – ¼ cup
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Chole Masala – ½ tsp
Tamarind paste – 1 tbsp (or use 1tsp amchoor powder)
Ground Cumin – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a large sauté pan; add cumin seeds and once they start to splutter add the onions and sauté until lightly browned.
  • Add g+g paste & ¼ tsp turmeric, cook for 1 minute.
  • Now add chopped kaddu and 1tsp salt. Cover and cook till the veggie is half cooked.
  • Add the chick peas, cover and cook till bottle gourd is completely tender.
  • Add tomato puree & coconut milk along with the masala powders; simmer on low for another 10 minutes. Serve with rice or roti.

October 14, 2009

Day 14 – Cholent (Vegan Jewish Stew)

First some Wiki Gyan time: Cholent (in Yiddish) or hamin (in Hebrewן‎) is a traditional Jewish stew simmered overnight, for 12 hours or more, and eaten for lunch on the Sabbath. Cholent was developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish religious laws that prohibit cooking on the Sabbath. The pot is brought to boil on Friday before the Sabbath begins, and kept on a hotplate, or placed in a slow oven or electric slow cooker until the following day.

Well I just followed the recipe from veganomicon and Isa’s version of vegan cholent was done in exactly 45minutes. This tasted awesome, very hearty & filling. Isa suggests serving it over rice or with bread, but I went with polenta. I made a few changes to the recipe to accommodate what I have in the pantry.
Recipe adapted from Veganomicon.
Onion – 1 large, chopped
Potatoes – 2 large, chopped into cubes
Carrot – 1 medium, chopped
Kidney beans – 1 15oz. can or 1½ cups cooked
TVP chunks (Soy chunks like Nutrella)– 1 cup
Peas – 1 cup, fresh/ thawed if frozen
Tomato paste – 2tbsp
Tomato puree – 1 cup
Garlic – 2 cloves
Bay leaves – 2
Caraway seeds (Shah jeera) – ½tsp
Salt & Pepper – to taste

  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a large soup pot; add onions and sauté till they turn translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add garlic, caraway seeds, salt and pepper and cook for another minute.
  • Add potatoes, carrots, TVP chunks, bay leaves, tomato puree & tomato paste along with 3 cups of water. Cover and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Add kidney beans & peas, cook till they are heated through. Serve hot with rice, polenta or bread. It tasted awesome reheated for lunch too.

October 13, 2009

Baingan Bhartha

It has been a while that I posted any eggplant dishes on my blog, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking with it. It’s just that I haven’t made anything new. This baingan bharta is not a new dish either, but I wanted to post it for veganmofo.

Active time involved in this dish is very little, baking/ roasting the eggplant itself takes the bulk of the time. With the temperatures hovering in lower 50’s, I thought this is the right time to fire up that oven. It took me about 1 hour to put the whole dish together from start to finish which is not bad for a weeknight dinner.

Eggplant – 1 medium, cut into half vertically
Red onion – 1 medium, chopped fine
Green chilies – 2, chopped
Ginger+Garlic paste – 1tsp
Tomatoes – 2 medium ripe, chopped
Tomato paste – 1tbsp
Ground Cumin – ½ tsp
Ground Coriander – ½ tsp
Red chili powder – 1tsp
Garam Masala – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF. Lightly spray the eggplant halves with cooking spray, bake for 40-45minutes or until the eggplants are baked thoroughly; check with a fork, should be able to pierce through the skin easily.
  • Around the 25 minute mark start working on the masala part of the dish; heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan; add onions, sauté till reddish brown.
  • Add g+g paste and sauté for another minute. Add chopped tomatoes & the paste; cover and cook till they turn mushy.
  • Add the powders and cook for another minute.
  • Eggplant should be done by now, remove from oven and carefully peel the skin and mash the pulp with the back of a spoon.
  • Add the pulp to the tomato mixture along with ½ to 1 cup of water. Season with salt and simmer for 5 minutes, so that all the flavors get a chance to mingle. Serve with roti or rice.


October 12, 2009

Spinach Fry & Tomato Dal

I missed Veganmofo over the weekend, so I thought I will post 2 very simple recipes to make up for it. These two dishes are actually too simple and easy and they don’t need a recipe, but I’ll give them anyway. :-)

Tomato Dal

First up is Spinach fry or sautéed spinach. I sometimes add soaked moong dal to make it even more nutritious.

October 09, 2009

Thai Red Curry

Last two days have been a little hectic at work. Our department director was retiring and we were busy with the work hand-off meetings. She used to be my cubicle-mate and I'm going to miss her and her stories very much. I get emotional when I see someone else getting emotional (yes.. even in movies and my husband gets a kick out of my crying.. ahem), so I was ready to cry in her retirement party, but fortunately I didn't.

For today's dinner, I made this Thai red curry with store-bought red curry paste, tofu, broccoli & potato served over jasmine rice. Quick and easy. I just followed the instructions on the bottle, so no recipe.
Have a great weekend everybody.

October 07, 2009

Linguine with Pesto & Artichokes

Last night’s meal was a breeze to make; Spinach Linguine with Pesto & Artichokes, from Isa’s Veganomicon. I used regular linguine instead of spinach flavored one and it was still delicious. Also the recipe calls for Cilantro-Basil pesto, I used regular basil pesto, and again we liked and enjoyed the dish.

Recipe adapted from Veganomicon
Linguine – ½ lb
Red Onion – 1 medium, chopped into thin half moons
Garlic – 3 cloves
Pesto – about 2/3 cup (or more), I used 5 cubes of frozen pesto made from here
Artichokes – 1 16 oz. can, drained and rinsed, cut into quarters (not the marinated in oil kind, but the once in brine)

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and season with generous amount of salt. Add linguine to water and bring to a boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes or until tender (al dente).
  • In the meantime, heat 2tbsp oil in a large skillet; add the onions and sauté until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Pasta should be cooked by this time; using a slotted spoon carefully add the pasta into the onion mixture along with some of the pasta water.
  • Mix in pesto and artichokes. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.

October 06, 2009

Creamy Rajma Curry

Last night I made multi-grain rotis inspired from A2Z Vegetarian cuisine. I only had about ¾th cup of atta (whole-wheat flour) and had to make enough rotis for 2 people, so I added 2tbsp each of soy flour, sprouted ragi flour, buckwheat flour and besan. It made 3 rotis each, just enough to feed us both. No pictures, cos we were in a hurry to eat.

To go along with the rotis, I made this Rajma (red kidney bean curry) inspired by a recipe of Manjula Jain that I watched on You Tube. She used a few tablespoons of besan (chickpea flour) that makes the gravy nice and thick.

Red Kidney beans – 1½ cups cooked
Onion – 1 medium, chopped fine
Tomato puree – 1 cup
Besan (Chickpea flour) – 2tbsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, finely minced
Cumin seeds – 1tsp
Red chili powder – 1tsp
Ground cumin – 1tsp
Amchoor powder (dry mango powder) – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet; add cumin seeds and once they splutter add onions and garlic and sauté till softened.
  • Add besan and cook until it doesn’t smell raw anymore, about 2 minutes.
  • Next add tomato puree; cover and cook till the gravy starts to simmer about 3-4 minutes.
  • Now add the spice powders and kidney beans. Add 1 cup (or more) water and simmer on medium-low flame until the mixture is thickens about 10-12 minutes.
  • Season with salt and garam masala and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with roti or rice.
This is my entry JFI-Rajma being hosted by Divya @ Dil Se. Indira @ Mahanandi is the brain behind JFI.

October 05, 2009

Vegan Cookbooks

This is a no-cook post today. I wanted to show you the vegan cookbooks I own. I bought all of Isa’s cookbooks and I’m totally happy with them. They are filled with easy, interesting recipes and funny quips.

My newest acquisition is her latest book, Vegan Brunch. I’ve yet to try anything from this one. I’m planning to make at least 2 recipes from each of these books and blog during Veganmofo month. Let’s see how well I’m going to stick to the plan.


October 04, 2009

Veganmofo III: Day 4 - Cabbage Leek Curry

Weekends are extremely lazy in our household. I cook more during the week than on the weekends. I just want to take it easy and not bother with cooking, but that doesn't mean we go out to eat. We eat all the left overs from the weekdays (I know that sounds kind of weird, but that's what we do). Today I made a small change and cooked for lunch. I made this simple cabbage curry and tomato-spinach dal and served them with steamed white rice.
I planned on making a soup and bought some leeks last week, but never got around to make the soup. So I used leeks instead of onions in this dish and it turned out delicious.

Cabbage - 4 cups, finely chopped (about 3/4th of a medium head)
Leeks - 4 medium, chopped and rinsed properly to remove any grit and dirt
Carrots - 2 medium, chopped in small half moons
Curry Powder - homemade or store bought
Turmeric - a pinch
Salt - t0 taste
Mustard & Cumin seeds - 1tsp each
  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a large skillet; add the seeds and once they start spluttering, add leeks and cook on medium flame until they turn light and limp, about 5 minutes.
  • Next add chopped cabbage & carrots along with turmeric; cover and cook till the veggies are tender.
  • Increase the flame to medium-high and let the veggies lightly brown along the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring otherwise the veggies will burn and that is not what you want.
  • Add the curry powder and salt; mix well and cook on medium-high for another minute. Serve with rice or rotis.



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