Thursday, May 25, 2017

Indian Pudding, Indian Style (Polenta Or Cornmeal Pudding)

I cannot believe this is recipe # 500! I am celebrating it with this delicious pudding - an amalgam of Indian and American ingredients which work amazingly well!

Polenta Pudding came into being many years ago because a lot of the sauce was left over after making Ras Malai! I did not want to waste all that wonderfully flavorful creamy sauce and thought a quick pudding would be the best option to use it up.  I was looking for cream of wheat, but all I had available was a bag of cornmeal (even though made of corn, it had the consistency of cream of wheat) - so Indian/Polenta Pudding was born to rave reviews!!

When the pudding was presented, I was asked if it was Indian pudding?!  As it was made with a lot of Indian ingredients, I said that it was :-).  As I was new to cooking, I did not know that there actually was such a thing called "Indian Pudding", a famous New England dessert!

How did Indian pudding get its name? Columbus got lost when he tried to sail to India and ended up in America; he called the native people "Indians"!  Apparently, ground corn was called "Indian meal" by the new settlers as the "Indians" introduced them to corn and corn products and the pudding made with the Indian meal was ..... Indian Pudding.

My first and original Indian Pudding was made with regular milk. Vegan milk substitutes including coconut milk work well for a wonderful dairy-less pudding.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup  coarse corn meal (Polenta)
2 cups Milk, any type
1/2 cup regular or brown Sugar
1 pinch Saffron
1 tsp Cardamom
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1- 2 tsp Rose Water (optional)
4 Tbsp Sliced raw Almonds
2 Tbsp Raw Pistachios, Finely Chopped

Method:

Place corn meal in a heavy bottomed pan and add milk; let soak for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge.

Tip in the sugar and mix well. Slowly bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

Reduce heat so that the pudding is gently simmering.

Simmer the pudding for about 30 - 45 minutes stirring occasionally as needed to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning; add more milk if the pudding gets too thick as needed.

When the pudding is well cooked and has thickened, remove from heat.

Place cardamom (use seeds only, discard the pod), saffron and nutmeg in a mortar with a spoon full of sugar and pulverize with the pestle. Stir the mixture into the pudding.

Cover the pudding  with a tight fitting lid and let cool.

Indian Pudding is best served warm.  Stir in the rose water and chill if serving cold.

Serve the pudding sprinkled with the sliced almonds and pistachios.  Enjoy!!



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Lemony Linguine With Eggplant & Red Onions

Lemony Linguine & steamed carrots
Simple and delicious and spicy with a little green or red chile, Lemony Linguine makes a wonderful lunch, dinner or even as a starter. If eggplant is not your thing, use asparagus, zucchini or other favorite veggies and adjust cooking time accordingly as some veggies cook quicker than others. I used red onion to compliment the eggplant; any type may be used including scallions or leeks.

2 servings

Ingredients:

4 oz Linguine
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 hot green chile, minced OR 1 generous pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 small Japanese/Italian/Chinese Eggplant, julienned
3 cloves Fresh Garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp EVOO
Salt & freshly ground Pepper
4 Tbsp Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
1/2 Lemon/Lime, zest and juice
2 Tbsp Pine nuts or Slivered Almonds, toasted

Method:

Heat a large skillet; add the oil and when oil is hot add all the veggies, with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low to medium heat until eggplant is tender. Stir to keep the veggies from sticking.

While the veggies are cooking, cook the linguine according to package directions until tender but firm. 

Drain but reserve about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cooking water; and add the pasta to the veggies along with as much of the cooking liquid to keep everything moist.

Stir in the parsley, zest and juice of the lemon. Check for seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.

Serve hot topped with the toasted nuts. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Simple Upma With Coconut (Quick Seasoned Cream of Wheat/Semolina Pilaf with Coconut)

Simple Upma With Coconut
Simple or Coconut Upma is a hearty South Indian dish one can cook up in a jiffy with cream of wheat or semolina. In the days of yore, when we didn't have access to telephones (not to mention cell phones, emails, fridge or freezer for that matter!) friends and family often dropped by to visit without prior notice and Upma was the was a mainstay at the de rigueur welcome tea! Most people of that era wouldn't dream of running to the nearest snack shop or samosa stand even if one were available for a few choice nibbles to offer with the tea as only homemade goodies would do! Cream of wheat or semolina as well as the other ingredients is/was a staple in pretty much every household and the quick-cooking upma was indeed a welcome fare for the host and visitor alike. Simple Upma is an everyday dish that can be dressed up with roasted cashews or peanuts for guests or special occasions!

Thatha loved upma that was quite soft to the point of being mushy, which we called kali-ma :). When on a visit we would often gleefully anticipate whether we'd get fluffy upma or Thatha's kali-ma! 

Typically, the green chiles are cut in circles and most diners usually pick them out and set aside like one would parsley. But too often, I have seen that people unfamiliar with Indian food do not know to pick off chiles or other whole spices and end up chewing on them; so I core and mince chiles and ginger finely so as not to cause an unpleasant suprise for anyone. If a spicy upma is preferred,  the chiles may be chopped without coring and/or adding more. Although this upma is good to go without any side dishes like pickles or chutneys, they may be offered if desired. For young children, a sprinkling of sugar on top may be offered.

Sooji or Rava is semolina, Indian cream of wheat. Any type of finely cracked grain can be used including regular cream of wheat making adjustments in the amounts of water needed and cooking times. I love to add more wholegrain where I can and add a little bulgar (#1 grade which is finely cracked). This is a great dish for Vrat (restricted diet or fasting) days as it does not contain the usual onions or garlic which are not included on these occasions.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp oil
½ tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Chana dal
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 pinch Asafetida (Hing powder) (optinoal)
1 or 2 green Chile, cored and finely minced
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, finely minced or grated
1 sprig of fresh Curry leaves, finely sliced
1 tsp Salt or to taste
2 cups Water
3/4 cup Sooji (Rava or Cream of Wheat)
1/4 cup Bulgar 
2 Tbsp chopped Cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp toasted Cashew pieces (Optional)
½ cup finely grated Coconut (fresh/frozen) OR 1/4 cup Dried

Method:

Heat about 3 cups of  water and keep hot.

Heat the oil and ghee in a 2-3 quart pot or an Indian wok (Kadai).

Add mustard seeds, Chana dal and Urad dal when the oil is hot and cover with a lid to keep the mustard seeds from escaping while they pop; lower the heat when the mustard begins to pop.

When the mustard seeds finish popping, add the asafoetida quickly if using along with the ginger, green chili, curry leaves and the salt; cook over medium heat until green chiles soften, about a minute or two.

Pour the cream or wheat/semolina into the pan and cook stirring constantly over medium heat until they are coated with the oil, about 2-3 minutes. 

Reduce heat to low, and add 2 cups of the hot water carefully while stirring constantly - hot water may spatter at first when hitting the hot pan. Mix well, cover and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally to keep from sticking or burning. Drizzle a little more of the water as needed for the consistency you'd like.

 Stir in the coconut and turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the cilantro leaves and serve hot garnished with the cashews/peanuts. This upma is typically offered on its own with a cup of tea, coffee, or lemonade; feel free to offer your favorite accompaniments.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Masala Poha (Spiced Beaten Rice Flakes With Veggies)

Pilaf-like Masala Poha is very similar to Aval/Poha Upma with Potatoes or Aloo/Bataata Poha; another tasty recipe utilizing aval/poha/rice flakes. Pretty colorful, quick and nutritious, it can be served at lunch, teatime, or dinner. Masala Poha can also be part of a party menu or potluck contribution as it is a great make-ahead recipe. I often make it for our weekend/holiday brunch. Thick aval/poha is best for making this dish (thin is a bit too brittle and crumbly but will work just the same if that's what's available - "bird" in hand and all that!).

Masala Poha (Spiced Rice Flakes with Veggies
With all the colorful and flavorful veggies, Masala Poha makes a filling and hearty fare. Other mild flavored veggies may be added/substituted according to the seasonal availability and your preference - about 2 cups total - not including onions and bell pepper.

Variation: If aval/poha is not available, use cooked rice instead of the soaked aval/poha. Cook 1 cup of rice according to package directions and cool completely before using; leftover plain cold rice will work well.

Essential Masala Poha ingredients 

Seasonings of mustard, dals, with onions, ginger, green chile

Seasoned onion mixture with cooked veggies

Soaked Aval/Poha with seasoned veggies

About 4 Servings


Ingredients:

1 Cup dry Thick Aval/poha (Rice Flakes)
2 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
2 Tbsp Urad Dal
1 pinch Asafoetida
1 hot Green Chile (Thai or Serrano)
1 stem Fresh Curry Leaves
1 small Onion
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, finely minced
1/2 cup finely chopped Bell Peppers/Capsicums (use all the colors)
Salt to taste
1 small Potato
1 small Sweet Potato
1 small Carrot
1/2 Cup Green Peas, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Garam Masala
Juice from 1 Lime/1/2 Lemon
4 Tbsp Cilantro/Coriander/Dhania Leaves
Roasted Cashews or Peanuts for serving
A few whole cilantro leaves for garnish

Method:

Place the aval in a bowl and add plenty of water; pour off all the 'floaters' - bits of husk. Drain well and add 1/2 cup of fresh water with 1/2 tsp of salt dissolved in it and let soak while you prepare the rest.

Wash all the fresh veggies well and drain.

Cut the potatoes and carrots into 1/4" cubes - about the size of peas; cook them until just tender using the microwave, pressure cooker or in a small pan. Set aside. (Alternately, they may also be cooked directly in the pan after cooking the onions.)

Cut the hot green chilies in half and remove the seeds and the whitish membranes with a teaspoon and discard if you want a mild dish; leave the core in if you like it spicy. Mince the chilies finely.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or seasoned kadai (Indian wok) and add the mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds finish popping, add chana and urad dal; let the dals cook to a pinkish  golden color.

Immediately stir in asafetida, curry leaves, green chilies, ginger, and onions with a couple of pinches of salt and turmeric.

Cook stirring until onions are translucent. (Stir in carrots and potatoes at this time - if they are not precooked - with a little salt and cook until they are tender.)

Tip the capsicums/bell pepper into the onions mixture and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the peas if using fresh, and cook for about a couple of minutes. If using frozen, stir them in and then the aval.

Add the soaked aval with the Garam Masla if using and stir gently but thoroughly to mix well.

Cover and cook over low heat until hot stirring occasionally, about 5 mipeasnutes.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with the lime juice and cilantro; mix well.

Top with the nuts and garnish with the whole cilantro leaves and serve hot, warm or at room temperature by itself or with your favorite chutneys, Indian pickles, or a raita.

Enjoy!