Weekend Getaway To Pearl Valley, Near Anekal

We are trying to make the most of the beautiful, beautiful weather in Bangalore lately. Of late, weekends see us on heading out on long drives, exploring places, seeing the city we live in with new eyes. One of my cousins has moved from the US of A, and we are – sort of – helping him get acquainted with Bangalore. Suits me just fine! So, that’s how we came to be checking out this place called Pearl Valley one gorgeous rainy weekend.

And we’ve arrived at Pearl Valley!

Located about 40 km from Bangalore, Pearl Valley needs just about an hour’s time to drive down. The roads are in great condition, and the ride is smooth. You pass through some narrow roads and little villages en route, all of it made extra charming by the pretty weather. Google Maps is a great guide to take you to this little known picnic spot, just 5 km or so away from Anekal district.

The little lake that greets you upon your arrival at Pearl Valley

There’s not much to do at Pearl Valley, whose original name is Muthyala Maduvu. It is, however, a nice spot for a relaxed half-day picnic in natural surroundings, I would say. This is a green valley situated in the midst of mountains, and a trek through the valley will bring you to the star attraction – a waterfall. I’ll hasten to tell you that the waterfall isn’t much to look at (definitely not in the league of Jog Falls or Shivanasamudra), and the trek doesn’t really involve very rugged terrain or an extremely tough trail. That said, it’s still a scenic place to visit, especially in the monsoons, a quiet sojourn away from the chaos of city life. My 4-1/2-year-old did a fairly decent job of the trek, as did the other two little ones in our family. I’d say this is a nice place for beginner trekkers or for children to get a feel of trekking or walking amidst wilderness.

Look at that green, green valley!

A hotel run by the Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) – Mayura Nisarga – is the only sort of commercialisation you will find at Pearl Valley. Mayura Nisarga is, actually, a bar-cum-hotel serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The hotel premises are where you park your vehicle and take a loo break, before heading down to the waterfall in the valley. Beware – monkeys run amok at this spot and are known for snatching food and drinks from the hands of unsuspecting tourists!

Up to monkey business!

The trekking trail here is still under construction. You’ll find proper steps along part of the way, while the rest is just finding your foothold amidst worn rocks and bushes and mud. There are no signboards or restrooms once you begin the trek, descending into the valley. No monkeys inside the valley, thankfully!

Down, down, down we went that steep flight of stairs!
One little girl had her first ‘trek’ experience amidst narrow trails!

The views en route are pretty, albeit nothing extraordinary. I especially loved the rustic temple we passed en route. If you need to take a break, rocks and grassy land are all you have to sit on.

Captured on camera en route
This temple had me charmed!

The waterfall you reach after the trek is, really, just a little trickle. Don’t go for the waterfall – go with family and friends to make memories along the way.

The little waterfall at Pearl Valley

Notes for travellers:

1. The villagers of Muthyala Maduvu charge an entry fee of INR 30 per vehicle. Apart from this, there’s a small parking fee to be paid for using the premises of Mayura Nisarga.

2. The food and beverages at Mayura Nisarga are pretty sad – speaking from personal experience. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a lunch hamper from home. It would be best to leave the hamper in your vehicle – thanks to the monkeys – and wait till you reach a safe spot somewhere nearby, to eat.

3. The trek can be a bit much for the aged and infirm. Children above 4 can head in, I’d say, provided they are able to walk independently. It’s about a 45-minute walk in all.

4. Like I was saying earlier, there’s not much of development or vigilance inside the valley. We spotted bunches of people ducking under bushes with bottles of alcohol, and a few couples trying to get close. That said, there were quite a few families trekking the day we visited too. There’s really no one to keep an eye on the place, a sad fact.

5. Carry a backpack with water bottles, umbrellas and/or rain coats, and a few snacks while you trek. Comfortable attire for trekking is highly recommended.

6. The valley is not the cleanest of places. Be prepared to see several plastic bags and bottles, juice cartons, snack covers, alcohol bottles and the likes strewn all over.

7. There’s nothing much to do or explore in the immediate surroundings. Plan your visit accordingly.

8. Mayura Nisarga offers some good views of the valley, which you might want to check out.

9. The valley was quite green and pretty when we visited, probably because we visited in the peak of monsoon. We had good weather too, as we trekked. I doubt either of this would be the case, if you visit in the non-rainy months.

10. We didn’t come across any flora or fauna of interest, in the course of our trek.

11. Pearl Valley is open from 7 am to 7 pm every day.

Advertisements

Khara Bath| Karnataka Special Rava Upma

In several Old Bangalore-style eateries, popularly called Darshinis, you will find a very different type of rava upma on the ‘tiffin’ menu. This version of upma, a popular breakfast dish in several parts of Karnataka, is reddish-yellow in colour, tasting slightly tangy and spicy and very different from the regular, white sooji upma we are typically used to. The unique colour and taste of this upma comes from the Vangi Bath (Karnataka-style brinjal rice) powder that is added to it. I absolutely adore this variation of rava upma, called Khara Bath in local parlance. I present to you today the recipe for Bangalore-style Khara Bath, the way I learnt to make it years ago from an aunt of mine.

You can use either fine sooji (aka rava or semolina) or the thicker Bansi rava to make Khara Bath. The key to getting this dish right is in the roasting of the semolina. It needs to be roasted perfectly, until it emits a lovely fragrance, taking care to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Using good-quality Vangi Bath powder is a must too, and I swear by the one by Sanketi Adukale. I’ve been using spice mixes from the brand for quite some time now, and love how fresh, fragrant and authentic they are, free of artificial additives and preservatives.

You can choose to add a lot of veggies to your Khara Bath, or keep it simple by using only tomatoes and onion. I prefer the latter, personally, but it tastes lovely either way! This dish often finds a place on our dining table, considering it makes for a hearty meal that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.

I’m sharing our family recipe for Khara Bath for the week’s Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme this week is #ThindiYenu, which is Kannada for ‘What’s for tiffin?’. The members of the group are, today, showcasing breakfast recipes from the state of Karnataka, for the theme. It was Aruna of Vasu’s Veg Kitchen who suggested the theme, a talented cook whose blog is full of detailed recipes from all over India.

Now, without further ado, let me outline the Khara Bath recipe. This is a completely plant-based, vegan dish.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1-1/2 cups fine sooji (semolina or rava)
  2. 4-1/2 cups water
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 1 large onion
  5. 1 large tomato
  6. About 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  9. 1 tablespoon oil
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  11. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  12. Salt to taste
  13. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  14. 5-6 teaspoons Vangi Bath powder
  15. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  16. Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
  17. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Take the sooji in a thick pan and place it on high flame. Once the pan heats up, reduce flame to medium. Dry roast the sooji till it begins to emit a lovely fragrance, taking care not to burn it. This takes 3-4 minutes, by which time the sooji will start to brown slightly. Switch off gas at this stage and transfer the roasted sooji to a plate. Keep aside.

2. Chop the onion and tomato finely. Peel the ginger and chop it very finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

3. Heat the oil in the same pan we used before. Add in the mustard seeds, and let them pop. Now, add in the asafoetida, slit green chillies and curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

4. Add the chopped onions and ginger to the pan, along with the shelled green peas. Add in a little salt. Saute on medium flame till the onions start turning brown and the peas are mostly cooked, about 2 minutes.

5. Add in the tomatoes. Saute on medium flame till the tomatoes shrink , 1-2 minutes.

6. Now, keeping the flame medium, add in the water. Add in salt and turmeric powder, and mix well. Keep on medium flame till the water starts boiling.

7. At this stage, add in the lemon juice, Vangi Bath powder and red chilli powder (if using). Mix well.

8. Still keeping the flame medium, add the roasted sooji to the pan, little by little. Keep stirring constantly, to prevent the formation of lumps.

9. Cook on medium flame till the mixture thickens, the water dries up, and the sooji is cooked through. This should take 2-3 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.

10. When almost done, mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Switch off gas when the Khara Bath is done. Serve hot, with chutney of your choice.

Notes:

1. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Khara Bath you require. Here I have used 3 cups of water per cup of rava. In traditional Old Bangalore eateries, you will find this Khara Bath quite runny in texture, almost like a liquid-y khichdi.

2. I have used store-bought Vangi Bath powder from Sanketi Adukale. You can make your own Vangi Bath powder at home as well.

3. If the heat from the green chillies and the Vangi Bath powder is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.

4. You can skip the lemon juice entirely, but I personally prefer adding it in because I love the slight tartness it adds to the Khara Bath. Alternatively, you could use more tomatoes in the preparation.

5. I prefer using the more tart Nati (country) tomatoes in the Khara Bath, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety.

6. A simple coconut chutney is the best accompaniment to this Khara Bath.

7. Bisi Bele Bath powder can be used in place of Vangi Bath powder, in the above recipe.

8. A little fresh grated coconut can be added to the Khara Bath too. It adds a lovely flavour to the dish. I haven’t, here.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Inji Oorugai| Oil Free Instant Ginger Pickle

The markets in Bangalore are flooded with baby ginger these days. You know, those very tender knobs of ginger that are almost white, with a pinkish tinge to them? The sort of ginger that doesn’t even need peeling – you can scrape off the little skin on it using just your fingers. Cutting them up is a delight – with none of the tough fibre that mature ginger possesses, your knife glides straight through it, making slicing and fine-chopping oh-so-easy. That’s the sort of ginger that’s just perfect for the purpose of pickling, I say.

Today, I share with you the recipe for Inji Oorugai, a simple instant pickle I make using this baby ginger. This is a no-fuss pickle that needs the bare minimum of ingredients, time and effort to make. It’s a no-oil version too. And yet, it’s an absolute delight to eat, converting a bowl of curd rice into a blissful treat. It wouldn’t be wrong to call this a guilt-free pickle, one that all of us at home adore.

Like I was saying earlier, this Inji Oorugai is best made using tender ginger when in season. The lack of fibre in young ginger, as opposed to mature ginger, makes all the difference. The pickle can be eaten just as soon as it is made but, in my opinion, it tastes best after about two days of soaking. Stored in the refrigerator and used hygienically, it stays well for up to a month.

This Inji Oorugai is similar to the Sushi Ginger or pickled ginger that is served along with sushi in Japanese restaurants. However, Sushi Ginger uses vinegar and sugar as opposed to the lemon juice and jaggery powder used in this pickle. It’s a good digestive, this pickle, a good thing to resort to when your system feels overloaded and you are in need of a detox. It’s just the remedy for minor monsoon-related digestive ailments too.

Let’s now check out how to make this Instant Ginger Pickle. I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #289.

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup):

  1. About 150 grams tender ginger
  2. 1/2 tablespoon salt or to taste
  3. Juice of 2 lemons
  4. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste

Method:

1. Peel the ginger. Chop into thin slices. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add in salt to taste, jaggery powder and lemon juice. Mix well.

3. Set aside, covered and undisturbed, for a day. Stir intermittently to ensure that all the pieces of ginger are evenly coated with the juice.

4. After a day, transfer the pickle to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle and store refrigerated. Shake before use.

Notes:

1. Use very fresh, tender ginger for best results. Mature ginger is not very well suited for making this pickle.

2. Adjust the quantity of salt, jaggery and lemon as per personal taste preferences.

3. You may skip the jaggery if you so prefer, but I wouldn’t personally recommend that. The jaggery adds a beautiful touch to the pickle, and helps a great deal in cutting down the spiciness of the ginger.

4. You can add green chillies to this Instant Ginger Pickle, too. I don’t use them, since the ginger is spicy already.

5. It takes 2-3 days for the lemon juice, salt and jaggery to soak through the ginger and cut down its spiciness. Then, this pickle becomes absolutely finger-lickingly delicious.

6. Store the pickle refrigerated, when not in use. Remove only using a clean, dry spoon.

7. This Instant Ginger Pickle can be served as a side with rotis, rice or thali meals. It can also be used in wraps, rolls, etc.

Do try out this Instant Ginger Pickle recipe this season, and let me know how you liked it!

Thotada Mane: A Food Stop You Must Make In Srirangapatna

The weather in Bangalore right now is just perfect for a drive. Let me suggest to you a lovely place to consider for a drive from Bangalore – Thotada Mane in Srirangapatna. Located a little over 100 km away from the city, this is an ideal spot for a weekend getaway, especially so if you are a foodie and nature buff. Our family made a pit-stop at Thotada Mane on a recent trip to Mysore, and ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

The entrance to Thotada Mane

Just how charming is that?!

A rustic eatery set up in the midst of fields in Srirangapatna, Thotada Mane is the brainchild of Guru Dutt Bharadwaj, an ex-IT man. I had the pleasure of meeting him during our sojourn to Thotada Mane, and of learning about the birth of the establishment. Owning a home in the midst of farm land was always a dream of Guru Dutt’s parents, and Thotada Mane is the manifestation of this dream. Guru Dutt and his wife live in a charming little house adjacent to the eatery and personally oversee the cooking. Most of the food served at Thotada Mane is prepared using recipes from Guru Dutt’s own family.

The pretty dining area at Thotada Mane

The wishing well on the premises!

Thotada Mane has the sort of ambience that relaxes you the minute you set foot in. The greenery all around, the gravel that scrunches under your feet as you walk in, the red oxide flooring of Guru Dutt’s house, the low wooden tables and chairs set up all around, the quirky paraphernalia on display, the gurgling of the little fountain that runs in the midst of the dining area, the cute bridge and wishing well on the premises – everything plays a part. I was charmed by the place, and I’m sure you will be too.

Cutesy!

The gurgling water kept us company as we partook of our lunch

Thotada Mane serves reasonably priced all-vegetarian fare for breakfast and lunch, from Tuesday to Sunday. They also serve tea, coffee, select beverages and tea-time snacks. I loved that the menu here is quite extensive – a mix of traditional Karnataka food and fusion dishes to please all kinds of palates. The home-style food that Thotada Mane serves, sans artificial flavouring or colouring agents and preservatives – has definitely struck a chord with patrons. The eatery, about 4 years old now, sees a steady stream of visitors by word of mouth only. Thotada Mane does not feature in advertisements of any sort – it doesn’t even have a signboard on the highway to direct tourists! We had heard about this place through some foodie friends, and used Google Maps to locate it – something I would recommend you to do, too, in case you plan on visiting.

One of the many trees on the Thotada Mane premises

Rustic wooden seating at Thotada Mane

My dad opted for a Roti Meal, which turned out to be a delicious Karnataka-style thali complete with roti, 2 types of veggies, saaru (rasam), sambar, papad, anna (rice), curd, Maddur vade and obattu (poli). The obattu, especially, was finger-lickingly good!

Roti Meal at Thotada Mane

The husband, mom and I wanted to try out various things from the menu, so we chose a mix of traditional and ‘jazzed-up’ dishes. We ordered a Cheesy Spicy Sweet Masala Papad first, which was just brilliant. The home-made peanut powder it was dusted it was an awesome, awesome thing. This was the star of the meal, for me, I would say.

Cheesy Spicy Sweet Masala Papad

Next up, we opted for Cutlet Pizza and Corn Boats, two of their appetisers. These were decent, not bad but nothing to write home about either. I loved the simple, homely style in which these two dishes had been prepared, but they could definitely have been more flavourful.

Left: Corn Boats, Right: Cutlet Pizza

We ended our meal with Curry Leaves Bath and Curd Rice, both of which were lovely. The curry leaves podi (powder) used in the former was super fresh and bursting with flavour, just the right amount of spicy. The Curd Rice was just perfect, too – simple as the dish is, achieving that is quite a feat, trust me!

Left: Curry Leaves Bath, Right: Curd Rice

The staff at Thotada Mane, including Guru Dutt, is known for their warm hospitality and friendly interaction with their customers. We had the same warm experience too, here. We even managed to get a sneak peek into Guru Dutt’s beautiful, beautiful home on the premises. He was kind enough to bring out his pet turtle (yes, you read that right!) for the bub to play with. 🙂

Part of Guru Dutt’s lovely home

Ain’t it pretty?!

I loved the abundant use of natural material in the eatery and the upcycling of waste products. The see-saw with bicycle handlebars became a fast favourite with the bub, and all of us admired the washbasin designed out of a car tyre.

The car-tyre washbasin

That see-saw!

There are two toilets at Thotada Mane, for public convenience. We found them quite neat and clean.

The toilets

I am already thinking about a second trip to this place, to get hold of more of the interesting dishes on the menu! I hear their Akki Rotti (rice flour roti) and Ragi Rotti (finger millet roti) are bomb, and I definitely wouldn’t mind driving down to Srirangapatna just for those. All of us need a detox from time to time – the sort of detox where we sit peacefully and eat good food – and Thotada Mane is just the right place for that.

Table decor!

Do check out this place! I hope you’ll fall in love with it the way we did, too.

***********

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #289.

Fada Lapsi| Broken Wheat Pongal

Broken wheat (dalia) is commonly used in making savoury khichdi. However, did you know that it can also be used in the preparation of a delicious sweet dish? I’m talking about Fada Lapsi, a beautiful dessert hailing from the state of Gujarat, made with broken wheat (‘ghaun na fada‘ in local parlance) and jaggery.

Fada Lapsi is a traditional dish, considered to be highly auspicious in Gujarat. It is typically prepared to celebrate engagements, weddings and similar occasions, as well as festivals like Raksha Bandhan, Diwali and Janmashtami. I present the recipe for Fada Lapsi today, for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the blog hop this week is #MeetheBandhan, wherein all of us are showcasing Raksha Bandhan-special dishes. When Archana of The Mad Scientist’s Kitchen suggested this theme, Fada Lapsi was the first thing that came to my mind – and here we are!

Different families have different ways of making Fada Lapsi, with the basic ingredients remaining more or less the same. I make it the way a Gujarati friend of mine taught me, years ago – making a jaggery syrup first, adding cooked broken wheat to it, and then cooking everything together again. This isn’t unlike the making of the Tamilnadu Sakkarai Pongal and, hence, it wouldn’t be wrong to call this Broken Wheat Pongal too.

The use of broken wheat (as opposed to rice or semolina) and jaggery renders this a relatively healthy dessert. I use a limited amount of ghee too, just enough to make the lapsi fragrant and inviting. The milk and dry fruits going in make sure the Fada Lapsi tastes rich and delectable. The broken wheat gives the dessert an interesting texture, too. What’s more, it’s an easy-peasy recipe that doesn’t need much expertise or effort. You have got to try this out!

Let’s now check out the recipe for Fada Lapsi or Broken Wheat Pongal. I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #288. The co-host this week is Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

  1. 1 cup broken wheat aka dalia
  2. 1 cup full-fat milk
  3. 2-1/2 cups + 2 cups of water
  4. 2 cups jaggery
  5. 2 tablespoons ghee
  6. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
  7. 10 cashewnuts
  8. 10 almonds
  9. 1 tablespoon raisins

Method:

  1. Wash the broken wheat thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.
  2. Take the washed and drained broken wheat in a wide vessel, and add 2-1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of milk to it. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles or till the broken wheat is well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.
  3. Meanwhile, take the jaggery powder in another pan, and add in 2 cups of water. Place on high heat. Allow the jaggery to melt entirely in the water. Switch off the gas when the jaggery syrup comes to a boil. Do not bring the syrup to a string consistency – just allow it to come to a boil and then switch off the flame.
  4. When the pressure in the cooker has entirely gone down, place the pan with the jaggery syrup on medium flame. Remove the cooked broken wheat from the cooker, and add it to the jaggery syrup. Cook on medium flame till the mixture thickens, 3-4 minutes. Stir intermittently, to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Switch off gas when the Fada Lapsi is still quite runny – it thickens considerably on cooling.
  5. Chop the cashewnuts and almonds roughly. Keep aside.
  6. Heat the ghee in a small pan. Add in the raisins, cashewnuts and almonds. Wait till the raisins plump up and the cashewnuts and almonds brown slightly. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Once done, pour the ghee with the raisins, cashewnuts and almonds onto the cooked Fada Lapsi. Add in the cardamom powder too. Mix well.
  7. Serve the Fada Lapsi piping hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled, as per personal taste preferences.

Did you like this dish? Do tell me, in your comments!

Chilli Tofu

The weather in Bangalore has taken a sharp turn, lately. It’s been raining off and on. It’s dark and overcast most part of the day, and quite chilly. Nights are cold. Brrr. This warrants for delicious, hot food, in our books! That’s how I ended up making Chilli Tofu and Vegetable Fried Rice for lunch, one recent weekend, an indulgence that we thoroughly cherished.

This Chilli Tofu is my kind of indulgent food. It is spicy and tangy and sweet, super flavourful and delicious. It’s so easy to make, it takes just about 10-12 minutes in all.

I would like to say that I have tried to make little substitutions here and there, to make the Chilli Tofu as healthy as I could. I have used some ingredients here – packaged sauces, cornflour and maida, for instance – which aren’t great for health. That said, I have used them in limited quantities. I have also cut down on the frying – and consequently the amount of oil – that are integral parts of this dish in most restaurants. I have used good-quality sauces and 100% natural tofu. I love that about home-made junk food – you can control the amount of ‘junk’ that goes into it, and try to make it a wee bit healthier. 🙂 And, hey, that’s perfectly okay once in a while, if you are eating healthy most of the time.

This is an entirely vegan recipe, completely plant-based. It isn’t completely gluten-free though, because of the use of maida, which is basically refined wheat flour. You can easily substitute the maida used here with corn flour, though, rendering the Chilli Tofu fully gluten-free.

Let’s now see how I made the Chilli Tofu. I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #288. The co-host this week is Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 200 grams firm tofu
  2. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  3. 5-6 garlic cloves
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 1 medium-sized carrot
  6. 1 small capsicum
  7. 1 teaspoon maida
  8. 1 teaspoon corn flour
  9. 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1 teaspoon jaggery powder or sugar
  12. 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon of oil
  13. 1 tablespoon soya sauce or to taste
  14. 1 tablespoon tomato sauce or to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon red chilli sauce or to taste
  16. 1 tablespoon green chilli sauce or to taste
  17. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. Cut the tofu into cubes, as big as you would like them to be. Keep aside.

2. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Peel the garlic cloves. Grind the ginger and garlic together to a paste, in a small mixer. Keep aside.

3. Now, we will prepare the vegetables required to make this dish. Peel the carrot and chop into batons. Chop the onion length-wise. Cut the capsicum into large-ish pieces. Keep aside.

4. Take the corn flour and maida in a small cup. Add about 1/4 cup water and make a lump-free slurry. Keep aside.

5. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large pan. Add in half of the tofu cubes, without overcrowding the pan. Fry the tofu till till the cubes get a little crisp and brown on the outside. Transfer to a plate and keep aside. Again add 1/2 tablespoon oil to the pan, heat it, and fry the rest of the tofu cubes.

6. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the pan. Now, add the chopped onion, carrot and capsicum to the pan, along with salt to taste and the ginger-garlic paste. Cook on high flame till the veggies are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch.

7. Add the cornflour and maida slurry to the pan, along with about 1-1/2 cups of water. Add in the jaggery powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame till the gravy thickens up, about 2 minutes.

8. Add more water if needed. Add in the fried tofu cubes, soya sauce, tomato sauce, red chilli sauce and green chilli sauce. Mix well. Cook for a minute more, adjusting seasonings as required. Switch off gas when the mixture is thick but still quite runny. It thickens further upon cooling.

9. Serve hot, garnished with finely chopped fresh coriander.

Notes:

1. I have used Vegetable Tofu from Murginns, to make this dish. It came with bits of carrot, ginger and green chilli in it, and was just perfect for the saucy gravy. You can use plain tofu instead too, but I would highly recommend the Murginns Vegetable Tofu. I picked it up from Namdhari’s Fresh.

2. Use firm tofu (rather than silken tofu) for best results.

3. You can skip frying the tofu and add it in directly, at the end. However, the frying does impart a lovely taste to the dish.

4. Adjust the quantity of sauces you use, as per personal taste preferences.

5. Be careful with the amount of salt you add in, because the sauces will have salt in them too.

6. Cottage cheese aka paneer can be used in place of the tofu. You can fry the paneer the same way you did the tofu, or add them at the very end, as is, without frying.

7. You can use vegetables of your choice in this dish. I have used whatever was available in my refrigerator at the time of making.

8. Make sure you don’t overcook the veggies. They should still retain their crunch.

9. You may skip the jaggery powder or sugar. I felt it was a necessary addition.

10. I have simply pan-fried the tofu here. You can coat the tofu pieces with cornflour, and deep-fry them too. This will make the tofu even crisper.

11. You can use either cornflour or maida in the slurry, to thicken the Chilli Tofu. I have used a mix of both here.

12. The Chilli Tofu gets thicker as it cools. Do account for this fact, while preparing it.

13. I have used Heinz tomato ketchup (free of preservatives and artificial additives, as per the label), green chilli sauce from Ching’s Kitchen, red chilli sauce from Thai Heritage, and a naturally fermented soya sauce called Shoyu that I picked up on our Thailand holiday.

14. I served this Chilli Tofu with home-made Vegetable Fried Rice. You can also serve it with parathas.

Did you like this recipe? Do try it out, and let me know how you liked it!

Pudina Pulav| Mint Vegetable Rice

I love the freshness that mint (‘pudina‘ in local parlance) adds to a dish. The addition of the green leaves, sort of, seems to bring food to life, both in terms of fragrance and flavour. I’m fond of adding fresh mint leaves to quite a few things, but my most favourite thing to use them in is Pudina Pulav or Mint Vegetable Rice. I’m here today with a family recipe for this rice dish!

I learnt how to make Mint Vegetable Rice from my sister-in-law when I was a newlywed. This is a pulav with a South Indian bent, quite popular in restaurants and homes in this part of the country. It has always been a favourite in the husband’s family, and remains so till date. No wonder why, considering it is such an easy-peasy one-pot recipe, yet manages to be a flavour bomb. It can be made using very little oil, too. Pudina Pulav is comfort food for the husband, and is often the dish I cook on lazy days when I don’t want to put in too much of an effort.

We usually make this rice dish in a pressure cooker, with whatever vegetables are available. You can make it in a pan minus the veggies too. It will still be just as delicious, just as beautiful. Pair it with some curd or raita, and a hearty meal is ready.

In itself, the Pudina Pulav is a completely plant-based, vegan food. It is entirely gluten-free too.

Swaty of Food Trails suggested #Herbalicious as the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week, wherein we are required to share recipes using various herbs. This gave me just the perfect foil to share this favourite recipe from our family’s cookbooks.

Let’s now check out the recipe for Pudina Pulav. I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #287, the co-hosts this week being Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Rita @ Parsi Cuisine.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot
  3. 1 medium-sized onion
  4. 5-6 beans
  5. 1/4 cup green peas
  6. 1 medium-sized potato
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
  9. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  10. 2-3 green cardamom
  11. 2-3 cloves
  12. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  13. 2 small bay leaves
  14. 2-3/4 cups water

To grind into a paste:

  1. 2 green chillies
  2. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
  3. A handful of fresh coriander leaves
  4. A handful of fresh mint leaves
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  7. A small onion

Method:

1. First, we will grind the paste required to make this pulav. Chop up the mint and coriander leaves roughly and take them in a mixer jar. Peel the ginger and onion, chop roughly and add to the mixer jar too. Add in the grated coconut. Chop up the green chillies, peel the garlic cloves, and add these in too. Grind everything to a smooth paste with a little water. Keep aside.

2. Now, we will chop the veggies required for the pulav. Remove strings from the beans and chop into large pieces. Peel the potato and carrot, and chop into large pieces. Slice the onion length-wise. Keep aside.

3. Wash the rice under running water a couple of times. Drain out all the water. Keep aside.

4. Take the oil in a pressure cooker base and keep it on high heat. When the oil gets hot, add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves to the cooker. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Now, add in all the veggies we prepared earlier. Add in the green peas too. Saute for a minute.

6. Add in the washed and drained rice, as well as the paste we ground earlier. Saute for a minute.

7. Add in 2.5 cups of water, plus salt to taste. Add a dash of red chilli powder if the heat from the green chillies is not enough. Mix well.

8. Close the pressure cooker and put the weight on. Pressure cook for 3 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.

9. Once the pressure has fully gone down, serve the Mint Vegetable Rice hot with raita of your choice.

Notes:

1. You may add a little garam masala and/or lemon juice to the pulav too. I don’t, usually.

2. Ghee can be used in making the pulav, in place of the oil.

3. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the kind of rice you use. I have used Sona Masoori rice here.

4. I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this Pudina Pulav.

5. Cashewnuts can be added to the Mint Vegetable Rice too, especially if you are making it for a special occasion. I usually don’t.

************

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Rajasthani Gatte Ki Sabzi

Located in the north-west of India, Rajasthan is the biggest state in the country, as far as land area is concerned. Home to the Thar desert and the Aravalli mountain range, Rajasthan is a dry and arid place for most part of the year. The weather conditions have, undoubtedly, affected the state’s cuisine. The lack of availability of fresh vegetables and greens has led the Rajasthanis to depend upon ingredients like gram flour and sun-dried lentil fritters (vadi). The cuisine favours dishes that last for a few days. Daal Bati Churma, Pyaaz Kachori, Ker Sangri, Jaisalmeri Kala Chana, Dal Kachori, Bikaneri Sev and Gatte Ki Sabzi are some famous dishes from Rajasthan.

Wondering why I’m talking so much about Rajasthani cuisine today? Because I’m about to share with you the recipe for one of the state’s signature dishes – Gatte Ki Sabzi. We are showcasing dishes from Rajasthan this month, in the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group that I am part of, and that’s the dish I chose. My partner for the month is Jayashree of Evergreen Dishes, a lovely blog with several traditional Indian dishes. She assigned to me the two secret ingredients of coriander and cumin, and they fit right into the recipe for Gatte Ki Sabzi, a dish I’ve always loved and wanted to try out. So, here we are. Don’t miss checking out the delicious Moong Dal Bada Jayashree made using the two ingredients I gave her!

For the uninitiated, Gatte Ki Sabzi refers to a supremely delicious curry from the Indian state of Rajasthan. Gram flour is mixed with a few spices, shaped into dumplings and cooked, then served with a delightful curd-based gravy. The tangy, spicy gravy is just the perfect complement for the soft, soft dumplings (gatte). Together, they make a wonderful accompaniment to parathas, rotis and the likes.

I made the Gatte Ki Sabzi using this recipe from My Weekend Kitchen as the base, with a few variations of my own. This is an authentic Rajasthani recipe that the blog author Ashima has learnt from her mom. I made the sabzi recently for lunch, and it went on to be so much loved by everyone at home! Worth every bit of the effort I put into the making.

Without further ado, here’s presenting to you the way I made the Gatte Ki Sabzi. I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #287, the co-hosts this week being Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Rita @ Parsi Cuisine.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

For the gatte:

  1. 1 cup gram flour
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  5. 1/2 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
  7. 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  9. 2-3 tablespoons curd
  10. Oil, as needed to grease your palms

For the gravy:

  1. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  2. 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
  4. 1 cup thick curd
  5. 2 tablespoons gram flour
  6. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 1 cup water
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 2 green chillies
  10. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  11. A dash of red chilli powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

For the tempering:

  1. 1 tablespoon oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  5. 1 pinch of fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
  6. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  7. 2 dry red chillies

For the garnishing:

  1. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  2. 1/2 tablespoon kasoori methi

Method:

We will begin by making the gatte or gram flour dumplings that this recipe requires.

1. Take the gram flour in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add in the salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, carom seeds, fennel seeds, coriander powder, cumin powder, and curd.

3. Mix everything together to form a soft dough.

4. Grease your palms with a little oil, and then shape logs out of the dough, about 4 inches long and 1 inch thick. Keep these logs ready.

5. Heat about 2 cups of water in a wide pan. When the water starts boiling, turn the flame down to medium. Add the dough logs into the hot water. Cook uncovered on medium flame till you begin to see bubbles on the logs. Switch off gas.

6. Remove the logs from the water using a spoon. Place them in a colander and let all the water drain out. Reserve the water in which the dough was cooked – do not discard it.

7. Let the dough logs cool down completely. Now, cut them into roundels. Keep ready – these are the gatte you will be adding to the gravy later.

Next, we will prepare the gravy.

1. Add the gram flour, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, and garam masala to the curd.

2. Slit the green chillies length-wise and add them to the curd. Peel and grate the ginger finely. Add to the curd. Whisk everything well together.

3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the onions, and cook on high flame till they start turning brown.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a little of the cooking water we had reserved earlier. Cook on high flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.

5. Now, reduce the flame to medium and add in the whisked curd. Cook on medium flame till the curd mixture starts boiling.

6. Now, add in about 1 cup of the reserved cooking water. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. Add in the chopped gatte as well. Mix well.

7. Cook the gravy on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or till it thickens. Switch off gas.

Now, we will add the tempering and garnishes to the gravy.

1. Heat the oil for the tempering in a small pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop.

2. Reduce the flame to medium. Add cumin seeds, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and dry red chillies to the pan. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, ensuring that they do not burn. Add this tempering to the gravy.

3. Crush the kasoori methi lightly between the palms of your hands. Add it to the gravy.

4. Add the finely chopped fresh coriander to the gravy. Mix well. Your Gatte Ki Sabzi is now ready to serve!

Notes:

1. Use slightly sour curd to make the gatte and the gravy. Overly sour curd might alter the taste of the dish.

2. Adjust the quantity of curd you use in the gatte as per requirement. Use only as much as you need to bind all the ingredients together into a soft dough.

3. The gatte are cooked when you see bubbles on their surface. Do not overcook them. Make sure you cook them on medium flame only, and do not overcrowd them in the pan either.

4. Once cooked, you can cut the gatte as big or as small as you like.

5. Make sure you reduce the flame to medium before adding the curd to the pan, while making the gravy. Otherwise, the curd might split, causing the gravy to lose its taste.

6. Adjust the quantity of the reserved cooking water depending upon the consistency of the gravy you require. I have added one cup of water here, because I didn’t want a very thick gravy.

7. You may use ghee instead of oil, for the tempering.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

Ragi Roti|Gluten-Free Finger Millet Flatbread

I am here today with a recipe for Ragi Roti, Karnataka-style finger millet flatbread that is completely gluten-free.

I have been thinking a lot about gluten-free foods, lately. I have met several people of late who have been following a gluten-free diet for themselves and/or their families, for various reasons. We have had interesting discussions about how wheat chapatis and bread used to form an integral part of their meals earlier, and how they quit these to move on to other gluten-free products. This got me thinking about the various gluten-free preparations that are possible in Indian cooking, and how I could help these families make something delicious and simple, which would fit into their dietary requirements. Coincidentally, a discussion on gluten-free foods started in our Foodie Monday Blog Hop group too, and I heartily agreed when Batter Up With Sujata suggested that all of us showcase #GlutenFreeTreats on our blogs this Monday. Hence, this recipe for Ragi Roti.

But first, let’s try to understand what gluten is and what exactly a gluten-free diet entails.

What is gluten?

Gluten is something that occurs naturally in certain grains such as wheat, rye and barley. It is what gives elasticity to dough made using these grains, helps food retain shape and texture.

Why does one follow a gluten-free diet?

Mostly due to medical reasons. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are two major reasons people are advised to go off gluten. There are also some who might not be diagnosed with these conditions as such, but prefer a gluten-free diet because it helps their gut. I have also come across women who have been recommended a gluten-free diet for relief from PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Going gluten-free has also been suggested for improvement in children with hyperactivity and/or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Here, I’d like to say that I’m neither a medical practitioner nor a nutritionist, just someone who’s trying to understand the various types of foods and dietary requirements of the world. I share this here, on the basis of my interaction with people and the reading I’ve resorted to, in the hope that this information will benefit someone.

What does going gluten-free mean?

Following a gluten-free diet means, very obviously, avoiding the whole grains that naturally contain gluten – wheat, barley, rye and the likes. Food made from these grains would need to be substituted with others that are entirely gluten-free – finger millet (ragi), pearl millet (bajra), or sorghum (jowar), for instance.

You would also need to closely check labels of processed foods, to understand if there is wheat or any other glutinous food included therein. For instance, wheat flour is commonly mixed with asafoetida, to make processing easier. Abstaining from gluten would also mean refraining from processed foods such as this.

Some foods might be gluten-free as such, but might be processed in a facility where foods with gluten have also been processed. There might be some cross-contamination in this case, that people following a gluten-free diet should avoid.

Some products like sauces, canned fruits or vegetables, malted milk products, pre-chopped fruits or vegetables, ice cream and mocktails should also be checked for gluten inclusion and/or cross-contamination.

Read more about a gluten-free diet in this Healthline article.

Gluten-free preparations in Indian cooking

Indian cooking in general uses several grains and flours that are gluten free. There are various preparations using gram flour, oats, rice, rice flour, ragi flour, jowar, bajra and the likes that are not only gluten-free but quite nutritious too. A simple step such as avoiding asafoetida in tempering can make various Indian foods completely gluten-free. You will find quite a few gluten-free preparations on my blog as well.

Ragi Roti or Gluten-Free Finger Millet Flatbread

Coming back to the ragi roti, let me tell you that this is a delicious flatbread. It requires very few ingredients and is quite simple to prepare, once you get the hang of it.

Ragi aka finger millet is loaded with health benefits, and this roti is a good way of harnessing them.

The recipe I share with you here indicates the way ragi roti is largely made in Karnataka. It is quite a popular food in the homes of Bangalore, as well as in Old Bangalore-style restaurants.

Let us now see how to go about making this Ragi Roti. I’m linking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #286, co-hosted this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Ingredients (makes 7-8 rotis):

  1. 1-1/2 cups finger millet aka ragi flour
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  4. 1/4 cup sour curd
  5. 1 medium-sized onion
  6. 2 green chillies
  7. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  8. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  9. Oil, as needed to make the rotis

Method:

1. Take the ragi flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in salt to taste, cumin seeds, sour curd and chopped coriander.

2. Chop the onion finely and add to the mixing bowl.

3. Chop the green chillies and curry leaves very finely. Add to the mixing bowl.

4. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl together. Adding water little by little, form a soft dough. The dough will be a bit sticky – do not make it too dry.

5. Get a thick dosa pan nice and hot.

6. In the meantime, we will begin preparing the ragi rotis. For this, grease a piece of plastic or banana leaf with a little oil and place a small ball of the ragi dough on it. Using slightly wet fingers, pat it with your hands to spread it out till it forms a circle. If the roti breaks while patting, just seal the edges and continue to pat till you get a circle that is slightly thicker than a regular chapati. Poke 2-3 holes in the ragi roti, using your hands, to ensure even cooking.

7. Now, with lightly wet hands, gently loosen the roti from the plastic sheet/banana leaf, sliding it onto the hot pan. Make sure you don’t get the plastic sheet or banana leaf in contact with the hot pan.

7. Spread a little oil around the ragi roti and let it cook for about 2 minutes on medium heat. The roti should turn a slightly darker colour on the bottom. Then, flip it over and cook for about 2 minutes on the other side as well. Transfer the roti to a serving plate. Serve hot with coconut chutney or pickled onions.

8. Prepare ragi rotis from all the dough in a similar manner.

Notes:

1. Making ragi roti this way requires a bit of patience and practice. Do not be disheartened if you do not get it right immediately.

2. Grated carrots and/or coconut can be added to the ragi roti dough too. Here, I haven’t.

3. You may mix some wheat flour with the ragi flour, to make the rotis easier to shape. I haven’t, here, considering I was to make a gluten-free preparation.

4. These ragi rotis are best consumed hot, straight off the stove.

5. I have included some tips to make the shaping of the ragi roti easier, in the above recipe. Please read the entire recipe carefully before proceeding to make the dish.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Mug Na Dhokla| Whole Green Moong Dhokla

I love using whole grains in my kitchen, every once in a while. I make sure we get enough of legumes – whole moong and masoor, kabuli chana and rajma – in our diets. Not only are they immensely tasty, but most of them are rich sources of protein and other nutrients. Plus, they are so versatile, and can be used in so many different types of dishes! This Whole Green Moong Dhokla was the result of a recent kitchen experiment in this league.

I typically use whole green moong in a gravy-based curry with the regular suspects like tomato, onion, ginger and garlic. I also sprout them for salads or make dosa or kurma with them. Recently, though, I thought of trying out a Whole Green Moong Dhokla, and the result was so finger-lickingly delicious that it became an instant favourite with everyone at home. This is our new love now – a go-to snack option.

Making these Whole Green Moong Dhokla needs a bit of prior preparation. The moong beans need to be soaked and then ground along with a few other ingredients, then allowed to rest and ferment. That’s it – your batter is all set to get converted into delish dhoklas! The effort is totally worth it, I can assure you of that. I don’t mind it because I know I’ll be feeding my family a very nutritious – not to forget delish – steamed snack at the end of it all.

This dish can be made gluten-free by omitting the asafoetida used in the tempering.

So, do try out these Mug Na Dhokla or Whole Green Moong Dhokla. I’d love to know how you liked them!

Here is how I make them. I’m linking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #286, co-hosted this week are Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1-1/2 cups whole green moong
  2. 1 cup curd
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 5-6 cloves of garlic
  5. 2-3 green chillies
  6. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 2-3 tablespoons jaggery powder
  8. 1/2 tablespoon oil + a little more for greasing the steaming vessel
  9. 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  10. 2 + 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  11. 1 + 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  12. 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
  13. 1 + 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  14. 1 + 1 tablespoon fresh grated coconut

Method:

1. Wash the whole green moong well under running water. Drain out all the water. Add in enough fresh water to cover the moong. Let the moong soak, covered and undisturbed, for 8-10 hours or overnight.

2. When the moong is done soaking, drain out the water from it. Transfer to a mixer jar.

3. Peel the ginger and garlic cloves and add to the mixer jar. Chop up the green chillies and add to the mixer jar too, along with the curd. Grind coarsely.

4. Transfer the ground batter to a large vessel. Add in salt to taste, jaggery powder and turmeric powder. Mix well, using your hands. Set the batter aside, covered and undisturbed, in a warm place for 10-12 hours for it to ferment.

5. Once the batter has fermented well, it is ready to use in making dhoklas. For this, grease a wide vessel with some oil. Pour half of the batter into the greased vessel. Keep aside.

6. Take about a cup of water in a pressure cooker bottom, and place a stand inside. Place the pressure cooker over high flame. Allow the water to come to a boil. At this stage, place the vessel with the batter inside the cooker and close it. Steam on high flame for about 12 minutes, without putting the whistle on. Switch off gas.

7. Wait for 5-7 minutes before opening the cooker and getting the dhokla out. Wait for 5-7 more minutes before cutting the dhokla into squares, using a spatula or knife.

8. Meanwhile, we will prepare the tempering for the dhokla. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. Turn down the flame to medium, add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then add 2 pinches of asafoetida, 1 sprig curry leaves, 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 1 sprig of curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care to ensure that the tempering does not burn. Switch off gas and pour this tempering evenly over the dhokla.

9. Spread 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped coriander and fresh grated coconut evenly over the dhokla. Serve the dhokla warm or at room temperature.

10. Prepare dhokla using the rest of the batter, similarly. Temper these dhokla too in a similar manner. Garnish the same way with chopped coriander and fresh grated coconut.

Notes:

1. Use sour curd for easy fermentation. I used home-made, day-old, slightly sour, thick curd.

2. Mix the batter using your hands, to speed up the process of fermentation. This is crucial.

3. For a Jain version of the Mug Na Dhokla, you can skip the ginger and garlic completely.

4. You can add some red chilli powder to the batter if you feel it is not spicy enough. I didn’t.

5. Don’t use curd that is too watery to grind the batter. Don’t add any water while grinding either.

6. The exact time the batter will take to ferment will depend upon the consistency of the batter, the climate, the sourness of the curd used, etc. Mine usually takes 10-12 hours to ferment.

7. Make sure your batter is well fermented before you begin making the Mug Na Dhokla. If the batter refuses to ferment, you may add a teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt (plain) to each batch before steaming. Make sure you add in the Eno just before the batter goes into the pressure cooker for steaming.

8. Make sure the dhokla has had a few minutes to cool slightly, before it is cut.

Liked the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!