Thoughts At Tamabil, The Indo-Bangladesh Border

Panchhi, nadiyaan, pawan ke jhonke, koi sarhad na inhe roke…
Sarhad insaanon ke liye hain, socho tumne aur maine kya paya insaan hoke

This song from Refugee plays in a loop in my head as we reach the land border that separates India and Bangladesh at Tamabil, during the course of our trip to North-East India.

Roughly translated, this is what the above lines mean: No borders stop birds, rivers and gusts of wind. Borders are for humans. Think – what did you and I gain by being born as humans?

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Signboards at the border

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A little stretch of land – the ‘no man’s land’ – lies between the boundaries of India and Bangladesh, at Tamabil. We walk up to the last point on the India side, Indian and Bangladeshi soldiers standing guard protectively on either side of the border.

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Left: A signboard near the border, proclaiming the point beyond which tourist vehicles are not allowed; Right: The no man’s land between the Indian and Bangladeshi borders

Just beyond the border, we can spot some Bangladeshi shops, a vendor selling Bangladeshi ber (sour plums, which are very famous, apparently), and some men and women lounging around. A goat walks over – unencumbered – from the Bangladeshi side to the Indian side. Ducks swim through from India to the Bangladeshi side, in the little stream that flows around the border.

We watch on as an Indian lady tourist, busy looking around, is mistakenly about to step into Bangladesh. The jawans immediately stop her, telling her that the Indian boundary ends right where she is standing.

An Indian jawan on duty at the Tamabil border

We spot the ‘First Line Of Defence’ or the camp of Indian soldiers that would be the first to deal with any infiltrators or attackers crossing over from the other side. We take pictures with some of the jawans, that typical touristy thing, alongside a signboard that proclaimed ‘Welcome to India’.

‘There is not much fanfare here, just a matter-of-fact posting,’ our cab driver tells us as we board, ready to drive back to our hotel. ‘We have friendly relations with Bangladesh, and that is why tourists are even allowed near the border,’ he adds.

Emotional fool that I am, the experience leaves me saddened. It leaves me thinking about various ‘what ifs’ – What if we lived in a world with no borders? Would it work? What if we could freely walk into any country, without being questioned or feeling threatened? Boundaries weren’t really nature’s way, were they? Surely, there were no boundaries when the earth first came into existence? I have no answers.

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I hope you have read and enjoyed my other posts about our trip to North-East India. If you haven’t, here are the links for you:

 

 

 

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Udupi Sambar| Bangalore Hotel Sambar| Tiffin Sambar

I am a big fan of the sweetish sambar that is served with vada, dosa and idli here in several Bangalore eateries. Having been brought up in Gujarat, the tinge of sweetness in the sambar appealed to me,  and I fell in love with it the very first time I tried it out after shifting to Bangalore. It was much later that I got to know that this sweetish sambar originated in Udupi, a small city in the Karnataka, which is also famous for a number of other delicacies.

When the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group chose ‘Recipes from Udupi’ as the theme this week, I thought it was only fitting that I write about this sambar that I so love. This is a recipe I have tried several times over, failed at, and then perfected. The secret, I’ve realised, is in grinding the sambar powder fresh, in very little batches, and grinding it well. If that is taken care of, and the toor daal is cooked nice and soft, this recipe (which I learnt from my aunt, BTW), works like a charm.

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So, here’s presenting the recipe for Udupi sambar aka Bangalore hotel sambar or tiffin sambar.

Ingredients:

For the sambar powder:

  1. 2 tablespoons chana daal
  2. 1 tablespoon urad daal
  3. 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera)
  4. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. 4-5 dry red chillies, or as per taste
  6. 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (dhania)
  7. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
  9. 1 teaspoon oil

Veggies:

  1. 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot
  3. A handful of shelled green peas
  4. 2 small-sized onions
  5. 1 medium-sized ripe tomato
  6. A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 teaspoon oil
  2. Red chilli powder, to taste
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Jaggery powder, to taste
  5. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  8. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  9. 1/4 cup toor daal

Method:

First, we will get the spice powder ready.

  1. Heat the 1 teaspoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Reduce flame, and add in the chana daal, urad daal, coriander seeds, fenugreek, dried red chillies and cumin. Roast on medium flame till the daals turn brownish in colour and begin to emit a nice fragrance. Stir constantly, and take care not to burn the ingredients. The roasting should take 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add in the grated coconut. Mix well. Roast on medium flame for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Ensure that none of the ingredients get burnt.
  4. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate. Let them cool down completely.
  5. When the roasted ingredients have cooled down fully, grind to a fine powder in a mixer. Keep aside.

Now, we will boil the toor daal.

  1. Wash the toor daal a couple of times in running water. Drain out all the water.
  2. Take the toor daal in a wide vessel, and add in just enough water to cover it.
  3. Pressure cook the toor daal for 4-5 whistles. It should turn very mushy.
  4. When the pressure has gone down completely, mash the cooked toor daal. Keep aside.

Now, we will prep the tamarind.

  1. Place the tamarind in a little vessel and add a bit of water. Place on medium flame.
  2. Let the water come to a boil, and switch off gas.
  3. Let the tamarind soak in the boiling water till it is cool enough to handle.
  4. Then, extract a thick juice from the tamarind, adding a little more water. Keep the extract aside and discarded the used tamarind.

Now, we will go on to prep the veggies you will need to make the sambar.

  1. Chop the onions length-wise or finely, as you prefer. Keep aside.
  2. Peel the carrot and chop into batons or cubes, as you prefer. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Keep aside.
  4. Keep the shelled green peas and curry leaves handy.
  5. Chop the coriander finely, along with the stalks. Keep aside.

Proceed to make the sambar now.

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in the same pan you used to roast the spices. Add the mustard, and allow it to splutter.
  2. Add the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  3. Add the chopped onions. Saute on medium flame for a couple of minutes, or until they turn brownish.
  4. Add the green peas and the carrot. Cook on medium flame, till the carrots are done. Sprinkle some water at regular intervals, if needed.
  5. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and the tamarind water. Cook on medium flame till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away, and the tomatoes turn slightly mushy.
  6. Add the cooked toor daal and 2 tablespoons of the sambar powder (or to taste) we made earlier. Also, add 1 cup water, salt, jaggery and red chilli powder to taste, as well as the turmeric powder. Mix well.
  7. Cook on medium flame till the sambar comes to a boil. Then, lower flame further and let the sambar simmer for a couple of minutes more. Taste and adjust spices/salt if needed. Switch off gas.
  8.  Mix in finely chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with idlis, vada or dosas.

Notes:

1. I used the veggies that I had on hand. You can use any other veggies you want to. White pumpkin, capsicum and brinjals are some vegetables that go well in this sambar.

2. A Karnataka-special type of dried red chillies called Bydagi are usually added to the sambar in hotels, which is what gives it a deep brown colour. The colour of my sambar is different because I have used ordinary dried red chillies. The Bydagi does not have much heat, so if you plan to use them, you might want to mix them with some other variety of hot dried red chillies.

3. Dried coconut can be substituted for fresh grated coconut, in the spice mix.

4. I used refined oil to make the sambar. Using coconut oil instead would add in a lot more flavour.

5. Leave out the cinnamon from the spice mix, if you want to. I personally like it.

6. The jaggery is optional – add it only if you want to. In Karnataka hotels, jaggery is very much present, though.

7. If your dried red chillies are spicy enough, you can skip the red chilli powder.

8. Ensure that the spice powder is ground well and that the toor daal is well boiled and mushy, for best results.

9. The above measurements yields about 1/2 cup of sambar powder. The sambar, as stated above, needs only about 2 tablespoons of the powder. Store the rest in a clean, dry, air-tight box and use within 7 days or so. This sambar powder is best used fresh.

10. Use more toor daal if you want a thicker sambar. 1/4 cup of toor daal works out just perfect for us.

11. Some people add a few black peppercorns to the spice mix. I usually avoid that.

You like? I hope you will try out this Udupi sambar aka Bangalore hotel sambar or tiffin sambar, and that you will love it, too!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Recipes from Udupi’.

 

 

 

 

Nellikai Urugai| Gooseberry Pickle| Amla Pickle

With the kind of beautiful gooseberries you get in the market these days, it would be a sin not to pickle them! I absolutely had to get some home and make this nelikkai urugai aka amla pickle.

There’s something charming about old-fashioned, home-made pickle. It adds a very special touch to ordinary meals, I think, specially so if it is made with seasonal produce like this. This gooseberry pickle adds life to a bowl of curd rice, and spices up roti-sabzi like very few other things can. Try it out!

Here is the very simple way in which we make gooseberry pickle in our family.

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Ingredients (yields about 1 cup of gooseberry pickle):

  1. 6-7 medium-sized gooseberries (amla)
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. Red chilli powder, to taste
  4. 1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
  7. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  8. 3 tablespoons oil
  9. 7-8 fresh curry leaves

Method:

1. Wash the gooseberries and pat dry with a cotton cloth. Place them in a vessel.

2. Take about 1 cup water in a pressure cooker bottom, and place a stand on it. Place the vessel with gooseberries on top of the stand, to ensure that no water will enter it. Close cooker and place on gas. Pressure cook on high flame for 5 whistles. Let pressure release naturally.

3. Dry roast 1 teaspoon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek in a pan on medium heat, till they slightly change colour. Ensure the ingredients do not burn. Transfer to a plate, and let the ingredients cool down completely.

4. When all pressure from the cooker has been released, remove the gooseberries onto a plate and let them cool till they are cool enough to handle. Press the gooseberries slightly, and they will separate into segments. Discard the seeds, and place the segments in a large mixing bowl.

5. In a mixer, grind the roasted mustard and fenugreek into a powder. Spread this powder evenly over the gooseberry segments in the mixing bowl.

6. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste, asafoetida and turmeric powder to the gooseberry segments in the mixing bowl.

7. Heat the oil in a pan and add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Switch off gas, and add the curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Now, add the hot oil with mustard and curry leaves to the mixing bowl.

8. Mix the ingredients in the mixing bowl gently with a clean, dry spoon. Let the pickle cool down completely before transferring to a clean, dry bottle. Keep the bottle at room temperature for a day, and then in refrigerator. The nelikkai urugai aka gooseberry pickle stays well for 6-7 days.

Notes:

  1. Make sure you keep a stand in the pressure cooker, below the vessel you place the gooseberries in. This will ensure that no water comes into contact with the gooseberries, which helps in improving the shelf life of the pickle.
  2. Choose fresh gooseberries that are firm, without any dents or spots.
  3. Some people omit the curry leaves, and you could do the same too. I like adding them, though.
  4. This nelikkai urugai aka amla pickle is ready to be consumed the day after you make it. That is when the spices have soaked quite a bit into the gooseberries, softening them further.
  5. Use only a clean, dry spoon whenever you consume the amla pickle.
  6. A dash of jaggery can also be added, to enhance the taste of the nelikkai urugai.

You like? I hope you will try out this nelikkai urugai (gooseberry pickle/amla pickle), and that you will love it, too!

 

Brazilian Lemonade With Indian Lemons

Did you know that the Brazilians make lemonade using condensed milk, and that it tastes extremely delicious? I didn’t, until I recently saw a post about it on Pinterest. And then, I HAD to try out this hatke (at least for me!) version of lemonade for myself.

The original Brazilian lemonade is made with limes that are very commonly available there. Whole limes are placed into a food processer, along with condensed milk, and the result is a delectable lemonade! Now, I have no access to Brazilian limes, so I used our very own Indian lemons instead. Instead of grinding the lemons whole, I used just the juice and the zest. The end result was super-duper fabulous! The ‘Brazilian lemonade with Indian lemons’ tasted so, so, so awesome! It is the husband and my new favourite drink.

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Making this version of Brazilian lemonade is quite easy, as easy as saying 1-2-3, a task that will not take you more than 10 minutes. Do try it out!

Here’s how I made the lemonade.

Ingredients (makes 1 mason jar – serves 2):

  1. 200 grams condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
  2. Juice of 2 medium-sized lemons, or to taste
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. Chilled water, as needed

Method:

  1. Place the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest in a mason jar. Mix well, using a spoon.
  2. Add in chilled water to the brim. Mix again. Taste and adjust ingredients if required. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Use ice cubes if needed.
  2. You can also use half the quantity of condensed milk suggested here. In that case, you might want to use more chilled water and add in some powdered sugar or sugar syrup.
  3. Let your taste preferences dictate the quantity of lemon juice, condensed milk, lemon zest and water that you use. The above quantity worked out just perfectly for us.
  4. Alcohol can be added to this lemonade as well, if you want to. So can coconut milk.
  5. For best results, use ripe, juicy, yellow Indian lemons with a thin skin. Zest from unripe green lemons might make the drink bitter.

See? Told you it was easy-peasy! I hope you’ll make this Brazilian lemonade too, and that you will love it as much as we did!

 

One-Pot Vegetable Khichdi In Buttermilk| Moong Daal Vegetable Khichdi Cooked In Buttermilk

I absolutely adore cooking with curd and buttermilk. Be it Gujarati kadhi or Punjabi, ras no fajeto or more koozhu, shrikhand or a bowl of chaaswala mug, I love them all. So, when I recently saw this recipe for khichdi cooked in buttermilk on the very talented Aruna’s food blog Aaharam, I knew I absolutely had to try it out. It had my name written all over it, and I knew I was going to love it.

When the Foodie Monday Blog Hop team fixed the theme for this week as ‘khichdi‘, I was very clear that I wanted to try out a buttermilk-based khichdi like the one from Aruna’s blog. And that is just what I did. The result – a moong daal vegetable khichdi in buttermilk – was very much loved by everyone at home. The taste was absolutely fantastic!

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I so know this is going to be the new comfort food for us. Besides, it is a great way to use up leftover buttermilk as well. What’s more, this is a one-pot dish that can be cooked in a jiffy!

This is how I made the moong daal vegetable khichdi in buttermilk.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 cup rice (I used Sona Masoori)
  2. 1/4 cup moong daal
  3. 4-5 cloves of garlic
  4. 1 medium-sized onion
  5. 6-7 beans
  6. 1 small carrot
  7. 1/4 cup sweet corn
  8. 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  9. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  10. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  11. 2 green chillies, or to taste
  12. Salt, to taste
  13. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  14. Red chilli powder, to taste
  15. 5 cups buttermilk (neither too thick nor too thin, not too sour)
  16. 1 tablespoon oil
  17. A pinch of asafoetida
  18. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  19. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)

Method:

  1. First, we will prep the veggies that you need to make the khichdi. Finely chop the onion and coriander. Chop the beans, capsicum and carrot into 1/2-inch pieces. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Coarsely crush the garlic with a mortar and pestle. Keep the shelled green peas and sweet corn handy. Keep aside.
  2. Wash the rice and moong daal well under running water. Place in a colander, and let all the excess water drain out.
  3. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the mustard seeds, and let them splutter. Add the cumin and asafoetida, and let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  4. Now, add the chopped onion, beans, capsicum, carrot, sweet corn, peas, slit chillies and crushed garlic. Saute on medium flame for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add in the washed and drained rice and moong daal, along with salt to taste and the turmeric powder. Mix well. Saute on medium flame for a minute.
  6. Keeping the flame medium, add in the buttermilk and chopped coriander. Mix well.
  7. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 5 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. Serve hot.

Notes:

  1. Increase or decrease the quantity of red chilli powder and green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the khichdi to be.
  2. The buttermilk you use should not be too sour. It should be of the right consistency – neither too thick nor too thin – for best results.
  3. Make sure the flame is set at medium while you add in the buttermilk. This will help stop the buttermilk from curdling.
  4. You could cook the khichdi in 3 cups of slightly thicker buttermilk and 2 cups of water, as well. Personally, I think the 5 cups of buttermilk works best for us.
  5. You could add any other veggies that you want to. I used the veggies that I had handy in my kitchen.
  6. You could use just green chillies in the khichdi, and skip the red chilli powder entirely.
  7. If you want, a dash of garam masala/chana masala and/or sugar can be added to the khichdi.

You like? I hope you will try out this moong daal vegetable khichdi in buttermilk, and that you will love it just as much as we did!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘khichdi‘ (an in-trend theme, considering how the humble khichdi has been much in the limelight in India lately!).

Nellikai Sadam| Amla Rice| Gooseberry Rice| Nellikai Chitranna

It is gooseberry (amla) season, and the sour berries are all over Bangalore. I couldn’t resist picking up some, of course. They found their way into our lunch one day, recently – this beautiful Amla Rice or Nellikai Sadam/Chitranna. We loved it to bits!

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Here’s how to make the nellikai sadam!

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 cup rice (I used Sona Masoori)
  2. 1/4 cup peanuts
  3. 1 tablespoon oil
  4. A pinch of asafoetida
  5. 1 teaspoon mustard
  6. 2 dried red chillies
  7. 1 medium-sized onion
  8. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
  9. 6 medium-sized fresh gooseberries (amla)
  10. 2 green chillies
  11. Salt, to taste
  12. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  13. Red chilli powder, to taste
  14. 1 tablespoon sugar
  15. 2 tablespoons dosa milagai podi (I used home-made powder)
  16. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Wash the rice well under running water. Pressure cook the rice with 3 cups water, for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. Allow the rice to completely cool down, and then fluff it up gently. Keep aside.
  2. Now, we will prep the veggies that you need for the dish. Chop the onions finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Grate the gooseberries finely. Chop the coriander finely. Keep aside.
  3. In a pan, dry roast the peanuts on medium flame till they turn slightly crispy. Keep aside.
  4. In the same pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, and let them splutter. Add in the peanuts, asafoetida and the dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  5. Add the chopped onions to the pan. Saute on medium flame till they turn brownish.
  6. Now, add the grated gooseberries to the pan. Saute on medium flame for a few minutes, or till the raw smell of the gooseberries disappears.
  7. Add the grated coconut. Saute on medium flame for a couple of minutes.
  8. Now, add in about 3/4 of the cooked rice, the slit green chillies, salt to taste, sugar, turmeric powder, dosa milagai podi, and red chilli powder (if using). Mix well. Cook on medium flame till everything is well incorporated together. Gently stir intermittently, to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Check for salt and seasonings, and add more if required. Add more cooked rice if required.
  10. Switch off the gas and mix in the finely chopped coriander. Serve hot.

Notes:

  1. Any cooked rice left over rice can be used to make curd rice or other variety rice dishes.
  2. Skip the sugar if you don’t like the idea of a little sweetness in your food, but I personally wouldn’t suggest that. The sugar adds a beautiful depth of flavour to the dish.
  3. Ensure that the cooked rice has completely cooled down, before using it to make this dish. Otherwise, you might end up with a gloopy mess.
  4. If you have day-old cooked rice left over, you can use it to make this dish, instead of cooking the rice fresh.
  5. Increase or decrease the quantity of grated coconut, green chillies, red chilli powder, sugar and dosa milagai podi, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  6. I used home-made dosa milagai podi to make this dish. You can use store-bought powder instead, too.
  7. I used Sona Masoori rice. You can use any rice of your choice to make this dish.

You like? I hope you will try this nellikai sadam out, and that you will love it as much as we did!

Chai (Tea) Masala, The Cheat’s Version| How To Make Easy Masala Chai

It is no secret that I love my cup of masala chai. I prefer the home-made version, made with my own hands. Making the tea every morning and evening is almost like a religious ceremony for me – the measurements have to be just perfect to get that perfect cup of chai. With a well-made cup of masala chai and no interruptions, I can attain that state of almost-nirvana. 🙂

In this post, I am going to tell you how I go about making my chai masala and how I then use it to make tea. Now, there are innumerable things you can add to chai masala – from rose petals and lemongrass to tulsi and cinnamon – but what I am going to talk about here is a very, very basic version. I personally don’t like too many ingredients in my chai masala, and hence, strip them down to the bare minimum. You can build upon this ‘cheat’s version’ of chai masala, add the ingredients you want to this, if you must.

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Method for the ‘cheat’s version’ of chai masala

Ingredients (yields enough to make 15-20 cups of tea):

  1. 1/3 cup black peppercorns (kali mirch)
  2. 3/4 tablespoon cloves (laung)
  3. 1/8 cup whole cardamom (elaichi)

Steps:

1. Grind everything together into a fine powder, using the mixer. There’s no need to peel the cardamom – grind them whole, with the peel.

2. Store at room temperature in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. Use as needed, with a clean, dry spoon.

How to make masala chai/tea:

I prefer my tea with whole milk, with very little water added to it. You could keep the milk:water ratio at 50:50 or the way you prefer. Similarly, feel free to vary the quantity of sugar and chai masala that you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences. Full-fat milk yields the best masala chai, as per me, but feel free to use the kind of milk that suits you.

Ingredients (for 2 cups of tea):

  1. 2 cups full-fat milk (either boiled or straight out of the packet)
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 3 tablespoons sugar
  4. 3 tablespoons good-quality tea powder (I use Wagh Bakri or Red Label)
  5. About 1-1/2 teaspoon chai masala (made as per above recipe)

Method:

  1. Mix the milk and water together in a heavy-bottomed vessel. Place it over high flame.
  2. Add in the sugar, tea powder, and chai masala. Mix well.
  3. Allow the tea to come to a boil, and then turn flame down to low. Let cook on low flame for 2 more minutes, or till the tea turns darker in colour. You will need to stir intermittently, to ensure that the tea doesn’t spill over.
  4. When the colour of the tea is dark enough to your satisfaction, switch off gas. Strain the tea, and dispose of the residue. Serve tea piping hot.

Do try out my version of quick chai masala and masala tea! Here’s hoping you will love them as much as I do!

Spaghetti Aglio Olio E Peperoncino| Burnt Garlic Spaghetti

Spaghetti aglio e olio is a traditional pasta dish from the villages of Naples, Italy, a dish cooked with very, very few ingredients. Here, spaghetti is cooked with garlic and salt, in olive oil, each one of these ingredients more or less always available in the Italian countryside. Apparently, the villagers would cook this dish when the times were hard, when there would be nothing much to cook with but when one still wanted to eat a hearty meal.

Though traditionally spaghetti aglio e olio would be cooked with just these four ingredients, sometimes other things would be added in too, as and when available, to enhance the flavour of the dish. Sometimes a twist of dried herbs or some chilli flakes would go in, sometimes a rind of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Modern-day restaurant versions of this dish include ingredients like olives, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley. The dish has, indeed, travelled a long way – from the war-  and poverty-stricken villages of Italy to the posh restaurants of India.

The husband and I love spaghetti aglio e olio, and I make it often for dinner, whenever we are in the mood for some Italian. I usually make it with some olives, sun-dried tomatoes, chilli flakes and dried herbs, which makes it aglio olio e peperoncino, as the Internet tells me.

Spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino – or burnt garlic spaghetti, if I may call it that – isn’t a tough thing to make. If you have but a few ingredients in your pantry, you can make it, in a matter of minutes.

Let’s check out the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 125 grams spaghetti
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 7-8 big garlic cloves
  4. 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of olive oil (I used sun-dried tomatoes-infused olive oil)
  5. 2 teaspoons chilli flakes, or to taste
  6. 2 teaspoons oregano, or to taste
  7. 2 tablespoons chopped preserved sun-dried tomatoes
  8. 2 tablespoons pitted and sliced olives

Method:

  1. Place the spaghetti in a wide pan, and add just enough water to cover it. Add in a bit of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook on high flame till the water boils, and then lower flame to medium. Cook till the pasta is done, but not overly mushy.
  2. Immediately, transfer the cooked spaghetti to a colander. Run cold water over it. Place aside, and let all the water drain out.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves and chop them very finely.
  4. Take the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chopped garlic and place on medium flame. Stirring intermittently, saute till the garlic turns brown, taking care not to burn it too much.
  5. Add in the washed and drained spaghetti, salt to taste, chilli flakes, olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and oregano. Mix well.
  6. Gently stirring on an intermittent basis, let the spaghetti warm up in the pan. Ensure that it doesn’t get burnt. When it is warm enough, transfer the spaghetti to serving plates and serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Mixed Italian herbs can be added in place of oregano.
  2. Increase or decrease the quantity of chilli flakes you use, depending upon how spicy you want the spaghetti to be.
  3. Vary the quantity of garlic, olive oil and oregano you use, depending upon individual taste preferences.
  4. I used sun-dried tomato-infused olive oil to make this dish. You can use plain olive oil instead, too.
  5. Traditionally, aglio olio e peperoncino is made using just a few ingredients – spaghetti, olive oil, salt, chilli and garlic and, maybe, a few dried herbs. I added in the sun-dried tomatoes and olives for extra flavour – you can omit them if you like.
  6. You could add in grated cheese (preferably Parmesan) for added flavour. I didn’t use any.

You like? I hope you will try out this spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino aka burnt garlic spaghetti, and that you will love it as much as we do!

 

 

 

Semiya Rava Vegetable Dosa| Indian Vermicelli, Semolina And Vegetable Pancakes

These Indian-style pancakes aka dosas are made using roasted semolina and vermicelli, and you can load them with as many veggies as you want. They taste absolutely fantastic, and make for a hearty breakfast, a lovely change from the usual.

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I made these vermicelli and semolina vegetable pancakes recently, adapting the recipe from Chandra Padmanabhan’s cookbook, Dosai. They were much loved by everyone at home, and I know for sure that I am going to making them regularly henceforth.

Here’s how I made these vermicelli and semolina vegetable pancakes.

Ingredients (makes 6-7 pancakes):

Basic ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup roasted fine semolina (rava)
  2. 1/2 cup roasted vermicelli
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 2 tablespoons wheat flour
  5. 2 tablespoons rice flour

For the tadka:

  1. 1 teaspoon oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  3. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

To be ground into a powder:

  1. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  2. 2 tablespoons almonds

Other ingredients:

  1. Oil, as needed to make the dosas
  2. A few stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  3. 1/2 cup sour buttermilk
  4. 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  6. 1 green chilli, very finely chopped
  7. A few fresh curry leaves

Method:

  1. Take the roasted semolina and vermicelli, salt to taste, wheat flour and rice flour in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Grind the black peppercorns and almonds to a coarse powder, using a mixer. Add this powder to the ingredients in the mixing bowl.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan, and add in the mustard seeds. Allow them to splutter. Add in the asafoetida, and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. Switch off gas, and add this garnish to the ingredients in the mixing bowl.
  4. Add in the finely chopped coriander, onion, ginger-garlic paste, chopped green chilli and torn curry leaves, along with the sour buttermilk.
  5. Add in enough water to make a batter that is neither too thick nor too runny. Let the batter stand, covered, for about 30 minutes.
  6. Post 30 minutes, you can proceed to making dosas with the prepared batter. At this stage, add in more water and seasonings if the batter looks too thick.
  7. To make the dosas, heat a tawa until droplets of water dance on it. Now, lower the flame to medium, and pour a ladle of the batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out into a thick circle. Add some oil around the dosa. Let the dosa cook till it gets brown on the bottom, uncovered, and then flip it over. Let the dosa cook on the other side till brown. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Make sure you use the fine variety of semolina, for best results.
  2. I used roasted vermicelli and semolina to make these pancakes. I am guessing it would be fine even if I had not roasted these ingredients.
  3. Other vegetables like carrots (grated) and tomato (pureed) can be added to the dosas as well.
  4. You can add a dash of garam masala and/or amchoor for flavour. I skipped them.
  5. Roasted and coarsely crushed peanuts can be added to the dosa batter, for flavour, too.
  6. Increase/decrease the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon your taste preferences.
  7. Use buttermilk that is sour, but not overly so, for best results.
  8. The original recipe calls for grinding together 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon cashewnuts, 1 tablespoon pistachios and 1 tablespoon almonds, and then adding them to the batter. I have used just 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns and 2 tablespoons of almonds instead.
  9. If you want the dosas to be more sour, keep the batter out for a longer time after mixing. I kept some batter out for 3-4 hours, and the dosas tasted great.
  10. I am guessing you can skip adding the almond powder and pepper powder to the batter. Instead, you could just add more finely chopped green chillies.

You like? I hope you will try out these semolina and vermicelli pancakes at home, too, and that you will love them as much as we did!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘Pancakes’.

 

Tawa Pizza Recipe| No-Yeast, Whole Wheat Stovetop Pizza

This recipe is a throwback to older, simpler times when we had no ovens at home. Back then, pizza was an occasional treat, cooked at home on the stovetop. The sauce would be very Indian, again home-made, never out of a bottle. Served piping hot, these old-fashioned pizzas had a charm of their own and would be, always, super delicious.

I learnt this recipe from a Gujarati friend of mine, and this is how we made pizza at home, while I was growing up. I love these tawa pizza because they are so rustic, and for the fact that they are made from scratch, allowing us control over exactly what and how much goes into making them. Besides, there’s something so very soothing, so very therapeutic, about making pizza from scratch – base and sauce included.

BeFunky Collagepizza
Left: The tawa pizza, all set with its toppings; Centre: The pizza, ready to be cooked; Right: The pizza, all ready to be gobbled up

These tawa pizza are just as delicious as their baked counterparts. With just a little beforehand prep, they can be put together oh so easily. Do try these out!

Ingredients (makes 5-6 medium-sized pizza):

For the pizza base:

  1. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 2 tablespoons oil + more as needed to cook the base
  6. 1/2 cup buttermilk

For the pizza sauce:

  1. About 8 large tomatoes
  2. 1 medium-sized onion
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar
  5. Red chilli powder, to taste
  6. Mixed Italian herbs, as needed

Toppings:

  1. 1 medium-sized capsicum, chopped
  2. 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  3. 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  4. Pitted and chopped olives, as needed
  5. Pickled jalapenos, as needed
  6. Cheese, as needed
  7. Mixed Italian herbs, as needed

Method:

We will first get the dough for the pizza bases ready.

  1. Take the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in the salt to taste, the sugar, and the baking soda. Mix well.
  2. Add in the oil.
  3. Now, adding the buttermilk little by little, bind a soft dough. Use a little water if needed to bind the dough.
  4. Keep the dough aside, covered, while we get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Now, we will get the pizza sauce ready.

  1. Chop the tomatoes and onions into large pieces. Puree, using a mixer.
  2. Transfer the puree to a heavy-bottomed pan. Cover and cook on a medium flame till the puree thickens considerably. Stir intermittently, to ensure that the puree doesn’t get burnt or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. When the puree has thickened to a spreadable but not-too-thick consistency, add in the salt and red chilli powder to taste, mixed Italian herbs and sugar. Mix well.
  4. Cook without covering for a couple more minutes. Keep aside, and let it cool down completely.

Now, we will get the toppings ready.

  1. Chop the capscium and onions. Keep aside.
  2. Lightly steam the sweet corn kernels in boiling water. Drain out all the water. Keep aside.
  3. Chop the pickled jalapeno, if the pieces you have are too large. Keep aside.
  4. Grate the cheese. Keep aside.

Proceed to making the pizza bases now.

  1. Make 5-6 large balls out of the ready dough, depending upon how big you want the pizzas to be.
  2. Flour a flat work surface, and place a ball of dough on it.
  3. Spread out the dough into a circle, thicker than an roti, using a rolling pin. Dust the circle with flour, as and when required. Use a fork to prick the circle, randomly.
  4. Heat a dosa tawa till droplets of water dance on it. Lower the flame to medium, and place the circle of dough on the tawa. Spread a little oil around the dough. Cover the base, and let it cook till it gets brown on the bottom, taking care to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Now, spread a little oil on the top, and flip to the other side. Cook on low-medium flame, covered, till the other side turns brown as well. Take off heat.
  5. Prepare bases out of all the dough balls, in a similar fashion.

Now, we will get the pizza ready and cook it.

  1. Spread some pizza sauce evenly on one prepared base.
  2. Spread some chopped onions and capsicum, steamed corn, jalapenos and olives evenly over this.
  3. Sprinkle some mixed Italian herbs over this.
  4. Sprinkle grated cheese as needed over all the toppings.
  5. Heat the dosa tawa again, till droplets of water dance on it. Lower flame to low-medium. Place the prepared tawa pizza on the heated pan, cover, and cook for about two minutes, or till the toppings are slightly cooked and the cheese has melted. Take care to ensure that the pizza base doesn’t burn.
  6. Prepare all the tawa pizza in a similar fashion. Serve hot.

Notes:

  1. You can use any type of cheese that you like.
  2. You can use any toppings of your choice – pineapple, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, coloured capiscum, sundried tomatoes, tomato ketchup, basil pesto, chopped tomatoes, anything goes. You are limited only by your imagination, in this case. I usually add whatever I have on hand at the moment. The toppings I have mentioned in the recipe above are the bare minimum you can use.
  3. This is another method to make home-made pizza/pasta sauce, which uses a couple of store-bought sauces. I have added sugar and red chilli powder to the pizza sauce here to eliminate the need for adding red pepper sauce and tomato ketchup to it. I wouldn’t recommend skipping either of these – they add a lovely flavour to the sauce.
  4. One of my friends would add a dash of ajwain (omam) to the pizza sauce instead of mixed Italian herbs, and I occasionally do that, too. It adds a lovely Indian touch to the pizza, and we love that as well.
  5. The base can be baked in an oven, instead of cooking it on the stovetop. After adding the toppings, the pizza can be baked in the oven, again, too, instead of making it on the stovetop.
  6. Make sure you roll out the bases slightly thick, thicker than you would a normal roti. This ensures that you get a crisp, yet soft base. Random pricking of the bases with a fork is an essential step, too, for it ensures that the base cooks well and evenly.
  7. The baking soda-sugar-buttermilk combination works to give you a soft, well-cooked base. It eliminates the need for any yeast.
  8. You can use a combination of wheat flour and maida to make the base. I usually use only whole wheat flour to make these tawa pizza.
  9. Garlic can be added while making the pizza sauce, too.

You like? I hope you will try out these tawa pizza, and that you will love them just as much as we do!