Lemon Thokku| Instant Lemon Chutney

The husband recently left on a 10-day international work trip, a move I am not too happy about for a lot of reasons. Anyway, as he says, work has to be done and, in the course of it, work trips do need to be undertaken. As he embarked on this journey, I wanted him to carry a little piece of home with him, to get him through stressful days and loneliness. Hence, a batch of Lemon Thokku got made a day before he left, got packed into a nice, air-tight bottle, and flew off with him.

This is not the first time I have made Lemon Thokku, though. It is something much loved in our family and, hence, gets made often. I love the sweet-sour-spicy flavours of this thokku, the lemon peel lending it a slight bitterness. Call it Lemon Thokku or Instant Lemon Chutney, I find it incredibly versatile – it goes beautifully with everything from dosas and parathas to plain steamed rice.

Making this thokku is a very simple task, one that takes just about 20 minutes in all, prep included. I make it whenever I manage to find fresh, juicy lemons cheap, and keep it refrigerated to use when the need arises. This way, it stays for up to 20 days.

Try it out, will you? I would love to know how you liked it!

Here is how we make Lemon Thokku aka Instant Lemon Chutney.

Ingredients (makes about half mason jar):

  1. 10 big fresh lemons
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
  5. Red chilli powder to taste

For the tempering:

  1. 2-3 tablespoons gingelly oil
  2. 2 teaspoons mustard
  3. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  4. 4-5 dry red chillies
  5. 2 tablespoons fresh curry leaves

Method:

  1. Wash the lemons well under running water. Pat completely dry, using a cotton cloth.
  2. Cut each lemon into half. Now, cut each half into quarters. So, you should get 8 small pieces out of each lemon.
  3. Remove all the seeds from each lemon piece. This is crucial, to ensure that your Lemon Thokku does not become too bitter.
  4. When all the seeds have been removed, transfer the lemon pieces to a mixer jar. Grind to a paste.
  5. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the curry leaves, the asafoetida and the dried red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  6. Turn the flame to medium, and add the lemon paste to the pan.
  7. Add in salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and the jaggery powder. Mix well.
  8. Cook on low-medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the Lemon Thokku begins to thicken and come together. Switch off gas.
  9. Let the Lemon Thokku cool down completely before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Store refrigerated, and use a clean, dry spoon to remove the thokku.

Notes:

1. The Lemon Thokku will taste slightly bitter initially. Allow it one or two days for the taste to stabilise.

2. Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder, salt and red chilli powder as per your personal taste preferences.

3. Use very fresh lemons and curry leaves, for best results.

4. Gingelly oil works best in making this Lemon Thokku. However, if you do not have gingelly oil, you may use any other type of oil that you prefer.

5. This Lemon Thokku stays for up to 20 days when stored under hygienic conditions, refrigerated.

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #233 and to Friday Frenzy.

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How To Make Hot Lemon Tea With Honey

Hubby and I are big fans of the hot lemon tea we get here in Bangalore, in several bakeries. It is a light brew, but the lemon in it makes it so very refreshing. Most bakeries make it with sugar, and we love how the sweetness combines with the tartness of the lemon.

We often make a pit-stop at a nearby bakery to enjoy a glass of our favourite hot lemon tea, in the midst of grocery shopping or running other errands. This is just the perfect drink for us any day, but especially so on the kind of dark, rainy days that are prevalent in Bangalore right now. It is a great pick-me-up for us, a mood-changer, an energy-booster.

I have tried, several times over, to make hot lemon tea at home, but failed miserably. It continued to turn out too bitter or too bland, not at all the beautifully fragrant and flavourful brew that the Bangalore bakeries serve. Recently, though, a friend’s mother served us just the perfect hot lemon tea with honey, and I absolutely had to request her for the recipe. She taught me some great tips – when to put in the tea powder, when to add the honey, when to add the lemon, and so on. It was all so simple, but I had been doing it all wrong so far!

Now, thanks to these tips, I can make great hot lemon tea at home, whenever we feel like a cuppa! This version of hot lemon tea with honey is a healthier alternative to the one made with sugar, a relatively guilt-free drink. Taste-wise, I would say, it is close to the bakery lemon tea that we have come to love.

Here is how to make hot lemon tea with honey, my friend’s mom’s way!

Ingredients (makes 2 cups):

  1. 2-1/2 cups water
  2. 1/2 teaspoon tea powder
  3. 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
  4. Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
  5. A few fresh mint leaves

Method:

1. Heat the water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil.

2. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add in the honey. Mix well. Switch off the gas.

3. Add the lemon juice and tea powder. Mix well.

4. Strain the lemon tea into two teacups. Serve immediately, garnished with a couple of fresh mint leaves.

Notes:

1. Add the tea powder only after the water has come to a rolling boil and the gas has been switched off. This will ensure a mild tea that isn’t very bitter in taste.

2. I use Wagh Bakri or Red Label tea powder to make this hot lemon tea with honey.

3. Adjust the quantity of honey and lemon you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

4. Don’t heat the water too much after you add the honey.

5. You can add sugar or jaggery powder in place of honey, too. Personally, I don’t like the taste of jaggery in this tea. I usually make this tea with honey rather than sugar, as this is a sort of detox drink.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Different types of tea’.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #233 and to Friday Frenzy.

Arachuvitta Rasam| Rasam With Freshly Ground Spices

Freshly ground spices are magic. They transform a dish. It’s incredible how freshly ground spices elevate the taste of a dish to a whole new level, vis-a-vis using home-made or store-bought spices from a bottle. This Arachuvitta Rasam is one such dish, made with spices ground fresh, the taste heightened to the max thanks to this simple change.

The Arachuvitta Rasam is a hot favourite at home, especially with fried ragi papads and Beetroot Poriyal made South Indian-style. I love how this rasam brightens up a gloomy day, how it seems to rejuvenate the digestive system. It is comfort food for me, stuff that I make when I don’t know what else to make or when I’m feeling down in the dumps.

I make this Arachuvitta Rasam the way my grandmother used to make it, using the recipe that she passed on to my mother, who in turn taught me. Today, I present to you our family recipe for this lovely rasam. 

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1/4 cup cooked toor daal
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. A gooseberry-sized ball of tamarind
  5. 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  6. 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
  7. 10-12 fresh curry leaves

For the spice mix:

  1. 1 tablespoon toor daal
  2. 4-5 dry red chillies
  3. 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. 3/4 tablespoon coriander seeds (sabut dhania)
  6. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns (kali mirch)

For the tempering:

  1. 2 teaspoons ghee
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  3. 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  4. 2 pinches asafoetida (hing)
  5. 2-3 dry red chillies

Method:

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for at least 10 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, extract a thick paste out of the tamarind, adding a little more water if needed. Keep aside.

2. On medium flame, dry roast all the ingredients listed under the ‘spice mix’. When the ingredients start getting brown, switch off gas and transfer them to a plate. Ensure that the ingredients do not burn.

3. Once the roasted ingredients have completely cooled down, grind them together to a powder, using a mixer. Keep aside.

4. Now, we will begin preparing the Arachuvitta Rasam. Heat a little water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the chopped tomatoes, curry leaves and salt. Cook on high flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.

5. Now, add the tamarind extract to the pan. Let cook on high flame for a couple of minutes, or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.

6. Add the cooked toor daal to the pan, along with turmeric powder and the spice mix we prepared earlier. Add about 2 cups of water. Cook on high flame till the rasam comes to a boil, then turn down the flame to medium. Let the rasam simmer for a minute, then switch off gas.

7. We will now get the tempering for the Arachuvitta Rasam ready. Roughly crush the garlic cloves, using a mortar and pestle. Heat the ghee in a small pan, and add in the mustard seeds. Once the mustard pops, add in the asafoetida, dry red chillies and the crushed garlic cloves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, then switch off gas. Transfer this tempering to the rasam.

8. Add the chopped coriander leaves to the rasam. Mix well. Keep the rasam covered till you are ready to serve it. When you are serving it, you may lightly heat the rasam. It goes best with piping hot rice, papad and vegetables of your choice.

Notes:

1. Make sure all impurities and seeds are removed from the tamarind, before you use the extract in the rasam. Adjust the quantity of tamarind you use, as per personal taste preferences.

2. I have used the small, round Salem Gundu dry chillies in making the spice mix and for the tempering. Adjust the quantity of chillies and black peppercorns you use, depending upon how spicy you want the rasam to be.

3. Do not cook the rasam too much after adding the spice mix. Once it comes to a boil, allow the rasam to simmer for just a couple of minutes, and then switch off the gas.

4. Adjust the quantity of cooked toor daal and water you use, depending upon how thick you want the Arachuvitta Rasam to be.

5. Don’t forget to cover the rasam and let it rest for a while, after the tempering has been added. This helps the garlic in the tempering to infuse the rasam with its flavour.

6. If you don’t consume garlic, you may leave it out of the tempering. Personally, though, I feel this Arachuvitta Rasam tastes all the better with the garlic.

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

I hope you will try out this recipe, and that you will love it as much as we do!

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #232, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

I’m also sharing this recipe for Meatless Monday, co-hosted by Deborah (Confessions of a Mother Runner) and Sarah (A Whisk & Two Wands).

 

Inji Thogayal| Ginger Chutney

Yesterday, I found some lovely tender ginger at the vegetable vendor’s, and absolutely had to pick it up. It was so fresh that the skin didn’t need to be peeled at all, a beautiful whitish tinge to it, with some pink around the edges. Even while I was buying it, I knew I wanted to make Inji Thogayal with it, a delectable South Indian-style ginger chutney. I didn’t want to keep that beautiful ginger in my fridge to use in curries or other dishes – I wanted to use up all of that goodness immediately, not letting any part of it wilt or go to waste. So, that is how Inji Thogayal happened in our kitchen this morning, delicious stuff that has been ooh-ed and aah-ed over, the rest bottled up and stored carefully for later use.

If Inji Thogayal is something new to you, and you are wondering what it would taste like, let me tell you that it is a beautiful thing. It is a medley of sweet and tangy and salty and spicy flavours, an absolute treat to the senses. Just add a spoonful of this thogayal to piping hot steamed rice, along with ghee, and you are all set – a wholesome, flavourful meal is ready! It also makes for a lovely accompaniment to idlis, dosas, upma and the like.

It is a great digestive aid too, this thogayal, especially in the kind of dark, rainy weather that is prevalent in Bangalore right now. It is not a tough thing to put together either. Even making the Inji Thogayal is a cathartic process – it fills up your home with a heavenly scent!

So, the next time you spot some gorgeous baby ginger in the market, buy it! There is at least one lovely dish you know you can make with it!

Here is our family recipe for Inji Thogayal.

Ingredients (makes about 1 mason jar):

  1. 2 cups fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  2. 1 cup fresh curry leaves
  3. A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 3/4 cup jaggery powder, or to taste
  7. 1 tablespoon gingelly oil
  8. 10 dry red chillies, or to taste
  9. 3 tablespoons urad daal
  10. 3 tablespoons chana daal
  11. 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)

For the tempering:

  1. 2 tablespoons gingelly oil
  2. 2 teaspoons mustard
  3. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves

Method:

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water. Keep aside to cool down.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chana daal, urad daal, dry red chillies and fenugreek seeds. Fry on medium flame till the daals begin to turn brown.

3. Now, add the chopped ginger and the curry leaves to the pan. Fry on medium flame for 2 minutes.

4. Add salt to taste, the soaked tamarind (along with the little water it was soaked in), turmeric powder and jaggery to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for a minute. Switch off gas and allow all the fried ingredients to cool down completely.

5. Once all the fried ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer them to a mixer jar. Grind to a paste.

6. Now, we will get the tempering ready. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the curry leaves (for the tempering) and the asafoetida, and allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds. Now, turn the flame to medium and add in the paste we prepared in Step. 5. Mix well.

7. On medium flame, cook the paste for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Switch off gas, and allow the ginger pickle to cool down completely.

8. When fully cool, transfer the Inji Thogayal or Ginger Chutney to clean, dry, air-tight containers. Store refrigerated, and use only a clean, dry spoon to remove the ginger chutney.

Notes:

1. Use very fresh ginger and curry leaves, for best results.

2. Adjust the quantity of tamarind, dry red chillies and jaggery powder, depending upon personal taste preferences. I have used 10 small, round Salem Gundu red chillies here.

3. You may even add a few cloves of garlic to the Inji Thogayal, too. I have, however, skipped this.

4. Ensure that all the seeds and impurities are removed from the tamarind, before you use it in making the Inji Thogayal.

5. Gingelly oil tastes best in chutneys such as this one. However, if you don’t have it, you can use any other kind of oil that you prefer.

6. This ginger chutney stays for up to a month when stored refrigerated in a clean, dry and air-tight container, used under hygienic conditions.

7. If you are planning on using the ginger chutney quickly and not storing it for too long, you can even skip Step 7.

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

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #232, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

I’m also sharing this recipe for Meatless Monday, co-hosted by Deborah (Confessions of a Mother Runner) and Sarah (A Whisk & Two Wands).

Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry

Give me a well-made Thai curry with hot steamed rice any day, and I will be a very happy person!

It is no secret that I adore the Thai cuisine. I love the way it combines so many flavours – hot and tangy and salty and sweet – in such simple ways. I also love the fact that most Thai food is so very easy to prepare at home. Substitutes for some typical Thai ingredients are easily available in India, and it is not tough to put together a delish Thai meal within a matter of minutes. Check out this Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry that I recently prepared!

The recipe for this Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry comes from Cooking From Heart, a food blog I absolutely love. Indian substitutes have been used here for some Thai ingredients, cause for purists to balk, but I must say this is one of the most delicious curries I have ever had. I have made a few changes of my own to the original recipe.

I served the Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry with rice that I steamed with a little lemongrass, and it was a huge hit at home! All of us loved the curry so much that it disappeared within minutes!

Why don’t you try it out too?

Here is how I made the Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry.

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the curry paste:

  1. 7-8 shallots or small onions
  2. 7-8 cloves of garlic
  3. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  4. 2 lemongrass stalks
  5. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  6. 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. A 1-inch piece of ginger

Other ingredients:

  1. 5-6 button mushrooms
  2. Half of a medium-sized zucchini
  3. 1 small carrot
  4. 5 beans
  5. Half of a medium-sized capsicum
  6. 1/4 cup paneer
  7. 2-3 medium-sized florets of broccoli
  8. 4 pieces of babycorn
  9. 1 teaspoon oil
  10. 1 teaspoon soya sauce
  11. Salt to taste
  12. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  13. 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I used sambar powder instead)
  14. 1 teaspoon sugar
  15. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  16. A few Thai basil leaves

Method:

  1. We will first prepare the curry paste. Peel the ginger, garlic and shallots. Chop the green chillies, ginger and lemongrass stalks into small pieces. Take the chopped green chillies, ginger, garlic, shallots and lemongrass stalks, lemon zest, and the coriander and cumin seeds in a small mixer jar. Grind to a smooth paste, using very little water. Keep the paste aside.
  2. Now, we will prep the veggies and paneer to make the curry. Cut the zucchini into cubes. Peel the carrot and cut into cubes. Chop the capsicum, button mushrooms, babycorn and broccoli into smaller pieces. Remove the strings from the beans and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the paneer into cubes. Keep aside.
  3. Now, we will begin preparing the Thai Yellow Curry. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chopped veggies and saute on medium flame till they are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch. Add in salt to taste, the sugar, turmeric powder, the paneer cubes, soya sauce, the curry paste we prepared earlier and the curry powder. Saute for a minute, on medium flame.
  4. Add the coconut milk. Mix well. Cook on medium flame till the curry begins to boil. Stir intermittently. Now, turn down the flame lower, and let the curry simmer for 2 minutes. Switch off gas.
  5. Roughly tear the Thai basil leaves, and add them to the pan. Mix well.
  6. Serve the Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry hot with steamed rice.

Notes:

  1. The original recipe calls for some curry powder. I used sambar powder instead. I didn’t find any discernible difference in the taste of the Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry, as I used the sambar powder in very little quantity.
  2. If you do not have lemongrass stalks, but have leaves instead, use about 1 handful of the leaves in this recipe.
  3. Paneer can be substituted with tofu.
  4. Indian ginger and lemon zest have been used in this recipe, in place of Thai galangal and kaffir lime leaves. I didn’t find any discernible change in the taste of the curry due to these substitutions. If you are able to get hold of the original ingredients, you can use them instead.
  5. I have used ordinary Indian green chillies here, instead of Thai bird’s eye chillies. If you have the latter, though, please do go ahead and use them.
  6. Make sure you grind the curry paste smoothly, for best results.
  7. I used a 200 ml pack of Dabur Coconut Milk to make this curry, which yielded just about 1 cup of thick milk. You can use home-made coconut milk instead.
  8. You can use Italian basil in this dish, if you do not have access to Thai basil.
  9. You can add in any vegetables of your choice. I used the veggies that I had handy, to make this Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry.
  10. Do not cook the curry too much after adding the coconut milk. Once it comes to a boil, lower the flame and let the curry simmer for a couple of minutes, and that’s it!

****************Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Asian dishes’.

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #231. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Beetroot Poriyal| South Indian Beetroot Stir-Fry

Beetroot Poriyal is an absolute favourite in our household. We love having it with piping hot sambar or rasam and rice – often a weekend special lunch at home! 🙂

Beetroot and coconut is a match made in heaven, I think, and this South Indian-style stir-fry incorporates that very combination. The addition of curry leaves, mustard and green chillies elevates the taste of the dish to a whole new level. It is amazing how this Beetroot Poriyal uses a few ingredients, and how it can be put together so very easily, but is so delicious!

Here is how we make this easy-peas Beetroot Poriyal.

Ingredients (3-4 servings):

  1. 2 large beetroots
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 2 green chillies
  5. 1/3 cup fresh grated coconut
  6. 2 teaspoons sugar or to taste (optional)
  7. 1 teaspoon oil
  8. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  9. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  10. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves

Method:

  1. Peel the beetroot and chop finely.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and let them pop. Now, add the asafoetida to the pan, and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
  3. Add the finely chopped beetroot to the pan. Add a little water, salt and turmeric powder. Cook, covered, on medium flame till the beetroot is done but still retains a bit of a crunch. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add in a bit more water if necessary. It should take about 5 minutes.
  4. In the meanwhile, chop the green chillies and add them in a mixer jar. Add the fresh grated coconut too. Pulse a couple of times or till you get a dry coconut-chilly paste. Keep aside.
  5. Separate the curry leaves from the stem. Keep aside.
  6. When the beetroot is cooked with a bit of a crunch, remove the lid. Keeping the flame on medium, add in the sugar (if using), the curry leaves and the coconut-green chilly paste to the pan. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Cook the Beetroot Poriyal on medium flame, uncovered, till the bite in the beetroot is gone and it is well cooked – this should take a couple of minutes. Done!

Note:

  1. Choose beetroot that is very fresh and firm, for best results.
  2. Beetroot is naturally sweet, so there is no need to add sugar to this stir-fry, really. We are also adding fresh coconut to it, which has a sweetness of its own. Sometimes, though, the beetroot might not be sweet naturally, in which case you can add in a bit of sugar to taste.
  3. Chop the beetroot finely, into small cubes, for the curry to cook well and fast.
  4. Remember to cook the curry on medium flame, first covered and then uncovered, to prevent any burning and to ensure even cooking. Add in only a little water initially to cook the beetroot in.
  5. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and coconut you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences. You can add as much or as little of it as you want.
  6. Finely chopped fresh coriander can be added to the Beetroot Poriyal too, if you want, as can finely chopped onions and shelled green peas. I usually skip these.

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

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A to Z Recipe Challenge

This post is for the A-Z Recipe Challenge. The A to Z challenge was initiated on a Facebook Group, wherein a group of bloggers come together and we choose key ingredients alphabetically to cook and post a dish every alternate month.. This month’s Alphabet is ‘B’ and I decided to make/cook Beetroot Poriyal.

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #231. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Chef Sumitra Kalapatapu Concludes Pop-Up Andhra Kitchen At WelcomHotel

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of partaking of a special Telugu Brahmin meal, curated by Chef Sumitra Kalapatapu for Jacaranda, the restaurant at Welcomhotel by ITC, Bangalore. I was at WelcomAndhra, a 10-day pop-up kitchen by Chef Sumitra at Jacaranda. The experience, I must say, was quite lovely!

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Chef Sumitra Kalapatapu at the pop-up Andhra kitchen at Jacaranda

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Chef Sumitra Kalapatapu, a well-known name in South India, specialises in the preparation of food from Andhra Pradesh, and is well known for her traditional vegetarian dishes, chutneys and pickles, not to forget her warm hospitality. She is the force behind the famed Sumi’s Kitchen, which operates from Vigyannagar, Bangalore. She undertakes catering for events, hosts meals at her place and also does pop-ups at restaurants.

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Chef Sumitra Kalapatapu with the Jacaranda, Welcomhotel, team at the pop-up

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Mr. Dhawal Ajmera, Chief Executive Chef at ITC Limited – Hotels Division, strongly believes in encouraging the talents of home chefs like this by enabling them to set up pop-ups such as this one. A great and welcome initiative, I must say!

I would also add that for a home chef to cook in a large-scale commercial kitchen for 10 days, serving a different menu every single day, is no mean feat. Chef Sumitra pulled it off beautifully, the hugely talented persona that she is.

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Assorted pickles by Chef Sumitra at the pop-up

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On the last day of the pop-up, when I visited, Chef Sumitra served some typical Andhra home-style vegetarian food that was as finger-lickingly delicious as it was simple. It was wonderful to see the way this simple, home food stood out amidst the extensive buffet at Jacaranda!

So, getting down to the nitty-gritties, what all did I try out at WelcomAndhra?

Top Left: Cabbage Vadas (Picture Courtesy: PhenoMenal World); Bottom Left: Stuffed Mirchi Bajjis; Bottom Right: Kobbari Tomato Perugu Pachadi; Top Right: Tomato Pachadi (Picture Courtesy for the two chutneys: Sumitra Kalapatapu)

Cabbage Vadas The good ol’ urad daal vada with chunks of cabbage in it! Served piping hot, straight off the stove, these were so very good!

Stuffed Mirchi Bajjis Chef Sumitra took some plain old-fashioned chilli bajjis and jazzed them up with a lovely onion stuffing! Apparently, this is the way mirchi bajjis are served on the streets of Vizag, where she hails from. A few of them were super spicy, but man, were they delicious?!

Tomato Pachadi This one was a tad on the saltier side, but was extremely delicious. It was so very well done! The tomato chutney reminded me of one that an Andhra neighbour of mine used to prepare for me, growing up – it brought back some very fond memories!

Kobbari Tomato Perugu PachadiThis tomato chutney with yogurt was sheer beauty. With just the right amount of tangy and spicy, this was a pleasure to eat. The mustard in the chutney took the taste of the chutney up quite a few notches.

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Clockwise from top left: Palakoora Pappu, Vankaya Jeelakarra Kaaram, Mukkala PulusuAratikaya Aava Petti Koora, Pulihora

Palakoora Pappu – This was a simple Andhra-style preparation using spinach, and it tasted quite lovely. The dish was very well executed, all the flavours in perfect harmony with each other. It made for just the perfect accompaniment with plain steamed rice.

Vankaya Jeelakarra Kaaram – This was an Andhra Pradesh specialty, eggplants cooked simply with assorted spices. This was decent, but I am not a big fan of eggplant cooked this way, so this did not take me to the high heavens.

Mukkala Pulusu – This sambar cooked with mixed vegetables was simple and homely. Again, it was a very well-made dish, with the flavours melding beautifully with each other. I thoroughly enjoyed eating this, mixed with steamed rice.

Aratikaya Aava Petti Koora – I would say this was the star of the show for me – the dish that stole my heart. This was a raw banana curry cooked with ground mustard, in Andhra Pradesh style. This was so, so, so beautiful! I absolutely adored this, and am going to try making this pretty soon.

Pulihora – The Andhra Pradesh Pulihora was quite different from the Tamilnadu- and Karnataka-style puliogare that I am used to. It was brilliant, just tangy and spicy enough to tantalise your tastebuds. It had me going back for seconds!

There was Rasam on the menu too, but I simply couldn’t manage to taste it. My tummy was way too full! I heard it was extremely lovely, though. I couldn’t manage any of Chef Sumitra’s wonderful pickles either – I guess I should visit her place soon for that! 🙂

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I relished most of the Andhra fare that was served as part of the pop-up! With its simplicity, subtle spice levels, and bright and beautiful flavours, the food was a refreshing change from the usual rich, rich, rich restaurant fare! My perception about Andhra food now stands completely changed. 🙂

 

Cheese & Chutney Corn On The Cob

Corn on the cob is a hugely popular snack across India, one you will find being sold on the streets almost everywhere. The most common way to eat it, though, is boiled or char-grilled, with a generous dose of salt/chaat masala/red chilli powder and lemon. Today, I present to you a different way of eating corn – Cheese & Chutney Corn On The Cob.

Here, I have slathered boiled corn with spicy green chutney, which bursts with flavour, and eliminates the need for any other spices. The corn has also been sprinkled generously with grated cheese. This is an indulgent snack, an extremely delicious one, though.

The inspiration for this recipe for Cheese & Chutney Corn On The Cob comes from the street-side food carts of Ahmedabad, which I have grown up frequenting. Many of these street carts offer unimaginable varieties of corn on the cob – from the simple Butter-Lemon Corn to Schezwan Corn and Cheese-Chutney Corn. While those street carts typically use huge pots of boiling water to cook the corn, I have pressure cooked the cobs. I have also used my own version of green chutney, and grated cheese instead of the cheese spread that is commonly used by these carts.

I hope you like this simple, but delectable snack!

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 2 fresh cobs of sweet corn
  2. Spicy green chutney, as needed (See notes for the recipe)
  3. 2 cubes of cheese, grated, or as needed

Method:

  1. Peel the cobs of sweet corn and remove all the silk.
  2. Break each cob into two and place in a large vessel. Add in just enough water to cover the corn cobs.
  3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  4. When the pressure has completely gone down, remove the cooked corn cobs from the water. Shake them gently to drain out all the excess water.
  5. Spread spicy green chutney evenly over the cooked corn cobs.
  6. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the corn cobs. Place on a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Click here for the recipe that I use to make the spicy green chutney. Make sure you don’t add too much water while making the spicy green chutney. Only then will you be able to spread it well on the corn cobs.
  2. Use as much or as little spicy green chutney and grated cheese as you want to.
  3. I have used Amul Processed Cheese in this dish. You can use any variety of cheese that you prefer, instead.
  4. Make sure the corn is served immediately after preparation. Don’t let it sit around for too long once you have spread the spicy green chutney and the grated cheese over it.
  5. You can even char-grill the corn or roast it on the gas stove, instead of pressure-cooking it like I have done here.

Did you like this recipe for Cheese & Chutney Corn On The Cob? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop
This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘recipes using corn’.

I’m also sending this recipe for Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Doon Chetin| Kashmiri Walnut Chutney

Have you ever tried out Doon Chetin, a walnut chutney in Kashmiri style? I tried it out at home recently, and fell head over heels in love with it, as did my family.

Making Doon Chetin (‘Doon‘ is Kashmiri for ‘walnuts’ and ‘chetin‘ refers to ‘chutney’) had been on my mind ever since our recent trip to Kashmir. I didn’t have an opportunity to savour this chutney in the course of our holiday, so I pledged to make it once I got back home. I made sure to pick up some Kashmiri walnuts (which are believed to be of high quality) and some shahi jeera (black cumin) that goes into the preparation of this chutney. I read up on the Internet, and was lucky to find an authentic Kashmiri recipe for the Doon Chetin. Like I said earlier, the chutney was made recently, and the rest, as they say, is history. I served it as a dip with home-made kuzhi paniyarams, and it was gone in no time at all!

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The Doon Chetin combines some really unusual ingredients – fresh curd, black cumin, raw onion, walnuts, mint and the like. Initially, I admit, I did have apprehensions about whether I would like the taste. What if it tasted too weird? Well, I wouldn’t know unless and until I tried it out, right? So, try it out I did, and I am so glad I did – the Doon Chetin tastes absolutely amazing, rich and creamy, yet light and exquisite, the chillies and mint adding a zing to it, the walnuts contributing their nuttiness, with the faintest of sourness from the curd. Yumminess, I tell you!

Traditionally, the Kashmiris prepare Doon Chetin in a stone mortar and pestle, which gives it a slightly coarse texture. It is eaten with non-vegetarian kebabs or rice dishes, typically. I used a mixer to make the chutney and ground it smooth, which is fine since I was planning to use it as a dip.

Try it out, and I am sure you will love it too!

Here’s the recipe for the Doon Chetin.

Recipe Source: Keep Calm & Curry On

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 cup):

  1. 1/2 cup walnuts
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 2 green chillies
  4. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  5. 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  6. 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
  7. 1 teaspoon shahi jeera aka black cumin
  8. 1/4 cup fresh thick curd

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a mixer jar.
  2. Blend till smooth.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
  4. Serve as an accompaniment with tandoori dishes, fried snacks or rice dishes.

Notes:

1. For best results, use thick and fresh curd that is not too sour.

2. Adjust the number of green chillies you use, depending upon how spicy you want the chutney to be.

3. I used Kashmiri walnuts and shahi jeera to make this chutney. In case you don’t have access to them, you can use locally sourced variants for these two ingredients too.

4. Traditionally, this recipe uses Kashmiri red chilli powder, which is low on heat and adds a gorgeous reddish colour to dishes. I didn’t have any, so I used ordinary red chilli powder instead – which is why the colour of my Doon Chetin is not as beautifully brown as it is, traditionally.

5. You can add in a couple of cloves of garlic while grinding the Doon Chetin, too. I skipped it.

6. If you do not have shahi jeera, you can substitute it with ordinary cumin. However, shahi jeera adds a richer, deeper flavour to the Doon Chetin.

7. Dried mint powder can be used in the chutney, in place of fresh mint leaves. If you are using dried mint powder, use about 1 tablespoon for the above quantities of ingredients.

8. I wanted the Doon Chetin to be of a smooth texture, so I ground it in my mixer. You can keep the texture coarser, too, if you so prefer. You may even use a mortar and pestle to make the chutney, as is done traditionally in Kashmir.

9. Any leftover Kashmiri Walnut Chutney can be stored in a clean, dry, air-tight box and stored, refrigerated, for 3-4 days. Use only a clean, dry spoon for the chutney.

10. I served the Kashmiri Walnut Chutney as a dip alongside quick-fix kuzhi paniyarams made from idli batter. The two made for a wonderful, wonderful pair.

What do you think about this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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shhh-secretly-challenge-image

This post is for the Ssshhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. I was paired by Priya Mahesh of @200deg for this month’s challenge, who assigned me the two secret ingredients of ‘Walnuts’ and ‘Curd’. Doon Chetin is what I decided to make, using these two ingredients.

I’m also sending this recipe for Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

 

 

Walking Alongside The Almond Trees At Badamvaer, Srinagar

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Badamvaer – prettiness is what meets your eye, wherever you gaze

It was love at first sight with Badamvaer, Srinagar, for both the husband and me. The moment we set foot inside the gates of Badamvaer and caught a glimpse of its prettiness, we were charmed. It was a rainy weekend morning when we visited, in the course of our holiday in Kashmir, and we were lucky to have this beauty almost all to ourselves.

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This was the sight that greeted us, the minute we had stepped foot into Badamvaer. For some reason, this particular spot reminded me of a fairy garden straight out of Enid Blyton’s books.

What is Badamvaer, you ask? Popularly called ‘Badamwari‘, Badamvaer is the Kashmiri name is a gorgeous, gorgeous garden in Srinagar. Like the name suggests, almond trees abound in the place (‘Badam‘ refers to ‘almond’, while ‘vaer‘ is ‘garden’ in Kashmiri). I hear the garden comes alive in the spring, when the almond trees blossom. There are beautiful white blossoms everywhere, and the garden is a sight to behold. When we visited this May, there were no blossoms on the almond trees, but the place was still a sight to behold.

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Multi-hued flowers in bloom, at Badamvaer

The story of Badamvaer begins with the Durrani Fort, a very famous tourist spot in Srinagar. The Durrani Fort stands regal on a hillock called Hari Parbat, on the outskirts of Srinagar. The fort shares space with a few Muslim shrines, a Shakti temple that is sacred to the Kashmiri Pundits, and a Sikh gurudwara.

The Durrani Fort sitting regal atop Hari Parbat, as seen from Badamvaer

It is believed that Emperor Akbar had plans of setting up a new capital around Hari Parbat, which is why he began construction of a fort here in 1590. However, the project was never completed. It was during the Durrani reign in Kashmir, under the reign of Shuja Singh Durrani in 1808, that the present-day fort was constructed.

Emperor Akbar had plans of building Naagar Nagar, a city around the foothills of Hari Parbat, which would house palaces and balconies for the royal family, residences for the noblemen of the court, and army barracks. Thanks to the downfall of the Mughal empire that began at around this time, the city never came into existence. In the year 1876, when Dogras ruled over Kashmir, the then ruler Ranbir Singh got the garden area (as per Emperor Akbar’s original plans, I suppose) planted with almond trees. Over time, the garden began to be known as Badamvaer or Badamwari, the garden of almond trees.

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The almond trees that abound in Badamvaer aka Badamwari

Badamvaer used to be a popular picnic spot for Kashmiris in the 1900s, from what I understand. Slowly, though, the place fell into a state of neglect and disrepair, and local footfall kept reducing further and further. It was in the year 2007 that J&K Bank took up the project of bringing Badamvaer back to life. The garden was painstakingly cleaned up and landscaped all over again, a new lease of life handed to it. Over time, locals and tourists alike began to return to Badamvaer, and the Kashmiri picnics began happening here, all over again. The J&K Bank continues to undertake maintenance of the garden till date, and has done a really good job at it.

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Inside Badamvaer aka Badamwari

Badamvaer boasts of some stunning landscaping and extremely beautiful flowers, which had us going all ga-ga.

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I had never seen roses in this particular purple-pink before Badamvaer happened. Can’t get over just how pretty this shade is!

The huge climbing roses that are everywhere in Kashmir are present here as well, of course.

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A much-coveted selfie and photography spot within Badamvaer, which the climbing roses have chosen to adorn

Apart from roses in many hues, the garden is full of exotic flowers that only a place like Kashmir can have in such plenitude.

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Pansies are all over Kashmir, and so they were in Badamvaer too. Is it just me or can you spot a face in these flowers, as well?

Badamvaer also offers some lovely views of the mist-shrouded mountains that surround it.

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The beautiful structure that houses a well, in the midst of Badamvaer

I wonder why Badamvaer is not as popular among tourists as, say, Nishat Baugh or Shalimar Baugh is. I never read about Badamvaer on any of the travel blogs I checked out, while researching for our trip – I am so thankful our tour operator suggested we visit this lovely haven! When we visited, there were absolutely no tourists around – just some locals and school kids busy picnicking. Well, good for us!

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This part of the garden took my breath away, it was so beautiful on that sun-kissed, rain-drenched day. And, this school kid insisted on getting into my picture!

I love how Badamvaer has managed to retain an air of purity, of cleanness and freshness, how it is still untouched by commercialisation in spite of being such a gloriously beautiful locale. I really hope it stays that way.

We spent a good couple of hours in Badamvaer, just walking around, basking in the beauty all around us, soaking in the place.

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An Indian mynah we spotted, nestling in one of the trees in Badamvaer

It is quite a huge garden too, one that deserves to be walked around leisurely and explored slowly, to one’s heart’s content.

A metal bridge running over a stream from a man-made fountain, in Badamvaer. Pretty, ain’t it?

Badamvaer was quite the weekend hang-out spot for locals from 2007 onwards (after the garden got a new lease of life) until recently, with dance performances and cultural programmes happening here. However, the performances have been temporarily put on hold as of now, considering the political unrest and upheaval in Kashmir in the last few months.

A fountain, in the midst of Badamvaer

Here’s hoping peace finds its way to Kashmir soon!

That’s the washroom in Badamvaer! Can you guess?

If Badamvaer is pretty now, I can only imagine just how gorgeous it would be with all those almond trees weighed down by white blossoms, in spring time. I hope to be able to return to this place some time, to see that phenomenon in person.

The husband and the bub, enjoying a leisurely walk in Badamvaer

So long, Badamvaer! I hope to meet you again, soon!

If you ever find yourself in Srinagar, don’t miss visiting this hidden gem. Highly recommended!

Tips for travellers:

  1. A visit to Badamvaer can be combined with one to the adjacent Hari Parbat fort and Old Srinagar, where there is loads to see and do and explore.
  2. There is a small entry fee that needs to be paid, to enter Badamvaer.
  3. If possible, try to time your visit to Badamvaer with the blooming of the almond trees in spring – it is totally worth it, I hear.