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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Finger Stew)

As per the Christian liturgical calendar we have officially stepped into the month of Lent - a time of penance, repentance and prayer. It also marks the Death & Resurrection of Jesus and recalls the events of the Passion of Christ. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Lent is observed for forty days during which many people make sacrifices in many ways especially by way of giving up rich food, sweets and meat. Most Mangaloreans I know have given up eating meat this Lenten season although this decision varies person to person. Some prefer giving up meat for the entire duration while some may eat only eggs and fish. Whatever the penance I think its a good time for some self introspection and penance besides giving our digestive systems a break especially if fasting or minimal consumption of food is part of this dietary sacrifice. 

While I think its a very personal decision to eat meat or not, personally for me meat or no meat in my daily menu does not make much of a difference. Being a foodie, what matters to me is whether or not I indulge in rich food (vegetarian or non vegetarian, sweets and desserts) and whether or not I am willing to give that up and whether or not I am able to repent for my sins and lead a better and more meaningful, simple and prayerful Christian life. But for the benefit of many of you who follow my blog and are on the lookout for vegetarian recipes, I thought it would be the best time to post some nice vegetarian recipes.    


Since vegetables were a religious part of our daily meals during my growing up years I simply love them and include them whatever way I can in our daily menu. Mangalore being a coastal town has always had access to the abundance of ocean's bounty and is always treated to its finest catch. This makes most of Mangalore a non vegetarian crowd. However the Catholic community being hard core non vegetarian by nature eat vegetables sparingly - maybe just one serving of vegetables and/or fruits a day or sometimes just one serving three to four times a week - which is not the healthiest diet as you can see. However, thankfully my mum made sure we got our daily dose of the green goodness and for a family of five she would cook at least a kilo of vegetables and legumes of all varieties, shapes and sizes. She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer and I don't think she ever had to shove it down our throats by force as vegetables were a much loved item on our plates which we gleefully wiped clean. 

Mum used to make a lot of vegetables in the Thel Piao (oil & onion) style which is a simple method of steaming vegetables along with a few basic ingredients such as sliced onions, green chillies, oil, salt, a souring agent such as tomatoes or sol (the dried peel of a sour fruit similar to kokum) and a generous garnish of freshly grated coconut. This is probably a preparation that only Mangaloreans will like as it is devoid of any other form of masala and is makes for a healthy way of eating veggies. Surprisingly I haven't posted a recipe for it as I felt it was equivalent to giving out a recipe to boil water. I guess my blog will be incomplete if I don't post that recipe and I am planning to do that soon. 


On my quest for new recipes for vegetarian curries, I found this recipe in Isidore Coelho's 'Ranpi' and although both R & I don't recall having eaten it during our time in Mangalore, we loved this version. Okra/Lady's Finger is stewed gently in coconut milk and basic spices - resulting in a curry that is delicately flavoured. Do note that the flavour of coconut milk is very dominant here. I made this curry last week as I normally make a vegetable curry when we fry fish - I prefer vegetarian curries to plain Dal every time. The meal was simply fantastic as this curry teams up very well with fried fish and white rice. I am sure it will taste great with brown (or red) boiled rice as well. 

Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Fingers Stew)
Preparation time: 10-15mins | Cooking time: 15mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
  • 1/4 kg (or 12-15 large) tender okra/  lady's fingers / bhindi * see notes
  • 2 medium sized onions finely sliced
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 4-5 green chillies slit * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 pinches cumin powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk * see notes
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp oil or ghee for frying
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash the okra well, pat dry and cut the ends. Extract coconut milk and keep it ready * see notes
2. Heat the oil/ghee in a heavy based pan and fry the slit green chillies till transparent, toss in the chopped ginger & onions and fry till the onions turn pale/translucent.
3. Add the okra and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the thin coconut milk and turmeric powder and cook uncovered on a medium heat till tender but not mushy. Add salt to taste.
4. When the okra is tender, add the thick coconut milk and bring the stew to a boil. Add vinegar, stir and turn off the flame.
5. Serve hot with rice.

Notes:

Okra/Bhindi
You can use the large okra variety that is available in Mangalore. It has a pale green colour and are quite large in size

Chillies
The original recipe calls for 8 chillies. I used 5 chillies which was a bit spicy for my taste. I recommend you to use 4 chillies and add later if desired.

Coconut milk
Extracting fresh coconut milk
Grate the flesh of one coconut and transfer it to a mixer grinder. Add about 1/2 cup of warm water and pulse the mixer grinder for a few seconds.
Line a bowl with cheese/muslin cloth and transfer the ground coconut into it. Cover the cloth into a bundle and squeeze to extract thick milk. Keep aside
Add a little water (depending on how much thin milk you desire) and repeat process. This is the thin milk.

Preparing coconut milk from coconut milk powder
To make approx 2 cups thin milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 1-1/2 cups warm water
To make approx 1 cup thick milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 3/4th cup warm water

*I use Maggi coconut milk powder


Friday, February 24, 2012

Butter Cake - Simply Delicious!!

A post too soon eh? Considering that I've been taking my sweet time to post recipes since we welcomed 2012? Well, I've decided to get rid of my laziness and at least post all the recipes that have accumulated in my drafts - most of which were tried several times in the last 3-4 months when I was too busy writing the detailed Kuswar posts and didn't have the energy to post these (plus I was super busy, lazy and sick). Nice and simple recipes that have been tried twice or thrice with positive results and it would be a pity if I don't share them at the earliest. Since Lent has started on Wednesday I have decided to give up cooking interesting and new dishes - one thing I am most passionate about and maybe I should use this time to clear my drafts.


This particular cake which was highly recommended by my friend Rinku of Kitchen Treats became an instant hit and has been tried thrice already and will be baked many many more times I am sure as this recipe is a keeper. R loves simple cakes - the plain jane variety - no icing, no fuss, no frills and definitely no chocolate! Man! It's hard to survive with someone who doesn't like chocolate in anything. No chocolate cakes or brownies for him he says. Just to please me he takes a bite at the most. But I bake chocolate cakes anyways as the little fellow can't get enough of chocolate. Suits me fine! But thanks to the man and his choice of cakes, I have bookmarked a whole lot of cakes that don't make use of even a speck of cocoa. I am particularly keen to try out the sponge cakes that are so famous in Mangalorean bakeries. I hope I find a good one that is at least a close contender to the ones I've grown up eating if not the perfect one.


The reason why I have made this cake umpteen number of times is because the main ingredient - butter is found in abundance in my kitchen these days. Well, we have kind of switched over to fresh milk from the local dairy instead of the store bought tetra packed milk. I think its a better and wiser choice as it is fresh, wholesome and also leaves me with a whole lot of dairy byproducts. The amount of fresh /heavy cream that I get after pasteurizing the milk is enough to throw me into a tizzy - I not only have home made butter, but also home made buttermilk and ghee these days and the whole process of making each of these items from scratch is enjoyable and satisfying.


As I have mentioned before in some of my posts, its always a headache to find unsalted white butter when a recipe calls for it. Most grocers in my area stock up only salted 'Amul' butter and although its not a sin to replace unsalted butter with the salted one, not every recipe will be happy to accommodate my laziness. Unless I am prepared to walk miles to hunt for white butter I usually resort to the Parsi Dairy white butter that is available in Godrej Nature's basket, however, I am not happy with the quality as it usually tastes and smells slightly rancid which is blasphemous for a butter cake. You simply cannot afford to use poor quality butter in a butter cake can you?

Do make sure you use the best quality ingredients for this cake as there are no other flavours to morph the original buttery taste & texture here. This cake is best eaten warm and fresh out of the oven (wait until the cake is out of the pan though!). If you intend storing it for longer than a day, refrigerate it and pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds before serving - this warms up the butter and refreshes the cake immediately.


Anyway, all I can say about this cake is that it has a beeeeautiful texture and a plain, easy and melt-in-the-mouth flavour, almost like, well, butter! Hehe (it's not called 'butter' cake for nothing). The recipe obviously asks for a huge amount of butter (more than the quantity of flour) so its not something you would want to indulge in too often if you are health conscious (although I bet you'd like to!). It's the kind of cake that can be made for a simple tea party and you can safely assume that everybody will like it and reach out for some more. It's a perfect accompaniment to a nice hot cup of tea or coffee or plain milk and will appeal to the anti-chocolate league members, toddlers and those looking out for something simple to satiate their sweet tooth.

You can also get creative and take this cake to another level by serving it with some chocolate sauce. I used Hershey's and it was brilliant. The simplicity of the butter cake teamed with the rich smoothness of the chocolate was amazing (although I am not a huge fan of Hershey's syrup - next time I must try a different brand). The little boy had a lot of this combo and the big boy just liked it plain - slice after slice.


I have simply halved the ingredients in the recipe below. The measures are perfect if you intend to serve just 3-4 people, but I suggest you make the entire cake if possible as it simply melts in the mouth and you'll be reaching out for more!

Butter Cake
Preparation time: 15min | Baking time: 30-35min (for below quantity) | Yield : 8-10 medium sized slices

You Need:
  • 100gm/3/4th cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder * see notes
  • 100gm sugar * see notes
  • 1/4 tsp salt * see notes
  • 125 gm unsalted butter * see notes
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
1. Preheat oven at 180 C for 15mins. Prepare a 8"x4" loaf pan (* see notes) by either lining it with parchment/butter paper or greasing it well with butter and then dusting it with flour.
Sift the flour, baking powder & salt at least 2-3 times. This helps make the cake all the more fluffy.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter & sugar until pale. Add one egg at a time and beat well.
3. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix till incorporated.
4. Add the flour in 2-3 parts alternating between flour and milk (ie add one part flour to the butter egg mixture and mix well with a spatula.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was done in exactly 32 minutes.
6. Remove the tin from the oven and place it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Careful invert the cake on to the wire rack and tap the tin so that the cake slides out easily. Allow to cool completely before cutting it.
7. Serve with a hot cup of tea, coffee or milk or simply enjoy it plain. You can also cut up each slice into chunks and eat it with chocolate sauce poured over it

Notes:
1. The original recipe makes a note of 'double action baking powder' - you can use any brand of baking powder in India. Weikfield specially mentions 'double action' on the box. Other brands are Bluebird and Bakers which are also double action. Apparently there is a 'single action' baking powder that is often used for commercial baking.
2. The original recipe asks for 90gm sugar, however I increased it by another 10 grams as it results in a perfect moderately sweet cake. I used regular granulated sugar and powdered it using a dry mixer jar.
3. If you are using salted butter (like Amul), skip the addition of salt. Most cake recipes that ask for unsalted butter do not ask for salt, but it is always advisable to add a pinch or two as it helps bring out the flavours in the cake.
The original recipe is for the full quantity, I have halved it here. For the full quantity it is advisable to use a 7"x7" square pan and not a 9"x9".. A bigger square pan will result in a slightly flatter cake.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kombi Sukhi (Mangalorean Catholic Style Chicken Fugad/Sukka)

I am back after another well deserved break :-) This time it was not illness (well, that came later) that kept me away from my blog but a wedding in the family. R's nephew, our close friend and the best man for our wedding got hitched! The wedding was very special and a lot of fun with a whole lot of people (family) who flew in from different parts of the world to be a part of the special occasion. So in other words, it was the Great Indian Wedding that unfolded day after day - the whole of last week.   

Well, I've heard a lot about Mangalorean weddings in Mumbai not being as spectacular as those in Mangalore - I beg to differ because it just depends on the crowd and the mood. And plus the presence of family & friends who go that extra mile to make your day extra special. My boys and I used this opportunity to let our hair down & have some fun. We also got plenty of time to reconnect with relatives we hadn't met in ages and some new ones who we had never met before and all of us got on like a house on fire. 

Coming back to our topic, the only catch about the weddings in Mumbai is that the wedding menu usually lacks the traditional & complete wedding spread. Most Roce (pre-wedding ceremony) & weddings that I have attended usually offer a North Indian fare replete with flavoured rice, rotis, vegetarian & non vegetarian curries, dals and sweet dishes. But I see that this is beginning to trend even in Mangalore with some part of our cultural and ethnic dining experience eroding away giving rise to a more contemporary feel. I guess I will touch upon this topic at length in another post. For now, it's the Chicken Sukka or the Kombi Sukhi as the Catholics call it in Mangalore. 



The Chicken Sukka is a popular and much loved dish among Mangaloreans. Different communities make it differently with minor changes in the ingredients and method of preparation. I have already posted the recipe of the Bunt style Kori Aajadina and I know that Protestants make it differently too. Chicken Sukka is nothing but a dry dish made with several spices ground into a perfect masala and mixed with roasted grated coconut. However, many Mangalorean households resort to the short cut method of using Bafat powder instead of grinding spices. The result is not bad I must say as you can have a nice Chicken Sukka ready in no time. However, since I am always on the lookout for new recipes or new ways to make the things I have grown up eating, I think this recipe won't disappoint you. It's worth the extra time & effort taken to grind the masala. It tastes wonderful when paired with Panpolay (Neer Dosa) or just plain white or boiled rice.

For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, well, its a moderately spiced dish compared to the Bunt recipe. The spice is balanced well with a bit of tang brought in by the tamarind. The roasted rice gives a nutty edge to the dish and the grated coconut adds to the yum factor - I would say that this dish is lip smackin' good!

This dish was one of the items on a Roce or a Wedding menu in Mangalore decades ago, but I am not sure it is a novelty or a specialty today. Many varieties of Chicken have replaced this traditional dish and so it is commonly prepared in many homes as part of the Sunday lunch menu. 


Kombi Sukhi (Chicken Fugad/Sukka)
Preparation time: 15mins | Cooking time 25mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg chicken on the bone
  • 1 medium sized onion sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • salt to taste
For the masala
  • 8 long dry red chillies (Bedgi) (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin (jeera)
  • 7-8 peppercorns (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp raw rice (white rice)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 marble size ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
Method:
1. Cut the chicken into small pieces, wash & allow to drain on a colander for 15mins (this helps drain off any traces of blood). Boil the chicken with 2 cups of water & salt to taste till it is cooked halfway. Keep aside
2. On a skillet/tawa dry roast the rice till it puffs up slightly & turns reddish, remove & roast the red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin, peppercorns & rice - separately one by one - grind these ingredients to a fine powder and then add the coconut and pulse the mixer a couple of times - the coconut should remain coarse and not ground into a paste.
3. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and toss in the sliced onions, fry until pale and then add the ground coconut & masala mixture. Fry on a slow flame for about 2-3 minutes till you get a nice aroma from the coconut that is frying. Add the tamarind paste or juice
4. Add the pre-cooked chicken and half its stock. Mix well, cover & simmer for 2 minutes. Check salt to taste & add more if required. Continue to cook until the chicken is done. You may need to add all or part of the chicken stock.
5. Serve hot with rice & dal



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Velvet Brownie Bites With Cream Cheese Frosting - Valentine's Day Special

So today is Valentine's Day - the day when lovers across the world express their love for each other. I never was much of a V Day person as I feel that one should express their love every day and not wait for one particular day in the year. Having said that, I don't have anything against those who wish to celebrate this special day in a way that means the most to them. 


During my growing up years in Mangalore, V Day was celebrated popularly in school & college in different ways. Some would decide to wear clothes that coincided with the colours of love - Red and Pink, some would exchange Red, Pink, Yellow or White roses as they deemed fit (depending on who the recipient was). Lunches and movie plans were thrown in to make the day extra special & fun. Gifts and cards were exchanged ensuring brisk business for Archies, Hallmark and such shops that thrive on 'special' days and speciality gifts. 


While some people made the most of V Day, some would end up having panic attacks - of being confronted by a person they didn't quite like, others longed for an acknowledgement of their unexpressed love. All in all a beautiful day until some anti-social elements made V Day and all those who chose to celebrate it a target of their wrath. 



I think we all know the story behind Valentine's Day. More than being a 'foreign' culture, we must know that  the language of love knows no boundaries. Simply put, this day started to be celebrated in memory of Valentine, a priest who lived in Rome during the third century. Rome was ruled by emperor Claudius who was obsessed with having a big army and expected men to volunteer to join his army. However his subjects were not interested in war and didn't want to leave their wives and families. A furious Claudius imposed a cruel law that did not allow any more marriages (how crazy!). Valentine however went ahead with his favourite activity  of getting young couples in love married and secretly got them married in barely lit rooms in the presence of God (no pomp and show or a lavish wedding entourage in tow) . However, the cat was out of the bag soon and Valentine was thrown in jail waiting to be beheaded for having gone against the king's new law. What a heavy price to be paid for helping couples join together in the bond of marriage!


During his time in jail many young couples came to visit him and threw flowers and notes up his window just to let him know that like him, they too believed in love. One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard who would visit Valentine and cheer him up. On February 14, 269 A.D, the day he was to be beheaded Valentine wrote a note of thanks to her and signed it "Love from your Valentine". This is believed to be the beginning of the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine's Day. 

Valentine's Day today has found new meaning - it is a day to celebrate love and friendship. It doesn't have to be your lover or better half. I think love has no boundaries, of time, place age & relationships. So if you love someone, just let them know - it doesn't have to be on Valentine's Day! Just say it before it's too late!


By the way, whoever has been following my blog since its inception will know that I made Red Velvet Cupcakes for V Day last year. Not again!? (Hehe) - well, I went searching high & low for a new kind of a dessert for today, some of them flopped so badly that they were beyond recognition and obviously didn't made it to the blog today. Maybe I should have a flop recipe section on this blog! Anyway, some random and frantic searching later I found this lovely recipe on A farm girls dabbles and thought it was really cute. So what if I was making a Red Velvet recipe again? Ain't I celebrating V Day with the same guy too?! (LOL!). I guess I will keep trying different ways of eating the Red Velvet cake every year - what say Ro?

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Red Velvet Brownie Bites With Cream Cheese Frosting
(Printable Recipe)

Preparation time: 25mins | Baking time : 35mins | Yield: 50 brownie bites

You Need:

For the red velvet brownies
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 oz./85gm bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups / 230gm powdered sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt * see notes
  • 1 oz./30ml liquid red food colour
  • 1 cup /115gm all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Additional items
  • 9"x9" square baking tin 
  • two strips of aluminium foil 9"x16" each
  • oil spray or oil to grease the tin
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. /227gm cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups /230gm sifted powdered sugar
  • silver dragee, edible sparkles/sprinkles - optional
Method:

Preparing the brownies:
1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C/ 325 degrees F. Place a foil piece in the baking tin leaving the extra foil hanging on two sides. Repeat with the other sheet in the opposite direction thus lining the pan completely. Spray/brush oil along the surface. Sift the flour and baking powder twice & keep aside.
2. Met the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or in a heavy bottomed saucepan on a slow heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove and whisk well to avoid any lumps. 
3. Whisk in the sugar and one egg at a time. Stir in the vanilla, salt and food colour. Add the sifted flour and fold. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 mins till the surface is puffed and dry and the skewer inserted comes out a bit moist. Remove the cake tin and cool completely on a wire rack

Preparing the frosting
Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the sifted powdered sugar and blend well.


Assembling
Lift the brownies out of the pan with the help of the foil. Place on a cutting board and peel away the foil from the sides. Spread the frosting evenly using a spatula. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Cut into bites of 1-1/4"x1-1/4". Wipe the knife after each slice to achieve clean cuts

Notes:
1. For the brownies, I used a blend of salted & unsalted butter and so I skipped the salt. Do note that these brownies are supposed to taste a bit tart and salty, so you may want to increase the sugar slightly. I used regular granulated sugar that I powdered in a dry grinder.
2. After the brownie has cooled completely, slather it with the frosting only when you are ready to serve as it may dribble down the sides (as you see in my pictures). Alternatively you can prepare the frosting and refrigerate the cake until you are ready to serve. However, brownies taste best at room temperature.
3. Always use fresh cream cheese to avoid a sour taste to the frosting. If it is a bit sour you can add a little extra sugar to it



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daal Baati (Five Lentil Soup & Unleavened Baked Bread)

During my growing up years in Mangalore North Indian food was synonymous with Punjabi food. Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken & Naan satiated those rare cravings for food that wasn't home made or Chinese (which was also synonymous with 'eating out'). As far as I can remember eating out wasn't so fashionable in Mangalore twenty years ago. Thrifty mothers made sure they provided nutritious yet frugal meals at home and hence most restaurants were patronized by those who primarily went there to enjoy a peg or two besides restaurant style meals that were rarely replicated at home. However, a couple of (Indo) Chinese restaurants (Hau Hau & Hau Ming) did some good business there (I mean who doesn't like Indo-Chinese??) which eventually helped the restaurant industry to pick up as the years went by. 


Despite having eaten a decent amount of Punjabi food in Mangalore my taste buds have never outgrown it. But stepping out of Mangalore and into the 'real' world helped me broaden my horizon and explore the different cuisines that came under the big umbrella called 'Indian Food'. Earlier, food that typically belonged to the northern hemisphere of India was labelled as North Indian food. While time spent in Bangalore helped me savour South India's variety of food, my life in Bombay enriched my culinary experience with a larger variety of cuisines and sub cuisines. It is in Bombay that I was able to figure out the finer nuances of North Indian food.  Till then I guess I was similar to those people in the North who thought that South Indian food only consisted of Idlis & Dosas :-)


Like I have mentioned many times before about my love affair with vegetarian food, it was truly a delight to taste some amazing Rajasthani food at Rajdhani and be treated to unlimited food served on a thaali (platter) . I was completely bowled over by the variety of flat breads - fried or baked in tandoors that were served during every meal. The guests at Rajdhani are treated rather royally. Once you are seated the MaĆ®tre d' summons the waiters who cheerfully set the table for you and the noisy service of serving the food starts almost immediately. There is no time to think or talk as the food speaks for itself and all you do is simply watch in delight as this wonderful gastronomical journey unfolds itself in front of you and you are lost in the flow. While you are busy indulging in the awesome spread, in true Indian style they insist on serving you some more of this and a little of that until you are stuffed to the gills & actually (and politely) beg to be excused - all in good humour of course. The meal ends with a sweet dish of your choice which you need to select before the meal commences. Well, I know this drill so well because I was Rajdhani's prized customer when I was expecting my son. Not only did I drag hubby to this place but also guests who visited us had to go through the ordeal of eating an 'eat-all-you-can' for 200 bucks meal. Maybe I should go back to Rajdhani and ask them to issue me a loyalty card or a monthly pass maybe :D


Coming back to today's dish - The Daal Baati is supposedly the most popular item on the Rajasthani menu. No festival or wedding menu is complete without this dish. Besides being absolutely simple it also is a lovely medley of ingredients, primarily lentils. My love for lentils found a new dimension with this beautiful recipe. Dal (lentils) in South India is often eaten in a watery form unlike how it is eaten in most of North India - a thick soup like consistency that is a perfect accompaniment to chapathis, rotis or naan. This particular combo consists of the Panchmel Dal (made of five lentils) and the Baati (a hard unleavened bread usually baked over firewood or over kandas - ie cow dung cakes). Baatis can be baked in a gas tandoor or an electric oven as well (which is what I did). The steamed version of the Baati is known as the Bafla. And irrespective of their cooking technique they are always served dipped (read drenched!) in ghee and accompanied by the Panchmel dal and choorma (deep fried dough balls crushed and mixed with sugar or jaggery and served with mixed nuts). This trio makes for a delicious, filling & satisfying meal.



I tried this recipe a few months ago from Priya Mitharwal's blog Mharorajasthan and instantly fell in love with this super delicious meal. My son loved it the most and still dreams about the hard buns - Baati as he is an ardent fan of Indian breads - any form, any texture, any flavour. While the Panchmel Daal was a fantastic blend of flavours from the different kinds of dals used I was quite happy to get the Baati right in terms of texture and flavour. I sorely missed the Choorma though, but I am sure I will make up for it when I make this super delicious dish again.


By the way, the Rajasthani Baati is a lot like the Litti-Chokha of Uttar Pradesh which is made with a spiced Sattu (a special gram flour/besan) filling. I hope to try that soon besides another couple of Rajasthani recipes that I have bookmarked. For now, enjoy the Daal-Baati!

Daal - Baati
Panchmel Daal: Soaking time| 8hours or overnight | Preparation time: 20 mins | Cooking time: 25min
Serves 4-5

Baati: Preparation time: 5 mins | Baking time: 25min
Serves 3

You Need:

A) For the daal:
  • 1/4 cup toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup moong dal (split skinless green gram) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup masoor dal (split red lentils) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup chana dal (split chickpeas) soaked for 10min
  • 1/4 cup whole moong (whole green gram with skin) soaked overnight/8 hours
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
For tempering/tadka for the daal
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 green chillies sliced (adjust to taste)
  • 1 inch ginger chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp ghee
For garnishing the daal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
B) For the baati
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (aata)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 tbsp semolina (rawa)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (in liquid form) 
  • 2 tsp coarsely crushed fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 2 tsp coarsely crushed carom seeds (ajwain)
  • salt to taste
For basting the baatis and serving
  • 1/4 cup ghee
Method:

Preparing the daal
1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and fry the onions till translucent. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the dry masalas, mix and fry for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the washed & soaked dals and fry for 2 minutes. Add enough water so that it covers the dals for about an inch above them. Cover the pressure cooker lid & cook for 12-15 minutes on a medium high flame.
3. When the cooker comes to room temperature (the whistle/weight comes off easily), mix the contents and add water to arrive at the desired consistency. Don't add too much water, the daal should be thickish. Toss in the chopped coriander leaves. Cover & keep aside.
4. For the tempering/seasoning, on a medium flame, heat the ghee in a smaller pan and toss in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering add the green chillies, ginger, garlic and onions and fry lightly until you get a nice aroma and take care to see that the contents do not burn. Quickly pour this seasoning into the prepared daal.
5. Serve hot with baati or rice!

Preparing the baati
1. In a flat wide bowl mix all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the baati' and knead it into a smooth dough. Add very little water only if required. Keep covered until required. Pre-heat the oven on Low on grill/broil mode (I preheated at 110 degrees C for 10mins). Keep a baking tray covered with aluminium foil ready
2. Pinch out lemon sized balls out of the dough and roll between the palms to ensure that the surface has no cracks. Gently make a dimple (thumb impression) in the centre of each baati. 
3. Brush each baati generously with the ghee and place on the baking tray and into the oven on the top rack and broil/grill for approx 20-25 minutes flipping them halfway across bake time. Add or reduce bake time depending on your oven to ensure that the baatis turn a golden brown evenly.
4. Remove, dunk them in ghee (unless you are health conscious) and serve hot with Panchmel Daal

Notes:
The baatis do not fluff up and are not soft like regular bread/buns. This is because there is no leavening agent (like yeast, baking powder etc) used. The baatis remain the way they looked before you put them into the oven, except that they emerge harder, browner and tastier.







Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meat Biryani - Beary (Mangalorean Muslim) Style

I guess I am taking my new year 'resolution' a bit too seriously. Although I cook & click almost on a daily basis, I don't have as much enthusiasm to post the recipes soon enough. I am enjoying my time off the blog doing routine things that include enjoying my new found sense of relaxation thanks to the yoga classes that I joined a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, my mornings are extra-hectic because of them especially since my teacher likes to call her students for some extra classes during the week. But then no one's complaining. It truly gives me my 'me-time' which is hard to come by otherwise. Throw in a few exercises and I think I am doing much better health-wise than I ever did before. I was never quite a 'gym person' although with a strict diet (read portion control) and some good ol' brisk walking in the garden I could keep weight under control.


However, all my discipline goes for a toss when a good biryani comes along :-) I think I have written volumes about my biryani obsession and I don't want to elaborate on it once more. But I want to make a subtle point here - more than trying out just any biryani, the sole purpose of my life (as I have now defined) is to try out different kinds of biryanis made by people of different cultures. This year hopefully I want to try out at least 5-6 different styles and flavours of biryanis that include different techniques of cooking. I am sure there are no dearth of recipes and I am confident that a majority of them are already recorded in Katy Dalal's Biryanis & Pulaos that I proudly possess. However, I didn't have to flip through that book this time. One of my readers who belongs to the Beary (pronounced as 'barry' or 'byari') community in Mangalore wrote in to me and after a few mail exchanges we became friends. She was kind enough to share a tried & tested biryani recipe and that had me drooling instantly. I realised that I had not yet posted any Beary style recipe although I have tried out recipes from the much celebrated cuisines of the  Bunt, Konkani, Catholic & Protestant communities of Mangalore. So I am thankful to Mrs. Safiya Rahamathulla for her recipe.


The Beary is the Muslim community concentrated mostly in coastal South Kanara (Dakshin Kannada). This ethnic society incorporates the local Tulu culture of Dakshin Kannada and diverse traditions of the Moplahs of the Malabar coast and is one of the earliest Muslim inhabitants of India. The Bearys speak their own dialect called the Beary Bashe or nakk-nikk, also known as Beary palaka. I am reminded of my various trips to the string of shoe shops (owned by Bearys) on Market Road, Hampankatta where I used to listen to this unique language and try to make sense out of it. Was it Tulu or Malayalam or a blend of both? This language kept me guessing throughout the shoe purchasing session. I also used to hear bits of this language and glimpses into the daily lives of Bearys when I used to pass by some houses while on my way to my granny's place. Elderly ladies in ethnic Beary style attire, their ears and necks adorned with intricate ornaments used to always catch my attention. We exchanged a smile to acknowledge the familiarity of a stranger - (as much as it sounds like an oxymoron) bringing about a sense of secularism that probably is struggling to survive in our country today and especially in Mangalore. 


The word 'Beary' is said to have been derived from the Tulu word 'Byara' which means trade or business and since the major portion of the community was involved in business & trading activities, the local Tulu speaking majority called them as Beary or Byari. However, a couple of other theories suggest that the term Beary could also have been derived from the Arabic word Bahar which means 'ocean' and Bahri means 'sailor' or 'navigator'. It could also have been derived from the root word 'Malabar' since the great Islamic Da'ee, Malik bin Deenar had arrived on the coast of Malabar during the 6th century and a member from his group Habeen bin Malik travelled through Tulunad, preached Islam and is also credited with the building of a mosque in the Bunder area of Mangalore in 644 A.D (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Now here's a bit of history that I found interesting. As per Wikipedia Bearys used to refer to the area south of Mangalore (I am assuming is towards the Thokottu area) as Maikala which is their cultural and economical capital and apparently Maikala got its name through the Kadri Manjunath Temple which was earlier a Buddhist temple. The Buddhist goddess Tara Bhagavathi was also known as Mayadevi who in the course of time came to be known as Maikala. Historians are of the opinion that Maikala is one of the ancient names of Mangalore. Some say that Mangalore got its name from the temple of Mangaladevi. However, irrespective of the root of its name, its important to note that so much history is buried deep beneath this beautiful coastal city that is home to people from various faiths, beliefs and cultural ethnicities. It is a blend of these cultures that makes Mangalore what it is today - so special & so endearing.  


Honestly my association with the Beary community was minimal during my growing up years as there were just a couple of Beary girls in my class who were quiet and peace loving and quite contrary to the prankster in me :-) I wish I had made more friends and enjoyed their company and maybe, just maybe I would have had some food related memories to talk about today ;-)

Now, a little about today's dish. Although I have tried many types of biryanis involving elaborate as well as simple procedures, this is one of those flavourful biryanis that are made with minimal ingredients and carry a South Indian trademark - especially because of the use of coriander leaves that are not ground but shredded during the layering thus avoiding the bitterness that the leaves impart if used in large quantities.


 This biryani is very subtle in its flavour and aroma with just about the distinct fragrance of fennel wafting through the grains. Do adjust the quantity of fennel to suit your taste. I recommend you to make this biryani at least a couple of hours in advance before you serve it. This helps the flavours set in as the dum helps to achieve and I must say that it tastes better the next day. The flavours are not over the top and despite the use of a lot of ghee, it does not taste like a heavy duty biryani that one finds hard to digest (unless your choice of meat is beef)

The preparation & cooking time have been calculated considering a slow cook like me (especially beginners). If you are quick, this biryani does not take as much time as mentioned below. I have given elaborate instructions which experts may not really need. Feel free to dabble with the method of preparing the rice depending on the luxury of time you have and also alter the ingredients as per taste.


Meat Biryani - Beary (Mangalorean Muslim) Style
Preparation time: 45min | Cooking time: 1 hr  | Layering & Cooking on Dum : 30mins
Serves 4-5

You Need:
  • 1 kg beef or mutton on the bone
  • juice of 1/2 lime (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi) (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • fistful of chopped coriander leaves (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • 5 big onions sliced
  • 6 juicy tomatoes thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of coriander leaves chopped
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cardamoms
  • 3 cloves
  • salt to taste
  • ghee for frying
For the rice 
  • 600gm / 3 cups basmati rice * see notes
  • 2 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cardamoms
  • salt to taste
For the masala (to be ground)
  • 8-10 green chilies *see notes
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds (badashep/saunf) * see notes
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 whole pods garlic peeled (Indian variety)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp mace (javithri) flakes
  • 3-4 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1/2 nutmeg (zaiphal)
  • 1 packed cup of mint leaves
 To be ground separately
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus) (substitute with 1 tsp grated coconut if khus khus is not available)
  • 5 almonds (badam) soaked in hot water and skinned

For the layering
  • 3 onions finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 1-1/2 packed cups of coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 pinches saffron strands soaked in 3 tsp rose water or milk
  • 2 tsp Garam masala (optional)
  • 15-20 whole cashewnuts
  • 20-25 raisins/kishmish
  • 2 tsp ghee (to grease the pan)
 Method:

A) Cooking the meat
1. Cut the meat into medium size pieces, wash and allow to drain on a colander for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer into a pressure cooker and sprinkle water up to the level of the meat. Add salt to taste. Add lime juice, turmeric powder & fistful of coriander leaves
3. Cover & cook on a full flame until the first whistle goes off (takes about 8-10mins). 
4. Reduce the flame to sim and continue to cook for 20-25mins in the case of beef. If you are using mutton, follow the same procedure till step#3 and then cook for about 13-15 mins if the mutton is tender. 
5. Allow the pressure cooker to cool down completely before removing the weight (whistle). Mix contents once and keep aside.

B) Preparing the garnish
1. Heat 4 tbsp ghee in a wide heavy bottomed pan and fry the onions till golden brown, drain & keep aside. 
2. To the same ghee add cashewnuts and fry till golden brown n drain n keep aside. 
3. Turn off the flame and add the raisins n take it immediatly or else it will burn.

C) Preparing the masala
1. In a large pan (or use the same pan that was used to fry the garnish) heat 2 tsp ghee.  Toss in the whole spices (garam masala) and fry for a minute. 
2. Add onions and fry till golden brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes. 
3. Add the sliced tomato and fry for 2 mins on a medium high heat and reduce the flame a bit and continue to fry until the oil separates from the masala.
4. Add the ground green chilli masala, fry for about 4-5mins
5. Add the pre-cooked beef/mutton, adjust salt to taste and add the meat stock in parts. Allow to boil till meat is tender. Don’t make a watery gravy but use up stock to make a thick gravy.
6. Add the almond paste to it n boil again 4-5 mins. Add chopped coriander leaves on top of it. Turn off the flame after a couple of minutes 

D) Preparing the rice 
Using the draining technique (where rice is partially cooked, layered with meat and then placed on 'dum' till it is fully cooked)
1. Wash & soak the basmati rice in water for 15mins. 
2. Boil rice in plenty of water along with the whole garam masala. Cool al-dente (3/4th done). 
3. Drain and keep aside until required

OR  

You can prepare the rice using the absorption technique (where rice is fully cooked and then layered along with meat)
1. Wash & soak the basmati rice in water for 15mins
2. For 600gms (3 cups) rice use a little less than double the quantity of water. ie 3x2 = 6 cups of water minus 1/2 cup = total of 5-1/2 cups of boiling water. 
3. Heat 2 tsp of ghee in a large enough pan to accommodate cooked rice, add the washed & drained rice and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the freshly boiled water. Adjust salt to taste and add juice of 1/2 a lime. You may add 2 bullion (stock) cubes for an additional flavour. 
4. Bring the water to a rolling boil, stir and cover the pan with a tight lid. Reduce flame completely and continue to cook for 6 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the rice cook in the steam. Open the lid after 3-4 minutes and fluff up with a fork. Cover & keep aside till required.

E) Assembling
1. Brush the base and sides of a large wide vessel with 2tsp ghee. Place one third of the meat as the first layer.  Add a one third of the of the rice over the meat. This is the second layer
2. Sprinkle one third of the fried onions, cashewnuts, raisins, a few coriander leaves, a few mint leaves, part of the saffron mixed in rose water. This is the third layer.
3. Repeat the process till all the meat, rice and garnish has been layered. 
4. Make a few holes through the biryani and drizzle some ghee through them.

If you have cooked the rice as per the absorption technique proceed to step# 6, else proceed to step#4

4. Seal the vessel with dough or aluminium foil. Place a tight lid over it to ensure there is no loss of steam.
5. Place on the vessel on a cast iron tawa/skillet and let the biryani to cook on dum for 20-25mins. Turn off the flame and allow the flavours and aromas to blend well before serving.
6. Serve hot with the raitha of your choice

Notes
Rice: The original recipe asks for a 1:1 ration between the meat & the rice. However I have scaled it down to 600gm of rice to a kilogram of meat since I have a small family. 
Chillies: The original recipe calls for 20 green chillies since there is no other source of basic spice (peppercorns or such), however, I used 10 medium sized green chillies as I was using just 600gm rice. This resulted in a moderately spicy biryani. Adjust the quantity of chillies according to your taste and as per the quantity of rice used.
Fennel seeds: Reduce the quantity by half only if you don't like the intense fragrance of fennel seeds, however, the aroma does get masked by other ingredients when the gravy is done.
Although this is a dum style biryani, you may choose to hasten the process by cooking the rice fully, layering it & then serving it immediately. However, the dum technique increases the flavour quotient of this biryani. 


Recipe updated on 10/02/2012 to incorporate minor changes to the ground masala which now includes the below items that were earlier mentioned under 'For the rice'
  • 1 tsp mace (javithri) flakes
  • 3-4 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1/2 nutmeg (zaiphal)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Finger Stew)

As per the Christian liturgical calendar we have officially stepped into the month of Lent - a time of penance, repentance and prayer. It also marks the Death & Resurrection of Jesus and recalls the events of the Passion of Christ. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates in the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Lent is observed for forty days during which many people make sacrifices in many ways especially by way of giving up rich food, sweets and meat. Most Mangaloreans I know have given up eating meat this Lenten season although this decision varies person to person. Some prefer giving up meat for the entire duration while some may eat only eggs and fish. Whatever the penance I think its a good time for some self introspection and penance besides giving our digestive systems a break especially if fasting or minimal consumption of food is part of this dietary sacrifice. 

While I think its a very personal decision to eat meat or not, personally for me meat or no meat in my daily menu does not make much of a difference. Being a foodie, what matters to me is whether or not I indulge in rich food (vegetarian or non vegetarian, sweets and desserts) and whether or not I am willing to give that up and whether or not I am able to repent for my sins and lead a better and more meaningful, simple and prayerful Christian life. But for the benefit of many of you who follow my blog and are on the lookout for vegetarian recipes, I thought it would be the best time to post some nice vegetarian recipes.    


Since vegetables were a religious part of our daily meals during my growing up years I simply love them and include them whatever way I can in our daily menu. Mangalore being a coastal town has always had access to the abundance of ocean's bounty and is always treated to its finest catch. This makes most of Mangalore a non vegetarian crowd. However the Catholic community being hard core non vegetarian by nature eat vegetables sparingly - maybe just one serving of vegetables and/or fruits a day or sometimes just one serving three to four times a week - which is not the healthiest diet as you can see. However, thankfully my mum made sure we got our daily dose of the green goodness and for a family of five she would cook at least a kilo of vegetables and legumes of all varieties, shapes and sizes. She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer and I don't think she ever had to shove it down our throats by force as vegetables were a much loved item on our plates which we gleefully wiped clean. 

Mum used to make a lot of vegetables in the Thel Piao (oil & onion) style which is a simple method of steaming vegetables along with a few basic ingredients such as sliced onions, green chillies, oil, salt, a souring agent such as tomatoes or sol (the dried peel of a sour fruit similar to kokum) and a generous garnish of freshly grated coconut. This is probably a preparation that only Mangaloreans will like as it is devoid of any other form of masala and is makes for a healthy way of eating veggies. Surprisingly I haven't posted a recipe for it as I felt it was equivalent to giving out a recipe to boil water. I guess my blog will be incomplete if I don't post that recipe and I am planning to do that soon. 


On my quest for new recipes for vegetarian curries, I found this recipe in Isidore Coelho's 'Ranpi' and although both R & I don't recall having eaten it during our time in Mangalore, we loved this version. Okra/Lady's Finger is stewed gently in coconut milk and basic spices - resulting in a curry that is delicately flavoured. Do note that the flavour of coconut milk is very dominant here. I made this curry last week as I normally make a vegetable curry when we fry fish - I prefer vegetarian curries to plain Dal every time. The meal was simply fantastic as this curry teams up very well with fried fish and white rice. I am sure it will taste great with brown (or red) boiled rice as well. 

Bendanso Stu (Okra/ Lady's Fingers Stew)
Preparation time: 10-15mins | Cooking time: 15mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
  • 1/4 kg (or 12-15 large) tender okra/  lady's fingers / bhindi * see notes
  • 2 medium sized onions finely sliced
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 4-5 green chillies slit * see notes
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 pinches cumin powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk * see notes
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp oil or ghee for frying
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash the okra well, pat dry and cut the ends. Extract coconut milk and keep it ready * see notes
2. Heat the oil/ghee in a heavy based pan and fry the slit green chillies till transparent, toss in the chopped ginger & onions and fry till the onions turn pale/translucent.
3. Add the okra and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the thin coconut milk and turmeric powder and cook uncovered on a medium heat till tender but not mushy. Add salt to taste.
4. When the okra is tender, add the thick coconut milk and bring the stew to a boil. Add vinegar, stir and turn off the flame.
5. Serve hot with rice.

Notes:

Okra/Bhindi
You can use the large okra variety that is available in Mangalore. It has a pale green colour and are quite large in size

Chillies
The original recipe calls for 8 chillies. I used 5 chillies which was a bit spicy for my taste. I recommend you to use 4 chillies and add later if desired.

Coconut milk
Extracting fresh coconut milk
Grate the flesh of one coconut and transfer it to a mixer grinder. Add about 1/2 cup of warm water and pulse the mixer grinder for a few seconds.
Line a bowl with cheese/muslin cloth and transfer the ground coconut into it. Cover the cloth into a bundle and squeeze to extract thick milk. Keep aside
Add a little water (depending on how much thin milk you desire) and repeat process. This is the thin milk.

Preparing coconut milk from coconut milk powder
To make approx 2 cups thin milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 1-1/2 cups warm water
To make approx 1 cup thick milk - Dissolve 6 tbsp coconut milk powder in 3/4th cup warm water

*I use Maggi coconut milk powder


Friday, February 24, 2012

Butter Cake - Simply Delicious!!

A post too soon eh? Considering that I've been taking my sweet time to post recipes since we welcomed 2012? Well, I've decided to get rid of my laziness and at least post all the recipes that have accumulated in my drafts - most of which were tried several times in the last 3-4 months when I was too busy writing the detailed Kuswar posts and didn't have the energy to post these (plus I was super busy, lazy and sick). Nice and simple recipes that have been tried twice or thrice with positive results and it would be a pity if I don't share them at the earliest. Since Lent has started on Wednesday I have decided to give up cooking interesting and new dishes - one thing I am most passionate about and maybe I should use this time to clear my drafts.


This particular cake which was highly recommended by my friend Rinku of Kitchen Treats became an instant hit and has been tried thrice already and will be baked many many more times I am sure as this recipe is a keeper. R loves simple cakes - the plain jane variety - no icing, no fuss, no frills and definitely no chocolate! Man! It's hard to survive with someone who doesn't like chocolate in anything. No chocolate cakes or brownies for him he says. Just to please me he takes a bite at the most. But I bake chocolate cakes anyways as the little fellow can't get enough of chocolate. Suits me fine! But thanks to the man and his choice of cakes, I have bookmarked a whole lot of cakes that don't make use of even a speck of cocoa. I am particularly keen to try out the sponge cakes that are so famous in Mangalorean bakeries. I hope I find a good one that is at least a close contender to the ones I've grown up eating if not the perfect one.


The reason why I have made this cake umpteen number of times is because the main ingredient - butter is found in abundance in my kitchen these days. Well, we have kind of switched over to fresh milk from the local dairy instead of the store bought tetra packed milk. I think its a better and wiser choice as it is fresh, wholesome and also leaves me with a whole lot of dairy byproducts. The amount of fresh /heavy cream that I get after pasteurizing the milk is enough to throw me into a tizzy - I not only have home made butter, but also home made buttermilk and ghee these days and the whole process of making each of these items from scratch is enjoyable and satisfying.


As I have mentioned before in some of my posts, its always a headache to find unsalted white butter when a recipe calls for it. Most grocers in my area stock up only salted 'Amul' butter and although its not a sin to replace unsalted butter with the salted one, not every recipe will be happy to accommodate my laziness. Unless I am prepared to walk miles to hunt for white butter I usually resort to the Parsi Dairy white butter that is available in Godrej Nature's basket, however, I am not happy with the quality as it usually tastes and smells slightly rancid which is blasphemous for a butter cake. You simply cannot afford to use poor quality butter in a butter cake can you?

Do make sure you use the best quality ingredients for this cake as there are no other flavours to morph the original buttery taste & texture here. This cake is best eaten warm and fresh out of the oven (wait until the cake is out of the pan though!). If you intend storing it for longer than a day, refrigerate it and pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds before serving - this warms up the butter and refreshes the cake immediately.


Anyway, all I can say about this cake is that it has a beeeeautiful texture and a plain, easy and melt-in-the-mouth flavour, almost like, well, butter! Hehe (it's not called 'butter' cake for nothing). The recipe obviously asks for a huge amount of butter (more than the quantity of flour) so its not something you would want to indulge in too often if you are health conscious (although I bet you'd like to!). It's the kind of cake that can be made for a simple tea party and you can safely assume that everybody will like it and reach out for some more. It's a perfect accompaniment to a nice hot cup of tea or coffee or plain milk and will appeal to the anti-chocolate league members, toddlers and those looking out for something simple to satiate their sweet tooth.

You can also get creative and take this cake to another level by serving it with some chocolate sauce. I used Hershey's and it was brilliant. The simplicity of the butter cake teamed with the rich smoothness of the chocolate was amazing (although I am not a huge fan of Hershey's syrup - next time I must try a different brand). The little boy had a lot of this combo and the big boy just liked it plain - slice after slice.


I have simply halved the ingredients in the recipe below. The measures are perfect if you intend to serve just 3-4 people, but I suggest you make the entire cake if possible as it simply melts in the mouth and you'll be reaching out for more!

Butter Cake
Preparation time: 15min | Baking time: 30-35min (for below quantity) | Yield : 8-10 medium sized slices

You Need:
  • 100gm/3/4th cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder * see notes
  • 100gm sugar * see notes
  • 1/4 tsp salt * see notes
  • 125 gm unsalted butter * see notes
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
1. Preheat oven at 180 C for 15mins. Prepare a 8"x4" loaf pan (* see notes) by either lining it with parchment/butter paper or greasing it well with butter and then dusting it with flour.
Sift the flour, baking powder & salt at least 2-3 times. This helps make the cake all the more fluffy.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter & sugar until pale. Add one egg at a time and beat well.
3. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix till incorporated.
4. Add the flour in 2-3 parts alternating between flour and milk (ie add one part flour to the butter egg mixture and mix well with a spatula.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was done in exactly 32 minutes.
6. Remove the tin from the oven and place it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Careful invert the cake on to the wire rack and tap the tin so that the cake slides out easily. Allow to cool completely before cutting it.
7. Serve with a hot cup of tea, coffee or milk or simply enjoy it plain. You can also cut up each slice into chunks and eat it with chocolate sauce poured over it

Notes:
1. The original recipe makes a note of 'double action baking powder' - you can use any brand of baking powder in India. Weikfield specially mentions 'double action' on the box. Other brands are Bluebird and Bakers which are also double action. Apparently there is a 'single action' baking powder that is often used for commercial baking.
2. The original recipe asks for 90gm sugar, however I increased it by another 10 grams as it results in a perfect moderately sweet cake. I used regular granulated sugar and powdered it using a dry mixer jar.
3. If you are using salted butter (like Amul), skip the addition of salt. Most cake recipes that ask for unsalted butter do not ask for salt, but it is always advisable to add a pinch or two as it helps bring out the flavours in the cake.
The original recipe is for the full quantity, I have halved it here. For the full quantity it is advisable to use a 7"x7" square pan and not a 9"x9".. A bigger square pan will result in a slightly flatter cake.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kombi Sukhi (Mangalorean Catholic Style Chicken Fugad/Sukka)

I am back after another well deserved break :-) This time it was not illness (well, that came later) that kept me away from my blog but a wedding in the family. R's nephew, our close friend and the best man for our wedding got hitched! The wedding was very special and a lot of fun with a whole lot of people (family) who flew in from different parts of the world to be a part of the special occasion. So in other words, it was the Great Indian Wedding that unfolded day after day - the whole of last week.   

Well, I've heard a lot about Mangalorean weddings in Mumbai not being as spectacular as those in Mangalore - I beg to differ because it just depends on the crowd and the mood. And plus the presence of family & friends who go that extra mile to make your day extra special. My boys and I used this opportunity to let our hair down & have some fun. We also got plenty of time to reconnect with relatives we hadn't met in ages and some new ones who we had never met before and all of us got on like a house on fire. 

Coming back to our topic, the only catch about the weddings in Mumbai is that the wedding menu usually lacks the traditional & complete wedding spread. Most Roce (pre-wedding ceremony) & weddings that I have attended usually offer a North Indian fare replete with flavoured rice, rotis, vegetarian & non vegetarian curries, dals and sweet dishes. But I see that this is beginning to trend even in Mangalore with some part of our cultural and ethnic dining experience eroding away giving rise to a more contemporary feel. I guess I will touch upon this topic at length in another post. For now, it's the Chicken Sukka or the Kombi Sukhi as the Catholics call it in Mangalore. 



The Chicken Sukka is a popular and much loved dish among Mangaloreans. Different communities make it differently with minor changes in the ingredients and method of preparation. I have already posted the recipe of the Bunt style Kori Aajadina and I know that Protestants make it differently too. Chicken Sukka is nothing but a dry dish made with several spices ground into a perfect masala and mixed with roasted grated coconut. However, many Mangalorean households resort to the short cut method of using Bafat powder instead of grinding spices. The result is not bad I must say as you can have a nice Chicken Sukka ready in no time. However, since I am always on the lookout for new recipes or new ways to make the things I have grown up eating, I think this recipe won't disappoint you. It's worth the extra time & effort taken to grind the masala. It tastes wonderful when paired with Panpolay (Neer Dosa) or just plain white or boiled rice.

For those who are unfamiliar with this dish, well, its a moderately spiced dish compared to the Bunt recipe. The spice is balanced well with a bit of tang brought in by the tamarind. The roasted rice gives a nutty edge to the dish and the grated coconut adds to the yum factor - I would say that this dish is lip smackin' good!

This dish was one of the items on a Roce or a Wedding menu in Mangalore decades ago, but I am not sure it is a novelty or a specialty today. Many varieties of Chicken have replaced this traditional dish and so it is commonly prepared in many homes as part of the Sunday lunch menu. 


Kombi Sukhi (Chicken Fugad/Sukka)
Preparation time: 15mins | Cooking time 25mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg chicken on the bone
  • 1 medium sized onion sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • salt to taste
For the masala
  • 8 long dry red chillies (Bedgi) (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin (jeera)
  • 7-8 peppercorns (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp raw rice (white rice)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 marble size ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
Method:
1. Cut the chicken into small pieces, wash & allow to drain on a colander for 15mins (this helps drain off any traces of blood). Boil the chicken with 2 cups of water & salt to taste till it is cooked halfway. Keep aside
2. On a skillet/tawa dry roast the rice till it puffs up slightly & turns reddish, remove & roast the red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin, peppercorns & rice - separately one by one - grind these ingredients to a fine powder and then add the coconut and pulse the mixer a couple of times - the coconut should remain coarse and not ground into a paste.
3. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and toss in the sliced onions, fry until pale and then add the ground coconut & masala mixture. Fry on a slow flame for about 2-3 minutes till you get a nice aroma from the coconut that is frying. Add the tamarind paste or juice
4. Add the pre-cooked chicken and half its stock. Mix well, cover & simmer for 2 minutes. Check salt to taste & add more if required. Continue to cook until the chicken is done. You may need to add all or part of the chicken stock.
5. Serve hot with rice & dal



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Velvet Brownie Bites With Cream Cheese Frosting - Valentine's Day Special

So today is Valentine's Day - the day when lovers across the world express their love for each other. I never was much of a V Day person as I feel that one should express their love every day and not wait for one particular day in the year. Having said that, I don't have anything against those who wish to celebrate this special day in a way that means the most to them. 


During my growing up years in Mangalore, V Day was celebrated popularly in school & college in different ways. Some would decide to wear clothes that coincided with the colours of love - Red and Pink, some would exchange Red, Pink, Yellow or White roses as they deemed fit (depending on who the recipient was). Lunches and movie plans were thrown in to make the day extra special & fun. Gifts and cards were exchanged ensuring brisk business for Archies, Hallmark and such shops that thrive on 'special' days and speciality gifts. 


While some people made the most of V Day, some would end up having panic attacks - of being confronted by a person they didn't quite like, others longed for an acknowledgement of their unexpressed love. All in all a beautiful day until some anti-social elements made V Day and all those who chose to celebrate it a target of their wrath. 



I think we all know the story behind Valentine's Day. More than being a 'foreign' culture, we must know that  the language of love knows no boundaries. Simply put, this day started to be celebrated in memory of Valentine, a priest who lived in Rome during the third century. Rome was ruled by emperor Claudius who was obsessed with having a big army and expected men to volunteer to join his army. However his subjects were not interested in war and didn't want to leave their wives and families. A furious Claudius imposed a cruel law that did not allow any more marriages (how crazy!). Valentine however went ahead with his favourite activity  of getting young couples in love married and secretly got them married in barely lit rooms in the presence of God (no pomp and show or a lavish wedding entourage in tow) . However, the cat was out of the bag soon and Valentine was thrown in jail waiting to be beheaded for having gone against the king's new law. What a heavy price to be paid for helping couples join together in the bond of marriage!


During his time in jail many young couples came to visit him and threw flowers and notes up his window just to let him know that like him, they too believed in love. One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard who would visit Valentine and cheer him up. On February 14, 269 A.D, the day he was to be beheaded Valentine wrote a note of thanks to her and signed it "Love from your Valentine". This is believed to be the beginning of the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine's Day. 

Valentine's Day today has found new meaning - it is a day to celebrate love and friendship. It doesn't have to be your lover or better half. I think love has no boundaries, of time, place age & relationships. So if you love someone, just let them know - it doesn't have to be on Valentine's Day! Just say it before it's too late!


By the way, whoever has been following my blog since its inception will know that I made Red Velvet Cupcakes for V Day last year. Not again!? (Hehe) - well, I went searching high & low for a new kind of a dessert for today, some of them flopped so badly that they were beyond recognition and obviously didn't made it to the blog today. Maybe I should have a flop recipe section on this blog! Anyway, some random and frantic searching later I found this lovely recipe on A farm girls dabbles and thought it was really cute. So what if I was making a Red Velvet recipe again? Ain't I celebrating V Day with the same guy too?! (LOL!). I guess I will keep trying different ways of eating the Red Velvet cake every year - what say Ro?

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Red Velvet Brownie Bites With Cream Cheese Frosting
(Printable Recipe)

Preparation time: 25mins | Baking time : 35mins | Yield: 50 brownie bites

You Need:

For the red velvet brownies
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 oz./85gm bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups / 230gm powdered sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt * see notes
  • 1 oz./30ml liquid red food colour
  • 1 cup /115gm all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Additional items
  • 9"x9" square baking tin 
  • two strips of aluminium foil 9"x16" each
  • oil spray or oil to grease the tin
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. /227gm cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups /230gm sifted powdered sugar
  • silver dragee, edible sparkles/sprinkles - optional
Method:

Preparing the brownies:
1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C/ 325 degrees F. Place a foil piece in the baking tin leaving the extra foil hanging on two sides. Repeat with the other sheet in the opposite direction thus lining the pan completely. Spray/brush oil along the surface. Sift the flour and baking powder twice & keep aside.
2. Met the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or in a heavy bottomed saucepan on a slow heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove and whisk well to avoid any lumps. 
3. Whisk in the sugar and one egg at a time. Stir in the vanilla, salt and food colour. Add the sifted flour and fold. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 mins till the surface is puffed and dry and the skewer inserted comes out a bit moist. Remove the cake tin and cool completely on a wire rack

Preparing the frosting
Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the sifted powdered sugar and blend well.


Assembling
Lift the brownies out of the pan with the help of the foil. Place on a cutting board and peel away the foil from the sides. Spread the frosting evenly using a spatula. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Cut into bites of 1-1/4"x1-1/4". Wipe the knife after each slice to achieve clean cuts

Notes:
1. For the brownies, I used a blend of salted & unsalted butter and so I skipped the salt. Do note that these brownies are supposed to taste a bit tart and salty, so you may want to increase the sugar slightly. I used regular granulated sugar that I powdered in a dry grinder.
2. After the brownie has cooled completely, slather it with the frosting only when you are ready to serve as it may dribble down the sides (as you see in my pictures). Alternatively you can prepare the frosting and refrigerate the cake until you are ready to serve. However, brownies taste best at room temperature.
3. Always use fresh cream cheese to avoid a sour taste to the frosting. If it is a bit sour you can add a little extra sugar to it



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daal Baati (Five Lentil Soup & Unleavened Baked Bread)

During my growing up years in Mangalore North Indian food was synonymous with Punjabi food. Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken & Naan satiated those rare cravings for food that wasn't home made or Chinese (which was also synonymous with 'eating out'). As far as I can remember eating out wasn't so fashionable in Mangalore twenty years ago. Thrifty mothers made sure they provided nutritious yet frugal meals at home and hence most restaurants were patronized by those who primarily went there to enjoy a peg or two besides restaurant style meals that were rarely replicated at home. However, a couple of (Indo) Chinese restaurants (Hau Hau & Hau Ming) did some good business there (I mean who doesn't like Indo-Chinese??) which eventually helped the restaurant industry to pick up as the years went by. 


Despite having eaten a decent amount of Punjabi food in Mangalore my taste buds have never outgrown it. But stepping out of Mangalore and into the 'real' world helped me broaden my horizon and explore the different cuisines that came under the big umbrella called 'Indian Food'. Earlier, food that typically belonged to the northern hemisphere of India was labelled as North Indian food. While time spent in Bangalore helped me savour South India's variety of food, my life in Bombay enriched my culinary experience with a larger variety of cuisines and sub cuisines. It is in Bombay that I was able to figure out the finer nuances of North Indian food.  Till then I guess I was similar to those people in the North who thought that South Indian food only consisted of Idlis & Dosas :-)


Like I have mentioned many times before about my love affair with vegetarian food, it was truly a delight to taste some amazing Rajasthani food at Rajdhani and be treated to unlimited food served on a thaali (platter) . I was completely bowled over by the variety of flat breads - fried or baked in tandoors that were served during every meal. The guests at Rajdhani are treated rather royally. Once you are seated the MaĆ®tre d' summons the waiters who cheerfully set the table for you and the noisy service of serving the food starts almost immediately. There is no time to think or talk as the food speaks for itself and all you do is simply watch in delight as this wonderful gastronomical journey unfolds itself in front of you and you are lost in the flow. While you are busy indulging in the awesome spread, in true Indian style they insist on serving you some more of this and a little of that until you are stuffed to the gills & actually (and politely) beg to be excused - all in good humour of course. The meal ends with a sweet dish of your choice which you need to select before the meal commences. Well, I know this drill so well because I was Rajdhani's prized customer when I was expecting my son. Not only did I drag hubby to this place but also guests who visited us had to go through the ordeal of eating an 'eat-all-you-can' for 200 bucks meal. Maybe I should go back to Rajdhani and ask them to issue me a loyalty card or a monthly pass maybe :D


Coming back to today's dish - The Daal Baati is supposedly the most popular item on the Rajasthani menu. No festival or wedding menu is complete without this dish. Besides being absolutely simple it also is a lovely medley of ingredients, primarily lentils. My love for lentils found a new dimension with this beautiful recipe. Dal (lentils) in South India is often eaten in a watery form unlike how it is eaten in most of North India - a thick soup like consistency that is a perfect accompaniment to chapathis, rotis or naan. This particular combo consists of the Panchmel Dal (made of five lentils) and the Baati (a hard unleavened bread usually baked over firewood or over kandas - ie cow dung cakes). Baatis can be baked in a gas tandoor or an electric oven as well (which is what I did). The steamed version of the Baati is known as the Bafla. And irrespective of their cooking technique they are always served dipped (read drenched!) in ghee and accompanied by the Panchmel dal and choorma (deep fried dough balls crushed and mixed with sugar or jaggery and served with mixed nuts). This trio makes for a delicious, filling & satisfying meal.



I tried this recipe a few months ago from Priya Mitharwal's blog Mharorajasthan and instantly fell in love with this super delicious meal. My son loved it the most and still dreams about the hard buns - Baati as he is an ardent fan of Indian breads - any form, any texture, any flavour. While the Panchmel Daal was a fantastic blend of flavours from the different kinds of dals used I was quite happy to get the Baati right in terms of texture and flavour. I sorely missed the Choorma though, but I am sure I will make up for it when I make this super delicious dish again.


By the way, the Rajasthani Baati is a lot like the Litti-Chokha of Uttar Pradesh which is made with a spiced Sattu (a special gram flour/besan) filling. I hope to try that soon besides another couple of Rajasthani recipes that I have bookmarked. For now, enjoy the Daal-Baati!

Daal - Baati
Panchmel Daal: Soaking time| 8hours or overnight | Preparation time: 20 mins | Cooking time: 25min
Serves 4-5

Baati: Preparation time: 5 mins | Baking time: 25min
Serves 3

You Need:

A) For the daal:
  • 1/4 cup toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup moong dal (split skinless green gram) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup masoor dal (split red lentils) soaked for 10mins
  • 1/4 cup chana dal (split chickpeas) soaked for 10min
  • 1/4 cup whole moong (whole green gram with skin) soaked overnight/8 hours
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
For tempering/tadka for the daal
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 green chillies sliced (adjust to taste)
  • 1 inch ginger chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp ghee
For garnishing the daal
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
B) For the baati
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (aata)
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 tbsp semolina (rawa)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (in liquid form) 
  • 2 tsp coarsely crushed fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 2 tsp coarsely crushed carom seeds (ajwain)
  • salt to taste
For basting the baatis and serving
  • 1/4 cup ghee
Method:

Preparing the daal
1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and fry the onions till translucent. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the dry masalas, mix and fry for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the washed & soaked dals and fry for 2 minutes. Add enough water so that it covers the dals for about an inch above them. Cover the pressure cooker lid & cook for 12-15 minutes on a medium high flame.
3. When the cooker comes to room temperature (the whistle/weight comes off easily), mix the contents and add water to arrive at the desired consistency. Don't add too much water, the daal should be thickish. Toss in the chopped coriander leaves. Cover & keep aside.
4. For the tempering/seasoning, on a medium flame, heat the ghee in a smaller pan and toss in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering add the green chillies, ginger, garlic and onions and fry lightly until you get a nice aroma and take care to see that the contents do not burn. Quickly pour this seasoning into the prepared daal.
5. Serve hot with baati or rice!

Preparing the baati
1. In a flat wide bowl mix all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the baati' and knead it into a smooth dough. Add very little water only if required. Keep covered until required. Pre-heat the oven on Low on grill/broil mode (I preheated at 110 degrees C for 10mins). Keep a baking tray covered with aluminium foil ready
2. Pinch out lemon sized balls out of the dough and roll between the palms to ensure that the surface has no cracks. Gently make a dimple (thumb impression) in the centre of each baati. 
3. Brush each baati generously with the ghee and place on the baking tray and into the oven on the top rack and broil/grill for approx 20-25 minutes flipping them halfway across bake time. Add or reduce bake time depending on your oven to ensure that the baatis turn a golden brown evenly.
4. Remove, dunk them in ghee (unless you are health conscious) and serve hot with Panchmel Daal

Notes:
The baatis do not fluff up and are not soft like regular bread/buns. This is because there is no leavening agent (like yeast, baking powder etc) used. The baatis remain the way they looked before you put them into the oven, except that they emerge harder, browner and tastier.







Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meat Biryani - Beary (Mangalorean Muslim) Style

I guess I am taking my new year 'resolution' a bit too seriously. Although I cook & click almost on a daily basis, I don't have as much enthusiasm to post the recipes soon enough. I am enjoying my time off the blog doing routine things that include enjoying my new found sense of relaxation thanks to the yoga classes that I joined a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, my mornings are extra-hectic because of them especially since my teacher likes to call her students for some extra classes during the week. But then no one's complaining. It truly gives me my 'me-time' which is hard to come by otherwise. Throw in a few exercises and I think I am doing much better health-wise than I ever did before. I was never quite a 'gym person' although with a strict diet (read portion control) and some good ol' brisk walking in the garden I could keep weight under control.


However, all my discipline goes for a toss when a good biryani comes along :-) I think I have written volumes about my biryani obsession and I don't want to elaborate on it once more. But I want to make a subtle point here - more than trying out just any biryani, the sole purpose of my life (as I have now defined) is to try out different kinds of biryanis made by people of different cultures. This year hopefully I want to try out at least 5-6 different styles and flavours of biryanis that include different techniques of cooking. I am sure there are no dearth of recipes and I am confident that a majority of them are already recorded in Katy Dalal's Biryanis & Pulaos that I proudly possess. However, I didn't have to flip through that book this time. One of my readers who belongs to the Beary (pronounced as 'barry' or 'byari') community in Mangalore wrote in to me and after a few mail exchanges we became friends. She was kind enough to share a tried & tested biryani recipe and that had me drooling instantly. I realised that I had not yet posted any Beary style recipe although I have tried out recipes from the much celebrated cuisines of the  Bunt, Konkani, Catholic & Protestant communities of Mangalore. So I am thankful to Mrs. Safiya Rahamathulla for her recipe.


The Beary is the Muslim community concentrated mostly in coastal South Kanara (Dakshin Kannada). This ethnic society incorporates the local Tulu culture of Dakshin Kannada and diverse traditions of the Moplahs of the Malabar coast and is one of the earliest Muslim inhabitants of India. The Bearys speak their own dialect called the Beary Bashe or nakk-nikk, also known as Beary palaka. I am reminded of my various trips to the string of shoe shops (owned by Bearys) on Market Road, Hampankatta where I used to listen to this unique language and try to make sense out of it. Was it Tulu or Malayalam or a blend of both? This language kept me guessing throughout the shoe purchasing session. I also used to hear bits of this language and glimpses into the daily lives of Bearys when I used to pass by some houses while on my way to my granny's place. Elderly ladies in ethnic Beary style attire, their ears and necks adorned with intricate ornaments used to always catch my attention. We exchanged a smile to acknowledge the familiarity of a stranger - (as much as it sounds like an oxymoron) bringing about a sense of secularism that probably is struggling to survive in our country today and especially in Mangalore. 


The word 'Beary' is said to have been derived from the Tulu word 'Byara' which means trade or business and since the major portion of the community was involved in business & trading activities, the local Tulu speaking majority called them as Beary or Byari. However, a couple of other theories suggest that the term Beary could also have been derived from the Arabic word Bahar which means 'ocean' and Bahri means 'sailor' or 'navigator'. It could also have been derived from the root word 'Malabar' since the great Islamic Da'ee, Malik bin Deenar had arrived on the coast of Malabar during the 6th century and a member from his group Habeen bin Malik travelled through Tulunad, preached Islam and is also credited with the building of a mosque in the Bunder area of Mangalore in 644 A.D (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Now here's a bit of history that I found interesting. As per Wikipedia Bearys used to refer to the area south of Mangalore (I am assuming is towards the Thokottu area) as Maikala which is their cultural and economical capital and apparently Maikala got its name through the Kadri Manjunath Temple which was earlier a Buddhist temple. The Buddhist goddess Tara Bhagavathi was also known as Mayadevi who in the course of time came to be known as Maikala. Historians are of the opinion that Maikala is one of the ancient names of Mangalore. Some say that Mangalore got its name from the temple of Mangaladevi. However, irrespective of the root of its name, its important to note that so much history is buried deep beneath this beautiful coastal city that is home to people from various faiths, beliefs and cultural ethnicities. It is a blend of these cultures that makes Mangalore what it is today - so special & so endearing.  


Honestly my association with the Beary community was minimal during my growing up years as there were just a couple of Beary girls in my class who were quiet and peace loving and quite contrary to the prankster in me :-) I wish I had made more friends and enjoyed their company and maybe, just maybe I would have had some food related memories to talk about today ;-)

Now, a little about today's dish. Although I have tried many types of biryanis involving elaborate as well as simple procedures, this is one of those flavourful biryanis that are made with minimal ingredients and carry a South Indian trademark - especially because of the use of coriander leaves that are not ground but shredded during the layering thus avoiding the bitterness that the leaves impart if used in large quantities.


 This biryani is very subtle in its flavour and aroma with just about the distinct fragrance of fennel wafting through the grains. Do adjust the quantity of fennel to suit your taste. I recommend you to make this biryani at least a couple of hours in advance before you serve it. This helps the flavours set in as the dum helps to achieve and I must say that it tastes better the next day. The flavours are not over the top and despite the use of a lot of ghee, it does not taste like a heavy duty biryani that one finds hard to digest (unless your choice of meat is beef)

The preparation & cooking time have been calculated considering a slow cook like me (especially beginners). If you are quick, this biryani does not take as much time as mentioned below. I have given elaborate instructions which experts may not really need. Feel free to dabble with the method of preparing the rice depending on the luxury of time you have and also alter the ingredients as per taste.


Meat Biryani - Beary (Mangalorean Muslim) Style
Preparation time: 45min | Cooking time: 1 hr  | Layering & Cooking on Dum : 30mins
Serves 4-5

You Need:
  • 1 kg beef or mutton on the bone
  • juice of 1/2 lime (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi) (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • fistful of chopped coriander leaves (optional - use while cooking the meat)
  • 5 big onions sliced
  • 6 juicy tomatoes thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of coriander leaves chopped
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cardamoms
  • 3 cloves
  • salt to taste
  • ghee for frying
For the rice 
  • 600gm / 3 cups basmati rice * see notes
  • 2 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cardamoms
  • salt to taste
For the masala (to be ground)
  • 8-10 green chilies *see notes
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds (badashep/saunf) * see notes
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 whole pods garlic peeled (Indian variety)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp mace (javithri) flakes
  • 3-4 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1/2 nutmeg (zaiphal)
  • 1 packed cup of mint leaves
 To be ground separately
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds (khus khus) (substitute with 1 tsp grated coconut if khus khus is not available)
  • 5 almonds (badam) soaked in hot water and skinned

For the layering
  • 3 onions finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 1-1/2 packed cups of coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 pinches saffron strands soaked in 3 tsp rose water or milk
  • 2 tsp Garam masala (optional)
  • 15-20 whole cashewnuts
  • 20-25 raisins/kishmish
  • 2 tsp ghee (to grease the pan)
 Method:

A) Cooking the meat
1. Cut the meat into medium size pieces, wash and allow to drain on a colander for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer into a pressure cooker and sprinkle water up to the level of the meat. Add salt to taste. Add lime juice, turmeric powder & fistful of coriander leaves
3. Cover & cook on a full flame until the first whistle goes off (takes about 8-10mins). 
4. Reduce the flame to sim and continue to cook for 20-25mins in the case of beef. If you are using mutton, follow the same procedure till step#3 and then cook for about 13-15 mins if the mutton is tender. 
5. Allow the pressure cooker to cool down completely before removing the weight (whistle). Mix contents once and keep aside.

B) Preparing the garnish
1. Heat 4 tbsp ghee in a wide heavy bottomed pan and fry the onions till golden brown, drain & keep aside. 
2. To the same ghee add cashewnuts and fry till golden brown n drain n keep aside. 
3. Turn off the flame and add the raisins n take it immediatly or else it will burn.

C) Preparing the masala
1. In a large pan (or use the same pan that was used to fry the garnish) heat 2 tsp ghee.  Toss in the whole spices (garam masala) and fry for a minute. 
2. Add onions and fry till golden brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes. 
3. Add the sliced tomato and fry for 2 mins on a medium high heat and reduce the flame a bit and continue to fry until the oil separates from the masala.
4. Add the ground green chilli masala, fry for about 4-5mins
5. Add the pre-cooked beef/mutton, adjust salt to taste and add the meat stock in parts. Allow to boil till meat is tender. Don’t make a watery gravy but use up stock to make a thick gravy.
6. Add the almond paste to it n boil again 4-5 mins. Add chopped coriander leaves on top of it. Turn off the flame after a couple of minutes 

D) Preparing the rice 
Using the draining technique (where rice is partially cooked, layered with meat and then placed on 'dum' till it is fully cooked)
1. Wash & soak the basmati rice in water for 15mins. 
2. Boil rice in plenty of water along with the whole garam masala. Cool al-dente (3/4th done). 
3. Drain and keep aside until required

OR  

You can prepare the rice using the absorption technique (where rice is fully cooked and then layered along with meat)
1. Wash & soak the basmati rice in water for 15mins
2. For 600gms (3 cups) rice use a little less than double the quantity of water. ie 3x2 = 6 cups of water minus 1/2 cup = total of 5-1/2 cups of boiling water. 
3. Heat 2 tsp of ghee in a large enough pan to accommodate cooked rice, add the washed & drained rice and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the freshly boiled water. Adjust salt to taste and add juice of 1/2 a lime. You may add 2 bullion (stock) cubes for an additional flavour. 
4. Bring the water to a rolling boil, stir and cover the pan with a tight lid. Reduce flame completely and continue to cook for 6 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the rice cook in the steam. Open the lid after 3-4 minutes and fluff up with a fork. Cover & keep aside till required.

E) Assembling
1. Brush the base and sides of a large wide vessel with 2tsp ghee. Place one third of the meat as the first layer.  Add a one third of the of the rice over the meat. This is the second layer
2. Sprinkle one third of the fried onions, cashewnuts, raisins, a few coriander leaves, a few mint leaves, part of the saffron mixed in rose water. This is the third layer.
3. Repeat the process till all the meat, rice and garnish has been layered. 
4. Make a few holes through the biryani and drizzle some ghee through them.

If you have cooked the rice as per the absorption technique proceed to step# 6, else proceed to step#4

4. Seal the vessel with dough or aluminium foil. Place a tight lid over it to ensure there is no loss of steam.
5. Place on the vessel on a cast iron tawa/skillet and let the biryani to cook on dum for 20-25mins. Turn off the flame and allow the flavours and aromas to blend well before serving.
6. Serve hot with the raitha of your choice

Notes
Rice: The original recipe asks for a 1:1 ration between the meat & the rice. However I have scaled it down to 600gm of rice to a kilogram of meat since I have a small family. 
Chillies: The original recipe calls for 20 green chillies since there is no other source of basic spice (peppercorns or such), however, I used 10 medium sized green chillies as I was using just 600gm rice. This resulted in a moderately spicy biryani. Adjust the quantity of chillies according to your taste and as per the quantity of rice used.
Fennel seeds: Reduce the quantity by half only if you don't like the intense fragrance of fennel seeds, however, the aroma does get masked by other ingredients when the gravy is done.
Although this is a dum style biryani, you may choose to hasten the process by cooking the rice fully, layering it & then serving it immediately. However, the dum technique increases the flavour quotient of this biryani. 


Recipe updated on 10/02/2012 to incorporate minor changes to the ground masala which now includes the below items that were earlier mentioned under 'For the rice'
  • 1 tsp mace (javithri) flakes
  • 3-4 star anise (chakri phool)
  • 1/2 nutmeg (zaiphal)