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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mangalorean Vegetable Masala Powder (Spice Blend for Vegetarian Dishes)

A few of my favourite things in the kitchen are ready made spice blends. I think every Mangalorean has at least some stock of Bafat powder in his/her kitchen pantry at any given time and I think the people who value such spice blends the most are those who live outside Mangalore and have to lug around a precious few kilos back home after their vacation in their home town. As many of my readers tell me, its a nightmare to run out of such blends. Gosh! What do you do when you plan to make Pork Bafat for a party and have just 1 tsp of the precious masala staring back at you? Well, you gotta make some then. But of course, sometimes making a whole batch at home is not possible unless you have very reliable and powerful dry grinding gadgets or better still, a flour mill round the corner. I have neither - so I decided to make a tiny batch of this lovely vegetable masala powder - my own recipe, largely adapted from the book Ranpi. Actually I scaled down the ingredients to 1/10th of what was mentioned and followed the method to a T.


This aromatic spice blend is put together using a lot of ingredients, but don't be daunted by them as you need just a fraction of most of them and can easily grind them in the smallest jar of your mixer grinder. The yield is good enough to last you a couple of months (or depending on your usage) and won't occupy much space in your pantry. While the Bafat powder is often associated with meats and fish preparations, the veg masala powder is well suited for dry stir fries garnished with coconut. However, do not restrict yourself to using this only for vegetables, you can use it along with any other spice blend of your choice as it lends that extra aroma and flavour to your curry.

There are a hundred recipes out there for every spice blend so feel free to alter the quantities of the ingredients slightly.


Mangalorean Vegetable Masala Powder 
Prep time: 10-15mins | Cook time: Nil | Yield: 100gm (approx)

Ingredients:
  • 50gm long dry red chillies (I used Byadgi chillies)
  • 25gm coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 gm mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch carom seeds (omam/ajwain)
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1/4 tsp split black gram dal (urad dal)
  • 1/4 tsp bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 1/4 tsp split green gram (skinless) (moong dal)
  • 1/4 tsp pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • 12 gm boiled rice (ukda chawal)
  • 1/2 tsp oil
Method:
Heat oil in a tawa/skillet and roast each of the ingredients one by one and remove on a plate. Allow to cool a bit before powdering them together in a dry grinding jar of your mixer grinder. Store in an airtight container and use as required.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sarson Ka Saag (Punjabi Mustard Greens)

A few posts ago I had written about how my coming to Mumbai changed my entire perspective towards food and especially widened my horizon as far as North Indian food was concerned. When in Mangalore, my only brush with North Indian food (mainly Punjabi food) was Paneer Butter Masala or Tandoori Chicken served with whole wheat rotis. I have to admit that I didn't eat out a lot until maybe I started to earn my own mega bucks, so yes my exposure to the variety available was very less. It is only when I stepped out of Mangalore that I got to experience the whole gamut of things that come under the term "North Indian food".



Although I love greens of all types, mustard greens or sarson ('sarso' with a nasal pronunciation) was something I had never tried cooking myself. Didn't do it this time either. This recipe is Roshan's as he simply loves sarson especially when they are cooked with chicken - popularly known as 'Saag Wala Murg' (chicken cooked in greens). No matter what your preference is - vegetarian or non vegetarian, these greens taste awesome as there is some amount of bitterness that is to die for (trust me!). Like all greens, a whole bundle of it will get pathetically reduced to a tiny pile that may not look as appetising as it actually tastes.

Sarson Ka Saag is perennially married to Makki ki Roti (Maize flour rotis/flatbread) and tastes out of the world when eaten as a combo, however chapathis tastes just as good. I experimented eating it with rice and watery daal too - a complete Mangalorean that I am and the experiment didn't fail - it tasted just as good.

Sourcing the greens at this time may be a little hard. For those of you who do not know how they look - I am sorry, I totally missed to click the pictures in time, will update this post shortly (or Google can help you). For the rest of you who know how they look, do grab some when they are in season and enjoy this lovely dish.



Sarson Ka Saag (Punjabi Mustard Greens)
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 20 mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
  • 2 bunches (approx 400gm) of mustard leaves
  • 1 bunch (approx 200gm) spinach/palak
  • 1 big onion (finely minced)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1-1/2 tsp garlic (finely minced)
  • 2-3 green chilies sliced (adjust to taste)
  • 2 long dry red chilies (whole)
  • 4 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp maize flour (substitute with cornflour/cornstarch)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp sugar or jaggery (to get rid of any bitterness) *optional
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing (optional)
  • salt to taste


Method:
1. Wash and drain the spinach & mustard leaves and chop them. Transfer into a pan and boil them along with the green chillies and half a cup of water for 4-5 minutes. (leave the pan uncovered or else the leaves will change colour). 
2. Remove pan from fire, drain excess water and allow to cool. Reserve the drained water for later use. Blend the leaves to a coarse paste.
3. Heat ghee in a pan, toss in the red chilies, onions and garlic, hing (optional) and sauté till brown.
4. Add ginger paste, coarse paste of greens, garam masala, maize flour, lemon juice, salt to taste, sugar or jaggery (optional) and reserved water (depending on the consistency/thickness desired) and cook on a slow fire till the oil starts to separate from it (approx 8-10mins). Remove from fire.
5. Garnish with butter cube and serve hot preferably with Makki Ki Roti (Maize flour rotis)



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Lost and found! That would be the best way to describe this post. Although I am not one of those people who keep losing things, I somehow lost the little piece of paper I had made notes on when I made this cake last year. Yup! I was too lazy to search for this piece of paper which I knew was safely tucked away in one of my recipe files. Alas! When I finally got around to editing the pictures, I couldn't find the recipe, so back it went into the drafts. I can be really disorganized when it comes to my recipe collection - the zillions of recipes that I cut out from magazines and newspapers just get shoved into this large file and I always intend to make separate sections for different kinds of recipes so its easier to find them when I intend to cook something specific.


Anyway, today I was actually sorting out my computer table drawer when I found this recipe and I had to post it right away, even though Halloween is a few weeks away and it would have been so apt to post it during the season. But then, its not a tradition that we follow in India anyway. 


I made this cake at a time when I was obsessed with baking cakes that substituted butter with oil and also had some healthy stuff a.k.a vegetables thrown in. When I found this recipe on Shawn's Plate I was very keen to make it, so I halved the ingredients and skipped the glaze and whipped cream that I bet would have made it really decadent and sinfully delicious. Sadly there are no takers for fancy cakes in my house. It is tea cakes/sponge cakes or nothing. I was quite pleased with the results and I am sure you will like it too.


Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Prep time: 15mins | Bake time: 50mins | Yield: 12 medium sized servings/slices

You Need:
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1-1/4 cups (270gm) sugar (powdered)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 215gm ripe pumpkin pureed 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice *see notes
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/4 tsp all spice powder (optional)
  • 1/8th tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
1. Grease a 10" bundt pan well and dust it with a little flour. Preheat oven at 175 C/350F for 10mins (if using an OTG with no preheating option).
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt 2-3 times. Keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and oil, add one egg at a time and beat well. Add the pumpkin puree, spices and mix well.
4. Add the flour in 2-3 parts, mixing between additions. Add the vanilla extract and fold to incorporate.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40minutes, thereafter reduce the heat to 165C/325F and continue to bake for 10minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
7. Serve warm with tea or coffee.

Notes:
I substituted the pumpkin pie spice with mixed spice used for Christmas/plum cakes. If you are using mixed spice you can skip the nutmeg & all spice powders as the mixed spice powder contains these.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Alyache Dhoss / Ale Dos (Mangalorean Ginger Preserve)

A few years ago I never thought in my wildest dreams that someday I would try my hand at making Alyache Dhoss - a traditional Mangalorean ginger preserve that I had grown up to love. Thanks to blogging and my passion to preserve our culinary heritage, I finally converted this dream into reality. Making this preserve is considered to be one of the hardest (in terms of complexity) among the whole range of Mangalorean foods. However, I believe that it has a lot to do with patience and passion than with complexity. One must be able to pick up this skill at a young age and have the will to complete the task from start to finish. 


Our grandmothers had this innate quality to do just that - maybe that stems from the quality of being a nurturer to the usually large brood of kids they took care of and brought up lovingly in those days. It also meant taking care of their nutritional needs without dipping too much the meager earnings of their husbands. This need ensured that almost everything that grew in their yards was put to use in the best possible way. Pickles, preserves, wines, jams & poppadoms with no commercial price tag made their way into the kitchen larder and lasted the whole year through with no added preservatives or the bare minimum that were again natural. Such was their lifestyle and healthy eating habits that kept families hale and hearty - much more than today's generation. 

I guess every one of us knows at least one of two women in Mangalore who have this burning passion to make preserves of all types. Home cooks who double up as pickle/preserve makers during the season. While some of them make it out of passion and distribute the fruit of their labour amongst friends and family, the others make it to support their income. During my growing up years, I knew of a lady in my lane - Ms. Elize who would make the best shredded mango pickle (kosrache lonche), grape and ginger wines and of course the good ol' ginger preserve. I freaked out on the taste the first time I tasted it and loved the mild spiciness of the ginger that burnt my throat and the delicately sweet sugar syrup that followed to sooth it. Yum yum yum! 

I don't need to elaborate on the health benefits of ginger, but this humble root that is native to India and China is used in a lot of forms - whole root -fresh & dried, powdered, preserved, crystallized and pickled. It is known for its medicinal benefits especially as a digestive aid, treatment for nausea resulting from motion sickness and morning sickness. It has anit-inflammatory properties and may help relieve pain from arthritis, rheumatism and muscle cramps. Ginger tea is used in home remedies for colds, cough and the flu.


I don't really recall if my grandma made the dhoss although she is a big expert at making pickles - I need to get her recipes next. But what a delight it was for me when I got married and met Aunty Jessie who is another expert at making all the above mentioned goodies the whole year through. Since I was so in love with the dhoss that she makes I asked her the recipe to make it and she was kind enough to give me the instructions. This was before the blog was born and I somehow lost the recipe in my archives. However, since I continued to receive my annual quota of a nice bottle of dhoss from her I did not attempt to search for the recipe or to make it myself all these years (I never thought I could make it since I was never the jams and pickles person anyways). 

This year Roshan and I decided that we had to give homemade dhoss a shot. The basic requirement for this is very new/tender ginger that is available during the first harvest right after the monsoons. This ginger looks very pale with just a delicate film of skin. Tender ginger is the one which has no fibre in it and hence it is best sourced between the last week of August and the first week of September. If you are keen to make it right away, try sourcing it before the 20th of this month - you may just be lucky. 

We sourced it from Mangalore and it came in just last week after which we set to work. 


Although the process is lengthy, the result is absolutely amazing. Our whole house was filled with the warm and sweet aroma of the ginger married to the sugar. The tender ginger has stewed so well in the sugar syrup that it gives out amazing taste aroma with a very very mild aftertaste of caramel - well, no, its not the taste of burnt sugar/caramel but of sugar that has cooked well. The addition of lime juice gives it a lovely flavour and helps prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing. 

You can make a jam out of this if you chop the ginger really fine - the cooking time will reduce too. Try it, it tastes amazing when spread over chapathis!


I am so happy that this recipe helped me recreate the memories of my childhood. I am even more pleased that it tastes as good as the dhoss that Aunty Jessie makes as lovingly sends for me every time. A big thank you to my sister-in-law Raina Castelino for taking the trouble to source the ginger & parcel it to me right in time and her mum-in-law Aunty Jessie Castelino for her lovely recipe and her patience to clarify all my doubts when I set out to make it. I know this sounds like a speech, but this would not have happened without your help!

Alyache Dhoss / Ale Dos (Mangalorean Ginger Preserve)
Prep time: 30 - 40 mins | Soaking time: 2-3 days | Cooking time: 2-1/2 - 3 hours * see note#4

You Need:
  • 1 kg very tender (new) ginger * see note#1
  • 1 kg sugar * see note#2
  • approx 1 litre water * see note#3
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1 lime
You will also need
  • a clean muslin cloth
  • a sterilized glass jar/canister (approx 1.5 litres) or multiple smaller glass jars
Method:
1. Wash the ginger thoroughly to remove any traces of mud, wipe with a cloth and gently scrape off the peel/skin. Poke each piece of ginger with a fork or a clean unused hair pin (U pin) - take care not to tear the flesh of very tender ginger. The more you poke the better it will stew in the sugar syrup and taste sweet.
2. Soak the ginger in sufficient water to cover it and keep aside. Change this water twice a day (morning & evening) for two days.


3. On the third day, drain off the water and place the ginger in a pressure cooker and add enough water up to  1 inch above the level of the ginger. Cover the lid, place the weight (whistle) and pressure cook on a full flame till the first whistle goes off. Reduce the flame to sim and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Turn off the flame, allow the cooker to cool off to room temperature. Open and stir. Keep aside.
4. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and smash the whole egg into it (along with the shell), mix well and then add the water and stir well. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, you will notice that the scum (dirt) in the sugar would have floated to the surface. Continue to boil till you are able to see clear liquid below the scum (use a spoon to part the scum). Line a clean bowl with a clean muslin cloth and carefully strain the liquid into it. Discard the scum and transfer the sugar syrup into a large heavy bottomed pan and put it back on the fire and bring it to a boil till it thickens a bit.



Above pic: 
1. The scum on the surface of the sugar syrup 2. The clear liquid beneath the scum 
3. Strain the syrup on a clean cloth 4. Scum to be discarded

5. Add the pressure cooked ginger and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If you feel the water has reduced you may add a cup at a time. After two hours check if the ginger is tender and the sugar syrup has penetrated inside each piece, if not, put it back on the fire. If done, add the lime juice, stir and remove from fire and cover with a slotted plate to allow excess heat/steam to escape. When the preserve has completely cooled down, the syrup will thicken.

Above pic: 
1. Strain excess clear syrup from the cloth 2. The clear sugar syrup without impurities
3. Drain cooking liquor from the pressure cooked ginger 4. Add the cooked ginger to the sugar syrup


6. Store in sterilized airtight glass jars/canisters. If prepared hygienically the preserve will last for a year without refrigeration * see note#5

Notes:
1. In and around Mangalore (across the coast) new & very tender ginger is available when the monsoons begin to taper off - this is usually from the end of August till the first week of September. Traditionally this preserve is prepared before the Nativity (Monthi) feast that falls on September 8th, so be sure to buy/source your ginger around this time. Any delay will result in slightly fibrous ginger which is not suitable for this preparation. In India, tender ginger is not easily available in the commercial market unless you place an order for it as it tends to rot fast and hence what you see in the market is always matured ginger which is highly fibrous.
2. For extra sweet sugar syrup increase the sugar by another 200-250 grams.
3. The quantity of water to be used is usually proportionate to the quantities of sugar and ginger, however, it may slightly vary depending on the tenderness of the ginger and the consistency (thickness) of the syrup desired. So keep 1.5 litres of water handy and use only as required.
4. The initial preparation time will be reduced if you have a helping hand to clean the ginger. Cooking time will vary slightly depending on the tenderness of ginger used. Also, each piece of ginger needs to be adequately pricked/poked with a fork - only then will the sugar syrup penetrate the pores and help to stew the pieces properly.
5. Always use a clean dry spoon to remove the ginger preserve.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Mutlim / Mutlin (Dimpled Rice Dumplings)

How many of you believe in numerology? I don't, but I do have a favourite number - it is the number of letters that make my name. 7 it is. It is not that this number is lucky for me but I quite like it irrespective of what luck it brings me. In the Bible, this number has been mentioned several times over in different contexts and is very significant. Hey, wait a minute, I am not getting religious here, I am just happy to present 7 dumplings as you see in the picture below to celebrate 7 lakh page views that my blog has just received!

Thank you to each and every reader - the new and the old, family, friends (and foes!) and friends of friends who have made this possible.

I did intend to create a special post for it, but then I would be missing to post the recipe of the Mutlim or Mutlin as we call rice dumplings in Konkani. Somehow I felt that these 7 dumplings sitting on a kurpon (platter woven out of reed) were apt for today's occasion. This recipe was part of the Indian Food Trail series hosted by Sailaja of Sailu's Kitchen where I presented Mangalorean cuisine with a focus on Catholic cuisine as a guest blogger.

Read all the three parts here:



Mutlim / Mutlin (Dimpled Rice Dumplings)
Prep (soaking) time: 4 hours | Cooking (grinding+steaming) time 30-40mins | Yield 15-17 dumplings

You Need:
  • 1/2 kg white or red boiled rice (ukda chawal) * see notes
  • 1-1/2 cups grated coconut
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash and soak the rice for at least 3-4 hours (for best results). Drain and keep aside. If you are using a traditional grinding stone, grind the rice and salt to a slightly coarse, thick & dryish paste. Add the coconut towards the very end (the coconut should not be fully ground). If you are using a mixer grinder you may need to add some water (sparingly) to grind the rice & coconut - the batter may be slightly thinner in this case. 
2. If you have a bit of a thin batter, transfer it into a non stick pan and cook on a medium low flame stirring until all the excess moisture evaporates and you have a lump. You know it's ready when the base begins to brown slightly. Turn off the flame and transfer onto a large bowl. When it is cool enough to handle, quickly knead to achieve a smooth surface.
3. Grease your palm with oil if required and pinch out lemon sized balls of the dough. Roll to form a smooth surface and form a dimple with your thumb. Continue until all the dough is used to make mutlims. 
4. Transfer all mutlims into a bowl, cover with a cloth and steam for 20-25 minutes. The mutlims are done when their surface is no longer sticky.
5. Serve hot with chicken or mutton curry of your choice. 

Notes:
1. Boiled rice is different from cooked rice. Boiled rice is a variety of rice that is involves partial boiling of paddy before it is de-husked and sold. Boiled rice with bran is called as brown/red boiled rice and that without the bran is called as white boiled rice available at most grocers by the name Ukda Chawal (in Hindi) or Katsambar (in Kannada) or Ukdo Tandul (in Konkani)
2. You can make the sweeter version of these dumplings by stuffing a jaggery & coconut mixture into the dough just before steaming. These are known as god mutlim.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Galinha à Africana - African Chicken from Macau

Folks, today I don't have any mundane things to rant about apart from this amazing dish that Roshan cooked for our Sunday meal. Early Sunday morning he popped the question which always sounds like music to my ears. Nah! It's not 'will you marry me' - he said that years ago. It's the more enchanting "Shall I cook something special today?". I gave him the "Neki aur pooch pooch?" look(in Hindi that roughly translates to 'don't ask for permission when you want to do a good deed'). Well, I handed over the kitchen to him and vanished till noon time. 

I knew he had mentioned about the African Chicken to me sometime ago, but it never really registered in my mind. The one he particularly loved is the version made in Henri's Galley in Macau, an hour away from Hong Kong. Although I've been to Macau myself, I never got the opportunity to visit this place and taste its famous dish. The original recipe they say was never disclosed by the chef, Americo Agnelo who created it in the 1940s. Mr. Agnelo worked in a small hotel called Pousada de Macau and legend has it that although this dish is said to have evolved over the centuries by Portuguese soldiers who visited Macau from stations in Africa such as Mozambique, it was Mr. Agnelo who put together what stands out as an 'original' among today's 'almost original' attempts.


Since it was a dish purely created in a restaurant, it has not been passed down from one generation to the other as a family tradition. It is said that Mr. Agnelo jealously guarded his secret recipe and did not as much let anyone watch him cook the dish apart from letting a junior chef pick up a special blend of spices from a local Chinese store. Unfortunately, when Mr. Agnelo fell grievously ill and knew that his time on earth was up he began to share the recipe in bits and pieces with his staff after which several attempts were made to recreate the dish. However, attempts remained just attempts with their creation not being even close to the original.

What I truly liked about the dish was its amazing flavour that permeates the meat after the baking is done. When I tasted the sauce as it was boiling, it had a dominating flavour of peanuts which I felt was okay, however, the chicken underwent miraculous transformation when it reappeared out of the oven. A slightly blackened surface with a beautiful thick sauce that was bubbling over was what greeted me. A couple of large potatoes that were perfectly baked proved to be a great accompaniment to the very succulent & flavourful chicken. We threw in a few slices of multi grain bread and our meal was complete and satisfying.


This was fusion food at its best, what with several flavours borrowed from different cuisines - almost every place ruled by the Portuguese lent its own trademark flavour to this dish. Portugal (smoked paprika), Africa (peanuts), India (coconut) and China (five-spice). The sauce has a fine balance of creamy sweetness brought in by the peanuts and coconut, delicate spice from the paprika and aromas from each of the five spices - I particularly liked the very subtle aroma and flavour of the star anise. 

Today, African Chicken is served on the menu of almost every Macanese restaurant with the best version (according to Roshan) served at Henri's Galley. If I ever visit Macau again I will not leave the place till I've tasted some Galinha à Africana there. Don't miss your opportunity if you get one!

This dish is an adaptation from many sources of recipes guided by Roshan's fine sense of taste.


Galinha à Africana - African Chicken from Macau
Prep time: overnight (marination)+20mins | Baking time: 35-50mins (depending on your oven) | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 big potatoes, peeled and quartered
For the marinade:
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped / minced
  • 2 tbsp onions, finely chopped / minced
  • 1 tsp paprika (chilli flakes)
  • 2 tsp Five Spice powder * see notes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper (approx 1/2 tsp)
For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped / minced
  • 1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped / minced
  • 1/2 cup sweet paprika finely chopped or substitute it with 1/2 cup red bell pepper (capsicum)
  • 1 tsp chilli power (optional - if additional spice required)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut (pulse it just a couple of times in a grinder)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter or 1 tbsp of roasted peanuts finely ground
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash and drain the chicken breasts. Wipe with a kitchen tissue to remove excess moisture. Marinate it with all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the marinade', cover the bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate overnight for best results (or for a minimum of 2 hours)
2. To make the sauce, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onions, garlic and cook until soften for about 5 minutes. Add the sweet paprika or bell pepper and extra chilli powder if required, ground coconut and cook for another few minutes. Add chicken stock, coconut milk, bay leaves and peanut butter and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
3. Heat 2 tbps oil and fry (brown) the chicken and transfer the same onto a well greased baking tray, also fry the potatoes in the same oil for about 5 minutes on a low heat and transfer the same to baking tray. Cover the chicken and potatoes with the cooked sauce.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check after 30-35 minutes to see if the potatoes and chicken are tender.
4. Serve with bread or rice.

Notes:
Five spice powder is available in most supermarkets or those that stock Chinese condiments & spices


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jivo Roce (Sweetened Coconut Milk) - Monthi Feast Special

Today, the 8th of September is the feast of the Natitivity of The Blessed Virgin Mary. In short, it is the birthday of Mary, mother of Jesus. This feast is also called as the 'Monthi Saibineeche Festh' in Konkani and is celebrated with great gusto in South Kanara. Since the feast happens to fall in the month of September which is also the time when monsoons almost taper off, and new crop is harvested, it is celebrated as the harvest feast. The first crop is offered to God during the Mass and His blessings are sought. The nine days preceding this feast is called the Novena (pronounced 'no-veena') where people pray successively for nine days in the belief of obtaining special intercessory graces. In Mangalore, tradition has it that children, especially school going kids attend daily evening Mass and thereafter honour Mother Mary by offering flowers that they lovingly bring from their gardens. After the offering of flowers, sweets are distributed among all the children and this was something I looked forward to as a kid. On the day of the feast, sugarcanes are  distributed instead of sweets. I am sure everyone from Mangalore who has participated in this event at some point or the other in their lives cherishes these lovely memories.


Now, let's talk about food! The feast day menu usually consists of a full vegetarian meal. Traditionally these vegetables were the ones newly harvested and hence the list of items that go on the menu are also traditionally passed down from one generation to the other with a few exceptions. In my house, my mother always cooked the Alun Dento (Colocasia stems cooked with Amaranth stalks in a coconut gravy), Sanna (Steamed idlis made of yeasted batter), Gosalem or Benda Thel Piyao (Ridge Gourd or Lady's Finger Oil & Onion Style), Sonay Sukhe (Black chana/Garbanzo Fugad) or Moog Sukho (Sprouted Green Gram Fugad). Unlike most traditional meals that were finished off with a Vorn (payasam), on this day my mother would make Jivo Roce - Freshly extracted coconut milk flavoured with jaggery & cardamom. This was called 'Jivo' (meaning raw) because she would make it without boiling the coconut milk. It tastes best when eaten with Sanna. Some people make this sweet roce all year round as an accompaniment to Sheviyo (Stringhoppers), similar to how Keralites eat it with Idiappam.


Somehow, since I was rather disconnected from traditions and food as a child (I only ate to survive) I never really bothered to enjoy this grand finale and always made a mad dash to the porch of my traditional Mangalorean house where the sugarcanes were kept and enjoyed an afternoon of chewing on sweet sugarcanes and chatting with my cousins. Most times I ended with mouth ulcers after all that chewing! Ouch! I wish I had stuck to the Jivo Roce :-) But, no regrets there as those days will never come back and neither will such fresh & succulent sugarcanes! My son is definitely missing something today.


Jivo Roce (Sweetened Coconut Milk)
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: Nil | Serves 3-4

You Need:

  • 1 medium size coconut or 2 cups freshly grated coconut
  • 3-4 tbsp grated/ powdered jaggery (approx 30-50gm) adjust o taste
  • 3-4 cardamom pods powdered

Method:
1. Pulse the grated coconut with a little lukewarm water (approx 1/2 cup) for 8-10 seconds in a mixer grinder. Do not make a paste of it or extracting the milk will be difficult.
2. Line a bowl with a thin muslin cloth and transfer the contents from the grinder onto the cloth. Pull the open ends together to make a bundle and gently squeeze out the thick coconut milk into the bowl. This is the first extract. Empty the contents back into the mixer grinder and add another 1/2 cup of water and pulse it for another few seconds. Remove and repeat the process of squeezing out the milk. This is the thin coconut milk or the second extract.
3. In a large bowl mix the thick milk and a little thin milk to achieve the desired consistency. Do not make it too watery. Add the jaggery and cardamom powder and stir
4. Serve with Sanna and enjoy



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fish Cutlets

Seafood is a significant part of our meals in Mangalore and cutlets are something I've always grown up eating, especially during parties and such. While most people in Mangalore have the pleasure of eating regular sea food in many interestig ways (prawn pulao if you please?) than just in curries or fried form, I never had such luck thanks to my prawn and crab allergy, so I have always loved the option of fish cutlets that many of my aunts used to prepare. 


I've been meaning to try out fish cutlets for a long time, but was worried if they would turn out alright. I was very pleased at the outcome and I think you should give it a try too! 

Also, read all about Mangalorean Catholic cuisine - what our everyday meals are like, how we celebrate with food during special occasions, parties and weddings and much more on  Sailu's Kitchen in the last & final part of my article on her lovely blog.


Fish Cutlets
Prep time: 30mins | Cooking time: 10mins | Yield 13-14 medium sized cutlets

You Need:
  • 500gm boneless fish (Ghol or Shark)
  • 2 tsp cumin/jeera powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large slice of bread
  • 2 egg whites beaten - for coating
  • oil for shallow frying
To be finely minced
  • 2 medium sized onions
  • 2-3 small green chillies (or to taste)
  • 1-1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 packed cup of coriander & mint leaves (use less of mint)
Method:
1. Wash the fish pieces with salt & turmeric (to remove the fishy smell) and allow to drain on a colander. Marinate it with 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp pepper powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, salt & 1 tsp lime juice. Keep aside for 15-20mins.
2. Finely mince each of the ingredients mentioned under 'To be finely minced'. Heat oil in a non stick pan and fry the ginger, green chillies for a couple of seconds and then add the minced onions and fry till they turn pinkish. Add the minced coriander and mint leaves and fry till you get a nice aroma (takes about 12-15 seconds). Toss in the remaining cumin & pepper powders and lime juice, stir and turn off the flame. Allow this mixture to cool.
3. Boil/cook the marinated fish pieces with 1/2 cup of water till the pieces are tender and almost all the water has been absorbed/evaporated - a little moisture should be retained. Let the fish not get too dry or else it will lose its juiciness and flavour. Remove onto a plate, allow to cool and mince it finely and evenly (for best results pulse it in a food processor/mixer grinder with a mincing blade).
4. Transfer the minced fish in a large bowl, add the fried onion mixture and mix well. Adjust salt to taste. Try to shape the mixture into balls - if they don't hold shape, then wet the bread slice lightly (with about 1tbsp water), mash it & add it to this mixture. Form a lemon sized ball and flatten it in the centre of your palm. Continue to make balls until the mixture is used up.
5. Heat oil in a non stick frying pan, gently dip/coat each cutlet in the egg whites and fry the cutlets on a medium flame till golden brown on both sides.
6. Serve hot as a meal time accompaniment or as a starter along with ketchup or dip of your choice and a garnish of tomato wedges, onion rings and lime slices.

Notes:
1. First timers please note: Do ensure that you check for bones after step#3 even if you have purchased boneless fish. Tiny pieces of broken fish if present can get stuck in the throat while you eat them - totally avoidable!!
2. If you are using frozen fish make sure it is properly thawed at room temperature or it will leave fishy smelling water into the mixture making it soggy and unsuitable for shaping up into cutlets.
3. If you are adding more than 1 slice of bread, adjust the spice and salt accordingly.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Holige / Obbattu (Stuffed Sweet Flatbread)

Being a Mangalorean who has was born and brought up in Mangalore I have had the pleasure of enjoying a variety of snacks that belong to every community in Mangalore. I have loved them then and I love them even more today, when I no longer have easy access to that bakery around the corner where I can go & pick up eatables on a whim. 


Today, if I want to eat some lovely snacks/sweets such as the boondi laddoo (chickpea flour laddoos), mysore pak (roasted chickpea flour sweet cakes), chakklis (savoury rice flour spirals) or malpuri (deep fried mini pancakes soaked in sugar syrup) I need to plan a trip to the nearest Mangalore Stores, wade through the heavy traffic and buy not-exactly fresh goodies. But well, beggars can't be choosers right? The next option is to wait for someone to lug the goodies from Mangalore or eat them on my next visit to Mangalore. 

My recent craving for holige resulted in an attempt to make them at home which was surprisingly good - just as soft and thin, with the right texture and flavour and I thank Mrs. Vidya Nayak Shenoy for this perfect recipe. Holige is also called as Ubbati / Obbattu / Bobattu / Puran Poli in different parts of India. In Mangalore it is traditionally prepared by the Brahmin community on weddings & special occasions. For more on Holige, Mangalore's most popular and much loved snacks & munchies, read my entire article on Sailu's Kitchen here


Holige / Obbattu
Prep time: 20-25 mins | Cooking time: 10-15mins | Resting time for the dough: at least 1 hour | Yield 8 holige

Ingredients:

For the dough
  • 1-1/4 cups plain flour (maida/all purpose flour) + extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or any edible oil) + extra for greasing the palm
  • 2 tbsp milk (at room temperature) (to knead the dough)
  • 1/4 cup (approx) water - or as required (to knead the dough)
  • salt to taste

 For the filling
  • 1 cup bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 1 cup (or a little less) grated jaggery
  • 6-7 pods of cardamom finely powdered

Method:
Prepare the dough
In a large bowl (the one used to knead dough) add the flour, turmeric powder, salt, coconut oil and milk and mix well. Add water little by little to form a smooth soft dough. Kneading may take 7-8 minutes. Cover with a cloth and keep aside for 3-4 hours.

Prepare the filling
Cook the dal in sufficient water till it is perfectly cooked (it should retain its shape and not turn into a paste). If there is excess water - drain it off and retain the dal. Add the jaggery to it and simmer until the jaggery is melted. Toss in the powdered cardamoms. The mixture needs to be dryish, so continue to stir until it comes together like a ball (doesn't stick to the base of the cooker/pan). If the dal is correctly cooked you should be able to mash it with the ladle. Turn off the flame & transfer the contents onto a plate and roughly divide into 8 portions. Cover the pan so that the mixture does not dry up (else it will be hard to roll the holige)

Prepare the holige
Before you begin, knead the dough once and then pinch out 8 lime sized portions of the dough. Grease your palm well with coconut oil and taking one lime sized ball flatten it with your fingers and place the filling in the center. Pinch all the edges towards the center to seal it and carefully flatten it. Dust a working surface with flour and using a rolling pin gently roll the dough ball into a thin chapathi - do not to apply too much pressure or else the filling will spill out and stick to the surface. Ensure that the rolling is done evenly and the edges are smooth too. Fry it on a heated griddle/tawa on a medium high flame till golden brown spots appear on either side - don't fry for too long as they will turn hard. Remove and place the holige in a hot box (casserole) lined with a soft cloth - this will keep them warm and soft.

Serve warm with a dollop of ghee or butter. Holige keep well for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Notes:
You can pressure cook the dal if you wish. Wash and transfer it into a pressure cooker. Add approx 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Pressure cook on a full flame till the first whistle goes off, simmer and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the whistle/weight loosen on its own. Open and stir.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mangalorean Vegetable Masala Powder (Spice Blend for Vegetarian Dishes)

A few of my favourite things in the kitchen are ready made spice blends. I think every Mangalorean has at least some stock of Bafat powder in his/her kitchen pantry at any given time and I think the people who value such spice blends the most are those who live outside Mangalore and have to lug around a precious few kilos back home after their vacation in their home town. As many of my readers tell me, its a nightmare to run out of such blends. Gosh! What do you do when you plan to make Pork Bafat for a party and have just 1 tsp of the precious masala staring back at you? Well, you gotta make some then. But of course, sometimes making a whole batch at home is not possible unless you have very reliable and powerful dry grinding gadgets or better still, a flour mill round the corner. I have neither - so I decided to make a tiny batch of this lovely vegetable masala powder - my own recipe, largely adapted from the book Ranpi. Actually I scaled down the ingredients to 1/10th of what was mentioned and followed the method to a T.


This aromatic spice blend is put together using a lot of ingredients, but don't be daunted by them as you need just a fraction of most of them and can easily grind them in the smallest jar of your mixer grinder. The yield is good enough to last you a couple of months (or depending on your usage) and won't occupy much space in your pantry. While the Bafat powder is often associated with meats and fish preparations, the veg masala powder is well suited for dry stir fries garnished with coconut. However, do not restrict yourself to using this only for vegetables, you can use it along with any other spice blend of your choice as it lends that extra aroma and flavour to your curry.

There are a hundred recipes out there for every spice blend so feel free to alter the quantities of the ingredients slightly.


Mangalorean Vegetable Masala Powder 
Prep time: 10-15mins | Cook time: Nil | Yield: 100gm (approx)

Ingredients:
  • 50gm long dry red chillies (I used Byadgi chillies)
  • 25gm coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 gm mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch carom seeds (omam/ajwain)
  • 1 pinch fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1/4 tsp split black gram dal (urad dal)
  • 1/4 tsp bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 1/4 tsp split green gram (skinless) (moong dal)
  • 1/4 tsp pigeon peas (toor dal)
  • 12 gm boiled rice (ukda chawal)
  • 1/2 tsp oil
Method:
Heat oil in a tawa/skillet and roast each of the ingredients one by one and remove on a plate. Allow to cool a bit before powdering them together in a dry grinding jar of your mixer grinder. Store in an airtight container and use as required.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sarson Ka Saag (Punjabi Mustard Greens)

A few posts ago I had written about how my coming to Mumbai changed my entire perspective towards food and especially widened my horizon as far as North Indian food was concerned. When in Mangalore, my only brush with North Indian food (mainly Punjabi food) was Paneer Butter Masala or Tandoori Chicken served with whole wheat rotis. I have to admit that I didn't eat out a lot until maybe I started to earn my own mega bucks, so yes my exposure to the variety available was very less. It is only when I stepped out of Mangalore that I got to experience the whole gamut of things that come under the term "North Indian food".



Although I love greens of all types, mustard greens or sarson ('sarso' with a nasal pronunciation) was something I had never tried cooking myself. Didn't do it this time either. This recipe is Roshan's as he simply loves sarson especially when they are cooked with chicken - popularly known as 'Saag Wala Murg' (chicken cooked in greens). No matter what your preference is - vegetarian or non vegetarian, these greens taste awesome as there is some amount of bitterness that is to die for (trust me!). Like all greens, a whole bundle of it will get pathetically reduced to a tiny pile that may not look as appetising as it actually tastes.

Sarson Ka Saag is perennially married to Makki ki Roti (Maize flour rotis/flatbread) and tastes out of the world when eaten as a combo, however chapathis tastes just as good. I experimented eating it with rice and watery daal too - a complete Mangalorean that I am and the experiment didn't fail - it tasted just as good.

Sourcing the greens at this time may be a little hard. For those of you who do not know how they look - I am sorry, I totally missed to click the pictures in time, will update this post shortly (or Google can help you). For the rest of you who know how they look, do grab some when they are in season and enjoy this lovely dish.



Sarson Ka Saag (Punjabi Mustard Greens)
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 20 mins | Serves 2-3

You Need:
  • 2 bunches (approx 400gm) of mustard leaves
  • 1 bunch (approx 200gm) spinach/palak
  • 1 big onion (finely minced)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1-1/2 tsp garlic (finely minced)
  • 2-3 green chilies sliced (adjust to taste)
  • 2 long dry red chilies (whole)
  • 4 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp maize flour (substitute with cornflour/cornstarch)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp sugar or jaggery (to get rid of any bitterness) *optional
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing (optional)
  • salt to taste


Method:
1. Wash and drain the spinach & mustard leaves and chop them. Transfer into a pan and boil them along with the green chillies and half a cup of water for 4-5 minutes. (leave the pan uncovered or else the leaves will change colour). 
2. Remove pan from fire, drain excess water and allow to cool. Reserve the drained water for later use. Blend the leaves to a coarse paste.
3. Heat ghee in a pan, toss in the red chilies, onions and garlic, hing (optional) and sauté till brown.
4. Add ginger paste, coarse paste of greens, garam masala, maize flour, lemon juice, salt to taste, sugar or jaggery (optional) and reserved water (depending on the consistency/thickness desired) and cook on a slow fire till the oil starts to separate from it (approx 8-10mins). Remove from fire.
5. Garnish with butter cube and serve hot preferably with Makki Ki Roti (Maize flour rotis)



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Lost and found! That would be the best way to describe this post. Although I am not one of those people who keep losing things, I somehow lost the little piece of paper I had made notes on when I made this cake last year. Yup! I was too lazy to search for this piece of paper which I knew was safely tucked away in one of my recipe files. Alas! When I finally got around to editing the pictures, I couldn't find the recipe, so back it went into the drafts. I can be really disorganized when it comes to my recipe collection - the zillions of recipes that I cut out from magazines and newspapers just get shoved into this large file and I always intend to make separate sections for different kinds of recipes so its easier to find them when I intend to cook something specific.


Anyway, today I was actually sorting out my computer table drawer when I found this recipe and I had to post it right away, even though Halloween is a few weeks away and it would have been so apt to post it during the season. But then, its not a tradition that we follow in India anyway. 


I made this cake at a time when I was obsessed with baking cakes that substituted butter with oil and also had some healthy stuff a.k.a vegetables thrown in. When I found this recipe on Shawn's Plate I was very keen to make it, so I halved the ingredients and skipped the glaze and whipped cream that I bet would have made it really decadent and sinfully delicious. Sadly there are no takers for fancy cakes in my house. It is tea cakes/sponge cakes or nothing. I was quite pleased with the results and I am sure you will like it too.


Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Prep time: 15mins | Bake time: 50mins | Yield: 12 medium sized servings/slices

You Need:
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1-1/4 cups (270gm) sugar (powdered)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 215gm ripe pumpkin pureed 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice *see notes
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/4 tsp all spice powder (optional)
  • 1/8th tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
1. Grease a 10" bundt pan well and dust it with a little flour. Preheat oven at 175 C/350F for 10mins (if using an OTG with no preheating option).
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt 2-3 times. Keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and oil, add one egg at a time and beat well. Add the pumpkin puree, spices and mix well.
4. Add the flour in 2-3 parts, mixing between additions. Add the vanilla extract and fold to incorporate.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40minutes, thereafter reduce the heat to 165C/325F and continue to bake for 10minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
7. Serve warm with tea or coffee.

Notes:
I substituted the pumpkin pie spice with mixed spice used for Christmas/plum cakes. If you are using mixed spice you can skip the nutmeg & all spice powders as the mixed spice powder contains these.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Alyache Dhoss / Ale Dos (Mangalorean Ginger Preserve)

A few years ago I never thought in my wildest dreams that someday I would try my hand at making Alyache Dhoss - a traditional Mangalorean ginger preserve that I had grown up to love. Thanks to blogging and my passion to preserve our culinary heritage, I finally converted this dream into reality. Making this preserve is considered to be one of the hardest (in terms of complexity) among the whole range of Mangalorean foods. However, I believe that it has a lot to do with patience and passion than with complexity. One must be able to pick up this skill at a young age and have the will to complete the task from start to finish. 


Our grandmothers had this innate quality to do just that - maybe that stems from the quality of being a nurturer to the usually large brood of kids they took care of and brought up lovingly in those days. It also meant taking care of their nutritional needs without dipping too much the meager earnings of their husbands. This need ensured that almost everything that grew in their yards was put to use in the best possible way. Pickles, preserves, wines, jams & poppadoms with no commercial price tag made their way into the kitchen larder and lasted the whole year through with no added preservatives or the bare minimum that were again natural. Such was their lifestyle and healthy eating habits that kept families hale and hearty - much more than today's generation. 

I guess every one of us knows at least one of two women in Mangalore who have this burning passion to make preserves of all types. Home cooks who double up as pickle/preserve makers during the season. While some of them make it out of passion and distribute the fruit of their labour amongst friends and family, the others make it to support their income. During my growing up years, I knew of a lady in my lane - Ms. Elize who would make the best shredded mango pickle (kosrache lonche), grape and ginger wines and of course the good ol' ginger preserve. I freaked out on the taste the first time I tasted it and loved the mild spiciness of the ginger that burnt my throat and the delicately sweet sugar syrup that followed to sooth it. Yum yum yum! 

I don't need to elaborate on the health benefits of ginger, but this humble root that is native to India and China is used in a lot of forms - whole root -fresh & dried, powdered, preserved, crystallized and pickled. It is known for its medicinal benefits especially as a digestive aid, treatment for nausea resulting from motion sickness and morning sickness. It has anit-inflammatory properties and may help relieve pain from arthritis, rheumatism and muscle cramps. Ginger tea is used in home remedies for colds, cough and the flu.


I don't really recall if my grandma made the dhoss although she is a big expert at making pickles - I need to get her recipes next. But what a delight it was for me when I got married and met Aunty Jessie who is another expert at making all the above mentioned goodies the whole year through. Since I was so in love with the dhoss that she makes I asked her the recipe to make it and she was kind enough to give me the instructions. This was before the blog was born and I somehow lost the recipe in my archives. However, since I continued to receive my annual quota of a nice bottle of dhoss from her I did not attempt to search for the recipe or to make it myself all these years (I never thought I could make it since I was never the jams and pickles person anyways). 

This year Roshan and I decided that we had to give homemade dhoss a shot. The basic requirement for this is very new/tender ginger that is available during the first harvest right after the monsoons. This ginger looks very pale with just a delicate film of skin. Tender ginger is the one which has no fibre in it and hence it is best sourced between the last week of August and the first week of September. If you are keen to make it right away, try sourcing it before the 20th of this month - you may just be lucky. 

We sourced it from Mangalore and it came in just last week after which we set to work. 


Although the process is lengthy, the result is absolutely amazing. Our whole house was filled with the warm and sweet aroma of the ginger married to the sugar. The tender ginger has stewed so well in the sugar syrup that it gives out amazing taste aroma with a very very mild aftertaste of caramel - well, no, its not the taste of burnt sugar/caramel but of sugar that has cooked well. The addition of lime juice gives it a lovely flavour and helps prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing. 

You can make a jam out of this if you chop the ginger really fine - the cooking time will reduce too. Try it, it tastes amazing when spread over chapathis!


I am so happy that this recipe helped me recreate the memories of my childhood. I am even more pleased that it tastes as good as the dhoss that Aunty Jessie makes as lovingly sends for me every time. A big thank you to my sister-in-law Raina Castelino for taking the trouble to source the ginger & parcel it to me right in time and her mum-in-law Aunty Jessie Castelino for her lovely recipe and her patience to clarify all my doubts when I set out to make it. I know this sounds like a speech, but this would not have happened without your help!

Alyache Dhoss / Ale Dos (Mangalorean Ginger Preserve)
Prep time: 30 - 40 mins | Soaking time: 2-3 days | Cooking time: 2-1/2 - 3 hours * see note#4

You Need:
  • 1 kg very tender (new) ginger * see note#1
  • 1 kg sugar * see note#2
  • approx 1 litre water * see note#3
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1 lime
You will also need
  • a clean muslin cloth
  • a sterilized glass jar/canister (approx 1.5 litres) or multiple smaller glass jars
Method:
1. Wash the ginger thoroughly to remove any traces of mud, wipe with a cloth and gently scrape off the peel/skin. Poke each piece of ginger with a fork or a clean unused hair pin (U pin) - take care not to tear the flesh of very tender ginger. The more you poke the better it will stew in the sugar syrup and taste sweet.
2. Soak the ginger in sufficient water to cover it and keep aside. Change this water twice a day (morning & evening) for two days.


3. On the third day, drain off the water and place the ginger in a pressure cooker and add enough water up to  1 inch above the level of the ginger. Cover the lid, place the weight (whistle) and pressure cook on a full flame till the first whistle goes off. Reduce the flame to sim and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Turn off the flame, allow the cooker to cool off to room temperature. Open and stir. Keep aside.
4. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and smash the whole egg into it (along with the shell), mix well and then add the water and stir well. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, you will notice that the scum (dirt) in the sugar would have floated to the surface. Continue to boil till you are able to see clear liquid below the scum (use a spoon to part the scum). Line a clean bowl with a clean muslin cloth and carefully strain the liquid into it. Discard the scum and transfer the sugar syrup into a large heavy bottomed pan and put it back on the fire and bring it to a boil till it thickens a bit.



Above pic: 
1. The scum on the surface of the sugar syrup 2. The clear liquid beneath the scum 
3. Strain the syrup on a clean cloth 4. Scum to be discarded

5. Add the pressure cooked ginger and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If you feel the water has reduced you may add a cup at a time. After two hours check if the ginger is tender and the sugar syrup has penetrated inside each piece, if not, put it back on the fire. If done, add the lime juice, stir and remove from fire and cover with a slotted plate to allow excess heat/steam to escape. When the preserve has completely cooled down, the syrup will thicken.

Above pic: 
1. Strain excess clear syrup from the cloth 2. The clear sugar syrup without impurities
3. Drain cooking liquor from the pressure cooked ginger 4. Add the cooked ginger to the sugar syrup


6. Store in sterilized airtight glass jars/canisters. If prepared hygienically the preserve will last for a year without refrigeration * see note#5

Notes:
1. In and around Mangalore (across the coast) new & very tender ginger is available when the monsoons begin to taper off - this is usually from the end of August till the first week of September. Traditionally this preserve is prepared before the Nativity (Monthi) feast that falls on September 8th, so be sure to buy/source your ginger around this time. Any delay will result in slightly fibrous ginger which is not suitable for this preparation. In India, tender ginger is not easily available in the commercial market unless you place an order for it as it tends to rot fast and hence what you see in the market is always matured ginger which is highly fibrous.
2. For extra sweet sugar syrup increase the sugar by another 200-250 grams.
3. The quantity of water to be used is usually proportionate to the quantities of sugar and ginger, however, it may slightly vary depending on the tenderness of the ginger and the consistency (thickness) of the syrup desired. So keep 1.5 litres of water handy and use only as required.
4. The initial preparation time will be reduced if you have a helping hand to clean the ginger. Cooking time will vary slightly depending on the tenderness of ginger used. Also, each piece of ginger needs to be adequately pricked/poked with a fork - only then will the sugar syrup penetrate the pores and help to stew the pieces properly.
5. Always use a clean dry spoon to remove the ginger preserve.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Mutlim / Mutlin (Dimpled Rice Dumplings)

How many of you believe in numerology? I don't, but I do have a favourite number - it is the number of letters that make my name. 7 it is. It is not that this number is lucky for me but I quite like it irrespective of what luck it brings me. In the Bible, this number has been mentioned several times over in different contexts and is very significant. Hey, wait a minute, I am not getting religious here, I am just happy to present 7 dumplings as you see in the picture below to celebrate 7 lakh page views that my blog has just received!

Thank you to each and every reader - the new and the old, family, friends (and foes!) and friends of friends who have made this possible.

I did intend to create a special post for it, but then I would be missing to post the recipe of the Mutlim or Mutlin as we call rice dumplings in Konkani. Somehow I felt that these 7 dumplings sitting on a kurpon (platter woven out of reed) were apt for today's occasion. This recipe was part of the Indian Food Trail series hosted by Sailaja of Sailu's Kitchen where I presented Mangalorean cuisine with a focus on Catholic cuisine as a guest blogger.

Read all the three parts here:



Mutlim / Mutlin (Dimpled Rice Dumplings)
Prep (soaking) time: 4 hours | Cooking (grinding+steaming) time 30-40mins | Yield 15-17 dumplings

You Need:
  • 1/2 kg white or red boiled rice (ukda chawal) * see notes
  • 1-1/2 cups grated coconut
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash and soak the rice for at least 3-4 hours (for best results). Drain and keep aside. If you are using a traditional grinding stone, grind the rice and salt to a slightly coarse, thick & dryish paste. Add the coconut towards the very end (the coconut should not be fully ground). If you are using a mixer grinder you may need to add some water (sparingly) to grind the rice & coconut - the batter may be slightly thinner in this case. 
2. If you have a bit of a thin batter, transfer it into a non stick pan and cook on a medium low flame stirring until all the excess moisture evaporates and you have a lump. You know it's ready when the base begins to brown slightly. Turn off the flame and transfer onto a large bowl. When it is cool enough to handle, quickly knead to achieve a smooth surface.
3. Grease your palm with oil if required and pinch out lemon sized balls of the dough. Roll to form a smooth surface and form a dimple with your thumb. Continue until all the dough is used to make mutlims. 
4. Transfer all mutlims into a bowl, cover with a cloth and steam for 20-25 minutes. The mutlims are done when their surface is no longer sticky.
5. Serve hot with chicken or mutton curry of your choice. 

Notes:
1. Boiled rice is different from cooked rice. Boiled rice is a variety of rice that is involves partial boiling of paddy before it is de-husked and sold. Boiled rice with bran is called as brown/red boiled rice and that without the bran is called as white boiled rice available at most grocers by the name Ukda Chawal (in Hindi) or Katsambar (in Kannada) or Ukdo Tandul (in Konkani)
2. You can make the sweeter version of these dumplings by stuffing a jaggery & coconut mixture into the dough just before steaming. These are known as god mutlim.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Galinha à Africana - African Chicken from Macau

Folks, today I don't have any mundane things to rant about apart from this amazing dish that Roshan cooked for our Sunday meal. Early Sunday morning he popped the question which always sounds like music to my ears. Nah! It's not 'will you marry me' - he said that years ago. It's the more enchanting "Shall I cook something special today?". I gave him the "Neki aur pooch pooch?" look(in Hindi that roughly translates to 'don't ask for permission when you want to do a good deed'). Well, I handed over the kitchen to him and vanished till noon time. 

I knew he had mentioned about the African Chicken to me sometime ago, but it never really registered in my mind. The one he particularly loved is the version made in Henri's Galley in Macau, an hour away from Hong Kong. Although I've been to Macau myself, I never got the opportunity to visit this place and taste its famous dish. The original recipe they say was never disclosed by the chef, Americo Agnelo who created it in the 1940s. Mr. Agnelo worked in a small hotel called Pousada de Macau and legend has it that although this dish is said to have evolved over the centuries by Portuguese soldiers who visited Macau from stations in Africa such as Mozambique, it was Mr. Agnelo who put together what stands out as an 'original' among today's 'almost original' attempts.


Since it was a dish purely created in a restaurant, it has not been passed down from one generation to the other as a family tradition. It is said that Mr. Agnelo jealously guarded his secret recipe and did not as much let anyone watch him cook the dish apart from letting a junior chef pick up a special blend of spices from a local Chinese store. Unfortunately, when Mr. Agnelo fell grievously ill and knew that his time on earth was up he began to share the recipe in bits and pieces with his staff after which several attempts were made to recreate the dish. However, attempts remained just attempts with their creation not being even close to the original.

What I truly liked about the dish was its amazing flavour that permeates the meat after the baking is done. When I tasted the sauce as it was boiling, it had a dominating flavour of peanuts which I felt was okay, however, the chicken underwent miraculous transformation when it reappeared out of the oven. A slightly blackened surface with a beautiful thick sauce that was bubbling over was what greeted me. A couple of large potatoes that were perfectly baked proved to be a great accompaniment to the very succulent & flavourful chicken. We threw in a few slices of multi grain bread and our meal was complete and satisfying.


This was fusion food at its best, what with several flavours borrowed from different cuisines - almost every place ruled by the Portuguese lent its own trademark flavour to this dish. Portugal (smoked paprika), Africa (peanuts), India (coconut) and China (five-spice). The sauce has a fine balance of creamy sweetness brought in by the peanuts and coconut, delicate spice from the paprika and aromas from each of the five spices - I particularly liked the very subtle aroma and flavour of the star anise. 

Today, African Chicken is served on the menu of almost every Macanese restaurant with the best version (according to Roshan) served at Henri's Galley. If I ever visit Macau again I will not leave the place till I've tasted some Galinha à Africana there. Don't miss your opportunity if you get one!

This dish is an adaptation from many sources of recipes guided by Roshan's fine sense of taste.


Galinha à Africana - African Chicken from Macau
Prep time: overnight (marination)+20mins | Baking time: 35-50mins (depending on your oven) | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1 kg boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 big potatoes, peeled and quartered
For the marinade:
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped / minced
  • 2 tbsp onions, finely chopped / minced
  • 1 tsp paprika (chilli flakes)
  • 2 tsp Five Spice powder * see notes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper (approx 1/2 tsp)
For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped / minced
  • 1/2 cup garlic, finely chopped / minced
  • 1/2 cup sweet paprika finely chopped or substitute it with 1/2 cup red bell pepper (capsicum)
  • 1 tsp chilli power (optional - if additional spice required)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut (pulse it just a couple of times in a grinder)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter or 1 tbsp of roasted peanuts finely ground
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
Method:
1. Wash and drain the chicken breasts. Wipe with a kitchen tissue to remove excess moisture. Marinate it with all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the marinade', cover the bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate overnight for best results (or for a minimum of 2 hours)
2. To make the sauce, heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onions, garlic and cook until soften for about 5 minutes. Add the sweet paprika or bell pepper and extra chilli powder if required, ground coconut and cook for another few minutes. Add chicken stock, coconut milk, bay leaves and peanut butter and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
3. Heat 2 tbps oil and fry (brown) the chicken and transfer the same onto a well greased baking tray, also fry the potatoes in the same oil for about 5 minutes on a low heat and transfer the same to baking tray. Cover the chicken and potatoes with the cooked sauce.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check after 30-35 minutes to see if the potatoes and chicken are tender.
4. Serve with bread or rice.

Notes:
Five spice powder is available in most supermarkets or those that stock Chinese condiments & spices


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jivo Roce (Sweetened Coconut Milk) - Monthi Feast Special

Today, the 8th of September is the feast of the Natitivity of The Blessed Virgin Mary. In short, it is the birthday of Mary, mother of Jesus. This feast is also called as the 'Monthi Saibineeche Festh' in Konkani and is celebrated with great gusto in South Kanara. Since the feast happens to fall in the month of September which is also the time when monsoons almost taper off, and new crop is harvested, it is celebrated as the harvest feast. The first crop is offered to God during the Mass and His blessings are sought. The nine days preceding this feast is called the Novena (pronounced 'no-veena') where people pray successively for nine days in the belief of obtaining special intercessory graces. In Mangalore, tradition has it that children, especially school going kids attend daily evening Mass and thereafter honour Mother Mary by offering flowers that they lovingly bring from their gardens. After the offering of flowers, sweets are distributed among all the children and this was something I looked forward to as a kid. On the day of the feast, sugarcanes are  distributed instead of sweets. I am sure everyone from Mangalore who has participated in this event at some point or the other in their lives cherishes these lovely memories.


Now, let's talk about food! The feast day menu usually consists of a full vegetarian meal. Traditionally these vegetables were the ones newly harvested and hence the list of items that go on the menu are also traditionally passed down from one generation to the other with a few exceptions. In my house, my mother always cooked the Alun Dento (Colocasia stems cooked with Amaranth stalks in a coconut gravy), Sanna (Steamed idlis made of yeasted batter), Gosalem or Benda Thel Piyao (Ridge Gourd or Lady's Finger Oil & Onion Style), Sonay Sukhe (Black chana/Garbanzo Fugad) or Moog Sukho (Sprouted Green Gram Fugad). Unlike most traditional meals that were finished off with a Vorn (payasam), on this day my mother would make Jivo Roce - Freshly extracted coconut milk flavoured with jaggery & cardamom. This was called 'Jivo' (meaning raw) because she would make it without boiling the coconut milk. It tastes best when eaten with Sanna. Some people make this sweet roce all year round as an accompaniment to Sheviyo (Stringhoppers), similar to how Keralites eat it with Idiappam.


Somehow, since I was rather disconnected from traditions and food as a child (I only ate to survive) I never really bothered to enjoy this grand finale and always made a mad dash to the porch of my traditional Mangalorean house where the sugarcanes were kept and enjoyed an afternoon of chewing on sweet sugarcanes and chatting with my cousins. Most times I ended with mouth ulcers after all that chewing! Ouch! I wish I had stuck to the Jivo Roce :-) But, no regrets there as those days will never come back and neither will such fresh & succulent sugarcanes! My son is definitely missing something today.


Jivo Roce (Sweetened Coconut Milk)
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: Nil | Serves 3-4

You Need:

  • 1 medium size coconut or 2 cups freshly grated coconut
  • 3-4 tbsp grated/ powdered jaggery (approx 30-50gm) adjust o taste
  • 3-4 cardamom pods powdered

Method:
1. Pulse the grated coconut with a little lukewarm water (approx 1/2 cup) for 8-10 seconds in a mixer grinder. Do not make a paste of it or extracting the milk will be difficult.
2. Line a bowl with a thin muslin cloth and transfer the contents from the grinder onto the cloth. Pull the open ends together to make a bundle and gently squeeze out the thick coconut milk into the bowl. This is the first extract. Empty the contents back into the mixer grinder and add another 1/2 cup of water and pulse it for another few seconds. Remove and repeat the process of squeezing out the milk. This is the thin coconut milk or the second extract.
3. In a large bowl mix the thick milk and a little thin milk to achieve the desired consistency. Do not make it too watery. Add the jaggery and cardamom powder and stir
4. Serve with Sanna and enjoy



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fish Cutlets

Seafood is a significant part of our meals in Mangalore and cutlets are something I've always grown up eating, especially during parties and such. While most people in Mangalore have the pleasure of eating regular sea food in many interestig ways (prawn pulao if you please?) than just in curries or fried form, I never had such luck thanks to my prawn and crab allergy, so I have always loved the option of fish cutlets that many of my aunts used to prepare. 


I've been meaning to try out fish cutlets for a long time, but was worried if they would turn out alright. I was very pleased at the outcome and I think you should give it a try too! 

Also, read all about Mangalorean Catholic cuisine - what our everyday meals are like, how we celebrate with food during special occasions, parties and weddings and much more on  Sailu's Kitchen in the last & final part of my article on her lovely blog.


Fish Cutlets
Prep time: 30mins | Cooking time: 10mins | Yield 13-14 medium sized cutlets

You Need:
  • 500gm boneless fish (Ghol or Shark)
  • 2 tsp cumin/jeera powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large slice of bread
  • 2 egg whites beaten - for coating
  • oil for shallow frying
To be finely minced
  • 2 medium sized onions
  • 2-3 small green chillies (or to taste)
  • 1-1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 packed cup of coriander & mint leaves (use less of mint)
Method:
1. Wash the fish pieces with salt & turmeric (to remove the fishy smell) and allow to drain on a colander. Marinate it with 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp pepper powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, salt & 1 tsp lime juice. Keep aside for 15-20mins.
2. Finely mince each of the ingredients mentioned under 'To be finely minced'. Heat oil in a non stick pan and fry the ginger, green chillies for a couple of seconds and then add the minced onions and fry till they turn pinkish. Add the minced coriander and mint leaves and fry till you get a nice aroma (takes about 12-15 seconds). Toss in the remaining cumin & pepper powders and lime juice, stir and turn off the flame. Allow this mixture to cool.
3. Boil/cook the marinated fish pieces with 1/2 cup of water till the pieces are tender and almost all the water has been absorbed/evaporated - a little moisture should be retained. Let the fish not get too dry or else it will lose its juiciness and flavour. Remove onto a plate, allow to cool and mince it finely and evenly (for best results pulse it in a food processor/mixer grinder with a mincing blade).
4. Transfer the minced fish in a large bowl, add the fried onion mixture and mix well. Adjust salt to taste. Try to shape the mixture into balls - if they don't hold shape, then wet the bread slice lightly (with about 1tbsp water), mash it & add it to this mixture. Form a lemon sized ball and flatten it in the centre of your palm. Continue to make balls until the mixture is used up.
5. Heat oil in a non stick frying pan, gently dip/coat each cutlet in the egg whites and fry the cutlets on a medium flame till golden brown on both sides.
6. Serve hot as a meal time accompaniment or as a starter along with ketchup or dip of your choice and a garnish of tomato wedges, onion rings and lime slices.

Notes:
1. First timers please note: Do ensure that you check for bones after step#3 even if you have purchased boneless fish. Tiny pieces of broken fish if present can get stuck in the throat while you eat them - totally avoidable!!
2. If you are using frozen fish make sure it is properly thawed at room temperature or it will leave fishy smelling water into the mixture making it soggy and unsuitable for shaping up into cutlets.
3. If you are adding more than 1 slice of bread, adjust the spice and salt accordingly.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Holige / Obbattu (Stuffed Sweet Flatbread)

Being a Mangalorean who has was born and brought up in Mangalore I have had the pleasure of enjoying a variety of snacks that belong to every community in Mangalore. I have loved them then and I love them even more today, when I no longer have easy access to that bakery around the corner where I can go & pick up eatables on a whim. 


Today, if I want to eat some lovely snacks/sweets such as the boondi laddoo (chickpea flour laddoos), mysore pak (roasted chickpea flour sweet cakes), chakklis (savoury rice flour spirals) or malpuri (deep fried mini pancakes soaked in sugar syrup) I need to plan a trip to the nearest Mangalore Stores, wade through the heavy traffic and buy not-exactly fresh goodies. But well, beggars can't be choosers right? The next option is to wait for someone to lug the goodies from Mangalore or eat them on my next visit to Mangalore. 

My recent craving for holige resulted in an attempt to make them at home which was surprisingly good - just as soft and thin, with the right texture and flavour and I thank Mrs. Vidya Nayak Shenoy for this perfect recipe. Holige is also called as Ubbati / Obbattu / Bobattu / Puran Poli in different parts of India. In Mangalore it is traditionally prepared by the Brahmin community on weddings & special occasions. For more on Holige, Mangalore's most popular and much loved snacks & munchies, read my entire article on Sailu's Kitchen here


Holige / Obbattu
Prep time: 20-25 mins | Cooking time: 10-15mins | Resting time for the dough: at least 1 hour | Yield 8 holige

Ingredients:

For the dough
  • 1-1/4 cups plain flour (maida/all purpose flour) + extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or any edible oil) + extra for greasing the palm
  • 2 tbsp milk (at room temperature) (to knead the dough)
  • 1/4 cup (approx) water - or as required (to knead the dough)
  • salt to taste

 For the filling
  • 1 cup bengal gram (chana dal)
  • 1 cup (or a little less) grated jaggery
  • 6-7 pods of cardamom finely powdered

Method:
Prepare the dough
In a large bowl (the one used to knead dough) add the flour, turmeric powder, salt, coconut oil and milk and mix well. Add water little by little to form a smooth soft dough. Kneading may take 7-8 minutes. Cover with a cloth and keep aside for 3-4 hours.

Prepare the filling
Cook the dal in sufficient water till it is perfectly cooked (it should retain its shape and not turn into a paste). If there is excess water - drain it off and retain the dal. Add the jaggery to it and simmer until the jaggery is melted. Toss in the powdered cardamoms. The mixture needs to be dryish, so continue to stir until it comes together like a ball (doesn't stick to the base of the cooker/pan). If the dal is correctly cooked you should be able to mash it with the ladle. Turn off the flame & transfer the contents onto a plate and roughly divide into 8 portions. Cover the pan so that the mixture does not dry up (else it will be hard to roll the holige)

Prepare the holige
Before you begin, knead the dough once and then pinch out 8 lime sized portions of the dough. Grease your palm well with coconut oil and taking one lime sized ball flatten it with your fingers and place the filling in the center. Pinch all the edges towards the center to seal it and carefully flatten it. Dust a working surface with flour and using a rolling pin gently roll the dough ball into a thin chapathi - do not to apply too much pressure or else the filling will spill out and stick to the surface. Ensure that the rolling is done evenly and the edges are smooth too. Fry it on a heated griddle/tawa on a medium high flame till golden brown spots appear on either side - don't fry for too long as they will turn hard. Remove and place the holige in a hot box (casserole) lined with a soft cloth - this will keep them warm and soft.

Serve warm with a dollop of ghee or butter. Holige keep well for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Notes:
You can pressure cook the dal if you wish. Wash and transfer it into a pressure cooker. Add approx 2 cups water and a pinch of salt. Pressure cook on a full flame till the first whistle goes off, simmer and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the whistle/weight loosen on its own. Open and stir.