The Paneer Parantha

Best paneer is not from the market, it is from the kitchen. Prepare by curdling the boiling milk (with vinegar). Draining the liquid, squeezing through a thin cloth and pressing with some weight.

If you do not know the process, experiment a little. You can not go wrong, no-one till date has gone wrong.

Now you have paneer, think about all the other stuff you like, ajwain (carom, Bishop’s weed), salt, red chillies, onion. Add them to the crumbled paneer. Use this stuff as a filling. May use cilantro for visuals and aroma. Up-to you. Green chilly, same remark applies.

Whole wheat dough, take a ball, and use the filling. Lift the sides and cover itself. Roll a nice flat circular chapati out of this.IMG_20150924_170412 IMG_20150924_173557 IMG_20150924_173606 IMG_20150924_173619

Place this on the hot griddle, bake one side, flip over, bake on the other side. NOW….only now paste a little oil on this side. Flip over, repeat the oil application. Keep a spatula to press the parantha (after oil application, chapati becomes parantha).

If pressed properly, on the right places, and the gods in heaven benign, it may even puff up. Even if it does not, it is delicious to look at and heavenly to eat.

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INDIAN VEGETABLE DISH…….RED KURI SQUASH….minimal oil

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I saw this squash in Farmers Market at Mountain View CA, and fell in love. This was a pomegranate type fruit color and size-wise. The farmer told me that the skin is edible, and is like butternut squash.

I took the two home and planned a vegetable dish similar to North Indian Pumpkin that we eat in marriage festivities.

I baked it whole in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes, maybe 20. I am not too sure, because we were in the process of making a cake, and my d-in-law said she will do the squash to save time. Whatever…..the squash was well done when it was given back to me, cut in half and cleaned of the seeds.

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Naturally, I cut them in small slices and assembled my ingredients. The Fenugreek (methi) seeds were already dipped in water to soften. Tamarind paste, unrefined sugar, garlic, onions, de-skinned tomatoes, cayenne, and salt were around.

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I took a frying pan and added some oil, allowed it to smoke (smoking is allowed in the kitchen). I added the fenugreek seeds still a little wet, to see spluttering and a little caramelizing of the seeds, probably a mistake. I quickly added the crushed garlic, and the onions, and reduced the heat a little. After a while, the tomatoes and sugar went in to give a thick red slurry. In our household the liquids are called slurry as a reminder that this is a mechanical engineer cook.IMG_20150924_160701IMG_20150924_161343IMG_20150924_172124

A little cooking of the tomatoes and then added some tamarind paste diluted with water. Then the squash, and a little water, just a wee bit. Cooked for a while, not too much. Took it off the stove, and allowed it to absorb the spices’ aroma. IMG_20150924_172737IMG_20150924_172245

After a few adjustments of salt, addition of garam masala (Indian curry powder), it was perfect.

Butternut Squash curry Indian Style, Little oil

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I had a small Butternut squash and I thought about cooking it. We in India generally use pumpkin for preparing curry, well, same family, so why not. And when Halloween is so near.

In Dehradun city, North India, in 1987, we used to eat at some restaurants who prepared a delectable dish with pumpkin a little sweet and sour, and a bit mushy, I tried to recreate my fantasy.

So peeled and cored the squash, as you see and cut in small pieces. I took two tomatoes and peeled them (tomato skin left in curry is loosely hanging around and shreds are conspicuous by their presence). Tomatoes should be felt, no seen. I cut the tomatoes in small pieces, and kept an inch of ginger whole ungrated (my grandkids do not like ginger shreds on their palate but fragrance of ginger ok. I wanted to add some Cayenne Pepper, but avoided again because young children were involved. In go two cloves of garlic beaten to submission, but left intact.

So, out comes a cooker, heated and with a little canola oil (canola is Canadian Mustard). Added fenugreek seeds to splutter, and then added the squash and tomato pieces. Pumpkin is always made with addition of Fenugreek, not regular Cumin in North India, don’t ask me why. I never asked my mother. And now I can not….she is smiling from above.

I added one teaspoon of turmeric concentrate, a little brown sugar (sweet variety….not the drug), turmeric powder and salt. cooked it under pressure, but no whistle. Too delicate for that. I decided to cool the cooker under tap after a while. All was guesswork. I love to take risks in the kitchen.

Ended with a little curry powder, (garm masala) and a hint of EVOO for the kids. I am sorry, I in a hurry did not take the photo of the hot stuff and its cold now. having been in the fridge last half an hour that I am typing.Squash curry

So little was left over, I am delighted.

If nk (that is me) can cook, so can you. Do not be afriad to take risk (in the kitchen). Never.

Indian Daily Food

The Basic Indian Food

Suppose you are an Indian in the year 1960. You get up at 0600 am, and have breakfast at 0900, before walking 4kms to your workplace. You carry lunch with you, which you eat at 0100pm. You walk back home around 0630 and eat dinner at 0800, and go to sleep at 1000pm.

For most of the Indians, this was a routine for many many years. Till Pizzas and Burgers invaded us.

Supper as a word was unheard of. Evening tea existed only for the rich (and how many were rich….nearly none). Tea itself was non-existent. Snacks were available, mostly fritters, or similar; but again not a daily affair. BECAUSE cooking was done on burning coals, and the fire used to take a long time to start, and to put out. So, it was used only twice a day.

No wonder all the walk, physical labor and simple food kept people healthy. Cholesterol as a word was not in the dictionary. Everyone used to eat tonnes of saturated fat, and trans-fats……… still!

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So what was this breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Roti, with Sabzi and daal in breakfast, Roti, sabzi and daal at noon, and Roti, Sabzi and daal in the evening. I presume all these words are from Persian language, which percolated in the North Indian lingo with the armies invading India.

Roti is flat wheat bread (described in yesterday’s blog), Subzi literally means ‘the greens’ in Persian or Arabic, therefore cooked vegetables. Boiled Potatoes with gravy was a favorite Sabzi, though it is not a green by definition. And daal is anything that is the seed of a bean; split in half. For hundreds of years, Indians have torn a small portion of Roti by hand, used it like a spoon to pick some vegetable, or daal, and dunked it in the mouth. Three or four Rotis or Chapaatis (synonyms) with 100 gms each of “cooked watery daal” and Sabzi was enough for a guy.

Some of my blogs show examples of what we know as sabzi or dry vegetables. I will do a detailed blog on a zero-oil daal soon.

You will love to read it and then cook it, and eat it. The basic Indian stuff, generic term for food is “daal-roti” in India.

Indian Bread Again

Roti….chapaati 101,

The basics

Presumably, the dough making is not a rocket science, but rolling chapati and cooking first on a griddle and then on a flame is/maybe. Hence photographs. Some cooks add flours of other grains in wheat flour. Some cooks prefer a stiffer dough, my preference is for a softer dough, which gives softness to the bread. Some cooks insist that the dough should rest a while, at least 30 minutes, I prefer it not to rest at all, and love the dough that way. Again North Indians prefer to have coarse flour.

My rolling pin has ball bearings and makes it easy, and fun thing to roll. I do not wash it, only scrub with the back of a knife for any sticking dry dough. Always wash my hands CLEAN before touching flour or dough. No rings in the finger is a good policy. Alternately I do not touch flour or dough by hand. Use a spoon. Even for making small balls, I use a spoon, take a small portion and start rolling, untouched by hand till then.

Feel motivated to try your hand? GA (go ahead, old telex lingo)

Dough ready to be rolled
Dough ready to be rolled
Rolling Zero
Rolling Zero
Rolling 2
Rolling 2
Rolling1
Rolling1
Removing from Marble plate to the griddle
Removing from Marble plate to the griddle
On the HOT Griddle
On the HOT Griddle
Ready to Flip
Ready to Flip
Flipped/Cooking on the other side
Flipped/Cooking on the other side
Cooking directly on the flame
Cooking directly on the flame
Cooking on the flame
Cooking on the flame

Indian Bread

Roti….chapaati 101,

The basics

To understand how to prepare Indian Bread or Roti, or chapaati, (it is nearly same, but each home has a little different version). It is circular by convention, and flat and thin. It is made of whole wheat flour, a little coarse in North, and fine in other states, some use all purpose flour. Coarse flour absorbs more water and cooks slowly, less contact area on the griddle, simple physics. A Gujaraati bride’s skill is tested by the thin-ness of her chapaati! Ghee applied on one side should appear on the other by permeation.

Three steps (“Small step for you, but long steps for mankind”, said Neil Armstrong)!

1. The dough….Never think you can’t do, because you can. Take whole wheat flour, and water, and a thick large spoon or a similar object (for mixing and maneuvering), which you can manage. A large Pan with elevated sides will help. Add flour and add water, very playfully, and enjoy mixing the two with your spoon or whatever you chose. You may end up with a slurry, but don’t you worry. You may end up with the flour getting all over you, it is edible and washable stuff!

If too thick, add a little more water, if slurry like, add flour. In India a USD buys you 4 lbs of best flour, you can surely play with it and if you can’t get a plastic clay consistency by end of the day, discard it, feed to the cow, wash your hands and be happy again. We will try another day.

I am sure you will get it, because Robert Bruce got it, oh, that is another story.

2. Preparing the thin round form…..The rolling pin and a slab are your instruments. Take a part of your clay and roll it with the pin anywhichway, till it is flat and thin. Keep on adding dry flour on top and bottom, more like the Sumo wrestlers’ ritual. Try it, you will love it. Roll it thin, and more thin. If it looks like Australia, it is OK, if it looks like a football, American or Indian, you get a B+.

We want to cook it and eat it, not keep it in Smithsonian, you got the point.

3. Cooking on the concave griddle (tawaa)…….Lift the flat, circular (or whatever) thin soft piece of art, and with a flourish, transfer to a hot griddle. Not cold, and not burning hot, mildly hot, so that Roti takes a while getting cooked, it will change color, it will tell you when to flip it with a tong (chimta) to cook on the other side.

3A. Cooking on the flame, or hot plate……..This part is as easy or as difficult as you make it. Indian mothers insist that if their d-in law can not manage to have an all puffed up Roti….it is time for harakiri (mother in law or d-i-l, I don’t want to know). Do not let it deflate your ego one bit if you can not get it. Smithsonian is NOT waiting for your flying saucer!

Again, my advise is not to allow anyone to advise you, you can improve your own game by playing. Here there are no opponents, If you are able to eat it, it is a good roti. Send me your photos, I mean your Roti’s photos, I will send you mine. Meanwhile look at the tools of the trade.

To mix flour and water
To mix flour and water
Water jug
Water jug
Rolling pin and the marble base
Rolling pin and the marble base
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Concave Griddle
Concave Griddle

Cooking Basics

What can impart a sour taste to a vegetable dish in Indian cooking. You got a choice:

  • Unripe mango…..either fresh or dried and powdered
  • vinegar
  • Pomegranate seed powder
  • sour curd……old curd
  • Kokum (garcinia indica)
  • tamarind
  • lemon
  • Citric acid
  • aonla (indian gooseberry) fresh or dried and powdered
  • tomatoes

    Did I leave any stuff which gives sour taste?

    Each of these have their own typical taste, fragrance, texture and color. Additionally they go with specific type of vegetables. Moms have been using very specific combinations, because of the medicinal properties associated with each. Depending upon the thickness of the curry, and the mixture of sourness with sweetness that one requires.

    It also depends on the guy who is cooking and his preferences. I love to add sour curd, because I like the taste. In lentils, I add more of kokum, because it imparts a unique flavor and a little red color. Fragrance wise nothing to beat lemon, added after cooking.

    chickpeas
    Bengal Gram (small hard colored variety)

    Aonla or gooseberry in powdered form can give a deep grey color which is needed by the Bengal gram curry.

    Tomatoes come in various shapes sizes and sourness. Use as pulp, or whole, without skin and seeds. Seeds are the sour portion.

    The dish has to be designed on the drawing-board of the mind of the chef before starting, and that will decide the ingredients. The spice should be subtle rather than bold unless you are cooking for Jats (body builders) who require even the spices to be robust and muscular.

    Good luck in the kitchen!

Without oil, another Indian Vegetable

Trichosanthes dioicaThe entry in Wikipedia is….Trichosanthes dioica is also known as the pointed gourd, parwal/parval (from Hindi),Kovakkai(from Tamil) or thonde kayi (from Kannada), or potol (from Assamese, Sanskrit, Oriya or Bengali (পটল) pôţol) “Paror” in Maithili, “Parol” in Magahi and “Parora” in Bhojpuri, Urdu and Awadhi.

It is called Parwal in Hindi.

In 1960s the rich Delhi-wallahs used to eat this vegetable because it was expensive, or the other way round 🙂 Today the poor eat it, also the quality available in my market is a little extra ripened having a yellow core and the seeds as hard as the teeth.

I thought of a little innovation, removed the core, boiled with some water and strained to remove the hard seeds. I used the liquor so obtained as the base for the vegetable. Because the core has taste and gives body and aroma, I did not discard it wholesale. Remember “Baby with the bath water?”

You are now to see the process in the photos below, the Parwal is peeled, ends discarded, and cut in halves.

Peeled Parwal
Peeled Parwal

With a spoon, the yellow inside core is removed and boiled. Then handheld blender does the blending to remove the stone-like seeds. Some were having white cores, I did not remove the cores and used as such.

White core
White core

After dicing the Parwals, Tomatoes and masala that is turmeric, coriander, green chillies, salt, ginger and cuminseeds were added alongwith the parwal in a pressure cooker, heated till first whistle and allowed to cool on its own.

Final act is to add Garam masala (curry powder). No oil….none at all, no tadka like we usually do, no tamaasha, all taste.

Minimal masala, low on spices high on health. At Rs 20 (third of a $) for a Kg, very inexpensive.

The photos show 1Kg preparation, good for 5 persons for one time.

When I ate it I realized that the dish can be improved in color, texture and taste. Next time there will be some crushed boiled potatoes to add body, and the tomatoes will be in a skinned avatar. Skins irritate. 🙂

Diced stuff
Diced stuff
Cored Parwal
Cored Parwal
yellow core
yellow core
Seeds discarded
Seeds discarded
Straining the liquor
Straining the liquor

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The Curry powder (Garam Masaala)
The Curry powder (Garam Masaala)

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Close-up
Close-up
Final product
Final product
With a Roti (chapati)
With a Roti (chapati)

Beetroot Soup

IMG_3277 Can you see the soup here in this bowl, nearly all soup already eaten. Very little left in the bottom. I found this an interesting photo similar to an eye.

Preparing any soup is easy. Take all the vegetables you want in the soup, and peel them if needed and make smaller pieces, easy to boil and mesh. Pressure cook these with water, then with an electric hand blender mash them into pulp and pass through a sieve.

Further add water for proper consistency and boil if you want to. Not necessary. Actually there are many steps in Indian cooking which have been performed over centuries, mom did it, therefore. You must sit down, adopt a meditator’s stance and with that new found awareness ask yourself a question,” Is it really necessary?”. If there is an inner voice saying no, just skip it. That is good cooking. You will learn by tasting. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. This cooking is called स्वान्तः सुखाय meaning ‘for personal pleasure’. Adjust the looks of the food as well. It must look great, smell great and taste great. It must be good to feel on the tongue and by hand. That is the food of the gods.

Back to the soup, I had Beetroot and carrots. For a little sour taste I added tomatoes. In Delhi you get two varieties of tomatoes, one is less pulpy and sour, the other has thick flesh and sweet, I chose the more rounded, sour one. Boiled the carrots, beet and tomatoes, mashed, and sieved. Added a little water and salt and pepper, the soup was ready.

No oil, no cheese, more or less calorie-less. More or less no sodium! Dripping with fragrance, color, taste, and health. No limit to eating (actually slurping) any time of the day.

Let me know how you feel now.IMG_3283