Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Simple bare necessities. Bittergourd (Karela) stir fry.

You either love it or loathe it.  Most people agree that the bitter gourd has properties to lower your blood sugar levels among other benefits. 
The trouble is eating this *extremely* bitter vegetable. 

My association with the bitter gourd, karela, is not a happy one at all. Traditionally, a stir fry is served as a part of the 'shraddha' (a death anniversary ritual) lunch. It was one occasion where I could not turn up my nose at the food served (solemn occasion, my grandfather's shraddha) and eating it was nothing short of a punishment. I remember hissing in my mom's ear, "Aai, karla nako ga, please!  Nahi tar agdi thoda vadh, like one sliver". I've even gulped it down with water and almost choked and shuddered at the bitter after taste. 

That does not mean it isn't made on other days. But my mom never got or made this. We refused to even try it.

The first person, in my little circle, who loved  the dreaded karla / karela was my Mami (aunt). But I never tasted any. The first time I tried and tasted (and liked) was this recipe. But over time, I pushed it away and forgot all about it. 
If you, like me, have started liking (or even trying) this vegetable late in life, chances are, you will eat it once, forget it for a few days months  years and go back to it, slowly. 
But now, I pick up the gourds without a second thought. 
This recipe is one I picked up from a friend. Its a very, very simple one.
There are no spices, no sugar. Just the basic, turmeric and red chilies powder (optional) and salt. And yet, it is tasty. 
If you pick the gourds carefully, they may not be 'that' bitter. I read in a Marathi cook book, the pale green bitter gourds are generally  better and I prefer smaller sized gourds. 
I also did not salt and set aside the chopped bitter gourd ( this takes away some of the bitterness by drawing it out). Nothing needed. 

Begin by washing and patting the gourds dry. I used 3 gourds (the size of an IPhone 6).
Slice them in to thin rounds.
Slice a small red onion, lengthwise. 

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a kadhai / wok/ cast iron griddle.
Add the karela /bitter gourd rounds. 
I keep the heat at #7

Bitter gourd stir fry

Sprinkle a hefty pinch of salt and keep turning the karela, so both sides brown and cook evenly.
Add the onions and salt. Stir and cook well.

quick karela stir fry
After about 7-10 mins add 1/2 tsp Turmeric and 1/2 tsp red chilies powder (if you want).

Lower the heat and let it cook, helps crisp the edges of the karela and makes it tasty! 

Karela subji

Serve with a Ghadichi Poli (coming up soon).

Have a great week ahead, folks! 
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Staff Appreciation Week and Indian food (Vegetable Pulao and Aloo Mutter)

I was one tiny drop in an ocean of a school. There were classes up to grade 10, 10 divisions and about 75 kids in a single class. 
If that wasn't enough, we had English medium, Marathi and Gujarati medium of instruction too.
So, you see what I mean by the tiny drop?
The teachers were strict. I don't remember them smiling and being cheerful and so supportive at all.  Now, when I think back, it must have been a stressful job for them. So many kids, so many challenges... Teens in a co-ed. Yes, it was chaos. 

And then, when my son went to school, everything was just SO different. Teachers were sunny and cheerful, kind to children and encouraging. Everything was 'awesome', 'fantastic' and any task done was always a 'good job'. Students never got a rap over the knuckles, were never asked to stand outside the classroom-facing the wall.
I used to think teaching was an easy job, but now I know, there are challenges, takes a lot of patience to deal with different personalities all day. 

Likewise, the school administrative staff, they are also cooperative and cheerful. 

As a gesture of appreciation, our school had the annual Staff Appreciation Week.
The work for this began early in January. A small committee discussed themes and ideas.I was lucky to be a small part of this make plans.
During the week, the plan was to treat the teachers and admin staff (a total of 70) to breakfast and lunch. Each day would also end with the staff getting a high-five, not the hands, this high five was a memento of the day, a small way of saying thank you.
A theme was set for everyday of the week. 
Mid-week was to be the big luncheon and 'Around the World' theme was decided, with breakfast being Indian themed. 

Another mom and I were in charge  and it was fun deciding on a menu. I chatted with  Nupur and Shankari and a Face book group and had tons of ideas. The thing was, getting volunteers for making those ideas a reality. 
So we settled on something very do-able.
The breakfast was to be omelet (Indian style) and Idli- chutney (The idli-chutney (sauces) were loved by all). 
Lunch, as it was a big affair and 'Around the World', we had a lot of variety (Indian, American, Mexican, German).

The Indian table was loaded with 30 servings each of  Pulav, Aloo mutter , Chana Masala, Naan, Butter chicken, Chicken Biryani, carrot salad. The dessert table had varieties like gulab jamun, kaju katli, pedha, kesari.

We got wonderful reviews and no leftovers! 

I took Aloo Mutter and a simple Veg Pulao.

For the Aloo mutter I used this recipe. I just scaled down the heat, a lot. 

Peas, potatoes in an onion tomato gravy
Peas and Potatoes in an onion tomato gravy. Aloo Mutter

The pulao recipe is one I make quite often. This recipe is #kidapproved

Here is a scaled down version.

Chop 1 small Onion, lengthwise.
Measure out 1 cup of Peas and Carrots ( I used frozen)
You also need:
1 bay leaf
2-3 Green Cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 x 1 inch piece of Cinnamon
1 tsp Jeera/ Cumin seed
1 tsp each - Ginger and garlic paste
2 Tbsp Oil + 2 Tbsp Ghee

Wash 1 cup White Basmati Rice in several changes of water, drain and set aside.

If using Instant Pot or other Electric Pressure Cooker:
Start the IP / EPC on Saute mode. Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick) and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Hit the 'cancel' button and seal the IP / EPC. Select 'Manual' mode and 6 minutes.
Once the timer beeps, let it go on warm mode for 5 mins (this is optional, but I've always done this) and the do QPR (Quick Pressure Release) carefully.

Empty the pulao to a plate /tray to cool down.This ensures that each grain of rice is separate.

If using the stove top method:

Use a deep and strong bottomed pot.
Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay-leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick)and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let it cook till the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and the grains are separate.
Serve with a vegetable curry, raita, pickle. papad or enjoy it as is.

*NOTES: I've often substituted fried onions (store brought) instead of regular onions when in a hurry and that tastes very good too.Just eye ball it to about 1/4 cup or a bit more.  Add it on with the vegetables.  Please adjust the amount of salt, reduce the quantity as the fried onions have salt in them.

Rice Pulao with simple spices and vegetables
Vegetable Pulao

I have often come across questions like, 'doesn't Indian food require a lot of special spices and ingredients?', or, ' all those spices, I'm not sure I want to buy them and then end up not using them', or, 'what if I buy those big packs of spices and never know what to do with them, I'm not used to cooking Indian food, you know.'

I get it. For someone who might be trying Indian food for the first time, or is not comfortable buying all those ingredients and blends, only to waste them, it is a big deterrent.
I've so often wished for smaller ( read, single portion) packs of spices where I waste neither money nor the spices. so, for the High-Five of the day, which was to be a small memento, I thought of making a small packet with a recipe card and adding spices to it (pre-measured).
The challenge was to come up with a simple / non-fussy recipe. One that had few ingredients and simple to follow instructions. 
I narrowed my choice to finding a recipe from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries. After shortlisting 2 recipes, I also messaged him and sought his opinion. and then went with his recommendation (Pyaaz Murghi). The result was, we had typed out the recipe cards and the only spices needed were Turmeric and Garam Masala. These were added to small Ziploc bags and labeled.
I am not very good at wrapping up things and making them look pretty, but I hope they don't mind. 

We also had a Photo Booth set up. One mom made the booth with PVC pipes and hung white shower curtains. Another mom sent filmy posters and some oxidized jewelry and I took along some dupattas  and some imitation jewelry I had. The teachers and staff who came up to the booth had fun trying on the trinkets and bindis, an embroidered jacket, my friend Prachi loaned me and bangles and posing for us! 

This was for all the entire staff.

But I also wanted to do something for my son's class teacher. So I asked the 'Room Mom' if she knew anyone who did gluten free baking (our teacher has allergies). I have never baked anything Gluten Free  and did not want to experiment this time. Luckily one mom stepped up and said she'd bake a cake and I would decorate it. I went with my buttercream recipe for the floral decorations. I hope Mrs. T liked the cake.
Buttercream floral cake

It was a hectic week and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

But now, I want to take it easy and make simple food, you know, the amti-bhaat, poli- bhaji  meals. Which reminds me of the simple recipes I am planning to share with y'all. Coming up soon on AC@H.

Enjoy the long weekend and mid-winter break! 
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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Desserts for two. Cinnamon Streusel Cake

There are days when I pick up my son from school, hand him a lunch box with hot food and a spoon and ask him to eat up as I drive him directly to the library and then to tutoring.
On those days, he sits in the library and will finish his work and I stroll through the book aisles and pick a book here, a comic there or a magazine to flip through.
He works, I read.
Occasionally, he pays more attention to what I have, than to his work. I would too, I mean, c'mon, is math as interesting as a book which has tempting pictures of delicious desserts?

That's what I found on one of my 'walks'. A book that was just what I needed, Best sweets and treats for two
In February 2017, I went along with Nupur on the sugar free month, it's almost a year now and I am glad I broke that bad habit of gorging on something sweet. I can now say no and not regret it one bit!

But sometimes, it feels nice to have a little something to nibble on.  And who can say no to cake? But, making a usual portion is a lot and nobody wants to eat it after a day. This book solves my problem. This recipe serves 3, when the adults are careful of portion control ;)

small treat, cake, tea time

This recipe makes 2 mini loaves. What makes it a breeze is, this recipe uses a store brought mix, its semi-home made. While I like to measure out the ingredients and bake from scratch, this short cut is  rather convenient.

You need :

1 1/2 cups Store brought Yellow cake mix
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Water
3 Tbsp Butter (unsalted), melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar ( i used light brown, it was what I had)
1/2 cup All purpose flour
1/2 tsp Cinnamon 
3 tbsp Butter, chilled and diced
1 Cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp Milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350F
Grease the mini loaves
In a mixing bowl of the stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the cake mix, egg and egg yolk, water and melted butter and mix until well combined ( about 2 mins)

Make the streusel: in a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, brown sugar. Using a fork or your hands rub the butter into the flour and sugar till pea size crumbles form

Pour the cake batter in the greased pans, pour half way only. Now sprinkle the streusel mix over the batter. Pour remaining cake batter. Top it off with the remaining streusel mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 20-25 mins ( until the toothpick comes out clean)

Remove from pan ( after about 10 mins) and set it on the rack to cool completely.

The book does not state the use of the last two ingredients, the powdered sugar and the milk. I'm guessing that is for the glaze. 
I did not make the glaze. The cake is perfectly sweet and does not need anything more. 

If you, however, like sweet, add the milk in the powdered sugar and mix to form a thick glaze and drizzle it over the cooled  cakes.

Last slice, hastily clicked before a hungry 9 year old grabbed it and gobbled it up! 
Since this recipe worked well, my son has bookmarked several recipes he liked in the book and has urged me not to waste any time, but try and make them all. I am tempted! And with small portions, it really works well for us. 
So stay tuned for some more sweet treats. 

That's it from me! See you soon (hopefully) with new recipes and updates. 
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Millet Idli

My mother made idlis using idli rava at home. Weekends mostly. I remember waking up to the smell of sambar and the aroma was motivation enough to scramble out of bed, rush through everything to arrive at the table, hungry as a hunter. 
 We used to love them! I still do. In fact, these were the only ones I used to make until I got my wet grinder. And then the game changed. The previously loved idli rava idlis became a thing of the past. They are great, but there is something so perfect about the idli rice, idlis. They are heavenly! And so, I kept churning out soft pillowy idlis, week after week and enjoying every single morsel.
Every couple of weeks I make idli batter. I look forward to making soft melt-in-the-mouth Idlis. The process is simple, though time consuming. Its a great option for a quick meal or to pack in the lunch box ( for the husband, who can heat them in his office). 

The highlight of our summer (2017) was my parents visiting us. They came in time for my son's birthday and stayed for mine. Oh what a wonderful time it was! Their love and good food was the best part of last year. I cooked a lot, clicked pictures on my phone and well, they're still there. I guess I'll work on the posts this year. LOL! 

During this time, I tried a variation on the regular idlis and they did not disappoint.
Instead of rice, I used millet. Hulled millet is available packaged in most grocery stores and in the bulk bin section as well.
Pic courtesy : Google search

You need:
1 cup Gota Urad Daal 
3 cups Millet 
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds

Wash the Urad daal in several changes of water (scrub lightly with your fingers. The water will turn very cloudy. Drain it, add fresh water, repeat till the water runs clear). Soak the urad daal in plenty of water. Add the fenugreek seeds.

Wash the millet and soak it in a separate container in plenty of water.

Soak the daal and millet overnight.

Before grinding, discard the soaking water. I also give both ingredients a quick rinse under running water.

Begin with grinding the urad daal. 

If using a wet grinder or a blender, add the urad daal and start grinding. Gradually add little water. Do not add too much. You don't want a runny daal paste. That will ruin the idlis. 

Grind till the urad daal turns a pale color and looks 'fluffy'.

Remove to a container.

Grind the millet now. Take care not to add too much water. This will take a bit longer to grind. Be patient. 

Once the millet turns to a smooth paste, add it to the ground urad daal. Mix well.

The batter should have a dropping consistency. Too runny- the idli will be flat and gummy, too thick (where you need to give the ladle a shake to make the batter fall into the mold) will make rock like idlis, better used as hockey pucks.

There are two options now: 
  1.  stick the pot in a warmish oven and let the batter ferment (between 10-12 hours )
  2. Pour the batter in the inner steel pot of your Electric Pressure cooker /  Instant Pot and set it to 'yogurt' mode for 8 hours on seal mode. 
Once the batter is fermented, make idlis as usual.
If you are making idlis for the first time: 

Add some salt to the fermented batter and fold it in gently. 

Before making idlis, add water to the idli cooker and set it on the stove. 

Once the water is bubbling, grease the idli molds with either oil / oil spray or ghee.

Ladle idli batter into the molds ( do not overfill) and place the stand in the steaming water. Close the lid and steam the idlis on high ( on a dial from 0-10, keep the heat at 8-8.5). Continue cooking for 15-18 mins ( when you open the lid- carefullllly- the idli tops must be plump and not sticky.

Switch off the heat and using a thick kitchen towel or baking mitten, remove the idli stand and set it aside for a couple mins. 

Carefully unmold the idlis, these should slip out easily, if not use a spoon or a butter knife to loosen the sides and transfer to a  container.

Serve idlis with chutney or sambar or both. 

I made this zuchhini chutney for my family and they enjoyed the combination very much. I unfortunately couldn't eat it as it has peanuts.

Learn to make idlis without the rice. Use Millet to make delightful idlis for a perfect breakfast.


These idlis are very tasty. But do not compare them to the regular rice idlis,

The batter can be used to make dosa as well.

These are a very good alternative to rice idlis, specially for people who avoid rice in their diet.

These idlis can be steamed in the Instant Pot as well, but I am not very comfortable doing that. I just haven't learned how, strange as this sounds. If you have, please share the method with me.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Almond Meal Sabudana Khichadi in the Instant Pot

Wishing you all a (belated) Happy new year! I've been away so long, it felt almost odd to break the silent streak. This much loved space was neglected because a few months ago, the laptop I was using broke. Really. I mean the screen cracked. It was usable, but it was just too much of a bother, to connect the laptop to the TV, use the tv screen .. argh! I just let it be.

These days, almost everyone is crazy about the Instant Pot ( Electric Pressure Cooker) and those who have one will sing it's praises. To the extent that people who haven't purchased the IP/ EPC scramble when they spot a deal.
And why not? 
The IP /EPC is very useful and versatile. 
It's a pressure cooker on steroids!

And so, I prefer to use my EPC over the manual pressure cooker. I rely on it quite a lot.
I can program it and walk away, knowing everything will be done perfectly. 
The husband need not count the whistles and switch off the stove ( not that he remembers, in any case. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had to use my old manual pressure cooker as I had the IP fermenting idli batter for me, and despite warning him, the cooker whistled away, the water evaporated, the daal inside was burnt to a charcoal black and the smell! oh dear god! ... and all through this, he sat, on the sofa, fiddling with his phone, unaware. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't come home in time).

It just does SO much! 
Today, I made Sabudana Khichadi in it. I was talking to my mother and did not feel like slaving over the stove, with one hand stirring and the other clutching the cell phone to my ear. 
I also substituted almond meal for peanut powder. It isn't the same but makes a really good substitute.

click to learn how to make sabudana khichadi in an electric pressure cooker or instant pot, IP

Here is a link to my regular stove top sabudana khichadi  with tips and tricks. Over the years, I've had many people tell me that they love khichadi, but are terrified at making it, it always turns out sticky and gluey and ends up in the trash. Do try my tips and trick for every- pearl- separate khichadi,

Here is my Electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot (EPC/ IP) version.

Prep :
I usually eyeball the quantity.  But I'll try to be a bit accurate here.

Rinse 2 cups Sabudana pearls under running water. Soak the pearls in water that comes 'just' above the sabudana level. The tops of the sabudana should skim the water.
I usually soak them overnight. This gives me perfectly soaked pearls.

When ready to make khichadi, grind together 2-3 fresh green chilies and 1 heaped teaspoon of Jeera / cumin seeds with a hefty pinch of salt. 

Use about 3/4 cup of almond meal ( I buy this from the store). Mix the almond meal with the sabudana, add some salt to taste and 1 -2 teaspoons of Sugar. Mix it all well.
*Tip: The almond meal quantity can be increased. This will ensure that the sabudana does not become gluey. Look at the sabudana once you add and the almond meal, the pearls should be coated with a thin layer of the powder.

Now, Start your EPC/ IP on Sear / Saute mode.

Add 1 tbsp Oil and top with 2 Tbsp Ghee ( don't skimp, another reason why it turns a gluey mess, too little ghee. And oh! don't skimp the ghee, I add oil first as I find that the oil acts as a layer between the hot pot base and ghee and keeps it from burning.)

As the ghee melts into the oil, add the green chilies and cumin.

Once it sizzles, add the sabudana mixture and mix it all well.

I had a boiled potato on hand, so I just cubed it and tossed it in the mixture. Sprinkle just 1-2 tbsp of water on top and mix.

If you are planning to add raw potato, peel, quarter and make thin triangular slices and add them in after the green chilies. Place any lid that fits over the EPC/ IP top and let them soften and cook. Then add the sabudana.

Cancel the Sear / Saute mode and place the IP lid on. Sealing mode.

Press 'Manual' mode and put it on 1 minute timer.

Once the timer beeps, signalling the end of cooking, release the pressure manually (QPR), VERY CAREFULLY, by turning the 'whistle' knob to 'vent' position.

Once the pin drops and all the pressure subsides, open carefully. With a spatula, gently mix the khichadi together and taste. Add salt / sugar if needed.

Squeeze the juice of half a lime, mix and plate.

Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and fresh shredded coconut (optional)

see how to make sabudana khichadi in your IP


Ideally, a stove top sabudana khichadi  isn't covered when cooking. Neither do we sprinkle water. IF using the old method, skip this.

I always add sugar, I love the spicy and slightly sweet taste.

If you do not want to use fresh shredded coconut as a garnish, you can add some dry shredded coconut into the hot khichadi once its done and mix it in. 

My cousin sister uses red chilies powder instead of fresh green chilies (they give her a horrid tummy ache), so if you do not want to use fresh chilies, add a scant tsp of Kashmiri red chilies powder or a blend of Kashmiri and a hotter powder ( adjust to suit your spice tolerance). This will change the appearance totally, the khichadi will look an angry red! But my cousin tells me, it tastes good too,

You can safely consume this during fasting /vrat/ upvaas. 

Leftover khichadi reheats well in the microwave, sprinkle some water and heat through for a minute at least.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pullikachal (Tamarind Sauce for Rice) Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker recipe

Many years ago, a cousin told me about MTR Puliogare powder and raved about it. We got a packet and used it and liked it. It was a novelty for us, the tangy taste was unlike any we had tasted before.

The powder was also very convenient to have on hand. 
I used to work in shifts, I would come home at all odd hours and sometimes, starving. When the work load was heavy, we would miss meals to cover up the workload. 
On those days I would come home, in the middle of the night, hungry and dead tired. My parents would be fast asleep and I did not want to wake them, I would quietly go to the kitchen and make myself some Puliogare rice with the left over rice my Mother would keep for me. 

After marriage, M introduced me to a particular brand (I forgot the name) that came in a bottle in the paste form, which was better then MTR and we would enjoy mixing it with plain rice.

When we moved to the USA, we switched back to MTR. We tried other brands (paste) but did not like any.
I searched for a recipe on other blogs.
I found and tried some recipes but nothing clicked. The process was also tedious. 
I dropped the idea for a while and went back to store brought mix.

And then, I saw a recipe which made the whole process simple, made using the Electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot.
This solved my problem of baby sitting the  whole thing. 
I used the timings as specified by a FB user Lavanya but modified the spice proportions to my taste.
Spices to be powdered and added to the pulp

To make the spice powder you need:

1/4 cup Coriander Seeds 
1/4 cup Chana Daal
1 tsp. Fenugreek seeds
    1/4 cup Sesame seeds
    8-10 Dry Red chilies ( I used Byadgi variety)
    Few curry leaves ( I used about 2- 3 sprigs)

Dry roast each item separately until the dals are golden brown and the chilies and curry leaves are dry and crisp.
This can be done in the EPC/ IP as well on saute mode. But I used my stove top for this.
Cool completely and grind to a fine powder. I used my coffee mill for this.

To make the Pullikachal / Puliogare paste you need:

One small packet of Tamarind (easily available in any Indian store)
Gingelly (sesame) Oil
1 tbs Mustard Seeds
3-4 Dry Red Chilies ( I used Byadgi)
Few curry leaves
1 tbsp chana Daal
1 tbsp Urad daal
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 cup Peanuts
1/4 cup Cashew nuts (optional, but I like them)
Salt to taste
1 tsp Asafetida powder
2 tsp Jaggery crumbled ( this is my choice, the original recipe does not call for it)

Soak the tamarind in warm water and squeeze out the pulp. Discard the solids.

Start the EPC/ IP on Sear / saute Mode. 

Add Gingelly oil, generously. I added as much as needed to make a thin layer covering the entire surface of the cooker inner pot.

Once the oil heats up add the urad daal and chana daal and mustard seeds . 

As they pop add the daals turn golden brown, add the (raw) peanuts and saute till golden. If you use roasted  peanuts add cashew pieces along with the peanuts. Add the curry leaves, red chilies. Saute till the oil has coated all the spices.

Add the tamarind pulp and mix everything well.

Cancel the Sear Mode at this point.

Switch to Slow Cook mode and set it for 3 hours. Close the lid and leave the 'whistle' on Vent mode.

Forget about it for 1 hour and 45 mins. 

After that time, open the lid and you will see the liquid has reduced by half or more. 

Now add in the turmeric powder, salt and the ground spice powder. Mix well to incorporate the spice powder very well with the tamarind. If you opt to add jaggery, add it now. 

Close the lid again and let it slow cook for the remaining time on the timer.

At the end of the cooking time the oil will separate from the mixture. 

Puliogare /Pullikachal is ready.

To make Tamarind Rice:

Add a dollop of the Puliogare / Pulikachal paste to cooked and cooled rice. This depends on your taste buds, adjust the spoonful to how strong you want to make it.

Mix it well and serve. 

As simple as that!

This is a life saver on Monday mornings, I can tell you.


  • Do not skimp the oil
  • Use Gingelly / sesame oil, it imparts a special flavor
  • Store the Pulikachal paste in a dry airtight container
  • Use a dry spoon every time you make Tamarind rice
  • The addition of jaggery is my choice, just to balance out the extreme tartness.
  • Unconventional as it is,  I had also added 2 tbsp. Sambar Podi to this mix, when I made a fresh batch.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kofta Curry (IP recipe) Bottle Gourd & Zuchhini dumplings in a rich and aromatic Gravy.

How do you all plan a menu for guests? Do you make multiple dishes? Like 2 gravy based vegetables, 2 dry, roti and puri, pulav and dessert to follow.
Or, do you plan a simple and manageable menu?

I am the latter type. I plan a manageable list of things I can cook without getting frazzled. IMHO, I also like to keep it simple because too many items on the menu may mean that the guest may not be able to do justice to it all or not sample something at all. 
It all ends up in too many leftovers which, honestly, no one likes to eat again. 

There was also another discussion, on a FB Food group, where a member asked how we plan a menu. By cuisine, she meant.
When I thought about it, I found myself thinking, if I have guests from the North of India, or East or even from Maharashtra, I go ahead and plan a South Indian menu. 
And a North Indian menu is of course welcomed by almost everyone.

Do you step out of your comfort zone and try something new? 
Contrary to what I have been taught, namely, 'when you have guests, make what you are confident about, this is not time to experiment', I go right ahead and try something new. 
How do you plan a menu for your guests? Please share your tips and tricks, I'd love to hear from you.

A few weeks ago, we invited M's friend and his family for dinner. I made this kofta curry and our guests loved it. 
The best part is, it was an easy curry to make! These days I find myself reaching out for my #EPC (Electric Pressure Cooker) all the time. To those of you who use either #InstantPot or a similar EPC will know exactly what I mean. I start my day with setting up my Tea, before I drop off S to school and come home to a perfectly brewed cuppa.
Or , set the EPC to cook a batch of Pav Bhaji as I drop him off to Taekwondo and pick up something from the grocery store that I forgot over the weekend.
Let us however get back to this kofta curry. 

To make the Koftas:
I used this recipe from an old post.
The variation was that I added 1 zucchini to the bottle gourd and used my appe pan / abelskiver pan to sallow fry them instead of deep frying.

Important: * Grate the zucchini and bottle gourd, sprinkle a little salt and let it sit for 15 mins or so. The salt will draw out the excess water from the vegetables. Squeeze it all out and then use the grated vegetables.
Failure to do this will only make the fritter kofta batter runny and will not taste good. 

Shredded Bottle Gourd (Lauki/ Dudhi) and Zuchhini

Using the Appe Pan / Abelskiver Pan to make the koftas

These koftas freeze very well.

I found this gravy recipe here. I modified it slightly to suit my requirement and also based on what I had in my pantry.

Here is how I made the gravy:

6-7 Tomatoes, chopped
1 large Onion ( I used Red Onion), Chopped 
8 fat cloves of Garlic ( if you have smaller cloves, use about 12), peeled
1 inch Ginger, peeled and sliced
1 stick Butter
Fistful Cashew nuts
2 Tbsp. Kashmiri Red chilies powder 
Alternatively, add 1 Tbsp Kashmiri red chilies powder and 1 tsp Regular (hot) chilies powder for a spicier gravy
1 scant tsp Turmeric powder
1 heaped Tbsp Sugar ( I used granulated white sugar) 
2 Tbsp Kasuri Methi ( dry Fenugreek leaves)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup Water

The Spice Pouch
 Spice Pouch:
1 x 1 inch Cinnamon stick
1 tsp Cardamom (green)
1 number, Black Cardamom (Badi Elaichi)
1 tsp Cloves / Laung / Lavang
1 Star Anise

To Begin:
 Prepare the spice pouch. I used the pouch shown in the picture, it is the 'water filter' pouch one easily gets in India. Alternatively, use cheesecloth (cut it into a square, layer 2-4 square pieces on top of one another) place the spices on the cheesecloth and pull the sides closed and secure with a piece of string. The spices should not spill out. Set aside.

To the inner steel pot of your Electric Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot add
The peeled and chopped onion, just big pieces.
Chop the tomato (quarters). Pitch them in.
Add all the ingredients listed under the gravy list ( from tomato to Water)
Add the spice pouch
Close the cooker and seal the lid ('whistle' set to Sealing mode)
Use the 'Manual' mode and set it for 15 minutes.
Let the cycle complete and the pressure release naturally (NPR)
Open the lid, carefully remove the 'spice pouch'
Using an *immersion blender, blend the gravy till smooth
Add the kotas to the gravy
Switch to the Sear / Saute mode and let the gravy come to a gentle boil and the koftas absorb the gravy.

*If you do not have an immersion blender, let the gravy cool and then blend it in the regular blender till smooth. Transfer the blended gravy to the steel inner pot, you can later add the koftas to it and heat the gravy to let the koftas absorb all the flavor on the 'Sear' / 'Saute' Mode

Garnish with chopped cilantro and a swirl of cream if you wish to. 


- Instead of koftas, add cubed Paneer to the gravy ( Paneer Butter Masala)
- The original recipe calls for Honey, I used sugar instead and used just 1 tbsp. If you like sweetness to the gravy, use more. 
- The original recipe calls for milk to be added to the gravy with the other ingredients, I did not. The cashews did a great job of adding richness to the gravy and I was very happy with just that.
- Use Kashmiri red chilies powder for a deeper red colored gravy. I had the spicy variety on hand and so had to use half the quantity.
- The gravy freezes well, as do the koftas. Just make sure that they are frozen separately. Thaw the gravy  and koftas in the fridge overnight and then heat them (medium-high heat) together. 
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