Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lobia Masala (Cowpeas in Spicy gravy)

When a particular language does not have a name for a vegetable or legume, it's usually because it's not locally grown or not become a popular part of the regional cuisine. Karamani/Lobia/Raungi/Chowli - all different names for cowpeas or black eyed beans - goes to show that this is one legume which has penetrated many parts of India; unlike say, rajma or kabuli chana.

I was used to preparing karamani kozhambu in Chennai, a spicy tamarind and tomato based gravy from MIL's recipe. In Delhi, I learnt this recipe from Tara, our help at home.

She says its the Punjabi way of making it and she learnt it from the household she worked at last. It certainly uses the very Punjabi way of "bhuno" or frying the tomato-onion-masala mixture on slow heat till it comes together and becomes dry and dark. But what makes me think that the original recipe may have been adapted is that she grinds the tomato-onion-masala mixture after it has been fried, something which I don't think is very traditional.

Now, this recipe is the slow version when you have had the time to soak the cowpeas for about 3 hours.
When you haven't been able to soak the cowpeas for long, simply soak it for half an hour or so and then pressure cook the lobia for about 15 minutes on low. Cool and add to the masala made below and cook for about 10 more minutes.

Lobia, I have found, needs quite a bit of condiments to add taste to it, by itself it can make the dish pretty bland. So, cooking it along with the masala makes it much more flavourful than adding the lobia at the end.

This makes for a great accompaniment to rotis as well as rice and since it doesn't need to be soaked overnight, its perfect for a quick meal. Here, served with sticky potato (arvi) - recipe to follow.

Lobia Masala

Lobia - 1 cup, soaked in water for 3 hours

Tomatoes -3
Onions -2 medium
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp

Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Chopped coriander - 2 tbsp
oil - 1 tbsp
salt to taste

1. Heat 1/2 tbsp oil and saute the onions till they are brown.
2. Add the coriander powder, cumin powder and chilli powder and fry for about 5 minutes on low flame.
3. Add the tomatoes and saute for about 10-15 minutes till they become pulpy, then dry out to a brownish onion tomato mixture.
4. Remove from the pan and cool. Blend to a smooth paste.
5. Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp oil and put in the cumin seeds. When they change colour, add the fried tomato onion paste and saute for half a minute.
6. Drain the lobia and add to the pan, add salt and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil.
7. Simmer on a low flame, covered, till the lobia is soft and well cooked.
8. Add the garam masala at the end and cook for a minute before removing from flame.
9. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Banana Muffins

We had another baking session with the kids during the holidays. This time with three 3 year olds and one six year old. Decided to bake muffins this time, these individual cakes always manage to thrill the little ones! I had a couple of ripe bananas lying around so I decided to make Banana Muffins and also throw in some walnuts.

The bananas, milk, honey, eggs and walnuts make for a power packed treat for the little ones - rich in calcium, iron, Vitamin A, protein, essential fatty acids and potassium. It takes hardly anytime to prepare and my little helpers gave me a hand with mixing the ingredients and pouring out the batter.

The muffins when they were baked were really moist and soft, though they turned out a tad salty....not sure whether it was more salt or the combination of cinnamon and salt. Will cut down on both the next time.

The banana muffins are on their way to the Think Spice...Think Nutmeg event being hosted this month by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. Think Spice was originally hosted by Sunita's World.

Banana Muffins

1/2 tsp cinnamon (can be replaced with vanilla essence)

1/2 tsp nutmeg (grated)

1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)

1½ cups refined flour (maida)

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

½ cup honey

1 egg

½ tsp salt (would change it to 1/4 tsp next time)

1 cup milk

3 tbsp oil

3 ripe bananas, mashed

Half a cup of chopped walnuts (lightly toasted)

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Mix the wheat flour, refined flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a bowl.

3. In another bowl, mix the honey, egg, milk, oil and add the dry ingredients until just combined. At the end mix in the chopped walnuts.

4. Grease a muffin pan or line cupcake moulds with cupcake papers.

5. Fill the muffin moulds or cupcake liners till the top and bake for 35-45 minutes till they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

6. Remove to a rack and cool completely before unmoulding.

For a superb eggless version, take a look at Vaishali's recipe.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Amti (Daal - Maharashtrian style)

I have mentioned before how Amti was one of my favourites while growing up in Mumbai. This midly flavoured lentil dish is so simple but at the same time so satisfying! And ever since I got my hands on some Goda masala, it's been wonderful to be able to make this at home and have a delightful variations to all the dals and parrupu kootus we make at home.

This time I made Chincha-goola-chi Amti (Daal with tamarind and jaggery) borrowing the Cooker's recipe.

Have you visited the Cooker's delightful blog? - simple and satisfying is what it is, just like the amti I made. I guarantee you that any recipe you would pick up would not have more than 5-8 ingredients at the most, and definitely not more than 10! I tried her cupcakes for my daughter's birthday and they were perfect in everyway.

So what better place to choose from than her blog for this month's edition of MBP (Monthly Blog Patrol) where the theme is Less is More. MBP was started by Coffee of Spice Cafe and July's MBP is being hosted by Nupur of One Hot Stove. Nupur has specified that the theme means that the recipes chosen must have only five ingredients or less.

Check here for this recipe from the Cooker which has just the minimum number of ingredients with maximum taste!. The tamarind and jaggery give a distinctive taste to this dish while goda masala leaves you wondering what the smoky flavour is....

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Making Memories - Cookies

Today is the last day of the summer holidays for my daughter and most of her friends. My respect for my parents has gone up a notch or two - they managed to keep us occupied in an age when there was no TV, no Barney DVDs and not many options outside of home.

Of course, they weren't helicopter parents either and didn't believe that their children had to be kept "meaningfully" occupied every minute of the day and their intellectual capabilities honed to the best from age two!

But I did manage (with some other VERY resourceful mothers) to get through the vacation without enrolling her in a "summer camp". I did, however, spend 2 weeks with my brother and best friend, so maybe that helped a bit.
For the rest of the time, she was either at her friends' house upstairs or down the road or they were over here - finger painting, block painting, doing puzzles, having doll parties, building Lego towers, crayon colouring books, dancing to music, dressing up in costumes and having pretend plays, eating competitions at lunch,running around in the park every evening and generally enjoying herself. AND she hardly had time to watch any TV!

When it was just the two of us on a hot afternoon, we cuddled up and I read to her in bed - I even found some original A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh books - remember those? - the ones with those amazing line drawings by E Shepard - not the Disneyfied versions which is all that is available today!

One of those days 2 weeks back, my dear friend A (and Regular Reader Number 1 of my blog!) came downstairs with her kids and we set to work baking cookies. The little ones stood on stools to reach the kitchen platform and were most excited about choosing and cutting out the shapes from the dough and then decorating "their" cookies with sprinkles and icing.

It was quite hot that day and we both were bushed by the end of it BUT the kids could hardly wait for the cookies to come out of the oven....AND then cool was so precious to watch them crowding around the table, just standing there and waiting for the cookies to cool down! LOL!
(It was a bit gruesome though to watch the Gingerbread Man being devoured head first with a wicked smile!) ;)

I hope we all made some wonderful memories for the children that day and these summer days we are leaving behind!

Sugar Cookies

Refined Flour - 1 cup
Wheat flour - 1/2 cup
1 egg white
Butter - 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp
Castor sugar - 1/2 cup
Milk - as needed
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Beat the butter and sugar till light and creamy in a large bowl.
2. Beat the egg separately and add the vanilla essence to it.
3. Sieve the refined flour, wheat flour, baking powder and salt together.
4. Add the beaten egg to the butter sugar mixture.
5. Fold in the flours into this and combine with a clean hand to make a smooth cookie dough.
6. If it is a bit dry, you can add milk a tablespoon at a time till it comes together.
7. Cover with cling wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
8. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 190C.
9. Grease a baking tray and keep aside.
10. Roll out the chilled dough on the counter which has been sprinkled with a bit of flour - about 1/4th of an inch thickness.
11. Cut out cookie shapes with the cookie cutters (easily found in most utensil shops today or even the ubiquitous Dollar store)
12. Roll out the remaining dough and then cut out shapes again, repeat till all the dough is used up.
13. Decorate the shapes with sprinkles, icing and even chocolate drizzles - use your imagination or better still let your child take the lead!
14. Bake in the preheated oven for about 13 minutes till it just turns brown. Let it stay for about 2 minutes in the oven and it will become a bit crisper.