Sunday, June 14, 2020

Things I've been Doing, Learning, Making from the Internet - 2

This fish fry picture is click bait, more on this below

I'm not an Internet video person. I still prefer text and pictures. However, all the experiments I'm recording here are taken from videos. They all had useful and clear instructions.

A couple of weeks ago, I ground a fresh batch of ginger-garlic paste. Our cook had told me there was nothing to it - and that a dash of turmeric and salt would act as preservative. Still, why have the Internet at your fingertips if not to browse it for no good reason? So I looked at recipes for ginger-garlic paste and came across several. I'm not a video person, but I was curious to see what the visual value of grinding ginger-garlic paste was - isn't it just a few whizzes in the mixie - so I clicked on them. There was little more than I imagined in those videos, but one of them had a helpful tip. The vlogger had advised roasting a bit of salt till it lost its ability to extract water from the ginger and garlic. (That's when it changes colour.) The objective: Not to dilute the paste with the water that will keep oozing because of the unroasted salt. This vlogger also recommended adding some heated and cooled oil. So I did that. 

Doesn't my ginger-garlic paste look good and undiluted? Let me know if you can see any motor lubricant in there. I seem to have ground it for too long or probably I overloaded the jar - there were streaks of greenish-black oil on the grinder which I only noticed a couple of hours later. I poked about carefully in the paste and didn't notice any contamination. I still feel a streak of concern whenever I use it, though.

I'm unable to locate the video now but will add the link when I find it.

Then, the lip-smacking korameenu fish fry that you see up there, that's from this video.

It uses just a little bit of oil relative to the amount of fish so I was very sceptical whether it would work. However, something in me pushed me to trust it and I was not disappointed. It worked like a charm. I forgot to add the sesame powder but to me, it was like the taste of home. I'm not sure, however, that the English name for this is red snapper. I think it's murrel, but I could be wrong. This is what is called 'viral' in Tamil.

This is garlic pickle, not halwa. Those are garlic cloves, not cashews. A couple of friends said it looked like that when I sent them pictures on the phone.

I needed only two cups of garlic cloves for the ginger-garlic paste. I'm finding ways to consume it before it goes all brown and black and shrivels up. I hit upon the idea of a garlic pickle the way mango is pickled in Andhra homes, tasting of chilli powder and mustard and gingelly oil, but none of the recipes I came across gave me the confidence it would turn out that way - and I know nothing of pickling to be instinctively experimental about it. So I looked for what felt like an interesting recipe and settled for this, which is a garlic pickle with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and sesame, an unusual formula for pickle.

The narration is in Telugu and there are no sub-titles. Nevertheless, the visuals are good enough - you can identify the ingredients as well as the quantities. There is a tip about how long to fry the garlic - till a fold appears, he says, but I didn't notice any fold. I did think the texture changed. Something like tiny goosebumps or a certain roughness appeared on the surface (it should not brown), and then I switched it off and left it to cool. It tasted exactly like a prawn pickle an aunt of mine had made and given us. It's an interesting taste and I'm glad to have rediscovered it.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Repurposing a Mango Salad As Fried Rice

Recently, we got a bounty of five mangoes from the tree in our building. The tree has been bearing fruit for a few years now. It grazes my window, and I revel in the greenery amidst all the concrete. Now I had to find a way to use up the mangoes.

I came across a recipe for a Myanmarese mango salad for the first time. It struck me as very unusual, combining raw mango, cabbage, roasted gram flour, sesame seeds and a host of other things. It suited me well as I had most of them - and that included a shrivelling, shrinking cabbage. I did not have soy sauce but I decided to give it a try anyway, it was sufficiently new and exotic for me.

However, things started going awry towards the end as the method mentioned one ingredient not previously mentioned and left out details about where to add some others. I added what I could and mixed it all up and dropped the dressing totally. It tasted like the masala mixture you get on the streets in South India, especially Andhra Pradesh.

It was tasty, but super sour. (I had decided to drop the sugar.) Neither The Spouse nor I felt we would enjoy a second overpowering dose so I decided to turn it into a pulihora, some versions of which share many ingredients with the salad. For the Telugu New Year day, we sometimes make a mango pulihora with shredded sour mangoes. Amidst the hurry over the sudden lockdown announcement, I had forgotten that Ugadi was the next day so could not celebrate with food. We got the mangoes well after Ugadi had gone by.


Green mangoes - 1/2 a kilo, peeled and shredded
Cabbage - 1.5 cups
Onion - 1, big, finely sliced
Tomato - 1, medium, sliced
Dry red chilli - 3, broken
Garlic - 4 cloves, minced
Shallots/sambar onions - 8, minced
White sesame seed - 2 tbsp, toasted and ground
Peanuts - 2-3 tbsp, roasted and crushed
Gram flour/besan - 3-4 tbsp, roasted
Salt  - start with 1 tsp of table salt
Pepper - freshly ground
Lime - 1
Chopped coriander - 3 tbsp
Cooked rice - start with 2 cups
Gingelly/sesame Oil - 1 tbsp


The shallots and garlic were fried for the salad and added to it somewhere along the way as the original recipe was not clear to me. Everything got mixed up and rather soggy ultimately. The taste was good, if somewhat overwhelming.

The next day, I heated the sesame oil and added the salad to it. Saute the salad for a couple of minutes and add the rice to it. Add more rice if it's too sour for your taste. Check seasoning, adjust according to taste and consume.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Surplus Management Lesson - Mango Curry

Last month, I went to Bangalore and chanced upon an exhibition of mangoes from Karnataka in Lalbagh. Past lamentations and scruples about glut and leftovers, modest eating, etc, became things of the past. My resolve dissolved and I turned into a greedy pig and a hapless hoarder. (If you were to say greedy and hapless don't go together, your objection might be valid, but really, greed is a weakness, isn't it, so the adjective hapless suits it quite well.)

I ended up with several specimens of this new discovery of mine called Sakkaregutti (Sugar Baby in English). Tiny mangoes that are just about fist-sized or smaller. Juicy little things that you can be done with in one or two mouthfuls. I knew I would not be able to eat so many steadily and needed to find a way to use at least some of them up. One of our friends in Bangalore had served us a curry made of similar mangoes. She said it was based on a Mangalorean dish.

I wanted to try something different so I made this, a sweet and sour curry applying a recipe often used with less exotic protagonists. This is broadly based on the ‘pulusus’ (light tamarind-based gravies) made in Telugu cuisine. The next time I am stuck with more mango, any variety, than I can eat as fruit, this will be one way to dispose of them.

(Serves 4)


Sakkaregutti (or other small fist-sized mangoes), peeled, whole – 10
Tamarind juice – extracted from 3-4 pieces soaked in 2.5 cups of water
Jaggery – ½ tbsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Mustard seed – ¾ tsp
Cumin seed – ½ tsp
Dry red chilli – 2, broken
Split, hulled black gram/urad dal – 1 tsp
Crystal asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – 3-4
Salt – ¾ tsp, to begin with
Red chilli powder – ¾ tsp, or to taste
Oil – ½ tbsp
Coriander leaves, to garnish
Heat the oil, temper with the mustard, cumin, red chilli, black gram, asafoetida and curry leaf, in that order as they splutter/turn colour.
Add the peeled, whole mangoes and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add the tamarind water, salt, chilli powder and cook on medium flame for about eight minutes. Add more water if you think it’s necessary. 
Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary and add the jaggery. Simmer for a few minutes and then turn off the flame. Garnish with chopped coriander.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Experimenting with Bok Choy

Remember this post about bok choy? Remember me? Whether you do or not, I'm going to tell you about my latest experiments with bok choy.

I found a couple of good specimens recently and became fixated on the idea of a garlicky stir-fry. I recently acquired a jade green stone pestle and mortar so it's easy to throw in any number of cloves of garlic, pound them and use them. (Not that it was much more difficult earlier.) 

I made this about two weeks ago, I think. There is no fixed recipe for this. I wanted the taste of the garlic and the chilli to be prominent, and decided to use mustard oil to cook this in. So I heated the oil, added the garlic and the chilli and all the bok choy chopped up, let it wilt and wilt and dry, and then added a bit of salt, stirred it and took it off the fire. It tasted bitter and sharp initially but I soldiered on and managed to finish two cups. I quite liked it, finally.

My leftover problems haven't been left behind - so I had visions of the bok choy going into a nice and colourful fried rice with a little leftover beetroot, leftover rice and a fresh fried egg. As I'm consciously cutting down on salt, it all tasted a little bland, but I'm sure when you toss everything together and liberally add salt and pepper and remember to add the egg after it's been fried both sides and not worked through the rice sunny side up, it will be much better.

Oh yes! This dish also has some snow peas I purchased for a rather obscene amount at a store expats frequent - they too me two weeks to finish, but they're finally gone, unsucculent and shrivelled as they were! (They were never very good, unlike their ilk I have tasted elsewhere.)  Hurrah for me! I ate every single bit of my Rs 350.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Toast To Sweet Potato

Just this morning, I discovered that #sweetpotatotoast (that's Sweet Potato Toast) is a thing. I'm trying to scroll down the Instagram feed of some 13,000 posts to see when the fad began but I still haven't gotten past posts on it from the last week of November. For me, it was a serendipitous discovery last year that simply some cinnamon sprinkled on sweet potato slices could replicate the smell and taste of French Toast. I'm no nutritionist but I do know that sweet potato has a lot of vitamins and fibre and is one of the healthiest foods. I went looking for a comparison with bread and I found this.

 I had this brainwave sometime last year when sweet potato was in season. I think I was looking at desserts made with sweet potato, but as usual, I lost interest, probably because there were too many ingredients I would have to buy just for this, and left it to languish in the vegetable basket. Then when my conscience nudged me, I baked it or pressure cooked it - I really don't remember now - and sprinkled it with cinnamon. And the strangest thing happened - the smell of my grandmother's French Toast arose in my kitchen. She used to make it for breakfast often when I was a child, with bakery bread that came in thicker slices than today. I've never been able to replicate the taste. I even took it to work and shared it with a couple of colleagues who liked it.

My method

This time, I simply steamed the sweet potato in a colander over a pan of water that was boiling something else.

I peeled and sliced it, put it on an oiled tava/skillet, and let it cook on both sides, adding a few drops of extra oil whenever I felt the slices would begin to burn.

Once they are crisp and brown around the edges, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt and some powdered cinnamon, let sizzle, pause for a few seconds. Turn them over. Repeat.

I've even got step-by-step photos for you below (from bottom upwards)!

I'm not recommending any amount - I went with pinches of cinnamon till I arrived at the taste I liked. A few slices make a great mid-workday snack.

Bon appetit!