Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Green is Your Upma?

I'm not one of those who wrinkle their noses in disgust and whose faces take on a scornful expression when upma is mentioned. Most people I know dislike it. I don't eat it a lot myself for various reasons but I do like it.

As is normal with me, there is a box full of semolina in my pantry though I don't recall why I bought it. I do recall roasting it right away and storing it, which is why I didn't see any of the fine creepy-crawlies that generally populate semolina stored for long.

I was in a contrary and subversive (or so I like to think) mood this morning and decided to make the usually white upma green. I had all the accoutrements - green beans, green peas, green curry leaves' powder, and I set about making it. I wasn't disappointed.

Roughly, this is how I made it:

I chopped up a fist-sized onion and two green chillies

I microwaved a cup of chopped green beans and an equal amount of peas till they were three-fourths done, about three and two minutes each.

I heated about two spoons of oil, tempered it with a teaspoon each of mustard and urad dal/hulled, split black gram.

Then I fried the onion till pink. And then I added the green chillies and vegetables, sauteed them for a minute.

Then I added two big spoons of curry leaf powder and salt. For more information on curry leaf, you can go here.

Then I added water - I intended to use four cups but I was so carried away by the brainwave (of the green upma - rendered oh so fibrous and healthy) that I probably added only two.

Only after adding two cups of semolina to the boiling water, I realised I had goofed, so I hurriedly added a random amount, but you, you do as I say, i.e., add four cups of water.

Then I prayed like anything to get the semolina to soften.

My prayers were answered.

I thanked God and immediately ate some of it.

I'm sending this off to Simona who's hosting WHB this week, administered by Haalo and created by Kalyn.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mixed Vegetable Kachri


Spouse, Sra having dinner

Spouse: Uncle just didn't like this dish, you know, he found it too sour, but I loved it, of course, because I love sour stuff.

Sra: Hmm.

Scene 2

Dinner next day

Spouse: Hey, there's brinjal (eggplant/aubergine) in this!
Sra: No, there isn't.
Spouse: Come on, I can see the pulp, all squishy.
Sra: Yes, it's there.

Spouse, Sra continue with their dinner

And so there was, the brinjal pulp. But it wasn't any ploy to get the Spouse to eat something-that-he-doesn't-which-is-good-for-him, just a way to include more vegetables into a mixed vegetable dish and include him in the process of cleaning it out faster!

Most of the vegetables are stuff that the Spouse won't even deign to look at when their identity is clear - yellow pumpkin, beans of the country variety, small gourds further cut up, you get the picture ... It did have something the Spouse took a liking to, though - kachri powder from my recent trip to Rajasthan.

See that wrinkly little thing there, looking like a bleached walnut, a crumpled dead leaf? It's actually a gourd itself, like a small, tiny watermelon. My friends and I visited the market near our hotel in Jaipur at about 8 p.m specifically for this - I bought about half a kilo of the fresh ones and during the vegetable seller's patient description of how it could be used in a chutney, lost patience but kept nodding, so naturally, I did not know what to do with it when I got back home. More frustratingly, peeling it didn't help - it depleted the gourd of three-fourths of its substance and I was left with very little to use - the peel was quite tough and took much of the flesh with it!

I probably didn't know how to do it right, because there's a picture below from my trip that shows that someone in Rajasthan got it right!

I put it in dal and it tasted very much like dosakai (melon cucumber). But I got tired of it after two dals and gave it away. Perhaps there is a recipe for fresh kachri chutney on the Net, but none else.

Then I launched into the dried kachri that I had bought in Jaisalmer (which is also where I saw the fresh kachri first). It needs to be pounded to powder, a chore I somehow enjoy. Perhaps pervertedly, but I do.

I used Tarla Dalal's recipe at first but two tries on, I've developed my own mix of vegetables with whatever's available, and spices. In doing so, I'm probably violating some hallowed rule about amounts and proportions or ratio of hard to soft vegetables and non-includables, but that makes it an ever-original, and evergreen recipe, doesn't it, with surprises at every stage! Most recently, I used a combination of yellow pumpkin, brinjal, dondakai/tendli/coccinea and I forget what else, with this recipe.

What you need:

Assorted vegetables, chopped - to make 3-4 cups
Garlic: 5-10 cloves, minced (optional)
Shah jeera/jeera/caraway/cumin seed: 1 tsp
Plain chilli powder/mixed up chilli powder: 1-2 tsp (I use the latter)
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Tomato: 2-3, diced
Kachri powder: 1 tbsp
Lime juice: To taste
Salt: To taste
Oil: 2-3 spoons

Temper heated oil with the cumin/caraway and the garlic.

Add the vegetables and the turmeric and chilli powder and mix well. Cover and cook on a slow flame till the vegetables are cooked, ensuring they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomato and salt and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the lime juice and kachri, and mix well.

This is a very popular meat tenderizer. See a pretty picture and more info here.

And here's more info from Tarla Dalal herself!

Quite a few recipes mention amchur as a substitute and I've made similar curries with both - the tastes are very, very different.

Here's a post that attracted my attention and two more discoveries and experiences of kachri from the blog world.

This post goes off to Graziana of Erbe in Cucina who's hosting Weekend Herb Blogging now run by Haalo and created by Kalyn.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Not Quite Curd Rice

As you know, losing weight is one of my obsessions. And in pursuit of that, going around organic food stores in search of interesting things to eat and replace routine things with, my pastime.

That's how I came across amaranth seed (or rajgeera as it's known in Hindi) a year or two ago. The leaf (thotakura, in Telugu) is popular, I regularly use it with dal or by itself to make a stir-fry. It looked like tiny globules of dry yeast, stuffed into plastic packs with cooking instructions typed on white paper. I took a pack home, and quite liked it. I learnt this was the same grain that the rajgeera chikki (brittle) or laddu was made with. There's also popped amaranth sold in these organic stores - the suggested use is as breakfast cereal, but I'm coming around to realising microwaved idlis, eggs and fruit are my kind of breakfast. (I'm the kind who buys idli batter off a shelf but today, there were reports in the newspapers that 55 per cent of the readymade batter brands, including four well-known ones, were contaminated with fecal matter, so I won't be buying it for a while, I'm sure.)

Back to amaranth, though! The pack suggested it could be eaten with dal and curds/yoghurt, just like rice. I don't remember what I did with the majority of the pack, but I do remember how good the curds mixed with the cooked seed tasted, and that's what I made today, with my second pack of amaranth.

I have a small problem, though - this current pack has some mud/stones in it, and I don't quite know how to rinse this teensy-weensy grain efficiently - in a way that the mud/stones are weeded out, but it's not too bad. Maybe I just got a badly done batch - as long as I don't find out it's fecally contaminated, I'll be fine.

Quite the wonder food it seems to be, with no gluten, high levels of iron and amino acids not often found in grains:

"Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18%) and contains respectable amounts of lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. It is high in fiber and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A and C.

The fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk. Using amaranth in combination with wheat, corn or brown rice results in a complete protein as high in food value as fish, red meat or poultry."
Read more here.

There's a lot of information about amaranth seed on the Internet, it sounds good and healthy though I have only done a little bit of reading about it, and I may eat it more often to give my meals more variety - and, of course, hopefully consume fewer calories or a better class of calories in the process. Here's a curd preparation with it - tastes like the traditional curd rice in my South Indian home, with the seed giving it the touch of the exotic!

Here are the seeds.

Close up, they look big, but they aren't.

This is a cup of amaranth seed after being cooked in 1.5 cups of water brought to the boil 
and simmered until absorbed.

Up close, doesn't look very appetising, does it?

But persevere.

Take about two ladles of curds/plain yoghurt and add it to a cup of cooked amaranth seed. Add some salt to taste.

Temper a spoon of hot oil with a little bit of mustard seed, cumin, red and green chilli, chopped and broken up, and some curry leaves.

Garnish with coriander.


Somewhere along the way, I forgot I knew that amaranth was also a colour. Did you know?

I'm sending this off to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Janet of Taste Space, administered by Haalo and created by Kalyn.