Category Archives: appetizer

Day 365.. technically a year.. Celebrating with a plate of Samosas

 I’m actually breaking into song as I write this up. Albeit in my head, Frank Sinatra is crooning his timeless classic.. My Way..

Jan 1st 2012, Siri Pulipaka , the author of cookingwithsiri.com was just winding up her own daily blog ( of everyday events) and was encouraging others to experiment with similar projects. On a pure whim, I got myself a blogger page, with nary a thought about how I was to complete 366 dishes. It was never my intention to add recipes for classic day to day fare, just links  if a particular dish was made using a recipe from other sites.

But, just as a new mother forgets everything about the intensity of her labor pain after seeing her infants face, I cannot recall anything hard or negative about this annual project. In fact, the support I received from everyone of you simply increased my motivation to kick back any lethargy and support every dish I could with recipes. The effort has paid off in terms of a repository of recipes that I hope to fine tune for future use. Thank you for making me go the extra mile.

My penultimate dish is a classic snack, the Samosa. Although this is a firm favorite in every corner of India, It may be safe to say that it is definitely a recipe from North India. (Yes, there are umpteen variations, but, the classic version is what I preferred to make for the family today)

 Samosas with a Potato & Green Pea filling:

You need:

For the Casing:

1 cup All purpose flour
1/2 – 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Bishops weed (Ajwain)
Water as required

Sift the flour, salt and ajwain together, add the butter and rub the flour between your finger tips. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. drizzle in the oil and just enough water to bring in the mixture together into a dough, Knead lightly and cover with a wet tea towel until you’re ready to make the samosa casings.

For the Filling:

2 large  Idaho potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed and boiled
1/2 teaspoon Dry mango powder (aamchur)
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
salt to taste

2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2  thai chiles finely minced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
6 green chilies with stems, slit lengthwise 
Oil for deep frying

Combine the potatoes, peas, the chile powder, salt  and the aamchur. Heat the oil in a small skillet. When it just begins to smoke add teh cumin and the coarsely crushed coriander. When the cumin seeds split, add the garam masala. Allow the spice blend to bloom before adding it to the potatoes. Mix to evenly disperse the spices. Add the lemon juice, taste and adjust for seasoning. Make 12 ping pong ball sized portions from the filling.

Divide the dough into 6 balls. Using four as required, roll out the dough into a 6 inch circle. Using a Pizza cutter divide the rolled out dough into two semi circles.. Fold each semi circle and press down on the edges to make a ‘cone. Place a portion of the filling and seal the open edges firmly to make little pyramid. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Heat 1/2 L of oil in a cast iron wok. When the oil begins to shimmer on the surface, place 2 samosas at a time into the oil. Cook on medium heat until the the samosas are golden brown. Remove the samosas using a spider skimmer onto absorbent kitchen towels. Once the samosas have been fried, add the slit green chiles to fry up in the residual heat. remove and sprinkle the chiles  with a dash of sea salt. Serve the samosas hot with a choice of spicy green cilantro mint chutney and sweet & sour tamarind chutney. Pair with  a cup of piping hot Masala Chai.

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Cooking through a "Frankenstorm’

I can never thank providence enough for givin me the common sense to prepare myself for the much touted Frankenstorm Sandy. Plenty of flashlights, spare batteries in bulk, Water, a back up sump pump for the basement, Firewood, the list could go on.. Nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for the terrifying experience of living through those six hours.  It sounded like a  full payload Boeing 747 was taking off for a transatlantic flight right in the backyard. Sure enough, the lights went out, and we were left  hunkering down in total darkness with a diabolical, howling wind screeching through the house. And yet, it stopped almost as suddenly as it started around midnight, almost as if the trees had no more strength to even flutter a leaf. All that could be heard was a proverbial sound of silence, equally eerie.

The next morning, the most visible evidence of the storm were the felled and leaning trees and the side of the house spattered with shreds of torn leaves hurled there by the wind. And in the middle of this havoc wreaked by nature, the rose bush in my backyard had this perfect bloom that had faced the brunt of the elements and survived practically unscathed.. What a positive motivation. It definitely kept me going through the next five cold days without power.

(the shredded leaves can be seen spattered in the background against the siding)

We were definitely one of the lucky households that still had access to hot water and a cooking stove, and it was a fabulous experience cobbling up new dishes in semi darkness. The brain definitely tends to compensate for the visual disadvantage by honing the senses of smell and sound. In terms of gadgets, the one that really came into full use was this Rosle manual multi chopper that substituted admirably for an electrically operated version. I had picked mine up from William Sonoma at Bridgewater, NJ (at a great sale price of $29.99) a couple of months ago. They have a similar one from another brand as well. Its also available from Amazon, just follow the link at the bottom of the page.

A couple of dishes that  I’ll always associate with superstorm Sandy are a hot mug  of  Apple cider mulled with green tea and saffron, somewhat similar in flavor to a Kashmiri ‘Kahwa’. Sipping it in front of a hot crackling fire was a wonderful balm for all the discomforts the lack of electricity brought.

Where there is a working fireplace, there’s a great opportunity for roasting vegetables, so in went a couple of Sweet potatoes into the embers and voila!  Lunch on powerless Day 2  was a great salad of fire roasted smoky Sweet potatoes and crunchy Granny Smith apples with a pomegranate molasses and citrus dressing. So reminiscent of the street treat shakarkhand (sweet potato) chaat that New Delhi is famous for.   The spices.. a blend of toasted and powdered cumin,black pepper and a pinch of  sea salt. By the time we got power after five days, I was hallucinating about the potential of baking Naan on the sides of the fireplace.. but that’s a blog post for another day!

Fire roasted Sweet potato and apple salad.

You need: ( makes 3  servings)

3 medium pink skinned sweet potatoes
1 large granny smith apple quartered and sliced thin
1 handful of pomegranate arils

For the dressing.
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon toasted and crushed cumin
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch pimenton chile powder
Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together. Set aside
Roast the sweet potatoes with the skin over a grill until the surface chars. Allow to cool and carefully flake off the charred skin. Slice into 1/4 thick slices.

Combine the sweet potato with the sliced apples and the pomegranates. Drizzle over with the pomegranate molasses dressing and gently shake to combine. (the sweet potatoes can be very soft and may mush up). Divide up into 3 bowls, stick a toothpick (or a fancy cocktail fork) into the center and serve!

Bon appetit and have a great voting Tuesday!

Finger foods..& a recipe for Avocado mint spread.

Whats it about having a whale of a time with friends & Family?. It makes it so hard to get back to food.  While I wait for my local farm to open up their fresh vegetable stand (June 23rd), Its back to trying small dishes, amuse bouches as Le Francais call them.

I’ve never really got too attached to Avocadoes, (a.k.a butter fruit) despite growing up with an avocado tree in my backyard a long time ago in Nairobi, Kenya. For some reason, they always remind me of Trixie, my landlady’s dog. A neurotic German shepherd that constantly yapped & pounced upon anyone who wandered with in the radius of of the length of his leash which was constantly tied up to the said avocado tree. To cut a long story short, the extra ‘hydration’ provided by ol’ Trixie ended up killing the poor tree!

I fell in love with the fruit all over again at the suggestion of a friend whose recipe I tried out. There is something amazing about the smooth butteriness that works perfectly as a 2 – in – 1 ingredient for a chutney sandwich and I had a whale of a time scarfing down these sandwiches, along with a plate of canapes, and even dosa!

Avocado & Mint Cutney:

1 ripe Avocado
1 cup cilantro, packed
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup shallots
1 Jalapeno deseeded
juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste.
1/2 cup Feta Cheese (optional)

Cut the Avocado lengthwise, twist to separate the halves. remove  discard the pit and scoop the soft flesh into a blender jar. Add the lime juice, shallots, jalapeno, mint & cilantro (& feta cheese, if using). Pulse to a smooth paste (with the consistency of sour cream). Add salt & adjust for taste. Transfer to a container & store in the refrigerator until needed.

Use this as a spread over white bread. layer with thin slices of boiled golden beet and sprinkle with toasted cumin. finish the sandwich using another slice of bread & avocado chutney. Cut into triangles and serve.

 Using a piping bag, or a squeeze bottle with a star tip (Crate and Barrel) is a great idea if you want to decorate open face sandwiches for parties.

Lightly toast  slices of white bread and cut into circles using a 1.5 inch cookie cutter.

Place a thin slice of cucumber over the circles of bread and pipe the avocado chutney over. Garnish with a sliver of tomato and finger lime beads.

Bon Appetit!

Grounding reality for the next 100, and an inspiring dose of pure motivation

Image credit: http://www.monicabhide.com

There are very few moods that match the depth of emptiness that follows a jubilant high.One invariably needs a high to match the previous one & then some more.. (Isn’t that what an addiction begins with?). Rather than try & match the highs of the last month, (a Cooking Channel taping session opposite Kelsey Nixon, A walking tour through the hallowed kitchens at Food Network Studios,  a milestone post..), I’d like to take a moment to pause & ask myself.. What now? Do I do a George Bush & declare ‘Success’? Not a Chance!!

This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to sit down and read through author Monica Bhide’s latest work, an e-book ‘In Conversation with exceptional women’. This compilation is an inspirational labor of love, a heart to heart conversation with 57 exceptionally talented women, each of whom have succeeded in their respective fields by their sheer grit, hard work & determination. As much as one marvels at the heights they’ve scaled, it is heartening & reassuring to read about their personal journeys, their triumphs & tribulations,  what they would have told their 16 yr old selves (most popular answers, ‘lighten up’, ‘believe in yourself, & ‘to hell with the boys (I’m paraphrasing here,  I can also  personally identify with Padma Lakshmi’s admonition of not buying those acid washed jeans!).

The initial thought that hits the readers brain while scrolling down the table of contents, is a deep sense of intimidation and that is to be expected. After all, this is a group of uber successful women all clubbed together. Enough to make one want to go hide under the bed. Reading on, (curled up under the bed springs if need be) one experiences the sense of motivation & inspiration from each subject wrapping around the thought processes in the brain, draping itself gracefully & integrating, kindling new  ideas, questioning and challenging them in a positive way.

As I scrolled down to the last page, my personal ego was more than happy to disperse any notions of doing a Dubya. Success is a continuous and dynamic process, something that will stay with you as long as you work for it. Courting success is like maintaining a relationship, you have to keep working hard at it, always keeping in mind your starting point, (your grounding voltage), and never taking your eyes off the pinnacle you’ve set your sights on. Monica Bhide hands you not one, but 57 shining examples of what hard work & determination can achieve. The passion & dedication that the author has poured into this book makes her absolutely worthy of being clubbed as the 58th exceptional woman that should be included within.

Image credit: http://www.monicabhide.com

Speaking of starting points, it seems to be a great time to hark back to the very first ‘panfusine’ recipe that I ever attempted. It was more out of sheer necessity than anything else. August 2002, a blazing hot summer day, & there I was, draped in 9 yards of heavy Kanjeevaram silk,  ready to do my first solo Varalakshmi pooja. I had managed to cobble together most of the mandatory ‘prasad’ dishes (offerings to the deity), except for the all important ‘medu vada’. Running up and down a flight of stairs with the traditionally draped saree, frying up batches of vada over a hot wok of oil and taking care of the pooja details were kind of making me nervous. Happened to spot my unused waffle iron and decided to make two ( yep, just enough for the pooja) waffles with the batter. At least that way, I’d have a cooked product. It was the best Medu vada I had, in terms of texture. Crisp on the outside, with a perfectly fluffy light as air interior..I’ve come some ways and still have a long way ahead. but here is a slightly modified version of the traditional medu vada.

Waffle Vada (with mung & urad dal)

1/2 cup split dehusked urad dal
1/2 cup split dehusked mung dal
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly crushed peppercorn
Sesame oil for brushing the waffle plates

(you may choose to add finely minced green chillies, chopped curry leaves, cilantro in addition as per your preference)

Soak the dals together in about 5 cups of water for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Rinse the soaked rehydrated dals thoroughly and grind them into a smooth batter using as little water as possible. The consistency of the batter should be similar to softly whipped egg whites.

Switch on the Waffle iron and liberally brush the surface with oil. When the iron is ready drop about 2 coffee scoops worth of batter onto the plates and close the iron. Wait until any emerging steam subsides and the indicator on the appliance shows that the waffle is ‘ready’. Gently open the iron, and pry out the waffle ‘vada’ using a pair of wooden chopsticks. Serve hot with some tomato rasam on the side.

Cherry tomato Rasam

(the waffles do not take kindly to dunking into the rasam for extended periods of time like the traditional vadas do). Alternate pairing suggestion, fresh Coconut cilantro chutney or even a basic cilantro & mint chutney

Coconut cilantro chutney

Bon Appetit!

**********

I’m adding this dish to the the wonderful collection of Indian recipes at the #IndianFoodPalooza being hosted by Prerna Singh, the author  of http://www.indiansimmer.com

Kale tales & tempura

The flip side of festive days such as thanksgiving is this terrible sense of withdrawal symptoms that invariably strikes after the festivities are over.. Once the cleaning is done, the nice plates are put away and the last wine cork is located in the far corners of the kitchen counter & tossed out, a feeling of ‘now what do I do?’ sets in and no dish that the head conjures is ever good enough to beat. and no recipe that has been tried, tested & waiting to be posted seems to fit the bill (Take home message: Its not worth making & banking good recipes way  too ahead of time)
When that happens I regress back to comfort foods that I know I’ll regret stuffing my face with.. This time around it was deep fried ‘Bhajia’,  and a large mug of Masala Chai… at 10.00 am in the morning (doing this ought to rank with hitting the booze at 9.00 am, in terms of socio-culinary blasphemy), but it was delicious while it lasted. Weight watchers just got relegated to the back burner!

I had this gorgeous delicata squash left over from the previous dish that I had incorporated it into, and just could not bring my self to see it languish on the kitchen counter.

Coupled with half a bunch of Kale left over from thanksgiving, came up this sinful indulgence. I opted to use chipotle chile powder to incorporate a smoky flavor that complements the sweetness of the Delicata. Feel free to have fun with your own choice of spice blends such as Garam Masala or pav bhaji masala.
The coating of Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, that are made by drying out only the centres of the bread) also adds a crunchy texture to the otherwise smooth batter covered squash (experimented with both versions with & without bread crumbs, , the one with the Panko won hands down!)

You need:

1/2 a delicata squash (seeds & stringy membrane removed),

2 cups shredded Kale

For the Batter:

2/3 cup Chickpea Flour (Besan)
1/3 cup rice flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1/2 – 1 tsp Chipotle chile powder (adjust as per your taste)
Salt to taste
~ 1 cup Seltzer water.
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 cup Canola Oil for deep frying.

Method:
Slice the Delicata squash using the thin setting of a mandolin (~ 2 mm thickness)
 
Remove the thick central vein of the Kale leaves & cut into a fine shred.

Heat the oil in a cast iron pan. Pour the breadcrumbs onto a large plate.
 
In a mixing bowl, combine the chickpea & rice flour, the spices, salt and baking powder & mix well to evenly disperse the ingredients. Add just enough Seltzer to make a thick batter that coats well to the surface of the squash.

When the oil gets sufficiently hot, dip 2-3 rings of squash into the batter evenly coating the surface.

Transfer the battered rings to the plate containing the bread crumbs and coat evenly on both sides. Drop gently into the hot oil & fry till both sides are golden brown. Remove onto a plate lined with kitchen paper towls to absorb the extra oil. Repeat until the squash is used up.

Add the shredded kale into the batter.

Mix to ensure that all the remaining batter coats onto the kale leaves. Drop spoonfuls of the battered kale into hot oil & fry till the Kale gets crunchy. Remove onto kitchen towels.

 Serve with your choice of condiments.
Bon appetit!