Monday, September 28, 2009

Ghugni - a chat/snack from the street of Eastern India

Here is the recipe for this yummilacious snack that we always wanted to get from the street vendors! I still remember our local vendor Jaydev-da who had a cart full of delicious snack like ghugni, aloo dam, dhoka and all sorts of chops (fritters) and come to our school every dat at tiffin time ( I guess it is equivalent of lunch time) here in the USA. We did not have free school lunch option, neither we had a cafeteria. So the option was either you bring your own tiffin from home or you can buy from the vendors they would allow during the tiffin time in the school complex!


Matar (yellow peas): 1/2 lbs soaked in water for 4-5 hours
onions: 1 medium size onion chopped some and some chooped with soaked with lemon juice
potatoes: 1 medium size potato
oil: 2 tsp
garlic: 1 clove chopped
ginger: 1 tsp chopped
cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
bay leaf: 1
cumin and corainder powder: 1 tbsp
salt: as you want
turmeic powder: 1/2 tsp
chat masala: 1 tbsp to sprinkle on the ghugni (optional)
lemon: 1
amchur powder: 1 tbsp (optional)
chili powder: as you taste
coriander leaves/cilantro: 2 sprigs
green chilies (thai or serrano or jalapeno): chopped some

Soak the dried yellow peas for 4-5 hours. If you have a pressure cooker then this enough and if you do not have a pressure cooker then soak it for longer. Boil them in water with salt, half of the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. When it is cooked (in pressure cooker it takes about 10 minutes) get it out of the stove. Meanwhile in small pan or wok heat the oil. In hot oil add cumin seeds, bay leaf and rest of the ginger. Add turmeric, chili powder, amchur, cumin and coriander powder in the oil. Add the potatoes and saute them in medium heat for five minutes. Then add the boiled peas and let it boil with some additional water. In case of no amchur you can add lemon juice while cooking or tomatoes if availabel during the season.

Boil until water is some what dry in simmering heat for about 10 minutes or so. You can garnish with onions with lemon juice, sprinkled chat masala, coriander leaves and green chilies.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Misti Doi (Sweet Yogurt - Indian style)

I have been meaning to make sweet yogurt (misti doi) that is part of bengali culture in some ways for a long time! I had done it in the past but at that time i had matka (unsealed clay pot) for making doi! I had got it from India! However, since that was broke in one of our moves across US, I have not got a new one! Now that i am making plain yogurt at home regularly, i thought of making it again! My father used to make at home some times when we would have lots and lots of milk from the two Jersey hybrid cows we had.... that was almost 25 years ago....Gosh, we are getting old! 80s now is ancient:-)

Anyway, here is what I did.... I made it from 2% milk. It would have been better if I had used whole milk. But this was good enough! My daughter complained saying it was not like the one you get in all the sweet shops in Kolkata!


Whole Milk/2% milk (in the USA): 1/2 gallon
Sugar (brown sugar is better): 4-5 tbsp or as much as you like

You can also mix some Grade A maple syrup as a substitute of khejur gur (date palm sugar). In Bengal, you can get yogurt made with khejur gur/nalen gur (date palm sugar) instead of cane sugar. That gives a special flavor! I find that Maple syrup and Khejur gur have very similar flavor. Not surprising... they both are made of sap from the plants even though the plants are from complete different family in two different continent!

I boiled the mild and stir it with a ladle as it was boiling. You make it some what thick... half a gallon should end up with 2/3 of the total milk! Then cool it but again need to stir it so that it does not get the cream layer (malai) on the top! You can add sugar as you taste while boiling or while cooling it down. When it is warm, add the curd culture in it and mix it well. Now get a clean pot and use some of the culture to layer it one the inside wall of the pot! Add the milk and let it set for overnight in a warm place. I do it inside the oven or on top of the stove! you can also cover the pot with some folded towel or a tea cozy! Next day it will be set and then you can transfer it to the refrigerator to eat later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Indian Masala Dabba (spice box)

Masala Dabba (spice box) is essential part of an Indian kitchen in any part of South Asia! Spice type and combination may vary between regions, state, family and local areas but the box stays the same! In southern India, the regular essential spices will be cumin, mustard, urad dal, and some sambar masala or ingredients of sambar/rasam powder. In Western India (Maharastra) sambar masala will be replaced by goda masala or kalaamasala while in the east it will be cumin and corainder powder and in North it would be garam masala! Of course in North and east where they use mustard oil for cooking the mustrad seeds get replaces by panch phoron or simple cumin seeds!

Here is a masala dabba that I inherited from my mother -in-law who is from North Karnataka (Bijapur town) and lives in Bombay. Her essential spices included a mix masala powder that she made (I guess her mother's recipe) which she used in almost all her cooking... right from huli (a lentil soup/dal with pigeon pea lentil) to sambar to all her vegetbale dishes! This was her signature spice mix without any specific name! My mother's spice box always have panch phoron ( the five spice mix, see the picture)! Here in our case, it is mixture of east and southwest of India! We have mustard, cumin, urad dal, chili powder, turmeric powder and panch phoron and corander/dumin powder mix! Those are essential in our mixed kitchen....! Additional spices are in the shelf!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Here is what I cooked for dinner:-)

In stead of cooking meat, I decided to cook small round new potatoes with some of the spices tonight! I have been eating less meat these days... more I think and read about the meat and meant industry (not to mention the environmental damage to natural habitat) and all the chemicals in terms of hormones go in the meat production, I would like to less meat! But that does not mean I am a vegetarian or I will be a vegetarian in near future! In fact, in some ways we are lucky that there are good all the hormone free grass fed, free ranging organic pasture raised meat is available commercially in the market... I mean in alternative grocery stores such Whole Foods or some of your local food co-ops. However, given the economy in our household these days, I cannot afford to eat or buy those meat products regularly any more! Irony is that I cannot even go to a regular grocery store and buy meat, fish or any other animal products or even any produce! Now, some of you may argue about the chemicals that are sprayed on the plants or use in the soil as fertilizer for plants... what about those bad ones! It is true commercial production of crop has made us to alter the crop growth in many ways! In some parts of India they even soak the vegetables in colored water for the artificially bright looks! I bought moong dal from Indian store recently with extra yellow colors! It is the alternative of adding wax on the fruits and vegetables or food irradiation for longer shelf life in the grocery stores of 40 plus countries! It is probably worse because the toxic chemicals of the inedible colors are not known and there is no regulations by any authority like FDA! sure the crop production cause major damage to the local environment, changes soil composition, water level in the area and air pollution due to all the chemical spray in large commercial mechanized fields! So what is the alternative? Are there any? I guess, if you are are living in high density urban landscape in high rise buildings there are very little options for you! But if you are in a suburban landscape with some land around you...yes, you can! But it takes more effort and time to find fresh produce or grow them. Here in California and most part of USA, you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits from the farmer's market or local small grocery stores that may keep local produce! You can also produce your own some vegetables at home even if you have just a small piece of land! It is not difficult to do edible landscaping especially if you own your own house! We have done some backyard gardening in the last couple of years in our house and if I had an option in this rental property I would get rid of all the back and front yard grasses and try to grow my own food!!

Well, in effort to eat and cook more vegetables, I tried going to the local grocery stores and tried to buy fresh asian vegetables, but got out with out buying anything! Here goes my so called yuppie/ hippie some of my friends would say! I just could not buy those nice, clean, glossy wax covered vegetables and fruits. However, eating healthy is perhaps the most important thing in our life (more than wearing fancy clothes or buying a nice big house)!! We used to be part of a local CSA where you could get organically produces greens and vegetables once a week! After doing that for four years, I got tired of eating only lettuce, various roots and other local faram produce of European origin! I decided to stop that for while and buy Asian vegetables that are organically grown! I know people in this country or in India who like to lead a luxurious life by fulfilling their dreams of buying a big house, more than two cars and of course fancy clothes... however, they would shop for food as cheap as possible! They do not bother to read the label of food they buy or chemical content like high fructose corn syrup ( in the US) or hydrogenated fat or rBEST hormones in the milk! Then you wonder why do they have to worry about all the diseases related to diet!!! In fact, I recently noticed that food in the fast food restaurants are not really cheap... even in McDonald's a kid's meal cost you over $3 and the chemicals that are in there!!!!!!!!! Thankfully, our kids do not like to eat at McDonalds and therefore do not have to bargain with them about which fast food place to go!

So what are my options to buy vegetables that are not expensive but organic! I started going to local farmer's market in downtown Fresno where farmers from small farms come and sell there produce! After talking to them and also from friends, I got to which farmers do not use chemicals or spray any pesticides! For some farmers buying pesticides and fertilizers are difficult since they are expensive!

We made chapatis and ate those chapatis with aloo dom and dal! I love the smell of new potatoes with thin skin and simple dishes that do not take much effort! This reminded me of beginning of winter in India when you can get new potatoes and especially the small ones! They are like Rasogollas... you can eat one at a time!

Here is the recipe:

Small potatoes: I counted 30 of them in 1.5 lb bag
tomato: i medium/big size roma tomato
peas : optional I use frozen peas
onion: chopped 1/4 of an onion ( optional)
green chili: 1
kalonji seeds: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tbsp
coriander-cumin powder mix - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Cilantro leaves: few sprigs
bay leaf: 1
salt: as you need
water: some

Boil the potatoes separately ( in pressure cooker for two whistle). Cool them if you want to peel the skin, I did not remove the skin. In wok, heat oil ( You can use a mixture of mustard and regular canola oil if you want). Add kalonji seeds and a green chili (slitted) when the oil is really hot. Add the chopped onion ( again optional) Add the tomatoes, turmeric, coriander -cumin powder mix, salt and let it cooked a little. Add the potatoes now fry them for 5 minutes and add water. LEt it get cooked well for about 10 minutes. When the water is thick and leass (depends on if you want it dry) Garnish with chopeed cilantro and you are done! You can eat it with chapatis, rice or totillas!

Monday, September 7, 2009

dinner sample...

Here are some regional variation in Indian vegetarian cooking! I cooked Shukto which is mixed vegetable dish with bitter gourd or any other bitter vegetables or leaves in it, Split pea lentil soup (matar dal) with asian white daikon. Both are from Bengal and the third one is green beans sauted with spices and coconut. this recipe is from North Karnataka!


It taste bitter because of the bitter gourd or any other bitter vegtables. That is why you eat this mix vegetables with rice at first and then eat other dishes such as dal, sauted or fried vegetables, meat or fish and sweets at the end. A lot of non India friends ahve hard time eating bitter vegetables. Therefore, you have to be willing to try and like bitter food. The intensity of the bitterness depends on how much bitter gourd you use. Here I used:
green plantain - 1
zucchini: 2 small one
potatoes: 2 small red skin
eggplant: 1 long Japanese one
bitter gourd: 1 or 2 small Indian variety

If you have pumpkin or yellow squash you can use that instead of zucchini. you can add radish or white daikon and string beans or French beans there. In India, combination depends on the seasonal vegetables. There are a lot of variation of this dish. In fact, every family or person have their own recipes. And some times cook it differently depending on the availability of spices and vegetables!

mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
panch phoron: a mixture of five spice mix from India (optional)
mustard and white poppy seeds paste: 1 TBSP
oil for cooking: 1 tsp or so ( I use little mustard oil for traditional flavor)
salt: as you want
turmeric: 1/4 tsp or less
ghee: 1 tsp (optional)

Mustrad and poppy seeds paste:
soak both of them in water and grind them in a grinder.

Cut all the vegetables in to small cubes. I use a wok to cook this. In hot oil add mustard seeds and when they splatter I add all the vegetables. saute them for a while with salt and turmeric powder. When the vegetables are some what soft add the mustard seeds paste and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes. when they are some what dry remove it from the stove.
I like to add the panch phoron later on. But it is not necessary. In a small pan roast the panch phorn ( five spice mix) and coarsely grind it. Add them on the top of the cooked vegetables. ghee is also optional and you can add on tsp at the end!