Friday, March 26, 2010

In a pickle!

This last week, I got together with a friend for lunch. The sun was out for the first time in ages, and it finally looked and felt like spring. As both of us peeled our oranges on a bench outside our work place, the thoughts meandered towards food we ate around Delhi University campus – mooli smeared with lemon juice, kamrakh, imli, bhel, matar-kulcha and finally the achaars at the million little dhabas and canteens we frequented. She watered at the thought of those baby onions pickled in vinegar while I couldn’t get my mind off of the mixed achaar my mom made. Like a little seed, the mental picture of that achaar embedded itself in my mind and grew to ginormous proportions as the day progressed. 

The first thing I did when I got home was to call my mom for recipe - and before giving me the recipe, she actually gave me a piece of her mind at being dragged out of bed at 6am, Indian time, for a measly recipe! I survived that, wrote the recipe down, and then spent the next 2h converting her fist, katori and spoon measures into more recipe-friendly terms! The next evening was spent collecting everything I needed for the achaar. I was amazed at how empty my pantry was when it came to replicating my mom’s recipes. And these were things that I’ll probably never ever use again…I could probably do without a few ingredients. A quick call back to mommy dearest assured me I could, and I was walking on air again…..
Sunday arrived – the day of all my trials and tribulation in the kitchen- and guess what? No sun outside but pouring rain. The first step in my mom’s recipe note card; wash veggies and dry them outside in the sun for 3h; wasn’t going to be. A desperate call back; only to be told that the veggies had to be dried in the sun- put a definite damper on the day. Boy, was I pickled....Put science to work, goad mom about why the sun was important, why drying with paper towels can’t work, and then the newsflash- sun dehydrates veggies. OK, mission accomplished; I could dehydrate veggies without the sun, and make this achaar here in pouring rain in the US of A!
Mixed Sweet and sour pickle
Cauliflower (Gobhi) 1head
Baby carrots (Gajar) 1lb / 1bag
Turnips (Shalgam) 1 lb
White vinegar 1/2cup
Jaggery (Gur) To taste
Mustard seeds 1tbsp
Fennel seeds 1tbsp
Methi seeds ½ tbsp
 Kalonji 1tbsp (optional)
Rai seeds powdered 1 tbsp (optional)
 Red chilli powder 1tsp
Coriander powder 2tbsp
Turmeric ½ tsp
Salt 2 ½ tbsp
Mustard oil ¼ cup
1. Cut the cauliflower into florets, turnips into thin roundels and slice the baby carrots lengthwise into two. Wash everything thoroughly and let drain through a colander for a few min.
2. Soak the gur in vinegar and stir occasionally to dissolve. I had the cubed kind, and I used 8 medium sized cubes for the entire recipe. You can always taste this and adjust the amount of vinegar to jaggery according to taste.
3. Put the veggies in a single layer on cookie sheets in the oven set to roast at 300F for 10-15 min. Turnips and carrots take less time than cauliflower florets. You’ll know by the wrinkling of the veggies when they’re done.
4. Turn the veggies over on the other side and roast them for another 5 min. Then turn off the oven, but leave the veggies inside till you’re ready.
5. Make sure the gur is dissolved and all the other ingredients are handy before proceeding to the next step.
6. In a kadai or wok, bring the mustard oil to smoking hot, then add all the seeds. Turn down the heat to low. Let splutter, then add the vinegar-jaggery mix. The oil will foam and rise up, so stir occasionally and keep an eye on it. Takes about 2 min for the foaminess to go away.
7. Now dump all your veggies in the oil mix, add the spices and mix to coat. Cook for an additional 5 min, and then turn off the heat.
8. Takes about a day or so to mature further in the jar; then it is ready to eat!
My two cents: It was good- no doubt about it. I could’ve notched the salt down a bit – the ½ tbsp I added over the 2tbsp, wasn’t needed. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything here!
A word of caution: When mixing oil and vinegar, make sure the stove is turned down low- you don't want to set the kitchen on fire. Also, the oil-vinegar mix starts to sting your eyes as it cooks- it is to be expected, just do what you can to protect yourself. All the best!

Linked to: Walk through the memory lane hosted by Gayatri

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Moong Dal Dosa

I am bad about weekend mornings... Weekends make me crave for GOOD food.... Food that ignites memories of happy ole times when mom cooked and we ate... And most weekend mornings lead to frustration....about HAVING to cook...about WANTING to eat....and about NOT being able to satisfy whatever the little devil inside of me wants at that moment. So this saturday a couple weeks ago, I was working hard to ignore the little perp inside my head that kept reminding my tastebuds of masala dosas. And no, the instant, rava dosa variety wouldn't do. And no, we couldn't go to a restaurant- after all we were in the midst of a major nor'easter here. But I did want dosas didn't I? Dare I improvise? After all, people to the south of the Indian peninsula made all kinds - and I'm pretty good with improvising with rotis; so what's the big deal with dosas? The biggest lament in my dosa-making ability is that I can't get the batter to ferment in this weather. A close second, my food processor doesn't do a good job of grinding the Urad dal required for the batter. Could I, should I, dare to bypass both? I did, and boy, was that one satisfying meal for me!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dil Maange More! Ras Malai

My family has a serious sweet tooth. They inherit it from A's side of the family, just like every other not-so-good attribute! After all, aren't sweets supposed to be unhealthy and addictive? So what if, out of all four of us, I show the most evidence of devouring even a micro-ounce of all things sweet and chocolaty, while they get away with no effects. I strongly believe all things sugary should be put under a federal list, and should come with a eat-or-go to jail warning! And that is why, we run a strictly quarantined household as far as desserts go. However, the rules get broken- more frequently than not.