Cook's Hideout: June 2007

June 16, 2007

Vankaya Pulla Kura - JFI: Eggplant

Huge thanks to Sangeetha (@ Ghar Ka Khana)for choosing Eggplant as the ingredient for JFI (Jihva for Ingredients) this month. I guess people either just love eggplant or hate it and I happen to be in the extreme eggplant lover’s side. It is one of those veggies that is extremely flexible – stir frying (simple baby eggplant curry) or stuffing (deliciously stuffed gutti vankaya or barli vangi) or jazzing up with cheese (in eggplant parmesan) makes it only more irresistable.

Here is one of many ways of making simple eggplant curry; it requires a little more time that the regular curry, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Vankaya Pulla kura literally translates into Eggplant Tangy Curry. Baby eggplants are boiled in tamarind water and then fried with masala powder to make this tangy-spicy curry. Recipe is from one of our aunt, actually our neighbor next door in India, who is my mom’s dear friend.

Baby eggplants – 8
Tamarind pulp – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste

To make the masala powder:
Chana dal – 1tbsp
Urad dal – 1tbsp
Coriander seeds – ½ tbsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tbsp
Red chilies – 3-4

For tempering:
Chana dal – ½ tsp
Urad dal – ½ tsp

  • Fry the ingredients for masala powder in a ½ tsp oil, let cool and grind into a coarse powder (making it into a coarse powder gives the dish some texture).
  • Cut eggplants into long thick strips (if the eggplants are very small use them whole, but make “+” cut on one side).
  • In a saucepan, combine eggplants, tamarind paste, 1tsp salt and ½ cup water. Mix well and bring this mixture to a boil. Simmer till the liquid evaporates, but the pieces are still intact (pieces should not become mushy, so make sure that the only enough water with the veggies when simmering. If there is too much liquid, then drain out the extra water). Keep the cooked pieces aside.
  • In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil; add the dals for tempering and after they turn golden brown; add the cooked eggplant pieces. Sauté till the pieces turn nice and crispy on the bottom. Add salt (remember that we added salt while boiling) and masala powder; cook for another two minutes.
Enjoy with hot steaming rice and dal. You can use the same technique of boiling with tamarind and sautéing with masala powder for Ridge gourd (beerakaya) and Ivy gourd (dhondakaya).

June 15, 2007

RCI-Maharashtra: Flower-Batata Rassa

This month’s Regional Cuisine of India (RCI – brain child of Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine) event is being hosted by lovely Nupur (@ One Hot Stove). And this month’s state is Nupur's very own Maharashtra.
Many of Maharashtrian dishes are simple made with basic ingredients from the pantry (just like Andhra food). I would like to thank Nupur for giving this opportunity to learn more about this cuisine.
This recipe is adapted from this site (thanks again Nupur for the site). I wanted to buy black Maharashtrian masala listed in the recipe to make the dish more authentic, but couldn’t find it in the Indian grocery near me, so I used garam masala instead.

Cauliflower – 1 bunch, broken into florets
Potato – 2 medium, chopped
Onion – 1 medium
Green chilies – 4, chopped fine
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1tsp
Ginger + Garlic paste – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan; add cumin seeds and after they crackle, add turmeric, ginger + garlic paste and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add chilies and onions and fry till onions turn golden.
  • Add potatoes and cauliflower florets, 1 cup water and mix. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or till they turn tender.
  • Add garam masala, powders, salt and mix gently taking care not to break the florets. Let the gravy simmer for 5 minutes to thicken the gravy.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or chapatti.

June 10, 2007

AFAM-Orange Berry Muffins

This is my entry to this month's A Fruit A Month (AFAM) blog event being hosted by Sharmi (@ Neivedyam). These muffins are very easy to put together and they are very (berry) delicious. The orange flavor in these delicate, cakey and generously blueberried muffins is in the background.

Orange - 1
Buttermilk - about 3/4 cup
Eggs - 2 large
Honey - 3 tbsp
Unsalted Butter - 1 stick, melted and cooled
Sugar - 1/3 cup
All-purpose flour - 2 cups
Baking powder - 2 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Blueberries - 1 cup fresh-preferably or frozen (not thawed)

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffins cups.
  • Zest and juice the orange. Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup.
  • Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.
  • In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently but quickly stir to blend. The batter will be lumpy and bubbly and according to the author*, its nothing to worry about and thats just the way it should be.
  • Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. When fully baked the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

* Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Baking: From my Kitchen to Yours”.
These muffins are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be wrapped and poppd into the freezer; where they'll keep for up to 2 months; rewarm in a 350 degree F oven, or just split and toast them.
I refrigerated mine in a ziplock container and they lasted for almost a week.


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