Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pots of Gold in My TO Balcony


A two-dollar sectional wicker tray used for my marigolds. The tiger clay is hand-painted.


A view of one of the corners. Its usually, clay/terracotta, wood, stoneware, shells, etc. which I use for my balcony decor.


Yesterday, LMN and I finished our herb box project. The wine crate came free from a liquor store. And I filled it up with oft-used herbs – Mint, coriander, flat and curly-leaf parsley, sage, lavender, Thai basil, sweet basil, and rosemary.



There is even a baby bay plant in there to make my pulaos fragrant!



I must confess, this year, I have created an abundance of marigolds in my fourth floor garden. Their warm and inviting colours remind me so much about the festivities back home.


But there are some days I also like zinnias. And gondharaj/gardenia.




We are enjoying a blast of Spring and our pots of gold. The next project to do for LMN and I is to plant some gondhoraj lebu/fragrant lime seeds we have saved into the richness of potting soil and wait…

For more pictures and updates from my sunny balcony, click here.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Uthapa Aunty’s Coorgi Murgi

Mrs Uthapa was my mother figure during my short life in Bangalore. She lived in the apartment next door and worked in a bank. She wore neatly pleated cotton sarees, and fresh Mallige (jasmine) flowers braided in her wet hair. She rode a Kinetic Honda to work at the State Bank of India.

“Aunty”, as you’d address any elderly lady in urban India, soon became quite friendly with me, and would even discuss things like her two sons’ careers and higher education with me. We would also exchange bowlfuls of freshly cooked food. I would give her a taste of my North Indian cooking fare, while she mesmerized me with her Pandi Curry and sometimes this Coorgi Chicken Curry.

The only thing I did not like was when she came with Bevu Bella (Neem and jaggery) during Ugadi. The neem from her hands brought out my extreme dislike of bitter. But she put a gun to my head and made me eat it and pretend I enjoyed it! My Mama would have been so pleased, because never in her life has she been able to make me eat neem-begun.

Anyway, here is how I made Uthapa Aunty’s Coorgi Murgi.


Ingredients for Uthapa Aunty’s Coorgi Murgi are:

1 chicken, cut into curry pieces
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 four inch piece of fresh ginger
6-7 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut (I used the frozen variety, Deep brand)
5-6 green chilies (Aunty’s recipe does not have them, but I do add them)
2 tablespoons tamarind extract
Handful of coriander, leaves and stems
5-6 cloves
2 pieces of cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon black pepper powder
Cooking oil

Start by heating the oil in a pressure pan. Add the chopped onions and sauté till they are lightly browned. Add the chicken pieces. Make sure there is no moisture in the chicken. Mix well and cover and cook till the chicken has turned brown.

Meanwhile, finely grind the cloves and cinnamon. You could use whole coriander seeds and dry grind them with the cloves and cinnamon. But I used store-bought coriander powder instead.

Add the powdered cloves, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric and black pepper powder to the chicken and coat the pieces well. Season with salt. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes on low heat.

Now wet grind together the ginger, fresh coriander, and green chilies. Add this mixture to the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes, covered. Add enough water to cover the chicken and spices. Cook till done, or you see oil releasing from the chicken and bubbling on the sides. Add the grated coconut now. And mix well. Let it bubble with the chicken for about 5-7 minutes. The coconut adds natural sweetness to the dish and thickens the curry.

Finish the Coorgi Murgi by adding the tamarind extract. Do a taste test and add more salt if needed. Serve with plain rice or with appams. And think how wonderful your life is to be getting your hands to such recipes which are family specials from faraway Bangalore. Thank you, Uthapa Aunty.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mutton Saagwala for the Popeye of My Life

Its summer here. Which means we have an abundance of everything. Including spinach. But before that, take a look at the more colorful summerlicious moments I managed to see with my lenses.








Gondho Lebu PreeOccupied


Now for the recipe for Mutton Saagwala, loosely translated as mutton (a generic term in India for goat meat) cooked in spinach. A healthy, delicious meat curry most often cooked in winters in India by many North Indian families. It has strange resembles to Palak Paneer.

Well, my two cents are that this dish could possibly be palak paneer for the hardcore mutton lovers.


Ingredients for Mutton Saagwala are:

1 kg goat meat/mutton (I buy the shoulder portion with enough marbling from my butcher lady)
400 grams spinach, cleaned, washed, and chopped coarsely, stem and leaves, and pureed with little water
1 small can of tomato paste
1 large, juicy red tomato, pureed
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly ground cumin powder
2 tablespoons pureed garlic
2 tablespoons pureed ginger
2 tablespoons green chili paste
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder (black+green cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon)
3-4 tablespoons ghee
Julienned ginger for garnish
6-7 dry red chilies for garnish
A few shavings of (frozen) unsalted butter for garnish


Start by heating the ghee in a large pan. Once it is really hot, add the onions and sauté till lightly browned. Add the meat. Make sure there is no moisture/water in the meat. This will help you get a nice, brown color to the mutton.


Add the green chili paste, cumin and garam masala powders to the meat and let it cook on low heat, covered all the time for 10 minutes.


Now add the pureed ginger and garlic, season with salt (I use sea salt), mix, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Scrape the spices and onions from the bottom of the pan and let them cling on to the mutton.


Add the pureed spinach, red chili powder and turmeric to the meat and mix. Crank the heat up to medium and let the pureed spinach bubble for about 10 minutes. Once you have spinach splinters attacking you, add the tomato paste and puree and cook covered for 10-15 minutes on low heat.




You will see the change of color in this dish – from a bright, green to a moss-colored. Slowly, but surely a thin line of oil will appear at the sides of your cooking pan. At this point, you have a choice of adding your work-in-progress Mutton Saagwala to the pressure cooker to cook through the mutton. I did that and waited till two whistles went off to cook my mutton.


Transfer the Mutton Saagwala to a serving dish and garnish generously with shavings of unsalted butter, julienned ginger and dry red chilies. You can add some green ones too for added heat and color.


Serve Mutton Saagwala with warm chapatis and salad. A meal like this should be consumed by keeping quiet, and listening to your own chomps and burps. Meals like this also make a family less cranky and more happy. I have proof. My almost-two-year-old sealed my Mutton Saagwala with her stamp of approval by saying “nice” and “wow”, all in the same breath in between her dinner.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ghar Ki Murgi with Methi Greens

This is one of those recipes where everyday, boring chicken can be made into something interesting. We have been having an abundance of methi/fenugreek greens here at this time of the year. Perfect picker upper for an otherwise mundane chicken curry. And its so easy, you can sneak it into your dinner even on a crazy work day.

My Mum used to make Methi Chicken as well during winters in India, when she was sick of rolling out theplas. We would eat this thickish chicken in fenugreek greens curry with hot, fluffy chapatis. The sauce would most often be clinging to the pieces of chicken, the methi leaves emanating a strange, bitter smell. Bitter in a good way.

You can grow your own methi (microgreens) right in your balcony. Here is how! This is how my Ma-in-law grows her methi in Delhi.


And this is how my Mum buys her methi greens in Jamshedpur.


While I buy my tiny bunch of methi for $1.99 here from a supermarket, then meticulously pluck the leaves off the stem to finely chop them and prep them for this curry.


Ingredients for Methi Murg are:

600 grams chicken, skinless please!
1 cup of finely chopped methi/fenugreek greens
5 tablespoons plain yogurt, whisked with one cup water
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons garlic paste
5-6 green chilies, finely chopped
1 small piece of ginger, julienned
4-5 tablespoons mustard oil

Heat oil in a large, flat pan. I used my clay/terra cotta pan. Sauté the onions till they are lightly browned. Add the chicken and green chilies and brown the chicken on both sides.



Next add the pureed ginger and garlic and cook on low-medium heat till the chicken starts to release its juices.

Now add the methi greens. Coat the chicken with the chopped greens and gradually turn the heat up.

After about 4-5 minutes of cooking the methi greens with the chicken, turn the heat off. Let the chicken cool down a bit.


Now add the whisked yogurt, and a little water if necessary. Mix well. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook until chicken is tender and the sauce is thick. Also, the sign to look out for is to see if the chicken releases a thin line of oil at the sides. You know then that the spices have cooked through.


Season with salt and garnish with the julienned ginger. Your everyday chicken has now attained the prestigious title of Methi Murg and is ready to be served with soft, fluffy chapatis and salad.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My Notes on Phulko Luchi

  • Traditionally, luchi is made with all-purpose flour only. It’s called Maida’r Luchi in Bengali.
  • However, in many homes these days the use of maida has been toned down. 
  • What I do is, mix 1 cup wheat atta with 2 cups of maida and knead the dough with about two tablespoons canola/vegetable oil.
  • The dough for luchi has to be hard and not soft like the kind we knead for chapatis.
  • I knead my dough and keep it covered for about an hour and then knead it again to tighten it up and smoothen out any air bubbles.
  • Poke a finger to your dough, if you see a dimple form, you know your Luchi’r dough is perfect. 
  • In other words, your dough should be like a baby's bottom!
  • Divide the dough into slightly smaller-than-a-lime-size balls.
  • Round each ball by rolling it between the palms of your hands.
  • Roll out each luchi by slightly contacting the ball of dough with the warm oil from the karhai/wok. Luchi should be evenly rolled out and thin.
  • Luchi should be made in a round karhai. Usually it was a cast iron wok, large enough to fit a couple of luchis at one time. Modern day kitchens have replaced the traditional kodai/karhai with non-stick woks which work fine as well.
  • Heat vegetable/canola oil until almost smoking, and slide in the luchi. One at a time. 
  • With a jhanjhra/slotted spoon, press lightly to fluff up the luchi. 
  • Turn the luchi before it gets brown. Many families also add a pinch of sugar to their dough to get extra caramelization on their luchi, as sugar burns up quickly. You can do away with it.
  • It takes just a few seconds to deep fry a luchi.
  • Keep each puffed up luchi on paper towels for the excess oil to drain off.
  • Serve as you make them or immediately. 
  • Luchi is best eaten with chholaar dal, mota-mota alu bhaja, begun bhaja, shada alur chorchori, kosha mangsho, ghugni, payesh, or kheer.
  • Jam, chini, jhola gur, bonde, doi, jilipi come a close second! ;-)

luchi tarkari