Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rajma Masala - Dilli wali style!

I had some colleagues in Bangalore who were from Northern parts of India and were cribbing about not finding good North Indian restaurants in Bangalore. Bangalore being a cosmopolitan city, at least in the last decade or so, I can never agree that there are restaurants serving some particular cuisine missing! Especially when the cuisine in question is North Indian - which has been there from the time i was a kid...

But then, it is a natural tendency for people to miss their native cuisine in other parts, as they will be looking for 'that particular taste, aroma and combination' that they are used to from years, and any small change in taste, one is not satisfied. But whereas for other cuisines, we are generally more forgiving - because we are not so used to that taste and small changes does not matter, as long as the dish tastes good on the whole.

Also, we just generalize food as North Indian, whereas that comprises of so many varieties of cuisines from different parts of Northern India... just like someone saying Neer Dosa is South Indian. Well, it is, but if you ask a Kannadiga, they'd say it is Mangalorean, to be precise :)

Well, coming back to Rajma Masala, the colleagues of mine always had high standards for it, and they regarded it as one of the simplest, most common but often spoilt dish! They'd never be satisfied with the quality of Rajma Masala anywhere else but in their homes and in some places in their home towns!

And all said and done, i tasted the Rajma Masala in a restaurant in Delhi when we were there for a visit, and then realized what my colleagues were saying!! It was the best rajma ever i had had!! And i was bent upon learning to make it the same way, taking tips and recipes from them/their wives! 

And now, this version has been certified as almost as good as a Rajma Masala made in Delhi! Here it is...

Rajma Masala

Rajma (Red kidney Beans) - 1 cup, Soak overnight
Tomato - 3 medium sized
Onion - 2 medium sized
Cloves - 3-4
Cinnamon - 1" pc
Cardamom - 1
Green chilies - 2-3
Ginger - 1” cube
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Garam masala powder - 1/2 Tsp
Red chili powder - ½ - 1 tsp, depending on taste
Jeera powder - ½ tsp
Coriander powder - ½ tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp, as per taste
Sugar - ¼ - ½ tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, chopped

• Soak rajma overnight in enough water.
• Tie the whole spices - cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in a muslin cloth and drop it into the pressure cooker along with the soaked beans.
• Pressure cook rajma and spices with enough water for 3-4 whistles, and then put it on sim for at least 30 more minutes. At the end of this time, the rajma beans should be cooked soft but not mushy.
• When cool enough to handle, remove the muslin bag and discard along with the spices in it. The beans would have the flavors imparted by now.
• Boil tomatoes in water till tender, cool and make puree
• Heat oil in a pan
• Add chopped onion and sauté for 2 minutes
• Crush ginger and garlic and add the paste and continue to sauté till the onions turn translucent
• Add all the spice powders and mix thoroughly so that no lumps are formed
• Mix in tomato puree, salt and sugar and bring to a gentle boil
• Add the boiled beans, and water if necessary to maintain a gravy consistency
• Let it boil for 5-10 minutes, till the beans absorb the taste and flavors from the gravy
• Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice or rotis.

• Cooking for at least 40 minutes ensures the rajma is cooked well - as my Delhi friends insist it should be :D
• The tomatoes can just be crushed well and added too, instead of grinding it to a puree, but i prefer grinding it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pasta in Creamy Basil Pesto

Ohh I love spring and summer here in Scandinavia for the fresh veggies and greens that comes to the market! Back in India, the change in seasons hardly went noticed – except for very seasonal veggies and fruits like mangoes in summer, jackfruit in rainy season, avrekayi in winter and a few more, there is hardly any change in the availability of other veggies. However, here seasons are a big deal! Everything depends on the seasons and the same goes for the food that you cook due to the availability of ingredients. Of course you get most of the items as frozen these days, but we are more of fresh-food loving people!

So one of the things I look forward to in spring and summer is fresh basil! Oh how I have fallen in love with this herb! I love love it and so does D. So every time we see a bunch of fresh basil, we just greedily grab it! And most of the times it goes into a pesto and then to a pasta, though occasionally there are other experiments with it.

This is one of the pastas that we love – quick, flavorful, wholesome, as rich/dull as you want it, and versatile – do any changes you want and it tastes differently good! It is also good for lunch box (see notes below).

If you’re in a place where you can get fresh basil, don’t miss trying this! Here’s the recipe…

 Pasta in Creamy Basil Pesto 

Pasta - 200 gms, Penne or any other shape
Onions - 1 medium sized, chopped (optional)
Green chilies - 1, slit (optional – only if you want extra heat)
Olive oil – 2-3 tsp
Full Milk/Cream/Crème Fraiche – 1/2 cup, adjust according to the consistency needed
Cheese – Parmesan / Mozzarella – 3-4 Tbsp, shredded

For the Pesto:
Fresh basil leaves – 1 medium sized bunch
Walnuts or pine nuts – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 1-2 flakes
Olive oil - 1 Tbsp
Pepper powder - ½ - 1 tsp, adjust acc to taste
Salt - ½ tsp or as per taste

• Pick and wash basil leaves.
• Optionally toast the walnuts / pine nuts slightly – it is ok to use raw too
• In a blender/mixie jar add the nuts, basil leaves and garlic and pulse till coarse
• Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and continue to pulse till almost smooth and scoop out into a bowl

• Cook pasta as per instructions on the packet, drain and let cool slightly
• Heat 1 Tsp of oil in a pan and sauté the onion with green chilly if using, till they are cooked but slightly crunchy.
• Add the pesto prepared above and bring to a gentle boil.
• Mix in the pasta, adjust salt and pepper
• Finally add the cream/milk to make it slightly saucy – or to the consistency you prefer.
• Garnish with shredded cheese and mix well

• Pasta can be just mixed with the pesto and served as is – But I prefer doing it his way and adding some cream so that it is more saucy and gets coated with the pesto well.
• Mixing it ahead of serving time makes the pasta dry. Mix just before serving.
• I make this for D’s lunch box also sometimes. I boil the pesto with cheese and cream and pack the cooked and completely cooled pasta and the pesto sauce separately. He heats it in a microwave and mixes just before eating.
•I also add some veggies like capsicum sometimes to make it healthier and to add a new dimension.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mexican Rice

Me: What shall we prepare for lunch?
D: I feel like eating something different…
Me: I too was feeling like… Shall I make some Thai curry and rice?
D: Ummm… But I feel like eating Mexican, not Thai today….
Me: Hmmm….. Mexican?
D: Yeah… Why don’t you search and tell me the recipe for a nice Mexican rice and I’ll cook it for you…
Me: Wow! Cool!!

This was our conversation one weekend, when D decides to hijack the kitchen and produce some amazingly awesome stuff! One of the reasons I love weekends for ;). Being very experimental in the kitchen, he churns out some really tasty stuff, most of the times some innovative dishes! Initially I used to be apprehensive about the taste when he decides to add some ‘random’ ingredient or follow a ‘unique’ method. But over time, I have come to trust his culinary skills and have chosen not to interfere with him when he’s in the kitchen, except to help him with the chopping, cleaning and doing the dishes later! And I even decided to add to my blog some of his creations (only some of them, when I have the patience to click some pics before hogging on it). 

I did have an idea of what goes into a Mexican rice usually and was sure I had most of the ingredients at home. When I googled, I came across a lot of recipes with small differences, and I decided on this one adapted from a couple of them, with my own modifications to suit our taste buds and ingredients.
It was one delicious lunch, I must say…. Very different from the usually tomato rice I make… though the ingredients are not very different from an Indian recipe… Mexican rice recipes, they say are very close to Indian… 

So here’s the cheesy, sticky Mexican rice, which we loved and have made it a couple more times later….

Mexican Rice
Tomatoes – 3-4 medium sized
Onion – 1, medium sized, finely chopped
Green bell pepper - 1, finely chopped
Jalapenos – 1-2, finely chopped (with seeds and ribs removed)
Black/red beans – 1/2 cup, soak for a few hours if using dried ones
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Bay leaf - 1
Red chili powder - 1 tsp (adjust as per your taste preference)
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Long grain white rice – 2 cups, wash, soak for a few minutes and rinse
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Olive oil/ butter - 2 Tbsp
Fresh coriander – 1/4 cup, chopped
Lime/lemon juice – 2 tsp
Cheddar cheese – 1/2 cup grated

Cook the beans in enough water and a little salt till soft but firm and drain
Blanch the tomatoes in hot water and peel off the skin and puree till smooth
In a pressure cooker / a large saucepan, heat oil/butter over medium heat.
Add onions and garlic and sauté till slightly done
Add the peppers, then rice, beans, bay leaf, jalapenos.
Sauté until the rice is slightly browned.
Add 2 cups of water, tomato puree, chili powder, cumin powder and salt and bring to a boil.
If using pressure cooker cook for one whistle. If cooking in the saucepan, reduce heat and simmer till the rice is just cooked
Let cool for about 10 minutes and mix in the coriander, lime juice and mix gently taking care not to make the rice mushy
Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with grated cheese and serve hot.

Chopped veggies can also be added
I use the red kidney beans that I have in my pantry; usually black beans are used
The cheese gives a nice gooey and rich taste to the rice – We like to add it at the end and not mix it in for that extra effect.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pasta Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Ohhh... I've been missing here in action, haven't I? Well, blame it on pure lethargy... to write and post :( Though i have a dozen posts in drafts, they are just pics and i still need to do the writing... And just the way I am, I was too pre-occupied with other things that i didn't feel like blogging.

And today, there was a deadline for my next article in VK and I had to write! Writing as I was, i thought why not start posting something on my beloved blog as well and here I am....

This is one other salads that i make quite often, and had not made it to the blog yet. I usually make a salad to accompany a not-so-healthy meal, like pizza / lasagne, etc just so that the guilt is reduced :D. 

So without much rant here's the recipe...

Pasta Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Pasta - Fusili or any other shape - 2 handfuls
Apple - 1, cored and chopped
Green, red, yellow Capsicum - 1 cup, deseeded and chopped

For dressing:
Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Mayonaise - 4 Tbsp
Olive Oil - 1 Tbsp
Vinegar - 2 tsp, optional
Italian dried herbs - Thyme/Oregano - 1 tsp
Salt                  - ¼ tsp or as per taste
Black pepper powder - ½ tsp or as per taste
  • Cook pasta as per the instructions on the pack, and allow to cool completely
  • Core and chop apples; Deseed and chop capsicum. 
  • Mix these in a large bowl
  • in another small bowl, mix the ingredients for dressing.
  • Give a good shake, and add it to the salad
  • Mix well and serve

  • Add the dressing just before serving as the pasta absorbs the liquid and becomes dry.
  • If the dressing seems thick, thin it out by adding a little water or buttermilk