Pyaaz ki Pakodi – Crispy Onion Fritters

Every time I visit Hyderabad, I ask my father to get some crispy pyaaz ki pakodi from sweet shops in the city. I just love them. Small sweet shop at almost every corner in Hyderabad sell an array of sweets and also savory snacks.

But when I am in Toronto, missing them, I make these myself in my kitchen trying to replicate them as close as possible to the ones that I get in Hyderabad. I love these pakodi along with tamarind chutney on a rainy day. They also make a yummy Iftaar snack. Sometimes I also enjoy them along with my meal on the side.

Pyaaz ki Pakodi – Crispy Onion Fritters

Ingredients:

Besan – 1 1/2 cups
Rice Flour – 1/4 cup
Green chillies, finely chopped – 8
Ginger – grated, 1/2 tsp
Onions – 2, large, thinly sliced
Olive Oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves – 1 or 2 sprigs, roughly chopped
Salt – 3/4 tsp
Pinch of baking soda
Canola Oil for deep frying

Method:

1. In a mixing bowl, add sliced onions, besan, chopped green chillies, curry leaves, salt, olive oil and baking soda. Mix well. Add just 1/4 cup of water and mix well to form a thick-hard batter. Go easy on water as onion and salt release water too.
2. In a kadai or wok, pour oil to deep fry and as soon as it is piping hot, drop small and flattish balls of the batter using your hands into the hot oil. Reduce heat to medium and deep fry till they turn golden brown. Remove using a slotted soon into a large strainer for excess oil to drip away. Continue until all the batter is used up.
Serve hot with chutney/sauce of your choice, along with chai/coffee or juice. I served them with tamarind chutney along with other sides at Iftaar yesterday.

Note:
1. If you want do not want them crisp, omit rice flour and add a little bit more water, to make onion bhajiyas.
2. If you do not want to fry them, you can even shallow fry them in about 2 tbsp per batch in a non-stick frying pan. Make sure you flatten the batter so that they shallow fry evenly. You can even bake them for a healthier version. I have tried baking them a few times and will still continue to do for a few more trials until insha’Allah I come up with a perfect recipe for you all soon.

Luv,
Mona

Tala Hua Chawal

I do not fancy a day or two old left over plain rice for meals. Plain rice keeps well in the refrigerator for almost a week if stored in an air tight container. And it is convenient for working people. But I am not fond of stored left over rice. Fresh cooked rice tastes so much better. However there are days when there is leftover rice and you do not know what to do with it. My Ammi makes sun dried rice crackers using the day old rice just like the dal ki badiyan and they used to be so yummy. Unfortunately the weather here in Toronto does not always favor it. So I make an another of my Ammi’s speciality. Spicy and lemony Tala hua Chawal. Serve this chawal warm at breakfast or as a mid day meal.

Tala Hua Chawal – Recycled Spicy Rice

Ingredients:

Leftover plain Rice (1 day old) – 2 cups
Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 1/2 tsp
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Red chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste
Lemon juice – 3-4 tbsp

Method:

In a non stick skillet at medium high heat pour in oil and as soon as it warms up add the mustard seeds and ginger garlic paste and stir fry until the ginger garlic paste turns golden brown and the seeds begin to pop. Immediately add the curry leaves, red chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder. As they splutter, add a few splashes of water and add the 2 cups rice. Mix well. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the rice is well mixed. Pour lemon juice and cover with a lid. Remove with a lid and serve warm.

Enjoy Tala hua Chawal along with Khadi dal or on its own.

***

A few days back, I was finally able to get my hands on a teeny weeny Curry leaf plant. It was quite costly but I couldnt resist buying it since I had been searching it from the past few years. Since it is almost spring, I transplanted the baby plant to a deeper pot and added manure to it as the fertilizer. It is now sitting in front of a large window in my house. Alhamdulillah it is growing nicely and I hope it will continue to flourish and hopefully will provide me soon with a fresh constant supply of curry leaves for my cooking purpose.

On an another note, hubby dear had gifted me a sewing machine this last Eid-ul-Adha, something that I had wanted since long. Sewing is an another favorite hobby of mine, so I have been doing a few sewing projects lately. There are a lot of interesting and clearly explained projects shared by very talented sewists on their blogs. Inshallah I will update my blog with projects that I will be doing.

I wanted to share with you all this project that had caught my attention a few days back, and it turned out pretty good. I used hubby’s old t-shirt and a time-worn kitchen towel instead of the chenille sock and I got 3 reusable swiffer mop pads. I plan to use them to wipe my kitchen floor and when they are soiled, just wash them and they are again good to go. How convenient is that.

Luv,
Mona

Murgh Kali Mirch

The weather seems to be slowly turning into spring. It will still be a month atleast until I can see sprouts of new life budding on trees. Uptil then, it is nice to see layers of snow gradually melting away revealing the ground which has been covered up since long.

Changing weather means illnesses and I fell prey to it as well. I was down with flu a few days back and I am slowly recovering now. I was craving for something spicy as well as nourishing and comforting. My Ammi’s Murgh Kali Mirch was what I prepared and enjoyed along with warm Naan.

The chicken in allowed to slow cook on low heat in its own juices in a spicy black pepper, tomato and fried onion sauce until it is so soft, the meat falls off the bone. There is no need to add water during the entire process. A heavy bottomed saucepan will be perfect for this preparation.

Murgh Kali Mirch – Chicken Slow Cooked in Black Pepper Sauce

Ingredients:

Chicken – 1, whole, skinned, washed and cut into pieces
Canola oil – 3 tbsp
Onion – 2, medium sized, diced
Ginger garlic paste – 2 tsp
Green chillies – 2, small, finely chopped
Curry leaves – 3 sprigs
Red Chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Tomato – 1, large, chopped
Fresh black pepper powder – 1 1/4 tsp
Cilantro – 3 tbsp, chopped, for garnish

Method:

In a large saucepan or a dutch oven at medium high heat pour oil and as soon as it warms up add the diced onions. Stir fry the onions until they are golden brown in color. Simmer and add ginger garlic paste, green chillies and curry leaves. In a minute add red chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder. Mix and add the chopped tomatoes. Cover with a  lid and let it cook until the tomatoes are soft. There is no need to add any water. Once the tomatoes are soft add the chicken pieces and and mix well. Cover with the lid and let it cook for 15 minutes. The chicken will slow cook in its own juices, again there is no need to add any water. Open the lid and add the fresh black pepper powder. Mix well. Cover again and let it cook for 30 minutes. Give it a stir once in between. Let it cook until the chicken has released a lot of juices and the meat falls off the bone. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve along with Naan or Rice.

Luv,
Mona

Sambar

Sambar is a delicious richly flavored lentil and vegetable stew, native to South India. Many versions of sambar exist, and each one is just as delicious as the other one. The key for a flavorful sambar is a good sambar masala. Like there exists many versions of garam masala powder, similarly every South Indian household has their own version of the sambar masala. I have always only used the ready made MDH Sambar masala powder that is easily available in stores. But I really loved Padma’s Sambar and since then I have only been using her sambar masala to favor mine. I was so glad to discover the right sambar masala for me.

Idli served along with Sambar

Warm Sambar is a delicious accompaniment to South Indian classics like idli, wada, dosa, or just along with plain simple rice, etc. Today I have made Okra Sambar because I had only okra at hand, but the mixed vegetable sambar is the conventional and most delicious. The addition of a variety of vegetables add their own flavor to the spicy and aromatic sambar. Tamarind is the traditional souring ingredient used, but if unavailable you can use lemon juice.

Sambar – Spicy Lentil and Mixed Vegetables Stew
Adapted from here

Ingredients:

Toor dal – 1 cup
Tomato – 1, large, chopped
Green chillies – 4, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Canola oil – 3 1/2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 3/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 3/4 tsp
Dry red chillies – 4, each broken into half
Curry leaves – 3 sprigs
Mixed Vegetables – 2 cups (chopped/cubed: brinjal, potato, taro root, bottle guard, radish, zucchini, okra, drumsticks, french beans, carrot, pumpkin, beetroot, etc; peeled & whole pearl onions/shallots; cauliflower or brocolli florets) (I used only okra – 340 gms) (also I did not have shallots so I used 1 large sliced onion instead)
Thick Tamarind pulp – 5 tbsp
Jaggery/gud – 1 tbsp, grated
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt – to taste
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Sambar masala:
2 tsps of bengal gram/chana dal
2 tsps of black gram/urad dal
2 tsps of cumin seeds/zeera
3 tsps of coriander seeds/dhaniya
½ tsp black peppercorns/kali mirch
½ tsp of fenugreek seeds/methi
4 dry red chillies/sukhi lal mirch
¾ cup dry desiccated coconut/khopra

Delicious Warm Sambar

Method:

1. In a non stick frying pan dry roast all the spices separately under the heading sambar masala until they are just a few shades darker. Transfer all the roasted spices to a spice grinder and add a little water and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside. This is the sambar masala.
2. Wash toor dal in several changes of water. Soak it overnight or for 2-3 hours in surplus fresh cool water. Drain, and wash in several changes of water. Add the washed and soaked toor dal to a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 tbsp oil, chopped tomato, green chillies, turmeric powder and 3 cups of water. Close the lid and pressure cook until the dal is mushy. Using a whisk or a dal ghotni or an immersion blender, blend the dal into a paste. Keep aside.
3. In a large saucepan at medium high heat, add the remaining oil. As soon as it is warm, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they begin to crackle add the curry leaves and dry red chillies. (If you do not have pearl onions or shallots in hand, add the sliced onions and sauté them until they are pink). Immediately add the prepared mixed vegetables and mix well. Add salt and red chilli powder. Lower the heat to medium and pour in two cups of water. Cover with a lid and let cook until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the tamarind paste and grated jaggery. Now add the toor dal paste prepared earlier along with chopped cilantro and sambar masala. Mix well. Add water to give it a thin consistency. Half cover with a lid and allow it simmer for around 15 minutes more until the vegetables are soft and a good aroma fills your kitchen. Stir frequently and well, as the toor dal tend to sink to the bottom and stick. Serve warm along with plain rice, or dosa, or idli, or wada.

Luv,
Mona

Tamatar ka Saalan

I remember my Ammi used to prepare all the dishes she wanted to serve at parties and events which my parents used to host during our childhood with her own two hands in her own little kitchen. Sometimes a maid would come for help when the party was large, but it was all under Ammi‘s strict supervision. She never opted for ordering food from a catering company or something like that. I have very vague memories when my mother was young and we were little kids, of the parties and the array of traditional food she used to prepare. I did not have an interest in cooking back then. I never entered the kitchen to help Ammi with parathas in the mornings or helping her with cutting and preparing vegetables on the weekends at the least. I regret, I wish I had paid attention and worked along with her. I was either busy studying, or being rebellious like a typical teenage child. It was only when I choose Nutrition as my subject that my curiosity for cooking evolved.

Today I call my Ammi and ask her on the phone of the doubts I get, but I lost the best chance of actually learning from her in action. I have learnt that sitting and enjoying meals in ones parents house is a blessing. But one should try to develop interest in all that is offered for them to learn at their parents house, from learning their mothers cooking, to the hobbies they master, to the little traditions they follow, because life while at parents house is the best time to learn from the best teachers you will ever get in your life. Parents should also encourage children to develop interest in learning to cook and teach them from a tender age, atleast so that they get in touch with their traditional activities and so that all that does not get lost with time. I am glad alhamdulillah I am able to document and preserve my family’s recipes through my blog, and this way help many young woman alongside as well.

Just like the famous Mirchi ka Saalan and Baghare Baingan, Tamatar ka Saalan is also ubiquotous to Hyderabadi cuisine. All these three mentioned curries, the perfect sides to a Biryani, have the same base gravy, with only brinjals in Baghare Baingan, chillies in Mirchi ka Saalan and tomatoes here in Tamatar ka Saalan. You can also add fish to the same curry base and you get Machli ka Saalan. I have used cherry tomatoes for the curry. Usually regular tomatoes are used which are simply cut into two halves. Tamatar ka Saalan is also referred to as Bagharay Tamatar by some people.

Cherry Tomatoes

Whenever in Hyderabad, I recommend food enthusiasts to attend high class weddings of traditional muslim Hyderabadi families in order to get in touch with the traditional Hyderabadi food which is not very easily available in restaurants or hotels. Or if you are lucky, enjoy home cooked traditional meals locally at a friends house.

Tamatar ka Saalan/Bagharay Tamatar – Tomatoes simmered in a creamy fragrant sauce

Ingredients:

Cherry Tomatoes – 8 (or medium sized tomatoes, each cut into two semi circles)
For masala paste:
Khus Khus/White Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp
Till/Sesame Seeds – 1/2 cup/50 gms
Groundnuts/MoomPhalli – 1/2 cup/50 gms
Dry Desiccated Coconut – 3/4 cup/50 gms
Coriander seeds/Dhania – 1 tsp
For gravy:
Canola oil – 1/4 cup
Yellow Onions – 3, large, each quartered into 4 pieces
Ginger garlic paste – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 tbsp
Red Chilli Powder – 2 tsp
Turmeric/ Haldi – 1/4 tsp
Cilantro/ Kothmir – 3 tbsp, finely chopped
Thick tamarind pulp – 3 tbsp
For baghaar/tempering:
Cumin seeds/ Zeera – 1 tsp
Curry leaves/ Kariyapaak – 2 sprigs
Mustard seeds/ Rai – 1/2 tsp
Nigella seeds/ Kalaunji – 1/3 tsp
Fenugreek seeds/ Methi dana – 1/8 tsp

Tamatar ka Saalan/Bagharay Tamatar – Tomatoes simmered in a creamy fragrant sauce

Method:

1. Wash the cherry tomatoes well. Discard the stalks and make four incisions, perpendicular cuts (an X) from the stem end of each cherry tomato, taking care the other end is intact. Keep aside.
2. Puree the onions into a smooth paste. Also, smoothly/finely grind all the ingredients seperately under the heading ‘for masala paste’ adding just a few drops of water if needed.
3. Heat oil in a heavy non-stick pan at medium heat and as soon as it is warm, add the baghaar ingredients – cumin seeds, curry leaves, mustard seeds, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once they start spluttering, add the pureed onion paste and mix. Cover with a lid for a minute. Uncover and keep frying until the raw smell of the onions goes away. Add ginger garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and chopped cilantro and the masala paste and mix well. Keep cooking until the raw smell of the masala paste goes away and you can see the paste leaving oil on the sides. Add a few drops of water if needed during the process. This might take about 5-10 minutes. Later add tamarind pulp and mix well. Now pour in about 4-5 cups of water (or less) and mix. Let it come to a boil. Once boiling, add the prepared tomatoes and cover with a lid. Let cook for 5 minutes. Once the tomatoes are soft, remove from heat and serve the curry along with Pulao or Biryani. (In the picture you can see that I have prepared a loose consistency of the curry. You can cook it furthur until you achieve the desired consistency. The preferred consistency of this curry is semi-loose.)

On an another note, my blog has been selected for Best Of Indian Blogosphere 2010 polls by blogjunta.com. Please vote for me here.
Thanks.

Luv,
Mona