Celebrating Eid and Blog Anniversary with Khajoor Rolls (Sugar Free)

Wishing an advance EID MUBARAK to all my muslim readers and friends!

This week insha’Allah muslims all over the world will be celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr. Can you believe Ramadan is coming to an end, how quickly does Ramadan pass by every year. May Allah accept our siyam, qiyam and all other ‘ibadah that we do for His sake, ameen! Taqabbalallâhu minnâ wa minkumMay Allah accept from you and us, our fasts and deeds. Ameen ♥

There is also an another reason to celebrate. My blog turned 6 this last month Alhamdulillah. I can’t believe its been 6 years since I started this little blog of mine. Masha’Allah!! Thank you everyone for being a part of my journey. With the arrival of my baby in my life Alhamdulillah, I haven’t been able to blog as regularly as I used to. But Insha’Allah I will continue to blog and share my recipe with you all for a long time. Your support and encouragement means lot to me ♥

With two special reasons to celebrate, today I am sharing with you all a very simple, sugar free and oh so yummy sweet that you can make for your loved ones on festivals and special occasions. They are healthy, tasty and look gorgeous. Also, this is a delicious way to use up leftover dates from Ramadan.

These date rolls are dense little discs that give you a bit of energy and also cure a sweet tooth. Nice, soft, dense and chewy. These date rolls would make a delicious Eid gift that’s also loaded with nutrients. A gift that’s playful enough for a child and sophisticated enough for an adult.

Khajoor Rolls – Date Rolls (Sugar Free)

Ingredients:

Pitted Dates – 1 1/2 cup, tightly packed
Dried Figs – 3/4 cup
Raisins – 1/8 cup
Cashew nuts – 1/8 cup
Pistachios – 1/4 cup
Almonds – 1/4 cup
Dessicated Coconut – 2-3 tbsp

Method:

1. In a food processor, add the pitted dates and dried figs. Process until it is a sticky pasty ball. Transfer it to a mixing bowl.
2. Add the dry fruits and nuts to a chopping board and chop them all up roughly. Add these chopped dry fruits and nuts to the dates and fig mixture and mix well.
3. On a chopping board, shape the mixture into a log about 3 inch in diameter. Sprinkle dessicated coconut and roll the log in it to cover the entire thing with coconut.
4. Refrigerate the prepared log for 1-2 hours. Then just before serving, slice them into discs using a sharp knife. Serve. These can also be stored in the refrigerator for a long time in an air tight container with lid.

Note:
1. Instead of using dessicated coconut, you can use icing sugar or warq.
2. You can add a variety of other dry fruits and nuts that you love instead of using them ones I have listed above.
3. You can also use dark chocolate chips, oats, ground flax, chia seeds, a little bit of orange juice or lemon juice, vanilla powder or cinnamon powder etc whatever you fancy to mix with the dates.
4. Instead of shaping them into logs and then cutting into slices, you can roll them into small balls and serve in gorgeous cupcake liners as date truffles to impress the guests. Or you can even shape in the form of Barfi.

Luv,
Mona

Pudina aur Khopra ki Chutney

I simply adore mint leaves. Its clean citrusy taste, refreshing aroma and artistic curly rich green colored leaves, all make me fall in love with it over and over again. I wait for spring/summer time every year so as to plant mint outdoors in pots. It grows easily and vigorously once established and provides me with fresh leaves all summer.

Mint from my garden

The Arabic name for mint is ‘nanaa’. The mint from the holy city of Madinah is famous for its strong and wonderful aroma. During visits to Madinah one can see people selling fresh mint leaves at every corner. The mint is kept fersh covered under wet hessian cloths. Mint that doesnt get sold is dried under the hot sun and sold. People of Madinah enjoy mint as a mouth refreshner, or in teas or in their food.

Clockwise from top: Mint leaves, Dessicated Coconut, Phulay Chane

The below verison is a mild chutney with use of phulay chane and coconut in it. I enjoy this chutney along with idli, dosa, evening snacks, or as a dipping sauce for sandwiches.

Pudina aur Khopra ki Chutney – Mint and Coconut Chutney

Phulay Chane – 1/8 cup
Dessicated Coconut/Khopra – 1/4 cup
Roasted Cumin seed/Zeera powder – 1/4 tsp
Small Green Chillies/Hari mirch – 4-5, chopped
Tamarind – walnut sized seedless ball (or) Lemon/Lime juice – 2 tbsp
Fresh Mint leaves/Pudina – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Ginger – 1/4 inch piece
Garlic – 2 pods
Tempering/Baghaar:
Canola oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds/Rai – 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies/Baghaar ki mirch – 2, each broken into small pieces
Curry leaves – 4-5, chopped

Method:

1. In a blender, add the first nine ingredients. Pour in a little bit of water to aid in the grinding process and grind until smoothly pureed. Pour the prepared chutney into a serving bowl.
2. Prepare baghaar/tempering: In a pan at medium high heat, pour oil and as soon as it warms up add the mustard seeds, broken dried red chillies and chopped curry leaves. Immediately remove from heat and pour this baghaar hot and hissing into the chutney and mix well. Serve along with your favorite snacks. Store the left over if any in the refrigerator for upto a week.

On a different note, Megha from the ‘Food Food Maha Challenge Muqabla’ show that will be telecast on Food food channel had contacted me as they are looking for participants. She says:

“The show is about the competition between male and female cooks and Madhuri Dixit willl be representing the female cook and Sanjeev Kapoor will represent the male cook.The judge of the show is Mr. Sanjeev Kapoor . If any one is interested you can call on 02242769017 between 11 am to 6 pm.
The auditions dates are:
8th July Mumbai
10th July Nagpur
14th July Delhi
17th July Kolkata
20th july Hyderabad
You can also drop a mail at foodfood.mahachallengemuqabla@gmail.com”

This is a great opportunity to participate in a cooking show. If any one is interested, do contact her.

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

Phulay Chane ki Chutney

Finally, spring is almost here. I cant wait to see life on dead trees and cheerful colors bursting all around me inshallah.

There are two kinds of chutney’s that I usually prepare along with along with Dosa or Idli, in addition to the quintessential Sambar. One kind that has the sourness as well as the spice/hotness, and an another kind that is mild with just a hint of spice sans any sort of tartness in it; all this because of the individual taste preferences in my house.

This particular chutney falls into the latter category. The phula chana (details of this dal below) which is the star ingredient for this chutney, imparts a mild taste, while the dried red chillies contribute the spiciness, and the dried roasted coconut render a creamy and nutty flavor to the chutney.

Roasted Split Gram:
Other names: Bhuna Chana; Chutney dal;
In Marathi: Dalia (Dalia is a Gujarati word for pappulu or bhuna chana. Usually broken wheat is referred to as Dalia); Phutana dal;
In Urdu: Phula Chana (phulay chane is plural, and phula chana is singular)
In Telugu: Putnala pappulu
In Tamil: Pottu Kadalai

Phula Chana is obtained when Black chickpeas/Kala Chana are roasted in special places called as bhattis in India. These are then skinned and split, then packed and sold ready made in packets at stores (Note that this cannot be done at home). There is no need to cook this dal, you can pop phula chana directly in your mouth as a healthy, crunchy, guilt free snack too.

Easy to prepare and dainty to taste, this chutney is a good choice for all those who do not possess an affinity for a sour taste.

Phulay Chane ki Chutney – Roasted Split gram Chutney

Ingredients:

Dried Red Chillies/Baghaar ki mirch – 6-8
Roasted split gram/Phula Chana – 1/3 cup
Desiccated Coconut – 4 tbsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Canola oil

Method:

In a small frying pan or a tawa, heat 2 tsp of oil at medium heat. As soon as it is hot, add the dried red chillies and roast the dried red chillies, phula chana and dessicated coconut individually one by one just for a few seconds. Do not burn the spices. Remove into a platter and let cool. Once cool, grind them all together adding just enough water to aid in the process (I added about 1/2 cup-3/4 cup) until smooth. Add salt and mix. Serve along with dosa, idli or any snacks.

Luv,
Mona