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

Gosht ka Achaar

Ramadan Mubarak everyone!

I was very little when I had first tasted this pickle at one my aunts place, but I still remember the burst of flavors that made me fall in love with this pickle~ tangy, spicy and simply ambrosial. Since then I have tried to replicate this recipe handed to me by one of my dear grandmother in the family. She had only given me andaaza (rough estimate) amounts of the ingredients being used, a mutti (handful) of that, a mutti of this.

This is one of my most treasured recipes, simple and straightforward procedure, very close to my heart, and that which I have been enjoying since times past. Enjoy this spicy, lemony meat pickle that is sure to entice your taste buds. I hope you all like it as much I do.

Gosht ka Achaar – Veal Meat Pickle

Ingredients:

Boneless Beef/Veal meat – 800 gms, washed, drained, pat dried and cut into small bite-size pieces
Lemon juice – 2 cups, fresh
Garlic cloves – 150 gms, pureed into a smooth paste (with addition of as less water as possible to puree)
Canola oil – 1/2 cup
Curry leaves – 20-25, fresh, chopped
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Dried red chillies – 4
Dry roasted Cumin seed powder – 3 tbsp
Dry roasted Mustard seed powder – 2 tbsp
Dry roasted Fenugreek seed powder – 3 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 2 1/2 tbsp
Salt – 2 tbsp

Gosht ka achar – Veal Meat Pickle

Method:

1. In a deep glass mixing bowl, add the meat pieces and pour in lemon juice. See that all the meat pieces are nicely covered in the lemon juice. Add more if needed. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
2. The next day,add garlic paste to the marinating meat.
3. In a large non-stick heavy saucepan pour in oil, and as soon as it warms up add the curry leaves, cumin seeds and dried red chillies. Within a few seconds add the cumin seed powder, mustard seed powder, fenugreek seed powder, red chilli powder, salt and mix. Immediately add the marinating meat+garlic with all its juices from the mixing bowl and mix well. Let cook partially covered stirring occasionally until the meat is tender. This will take about 35-45 minutes depending on various factors. You can even pressure cook the meat if you want it cooked quick. Keep an eye and remove from heat as soon as the meat is cooked and gravy is thick and clinging to the meat.
4. Let it cool down completely. Transfer to a sterilized glass canning jar and store it in the refrigerator. Use a dry spoon whenever fancied.

Note: Use only Beef/Veal meat for this recipe. I do not suggest using lamb meat or even chicken meat instead.

Enjoy the pickle along with your meals on the side.

This is my first entry to the The Hyderabadi Ramadan Food Festival that I am hosting on my blog.

Luv,
Mona

Tamatar ka Achaar

Every Andhra kitchen in India is well stocked with a range of spicy pickles. Even I love to prepare and store a few pickles to compliment and add a zing to my meals. Right now, I have jars of tomato pickle, lemon pickle and mutton pickle sitting in the refrigerator.

Tomato Pickle – Tamatar ka Achaar

Tangy, sour, salty and bold on taste buds ~ Tomato pickle is one such specialty from the state of Andhra Pradesh. This pickle is not labor intensive, but it does require a little attention and time. I prepare only small batches that last for a month or so, and again keep preparing this pickle whenever I see good quality tomatoes on sale.

Tomato Pickle – Tamatar ka Achaar

Ingredients:

Tomatoes – 800 gms, red & ripe, firm, juicy and blemish free
Thick tamarind pulp – 3 ½ tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tbsp
Salt – 1 tbsp
Haldi – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds/Zeera – 1 ½ tbsp
Fenugreek seeds/Methi dana – 1 tsp
For Tempering/Baghaar:
Canola oil – 6 tbsp
Mustard seeds/Rai – ½ tbsp
Cumin seeds/Zeera – ½ tbsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 3 tbsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs

Method:

1. Wash the tomatoes, pat dry thoroughly, and cut them into quarters.
2. In a spice grinder, add the cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and grind them individually into a fine powder.
3. In a blender container, add the quartered tomatoes, cumin seed powder and fenugreek seed powder, tamarind pulp, red chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder. Blend until smooth. Pour into a saucepan at medium hight heat and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring it frequently.
4. Meanwhile, prepare baghaar: In a small frying pan at medium high heat, pour oil and as soon as it warms up, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. As they start spluttering, add the ginger-garlic paste and stir fry for a minute. Add curry leaves and mix well. Immediately pour this baghaar hot and hissing into the cooking tomato mixture and mix well.
5. Once the tomato mixture is boiling reduce heat to medium and keep cooking uncovered while stirring frequently until most of the moisture has been evaporated and the tomato mixture has been reduced to a thick paste and the oil starts leaving, this might take around 1 ½ hour time of slow simmering. Remove from heat and let cool. Once completely cool, spoon the pickle into sterilized glass jars with tight lids. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy the pickle along with your meals. Stays well for around a month or two.

Luv,
Mona

Fish Maheqalya

Hyderabad does not boast of many seafood preparations. However come rainy season or the winter, we hyderabadis love to prepare a few very special close to heart dishes that are very specific to the Hyderabadi trpe of cooking. Today I am writing about one such fish curry. One of my most favorite fish curries, Machli ka Maheqalya, never fails to remind me of my grandmother. She used to prepare the most delicious Maheqalya ever.

Red Snapper Steaks

I usually prepare a mutton maheqalya or a fish maheqalya. Maheqalya is basically a sauce made with a range or aromatic spices and seasonings. It is a regional recipe from the city of Hyderabad usually prepared by Muslims. If you do not like fish or mutton, you can add add boiled eggs to the sauce to make it ando ka maheqalya, or you can also add sautéed bitter gourd rounds into the gravy for karelon ka maheqalya, or just opo squash pieces for kaddu ka maheqalia.

A perfect accompaniment to Maheqalya is Khadi dal and rice. My Ammi used to prepare and serve this for lunch or dinner usually on Jummah during my childhood.

Machli ka Maheqalya ~ Fish Maheqalya

Ingredients:

White/Yellow Onion – 2, large, sliced thick
Groundnut/Moomphalli – 3 tbsp, ground into a fine powder
Dry Desiccated Coconut – 3 tbsp
White poppy seeds/Khuskhus – 1 tbsp
Sesame seeds/Till – 3 tbsp
Tomatoes – 3, large, red and ripe, roughly chopped
Canola oil – 4 tbsp
Curry leaves – 1 or 2 fresh sprigs
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Dried red chillies/Baghaar ki mirch – 3, each broken into two
Dry Roasted Coriander seed powder – 1 tsp
Ginger-Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Red Snapper steaks – 5-6 steaks (I had a medium sized red snapper cut into steaks) (preferred fish are rohu and murrel which are easily available in India, or you can also use salmon (wild) or king fish or any that you like with or without bones)
Cilantro/Kothmir – 1 tbsp, chopped finely

Machli ka Maheqalya ~ Fish Maheqalya

Method:

1. Take a large heavy bottom non-stick skillet on medium heat, and pour a tablespoon of oil into it. As it gets warm, add the sliced onions and a teaspoon of salt. Mix well and half cover with the lid. After 2-3 minutes, give a good stir to the onions, add 1/4 cup of water, and again half cover it with lid. Keep repeating this until the onions are all soft and browned evenly. Remove the pan from heat, and let them cool down. Once cooled, add the chopped tomatoes and the caramelized onions into a blender container or food processor and blend till pureed smooth adding a few drops of water if necessary, just to aid in the process. Keep aside.
2. Put a small non-stick frying pan on medium heat and dry-roast the groundnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, shredded coconut, khuskhus each individually without oil till they are golden brown in colour. Do not burn them. Remove them into a cup (you can dry roast a handful of almonds and cashewnuts and grind them together along if you want a richer gravy). Once cool, grind them all together or individually until very fine. Make sure the obtained spice powder is very fine.
3. Take a large non-stick heavy bottomed saucepan and add a tablespoon of oil to it and put it on medium heat, add oil and keep it on medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, dried red chillies, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds to the oil and let them splutter. Now add the onion+tomato paste to it and cover the lid immediately for 3-5 minutes and remove the saucepan from heat, so that the aroma of the tempered oil with spices gets absorbed by the onion mixture. Remove the lid, put the saucepan back on stove and add the ginger-garlic pastes to it and stir to mix it all completely. Add the spice powder which we prepared earlier, the red chilli powder, salt and turmeric and stir it well. Lower the heat to medium low and let cook until it starts leaving oil. Pour in about 3 cups of water, and add the tamarind paste and give it a stir. Close the lid and increase the heat and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and gently lower the fish steaks into the gravy. Let it cook half covered for 15 minutes until the fish is done. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm.

Luv,
Mona