Til Wali Dum ki Gavar ki Phalli and a Giveaway

One of the most delicious beans that as the name suggest grows in clusters and a native of South India – Cluster beans, also called as Gavar ki Phalli in Urdu language, are high in proteins and fibre and low in fat, making them a very good option for people with diabetes and cholesterol.

young cluster beans growing on plant

The beans have a delicate taste and tiny pods inside them. Choose young beans to cook and discard any blemished or mature beans. They can easily be distinguished from the regular green beans as they have a flat appearance and pointed ends.

These are available both fresh (in season) and frozen at Indian grocery stores. My grandmother had a very tedious method of preparing these beans before cooking which my Ammi always followed. The following picture should help you all understand the procedure.

What she used to do was wash them well, drain, then top and tail the beans. After all this done, the beans are then split from one side – the ridged side, using the tip of the knife all along its length and then chopped into 1 inch pieces. All this really makes a difference as it allows the masala to go into the beans as they are split open to absorb all flavors and make them really delicious. The beans can also be completely split into two halves instead of splitting them from one side only.

vegetable vendor selling fresh vegetables door to door on a street cart : a common sight in India

My Ammi cooks this vegetable either with meat, or along with a roasted sesame seed paste. Most vegetables are cooked along with a little amount of meat in Hyderabadi households. We are fond of meat. But for this totally vegetarian preparation, adding a little bit of roasted sesame seed paste adds a lot of flavor as well as imparts creaminess to the curry.

Til Wali Dum ki Gavar ki Phalli – Cluster beans cooked in a Spicy Sesame Seed Sauce

Ingredients:

Olivado Avocado Oil (or any other cooking oil) – 2 tbsp
Onion – 1, large, peeled and diced
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 3, finely chopped
Tomato – 1, diced
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tbsp
Cluster beans – 340 gms, fresh or frozen
Cilantro – 1 tbsp, finely chopped

Til Wali Dum ki Gavar ki Phalli – Cluster beans cooked in a Spicy Sesame Seed Sauce

Method:

1. In a small frying pan at medium high heat, add the sesame seeds and dry roast them without adding any oil until they are a few shades darker. Remove from from heat and transfer to a spice grinder. Add a little bit of water and puree into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
2. In a pressure cooker at medium high heat, pour in oil and as soon as it warms up, add the diced onions and cook them while stirring until they are browned. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add the chopped green chillies and diced tomatoes, red chilli powder, salt and turmeric powder and let cook on low heat for two minutes. Add the roasted sesame seed paste prepared earlier and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the prepared cluster beans and stir gently to mix. Pour in about 2 cups water and pressure cook until the beans are soft. Remove the lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm along with Baghara Chawal or along with Parathas.

***

Cooking Oil Review:

[Disclosure: Olivado sent me samples of their oil to review. I was under no obligation to review the samples or, if I did review them, to post a positive review. I received no monetary compensation for this review.]

A few months back I received an email from Katelyn from Olivado Oils if I was interested in trying out their products. I obliged and in a few weeks time I received a wonderful package of a gorgeous chestnut faux leather box filled with carefully packed beautiful looking cooking oils. Until now I have been a fan of only two kinds of oils, one is the Olive oil, and the next comes Canada’s own Canola oil, both of which are a regular in my house. I was pleased to try out a new oil and hopefully include it into my choices.

this can be yours

And I am glad I tried these oils. Just the name Avocado oil intrigued me as I love the creamy rich flavor of avocados. The four varieties of oils that I received are Olivado Omega Plus Blended OilOlivado Avocado Zest Oil, Olivado Macadamia Nut Oil and Olivado Kenya Avocado Oil. Each variety of oil has its own benefits and uniqueness to offer. The avocado oils are organic, fair trade, cold pressed and extra virgin. I have been using them as salad dressings, in baking, grilling, salsas and cooking my daily meals. The oils have a fresh fruity aroma and the taste is not overpowering at all.

My conclusion is that I am thoroughly impressed and totally recommend these new health oils to everyone. The good news is that they are available all over the world and also in Canada. So go ahead and try them out for yourselves.

Giveaway: Olivado has agreed to giveaway just a similar package as that which was sent to me (the above mentioned four varieties of oils in a chestnut faux leather box) to one lucky reader of my blog (open to residents of US and Canada only).  A very good chance for all of you to sample these new cooking oils. To participate, simply leave a comment below. The last date to enter is February 28th 2011. The winner will be announced in the first week of March 2011.

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

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

Palak ki Pakodi, Til ki Chutney

It has been raining since a few days here, and I was craving for some snacks. Palak Pakodi with Til ki Chutney is what I prepared today and we enjoyed it الحمد لله along with chai.

Palak ki Pakodi – Spinack Fritters

Ingredients:

Spinach – 100 gms

Palak – Spinach

For the batter:-

Gram flour/Besan – 1 cup
Cool fresh water – 1 cup
Red Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp

Palak ki Pakodi – Spinack Fritters

Method:

1. Heat oil in a kadai to deep fry the fritters.
2. In a bowl, prepare the batter. Mix all the ingredients under the heading for the batter until the batter is smooth. Keep aside.

Spinach strips in batter

3. Wash and pat dry the spinach thoroughly. Discard stems and pile the spinach one above the other. Cut into strips and add it to the batter. Using a fork mix well and gently lift a small amount in the fork and drop it into the hot oil in the kadai. Deep fry on both sides until golden brown in color, around 3-5 minutes.
4. Remove the fritters into a large wire mesh strainer for the excess oil to drip off.

Til ki Chutney – Sesame seed Chutney

Ingredients:

Sesame seeds/Til – 1/2 cup
Small green chillies – 5, stems discarded, roughly chopped
Tamarind concentrate – 2 tbsp
Fresh Chopped Cilantro/Kothmir – 1 tbsp
Fresh Mint leaves/Pudina – 6 leaves
Garlic cloves – 2
Salt – to taste
Fresh cool water – 3/4 cup

Til ki Chutney – Sesame seed Chutney

Method:

1. In a pan at medium high heat, dry roast the sesame seeds until lightly golden brown in color. Remove the pan from heat and keep aside to cool.

Dry roasted Sesame seeds

2. Once the sesame seeds are completely cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and grind in a blender until smooth. Add more water if you need. Adjust salt to taste.
3. Prepare baghaar/tempering in a pan- pour 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan at medium hight heat. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 dry red chillies, and a few curry leaves. As they crackle, remove from heat and mix into the chutney. Serve.

Dip the Spinach fritters into the chutney and enjoy as a snack.

I also prepare this snack along with the chutney quite usually in Ramadan at Iftaar. This is my entry to the ‘Hyderabadi Ramadan Food Festival ’09’ that I am hosting on my blog.
Do send me your entries as soon as possible before Ramadan starts. The deadline is 20th August ‘09.

Luv,
Mona

Amchur-Harimirch wale Kacche Gosht ke Kofte

Happy Indepedence Day all my dear Indians!

Kofta (in Urdu language, Singular-Kofta; Plural-Kofte) means meatballs. Among all the meatball curries that I prepare, two of them, the Methi-Gosht ke Kofte and this one that I am writing about today are the most favorite in my house and we devour them along with warm Naan, or Afghani Roti which I get from the market usually.

It is called as ‘Kacche Gosht ke Kofte’ as the meatballs/Kofte in this method are added raw into the hot gravy and are allowed to cook in it. The meatballs cook perfectly in the hot bubbling gravy within a few minutes. I love this technique because, as the raw meatballs cook in the hot gravy, they impert their juices and flavor and give a deep taste.

Amchur-Harimirch wale Kacche Gosht ke Kofte – Meatballs in a hot and sour gravy

The two main ingredients here are Amchur in the Kofta and Green chilli paste in the gravy. You can feel the light tartness in the meatballs when you have them and the slight hotness due to the green chilli paste in the gravy make you leave wanting for more. It is a very simple recipe.

As Ramadhan is fast appraching, you can prepare this curry in large amounts, portion it and store it in freezable plastic food storage boxes that are microwave safe. When you sit to have your meal after iftaar, just microwave the box for a few minutes, and you are done. It will save you a lot of time.

You can use ground meat to prepare this curry, or if ground meat is not available, then you can even use meat chunks to prepare it. Wash and cut the meat chunks into bite size pieces, and put the chunks along with the spices for meaballs in a food processor, and pulse till the meat is well ground and mixed with the spices. Food processor is one of the most important kitchen gadgets in my kitchen. It makes my work very easier.

Amchur-Harimirch wale Kacche Gosht ke Kofte – Meatballs in a hot and sour gravy

For the Meatballs/Kofte

Ingredients:

Ground Veal/Lamb/Goat meat (or) Veal/Lamb/Goat meat chunks cut into bite size pieces or mince – 300 grams (read the notes above)
Dry Raw Mango/Amchur – 2 tsp
Red chilli flakes – 2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Salt/Namak – 1 tsp
Turmeric/Haldi – 1/2 tsp
Ginger-Garlic/Adrak-Lahsun paste – 2 tsp

Kacche Gosht ke Kofte – Raw meatballs

Method:

1. In a food processor or a blender, add all the ingredients and pulse till the mixture is all well mixed. Remove it into a bowl. Take a small amount into your hand and shape into little balls (approx 1 inch in diameter) rubbing the mixture between your palms. Continue making balls untill all the mixture is completed. Keep aside.
2. Wash your hands well with soap.

TIP: To freeze meatballs ahead of time: You can prepare the meatballs and freeze them for future use.
Form meatballs, and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet in the freezer. Once the meatballs are hard and well frozen, transfer them to a resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw and cook them in the curry.

For the Curry/Gravy:

Ingredients:

Canola oil – 4 tbsp
Yellow onion – 3 , large, thinly sliced
Salt – 1 tsp
Seseme seeds/Til – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds/Zeera – 1 tsp
Carom seeds/Ajwain – 1 tsp
Clove/Laung – 2
Green cardamom/Elaichi – 4
Cinnamon sticks/Dalchini – 1 inch stick
Ginger-Garlic paste – 2 tsp
Green chilli – finely chopped, 2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Yogurt – 2 cup, lightly whipped
Beef Stock – 1 litre
Curry leaves – 6
Dried red chilli – 4, broken into two, seeds shaken out

Method:

1. Pour 3 tbsp oil into a large non-stick frying pan at medium heat and as soon as it warms up, add the onion and salt. Saute it for 3 minutes, then cover the lid. After 3 minutes, stir the onions, add a tablespoon of water and cover the lid again. Continue doing this until the onions are well browned and soft.
2. Add seseme seeds, cumin seeds, carom seeds, clove, green cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. Saute them for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle red chilli powder.
3. Add the yogurt and keep strirring it continously for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off. Once cool, pour this gravy into a blender container and blend till finely pureed.
4. In the same pan pour 1 tbsp of oil and as soon as it warms up add the dried red chilli powder and curry leaves. As they begin to crackle in a minute or two, pour the pureed sauce back into the pan. Add the meat stock and increase the heat to medium high. Let it come to a boil.
5. Lower the heat to medium low, and gently add the meatballs one by one to the gravy in a single layer, and close the lid. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Keep gently giving it a stir every 3 minutes or so taking care not to break the meatballs. Serve warm.

Suggested Accompaniments: This curry goes very well along with Naan or Afghani Roti, or even along with steamed Basmati.

This curry goes all the way to Srivalli of ‘Cooking 4 All Seasons’ who is hosting the event- Curry Mela.

Also, congratulations to Jyothi of Shadruchulu for winning the title of ‘The Best Hyderabadi Blog 2008′.

Have a pleasant weekend eveyone!

Luv,
Mona