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

Daalcha Gosht

Hyderabadi cuisine is unique, a perfect marriage between the fiery South-Indian and rich North-Indian cuisines of India. Yet, sadly there are such few records in the form of cookbooks, TV shows, magazines, newspapers, blogs or even local restaurants/eateries in the city itself that dedicate to chronicle/serve the true Nizami cuisine of Hyderabad. Only those few lucky members of the Nizam Club of Hyderabad, or people who have connections with the fellow local Hyderabadi families get to enjoy the traditional lovingly home cooked Hyderabadi meals.

clockwise from bottom right~tomatoes, opo squash, meat bones, cooked dal

Daalcha is one such true Hyderabadi preparation. The Nizami cuisine of Hyderabad is not just about Biryani and Mirchi ka Salan, or an assortment of meat concoctions unlike considered. It has to its repertoire many vegetarian and especially dal (lentil) preparations that are deeply related to the inimitable flavors of Nizami cuisine. Basically, there are two variations to daalcha, one is the vegetarian version – which can be prepared with either opo squash, eggplants or drumsticks, and the other non-vegetarian version – made by adding meat bones to the tangy tempered dal. To impress your guests, serve daalcha gosht along with baghara khana and phalli gosht, the way it is served traditionally at Hyderabadi households.

I have added a few bottlegourd pieces to Daalcha Gosht, you can skip adding them if you want only meat in the dal.

Daalcha Gosht – Lentil and Meat stew

Chanay ki Dal/Chana dal – 1 cup
Green chillies – 3, chopped
Tomatoes – 2, large, chopped
Salt – to taste
Canola Oil – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Onion – 1/4 cup, finely sliced
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2, each broken into two
Lamb meat with bones/Lamb shanks – 500 gms
Red chilli powder – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
BottleGourd/Opo squash/Kaddu – 1, medium sized, peeled and cut into diamond shape (optional)
Tamarind extract – 1 cup
Cilantro – 3 tbsp, finely chopped

Daalcha Gosht

Method:

1. Soak the dal for 1-2 hours in fresh cool water. Later drain the dal and rinse it in a wire mesh under running water. Add this soaked dal to a pressure cooker, pour in about 3 cups of fresh cool water, chopped green chillies, tomatoes and salt. Close the lid and pressure cook until the dal is mushy. Puree it in a blender until smooth and keep aside.
2. In a separate pressure cooker at medium high heat pour in oil and as soon as it is warm, add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, sliced onion and stir fry until the onion is lightly golden brown in color. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir fry along for a minute. Add dried red chillies, lamb bones/shanks, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well. Pour in fresh cool water to cover the meat and pressure cook until the meat is tender.
3. Add bottlegourd pieces and mix well. Add little more water to cover them and again pressure cook for 1 whistle. (Skip this step if you are not adding bottlegourd)
4. Add the pureed dal mixture and mix well. Add about 2-3 cups of fresh cool water and tamarind extract to get a pouring consistency (not too thick, nor too thin) and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, simmer and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Add cilantro and stir to mix. Serve warm.

Luv,
Mona

Kaddu ka Dalcha

I am so in love with the bottle gourds that I get here in the Asian stores in Toronto. Young and tender with bright spring-bud green color is how I describe the bottle gourds that I get here.

Kaddu, Split Chana Dal, Tomato

Kaddu, aka ‘Bottle gourd’ or ‘Opo squash’ in English

Dalcha refers to soupy dal preparation from Hyderabad. It can be prepared with only a vegetable, which I am writing about today, or along with meat with bone combination, also called as Daalcha Gosht. The dal with either of the combination is then simmered gently in a tomato with tempering/baghaar spices sauce that impart a beautiful aroma and flavor. Once the vegetable and meat is tender it is allowed to cook with the mashed dal. Today I prepared Dalcha with bottle gourd for my lunch along with Qimah Methi and Matar Chawal. Traditionally Dalcha is served along with Baghara Chawal and Phalli Gosht, or even along with Biryani on the side.

Kaddu, peeled and cut into Diamonds

Peel and cut bottle gourd kaddu diagonally into large diamond shapes. The kaddu that I have used today was very green and callow, so it didnt have any tough and aged seeds. If there is any fibrous central pith with mature hard seeds, I suggest you slice the central pith and discard it and use only the clean white flesh. But it not mandatory.

Kaddu Ka Dalcha

Kaddu Ka Dalcha – Bottle Gourd in Legume Soup

Ingredients:

Chana dal/Bengal gram (or) Yellow lentils/Tuvar ki dal – 1 1/2 cups
Salt
Canola oil/Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Garlic pods – 2-3, peeled and crushed
Dried red chillies – 2, each broken into two and stalks removed
Curry leaves – 10 fresh leaves
Tomato – 2, large, ripe and red, finely chopped
Chopped Cilantro – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Bottle gourd/Opo Squash/Kaddu – 1, medium sized, around 750 gms
Raw tamarind juice/Kacchi Imli ka juice – 4 tbsp or to taste

Method:

1. Peel the bottle gourd. Slice off and discard the top and bottom of the gourd. Cut the bottle gourd into two halves lengthwise. If the central pith of the bottle gourd contains mature seeds, discard the central pith, or if the bottle gourd is young and tender, there is no need to discard the central pith. Now cut each half into 1 inch thick strips lengthwise. Cut each strip diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces.
2. Wash the dal in two or three water changes. Drain and keep aside. In a pressure cooker, add the drained dal and 4 cups water. Add 2 tsp salt and pressure cook the dal until it is soft and well cooked. You can puree the dal in a blender and pour it back back into the saucepan and keep aside. I just mash it using a dal ghotni or use an immersion blender sometimes.
3. In a large frying pan at medium heat, pour canola oil, and as soon as it warms up, add the cumin seeds and the crushed garlic pods. After 30 seconds, add the dried red chillies and curry leaves. Immediately add the chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, red chilli powder, salt, turmeric and mix well. Cover the lid for about a minute. Add the chopped bottle gourd and mix well. Pour in water to cover the bottle guard pieces and cover the lid. Let cook for about 10 minutes or until the bottle gourd is tender. To check, pierce a piece of bottle gourd with the tip of a sharp knife.
4. Once the bottle gourd is tender, add this to the saucepan with the pureed dal and pour in water to dilute and achieve a thin soupy consistency. Add the tamarind juice and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Let it boil once, then simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This delicious dal is my entry to the event ‘Delicious Dals from India’ being hosted by Suma at her blog Veggie Platter.

Luv,
Mona

Kaddu Ka Salan with Varqi Roti

Todays post features a simple yet delicious subzi-roti combination which I enjoy as a breakfast or lunch or a dinner meal.

Bottle Gourd curry/Kaddu ka Salan with Layered Flat Bread/Varqi Roti

Today I prepared Varqi Roti and simple Bottle gourd curry for our lunch. The procedure for Varqi Roti is simple and I have explained it using the pictorial tutorial below:

This is the procedure how my Grandmother/Nani used to prepare Varqi Roti for her husband, my beloved late Grandfather/Nana, who was a Tehsildaar, from the state of Lucknow, a great foodie and food enthusiast.

Varqi Roti – Flaky Flat Bread

Makes : 7 Rotis

Ingredients:

Durum Wheat flour – 2 1/2 cups
Water – 2/3 cup
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Canola oil – for cooking the Roti

Method:

The materials used to prepare any flat bread/roti are a Girda and a Belan. Girda is a flat wooden board on which the flat bread/roti are rolled using the belan, which is the rolling pin.  If you did not happen to buy a girda from your trip to India, use any flat wooden board available or a any clean flat surface like your kitchen countertop or a wooden cutting board. Keep a kitchen towel below the board to keep it steady while rolling the roti with the rolling pin.

Girda & Belan (Image Source – Internet)

1. In a bowl, add the flour and salt and mix well. Gently pour in water, a little at a time, to form soft dough.
2. Make golf sized balls out of the dough and roll it using flour into circles using a rolling pin on the flat wooden board.

3. Sprinkle flour on the rolled out roti and fold it as shown in the picture. Keep sprinkling flour after every fold. Follow these steps until it is folded into a rectangle.

4. Once it is folded into a rectangle, roll it out into a roti again.
5. Heat a cast iron flat griddle/tawa on medium high heat. Once it is hot, put the rolled over prepared roti on the heated griddle. Let it cook for a few seconds. You will notice small bubbles on the roti. Flip it with a rubber spatula or a flat spoon which you have and cook it on the other side again for a few seconds.
6. Now quickly brush the roti with oil with a silicone basting brush or usian a teaspoon all over, and flip it over. Again, working quickly, spead the oil over the other side too and flip it to cook that side. Line a platter with a papertowel and remove the roti onto the lined platter. Cover the roti with a kitchen towel until all are done to keep warm. Alternately you can also use a ‘Milton casserole/hot-pot‘ to keep the rotis warm.

Milton Products – An Indian brand for household items that is my personal favorite

Opo Squash, Tomatoes, Onion

Bottle gourd is an another favorite subzi which we all enjoy a lot along with Roti for meals. The plants of bottle gourd produce vigorous climbing vines and tendrils with fragrant white flowers. Ammi had a large bottle gourd plant during my childhood. Bottle gourd are a good source of choline and various minerals. It is a commonly used vegetable in India. They have a spongy white flash with white seeds in a fibrous center pith. This easily digestable vegetable has a kind of bland but delicious taste, so it is used to prepare both sweet and savory preparations.

Kaddu Ka Salan – Bottle Gourd in Tomato-Onion gravy

Ingredients:

Bottle Gourd/Opo Squash/Kaddu – 1, small sized (it came to around 770 gms of chopped bottle gourd after peeling)
Canola Oil – 2 tsp
Yellow Onion – 1, large, finely sliced
Tomato – 2, medium sized, finely chopped
Salt – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Red Chilli powder – 2 tsp

Method:

1. Wash, peel and chop the bottle gourd into small pieces. (You can either discard the peels or store them to prepare this delicious curry) (Discard if the seeds are hard, but if the seeds are tender, use them in the curry)
2. Pour oil into a pressure cooker at medium heat and as soon as it warms up, add the sliced onion. Let it cook till it is light brown in colour. Keep stirring occasionally. Once the onion is soft and browned, add the chopped tomatoes and cover the lid ajar for 2 minutes.
3. Add the bottle gourd, red chilli powder, turmeric, salt and 1/2 cup water. Mix well and cover the lid and pressure cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the bottle gourd is completely cooked. Serve the curry warm.

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Voting for the Lok Sabha Elections in India ends and Congress wins with Dr.Manmohan Singh returning to power as the Prime Minister of India for the second consecutive time.
Congratulations India!

Luv,
Mona

Kaddu Ki Kheer

Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations after the month of Ramadhan

Eid Mubarak Everyone!

Alhamdulillah its been a wonderful Eid, May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) accept all our Duas and make us better Muslims inshallah.

I prepared Kaddu ki Kheer on the second day of the celebrations of the Eid-ul-Fitr, after coming back from work. Its a pity that its not a public holiday on the religious festivals. I think, especially in a multi-cultural place like Canada, this should definitely be given a thought.

Kaddu Ki Kheer – Bottle Gourd Milk Pudding

Kheer is one the most delicious, simple and quick pudding/dessert to prepare. I usually use rice, bottle-gourd, sago, white potato and sweet-potato to prepare different varieties of Kheer. The basic steps remain the same, boiling milk with sugar, cardamom, nuts and saffron for flavor.

Kaddu ki Kheer is also referred to as Gil-e-Firdaus (or Gul-e-Firdaus or Dil-e-Firdaus). This pudding is prepared by cooking grated Opo Squash/Kaddu in sweetened milk along with nuts and Tapioca pearls to give it body/thickness.

Kaddu Ki Kheer – Bottle Gourd Milk Pudding

Ingredients:

Bottle Gourd/Opo Squash/Kaddu – small sized, 400 gms (approx)
Full fat or Low fat Milk – 2 1/2 cups
Sabudana/Tapioca pearls – 1/2 cup, soaked in water for 15-30 minutes
Chopped Pistachios – 1 tbsp
Sliced Almonds – 1 tbsp
Chopped Walnuts – 1 tbsp
Chopped Raisins – 1 tbsp
Khoa – 1/4 cup, grated (or) Milk Powder – 1/4 cup
Sugar – 55 gms
Ground Cardamom seeds – a pinch
Saffron strands/Zafraan – a pinch

Method:

  • Wash, peel and remove the seeds from the bottle gourd, reserve only the flesh. Shred it either in a food processor or using a grater.
  • Pour 2 cups milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the drained sabudana and simmer heat and let it cook uncovered for 10 mins. half cover witha  lid, keep an eye on it, and stir frequently so that it does not boil away.
  • Add khoa or milk powder, whatever using, to the remaining 1/2 cup milk. Pour this into the saucepan. Also add the shredded bottle gourd, ground cardamom seeds, sugar and chopped nuts.
  • Let it cook for 10 more minutes on simmer. As the milk cooks it begins to turn light yellow in colour, and gets more concentrated and cremier. Once done, remove from heat and serve warm or chilled.

(Note: To make it more rich for a special occasion and for an indulgence, you can even use Unsweetened Condensed milk/Evaporated Milk in the recipe)

Luv,
Mona