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goodies for gudi padwa

Friday, March 27th 2009, was Gudi Padwa, New Year’s Day for Indians from the state of Maharashtra in western India.

Image Courtesy: My Dad

Image Courtesy: My Dad

May this new year bring new hopes, new dreams, fulfilment of wishes and greater chances of prosperity!

 

Being a Maharashtrian, I celebrate this festival every year in a way that fits my lifestyle here in the US. Back home, my parents go through all the steps every year and follow the age-old religious rituals.  Early in the morning on Gudi Padwa, you will see the “Gudi”  all decked up and standing upright on the terrace of our house in Pune, India.  After setting up the Gudi , my dad will be getting ready for the pooja (special prayer) while my mom is busy in the kitchen, cooking about 10-12 items (yeah!!)  for naivedya (food offering) – to be offered to God and the Gudi.

Here’s a snapshot of what she made this year….

naivedya-taath for gudi

Image Courtesy: My Mom

My mom strictly abides by all the rules – gets up early, takes a bath, cleans the kitchen and starts the prep and cooking without eating anything for breakfast. Also, there’s no tasting of this special food before the prayer and offering is done. Hat’s off to mom, she does all this in a matter of 2-3 hours in the morning!

gudi padwa at pune

Gudi Padwa '09 at home in Pune

On the contrary, my Maharashtrian New Year celebration is pretty low key. Like most Indian festivals, the festivities happen over the weekend, when there’s more time to have friends over, make a trip to the temple or cook special foods and celebrate the festivals. For this particular festival, there’s no hoisting of “Gudi” in my house, but I do try to follow my mom’s steps and get into the kitchen to make only a few (phew!) of those “goodies” specially for Gudi Padwa!

So, join me as I bring on this Maharashtrian New Year with a wonderful array of authentic Maharashtrian dishes!

Hirvi Chutney

(Green Chutney with Cilantro and Coconut)

This vibrant, green chutney is regular and rather usual condiment served on the Maharashtrian thali (plate).  Cilantro gives it a wonderful aroma and green chillies add a tasty kick to this chutney. With creamy coconut as the base and minimal seasonings, it can prepared in moments by quickly grinding everything in a blender.

coriander-coconut chutney

Makes about 1 cup

1 cup coconut, grated fresh or frozen thawed

1½ cups cilantro/coriander (leaves and stems)

2-3 small green chillies (See Concoctions 101)

½  tsp sugar

½ tsp cumin & coriander powder (dhana-jeera powder)

salt

water, as required

Combine all the ingredients in a blender/grinder/food processor and grind to a thick paste. Add water, as necessary.

Transfer the paste to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve. It can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.

Khamang Kaakdi

(Cucumber Yogurt Salad/Raita with Mustard -Turmeric Oil)

This is a simple Maharashtrian koshimbir of diced cucumber and beaten yogurt with an elegant twist. A creamy cucumber-yogurt raita gets a sudden face lift when garnished with the hot phodani (Marathi) a.k.a tadka (Hindi) (termpered oil with mustard seeds, turmeric and asofoetida). It introduces a new dimension to the overall flavor of this cool, refreshing koshimbir.

kaakdi koshimbir

Serves 2-4

1 long or 2 Kirby cucumbers, diced

2 cups beaten yogurt

fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing

1-2 green chillies, finely chopped

salt

½ tsp sugar

Phodani Garnish

1-2 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, vegetable or corn)

½ tsp mustard seeds (mori/rai)

½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1-2 pinches of asofoetida (hing)

Toss together diced cucumbers and yogurt. Add green chillies and fresh cilantro, season with salt and sugar.

Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and add mustard seeds, turmeric powder and asofoetida. When the seeds splutter remove from heat and pour over the mixed salad. Stir to incorporate the oil in the salad and refrigerate till ready to serve.

Garnish with more cilantro and serve chilled.

Papad

(Fried or Roasted Indian Crackers/Wafers)

These are disks of flavored dried beans (typically urad daal), rice or potato that are either deep-fried, fire-roasted or  even microwaved (like I did!) before they are served as an appetizer, snack or a side accompaniment.

A variety of Papads at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin, NJ

A variety of Papads at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin, NJ

You’ll find a huge vareity of flavors at most of the Indian food markets. Look out for the most popular brand called Lijjat Papad, a unique women’s organization from Mumbai, India that provides employment only to women.

roasted-papad

Make as needed

A packet of readymade papad (I used plain urad daal papads)

Pop 1 papad in the microwave oven at a time and microwave high for upto 30 secs. (works well for most microwave oen brands)

Alternatively, deep fry in hot oil for 5-10 secs flipping once or roast over the stove top flame with the help of tongs flipping several times, making sure it doesn’t burn but at the same time there are no raw patches left.

Masale Bhaat

(Maharashtrian Spicy Rice Pilaf)

A staple of any Maharashtrian wedding menu, this special rice preparation is a spicy, vegetarian and Maharashtrian version of the North Indian  Pulav. The spice that really makes this dish “masaledaar” (spicy) is the Maharashtrian Goda/Kala Masala. Adding a vareity of veggies like peas, gherkins (thondli/tinda), cabbage, cauliflower, onion and eggplant (single or combination) to this quick and easy one pot concoction not only enhances the flavor but also adds to the overall color and texture of the dish.

We Maharashtrians love to pour a generous amount of melted ghee (clarified butter) over it just before serving. Trust me, it tastes awesome!

masale bhaat

Serves 2

2-3 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)

½  tsp mustard seeds (rai/mori)

½  tsp cumin seeds (jeera)

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1-2 pinches asofoetida (hing)

½ cup peas, fresh or frozen thawed (or any of the veggies from the list above)

1 cup Basmati rice

2 ½  cups water

salt, to taste

½  tsp red chilli powder

1½ tsp Maharashtrian Goda/Kala Masala (Some Indian stores in the US carry this masala. If you just can’t find it, you can use the regular Garam Masala)

grated coconut, fresh or frozen thawed (optional for garnishing

fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing

ghee (clarified butter optional)

Rinse the basmati rice in water and set aside.

Heat oil in a large pot and add mustard and cumin seeds along with the turmeric powder and pinch of aesofoetida.

When the seeds splutter, add the peas and sauté for a min. Add the rice and sauté for another min or so.

Season with salt, goda/kala masala and red chilli powder. Add water, mix well and cook covered for 15-20 mins on medium-low heat, stirring once in a while, till the rice soaks up all the water and is well cooked.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and grated coconut. Serve steaming hot with a teaspoon of melted ghee.

Tomato Saar

(Curry leaf -scented Tomato Broth)

Tomato Saar is a spicy, curry flavored tomato broth and is a classic culinary creation of the state of Maharashtra. It’s a very well-balanced combination of flavors – slightly sweet, slightly tangy, slightly spicy and slightly salty. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual tomato soup. Maharashtrians like to pour it over steamed white rice or Masale Bhaat or simply slrup it all up like a soup.

tomato saar

Serves 2-4

1 lb tomatoes, halved (Alternatively, use 2 cans of  readymade tomato soup)

water, as required

2-3 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)

½  tsp mustard seeds (rai/mori)

½  tsp cumin seeds (jeera)

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1-2 pinches asofoetida (hing)

4-5 curry leaves

salt, to taste

½  tsp red chilli powder

½  tsp sugar

grated coconut, fresh or frozen thawed

fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped

Place the tomatoes in a large pot and pour water till they are just immersed in it. Bring it to a quick boil over meduim-high heat and then reduce the heat till the tomatoes cook peel and get soft and mushy. Alternatively, pressure cook the tomatoes, letting the cooker whistle for 3-4 times and then simmering for 5 mins.

Let it cool and purée the tomatoes along with the water used for cooking in a blender or in the same pot using a hand blender. Pass it through a sieve to remove the skin pieces.

(Ignore the above two steps if using readymade tomato soup)

Heat oil in a large pot and add mustard and cumin seeds along with the turmeric powder, a pinch of asofoetida and the curry leaves.

When the curry leaves and seeds splutter, stir in the puréed tomato. Season with salt, sugar, red chilli powder and stir in the coconut and cilantro.

Simmer till ready to serve.

Flower Hirva Rassa

(Caulifower in Green Curry)

The most popular vegetable preparation is “batatyachi bhaji” (stir-fried baked potatoes) but I like to make this spicy, rich cauliflower stew that goes very well with the pooris. It’s another Maharashtrian classic preparation in which cauliflower is braised in a sauce that is spiced with a little garam masala, onions and  the Maharashtrian “Hirwa Masala” made with grated coconut, ginger, garlic, green chillies and fresh green cilantro. You can add other vegetables like potatoes, peas and carrots or simply leave the cauliflower simmering in the fragrant green curry till it gets soft and mushy.

flower hirva rassa

Serves 2-4

1 medium cauliflower, cut up into small florets and rinsed well

1 small onion, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp oil (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)

½  tsp mustard seeds (rai/mori)

½  tsp cumin seeds (jeera)

1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)

1-2 pinches asofoetida (hing)

1-2 dry red chillies (optional)

1 cup Hirva Masala

1½ tsp garam masala

½ cup peas, fresh or frozen thawed

¾ – 1 cup of water

salt, to taste

fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped for garnishing

In a pan or kadhai heat oil and add turmeric powder, cumin and mustard seeds along with asofoetida and dry red chillies (if using). When the seeds start to splutter, add finely chopped onion and fry till translucent. Add the “hirva masala”, garam masala, salt and fry for 8-10 minutes, till oil seperates from the masala.

Add the cauliflower florets along with peas. Stir in  water and cook covered for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat till the cauliflower absorbs all the flavors and cooks in the masala-flavored broth.

flower hirva rassa

Garnish with fresh cilantro/coriander. Serve hot with poori, chapati or tawa roti.

Pooris

(Balloon Bread)

Pooris are deep-fried Indian version of  the unleavened, whole wheat flatbread and are well known for their characteristic puffed up balloon-like shape. A perfectly puffed up  poori is pale golden brown in color and is an interesting combination of textures – a crispy, microfilm top and a soft, slightly thick bottom. Everyone has their own way of kneading, rolling and frying so that every poori puffs up to a perfection!

Here’s the “Maharashtrian” take on the whole process that I learnt from my mom:

Kneading – Add a little rava/sooji i.e. semolina flour (1 cup:1 tbsp – flour:rava ratio) and a small amount of hot tempered oil (It’s called “Mohan“. I have no idea how or why it got this name!) to the flour and then knead it into a medium firm dough. This will make sure the poori becomes and stays crispy for a longer time.

Rolling – It’s not a good idea to use flour for dusting while rolling the dough (since it comes off while frying and burns into black particles that stick to the poori leaving an unpleasant taste and color), but instead dip the tiny dough ball into the hot frying oil for a second and then rolling it into about 3-4 inch diameter rounds.

Frying – Pour enough oil to fill the wok/pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a tiny pearl-sized piece of dough will sizzle and rise to the top. Fry one poori at a time. Slowly slide the poori along the edge of the pan to avoid splashing of the hot oil. Use the slotted spoon to gently splash hot oil over the floating poori to puff it up.

Timing – Timing is also important for the most enjoyable poori- experience. If possible, time the frying process as close to serving.

pooris

Makes 15-20 pooris

3 cups whole wheat flour (I recommend Bhavani Nature Fresh Whole Wheat Atta)

Bhavani Nature Fresh Atta at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin, NJ

Bhavani Nature Fresh Atta at Bhavani Cash & Carry, Iselin, NJ

3 tbsp semolina (rava/sooji)

scant ¼ cup oil (heated till it bubbles up) + for deep frying (canola, sunflower, corn, vegetable)

salt

water to make the dough

In a large mixing bowl or a platter, place the flour and make a well in the center. Add salt, rava/sooji, hot oil and stir in water in small quantities so as to incorporate it in the flour and form it into a medium-firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth or paper towel and set aside for about half to 1 hour.

When ready to make the pooris, pour enough oil into a large frying pan or a wok about a third of the way, to reach a depth of about 2 inches or so. Heat the oil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, remove the covered towel form the dough. Rub some oil onto your palms and knead the dough once again into a large ball.  This will make the dough a little bit softer and easier to roll. Divide it into small round 1 inch diameter balls by rolling in between your palms.

When ready to roll into a poori, take a dough ball, dip it in the hot oil in the frying pan for a second and flatten it between your palm and the rolling board/surface. With the help of a rolling pin, roll it into a 2-3 mm thick, flat, 4 inch diameter circle.

Slide the poori slowly along the edge of the pan. It will gradually move to the center of the pan, floating in the hot oil, bubbling vigorously.

At first, the poori will sink in the center. At that point, use the slotted spoon and gently splash hot oil over the poori which will cause it to puff up. Let it  fry till the bottom part turns golden brown (about 15-20 secs since this would be the thin crispy side) and then flip it over.

Continue to fry for another min or so till the thicker side also turns golden brown. In the meantime, roll another poori and remove the fried one with the slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.

Serve hot.

Gulab Jamun

No, I didn’t make these! I took a short cut on this last course and opened a can of Amul Gulab Jamun for dessert. Warm up in the microwave or serve chilled from the refrigerator and they are just as great as the fresh ones!

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