Monthly Archives: April 2012

Poha – Subah ho gayi mamu!

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What do you do to ensure that a person is fully awake and his/her faculties are all up and running? Dash some water on his face? That may work for most of the people, but there are exceptions. Say…that person is an Indori. So? Water may work, but not as good as Poha ! Thrust a plateful of poha inside the Indori and you will notice a marked impact – not only will the person be wide awake, but joyful and jumping around! In words of a PG Wodehouse fan (me) , poha to an Indori is as stimulating as one of Jeeves’ pick-me-ups to dear Bertie. No wonder Wikipedia mentions Indore in ‘Poha’ and Tripadvisor mentions poha in ‘Indore’. Born and brought up in the city, I don’t even know how to start talking about the humble thing. We had it at home, as a simple breakfast and as a treat when guests arrived in the evening. We had it on family gatherings and picnics. We had it in the college canteen (We procured a pack of plastic spoons from our home just to be fully equipped to gobble down poha, though we are ill equipped at most times to attend labs and classes). We had it in the market, on the roadside, on shopping trips, on the railway station…In fact, I don’t remember a place or occasion where it did not fit in.

Poha – best breakfast ever!

While the home made one was OK, the best poha you could find in the town is on little stalls/ thelas on the roadside – heaped up in an iron wok, kept on a pot of boiling water to keep it warm. When required, the shopkeeper would pick up a newspaper square, fluff up a handful and thrust it into the paper, throw in a variety of condiments – onions, sev, namkeen, boondi, lemon juice and finally sprinkle a mysterious masala (mysterious because till date I have not been able to coax a single stall owner to divulge the ingredients of the masala, or give me a kilo of it). No, it does not take hours to do this, the shopkeeper is done in a matter of seconds. You can either have it or get a ‘to go’ parcel – neatly packed pudiya in a polythene bag.
About me, though I kept taking it for granted during all my life in the city, I realized I was missing it as soon as I landed in Bangalore. There were stalls and roadside carts still, but serving idlis and wadas! Thanks heavens for Indori roommates – dear N and J, who would cook up a heap every other weekend – plentiful for us and for all the friends and colleagues living nearby. And thank God I had enough sense to get the entire recipe from both of them – masters in their art, that stays with me till date – and I remember them every time I dish out this breakfast.
I would rather get down to the recipe before I end up writing an entire article in praise of poha – because the praise goes on an on, but the recipe is quick and simple – no fuss-n-frills!

sev – married to poha since eternity

Ingredients –
Poha/ Chooda/ Flattened rice – 3 fistfuls (1 for each person)
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For tempering –
Rai / Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds – Half tsp
Saunf/ Fennel seeds – Half tsp
Heeng / Asafoetida powder – 1 tsp
Green chilies – 1, cut to half and slit lengthwise
Oil – 3 tsp
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Haldi / Turmeric powder – Half tsp
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Salt – as per taste
Sugar – half tsp / as pr taste
Lemon juice – of 1 lemon
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Aaloo / potato – 1 small (peeled and cut into very small pieces)
Pyaj / Onion – 1 big (peeled and cut into very small pieces)
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Sev / Bhujiya / Namkeen / Boondi/ chopped onion/ cilantro leaves – for garnishing (optional)

Method –
1. First Put the poha in a sieve/colander/ chalni and wash the poha gently. You don’t have to do this for more than a few seconds. Keep the colander in a tilted position so that excess water drains out and the poha is soft and soaked – but not soggy.
2. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed wok/ kadhai.
3. Once hot, throw in the ingredients in the ‘for tempering’ list.
4. Add in the very finely chopped pyaj. Let this cook till soft and starts to brown.
5. While the pyaj is cooking, add the salt, sugar and lemon juice to the soaked poha and mix gently with your fingers, lest it all breaks up all forms a lump. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. Once the pyaj is cooked, add in the potato pieces. Add in haldi at this stage too. Let the potato cook till soft.
7. Once done, switch off the gas and add the poha. Mix all of it till all the poha turns yellow – an indicator that all of it uniformly mixed up. Do this very gently, there is no rush anyways – the gas is off.
8. .Now, we cook this further on steam. Heat water in a bhagona/ patili / pot (water half filled). Once steam starts to come out, place the kadhai filled with poha on it. Cover the poha and let this cook for 10 minutes. Even if you want to keep it warm till the entire family has had it’s share of hot breakfast, you can keep the gas on on slow flame – this keeps the poha warm.
9. While serving, garnish with whatever you like. As the poha is as it is not very spicy, the bhujia/ sev adds the zing.
10. If you got jalebis as a side to this, you are either in heaven or in Indore. For mortals, a hot cup of tea works best.

Sending this to event ‘ Bon Vivant Moments Breakfast Ideas‘ on Sumee’s Culinary Bites.

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Pineapple Halwa

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While I come across n number of inviting recipes and food pictures while I blog –hop, there are certain ones which I am totally tempted to try as soon as the same evening or maybe the nearest weekend. The simple ones, I just make a mental note of, and do not bookmark them – assuming I would remember the steps in the short term. However, so it happens that weekends come and go – and I get so busy in cooking what I already have in my to-cook-queue, that these experimental one’s get pushed behind in my memory. Now, one of these is pineapple halwa, or rather sooji halwa flavored with pineapple – which I admired for its simplicity and a great way to incorporate the fiber and vitamin C rich fruit in baby A’s diet. Since she makes weird faces on tasting a pineapple slice (before rejecting it), she loves pineapple jam – so I deduced she would like this halwa. This was like 3 months ago. The idea came rushing back to my mind – when I saw hubby N coaxing baby A to have a piece of fresh pineapple, which he had acquired in the weekend vegetable shopping. I left whatever I was doing and dashed towards the laptop – to search for the recipe. Futile attempt! There was no way I could reach the exact same page, same blog that I read 3 months ago, in the ever expanding food blogosphere. Not ready to give up, I recalled and recreated the recipe in my mind and entered the kitchen with full resolve. Twenty minutes gone, and I was beaming with a bowl of glossy, melt-in-your-mouth soft halwa – flavored with pineapple. I thought of noting the recipe down ASAP – at least I will have it on my own blog to look up , next time :).

pineapple halwa

Ingredients – (I don’t use teaspoons and tablespoons for this one, just the same cup for measuring everything proportionately)
Sooji/ Rava/ Semolina – 1 cup
Ghee – ½ cup
Sugar – ¾ cup
Water – 1.5 cup
Fresh pineapple chunks – enough to make 1 cup of puree. Li’l bit less or more won’t hurt.

Method –
1. First thing, cut the pineapple to obtain chunks that are free from the hard, middle stock. Dunk these in some water and put on the stove on a low flame. We are trying to soften up the fruit, so as to obtain a smooth puree. Let this boil for 10 minutes. Discard the water. Blend the chunks in a blender/ mixer/ food processor to a smooth puree.
2. In a heavy bottomed kadhai/ wok, heat half cup of ghee.
3. Add the rava and roast on a sim flame, stirring continuously. Do this till the rava looks light, fluffy and gives out a roasted aroma.
4. Meanwhile, heat the 1.5 cups of water in a pan and dissolve sugar in it. It would be better if the pan has a long handle, I use the tea pan. Why? See next step.
5. Slowly add the hot liquid to the rava, stirring so that lumps are not formed. Add slowly and let the rava absorb all the liquid. Be very careful in this step – the gas is on, the rava is hot, the liquid is hot and things will spurt as you stir.
6. Keep cooking and stirring. When half of the water is absorbed, add in the pineapple puree.
7. More stirring, till the puree is incorporated well and the halwa looks glossy and fluffy.
8. Serve hot, with an optional garnishing of pineapple chunks.

Note –
1. Some people like the halwa with pineapple chunks. In that case, you can just roughly blend the boiled chunks rather than a smooth puree.
2. I think I also came across a similar mango sheera recipe too, which used mango puree instead of pineapple. Maybe that would be my next project.

Sending this across to Nupur’s blog, for the ‘Kids Delight – Fruits’ event, as this is how I hide fruits in baby A’s food.
Linking it to Srivalli’s page too.

Sending this to Srav’s Culinary Concepts blog for the ‘Spring Seasonal Food’ event, as pineapple is a spring fruit.

Baingan Bharta – flavored with kasoori methi and lots more..

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In our close knit neighborhood in my hometown, there existed (maybe still exists on a lesser scale) this tradition of exchanging bowls and plates filled with yummy delicacies. Now these were exchanged either on festivals, or on special occasions like birthdays, or sometimes – just because ‘I made something interesting and thought you would like it!’. This exchange gave us (Maharashtrians) a glimpse into all the Rajasthani, Gujrati and Marwari cuisine doing rounds in these bowls – which further led to food discussions and scribbling down of recipes. I have fond memories of my mom and me standing on the stairs and chatting to aunties and bhabhis standing on the ground and second floor – talking of food, fashion trends and gossip :).
One such recipe I jotted down nearly 7 years ago is the baingan bharta which our next door neighbor Anju bhabhi brought in one day – it was something we had never seen or tasted. She informed us it was a biangan bharta made by Gujratis / Jains, as it had no onion, garlic. Now this one had so many virtues apart from being fragrant with spices – needed only a pressure cooker to cook, did not require the eggplants to be roasted for hours, and it’s long shelf life due to absence of any water made it great candidate to be carried for travel. The only vice it has is that it uses loads of oil – which can be handled by draining out the oil once the bharta is ready to be served. I decided to call this one ‘you won’t believe it is baingan’ as the eggplant is totally transformed with an overload of spices and may leave you guessing for the first two bites.

Ingredients –
Baingan / Eggplant – 1 (big, the round variety used for making bharta)
Oil – 4 tbsp ( I use Saffola. Yeah, that’s a huge quantity, but you can’t do without it)
Jeera / Carom, Rai / Mustard – half tsp each
Haldi / Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Heeng / Asafoetida – 2 pinches
Kasoori methi – 1 tsp (the star ingredient – a must have)
Peanut Powder – 2 tsp (optional)
Saunf/ Fennel , Til / Sesame, Khopra Boora / Desiccated Coconut Powder – half tsp each (these are optional, nice to have ingredients)
Dhania / Dry Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – half tsp ( I use Dave ka Divya brand)

Method –

1. Take a thick based pressure cooker.
2. Heat oil in a cooker. (ALL of it. This recipe uses NO WATER, only oil.)
3. Once the oil heats up, put in jeera and rai and heeng. Once the jeera crackles, add the haldi and take the cooker off the flame. Reason- now u start putting in the entire world in the cooker, which takes time 🙂
4. Cut the baingan into 4 quarters (Yeah i know they are big, but no need to make smaller chunks). Put them in the cooker.
5. Add the spices except the garam masala to the cooker.
6. Toss the cooker to mix everything, else use a ladle to do so. The oil and spices will coat the baingan pieces nicely.
7. Close the cooker and put it back on the burner, on a sim flame. (Gentle reminder – no water please !!)
8. In 4 to 5 whistles, you will get a nice aroma of kasoori methi and cooked baingan. Switch the gas off.
9. Once the cooker cools down, open it. The large chunks of baingan would have turned totally soft. Mix in the garam masala and mash the entire thing using the back of a ladle. This is ready to be served with hot rotis.
10. You will notice that if kept for a few minutes, a layer of oil separates out on the top. If you would like, just tilt the bowl and let go of this oil.