Wednesday, May 8, 2024

PAVAKKAI PITLAI

 PAVAKKAI PITLAI

Mainly because of its health benefits, I often make dishes with Bitter Gourd in my home. I use it because though it is bitter as the name suggests, we find it to be very tasty and as mentioned it has many health benefits. It is very strong in Vitamins A and C and helps reduce blood sugar. 

Bitter Gourd is commonly available all over India and is known as Haggalakai in Kannada, Pavakkai in Tamil, Karela in Hindi, and Kaarathe in my mother tongue, Konkani.

Elsewhere in this blog, you will find recipes for some yummy dishes made with bitter gourd such as:-

Today's recipe is for a Pitlai made with Bitter Gourd. In Tamilnadu cuisine, Pitlai is an accompaniment -which is thicker than sambar- for hot steamed rice. 

We enjoyed this a few days ago for lunch and I hope you will like it too! 



Ingredients:-

  • Pavakkai (Bitter Gourd), 2 medium size
  • Tur Dal, (Split Pigeon Peas), 1/3 cup
  • Brown Channa, 1/4 cup
  • Tamarind, size of a small lemon
  • Salt, to taste
For the Pitlai Masala;
  • Coriander Seeds, 1 tbsp
  • Bengal Gram (Channa Dal) , 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Byadgi Red Chillies, 4 
  • Raw Rice, 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 1/4 cup
  • Oil, 1 tsp- to fry the ingredients before grinding 
For the Seasoning:
  • Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli, 1, broken into halves
  • Asafoetida, 1/8 tsp
  • Curry Leaves, 1 sprig
  • Oil, 2 tsp
Method

Wash the bitter gourd, snip off the two ends and cut the bitter gourd into roundels
Discard the seeds if they are not tender
Apply a little salt to the roundels and keep aside. After 15-20 minutes, squeeze the water out of the bitter gourd. 

Soak the tamarind in lukewarm water for about 10-15 minutes and extract the juice, discarding the pulp 

Soak brown channa for 6-8 hours or overnight. Later, discard the water
Cook the soaked channa in a pressure cooker with adequate fresh water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

In the same pressure cooker, in a separate container, cook the tur dal in adequate water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

Once the cooker cools, remove the cooked brown channa and the cooked tur dal and keep aside.
Mash the cooked tur dal. 

Heat oil in pan and on medium heat roast the coriander seeds, Bengal gram, red chillies and raw rice. When the dal changes colour, add the coconut gratings and fry till they turn golden 
After it cools, transfer to a mixer jar and grind to a smooth paste adding a little water. Keep aside

In a thick bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tsp of oil  and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the fenugreek seeds, broken red chilli, asafoetida, and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. To this add the bitter ground roundels and saute for a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook the bitter gourd covered on medium heat, stirring from time to time, till they get done

Now add the tamarind extract, cooked channa and salt to taste and mix well 
Cook for about 5 minutes till the raw smell of the tamarind goes. 

To this add the mashed tur dal and the freshly ground Pitlai paste and the required amount of water to get the desired thick curry like consistency 
Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes

Switch off the gas and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve the Pavakkai Pitlai with hot steamed rice






Monday, April 29, 2024

BOODU KUMBALAKAI HULI

 BOODU KUMBALAKAI HULI 

The summer brings out its own veggies and fruits. In the hot days of summer in India, veggies that have high water content become more popular. One such is ash gourd, which is called Boodu Kumbalakai in Kannada,  and Kuvaale in my mother tongue, Konkani. 

Ash Gourd has many health benefits as described in this article in PharmEasy.

Elsewhere in this blog, you will find recipes for dishes made with ash gourd, such as :-

Today's recipe is from my Home State of Karnataka and is a Huli made with ash gourd. "Huli" in Kannada means a sambar like accompaniment for hot steamed rice. We enjoyed this for lunch with hot steamed rice and happala.

Please do try this  easy to make "perfect for the summer" dish.


Ingredients:-

  • Boodu Kumbalakai or Ash Gourd, 1/2 kg
  • Thuar Dal,(Split Pigeon Peas), 1/4 cup
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/4 tsp
  • Jaggery, grated, 1 tsp
  • Tamarind, size of a gooseberry
  • Salt, as per taste
  • Oil, 1 tsp ( for roasting the ingredients before grinding) 
To Be Ground To a Paste
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 1/2  cup
  • Byadgi Red Chillies, 4
  • Urad Dal,(Black Gram Dal),1 tsp
  • Coriander Seeds, 2 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds,  6-8
  • Asafoetida, 1/8 tsp
For Seasoning:-
  • Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli, 1 broken into halves
  • Curry Leaves, a sprig
  • Oil, 1 tsp 
Method:-

Wash and peel the ash gourd, remove and discard the central core and cut the ash gourd into bite size pieces 
Soak the tamarind in lukewarm water and extract the juice 
Wash the thuar dal and place it in a vessel in the pressure cooker 
Add 1/2 cup of water, a pinch of turmeric powder and a few drops of oil
Pressure cook this for two whistles or till done
Once the cooker cools, remove the cooked dal, mash it lightly and keep aside

Cook the ash gourd in another vessel adding the required amount of water and a little salt  
Take care that the ash gourd gets cooked yet remains firm
Add the tamarind extract and cook till the raw smell of the tamarind goes

In a small pan, add 1 tsp of oil and on medium heat roast the Byadgi red chillies, urad dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafoetida till the dal changes colour. 
Transfer to a mixer jar, add 1/2 cup of coconut gratings and grind to a smooth paste adding water as required

Add the cooked thuar dal and the ground paste to the cooked ash gourd 
Next add the grated jaggery and salt to taste ( remember a little salt has been added while cooking the ash gourd) 
Bring this to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes

In a seasoning pan, heat oil and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, when they splutter add the broken red chillies and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds
Switch off the gas
Pour this seasoning on to the Boodu Kumbalakai Huli
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with hot steamed rice 






Friday, April 19, 2024

SNAKE GOURD BESAN FRY

 

SNAKE GOURD BESAN FRY

The main ingredient for today's recipe is Snake Gourd.  In my childhood I remember many houses in Bengaluru had kitchen gardens. These invariably had vegetables growing in them including the long snake gourds.

Snake Gourd is called Poddale in my mother tongue, Konkani; Padavalkayi in Kannada, Pudalangai in Tamil, and Chichinda in Hindi.

The health benefits of snake gourd are well documented in many ancient texts as described in this article in Netmeds. 

If the seeds of the snake gourd are tender, you can use them to make Snake Gourd Seeds Dosa. 
Elsewhere in this blog you will find recipes using snake gourd such as:-
Today's recipe is for an easy to make side dish made with snake gourd and besan (Bengal Gram Flour).  I have adapted this from the YouTube video Snake Gourd Besan Curry by Padhu's Kitchen.  

I tried this out recently and we enjoyed this dish for lunch with hot steamed rice and rasam. 



Ingredients:



  • Snake Gourd, 300-350 gms
  • Besan (Bengal gram flour), 1/2 cup
  • Chilli Powder, 1 tsp or to taste
  • Turmeric Powder, 1/2 tsp
  • Salt, to taste
For Seasoning :-
  • Mustard Seeds, 1 tsp
  • Urad Dal, 1 tsp
  • Dry Red Chillies, 2, broken into halves
  • Asafoetida, (Hing), 1/8 tsp 
  • Curry Leaves, a few
  • Oil, 2 tbsp
Method:-

Wash the snake gourd and snip off both the ends
Lightly scrape the skin off the snake gourd and cut length wise
Remove the seeds and chop the snake gourd




Mix the besan along with chilli powder,  turmeric powder  and a little salt
Dry roast this in a kadhai on medium heat till the besan gives off a good aroma
Switch off the gas and transfer the roasted ingredients to a bowl and allow it to cool 

In a thick bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tbsp of oil and when it gets hot add the mustard seeds
When they splutter, add urad dal, broken red chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves and saute till the dal changes colour
To this add the chopped snake gourd and salt to taste, sprinkle a little water and cook covered until the snake gourd gets done. Ensure it does not get overcooked. 

Now add 1/3 cup of water to the roasted besan mixture
Mix well taking care that no lumps are formed 
Add this besan slurry to the cooked snake gourd and cook on high heat for a few seconds
Next, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes till the water evaporates and the dish becomes dry 
Switch off the gas and transfer the dish to a serving bowl
Serve Snake Gourd Besan Fry as a side dish to the main meal 








Saturday, April 13, 2024

COOKING WITH THE CHEFS AT ITC GRAND GOA


COOKING WITH THE CHEFS AT ITC GRAND GOA

We enjoyed our recent stay at the beautiful luxury resort ITC Grand Goa, in Cansaulim in South Goa.  Being passionate about food and cooking, I was delighted to get an opportunity to cook with the chefs at this luxury resort, thanks to Executive Chef Anshul Dhyani.  I can never forget this memorable experience.



In these resorts we usually have a heavy breakfast, so Chef suggested we do the cooking- not for lunch but for the evening meal. I thought this was a very practical and appealing idea. Working with the Chefs, I got the chance to make Jumbo Prawns Fry. Goan Fish Curry and  "Daliche Roso". Through this blog post, I would like to share snippets of this delightful experience. 

We started the meal with a tall and cooling typical Goan drink of Kokum Kadhi. 


The jumbo prawns which were cleaned and deveined were first marinated in salt and turmeric powder. To this were added Degi Mirch powder, jeera powder, coriander powder and ginger garlic paste. Also added were 1 beaten egg and vinegar. After marination, the prawns were dusted in a mixture of semolina and cornflour. They were then deep fried.   They tasted delicious served with a salad of finely cut capsicum, carrots, onions and tomatoes laced with toddy vinegar.



The Goan fish curry was made with Barramundi or Chonak fish. Here too the fish were well marinated and then kept aside after they were shallow fried


The masala was prepared with coconut gratings, Kashmiri red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, tamarind and chopped garlic. The shallow fried fish was cooked in the masala with the local Goan ingredient of Kokum. 


A local favourite is " Daliche Roso"  which is made with thuar dal, and has chopped garlic, onions,  and green chillies in it. It is important to use coconut milk to get the authentic flavour of this popular dish from Goan cuisine. It was garnished with fresh coriander leaves.


I enjoyed learning from these enthusiastic and talented chefs. It's amazing to see how everything was so systematically done and how the ingredients are kept ready before cooking. 


Even if I took part in the cooking myself, I must say the dishes were great!  We enjoyed these dishes with hot steamed rice.  


During our vacation we had many enjoyable experiences, but I must say this cooking experience has to rank as one of the best! 



Thursday, March 21, 2024

OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: CHOKHI DHANI , JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN

 OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: CHOKHI DHANI, JAIPUR, RAJASTHAN


Friends told us that no trip to Jaipur was complete without dining at the Chokhi Dhani. Over the years,  Chokhi Dhani has come to represent Rajasthani culture and heritage primarily for tourists from India and abroad.  Naturally we were keen to try this as it was presented to us as an option to experience traditional Rajasthani food and culture in the ambience of a typical village.


The resort is on the highway towards Tonk and you would need a car to get there and bring you back. If you wish to visit for lunch that's not possible. They are open only for dinner- which means you need to plan an evening here. Their timings are from 5.00 pm to 11 pm. 


We went there one evening during our stay at Jaipur. Getting the tickets was no hassle. There are different options available. We chose the basic Rajasthani meal for 900/-. Let me explain that Chokhi Dhani is like a re-created village so you have stalls selling different types of handicrafts. There are also other shows by magicians, puppeteers, a guy who brought flames out of his mouth etc. One can take a ride on a camel too. 


As we entered we were given a welcome drink  that was piping hot. This was made of Buttermilk and Bajra. We then entered the ethnic styled dining hall, for dinner. We had to sit on the floor and ate the food served on a thali with many "donas" (katoras) made of leaves.

The people serving the food- dressed in their colourful gear- were a most enthusiastic bunch. They encouraged us to eat much more than we would have! 




Being a typical Rajasthani meal, it had rice and Rotlas (Rotis) of different kinds including those made with bajra (millet), and makai ( maize), and jowar. Of course we had the famous Dal Batti Choorma, Gatte ki Subzi,  Rajasthani Dal, Mirchi Vada, Kadhi, a dish made with legumes, Moong Dal Kachori, an Aloo Subzi, fresh cabbage and onion salad, and a yummy Lahsuni (garlic) chutney. A cooling glass of chaas ( buttermilk) was served with the meal. 

The meal was served using some very old world utensils! At the end of the meal, we were fed with a stream of piping hot jalebis which were delicious. We enjoyed the meal very much. 




After such a heavy meal, we had to stroll around the complex for some time. We had a look at some of the shops with their multi coloured clothes on offer and some of the entertainment shows. Especially enthralling was the "Ghoomar" dance. 



All in all, I feel Chokhi Dhani is a nice place to visit. What you will find there is very predictable given its positioning but well worth the experience! It does embody typical Rajasthani culture. Jai Sri Ram! 







Tuesday, March 12, 2024

OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: AGASHIYE IN AHMEDABAD

 OUR DINING EXPERIENCE: AGASHIYE  IN AHMEDABAD 

In my view, The House of MG,  is a "must visit" when you are in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, as a tourist. This is an old mansion which was built in the last century and is now part hotel, part museum, and part restaurant. At the roof top of the House of MG is a restaurant called "Agashiye" which I was told means " Terrace" in Gujarati. We enjoyed a typical Gujarati thali here for lunch during our recent visit to Ahmedabad. As their brochure says, it was an experience of Fine Gujarati Dining on the Terrace! 


The entrance of the restaurant has an interesting collection of pots and pans. The diner can choose from three types of thalis. The more expensive of the three types have unlimited quantities of food. We opted for the limited thali-The Agashiye Classic- which though very tasty was itself way too much for us! 


The meal starts with a welcome drink. On that day it happened to be Pineapple and Jamfal Nu Sharbat. A tasty and refreshing mix of pineapple and guava!  


We loved the main course which was Jodhpuri Bataki ( made with potatoes) , Panchkuti Shaak ( made  with 5 types of vegetables), excellent Phulka Rotlis ( so light and delicious), Lila Kopra wala Rice ( a kind of coconut rice)  and the slightly sweet but super yummy Gujarati Dal.



Supporting the main coarse was a bevy of salads and chutneys: Fangavela Kathol, Kakdi, (Cucumber), Tomato, Seasonal Vegetable Pickle, Sweet Pickle, Coriander and Peanut Chutney and a spicy Garlic Chutney which was out of this world.  


Accompaniments served with the meal were Dahivada Chaat ( which was super), Fresh Buttermilk, and Papad. 

We were wondering what would be served for dessert and were happy to see it was Mohanthal- supposedly the most famous sweet of Ahmedabad. It was truly delicious and we won't forget this taste for a long time. We have had Mohanthal in different places but the one at Agashiye was by far the best we had.


The House of MG, as I mentioned before, is an interesting place to visit. Try to club this visit with a meal at Agashiye to make the experience complete! Highly recommended. 







 




Monday, March 4, 2024

BENGALI NIGHTS KOLKATA FOOD TOUR

 BENGALI NIGHTS KOLKATA FOOD TOUR

What do you do when you reach a city you want to see but don't know where to start? There are different ways to enjoy a city that is new to you. One way is to trust someone who knows the city well and can show you sights and places you may not otherwise come across. Being foodies, my husband Prem and I took this approach during our recent stay at Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. We signed on for a tour called," Bengali Nights Kolkata Food Tour" conducted by Avik. 

For the uninitiated, in a tastings tour such as this , the guide explains to you important and interesting aspects of the places you visit and the food you are served as part of the package. We found Avik, our guide, to be an engaging personality. We enjoyed his company as also that of two others who were on that tour with us. There was a connect between us as they were also linked to Bengaluru - where we come from- in some ways.


The rendezvous for the tour was the entrance to the Metro in Esplanade. We took a Uber there from our hotel. Shortly after we got there- well in time to be on the safe side- Avik came and soon after the two other ladies arrived.

A large part of the fun in this tour is that we used different types of transport peculiar to the old city of Kolkata. Since it was an evening/night tour, we couldn't use the ubiquitous tram. This was a big disappointment for me as I have never travelled in one. We were told the number of trams in use in Kolkata have fallen sharply over the years. We started our tour by using the Metro. Locals say with pride that the Metro service in Kolkata was the first to be started in India. It commenced operations in 1984. 


Our first stop on hopping off the Metro was to have an orange- milk shake -served from a stall on the street pavement. We hadn't tried this combination of Orange and Lassi before - so it tasted new and different for us. 


Our trip also had a ride on the Kolkata bus and we were thrilled to see the statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The bus we got was not crowded - which came as a pleasant surprise to us- and it rattled on with the conductor holding on to the notes collected in the form of a fan  and issuing old world tickets which we hadn't seen for years. 



We also travelled. by the quaint rickshaw pulled by a person. We were rather hesitant at first to use this antiquated mode of transport. Avik convinced us that this was a means of livelihood for the rickshaw pullers and our being squeamish would actually deprive them of much needed income. It was an experience we had never had before. 


In our next stop we had the famous phuchkas of Kolkata. These would be called Golgappas in Delhi and Pani Puri in Mumbai.  


There were many sights which were totally new to us. For example, our tour took us through unbelievably narrow streets. 

We had more snacks at Lakshminarayana Shaw , an old joint - established in 1918- where many celebrities have dropped in over the decades. Interestingly it is still called "Netaji's Shop" in local parlance as the legendary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose used to drop in for their famous fritters and other snacks as a college student! This evening decades later, we tasted their onion and chilly fritters which were so yummy! 


Another stop was at Bhojohori Manna for dinner. 


Here we had a Bengali style meal- starting with puris which are called Luchis here and a sweetish yet very tasty Bengali dal with fritters as an accompaniment. I remembered an interesting article by Priyadarshini Chatterjee on how the Luchi is perfect with any meal and any occasion in Bengali homes. 



 The next course was - what else in Kolkata- but fish. While our tour companions had squid, Prem had  Bhetki fish with hot steamed rice which he wolfed down before I could take a picture. The dinner also featured a Bengali dish in which the fish was cooked in a banana leaf. The meal was washed down by a welcome drink of Coke.  


We continued on our walk with Avik pointing out interesting sights and regaling us with stories relating to them. Our next port of call was Food Square where we quenched our thirst with a Pan Sharbat that had   the unmistakable taste of betel leaf- paan.  It was cold and refreshing. 


No meal in India- least of all in West Bengal- is complete without a sweet. For those of us with a sweet tooth, Kolkata has to be the best place given its innumerable sweet shops that dish out sweets from the morning! Our sweet shop turned out to be Putiram, where we were plied with one sweet after another until we could have no more!! 



We had the standard Sandesh which was delicious.


My friend - Ganga - a long time resident of Kolkata had recommended that we must try the Gud Rosogolla. This was totally new to us. We had of course had Rosogollas over the years but had never even heard of a Gud Rosagolla. Apparently this is not available all through the year. We got lucky because Putirams had just made a batch of them and we loved this. You must have guessed by now that Gud Rosogolla is made of jaggery or gud- hence its special colouring. 


It was past 9.00 pm by now and our enjoyable tour was coming to an end. We may have spent more time chatting about the highlights but it began to rain. We had to scamper into a cab  to get us back to our hotel.

Thanks, Avik, for a memorable experience. We weren't sure what we were in for when we decided upon this tour but it was a lot of fun! We would most heartily recommend Avik's tour if you wish to explore the relatively unexplored parts of Kolkata and sample some Bengali cuisine on the way.