Friday, January 14, 2011

Milagu sadham - Black pepper rice

Some of you might already know that I plan my meals for the week every Friday and do my grocery shopping accordingly. Once, while I was planning the menu and wanted to try something new, I browsed a few of my favourite Indian recipe blogs and found this recipe in 'Sailu's Kitchen'. I bookmarked the page and did not prepare it until the Halloween day.

When we were planning for our Halloween potluck, I decided to make all my food based on Halloween theme. I think, many of you would agree, it is not that easy to make Indian food look 'Halloweeny'. I wanted to make orange and black rice for the main course. Orange rice - hands down, I decided to make my mom's special Tomato rice... When I was racking my brain on how to make black rice, I remembered this recipe that I had bookmarked... And here goes my Halloween rice...

I substituted black sesame seeds for white to intensify the black colour. One thing, I loved about this recipe is, you can make the powder in advance (add salt to taste) and it stores well for quite a long time. You can just mix the powder to rice with a teaspoon of sesame oil and food is ready in minutes. Now, along with Dal powder (paruppu podi), this has also become a staple for quick and easy lunch.

It is interesting to note that, the three main ingredients of this recipe, pepper, sesame seeds and curry leaves are all native to India and unknown to rest of the world for a very long time. I was reading up on history and was surprised to find that pepper was so expensive and rare in the west, that only the rich and royal could afford it. It was even treated as  money, that in Portugal, it was used to pay rent. Hope you all enjoy this recipe as my friends and I did at our Halloween potluck.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seedai - Savory rice balls

After a frenzy November with 19 posts, including Foodbuzz blogger festival, POM party and our vacation to Big Island Hawaii, December was a little relaxing with all those holidays. Since, my son's school was off, my brother-in-law visited us and I was lazy, December ended up being too slow on the blog side!!! Hope the new year is keeping you all good and busy. I guess, my days will get very busy soon... I am starting school in two weeks and have ambitiously enrolled in 3 courses. Hope I will be able to keep up with school, family, helping a friend with her home preschool, my blogs and my kids... Yes I said kids!! I'm 9 weeks along with our second baby!!! Wish me luck guys!!!

Hmmm... Let me get my focus back... 'Seedai'. It is a traditional south India fried snack which is a must for Krishna Jayanthi and Diwali. I prepared these savory rice balls for last Diwali and clicked pictures with the intention of posting a lot earlier.... More than 2 months have passed, and finally here you go!!

Whenever I think of seedai, a couple of things come to my mind. People often joke about the hardness of seedai, that it can break your tooth trying to chew them... I am reminded of the funny scene in Rajinikanth's Ejaman movie where he tries to chew on the seedai specially made for him by Meena and breaks his tooth... Luckily, I have never had such an experience...

The other thing is the 'seedai bomb' that blasted in my kitchen, the first time I attempted this dish. I have heard from my mom, that seedai can burst when dropped into oil, if the urad dal flour is not passed through a fine sieve and contains some larger particles. I experienced it first hand in my kitchen. At that time, my fine sieve was broken and I did not find one in the local store and I skipped the sieving step. The result: I drop my first few raw seedai balls in hot oil and after few seconds, they go 'BOOM', 'BOOM', 'BOOM'... Hot oil spluttering all over, I could not even reach the knob to put the stove off without risking burning my hand. I had to wait until all of them burst and then turn off... Of course, a lot of clean up followed!! Now thinking back, it seems to be a funny incident, but it is serious, so be very very careful if you are attempting this recipe. Just drop 3-4 into the oil first, and if they pass the 'burst test', then proceed.

Lets start gathering the ingredients:
Rice flour - 2 1/2 cups
Urad dal flour - 1/2 cup
Butter - 2 1/2 tbsp
Sesame seeds (black or white - I just though black will look good) - 2 tbsp
Red Chili powder - 2 tsp or to taste
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry

Dry roast the rice flour lightly over low heat. Make sure it does not change colour
Urad dal flour can be bought directly from the store or home made. If store bought, dry roast it too. Since the requirement is so small, I generally make it at home. Dry roast urad dal lightly over low heat. Remove from heat, cool and grind using a blender / dry grind attachment. Pass it through a fine sieve. This step is very important to avoid them from bursting in hot oil.
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl with enough water to make a stiff dough.

Roll the dough into small balls, about 1/2 an inch in diameter with fingers.

Heat oil in a pan for deep frying. Drop the rolled balls (in batches, if required) and fry until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon over a plate lined with paper towel. Let it cool and enjoy. 

It can be stored in an airtight container up to a month, or may be even longer... It never stays more than few days at my home. This was one of my goodies in my 'Foodie gift exchange' bag at the Foodbuzz blogger festival.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Two stir frys, distinctly different

Stir frys are big time favourites in family. They are healthy, hearty, colourful and tasty. I learnt about stir fry, after I came to the US and made my own for the first time, some 5 years ago. I make my own sauce with simple ingredients I already have in my pantry and hence obtain different flavour each time.

I had already planned on making stir fry tonight. Since not many vegetables are in season right now, I resorted to frozen bell peppers and asparagus.

 During my weekend trip to farmers' market, I saw really fresh bok choy and could not resist it. I bought about 2 pounds and hence made another simple stir fry with just the juicy, tender and delicate bok choy.

I generally serve my stir fry over brown rice, which I ran out of today and resorted to regular white rice.

For bok choy stir fry (adapted from recipe in Steamy Kitchen)
Bok choy - 2lbs
Ginger - minced - 2 tsp
Chilly flakes - to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Sesame oil - 2 tbsp
Lemon juice - a dash

Trim the stems of the bok choy just enough to loosen the leaves. Leave the inner 2-3 tender leaves as a bunch. The leaves may have to be washed 2 -3 times to remove all the sand particles. I prefer immersing them into water to wash than use a running stream.

I generally use the cold wok / pan method for all my stir frys as explained in Steamy Kitchen.

In a cold pan/ wok, add sesame oil, chilly flakes and ginger. Turn the heat up to medium high and let it sizzle and infuse the oil with great flavours. Then, add the bok choy and toss quickly for about a minute. I had to do the stir frying in batches to avoid crowding. Season with salt, and this lets out enough water to cook the bok choy completely, for about another minute. Remove from heat, add a dash of lemon juice and season with freshly ground pepper to taste and enjoy warm.

For Mixed vegetable stir fry
Carrots - 2 large cut into 2 inch strips
Broccoli - 1 large head - separated
Colourful bell peppers, cut into strips - 3 large (I used frozen)
Asparagus - 10 oz (I used frozen), cut into 2 inch pieces
Onion - 1 large diced into strips
Garlic - 3 large cloves, minced
Chili oil - 4 tbsp
Salt to taste

For sauce:
Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Hoisin sauce - 1/2 tbsp
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp
Sriracha Hot sauce - 3 - 4 drops or to taste
Corn starch - 1 tsp
Water - 1/8 cup

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce and whisk thoroughly and set aside.

In a cold pan, add oil and garlic and turn up the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, add onions and fry for a minute. Add carrot and broccoli, fry for about 30 seconds. Season with salt and fry for 30 more seconds. Add little water and fry for 2-3 minutes until the carrots and broccoli almost cooked. Since I used frozen veggies, I add them at this point and add more salt to taste and fry for another 30 seconds. Now add the sauce and let it come to a boil and then remove from heat and enjoy hot over a warm bed of rice.