Okra/Bendekai Majjige PaLadya

Summer is at its peak, the afternoon light is flooding our apartment and we have been coveting the usual suspects: drippy icecreams with oodles of dulce de leche and peanuts, churned milkshakes and cold pressed juices. However, those are reserved for yearnings of the sweet tooth. We are appeasing our savory tooth as well and there are some unusual suspects that make their presence rather frequently during the warm weather. I’m referring to yogurt -laden dishes and drinks that are significant fragments of everyday cooking in a South Indian home. Like mustard-tempered Buttermilk spiced with cumin, black salt and mint, a drink so strong, it manages to resist the most sweltering of days. Of course, there are the Raitas. A class of foods that are as satiating on their own as they are when coupled with a spicy rice dish.  I personally favor ones that contain chilled curd and swarming with grated cucumber or perhaps sauteed spinach or ever blistered tomatoes sprinkled with just a hint of chilli. And we mustn’t forget the HuLinuch,  a curd and cream of rice based soup that is ideal for a summer dinner. It’s light and soothing demeanor makes it a favourite at home. Finally, we come to the Majjige Paladya or HuLi.
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In Kannada, Majjige refers to buttermilk or curd and huLi or paladya refers to a spiced gravy. The gravy is coconut based which is then blended with Sour Curd and simmered with a vegetable of choice. White pumpkin, cucumber, spinach are commonly used in this South Indian dish and so is BENDEKAI (or Okra) which as you know implores for attention in today’s recipe. This dish is a common occurrence during weddings and other occasions where they are traditionally served up on large banana leaves.
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I have had and continue to have a delicious affair with okra/lady’s finger. When they are stir fried with crispy lentils(Chana dal) and perhaps some thinly sliced onions, they jazz up a simple Rasam rice meal. When they are swimming in a tomato & cream based gravy, they make for the perfect marriage with chapatis. However, what truly has me weak in the knees is when tender benDekai are stuffed with a masala chickpea flour(kaDlehittu/besan) and then shallow fried with onions and tomatoes. The recipe comes from my grandmother and I shamelessly admit  to the fact that it is a dangerous prospect for the husband when I make these because I’m a ruthless snacker when I cook these and half the pan is gone by the time the meal lands on the table!
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That said, these green vegetables become further more delicious when chopped, gently pan-fried and poured into the Maggige huLi. Their mild flavour entwines wonderfully with the sour curd and fresh coconut. Pour this gravy over hot rice with a spoonful of ghee and one forgets all impending worries for the day. Add some Papad and fried chilles to the equation and heaven will have come down to earth for just a few morsel-moments.
We get to the recipe now, hope you try it and like it!

RECIPE FOR BENDEKAI MAGGIGE PALADYA

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
2-2.5 cups of Okra/Lady’s finger or Bendekai- Washed, wiped dry, chopped into 1″ pieces
1.5 tbsp of Oil(I use sunflower)
1/2cup + 2 tbsp thick sour/regular curd(not hung curd) whisked with 1 cup of water
2.5 tbsp Chana Dal, soaked for 30 min
3/4 cup  fresh, grated coconut
1 tsp Cumin seeds/jeera
1.5 tbsp Coriander seeds/Dhaniya
1″ slice fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1/4 cup of chopped coriander

For the tempering-
1tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
a handful of curry leaves(washed and dried)

3 -4 dried chillies (kindly see notes)
A pinch of hing or Asafoetida

METHOD
-In a large pan, add the oil and once it is heated, add the chopped benDekai/okra.
-Season with salt and let it cook. Resist the temptation to stir fry it too much as the okra can become very slimy.
-Remove from heat once softened. Keep aside.
-To make the gravy, in a blender or food processor, add fresh grated coconut, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, chana dal and turmeric. Grind along with 1/2-3/4 cup of water until a coarse paste is achieved. 
-Add this blended mixture to medium sized pot along with 1 cup of water on medium low heat and bring to a simmer. Stir continuously to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
-When the mixture comes to a slight boil, add the curd mixture, coriander, salt and the Okra. Keep an eye, stir often and when you spot a boil, remove from heat. Too much time on the heat can cause the yogurt to curdle, hence it is important to not let it boil completely.

-To make the tempering, in a small pan/taDka pan, add the oil. Once the oil heats up, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the BaLaka chillies and fry them until they are darkened, then add a pinch of hing and finally the curry leaves.
-Pour the tempering into the majjige huLi.
-Serve hot over rice and some ghee.

Notes:
-Sour curd is generally preferred for this dish but if not posssible, regular curd works just fine.
-The Chillies I have used for tempering are called BaLaka chilies and are yogurt based dried chillies. Their flavours pairs incredibly well with the Majjige huLi. You can use regular dried chillies as well but it can be much spicier than these.

SanDige HuLi/Steamed Lentil Sambar

My grandmother’s sister lovingly referred to as Shanta Ajji lived in the west coast of the US during the later part of her life. During our brief sojourn in New Jersey, I remember indulging in long conversations with her over the phone when she would discuss her week’s activities but, more significantly, I remember her keen interest in my love for cooking; patiently educating a novice with the intricacies of authentic South Indian recipes (mostly involving the Madhwa Cuisine) and breaking down the complexities that haunted my ignorant mind. My culinary knowledge those days hardly amounted to anything but I possessed an enthusiasm and fervor(fortunately I still do) that prompted the above mentioned phonecalls where we tackled a gamut of recipes.
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The next summer, we road tripped along the West Coast, allowing ourselves to be awed by the brilliant grandeur of Las Vegas, the opulent mansions of Beverly Hills and the magnanimity of the Grand Canyon. It also entailed a short halt at San Jose to visit Shanta Ajji when she affectionately handed to me a copy of a cookbook written by her. The book is brimming with details of food that she laboriously & lovingly prepared for her family. She is sadly no more, however and unstintingly, this tome occupies a cherished place in my heart and the kitchen. The recipe I share with you today is hers, has been adapted from her cookbook and has managed to spice up mundane weekdays in the most delicious and soul-satisfying ways.
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Sandige HuLi is essentially a sambar or a stew that has swimming in its rich, coconut-laden gravy, little spheres made of lentils. In Kannada, these steamed spheres are referred to as ‘Sandige’ and the gravy itself is referred to as the ‘huLi’. The Madhwa dish garners a celebrity status of sorts and it lies in the fact that it is traditionally conjured up on the day before a wedding takes place(a ceremony called the Devarasamaradhane) and is served as per custom on a banana leaf coupled with hot rice and ghee. Together with the flavours emanating from the leaf, they create a gastronomical experience that is nothing short of divine.
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Let’s move on to the recipe without further ado. Do try it and let me know how you like it.

RECIPE FOR SANDIGE HULI
Serves 4
Special equipment- An Idli cooker

INGREDIENTS

For the Sandige or the Lentil Spheres
1 cup Toor Dal/Dried Pigeon peas(flat, yellow coloured lentils)
1 tsp fresh, grated Ginger
4 Green Chillies(feel free to reduce the quantity if you think it is too spicy)
1/2 cup Cilantro/Coriander leaves, roughly chopped
A pinch of Hing or Asafoetida
1/4 cup fresh, grated coconut
Salt to taste
For the HuLi
1 tsp Oil
1 tsp Urad dal
1 tsp Chana Dal
1.5 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera Seeds
8-9 Byadgi MeNsinkai(Dry and wrinkled red chillies, please see Note)
1 Green Chili
1/2 cup Cilantro/Coriander leaves
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
2 tbsp Toor Dal/Dried Pigeon peas(flat, yellow coloured lentils)
3 tsp Coriander Seeds/Dhaniya seeds
1/2 cup fresh, grated coconut
3/4-1 tsp thick tamarind paste
1 tsp Jaggery
Salt to taste
Water
For the tempering
1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil
1.5 tsp Mustard Seeds
A handful of Curry leaves
3 dried red chillies
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida

METHOD
To make the SanDige or Lentil Spheres, soak 1 cup of the toor dal for 3 hours atleast and drain the water.
-Keep aside 2 tablespoons of the soaked lentils and transfer the remaining into a blender/food processor along with the other ingredients:ginger, green chillies, cilantro, coconut and salt. Grind to a coarse paste using a tablespoon or two of water only if necessary.
-Make spheres from this coarsely grounded mixture, measuring the size of a lime. It can be shaped into spheres or elongated into an oval.
-Meanwhile get your Idli Cooker ready. Add enough water to the cooker, so that it doesn’t touch the idli stand and let it come to a boil. Grease the idli cavities with oil and place the sanDige in the cavities. Cover with the lid and steam for around 12 minutes.
-Once done, carefully remove from the cooker and let them cool.
-To make the huLi, in a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. To this add, urad dal, chana dal, byadgi chillies , a pinch of hing and cumin seeds. Fry them for a few minutes on low heat until the lentils turn golden brown. Once done, transfer to a plate and cool completely.
-Add the cooled mixture to a blender/food processor along with 1 Green Chili, Cilantro,
the 2 tbsp of soaked toor dal, Coriander Seeds/Dhaniya seeds and fresh, grated coconut. Blend into a smooth paste, adding approximately half a cup of water as well.
-Now, take a large, deep bottomed vessel and to this, add the paste along with 2 cups of water. Also add salt, tamarind paste and jaggery. Mix it all together and allow to come to a boil. Put off the stove and add the sanDige.
-For the tempering, add the oil in a small pan(tadka pan) and heat it. Once heated, add the mustard seeds, they wil splutter immediately. To this add the washed and dried curry leaves and dry red chillies. Fry till they’re crispy, around 20 seconds, and add to the sambar.
-Serve hot with rice and ghee.

Notes:
-Byadgi MeNsinkai is a long, dry red chilli that has a wrinkled appearance. They are not too spicy but feel free to alter the quantities as per your needs. The smoother dry red chilles, called as Guntoor can be very spicy so try to procure the Byadgi variety itself.
-The SanDige or steamed lentil spheres can be eaten as a snack as well, perhaps with a side of ghee and coconut chutney
-The dish tastes even better the next day(provided it is refrigerated) since the sanDige’s would have absorbed all the spices from the sambar.

Peach & Chai Spice Galette and a spring in my step

She’s late but she is finally here. After months of drawing comfort from hefty parkas, hyggeligt cafes and unrestrained mugs of hot chocolate, Mother Nature graces us with her warm caress. The harbingers of spring: pansies, tulips and the ever so coveted sakura flowers are erupting and prowling the city and we, mere witnesses can’t help but immerse in their thrall. The kitchen witnesses a vibrant metamorphosis as well; the chocolate spreads and cocoa powders have been brushed aside to the far corners since fresh bounties are demanding more room than usual. As I pledge my reverence to nature’s sweet manifests, there’s an undeniable spring in my step. Hence, I celebrate & present to you, a warm-hued, Peach & Chai Spice Galette. This is an ode to the effulgence & magic of sunshine, a gratitude to the changing seasons.
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if you’re an old friend of this blog, you’re familiar with my obsession with chai spices. A while back, they were pounded and made to transform cupcakes; my Masala Chai cupcakes were conjured as a tribute to the humble Masala Chai which in my opinion, may very well be the lifeline of many Indian homes. This time however, I borrow the gentle, summery flavour of Peaches and pair them with a myriad of spices: Cardamom, Ginger, Fennel Seeds, Cinnamon and Tulsi Leaves. The result is quite akin to an affectionate hug, one that we’ve waited long to experience.
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The galette like any other adorns a rustic charm, highlighting the beauty of these plump fruits. An Almond Pate Brisee is slathered with Peach Jam and sprinkled with chai spices. Sliced peaches then take their positions and they’re quickly painted with a sweet glaze before they resume a beautiful dance in the oven. This simple dessert makes for a fancy addition to an already bonhomie summer afternoon especially when there’s a bottomless tub of homemade icecream involved.
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RECIPE FOR PEACH AND CHAI SPICE GALETTE
*The recipe is actually a doubled recipe and makes a very large galette. It can be reduced in half to make a smaller one. 
-Additional Equipment needed: Weighing scale
-See notes
INGREDIENTS
For the Almond Pâté brisée
90 gms almonds
220 grams of Pastry flour
30 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
150  gms cold, unsalted butter chopped into cubes(taken out of the refrigerator just before use)
3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Other Ingredients –
8-9 fresh peaches
1/2  cup peach jam/spread + extra for glaze
A handful of sliced almonds
2 tbsp of maple syrup
1 tbsp of milk
Chai Spice: I combined approximately-
6 cardamoms, powdered
1 tsp of fennel seeds, powdered
1 tsp of  cinammon,
half a tsp of ginger powder
1 tsp of tulsi leaves powder(optional)

METHOD
-To make the almond pastry, pulse together almonds, pastry flour, salt, sugar until the nuts are ground fine. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse for very short intervals 1 or 2 times until you achieve a coarse crumb and the butter has reduced to the size of peas. Then add ice cold water in parts to combine very gently. Be mindful of the amount of water added because it can be too much sometimes. Always add tablespoon by tablespoon. Do not over mix or knead. Once it comes together, place in a plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes.
-Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. Half them and discard the pit. Slice the halves neatly and keep aside.
-To make the chai spice, mix all the powders together and keep aside.
-Preheat the oven to 400F.
-Once the pastry dough has chilled, remove from the plastic wrap. Once it is pliable, roll out the dough between 2 parchments until the thickness of the rolled pastry is 1/4th of an inch. ( I prefer to roll it between parchments since it prevents sticking and ensures that no extra flour is used.) Once rolled, remove the parchment on the top. Place the rolled pastry with the parchment below on a large cookie sheet.
-Spread the jam on the rolled pastry taking care that about 1-1.5 inch of the border is untouched. Sprinkle the chai spice and spread it along the surface of the jam.
-Place the peaches, skin side up and gently fold over the crust edges gently toward the centre. It can overlap as well, the more rustic the better:)
-In a small bowl, mix a teaspoon of the jam with 1 tbsp of maple syrup. Use a pastry brush to glaze the peaches.
-In another small bow, combine 1 tbsp of maple syrup with a tbsp of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush the borders of the crust with the mixture. Scatter the sliced almonds on the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
-Serve warm and with icecream if you prefer.

Notes
*Feel free to play around with the quantities of spices in the chai spice. Mine are approximate as well. A little increase or decrease in the quantity will not affect the deliciousness of the galette. Same for the jam.

*Approximately 10 minutes before removal from the oven, I like to brush the crust once again with the maple syrup-milk mixture.

Vegan Pavlova with Praline Cream from New Zealand

Because my sweet tooth knows no bounds, because sugar in all its versatile glory never fails to lure me, because I’m forever on a quest to bake the day away, sometime last year, I indulged in a little project….. The One Sweet World Project. The desire was to usher sweetness that suffuses every corner of this beautiful world. The goal was to learn, immerse and finally, devour. Owing to distractions(delicious ones, I’ll admit), the plan endured a halt. However, perhaps 2018 will see the light of day.

Continue reading “Vegan Pavlova with Praline Cream from New Zealand”

The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake

Not that a chocolate or an orange flavoured cake doesn’t entice me substantially, but that winter morning demanded a distraction from the familiar. I was fortunate Sumayya Usmani’s ‘Mountain Berries and Dessert Spices’ had sailed from it’s confines of the store and landed amid the cozy comforts of my living room. The author is driven by authenticity and her recipes are brimming with tradition. She paints the book with dishes showcasing the magic of rose petals, cardamom, berries, pistachios and other produce native to her homeland.

Continue reading “The ‘Stop to Smell the Roses’ Cake”

Matcha Raspberry Pancakes – Eggfree

Ever since the time my grandma visited the States & learnt the art of making pancakes, they have been adored and coveted for at home. Although stores in Bangalore didn’t carry Maple Syrup at the time, she cleverly substituted it with a warm homemade sugar syrup and slowly but surely we discovered the indulgences of a sweet breakfast. Few things rival sweet wafts of simmering sugar & sizzling skillets and they’re just the remedy to ward off sleep on lazy weekend mornings.

IMG_2180They make their presence fairly often at home too and the only change I indulge in is I substituting whole wheat flour with all purpose flour owing to it’s high fibre content.
The pancakes that I’m sharing with you today, are enriched by the addition of Matcha/green tea powder. Apart from imparting an earthy flavour, they rank high on the health-foods list since they’re known to be packed with antioxidants.Tons of tart raspberries go into these pancakes as well and if I’m being honest, a pancake without berries ( in any form) is somewhat bizarre to me. To score some extra health points, I even topped them up with some overnight soaked chia seeds. They’re soft, moist, warm & addictive to say the least.
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The recipe I’ve shared makes two pancakes but just double/triple the measurements to make more.
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It would be wrong to post a pancake recipe without a mention of good ol’ IHOP. When the husband & me were in the US, midnight hunger pangs were always satiated by the delicious pancakes at IHOP. With a myriad of flavours like blueberry, chocolate, white chocolate-raspberry & strawberry banana, all stacked to perfection & dripping with  golden sticky syrup, any day is Sunday! This is where my love for pancakes grew so intense, I had to put a stop on it what with all the calorie gain and everything.
( P S. Imagine my surprise when I realised they have franchises here in Canada too)

I do hope you like & try these delicious pancakes and make your Sundays a little more magical!
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RECIPE FOR EGGLESS MATCHA RASPBERRY PANCAKES (Makes 2 pancakes)
INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp melted butter
100 gms fresh raspberries
1 tsp Matcha powder
METHOD

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: Whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder and Matcha powder.
2. Add in the wet ingredients: Oil, vanilla essence, milk, water and mix very gently. If some lumps are there don’t worry about it but make sure to not overmix.
3. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. Then add the melted butter.
4. Meanwhile, heat a non stick tava/skillet over the stove in medium heat. Spread some melted butter on top and spoon a big ladleful of batter on the tava. Top with lots of raspberries.
5. After 2-3 minutes, flip the pancake (ensuring it has achieved a nice golden brown) and cook again for a few minutes.
6. Top with more raspberries & powdered sugar.