Monday, April 30, 2012

Gongura Pachadi - chutney with gongura(Sorrel leaves)

As I said before, my pachadi recipes other than a few (coconut chutney, heerekayi sippe chutney) are all from Amma's kitchen. I tasted gongura pachadi for the first time after I got married. It was a love with first bite :-).

For the uninitiated, gongura or sorrel leaves are green leaves with a tart taste, I have mainly seen the red stemmed versions of this leaf here but I hear there is a green stemmed variety also. Due to its inherent tart taste, these leaves impart a distinct flavor and go very well in recipes for chutneys and dals.

One of BH's atta's is an expert cook and her pachadis(chutneys/relishes) are very tasty, she follows a very traditional way of making the chutneys by hand grinding or pounding the ingredients in a big stone grinder (think much bigger version of mortar and pestle). It is also made with lot of oil for taste and for preserving. Typically this chutney is high on the spices loaded with hot red chilies and is mixed with hot rice and butter (according to my FIL) and eaten. This is a family favorite and like any chutney recipe, has its variations made to suit family's taste buds.

If you are in US, you can get these leaves in Indian groceries, farmers markets and Chinese stores.  It typically starts to show up in mid to late Spring. 

Here is a very low fat version of the yummy gongura pachadi.

What do you need to make Gongura Pachadi?
3 packed cups of gongura leaves (picked from the stems)
3 Tsp fenugreek seeds/methi seeds
2 Tsp white sesame seeds (optional but greatly recommended for flavor)
8-10 dry red chilies (I used only the milder Byadagi variety, if using spicier chilies like the Guntur variety, ease the number down)
1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbslp water for grinding
How do you make Gongura Pachadi? 
  • Wash gongura leaves in water, drain them and pat them dry. 
  • Heat a heavy bottom pan on medium heat and fry methi seeds until they turn light brown and start to pop. Keep them aside.
  • Dry fry the chilies for 2-3 minutes until they crisp up and you see tiny brown spots on their skins. Keep aside.
  • Dry fry the sesame seeds until they pop and keep aside. 
  • Add oil and drop the cleaned gongura leaves into the pan, fry until the leaves wilt completely and become a single mass (4-5 minutes). 
  • Take the red chilies, salt, methi seeds and half of the fried sesame seeds to your blender/grinder, make a dry powder. 
  • Add the gongura leaves and blend them together adding water only as needed.
  • Add the remaining toasted sesame seeds and give it a whirl in your blender. 
  • Here is how we relished it - mixed it with hot cooked quinoa, a couple of drops oil and chopped onions with a side of Majjige huli. A bowlful of pachadi vanished in a single meal. 
  • You need to balance the tartness of the leaves with a good proportion of red chilies and methi seeds, so the pachadi doesn't turn out primarily sour. 
  • Slow toast methi seeds until it turns light brown and red chilies become crisp for enhanced flavor, don't rush through the toasting process. 
  • I like the nutty flavor from the sesame seeds, keep a little portion to the last blend/grind cycle to have a few un-powdered seeds in the pachadi. 
  • As amma knows my love for spicy food, she fries a couple of red chilies in a Tsp pf oil and pours it on top of the chutney so I can break them and mix it in for the extra punch. If you have people with different levels of spice tolerance, go mild on the chilies while making pachadi but use this trick to please that one person :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Avarekalu (papdi lilva) saaru and a dive into memory lane

Like I haven't professed my love for this bean enough on the blog, here I go again with another round of avarekayi related rant. Yes, I found these personal favorite bean again at my grocery store. I don't remember seeing avarekayi in India during April, the season is long gone and this is a winter bean by definition. But here I am with my fresh avarekayis, peeled and ready to go. For any one interested, it was labelled 'desi papdi' in the store.

As I was checking out yesterday, the lady at the counter looked at me and said 'are you sure you want to buy this, it is coming to $19', I looked straight back at her and said 'yes', I know it is a splurge but may be I won't buy that new summer dress after all - LOL. It is not about the bean but is about reliving those moments again, remembering the laughter, love in the cozy house with siblings and parents years back. As I was peeling them last evening, I kept playing the scenes from childhood in my mind.

Avarekayi as I remember was a favorite among cows and buffaloes also :-), not that they cooked the delicious dishes at home but were treated to a bounty of the peels at every street corner during the season.  Anna would be walking inside the compound wall and telling us to bring the peels to feed the cow that somehow miraculously would be standing every time we got avarekayis home, and he wouldn't allow us to throw the peels anywhere on the street, it had to be on top of a clean, shiny, flat stone that the cows would be able to lick. He would sit there, watching them and sometimes stroking their neck as they ate those fragrant peels.

Though my cooking is primarily with ingredients I find locally, creating and transferring those memories for my daughter is important for me. When I make a good saaru(rasam) from it which almost tastes like the one nammamma makes and when my daughter slurps it down looking at me with the same expression I had as a young girl, it is priceless, I will go back and pay $19 every time I see it in the grocery store isle.

Have you seen the popular Mastercard advertisement? below is based on it :-)
Price of 3 pounds avarekayi - $19
Price of gasoline for the grocery shopping $4
Price of eating avarekalu saaru with family - priceless :-)

True, there are some things money can't buy, just tuck in a memory to give you company of those cherished things forever. If you haven't noticed, time just flies.

Since I got a big bag of avarekalus this time, I used it in multiple dishes. See a yummy avarekalu kadubu recipe here. Today, I have for you a delicious saaru(rasam) with avarekalu from nammamma's kitchen.

What do you need to make Avarekalu saaru?
2 cups peeled avarekalu
3-4 curry leaves
For Saaru masala:
2 Tblsp coconut (fresh/frozen)
1 Tsp chana dal/kadle bele
3/4 Tsp coriander seeds
1 Tsp poppy seeds/khus khus/gasagase
5-6 dry red chilies
2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 small lime sized tamarind soaked in water for 20 minutes/1 Tsp of tamarind concentrate
1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tsp chopped onions
How do you make Avarekalu saaru? 

  • Wash the avarekalu and boil it till tender with salt.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add the ingredients under saaru masala except for coconut, tamarind and onion on medium heat until you get a nice aroma from the fried cinnamon and other spices (3-4 minutes). 
  • Let the masala come to room temperature. 
  • Grind the fried masala ingredients with coconut, raw onion, tamarind and 1Tblsp of cooked avarekalu.
  • Use about 1/2 cup of water to get a smooth paste of the masala. 
  • Add the ground paste to cooked beans, adjust water to a slightly thick pouring consistency and boil it for a good 8-10 minutes. 
  • Taste and adjust salt or tamarind. 
  • Tear the curry leaves in half and drop it into the boiling saaru. 
  • Switch off and serve it with rice, roti or just drink it straight from a cup chewing the avarekalu with every sip. 
  • Use about 2 cups of water to boil avarekalu. 
  • Adding boiled beans to the masala brings thickness to the saaru and also helps form a homogeneous mixture. 
  • Boil the saaru well to remove the raw smell of onion, but do not replace with fried onion in this recipe :-)
  • We prefer the saaru to be a little spicy, adjust the red chilies according to your taste. If when you taste the saaru, you find it lacking punch, add red chili powder to spice it up. 
  • Notice that this saaru does not have the usual seasoning/vaggarane as it is already very flavorful. Use raw curry leaves while boiling the saaru to enhance flavor.
  • Beans being heavy, settles at the bottom of your dish, make sure you mix it before serving or someone might just not get their share of the avarekalu :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dahi vada or Peruggarelu

Vada or vade (as we call it in Kannada) was meant for specific occasions at home. Nammamma never deviated from this unwritten rule and never made urad dal vades on other days. So it was only when we went to restaurants which was so infrequent that we would get to taste this sinfully delicious stuff. As we grew up, she made concessions and when I started experimenting in the kitchen, I was allowed to make them but call them urad dal bondas instead and was not allowed to make the hole in the center which is so characteristic of vadas :-).

However at my in-laws place, there is no such restriction on making these vadas any time and I was completely blown over the first time amma prepared them after I got married. Her dahi vadas or peruggarilu (perugu~curd/yogurt and garelu~vadas) are to die for and she gets the same melt in the mouth consistency every single time she makes it. It is featured on birthdays, festivals and any occasion or no occasion at all :-).

When amma makes these at home, it takes center stage and she usually makes one rice item which kind of gets a typical step motherly treatment during lunch/dinner as all the attention is on the peruggarelu. And we in our family have different preferences when it comes to eating it. DD likes a sprinkle of boondi (a savory deep fried snack made with chick pea flour) for crunch while I like it with a dash of red chili powder and BH loves to top it with both :-).

As I love these peruggarelu, I have conveniently forgotten nammamma's rule and switched over to amma's practice. With both BH and DD having inherited the love for peruggarelu, we enjoy making and eating it. I made these dahi vadas 2 weeks back when we had guests home but couldn't get to posting it due to travel and work and everything else happening in life :-). When I started my post today, the pictures beckoned me and I didn't have to think about any other dish. My friends from North India like to eat it with a dollop of thick tamarind-date chutney on top.

Dahi vadas are made with Urad dal or black gram. Some people like to use a coarsely ground dough for making dahi vada while I prefer my completely smooth batter. A pre-requisite is to have good dahi or yogurt that is not sour.
What do you need to make Dahi-vada? 
For the Garelu/vadas - Makes about 20-24 vadas depending on the size:
1 cup urad dal/black gram dal
1/2 cup water for grinding
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
4-5 black pepper corns
oil to deep fry

For the Parugu/Dahi: 
2 cups of thick yogurt
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp sugar
1/2 cup water

For the perugu popu/Dahi seasoning:
1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp cumin seeds
2-3 dry chilies

How do you make Dahi-vada? 
Prepare Dahi/perugu
  • Mix yogurt and water and whisk it till smooth.
  • Add salt and sugar and mix it well. 
  • Prepare seasoning by heating oil - add mustard, cumin and red chilies. Let the seeds crackle.
  • Pour it over the yougurt mixture, mix well and pour it into a wide basin that will hold your vadas when soaked. 
Prepare Vadas:
  • Soak urad dal for an hour, wash it in 2 changes of water, drain the water. 
  • Grind it to a smooth batter by using little amounts of water at intervals, take care to use as little water as needed to run your blender/mixer. 
  • Towards the end of grinding, add the pepper corn and let it blend with the batter. 
  • Take out the batter, mix salt in.
  • Heat oil in a wide frying pan on medium heat. 
  • Wet your fingers with water, scoop out a lemon sized batter, flatten it a little on your palms and gently ease it into the hot oil. 
  • After 2 minutes, turn the vadas over and let both sides turn golden brown. 
  • Drain the vadas, drop them slowly into a bowl of cold water and let it stand for 45secs to a minute. 
  • Lift the vadas one by one, squeeze them gently between palms taking care not to break them and drop them into the yogurt vessel. 
  • Spoon some yogurt on top of the vadas. 
  • Repeat for all of the batter. 
  • Let the vadas soak for atleast 20-30 minutes for them to become soft. 
  • Serve plumped up dahi vadas with a scoop of the yogurt mixture and any topping of your choice. 
  • Forget about deep frying, dieting and just binge on the bliss for a day, remember to hit the gym extra hard the next day :-)
  • Do not soak urad dal for more than an hour, your vadas tend to absorb more oil if you do. 
  • Use as little water as needed during grinding for a thick batter. 
  • Use cold water while grinding to help your mixer/blender motor.
  • Dropping the hot finished vadas into cold water helps remove the oil on top and eliminate the resulting bitterness when soaked in yogurt. 
  • Do not leave the vadas in cold water for more than a minute and do not squeeze them too hard. 
  • Use a wide pan for the yogurt as the vadas occupy space once they soak up the yogurt. 
Serving suggestions: 
  • Spoon out dahi vadas in to a serving bowl along with a scoop of the yogurt, top it with a variety of ingredients to enhance the taste from red chili powder to tamarind-date chutney to boondhi or let your imagination take over.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Creamy Rajma(Kidney beans) Masala sans cream

Like any other vegetarian kitchen, my source of protein comes from legumes - all sorts of dal, pulses, beans etc. Although my South Indian recipes mainly use Toor or Moong dal, I replace Toor with Masoor dal sometimes. Any meal is incomplete with some form of lentil in it.

Rajma or red kidney beans gravy is a very popular side dish in Northern India, the beans inherently are creamy and lend a rich taste cooked in tomato gravy. I prepare my Rajma masala in a very simple manner. Once when I had made a potfull of Rajma masala for a potluck lunch at work, a collegue from the North commented 'Kya yaar, daawat vali Rajma bana diya' meaning 'you made a Rajma fit for festive occasions'. Coming from J, who was used to eating Dal-chawal (Rajma-Rice) on a frequent basis, I consider that a certificate of accomplishment :-) and hence have stuck to my simple recipe.

You can use canned kidney beans for this recipe by all means to save on time but I prefer my old fashioned way of soaking the dry beans over night and cooking them in pressure cooker. My brother would wince at this but it is my way of controlling the sodium and other preservatives that are part of the canned mode. Although, Rajma-rice are synonymous, the gravy goes very well with any kind of roti (tawa roasted) or naan (Indian bread made in the oven).
What do you need to make Rajma masala? 
2 cups of dry Rajma beans (or use 2 can of kidney beans)
1/2 medium sized onion - chopped fine
1 Tsp garam masala powder
1/2 Tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1 Tsp red chili powder
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp cumin seeds
2 Tsp cooking oil
1 cup milk (I used 2%) - there is no cream involved in this recipe
2 Tblsp chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

For masala paste: 
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes
1/4 of a medium sized onion
1 inch piece ginger
3-4 black pepper corns
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom (badi elaichi)
1 small piece of Tej patta or pulav leaf
2 dry red chilies broken into pieces

How do you make Rajma masala?
  • Cut tomatoes in quarters, put them in a pan along with the 1/4 onion and blanch them until tomatoes peel. See notes for blanching instructions
  • Dry roast the remaining ingredients except for ginger under masala paste until a nice aroma fills your kitchen (3-4 minutes on medium heat), switch off and let it cool. 
  • If using dry beans, soak them in 4 times water overnight, rinse and drain in the morning. Bring them to your pressure cooker with 4 cups of water and cook until very tender. 
  • If using canned kidney beans, drain the juice, wash thoroughly in atleast 2 changes of water and keep ready. 
  • Peel off the skin from tomatoes, take all the masala ingredients to your blender/mixer, add 2 spoons of the cooked Rajma beans and grind it to a smooth paste. 
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan, add cumin seeds, when it toasts add chopped onions and let cook until it turns soft and pink.
  • Mix in cooked beans, ground masala paste, salt, dry powders and let it all come to a boil. Taste and adjust dry 
  • Add milk and continue to boil for 5 minutes. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve it with rice or roti. 
  • Blanching: I put the tomatoes and onion in a microwave safe bowl, cover it with water and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes. You can get the same results by immersing tomatoes and onions in boiling water and stove top, boil for 2 minutes and switch off. 
  • Rajma should be cooked very tender to get the creamy consistency, just stop short of it being mushy. Use pressure cooker for best results and save on time.
  • Add garlic to the masala if you like garlic flavor. 
  • Use just the prescribed quantity of Tej patta and black cardamom as they tend to overpower other ingredients. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bell pepper dry curry with besan and a vent session

I promise I have a recipe today but I just to vent a little bit before I get to the recipe. Thanks for bearing with me, feel free to jump ahead or scroll down to get to the recipe directly :-).

It has been a busy couple of weeks with travel involved and I have spent less time on the blog than I would like to. For a natural home bird like me, travel is not something I enjoy very much. I love to go to places and see sights but the journey itself is what puts me off. I love to go driving but hate air travels, India trip is different though which I look forward to all the time in spite of the long flights. So when I have to travel, I am not a very happy camper. Two weeks back, when we all went to the east for DD's music program, I grumped and squirmed the entire 5 hours on the flight back making BH & DD sitting either side of me go bonkers. But then I had to travel alone for work last week and had only myself to complain to on the journey.

The trip itself was great, lot of work got done, met with my team and had a great time working in the familiar surroundings again while BH & DD did a wonderful job of taking care of home, school, sports practice, other activities and everything else. After a long work week, I headed back on Friday evening to leave the hotel room behind but was bummed when I missed my connection and had to stay overnight in a yet another unfamiliar city. The airlines did nothing to ease the distressed customer except for shoving a 800 number in my face and tell me to get a hotel room for the night. Though I was booked for a late afternoon flight the next day, I was adamant on getting in on one of those earlier flights, so I reached the airport early in the morning, established myself at the gate, kept talking to those agents and made sure my stand by status was well respected and recognized :-). Finally, they put me on an earlier flight to get rid of me. Reached home to be received by yells and shrieks and tight hugs and long licks (Flora) and all the travel sickness and tiredness vanished just like that :-), Great to be home again. Looking back at the additional time and the delay, it is just another character building experience.

To top it all, BH had cooked a wonderful lunch of menthya soppina anna and he said he just followed instructions from here, what more can I ask for? I cleaned the plate completely to wash away a week of eating bread and salads and such..This morning, I logged in to see inquiries and comments left by my blog visitors which just made my day completely, Thank you all.. Weather outside is beautiful, birds are chirping, our small vegetable garden is looking good. Life is good.

Whether you read through my vent session above or hopped directly to the recipe area, here is something that will not disappoint you. A yummy, quick to put together side dish for your rotis or rice. It is a dry curry and goes well with a plain rasam.
What do you need to make Bell Pepper Palya?
2 green peppers - deseeded and cut into bite size pieces.
1/2 medium sized onion - cut into thin long strips
2 heaped Tblsp of besan/gram flour/chick pea flour
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp red chili powder
1 Tblsp cooking oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tsp chana dal/kadle bele
1/2 Tsp asafoetida
4-5 curry leaves
How do you make Bell Pepper Palya? 
  • Heat a heavy bottom pan on medium heat and dry roast the besan frequently stirring. 
  • Besan roasts and gives a wonderful aroma and turns slightly pink, switch off. Keep the roasted flour aside.
  • Heat the oil in the same pan, add mustard, asafoetida and chana dal, roast till mustard crackles, add curry leaves. 
  • Add the thin onion slices and fry for a couple of minutes until they become soft.
  • Mix in the chopped bell pepper pieces, add salt and mix in. 
  • Cover and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. 
  • Add the roasted besan, red chili powder and cook uncovered for 5-6 minutes until besan cooks and gets incorporated well. 
  • Switch off and serve warm with rice or rotis. 
  • You can mix & match bell peppers of different colors but I prefer the green ones for this recipe as they do not turn mushy when cooked. 
  • You can skip roasting the besan initially but it will take longer for it completely cook and renders the bell pepper very soft.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tomato Pachadi - Yogurt based side dish

This weekend, weather was beautiful and we started our small summer garden. BH was very motivated by the Sun shining in the sky and started the yard work. We have a few small plants that are starting and some seeds that need to sprout. Taught Flora her boundaries so she won't jump over the seedlings. She was happy to be out too and the whole time was jumping, licking our faces and trying to smell every single tool and seed packet we had, she is one curious dog.

Two summers before, we had a bounty of vegetables including tomatoes which I had to freeze in bags after distributing to friends. I didn't buy any until the next February or so. Then last summer, we planted a toned down summer garden as we were getting ready to relocate and asked friends to tend to the plants and pick the vegetables until end of Summer after we left. It is already another year and we are looking forward to growing our backyard veggies once again in the new place. Due to the unfamiliar weather pattern and soil, we decided to take it slowly.

While I am waiting for my own harvest of vegetables, I brought home a whole bunch of fresh looking, non waxy tomatoes the other day. I love tomatoes for their versatility, there is so much you can do with a good tomato. Chose to do a very simple pachadi - a yogurt based side dish that is both slightly sweet and spicy. It goes very well with rice or rotis or idli/dose. It is a very good addition to meals for the Summer months. Though it is called pachadi, it doesn't require any grinding/blending of ingredients, this one comes from Amma's kitchen.
What do you need for Tomato pachadi?
3 firm, ripe tomatoes
1 Tblsp chopped onions
1 cup fresh yogurt
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp coriander powder
1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 red chili broken into 2
2-3 twigs of fresh cilantro chopped fine
1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery or brown sugar
How do you make Tomato pachadi? 
  • Chop tomatoes into bite size pieces
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard and cumin seeds, let them crackle.
  • Add the red chili pieces followed by chopped onion.
  • When onion turns slightly pink and soft, add tomatoes, salt, jaggery/brown sugar, cover and cook for 5 minutes
  • When tomatoes turn soft and mushy, add the coriander powder, fry for a minute and switch off.
  • Let it cool completely before adding smoothly whisked yogurt and chopped cilantro.
  • Tomato pachadi is ready to be served with your meal. 
  • You can add 1/2 Tsp red chili powder for spice.
  • Skip jaggery/brown sugar if you do not like it. 
  • Use fresh yogurt that has not turned sour.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mango Tokku or Mango relish

Now that we are officially into Spring, I get green mangoes every week from my local Indian grocery store and we have been having a parade of dishes featuring these beauties. The green mangoes we get are not as tart as the ones I have seen in India but they are much bigger.

Tokku is a close relative of the more popular pickle. Though mango pickles of all forms of shape hit the market in their pretty bottles many years ago, tokku took time before it was bottlized (is that even a word :-)) but we grew up licking tokku on the side with curd rice.  The taste comes from the right(what you like) combination of tart mango, red chili powder, salt and the flavor from fenugreek and mustard. Tokku typically has very few ingredients, end product is a concentrate meant to be used conservatively.

I made this a week back and as I am writing this post, BH is looking over my shoulder and saying 'When did you make tokku?', he is the one who licked that bowl clean and I know it is a masked request for 'make it again' :-)

What do you need to make Mango Tokku? 
1 big firm green mango (see note below)
1 Tblsp red chili powder
2 Tblsp cooking oil
1 Tblsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp methi/fenugreek seeds
1/4 Tsp mustard seeds
1/2 Tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 Tsp turmeric powder

1 Tsp cooking oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds
3-4 curry leaves

How do you make Mango Tokku?
  • Wash, peel and grate the mango.
  • Heat a heavy bottom pan, dry roast the fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds on medium heat until they start to pop.
  • Take them aside, let it cool, powder it in a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle.
  • Heat oil in the pan, add the mango gratings, turmeric powder, salt and cook it covered for 5 minutes. 
  • When the mango softens up, add red chili powder, asafoetida and continue to cook uncovered.
  • The ingredients in the pan come together getting a pulpy consistency, leaving oil on the sides, takes about 20-25 minutes. Keep mixing frequently and take care not to burn it from bottom.
  • When oil starts to ooze from the sides, add the fenugreek powder, mix well and switch off. 
  • Make vaggarane by heating oil, adding mustard and curry leaves. Once mustard crackles, switch off, pour it over the thokku, mix well. 
  • Let the tokku cool completely before storing in a dry jar. 
  • It will stay fresh for upto a week in the refrigerator and about 3 days outside.
  • This tokku will brighten up your chapathis, bread toasts, idli or dosa any time of the day.
  • When I say big mango, I am thinking the ones we get here in US which is about the same size as the omelet mango you get back in India. The gratings should be 2 tightly packed cups. 
  • Adding vaggarane/seasoning is completely optional but enhances the flavor.
  • I add asafoetida while cooking the mango as it incorporates well in the tokku. 
  • Keep the mustard in the powder about half or less that of fenugreek seeds.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Baked bread koftas - My first ever blog hop

I have always been interested in cooking and learning new recipes. One of the best things to happen after I started blogging is that I actively look for food blogs in the blogosphere in addition to my cook books, magazines, cookery shows and other sources. I chanced on the talented Radhika's Tickling Palates soon after I started blogging and linked a few of my posts to her ongoing monthly events. She has a busy blog with many events and the Blog Hop Wednesday caught my fancy since I saw it. It is such a neat way to know people with similar interests and also learn from each other. I was hesitant to register for blog hops as I was a new bee and didn't have much content on my blog for others to choose from. I gathered courage a couple of weeks back and Radhika very generously paired me up with another blogger for the March blog hop and patiently responded to all my eager questions about the event. So here I am with my first ever blog hop.

When I first visited Jayanthi's Sizzlingveggies blog, I was so impressed by her experimentation in presenting common, known recipes with a twist (of ingredients or way of cooking). Her recipes entice you not only to try them but also think of variations to make it better just like she does. Some of the unusual recipes from her blog like the oats pakora kadhi (book marked for later), a poornam filled puff pastry, pineapple quinoa kesari go on to show the breadth of her experimentation with recipes and making them interesting. I am sure I will visit her blog regularly for updates.

While it was not easy to choose one from my blog hop partner's recipes, I finally zeroed in on the baked bread koftas for 2 reasons - given I am a borderline health freak, I like the idea of baked koftas and it was loaded with the Spinach goodness. Here I go with minor variations of my own to Jayanthi's yummy Baked bread koftas in spinach gravy for the Blog Hop Wednesday.
What do you need to make Baked bread Koftas? 
Kofta ingredients: 
1 cup Bread crumbs (I used store bought plain bread crumbs) or 4 slices of bread
1 cup finely chopped spinach
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 green chili - finely chopped
2-3 sprigs of cilantro - finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger - crushed fine in a mortar & pestle or grated
2 Tblsp of water
Spinach Gravy ingredients:
2 cups packed spinach
1/2 cup yogurt
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 medium onion - cut half the onion into chunks and the other half into fine choppings
1 medium tomato - chopped into bite size pieces
1 Tsp red chili powder
1 Tsp garam masala powder
1 Tsp dhania-jeera (coriander-cumin) powder
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece of ginger root - chopped into thin strips
1.5 Tblsp cooking oil

How do you make Baked bread koftas? 
Making koftas: 
  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Mix all the kofta ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add water little by little to make a firm dough. Use just enough water to bind the ingredients together.
  • Pinch off small lime sized balls and arrange them on a baking sheet. I made 12 key lime size koftas (not counting the one that vanished before it ever entered the oven :-))
  • Bake for 15 minutes, turn the balls around and bake for another 15 mins until the koftas crisp up from all sides. I timed a total of 30 minutes for koftas in the oven at 375F.

Making gravy: 
  • Heat 1 Tblsp oil in a pan, add the ginger, roughly chopped onion and fry for a couple of minutes until onions sweat a little and turn pink.
  • Add chopped tomato and fry until it is cooked soft. 
  • Add spinach, mix it in and cover and continue to cook for 3 minutes until the leaves wilt completely. 
  • Add the dry powders, mix it,  switch off and let it cool. 
  • Blend the mixture into a smooth paste and keep it aside. 
  • Heat remaining oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let it sizzle, add the reserved finely chopped onions and fry until they turn soft and light pink. 
  • Pour in the ground spinach, add salt, yogurt and bring it to a gentle boil. 
  • Keep the gravy warm for serving, add the koftas into the gravy 10 minutes before serving for it to soak up the gravy.
  • We had the koftas in gravy with rice. 

Notes & changes I did to the original recipe: 
  • I skipped garam masala & red chili powder in the koftas to keep it mild. 
  • I skipped garlic in the gravy as I don't use it much.
  • I used bread crumbs instead of bread slices since I had the crumbs in pantry.
  • I added more spinach into both the koftas and gravy as we like greens. 

The spicy gravy and the mild koftas complemented very well. These yummy koftas in gravy are off to Blog Hop Wednesdays ~ Week 16