Saturday, October 31, 2015

Methi Aur Papad ki sabzi (*translation*) Fenugreek and Papad curry :-)

Dasara came and went by, Deepavali is just around the corner and I am way behind with my recipe posting :-). Much as I love blogging, I love the rest of my life too and sometimes things, events happening outside the context of the blog take over and doesn't let me come here as often as I would wish for. And then there is my old, old buddy called laziness which makes up excuses to not sit and write on the blog. This buddy is very powerful and has at his command another spoiler named 'blogger's block' and when it makes it way towards me, I am just a helpless lump not able to type two straight coherent words on my laptop. It is very similar to dementors from the Potter world that seem to suck away all my energy. The gloomy, breezy, cold weather doesn't make it any easier to get to work on the recipes either.
I hope you understand how many obstacles I have to overcome to get that wonderful dish that stole our hearts and satiated the tummy make its way to this blog and into your kitchens. But, be assured I am working on my will power which is the worst enemy of laziness and can even overcome the blogger's block. The current status is that my will power is in the process of growing up :-). So a little patience and wait is all that is needed. Why all that talk about dementors, and Harry Potter, you ask? Well, turn around (or wherever you have a calendar close to you) and check todays' date. Yep, Happy Halloween everybody, whether you go trick or treating or not, whether you get donned in a costume or not, this is the time to work with those huge, orange pumpkins. If you are (like me) not artistic enough to carve a jack-O-lantern, then make a spicy pumpkin soup and enjoy :-) with a side of good candies. Make them dark chocolate and you are all set.

I hope I haven't told you this joke before on the blog, even if I have it is ok to hear it for a second time. The chances are if I don't remember if I blogged about this before, you certainly won't remember having read it on the blog. So here it is - one of my bachelor colleagues a few years ago (when we were all much younger and new to the country and brand new to Halloween celebrations) opened the door of his apartment when the bell rang in the evening to find a little kid with a bag of candies. Obviously the kid was there to ask for candies but this culture agnostic friend of mine, dipped his hands into the open bag , took a handful of candies, said thanks and closed the door. We never got to know how irreparably he scarred the kid about Halloween but the next day when he innocently was sharing how a kid in his neighborhood brought him candies, some of us with a bit more awareness had to explain to him what he had done. So if this is your first Halloween, remember it is the adults that give out the treats and not vice versa :-).

Since mine is a vegetarian blog, I thought of wishing you all a happy Halloween with these really cute vegan witches, have a great evening :-)
Well, now the fact of Halloween is established, let us move on to more earthly matters, shall we? Ask me what I ate for dinner yesterday? Go on, and humor me, I promise it is worth it. Ok, assuming you asked the question, here is my answer - A bowl of yummy fenugreek seeds :-). Are you wondering if this is Halloween related and if you missed a memo, let me clear the air. What I ate on the eve of Halloween has nothing to do with Halloween itself though a bowl of fenugreek may sound somewhat like a ghoulish treat to enjoy.

If you haven't tasted this (I hadn't before I made it yesterday), making a subzi with fenugreek seeds may sound like a recipe to avoid. Indian cooking uses fenugreek seeds liberally, but they are mostly in quantities of Tsp at a time and as part of seasoning. The first time I stumbled on this recipe, I just flipped through the channel (Yep, it was on a You tube channel) ignoring it completely. Then again I love the bitterness of Methi/fenugreek and the flavor it imparts when roasted. Fresh green methi is my all time favorite too. So I went back to check the recipe. Since internet and the search engines are so smart and catch on to what your interests are based on your clicks, I got a couple other links to follow up on the same recipe. That is how I landed on the master chef's blog describing this succulent, delicious side dish. I had to give it a try after such a powerful endorsement, don't you agree?
So methi-papad sabzi (fenugreek seeds and lentil wafers side dish) is apparently a common preparation in Gujarat  and Rajasthan. The exact ingredients vary a little, yes as you can guess the Gujarati preparation will have a strong taste of jaggery that sweetens up the dish compared to its Rajasthani preparation. I stayed the middle course with a little bit of jaggery and the soaked and boiled fenugreek was a treat to eat as were the soft, soggy papad pieces in the subzi. Since this was my first time trying the dish, I made a simple cabbage stir fry which both BH and I love as my insurance incase the subzi was inedible but at the end of the dinner, the subzi pot was clean while cabbage sat there hardly touched :-). Such a successful experiment definitely is worth sharing on the blog, though the pictures aren't of great quality I decided to jump in with this one today. I will update them when I make the recipe again (soon).
Before we go onto the recipe, quick update on where I have been (other than the above stated reasons) - went to visit DD for a a quick weekend, time differences, overnight travel and an already hectic work week left us really tired but extremely contented to be able to hug the little one after 2 solid months. For her part, she checked in with us to the hotel room for the weekend and was happy to devour the gulab jamoons and other goodies we had carried with us. She has settled in, misses us and home but has made friends and is enjoying her classes and other activities. Looking forward to having her home in another 4 weeks or so :-)

Back to the recipe, this is a really simple one to make as long as you remember to soak the fenugreek seeds overnight. Once the soaking part is taken care of, the rest of the process is a breeze.

What do you need to make methi-papad subzi?
1/2 cup fenugreek seeds/methi dana
2-3 regular size papads**
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 pieces of 1 inch cinnamon
1/2 Tsp mustard seeds
1/4 Tsp cumin seeds
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
2 green chilies, finely chopped (deseed them if you prefer mild)
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
1/2 Tsp coriander seeds powder
1/2 Tsp tamarind paste or about 10 kokum pieces
small piece (1/2 Tsp) of jaggery
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
How do you make Methi-papad subzi? 
  • Wash fenugreek seeds in water and soak them in atleast 2 times volume of water overnight. 
  • Drain all the water and pour the seeds into a sauce pan. Add 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt and bring it to a rolling boil. 
  • Switch off and keep aside. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add cinnamon, mustard, cumin seeds and let them crackle. 
  • Add chopped green chilies, asafoetida and onion and saute for a couple of minutes until onion is soft. 
  • Drain the water from the cooked fenugreek, reserve the water and pour the cooked seeds into the pan with onion. 
  • Roast them for a minute and half, add red chili powder, coriander powder and salt and mix well. 
  • Add the reserved water, jaggery, half of chopped cilantro and kokum pieces. If you are using tamarind paste instead add it at this time. 
  • Let kokum soften and give out tartness, it will take about 8-10 minutes of boiling on medium heat. 
  • If the water starts to evaporate, add another half cup. 
  • Taste test and adjust red chili powder, salt or jaggery to taste. 
  • Tear or break the papad (yes they are not roasted or fried) into pieces, keep them atleast 2X2 inches in dimension so they don't dissolve. 
  • Let cook for 2 minutes, switch off and add the remaining cilantro on top. 
  • Let it stand for 10 minutes and serve topped with crunchy, fried papads crushed. 
** Papads are traditional Indian lentil wafers that are usually circular and sun dried. You get different varieties of it in Indian grocery stores. I used my moong dal papad which was in stock but any papad would work too. The texture of cooked papad is that of thin pasta. 

  • I started with kokum pieces alone but as it was not tart enough used a small bit of tamarind paste. Adjust the sourness to taste as this helps mellow down the bitterness of fenugreek also. 
  • Be stingy with salt in this recipe since all papads have a load of salt in them already. If you want to add extra salt, hold until the end and papads have been added. 
  • Jaggery is your preference, increase or decrease as you like. 
  • You can use a chopped tomato in addition to onion, adjust kokum or tamarind quantity if the tomatoes are sour too.
  • Adjust the consistency of the dish based on usage and your preference, mine was moist and semi solid with not much of water. It was great to pick it up with rotis and eat. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Girmit - a North Karnataka special chat that you will keep eating without a break :-)

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
- L.M. Montgomery(Anne of Green Gables)

If someone were to wake me up from deep slumber, take me to a library full of good reads, handed me a basket and asked me to pick my 10 favorite books, "Anne of Green Gables" would definitely be in the basket. There is such a 'cheer me up' factor in that story of the spirited, red haired orphan girl that I can go back to reading it any time. On the other hand, picking 10 favorite books - I am not so sure I can ever do that, you see 10 is a very small number especially when it relates to the world of imagination.
With such vivid tapestry of colors and descriptions, just like the Autumn itself, I love both the book and the heroine of the story. I am sure Anne (spelled with an 'e') with her 'never say die' attitude long before Mr. Bond made it famous continues to tug at many a kindred souls across the world.
And yes, I am so glad we are in October. Although it is hard to believe that we are in the last quarter of the year already, as always the crisp, cold weather accompanying the palette of colors never fails to cheer me up. This is nature's one last chance to do the peacock dance before donning on the grey of winter. This is the time where I no longer wear my head phones while walking or bury my head in the little electronic screen held in hand but rather bundle up and look around to breathe in as many colors as I can. Did you mumble if it was possible to breathe in colors? I bet you can, give it a try.

Ah, onto matters of food, right? That is why you possibly came to a food blog and here I am blabbering about the colors on the trees. Well I had to divert your attention before you asked me, "Where were you? MIA for more than 2 weeks??" :-). Well, I think I had mentioned my visit to the dentist some time back on the blog. Things started all well and dandy and though I hated going to the dentist, I convinced myself that it was a necessary evil. The place I go to is very patient friendly and they actually make you feel welcome (well almost :-)). The first couple of visits were all good and I came to believe that the dentist visits were a no brainer and even relaxed. I know I should have stopped when the going was still good.
After a couple of fillings (this is what probably happens when you don't go to dentists in a decade) and just as I was starting to relax that I was at the end of the road, she found that my wisdom tooth needed a filling too. Going by the fast recovery I had on the 2 fillings thus far, I very bravely signed up for this last one and that is when the trouble started. The pain wouldn't go away for days after the anesthesia wore off and days turned into weeks with shooting pains all over the face. We went to drop DD off at college and the distraction was enough of an excuse for me to postpone my visit to the dentist. I kept glancing longingly at the yummy, crispy favorites that DD brought back from India but unable to eat them, BH kept teasing me as he munched on all of them. Time just marched on without a even a second glance at poor me :-(. Finally, when the pain seemed unbearable even after 6 weeks,  I made time to go back to my dentist. She very sweetly and gently explained that she may have pushed the needle a little too far into my muscle and that there was an infection. Bottom line I had to be on antibiotics for a solid 2 weeks to clear it up.

Finally the silver line at the end of the tunnel became visible and last week I was officially certified clear and good to start using my chewing capabilities as a normal person would do. I am so happy that I have since been constantly chewing and eating my favorite food as though I was a cow :-). And that is why I have this super delicious snack from north Karnataka that not only tantalizes your senses but exercises your mouth too. Girmit is typically eaten during evenings and along with mirchi bajjis (deep dried, gram flour dunked green chilies) on the side and a cup of chai (Indian tea). I skipped the deep fried version of the mirchi and went for a lower calorie alternative I had seen on the internet somewhere and didn't really make tea either. It was so good to be able to finally (after 8 weeks) chew on my food and enjoy the explosion of tastes and textures, ah the simple pleasures of life :-)
If you go to places like Davanagere, you will get this in all the street side shops and temporary shacks too. If you are not familiar with this dish but have eaten the famous 'Bhel puri' from Mumbai (another popular chat from India) then I would say this resembles Bhel in spirit but the taste is entirely different and made with different ingredients. If you are now totally lost since you didn't know what Bhel was, here is a break down of the dish for you - it is made with crisp, puffed rice called puri in Kannada, seasoned with onions, tomatoes and green chilies, flavored with loads of fresh cilantro and crunchy peanuts to round off the experience. You do not want to miss this and if you are not close to Davanagere, don't fret, I am not either. Follow this easy recipe and enjoy at in the comfort of your own home :-).

I love everything about chats, they are my favorite kinds of food. I can eat them any time and every time. Girmit is one of my favorite chats in this genre after ofcourse the Mysore churmuri and ties right with Bhel puri :-).

What do you need to make Girmit? 
Quantities below are good for 2 adults
6-7 cups of puffed rice or puri*
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomatoes
small lemon sized tamarind
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3-4 green chilies (adjust to taste) - chopped into small pieces
1 heaped Tbsp pappula podi
6-8 curry leaves
2-2.5 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
To garnish: 
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp chopped tomato
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2-4 whole green chilies slit vertically - optional but you will miss a great experience without this :-)

How do you make Girmit? 
  • Soak tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes, squeeze out the pit, seeds and extract the juice. Keep it aside until ready to use. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add the chilies from 'garnish'  
  • Stir and roast for a minute or so or until the chilies develop blisters on the surface. 
  • Take them onto a plate, sprinkle a pinch of salt and keep aside. This is to be eaten along with girmit :-)
  • In the same oil, add mustard, cumin. 
  • Let the mustard pop, add the chopped green chilies & curry leaves.
  • Let this cook for a minute before adding chopped onions. 
  • Add salt, turmeric powder and asafoetida and let roast until onion starts to sweat. 
  • Add chopped tomatoes and cook for a minute. 
  • Add the tamarind juice and let it all cook together for another 3-4 minutes until the raw smell of tamarind is gone. 
  • Taste and check, adjust salt, green chilies and tamarind if needed. Remember it needs to be a little stronger in flavors as it gets diluted when you add it to the puri. 
  • Add the pappula podi at this stage along with chopped cilantro. Give a good mix and switch off the stove. 
  • Let the mixture cool slightly. 
  • Take the puffed rice and roasted peanuts in a deep bowl. 
  • Add the cooked mixture and with the help of a spatula, mix it all together in a rotating motion (The word 'girmit' comes because of the way the vendors mix this dish in a deep vessel so the puffed rice doesn't fly around and turn the vessel in a circle imitating the childhood game where kids hold hands and go around in circle) until every grain of puffed rice is coated with the mixture. 
  • Serve it into a bowl, top it with chopped onions, tomaotoes, cilantro and a side of the oil roasted green chilies :-) 
  • Fresher the puri (puffed rice) is, better this snack tastes. So I crisp up the store bought puffed rice in a heavy bottom pan on a very low heat for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can spread the measured quantity in a thin layer on cookie sheets and leave them in a preheated to 350 degree for 10 minutes. Switch off the oven before you place the cookie sheets and check once or twice in between to ensure it doesn't burn. 
  • If you do not have the pappula podi at home, grind 2 Tbsp of roasted chana or chutney dal into a fine powder along with 1/4 Tsp of cumin.
  • Adding the powder not only adds taste but also absorbs moisture preventing the dish from becoming soggy quickly.  
  • I used the store bought dry roasted, salted peanuts. You can roast peanuts at home and use them in this recipe too.  
  • The green chilies are to be added based on their quality and your tolerance for spices, do not yell at me if the chilies you used are very spicy as some of them are :-)
  • Skip the chilies on the side if it is too spicy for you. 
  • If you can find the green byadagi chilies (these are long, slender and usually curved and are less spicy than the Thai varieties), use them. They make the dish very tasty.