Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hariyali Cutlet with ragda a.k.a green cutlet with gravy - A Spring inspired chat :-)

It is a very typical early spring day. The soft pitter patter of the rains outside my bedroom windows, the stillness that comes with the rains as it falls in a steady stream downwards, a stray bird getting mischievously wet as it puts its head out of its hiding, the fat squirrel that comes out of its burrow looking for a nut rushes back home when the water falls on its body in torrents, the trees shaking their body and swaying with the wind as it accompanies the rain. How can anyone not enjoy this musical & magical picture of the nature? This weather invariably makes me ache and long for a summer from the past where everything I see today would be present along with the intoxicating fragrance of the earth. Indian summers are hot and when the monsoon finally arrives the soil is so dry and thirsty, it seems to immediately drink up the water from above in return releasing a heady fragrance as if saying thanks! What was different in the long ago summer I long for was that I was a carefree, grade school girl with no responsibilities of my own. I had parents and older siblings to take care of my every need and much more. Much as I miss those days, I am equally happy where I am and who I am today too. The rains just remind me of everything, the gains and the losses, that has happened in these years.
Spring is the time for everything comes alive and grow anew. Our neighbors have 2 little girls that I get to see mostly when the weather is warm. With the busy schedule of 2 working parents, the routine is mostly pre school care, school and after school care. So by the time they reach home, it is dark outside and the kids are hungry for dinner. Like everyone else, we get inside the nest for the rest of the evening. But spring and summer are a different story. I get to see kids come out with their bicycles or balls to play in the open area infront of the house. The littler of the 2 little girls who had just started walking last year this time is trying out her older sister's bike with training wheels while the older one has graduated to independently cycling away on her merry way. They both have grown a couple of inches taller and the older one is not as shy any more when she greets me as I get off the car in the drive way and sometimes asks "How is your daughter doing? Where is she now"?. She remembers her from the couple of baby sitting times they had together :-). And I just feel awed by this magic of life that enables everything and everyone to grow and grow up.

As the girls tire of their biking, they run back to their drive way where the proud parents are watching, screaming for snacks and treats. No such luxury for me, grown up as I am, I just have to get up and make a treat myself if I want to eat something :-). The weather certainly calls for something spicy, hot and tasty and I am going to get something that is spicy, hot and tasty. I made these haryali cutlets and served it up as a chat with the spicy gravy keeping in tune with the nature's green theme around me. Well, in truth I had made these a couple of weeks back when DD was home but couldn't take any pictures since the kids were all hungry and attacked the plates as soon as it got to the dining table. So I had to make it again for the sake of the blog and I was more than happy to oblige :-)

Cutlets are the favored finger foods present in some form or the other in most major cuisines of the world. You see the kabobs of the middle east, crab cakes of the western world, tikkis of native India and the cutlets of modern India - they all have their seed in the same concept though the ingredients, shape, color, recipe differ based on the chef and the mood of the day.
We tried this haryali or hariyali (literally meaning 'green') cutlet in a restaurant once long time ago and fell in love with it. It was the deep fried version and was very different from the regular aloo tikkis (potato patties) and the vegetable cutlets. I have seen many, many variations of the haryali cutlets or hara bhara kabobs on the web and also in the restaurants since it seems to be a much loved favorite of many people. The hara bhara kabob is pretty similar to what I have today but sometimes may have paneer or Indian cottage cheese stuffed inside the kabob/cutlet dough before it is fried which opens up to a gooey goodness when you cut into it. That is why it is called a hara (~green), bhara (~stuffed) kabob. It is a must try for all hard core paneer fans.

I made the non stuffed version as I wanted to serve it as a chat (takes it many a notches up from the plain cutlet - is my personal opinion :-)). Unlike other cutlets which are loaded with spuds, this one uses the tuber as just a binding agent and in minimal quantity. The resulting cutlet is light, airy and crispy with loads of spinach goodness. Yes, you heard it right, this is a cutlet based almost entirely on the spinach foundation, you will be consuming your daily requirement of iron with 2 of these cutlets (I exaggerated a bit and I am not a qualified nutritionist, so I made up the statement about the iron content :-), but it is all good green stuff). Although the expert chefs on the web were in harmony when they said the haryali kabob tastes best when deep fried, I am glad to have proven them wrong with my delicious 'shallow fried in pan' kabobs. If you want to expend some additional oily calories, go ahead and deep fry but I can assure you that you won't lose any taste with the pan fried method instead will also preserve the green goodness.
The only thing you want to keep in mind with this recipe is to have as less moisture content in the mixture as possible. I have given some tips along with the procedure to do this. I have told you how I prepared my spinach which hardly lets out any water. You can also blanch and squeeze the water out (in which case you will be taking out some of the nutrients of the mighty spinach). Potato is just present to provide that binding so the cutlet is not crumbly, do not overdo the spuds (however much you love them) in this recipe. The mint and the ginger add a heavenly flavor to the cutlet. Try this recipe and let me know how you liked it. And you don't really have to wait for the rainy season to enjoy this chat, any time is good too.
What do you need to make Hariyali cutlet chat?
For the cutlets 
Makes about 12 cutlets
250gm of spinach leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
1 inch piece fresh ginger
3-4 green chilies (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3/4 cup cooked green peas
1 medium sized potato boiled and mashed
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
2 Tbsp oil to pan fry cutlets

For the gravy
2 cups dry green peas
1 tomato chopped
1 small onion chopped
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
1/2 Tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1/2 Tsp garam masala powder
To grind: 
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1 inch piece ginger
2 cloves garlic
2 1-inch piece cinnamon
3-4 cloves
2-3 green chilies

For assembling the chat: 
Tamarind-date chutney
finely chopped onion
finely chopped tomato
finely chopped cilantro
roasted cumin powder
red chili powder
fine sev to garnish

How do you make Hariyali cutlet chat? 
Making Haryali cutlets:
  • Wash, clean and pat dry spinach leaves, chop them roughly. 
  • Heat a wide pan on medium heat. 
  • Turn the heat to high, add the spinach leaves into the pan (no water or oil and definitely no salt at this time), stir and saute for 3-5 minutes until the leaves wilt and shrink. 
  • Since we do not add any salt or oil, the water from the leaves is less and almost insignificant. 
  • Switch off and transfer the cooked leaves to a bowl. 
  • Take the green chilies & ginger in a blender jar and grind to a smooth paste. 
  • Add cooked green peas and salt into the jar and pulse a couple of times to make a coarse pulp. 
  • Take this mixture into the same bowl with spinach leaves. 
  • Add boiled, mashed potatoes, chopped mint & cilantro. Mix well and taste test. Adjust salt as needed. 
  • Cover and keep the mixture in the refrigerator for atleast 30 minutes for it to firm up. 
  • After 30 minutes, take the mixture out, add the bread crumbs in spoonfuls and mix together. 
  • 1/2 cup of crumbs give a nice taste but make sure you don't add a lot more than that - for one, it takes away the rich green color, secondly the cutlet loses the spinach taste.  
  • Take golf ball sized dough, shape into a patty. Repeat for all of the dough. 
  • Heat a flat gridle or pan, add a Tbsp of oil and spread it evenly. 
  • Put the patties on the griddle (as many as the griddle can accomodate at a time) and roast for 2 minutes on each side or until they develop a light brown crust. 
  • Take them out to a plate. You can eat them as is at this stage, serve warm with some ketchup on the side. 
  • If you want the full experience, keep reading to make the gravy and assemble the chat :-)
Making the gravy (I have a slightly different variation of the gravy here and here, you can use any of these or the one below for this chat): 
  • Soak the dry, green peas overnight in plenty of water. 
  • Cook the soaked peas with 2 cups of water for just one whistle in a pressure cooker or until fork tender if you are cooking in an open pot. 
  • Chop onion and tomato finely. 
  • Grind all the ingredients listed under 'To grind' in the gravy section along with 1/2 cup of cooked peas and 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Heat a pan with oil, add cumin seeds and let it sizzle. 
  • Add chopped onion and let it sweat for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and cook until the mixture is mushy (3-4 minutes)
  • Add the ground masala and cook for 2 minutes until the raw smell disappears. 
  • Add the remaining cooked peas, mash them slightly with the back of your ladle or a potato masher
  • Add 2 cups of water and the dry masala powders (red chili, garam masala & amchoor) and let it come to a boil. 
  • Switch off and let it rest until ready to use. 
Assembling Hariyali Chat: 
  • Keep the gravy piping hot and the cutlets warm. 
  • Take your serving dish and place a cutlet in the center. 
  • Sprinkle some chopped onion, tomato, red chili powder and roasted cumin powder (all of this is according to taste)
  • Add the tamarind date chutney on top. 
  • Pour about 1/2 cup of the piping hot gravy on top of this. 
  • Garnish with more onion, cilantro and sev. 
  • Enjoy it when it is hot :-). Go back and reassemble another plate, and keep going until you can eat no more :-)
  • Since I used the dry green peas for the gravy, I just scooped out about 3/4 cup of the cooked peas to use in cutlets. If you are planning to serve cutlets without gravy, you can use frozen peas as well. Thaw them to room temperature and pulse them to a coarse mixture in the blender. 
  • You can add boiled, mashed sweet potato instead of regular potatoes in this recipe. 
  • You can use bread slices in the recipe instead of crumbs/panko. Just remove the edges, tear 2 slices of bread into pieces and incorporate them in the mixture. This soaks up any extra moisture and also gives binding to the cutlet dough. 
  • I use the triple washed, ready to use baby spinach. If you are using bulk spinach, pick and discard any thick stems. Use only the leaves in this recipe. 
  • You can add other greens such as methi (fenugreek) or kale if you like.
  • You can put the spinach leaves in boiling water for couple of minutes to blanch, strain and take out all the water and use only the cooked leaves to the above method. 
  • If you are short on time and cannot afford to refrigerate the dough, you may need to add a little more bread crumbs/bread. 
  • I have given 3 different variations of the gravy with links, choose whatever appeals to you. I used green peas to keep with the theme of 'haryali'. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gongura (Sorrel leaves) Pappu - exotic comfort made super easy

Didn't I show you my front yard beauties just a couple of weeks back as they popped up along with spring? The flowers are so many now the little tree is bent heavily towards the ground with the weight but still proudly showing off the seasonal bounty. We lost an hour last weekend as most part of US of A sprung forward making me grouchier than normal on the following Monday morning. We were playing board games with DD and a cousin well into the midnight on Saturday and by the time we turned in we had already lost the hour :-(. Oh well, never mind my whining, I do this every spring. You are all such good listeners that I don't have to worry about getting chided :-). The past week has helped catch up some sleep and also tame the body clock so it is like the time change never(almost) happened :-). And the cheery weather always makes me a chirpy, cheerful girl, so all is good!!
Last week was also spring break for the little girl, she was home and we had a great time together though both parents were incessantly coughing and sneezing on the kiddo for the entire week. Kashaya brewed non stop on the stove, cooking was lack luster on the days when the allergies and germs took over the best of me but we fought it back as well as we could. Tired that she was and happy to be home, DD slept through oblivious for most part. I am thankful the germs didn't get transferred to the little one and she went back to school safe and well. By the time she was getting ready to leave I was back to usual self and was able to cook the stuff she loves most and also get some things ready for her to take.

Now that we are back to being the twosome, BH & I threw ourselves in front of the big screen to watch a few movies. "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter" - is an old saying you repeatedly hear but somehow it seemed way more powerful coming from a 5 year old in the movie "Room". This movie made it to Oscars with Brie Larson taking home the well deserved Best Actress award recently. She makes the movie come alive and gut wrenching as does little Tremblay. If I had seen this movie some years ago when I was naive, low on worldly reality, I would have dismissed it as a movie maker's far fetched imagination running wild. Having seen multiple news coverage on similar incidences, I have sadly come to believe people do exist in this world that are capable of doing unimaginable damage to another fellow human being.
The movie is about a young adbucted girl and forced to confinement in a backyard shed for 7 years. She gives birth to a son and they live in the 'room' until the mom plots an escape with her 5 year old. Rest of the movie is about their adjustment to the 'world' as they call it and the never stopping happenings in the world. All I could think of was the unstoppable resilience in the human nature and the hope to overcome hurdles. By no means a light Saturday watch but if it makes someone take positive action to prevent such incidences in the society, it makes it for a well spent 2 hours.

I didn't mean to spoil anybody's appetite, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Let us not forget that most people are kind but be wary of the unkind ones as you send your loved ones out. Spread the love not the meanness.

Marrying into a Telugu family also meant embracing dal or pappu as my soul food. No daily meal is complete without this on the menu. Though I grew up with a protein rich side dish in the form of saaru, huli, tovve etc, eating pappu on a regular basis came only after the marriage :-). Luckily for me, I love lentils and BH is open to experimentation so our food has a much wider variety in terms of lentils used and how they are cooked. Pappu - the quintessential staple of Andhra cuisine which is essentially a concentrated dose of either toor(split pigeon peas) or moong (green gram) dal is the region's response to the dals from the North of India. Andhra kitchens boast of a variety of pappus ranging from plain, roasted dals to exotic variations.
Gongura are the green leaves that are sour/tangy by nature. Pachadi made with these leaves is a delicacy in Andhra. I generally end up making gongura pachadi (a few different ways) whenever I get these leaves home. Of late, our rice consumption during the weekdays is so low that the pachadi gets eaten happily the day I make them (usually weekends and we have rice for lunch) and the rest goes into the refrigerator and becomes that invisible container. And after a few days of ignoring, the freshness is lost, and finally I either force serve it with everything I make or it ends up in the green trash :-(. So one fine day, I decided that I would not succumb to the lure of the pachadi but will try the pappu instead. It was such a hit that I had to ask myself why I hadn't made it before. Needless to say, this pappu is a regular feature in the kitchen now and BH simply loves to eat it from a bowl, no sides (or mains) needed for him to enjoy this :-)

I make most of the pappu variations on a regular basis but some of them are better favorites than others at home. Today's Gongura pappu or dal with sorrel leaves is one such item.  Some bravehearts add additional tamarind juice to this pappu but we are happy with the tang from the leaves itself. You need to balance the salt and spices with the tangyness from the gongura in this dal for it to be really delicious, otherwise you will end up with a super tart pappu. Andhra cooking is also unique in that we use green and red (dry) chilies together in a lot of recipes, the flavors and taste they impart are different and I do this especially in pachadis and pappus. Sauteed in oil, these do not increase the spiciness a lot, so I also use a little bit of red chili powder at the end. Feel free to cut down on or eliminate any of these 3 heat sources from the recipe to suit your taste.
With today's recipe, I have also added a clove of garlic (which if you are a regular reader here will recognize as an ingredient I don't often use) as I am trying to incorporate into my cooking slowly as I keep hearing its health benefits. The fact that BH loves it makes an added incentive. As I gingerly put my feet into the world of garlic, I chose to add just a little and in a form that doesn't release too much flavor and smell. Cutting it into slices versus making a paste makes the flavor mild and I could easily pass the pieces onto BH's plate when they showed up in mine :-). I kinda liked the very slight hint of garlic, so there is still hope for me (becoming a garlic lover someday) in this world :-). If you don't like it, by all means omit it, doesn't affect the taste of the dish.

What do you need to make Gongura pappu? 
3/4 cup toor dal
1 Tbsp chana dal
2 packed cups chopped gongura leaves
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 garlic clove sliced vertically (optional)
1 dry red chili - broken into pieces
2 green chilies
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tsp chana dal
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
Garnish on top:
1/2 Tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 Tsp red chili powder (adjust to spice tolerance)
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make Gongura pappu? 
  • Pick leaves from the stalks, wash thoroughly and let the water drain
  • Wash the 2 dals in water, pick any dirt, add 2 drops of oil and turmeric powder. 
  • Pressure cook with 1.5 cups of water until soft. 
  • I start the cooking at medium high and after the first whistle, simmer down the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. If you are more familiar by the number of whistles, use that method. 
  • Switch off and let the pressure subside. 
  • Heat a wide wok or pan, add the oil followed by mustard, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and the chilies. Slit the green chilies before adding to avoid its popping. 
  • Once the mustard pops and the dal turns golden, add garlic slices if using and the thinly sliced onion. 
  • Saute for 1-2 mins until onion sweats a little and turns translucent. 
  • Add chopped gongura leaves and stir it in. 
  • Saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently until the leaves wilt and become mushy. 
  • Add cooked dal, a cup of water and mix everything together. 
  • Adjust the consistency with additional water if you like. 
  • Add salt and let the dal come to a good rolling boil. Switch off. 
  • Heat a small pan with ghee in it, once the ghee is hot, reduce the flame and add red chili powder and asafoetida. 
  • Switch off and pour this on top of the dal, cover the vessel and let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring everything together. 
  • We ate this tangy, spicy pappu with undrallu made with red matta rice. Super delicious :-)
  • Toor dal tends to get mashed up completely and I like my dal to have a texture. Adding a spoon of chana dal gives that texture I am looking for. You can make the dish with only toor dal also.  
  • Indian cooking uses pressure cooker very effectively for lentils, if you do not own one you can cook the dals in open vessel on medium heat for about an hour. Use slow cooker as another alternative. 
  • If you are cooking in an open vessel, it helps to soften the lentils by soaking it in water for 30mins to an hour before cooking. 
  • You can skip onion and garlic in this recipe if you prefer, I like onion in my dals and usually add them.