Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baalekaayi Dose (Plantain dosa) - meet this delicious coastal Karnataka special!

"A child hugs everyone until an adult teaches it not to" ~ unknown
I sit down after a normal Sunday of chores & activities, looking at the hundreds of pictures I have taken and copied to folders, neatly arranged by the dish name, waiting for me to pick one and start writing.. I spend some time trying to pick the one dish that talks to me today, the one that I can talk about today with you all. I do choose what I want to blog about. But just as I start to catch the floating thoughts in my head, all that comes out as I try to hit the keys on my keyboard are jumbled words, nothing related to the recipe but everything related to the world around me, around us..

I sat staring at the screen for an hour, tried to take a break by doing something else, tried to organize thoughts by doing mundane tasks such as prepping for tomorrow's work day lunch, spending time on enhancing the pics, watermarking them etc but I knew in my heart that I wanted to say something different and far away from the recipe I chose to blog about today. I don't usually let things happening around me take control of my emotions but sometimes it is hard not to respond to what is happening around me. Every day this past week, I have woken up to read/hear about some incident, from Dhaka to Texas to Louisiana to France. People are hurting and it doesn't matter whether you white, black, male, female, adult or child. 4 college students lost their lives in this unreasonable violence, 4 young lives with hopes and aspirations, budding spirits just went away before it was time. Black & white family men lost their lives leaving young children and wives behind to tend to a life of memories and loneliness. I strongly believe that every life matters and deserves respect, irrespective of where you come from, what your religious beliefs are and the color of your skin. Let us teach the children to appreciate diversity, accept differences and embrace everyone as they are. My prayers for each of the families trying to face the grief due to the loss of a loved one. I am in general a very hopeful, positive person and believe that there is a lot of good in everybody, hope it finds the strength to prevail over violence.
I have a very simple recipe today, if you are a dose (dosa) lover, you will like this version. I saw this a few years back in the blogosphere, that was before I was a blogger. I have talked to my Mangalorean friends since then and learnt that it is a very common dose in the coastal homes since banana is grown in plenty in every backyard and most every part of the plant finds its way into the kitchen and into a recipe. A dose made with raw banana intrigued me and I tried it. The flavor is so fresh and the dose so tasty, we got hooked on it. Whats more, it is very easy to put together (soak, grind and pour) and doesn't require any fermentation at all. You can make this for breakfast, lunch or dinner as it can be as light or as filling as you want it to be. The traditional version has rice in it and just adds the chopped plantain. Over the years, I have made up my own version of this recipe by adding a little bit of urad dal (for the soft texture) and methi/fenugreek seeds as it is generally added to dose batter and brings a nice hue when dose is cooked. You can skip these and stick to the rice, plantain, salt version if you prefer. One of my friends adds 1/2 cup of shredded fresh coconut which also lends an undeniable sweet taste and soft texture to the dose.
Baalekaayi or raw banana/plantain is one of my favorite vegetables, and I always end up getting them from the grocery store if they look fresh. This versatile vegetable can go into the recipe all by itself or pair up and play nicely with others. You can find many of my favorite recipes using this vegetable on the blog here, here, here, here, and here :-). We have always had these plants in the backyard in Mysore and mostly grew the ripe fruit variety at home. I only have ornamental plants in pots here as the weather doesn't allow me to put them in the ground. They move in to the house as the cooler months come by but stay outdoors and sway happily during summer. Fruits or not, I love the plant just like that so they are here to stay with us..
What do you need? 
1 big plantain/green banana
1 cup quinoa*
3/4 cup millet (sawa or foxtail)*
1 tsp urad dal
1/4 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3-4 green chilies
2-3 Tsp oil to roast dose
* Look in the notes for replacing it with rice
How do you make Baalekaayi dose? 
  • Wash quinoa and millet in a couple washes of water. 
  • Soak them together for 4-5 hours
  • Wash, pat dry the plantain. 
  • Remove the ends and peel the plantain.
  • Chop into bite sized pieces. 
  • Drain the water, take it to a blender along with the green chilies. 
  • Grind into a coarse paste with 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Add the chopped plantain pieces and grind to a smooth paste. 
  • Add water if needed and bring the consistency to a pouring liquid (imagine a thick buttermilk)
  • Add salt, mix well and let it sit for about 10 minutes. 
  • Heat the dose griddle, add a drop or two of oil on the pan. Take a piece of paper towel and rub down the oil evenly on the surface of the griddle. 
  • Mix the batter, take a ladleful and pour it in the center of the griddle, using the back of the griddle and in a circular motion, spread the dose to a nice, round circle. 
  • Add a couple drops of oil around the surface of the dose and let it cook for a minute and half until the bottom side cooks well and turns golden in color. 
  • Using a spatula, slowly nudge the dose from the edges and remove it from the griddle. 
  • If you want to, you can cook it on both sides. Fold the dose in half and serve with your choice of chutney or pudi :-)
  • Traditionally this dose is made with rice as it is the grain of choice in Karnataka, I replaced it with a combination of quinoa & millet. If you want rice, use 2 cups of rice instead. Rest of the procedure is same. 
  • Green chilies add a tiny hint of spice, if you are making it for children or don't like chilies, reduce or skip them together.
  • I sometimes add some fresh cilantro or ginger while grinding to make it flavorful. 
  • Taste in this dose comes from the plantain, choose green skinned, firm plantains in the recipe. 
  • I use my cast iron pan for making dose, it is well seasoned by years of use and hardly needs extra oil to roast dose and gives a bright golden color to the dose. 
Tips for making good colored dose: 
  • Use heavy cast iron pan if possible. 
  • Heat the pan well, when you sprinkle a few drops of water, it should sizzle furiously. 
  • Rub the surface of the pan with a chopped piece of onion before you ladle out the batter. 
  • Reduce heat to medium while you pour the batter and once done, increase the heat. 
  • Some doses are cooked on one side only while others are roasted on both sides. 
  • Thickness (or thinness) of dose is a personal choice. Thinner ones are for people that enjoy crispy doses while thicker ones are for those who love the soft, velvety texture :-)
  • Adding 1/2 Tsp of sugar brings the golden color in dose, if you are ok with the extra sugar, go ahead. 
This is how BH likes to make this dose :-)
He was preparing it on a weekday morning and I usually wrap the breakfast to go, so he made my dose, slathered it with loads of chutney pudi, deep roasted it and rolled it for easy handling and eating once I reach work. Ah I am blessed!!
Pour the batter, add a liberal dose of chutney pudi on top. Let it cook

Once the bottom is golden brown, flip it over and let the other side get hot for a few secs

Take it onto a foil, roll it! I gobble it after I reach work and ready to eat bf

Sunday, July 10, 2016

In the land of royalty - Of Queens, Kings, Palaces, Guards, unparalleled history and ofcourse Brextit

I pulled another disappearing act on everyone, didn't I? Although I knew I would be away from the blog for a little while, didn't realize it would actually take me this long to get back. Life I guess is after all about the kinetic and potential energy, you keep moving and you make progress, you rest and you stagnate. So, first of all, apologies especially to those lovely people who are ever patient with me and my blog. I feel humbled that some of you think my tiny blog is worth your time. For all your love, here I am with a bowl of super delicious stoup(soup + Stew) made typical South Indian style with south indian spices..

But before we go off to the easy, delicious comfort food recipe, I thought I would do my general chitchat. As always, if you are here just for the recipe, scroll down all the way until it says "What do you need..", otherwise stay and read on.Since it has been a while, obviously many things have happened, some I am eager to share, some I am ok to leave alone.. had a totally unexpected visit from a grade school friend (Whatsapp zindabad), had cousins visit me in my remote neck of woods, went on a quick and wonderful holiday to a place I had never been to before in life. Knowing how talkative I can be, I will choose one of the events for the post today, hopefully you will find the information useful and the writing engaging :-)

As I already titled the post, I think I know which one I am going to talk about today :-). We made a trip to the land of royalty recently and oh boy I liked it, everything from the historical palaces to the beautiful sights to wonderful cosmopolitan that London is, I enjoyed every minute of the week we spent there. But then, I was equally happy to come back to the place I have grown to fondly call home in the last decade and half.
It was the week before Brexit happened and I lost many pounds (Oh yes, you have heard that joke more than you want to by now, this is what happens when I take my sweet time to get back to life). While there was undercurrents of what might happen, the surface was all calm and for my 'touristy' pair of eyes, there was nothing to burst my holiday bubble and so we had a gala time.
My experiences in London, these are strictly built on a week long experience of a traveler and should be taken as such, I don't claim by any means to have understood London or its ways .., here are some traveler tips I thought might be useful -
  • Very easy and convenient Tube (underground train) system that will let you travel from one part of London to the other as you wish. Buy an Oyster card when you land and load it with anything between 20 & 30 pounds, you can easily travel for a couple of days before you need to reload which again is very easy and available at the entrance of every tube station. If you don't use up all the money you put in, just claim cash back when you leave.
  • London is like Bengaluru where it is hard to find locals but is full of people from all over, we met folks that spoke many different languages and from varied background. It was a little confusing to decide which side of the sidewalk you should be on when there is traffic coming from the opposite direction :-) since there were people that were used to left hand and right hand traffic. It was fun though just walking.
  • If you are a short term visitor, go ahead and invest in the London Pass. There are many places and sights to visit that come bundled into it and saves a lot of time and energy in figuring out things individually. 
  • If you are a theater fan, do not (I repeat 'do not') miss an opportunity to catch a show, the tickets are not cheap by any means but live theater is an experience you can't beat easily. 
  • Every public place offers you some amount of walking since elevators and escalators are not everywhere, be prepared to walk. Not all tube stations are hands free (another term for stairs instead of escalators), so you invariably have to walk. I certainly did more than my daily goal of steps that week. 
  • Public Toilets (Rest rooms) are hard to come by, I have grown used to this idea of rest rooms accessibility in the US over the years and chuckled when you had to push in a coin to get entry into a rest room (provided you found one) when we were out. If you are travelling with young children, plan ahead. 
  • Drinking water - again a rare commodity when it comes to drinking water faucets and fountains. It may be because not many people drink water but our family is like a camel when it comes to water, we drink a lot and store a lot. After the first day, we made sure we carried bottles of water from home to last us the entire day. 
  • Weather was great, temperature was in very pleasant 70s splashed with occasional showers but nothing to burst the holiday bubble. Oh, carry an umbrella always, so you are covered if need be. 
  • Food portions are smaller than what you are used to if you are travelling from the US and the bill is heavier than what you would expect here. People expect you to order more than one dish when you are at a restaurant and if you are hungry which you will be after all the walking and sight seeing, you will need more :-). London city seemed to be definitely catering to a vast group of health aficionados, it is easy to find healthy food everywhere.  
  • Smoking is rampant through out the city, I must have inhaled atleast a few cigarettes worth of smoke myself just by secondary smoking. I didn't notice any marked 'no smoking' zones which could be a deterrent.
  • For all the hype we had heard about getting the best Indian food in London (every friend and acquaintance I had mentioned about this trip would tell me how good Indian food is in London), we didn't find any that lived up to the great promise we had. There was a Woodlands we went to that was pretty decent. My guess is we didn't search enough as we were happy eating other food and were satisfied too :-), So no food/restaurant reviews from me :-)
  • All brand name stores were pretty much from the US, since we weren't planning to shop much at all except for the souvenirs, we mostly stuck to the small, local gift shops in the area we were visiting. I didn't do much shopping, got loads of British Tea (from Assam ofcourse :-)) and little souvenirs for friends and family. Then there was delicious Swiss chocolates too :-)
Windsor castle and it was one of those cars the Queen stepped into !
We did get to see the queen (from afar though :-)) as she stepped out of the castle and into a car at the head of a motorcade in Windsor, DD has a better version of how there were more than one person dressed as the queen just to act as decoys but then she was thinking Harry Potter :-), We did go and stand in the lines and crowd to watch the Buckingham palace 'change of guards' ceremony but I thought it wasn't a big deal given the crowd, wait times and the visibility to the ceremony, let me not discourage any of you if you are planning to go. I loved the outings where the air was a little more easy to breathe in and outdoors that were not packed as much. If you get a chance to visit the city, go ahead and I guarantee you will have a great time. For me personally, it was visiting all the historical land marks I had read long time back in grade school and also a chance to see upclose a country and its people that influenced and changed India in both good and not-so-good ways. 

If you held a hope all along that there was a recipe worth all this chatter, you won't be disappointed at all. On to simple, every day, common man summer pleasures  ..
I came back home, a little tired to do much and this is what greets me in the backyard :-),
And yes, taht is Flora's face in the corner, she was helping me pick the greens :-)
A beautiful bouquet of tender green Amaranth (Dantina soppu) leaves. There are two varieties of the greens, one has green color all over the leaf and the other has tender red veins on the leaves. I love both and mine is the green one. Since we had travel planned in the summer, this year we decided not to do our annual summer kitchen garden, just didn't feel like orphaning the plants to the Sun when we went traipsing around the world. But nature really cannot be curbed or subdued by human plans and these amaranth plants sprouted up out of the seeds I had thrown in 2 years back. They are very hardy and can keep their sensible heads well under ground during the chilly months and then rise from the soil as soon as it warms up. Last year, we controlled them in the patch to make way for the other vegetables we planted but this year they were on their own, pretty much unruly children in the absence of parents and thrived well as the weather hasn't gotten too hot at all.

I saw the promise of the greens just before we left for the holiday but was too busy to think about them for long. And when we came back, here they were, fully mature to be picked and yet very tender and fresh. We had stopped on the way from the airport to pick up some groceries and I found these fresh, green garbanzo (called soppina kadale in kannada) in the store. Picked a pound of it and when I saw the greens at home, all I wanted was a bowl of comforting, homely, hearty soup made South Indian style. Well, we call it soppina huli (soppu=greens, huli=stew made with vegetables and tamarind with a mixture of ground spices). It was a perfect home coming meal loaded with greens and proteins. Didn't need anything else but used some rotis as props for the picture :-).
Some of you have asked me for the recipe of huli pudi (also known as sambar powder, the signature dish from the south of India) and I haven't got to it yet. I will write a post on it soon, I promise. But in the mean time, this recipe will teach you how to make one kind of sambar and the spice mixture that goes into it. For this particular one, I didn't use any lentils, so it may not qualify as Huli/sambar for some of you who are used to having cooked lentils in them, coconut and the dals in the spice mix provide the needed base. Nammamma made the soppina huli without lentils some times and a slightly thicker consistency so it was a great dip for raagi mudde or chapatis. A break from toor dal once in a while is acceptable :-) but if you are a real hard core sambar with lentils fan, go ahead and add a cup of cooked, mashed toor dal into it. You can replace the greens and beans combo with any vegetable of choice.

What do you need to make soppina huli? 
3-4 packed cups of amaranth leaves (dantina soppu, thotakura)
1 cup shelled green garbanzo (or peas) - skip it if you don't have it
1 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp chopped onion
1 small tomato chopped
key lime size tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes
Salt to taste
1/2 Tsp crushed jaggery or brown sugar
Spice (masala) mix: 
2 Tbsp chana dal
1/2 Tsp urad dal
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 inch piece cinnamon
2 cloves
1/2 Tsp black pepper
3-4 dry red chilies
5-7 curry leaves
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds (optional but increases flavor)
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make Soppina Huli? 
  • Wash the greens in 2-3 washes of water, let the water drain and chop them into small pieces. 
  • Shell the garbanzo if you are using and thaw frozen peas.
  • Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water to get the extract. 
  • Heat a pan, add 1 Tbsp oil and add all the ingredients listed under spice mix and roast on low heat for about 2-3 minutes until you get a nice aroma from the spices and the dals turn golden pink.
  • Add chopped tomato and stir in for a minute or two until tomato breaks down and loses the raw smell. 
  • Switch off and let cool. 
  • Heat a wide bottom pan with 2 cups of water, add the chopped greens and garbanzo and salt. 
  • Let it cook for about 10-12 minutes until the greens wilt and the beans become soft to taste. 
  • Squeeze the tamarind, extract the juice, discard all the pith and seeds. 
  • Add the tamarind extract to cooked greens and let it boil for about 5 mins to lose the raw smell. 
  • Take all the roasted ingredients along with chopped onion and coconut to a blender, add 1/2 cup of water and grind to a smooth paste. 
  • Add the ground masala to the greens mixture. If you are using cooked toor dal, mash it and add it at this stage. 
  • Add jaggery. 
  • Let everything come together and boil for a good 5-7 minutes. 
  • Prepare the seasoning by heating oil in a small pan, add mustard, fenugreek (if using) and asafoetida. When mustard pops, switch off and pour it on the greens mixture. 
  • Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Greens is the star of this recipe, use packed cups to measure and use tender greens instead of the mature, dry ones. 
  • If you plan to add toor dal, reduce the chana dal in the spice mix to half unless you like a really thick consistency. 
  • I add tomato to give body to the gravy and also for the taste, you can avoid it and get the sour taste from just the tamarind.
  • I added the fresh garbanzo as I had them on hand, don't fret if you don't have them. Use fresh peas if in season, they taste good too. The huli with just the greens tastes awesome as well.