Simmer and Stew - Khatkhate

Most regional cuisines have a dish that utilises a variety of vegetables in one go - avial, undhiyu, kurma to name a few. Khatkhate is our take on the same comforting classic. The name is onomatopoeic - 'khatkhatney" means to simmer or bubble at boiling point. Names of some Konkani dishes can really bring a smile to your face. I think our ancestors let their creativity loose when it came to naming dishes. Khatkhate, val val and chowchow are but a few examples of this talent!

Khatkhate was always a part of the Ganesh chaturthi lunch at my grandparents' house, made with root vegetables available during the season. As a child I used to drown it in yogurt because five different vegetables were a bit too much to handle at that age! And more importantly I wanted to move on to the 'modaks' fast :-). The adults at the table on the other hand felt just the opposite, often raving about its complex taste and texture.

Khatkhate has a distinctive flavor because it uses a pepper called tepphal (tirphal) available in the region. You can use peppercorns as a substitute.


KHATKHATE (Mixed Vegetable Stew)
(serves 2-3)
2-3 cups of vegetables cut into big chunks (carrot, radish, gourds, plantain, beans, potato, yam, pumpkin and corn cobs)
a handful of dried white peas (chana)
2 tirphal/ peppercorns
a walnut size ball of jaggery
2 kokum pieces or 1 tsp tamarind paste
salt to taste
Grind to a fine paste with a little water -
1/2 cup of grated coconut
2 dry red chillies (this will vary depending on the chillies you use)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Soak the peas in water overnight. Cook with enough water in a deep sauce pan or pressure cooker until tender.

In another pan put the vegetables with just enough water to cook them. Khatkhate is of a thick consistency so don't add too much water. Also don't overcook the vegetables. I usually add them in stages depending on how long it takes to cook each.

Crush tirphal/ peppercorns coarsely and add to cooked vegetables. Add the coconut paste along with peas and mix well.

Next add jaggery, salt and kokum/ tamarind. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, top with yogurt if preferred and serve.
* To know more about teppal see here
* You can make khatkhate without the peas but they add a lovely texture to the dish in my opinion



Drunken Dessert - Berry Trifle

A sugar addict like me should stay away from dessert related blog events for her own good. But one look at the theme for this month's SHF - Drunken desserts - and my resolve melted like you-know-what on a hot summer afternoon!

I have wanted to make this particular trifle for some time now. When Nigella Lawson says "this is a trifle to end all trifles", you take note. You make the trifle to see for yourself, if you are like me you tweak the recipe a bit depending on what's in your pantry and then you put in your two cents worth: delicious.

Traditional English trifles use sherry to moisten the cake and have a layer of custard. Lawson's take on this is to do away with the custard altogether and add Italian ingredients such as amaretti biscuits and limoncello. Fortunately she doesn't experiment with onions and peas like Rachel in one of the Friends' episode. (Wonder what that would have tasted like?)


(three layered trifle with cake, jam and mascarpone)

(serves 2)
8 small ladyfingers/ thin slices of a sponge cake
6 tbsp blackcurrant jam
2-3 amaretti biscuits/ almond cookies
1/4 cup lemon liqueur
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup blackberries
3 tbsp superfine sugar
5-6 tbsp mascarpone cheese
a handful of slivered almonds, toasted

Spread jam on two slices of the cake and make sandwiches using the remaining two slices. Wedge one sandwich at the base of each bowl, pressing lightly.

Crumble the cookies and scatter over the sandwiches. Pour about two and a half tablespoons of the liqueur over this evenly so the layer is moistened.

Melt the remaining jam with lemon juice in a microwave or over low heat. Add the berries, stir and pour this over the first layer.

Whisk the cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the remaining liqueur to this and whisk until you get a mousse like texture. Spread this over the blueberries. Refrigerate for about 4 hours so all flavors blend together. Remember to cover the bowls with clingflim.
Before serving top with toasted almonds.

* This makes a great pot luck/ party dessert because it is easy to put together for a large number of people and the layers look really pretty in a glass bowl.

As a sidenote - I actually wanted to make a drunken Indian dessert. Nothing came to mind except Madhur Jaffrey's Sharabi narangi (recently blogged by Manisha and not authentic Indian anyway). Considering royal chefs whipped up desserts using such exotic ingredients as saffron, silver and roses, I am surprised none added a dash of the good nectar to liven up the royal banquet?!



To market, to market - Kairas

Our neighbourhood supermarket can sometimes be a drag to shop in. The produce is maintained in artificial pristine condition, the only sound is of freezers humming and the only smell is that of a freshner. Pretty boring for an Indian used to the methodic chaos of a 'sabji mandi'. Luckily international food markets recreate a bit of that magic here. We visited one over the weekend; a cacophony of languages and accents greeted us as soon as we entered and we felt right at home!

Vegetables were stored in no visible order, just laid in gigantic pyramids so customers could pinch, knock, smell or even taste to their heart's content before they decided to pick something up. The aisles were categorized by country and I took my time strolling through each; passing jars of heady wasabi, spicy habaneros and exotic baharat to get to garam masala. Now this is how shopping should be!

I chanced upon some prized ingredients in this medley - unshelled peanuts and raw mangoes. Once we were back home I decided to use the peanuts first. Kairas is a tangy Konkani dish made with vegetables and peanuts. It is usually part of a religious feast since it doesn't contain onion, ginger or garlic. I made it with bell peppers but you can use anything from cauliflower to potatoes.
Those who are familiar with 'panchamrut' (literally, nectar made with five ingredients) will notice that the base of kairas is the same as panchamrut. The latter is usually a chutney without vegetables.


KAIRAS (Vegetable Peanut Curry)
(serves 2)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp bengal gram (chana dal)
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
1-2 dry red chilli
3-4 tbsp coconut, grated
Roast the seeds, dal and chilli in half a teaspoon of oil. When they brown, remove and roast the coconut. Let cool, then put in a dry blender and grind to a fine powder.

2 green bell peppers, diced (make big pieces)
1 tsp mustard seeds
a handful of peanuts
3 tsp jaggery
a small ball of tamarind dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
salt to taste
Heat a tablespoon of oil and when it's hot add mustard seeds. When they splutter add the peppers, peanuts and jaggery. Stir. Add the tamarind water, asafoetida and salt and mix well. Add a little more water for peppers to cook. Cook on low heat until they are almost tender. Finally add the coconut mixture, mix well and remove from heat. Serve hot with rotis or rice.
This curry is sweet and sour in taste. Vary tamarind-jaggery to suit your preference.



Ancient Spice - Til Aloo

When Barbara announced 'ancient spice' as the theme for her event, The spice is right, I knew I'd be making something with sesame. I remembered reading in a book that it was the oldest recorded spice; 4000 years old to be precise - now that was sufficiently ancient!

Historians believe the original homeland of sesame is the Indian subcontinent, indicated by it's Latin name: Sesamum indicum, where indicum means 'from India'. Sesame was one of the primary crops of the Indus valley civilisation and the seeds were used for oil before they were used to flavor foods. Gernot Katzner's spice pages explain how this is evident in the etymology of the word 'tel' (oil), which is a derivative of the Sanskrit word 'tila' (sesame).
It is surprising how little we know of the spices that we use in our kitchen everyday.

Sesame is most commonly used to make 'til ladoos' during Makar Sankrant. The seeds are also used to flavor curries and pulaos by grinding them in a paste along with other spices. But the dish that truly gives the sesame it's due is Til Aloo- potato cubes fried with sesame seeds. The preparation is similar to the popular Jeera Aloo, which uses cumin. The blandness of potatoes complements the sesame's nutty flavor nicely.

I ate this dish in a restaurant in Bombay and thought I'd recreate it at home. This wasn't exactly challenging because it's a very simple dish. One bite and you figure out how it's made. Be warned though that you really have to love sesame to like this one!


TIL ALOO (Potatoes fried with sesame seeds)
(serves 2)
4-5 medium size potatoes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp beige sesame seeds
1/2 tbsp black sesame seeds (entirely optional; I like to add them for color)
1/4 tsp ginger paste
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
lemon juice
1-2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into wedges or large cubes and boil them in salted water until tender (they cook faster this way so keep an eye).

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter add cumin and sesame seeds. Add ginger paste, turmeric and red chilli powder and saute for a few minutes (on low heat or the seeds will turn bitter).

Add potatoes and season to taste. Stir until they are well coated with spices. Sprinkle lemon juice and serve hot. Til aloo is generally served with puris but rotis or rice and dal work well too.

* Don't omit the lemon juice, it balances all the other flavors in the dish.

Tags: alu batatachi bhaji


Beat the heat - Cucumber Soup

What do you cook after a hiatus of nearly ten days? Why, an ARF friendly soup of course! Cate of Sweetnicks hosts this health conscious event every Tuesday and to make up for all the greasy take-aways that we have been surviving on during our move, I decided healthy was the way to go.

So dinner was a chilled cucumber soup that also beat the heat (it's not called the valley of the sun for nothing; we are already in the mid-80s). During the sweltering months of April and May in Bombay, my brother and I would practically live on liquids; happily replacing hot meals with fruit juices, milkshakes and chilled soups like this one. The cucumber and mint combo in this soup is really refreshing; one bowl and you will be ready to embrace sunshine again!

There are several ways to make this soup, the Western version with dill and sour cream or the Indian one with yogurt and mint. I usually make a mix of both, kind of like a soupy raita!


(serves 2)
1 large cucumber, peeled
1 green onion (scallion), chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 green chilli, chopped (or omit)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3-4 mint leaves
2-3 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
To garnish -
few toasted almonds
green parts of onion, chopped fine

Chop cucumbers and onion roughly. Add salt, pepper, garlic and chilli. Let sit for 20 minutes. Put in a blender along with yogurt and mint and blend until smooth.

Pour into a bowl and chill for 2 hours. Before serving adjust consistency and seasoning. Stir in the sour cream, and garnish with almonds or green parts of onion.


A Food blogger's meme around the world

Priya of Priya's Kitchen has tagged me for a meme and what perfect timing too. I can update my blog without heading into the kitchen! I love writing memes; they really make me think outside my blog for a change and it's fun reading my fellow bloggers' responses too. So here goes -

1. Please list three recipes you have recently bookmarked from foodblogs to try:
Food blogs are like the proverbial bottomless well when it comes to recipe inspirations so it is difficult to list just three. Off the top of my head -
The cook's cottage - Kolhapuri Mutton
I plan to try this sometime next year :-) Take a look at the ingredients and you will know what I mean. Seriously though the Kolhapuri way of making lamb (hot, hot) is famous all over Maharashtra and I can't wait to give this a try

Esurientes - Raspberry coconut slice
Berries, coconut, sugar...what's not to like?!

Spicehut - Dadpe Pohe
This traditional Marathi breakfast is a favorite and I liked Sonali's idea of adding potatoes and raisins.

2. A foodblog in your vicinity:
I don't know, considering I am new to the vicinity myself!

3. A foodblog (or more) located far from you:
Towards a better tomorrow in Toronto
Limabeans& Delhichaat in Delhi
Myriad Tastes in Bangalore
Smorgasbord in Japan
(it's interesting how food is a uniting factor all over the world)

4. A foodblog (or several) you have discovered recently (where did you find it?):
I have come to know so many new bloggers in the past months and am learning more about regional Indian cuisine everyday. I came across some of these through comments on my blog and some through comments on others' blogs. I am listing those here that aren't already on Priya's list
Happy Burp
Sumi's Kitchen
My rasoi
Red Pepper's workshop
What's for lunch honey?
Rasbhara recipes
Let's cook something

5. Any people or bloggers you want to tag with this meme?
All of the lovely ladies above if they haven't been tagged already and anyone else who'd like to join in on the fun!


Alive, well but not cooking!

I am moving from the windy city to the valley of the sun, well Scottsdale to be precise, and only for a short while. I promise to head into the kitchen as soon as the last pan is unpacked. Or the first for that matter! In the meanwhile thank you for being patient with my sporadic posts. And a BIG thank you for being concerned - it's made me all sentimental.