What is cooking today?

Amti

In Marathi amti means a curry and there are a variety of amti’s that we cook. Mashyachi amti (fish curry), channyachi amti (chick pea curry), dalichi amti (flavored and tempered toor dal), and sometimes amti’s are made using vegetables as well.

Usually the amti made with the toor dals is sweet, sour and spicy to taste. While amti’s made with lentil, fish or vegetables, is mildly spiced with a base of coconut gravy and is flavorful.

It is said that the sambar was invented in the quest to make an amti.

So in the year 1673 a fierce battle was imminent in Tanjore as the ruler od Madhurai had decided to capture Tanjore.The courtiers of Tanjore decided to seek help from the Marathas and sent a secret message to Shivaji’s brother Venkoji who decided to be a part of the war himself and marched to Tanjore with his army.

The Maratha army bought their food and taste along with them and after the war Venkoji was so much in love with Tanjore that he decided to settle there.

There are a few stories as to how the Sambar originated. So the sambar that’s an integral part of the South Indian cuisine was created by the Maratha’s.

Sambhaji the son of Shivaji came to Tanjore to visit his uncle and since Sambhaji loved amti, a dish similar to it was prepared and was named Sambar in his honour.

According to another story, Sambhaji was a food lover and he loved to cook as well. he once wanted to make the amti and while preparing it he realized there was no kokum which is a very typical Maharashtrian ingredient used in making amtis and on an advice of a cook he used tamarind which enhanced the flavor of the amti and hence it was called sambar.

Today for dinner I have made 2 varied amti’s one with toor dal and the other with bhindi.

Both the recipes are rather simple and yet very unique and delicious.

Dalichi amti

1 cup toor dal washed and kept aside

1 medium onion finely chopped

½  a raw mango chopped into 1” pieces

1” ginger finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic crushed

4 green chillies slit

2 tsp sugar

¼ cup fresh coconut grated

3 tbsp of finely chopped coriander

½ tsp turmeric

A pinch of asafetida

½ tsp mustard seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

Few curry leaves

1 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

Method:

Pressure cook the dal along with the onion for 3-4 whistles or till done

Once the dal is cooked add the chillies, sugar, ginger, raw mango, turmeric and salt and boil for 5 minutes on a medium flame.

Add the coconut and coriander and boil for 2 minutes and shut the flame.

Heat the ghee and oil and splutter the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Then add the curry leaves and the crushed garlic and let the garlic turn golden and then add this to the dal and your amti is ready.

Steamed rice goes amazingly well with this.

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Bhendichi amti

½ kg okra chopped 1” in length

2 cups of fresh coconut grated

6 dry red chillies

6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp coriander seeds

½ tsp turmeric

Tamarind to the size of ½ a lemon

3 tbsp oil coconut oil

Salt to taste

Method:

Grind the coconut, tamarind, red chillies, 4 cloves of garlic, coriander seeds and turmeric to a fine paste.

Heat 2 tbsp of the coconut oil and sauté this paste till the color darkens slightly and the moisture is reduced.

Then add the chopped okra and sauté further for 2 minutes and then add 3 cups of water and make a nice gravy. Add salt and boil till the okra is done.

Heat the remaining oil and crush the remaining garlic and add to the oil and fry till its nice and golden and add it to the curry.

The Bhendichi amti is ready and can be had with chapatti or steamed rice

Bon Apetite!

 

Moringa! ……not a film character but a tree!

_MG_0850_CSlow angle photo of moringa oleifera

Yesterday I went to the local market gadding about looking out for some unique vegetable that I could buy and cook.

After walking for a bit I reached my regular vegetable vendor Ram Prasad who usually sells leafy vegetables and I found a small cane basket full of tiny white flowers tucked away slyly in a corner. The basket was not clearly visible

Curiously I looked deeper in the corner and I realized they were the moringa flowers and suddenly there was a big smile on my face.

I gave Ram Prasad a look which made him feel guilty of hiding those flowers from me and he quickly tried to cover up his blunder saying that the produce was too less to be sold and so he had kept it away.

Well after all the convincing he tried I bought the small basket of the moringa flowers and walked back home like I had won the war.

My staff at home, were very excited to see these flowers and were not sure what I would make of it. I told them a story of my childhood, which I will share with you all as well.

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In my hometown Aversa we have our ancestral home which we would visit every summer vacation. My Grandma would eagerly wait for all of us to come and relish the different varieties of mangoes, guava, chickoo and jackfruit. It would be a feast for us to gorge on the amazingly tasting fruits.

So in the front garden she had planted some mango trees, a guava tree, a chickoo tree, a jackfruit tree and right in the corner of the garden there was this delicate Moringa or drumstick tree.

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The leaves, flowers and the drumsticks of this tree are used in our cuisine. With the leaves Amma (grandma) would make a simple vegetable, which would be sautéed in coconut oil, onions and green chillies and garnished with fresh grated coconut.

The drumstick would be used in sambar and many a times coated with chilli powder and rava and pan fried crisp to perfection.

 

Back then food would be cooked on wood fire. Every morning Amma would offer a small prayer to the Agni deva before she would lit the fire. Then she would scrape fresh coconut for the meal and grind it along with some spices on a stone grinder to make curries. My favorite part would be to grind on the stone, pluck the fresh vegetables for the curry.

 

One morning while we were all seated on the floor for breakfast with banana leaves placed in front of us and garma garam soft idli and sambar served she asked me to help her pluck the morninga flowers after I had finished, but my excitement and impatience took over my hunger and I simple left the breakfast and dragged her to pluck them.

While we were picking the flowers I asked her what was she going to cook with these pretty looking flowers and she smiled and said Vade (cutlets) I was quiet surprised and had a puzzled look on my face. She looked at me and said wait until you taste it. After picking the flowers I trailed behind her to the kitchen. She placed them on platform and asked me to clean them and wash them genteelly.

She put some freshly scraped coconut and spices to grind on the stone and I offered to help and to her surprise I managed to make a paste just the way she wanted and the cutlets with the moringa flowers were made

img_8405The feeling of helping Amma cook a dish even today boosts my morals when I am cooking something difficult

BARBEQUE TIME

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We are 9 couples in our building who are family to one another.Once in a few months my friends and I from the building plan a barbeque by the poolside. We all  await this day. The planning begins a week earlier. Each one of us has to get a dish to grill. Most of them are meat eaters but we also have a few vegetarians. Some of us get the meats and loads of vegetarian food is also planned which even the non – vegetarians love to relish.

It’s a fun day for all of us. We meet up around 12 noon and Allan our friend the barbeque specialist organizes the gazebo for us to sit, fans and the iceboxes to cool the drinks. The barbeque is placed in the corner and all set up to grill the food. We ladies dress up in our casual Sunday linens and hats while the men our in their shorts and tee shirts all geared up to grill.

Sophie is known for her potato salad. Some of us carry dips and chips. Gauri’s salads are amazing, fresh, light and crunchy. Trisha’s hummus is out of the world with the pita bread. By the way all this food is just to munch while the food is getting grilled. So you can imagine the amount and the variety of food that is there.

Usually the barbeques land up with loads of food, wine, gossip and fun. Some of us exchange recipes that have turned out really well. Some of us take a dip in the pool to cool ourselves. The children have fun in the water too and they come out of the pool for a bite and jump back in the pool again.

Allan, Abhinay both are superb at grilling. The way they come with the meat and the veggies grilled is awesome.

On one such afternoon Prakash our friend got drunk and went to the children’s pool and tried to get on the slide but unfortunately he got stuck on it and Abhinay had to push him really hard to get him off the slide. It was a sight. We were initially worried but then we all had a good laugh over it.

Loads of hulla gulla, food, chatting, laughing just wouldn’t realize how the day would end. But his blog cannot end without sharing some vegetarian recipes with you.

Here they come your way

 

STUFFED ZUCCHINI

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini cut into 2” thick rounds

1 packet button mushrooms cleaned and sliced finely

1 tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 tbsp flour made into a paste

1 cup milk

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups of cheese

1 tbsp chilli flakes

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Scoop the center of the zucchini leaving a thin layer at the bottom and blanch them
  2. Heat a pan and add the olive oil and add the garlic, and the mushrooms and sauté them till they are cook. Add the salt and mix well and keep aside
  • Heat the milk and add the butter, pepper powder, salt and the flour paste and boil to a sauce consistency and add the mushrooms to the sauce
  1. Stuff the sauce in the zucchini and sprinkle the cheese and the chilli flakes
  2. Grill in an oven or barbeque till the cheese has melted and serve hot

 

 

POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

5 medium potatoes boiled peeled and diced

2 cups of hung curd

1 medium onion finely chopped

¼ cup cream

¼ tsp garlic paste

½ tsp pepper powder

1 medium stem of celery finely chopped

Salt to taste

METHOD:

  1. Besides the potatoes mix all the ingredients well and then add the potatoes and serve chillies on a warm day