Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tomato rice (with variant Tomato Thokku)

- 4-6 large ripe tomatoes chopped small
- 1 Onion cut small
- 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- salt to taste
- finely chopped coriander leaves

For Tadka(Saute) and seasoning
- 1 - 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1-2 green chilli pepper diced fine (optional)
- 6-8 curry leaves

Rice for mixing
- 4-5 cups of cooked rice(any variety)
With a fork, separate the rice to avoid chunky portions

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add cumin seeds, use medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add the curry leaves and cover for a minute.
  3. Add the chopped chilli pepper and stir well.
  4. Add the onion, cook, stirring occasionally until translucent(3-4 minutes).
  5. Add the diced tomato and stir well
  6. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt to taste.
  7. Stir well and let cook in medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Be careful, tomato splutters while cooking.
  9. Also as it cooks, you will see it lets out all the juice, as it cooks, the juice is reabsorbed and it will thicken, soon you will see the oil glisten on top. 
  10. Don't wait for the oil to separate, otherwise the tomato rice will become very dry instead staying moist.
  11. In a bowl, remove a few spoonful's of the cooked paste.  I like to keep some on the side as it tastes great with yogurt rice.  Also helps if you have less rice to tomato base ratio.
  12. Add the rice to the tomato base and mix it well.  You could add a tbsp of ghee to make it tastier.. :).  Adjust the ratio of cooked rice to tomato base according to taste.  Add salt if needed.
  13. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with yogurt and chips.
Tomato rice will go well with any kind of raita(a yogurt based side dish).  Check Brinjal (eggplant) rice with tomato-onion-potato raita and veggie chips for the recipe.
The above is my dysfunctional style of cooking tomato rice.  A variant is the tomato thokku, the tomato base made spicier and to be eaten as a side dish.  Spread it on bread to make a sandwich or with yogurt rice. 

To make tomato thokku, skip the onion and add 1/4 tsp mustard seeds along with with the cumin seeds.  Increase the amount of red chilli powder used.  Continue to cook on medium flame until the oil separates almost completely from the tomato base an additional 10 minutes or less.  Let it cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Raji Bhajji (A mixed vegetable dish, I learnt from my aunt and her mom.. )


Vegetable and how to cut them
1 large cauliflower, break into small florets(neither too big nor too small)and chop the stem(don't discard)
1-2 large onion chopped 
1-2 capsicum/Green bell pepper chopped
1-2 carrots(optional) for color, chopped
2-4 potatoes chopped
4-5 large tomatoes chopped
1/2 to 1 cup of water

 For Tadka(Saute)
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds

For Seasoning
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp each of cumin and coriander powder
OR 1 tsp of dhana-jeera (coriander+cumin) powder
salt to taste

Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves.

  1. Take oil in a deep wok/pan with a lid, add jeera, cover and keep in medium heat until it splutters.
  2. Add chopped onion, stir well.
  3. Add chopped capsicum/bell pepper.  Stir, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add chopped tomato, stir well and cook for a minute or two.
  5. Add the potatoes, stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  6. Add the cauliflower, stir well.
  7. Add a cup of water(less is okay but don't add more since most of the vegetables release water when cooked) this allows the vegetables to cook evenly and also create the gravy for the dish..
  8. Cover and cook on high heat, when the water starts boiling, add turmeric powder and salt to taste and stir well. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Add the seasoning spices(cumin, coriander, red chilli powder and salt).  You can add more red chilli to make it spicier or less to make it milder.
  10. Stir well, cover and cook until the potatoes are done stirring occasionally on medium flame (too much cooking and the cauliflower will disintegrate).
  11. *Cook without lid for a few minutes.
  12. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and enjoy.
The above is my dysfunctional style of cooking a mixed vegetable dish that tastes good with roti's, naan, chapatti or mixed with rice.  
At a potluck party, a long time ago, I was asked to make a mixed veg makhani dish and was completely clueless(no Internet to the rescue in those days)..  So followed the above recipe using 1/2 cup of water while cooking.  Finally at *step 11, added one cup of sour cream whisked smooth, to the vegetable and let it cook for a couple of minutes to absorb the spices.  Please don't bring to a complete boil as the cream will split.  Finally, garnish with coriander and enjoy. 
The sabzi/vegetable tastes delicious with or without the sour cream added in.  I often cook the sour cream version for my non-Indian friends who want to be introduced to Indian food.  It has been compared to butter chicken on occasion. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chaat Special - Dahi Papri Chaat and more..

Growing up in Bombay, we had chaat's served as a snack, for lunch or dinner, or just because.. :)

My first exposure to chaat was mom homemade 'Bhel puri'.  In the 60's and 70's eating out was a novel experience and street food not something we indulged in, so mom learnt how to make it. Thanks to her awesome palate and some help from our Gujarati neighbors.

She would painstaking make the basic ingredients; fry the sev and puri, roast peanuts, prepare the dry bhel mix, make the tamarind-date chutney(boiling and reducing it so it would last a while) and so on.  We knew how much effort when into these preps.  It was so good, family and guests often requested her to make bhel puri when they visited..  having heard how tasty it was.

During my college days, chaat's like Bhel puri, Pani puri, Sev puri, Dahi batata puri and of course Ragda patties, Chole Bature, Dahi wada, etc. were quick meal options.  Our favorite haunts being Linking Road opposite National College and Chowpatti(at Opera house).

My first exposure to Dahi papri chaat was at a fast food place in Calcutta near Brooke Bond house on Shakespeare Sarani.  It was our favorite hangout for a quick snack and coffee.  To cut a long story short.. Last month, our cousin in Tennessee served us papri chaat and pani puri.  It had been a while since we ate both chaats.  The girls loved it, so cousin packed up a bag of papri's and puffed puri's for us to bring home.  Did not bring the chutney's.

Being lazy, I had found store brands for both chutneys, very similar in taste to mom's and the one I made from scratch in the many years we lived in NJ.   The brands are important since these were found purely by trial and error and their long refrigerated shelf life.  The Nirav coriander chutney and Deep tamarind-date chutney are must haves, both can be found in most Indian(desi) grocery stores around the US. 

Chaat's are all about taste, assembly and preference.  If you have the right products and ingredients putting them together is a breeze.

Dahi Papri Chaat

- a bag of Papri or kadak(hard) puri
- 1/4 tsp cumin powder
- salt and sugar to taste
- Deep tamarind-date chutney
- Nirav coriander chutney
Red chilli powder
finely chopped coriander leaves and thin sev to garnish(optional)
- Chaat masala(optional)
- one large red onion finely chopped
- 3-4 medium sized potatoes boiled/steamed and cut or broken down with fingers but not mashed (sprinkle some chaat masala or salt over and mix in for flavor)
- 1-2 cups Dahi(Yogurt) any brand or homemade

Preparation and Assembly

For Dahi - Measure required dahi into a bowl and whisk it smooth, you can add a little bit of water if it's too thick.  Add a pinch of cumin powder; a  pinch or two of powdered sugar; a pinch or two of salt; Blend well. Taste and add cumin powder, sugar or salt as desired.  As I mentioned earlier, chaat is all about taste and preference, with practice comes perfection.

Before serving - Keep all ingredients ready on the counter top,  Dahi, two chutneys in bowls with individual spoons for ease of use.   Liquefy the coriander chutney if its too thick. other ingredients in plate, use your hand to break the papri.
  1. Break some papri to cover the plate, Scatter spiced/salted potatoes and onions evenly over the papri
  2. Spoon blended dahi(yogurt) on top, so it covers the plate as shown
  3. Sprinkle some red chilli powder with your fingers(optional)
  4. Spoon coriander chutney as shown
  5. Spoon tamarind-date chutney as shown
  6. Garnish with thin sev and chopped coriander leaves
  7. Enjoy the delicious Dahi papri chaat.

Variation - Dahi batata puri

  1. Make a hole on the thinner side of the puffed puri, you have to be careful so as to not break it up the puri.
  2. Fill the puffed puri with a mix of potatoes, drained canned chick peas/chana or cooked mung sprouts (optional); chopped onions(optional)
  3. Place 6-10 filled puri's per plate
  4. Spoon blended dahi into each puri or over the top
  5. Top each filled puri with some sweet chutney and the spicy chutney
  6. Sprinkle some red chilli powder for spice
  7. Garnish with sev and chopped coriander
  8. Enjoy delicious Dahi batata puri.. you have to open your mouth wide and eat the whole puri in a single mouthful! :)
Sev Puri - From my sister's kitchen

Another variation - Sev batata puri

  1. The Sev puri is the thin and crunchy counterpart of the papri
  2. Place the puri's around the plate(don't make this if the puri's are thick, they need to be thin and crunchy, if you live in NJ you may get them as sev puri's in the store)
  3. Top with some potatoes and onion
  4. Spoon sweet and green chutney(both liquefied)
  5. Top generously with some sev and chopped coriander leaves
  6. Enjoy, you have to eat a puri with its toppings as a single mouthful

The above is my dysfunctional style of preparing delicious chaats, All you need to do is prep the dahi, boil potatoes and chop onions.   If bhel mix is readily available, take required quantity in a bowl, add roasted peanuts, boiled potatoes, chopped onions, sweet chutney, and coriander chutney; Mix well, top with sev and enjoy yummy bhel puri anytime with a spoon or a crunchy puri.  You can make it healthier by adding chopped raw mango, avocado, blackberries, blue berries, tangerine oranges, fresh spinach leaves, mung sprouts, firm ripe tomatoes whatever is available, in season, crunchy, tasty or sour.. :)  Do comment if you enjoyed making and serving chaat in my dysfunctional style!