Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ugadi Pachadi -Andhra Delicacy Reflecting Different Flavors Of Life

Today we are celebrating Ugadi,the Telugu New Year Day, which is the first festival of our Telugu calendar and the first big festival that comes after Sankranti.Our Andhra festival is known by different names in different states of India like “Gudi Padwa” in Maharastra and “Ugadi” in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.Whatever the name this festival takes in different regions,it heralds the dawn of Vasanth Rutu (Spring Season),which is considered the first season of the year (Chaitra Maasam) .Ugadi to the Telugu speaking people marks a beginning of a new year in which nature is in full bloom, symbolizing regeneration and celebrating the season’s freshness.
With the coming of Ugadi, mango season is in full swing with fresh green mangoes flooding the rythu bazaars,garlands of marigold,roses,kanakaambaram, chamanti,naturally perfumed jasmine flowers (mallepuulu) which are in full bloom adorn the deities in temples and yes,you find most of our Andhra women’s braids are adorned with clusters of mallepuulu (jasmine flowers).The doorways of our homes are adorned with mango leaves which signifies prosperity and general well-being.But the most unique and significant tradition of Ugadi is beginning the new year with savoring a unique flavored pachadi (chutney) that epitomizes the spirit of Ugadi called "Ugadi Pachadi",with sweet,sour,pungent and bitter tastes (shadhruchulu or six tastes). This chutney or sauce is a symbolic reminder of the myriad facets of life in a sense prepares us for the year ahead.Of course,other than the special pachadi we also prepare special foods with the use of raw mango like papppu maamidikaaya,maamidi pulihora,maamidi kobari pachadi,pulihora,bobattulu, payasam and garellu.

Ugadi Pachadi is a special preparation prepared in every Andhra home on Telugu New Year’s day.Its made with fresh tamarind,jaggery(panela),fresh mangoes and neem flowers (margosa).One can add sugarcane,coconut and bananas also.The sweetness of jaggery,the sourness of tamarind,the bitterness of neemflower and the pungent flavor of the green mango skin,spice of the chilli powder ,raw tender mango’s taste and lastly salt form the shadhruchulu or six tastes of the sauce.

Andhra Ugadi Pachadi Recipe

1 cup of raw fresh mango (cleaned and dried and finely chopped along with skin into small pieces)
1 tbsp of margosa flowers (neem tree flowers)
1 cup of grated jaggery
1 tbsp of fresh finely chopped coconut pieces (optional)
3 -4 tbsp tamarind paste
red chilli pwd (according to your choice)
salt to taste

Mix all the above ingredients to form a sauce like appearence.If you want a thin and watery chutney add very little water (2-3 tbsps).
Note: You can also add small pieces of sugarcane,pieces of ripe banana,putanaala pappu(roasted channa dal) along with the above ingredients.
Each home has its own version of preparing the ugadi pachadi but the main ingredients (reflecting all the six flavors) are as specified above.

The myriad rich taste of this delicacy tickles and lingers on our tongue for a long time leaving a medley of flavors.The flavors of the Ugadi Pachadi signifies that the mixture of bitter margosa flowers and sweet jaggery reflect the myriad facets of life,both joy and sorrow and prepares one to face both good and bad in the year to come.During this season we find people eating neem leaves and flowers at the onset of Vasantha Ruthu and through out the spring season as its a counter measure for kapha dosha individuals (kapha dosha increases around this period).Ugadi Pachadi is a healthy low calorie pachadi where the Neem flowers , new tamarind, jaggery and fresh raw mangoes contain nutrients that cleanse the system and act as prophylactics(prevention of illness or disease).

Ugadi Subhakankshulu!Wishing you all a very happy Ugadi and a great year ahead!


Monday, March 27, 2006

Peanut Flavored Vegetable Fried Rice & Stir Fried Vegetables In Peanut-Chilli Sauce

Over the weekend,I cooked a very simple, visually appealing,wholesome, comforting ,nutritious meal with loads of vegetables and which didnt take in too much of cooking time.I really wasn’t in an adventurous mood and decided to play safe with the ingredients used in making a Indo-Chinese fusion meal, comprising of a vegetable stir fry and fried rice dish ,since we had an elderly guest visiting us for lunch.He is the typical Andhrite who loves his rice and chepa pulusu (fish cooked in a tangy spicy sauce) and whose meal has to have spice,definitely not bland.It was a challenge to me with hubby dear wanting to eat a meal with a Chinese flavor and a relative (with an uninitiated palate to Chinese cuisine)who loves spice and was willing to eat whatever I served him.

What I like about Indo-Chinese fusion cooking is, you have enough room to experiment from scratch,don’t have to follow any particular cookbook method,less cooking time though the preparation time is much more than the actual cooking time..:)and the recipes are not traditional in the sense that they haven’t been passed down by our grandmothers.Indo-Chinese fusion cooking is versatile(free-style) in the fact that you can mix and match different foods and ingredients,flavors and textures to suit your palate and gives you the freedom to concote your own recipes.
So here it is, my creation Indo-Chinese medley of a simple and easy ,yet flavorful and nutritious peanut flavored vegetable fried rice and vegetable stir fry in peanut-chilli sauce where the cooking style or technique is primarily Chinese and infused with Indian ingredients.

Peanut Flavored Vegetable Fried Rice

2 cups of cooked basmati rice or any long grained rice(each grain should be separate and the rice should be completely cool)
1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1 bunch of chopped spring onions
2 green chilli slit length wise
1 small cup of chopped carrots
1 small cup of chopped french beans
1 small cup of chopped cabbage
1 small cup of boiled green peas
½ tsp white pepper powder
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsps of coarsely pwd roasted peanuts
salt to taste

Heat peanut oil to a smoking hot pan or wok and add the carrots and beans and stir fry them for 2 minutes and then add the cabbage, capsicum,green chillis and onions and stir fry on high heat tossing them about till the vegetable get tender.Now add the green peas.
Immediately add the cold cooked rice ,salt,white pepper powder and peanut pwd and stir fry for sometime till rice and vegetables are nicely mixed together.
Add the vinegar and stir in everything till well mixed and then sprinkle the chopped spring onions and stir it in and serve hot.Remove the green chillis from the rice before serving.

Stir-Fried Vegetables in Peanut-Chilli Sauce


1 green capsicum, cut into big pieces
1 red capsicum, cut into big pieces
2 onions (quartered)
2 carrot thinly sliced (diagonally)
1 bunch of spring onions,finely chopped
1 small cup of boiled green peas
1 cup cabbage cut into big pieces
1 tsp freshly minced ginger
2 tbsp peanut oil (I prefer peanut oil for the flavor it imparts to the food and it holds up to the hot-pan temp which is vital to chinese cooking)
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed in 3-4 tbsps of water

For sauce:
7-8 tbsps of water
7-8 garlic flakes (fry in a tsp of oil till rawness disappears)
4-5 dry red chillis (deseed and soak in water for 10 minutes so that the pungency is reduced) can reduce the chillis if you want less spice
3 tbsps roasted peanuts
1 tbsp of grated jaggery (or brown sugar or panela)
Grind all the above ingredients for the sauce to a paste.
Heat a pan or wok to smoking hot and then add oil.Add minced ginger and stir fry for a few seconds and let the aroma permeate the kitchen.Now add carrots and stir fry for a minute and then add the cabbage,capsicum and onions.Now stir fry all the vegetables constantly till tender.Dont over cook them.They should be crunchy and crisp and not mushy.
Now add the peanut chilli sauce and soya sauce and stir fry till the vegetables are well coated.Add 2-3 tbsps of water and salt, if your find the the sauce is getting stuck to the vessel.Dont fret.Its natural and keep stir frying for a few minutes and then add the cornstarch with the water and let it combine with the vegetables till your get a glazed look to the vegetables.
Garnish with scallions and serve hot with any fried rice or noodles.

Indeed,the vegetable fried rice generously flavored with peanuts and stir fry vegetable dish in a very flavorful sauce was delicious and had my guest asking for more.I knew my tyrst with Indo-Chinese fusion cooking was successful in initiating his palate to a totally new taste.I had earlier blogged about some of my adventures with Indian-Chinese fusion cooking like Sprouts Fried Rice,Spiced Fish Fillets and Sweet and Sour Chicken Legs,and they were devoured even before they reached the dining table..:).

Since this fusion meal is loaded with nutritious vegetables,it makes an apt entry to Sweetnicks Anti-Oxidant Rich Foods ARF 5 Day as well as Meena's "From My Rasoi" March theme Fusion Foods.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Majjiga - Andhra Spiced Buttermilk (Salted Yogurt Drink)

Summer time conjures up memories of big cool earthern pots of churned buttermilk kept in the open verandah of my tatayya’s (grandfather) farmhouse and those visiting him being offered a glass of cool refreshing ‘majjiga’ (Telugu term for buttermilk)-the quintessential summer drink.I reminse the good olden days of sharing some great moments with tatayya over a glass of chikkati majjiga (thick buttermilk). I grew up drinking ‘majjiga’ and it still is a routine affair in our home... call it a mix of tradition, habit , nutrition and comfort. Visit any Andhra home during summer time and you are sure to be welcomed with a chilled glass of majjiga (moru(Tamil),majjige(Kannada),chaas(Gujarati),lassi(punjabi)).
Majjiga is an integral part of Andhra cuisine and no meal is complete without Majjiga which is usually taken towards the end of a meal as it has the ability to enhance digestion.Majjiga which is known by different names in the West like Salted Yogurt Drink,Yogurt Shake and Indian Drinking Yogurt is a blend of three tastes which are sweet,sour and astringent.Majjiga is one of the easiest recipes even a 6 year old can whip up and is nothing but a blend of fresh curds,plain water and salt.Replace the salt with sugar and it becomes Sweet Lassi,a very popular sweet drink beverage in North India,having its origins in Punjab.

The best way to prepare ‘majjiga’ is to always use fresh home made curds and mix it in equal parts of water to make a thick buttermilk (chikkati majjiga).For a more thinner majjiga add 3 parts of water to one part of curds and use a hand churner or kavvam (traditional wooden or stainless steel churner) to churn the mixture ,rolling it back and forth between your hands.
Do this for 2 minutes.This action helps in blending the mixture well and any fat which is in the curd will separate and rise to the top.Skim off the fat.(If you don’t have a hand churner similar to the ones shown in the picture ,use a blender to blend on low speed for a minute)

Andhra Spiced Buttermilk is a soothing combination of fresh home made curds,water,fresh curry leaves,crushed ginger,green chillis,salt and a dash of lemon juice.This spice and herb infused drink is a perfect blend of myriad flavors ….sweet,spicy,sour and salty which balances and pacifies all the three doshas.Vata,Pitta and Kapha,strengthens and increases our appetite and digestive power.

Andhra Spiced Buttermilk

4 glasses of buttermilk(made from 4 parts water and 1 part curds)
1-2 green chillies finely chopped (adjust according to your choice)
½” ginger piece grated or crushed
few curry leaves (only fresh leaves)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

salt to taste
coriander leaves(optional)
Mix all the above ingredients and chill.Serve cold.

Another variation is to add a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves to the above prepared majjiga.Heat ½ tsp of oil in a pan and add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds and let them splutter.Add the curry leaves and let the flavors blend in the oil, remove from heat and immediately add to the majjiga and cover for a few minutes and then blend with a churner for a minute and chill. Serve cold.
Another version is nimmakaaya majjiga or nimma majjiga which is plain salted majjiga (blend of curds and water)with a dash of lemon juice.
North Indian version of buttermilk or lassi calls for the use of rock salt,dry roasted cumin pwd and fresh mint leaves.Read more about Lassi.

Each home has its own version of buttermilk be it North, South ,East or West.The basic recipe of buttermilk is the same,only the infusion of spices and herbs differs according to each home or region.Read more about curds or yogurt and home made yogurt.

Ayurvedic nutrition recommends buttermilk to pacify Pitta dosha (with the addition of sugar or rose water), pacify Vata and Kapha (use of rock salt, honey,spices like dry-roasted cumin pwd, black pepper and herbs like ginger).Buttermilk is highly recommended as one the best home remedies for certain ailments like piles,diarrhoea,jaundice and dysfunctions of liver and spleen.Read more about the benefits of buttermilk.

This traditional thrist-quenching refreshing drink with high therapeutic and nutritional properties is appetizing,cooling,rejunuvating,soothing and serves as an excellent antidote to sunstrokes during Indian peak summer times. It tones the small intenstine,very light on the stomach and easy to digest unlike other dairy products like cheese and paneer.It goes without saying that majjiga is the healthiest low calorie milk product among the many dairy products and works as a good calcium substitute for the high calorie dairy products.

Buttermilk serves as a good home remedy for removing sun tan.Apply buttermilk to the face and rinse off with cool water, once dry.Do this regularly and your tan disappears and your face gets back it lost glow.So it works as a beauty enhancer too…:)

I had to start with my series on “Indian Drinks & Sharbats” with this heavenly traditional drink which most of us in Andhra cannot do without.So instead of heading for aerated drinks this summer,try out the irresistible, nourishing,old-fashioned beverage 'majjiga' which will revitalize you and keep you cool throughout the delirious hot season.


Monday, March 20, 2006

"Indian Drinks And Sharbats" - Cool Fruit Treats To Beat The Summer Heat

Well,summer is officially here in India.Its getting hot and as we reside in a coastal area of Andhra Pradesh,the humidity levels are pretty high.Inspite of the sweltering heat,this is the time of the year I look forward to barbecues, watermelons,sweet juicy ripe mangoes,corn on the cob,lemonades and healthy fresh fruit drinks.

Summer offers a wider variety vegetables than any other season and ripe and juicy fruits like watermelons, guavas,lichees, mangoes, musk melons, sweet lime (mousambi), oranges,papaya, grapes,bananas, pineapples, sapota(chikku), pomegranate are available in abundance absolutely fresh from the farm and sold by the farmers themselves at the Rythu Bazaars (Farmer’s Market) at very reasonable prices(as there is no middle man involved here).It’s an absolute delight to visit the Rythu Bazaar and interact with the farmers and watch them arrange the fresh produce early in the morning...:)Infact I visit the Rythu Bazaar ,which is a stone’s throw away from my home,almost everyday on my way back home after my morning walk to pick up fresh vegetables and fruits.You can look forward to seeing some pictures of Rythu Bazaar,the farmers and their produce in my future posts.

During the entire summer season, I make a variety of cool thirst-quenching refreshing fruit drinks and salads almost every day.Summer is extremely harsh on us here in India and sometimes the temperature soars as high as 47 degrees Celsius and the coastal areas face high humidity.Its very common to find people suffering from heat strokes,heat exhaustion and heat stress during these hot weather months.The only mantra I follow for myself and my family to keep the body cool and prevent dehydration is by drinking plenty of fluids and eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables and reduce intake of oily and spicy food.Our consumption of vegetables and fruits during these summer months is the highest than in any other season.

I want to share some of the tips I generally follow during the summer season to beat the sizzling heat and stay cool.Drink water,water and more water...I consume a lot of fluids and drink atleast 12 glasses of water about 4 litres of water.If you have difficulty in drinking 12 glasses of water,ensure that you can drink atleast 8 glasses of water and supplement your water intake with healthy drinks of your choice like a lemonade or fresh fruit drinks.You don’t have to concote a fancy sharbat or drink,even a humble lemonade or nimmakaaya neelu (nimbu paani) will do.

When we are sweating, our bodies are losing out on essential moisture and minerals like potassium and eating fresh fruits or intake of fruit drinks and healthy salads replenishes minerals and helps absorb and retain fluids and helps us stay hydrated and refreshed.We drink a lot of tender coconut water throughout the summer season and we are fortunate to have home grown coconut trees.Those pictures you see are the coconut trees grown in our garden.Tender coconut water is the best bet for the hot summer.I just love the soft and creamy pulp of a tender coconut..its simply heavenly..:)According to Ayurvedic nutrition the liquid from a tender coconut (90% is water) is so pure and cooling with immense healing properties and is known to pacify pitta dosha and alleviates any pitta-related disorders.
I guess, most of us are used to air-conditioned environments during the summer season. My advice is to avoid extreme changes in temperature at once. If you are feeling extremely hot and are sweating, due to the sweltering heat,then don’t get into an air-conditioned environment immediately on entering your home.First try to cool your body down (room temperature) before getting into the luxury of your air-conditioned room. Our bodies should not be exposed to extreme temperature variations.Try to use as much of ceiling or floor fans to keep cool than AC’s.We spread dry coconut branches and palm leaves all over our terrace and use coir blinds to cover our windows to prevent heat of the hot sun from entering the house and wet the coir blinds which helps in lowering the temperature inside the house.
Avoid all aerated beverages and ice cold drinks with preservatives.They are a big 'no-no' and are banned in my home.I cant stress enough the importance of incorporating fruits in your daily diet regime which gives you fiber,vitamin C and strengthens the immune system.FRUITS to me are absolutely heavenly and are 'manna from heaven' and I can live off fruits..:).They are packed with nutrition, almost negligible calories,minimal fat,full of vitamins, phytonutrients and fibre and easily digestable.There’s nothing more delicious and nutritious as thirst-quenching refreshing drinks and fruit salads and with the abundance of fresh fruit choices available ,you sure can beat the heat and make this summer a savory experience.I hope to share with you a few of these fruit drinks and sharbats in my future posts.

There are numerous ways to prepare refreshing fruit drinks and sharbats which are not only delicious but low in calories and full of nutrition.Most of them are traditional health drinks,herbal drinks and yes,they work on our skin as well and you can call them beauty enhancers too..:)These have worked for me and I hope they help you too.You will find that they are so simple to prepare with the least number of ingredients and yet effective in not only keeping us cool and healthy and bring out that shine to our skin and glow to the face.I look forward to sharing with you in my series on “Indian Drinks & Sharbats”,some healthy and refreshing fruit drinks,herbal drinks and sharbets which I prepare for my family during the summer season.So stay tuned..:)


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Vankaaya Paalu Posina Kura (Green Eggplants Cooked In Milk)

Green Eggplant or green brinjal,one of the varieties in brinjals (eggplant,aubergine,vankaaya,baingan or badinjan), is one of the most common vegetable which is grown all year round in Andhra Pradesh,the state I belong.They are round to oval in shape with a thinner skin unlike the purple eggplants.The small purple variety of brinjals are used to prepare the famous Andhra delicacy Gutti Vankaaya Kura (stuffed brinjal curry).The green brinjal has fewer seeds and are white which is a sign that they are fresh and tender.These eggplants have a delicate flavor and cook easily and are best suited to prepare this dish and Vankaaya Pachadi, an Andhra brinjal chutney recipe similar to Baingan Ka Bharta.
These eggplants sometimes have a bitter taste,especially during summers, and you can offset the bitterness by sprinkling a tsp of salt over them and place them in a colander so that the bitter juice of the brinjal pieces trickles down.Then wash them thoroughly in water and squeeze off excess water.Vakaaya Paalu (milk) Posina (pour) Kura is a very simple, easy-to-make,low fat dish where the brinjals (as name suggests in Telugu) are blended in milk which give the curry a rich and sweet flavor.

Vankaaya Paalu Posina Kura
1 large green brinjal (chopped into small cubes and place in salted water for 10 mts)

1 finely chopped onion
1 slit green chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 slightly crushed garlic cloves
1” finely minced ginger piece
1 tsp red chilli pwd ( adjust according to your choice)
pinch of turmeric pwd
1 tsp coriander pwd
salt to taste

1 cup skimmed milk
10 curry leaves
1 tbsp oil

Heat oil in a cooking vessel ,add the cumin seeds and let them brown.
Now add the garlic,ginger,curry leaves and green chilli and fry for a few seconds taking care not to burn the tempering.
Add the chopped onions and saute till the onions turn pink.
Add the chopped brinjals and saute them for a few mts.Add the chilli pwd,coriander pwd and turmeric pwd.Combine.
Add salt and continue to saute for another 3-4 mts on slow fire covered till the brinjals are almost cooked.
Now add the milk and go on stirring on medium heat till milk is completely combined with the brinjals and you attain a thick curry consistency…this could take about 7-8 mts.You need to ensure that the milk doesn’t curdle,so keep stirring till the brinjals are fully cooked in the milk and then turn off fire.
Serve with hot steamed rice or rotis.
Note:You can make this curry with other brinjal varieties like Thai Eggplants or the purple variety.Ensure that they are tender and offset any bitterness before cooking the brinjals.

Some tips on cooking brinjals that I generally follow.If the skin is shrivelled and the seeds are black,don’t even think of using them, as they have matured and best discarded.Try to avoid cooking them in metallic utensils as they discolor the eggplants.Soak the chopped brinjals in water as they discolor when exposed to air.Soaking the eggplants in salted water before cooking ensures that the salted water draws out the moisture and removes any bitterness and hence absorbs less fat while cooking.Try to cook brinjals with the skin as the skin of the brinjal is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Chlorogenic acid, an anti-oxidant found in eggplants, is especially potent, with research suggesting it has anti-cancer, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, as well as an ability to help reduce levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol.Eggplant benefits those suffering from high blood pressure and due to its richness in vitamin D, it helps to strengthen our blood vessels and clear blood clots, thereby preventing stroke.Eggplant is low in calories,high in potassium and vitamin K with good fibre content.Read more about the medicinal and health benefits of eggplants.

An ayurvedic remedy for indigestion is to drink soup made of brinjal and tomato and this vegetable helps overcome constipation too.Hopefully, the health benefits of eggplants should encourage all those brinjal haters to venture into their kitchens and whip up a simple low calorie delicious dish like Vankaaya Paalu Posina Kura..:)


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nuvullu Annam (Sesame Flavored Rice)

Sesame flavored rice or Nuvullu Annam is a light flavoured rice delicacy, enriched with nutrients from seasame seeds and Indian spices.This dish is simple unlike a pampered biryani..:)in the fact that the main ingredient is only sesame seeds with the infusion of spices like curry leaves and mustard seeds in the tempering. Sesame seeds have no aroma but the flavor intensifies by lightly dry roasting the seeds giving it a sweet and nutty taste.

Nuvullu Annam (Seasame Flavoured Rice)

2 cups of cooked white rice (each grain should be separate)
2-3 green chillis slit length wise
1 1/2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp mustard seeds
15-20 curry leaves (fresh leaves only)
1/2 tsp Bengal gram (senaga pappu,channa dal) (optional)
2-3 dry whole red chillis (you can add more if you want more spice)
1 tbsp coriander seeds
¼ cup of seasame seeds (dry roast the seeds in a pan for a few minutes on medium heat tossing them around and make a coarse powder and dont grind them too much...the nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if they are ground)
salt to taste

Dry roast the red chillis and coriander seeds in a pan for 4-5 minutes on medium heat tossing them about till the flavours come out and make a fine powder.Keep aside.
Heat ghee in a pan and add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.Add Bengal gram and let it turn brown.Add the curry leaves and green chillis and fry for a few seconds till the leaves turn a little crisp and the flavours blend in the oil.The curry leaves along with seasame give an aromatic flavor to this dish and that is why the recipe calls for a wee bit more leaves than usual..:)
Add the red chilli pwd,coriander pwd,seasame powder and salt and combine.
Add the cooked rice and combine it such that the spices coat the rice well.
Serve hot with any gravy curry or plain rasam and appadam(papad).

Note:You can use red chilli pwd and coriander pwd instead of whole chillis and coriander seeds.But the best flavour is derived from dry roasting the whole spices and grinding them fresh.There is no substitute to that.Another piece of advice… If you don’t have fresh curry leaves on hand,I suggest you prepare this rice only when you have fresh leaves as the dry ones don’t give out that unique aroma and flavour which only the fresh ones impart.Remember its always the freshest ingredients that bring out the best of Indian cooking.

Since I have blogged about one of the important ingredients used in South Indian cooking,let me elaborate on the nutritional value of sesame seeds.These seeds are high in iron content (equivalent to liver ,if not more),rich in manganese, copper and calcium and also contain Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and Vitamin E (tocopherol).They also contain powerful antioxidants called lignans, which are also anti-carcinogenic.Ancient Ayurvedic nutrition recommends foods prepared with til or seasame seeds for Vata imbalance (feeling low,depressed,anxiety and restlessness)persons. Seasame seeds which have warming properties are one of the powerful vata balancing herbs other than cinnamon, cumin and ginger.Read more about the health benefits of sesame seeds.

Southern Indian cuisine uses sesame oil or gingilly /gingelly oil for cooking purposes and flavoring a couple of vegetable curries and stews.Its very common in many homes to find, Idlis (steamed rice cakes) being doused with gingilly oil and served with a spicy podi mixed in gingilly oil instead of ghee. Infact the famous mango pickle of Andhra "aavakai" is prepared with gingilly oil.Tamarind Rice or Pulihora taste is further enhanced by adding sesame seeds powder or nuvvulu podi.Among the wide variety of rice dishes of South India , Nuvullu Annam is one of my favorites and the addictive flavor of sesame in the sesame rice is sure to touch and delight your taste bud.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pav Bhaji -Medley of Spiced Mashed Vegetables With Toasted Buns

Yet another Tuesday and its time for Sweetnick's Antioxidant Rice Foods 5-A-Day.The earlier recipes I submitted for this event were Cauliflower Tomato Curry ,Uthappams and Bisi Bele Bath which is a rice dish with loads of vegetables.Actually I have started looking forward to this event as it really encourages me to think of recipes which include a lot more vegetables than usual.So this got me thinking as to what dish I should prepare which had atleast 4 to 5 vegetables,no,actually more than 5 and that's when Pav Bhaji, the quintessential Mumbai street food,immediately came to my mind.Can you guess how many veggies went into making the bhaji(vegetable)?Well, not 5 or 6 but 10 ..yes,you heard right,its 'TEN' vegetables!If that were not enough,the spice mix which give this dish its unique flavour, the pav bhaji masala,is a mix of more than 20 odd spices.And the herbs that liven up the pav bhaji even further are ginger,garlic,turmeric and coriander leaves.
Among the ten vegetables required to prepare the bhaji , eight were sitting in the fridge and I only had to buy some bell peppers, beetroot and the most essential ingredients of this dish, Pav Bhaji Masala and Pav (bread).You can prepare the bhaji without beetroot too but its just that I wanted to bring in that extra color to my version of the bhaji..:).Probably cant compare it to the authentic 'pav bhaji', the mumbai street food vendors churn out but it was very colorful,flavorful,satisfying and comforting medley of spicy veggies,not to mention nutritional,I have cooked and eaten this past week.


For Bhaji:
2 onions chopped finely
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 green chillis slit length wise
1 capsicum finely chopped
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1 small cup each of chopped mixed vegetables (french beans, carrots, cauliflower, beetroot,potatoes,green peas,cabbage)
3 tsps pav bhaji masala (any good brand,I used Everest)
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 lemon juice
2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander leaves,onion rings and lemon wedges for garnish

8 pavs (buns)with butter to shallow fry the pavs

Pressure cook all the vegetables except onions,capsicum and tomatoes.Once they are cooked till soft,mash them with a masher while they are hot.Dont drain away the left over water from the cooked vegetables.
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel and add onions. Fry till the onions turn golden brown in colour. Add ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and fry for 2-3 minutes.Now add the bell peppers and fry for another 2 minutes.
Add pav bhaji masala,red chilli pwd,turmeric pwd,sugar and salt.Stir to combine and then add the tomatoes and fry till oil separates.
Add the mashed vegetables and stir to combine.Add a cup of water and adjust salt, let it cook on slow fire for 20 minutes.Turn off heat and add butter and lemon juice.Combine.
Garnish with onions rings and chopped coriander leaves.
Serve this bhaji with hot pavs lightly toasted in butter.

Note: Bhaji can be prepared with even 2-3 vegetables like carrots,peas,cauliflower or bottle gourd.You can serve this bhaji with plain bread or roti too.

That sure was a lot of Indian street food fare we have had the past week..aloo tikki , corn bhel
and Pao Bhaji.Couldnt ask for more luring foods to treat my taste buds especially a dish like pav bhaji...:)