Tag: Indian food

Garam Masala Tuesdays: Baingan ka Bharta

Marriage changes you. It influences your personality, and your responsibilities and priorities change. Your partner’s personality rubs off on you a little and vice versa. I have definitely become more calm, and patient after marriage. Things that would bother me earlier, still do bother me, but to a lesser extent. I would not attribute all the changes to V, although his role is undeniable, but marriage brought with it certain changes which have changed me, for the better. So, yes marriage changed me.

Marriage also changes your eating habits. I have seen a change in what V eats. He has started accepting mushrooms in his diet- he is still not crazy about them but has made his peace with mushrooms. All for me.

I too have adjusted my taste buds to his. From someone who wouldn’t touch bharta with a ten-foot pole, here I am writing about it on GMT.

That’s Change.

That’s Growth.

Baingan bharta is a dish made from roasted eggplants cooked with onions, tomatoes, chillies, ginger and garlic. Some people also add peas and other various vegetables to it.

Baingan (pronounced bane-gun) is what Indians call eggplant in hindi. And bharta (pronounced bhharta with the first “a” in bharta pronounced the same way you pronounce “u” in mud. Pardon me, but phonetic symbols are not my strongest point!), is the hindi word for roughly mashed/pureed vegetables.

This dish can be prepared two ways with roasted eggplant – one with accompanying raw ingredients which typically includes mustard oil and the other with cooked ingredients. The recipe below uses the latter method.

Honestly Baingan ka bharta was my least favorite dish growing up. It was hardly made at home, and when made, I never ate it. I wanted to like it, because eggplants are good for you, but I just found it too slimy to look at.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Jeera Aloo

Today, me and my heating pad are inseparable.

Today, cooking is the last thing on my mind.

But today, is also Tuesday. One of the two days of the week that V does not eat non-vegetarian food.

Staying where we do, to-go options are slim, and vegetarian to-go options are next to none. The only things that count are pizza and really cheesy mexican food. V is not fond of really cheesy things and I did not care for pizza.

So, I had to think of something easy that I could make that would fill and satisfy V and my stomachs.

Jeera aloo came to the rescue.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Chilli Chicken Bread Pizza

Off lately, I have been very lazy with blogging and especially with GMTs.

Its not that I had nothing Indian to post yesterday. I had plenty to post. It’s just that the whole of yesterday I spent cuddled in the bed with my book.

I recently found out about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

I got the book from my friend on Friday, but could only start the book on Tuesday. And that’s why I wasn’t able to post anything yesterday. The book had me hooked and I just could not put it down! Not even for blogging.

Yes, that happens!

If you haven’t read the books, you should now!

Seriously, get it!

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Gulab Jamun from scratch!

If you have been doing the rounds in the food blogosphere, I am sure you have come across Sinfully Spicy. And if you have come across Tanvi’s site, then I am sure you have stuck around and visited her blog again and again.

It was her Gulab Jamun picture on Foodgawker that had caught my attention the first time. And that’s what I will be sharing with you today on GMT.

In the past whenever I have made Gulab Jamuns, its been from a packet mix. Had I known they would be so easy to make from scratch, I would have never bought a packet.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Tokri/Katori Chaat Station

So, I had an awesome 4th of July weekend. We went to the Grand Canyon. Spent the night in Sedona. Had a day trip to Flagstaff. Watched a Bollywood movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. Saw Transformers: Dark Side of the moon. Weren’t too impressed by it. On our way back home, got caught in a major dust storm and thunder showers. Overall, a tiring but fun weekend.

The weekend started with a night out with my girlfriends.

Now, the thing about me is that I just can’t hold my alcohol. My drinking capacity on most days is just a glass of wine. On certain days its a little more. But, most of the days its just one glass. When my body is a little brave, I can hold in 2-3 glasses. But, some god-forsaken days, I try to be braver than usual. And those days are followed the next day by a very horrible, sickening feeling called a hangover! The girls’ night out was one such day- where not only was I braver than usual, I was trying to be smart as well and mixed my drinks! Now, mixing drinks is a no-no especially if you want to avoid really bad hangovers. But, that night I tried to act too smart with my alcohol. And like anyone who tries to act too smart but actually isn’t- I fell down real bad the next day.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Dal Makhani

A week back, on this day- Tuesday, I started a new thing on the blogGaram Masala Tuesdays or as someone I know put it GMT (I tell you, these things are not intentional- they just happen 🙂 !). This Tuesday its my second post for Garam Masala Tuesday and even though I have been in no mood of cooking- it has been a 2 1/2 months long break from cooking– but I had to post something today. How can I start something a week back and not live up to the promise!

Since I had to post, and there were no two ways about it, I thought I would make something that would not require too much effort. And, something that I knew V had eaten rarely in the last 2 1/2 months. And something I love quite dearly. So it had to be Dal Makhani.

Dal Makhani is the quintessential Punjabi dish (Punjab is a state in the northern part of India). Dal means lentils and makhani means buttery; so, literally translated dal makhani reads “buttery lentils”. Dal Makhani, butter naan and butter chicken are staple to Punjabi food- the above three and rajma chawal are always top of every Punjabi’s favorite food list.

Dal makhani is a rich, creamy lentil dish that is traditionally cooked on a low simmer for hours in a pureed tomato and butter gravy. Traditionally, the dal was cooked by leaving overnight on burning charcoal. It is also called Maa ki Dal. Though Maa means mother in Hindi,  Maa is also the name given to whole unskinned black lentils and hence the name for the dish.

If you notice, the common thing to most Punjabi dishes is, yes, you guessed it- butter. Ah, butter- utterly butterly delicious butter! Being a north Indian and a hard core Punjabi, now you know the reason behind my affinity to butter and the reason for my tendency to put on weight. Well, tradition is a tough thing to break from and when tradition comes in the form of butter, you know the battle is lost!

There are lot of different versions of this dish but I like this one as its easy and the results are always great. Plus, there is no chopping involved in the recipe I use (that is exactly why I chose to make it today). And requires very little time in the kitchen. It does take 2 hours for the whole preparation but you are not required to be in the kitchen the whole time.  This dish is great even the next day- so feel free to make a day before you plan to serve it. The dish is great both with rice and with Indian flatbreads like chappati/roti or naan.

Note: Some time back I had posted another lentil recipe. It is one of V’s recipe and IT IS GOOOOOD! Do check it out!

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I remember, a year back, when my friend, M, and I were both staying at my Bhua’s place, working on a venture that never kicked off, M made this amazing kadhi (a soup kind of dish made from gram flour and yogurt). I remember having a similar version at my friend B’s place when I was in school. I am not a kadhi fan. Well, let me rephrase that: I am not a Punjabi kadhi fan- the one that is generally really thick in consistency and has fried pakoras immersed in it. But I love the Rajasthani kind and loved M’s version. So, when I got married and moved to the States and started trying my hand at cooking I requested M to mail me the recipe.

Now, I could just give you the recipe in my boring step-by-step style or could post the recipe exactly as M described it. I enjoyed the way she explained each step and hopefully, she won’t mind me posting it verbatim here. Knowing her, she won’t. Thanks M, not only for the recipe but for everything else.:)

I have called it Erra aunty’s kadhi recipe because I think its M’s mom’s (Erra Aunty) recipe, but, come to think of it, it might be M’s own recipe too.

P.S: The italicized comments in the brackets are mine! Rest all is from M’s mail.

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The other day I was talking to one of my ‘bestest‘ friends, B. Now married and living in the Middle East, she is one person who comes closest to being my replica. A fellow Capricornian, her traits are quite similar to mine. We have had our ups and downs, periods where either did not know what’s happening with the other, but, somehow, and mostly because of the effort she has put in staying in touch, we are still the ‘bestest’ friends.

Growing up, we have had numerous meals in each others houses- her mom, for me, is one of the best cooks I know and for her, the same holds for my mom. These days, both living the lives of housewives, our phone conversations have evolved from normal school bitching to talks about our housewive roles! Its quite funny to see both of us exchanging recipes on the phone- two people who never entered the kitchen before marriage! How life takes a turn!

B religiously views my blog. She wanted my mother’s rajma recipe. So here I am posting it for her.

Rajma Chawal (red kidney bean curry served with rice) is a dish very dear to north Indians. It was and still is one of my favorites. My bhua (my father’s sister) would make it for me every time we went to visit her. For long, I hardly used to eat rice. The only time I would serve myself some would be when there was rajma as an accompaniment (Yup, that’s how much I like rajma!). It’s also one of V’s favorite dish. In fact, I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t like rajma chawal.

Its a very popular favorite Indian dish. Its comfort food in the true sense. A statement made true from the fact that at Vaishno Devi, the holiest Hindu temple, the staple food served is rajma chawal. After a tiring trek, getting piping hot rajma chawal is just purely heaven, especially when you are in God’s abode!

The trick to good rajma is the grating of the onions. I have tried both- with finely chopped onions and grated onions. The results have been significantly better with the latter. Go figure! I think its the “juice” from the grated onion that helps permeate the dish with flavor. I also think grated onions gives a thicker gravy. These are just my assumptions, and even though grating the onions is definitely more effort, I find the results worth it.

I have also learnt that the Rajma masala freezes really well. When you want to make the rajma, just remove the masala from freezer and put in pan on low flame. Pressure cook the soaked rajma with salt, and once beans are soft add the rajma masala and cook till you get the required consistency.

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I am getting better at things. More quick. I was done with preparing lunch, sweeped and mopped the kitchen floor, loaded Jaywanti (our dishwasher) – I usually wait till night for this- but today I had time on my hand. I also set the table and after no more excuses left to not take a bath- I took a shower too. All this, in less than two hours! For me, this is an achievement. I remember, during my first few weeks of marriage, I used to struggle getting the food ready just in time for V to come home for lunch. The kitchen used to be a mess and I, too, used to be one. But, now, I have become more comfortable with cooking Indian and thus, more efficient (self pat on my back!) :).

Now, V has a list of favorite food. He can eat the same thing day in and day out for days, weeks and months. The list includes: arhar ki dal (yellow lentil curry), baingan ka bharta (roasted eggplant cooked with spices), biryani (a rice based dish), bhindi (okra). And when I say that he can eat these dishes day in and day out, I mean it. He used to do that when he was a bachelor. He does the same when he goes back home. The dal is made everyday and the bhindi and the baingan ka bharta alternated during his stay.

V’s favorite things made me wonder, what’s my list? What things can I eat again n again without getting bored. And, I realized, even my favorite of favorite things- I can’t repeat them more than two consecutive times, max three times. After the third time, I would need a change. I need variety. But, yes, there are a few things that do come close to things I could eat repeatedly- (I am not including chocolates, cakes, cookies here- talking about stuff that I could eat as a meal). My list is:

1. Maggi noodles

2. Parantha made out of leftover dal (a flat Indian bread made from leftover cooked lentils and whole wheat flour)

3. Chilli chicken (dry)

4. Dal makhani (black lentil curry cooked in lots of butter)

Now, one look at V’s and my list, and you would know why I am the size I am, and why V is the size he is. He likes all the healthy stuff. The food I like is not unhealthy per se (agreed, the Maggi is unhealthy), but it surely is fattening!

So, when I started cooking, I thought of cooking what V likes, that ways I too get into the habit of eating healthier. It hasn’t worked completely. I still eat more chocolate than he does. I also snack more, when he is in office and I am alone at home! But, overall, its an improvement. I have warmed up to healthier vegetables like bitter gourd and eggplant, and to food like yellow lentil curry- things I never ate before- things that my mom is shocked to learn I ‘willingly’ make in my home!

So, today I made baingan ka bharta. Its an Indian dish made with roasted eggplant that is cooked with some onions, tomatoes and other Indian spices. The key to good baingan bharta lies in the smoky flavor you get after roasting it. Roasting can be done either directly on the gas flame or by basting the eggplant with some oil and leaving it in the oven at the highest setting for 15-20 minutes, or until the skin gets the burnt color and starts peeling off slightly. This time I tried roasting the eggplant directly on the flame but the next time I’ll try broiling it in the oven. It’s just less messier that ways!

Also, a lot of the recipes I saw, called for mustard oil. But, since its banned in the US for human consumption- supposedly because of its high content of erucic acid, which is considered noxious, I used vegetable oil. I still don’t know how unsafe it is to use mustard oil, though, generations in our family have used it and, touch wood, faced no problems. Some forums, do mention that heating the mustard oil to a smoking temperature does reduce the noxious substances. I feel its just a matter of buying from a reputed manufacturer.

Lot of people also make this dish with peas, but I did not have any on hand, plus, I am not that big a fan. But, feel free to add!

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Happy Independence Day!! India celebrates its 63rd Independence Day today. The last one week I have been in Independence mode, changing my profile pic on facebook to that of the Indian flag, posting patriotic videos, missing India so much and feeling so proud of my fighter pilot dad and Naval Aviator bro (the last not restricted to just last week).

My dad recently was involved in some rescue operations in the flash flood struck Ladakh region and he was there saving the lives of people. I was scared for his safety (can’t imagine what my mom must be going through) but I was really proud of him. I am sure my mother has a tough time being totally cool with the danger involved in both my dad’s and brother’s profession, especially considering the history. Both, my father and brother, have had to eject when their planes crashed, in totally separate incidents. Fortunately, the crashes were not fatal and both have now fully recovered to fly again. But, many of my father and brother’s friends haven’t been so lucky.

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