December 23, 2012

Oats Upma

Oats upma is an interesting twist to the regular rava upma / rava kichadi, where sooji is replaced with heart-healthy oats. 

As far as I know, there are 2 categories of people - upma lovers & upma haters. Oats upma is worth a try for both the categories for its nutritional value (from oats & veggies) and flavor profile (from whole masala spices). Who knows?! There are chances that upma haters might start to develop a liking for upma, just as my hubby did! VJ blew me away with surprise when he specifically asked for this upma for breakfast today! Right away I knew that this recipe deserves a post in my blog! So, here's to a hearty & healthy breakfast!

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 4

Oats - 3 cups
Onion - 1 no (medium sized, thinly sliced)
Tomato - 1 no (medium sized, cubed)
Carrot - 1 no (medium sized, cubed)
Red bell pepper - 1/2 no (medium sized, cubed)
Beans - 8 nos (chopped into pieces)
Fresh/Frozen peas - handful
Green Chilies - 2 nos (slit)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - 3 cups
Ghee - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp (finely chopped)
Mint leaves - 1 tbsp (finely chopped)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

Cloves - 2 nos
Cinnamon Stick - 1 inch
Star Anise - 1 no
Cardamom - 1 pod
Bay Leaf - 1 no
Cashew nuts - 6-8 nos

Dry roast oats for 5-7 minutes and let it cool. Take care to not over-roast oats. Set aside.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add whole spices (under tempering), cashew nuts, curry leaves and saute for a minute on low to medium flame.

Add onion, ginger, green chilies and saute until onion turns translucent. Add tomatoes, carrots, beans, bell pepper & peas and let the veggies cook in medium flame. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder,  hing, salt and let the veggies cook until soft.

Add 3 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce flame and add dry roasted oats. Mix well and cook until water is all absorbed and oats is completely cooked. Add mint & coriander leaves and mix well.

Serve warm with curd / pickle of your choice.

Feel free to experiment it with veggies of your choice!

December 22, 2012

Carrot Chow-Chow Kootu

From the time I remember, my mom has been making this yummy kootu and I should say Carrots & Chow-Chow (Chayote) along with little peas makes an awesome trio. This kootu serves as a perfect side for spicy sambar / vathal kuzhambu. Personally, I love the touch of natural sweetness that the kootu gets from carrots & peas. Try it and you would agree that this is definitely one of the best ways for your toddlers to get some veggies (don't forget to cut down on the green chillies though)!

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 15-20 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 2-3

Carrots - 3 nos (Medium size)
Chayote - 1 no (Medium size)
Fresh/Frozen peas - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Coconut oil -1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Split urid dal - 1/2 tsp 
Curry leaves - Few

For the paste
Raw rice - 1 tsp
Channa dal - 1 tsp
Jeera (cumin) - 2 tsp
Grated coconut - 4-5 tbsp
Green chillies - 2-3 nos

Peel the outer layer of carrots & chayote. Discard the outer layer and chop the veggies into small bite size cubes. Set them aside. 

Soak raw rice & channa dal in little water for about 20-30 minutes. After 30 mins, drain the water and grind rice & channa dal along with green chillies, jeera & grated coconut into a smooth paste (sprinkle water as required) and set it aside.

Bring about 1-2 cups of water (just enough for the veggies to sink) to a boil and add all the veggies & salt to it. Let the veggies boil for about 10 mins until they are cooked yet firm. Now, add the ground paste to the veggies, mix well and bring it to slight boil and remove from heat.

Heat a tsp of coconut oil, splutter mustard seeds, fry split urid dal until brown, saute curry leaves and add it to the kootu.

Kootu is ready to be served!

  • You have to use right amount of water to get the right consistency of kootu. Remember that veggies always tend to shrink a bit after they are cooked. If you think you have added more water than required, just strain some of the excess water right after the veggies are cooked and just before adding the ground paste.
  • Do not overcook the vegetables. Chayote tends to get mushy if over-cooked.

December 21, 2012

Shahi Paneer

Have you ever wondered who 'd named all the food that we eat and reasoning behind those names?! Whoever they are, kudos to them for coming up with the name "Shahi-Paneer" for this royal & festive dish. Paneer pieces cooked in a thick, rich, creamy cashew & heavy-cream based gravy is R-O-Y-A-L in every sense (Shahi in Hindi means royal)! I am sure that no other name can fit this dish any better!

Couple of weeks ago, I made a lesser fat version of shahi paneer (only because I didn 't have heavy cream in stock). I decided to replace heavy cream with whole milk (went with my instincts). Interestingly, the taste was remarkably in par with the heavy-cream version.

Include this recipe in your next party menu and give your family/friends the royal treatment they deserve!

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - 20 mins
Serves - 3-4

Paneer - 2 cups (cut into thin triangles)
Onion - 2 nos (medium sized, chopped)
Tomatoes - 2 nos (medium sized, chopped)
Fresh ginger - 1 inch
Garlic - 8 cloves
Cilantro - a handful (chopped)
Garam masala - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Cashews - a handful (10-15 nos)
Salt - 1 tsp (or) to taste
Whole milk - 1/4 cup (substitute with heavy cream for rich & creamy gravy)
Oil - 1/4 cup

Heat oil in a deep pan and cook onion until slightly browned for about 2 mins. Set it aside. In the same pan, saute tomatoes until softened for about 2 mins. Set it aside. 

After onions and tomatoes are cooled, blend them in a mixer with ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and cashews. Add little water to help it blend into a smooth paste.

Transfer the ground mixture into the same pan and bring it to a small boil. Add milk and cook for 5 mins. Now, add paneer, salt and cover & cook for about 5 mins.

Finally, garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy this rich (yet, low-fat version) of shahi-paneer with any kind of Indian bread.

December 17, 2012

Carrot & Peas Pasta

You wake-up on a fine day morning looking for the best the day has to offer. Make your kids his/her breakfast and get them ready for school. While dropping them off at school, you kiss their forehead and give them a good-bye hug, saying "I Love You", assuring them that you 'll be back, right there to pick them up. Then, get back to home/work thinking everything is perfectly fine until you get a call saying "Your child will not be home.. he/she was shot and killed". 

Did you think that that will be the last hug that you 'll ever give them? Did you even think that that will be the last kiss that you 'll ever give them? The one thing that you loved to death is gone and is never coming back. Can you even believe this? There are parents & families who are going through this right now. Let us join & pray for them. Let God give all the courage and strength for them to get past this horrific incident.

And, to all 20 beautiful, innocent kids and 6 adults who suffered & died in the Connecticut School shooting incident - 'Rest in Peace'. (As a mother of two kids, I am shaking & teary-eyed as I am writing this).

Carrot & Peas Pasta is a kid-friendly recipe that I remembered from one of Giada's shows on Food channel. Try it and I am sure your kid will love this recipe as much as my kid did!

Basic Info
Complexity - Simple
Prep time - 10-15 mins
Cook time - 20 - 30 mins
Serves - 2

Uncooked Pasta - 2 cups (Any smaller variety of pasta - I used Farfalle tricolor)
Carrot - 1 cup (peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces)
Peas - 1/2 cup (thawed if frozen)
Onion - 1 no (Small, finely chopped)
Vegetable broth - 1 cup
Mascarpone cheese - 2-3 tsp
Cream cheese - 2-3 tsp
Red chilli flakes - 1/4 - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Cumin powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 2-3 tbsp
Fresh basil leaves - 2-3 tbsp (chiffonades)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until . Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender. Stir in the cooked pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce. Season with salt, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with basil chiffonades.

Note: Adding fresh basil definitely elevates the taste of the dish.

Kala Channa Pulao

Here I am, with another variation of rice - Kala Channa Pulao - a simple, healthy, tasty & wholesome one-pot meal. Actually, when I soaked kala channa the previous night, I had different ideas. But hey, who knows?! Thanks to the last minute menu changes - kala channa pulao is an absolute keeper and this tasty pulao is my recent 'claim to fame' in my friend's circle!

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 12 - 15 hrs (including soaking time)
Cook time - 30 - 45 mins
Serves - 3 - 4

Kala Channa - 1.5 cups (uncooked)
Rice - 1 cup (I used sona masoori, Basmati rice can also be used)
Onion - 1 no (Medium sized)
Tomatoes - 3 nos (Ripe, Medium sized)
Green chilli - 1 no
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Garlic - 2 pods (minced)
Cilantro - 1/4 cup packed
Mint leaves - 1/4 cup packed
Bay leaf - 1 no
Cloves - 3 nos
Cardamom - 1 pod (crushed)
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch
Kasuri Methi - 1 tbsp (optional)
Coriander powder - 3/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Tandoori masala / Garam masala - 3/4 tsp
Oil - 1/5 cup
Salt - to taste
Juice from 1/2 lime (medium sized)

Soak kala channa overnight and pressure cook soaked channa for upto 5 whistles. Keep it aside.

Cook rice with 1.5 cups of water in a pressure cooker. Let it cool, fluff it up with a fork without breaking the grains and keep it aside.

Grind tomatoes, cilantro, mint into a fine paste in a mixer (add water little by little as required) and keep it aside.

Heat oil in a cooking pan. When hot, add onions, green chilli and saute until onion turns translucent. Add ginger, garlic and stir for a min. Add pureed tomato/cilantro/mint mixture and let it come to a boil. Now, add coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, tandoori masala, salt and let it cook for about 5 mins (or) until the raw smell of the powders are gone. Add pressure cooked black channa, kasoori methi and cook until oil separates from the mixture.

Finally, add cooked rice and gently mix with the channa masala. Adjust salt if required. Let it get heated in low-medium for about 5 mins. Don 't over-mix and break the rice / mash up.

Remove from heat, add lemon juice and give it a gentle mix. A complete & nutritious meal is ready to be served and enjoyed!

  • In place of fresh ginger/garlic, you can also use about 1 tsp of ginger/garlic paste  
  • For 1 cup of raw rice,  I used 2 cups of cooked channa masala.

December 6, 2012

Paneer Matar Masala (Gravy with yogurt)

For this Thanksgiving, I got a good deal on a branded food processor that I have been eyeing on for quite sometime. More so, my only solace after VJ 's travel away from home ;) 

I always fancy how chefs (in food channel) use food processor for almost everything. Quite frankly that's what inspired me to get one for myself too! With this beautiful food processor sitting in front of me, all Giada's, Ina's, Paula's and Rachael's inside me were cheering to conquer & rule the food processor. With lots of expectations, I decided to use my food processor for kneading chapathi dough and shredding few veggies for the side. I felt like a queen in my kitchen watching the food processor do the job for me ... until ..  err... errrr ... I had to actually clean the food processor! Cleaning was quite a job - thanks to the sticky chapathi dough!! How I wish food channel had also shown "the tougher part" of using a food processor .. sighhhh!

Nevertheless - chapathi turned out to be really very soft and paneer matar masala was a home-run! AndI am still a happy & proud owner of my food processor! 

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 30 mins
Cook time - 30 mins
Serves - 3

Peas - 1 cup (Fresh/Frozen)
Paneer - 1/2 cup (Cut into small bite size cubes)
Onion - 1 no (shredded, used my food processor for this job)
Tomatoes - 2 nos (medium, pureed, used my food processor for this job)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Garlic - 2 pods (minced)
Bay leaf - 1 no
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch
Cloves - 2 nos
Cardamom - 1 pod
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Tandoori masala / Garam masala - 1 tsp
Kasoori Methi - 1-2 tsp (optional)
Cilantro - 1 handful
Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1/4 cup

Microwave peas for upto 2 mins and keep it aside. Skip this step if you are using frozen peas. I used fresh peas and do I have to even say - 'fresh is better' ?!?! I felt fresh peas had a bite to it even after cooking, where as frozen peas had no body. 

Shallow fry paneer cubes in little oil until brown on both the sides and set aside. Paneer might splutter when frying in oil - so, take extra care.

Heat oil in a deep pan. To oil, add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom seeds and stir for about a minute or till fragrant. To this, add shredded onion and cook on low heat until onion turns brown, for about 8 - 10 mins.

To this, add turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, tandoori/garam masala and stir for about a minute. Now, add pureed tomatoes and let it cook until the raw smell of the tomato/masala are gone. Add kasoori methi and stir for a min. Remove pan from heat, add yogurt and mix well. Moving the pan away from heat will prevent yogurt from curdling.

Return pan to the stove. Add peas and let it simmer for about 10 mins. Then, add fried paneer cubes and remove from heat. Finally, garnish it with finely chopped cilantro and enjoy with roti/rice.

December 5, 2012

Beetroot Pulao

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with great food, good company & gaining deals!

For me, Thanksgiving '12 was not really thankful but handsful! If you think I grabbed quite 'some' deals on black friday, you are wrong! VJ had to travel away from home for few weeks and that got me handful with two 'ever-active' kids! Believe it or not, it took me two full days to sink into reality that VJ will not be around to help with the kids!

On the brighter side, this is the only time when I get to try variety of recipes, anything & everything that is NOT elaborate (or) south-Indian ;) And, the very first day after VJ left, I tried this one-pot meal that I have been wanting to try for long! Here it is - a healthy, complete & colorful meal that can be easily put up in no time.

My 'fantasy-obsessed' daughter thought it was very fancy to eat a "purple" pulao and she absolutely loved it! The recipe is very mild when it comes to heat, but you can always bump up green chillies/red chilli powder if you are a heat lover!

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 25 mins
Cook time - 40 mins
Serves - 4


Grated Beetroot - 1.5 cups, packed (from 2 medium-sized beets)
Raw basmati rice -  1.5 cups

Onion - 1 no (Medium sized, finely chopped)
Green chilli - 1 no (slit vertically)
Ginger - 1 inch (grated)
Garlic - 2 cloves (minced)
Shelled Edamame / Peas - 1/4 cup

Coconut milk - 1 cup

Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 tsp, replace it with red chilli powder
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

Mint leaves - 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Cilantro - 2 tbsp, finely chopped

Ghee - 1 tbsp
Oil - 2 tbsp

Wash rice and soak in 2 cups of water.

In a thick bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil. When hot, fry bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves until fragrant. To this, add onion, green chilli, grated ginger/garlic and saute until onion turns soft and translucent. Add grated beetroot, turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, sambar powder and saute until the raw smell of beets are gone.

Drain rice from water, add to the pan and saute for a min or two until rice turns crisp. Take care not to burn the rice.

Lastly, add shelled edamame, coconut milk, 2.25 cups of water, chopped mint & cilantro, ghee, required amount of salt and give it a good mix. When the water starts to boil and as the rice starts to expand, close the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer on low heat. After 10-15 mins, switch off the stove. Leave the saucepan undisturbed for another 20 mins. Do not open the lid in-between.

Fluff up the rice with a fork and garnish with roasted cashews. Hot & tasty pulao is ready to be served! Cool cucumber raitha with chips makes a perfect side for the pulao!