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Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Anjali Venugopal February 25, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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‘Home’ is one word that can trigger a myriad of emotions in us; especially ones like me, living in faraway lands hoping to get a solid grip of the real adult life. There is something about twilight that invariably reminds me of all things home. Just as I watch the sun bid adieu outside my window, I cannot help but reminisce about my own little corner in the world, where I was taught that ‘love’ was the answer to all the questions life had to throw at you.

I get carried away to the laughter, the fun, the fights and the tears the walls of my home have witnessed through the years. I can just close my eyes, take a deep breath and I can smell my pillow who has seen more tears than I would like to admit to; I can feel the warm rice porridge seasoned with nothing but a pinch of salt on my lips fed to me by my amma’s soft hands when I came down with that wretched flu when I was 8; I can feel the taste of that crisp, raw mango my granddad plucked for my sister and me, from the neighborhood tree, which we relished with some chilli powder and salt with a dash of coconut oil; I can see my dad helping me out with my first set of tube paints; I even remember vividly the first sip of beer I had with him; I can see myself in my new pink and black frilly dress ready to celebrate my sister’s second birthday; even the first swing my dad put up for me on the chikoo tree behind my house; I can almost see myself at my granny’s knee listening to her ramblings of her first time on a ship. In fact, I can even see myself at my first formal date with the Husband, many years ago by the sea nibbling on a plate of chicken stir fried in some oriental flavours.

However, coming to think of it, I realize that the concept of ‘home’ has little to do with the structure of your house. It is the memories you have made all your life with the people you love without realizing you were making them. But to me, food plays a serious role in bringing back these memories. I associate a great deal of nostalgia with every bite I take and it is no secret that every time I miss home, a good home cooked meal helps to alleviate the emotional turmoil at least by 20%. Well, that is how it works for me.

There are days when I am moody beyond human comprehension and the only thing I want to do, is devour a plate of hot rice with amma’s spicy fish curry. There are other days when I sense a void, when nothing but a plate of some steaming hot momos, drenched in that killer sauce can satiate my soul. I come to realize that every single place I have spent a reasonable amount of my time at, has something to contribute to what I call ‘my idea of home food’. I have seen a considerable portion of India, ever since I left home at 17 and each of the cities I have had to spend a fraction of my life in, have in some way or the other affected my taste buds and the way I see food in general.

When I left home in 2007, my palate could not have been more mallu. All I craved for, day in and day out, was some boiled rice, stir fried vegetables and the mackerel curry. However, at some point in my life, it dawned on me that my palate has evolved and that there are days when I crave for that Andhra Chili Chicken from Nagarjuna on Residency Road, in Bangalore. There are other days when I all want is a plate of Rajma Chawal from my hostel in Delhi. Or maybe just some rich Dal and that sweet Kadhi that is lovingly served at Mayur Thali on JM Road, in Pune. Maybe this signifies that all these cities have, in some way or the other, altered my definition of home and have broadened it to include the love that is served in the form of food in our incredibly diverse nation; and this being solely because I may have unlocked certain cockles of my heart when I unknowingly felt at home in the nooks and corners of these places that warmly took me in.

So, today I share with you my recipe for a dish that is so warm and wholesome that it could arguably be the number 1 comfort food for many of us; the Dal Khichdi. It took me many years to comprehend that the sick man’s khichdi had a yummy variation too. Here I share with you, the not so sick man’s version of the simplest Dal Khichdi. Whip up a plate of this for yourself, and feel at home!

Things you will need:

  1. Masoor dal- ½ cup (red split lentils)
  2. Basmati rice- ½ cup
  3. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  4. Chilli powder- less than ¼ teaspoon
  5. Onion- 1 medium sliced finely
  6. Garlic- 4-5 pods sliced finely
  7. Ghee- as you may deem fit
  8. Water- 4-5 cups
  9. Mustard seeds, dried red chillies- for tempering

 

How to go about it

  1. In a pressure cooker, add the rice and the dal (1:1 ratio) along with the turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and one tbsp of ghee. Add 4-5 cups of water. (I prefer my khichdi nice and gooey) Let it cook on a low flame for about 5 whistles. After the whistles, keep the cooker aside and allow the pressure to drop on its own.
  2. In the meantime, in a pan, heat some cooking oil and temper the mustard seeds and the red chillies. Once tempered, sauté the onions and the garlic till they turn nice and brown and start giving out that wonderful garlicky aroma.
  3. Once the pressure has dropped, whisk the rice and dal well to achieve an even consistency. Add the tempered onions and garlic to the khichdi and mix well. Drizzle some ghee on your khichdi in the end and your khichdi is ready to be pounced on.
A One-Pot Chicken Rice

A One-Pot Chicken Rice

Anjali Venugopal December 7, 2016 NO COMMENTS

Hello again!
Here I am, guilty as charged for abandonment of blog (yet again!).

Well, honestly, I have come to realise that juggling a law firm job, managing the house (in spite of considerable help from the Husband), cooking, living with my obsessive cleaning tendencies, keeping the finances in check, making sure that I am involved as much as possible with the families back home and working out, all in one day, is not as easy as I may have foreseen, a couple of months ago.

However, despite all the hustle and bustle I must say that I am quite enjoying this new phase. Although, not a day of mine passes by without my wondering as to how my Amma has been doing this and more for all these years without grumbling. Some superstars we have as moms!

Well, the good news is, despite all these daily activities I just listed out, my cooking has not taken a back seat. I make it a point to cook at least a simple meal every day after I get home from work. I have come to realise that this little hobby of mine does to my mind just what a long hot bath with some exotic essential oils does to my body. It is not oft that one’s passion and profession end up being one and the same thing. And as much I would push anyone to run after their passion with all their might, I would never preach that they do so, at the cost of leading a financially independent life. But! Even amidst all the busyness your work life throws at you, it is absolutely essential that you keep aside a tiny portion of your day, only to do that one thing that makes you happy; that one thing that does not ask for that extra bit of effort from you; that one thing that you look forward to with a twinkle in your eye, just as the long day at work draws to a close.

Cooking does that for me. It just peps up my mind in no time. In fact, it need not even be full-fledged cooking. There are days when I just come back from work, struggle with the multiple layers of clothing (thank you, Wien!), change into an oversized tee and a pair of over used shorts, probably get myself a cold beer from the fridge, and then plonk myself on the couch to read the recipes I may have bookmarked through the day. The Husband now realizes that this is when I get in to my zone for a bit, before I have the energy to get into planning dinner or blabber about my day at work, and he goes about doing his own thing. I cannot stress enough on how absolutely important this half an hour is for me. Why don’t you start with keeping aside half an hour of your day ONLY for yourself? Don’t forget to come back to thank me. Haha.

Anyway, getting down to business. Today I am going to share with you a recipe that I came up with on a pretty long day when there wasn’t much energy left in me to cook an elaborate dinner. It is a one pot chicken and vegetable rice. And by that I mean, the whole dish is cooked in a single pot and you have a yummy meal on the table in less than 40 minutes flat.

Things you will need: (serves 2 giants and 3 normal eaters)

· Chicken breast- 2 (You may use some pieces of boneless chicken too. About a 100 grams)

· Basmati Rice- 1.5 rice cooker cups

· Spring onions- 2 sticks cut into small pieces

· Onion- 1 small, sliced

· Carrot- 1 grated

· Green chillies- 2 slit

· Soya sauce- 2 tbsp

· Chilly garlic sauce- 2-3 tbsp (I used sriracha)

· Ginger garlic paste- 1 tsp

· Thyme- optional ½ tsp

· Salt and pepper to taste

· White vinegar- 1 tsp (can be substituted by half a lime’s juice)

How to go about it

1. The first step would be to boil the chicken in a saucepan with about two cups of water, enough salt, pepper (1 tsp) and thyme. Just make sure there is enough water since we would need enough chicken stock to proceed with the recipe. This would take only around 5-8 minutes.

2. Take the boiled chicken out and shred it into small pieces. Keep the stock aside.

3. Next in a deep wok, heat some cooking oil. Add the ginger garlic paste and sauté till the oil becomes fragrant.

4. Add all the vegetables and sauté in the oil only till they begin to soften. This should not take more than another 5 minutes.

5. Add all the sauces to the vegetables. Here, there is honestly no fixed quantity. I like some flavor in my food so added some extra chilly garlic sauce too. By two tbsps each should be good.

6. Also add a tsp of white vinegar.

7. Sauté for around a minute.

8. Next add the rice straight into the wok. Mix well. With the sauces and veggies.

9. Add 3-4 cups of the chicken stock to the rice. Mix well.

10. Keep the wok closed for about 10 mins.

11. When the rice starts to cook, add the shredded chicken and more stock, just in case you feel it is insufficient for the rice to cook thoroughly.

12. The rice takes about 20 mins in toto to cook completely and for the water to dry up.

13. Your one pot meal is ready. Dig in! 🙂
This recipe works well for a working day dinner or even for a quick date night meal at home! Bring out the chef in you. Your body and your bank balance will thank you for life! 🙂

Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter Masala

Anjali Venugopal October 3, 2016 NO COMMENTS

Well, hello there! And this time, from the City of Dreams, Vienna.

It is uncanny how this city, until a few months back, was just a Billy Joel song I would listen to while my nose stayed buried under the mammoth client files on my desk, while burning away scores of bottles of midnight oil, in Mumbai or maybe, just another city that crept in to my must-visit list in an eternal attempt to relive life on the streets painted by a Woody Allen movie. However, today, as I sit by the window in our homey little apartment, at our round wooden dining table, watching the cold rain outside commemorating the impending arrival of Winter, realization dawns on me, that this is now my home.

As a person who, for all practical purposes, takes one day (sometimes, an hour) at a time, I cannot say that life turned out to be different from what I had expected. Possibly because, I seldom have expectations; out of anything. (And this happens to be the most treacherous area in my relationship with the Boy, who would, at this moment, have a fair idea of what he would be doing on the 22nd of April, 2028 and in all likelihood has a calendar entry in that regard. Talk about two ends of the same pole.) Hence, Vienna happened as a fortunate stroke of serendipity and that I feel, is the beauty of it all.

Anyway, getting down to business. Since I start working in only another week or two, I have had sufficient time on my hands to get down to doing two things I love the most; cooking and eating. I realize that it does take a fair bit of time for one, to get used to the ingredients that is available in a certain part of the world that one is not used to. I still haven’t gotten my head round the freshness and quality of the produce that is available in this part of the world; let it be fruits, vegetables, or even meat for that matter.

The Boy is possibly the biggest fan of Butter Chicken and has been after my life for a few years now, with an incessant request to cook him some Butter Chicken or Paneer Butter Masala. And north Indian cuisine, not being familiar territory, my procrastinating tendencies came to play. However, I gathered all courage and decided to work it all out in my head before I proceeded on to cooking a Paneer Butter Masala. There happens to be a paradox in this recipe and that will be divulged at the very end. So, here you go.

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Things you will need:

  1. Paneer- 250 gms
  2. Ripe tomatoes- 4 large
  3. Cashew nuts- 20 (soaked in water for 20 minutes)
  4. Chilly powder- 1 teaspoon
  5. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  6. Ginger garlic paste- 1 teaspoon
  7. Garam masala powder- 2 pinches
  8. Salt
  9. Cooking oil

 

How to go about it:

First step would be to make a smooth puree of the tomatoes. Keep that aside.

Next, make a smooth paste of the cashew nuts with a bit of water. The aim would be to achieve the consistency as shown in the picture below. Too much water, no fun.

img_20161003_132853Heat two table spoons of cooking oil in a wok. Add to it the ginger garlic paste and sauté till the oil becomes fragrant and the raw smell goes away.

Next you would want to add the tomato puree to the oil. Sauté for about five minutes and the proceed on to adding the chilly powder, turmeric powder, garam masala and salt.

This mixture needs to be sautéed till the water content disappears and and oil starts to ooze out from the sides. You would also need to ensure that the raw smell of the tomatoes has also gone away because that can be a total dampener to the end product. Take a look at the pictures below.

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Next step is to add the cashew paste to the masala mixture. Mix well, make sure there are no lumps formed, using a spoon.

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Add one glass of water to the mixture, mix thoroughly, keep the wok closed. The cashews cook really fast. Keep the wok closed for not more than five minutes.

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Open the lid, and make sure you arrive at the desired consistency for the gravy, right before you add the paneer pices to the gravy. Paneer takes no more than three minutes to cook and over cooked paneer resembles Nataraj erasers.

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Add the paneer pieces, cook for another three minutes. Take the wok off the stove.

I had plans of adding half a cup of cream to this. However, I did not, since I arrived at the desired taste, colour and consistency even without the cream. I used a teaspoon of cream to garnish the dish right before serving. img_20161003_133236

Kindly enjoy your Paneer Butter Masala with some hot Rotis, or garlic Naans. 😀

And here’s a snap of the same dish, fifteen minutes later. If this is not impetus enough for you guys to take a shot at this supremely easy recipe, I don’t know what is! :-/

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PS: I am pretty certain that you have by now figured what the paradox is. Yep, you are right, my Paneer ‘Butter’ Masala does not use any butter. 😐 Well, that cannot be a bad thing, especially if you have gone ahead and paid some fancy bucks at a fancy gym like we have. 😀