Monday, November 30, 2009

Alasanadala kanda gadda kara pulusu

Kara pulusu is a relatively hot,fragrant and tangy curry that we often make at home. This version pairs black eyed peas and yam in a fierce curry sauce. Forget the milder and ever present sambar with your rice. If you're looking for something that'll wake up your taste buds and give your gastric juices a kick, then this is what you need.


There are many versions of this curry, you could even make it with just okra or baby brinjals. Pulusu means tamarind or sourness in telugu. The tomatoes as well as the tamarind deliver an extra punch and bring out all the wonderful aromas of the spices. Make sure that you use ripe tomatoes to get the perfect red color in your pulusu. If you're unable to find yam, proceed with just the black eyed peas.( increase the quantity to two cups of the peas)

This is something that I've learned to make from my mother-in-law, she happens to be a fantastic cook and a patient teacher as well. I remember, I cooked up a big batch of vankaya (brinjal) kara pulusa and annam (rice) and ate just that for three days in a row. After nearly two weeks of bland subways in cold and winter struck NYC, I just couldn't wait to get back to my spice filled kitchen. I know that NYC is probably the most cosmopolitan city when it comes to dining out. And I love love love NYC. But eating out with a baby, especially when it's freezing and snowing on Wall Street is just not fun.


It happens to all of us, a long absence from familiar and comforting foods that leads to a severe craving for basic and simple food that we often don't give much importance to. After a long vacation - what do you want to get back to? What do you miss the most and what do you crave to eat as soon as you hit home?

I'm sending this recipe across to this month's MLLA host - the very witty and hilarious-to-read Sra, who has a blog filled with beautiful pictures and wonderful recipes and great stories MLLA (My Legume Love Affair) event. This event was started by Susan who has a fantastic blog space dedicated to her beautifully thought out recipes and pictures.



Difficulty level - easy
Cooking time - 30 mins
Serves - four


1 cup - Black eyed peas
1 cup - Yam/Suran/kanda gadda, chopped into tiny 1/4 inch cube pieces
2 tbsps onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
10 - 12, curry leaves
Tamarind pulp, to taste
A big pinch of hing

For the pulusu masala -

1 1/2 - medium sized onions,sliced
2 - medium sized ripe red tomatoes, chopped
8 - cloves of garlic
3 tbsps of fresh grated coconut - optional but recommended
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp of methi/fenugreek powder
1/2 tsp of cumin powder
a big pinch of hing/asafoetida


1)Clean and wash the black eyed peas and boil/ pressure cook until soft but not mushy. This should take about 10 mins in a pressure cooker. If you don't have a pressure cooker boil the peas and watch and check for done-ness by pressing them between your finger tips. They are done when they are soft enough to squish.
2)Cook the diced yam pieces separately until soft. Do not try cooking the peas and yam together as they have varying cooking times.
3)Prepare the masala paste. Heat a tsp of oil in pan, add the onions and garlic and roast until slightly browned. Allow to cool. Transfer to a blender. Add the chopped tomatoes and coconut (if using); add the coriander, chilli, cumin, turmeric, methi and hing powders and grind to a fine paste. Keep aside.
4)To put everything together. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan, add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they begin to splutter add the curry leaves, hing and chopped onions. Fry until golden brown. Next add the prepared masala paste and swiftly saute the paste for about 2 minutes. When the raw smell disappears. Add the black eyed peas and the yam.( along with the cooking water). Add salt and tamarind pulp to taste. Bring to a boil. Then cover and cook for 10 - 15 mins to allow the flavors to meld together and you obtain a slightly thick and stew like consistency.
5)Serve hot with rice and papadums on the side.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Banana Walnut Muffins - OMG good!

A soft, moist and tender crumb for snacking or toasting, with real banana flavor and crunchy toasted walnuts. This is what the recipe promises and that's exactly how the muffins turn out. Every single time.


The recipe originally makes a killer banana bread but after making muffins out of the exact same recipe umpteen number of times - it's safe to say they are equally crazy delicious in the muffin form as well. Cuter and more portable too. And thankfully not disastrous on your waistline.

This recipe is from the book titled "Here in America's Test Kitchen" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. That should say it all. These folks leave no stone unturned in their quest to find recipes that work. They cover everything - how to pick and choose the best ingredients, equipment comparisons, techniques, do's and don'ts, neat tips and tricks. Plus a really cool science corner where everything makes so much sense! All of the recipes from ATK are usually done a thousand times or so over until they are perfected. So you don't need to do the any of the experimenting or frustrated screaming. Of course, I agree that sometimes they do go over board with you have to buy exactly this loaf pan, stir the batter exactly twenty one times and use fruit that ripens during a lunar eclipse or else you'll fail miserably. But perfection has a price and if you want create something that tastes achingly good, follow their instructions to the T and you won't be disappointed.


The hubby rated these muffins a 10/10 - maybe being ravenous after a long day's work influenced the score - a bit. These muffins are a standard at my kitchen. A breeze to put together and a perfect way to use up over the hill bananas. I've even made a healthier version by using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour and also sneaked in a tsp ground flax seeds. Tastes great too and is a perfectly wholesome breakfast/snack for toddlers.


P.S - CBD look I'm baking with all the wonderful goodies that you'll so thoughtfully put together for me. Love you guys! I cannot thank you enough :)


Difficulty level - ridiculously easy
Time - 20 mins
Makes about 18 regular sized muffins


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tbsps butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas mashed well by hand
1/4 cup yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarse


1)Preheat the oven to 350 F. Arrange the paper cups in the muffin tray.
2)Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.
I find the sugar in India is not as fine as that in the US. So I usually whizz the sugar in a blender for 10 secs or until it resembled caster sugar in fineness. This step is important or the sugar will not melt easily.
3)Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla with a wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Fold in walnuts.
Scoop the batter into the muffin tray.
4) Bake until the muffin tops are golden brown and tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 mins, then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goan Fish Recheado

I have to say "Goan" fish recheado. And that does the trick - if you've been to Goa and have fallen in love with it, this dish will take you back to beautiful Goa with memories of lazy lunches, balmy weather, pretty hand printed sarongs, fresh and simple seafood, cane chairs and warm sands. It's heaven on earth.:)


Recheado is Portuguese for stuffed.(Google) And this version is traditional Goan food that you'll most definitely find on any menu at Goa, whether you're eating at a makeshift little hut or at an upscale fine dining place. I'm partial to the makeshift places. They always get it right. Evoking just the kind of sensory pleasure that good food should with none of the fancy gadgets and hoity toity explanations. Good food, minus the frills.

I specifically looked for Mackerel as that is what is used in the classic version. But feel free to use pomfret or kingfish if that's easier to find and is fresher. Any firm and white fleshed fish would work well. Mackerel , I found has a strong fishy odour. If you're not game for it, stick to the milder fish varieties.
I remember eating fish recheado made with pomfret many years ago at a lovely family owned restaurant that was highly recommended by the locals, Souza Lobos on Calangute beach. Divine.


The recheado stuffing or masala paste has a long list of ingredients. Each of them plays a vital role in bringing out the robust, spicy and lively flavors of Goan food. This dish is really easy to make,looks spectacular and tastes very very good with hot steamed rice. Make sure your fish is really fresh and if you don't want to shallow fry, an open grill would be a fantastic alternative. If you are vegetarian/vegan try toning down the spice levels and stuffing okra with the paste. Delicious.

While I'm typing this recipe out, my toddler is begging me to please throw the fish back into the swimming pool. Funny thing is he didn't seem to mind when he was eating the photograhed fish for lunch. :)

So if you're feeling like taking off to Goa (but really cannot like most of us) this should keep you happy. Temporarily at least.



Difficulty level - easy
Cooking time - 10 mins.
Marination time - 1 hour. Plus allow time for overnight marination of the spices.
Serves two.


For the masala paste

20 dried red chillies
6 cloves
2 one inch cinnamon pieces
5 pods of cardamom
1/4 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of black pepper
20 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
toddy vinegar to taste ( use any mildly flavoured vinegar as a substitute)

For the recheado masala

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste

2 medium sized whole mackerel, whole pomfret or kingfish slices
juice of 1/2 lime
salt to taste


For the masala or recheado paste

Soak red chillies, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, garlic and ginger in the toddy vinegar. I soaked them overnight. If you're short on time - one hour would be good enough. Then grind to a fine paste. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the finely chopped onion and saute till golden brown in color. Now add the sugar and salt. Mix well and cook until the raw smell disappears and the paste turns a beautiful deep dark red. You will see the oil separate out. It's done, take off the heat and allow to cool.

For the main dish

Clean the fish and pat the it dry with a paper towel. Make deep gashes on both sides of the fish. Skip this step if you're using fish slices instead of whole fish. Rub the fish generously with salt and lemon juice on both the outside as well as the insides. Stuff the fish with the prepared recheado masala paste. Allow the fish to marinate for 45 mins - 1 hr.

Heat oil in a pan. Shallow fry the fish for 4 - 5 minutes on each side or until it is cooked through and you get a crisp exterior. Serve hot with Goan bread or rice.

Note - Be very gentle while turning the fish over - it tends to break and fall apart.