mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Tchoek Vangun hachi – cooking with sun dried brinjals

In Kashmiri, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on April 2, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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Tchoek-wangun, Kashmiri khatte baingan, cooked with sun-dried eggplant

Drying is one of the oldest and easiest way to preserve food.  In a country with plentiful sun it is only natural that we should have a tradition of using the sun’s energy to process food. You will find wadi varieties from all over the country. Bengalis put their bodi into many dishes including shukto, Southen India gives us vadams and appalams in addition to celebrating dried vegetables in, the most delicious of all ‘curries’, the vatahkuzhanmbu. In Uttarakhand mountain cucumbers are combined with urad-dal to make wadi. Punjab’s famous wadis which come in various flavours (with plums, with tomatoes, and regular – all spiced up with generous amounts of black pepper) can be combined with the blandest of vegetables to lift them out of the ordinary. From the state of UP we have mangodi, small wadis made with mung dal. Kashmirs make sun-dried spice-cakes and call them veri. Pickles that have been cooked in the sun for a while are found all over the country.

To use the season’s bounty and to tide over lean months or just for convenience it was also common to sun-dry vegetables. This has been almost lost in the times of frozen vegetables and out-of-season produce. Almost the only still-popular sun-dried vegetable in the North is kasoori methi. South Indians continue to use vathal, which could be made from many vegetables. The popular vathals that I have used and know of are sundakkai berries and cluster beans. These are used to cook vathakuzhambu an intensely tart ‘curry’ that is ambrosia to those of us who love rice.

Mutter Paneer, finally!

In Punjabi, Vegetarian on March 11, 2015 at 5:51 pm
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Lunch: mutter paneer, Jaini aloo, Punjabi masala papad, and roti

You may as well roll your eyes and wonder if it is possible for anyone in India, from North to South, and from East to West, to not have a family-favourite recipe for mutter paneer.  Heck, by now, half of America and the UK must have a house recipe they swear by.  But not so yours truly.  Believe you me, barring the rather successful attempt last month, I cannot remember when I cooked mutter paneer last.  It used to turn out so bleh that I stopped trying, turning instead to tchaman kaliya that has the added benefit of combining better with rice – the carb of my choice.

As you already know, the rest of the resident family is partial to roti.  It is my considered opinion that Kashmiri dishes lose half their charm when not served with rice.  The pros and cons of all this is that paneer is served on our plates only occasionally.

With the winter vegetables starting to look poor reflections of themselves by late spring, I picked up a packet of paneer instead from the friendly neighbourhood Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable store last month.  And, keeping the roti-eaters in mind I decided to take a stab at mutter paneer again.  Very deliberately I set about changing a few things in my recipe in the hope of getting something respectable at the end.

I didn’t think I could either drop or add a new ingredient.  It is my guess that sometimes Punjabi cuisine gets confused with Mughlai and cooks create an ingredient list that stretches long and may even include nuts – cashews in particular.  Such recipes are usually also generous in their use of butter or cream seemingly celebrating the origins of a dish in a community known for their love of milk and its products.  However, I do not recall the food our Punjabi neighbours shared with us being particularly rich or heavy. My food memories, incidentally, are very sharp.

Sauteed Zucchini

In From the Garden, Under 30 min!, Vegetarian on March 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm

That time when deciding what to cook is a difficult task, is back.  Cauliflowers have lost their spunk and cabbages are looking blanched. [Another winter has gone by without an attempt at making kimchi. Sigh.]  Now that bottle-gourd juice has become the new diet-fad they can be found on the shelves the whole year round but the season when they, and other gourds, are at their best is still around the bend.  Zucchini, surprisingly, is looking beautiful; must be an early season squash.  Last week I brought home a good-looking specimen but I was not in the mood to cook it a-la-tori.


Dinner ingredeints

I picked out my Italian cookbook from the bookshelf and checked it for zucchini recipes.  As is my habit, I  looked at the colour pictures first to see if I could spot something quick.  There was a picture, almost part of the background,  of a bowl piled high with zucchini rounds and labelled, quite simply, Sauteed Zucchini Rounds.  That was going to be dinner, along with Herb Pasta (wholewheat spaghetti) with Double Tomato Sauce (to which was added a generous handful of fresh fennel fronds).


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