Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)

Paneer kalia, radish greens, andhra daal

Paneer is de rigueur for a Kashmiri vegetarian spread.  Good high-fat milk is hard to come by in mountainous Kashmir since there are no water buffaloes; low fat cow milk is what you get.  Despite this, dahi (yoghurt) and paneer are plentiful and a regular part of the diet.  On days fasting is prescribed, all Kashmiri Pandits practice vegetarianism; even those who may not be fasting.  Observing periodic dietary restrictions are to be found in most faiths and belief systems, be it Ramzan for Muslims, or Lent for Christians. Us Hindus seem rather fond of fasting and have created an immense variety of them.  To add to the fun, each fast comes with its own rules: what is kosher, what is not, or the length of the fasting period (half a day to up to an entire month).  You may also chose the frequency of fasting: weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or yearly.  If you like to walk your own path, well, you could even customise your fasting routine.

Some food preparations are so intricately tied with f(e)asting that it is hard to imagine anyone would cook them on ‘normal’ days!  Breaking of a fast with specific foods also brings a special significance to those foods and further intensifies the link between our memories of events and places with the food we eat.

Continue reading “Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)”

Buried under…

buried under

This month I have been mostly…

…buried deep in work. I want so much to surface, get a breath of fresh air, and share my notes with you. But work takes priority; it does, after all, help pay the bills.

ragi idli

I have been eating healthy…mostly. Fresh cooked breakfasts had been sacrificed for the convenience of industrial bread…till the guilt caught up with me, and I decided yesterday that enough (of white bread) was enough. And how much work is idli, right?! Wrong. If you want sambar and chutney with it. Still, in about an hour this morning, much of which overlapped with my morning tea-and-newspaper-time, I had fluffy healthful ragi idlies! And there are leftovers for breakfast tomorrow as well! Continue reading “Buried under…”

Fried Rice, Again!

fried rice
At last I have a recipe using brown rice that the whole family will eat. I might also come out in the open about the fact that I love white rice. While I do on occasion cook brown rice, I find white rice is more suited to absorbing the curries we all love so much. You can mush it up with dal, or with dahi (yoghurt), and it feels right. Brown rice just refuses to soften up despite all the pressure-cooking I subject it to, and then it dares me to refuse. A lot like dalia (cracked wheat). But I put dalia in its place once I realized I could eat my cake and have it too, sort of. I needed a recipe for brown rice that would make it really sing instead of the forlorn ditty, “I’m good for you.”

I tried Musical’s mothaan di khichdi (using sprouted moth as Nupur had done) and reluctantly agreed with my teen son that it would have been better with regular white rice. My son will not touch brown rice with a ten foot pole. But lap it up he did with his 10 inch chopsticks when I made it into fried rice!

Now, who doesn’t like fried rice! I bet that all of us have our own favourite version of this classic Chinese dish. There are many traditional Indian avatars of this dish too using leftover rice – Maharashtrians have their phodnicha bhath (literally, rice with tempering), and the many South Indian rice preparations use the same concept too (chitranna, tamarind rice) – leftover rice mixed into seasoned oil, with or without the addition of vegetables.

While most of the dishes consumed in India under the “Chinese food” label have the most superficial of resemblance to the cuisine of that ancient country (Chicken Manchurian is as Chinese as Chicken Tikka Masala is Indian), I will wager that home-cooks serve a decent version of Chinese fried rice. That is because the home cook likely limits his Chinese pantry items to the generic soy sauce; and most Indian homes are never out of ginger, onion, and garlic. I have since also bought myself a bottle of hoysin sauce, and will be using it in this rice (and pray that it is not blasphemy); fermented beans are on my list next.

rices varieties
How many have you? Nine kinds of rice in my pantry: Clockwise, from bottom: Goan brown rice, fragrant white Basmati, black rice (a gift from a friend!), a mix of Kerala red rice (rosematta) and a dark red rice from Uttaranchal (from Navdanya) – I use the mix in soups, par-boiled rice for idli (from Madras Store, INA), short grain brown rice, brown Basmati; center -lightly fragrant short grain rice from Madhya Pradesh, which I have been saving for Ver)

The fried brown-rice happened quite by chance. I had (pressure) cooked a big pot of Goan brown rice, swearing to eat no white rice for a whole month. The following day I Google-chatted with a certain friend too late into the afternoon that cooking lunch on time was not likely.

My family will readily eat bread and butter, or bread and eggs, whenever I forget them on account of this computer affair. Only, I feel guilty if I do that more than thrice in a week. And there was that healthy bowl of brown rice sitting in the fridge…and since Kylie Kwong, I don’t ‘chop fine’ the vegetables for my Chinese recipes…Half hour later we were enjoying a delicious healthy lunch of fried rice – egg fried rice for the son.

fried rice
Easiest Fried Rice
(Serves 3)

4-5 C cooked brown rice (if using leftover brown rice, pressure cook or steam again to refresh)
2 + 1 T peanut oil
1 medium onion, sliced
a few cloves of garlic, smashed
1 T fresh grated/julienned ginger
2-3 whole red chillies (fresh or dry), sliced thin, on the bias
2-3 green chillies, sliced thin, on the bias
2-3 C prepared vegetables of choice (shredded cabbage, sliced carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, broccoli florets – I had only green peppers that day)
1 T soy sauce
1 T hoysin sauce (optional)
1-2 t vinegar (optional)
¾ t ajinomoto (or salt to taste) [yes, I do]
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)

To a hot karahi or wok, add 2 tablespoons of oil. To the hot oil, add garlic and ginger and stir till fragrant but not browned. Add the red chillies and onions and stir it all around till the onions change colour (a minute or so). Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring all the time, for 2-3 minutes, till the vegetables have all brightened up. Add the hoysin sauce and the soy sauce and mix. Add the cooked rice and stir. Sprinkle ajinomoto (or salt), and stir till heated through. Mix in the vinegar before removing to a serving dish.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok. Pour the beaten egg (to which you have added a pinch of salt) into the hot oil, swirl the wok around and lift the egg slightly to allow it to spread and cook. As it starts to set, break it up into large chunks. Tip a third of the fried rice into the wok and stir to combine. Serve this portion to the egg-lover in the family.

Other takes on Fried Rice:

Kylie’s Delicious Fried Rice
Manisha’s Leftover Chicken and Rice
Inji’s Indian-Chinese Fried Rice
Sig’s sunny Sweet Corn Fried Rice
Japanese Fried Rice
Thai Fried Rice
Chinese Fried Rice