Friday, February 20, 2009

Dessert Time - Gulab Jamun

I shouldn't really be calling this a recipe. I am trying to talk here about the instant version. Who needs a recipe for that? Anyone can follow the instructions. But hey, once you made these golden balls, they are so picturesque that you just have to click and well, once you click, you post!

The Details

Buy any Gulab Jamun Mix with 3-4 step instructions from any Indian store. Follow instructions to the letter and voila! you have a good looking dessert.

I use milk instead of water to knead the dough and oil instead of ghee to deep fry. The only expertise needed here I think is the art of making even sized balls prior to frying. My lack of it shows:-) The other thing is to know how hot the oil is when you start frying. If the pan and the oil are too hot the jamuns can get burned and turn an ugly dark color. Learned this the hard way. So once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium. I like doing this in a non-stick pan as opposed to a stainless steel pan. The steel pan can heat up fast in my impatience to get the oil hot enough and my carefully shaped jamuns go to naught in an instant.

I should mention that these jamuns while totally yummy, are not exactly good for the body if not taken in moderation. We make this very rarely and that too in cases where a homemade dessert is appropriate but time is in short supply. Since it is so rarely made, I do gobble them up without guilt if I see them in the fridge after the fact. They keep well in the fridge for a few days. They can be eaten cold or microwave warmed for 20 sec or so.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sambhar _ Vegetable Lentil Stew

Along with Dosa, sambhar also didn't make it into our house when I was growing up. Now that I am all grown up (I think:-)) I have to say this is a pretty easy way to get all that veggie goodness into one's body. Of course the resident veggie exponent who loves sambhar had a good part in this realization. Together we have arrived at a pretty good sambhar recipe that pleases us.

In The Mix

toor dal - 1 cup (this lentil is available in all indian grocery stores)
water 4 - cups

potato - 1 large, cut into medium sized pieces
carrots - 2 peeled and quartered into 3/4 " pieces
tindora - 1 cup worth of fresh or frozen sliced (use any other veggie of your choice)
beans - 1 cup diced 3/4" pieces
pearl onion - 15-18 fresh or frozen ( can substitute with any onion of your choice. we just love the little white balls bubbling up and down in the finished sambhar)
green chilies - 3 sliced slanted lengthwise and once across. (this is a good way to slice chilies for any preparation as it looks good and will bring out more of the chili into the recipe.)
okra - 1 cup diced fresh or frozen
tomato - 1 diced
water - 8 cups

tamarind paste - 1 1/2 to 2 tsp
sambhar powder - 5 tsp (brands may have some effect. not sure. have heard the homemade ones are unbeatable, but then i have no access to this particular abundance)

to season

mustard - 1 tsp
thinly sliced shallots - 1 pinch or 2 (optional, i love it)
curry leaves - as many sprigs as you want. 1 or 2 should do
long dry red chilies - 4 or 5 torn into reasonable pieces
sambhar powder - 1/2 tsp ( HMom's tip)
oil - 2 tsp
salt to taste

How To Do

Boil 4 cups of water, cover and cook the dal till soft. Mash really well. No need to add salt. Check and stir occasionally to make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom. My daughter used to love eating cooked dal with a little salt but is slacking these days. Hopefully she will pick it up again some day.

While the dal is cooking away, start boiling the 8 cups of water in a large pan. Add onions and all aforementioned veggies except okra and tomato to the boiling water. Wait for the water to boil again after adding the veggies. Now turn the heat down medium to low, cover and cook.

After 5 minutes, add tomato and okra. (These two can be added earlier too but might really dissolve away with too much cooking. Depends on how you like the end result to be.) Add salt to taste, boil once, cover and cook for another 10 minutes on medium to low heat.

Add the mashed dal, sambhar powder and tamarind paste and stir well slowly and gently. For those who only like a subtle taste of tamarind like me and my husband (who will do away with tamarind altogether if he could), it is a good idea to add the tamarind in steps. Add the first 1 tsp without hesitation. After that add every 1/2 tsp based on your personal preference. We have discovered 1 1/2 tsp of the paste aligns our tastebuds well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or less on low for the flavors to blend.

Seasoning: Break mustards in oil, saute onions & curry leaves. Add the torn chilies and sambhar powder. Saute some more till fried sambhar aroma fills the air. Add this to the prepared sambhar. Stir together or let stay on top till serving with Dosa or Rice.

Rule of thumb from HMom : If sourness is at the top when tasting, add salt. Conversely, if you put too much salt by mistake and the recipe calls for tamarind, then you are saved! Just add more tamarind as these two balance each other out. I have discovered this to be quite true. You do know the other way to balance salt esp for a non-tamarind recipe is to add potatoes provided the recipe can sustain it. Right? If none of these apply and you still added more salt, I am sorry, but there is nothing more to do other than dumping it out and starting again! Of course I am sure there might be ways but I have just no clue at the moment:-)