Wednesday, 27 May 2009

27th May 2009 - Dinner - Gajar ka Halwa, Aloo Gravy & Paraathe

In order to celebrate my return to cooking, and the Champions League final, and the fact that it is 27th May, I decided to go for a slightly more ambitious menu. I had wanted to make Gajar ka Halwa since many days, so I went ahead and purchased carrots (die Karotten) and condensed milk (Kondensmilch). 

I decided to make Gajar ka Halwa, Potatoes with a richer gravy (which meant that I added onions, tomatoes and a small piece of carrot while cooking) and Parathe. 

I have special associations with Gajar ka Halwa, since it was the first one I cooked myself (not counting Chaai and Maggi), back when I was in Class VII. Also, this is the only dish I have made for guests.

How did it look?

There you go:

Fresh carrots! Notice the distinct orange colour vis-à-vis the red ones we get in India

All grated and ready to cook

The finished product

Aloo gravy

  • I erred on the side of caution when adding milk to the Halwa, due to which a lot of milk was left even after cooking it. As a result, I had to boil the whole thing for a long time to reduce the milk, but this excessive boiling made the carrots slightly soggy. Also, the initial plan to add condensed milk later got trashed.
  • Got slightly over zealous while adding sugar. A little less would have sufficed.
  • Made sure that the mistakes of yesterday's Parathey were not repeated. So, all in all, the Parathey turned out really well.
  • Sabji turned out pretty well. I wanted a rich flavour with thicker gravy, so I added onions and tomatoes too (the bare-bones version uses only potatoes). Also, added, apart from the standard Haldi-Mirch and Hing, some lahsun ki chatni, pepper, oregano and chopped green chillies for the fresh and hot flavour. The only problem was that I added a bit too much water, so had to boil this one too, due to which the potatoes got sort of mashed up, but it tasted nice at the end, so I wasn't complaining!

26th May 2009 - Dinner - Parathe and Egg Bhurji

If you checked this blog in the past week, you might have noticed the absence of any post for the past 7-8 days. Not that I am tired of cooking, just that I was in Italy for 5 days and something or the other cropped up before that which left us with little time to cook. So, anyhow, after surviving on Bread for 3 days, I was completely fed up, and decided to get back to the kitchen.

The dish wasn't new, I made Egg Bhurji once more, but this time I thought I should give a try to Parathe (Mukund was the one who suggested it for the first time, I guess). The method ain't very different from the Roti method, except you use oil liberally.

How did it look?

  • The bhurji tasted fine, I added some pepper at the end. I realised that making it in a deep, large container yields much better results (finer texture) than making it in a shallow one, the latter giving the typical shredded-omlette look.
  • Parathe were sort of average. They didn't burn or get too hard, but somehow they didn't taste as fine as I wanted. The best Parathe I have ever had are made by my Nani (who has a magic hand when it comes to cooking).
  • I added a bit of milk to the dough when kneading it. I had read somewhere that it helps make the Parathe softer (or keeps them soft, I don't remember), but I didn't see any appreciable change. Probably, I added very little milk.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

18th May 2009 - Dinner - Aloo & Patta Gobhi

Remember the 3 kg Cabbage we bought? I did a second round of Aloo-Patta gobhi this time. We ate our fill (dinners are the one proper meal we have, so we eat at least 1.5 times that of normal). But, still, exactly half of the cabbage is left.

How did it look?
  • Made sure that I didn't repeat last time's mistakes. So, turned the burner to a lower setting to ensure it doesn't burn, chopped enough cabbage which, before being cooked, looked as if it would feed half a dozen hungry IITians (you get the idea).
  • To improve the taste, added some chilly sauce in the final stage and mixed it well.
  • A bit of water helps cook the cabbage more uniformly. Don't add too much though, or it gets soggy. I prefer my cabbage on the crispy side.

Friday, 15 May 2009

14th May 2009 - Dinner - Daal Fry

Made Daal Fry once more, this time with Tuar (arhar) daal. Pretty simple recipe, actually. It is sort of a repeat dish, so won't post a lot of details. Onions, tomatoes, garlic and two green chillies (they are hot in ways more than one, considering they cost almost 85 times that in India)

How did it look?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

13th May 2009 - Dinner - Pizza with Fruit Salad

I was going to skip this one, because we purchased the Pizza from the Supermarket, and it wasn't really cooking, but am putting it for the sake of completeness.

Anyhow, we were very happy when we saw 12 mini pizzas, with 4 types of cheese, available at € 1,79. It seemed too good an offer, and we purchased the thing. What we did not take into account was the mini-ness of the pizza.

It turned out to be hardly bigger than a slightly generously-sized cookie, and as for the 4 types of cheese, well, that was all the pizza, or the pizzino, as the cute sounding title said, had.

Anyhow, we bought some fruits, and made some sort of a fruit salad. Took some milk, added sugar, heated, chopped apples, bananas and just mixed the whole damn thing together. Except, we realized later, it was nothing more than fruits and milk, and tasted just the same, so we ended up eating the fruits, and then drinking the milk later. :D

Anyhow, the pic

In the background you can see the Pizzinos in all their petite glory.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

12th May 2009 - Dinner - Pitla

On today's Dinner menu was Pitla (the ending is a schwa not a long a sound), a quintessentially Maharashtrian dish, though it is also made in Gujarat, albeit slightly differently.

Most North Indians might not be aware of Pitla, a staple dish for Maharashtrians. Made  using Besan, which is nothing but ground Chana Daal, it is pretty filling. And is pretty hassle-free to make; all the spices can be added to the besan mixture itself, so it minimises the number of utensils you need to clean afterwards (that is the primary factor for me while choosing one out of two recipes!)

How did it look?

The Tadka
  • Nothing much, except I added a final tadka on the top, just for the effect. Took a small frying pan, heated some oil, put in rai (black mustard seed), jeera and then poured it on top of the dish (pic above).
  • This can also be made in a dry form, which has a longer shelf life, and can be carried on a trip.
  • When we make this, a bit of the besan sticks to the frying pan too, but unlike normal stuff which burns on getting stuck and makes your life more difficult when you want to clean the pan, this one does not. If you continuously stir the mixture, what you get on the sides is a nice vertical version of besan ka cheela, a dish not restricted to Maharashtra. Vaibhav liked it a lot, and we had fun scraping and eating that stuff.

Monday, 11 May 2009

11th May 2009 - Dinner - Egg Bhurji

Egg bhurji, or anDa bhurji, the Indian version of scrambled eggs is a very easy-to-prepare dish, that acts as quite a filler, plus gives us our dose of protein in an other wise carbohydrate-high diet (potatotes, potatoes and more potatoes).

Today, decided to make Egg Bhurji. Chopped seven-ninths of an onion and a tomato, and stir fried them, finally adding 4 eggs (not-whipped) and then vigorously stirred it, so that it does not congeal into one mass. 

How did it look?

How to NOT make it the way it is made in IIT messes and canteens

OK, so all the while you make this, remember that ultimate aim!
  • Chop the onions finely, thick ones don't work equally well. Ditto with the tomatoes
  • Stir fry the onions and tomatoes, don't let them be too uncooked
  • Add Haldi
  • The most crucial, or mission-critical step is to vigorously stir the contents of the pan after adding the eggs. This has to be done to ensure that [1] the thing doesn't congeal, [2] the resulting bhurji is not coarse, but very fine and light, [3] the egg does not stick to the walls of the pan. 
  • Preferably made in a deep pan rather than a shallow one so that the stuff does not spill when you stir it.
  • If not stirred well, it will end up tasting like shredded omlette, which pretty much removes the fun out of it
  • I personally prefer it relatively drier. YMMV, but for people who are not very used to the smell of eggs, or who are probably trying out eggs for the first time, it is better to not make it sort of wet. The drier version has a fainter smell too.
The bhurji that is made in the mess is made on those large flat surfaces used for making Dosas etc, and the onions never get cooked enough, nor the mixture shredded enough, leading to raw onions and the congealed thing I was talking about.

10th May 2009 - Dinner - Aloo Gravy (Different Recipe)

Dinner was Aloo Gravy again, but with a different recipe, this one easier and hassle-free. Just dice potatoes and cook them in a pressure-cooker. No need to boil potatotes beforehand and the whole thing gets cooked in about 15 minutes.

How did it look?
Like this

  • What I made is a highly no-frills version of the dish. Normally, we can add a tomato (chopped) to thicken the gravy a bit and also improve the taste. Also, an onion (chopped) would help.
  • In case the gravy is too thin, it helps to boil the thing for some time. I added some pepper and a hint of oregano to make it taste even better.
  • In most cases, we assume that dishes are supposed to be either salty or sweet. In reality, it does not work that way, and adding a pinch of sugar to dishes like these actually does wonders. Also, some sour stuff like fresh lemon juice/neebu sat (citric acid) or whatever you have will help.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

10th May 2009 - Lunch - Namkeen Puri

So we are going to go to Stuttgart tomorrow, and I thought we could pack a couple of Puris along. Vaibhav had gone out for some time, so I took a nap, then woke up again at 11:30 for the Puri adventure

What we call TikhaT-meeThachi puri in Marathi, simply translates to mirch-namak ki puri ~ namkeen puri.

Vaibhav did the bulk of the operations today. He has been managing the Flour-Department uptil now, and this fell directly under him. We mixed salt, chilly, powder etc and kneaded the dough as usual, only denser.

How did it look?
Here's how
  • On tasting it, I realised that salt added earlier was too less and we would probably need to down the thing with achaar. 
  • I was generally conservative in adding chilly etc, so the final puris were more normal ones than, erm, namkeen ones, but that's fine.
  • ACHTUNG: Oil does not like water. We all know that. If there's anything which hates it more, it is hot oil. Never let water touch hot oil, unless you are prepared for disastrous consequences. No, we did not learn this the hard way, but it is something I realised we take. 

Saturday, 9 May 2009

9th May 2009 - Lunch - Moong Dal Tadka!

After a slightly depressing end to yesterday's cooking, I was back this afternoon with renewed enthusiasm, sure to not let Murphy thwart me. As it's a holiday, there was scope for making a fuller meal, so we skipped the sabji part and made rice and moong dal tadka, apart from roti. 

Moong Daal Tadka. Quite straightforward. In a pressure cooker, fry onions and garlics along with some Jeera (I am not bothering with English names for everything. Sounds very pompous and typical artificial high-society). 

Moong daal - often hailed as the quintessential meal for the sick guy, is highly under-rated. I mean, agreed that plain boiled daal can only appease someone whose taste-buds are underperforming, but if you fry it nicely, it promises to be very tasty.

How did it look?

  • God is merciful. Whatever he took from us in the form of yesterday's dinner was returned doubled. The thing tasted quite good and we had a rather filling meal. 
  • Of course, I sprinkled that tiny bit of oregano for the smell and the looks. Apart from that, I had the awesome Nimbu ka achaar I had brought from home, which very nicely complemented the daal. 
All in all, happy meal!

Friday, 8 May 2009

8th May 2009 - Dinner - Noodles

As written earlier, I was going to make Noodles today. We had cabbage (from yesterday, remember?), yellow pepper, onions and tomatoes.

And yeah, by the way, all recipe credits to my mother!

Chopped all the vegetables, boiled noodles separately, sautéd vegetables, added noodles after straining, blah blah.

Also found some Balsamic vinegar, and already had chilly sauce, so added that too.

How did it look?
What went wrong?
Many things, I guess. Frankly, it didn't taste very good. And we made too much. I erred on the side of excess and boiled a second round of noodles and it turns out the first set was sufficient. What you see in the pic has been taken out for purposes of photography, the real bowl held almost 6 times this amount.

Also, the vegetables got over-cooked, it got soggy, it became a bit smelly, as cabbage tends to do, and so the result wasn't very encouraging. 

But, I guess we win some, we lose some, and with every loss, it is experience++

So, here's to more successful ventures!

P.S. If you are reading this blog for the first time, not all my attempts are bad ;) Read the stuff below! :P

Thursday, 7 May 2009

7th May 2009 - Dinner - Cabbage and Potatoes

So, today's plan was to make cabbage (patta-gobhi) with potatoes. I like the sort of fried version we sometimes make at home, which tastes spicy and uses oil liberally. 

Recipe's simple, like all previous ones. Chop loads of cabbage and a potato and cook the mixture up. 

Thanks to this useful thing sent by Vaibhav's mother, kneading dough has become very easy. You just need to put the flour in, add a bit of water and rotate the mixer until the desired consistency is achieved. Quite a cakewalk, really. Without it, it gets slightly messy, if not difficult.

How did it look?
Top View

Isometric View
  • The cabbages you get here are HUGE. Ek khareed lo to poora khaandaan khaa le. The one I purchased today weighed 2.9 kgs. And cutting it was hell! So, I ended up using about 2/9 th of the cabbage today, and thought I had added a lot. Except, when I cooked it, the whole thing shrivelled to like half its size, and my plans of using the dish for tomorrow's breakfast were shattered.
  • This one takes a long time to cook, so what I do in such cases is, I do the initial steps in a normal pan, and when all the spices are mixed up, I put it in a Microwave and keep it for about 4 minutes, by which time everything nicely softens up.
  • I purchased a bottle of chilly sauce today. Pretty cheap at €0,49. It is great if you want to add that zing to your food. Often, if you get your chilly or salt or other spices wrong when preparing the dish, adding some sauce can make the whole thing taste quite nice.
  • Cheese! Also purchased a pouch of shredded cheese, ready to be used on stuff. Cheese is of course fabulous, and if used as garnishing, makes the dish look quite nice!
Next on the list: Noodles!

7th May 2009 - Lunch - Sandwiches

When I made yestersay's potatoes for dinner, I boiled 2-3 extra and kept them aside for preparing today's lunch. In the morning, I used them and quickly got 5 sandwiches ready in like 15 minutes.

Took the potatoes, mashed them with my fist (!) and added salt, red chilly etc. Took bread loaves and sandwiched the mashed potatoes between them and then slightly roasted the stuff on a pan, with some ghee. Pretty standard stuff, really.

What did it look like?
Isometric view

Head on

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

6th May 2009 - Dinner - Curried potatoes with gravy

Happy with the success of the previous two days, we thought it was time for more advanced stuff. Potatoes with gravy was what was decided, and after checking up the recipe from home, off we were!

Aloo-rassa (rassa=tari=jhol=whatever) is a common dish in North India, though lots of variations exist. What I made is what we call Station waali sabji, for reasons guessable.

With the fresh flavour that green chillies provide, this dish is pretty easy to make, but can turn out quite well.

And of course, chapati, which has become common fare now.

How did it look?

Isometric view

Top view

  • Of course, the final sprinkling of Oregano and pepper added to the taste, and the green chillies helped too. 
  • I am thinking of putting fresh lemon juice instead of citric acid powder that I added at the end for improving the taste. 
  • Was told that mashing a few potatoes first and adding to the initial mixture would thicken the gravy, but I forgot to do that. Although it still turned out fine, I will try that next time. 
All in all, today's was very satisfying. It tasted good and looked good too.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

5th May 2009 - Dinner - Of tomatoes and onions!

Today's visit to the Supermarkt was for purchasing Tomatoes (Tomaten) and Onions (Zwiebeln) among other things.

Another one of my favourites from home, a very simple preparation that I like a lot. Tamatar Pyaaj ki sabji. Very simple to prepare, but can be very satisfying. And of course, Roti, which we have now more or less gotten the hang of.

Vaibhav is already the resident Roti expert, and seems to have a natural talent for making that stuff nice and circular. Either that, or he has been furiously practising the past few weeks days :D

Also, to compensate for the lack of an open flame, I pat the roti with a small pad made by folding a few napkins. That ensures the uniform cooking.

How did it look?

The dish was simple, except there were lots of interesting lessons to be learnt.

All chopped and ready!

The whole Roti business is pretty much sorted out now. Neat and tidy!

The end result

  • The onions and tomatoes you get in Germany are a bit different from what you get in India. So, when you try to cut onions, they don't behave they do back home. This led to slightly bigger pieces which might not get cooked well enough.
  • The tomatoes here are quite rigid, not the lame, limp stuff we get back home. So, cutting can be finer.
  • OREGANO! This is one magic herb. We didn't have Dhaniya (Coriander) anyhow, and I wanted some seasoning, so I mixed liberal amounts of Oregano with the sabji. Man, what aroma! Also, it smells and tastes very fresh.

Monday, 4 May 2009

4th May 2009 - Dinner - Aloo Kaap and Rotis

So, we decided to start cooking today. Went to the Supermarkt (Supermarket) and purchased basic stuff, you know, milk (Milsch), eggs (Eier), potatoes (Kartoffel) and the like.


Decided to make what we call Aloo Kaap at home. Simple name, actually, combining the word for potatoes and the Marathi verb for kaaTna (to cut), because that's exactly what this dish is all about.

Then, when I realized I still had enthusiasm (apart from hunger), decided to make Rotis/Chapatis too!

How did it look?

The finished products. Rotis have been relegated to the background, but justice will be the done in the next pic.

Top View, almost

Digging In

Not too bad for a first time Roti, eh?

What went wrong?
  • Here, you can't make Phulkas easily because you can't place the Roti directly on the fire, there being no fire. So, I had to pat the roti with a napkin while it was on the pan. The burner was at the highest setting, and this led to the first roti getting a bit burnt.
  • Erring on the side of caution the second time, I lowered the temperature, but kept it on the pan for a long time. Result: Unburnt roti, but very hard, like a Khakhra
  • The third time, I had quite perfected the technique, except I was a bit too cautious again, and this one remained slightly uncooked.
  • After that, I had a fairly decent idea of the timing required and the final 5 turned out pretty well!
So, after dunking the rotis in a lot of Ghee, off we were to the table, relishing the first meal we cooked in Germany!