Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Colors of Chandni Chowk (India)

I know I have been out of sight for a long long time now and must have kept you all wondering. Got some vote of confidence that I have your love and support even if I choose to stay quiet for a while or try to take a little break. Also received a few emails and messages from some lovely friends checking on me which never ceases to warm up my heart. Thanks so much!
Just so you know I am doing very well, so is the family and the little monster. Just trying to get comfortable with a few changes in the day today life about which I will tell you later. Today I am here to quietly share some photos which somehow managed to escape my eyes. Photos from my last trip to India and an afternoon at Chandani Chowk, one of the busiest and most popular market of India. Hope you enjoy!

Chandani Chowk

Rooh-af-zaah!

Collage1-2

Colors Colors Everywhere

Chai Wallah

Chai Stove

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Colors!

IMG_9319

Seekh Kababs on the street

Dhaba

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Deep fried Indian breads

Juice Vendor

Vendor

Market behind Jama Masjid

Gorgeousness!

Bustling Streets

Jama Masjid

Eid Mubarak everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rabdi infused with saffron over summer berries

Summer berries with rabdi.
A couple months back we moved to this town in the suburbs of San Francisco. California was the first place we called home after I and the husband got married. We started with a small one bedroom apartment that had these huge windows with tall sheer white curtains and a stream running outside, just a few feet away from our patio. We made so many memories with this place and so many friends here before moving to a different part of the country. We lived there longer than we did in California but I always felt this place was home and I knew I will come back. And I did!



Now we are here again, closer to the places we loved and also discovering new places that we never knew existed. One such place that I discovered and I am so glad I did is this cute little farm blocks away from our new place. It’s a tiny little farm, nothing fancy, run by a cute little family. They grow seasonal fruits and vegetables and sell it right outside their gate by the street under a small shade. And that fruit stand is like a godsend to me. I mean where else can you just drive up, ask the fruit seller for cherries and he steps into the farm, picks some straight off the tree and hands them to you? Taste of the produce increases manifold when it is still warm with the hot sun falling on the tree. To be honest, I never knew that peaches can be so juicy, plum and peachy!

Fresh berries from the farm

These days the farm is loaded with fresh berries and so is my refrigerator and fruit basket. Bonus, the little one is crazy about them too. She can have them all day long seven days a week and still won’t get bored. So the perks of trying something new and just throwing berries in it are even more. And I have come to realize that berries make everything taste good. And when you add it to something as good as a rabdi then I can’t even tell you how good the result is!

Saffron

When you cook sweetened milk at low temperature until it thickens to a creamy and rich texture, it becomes rabdi. To step it up a notch and to add another layer of flavor and aroma, cardamom powder or saffron is added. This is a hugely popular dessert in India and is usually accompanied with rasgulla (cheese balls cooked in a sugar syrup), jalebi or eaten as is.  A friend once told me how they add clementine wedges to it. So I started adding any fruit that had a bit of a tang to it and I have to say berries work best. It is rich and creamy, and saffron gives it the perfect warmth. The best part is that its super easy to make.



How easy you ask? Find out at the merry gorumet. A beautiful blog by my friend Merry-Jennifer. She is right now with her friend Jennifer Perillo who is hurting . The moment she learned that her Jennie is in pain Merry-Jennifer did what friends do, she packed her bags and flew to comfort her. Merry-Jennifer asked if I could fill in for her in the meantime and I said yes. So please head over to the blog of this wonderful person where I am proud to be guest posting!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lamb Kofta Curry


Lamb Kofta Curry

I made some malai kofta a while back. People loved it but that was a vegetarian version and so my carnivore friends felt a little left out with that. I got emails asking for a meaty kofta curry. When Dara from Cook in Canuck invited me for a guest post and demanded the same thing I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to make some. So I am here sharing the recipe for my mom’s Lamb Kofta Curry. Don’t even get intimidated with the name because this is nothing but an Indian version of meatballs. Meatballs cooked in a creamy and spicy curry sauce. A few ingredients or spices must be different but the comfort and warmth you get with those meatballs you will find the same here.

Cashews

Kofta is hindi name for meatballs. In this case I am using ground lamb to make koftas but you can definitely use any meat of your liking. Cooking time will change according to the kind of meat you are using. Now the curry sauce is prepared the same way as you do in any other Indian curry with onion, ginger and garlic as the base. Then later different spices are added to form layers of flavors that burst in your mouth. But in this case there’s a simple ingredient which gives it a little twist. Cashews. Cashews are blanched and then ground into a smooth paste, mixed with some heavy cream and is added to the curry at the end. This gives the sauce its creamy and rich taste.


Another ingredient that I try never to miss when I am making a mughlai dish is kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Don’t ask me why. If you find it, just throw a couple tablespoons in there and that earthy taste in your curry sauce will tell you why. Its super inexpensive. You can find it at any Indian store for maybe a couple bucks and it lasts me forever. So if you can find it put it, if you can’t then no worries the earth will still survive!


To check out my recipe for a Lamb Kofta Curry head over to Dara's gorgeous blog Cook in Canuck where I am guest posting today. While you are there don't forget to check out how-to posts which are some kitchen simple techniques she shares every week, I find them very educative. So hurry up to Cook in Canuck and enjoy your time there!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Art of Making Crisp Dosa

I told you there has been a lot going on behind the scenes of Indian Simmer! One of the things that is keeping me busy are the guest posts that I have been doing for some very special friends of mine. One such friend is Shulie from gorgeous blog Food Wanderings. I and Shulie were talking a while back. It all started with a casual conversation and like with all the food lovers, it ended up being about food. I told her about my lack of ability to cook a beautiful loaf of bread and she empathized with me. She told me how her family, especially her better half, loves dosa and I shared how easy it is to make. The conversation went on and by the end of it somehow we were deciding on dates when we should share those recipes with each other. What better way to share a recipe with a food blogger than through the blogs. So for you fabulous readers and for a bit of our own selfish need we thought lets guest post on each other’s blog and share the recipes we both love so much. Last week Shulie came as a guest on my blog to share her recipe of a perfect and ah so gorgeous Challah. Today she very generously invited me over to her space to share my recipe for a crisp, golden brown and comforting dosa.
Dosa (South Indian rice crepes)

For those who are not very familiar with dosa, it is an Indian style crepe or thin pancake. While in the north India roti or bread made usually with wheat is popular, dosa is a southern favorite. It is usually made by mixing rice and lentils in a particular ratio and then ground and fermented before making crepes out of it.

Rice and lentils

I come from the northern part of India, the part where rotis are more of a staple than dosas. Although I do make dosas at home all the time but I wanted to learn more about them so I took a quick lesson from my friends Vijitha and Rose. Dosa is kind of their forte and they did teach me a lot about several varieties of dosas common in a South Indian family. Some dosas are savory and some are sweet. Some are thicker and soft while others are thinner and crisp. They can be made with wheat flour, a lentil based batter, semolina based batter and what not. But to share with you here I decided to pick the kind that is most common and also popular. The kind you can find at any Indian restaurant and the kind that is made with a two simple ingredients - Rice and Urad dal (Split black gram).



I have realized that making dosa is no rocket science! Just two main things to keep in mind – one, the ratio of rice and lentils must be accurate and second, fermentation has to be done carefully. Ratio between rice and urad dal for a dosa should be 3:1. Three parts parboiled rice and 1 part washed split black gram. The two are soaked separately in water for a few hours or overnight. Then the two are ground into a flowing batter later to be left to ferment in a warm dry place. Usually I let it ferment overnight, so technically getting a dosa batter ready to finally make the crepes takes at least 24 hours. But if you own an oven or enjoying some warm weather then you might be in luck and things might speed up a little for you!

Art of making crispy dosas

To learn how to make paper thin, crispy and golden dosas check out Shulie's blog Food Wanderings where I am guest posting today. Look out for some little tips on how to make a crispy thin dosa which I have discussed with you. But I have to add that everyone has their own little tricks for making dosas, these are mine and I am sharing because they work for me. If you have any other tricks up your sleeve feel free to share and educate us!And while you are already there feel free to surf around because I know there's so much great things to learn from her blog.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Acorn squash with fenugreek seeds and garlic


I have been missing Papa (my dad) for the past few days. Not that I am sad and neither am I out of control happy, I am doing just fine but I am missing him. We talk over the phone whenever we feel like, although after me becoming a busy mom the frequency has decreased but still we talk frequently. We spoke yesterday and maybe I will call him as soon as I finish writing this, but still I am missing him. We were a close knit family of four. Telling everything on each others face close, can't eat without each other close and sometimes "why the heck do you need space" close. Yes, that close and then slowly we grew up. Both me and my brother moved out of the house then out of town and now out of country to shape our lives. And now when I spend some memorable moments with this little family of my own that I created I miss the time I spent with them. When I go out shopping for a new furniture I miss my Mummy. When I hang up the phone after arguing for the nth time with my brother over a movie or new song, I miss him. And when I take the little one to the park and a gentleman helps his grandkid up the swing I miss my Papa. Whenever there's some good news or something sad, a new beginning or an end you miss them and specially when you are hundreds of thousands of miles away, you miss them even more.

I was excited about the good news that my first story to a magazine made it to print. Sashay magazine contacted me a few months back, as a matter of fact they did when I was in India with my family and asked if I would want to do a story for them. I was thrilled with the offer and said yes. So when last week their summer issue came out and I for the first time held my work in my own hands and saw the whole 5 page cover story, all in glossy print, my jaws dropped! Everything looked gorgeous and first thing that came in mind was, Papa would have been proud!



So when you miss someone what do you do? You try to do what they like and when you are a food blogger you end up cooking what they like. That's what I did, I cooked what Papa likes and Papa likes kaddu ki sabji (pumpkin). My father is a simple man and very simple things in life make him happy. Indian pumpkin cooked with fenugreek seeds, garlic and chili with a little sweetness and a little tang make him happy.

After quite a while I realized that the pumpkin we get in India is very different in taste, shape and size from the ones we find in the US. And after a lot of trial and error I finally found a variety of squash that comes closest to the taste. Acorn squash is what you need if you want the taste of Indian pumpkin. There are a lot of ways pumpkin is cooked in India, this is the way my grandmother taught my mom and then I learned from her. Its very simple with just a few ingredients you can easily find at home and it tastes pretty good. My mom stresses in the use of mustard oil which I always say is to Indian food (after ghee of-course) as olive oil is to Italian. But I used olive oil because that's what I and a lot of us can easily find in our pantry. If you can find aamchur (dried mango powder) then fabulous or else you can use lime/lemon juice as well. So here's the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 medium size acorn squash  (skinned, seeded and cut into 1/2 cubes)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 dried whole red chili
1 tbsp freshly minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp aamchur powder (dried mango powder) or 1 tbsp lime/lemon juice
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp oil (mustard, olive or vegetable oil)
Salt

Method:
Heat oil in a wok or thick bottom pan. Add fenugreek seeds.
As they start to sizzle add garlic and whole chili (broken into pieces)
When garlic starts to brown add acorn squash. Add turmeric.
Mix it all together and cover with a lid stirring occasionally until its half cooked.
Once squash is half cooked, uncover and add salt.
Now cook it without the lid until squash is cooked through.
At one point squash starts to get mushy so go easy while stirring or it will break. Not that there will be any change in taste but it just won't look as pretty. So just try not to mash everything up while stirring.
Once its cooked through add aamchur (or lemon/lime juice), sugar and coriander powder. Mix everything well.
Cook for another minute and then turn the heat off.
My mom serves it with hot rotis and lentil soup. You can even use it as a spread on your bread or serve it with rice.
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