Thursday, July 22, 2010

Audition for tradition, Mor Kuzhambu

Be it pumpkin, okra, brinjal, banana, banana stem, sepankezhangu (colocasia) and the list can keep extending! Mor kuzhambu has been the standard for tradition and it can accept any of the vegetables, although when you prepare it for rituals, you restrict the list to only a very few. My heart favorite has always been okra and pumpkin. Though colocasia is irresistible to me and my family in any form, generally it is devoured roasted. However, adding it in Mor kuzhambu is also good. A few weeks back, I made mor kuzhambu with colocasia.

My feelings associated with this particular dish are a bit funny! No doubt I always enjoyed it when amma makes it and every time she would conjure up a new flavor. The buttermilk is like a base, it will just reflect the taste of the spices one is going to use. So, any slight modification will result in a different taste. A slight excess in cumin or coriander or a spirited use of pepper or using them with or without roasting can all be detected even when it is under preparation! I never knew how to make it and once I asked amma over skype the procedure and she patiently explained it to me and when I tried to make it, I over boiled the butter milk and lost the consistency and all I did was to fish out the okra from it and eat! After that I didnt not attempt to make it for a long time and decided that my wife needs to know how to make excellent mor kuzhambu!

After that it was Vasu who tempted me again with her excellent preparation and then I watched her make it and learnt the nuances. Soaking toor dhal for 30 minutes is the first step. Then dry roasting red chilis, few coriander seeds and few cumin seeds is an important and careful step. Some people soak the cumin and coriander along with the dhal, but I prefer this roasting. Once carefully roaster, it is blended with the dhal along with luscious amounts of fresh shredded coconut. After spluttering mustard seeds in coconut oil, turmeric and hing are added. If it is going to be okra, then this is the right time to add it and fry it a little. If pumpkin, then add water, add cut pieces of pumpkin and let it boil for few minutes before adding inside the ground dhal mixture. Since I made it with colocasia, I had already pre boiled it and peeled it. So, after cooking the dhal, it was addition of colocosia into that and adding the right amount of salt. Finally well beaten butter milk is added and the mixture is allowed to simmer for few minutes. Final garnish is done with lots of coriander leaves and cut green chili fried in coconut oil.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wicket in the first ball, Malai kofta!

Not to get confused with the title, the dish wasnt a failure, it was in fact a huge delight! I used this metaphor for comparison because, the look on the bowlers face when he strikes the wicket in his very first ball, will tell his exhilaration. This was exactly how I felt when my friends masticated the soft kofta and let out a soft moan, wow.

For a long time I have been wanting to cook this. Ever since the first time I ate this in Sangeetha, Mylapore, whenever mom would ask me what to cook, my instantaneous reply would be Malai Kofta. Well, I didnt get it ever time I asked for it, because, if I had, then I would have probably been in rehabilitation for reducing my obesity. It is sure one of the rich dishes. And only when you are seldom exposed to it, the mystery stays intact! 

Malai kofta is not sweet. I dont understand why some restaurants make it sweet. At least my opinion, which Tez also is stubborn about is that, Malai kofta tastes better when it is hot and spicy. After coming to Germany, I have loved this dish at Taj Mahal, Bochum. Every time I enter the restaurant, Jagadeesan know exactly what I would order and he would throw in an extra Batura and raita in for me and say it is on the house. Spicy and hot Malai kofta!!

I steam cooked the vegetables when I was cooking the rice in the electrical cooker. Potatoes, carrots, beans and peas. Then peeled the potatoes and shredded them. Carrot was also shredded, peas added directly and beans was cut into small pieces. The important thing to keep in mind is that, these vegetables should not be over boiled and dripping with water. Excess water can be removed by squeezing them in a muslin cloth, but then, this is for people who overshoot the water limit or over boil or use a pressure cooker to boil the vegetables. So, advises apart, then came the shredding of paneer into this. Not too much, not too less! And then went in chopped green chillies, coriander powder, cumin powder, few raisins and roasted cashew. Of course, the right amount of salt too! It is funny when cooks quantasise ingredients like half table spoon of cumin, one tea spoon of salt and the likes. The best is to feel connected to what you are cooking, then you will by yourself realize the quanta! So, after everything was in, I smashed it together. Even when I was doing this, I knew that the koftas were in the right consistency and would not break up. Vimal was eager to help, so he sat down patiently to make nice kofta balls and roll them in all purpose flour.

When this was getting done, I cooked onions and tomatoes in oil, put them into a blender and made a fine puree. After spluttering whole spices (cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves), I added some ginger-garlic paste, followed by the puree and into this puree went in turmeric and red chilli powder. Once I was satisfied that the red chilli powder would have got cooked in the puree, I added thick cream into this. By then, Tez had finished frying the koftas in oil. They were soft and ready to fraternize with the hot malai sauce. In the went and the a few leaves of dhania to commemorate the delicious union! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Romance, Tiramisu!

First, "dear Mom, I know you were upset when I told you that I am going to make Tiramisu. And yeah, you guessed it right, it does contain eggs. But right from childhood I got used to eating eggs in various forms. Cakes, ice creams and chocolates and it removed my aversion to it. Also, after eating this heavenly dessert at restaurants and authentically in Italy, it is very very difficult to restrain from it. I hope one day you eat this, prepared by me, and give a thumbs up."
 My first encounter with Tiramisu was in Lindau, Germany, 2006. Yeah, it is Italian, but you are seldom exposed to all these when you are in India. For me "Senthil softy" was one of the best and it will still remain so! And here in Germany, European cuisine is prominent. So, on a vegetarian food starved party, Tiramisu came to my rescue. The second time was in Rome and the most recent one was in Venice. And suddenly one day, my dear friend Vasudha sent me an email explaining how to coquere Tiramisu at home. When I read the instuctions, I knew I was going to make it, asap! 

I have a very good foodie with me here, Tez. He shares the same amount of enthusiasm I have for cooking and so we decided to make this a joint venture. Two many cooks spoil the broth is an old saying, but it never spoils when the cooks have the same frequenzy! After a real good game of Badminton, me and Tez went to the market to buy the ingerdients. Fresh eggs(4), Mascarpone cheese(500g), sugar, loeffel biscuits (a.k.a Ladys finger or just Tiramisu biscuits), whiskey, good coffee powder and cocoa powder (which we actually missed).

I was a bit skeptical actually. Eggs, yeah, okies, not an issue. But when I read the instructions, I realised, raw eggs! As I have already said, once you have tasted Tiramisu, its hard to give up. So, I proceeded. First dividing the egg yolk from the white, I added generous amounts of sugar (4 big spoons) into the yellow and beat it until the sugar dissolved. I smelled it several times to make sure it didnt smell raw, it actually did not. This put a smile on my face. When Tez added the mascarpone into this, I was so tempted to eat this mixture. Mascarpone is divine! Few minutes of beating and this became a soft cream. Next is to beat the egg white until it becomes soft and fluffy. Best is to use an electrical whipper, but since we were not equipped with it, it was muscular whipping. After adding the fluffy whipped whites into the creamy beaten yellow-mascarpone, I felt like diving right into the bowl! This mixture was set in the fridge for an hour.

We then made thick espresso coffee and after it cooled down, added the whisky to it and dipped the loeffel biscuits into this mixture and arranged them in a bowl. A layer of the prepared cream on top, and yet another layer of biscuits dipped in coffee-whiskey and then one final layer of cream on top. We didnt have the cocoa powder to sprinkle on top, so with a little sad face and a curse to our memories, we set it in the fridge for 4 hours.

Tez then calls me to my mobile " Machan, my entire house smells of Tiramisu and the taste is better than the ones we get here in Germany. We should sell this da!"

Tiramisu, sounds exotic, tastes divine, not so difficult to make! A perfect dessert for a candle lit romantic evening! Buon appetito !!