Dessert/ Konkani Dishes/ Recipes

Churmoondo (Wheat Flour Laddoo)

Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year!

“Oondo” (in Konkani) or “Laddoo” as it is called in Hindi is one of the most popular sweets in the Indian cuisine.  The name itself refers to the shape.  Many different varieties of Oondos are made in India depending on the region one comes from.  In a Konkani speaking household, I am sure Churmoondo is one of the most loved sweet items.  Granted that I am partial, but the Churmoondo that my Mom makes is one of the best that I have eaten and the credit for this recipe goes to my Mom.  Though I was very picky when it came to sweets, Churmoondo has always been my favorite.  So for this Diwali, I decided to make these yummy goodies.  This is one of the easiest sweets that you can make.

Ingredients

  • Wheat flour/Aata - 2 cups
  • Ghee (clarified butter) - 1/2 cup
  • Cardamom powder - 1 tblspoon
  • Powdered sugar - 1 1/2 cup
  • Golden raisins - as needed

Instructions

1

Powder the cardamom pods to a fine powder like consistency.  I use a mortar and pestle to make the powder.

2

On a low to medium flame, place a heavy bottomed pan and dry roast the wheat flour till you no longer get the raw smell.  This may take about 10-12 minutes.  The flour also turns a light brown at this time.  Keep stirring from time to time,  the flour could get burnt if you leave it unattended.

3

Take the pan off the heat and make a small well/depression in the roasted flour.  Pour the ghee into the depression formed in the flour and mix well.  Put the pan back on the stove and roast for another 5 minutes or so.

4

After five minutes, take the pan off the stove and add the cardamom powder and mix well.  Also add in the powdered sugar and mix well.  Powdered sugar has a tendency to lump up in the warm flour, take care to see that there are no lumps present when you are done mixing.

5

Once the sugar is added, do not put the pan back on the stove as it can lead to the sugar melting and turning the oondos hard (been there, done that?).

6

Wait for about 5-10 minutes for the mixture to cool down slightly, or at least till it's warm enough for you to handle it with your bare hands.

7

Using clean dry hands, scoop a small amount of the flour mixture in your hands, also you can add a couple of raisins (optional) and pressing firmly, roll them into spherical shape.  You can use both your palms to roll them to give the oondos a smooth finish.  Depending on the amount of mixture you use for each oondo, this makes anywhere from 20-30 Oondos, I made about 27 Churmoondos with this mixture.

Note:-

  • Use plain wheat flour, not any other wheat flour like multigrain, etc.
  • Freshly ground cardamom powder is a must for this recipe in order to get the authentic Churmoondo flavor.
  • Powdered sugar is also a must, you can either powder it in your blender or use the store bought ones.  I used the store bought confectioners’ sugar.
  • Adding raisins to your Churmoondo is totally optional, we love it in our house.  It’s like finding an unexpected treat in your mouth when you pop the oondo in your mouth and bite on the raisin.
Non Vegetarian/ Recipes

Lamb Kheema (Minced lamb curry)

Kheema can best be described as a spiced minced meat dish.  The term “Kheema” itself refers to minced or finely chopped.  I don’t remember my mother making Kheema often when I was growing up but on the rare occasion when she did, I remember going to Russell Market in Bangalore with my Dad. He would select a leg of goat that the butcher would then proceed to debone and mince with a huge cleaver.  An upturned log served as the base, the surface scarred with years of use.  The minced meat would tend to be more coarse than the ones available in the super market today which are ground by industrial strength meat grinders.   We would eat the kheema with hot rotis.  While meat kheema was rare, my mother made the same dish with Soy Nutrella, a popular high protein substitute for meat more frequently.  The taste was not the same as meat but we lapped it up nevertheless!  This recipe is  based loosely on what I remember from those days.

Ingredients

  • Minced lamb (or minced meat of your choice) - 1 lb
  • Onions - 2 medium, diced
  • Tomato - 1 medium, diced
  • Potato - 1 medium
  • Peas - 1/2 cup
  • Cilantro leaves - 1 small bunch, chopped and divided
  • Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
  • Kashmiri chilli powder - 2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Green chillies - 4 to 6 (depending on your spice level)
  • Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
  • Oil - 3 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

1

Boil the potato till it is is three fourth done, peel and cube.

2

Heat oil in a pan, add the onions and fry till  light brown.

3

Slit the green chillies and add them to the pan along with the ginger garlic paste.

4

Fry for a few minutes till the  ginger-garlic paste loses its raw smell.

5

Add the red chilli and turmeric powder and fry for a minute.

6

Put in the chopped tomatoes and fry till  pulpy.

7

Stir in the green peas and sauté for a few minutes.

8

Add the minced lamb and cubed potatoes and mix well.

9

Stir the mixture well and cook on medium heat till the lamb loses its pink color.

10

Add part of the chopped Cilantro, garam masala powder and salt to taste.

11

Cook till the meat turns brown and is cooked well (approximately 20 - 25 minutes from the point the meat was added to the pan).

12

Garnish with the remaining cilantro.

13

Serve hot with rotis, bread or rice of your choice.

Note:

The kheema can also be used as a stuffing with puffed pastry sheets to make minced meat puffs (kheema puff).

Lamb Kheema

Lamb Kheema

Curries/ Recipes/ Vegetarian

Chana Paneer Masala (Chickpeas and Cottage Cheese Curry)

This is one of those dishes which start out as something and end up being something else altogether.  I wanted to make Choley (Chana Masala) and then I saw I had store bought Paneer cubes in my freezer and also quite a bit of cilantro in my refrigerator.  One thing led to another and the end result was a green masala chana (chick peas) curry with Paneer in it!

Ingredients

  • Chick peas - 1 cup
  • Paneer (cottage cheese- - 200 gms
  • Oil/ghee(clarified butter) - 2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Onions - 1 large, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Water - 1 cup
  • Ingredients for 'green' masala:
  • Grated coconut - 2 tbsp
  • Cilantro - 1 small bunch
  • Mint leaves - 10-12
  • Green chillies - 5 (more or less depending on your taste)
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Ginger - 1' piece
  • Cloves (lavang or laung) - 4
  • Green cardamom - 2
  • Cinnamon stick - 1' piece
  • Baking or cooking soda (bicarbonate of soda) - a pinch (optional)
  • Cooked chickpeas - 2 tbsp

Instructions

1

Wash and soak chana (chick peas) in water for atleast 6-8 hours or overnight is preferable.  Cook the chana with the soaked water (you can use the pressure cooker if you have one, it gets done quickly, remember every pressure cooker is different and it make different times to cook, my pressure cooker took 2 whistles).

2

Cut the block of paneer into cubes and set aside.   You can shallow fry the cubes in little oil or you can also deep fry them too.  I used store bought fried Paneer cubes which made it all the more easier!

3

Blend the 'green' masala ingredients to a smooth paste and set aside.

4

Heat oil/ghee in a pan.  Season with the cumin seeds.  When the seeds crackle, put in the finely chopped onions and fry till golden brown.

5

Put in the 'green' masala and saute till you see oil/ghee leaving the sides of the pan.  Also rinse the blender with water and retain the 'green' water to use later in the curry.

6

Add the cooked chana and stock and mix well.  Put in the cubed Paneer and also add salt to taste.

7

If more gravy is needed, you can add the blender rinsed 'green' water.  Cook till it reaches the gravy achieves the desired consistency.

8

Serve hot with jeera rice or any choice of Indian breads like rotis, naan, etc.

Notes:

  • I add a pinch of  baking/cooking soda while blending as it helps in preserving the green color of the masala.
  • I also put in about 2 tbsp of the cooked chana to the masala while blending because it helps in making the gravy get a thicker consistency.
  • You can use just oil or just ghee while making the curry, I use a combination (1:1) of both so that I get the flavor of ghee and go easy on the fat as well!
  • Canned chana can also be used, just discard the liquid its in and wash the chana under running water well.
  • If you are out of Paneer, you can substitute it with preboiled potato cubes.
Recipes/ Rice Dishes/ Vegetarian

Vegetable Pulav

I have always loved rice dishes.  In fact, there was a point of time when I would eat rice for breakfast!  My mother pampered me with her endless varieties of rice dishes.  I loved the vegetable pulav that she made, I will post that recipe in the future. The recipe I am posting today is a hybrid of a few other recipes. It  is an easy dish made with rice and vegetables and cooked with the right amount of powdered spices.    It goes very well with any garam masala based curries, be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

Ingredients

  • Basmati rice - 1 cup
  • Mixed vegetables, chopped - 1 cup (green beans, carrots and green peas)
  • Oil - 4 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Onions, medium sized - 2, sliced
  • Ginger - 1' piece
  • Garlic - 6 cloves
  • Green chillies - 5 (more or less depending on your taste)
  • Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1

Wash and soak the basmati rice in water for about 30 minutes.

2

Wash and chop the green beans and carrots.  I used frozen green peas, you can use fresh ones too.

3

Using a food processor, finely mince the ginger, garlic and green chillies.  If you do not have a food processor, you can either finely chop them by hand or use a blender too.

4

Thinly slice the onions and set aside.

5

Heat oil in a stockpot.  Add 1/2 tsp of the cumin seeds.   When they crackle, put in the sliced onions.  Fry till onions are translucent.

6

Add the minced ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute till fragrant.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

7

Put in the chopped vegetables and mix well.

8

Add the garam masala powder and salute for a couple of minutes.

9

Drain the water from the rice in a colander and add the rice to the onion and vegetable mixture.  Mix with a gentle hand as you do not want the rice grains to break.  Pour in the required amount of water (2 glasses for the basmati rice that I use) and add salt to taste. Mix well, cover with a tightly fitting lid and cook till done.

10

Garnish with finely chopped cilantro.

11

This dish can be eaten by itself or with onion, tomato and cucumber raitha or as an accompaniment to any Indian curry.

Note:-

  • As much as possible, try and use fresh vegetables, I have made this rice with frozen vegetables too and have felt that the taste of the Pulav is totally different.  Also you can increase the amount of vegetables in the dish if needed.
  • The rice to water ratio will be different depending on the rice you are using.  Some use 1:1 1/2 whereas others use 1:2.  (I use 1:2)
  • Do be gentle when mixing the rice as it has been soaked for 30 mins and soaked rice grains tend to break if mixed vigorously.
  • This dish can be prepared in a pressure cooker too, I like to use stockpots for making rice dishes rather than cookers.  If you are not careful when you use a pressure cooker, your rice can turn mushy.
Dessert/ Recipes/ Vegetarian

Malpuris

Wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous Diwali! Diwali is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India.  It is celebrated over 3-5 days depending on which part of India you come from.  I remember my Mom making a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory for Diwali and each day it was a different treat!  We used to look forward to this particular festival more than the other ones because of the new clothes, crackers, sweet and savory dishes, gifts etc that we would get.  One of the dishes I remember my Mom making was Malpuri and for this Diwali, I wanted to try my hand at making this and here we are! These sweets are disc shaped, crispy around the edges and soft in the middle.  This is the way my Mom makes it and I am sure there are different variations to this, but this is how we like it at home.  This is one of the most simplest desserts that I have tried.  Only the frying takes a little bit of time and patience as it has to be done on low to medium flame.

Ingredients

  • Maida/all purpose flour - 1 cup
  • Water - 3/4 to 1 cup
  • Sugar - 1 cup
  • Cardamom powder - 1 tsp
  • Oil or ghee(clarified butter) for deep frying

Instructions

1

In a wide bowl, put in 1 cup of flour and slowly add water little at a time.  Using a whisk, mix well so that no lumps are formed and the batter is smooth.  It should have the consistency of pancake batter.

2

Once the flour and water batter is smooth and there are no lumps, add sugar and mix well.  Whisk till the sugar blends into the batter.  This should take atleast 4-5 minutes.

3

When the sugar crystals are dissolved and no longer visible, add the cardamom powder and mix well.

4

Heat oil/ghee (clarified butter) in a frying pan and drop a ladleful of batter into the hot oil.  Fry on low to medium heat, allow it to turn golden brown and then flip the disc over and let the other side turn golden.  Using a slotted spoon, pick up the cooked Malpuri off the oil and using another spoon, press it, holding over the pan so that you get the excess oil off the Malpuri.

5

Repeat for the rest of the batter.

Note:

  • People also add yellow food coloring to the batter, some people add Kesar (saffron threads) too to the batter.  One of the recipe books I have asks you to mix the batter using yoghurt/ and also to keep the batter aside for 4-5 hours or overnight.
  • Ghee (clarified butter) is normally used to deep fry the Malpuris.  But given this day and age, I don’t think that’s adviseable.  But if you are game and want authentic tasting Malpuris, then I would say “go for it”!
  • After getting excess oil off the Malpuri, I let it drain on the slotted spoon for a couple of minutes and then put it on an absorbent paper.  I initially put a piping hot Malpuri on paper and it stuck to it like glue and it was difficult to get the paper off it.  That’s the reason I started leaving it on the spoon for a few minutes and later moved it onto paper.  If you think its still oily, you can also put another paper on top and keep a heavy object on top of that to absorb even more oil.
  • This is also one of those desserts that absorbs oil and no matter how hard you try, it will be oily, but delicious!
Konkani Dishes/ Quick and Easy/ Recipes/ Vegetarian

Quick Potato Song

I love potatoes and potato based dishes were one of the first ones I learnt from my mom.  This is a quick potato song compared to the previous one that I posted as that one needs a coconut based ‘masala’ whereas this one is not as elaborate.

Ingredients

  • Baby potatoes - 1.5 lbs
  • Coconut oil - 3 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves - 1 sprig
  • Onions, medium sized - 2, finely chopped
  • Tamarind paste - 1 tbsp
  • Red chilli powder - 1 tsp (more or less depending on your taste)
  • Coriander powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro leaves, finely chopped, for garnish

Instructions

1

Wash and put the potatoes in a large bowl and add water in the bowl till it covers the potatoes and cook till the potatoes are 70% done.  Discard the hot water and immediately add cold water (regular tap water).  This is done to stop the potatoes from cooking further.  Peel the potatoes and set aside.

2

In a small bowl, add the tamarind paste, chilli powder and salt.  Also put in a tbsp of water and mix well to form a semi liquid paste.

3

Heat coconut oil in a wide open pan.  Season with mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds splutter, add the finely chopped onions and curry leaves.  Fry till onions turn golden brown.

4

Put in the peeled potatoes and mix.  After a couple of minutes, add the tamarind paste, chilli powder and salt mixture.  Mix well so that the potatoes are evenly coated with the tamarind paste mixture.  Cook on low flame stirring constantly.

5

When almost done, sprinkle the coriander powder and mix well.  Cook till done.

6

Garnish with finely chopped cilantro.

Note:-

  • To get the authentic South Kanara taste, usage of coconut oil is a MUST.
  • I used baby potatoes because I had them at home.  If this is not available, regular potatoes, cut into cubes, can be used.
  • This is a very tangy dish, so if you are the kind who likes tangy dishes, more tamarind paste can be added.

 

Curries/ Konkani Dishes/ Non Vegetarian/ Recipes/ Seafood

Pedve Ghashi (Sardine Curry)

When I was growing up, my dad would always state that the smaller the fish, the tastier it was.  I was happy to eat about just any fish, size notwithstanding.  I must admit though that he has a point, especially now when I rarely get to eat smaller fish such as sardines.   Sardines were probably the most inexpensive fish when I was growing up.  At about Rs 5 a Kg, with a Kg netting about 70 to 80 small fish, we would eat fried sardines, bones et al, like potato chips.  Sardines are a delicacy but really a pain to clean.  On a recent visit to a local Whole Foods store, I was thrilled to find frozen sardines from Portugal.  These were larger in size than the ones we used to bring home, a 2 lb packet had 10 sardines.  My enthusiasm was a little dampened when I had to clean them.  Larger fish like Pomfret or King fish are fairly easy to clean, but with sardines, one has to remove the scales.  At home, my mom or dad would use the “Addoli”, a platform with a fixed curved blade.  The head and tail of the fish would be held on either side and the fish rubbed laterally across the blade to remove the scales.  Even though we have an Addoli here, I stuck to a knife and it took a fairly long time. Each time I get sardines, I swear that it is the last time I’m going to get sardines home, but when the dish is done, the taste of the fish makes up for all the work.  The curry itself is fairly simple, so lets get started.

Ingredients

  • Sardines - 1 lb, cleaned and scales removed
  • Methi (Fenugreek seeds) - 7 or 8 seeds
  • Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
  • Dry Red Chillies - 6
  • Shredded Coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Tamarind paste - 1 tsp
  • Water - 1 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Coconut oil - 1 tbsp

Instructions

1

Clean the fish, remove the head and tail and remove the scales.

2

Roast the methi seeds, dry red chillies and coriander seeds till fragrant, allow to cool.

3

Blend the roasted ingredients along with shredded coconut, tamarind paste and a little water to a smooth paste.  This is the base of the curry or the masala.

4

Pour the masala into a pan, add salt to taste and add about 1 cup water (more or less depending on how you like the consistency of your curry)  and bring it to a boil.

5

Lower the heat and add the sardines, cook till done.  The fish cook pretty quickly, about 5 minutes.

6

Turn off the heat, drizzle with the coconut oil, serve hot with white rice.

addoli

An “Addoli” – the cutting tool of choice of Mangloreans of years past

 

Note:

  • There is nothing like fresh fish, however if you are not lucky enough to get fresh sardines, then you have to make do with frozen ones.  I’ve tried the King Oscar canned sardines available locally here, they taste good, however they are very delicate and disintegrate when cooked.
  • Take care not to overcook the fish.  It will disintegrate into the curry.
  • The coconut oil is optional but it does impart the authentic Manglorean flavor to the curry.
  • The curry actually tastes better the next day, I usually cook extra and after my instant gratification, enjoy the leftovers the next day.

 

Appetizers/ Recipes/ Snacks/ Vegetarian

Methi (Fenugreek) Leaves Cutlets

Rajesh said he tasted methi (fenugreek)leaves dishes like aloo-methi, methi daal, etc only after we got married.  He would however talk reverently about these methi kababs that his mother used to make when he was a kid.  So when my in-laws visited us for the first time, I requested my mother-in-law to make this dish.  It was delicious!  I now make it fairly regularly at home, the only variation in my preparation is the shape.  I shape it like a cutlet, while my mother-in-law would shape it in the form of kababs, a slightly elongated roll.  As it is shallow fried, the kabab  takes longer to cook which is why I shape it in the form of a cutlet, as a result it gets done fairly quickly.  While the recipe itself is fairly simple, separating the methi leaves from their stalks is fairly time consuming. So lets get down to the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Methi (fenugreek) leaves - 1 large bunch
  • Onion - 1 medium sized, finely chopped
  • Green chillies - 2, finely chopped
  • Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (more or less depending on your taste)
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)
  • Coriander cumin powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Rice flour - 1/2 cup
  • Sooji/cream of wheat/semolina/rava - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil (to shallow fry)

Instructions

1

 Separate the leaves from the stems of the Methi bunch.  Put the leaves in a bowl and rinse it a few times.  Let it sit in water and let the leaves rise to the top and the sediments/mud settle down at the bottom of the bowl.  After 5-10 minutes, remove the leaves and put in a colander and allow as much water to drain.  You can also put the leaves on a dish towel or an absorbent kitchen paper for the water to be absorbed.  Chop up the methi leaves roughly.

2

In a large bowl, put in the chopped methi leaves, chopped onions, green chillies and the rest of the ingredients (other than oil) and mix well.  At this point, the ingredients may not bind well.  DO NOT ADD WATER.

3

Keep the mixture aside for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  The salt in the mixture will make water ooze out of the methi leaves and the onions and the whole mixture will come together.

4

If you feel that the mixture is soggy, a little sooji (semolina) can be added to help with the binding.

5

Take a tablespoon of the mixture and form into spherical shapes and then slightly flatten them into cutlets (like the way burger patties are formed).

6

Refrigerate the uncooked cutlets for at least 30 minutes.

7

Heat a frying pan and spray cooking oil or lightly grease the pan with oil.  Place the cutlets on the hot pan and shallow fry on low to medium heat till golden on one side, spray oil on the uncooked side, flip the cutlets over and do the same on the other side as well.

8

Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

Note:-

  • These can be deep fried as well, it may get done quicker than shallow frying.  Since you shallow fry on low to medium flame, it tends to take longer to make this.
Blog

Mango Days

It’s been a long winter and summer is finally here, though there is a lingering nip in the morning air.  By contrast, summer holidays are already over in much of India and kids are returning to school.  Summer holidays of course meant no homework or studies.  It meant lots of comics and books to read, cricket and football in the evenings, lazy afternoons and of course, the king of fruits – the mango!

 My association of mangoes with summer began with our annual trips to my grandparents’ house in Bombay during our summer holidays.  The balcony of the house had been enclosed to form a room.  It was a long rectangular room, with a desk, a chair and a wall mounted book case on one end, followed by a bed in the middle and another cupboard at the other end on which extra mattresses were kept folded.  A clothesline ran the entire length of the room.  During summer, my grandfather (ajja) would bring baskets of Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes (aapus) and these would be stored in the balcony.  The mangoes themselves were encased in hay to protect them during transport as well as to provide warmth and help in the ripening process.  The fragrant aroma of mangoes filled the balcony and I loved inhaling the distinctive sweet smell as I read Tintins or one of the “Three Investigator” mysteries on hot summer afternoons.  A large group of my cousins would gather at my grandparents house for the summer break and after lunch and dinner each of us would be given a washed mango as dessert.  We would bite into the mango, peel the skin with our teeth and bite into the soft, succulent flesh.  Rivulets of mango juice coursed down our hands.  We would pretty much polish off the mango and suck the seed till all that remained was a bare seed with a few fibres sticking to it.  We would then turn our attention to the peels and run them between our teeth to eat any remaining fragments of the mango flesh that would be clinging to the peel.  Once those were disposed off, we would pretty much lick the juices off our hand and elbows.  Gross you might say, delicious I say!  In case the mango was spoilt, we would get another one.  As my trip would draw to a close, I would mark my remaining days by the number of mangoes left to consume.   14 mangoes left, I would tell my grandmother when a week was left and the countdown would progress with the number of mangoes left dwindling alarmingly.  I need not have worried though, as my grandfather would invariably send a couple of cases of mangoes with us back to Bangalore where they would be savored.

mango_basket

Haden mangoes from the local Indian store

Then of course there were the local mangoes in Bangalore – Neelam, Raspuri, Badami, Mallika and not to forget the Malgova which in size dwarfed the aforementioned varieties.  I did not really care about the variety, I just loved them all!  Dessert after dinner would be the fruit of the season.  During summer, my father would go over to the storeroom, bring a couple of mangoes over, wash them and then slice them such that each of us got a quarter, the flesh surrounding the seeds were the bonus!  The advantage with this approach was that if the mango was sour or bland, you would end up with just a slice and not have to eat the whole mango.  Depending on the season and the cost of the mangoes, we would have a couple or more at a sitting.  I loved the Thotapuris or the raw poly-mangoes.  These were eaten with salt and chilli powder and were eaten along with the peel.  It is a common sight to see street vendors selling these mangoes either from a push cart or from a basket fixed to their bicycles.  Each area of India has its distinctive varieties of mangoes.  We looked forward to the Mundappa from Mangalore or the Banganapalli from my friend’s farm in Andhra Pradesh.

Mangoes also found their ways into various dishes.  On the spicy and savory side were the pickles ranging from the Avakai in Andhra Pradesh to the “Aam ka achar” in Punjab.  In Karnataka, it was the “Mavina Midi Uppinkayi” or “Appe midi” in Konkani.  These pickles were made from a variety of pungent, sour mangoes.  The mangoes are pretty small in size and used whole.  Aparna loves Avakai and Appe midi pickles and we usually have a stock at home.  Then there was the “ambe upkari” as in mango curry.  My mother made these with a special variety of mangoes, the mangoes are peeled and cooked with jaggery and seasoned with curry leaves and red chillies.  The resulting dish is sweet, sour and spicy!  This is more or less a Konkani speciality and requires a special variety of mango.  No reference to mangoes in Konkani cuisine can be complete without the quintessential Konkani classic – “Avnas ambe sassam” which I can only describe as a Konkani twist on the fruit salad with a dash of traditional seasonings.  The dish itself comprises of chopped pineapple (avnas), chopped mango (ambo) and grapes that are mixed with a sauce made of grated coconut, jaggery, salt, roasted red chilli and mustard (sasam) and finally seasoned in hot oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves.  This dish is usually made in summer (when mangoes are plentiful) and served during weddings or other festive occasions.  It has to be consumed fairly quickly, since it spoils quickly in the heat.

ambe_upkari

Aparna’s aunt’s ambe upkari

Mangoes of course found their way into Aamras and was a favorite combination with pooris.  Aamras is made with the pulp of mangoes, milk, sugar and cardamom powder.  You can’t use mangoes that have a lot of fibre to make this dish.  Mango lassi is probably the most popular Indian drink in restaurants here in the US, but I don’t recollect drinking it back home!  What I do remember is the Amrakhand or mango flavored Shrikhand.  This is a Maharashtrian dish where mango pulp is combined with hung yogurt, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron to produce a creamy, tangy, sweet and utterly delicious dessert!  Summers are hot and what better way to cool down, than to end a meal with mango kulfi or mango ice cream!  I also remember the “ambe saat” or mango leather, a chewy fruit roll up of sorts.  I spent many happy summer afternoons reading comics with a piece of mango leather slowing melting in my mouth.  The ones that I used to eat as a kid were coarse in texture and dried on straw mats. You could see the imprint of the mat on the leather.  The varieties that we now get (from the New Mangalore stores in Bangalore of course) are much smoother with a finer consistency and almost translucent, the process has probably gone hi-tech now!  A forgotten delicacy is the Ambe Khadi or mango burfi that my grandmother used to make.  These were made with mango pulp, ghee, sugar and cardamom powder heated together much like in the process of making a halwa and then spread over an overturned plate and cut into diamonds.  They just melted in my mouth!  If you notice, the ingredients used in many of the dishes are the same, the method of cooking differs.  Aamchur or mango powder, made by drying unripe mangoes is used as a seasoning in North Indian cooking, it imparts a sour flavor to the dish.  I’ve barely scratched the surface, I’m sure there are innumerable dishes that feature mangoes.

mango_leather

Ambe saat – mango leather

In my mind, mangoes are inextricably linked with India.  I guess the name “Mangiferra Indica” gives a clue.  As a child, Bangalore was still a sleepy city and it was not uncommon to find mango trees in people’s backyards.  We played hockey at “Maavinthot” which I suspect was a corruption of “Maavin thota” or mango orchard.  This was a playground, ringed with mango trees.  An eagle eyed maali (gardener) ensured that we did not steal the mangoes.  Ugadi or the Lunar New Year, saw us hang a string of mango leaves across our door for good luck.  We called it a toran.  The green leaves would gradually dry out over time, but we would leave them on, you did not want to mess with luck!  Later on, we started hanging torans made of plastic mango leaves and hang a couple of mango twigs from the corner for symbolism.  Mango leaves are also an integral part of pujas, they are placed in the “kalash” or pitcher containing water.

I’m no student of Sanskrit poetry but was introduced to Daniel Ingall’s excellent translation of “Vidyakara’s Treasury” by my friend Navdeep who would often mention how Sanskrit poetry does great justice to Nature.  I eventually picked up my own copy and here is a verse describing the advent of Spring:

As the mango puts forth shoot and leaf,
puts forth bud and flower
so in our hearts does Kama shoot
and leaf and bud and flower.

Kama, of course is Kamadeva, the Hindu God of love.  I guess Kama does his job well for another verse says

The mango bud her lover sent
in envied by her friends,
and in her heart the doe-eyed damsel offers it to Love.
But now she cannot let it from her hand;
she strokes it, casts her eye upon it,
smells it, turns it, holds it to her cheek.

Mangoes show up in Akbar and Birbal stories, in the Panchatantra as well as the Jataka Tales.  Jim Corbett talks of wild mango trees as he recounts his jungle adventures so does Ruskin Bond in his various tales.   I’m sure mangoes hold the fancy of many an Indian poet.   In Summer, Koel birds and mango trees seem to be a potent combination in Hindi songs as in “Ambua ki daali pe bole re koyalia” from Dahej (1950) or  the lines “Ambua ki dali pe gaye matwvali, koyalia kali nirali” from the more familiar song “Chup Gaye Sare Nazare” (Do Raaste – 1969) or Nikhil Ghosh’s private number “Ambua Ki Dari Bole Kari Koyaliya” rendered beautifully by Asha Bhosle.

When I left India, I thought my association with mangoes was severed, so it was a pleasant surprise for Aparna and me when the house that we bought in Florida came with a mango tree which at that time was just about 6 feet tall.  The sellers told us that they did not think much of the tree, they had planted it three years ago and it had not borne any fruit, though there were small fruits on the tree when we bought the house.  What a tree it turned out to be!  The fruits were magnificent – each weighed between 1 and 1.5 lbs, a small seed and silken smooth flesh with no fiber and absolutely delicious!  We thought we should be worried about squirrels or parrots but the biggest threats were the ducks from the pond behind our house.  We liked to let the fruit ripen on the tree and if a fruit did fall, as if on cue, a duck would waddle out of the pond and eat the fruit leaving just the peel and seed behind!  I never did find out the variety of the mango though I suspect it was a Haden, but I did make the rounds of the local nurseries and thus came to be happily acquainted with varieties such as Zill, Kent, Keitt, Haden, Dot and Tommy Atkins.  Incidentally, the old favorite Malgova from India had made its way from South India to South Florida in the late nineteenth century.  It is the parent of the Haden cultivar.  We get our fix of mangoes now from the local Indian stores that sell Kent and Haden.  Our mango tree grew to about 20 feet, I had not trimmed it and it ultimately fell victim to hurricane Frances in 2004 when it toppled over damaging our patio.  I cut the fallen tree into small logs with a heavy heart and we did not plant a tree till about 2010, but we then left South Florida soon after.

mango_tree

Death of a mango tree – our tree felled by Hurricane Frances

Mangoes are considered to be one of the oldest cultivated fruit, but new cultivars show up now and then as avid gardeners produce hybrids from existing cultivars.  Given its association with the tropics, mangoes are considered exotic in the West.  I was bemused to watch “The Mango” episode on Seinfeld – where George Constanza relies on the aphrodisiac properties of the mango for some help in the bedroom.  As I end, lets jump from South Florida to the Caribbean.  Many a heart must have skipped a beat along with Sean Connery’s as Ursula Andress walked out of the ocean humming “Underneath the mango tree” in the first James Bond – “Dr No”!  Here is Diana Coupland’s original rendering of the song.

Chicken Dishes/ Non Vegetarian/ Recipes

Kaleja Fry (Chicken Liver Fry)

As I have probably mentioned on an earlier post, when I was growing up, we ate meat probably once or twice a month.  As such there was a lot of anticipation when I knew my mother was going to cook non-vegetarian food and I would hang around the kitchen offering to help in any way I could.  I would also volunteer to set the table. When it was time to eat, we ate reverentially with no conversation, except to compliment my mother that, as usual the food was delicious! When we ate chicken, we usually cooked a broiler and the liver was considered a delicacy.  We never bought chicken liver by itself.  I started cooking chicken liver once I got to the US and this recipe is my own concoction.  I’m the only one who eats it at home, so I usually cook this when my brother-in-law, Kumar is visiting us.  He is from Hyderabad, he knows his Kaleja fry well and since I have received his stamp of approval, I decided to share this recipe!

Ingredients

  • Chicken liver - 1 lb
  • Onion - 1 large, diced
  • Garlic - 5 cloves, finely chopped
  • Ginger - 1" piece, finely chopped
  • Green Chillies - 6-8, finely chopped (more or less depending on your spice tolerance)
  • Cilantro - 1 small bunch, chopped finely, divided
  • Curry leaves - 1 sprig
  • Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
  • Kashmiri chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Salt - to taste

Instructions

1

Clean the liver, removing any strands of fat that may be adhering to it.  Wash and pat dry with paper towels

2

Heat oil in a skillet and add the diced onions

3

Fry the onions till light brown.

4

Add the curry leaves followed by the ginger, garlic and green chillies and fry till fragrant.

5

Add the turmeric and chilli powder and mix well.

6

Add the chicken liver and stir well so that the spice mixture coats the liver.

7

Add salt, pepper powder and half the chopped cilantro and continue frying.  If you prefer to have a little gravy, you can add a little water at this point.

8

Once the liver is cooked, sprinkle the garam masala on top and garnish with the remaining cilantro and mix well.

9

Serve hot with white rice or rotis.

  • Note:
  • You can use 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste in lieu of adding fresh ginger and garlic. I have tried both, I find that the freshly chopped ginger and garlic give the dish a better flavor.
  • This dish is traditionally dry but you can add water if you like some gravy especially when eating with rice.
  • Chicken liver is fairly high in cholesterol, I eat it sparingly, this makes it a special treat!
  • We like the dish spicy so I add about 8 green chillies.  Go easy on the green chillies if you prefer a milder version.