Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Turkish Cuisine - 10 Simple recipes

Click the image on the left to see the cookbook. This cookbook lists 10 simple Turkish recipes listed below : 
1.:   Cacik (Pronounced Jajik) (Yogurt with cucumbers) Closest Indian equivalent ( Cucumber raita) 
2.:   Ezme (Tomato salad)
3.:   Menemen (Scrambled eggs)
4.:   Kuru Uzum Hosafi (Dessert: Raisin compote)
5.:  Sade Pirinc Pilav  (Rice : Plain Pilav)
6.:   Tavuk Yahnisi (Chicken stew) 
7.:.  Barbunya Tava  (Fried fish)
8.:   Fava  (Pureed beans)
9.:   Irmik Helvasi (Dessert: Semolina Halwa)  Closest Indian equivalent ( Hindi : Sooji Halwa / Tamil :Kesari)
10.: Tursu ( Pickle)
History : The longest lasting Muslim empire the world has seen, the Ottoman empire centered in Constantinople (Istanbul) ruled the regions surrounding Mediterranean and black sea ( parts of Africa, Europe & Asia) for almost 600 years.
Turkish Cuisine The Ottoman empire was succeeded by the republic of Turkey and it is no wonder that the Turkish cuisine is a blend of Central Asian, Caucasus, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines.  Turkish cuisine changes as we move across the land.  The regions hugging the Mediterranean sea (Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean) use seafood, olive oil, garlic, vegetables and herbs extensively. Central Turkey (Anatolia) is famous for its stuffed pasta (kashkak, manti and gözleme). Pita bread, hummus & falafel are common here. The south east Anatolian cuisine specializes in kebabs, spicy salsa and dough-based desserts (baklava, kadayıf, künefe). The northern Black Sea region's cuisine uses corn (especially in the bread hamsi)  and fish (but not meat) extensively.
 Breakfast : Bread, cheese, olives, tomatoes, jam/honey, and   eggs washed down with black tea.

Lunch / dinner : Soup, Pilaf (flavoured rice / bulgur/ vermicelli) or bread with a vegetable and a meat dish.
Meats : Lamb, beef, chicken, fish and seafood. Pork is not used.
Vegetables : Eggplants, green beans spinach, cauliflower, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, red/green lentils.

Flavouring agents
: Parsley, cumin powder, black pepper, paprika, mint, green & red chilies.

Fats : Butter, olive oil or sunflower oil.
Yogurt accompanies most dishes. Yogurt is blended with water and salt to a frothy and much loved drink, Ayran.
Some uniquely Turkish dishes :
Dolma (Veggies stuffed with rice / meat & cookedt) , Sarma ( veggies / meats wrapped in cabbage / grape leaves & cooked), Meze (a selection of bite sized dishes served as appetizer) Borek ( stuffed pastry), Doner Kebap ( meat cooked on a vertical spit) & Kofte (cooked minced meat balls)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Basic Indian Curries Poster

This A3 sized poster lists variations of the following curries

Basic South Indian Curries

0.:Dry vegetable curries  (Poriyal / Kura / Paalya / Kari).
1.: Raw Yogurt curry  (Thayir Pachadi / Perugu Pachadi / Mosaru Baji)
2.: Tamarind Curries (Kulambu / Pulusu/  Pulingari)
3.: Coconut Curries  / Coconut - lentil curries (Kootu).
4.: Coconut -  Yogurt curries  (Aviyal)
5.: Lentil curries (Paruppu / Parippu/ Pappu / Thove)

6.: Cooked Yogurt Curries   (More Kulambu /Majjigae pulusu / Majjigae Huli/ Pulissery )  
7.: Lentils - Tamarind Curries  (Sambar / Huli / Pappu pulusu)
8.: Thin Lentil stock -Tamarind curries (Rasam / Saaru) 

South India
has one of the world's oldest unbroken culinary heritages. The curries of South India show a remarkable similarity in the way they are cooked, served and eaten. Almost all South Indian curries are built on Tamarind, Tuvar dal, Yogurt and Coconut. You’ll repeatedly encounter various combinations of these basic building blocks across regions. Almost all curries are flavoured by fried mustard, curry leaves, and asafetida. Regional variations: The fiery Andhra curries emphasize tamarind and chilies. Karnataka curries are milder and use more lentils and coconut than Tamil curries. Kerala curries use tamarind sparingly, coconut / coconut milk heavily and rely on kokum (fish tamarind) as a souring agent in seafood curries. Coconut oil is preferred in Kerala, peanut oil in Andhra, Karnataka and sesame oil in Tamilnadu. Refined vegetable oils are now used across regions. Butter / ghee are not preferred in most curries. Specialty Additives. Jackfruit seeds and Tapioca are used in Kerala curries, Banana stem and Banana flower in Tamilnadu curries, Dosakkai and Gongura (a sour spinach) in Andhra, Bamboo shoots and Colocasia leaves in Karnataka. 

Eating curries
All curries are eaten mixed with cooked rice. As you move north (northern Karnataka & northern Andhra), rice starts giving way to other cereals. Rice was a luxury till 50 years back and many villages still eat these curries with the cheaper millets cooked into a porridge.
Transforming curries : Cut out tamarind & coconut from south Indian curries, replace mustard with cumin and you’ll have a north Indian curry.
Cooking Rice : In a pressure cooker add one cup of rice and two cups of water. Close & pressure cook for 2 whistles. Let cool for  10 minutes and open.
Basic Rules: Cooking is easy if you follow 3 simple rules. 1.  Do not burn stuff - Cook on medium or low heat. 2. Do not use too much salt / chilies / flavourings. 3. Do not use an ingredient you do not understand.
Basic North Indian Curries
0.: Raw Yogurt curries (Raita)
1.: Dry vegetable curries (Sukhi Sabji)
2.: Yogurt - Gram flour curries (Kadi)
3.: Spinach Puree curries (Saag)

4.: Double Onion curries (Dopiaza)  
5.: Onion - Tomato curry ( Masala)   
6.: Milk / Cream based curries (Korma)
7.: Sour creamy curries (Sour Korma)
8.: Lentil curries (Dal)

North Indian Cuisine 
denotes the cuisine of the eight states of North India - Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh. These states share a remarkable similarity in their food habits. Wheat based flatbreads are a staple eaten with a wide variety of curries.  Most of these curries are built from six basic building blocks – Onion, tomato, lentils, spinach & dairy products. Cumin, coriander seeds, garam masala & chili powder are the most common flavourings. Ghee / butter/ vegetable oils are used across north India and Mustard oil in Kashmir.

Use of cumin in place of black mustard, absence of coconut & tamarind, heavy use of dairy products & garam masala differentiate north Indian curries from south Indian curries

The Moguls had a great influence on north Indian cuisine. Use of tandoor, paneer, nut paste, milk and cream as curry bases, use of expensive spices like saffron/ cardamom in curries, slow cooking in sealed pots ('Dum') are all Mogul techniques.

Cooking vegetables: Add a cup of chopped veggies to a pressure cooker with half a cup of water and cook for 1 whistle.
Cooking chicken : Add a cup of chopped chicken to a pressure cooker and cook for two whistles
Cooking mutton : Add a cup of chopped mutton to a pressure cooker with a quarter cup of water and cook for 3 or 4  whistles.
Cooking fish / sea food : Heat a spoon of oil. Add a handful of cut and cleaned seafood. Stir and cook for 3 – 5 minutes.
Cooking Rotis : Take a cup of flour. Add two pinches of salt. Gradually mix in around half a cup water. Mix and knead well. Pinch off lemon sized balls, roll into thin discs and cook both sides on a hot skillet.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shrikhand ( India's sweet yogurt dessert)

Yogurt cheese also known as  hung yogurt/ chakka is just yogurt from which most of the water has been removed. It then resembles a thick, creamy paste. This paste is mixed with fruit paste, sugar and flavouring to prepare  Shrikhand, a sweet very popular in north India, especially Maharashtra and Gujarat. Though primarily a dessert, it  is also served as a ‘curry’ with pooris. Shrikhand forms a part of many North Indian wedding feasts. It is befittingly prepared to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna, the divine cow herd.

Indian desserts can be split into four major classes.

1.       Desserts soaked / cooked in sugar syrup ( jalebis, katli, mysorepak, burfi, halwah,… )

2.       Desserts based on cooked down milk ( rabri, payasam, kheer, peda, kulfi,… )

3.       Desserts based on milk solids ( rasgulla, rasmalai, kalakhand, ..) and

4.       Yogurt Desserts (Shrikhand & Bengali Mishti doi).

Vary Yogurt : Though common yogurt made from cow / buffalo milk is used to make traditional shrikhand, a variety of yogurts made from goat/ other milk can be used. Flavoured yogurts or even soy yogurt can be used to make fusion shrikhand.


Making yogurt cheese (Chakka) : :: Line a colander/ sieve with a cloth. Pour in  2 cups( 400 ml) of yogurt. Keep colander raised so that water can drain away overnight ( or gather edges of cloth & hang the bag of yogurt to let water drain).

Making fruit puree : Skin and deseed ripe fruit. Mash them to a coarse / smooth paste as per your taste.

Making yogurt : Boil two cups of milk. Let cool till lukewarm. Stir in  a spoon of yogurt. Rest in a warm place for 3 -5 hours.

Making flavoured yogurt : Boil two cups of milk. Let cool till lukewarm. Stir in  a spoon of yogurt. Mix in a pinch of cardamom / cinnamon / nutmeg / mace / dry ginger powder or mix in a drop of your favourite essence. Rest in a warm place for 3 -5 hours.

Making Mishti Doi ( sweet yogurt) : Bring four cups of milk to a boil. Reduce flame and simmer on low flame  till milk is reduced by half. Mix in a cup ( or less, to taste) of powdered jaggery. Let cool till lukewarm. Mix in two spoons of yogurt. Rest covered for 3 - 5 hours in a warm place.

Using Yogurt cheese : In middle east yogurt cheese is popular as labneh and is served as small balls steeped in olive oil. Yogurt cheese is mixed with chopped garlic, cucumbers & olive oil to make the Greek dip Tzatziki. It can be used as a dip / spread / cake icing / in parfaits.  Yogurt cheese made from fat free / low fat milk is  a low fat substitute for cream cheese. It has a rich taste and a creamy mouth feel without being laden with calories. It is also a good source of calcium. 

For detailed recipes and great pictures, check out the model recipes from fellow bloggers below : 

Kesar Shrikhand

Berry Shrikhand

Mango Shrikhand

Kesar Pista Shrikhand

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gojju varieties ( Karnataka's sweet and sour stews)

Gojju is a  classic Kannadiga curry. It  is a flavoured sweet and sour thick stew where the sourness is balanced by the sweetness of jaggery. It is the closest equivalent to the kulambu of Tamilnadu and pulusu of Andhra. 

Gojju is eaten mixed with rice or  with sorghum / rice flatbreads ( jolada roti / akki roti). It is also mixed with in flattened rice  ( poha / aval)and served for breakfast as Gojju avval / Gojju avalakkai. Due to its high acidic content, a Gojju lasts for 2-3 days without refrigeration. Nowhere in India would you see a pineapple curry, but in south Karnataka, where Pineapple gojju is much loved and is an essential part of the  wedding feast. Gojju need not be limited to local vegetables / additives listed above. Feel free to use your favourite vegetables. 

Unlike the Tamil kulambu, which is often cooked with meat, it would be uncommon to find meat in a Gojju. The Tamil word Gothsu, a thick sour curry, is probably derived from Gojju.


Naming Gojjus : Gojjus can take their name from either the base used ( eg: Pineapple Gojju),  from the flavouring used (eg: methi gojju,) or from  the additves used (eg: Bendekai Gojju). They are also named after the dish it is eaten with ( eg: Pongal gojju) or after a combination of all the above (eg: Kumabalakayi Mosaru Gojju).  Gojju has the consistency of a thick soup. If your gojju is thin,  dissolve 2-3 pinches of rice / gram flour in a spoon of water and mix into the simmering gojju to thicken it.


For detailed recipes and great pictures, check out model recipes from my fellow bloggers below :

 RV’s Radish Gojju

Anu’s Shallot Gojju

Sushma’s Gojju with Karnataka’s speciality additive Colocasia leaves.

Krishnaveni’s Eggplant Gojju which could as well be Tamilnadu’s Kathirikkai Gothsu, her  Eggplant Mosaru Gojju which uses yogurt as a souring agent and an interesting gojju made from turkey berry.

Ramya’s Pineapple Gojju

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saagu Variations ( Karnataka's Coconut stews)

Saagu, a classic Kannadiga curry is a flavoured coconut stew in which vegetables are simmered. It is the closest equivalent to the kuruma of Tamilnadu and Kormas of North India. Saagu is eaten mixed with rice, flatbreads ( poori / chappati), rava idli or set dosa. Saagu can be cooked with any vegetable, but the ones listed here are the most common.

 Like any curry cooked with coconut / coconut milk, cooking saagu for long makes it split into solid and liquid portions. The goal is to have a creamy saagu. So cook it on low heat with constant stirring for as short a time as possible. Using boiled vegetables greatly shortens the cooking time and reduces the risk of the saagu curdling. 

Naming Saagu : Saagu can take their name from either the base used ( eg: Baadami saagu),  from the flavouring used (eg: Masala saagu,) or from  the additves used (eg: Batani Saagu). They are also named after the dish it is eaten with ( eg: Rava Idli saagu) or after a region ( eg: Malenadu saagu) or after a combination of all the above (eg: Baadami masala potato saagu).

Saagu has the consistency of a thick, chunky soup. If your saagu is thin,  dissolve 2-3 pinches of rice / gram flour in a spoon of water and mix into the simmering saagu to thicken it.:

Though traditionally eaten with rotis or rice, a saagu goes equally well as a sauce with pasta or noodles. Being very mild, it serves an excellent introduction to south Indian cuisine.

 The base : Saagus  are cooked with a variety of  bases , though a blended mixture of coconut, poppy seeds, chilies are found in most  saagus. As listed in column 1, a variety of goodies are blended in to create different classes of saagus.

The flavouring : The common south Indian flavouring of fried mustard, curry leaves and asafetida is used in most saagus. Different combinations of common south Indians flavourings are also used as listed in column 2.

Additives used.: Almost  all vegetables or a mixture of them are used in saagu. The most common ones are listed in column 3. Most vegetables can be boiled and added to saagu. Vegetables can also be stir fried and then mixed in.

Cooking vegetables beforehand greatly shortens saagu cooking time.

 Stir frying : Heat a spoon of oil. Add a handful of chopped vegetables. Sprinkle some water and stir fry for 3 - 5 minutes.

Boiling :Bring a liter of water to a boil. Add a spoon of salt. Add a handful of chopped vegetables. Cook for 5 - 8 minutes. Pour in a colander to drain water.

Microwaving : Add a handful of chopped vegetables to a microwave safe cup. Sprinkle a bit of water. Cover loosely and cook on high for 2 - 4 minutes.

 Pressure cooking : Add two handfuls of chopped vegetables to a pressure cooker. Add half a cup of water, Pressure cook on medium heat for 1 whistle.

 Easy Saagu powder : Take three pinches of cumin, a clove, a small bit of cinnamon,a pinch of pepercorns, half a handful dry coconut flakes, two dry red chilies, four pinches of poppy seeds, two pinches of rice or roasted gram and two pinches of salt. Blend all to a powder. For instant saagu, just mix the powder with the base, add boiled vegetables, simmer for 5 minutes and serve.

 For detailed recipes and great pictures, check out the model recipes from my fellow bloggers.

Roopa’s Rava idli Saagu

Rashmi’s mixed vegetable saagu

Vaani’s vegetable saagu

Nags’ masala saagu

Sushma’s Bombay saagu

Prathiba’s potato saagu

Sunday, October 11, 2009

10 Simple no-cook Kiwi recipes

Click the image on the left to see the cookbook. This cookbook lists 10 simple no cook Kiwi recipes listed below : 

1.:  Kiwi fruit salad 

2.:  Kiwi Raita

3.:  Kiwi Parfait

4.:  Kiwi Smoothie

5.:  Kiwi Chutney

6.:  Kiwi Pickle  

7.:  Kiwi Lassi

8.:. Kiwi Milkshake   

9.:  Kiwi Salsa 

10.:Kiwi Adult Popsicle

Yang tao ( Chinese : sunny peach) - the kiwifruit, or kiwi, is a berry of a vine native to China.   There are more than 400 different varieties of kiwi fruit in China where they have been used for over 700 years.The kiwis, which have now gained world acceptance are as large as an hen’s egg, with a fuzzy brown skin and green / pale yellow flesh with tiny edible seeds. Kiwi has a sweet/tart flavour, a combination of gooseberry with a hint of strawberry. No wonder it was called the Chinese Gooseberry. Missionaries took the seeds to New Zealand early this century. Newzealand realised its potential, exported it to US and renamed this berry as Kiwi, to appeal better to US consumers.  In just 25 years,  the sales went from almost nothing to over 35 million pounds in US alone. Current world production is around 1 million ton, produced mostly by New Zealand and Italy. California is America’s largest Kiwi producer.  

Kiwi has actinidin,  the protein-dissolving enzyme. If you use kiwi in milk / yogurt  preparations, serve them immediately or the enzyme will start digesting milk proeteins. Even in salads, Kiwi would turn other fruits mushy when stored for long.  This is why kiwifruit could also be used as a natural meat tenderizer. Chopped kiwi can be mixed with meat and in about 15 - 30 minutes it would have tenderised the meat.

Kiwifruit also serves as a natural blood thinner and is believed to reduce the risk of stroke. The skin is edible and so kiwis can be eaten unpeeled. The skin is rich in fiber and peeling results in the loss of many vitamins stored directly beneath the skin. 

100 gms of Kiwis have around 50 calories.  This is the amount you’ll burn up by walking for 15 minutes.

 Buying & storing Kiwis :

1. Ripe Kiwis are firm but should yield when you press them gently.

2. Kiwis can be stored for over two weeks refrigerated

3. Unripe kiwis ripen at room temperature in 3-5 days.Or stored in a paper bag with an apple, they ripen even faster.

4. Choose a fruit that is plump, has no wrinkles or bruises and intact skin. Size does not matter.

5. Kiwi slices freeze and thaw well.

6. Kiwi can also be sun dried into fruit leather.

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"It is extraordinary to me that the idea of creating thousands of recipes by mixing building blocks takes immediately to people or it doesn’t take at all. .... If it doesn’t grab a person right away, ... you can talk to him for years and show him demos, and it doesn’t make any difference. They just don’t seem able to grasp the concept, simple as it is". ( Thanks Warren Buffett !)

"What's angering about instructions in many cookbooks is that they imply there's only one way to cook a dish - their way. And that presumption wipes out all the creativity." Cook dishes your way - Download  1001 South Indian curries now and learn to cook, not to duplicate ! ( Thanks Robert Pirsig !)

"Recipe purity is no different from racial purity or linguistic purity. It just does not exist. Cuisines are alive and change all the time. What is traditional today was esoteric just a few decades back. So being a 'foodist' is as bad as being a racist !

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
Okay, let me start from the very beginning. 1500 crore years ago, with a Big Bang, the Universe is born. It expands dramatically. Hydrogen forms, contracts under gravity and lights up, forming stars. Some stars explode, dusting space with the building blocks of life. These condense into planets, one of which is Earth. Over time, self replicating molecules appear, multiply and become more complex. They create elaborate survival machines (cells, plants, animals). A variety of lifeforms evolve. Soon, humans arise, discover fire, invent language, agriculture and religion. Civilisations rise and fall. Alexander marches into India. Moguls establish an empire. Britain follows. Independence. Partition. Bloodshed. The license raj is in full sway. I'm born. India struggles to find its place. Liberalisation. The Internet arrives! I move from Tirupur to Chennai. Start a company. Expand into Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. Poof! Dot com bust. Funding dries up. Struggle. Retire. Discover the joy of cooking, giving, friendships and the pleasures of a simple life. Life seems less complicated. Pizza Republic, Pita Bite and Bhojan Express bloom !

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