Nani’s “Chips” Shaak (Dry potato curry)

As many of you know, all of my family (including my Nani) live in England.  And in addition to their weird accents, they use funny names to describe their potatoes.  They refer to potato chips as “crisps,” french fries as “chips,” and potatoes as po-taaaaaaay-toes.

My Nani created this “chips” shaak (curry) in honor of my uncle Vinaymama who doesn’t believe in eating green vegetables.   This shaak, which all of Nani’s children now make, resembles french fries — it’s dry (unlike lots of potato shaaks which tend to have a little sauce) and the potatoes resemble homemade french fries.

I love this dish because it’s quick and delicious, and always, always a hit.  You can also modify it easily, although these additions are controversial in our family because adding fruit and vegetables goes against the original intent of making an “unhealthy” chips shaak.

Nevertheless, these are additions that we ALL make depending on our mood:

  • tomatoes (2 large serving spoons of crushed or fresh tomatoes) – add them at the same time that you add the potatoes, cover, and cook on low heat, rather than medium;
  • peas – for some added texture or do the exact same recipe with cabbage & peas, or cauliflower and peas;
  • or you can substitute out the potatoes altogether and make this recipe using cabbage & peas or cauliflower & peas.

Servings: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red potatoes
  • 2 tbs. oil
  • Rai (mustard seeds)
  • Jeeru (cumin seeds)
  • Pinch of hing (asofoetida)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Haldi (turmeric powder)
  • Red chili powder
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Dhana-jeeru (coriander powder) – Optional
  • Several other options (see above), including tomatoes and peas.

Directions:

  1. Wash the potatoes and then cut them in half – lengthwise.  Then cut them into thin slices. 
  2. Make vagaar: heat oil on medium-high, add pinch of hing, rai (mustard seeds) and jeeru (cumin seeds) until they crackle.
  3. Then add the potatoes, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, dhana-jeeru (coriander powder). Mix.
  4. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  5. Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve hot with any type of Indian bread, such as puri, roti, or paratha.  Also goes well with rice, khadi, and dhal. 
Posted in Curries, Gujarati, Indian, Main dish | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pratibha’s Dhokla

In honor of my visit to Nani’s Kitchen (literally), Nani’s Kitchen is back!  Dhokla is a savory, fluffy, cake-like breakfast/side dish that our family has been making for generations–it is a gujarati specialty.  Nani remembers learning how to make it from her mother and mother-in-law back in Kenya, and all of her daughters continue to make it.

The interesting twist in this particular recipe is the main type of flour it uses–semolina, or cream of wheat.  For generations our family, including Nani and her daughters, used to use dhokla flour instead, which required soaking rice and split peas overnight and then grinding it.  These dhoklas were good, but did not always rise properly, and did not have the grandchildren asking for thirds and fourths, as they do now (let’s be honest, we always take seconds).

But one day about ten years ago, one of my mom’s best friends, Vasantimasi, was in town and introduced my mom to semolina flour dhoklas.   With semolina flour, dhoklas require less time generally, and they come out consistently soft, spongy, and fluffy.  Mummy has used this recipe (with some tweaks) ever since and it is slowly spreading in our family.

Perhaps the only thing that has prevented me from making dhoklas in the past is the requirement of some sort of deep container where water can boil, and where the dhokla mix (in a tray) can be elevated above the water and steamed.  However, these are so easy to make that I am willing to get creative (pressure cooker with a steel bowl perhaps?) until I upgrade to a steamer with dhokla trays, like Nani and her daughters use.

Servings: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups semolina flour (coarse yellow) sooji [Note: cream of wheat works just fine]
  • 1.5 cups yogurt (plain, non-fat is fine)
  • 3 heaping tsp. crushed ginger
  • 1.5 tsp. crushed green chili (add more or less depending on the strength of the chilies)
  • 3 large serving spoons of canola oil
  • 2.5 large serving spoons of lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. haldi (turmeric)
  • 1 3/4 tsp.  salt
  • 1 cup water (may be less based on consistency)
  • 2 1/4 tsp. Eno (fruit salt) – used as a rising agent
  • Optional: chopped cilantro – anywhere from 2 tbs. to 1 cup

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl add all of the ingredients in a bowl, EXCEPT for the Eno (which is added right before you put the dhoklas in the steamer). 
  2. Mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes, if you have the time.  If not, continue to step 3. 
  3. In the meantime prepare your steamer.  Add enough water so that it will sit at least 1/2 an inch below your steaming trays, and then bring to a boil.
  4. Add the Eno and the cilantro to your mixture and mix.
  5. Grease the bottom and sides of the trays you’re using for steaming with about 1/2 tsp. oil.
  6. Add the mixture to the trays and sprinkle with red chili powder (hey, nothing like a little kick in the morning).
  7. Put the filled trays in the holder and place in the steamer (making sure that the water will not touch the trays).  Cover and let cook on high for 20 minutes. 
  8. When finished, cut diagonally and then diagonally again (Mummy is very particular about this–I have gotten in trouble many times for not cutting these correctly!). 
  9. Serve hot with chutney or oil with some garlic-chili mixed in. 
Posted in Appetizer, Breakfast, Gujarati | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pratibha’s Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

In our family, we all have the one thing we order when we go to an Indian restaurant.  For Meera and I, it’s matar paneer (peas and cheese curry) and a garlic naan to go with it.  Occasionally we will branch out with another type of paneer dish . . . but usually we don’t.  For Mummy, it’s usually some type of daal (lentil) and/or rice that results in her saying: “I could make this better at home.”

For Daddy, though, it is the one and only baingan bharta . . . every single time.  To be honest, I never understood why he loved it so much until I recently went home to visit and realized just how delicious my mom’s baingan bharta actually tastes.

A few years ago, Mummy started making it a little differently, and it really sealed the deal for me.  Rather than cooking the eggplant over the stove, she started broiling the eggplant in the oven beforehand (I think baking it would probably work too).  Add a little bit of this, little bit of that, and voila, out comes delicious baingan bharta!

Now that I’m getting a little more competent at making Indian food, I decided it was time to broil my first eggplant (I know, I’m growing up).  So with an eggplant in one hand and my cell phone in the other as my mom told me what to do, everything worked out just fine.  Next time I’m home, I’m making this one for Daddy.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 big eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. rai (mustard seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • Pinch of hing (asafetida)
  • Chopped garlic (about 1 tsp.)
  • 1/2 onion – chopped
  • 1 small or medium sized tomato – chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. haldi (turmeric powder)
  • Red chile powder (cayenne pepper) to taste
  • 2 tsp. dhana jeeru (mixture of coriander and cumin powder — just coriander powder is fine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut the eggplant in half (length-wise) without cutting off the stem.  Brush both halves with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Place the eggplant facedown (so the skin cooks first) on a baking sheet and broil for about 10 minutes.  Then flip over and broil for another 10 minutes.  Be careful that the eggplant doesn’t burn.
  3. While the eggplant is broiling, chop the tomatoes and onions.
  4. When the eggplant is finished, place it in a container, shut the lid, and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes to cool.  Then remove the skin (it should come off fairly easily), and cut the eggplant into about 1 inch pieces. 
  5. Make the vagar: add the canola oil to a pot over medium-high heat.  Then add rai (mustard seeds), jeeru (cumin seeds) and hing (asafetida).  Lower the heat and add the onions and garlic.  Let saute for about 2-3 minutes, and then add the tomatoes.
  6. Now add the eggplant, the haldi, red chile powder, dhana jeeru (or coriander powder), and salt.
  7. Stir, cover, and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add fresh cilantro before serving, and eat with rice and/or any type of bread like roti or naan. 
Posted in Curries, Gujarati, Indian, Main dish | 1 Comment

Broccoli Rabe, Potato, and Rosemary Pizza

I got this recipe from a friend at work whose 2 year old son loved it!  This white pizza pulls together veggies (broccoli rabe and potatoes) that I normally don’t think of with pizza but is delicious. I have even been inspired to make my own pizza dough — very simple.

Servings: 4 people (2 10″ pizzas or 4 mini pizzas)

Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4 oz., which is equal to 1 1/2 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tepid water

Pizza Ingredients:

  • 2 uncooked pizza crusts (recipe below)
  • 1 large yukon gold potato – very thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound broccoli rabe – washed, ends trimmed by about 1/4 in.
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves lightly smashed but still intact
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Dough Directions (courtesy of Silvano Franco’s Pizza book)

  1. Put flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and mix.
  2. Make a well in the center, and add the oil and water.  Gradually work in the flour to make a soft dough.  Sprinkle with a little four if the mixture feels too sticky, but make sure it is not too dry — dough should be pliable and smooth.
  3. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour when needed.  Dough should be smooth and elastic.
  4. Rub some oil over the surface of the dough and return the dough to the bowl.  Cover with a clean cloth and leave for about an hour — until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes, knocking out the excess air.  Dough is now ready to use. 

Pizza Directions (Courtesy of Food52):

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
  2. Potatoes.  Toss thinly sliced potatoes with 1 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Arrange potatoes in one layer on a baking tray. Bake until edges begin to turn golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Increase oven temperature to 475 Fahrenheit. 
  3. Broccoli Rabe.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add broccoli rabe and cook (blanch) for 30 seconds; drain. Plunge broccoli rabe into a bowl of ice water.  Cool and drain again. Lay in one layer on a kitchen towel to thoroughly dry. Cut in 2″ pieces. 
  4. Saute Broccoli Rabe.  Heat one Tbs. olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes.  Sauté briefly, 30 seconds.  Add broccoli rabe and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Sauté one minute.  Remove from heat. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Assemble pizzas. Lightly brush pizza crusts with olive oil.  Rub all over with smashed garlic cloves.
  6. Arrange one layer mozzarella cheese over crusts.  Top with one layer of potatoes and broccoli rabe.  Sprinkle one tablespoon rosemary over each crust.  Top with grated Pecorino cheese.
  7. Bake on pizza stone or on tray on lowest rack in oven until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes.
  8. Before serving, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.  Garnish with fresh rosemary leaves and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. 
Posted in Broccoli, Italian, Main dish, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Rajas Con Queso

The obsession with Rajas Con Queso began a few years ago when visiting a local Chuy’s.  My friends and I would go there just to eat this and one day, our waiter told us that it is no longer on the menu (we were grief-stricken for quite sometime).  A couple of years passed and I finally found a recipe for it.   It’s a close replica of the one we used to eat at Chuy’s!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Poblano peppers
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 8 oz. sour cream (I prefer to use fat free or reduced fat)
  • 1 Vegetable bouillon cube or various spices: salt, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper (Spices should be according to taste – I didn’t measure it) :P
  • Handful of mozzarella cheese

1.  Roast the poblano peppers on a flame (gas stove) or oven until blackened.  Wrap in paper towel and put it in a plastic/brown bag for 10-15 minutes.
2.  Add onions and jalapeno in a saute pan (with a little oil or spray), stir for 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat, then add garlic.
3.  While the onions are cooking, peel the top layer of skin off of the peppers.  Slice into thin strips.
4.  When onions are soft, add peppers and stir for 3-5 minutes.
5.  Add sour cream and bouillon cube (or spices), stirring frequently.  When the mix is warm, add mozzarella cheese, stir until well blended

Serve with chips or warm tortillas
Excerpted from: www.neenyah.blogspot.com

Posted in Appetizer, Dips, Mexican | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Chocolate Mousse..with a twist

Chocolate mousse is one of the best creations…EVER.  I’ve been wanting to make it for a while now but the ingredients are very discouraging: heavy cream, 6-8 eggs, sugar, chocolate, etc..Ah!  When a craving comes along, I go to Whole Foods and get my fix…UNTIL NOW.  This chocolate mousse recipe is delicious, easy, and much lower in fat and calories!  Do NOT let the first ingredient discourage you  :)

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. silken tofu (1 package)
  • 4.8 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate (50-60% cocoa)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  1. Puree tofu in blender until smooth
  2. In a double broiler, melt remaining ingredients until smooth
  3. Add chocolate mix with tofu and blend well

Let it set in containers or tartlet shells for 2-3 hours (see pictures below), garnish with fresh fruit or chocolate shavings.  (PS: Tartlet shells = store brought, bakery aisle)

Excerpted from: www.neenyah.blogspot.com

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pratibha’s Mung

Pratibha learned this recipe after she moved from London to Florida.  Nani told her how to make mung over the phone (a family tradition), and after many years of practice and some slight modifications, this recipe is her masterpiece.   When her daughter Meera comes home, Pratibha always has mung ready!

Servings: 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mung
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 10-12 limdo (curry leaves)
  • 1 medium-sized tomato (diced)
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. rai (mustard seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • Pinch of hing (asafetida)
  • 1/4 tsp. haldi (turmeric powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. crushed ginger
  • 1/2 tps. crushed green chili (or finely chopped fresh chili peppers, like serranos or jalapenos)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • Fresh cilantro – chopped
  • Little lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Wash mung until water is clear (approximately 5 or 6 times). 
  2. Add mung and water to pressure cooker.  Cover and cook on high.  When the pressure cooker starts making noise, reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to let cook for about 5 minutes.  Then turn off heat.
  3. Wait until pressure cooker has cooled, and then open. 
  4. Make vagaar on medium heat: oil, rai (mustard seeds), jeera (cumin seeds), hing (asafetida), diced tomatoes, and limdo.
  5. Then add garlic, ginger, haldi, green chili, and salt.  Let cook for about 2 minutes. 
  6. Then add the mung, 1 cup water, half of the cilantro, and squeeze half a lemon.  Bring to a boil for about 5-10 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice or on its own.  You can also eat it with roti and yogurt. 
Posted in Gujarati, Indian, Legumes | Tagged , | 1 Comment