Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Essence of Curry - Curries in a Jiffy: Recipes to get you started


I have been meaning to pen this post for a while - I have spoken about "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste" before! But suddenly I see more of a flurry around the "curry" and especially trying the make it yourself kind and mine being a typical north indian household I have to have "A CURRY" made for dinner aat least 3 days a week! So I thought why not I try to simplify it as much as I can for all our readers.

Firstly, dear readers let me tell you that I couldn't cook to save my life before marriage - especially Indian food. Give me a Pav Bhaji or Pasta Dish and I could whip it up in no time but Indian food always seemed way to time consuming for me to even try my hand on. Until I got married and realised that I can live on "chawal (rice)" but my hubby needs his "curry" so I decided to get some tips from the ever dependable mother and tried to turn my cooking skills around bit by bit...

I feel the essence of the curry is to get a flavorful gravy together without it being too full of oil and spices. The base of 90% of the curries in India is a good "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste". So once in a week, I have my help make it and I shall tell you how useful it is and then give you the recipe for it.

To get together any curry in my house, I just have to use a tablespoon of my sauted onion paste to a tablespoon of oil and crackling cumin, add a little tomato puree or freshly grated tomatoes - saute it some more. Add any spices, vegetables or meat to this basic paste - add water - give this a whistle in the pressure cooker or slow cook it in a heavy bottom pan and voila the curry is ready!!!! Yes, it's that simple. 

The only thing you need to add or subtract from the above is the kind of spices used, the amount of tomato puree or onion paste used etc - you get the drift. Now let me give you the recipe for my sauted onion paste.

I use about 1kg red onions, 10 big cloves of fresh garlic and the same amount of chopped ginger. I half the onions and add the onions, ginger and garlic mixture to my food processer and blitz it all together till it forms a paste. don't feel hesitant to add a couple of teaspoons of water to this to get it together. Once this is done - take a heavy bottom pan and put the paste in this, sprinkle a little bit of salt on this and let it cook on low heat. The original color of the paste is more towards lilac but after being cooked for almost 20 minutes it starts browning and that is what you to patiently wait for since this is what adds the flavor and color to your curry. If you think the paste is sticking to your pan too much - add a couple of teaspoons of water to this - enough to scrape the stuck onions paste from the bottom of the pan - the darker it - the better you curry is going to look and taste - just be careful not to burn it but making this paste is going to take a good 20-30 minutes. This can be stored in the fridge for a week or two in an airtight container but that container will probably have to be dedicated to onions after that 'coz it's going to get a strong smell.

Now here are a few basic curry recipes to get you started:

Aloo Matar ki Sabzi (Curried Potatoes 'N Peas) Recipe:

Ingredients:
2 potatoes cut into small cubes
Half the amount of frozen peas
Spices: 1 bay leaf, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste, 11/2 teaspoon coriander powder (dhaniya powder), salt and red chilli powder to taste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 small grated tomatoes or about 11/2 tablespoon of tomatoe puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sauted onion paste that you have prepared
1 cup water

Recipe:
1. Take a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed pan -> Add the oil and let it heat a bit - add the bay leaves and cumin seeds and wait till cumin splutters.
2. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, onion paste and tomatoes and saute it. Add the coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt and chilli powder to this and saute this till you can see it sticking to the bottom of the pan and oil leaving this mixture. Add about a tablespoon of water to this so that the mixture doesn't burn. 3.Add the potatoes and peas and saute it in the mixture till well coated. Now add the cup of water to this and let it cook till the potatoes are cooked. If you are using a pressure cooker - this will cook in two whistles.


For easy variations :
1. You can use a mix vegetables like beans, carrots and peas instead of potatoes = Mixed Vegetable Curry
2. You can make the curry only with peas and add hard-boiled eggs (w/o the shells) to the curry = Egg Curry
3. You can make the curry only with peas and add sauted cottage cheese cubes/paneer to the curry = Paneer Matar or Curried Cottage Cheese and Peas

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pictures of the TWD EVO Yogurt Cake...

EVO & Yogurt Cake, Some Inspirational Blogs and an Endeavor to better my Photographs...

Hello All -

High time I post a recipe here, I say!
Well, I have been in the process of reading a lot of blogs and food websites (my favorites are: http://www.nigella.com/, http://www.doriegreenspan.com/, Aapplemint, Passionate about Baking, Brown Eyed Baker, The Pioneer Woman, Happy Home Baking, Joy of Baking, Easy Indian Cooking, Tuesdays With Dorie - I can go on and on ) and learning more about my point and shoot or learning how to use photoshop / picasa - anything that can help improve my food photographs.
I always seem to be in a rush to get my baking over and the icing done before my baby is awake and usually battling away sleep. If I am baking in the morning then someone wants to be in my "godi" (lap) through the baking and frosting process, you get the drift - so by the time I am done with the taking pics - all I want to do is share the recipe coz - 'Yay, I managed to bake another cake' or 'Wow, I had the time to create another dessert' but I have decided to sincerely make a change.
After over 30 posts I have realised I need to be more meticulous and patient with baking and frosting and decorating and the whole process of getting the post to all of you so that it looks as appealing to you to eat as it is for me!

I am very inspired with the likes of The Daring Bakers Challenge and Tuesdays With Dorie(TWD) but definitely intimidated with the level of skill required to be part of it but when I read about the EVO and Yogurt Cake on TWD - I just could not resist baking it! It seemed like a perfect quick cake recipe for me! The original recipe can be found at: http://www.doriegreenspan.com/ or http://tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com - this cake sounded simple and healthy (no butter) and seemed like something that could be put together in a jiffy with wonderful results and I was right :)! And I have decided to take mini steps and start baking easy recipes from these blogs...

This recipe is adapted a bit coz I bake in the nights and used whatever I could find available:  
11/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup yogurt (I used homemade yogurt with low fat milk)
Finely grated zest of 1 lime (I didn't add 'coz my toddler doesn't have a thing for lemony flavours)
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla essence)
1/2 cup evo (I used Saffola Oil - a mixture of rice bran and safflower oil - wow, didn't know I had that in my kitchen - have to read up some more on the oil I use in my kitchen!)
                                                        
I followed the rest of the instructions to the T - I added yogurt to the sugar and whisked. I added eggs and vanilla essence to this and whisked further. I then added the dry ingredients to this and whisked it together.

In the end I added the oil and mixed it with a spatula as instructed. I couldn't find a loaf pan so in, it went into a round baking dish.

50-55 minutes at 350F for a loaf pan but mine was done in 45 mins in a round pan at 170 degree Celsius.

Though this cake calls for a jam or glaze I made a simple frosting to enhance the slight tart flavour that I thought the yogurt would add to this cake. I also wanted to give the cake a very cloud like ethereal look 'coz from the reviews I had read it was a dense cake with lots of character and flavour so I used the soy based whipping cream thats available in India and to it I added some fresh mango puree and very little sugar and whipped it together to get a fluffy and light frosting. Here is the recipe:

1 cup whipped cream - lightly beaten till it holds form
1/3 cup mangoes pureed
2 tablespoon powdered sugar
Fold the puree and sugar into the whipped cream

Frost the cake and decorate with mangoes and enjoy! By the time I finished baking and decorating the cake it was 2am and I had to wait till morning to take pictures.. so they are yet to be uploaded!

But my toddler love the cake and kept saying 'more', 'more' and he even added "yummy" after tasting the frosting so I think I passed. Those of you who have tried this recipe yet - it is a must have for cakes in a jiffy! The cake itself was really nice and dense and I did get good reviews from the family!

I am leaving you with a collage of some of my pictures and would really like some true feedback on them... pictures of the cake to follow soon!

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