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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The magic of Basmati!

OR "Making Basmati - 101" :)

Many may have heard of the phrase, "Basmati - the queen of rice!" And all those who have had a perfect bowl of Basmati know what I'm talking about.

Basmati literally means, "Queen of fragrance" in hindi. And thats what is. Lovely long grained rice, with a beautiful fragrance and delectable flavour..... if cooked to perfection, it can be an awesome companion to any gravy, curry, soup and superb just by itself!

Today I share with you some well known and some *may be* not so well known tips and tricks to get your basmati the best!

Before Cooking

Basmati rice has a lot of starch stuck to the grains and so it needs to be cleaned thoroughly before cooking or you'll end up with sticky grains.
Try washing it 2-3 times with your hands rubbing the grains to get the starch off, till the water stops becoming milky/pearly and instead stays clear. And when you think you're done - wash it one more time!

Cooking Basmati

We all make rice in lots of ways. Four most common ways are -
  • In a pressure cooker.
  • In a rice cooker.
  • In a microwave.
  • In a deep covered pot.
Preparation tips =>
  • Add a teaspoon of ghee / butter / olive oil / vegetable oil while cooking to ensure that the grains don't stick.
  • If making rice for savouries (not sweets),
    • add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the water and rice, that way the grains cook longer!
    • try adding a teaspoon of cumin seeds (raw) if making rice to accompany curries. Boiled/steamed cumin tastes yumm.
    • try adding inch long strips of ginger (raw) when making rice for Rajma/Chhole, if you're a ginger lover - the crunchy ginger will taste divine when cooked.
  • Always consider whether you're cooking just rice or adding vegetables as well, becuase that will increase the quantity of water and spices/garnish.

Some tips for each method of rice preparation =>
  • Pressure Cooker -
    • When measuring water for the rice, dip your finger till your finger tip just touches the rice and if the water just reaches over the first line on the finger (eg out of the three lines that we have on each finger! :P) - then thats enough.
    • Usually 2 whistles should be enough if rice has been pre-soaked the rice for an hour. Or 3-4 if not.
  • Rice Cooker/Microwave -
    • Usually equal quantities of rice and water are used. Please read the instructions from the manufacturer - incase the power of the instrument requires a different measurement.
    • Make sure to stir the rice half way through the cooking to ensure that the grains cook evenly.
  • Deep covered pot(The oldest way, and also one with many variations)-
    • Start with equal quantities of rice and water and you can add warm water as the cooking goes on if you think the rice have become too dry.
    • Stir occasionally to ensure rice dosen't stick to the sides. If it does and rice is still uncooked then that will indicate that more water is required.
For Savoury Rice Dishes -

Two choices -
  • Stir-fry/Add rice to the fried spices + vegetables after cooking rice separately.
  • Fry the spices + vegetables and then add them to the rice and water thats ready waiting to be cooked.
And both methods are just as good, the only deciding factor may be time (cooking together can be faster), and choice of taste (rice cooked seperately is less likely to turn sticky/over cook).

So the choice is upto you! =)

Try fried rice or yogurt rice. And hopefully I'll have more rice delicacies for you in the future!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Making Curries - 101

The idea of this post is to share various techniques to get an Indian curry with the perfect consistency - Not too thin and *hopefully* not too Thick!

So lets get going right away.
I have seperated the ideas into two categories, the first ones are things we can do at the start of preparation while the rest can be done if the curry is almost ready and you realise that its too runny or watery and not how you'd like it to be.

At the Start of Preparation --

--> If you use canned tomatoes - Look for "crushed" tomatoes, as they make better gravy. *I always keep a can or two for emergency even though I buy tomatoes fresh!*
--> If making a curry with onions and tomato where these ingredients dont need to be seen in chunks - Chop both onions and tomatoes really really fine.
--> If making a curry where you'd like to see strings of onions floating around but also want a relatively thick gravy - Chop half of the onions in slices while the rest into really fine pieces.
--> If making Paneer curries (like Palak Paneer or Mattar Paneer or Butter Masala etc) - Use a food processor or grinder to turn the onions into a thick paste, this will provide a beautiful texture for the gravy!

For all the above ideas - when you start cooking them - follow the steps below:
1. Heat oil. Add the initial spices (usually asafoetida and cumin/mustard seeds). Let the seeds sputter a bit.
2. Add the onions (chopped or paste). Add the ginger/garlic paste (if needed). Cook till onions are slightly golden brown.
3. Add the flavor spices (usually Garam Masala, Chilli powder, Turmeric Powder, Rajmah Masala, Chhole Masala etc etc and Bay leaves or Curry Leaves etc - as needed). Cook the onions in these spices for a few minutes and let the flavour and aroma of the spices intensify.
4. Add the tomatoes (chopped or paste). Add half a cup of water and let this mixture cook till it starts bulbing and boiling and forms a reasonably thick paste.
5. Now you can add whatever vegetables/lentils/beans etc that you are cooking.

At the End of Preparation --

To fix thin/runny/watery gravy:
--> If your curry has lentils, beans or potatoes etc in it, you can -
* Use a wooden/steel potato masher - and press some of the ingredients against the bottom or the side of the vessel and mash them into a thick paste. Then stir and check if your gravy is thick enough. If not repeat till you get it the way you like.
* Take almost a cup full of gravy with these beans and process in a food processor. Then pour them back into the vessel to get the thick consistency.

--> If you are a cheese lover - Add a few slices of cheese to your gravy and cook till it melts completely and thickens the gravy.

--> If you are a bread lover - Crush a few slices of bread with hands and add to the gravy and stir well and let it cook till the bread pieces are gone.

--> If your gravy is watery and you just want it thick but not change the taste at all - Add 2 table spoons of flour to the gravy and cook for about 5 minutes till the bubbles dissolve completely.

To fix a thick/chunky gravy:
--> If you are a cream lover - Add half a cup of cream into the gravy and let it simmer till it reaches the desired thickness.

--> If you just want to make it slightly thin - Add warm water to the gravy and let it boil till it reaches the desired thickness.

So as you can see.... its all in the preparation!
If you know exactly what you want - there are always more than one ways to get there......


See you next time! ;)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Indian Cooking Basics

Here's a mini series for all you food lovers - the idea being to share the obvious and the not so obvious cooking tips when preparing Indian meals.

Disclaimer - Being a north Indian, my tips may and will seem full of north Indian cooking ideas. Though I do feel that the steps/tips of this series are not exclusive to just north Indian cooking - they can But worry not as I'll share my south Indian tips that I have picked up here and there and sprinkle them every once in a while as well. you're ready?

Lets Dig in!!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cherry Apricot Parfait

Friends coming over after dinner? Looking for a quick and easy dessert thats absolutely delish and oh! so easy to make?!

I have the perfect solution for you.... This recipe from a mate here is Oz looks yummy and tastes really great too!!

Cherry Apricot Parfait

Ingredients --
A bottle of prepared Custard
A tub of Cherry yogurt
A can of Apricot halves
Almond biscuits OR fresh cherries for topping

Method --
1. Halve the apricot pieces and set them aside.
2. Fill 1/3 of a glass with custard, then layer apricot pieces over it.
3. Fill the next 1/3 with cherry yogurt and then another layer or apricots.
4. Top up with custard and an optional final layer of apricots.
5. Dress it up with crushed biscuits or fresh cherries!

Chill it for like 15mins and Enjoy.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lentil Burgers

Who said that we vegetarians dont have much choice when it comes to burgers?! Hungry Jacks here is Oz have the best Vegie burgers, Subway have a great Veggie Subs and even Mackers had a cool Chickpea patty - veg burger in their Salads plus menu just a few months ago!

Here's my version of the vegetarian burger - that's made of black lentils which will have you licking you fingers! :)

Lentil Burgers

Ingredients --

2 cups Brown Lentils - cooked
1 large onion - finely chopped
2 small carrots - grated
1 garlic clove - minced
1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs (just process fresh bread in a mixie/food processor)
1 large potato - boiled and mashed (optional)

1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce (optional)
Ground Black Pepper to taste
Chilli flakes (optional or how hot u'd like)
Salt to taste

Method --

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes till the onions turn golden brown. Add spices, cumin and coriander powder and cook for a minute. Remove from heat and let it cool.
2. In a large bowl, put the onion mix, grated carrots, lentils, potato and bread crumbs. Mix well.
3. Add the soy sauce, black pepper, chilli flakes and salt. Mince the lentils so that they will bind with the rest of the mixture.
4. Form flat patties and put aside.

Cooking options -
--> 1. Heat very little bitof oil in a flat pan and then cook the patty on each side - till its crispy.
--> 2. Preheat oven. And place patties on a baking sheet and cook for about 30mins. depending on the heating capacity of the oven. Make sure to flip midway to cook the other side.


To make burgers -

Ingredients --
1 small ripe avocado - mashed into paste.
few slices of tomato
few slices of beetroot
shredded lettuce or salad leaves
Burger buns

Method --
1. Apply avocado paste to bun base.
2. Top with salad leaves, then beetroot and tomato slices. Add the patty and complete with the bun lid.

Variations --
* You can add cheese slices.
* You can apply mayo to the bun lid.
* Basically... do all sorts of stuff that you'd do to make it "YOUR" fav burger! :D