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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aloo Banjara

I was picking tomatoes in the backyard on Diwali day and noticed unusual bumps in the soil. I looked at it from all the sides, but couldn't guess what it was. For a minute I thought it was some kind of eggs. After doing the guess work for almost 5 minutes I decided to put gloves on and touch it. And started laughing at my own silliness. Few months ago few of the potatoes sprouted in the pantry. Instead of removing the spouts or throwing the whole potato in the trashcan, I decided to plant them. Same week I planted tomato seedlings in the same planter box. Obviously I had forgotten all about the potatoes I had planted. But these potatoes survived and flourished without me paying any attention to them. I dug through the whole area and got almost all the potatoes out. Crop was about 1/2 to 3/4th pound.

Raw material from the backyard 
 Potatoes from the backyard

I wanted to make something special with these potatoes. I had bookmarked this wonderful recipe on Maayboli by one of my favorite photo blogger Abhijit. He is one of the most talented photographers I know. He has shared few recipes on Maayboli and his recipe writing style is very catchy :) This particular dish 'Aloo Banjara', he saw on TV and remembered the ingredients and general procedure and reproduced it and immediately shared with us. What is so special about this dish? It has potatoes, dill, lentils and the most important thing - a clay pot. It doesn't need any special spices. That clay pot gives it a unique flavor to the dish. My house was filled with aroma when I made it.

I do not own a clay pot but the Indian store close by does sell 'Chatti' so I went there couple of times but they were out and their shipment had not arrived yet. So I asked a very dear friend 'A' if I can use hers. She was kind enough to lend it me. Thanks A!!! I owe you one Aloo Banjara.

Cooking in the clay pot 
Cooking in the clay pot

So here is quick and easy recipe (This is just rough translation of original Marathi recipe by Abhijit)

7-8 Baby Potatoes
1 Small Onion Roughly Sliced
1 tsp Finely Chopped Ginger
1 tsp Finely Chopped Garlic
1/2 cup Soaked Lentils (I used sprouted)
1/2 cup Finely Chopped Dill
2-3 tbsp Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Dried Red Chilies (Byadagi)
1 tsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Red Chili Powder (Kashmiri red chili powder is preferred for the color) or per taste
Salt per Taste
Pinch of Hing and Turmeric Powder
1/2 Tomato chopped
1 tsp Jaggery
2-3 tbsp Oil

aloo Banjara in a dish

Preparation -
Make sure your clay pot is ready to be used for cooking. Read instructions about using it before you start cooking. Use the eat diffuser if you are scared of using it on direct heat like me.
Peel the potatoes and prick them using fork. Soak pricked potatoes in cold water with little salt.
Heat oil in the clay pot on medium heat. Add chopped ginger and garlic and saute until golden brown.
Now add hing, turmeric powder, red chillies, garam masala, red chili powder, cumin-coriander powders and saute for a minute or so.
Add sliced onion saute but you don't need to saute until golden brown.
Add sprouts, chopped dill and soaked potatoes.
Add water until everything is covered with water and and about an inch above.
Add salt and cilantro.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are half cooked.
Now add chopped tomatoes and jaggery. Cover and cook thoroughly.
Serve with chapatis or steaming rice.

Finished Dish in the dish made by me
Final Product in the handi I made

Tips -
  • You can use the any nonstick pan if you do not have access to a clay pot but it will be with lack of special 'earthen flavor'.
  • You can buy the clay pot here.
  • Even though the list of ingredients is pretty long, its every Indian household usually has on hand.
  • Please do not use soap to clean the vessel instead use boiling water and salt. Then heat the pot in the Sun. 
  • Never heat clay pot on high heat as it might break while cooking.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Diwali Special - Shev/Sev

Happy Diwali

Happy diwali everyone! I hope this festival brings lots of joy and happiness for you and your loved ones.


My mom grew up in a huge joint family. They were 15-20 cousins growing up together. House was huge and and everyone had chores assigned to them. Boys would sweep yard and upstairs, fill the water. Girls would do the dish washing and laundry.  My grandma would cook with help of older girls. I think that was the norm back then to divide the work and finish off in time for school college. Once the kids went to school/college, grandma would prepare goodies for them to eat with evening tea. With so many people to feed, you can imagine the quantity she had to make. But she never compromised on quality. She made shankarpali, shev and chivda more often. Once in a while she made rava laddoos. All these are typical Maharashtrian Diwali snacks. Obviously my mom learned to cook from her mom and after her marriage from her mother in law. She got best of both worlds. My paternal grandma's chakalis and chirote were out of this world, that is what everyone who tasted them says. Unfortunately I dont remember much about her cooking. But I was fortunate enough to learn from my maternal grandma and my fathers aunts. Remembering all my grandmas, their signature dishes and trying to replicate them are my favorite Diwali memories.

The shev recipe I am going to share with you is one of the recipes my mom's. She combined her mom's recipe and one she got from my father's aunt. Its extremely easy to make and very tasty. I rarely deep fry stuff and this diwali I decided to make shev so that I dont forget the traditional diwali snacks.

Homemade Shev

Here is how I made it -

1/3 cup Water
4 tbsp Oil
1"x1" fresh Ginger Root
1/4 Lime/Lemon
Salt per taste
Red Chili Powder to taste
1 tsp finely ground Cumin powder
1 cup Fine Besan (chick pea flour) - may need couple more tablespoons
Pinch of Hing
Oil for deep frying

Preparation -
Take water in a small bowl. Grate ginger in water. Now squeeze lemon in the water bowl as well. Now sieve this water through a fine grade mesh. Squeeze out as much ginger juice as you can through the mesh.
Now add salt, chili powder, hing and finely ground cumin powder to the water.
Add 4tbsp oil in the water mix and whisk well for 3-4 minutes.
Now add this water to besan and make the dough/batter. If the batter is too watery then add couple of tablespoons more besan. Consistency should be ticker than idli or pakoda batter and way softer than chapati batter.
Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Mix the batter/dough with hand for 3-4 minutes. This makes the dough bit lighter.
Heat oil in stable pan on high heat. Oil should be piping hot.
Fill the dough in shev press and press shev in hot oil in circular shape.
Flip it once when one side is golden yellow.
Remove promptly from the oil once both sides as fried well. Let it drain on paper towel.
Repeat the process with remaining batter.
Cool the fried shev thoroughly before storing in airtight container.

Tips -

  • I sift chili powder, besan and cumin powder through fine sieve before adding to water.
  • Shev gets darker and tastes burnt if its fried longer. 
  • I used byadagi chili powder so color looks reddish. 
  • I dont put turmeric powder, but you can use it if you wish. 
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Orange Cranberry Cake

We usually have drama practices at home almost every weekend and we take turns to feed the army. I get to try few recipes on them but rarely get to take pictures as it all vanishes within half an hour or less. I always look forward to my turn as I get few more guinea pigs ;) I wanted to make a simple snack cake for the troop and had cranberries sitting on the counter and whole orange tree with ripe oranges in the backyard.

I had my eye on this recipe for very long time as I love orange flavor. Substituting eggs, milk and butter was something I was very reluctant to try all in same batch. Just in case if that doesn't come all together as its supposed to be then it becomes difficult to finish. I like this orange cake so much that I make very often. Using cranberries in that orange cake was going to be my last option as I know it will come out great. But I wanted to try a new recipe(!) so went on searching for a different recipe. I had tried this maple pecan cake by Shyamala with walnuts and agave syrup, soy milk. Also had tried ET's take on the same recipe using agave syrup and almond milk. It is such a forgiving recipe that I wanted to alter it to suit with ingredients I had on hand.

Orange Cranberry Cake

Here is how I did it -

1.5 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
6 tbsp Turbinado Sugar
3 tbsp Agave Syrup
1/2 cup Oil
1/2 cup Dried Cranberries (I used orange flavored cranberries)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Lemon Juice (I used Meyer Lemon)
1/2 cup Orange Juice (I used freshly squeezed)
2 tbsp Orange Zest
1/4 tsp Salt

Preparation -
Orange Cranberry cake with orange tree in backyard

Preheat oven at 350F. Grease 8" baking and dust it with flour.
Mix together sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to mix it thoroughly. Then add cranberries and mix well.
Mix orange zest, lemon juice, orange juice, agave syrup, oil, vanilla extract in food processor.
Add the flour mixture in 2 batches in the wet ingredients.
Mix for a minute and pour batter in the greased pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let it cool for 15-20 minutes and then Take it off the pan and cut into pieces.

Tips -
  1. You can easily add 2 tbsp more orange juice and omit lemon juice.
  2. You can use white sugar but I like rustic taste of turbinado.
  3. As ET has mentioned this is pretty dry cake but works great with coffee/tea.



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