Know your Onions
Chill out with Nira

Very Veggie


Some time ago a friend and I held a cooking demonstration entitled  "Ordinary Vegetables, Extraordinary Flavours"
We chose vegetables as the star of the show because they just are  not served very often when people host a dinner or lunch (unless  they are vegetarians).Without chicken, fish or mutton, most people  in India think that a dinner is not worth serving, that it is a miser's  offering. And without non-veg it will be just ghaas phoos which  translates roughly into 'grass and other rubbish'.

We wanted to prove the contrary. That ,in fact ,vegetables make a great  meal, right from starters to dessert. The idea was also to make the  feast attractive using all the colours of the vegetables we had at  hand, to incorporate different  tastes, sweet, sour, salty and  combinations of the above and to surprise the palate from time to  time.

So we set out to choose  vegetables in season...nothing expensive  or out of the way and just cook them in a different way.  My friend Devika  Mundkur is a wonderful cook and not afraid of trying out new things.  After a couple of run throughs at home we chose to present the 
tastiest results to a discriminating audience.Cc_demo_1

The demonstration was held at the Royal Connaught Boat Club,  Poona (which faces the River Mulla Mutha) and it was well attended. 
Glory be..even some men turned up!  Which shows you how things  are changing here.

Family and friends were recruited to serve the audience. Everyone  was given a plate and spoon and encouraged to taste  every  dish. Many did more than taste and did such justice to each dish that nothing was left over!

Devika and I were really pleased with our efforts as people asked a lot of questions, were suitably impressed  by the fact that all 6 dishes were made in an hour...from the  chopping to the serving.... and happily took away the  recipes we had had printed out for them.Event11_2

Well here they are for all to try. One great point -each  recipe is made  using  negligible amounts of  oil and everything can be made  superfast. I just don't believe you have to toil too hard to turn out a  feast.

Beetroot Bonanza

4 beetroots pressure cooked or steamed.
Juice of ½  lemon
½  Coconut grated
3 Kashmiri (red)chillies
½  tsp mustard seed
1 ½  tsp gur (use palm sugar as a substitute)
½ cup dahi (curd,yogurt)
Fresh shepu (Dill).

Cut the beetroot into 1" cubes. Sprinkle lemon juice over the beetroot and mix. Grind the coconut, red chillies, mustard seed and gur very fine and smooth in a blender. Whip curd and add to ground paste.Mix ground paste mixture into beetroot and turn into serving dish. Garnish with a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh dill.

Capsicum Raita.

¼  kg chili shaped capsicum or simla mirch.(Sweet green peppers)
½ tsp ajwain (seeds of thymol)
Pinch of haldi (turmeric)
Punch of hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp oil
2 cups of dahi (curd,yogurt)/400 gms.
Fresh coriander

Heat oil and add ajwain. When it sputters put in capsicum, sprinkle haldi on top and saute till capsicum softens but still retains some bite. Add hing and stir fry for twenty seconds then add lemon juice and salt. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool. When cooled add beaten curds. Serve garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

Bindaas Banana

4 bananas, almost ripe.
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil

Slice bananas lengthwise in two and then across to make 4 pieces each.Sprinkle salt and chilli powder on both sides of each piece.
Heat a tava/griddle , brush on some oil and shallow fry banana pieces for five minutes on each side till brown. Serve immediately.

Khatta Meetha Kadu

Tamarind, 1 walnut sized piece.
1” piece of gur  (jaggery (). Use palm sugar if you cant get gur.
½ kg lal kadu (pumpkin )
1 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
1 generous tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp haldi (turmeric )
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Soak tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water along with jaggery. Chop pumpkin into 1 1/2 "cubes. Heat oil and put in fenugreek (methi )seeds. When they pop add pumpkin cubes, chilli powder, turmeric and mix well. Fry for a minute then add the strained tamarind and jaggery. Put fire on low and simmer till done.

Masala Masoor Pulao

½ cup oil
½ cup akha masoor dal ( unsplit lentils). Soak for 45 minutes.
2 cups basmati rice
3 large red onions sliced lengthwise.
2 tsps adrak lasan (ginger garlic) paste
2-3 bay leaves
1” piece of cinnamon
6-10 peppercorns
6 cloves
6 green cardamom
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric

Dry fry onions till brown in a good kadhai or cast iron wok/ pot. Heat oil in a pressure cooker pan, add whole spices and stir fry, then add the browned onions. Add the a ginger garlic paste and stir. Next add the salt, chilli powder and turmeric. Now put in the washed rice and 4 cups of water. Stir in 1 tsp garam masala and fry well.
Put the lid on the cooker and a katori (small metal cup)  over the vent not a weight. Cook on a low flame for 20 minutes exactly.
Open and serve this wonderfully aromatic pulao.

Pomegranate Peanut Summer Salad

2-3 large pomegranates
2 tablespoons grated fresh coconut
1 cup peanuts.

Deseed 2-3 pomegranates. Add a pinch of salt and sugar. Add a handful of grated coconut and 1 cupful of broken peanuts. (Do not grind peanuts in a blender. Use a rotary nut grinder to get perfect pieces without releasing the oils). Mix well
Your pomegranate salad is ready!

Gajar Guldasta

½ kg long, narrow, red carrots.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1” stick of cinnamon
1 tablespoon pure rosewater
Tulsi leaves (basil makes a good substitute)

Scrape carrots well and cut into 2 ½” lengths. Make a syrup of the sugar and water. Bring to a boil along with the cinnamon. Add carrots and cook till soft. Take off the fire and cool. When cooled add the rosewater. Garnish with tulsi leaves  and serve.