Fried Rice

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My mom is the queen of the kitchen, which meant growing up I never cooked! Fast forward to 2005 standing in my kitchen in Connecticut I figured fried rice would be the easiest thing to pull off, right? Wrong! While it tasted good, the texture was completely off, more like awful, because of some obvious mistakes. What followed was a teary conversation with mom, mostly because I was really homesick and couldn’t even cook myself a decent warm meal. This post is more about the secret tips that mom shared with me that day, than about the actual recipe. This recipe is a basic one and can be modified to make your own. Add different vegetables, may be some protein…

The secret to a good fried rice is starting with cold cooked grains! Now that I think of it mom always cooked the rice the day before. The reason is simple, dehydration of the grains. Refrigeration makes the grains dry, and then when cooked it gets hydrated just right. Fresh cooked rice gets mushy! When in the moment spread fresh cooked rice in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This will take care of any residual moisture and give your dish the fried texture.

Heat! High heat is important. As my mom’s lil helper I would love adding things to the pan but I wasn’t that patient. So I would go “Aikhon Di”(should I add now) and mom would roll her eyes and say “Daada, gorom hoi ni”(wait its not warm enough yet) because it was probably the 4th or 5th time! High heat ensures that whatever is added to the pan gets fried quickly, so the rawness goes but the crunchiness stays.

“Ghatish Na”(Don’t stir it too much) was what she screamed at me when this eager helper, kept stirring the rice. Constant stirring will cause the grains to break and get starchy, then mushy. Also it prevents the rice from getting that crunchy crusty texture. So spread the rice out in the pan, let it sit for a minute or so before flipping it.

So the secret to Jhojhore (fluffy), slightly crusty fried rice is – dehydrated cooked rice, cooking in high heat and no to constant stirring! To never again mushy fried rice… Happy cooking!!

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4-5 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice, cooked.
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • salt to taste

Process: 

  1. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions) and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
  2. Add cooked rice, salt, ground black pepper and butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  4. Remove from heat, garnish with chopped scallions and serve.
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Kadai Paneer

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Kadai is a thick bottom circular cooking pan, similar to a wok, but with steeper sides, an essential in every Indian kitchen. This dish is traditionally cooked in one and hence the name Kadai Paneer. The combination of the the tangy tomato gravy balanced with a dash of sweetness from cream followed by a garnish of dried fenugreek leaves makes this dish. It’s rich texture and ease to cook makes it a perfect dish to cook when entertaining. So far I have never had leftovers and always find myself writing this recipe down for people.  img_6488

I am good at figuring things out and really enjoy the process of deconstructing a dish, understanding the various ingredients that went in it and building it all together. This dish is one of them, I had an idea of this dish and I modified it to be my own. Traditionally ginger, garlic and a few more whole spices are added to this dish. I prefer it without those.

I have made this dish for my vegan friends and its easy. For a vegan version, use Tofu instead of Paneer and cashews for the creamy sweet richness. Even my non-vegan friends love that variation.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz Paneer
  • 1 onion, julienned
  • 1 small green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 dried red chilli
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 tbsp fresh cream or heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi)

Process:

  1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter over medium heat. Add bay leaf, dried red chilli, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add onions. Saute for 4-5 mins, till they get a little caramalized.
  3. Add the red and green bell peppers, mix it in, then garam masala,cayenne, coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add the chopped tomato fold it in. Cover and cook, stirring on regular interval until it gets mushy or 4-5 mins.
  5. Add in tomato puree, cover and cook for another 5 mins, to take away the rawness.
  6. Add Paneer, fold it in and cook for 2-3 mins.
  7. Add cream, mix it in and turn of the flame. Do not cook after adding cream or it will curdle.
  8. Garnish with Kasoori Methi.

Serve with naan or chapatis.

Veg Hakka Noodles

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Hakka Noodles is one of the most popular street food in India. There is nothing more satisfying than a warm plate of Vegetables and Egg Noodles sautéed in soy sauce (and more) on a rainy evening. Its satisfying in its simplicity!

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 10 mins     Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • Thick Egg Noodles
  • Julienned (cut) vegetables
    • 1 small Onion
    • 1 green bell pepper
    • 1 red bell pepper
    • 1 carrot
    • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, grated (or 1.5 tbsp ginger powder)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce or siracha
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper power
  • salt to taste

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Process:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, ground black pepper and a couple drops of oil. Add the noodles and boil until its cooked. Once cooked immediately plunge in ice cold water, drain well and sprinkle a little oil. This prevents them from sticking to each other.
  2. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables and sauté for 2-3 mins. Don’t overcook, the dish tastes best when the vegetables are slightly crunchy.
  3. Add tomato sauce, chilli sauce, rice vinegar.
  4. Add the boiled noodles, mix everything. Turn off the flame.
  5. Pour soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  6. Garnish with chopped scallion and serve.

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Kumror (Pumpkin) Chokka

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Fall is my favorite time of the year the slight nip in the air, the smell of pine, festivities everywhere and fall vegetables, I love every one of them! Chokka in bangla means a spiced dish of vegetables cooked almost dry. Kumror Chokka is a traditional bengali dish that is made using Pumpkins, potatoes and chickpeas.While traditionally this dish is made during the summer months, I make this in fall, with fresh Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash from the local farmers market. Serve it with Porotha or Puri and its just perfect of cold evenings.

This dish was very popular in my maternal grandparents house. Story goes that when ever my grandparents argued about something, my granddad would step out and comeback home with a Pumpkin as peace offering. And my grandmother would make this, their favorite dish and they would laugh about their disagreements over a meal. Love Birds!

This and a few other bengali recipes will call for Paanch Phoron for tempering. It is a combination of Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Nigella Seeds in equal proportion. 

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 15-20 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pie Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 3-4 green chile pepper
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp Paanch Phoron
  • 1-2 dried red chilli pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnishing
  • 1 tsp ghee (optional)
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Process:

  1. Heat oil in a Wok on medium heat, add paanch phoron and dried red chilli pepper. Sauté till aromatic.
  2. In the mean time muddle together ginger, garlic and fresh green chile pepper with a pestle
  3. Add the potatoes, muddle spices, turmeric and salt to the now aromatic temper. Sauté for 4-5 mins.
  4. Add butternut squash/pumpkin and chickpeas, mix them in. Cover and cook till vegetables are done (tender) around 10-12 mins.
  5. Let the vegetables char a little at the bottom.
  6. Remove from heat, fold in the thin charred crust.
  7. Garnish with ghee, garam masala and chopped cilantro.

 

Sheer Khurma

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Sheer Khurma translates to milk with dates is a variety of vermicelli pudding made during the festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr or Meethi Eid (Sweet festival) in Hyderabad. Although in the Mukherjee household we made it on demand, whenever we felt like celebrating, which was pretty often. I love this dish! It takes me back to some hilarious memories and never fails to put a smile on my face. My dad was a diabetic with a sweet tooth and craved a ‘sweet dish’ every night. My mom, the responsible one, always tried to keep a check on his diet. So his work around was to master making this dish and not share it with her! LOL!

This is a super easy dessert that can be made in short notice when you need to entertain surprise guests or satisfy those wicked sweet cravings.

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Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 25 mins     Yield: 6-8 servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vermicelli (crushed)
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 6 dried dates, soaked and cut into smaller pieces
  • 1.5 cups sugar (I use coconut or date sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon powder
  • 2 tbsp blanched almonds, sliced
  • 2 tbsp pistachios, sliced
  • 2 tbsp raisins

Process:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat add milk, cardamon and sugar, cook over medium-low heat for around 20 mins or until the milk thickens a little and reduces to 3/4 of its volume.
  2. While the milk cooks, heat ghee in a frypan/skillet over medium heat. Add the crushed vermicelli and sauté till golden brown, around 8-10 mins.
  3. Add the cooked vermicelli and soaked dates to the thickened milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 mins.
  4. Garnish with the almonds, pistachio and raisins. Serve warm.

Bendakayi Huli (Okra snd Lentils Stew)

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I was introduced to the delicious world of Havyaka cuisine back in 2005, during my first trip to husband’s native place. Its a quaint little village near Mangalore, Karnataka. The smell of fresh air, the relaxed days, the fact that I could see a clear night sky everyday and most importantly the love I received from everyone I met was simply amazing!

Havyaka food is all vegetarian with tindora/little gourd, eggplant and jackfruit being favorites. I am allergic to all of them. On the first day I couldn’t eat anything. Day 2 one of my husbands cousin, Bharati, decided to treat me with my favorites. So the menu had Bendakayi(Okra) Huli, Potato curry and rice followed by freshly cut pineapple. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I am allergic(fortunately not the life threatening types, just a little tummy ache) to coconuts too. But then, I enjoyed every last bite of my meal. Thank you Benadryl!

I often get nostalgic, and since I cannot be there in person I cook some of the food instead. This one is my favorite. And with some inputs from my mother-in-law I make a variation for me, using very little coconut. Just enough to get a hint of flavor in.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 20-30 mins    Yield: 6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb Okra, Chopped into 1 inch long pieces.
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (or soak 1 inch chunk of Tamarind in water).
  • 1 tsp jaggery (Use brown sugar if you do not have access to jaggery).
  • 4- 5 shallots, cut in half.
  • 1/2 plum tomato, finely chopped.
  • 1/4 cup toor dal/pigeon peas, cooked and mashed.
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

For the spice paste:

  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp urad dal (white lentils)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 3-4 dried red chillies
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida

For Tempering:

  • 1 tsp ghee (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3-4 curry leaves

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Process:

  1. Cooking the Okra:
    1. In a pan heat a tsp of oil, add the tomatoes and sauté for a 1-2 mins.
    2. Add tamarind water, jaggery and salt and bring to a boil.
    3. Add the okra and shallots, simmer till okras are soft and still firm.
  2. For the spice paste:
    1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add curry leaves, dried red chilli, cumin, mustard and coriander seeds.
    2. Saute till the seeds start leaving a nice aroma and the curry leaves get crisp.
    3. Turn off the heat, add asafoetida and let the spices cool.
    4. Once cool, make a smooth paste of the spices with coconut and a little bit of water.
  3. For the Huli:
    1. When the okra is cooked, add the cooked toor dal and spice paste, mix them well. Be careful not to break the okra pieces while mixing.
    2. Add 1/2 – 3/4 a cup of water and boil for a couple mins.
  4. For the tempering:
    1. Heat ghee in a small pan, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
    2. Saute till curry leaves are crisp. Pour on top of the prepared Huli.
  5. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Notes:

  • Other vegetables can be used instead of Okra, so get creative.
  • I use only 1 tsp of coconut and sauté it with the spice mix just before turning of the heat.

Welcome!

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Welcome to 1 Cup of Joy. Finally my imaginary food blog becomes a real thing.

So why start a blog? I decided sometime ago that I need to somehow document all the meals I prepare, create a recipe book of sorts for future personal use. A database of tried and tested recipes. Right now they are all scattered with pictures in one place, ingredients and instructions either in ‘notes’ of my phone or scribbled in pieces of papers (whatever I could find near me while on the phone with my mom or mom-in-law or aunts). Of course, there is also the added benefits of being able to easily share these recipes with friends.

Before I got started, I went online and checked all the various food bloggers out there. I was (still am) amazed! I don’t know how they manage to do it all: they cook, take apetizing pictures, they share, they spend time building audience and responding to every question that gets posted promptly.

So here’s hoping I can do it all!