Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Marag and The Pulao

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What is this fishy looking dish”, random blog hopper aka RBH

“It is not fish, it is mutton, and a very tasty one at that”, my blog aka MB

“No, I meant it looks suspicious, what’s with this shadow play…Guru Dutt style”, RBH

“Oh this fantastic woman who writes my blog is very talented, she can shoot pictures at all angles…Kurosawa angle, Guru Dutt angle…anything…very talented”, MB with hint of pride

“Umm I think she needs more light, to light up her fishy dishes, ask her to adjust the white balance of her camera next time”, a not impressed RBH mumbling about how blogs will just put up anything and expect people to comment & such

“Oh she knows all about balance, you don’t have to worry, just eat it and move”..MB gruffly

And so I present to you the Marag as copied very diligently from Nabeela’s Blog.But if you notice I have multiplied all ingredients with 3 so it is technically not copying :D

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“But the title says it is Marag, why isn’t it soupy then and why is it served with a Pulao” connoisseur blog hopper aka CBH
“You know marag comes from Arabic maraq (marak or marag). Marga or marag in Iraq is a stew "of meat and vegetables simmered in tomato sauce". How did you make it look like this” CBH does not like this and is very flustered.

“Oh the woman who writes my blog is very talented, she can make a stew look like a gravy, a pulao look like a khichdi…anything…very talented”, MB with the hint of pride now faltering

Ok so I did make the Marag more thicker than it should be and hence served it with a Pulao instead of the traditional Arabic bread or Sheermal as is the norm in Hydereabdi weddings. But I made it thicker because I had to serve it with Pulao since it was D's birthday and the Bong friends preferred pulao, so it is not my fault. Also since Sra announced Grindless Gravies I had to send her something and I couldn't send her a stew so this is it. Blame it on her, on D or rice loving Bongs if you want to.

It tastes heavenly and so don't go by its looks here. Look at Nabeela's for how gorgeous it can be.
Also check Manisha's slow cooker version here (oops she too multiplied by 3 but god promise I did not copy from her, I really had 3lb of mutton)


Hyderabadi Marag

What you Need

Mutton (I used Goat meat you can use lamb) ~ 3 lb
Onion ~ 3 medium onion blend to a smooth paste. I DID NOT use the blender. I grated them in the grater just like my MOM used to. But whoever makes this PLEASE use the blender unless you are sending it to Sra.
Corriander leaves ~ 2 bunches of leaves
Green Chillies ~ 5-6 finely chopped. Again the original recipe does not use green chillies, they use serrano chillies in water and then use the water. I like it hot so added Indian green chillies

Yogurt ~ 2 cups
Ginger paste ~ 2 Tbsp
Garlic Paste ~ 2 Tbsp

Cumin seed ~ 3 tsp
Cinnamon Sticks ~ 3 sticks (length 1 finger )
Bay Leaf ~ 3
Cardamom Pods ~ 6
Cloves ~ 9
Peppercorns ~ 30

Black pepper powder ~ 1 tsp or more
Garam masala ~ 2 tsp
Sugar ~ 1tsp (optional)

Ghee ~ 2tbsp (nabeela says you should never skip this)
Olive Oil/Canola Oil ~ 3 tbsp

How I Did It


Though Nabeela’s recipe does not ask for it, I marinated the mutton overnight in 1 cup yogurt mixed with ½ tbsp Ginger paste, ½ tbsp garlic paste and a pinch of turmeric.
I took it out from the refrigerator an hour or two before cooking and sprinkled a little salt on it and let it rest.

The corriander leaves should be finely chopped and mixed with about 2 cups of water and microwave for 2 mins. Though only the water should have been used in the recipe I used the entire thing


Heat the Ghee + Oil in a pressure cooker and add all the bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, pepper corns and cumin. You may or may not follow this order but do add them.

When the spices start browning add the onion paste along with the sugar and sauté till the onion takes on a pinkish hue. Nabbela says to fry for 2 mins and ideally that should be it.

Add the Ginger Paste and the Garlic Paste and I also added the green chillies at this point. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the mutton and the yogurt. In my case this was 1 cup of fresh yogurt plus the marinade. Keep frying for some more minutes till the masala mixes nicely with the mutton.

Add the corrinader water(I also added the finely chopped leaves in there), black pepper powder, garam masala, salt and mix well.

I added only very little water at this point as I did not want t it soupy. You can add 1 cup of water or more if you want to have it as a stew.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker. I then lowered the heat and kept it on the flame to slow cook for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes I raised the heat and cooked till I could hear the “Phisssssssssh” of the cooker. In all it took me 50-55 minutes from closing the lid. After opening the lid I kep it on heat for few more minutes to thicken the gravy

Plain Pulao

What you Need

Basmati Rice ~ 4 cups

Whole Garam Masala

Bay Leaves ~ 6 small ones
Cinnamon stick ~ 2 the size of my finger, ok less thick
Cloves ~ 11-12
Elaichi ~ 8

Onion ~ 1 medium chopped very very fine and small
Ginger paste ~ 1 tbsp

Kaju/Cashew ~ ½ cup
Kishmish/raisins ~ ¼ cup
Milk ~ 1 cup
Saffron ~ a few strands (mine were pretty old and so did not give much color)

Water ~ 7 cups (idea is, rice:liquid = 1:2)
Salt ~ according to taste, ususally a little less since the Pualo will be served with a gravy
Sugar ~ ½ tsp
Oil ~ You can use Oil + Ghee or just Oil
Ghee ~ ½ tbsp (you can use more)

How I did It

Soak the rice for 30 mins, wash it and then let it to dry on a paper plate. You can also put it on a newspaper to dry like my ma used to

When the rice is almost dry smear the grains uniformly with the ghee and mix the cashew and the raisisns with it.

Heat Oil + Ghee or just Oil in a heavy bottomed cooking pan

Add the whole garam masala and wait a minute till they brown

Add the onions and sugar and fry till they take a pinkish-brown hue.

Add the ginger paste and fry for a few seconds.

Add the rice and sauté mixing the rice uniformly with the masala.

Soak saffron strands in milk, warm it and add the warm milk.

Add salt & water. Instead of adding all 7 cups of water together, I added 4 cups of water, covered and let the rice cook. When the water was almost dry and the rice was still uncooked, I gave it a light stir and added the 3 remaining cups of water. Cover and keep a close watch till rice is cooked.

Serve with anything you wish

Trivia: In Scotland oatmeal is mixed with fat, water, onions and seasoning, and boiled in a sheep's intestine to make "marag geal"' Outer Hebridean white pudding, served sliced with fried eggs at breakfast. So if you google for marag this what you will get other than Manisha and Nabeela's recipe

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Perun Bhaji or Bell peppers with besan

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Fate and the fact that Fall is almost over gave me a cold, dreary day. To be kind it also gave me colourful red, yellow and green bell peppers. Not that you don’t get them other time of the year but it is always nice to associate winter with colourful veggies and you need to thank Fate once in a while.

And then Fate conspired with Farah Khan to give the likes of me, (which might go up to millions) “Om Shanti Om”. It also put me in a spot where I can act like a true NRI and show my love for “Desh ki Dharti” and contribute towards upping my country’s economy by watching Bollywood Blockbusters on big screens with 100 other Desi Uncles and Aunties who were as mesmerized by SRK’s six packs as was Moi.

Truth be told I loved the movie. Ok, given that I get to watch hardly 2 movies a year, I love any movie, but this I loved the "bestest".

My sense of humor being fed on MTV stalwarts like Cyrus, Udham Singh, Quick Gun Murugan, MTV Bakra and such is definitely not very refined. I love gags and spoofs and more brainless they are the better. I do not do smiles where you just curl up the end of your lips, I want laughs that are on high octane, where you can slap your buddy on the back and throw your head back, sideways and do everything short of ROTFL (Rolling on the thanks that I can’t do). This movie let me do most of that and the lines were replete with my kind of pun which the D does not get. He understood all the humor in this movie though…strange…maybe he is just ageing and getting hang of Bollywood.

And if you have low esteem for all things Bollywood and SRK, I forgive you. You are a young Indian with a fad for all things Intellectual or an older one like the D who still wants to hold on to the previous image, we have all been through that phase and turned up our snooty noses and watched Bergman over Barjatiya, before long you will be on this side of the camp.

The fact that my Dad who tagged everything beyond Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Amitabh Bachchan as “baje cinema” (baje = bad) is a fan of Govinda at his current age (no, he is NOT senile, only in his early sixties) proves the above theory.

Let me add in fine prints though, I am not a blind follower of Bollywood and do not like anything they dish out. So do not put Bollywood related Google Ads on my page and please don't ask me to watch "Sawariya" and such

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Not to forget the Red, Yellow & Green Bell Peppers in this ensuing Bollywood drama.

With them I made Perun Bhaji or Bell Peppers with Besan. I know it is a Maharashtrian dish but I don’t know if this is the actual name, but I loved the feel of the name on my tongue so much that I now call it this. Actually I just utter the name even if I am not cooking it.
I first saw it at SJ’s and then at Lakshmi’s. Combined the two recipes and made the third.

As is the norm, I do not have measures. The ones I give here are very very approximate.


Perun Bhaji

What You Need

Bell Peppers/ capsicum ~ 4 chopped in small pieces
Besan/Chickpea Flour ~ 1 cup
Red Chilli Powder ~ 1 loosely packed tsp (adjust according to your heat level)
Dhania/Corriander powder ~ 1 tsp heaped
Amchur Powder ~ ½ tsp

For tempering

Kalonji/Kalo jeera/ Nigella Seeds ~ 1 loosely packed tsp
Hing/Asafoetida ~ ½ tsp

Oil ~ for cooking. I have used Olive Oil and also Canola at times
Salt ~ to taste
Sugar ~ 1 loosely packed tsp (totally optional)

How I Did It


Chop the bell peppers in small pieces
In a bowl add besan/chickpea flour and to it add the r.chilli, coriander, amchur powder and make a dry mix. No water


Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Temper with Kalonji and Hing

Add the Bell Pepper Pieces and sauté. Cover and cook till they are soft

Add the besan (mixed with the spices) to the capsicum cooking in the Kadhai.

Stir pretty vigorously to mix the besan with the veggie

Sprinkle a little water if necessary or add a little oil on the sides of the Kadhai. This is only if you think the besan is sticking to the sides of the Kadhai.

Add salt & sugar

Do the stir, cook routine till the besan takes on a crumbly texture and the bell peppers are cooked

Trivia: Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C. Green bell peppers have two times the vitamin C by weight than citrus fruits (oranges, lemons etc.) and Red bell peppers have three times what the green bell varieties have

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who Am I ?

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I am tart, sweet, spicy. I was not cooked or prepared by this blog's owner or her family but she and the rest sure enjoyed me. Who am I ?

Ok, as much as I would have liked to go with "madhuri dixit shrivelled up after dancing in the heat and with a hangover." (courtesy Bee), I have to say I enjoyed these much more than Madhuri Dixit with or without hangover

Indo was correct and Nupur hit the nail right on the head...THWACK !!!

These are indeed Chile Spiced Mango from Trader Joe's. Now I don't have a Trader Joe's in my vicinity but had heard so much about the store in the blogs I visit, that I simply had to make a stop on our recent DC trip. This is what happens when you Food Blog, you skip the President to meet Trader Joe, good decision any day.

Now I need to venture out to see if I can get them at the Wegman or Whole Foods, near my home and don't have to do the 198 miles each way to procure a packet of these luscious beauties.

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Trivia: Trader Joe's , the chain began in 1958 as a Greater Los Angeles area chain of "Pronto Market" convenience stores.In response to strong competition from 7-Eleven, the chain differentiated its stores' offerings and doubled the floor space in 1967

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Diwali and...

One more inane post from me with colorful pics which might not interest anyone and in fact has nothing to do with the writings. To keep the interest alive even without food, you have to do the unthinkable.

The fact is I am not cooking much these days. The sweet ma-in-law who is visiting has been delegated the task to feed the family. Now she cooks delectable delights and had I been the ideal Indian Bahu with virtues like patience, docility, ghunghat…blah blah I would have patiently stood by her side and jotted down recipes in neat cursive writing in my recipe book with expensive monogrammed pages(Do they make those by the way)

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At The Capitol on a crisp cold November morning

But as luck would have it I have neither patience nor cursive writing and in fact not even a decent recipe book. So I don’t write, I just come back home, lay the table for dinner and eat the sumptuous meals, all the time doing my bit by praising her culinary skills. In fact I sometimes even suggest the menu and throw in my ideas about how it should be done (ok no one what), and then cook the Dal of the day while I let Ma-in-law wallow in the pleasure of cooking rest of the meal. The only thing I can't get her to do is measure which no decent cook worth their Indian Spices does, so the blog suffers.

Had I done that, Ekta Kapoor would surely feature me in her next multistarrer "Kkabhi Bahu bhi Saas Banegi"

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The Washington Monument standing tall

So you see, that is though you do not see food on my blog I am enjoying good food, family and life. That is I have proved that I actually have a life now outside the Blog. Wow I actually proved something… incredible.

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Can we decide on the next President

Now to keep the Mom part of the Blog alive a short update on lil’ S who in fact refuses to grow up and doesn’t even want her Birth Day anymore. Given that I have not read Peter Pan to her yet, I don’t know how she got this idea.

She however started showing an increased interest in dancing after we plugged in to 4 Indian Channels who showcase dance and music like there is no tomorrow. In the fear that she could bring shame err fame to the family by becoming the next Rakhi Sawant and dancing to tunes of Himesh, I signed her up for a Indian classical dance lessons. She did not really take to it much initially and even made me hold her hands and do some steps with her. Me with my two left feet holding a 3and ½ year olds hand and dancing Kathak was a sight to behold, but I would do anything, really anything to keep my child safe from Himesh and gang.

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Fall colors in the woods across my backyard

Also had much fun at Halloween. I like Halloween because of two primary reasons besides the candy.

The burgeoning cost of costumes have not hit me yet as the lil’ one is really good and wants to be princess and nothing but the Princess and does not want any costume per se. So while last year I dressed her up as the Indian princess in her ghagra-choli with a crown, pearly beads and wand this year she was a Princess in a hand-me down pretty Cinderella dress. So whatever the costume as long as there is a crown she is happy.

The second reason might evoke sniggers but I really like this one time chance I get to take a sneak peek at the unknown neighbor’s. The unknown always holds enchantment for me and instead of using that curiosity to discover the new planet in the galaxy with intelligent beings, I take sneak peek at the neighbor’s (don't get wrong ideas ok ?). The daughter however turned to be too propah and refused to ring doorbells at unknown houses so we did the rounds of familiar boring homes and collected limited candy

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And now there is Diwali. Staying in a different land has its advantages. You get to celebrate all your own festivals, adopt the ones that the new country has to offer and also celebrate some which others like you have brought into the culture. The result is nothing but celebrations year round. And even then I pine for Durga Puja back home which actually might turn out something like this (Do read this hilarious post by Anamika)

And that brings me to the actual reason why I wrote this post. To wish all of you A VERY HAPPY DIWALI .

And please do pardon me if you don't see me around that much, I try to and then life happens.

* Pics are from our recent DC pilgrimage
* For all who wanted to know the make of my camera , I mostly use my Canon SD700 IS. The first 2 pics in this post have been taken by the Nikon D80, which is a recent gift from D and which I have not used that much yet.