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Bagalabath – A creamy entree with yogurt and sour cream

When someone asks me what reminds me about the color white?
The three words that would pop out of my mind are Pristine, Purity & Flawless.

This is the season of white around you. White also means cold to me. The brilliant white shades of ice and snow in the mountains, lakes and trees projects the beauty of Mother Nature. Bay area in California has never received a snow fall but my vacation to Big Bear reminded me of my good old days in Sheffield, UK. Clad in thick winter clothes, boots, warm cap and gloves – I am always good to explore the beautiful places , ofcourse with a cup of hot chocolate in hand 🙂 I love the SNOW and with my buddies B & V, its worth reliving those moments in snow again. It is a distress to commute during the winter season but for me snowfall and gloomy weather is the season of hope. A hope which conveys that there will be sunshine and brightness soon.

This is my first post for the New Year (2010). I wanted something pure and divine. What will be more divine than the color white? The post for today is something as pure as white and looks so white – Bagalabath.
This dish has a very similar taste to yogurt rice. My amma told me that this dish was discovered to break the monotonous menu of rice and yogurt. The noodle shaped vermicilli is sure to tempt the kids to eat them.

Bagalabath is a famous dish made in South Indian household with vermicilli and yogurt. The tempering of asafoetida, urad dhal and mustard seeds blends amazing well with the cooked vermicilli. The ruby red pomegranate and light green cucumber chunks adds extra beauty to the dish perfectly. The red speckles around the white background reminds me of the small rose buds in the snow. This dish tastes as beautiful as it looks.



Ingredients
200 gms raw vermicilli (Available in Indian grocery stores)
4 cups yogurt (thick and beaten) – no fat or low fat

1 cup fat free sour cream
1 cup semi-skimmed milk/ whole milk
1/2 cup pomegranate – cleaned and aril removed
1/2 cup cucumber – chopped

2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dhal
1 tsp asafoetida
2 dry red chillies – cut in half
Salt to taste
4 cups water
1/2 tbs oil

Method
Cook the vermicilli as per manufacturer’s instructions. It should be cooked like the way once cooks the paste. Boil 4 cups of water in a large cooking vessel. When they are boiling hot with bubbles, add little oil and salt and raw vermicilli. Cook for 8-10 min. Always have an eye after 5 min and give them a stir once a while. Remove couple of sticks to check for the softness. Once cooked, remove and run through cold water and set them aside.

Once cooled, drain the water completely and transfer them to a fresh bowl. Add yogurt and milk and give it a complete mix. Try not to break the shape of vermicilli. Mix in the pomegranate and cucumbers and salt.

Heat oil in a small pan. Once they get heated up, add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Add the urad dhal, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Add the tempering to the vermicilli bowl and mix well.

Before serving, pour little milk to give it a creamy consistency. Serve cold with Indian pickles, curry or pappads/chips.

Basmatic rice cooked with cumin, raisins and cashewnuts

My passion for gardening is on the rise for the past few weeks. Since I am facing irregular weather with heavy showers alternating with bright sunshine, I have postponed my plans for outdoor gardening to Apr/May this year. So, I have bought few indoor plants like cactus, jade, devil plant (called money plant in India/South Asia) for the home. Everytime I see these plants on my kitchen bench, I am reminded of grade 3 classes where I learnt about the release of fresh air by the plants. Finally, I have practically applied my class 3 notes on my kitchen (is this called “3 Idiots” movie effect huh??? – applying academics into practice:-)



The indoor plants take in the carbon dioxide and releases oxygen for us. They also brighten the room and they look amazing against the dull walls. We could grow bamboo, bonsai plants, Aloe vera plants, tulsi, to name a few. Many of us are scared of bugs these plants might attract. Luckily, I haven’t personally faced any such problems. But the famous stingy neem oil is enough to get rid of these plants bugs and spiders.

Energy efficient homes and office space prevent the circulation of fresh air. This results in increase in VOC (volatile organic compounds) like benzene and formaldehyde. These are carcinogenic in nature. The experiments conducted by NASA researchers suggests that the usage of living green and flowering plants can improve the air quality and invariably reduces the exposure to VOC. It is recommended that a 6 inch plant per 100 square feet space purifies air better. No wonder that the researchers have rightly re-named these plants as “Biological life support system”. Don’t postpone any further to live a healthy life. Start planning your gardening right away!!!

The post for today is a simple rice delicacy made with the aromatic basmati rice and flavourful shahi jeera. The addition of ghee roasted cashes and raisins makes the dish taste absolutely delectable with spicy Indian curries. The sweetness from the soft raisins and onions balances brilliantly with the crunchy nuts and mild green chillies. This is a quick fix rice dish for parties/family dinners and is sure to impress your guests.
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3 cups basmati rice
1 large onions – thinly sliced
1/2 tbs – ginger-garlic paste
2-3 green chillies – slit
1 tbs shahi jeera/ black cummin seeds (available in Indian grocery stores)
1/2 cup – raisins
1/2 cup – cashews
4.5 cups water + excess water for soaking

1 tbs oil/ butter/ ghee
Salt to taste

Method

Soak the basmati in bowl filled 3/4th with water for minimum 30minutes. Also soak the raisins in 1cup hot water for 15minutes. Drain water and set them aside.
Heat oil/butter/ghee in a deep cooking pan. Once they are hot (don’t burn the oil), add the shahi jeera, cashews and swollen raisin and cook for 3-5 minutes till the cashews brown a bit. In the following order, add the green chillies, ginger-garlic paste and onions and cook for further 2-3 minutes. Add salt and let the onions soften further.
Now add the soaked rice to the above mixture and give it a gentle mix. Don’t break the rice. Pour 4.5 cups water to the pan and cook covered on a low flame for 12-15 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it rest for minimum 5 minutes.

Serve warm with spicy Indian curries/chips/ pappads.


 

Kanja millagai / Dry red chillies


Even a very simple Indian food has a distinct flavor and taste because of its subtle yet aromatic spices. They also enhance the look of the dish with their lovely texture and color.The posts under the label “Indian Spices” is an attempt to educate and famil
iarize my non-Indian readers about Indian spices and herbs. It will contain information on their texture, taste and usage in Indian cooking.

Did you read my page on “PANTRY” and “DO’s & DON’Ts of Indian Cooking” ? If yes, Thank you and if no, please take few moments to read about it.

Today I am writing about “Dry red chilly”, also know as “Lal Mirchi” in Hindi and “Kaindha Millagai” in Tamil. Every Indian kitchen’s “Masala Dabbha” (Spice box) will have a space allocated for this beautiful red spice. There is a picture of my masala dabbha on my blog header.

Dry red chilly, as the name suggests is the dried version of red chilly grown majorly in Asian countries like India, Vietnam, China. Farmers dry them under the sun for days together until they get a crispy-outside. They are either long or have a short umbrella like shape comprising of a stalk, red membrane and small seeds. The stalk is always removed while cooking and the heat majorly comes from the light brown seeds present within the membrane. In Indian cooking, they are added to the piping hot oil by breaking them into two halves and then cooked with further ingredients like mustard seeds, urad dhal, fenugreek, asafoetida, curry leaves, cummin seeds. The tempered oil has a sharp spicy kick from the chilly and is perfect for making thadka (tempering) for dhal, upma, buttermilk & raita, South-Indian chutneys and rasam. A maximum of 3-4 chillies are used for tempering. They are available in all the Indian grocery shops in US/UK/ Europe. They are ground to a fine powder after further drying at home and used as chilli powder. The Indian chilly powder are much more spicier than the ones available here in US.

I always remember this golden rule shared by my amma while cooking with chilli powder. Double the amount of coriander powder while adding it to any gravy containing chilli powder. It follows 1:2 ratio. This enhances the flavor of the dish and also lowers the spice level.

The red colored fiery hot chilli contains capsaicin, an alkaloid substance and that makes them taste hot. Capsaicin signals the brain to release “Substance P”,a neurotransmitter when saliva mixes with the chilly and its powder. The brain understands that the body is in pain, the heart beats rapidly and starts secreting endorphin, a natural pain killer.