HAPPY UGADI 2014

Happy Ugadi

 

I would like to wish all my readers a wonderful UGADI.

Hope this new year brings to you and your loved ones the inspiration to move out of your comfort zone,

the courage to fall,

the strength to get up again & move forward,

the joy of reaching the goal,

and most importantly,

that you grow in your journey.

No Fuss Crock Pot Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 

Ghee

March 31st, 2014 is celebrated as Ugadi – New Year’s Day – in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is also celebrated as Gudi Padwa in the northern parts of India. In Karnataka, the traditional sweet for Ugadi is Holige or Obattu –  and it tastes delicious with a big pat of ghee!

After numerous unsuccessful attempts at making ghee the traditional way – sometimes burnt and sometimes underdone – I have a fail-proof way to make this Indian kitchen staple.

Ghee

 

No Fuss Crock-pot Ghee

(About 1 1/2 cups ghee)

Super simple directions here:

1) Drop 4 sticks (1 lb) of butter in a crockpot.

2) Close lid with just enough space (enough to easily slide a dinner knife in and out – about 1/2 inch) to allow moisture to escape.

3) Turn slow cooker to LOW and cook for about 3-3 1/2 hours. (If the butter is frozen, it will take longer. I always use refrigerated butter.)No stirring required.

4) The liquid will have turned a beautiful golden hue, and scum would have floated to the top.

5) Unplug the crock-pot and allow the ghee to cool for an hour in the same insert.

6) Pour into a glass container through a fine meshed strainer or cheesecloth. Once cooled, the ghee will thicken.

7) Does not require refrigeration – Can be stored in the pantry for at least 2 months. Always make sure to use a dry spoon when using.

NOTE: I usually cook 2 lbs of butter in my 6-qt slow cooker on LOW for about 7-8 hours. I pour it into two containers, and store one in the fridge to pull out when needed.

Cashew Nut Pakodas

Cashew Nut Pakodas

Here’s a slight twist on a classic Indian appetizer. Usually, pakodas (also called pakoras) are spiced chickpea-batter dipped pieces of vegetables or meat; a denser version of tempura. This recipe is an attempt to recreate one of the items sold at the sweets store in Bangalore that my mom frequents. Unlike the traditional pakodas,  these stay crisp for a few days in an air tight container and can be made a day or two ahead of your party.

Cashew Nut Pakoda

Cashew Nut Pakodas

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups cashew nuts – roasted
  • 1 cup besan (chickpea/gram flour)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp rice flour
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne)
  • 1 large onion – chopped fine
  • 2 green chillies – chopped fine
  • 1 sprig curry leaves – chopped fine
  • Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp ghee / Crisco** – (optional) – melted & warm
  • Oil for frying

1) In a medium bowl, mix all the above ingredients (EXCEPT cashews and ghee) with your hands, pressing on the onions with your fingers. The dough will be sticky and dry, but that’s okay. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, if using unroasted cashews, use a heavy bottom wide pan, and dry roast the nuts on a medium flame, stirring frequently. This should take about 5-7 minutes. The nuts should be lightly roasted – a bite test will show that they are just beginning to get a snap to them.  Remember that will be get crispier as they cool.

3) Alternately, preheat the oven to 350* F and roast the nuts on a large tray for about 7-10 minutes, stirring them every few minutes. Allow the nuts to cool completely. If you are using roasted cashews, skip steps 2/3 and move directly to step 4.

4) When the nuts are completely cooled, remix the batter with your hands. The onions would have released moisture and made the batter softer and easier to handle. Add the nuts and ghee** and mix well. If you must, sprinkle a few drops of water as necessary and mix. DO NOT ADD EXTRA MOISTURE AS THIS WILL MAKE THE PAKODAS & NUTS SOGGY.

4) Heat oil in a pan on medium, and drop little clumps of the cashew nut batter. Fry, stirring occasionally, till it is golden. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain oil completely. Serve warm or cool completely and store in an air tight container for a couple of days.

5) To reheat, spread on a cookie sheet and warm in a 325*F oven for a few minutes.

** NOTE: Adding  melted ghee or Crisco is said to make the fried food crispier. You may omit it if you don’t want to use it.

Easiest Baked Chicken Meatballs

Easiest Baked Chicken Meatballs

This is seriously one of the easiest appetizer to have on hand. The first time I attempted it was on a whim; I had all the ingredients out and thought of experimenting. It was definitely a hit! I make a batch of uncooked meatballs and freeze them for quick snacks or for entertaining. The Costco bag of organic skinless boneless chicken thighs work well as I find it more flavorful and moist than chicken breast, but you could use either.

The best way to mince the chicken at home is to cut it into medium cubes and freeze for about 15-20 minutes ONLY till well chilled. Then, fill food processor half-way and pulse till you get a fine mince.

Easy Baked Chicken Meatballs 

(About 50 1-inch meatballs)

  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs (dry thoroughly if washed)
  • 1 medium onion – peeled & quartered
  • 1 inch ginger – peeled & rough chopped
  • 2 big garlic cloves – peeled
  • 1/2 cup cilantro – washed & drained well
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves – washed & drained well
  • 4-6 green chillies
  • salt to taste **
  • cookie tray
  • wax paper

1) Mince the chicken according to instructions above. Set aside in a large bowl.

2) In the same food processor bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and pulse the food processor till everything is chopped fine. Make sure not to over process as the onions will start to release moisture. You may have to scrape down the sides a few times.

3) Add the onion mixture and salt to the chicken and mix well.

4) Line a large cookie tray with wax / parchment paper

5) Shape into 1-inch balls and lay on the cookie tray, making sure they do not touch. Freeze for 2 hours.

6) Remove the meatballs from the tray into a freezer ziplock and store back in the freezer. (Freezing on a cookie sheet first ensures that the meatballs do not clump together in the freezer.)

7) To cook frozen meatballs, preheat oven to 350* F and bake on a greased pan for 15-18 mins. If cooking thawed, reduce cooking time to 12-15 minutes.

** To check if I have added enough salt, I cook  about a teaspoon of the mix in the microwave and taste before forming all into balls.