Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flowers With Vegetables

I am not able to post much on this blog. My hands are full these days as I have to look after my mom. She is recovering from surgery. Today as I was cooking, I was fiddling with vegetables. This is what I tried...
These flowers are made from the peels of cucumber. Today I made cucumber chutney. When I saw the peels it just struck me that I should try making flowers from the peels. the colour was appealing. So I just shaped the peels a bit and made these flowers. In the center I used tips of the carrot. For the stems and leaves I used peels of Ridge gourd.
Here I used slices of carrot for the center.

Here I used slices of Ivy Gourd or popularly known as Gentleman's Toes for the center. I  used carrot slices as berries.
 This is the yellow round Cucumber which is eaten widely here.
This is the Ridge Gourd.

 The flowers can be used for garnishing or for decorations. It was my first attempt. I am yet to experiment with these more. Hope you like it....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pickles from Andhra (ఆంధ్ర ఊరగాయలు)-8

Tomato Pickles-1(टमाटर का आचार /టొమాటో నిల్వ పచ్చడి )

Tomatoes are perhaps the most popular vegetable used all over the world. Actually it is a fruit. We Indians love it so much that we use it daily in form or the other.

In India, we make chutneys and pickle it many ways.Chutneys keep for a day or some for a few days. but pickles can be stored for long. This is the season for it and tomatoes are available at a very cheap rates. I will give the Andhra recipes first.

Before pickling:
  • Choose semi ripened ones. Should not be too red or too soft. They should be orange or light red and very firm to touch and less juice in them. However don't use green and unripe ones. 
  • Use desi or local varieties(not hybrid variety) which are meant for cooking.These may be small but more tastier. Don't use those tomatoes which are meant for salad. The tomatoes meant for salad just has firm flesh but no taste or sourness. They also don't preserve well.
  • Wash them in plenty of water, wipe them clean and leave them for an hour or two till the moisture is completely gone
  • Keep all the ingredients ready at hand
  • Use a glass or ceramic jar and plate/bowl and wooden spoons for mixing and storing. You can use stainless steel vessels and spoons but immediately transfer into glass/ceramic one.
  • Please note this carefully. The quantity of salt and red chilli(dried red chillies) may vary- can be more or less than what I have given. For any pickle recipe I am posting, I am giving the quantities of spices as accurately as possible. But the quantities of salt and chilli may vary-depending upon the sourness of the basic ingredient like mangoes, tomatoes, goose berries, tamarind or when tamarind or other ingredient is used as souring agent . So it is better to add the salt a little at a time and keep checking the taste. Do not add all at once. The taste of salt should be slightly more than other tastes. Check the pickle after three four days for taste, as by this time the ingredients would have marinated well. If salt is less add some more. 
  • Similarly is the case with chilli powder. Adjust it to your taste. My recipes are very spicy. So add a little quantity at a time and adjust according to your taste. Mix a fistful of red chilli powder of those chillies which are not spicy but just add colour to the pickle. Or better mix both spicy and coloured one and then add according to your taste.
  • Do not used tamarind which is black in colour, if possible. Use new tamarind. If tamarind is old that is preserved for more than 6 months, it turns black. When this is added to the pickle its colour also does not come out properly. Fresh or newly harvested tamarind is available now and is light brown in colour. This is good.
  • I use freshly pressed sesame oil (whole sesame and not husked one). This is traditionally used in Andhra for pickles.But you can use any oil of your choice including refined oil which you generally use for pickles. Experiment with various oils by pickling a small quantity and check for the taste. I feel mustard oil is too pungent and does not go well with this pickle as tomato is mildly flavoured. Similarly coconut oil may also not taste good. But groundnut oil, sunflower oil is OK.
  • These pickles keep for an year and beyond that. But It is better to have fresh pickles in the season as nothing tastes better than that.

I have used our traditional cutter for cutting. This is easy to use. We have to sit cross legged with one leg pinning the wooden base. This helps it to keep the cutter stable. We keep a bowl or plate underneath it and the pieces and juice get collected in them.
See how the Tomatoes look.


Tomatoes             1kg
Tamarind              250-300gms
Salt                      100 to 150gms
Red chilli powder  100 gms
Fenugreek seeds    100 gms
Mustard seeds          50 gms
Asafoetida pieces   10 gms
Turmeric              2-3 Tbsp
Vinegar                 150ml

For Tempering:

Oil        500 ml
Chick pea lentil     40 gms
Black gram lentil    40 gms
Mustard seeds        50gms
Fenugreek seeds     20 gms
Dried red chillies    10-12


Cut the tomatoes into medium sized pieces. There is no need to remove the seeds. 
Add turmeric and salt. Mix well. It should be little salty. But don't worry as you can adjust the salt in the end too.
Store them in glass or ceramic jar with tight lid. Leave for three days.
After three days, the pieces will be soft and you can observe lot of juice. 

Squeeze out juice as much as you can and collect it in a separate bowl. Spread the pieces on a plastic sheet and dry it in the sun for three days. You need to turn the pieces once or twice a day, so that they dry well. 
Above you can see my pickle being dried out. They should be at least 75% dry.
This is the new tamarind-freshly harvested.
Meanwhile you put the tamarind into the juice and sun it a few hours a day. Keep stirring it a few times while in the sun. When you bring back into the house after each day, leave it till it cools down completely before covering it with a lid. Or else it will develop fungus.

Now  there are two methods here to be followed on the fourth day or on the evening of third day itself:

A. Add the pieces to the juice and leave it for two hours. The pieces will get soaked in the juice and become soft again. Now you can grind the pieces along with tamarind. 


B. First squeeze the tamarind well. Since it is already soaked in the juice, the pulp is easy to extract. keep the pulp and fish out the waste. Now add the tomato pieces to get soaked. You need not grind it. I follow this method.
Again after this there are two ways:

Method 1:
  1. Heat 1-2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add asafeotida pieces and let them fry well on low heat. Let it cool, powder it and keep aside.
  2. Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in the same pan to smoking point. Lower the heat and add 100gms each of fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds and fry. Keep stirring it to avoid burning. Fry till you hear the crackling sound. Remove from fire, add half of the asafoetida, keep stirring it for a few minutes to avoid burning of the spices. Cool it and then grind to a fine powder.
  3. Now for tempering- heat the remaining oil to a smoking point in a deep bottomed pan. Lower the heat add the lentils, fry for a minute, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, fry for 2-3 minutes till you hear the crackling sound. Add the red chillies, fry for a minute. Remove from fire, add asafoetida. Mix well and cool it completely.
  4. Now to this add the red chilli powder little by little and keep on mixing till it is completely mixed in the oil.
  5. Add this to the pieces and mix well. Taste it and add salt if required. Mix well and store it in a ceramic/glass jar.  This keeps for an year. Use as required.
Method 2:
  1. Under this method, store the tomato pieces after following the process at B.
  2. But add salt to these pieces if required, as without adequate salt, the pickle will not last long.
  3. As and when required  a small quantity of the pieces are taken and the process at Method 1 above is followed. But the quantity of the oil and all other ingredients has to be used proportionately.
  4. The advantage of preparing the pickle for use each time is that it tastes fresh and tasty. In the first method when we mix everything in the beginning itself, the spices loose their freshness, the tempering also looses its crunchiness and pickle does not taste good after a month or so.
  5. We can prepare the quantity required for a fortnight or so freshly each time or just before our guests arrive so that it tastes fresh.
This is how it looks. I used old tamarind as I did not have time to go to market and fetch the new one. So my pickle looks black instead of red now itself. But I have only pickled a little quantity now. I am going to make more shortly. Then I will use the fresh one.

So try this out and see for yourself. If you have any doubts or questions please mail me....