Cauliflower Manchurian

Cauliflower Manchurian5

A few years ago, Cauliflower Manchurian (Gobi Manchurian in Hindi), was a dish that I always ordered when I went to a restaurant in India. It was so popular that every home cook wanted to learn how to make it, including me. So, I searched for recipes, learned some tips from my brother-in-law, and also asked restaurant chefs for their secrets to making this slightly crunchy, sweet and sour, spicy and garlicky delicacy.

Chinese seasoning and cooking techniques are used in making this dish. All the ingredients can be purchased at Indian grocery stores. You may even find them in the ethnic aisle of your major grocery store.  So, follow the recipe carefully and I am sure you will be pleased with the result. Cauliflower Manchurian is great as an appetizer or as a side dish with rotis or rice.

Cauliflower Manchurian
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

For the Cauliflower Manchurian
1 cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into florets
½ cup corn starch
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons rice flour, (optional)
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon pepper powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons water + 2 tablespoons of water
Oil for deep frying

Microwave the cauliflower florets in two tablespoons of water for three minutes. Let stand for five minutes then drain and cool. Make a smooth batter with corn starch, flour, rice flour, chilli, pepper, salt, and six tablespoons of water. The batter should not be too thick or too thin, but it should be able to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Add a little more water if needed.

Heat a wok with enough oil for deep frying, about three inches. The oil is ready, when a very small dollop of batter that is put into the hot oil, comes up in a few seconds. Dip five or six cauliflower florets into the batter and fry until golden brown. Drain on a paper-towel lined tray.

For the Sauce
3 tablespoons sesame seed oil or canola oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped green chilli, (depending on heat and your preference)
6 tablespoons chilli garlic sauce, (depending on your preference)
6 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
3 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons diagonally sliced spring onions, (green parts only)
2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds

In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, add oil. When the oil is shimmering, add shallots and fry until translucent. Add garlic and green chilli and sauté for two minutes. Add chilli garlic sauce, tomato ketchup, dark soy sauce, chilli powder, salt, and water.  Stir for a few seconds. Remove from heat.

Add the cauliflower manchurian to the sauce, five minutes before serving. This will keep them crisp. Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds. Your slightly crunchy, sweet and sour, spicy and garlicky appetizer is ready to be served.

Puttu, Pazham and Pappadam – Steamed Rice Flour Cake with Coconut


Puttu, Pazham and Pappadam – I can almost hear you say, “What an unlikely combination!” But ask any Malayalee and they will tell you that it’s a breakfast made in heaven. I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom and the lovely Kerala specialties she made for us. A nice way for me to pay tribute to my mom and her cooking is to share these recipes with my family and friends. It also brings back beautiful memories of helping my mom in the kitchen.

Puttu is a nutritious, simple breakfast made with steamed rice flour and grated coconut. It is often eaten with a chickpea curry (kadala or black chickpeas), green gram curry (cherupayar), and with small yellow bananas (pazham), and pappadam. I remember my grandma had a puttu-maker (puttu kudam/puttukutti in Malayalam) made of bamboo. The taste of the puttu was permeated with the sweet essence that came from steaming it in the bamboo.

For this recipe I’ve used Chemba rice flour which you can find at your local Indian grocery store. Chemba rice comes already washed, dried, ground, and roasted. The puttu was made in a puttu-maker that was also purchased from a local Indian grocery store. Preparing this dish takes about 15 minutes. I served it with small yellow bananas, pappadam, and sugar. Enjoy!

Equipment: Puttu kudam/Puttukutti (puttu-maker)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Serves: 4

2 cups Chemba rice flour
1¼ cups fresh or frozen grated coconut
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water

Add salt to the water and stir until the salt dissolves. Put the rice flour into a large mixing bowl. Add one tablespoon of water, at a time, over the rice flour and mix gently with the tips of your fingers. The flour should be powdery and moist. Break any lumps that form. When you take a fistful of flour and gently squeeze it, it should hold its shape for a second, and then crumble. This test indicates that there is enough moisture in the rice flour and it is ready for steaming. Cover with cling wrap until ready to use.

Fill the puttu kudam with water up to two thirds of the way. Put the lid and let the water come to a boil.

Now fill the cylindrical tube part of the puttukutti. First put the flat disc with the holes in the bottom. This helps to keep the coconut and flour in the tube. Put two tablespoons of grated coconut, two small fistfuls of flour, two tablespoons of coconut, two fistfuls of flour and end with two tablespoons of coconut. Put the lid and place it on the puttu kudam.

Steam for eight minutes. Steam should come out of the small holes in the lid. Remove the tube from the puttu kudam, open the lid and using the handle of a thin, long wooden spoon or dowel, slowly push the puttu on to a plate. Do the same with the rest of the rice flour and coconut. Serve puttu with bananas, pappadam, and a little sugar. It’s that easy.

Chole Aur Bhature – Spicy Chickpeas with deep fried Indian Bread

Chhole Aur Bhatura5

Chole and bhature are made for each other. Both of them are classic dishes from Punjab, North India, and they are eaten together for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a snack at tea time. Chole is made with chickpeas/garbanzo. It is called Kabuli channa in Hindi. Bhature is a deep fried, leavened bread made with all purpose flour.

The recipe for chole calls for a spice mix that is unique to North Indian cuisine. If you don’t normally use these spices, this is a great opportunity to learn and develop a taste for them. Many cooks use tea bags while cooking chickpeas to darken the color of this dish. I’ve used cocoa instead. To save time, you can use canned chickpeas. Drain them well and run cold water over them. Make the spice mix and then proceed to make chole.

I’ve been on a quest for the perfect bhature, using different ingredients like yeast, boiled potato, sago, yoghurt etc. to give it lightness, great taste, and texture. But this time, the compliment from my son ended my search for the perfect bhature. He said, “These bhatures are pillowy and I can’t stop eating them.” So try this recipe and your search might end too!

I made a large batch of chole and bhature that could feed six to eight people, but you can easily half the recipe. Make this with a side of cucumber salad and you have a complete meal.

Chole Aur Bhature
Soak the dry chickpeas: Overnight
Rest the dough for bhature: 1 hour
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour and 20 minutes for both recipes
Serves: 6-8

If using dry chickpeas/garbanzo/Kabuli channa

3 cups dry chickpeas soaked overnight in hot water
¼ teaspoon baking soda (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

Soak the dry chickpeas overnight. Wash them in several changes of water. Put the chickpeas, cocoa and soda in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover them. Pressure cook for 20 minutes. Check on the cooking time for your particular pressure cooker. The soda is added to make the chickpeas soft, but don’t add too much.

For the spice mix
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
4 black cardamoms, peel and use seeds
5 cloves
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 bay leaf, (tejpatta)
4 whole dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, (anardana)

In a heavy bottomed pan, over low heat, roast the above mentioned ingredients until they smell fragrant and turn a very dark brown. Cool completely and then grind to a powder in a coffee grinder. Set aside.

For the Chloe
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped green chillies, (optional)
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
3 cups water
salt to taste

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, over medium-high heat, add oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions. When they turn translucent add the ginger and fry for a minute. Add the green chillies and tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes are well cooked and the oil begins to separate. Add the ground spice mix, Kashmiri chilli powder, and salt.

Then add the cooked chickpeas and any water left in the pressure cooker. I like gravy in my chole so I added three cups of water. If you like the Chloe a little thick then add less water. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes, so the flavors can meld. Stir occasionally to make sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped green chillies, tomatoes, red onion and lemon wedges. Serve with piping hot bhature.

Bhature – Makes 20
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons semolina, (sooji)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
¼ cup canola oil
3 teaspoons turbinado sugar
Oil for deep frying

In a large bowl sift flour, salt, soda, and semolina. In another small bowl whisk buttermilk, oil, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.

Make a well in the flour and add one cup of the buttermilk, oil and sugar mix. Stir to bring the flour and buttermilk together. Add the 1/3 cup of buttermilk mix, one tablespoon at a time, while you knead. Use only the amount of buttermilk you need to make a soft, smooth and pliable dough. I used the entire amount, but if you feel the dough is getting too sticky, don’t use the entire amount. Knead well for at least seven minutes. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for one hour.

Roll the dough into a long log on a lightly floured surface. With a knife cut the log into 20 equal sized portions and roll them in the palm of your hands into smooth balls. On a lightly floured board roll the balls into an oval shape, about ¼-inch in thickness.

Heat oil for deep frying in a wok. Gently slide, one bhature at a time, from the edge of the wok, into the hot oil. When it puffs up, turn and fry the other side until you see specks of gold on the surface. Drain on a paper-towel lined tray. Serve bhature with Chole.

Green Bean Thoren – Green Beans with Grated Coconut

Green Bean Thorans

Green beans, also known as French beans, fine beans, haricot verts, and string beans are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Whether you eat them raw, steamed, stir-fried or as a thoren, green beans are a great source of many nutrients, such as, vitamin K, C, and A. They are also rich in manganese.

Green Bean Thoren is a favorite with all Malayalees. Guests at my home will likely find this dish on the menu. My mother taught me how to make this dish. I remember that removing the string from these beans and chopping them finely was a tedious process. I often tried to escape from the kitchen when I knew that green beans were on the menu to avoid the extra work! Well, now in the US, I often pick up frozen French style green beans which saves a lot of time.

Making this dish is easy. The list of ingredients is short but the flavor is power-packed. It is a versatile dish that goes well with rice or chapatis. Whatever your taste may be, this is a great recipe to add to your collection.

Green Bean Thoran – Green Beans with Grated Coconut
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

1 packet of frozen French style green beans (16 oz or 454 g)
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon crushed dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2 tablespoons grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon uncooked rice (optional)
1 sprig curry leaves
1 shallot, finely chopped

In a motar and pestle crush the garlic, cumin seeds, dry red chillies, grated coconut, and turmeric.

Put the green beans in a medium saucepan. Make a well in the center of the beans and add the crushed ingredients. Cover the crushed ingredients with some of the beans. Add salt and sprinkle one tablespoon of water. Place the lid over the saucepan and cook the beans over medium-high heat for seven minutes. Open the lid, stir all the ingredients, check to see that the beans are cooked.

In a small pan, over medium heat, add oil. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the rice and fry for 15 seconds. Add curry leaves and shallot. When the shallot turns brown pour the ingredients over the cooked beans. Stir gently and serve the green bean thoren with rice or chapatis.