Thursday, October 29, 2009

Semolina Pudding (Siro or Sooji Halwa)

In a previous posting I mentioned semolina pudding (also called siro or sooji halwa) which is a common treat in South Asia. This pudding can be served for breakfast, as an appetizer (sometimes with papadums), or as a dessert. I recently made this in celebration of Divali.

2 1/2 cups whole milk (can substitute 1% or 2% milk)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 pinches of orange food powder or several drops of orange food color
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup semolina
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup evaporated milk (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons chopped almonds

1. In a deep pot, bring milk, sugar and color to a boil over medium heat.
2. At the same time in another pot over medium heat, sauté semolina in butter until light golden brown. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove semolina from the heat. Wearing oven mitts, carefully add boiling water (the semolina will bubble and splatter). Stir well.
4. Quickly add nutmeg, cardamom and saffron to warm milk and mix well. Return semolina to heat and add warm milk mixture. Stir until the mixture thickens.
5. Add evaporated milk and continue to stir well until mixture is the consistency of pre-baked cornbread batter.
6. Garnish with nuts. You can also garnish with shredded coconut, white poppy seeds and/or raisins.
7. This dish can be frozen for up to two months. To defrost, place in fridge overnight. Reheat over low heat by adding several tablespoons of water and stirring well. Alternately, add water and reheat in the microwave.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cauliflower Curry

Mark Twain famously said that “cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education”. Although some interpret this as an insult to the vegetable, it is actually a glorification of education. In Victorian times cauliflower was a prized vegetable while cabbage was a mundane staple.

Cauliflower is a member of the species Brassica oleracea which includes broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts and collard greens. Its name comes from caulis (Latin for stalk or stem). The vegetable originated in the Mediterranean and is now cultivated worldwide. While cauliflower is commonly white, it can also be found in green and purple versions. More recently, an orange cauliflower variety is available – initially created through a natural mutation of a plant in Canada.

Cauliflower is high in dietary fiber, folic acid and vitamin C. The floret or curd (the white portion) is edible. The green leaves are also edible if well cooked. Studies show that cauliflower contains anti-estrogens and compounds that are anti-carcinogenic. My friend Naheed recently alerted me to the culinary micro-craze around roasted cauliflower which apparently tastes like popcorn.

This recipe, originally styled as ‘Satyamma’s Famous Cauliflower Curry’ comes from Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood Cookbook, one of the holy books in the vegetarian recipe canon. I’ve omitted potatoes from the original, and instead included chickpeas and green peas. By the way, Katzen does not tell us who Satyamma is.

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon garlic paste
2 tablespoons ginger paste
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 – 1 1/2 cups water
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large carrot, cut into thin slices
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1/2 cup green peas
1 lemon, juiced

1. In a large pot over medium, heat oil and sauté onion and salt for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
2. At the same time, place the next ten ingredients in a blender and form a paste. Add more water if necessary. Set aside.
3. Add cauliflower and carrots and cook covered for 10 minutes.
4. Add paste and mix well. Cook covered on low heat until the cauliflower is tender. Stir occasionally and add water if necessary.
5. Add the chickpeas, green peas and lemon juice. Mix well, simmer for 2 minutes.
6. Serve with rice and yogurt.