Ridge Gourd In Green Coconut Masala | The Last Day Of September

September flew by so quickly, and I really dropped behind with my posting. There was a lot happening this month on the home+family front, so I wasn’t spending as much time in the kitchen.

But over the month, I did discover a new favourite vegetable, and a great way to prepare it: ridge gourd (torai in Hindi, peechinga in Malayalam.)

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Over the summer, we had to change our diet for medical reasons, eliminating some of our staples like cabbage, spinach and cauliflower. (No, I am not turning into Gwyneth Paltrow or following her elimination diet.) I was getting tired of aubergines, okra and ivy gourd, as well as beans, peas and bell peppers.  Ridge gourd I’d often seen at the market, but never picked up. It’s a long snake-like vegetable, with these grooves running down the length. Inside, it’s fleshy and white with white seeds.

ridge gourd cut

For some reason (let’s just call it ignorance, and not bothering to look it up, shall we?) I assumed this vegetable would be bitter. But it’s not. It’s actually quite delicious, and light and healthy too.

  • Vitamin C!
  • High in fibre!
  • Rich in minerals!

And it’s a quick option when you need a curry, stat, and don’t want to bother with soaking or pressure cooking lentils.

There really isn’t much point to showing you what a ridge gourd looks like from the top. I just like the way the cut pieces resemble cogs in a wheel. Cute!

ridge gourd cut top view

I’m in a masala-grinding phase right now, so I did not use any dry spice powders in this one- not even turmeric. I feel it adds a nice kick to curries, when you grind a wet masala and cook it all together. Based on that, I was browsing recipes and came across one using a peanut-based masala, by Sia of Monsoon Spice.  I traded the peanuts for coconut and made it Kerala-style, with curry leaves, coconut oil and green chillies 🙂

I prepared it as a side dish and not a curry to be eaten with rice…though you could add more water to it and serve it up as a curry. Ridge gourd releases quite a bit of liquid on its own, so I added minimal water while cooking- just a splash.

I like a lot of heat so I added 2 cloves of raw garlic to the masala paste along with the green chillies. The more chillies, cilantro and curry leaves you use, the brighter and more verdant it’s going to look- but hold back if you cannot handle too much spice.

RIDGE GOURD IN GREEN COCONUT MASALA/PEECHINGA CURRY (Inspired by Monsoon Spice.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large ridge gourd, washed and cut into half-moons
  • 1/3 cup grated coconut
  • 1 green chilli
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • A fistful of fresh cilantro/2 tablespoons worth
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil/oil of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of sugar or jaggery (optional)
  • A small squeeze of lime juice (optional)

METHOD

  • First, start preparing the masala. In a blender, grind the coconut, chillies, curry leaves, cilantro and garlic in a blender, till it becomes a grainy paste. Set aside.
  • Next, heat the oil in a wok. When the oil gets hot, add the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter.
  • Then, add in the masala paste and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add in the sliced ridge gourd, a splash of water (about 1-2 tablespoons, more if you want a runnier curry,) salt to taste, a pinch of sugar or jaggery if you wish, and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until the ridge gourd becomes tender.
  • Squeeze some lime juice over the top.
  • Serve with rice or roti.

Sure, it may not be the most glamorous looking vegetable. But it’s light, healthy and easy to prepare. And when paired with a fiery, flavourful masala, tastes pretty great, too!

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Cooking With Kelvin Cheung and Mumbai Boss

It’s been a while! Now that I’m back from my vacation, it’s time to get back to blogging! There was some excitement the weekend before my vacation as well, and I must share it now, as it is already late enough!

So I got a chance two weekends ago to watch and learn, from a cooking pro. One of my favourite websites, Mumbai Boss, had a little contest earlier in April where 10 lucky readers got a chance to attend a cooking demo with Chef Kelvin Cheung of Ellipsis in Colaba.

Fingers crossed, I entered and was absolutely thrilled when I got a spot.

So on April 28th, Sunday afternoon, off I went.

Chef Cheung is a  third-generation culinary professional from Chicago, and has been working in the kitchen since he was about 12 or 13, in his family restaurant. After culinary school, he worked at restaurants in Chicago and Belgium before making the move to Bombay. (Interestingly enough, he enrolled in medical school first, but opted out once he realized that his real love was food!)

The cooking demo was amazing! There was a cozy group of 6 of us and we got to watch Chef Cheung cook and talk technique at the open kitchen, and taste as well! It was a pleasure to watch- art, intuition and science all coming together to create a wonderful meal. What I loved was Chef Cheung’s approach to food- clean, simple, honest food using the freshest and best ingredients available. The menu, in fact, changes everyday to accommodate the fresh produce of the day.

The food was delicious- as per Chef Cheung’s philosophy, the ingredients are the heroes and all the dishes were subtly flavoured; not overpowering, not drowning in sauce or buried under strange garnishes. Fresh and elegant.

I’m not going to wax eloquent about the decor or the plating- because you could read that in any review. But here some things I learnt, and find useful for home cooks like myself.

  • Always wait for the pan to get hot before you add oil. Don’t be in a hurry. A hot pan needs less oil and your food will not stick. Chef Cheung used just a spoon of oil to sear the fish fillets!
  • A simple pan sauce tastes wonderful and is so very easy to make! (The market fish on a bed of greens is dressed with a pan sauce.)
  • Making your own stock at home is actually pretty easy- and tastes better than using cubes or stock-in-a-box.
  • The fresher an egg is, the stronger it is. Inferior eggs are often the reason why some desserts do not bake in time. While it may be difficult to get farm-fresh eggs in Mumbai all the time, if you can find a trusted supplier or andawaala, stick to it.

I took some pictures, unfortunately only with my smartphone.

Potato and leek soup

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The veggies for the fish
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Market fish with citrus greens20130428_165749

Chef Cheung preparing the creme brulee

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Creme brulee with chocolate cookie soil

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Rocky road!20130428_172356

If you live in Mumbai, are here on vacation or plan to visit, make time for Ellipsis. It’s totally worth it- I’d go just for the rocky road!!

Thanks Mumbai Boss, Chef Cheung and Ellipsis for a wonderful experience!

Motherhood Mondays: Mango & Peach Crumble + A Whole Lotta Awkward.

PLAYGROUND ETIQUETTE

Now that I’ve been taking my son downstairs to play, I have been meeting and slowly befriending other moms in our apartment complex. It’s a new experience for me; especially since I don’t have many close friends in this city anymore. So it’s actually been fun meeting some like-minded people who are going through similar things (potty training, weaning, trying to feed kids without the TV on…you know, real deep stuff!)

image courtesy | shutterstock.com

So I was taking my son down to the park for a walk. This energetic kid comes over (he must be about 3 and a half; my son  who is one and a half,) and starts playing with him. He’s a cute little feller, I have seen several times from my window, riding his tricycle and generally making merry and letting all that toddler energy out.

Cute Feller proceeds to play with my son, saying ‘Hello baby!’ And, ‘Come to the slide!’ And ‘Aunty, so small a baby!’

His mom saunters over and I smile at her, she smiles at my son and says ‘Oh, how cute! What is your name?’

I reply ‘His name’s Raghav. Raghav say hi!’ (My son can manage saying something that sounds somewhat like a hi.)

Since she has come over, I thought it would be polite to start a conversation.

Me: “Your son is a handsome little guy! And so friendly too!”

Cute Feller’s Mom: Smiles weakly.

Me: “I’ve seen him zipping around on his tricycle in the mornings.”

Cute Feller’s Mom: Smiles vaguely; does not seem happy with the fact that I have seen her son riding his tricycle. She has this skeptical look; as if I am a baby-stalker.

The boys are getting along fabulously and pulling each other in different directions. They show no signs of letting up.

Then I introduce myself.

Me: ‘Sorry I didn’t introduce myself; I’m M and I live in building number 3.”

Cute Feller’s Mom: Smiles like she is stuck in an elevator with her nasty boss.

Me: ‘Do you also live in building number 3?’

Cute Feller’s Mom: (looks more uncomfortable,) ‘Nope. Building no 2.”

Me: ‘Oh that’s great; you guys have a nice view! What’s your name?’

Cute Feller’s Mom: (Looks shell-shocked. Like I am asking her a nuclear secret.) ‘S. My name is S. Ok, I’ll catch you around! Cute Feller, come, let’s go!’

Me:  (a little crestfallen,) “Bye Cute Feller! Nice meeting you S!”

Cute Feller’s mom pulls him away and I carry on.

A few days later, I saw her at the grocer’s next door and she didn’t even smile; just a vapid stare like I had snot coming out from my nose. (Which I assure you, I did not. )

A week after this, I was twirling Raghav on the merry-go-round. She was heading to the playground while texting on the phone…she looked up, saw me and veered away with son in tow.

Cute Feller’s mom clearly does not like me. Or like the fact that I noticed her son, or asked her what her name was, and which building she lived in, because that is a nuclear secret. That information is meant to be more classified than the whereabouts of defecting/disappeared Scientologists.

I mean, considering that we live in the same apartment complex and will see each other at all the Diwali, Christmas, New Year’s, and Holi parties and every other social event in between, there was very little chance that I would have found out right?

Now, when she sees me in the park, she literally takes her son and moves away….dodgy and uncomfortable; all suspicious-like. Then she heads back to her building, scooping up her son and moving as quickly  as possible, since she thinks I’m a baby-stalker. (Maybe I should go up to her and say, ‘Hey, you and your son would make great accessories for my windowless white van that’s parked in the basement! I’ve got Monopoly too; let’s go!!’)

Did I break the rules of playground etiquette?

Do I ask too many questions?

Are you not supposed to talk to other mothers in a playground?

Because I know I am not malodorous and I always check if I have anything stuck between  my teeth before I step out.

And here is my Last-Minute Mango & Peach Crumble, which I literally threw together in a rush a few weeks ago because we had a surprise guest and I didn’t have the time or resources to bake a cake.

LAST-MINUTE MANGO AND PEACH CRUMBLE

There really aren’t any exact proportions you should follow; I made this with whatever I had and just went with my instinct.

INGREDIENTS

  • 10-12  digestive biscuits
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, chopped into pieces
  • 1 cup prepared vanilla custard, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 medium-sized mangoes, peeled and diced (a less fibrous variety works best)
  • 2 peaches, cored and diced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons lime/lemon juice

METHOD

  • First, prepare your custard. I used regular packaged custard powder; if you would like to prepare it from scratch, go right ahead! Once it is thickened, cover with cling film so that it doesn’t form a skin on top. Allow your custard to cool to room temperature.
  • Next, crush the digestive biscuits and work in the cold butter with your fingers, till the mixture gets nice and crumbly.
  • In a bowl, put the diced fruit, honey, lime juice, nuts and saffron and combine well.
  • In a baking dish or deep serving bowl, place your juicy fruit at the bottom. Pour the custard over the top and chill for 15 mins in your fridge.
  • Once chilled, spread the crumbled digestive biscuits over the top and gently pat down. Keep chilled before serving.

It’s quick and yummy. If you are really rushed for time, you can easily substitute the custard with store-bought, ready-to-eat vanilla pudding. And of course, digestive biscuits can be replaced with graham crackers.

Maybe I should eat more of this and get less touchy about moms who may not want to socialize on the playground.

Disclaimer: This post is in jest, people. I do not, nor will I ever, own a windowless white van and stick it in the basement.