Kitchen Essentials

I’ve been thinking a lot about food and cooking recently.  Below, is a list of our most used kitchen utensils.  Some of the things on the list I’d never used before cooking with Satya and some he’d never used before.  For all of you in intercultural relationships, what are some of your favorites and which ones were new to you?

Pressure Cooker-We use this for nearly everything: sambhars, rice, or mixed bean and veggie dishes like bisi bhele bhath.  It certainly does make cooking easier and faster.  We like it a lot more than our old rice cooker so now the rice cooker sits in the back of a cupboard.

 

We received our pressure cooker as a wedding present.  Satya asked for it as I guess they are extremely popular in India.  My family didn’t trust me with one since they had visions of the older, more dangerous versions from the ’70s and since I’m not the most mechanically inclined person.  Ours was a gift from his brother’s in-laws. Fortunately, nothing has gone terribly wrong and it is easy to use.  Ours has a timer and a few different settings.  When it is done, it goes on to the warm setting so the food never gets cold. 

 

Small Chopper/Grinder-It is very useful for grinding roasted and fried spices, for making guacamole, and for quickly chopping things like onions.  Along with the pressure cooker this is one of our most used kitchen supplies.

 

Lots of Spices-Last January when we first started cooking Indian food together we went to the Indian grocery store and stocked up on dried beans, soji, and spices. Spices are A LOT cheaper at Indian grocery stores and fortunately keep for a long time.  Most of our spices are kept in plastic bags in a wicker basket.  This is definitely not ideal, but is what we have at the moment.  We have a few salt and pepper containers and some of those larger glass containers with clasp closures, but not enough yet. 

 

Blender: Great for making mango lassis and smoothies. 

 

Mortar & Pestle: We use this for quickly grinding almonds or cashews.  It is easier to clean than the chopper/grinder.  We found a smallish one at the Indian grocery store.  I thought Satya’s mom would be thrilled to see that we had one, but her response was, “Get an electric one.  It is easier.” 

 

Wok from Ikea: One of our most practical purchases.  I think we purchased ours for $8 or $9 and so far it has held up well. 

 

Spatula: This is one of Satya’s favorite things.  He never used one until last year. 

 

Grater: We use this to grate everything from ginger to cucumber to carrots.  Satya is a big fan of ginger. 

 

Rubber can/bottle opener: Have a tough jar to open?  These have definitely made our lives easier.  This was another new discovery for Satya, but we consider these another great investment.  So far they’ve worked for us every time. 

 

What are your kitchen essentials?

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Minnesota Comfort Food-Chocolate Eclair Dessert

Recently, my aunt in Minnesota sent me my grandma’s recipe for Chocolate Eclair desert.  This is one of my family’s favorite desert recipes and is often made during the winter.  Don’t get scared off by the fancy name-it is very simple.  It goes together very quickly…..the hardest part is waiting a day or two for it to chill in the refrigerator. 

Here is the recipe as my aunt sent it to me:

1 box Honey Graham Crackers Whole
2 pkgs.  French Vanilla Jello Instant Pudding
1 – 9oz container Cool Whip

Frosting
6 oz. chocolate chips
2 Teaspoons white Karo Syrup
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Tablespoons melted Butter
1-1/2 Cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk

Butter 9 X 13 pan.  Line with whole graham crackers.  Make pudding using 1/4 Cup less milk than directed.  Blend in Cool Whip.  Pour 1/2 mixture over crackers and then put down another layer of crackers.  Pour the rest of the pudding mixture over the crackers.  Top with another layer of crackers.  Mix frosting.  Melt the chips in a double boiler and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until the lumps from the powdered sugar are gone.  Spread frosting on top of crackers.  Chill for 2 days before serving.  (Refrigerate at least overnight before serving as it needs to set and will be easier to cut and serve.)

My aunt went on to note with sadness that graham crackers today are not what they used to be.  She claims they’ve shrunk so make sure you have another package on hand if needed!

Many recipes in Minnesota require Cool Whip.  Another family favorite recipe is simply called “green salad”.  If you happen to go to a potluck church meal in the Upper Midwest you may find it.  “Green salad” is actually cottage cheese, cool whip, sour cream, madarin oranges, and green jello mix with cherries sprinkled on the top.  No, Green salad was not considered dessert.  It was considered healthy because of the fruit and dairy in it and was served with the main meal. 

Another popular ingredient to family meals is cream of mushroom soup.  I will ask for my aunt’s tunafish hotdish recipe and put it here.  Tunafish hotdish is popular during Lent, especially on Fridays.  Today, my mom can’t stand it because she ate it so much as a kid, but my aunt still loves it.  Tunafish hotdish is usually accompanied by blueberry muffins.

Indian-Inspired Wedding Cakes

Planning is going full steam ahead for our August ceremony.  We’d like to find a wedding cake that has some Indian flare.  Below are some links and photos to some of our favorites:

Blue Cake This is one of my favorite cakes.  For us, we’d like the cake to be peach or orange instead of blue.  It does look a little plain, but I’m thinking the small design from our wedding invitation can easily be added.  This cake was found on the Better Homes and Gardens website.  The caption next to the cake says that all the flowers are made from Belgian chocolate.  Yum!


Chakra Cake This cake has a chakra on the top and Indian designs on the sides.  The chakra represents the wheel of life.

Gorgeous pink and chocolate cake from Mehndi Cakes on Flickr. I love the bottom layer of this cake….don’t know what Satya would say about pink frosting though!

This wedding cake from A Slice of Heaven Confections even has horses!  This one is very over the top, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen one like this before.  The caption beside it said that it was inspired by an Indian town with many English influences where the bride grew up. Click on the picture for a close up of one of the layers.

Looking for something fun and modern?  Try this one by Lindys Cakes.  This is our #3 cake.  The bottom two layers look fabulous, but we are thinking the top layer and pedestal would be difficult to replicate.  Gold and red are common wedding colors.

Our #2 choice was inspired by another mixed marriage, this time a Polish-Indian marriage.  We like the bright colors and the simplicity of the design.  It was created by Vanessa O’Brien.

Finally, if you are feeling creative you can try to make your own as this blog explains.  This is way out of my league, so I’m content to let the bakery work their magic.

If you have links or photos of other wonderful Indian-inspired cakes, please share them below.

Bisi Bele Bhath

Bisi Bele Bhath is a dish that Satya and I have enjoyed at South Indian restaurants.  It is very hearty and vegetarian. 

Below, is a recipe with my own notes in parentheses that Satya found online at

http://www.bawarchi.com/contribution/contrib2055.html  

 

Our biggest challenge is to get the consistency right.  When we’ve had it at restaurants, it has been much thinner.  When we make it at home, it is very thick and you can eat it with a fork.  To make it thinner, add water. 

***Spoons=tea spoons

Ingredients

Rice 1 cup
Toor Dal 1/2 cup
Boiled Potatoes -2 (optional)
1/4 cup cooked Peas (optional)
Ghee 3 spoons
Cashew
Grated Coconut 2 spoons
Tamarind Powder 1 1/2 spoons
Small Onions – 10 (rather vague.  I use one large red onion)

Brinjul (Small eggplants.  Use 2)

Masala to grind

Dry Red Chillies 8
Dhania 1 1/2 spoons (Coriander seeds)
Fenugreek 1/4 spoon
Urad Dal 1/2 spoon
Bengal Gram 1 spoon (Dry Chickpea)
KusKus – 1 spoon (Cous Cous)
Patta (Curry leaves.  We use about 6)

Method :

 

  1. Fry the above masalas in a dry pan and powder them. (We use a little mortar and pestle for this, although Satya’s mom says a coffee grinder works even better and faster.)
  2. Mix Rice and Dal and cook in cooker.
  3. Heat oil in a pan, fry onions till brown, add cut boiled potatoes and peas, can also add brinjal.
  4. Add tamarind powder and 1/2 cup water and salt and the ground masala powder. Let it boil.
  5. Now add cooked rice and dal and mix well. Remove from flame.
  6. Fry the coconutes till brown and powder them.
  7. Garnish with chopped coriander, fried cashews and powdered cocounts.

Serve hot with Onion Raita and Pappads.

Serves : 3

 

This can be spicy, so make sure you have your lassi or raita nearby!  It is delicious, but it does take a lot of time to chop everything.  Cook it when you have at least an hour or so. 

Enjoy!

Food

Food is central to culture and relationships.  This blog will occassionally discuss food and recipes.  In my opinion, it is a lot more fun to cook food for others than to just cook for myself.  Cooking with someone else is even better!!  I cooked some for my family in Minnesota, but living on my own I subsisted on mostly on Cliff bars, veggie burgers, and cheese sandwiches. 

Since I’ve met Satya I’ve enjoyed exploring South Indian cuisine.  Before I met him, my experience of Indian food was limited to palak paneer, chicken tikka masala, and mango lassi.  South Indian cooking is a lot different, at least how we eat it.  Satya grew up in a Lingayat household so his family were (and are) strict vegetarians.   This means along with no meat, no eggs as well.  In fact, his mother is extremely allergic to eggs and eggs cause him to break out with acne.

 When Satya and I eat together, we eat vegetarian which is quite a change for someone who grew up eating meals of meat, potatoes, and mushy vegetables.  Our compromise is that we can eat whatever we want when we are apart.

So far I’ve found South Indian cooking to be delicious and fairly easy to prepare.  As long as I have a recipe, I’m ok.  Satya does not believe much in recipes and loves to experiment which can drive me nuts when we cook together (what comes next? is my constant question).  South Indian food can be spicy at times, but we try to make sure we always include something with yogurt (or curds, as he calls them).  Raita and pachadi are delicious and mango lassi also cools the spice.  I’m getting much better at chopping vegetables!