Sunday, March 27, 2005

EoMEoTE#5: Pateta-par-Eeda

I first stumbled upon the End of Month Egg on Toast Extravaganza ( whew...that's a mouthful) a few days ago while reading a post on Who wants seconds and was quite sad that I missed the first 4 eggstravaganzas! Well, I'm not missing this one, being hosted by Johanna, the Passionate Cook and I decided to make my favorite brunch recipe.

It is a Parsee recipe called Pateta par Eeda. "Pateta" as in potato, "Eeda" as in eggs and "par" as in "upon which" (approximately). So it is basically eggs on top of potatoes.

The Parsees are a small but vibrant community that fled from Persia and settled in India several centuries ago. They are followers of Zoroasterianism and worshippers of fire. Their tiny community is astonishingly successful and much-admired for its philanthropic spirit. Parsee food is rich in meats and eggs and represents an amalgamation of Persian and South-Asian cooking styles. One of the favorite Parsee styles of breakfast foods includes pan-frying a variety of vegetables (leftovers work fine), pressing them down in the pan, then making wells and cracking eggs into it for a quick brunch dish. This one is my absolute favorite.

Pateta Par Eeda

For 2 hungry souls, you need...

3-4 eggs
3 medium-large potatoes, shredded (by hand or using a food processor)
1 small onion
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp minced cilantro
pinch of turmeric
pinch of chili powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the onions, ginger and garlic till lightly browned.
2. Season with salt and pepper, turmeric and chili powder if using.
3. Press any excess water out of the shredded potatoes and add them to the pan.
4. Add the cilantro and toss everything together and pat it down in the pan. Cook on medium heat till the potato cake is browned at the bottom.
5. Flip it over (easily done by flipping first onto a plate, then slide into pan). Break the eggs over the potato cake and season them.
6. Cover and cook till the eggs are set the way you like them and the bottom gets browned and crispy.

This breakfast casserole looks and smells so good! The straw potato cake is is like serving eggs and hash browns all at once. You can serve it in wedges and enjoy it just like it is, or serve it with toast and offer ketchup on the side.



  1. Beat the eggs lightly and pour them on the potatoes instead of cracking whole eggs. This is for people who don't care for the taste of yolks. 
  2. Garnish with cilantro instead of adding cilantro to the base. This results in pretty green flecks. 
  3. Sprinkle with cheese for added flavor.
  4. Sprinkle with paprika for a pretty touch of red.
  5. Cut the pateta par eeda into wedges or squares to serve as an appetizer. 

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Khichdi-Kadhi: India's Comfort Food

If you asked a hundred Indians what their favorite comfort food is, I would guess that 95+ would say "Khichdi". I certainly would! This soothing combination of rice and lentils is the food that lights up my memories. When I was growing up, it was the dinner served before starting on a journey. It was the dinner of monsoon nights, when sheets of rain would batter us. It was the thursday night dinner in my college dorm when everyone would eat khichdi and kadhi and pretend they were in the comfort of home. When there was a death in the family, neighbors brought in pots of khichdi to comfort and console.
The nourishing, healing, comforting powers of khichdi are universally accepted. Khichdi is the first solid that babies are introduced to. In a world far removed from Gerber's baby food, rice and lentils are simmered till mushy, seasoned with turmeric and salt and fed to infants to introduce them to "people food". Khichdi is the only food people eat when they are sick. The warmth and aroma of just-cooked khichdi perks up palates which are dulled by illness; maybe we should dub it "Indian Penicillin". Khichdi is a meal that is simmered in a single pot. It is the ideal food for campfires and soup kitchens. Khichdi is the food of the poor, a meal that is accessible even with the food budget stretched to its limits. Khichdi is the food of the rich, a showcase for the choicest vegetables simmered with a plethora of lentils and studded with nuts.

The word khichdi literally means hodgepodge or mishmash. Hodgepodge or not, khichdi makes for a complete one-pot meal. The rice provides the carbohydrates, the lentils provide the protein, the vegetables add the vitamins and minerals and fiber. A dollop of ghee (clarified butter) provides the right amount of fat and calories, which are as important in a diet as any other food group. All over India, there are as many recipes for khichdi as there as households. It can be spicy or plain, made with a single lentil or combinations of 2-5 lentils. Special khichdis are often made to celebrate special festival days. Traditionally, khichdi is served with a yogurt curry called kadhi. Khichdi-kadhi is the food of the masses, and the food of the gods.


In keeping with the philosophy of khichdi-making, I will provide a method rather than a recipe.

  • To make khichdi, heat oil/ butter/ghee in a pot, fry 1 tsp. of cumin seeds and some minced onion for a couple of minutes. 
  • Season with salt and turmeric and a dash of garam masala
  • Add a few cups of mixed diced vegetables (any combination of potatoes, eggplant, peas, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, spinach, tomatoes is generally used). 
  • Add a cup of rice and half a cup of lentils (I generally use a combination of red and yellow split lentils). 
  • Add 3-4 cups of water and simmer the whole thing till done. It should be mushy and comforting. 
  • Garnish with minced cilantro and generous dollops of ghee.

The kadhi is made as follows:

  • Mix 1 cup plain yogurt, 1.5 cups water, 3 tsp. besan ( chickpea flour), 1 tsp. sugar and a dash of salt in a bowl, whisk together and set aside. 
  • Now heat oil in a saucepan and "temper" it will 5-6 curry leaves, 1 tsp. minced ginger, 3 dried red chillies and 1 tsp. each of mustard and cumin seeds. 
  • Once the tempering is sizzling, add the yogurt mixture and bring to boil. Simmer it for 10-12 minutes stirring almost constantly or until the chickpea flour is cooked. 
  • Garnish with cilantro.

I served the khichdi and kadhi with roasted papads and pickled vegetables, on a traditional Indian steel thali. This is the stuff food memories are made of.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Caramel Custard

I'm so blog is celebrating its first event! It is an appropriately sweet one :) Actually, I did participate in the IMBB: Beans event but I did not have a blog then and Cathy from My Little Kitchen who hosted the IMBB was wonderful enough to post my humble li'l entry on her blog. I enjoyed the experience so much that I started writing my own blog- thank you for the inspiration Cathy!

On to Sugar High Friday. When I read that Debbie from Words To Eat By has chosen the theme Caramel, I was saved the trouble of thinking of what to make. In my mind, CARAMEL=CARAMEL CUSTARD.

I am not really a dessert person. Some days I like mango ice-cream and chocolate mousse. I enjoy the occasional slice of pecan pie. But on days when I am tired or upset, in need of a hug, I simply crave caramel custard. It is the first dessert that I ever learnt to make back home in India. In India, caramel custard is often steamed in a pressure cooker (without using the pressure). Since I was making a tried and tested recipe, I wanted to use a new method of cooking it to make it a learning experience for me. Enter the bain marie, where the custard is baked in a water bath.

My obsession for food shows on PBS have ensured that I have watched the bain marie in action so I was pretty eager to try it for myself. The only bain that I could think of was my standard 13x9 glass baking tray. The only thing that would now sit in it holding my custard was my non-stick loaf pan. Certainly an odd contraption to make custard in but it worked.

To make the caramel, I placed 4 tbsp of sugar ( with some drizzles of water) in the non-stick loaf pan and placed it on the stove top, then fussed over it for several minutes turning it this way and that till the sugar started caramelizing. Soon a lovely brown layer of caramel was coating the pan and I hastily pulled the pan off and set it aside. One learns the hard way that there is a thin line between caramel and charcoal.

To make the custard, I started by scalding two and a half cups of whole milk , then dissolving 2 tbsps of sugar in the hot milk. I added a slice of bread to the hot mixture so that the bread soaked and swelled and gave way. I know bread is not traditionally part of this recipe but I really like the "body" that it lends to the custard. I let this mixture cool while I watched Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My then the mixture was cool enough so I cracked 2 eggs into it and added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then using an immersion blender I whirred the whole thing into a wonderful custard and poured it into the pan with the caramel.

For the bain marie, I poured boiling water 1/3 of the way into the 13x9 dish and placed that in a 325 deg F oven. Then I placed my custard pan gently into it and held my breath for about 30 minutes. I did not expect it to cook so quickly but by 30 minutes it was done and the knife came clean. I had to chill it for 3 hours and then eagerly turned it onto another tray. Hallelujah! My first attempt at bain marie was a success. The texture of the custard was creamy and smooth and cooked to perfection and utterly luscious. V (the significant other) and I grabbed a fork and ate it right out of the platter! Dale (he who woofs) also got a tiny bit...he loves people food.

Caramel Custard
2.5 cups milk
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 eggs
1 slice bread
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Caramelize the sugar in the pan in which you want to make the custard. Alternatively, caramelize the sugar in another small saucepan and then pour it into the baking dish to coat the bottom.
  2. In a saucepan, scald the milk. Dissolve 2 T sugar in the milk and crumble the bread into it. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. 
  3. Blend the milk with the eggs and vanilla and pour the custard into the pan with the caramel.
  4. Bake in a bain marie for 30-40 minutes till a knife comes clean and the custard is set. 
  5. Chill for a few hours and then invert into a serving platter. It is that simple.
  • If your custard has an eggy smell, increase the amount of vanilla extract.
  • Custard can be made in a pressure cooker, but steam it without the weight! 

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A primer on making RAITA

Indian food is not known for its salads! Friends often ask me if Indian meals traditionally include salads at all. The answer is yes; most home-style meals in India are served with some form of raw vegetables, such as

  • Kachumbar: This consists of chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers tossed together with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and lemon juice. The citrus really accentuates the fresh flavors and this salad is a great palate cleanser.
  • Often thinly sliced salad vegetables are simply arranged on a big platter and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  • Raita: This is a versatile salad with a yogurt base. It serves as a cool contrast to the spicy flavors of a curry meal.  

Raitas can work as a side-dish, salad, or dip. They are so easy to put together:

Base: Whipped yogurt seasoned with salt. Low-fat or non-fat yogurt works fine, as does sour cream, in a pinch. I often use some milk to think down yogurt so it can be whipped more easily. If the yogurt is sour, a dash of sugar goes a long way in enhancing the flavor.

Vegetables: Use any combination of the following vegetables, chopped or grated; tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, beets, boiled potatoes.

Herbs: Sprinkle any of all of the following finely minced herbs; mint, cilantro, parsley.

Seasoning: A minimalistic raita will need nothing more than a dash of salt and pepper. If you are feeling more adventurous, try crushed roasted cumin seeds, a sprinkling of paprika or finely minced fresh ginger.

Topping: I love using crushed roasted peanuts as a topping for my raita. It is one of the traditional ways of making raita in Maharashtra where I grew up.

Simply toss all the components together in a bowl and let it chill for a while before serving.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Good Life Pancakes

Originally uploaded by one hot stove.
On Saturday mornings I am in the mood for a proper breakfast, defined as anything non-toast/oatmeal/cereal.

Today I decided to make Banana Pecan Walnut Pancakes, all the better to use up a banana which was slowly turning to syrup in my fruit bowl.

HANDY TIP: Pancakes, muffins and smoothies are a great way to use up bananas that look too ripe to be eaten. In case you are pressed for time, an over-ripe banana can be easily peeled and frozen till you get around to using it. In short, there is no excuse for throwing bananas in the trash.

Banana Pecan Walnut Pancakes
1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl: 
  • 12 cup whole wheat flour
  • 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • some chopped walnuts and pecans
  • dash of cinnamon or allspice
2. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl:
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 1 cup soymilk/milk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup.
3. Combine contents of the two bowls and stir to mix. Don't overmix or the pancakes will not be as fluffy.

4. Make pancakes in a non-stick pan. They cook very quickly.

Top with applesauce and enjoy your Saturday breakfast!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Global Dinners: Sri Lankan Egg Curry

Dinner today was a tried and tested favorite. I have made it for everyone I know and they all love it. When my dear friend Megha tasted it, her first remark was that it tasted like the beach, which just about nails it.

Sri Lankan cuisine conjures up images of fragrant spices blended with frothy coconut milk. Some day soon I will try my hand at making a full Sri Lankan supper, with appams and all, but for now, let's stick with this egg curry made from simple pantry ingredients.

I got the recipe for the Sri lankan curry powder from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, a fat and lovely cookbook full of unusual regional recipes. In the book, Jaffrey calls it Sri Lankan Raw Curry Powder- the ingredients are toasted gently over an hour in a very low oven before being ground. She recommends it for vegetable dishes. I have adapted the curry powder for this coconut-based egg curry.

Madhur Jaffrey's Sri Lankan Curry Powder

To make this curry powder, toast the following ever so slightly and then grind them to a fine powder:
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 12 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 4-5 fenugreek seeds
  • 12 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 3 sprigs curry leaves (dried on a low heat)
  • 1 tbsp. dry coconut flakes
  • 1 12 tsp. raw rice

Egg Curry with a Sri Lankan Spice Mix
  1. Saute 2 medium sliced onions and 1 sprig of curry leaves in 1 tbsp. oil
  2. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, red chilli powder (all to taste), Sri Lankan curry powder (entire recipe above) and stir fry for a minute.
  3. Add 1 cup tomato puree and saute for 10 minutes.
  4. Add a can of coconut milk  (about 1 to 2 cups) and a handful of minced cilantro. Simmer for a few more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, boil 5 eggs. Peel and quarter them, stir into the curry. Taste the curry.
  6. Serve the curry on a bed of freshly steamed rice.
  • To make regular egg curry (without making the spice mix), add ginger, garlic and garam masala instead of the Sri Lankan curry powder.
  • You could use vegetables like peas, carrots, cauliflower and potato instead of eggs to make an equally delicious vegan curry.
  • If the curry tastes a little bitter, balance the flavor with some lemon juice and a pinch of sugar/jaggery.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Fried Rice with Tofu

Fried Rice with Tofu
Originally uploaded by one hot stove.
Supper tonight was Pan-fried Tofu with Asian-style Fried Rice. I have always liked the idea of eating tofu but all too often, blocks of tofu sit in my fridge week after week...

All this changed one night when my house-mate made grilled tofu...the whole apartment had this wonderful aroma.

Her recipe is the simplest ever: Cut tofu into chunks, marinate in Olive oil and Tamari ( Japanese soy sauce; much more flavorful than the regular soy sauce). Then the tofu is fried on a non-stick pan till golden brown. So much better than take-out!