Sev mumra (gram flour sticks and puffed rice snack)

puffed rice and gram flour sticks snack

We gujjus (short form for Gujaratis) love our snacks. My mother was an excellent snack maker and I was a great eater. It meant that while I learnt to appreciate the taste as my wasteline expanded, I never paid attention to how she made the delicious Gujarati snacks sev mumra and chevdo (like Bombay mix) let alone easy things like rotlis and puris.

When it’s really hot there is nother better than a nice bowl of sev mumra with a really ice-cold beer. Mind you in India, it’s eaten at snack times with a hot cup of tea …whatever floats your boat.

I used to resort to shop bought stuff. But pah to that! I can do it and that way I can get it exactly how I like it.  As I’m a bit stubborn and didn’t want to ask advice from any aunts or cousins, I spent a lot of time on Google and went all Heston-Blumenthal-like trying out various recipes and cooking techniques etc.  For now, I’m going to settle for the following. I won’t claim it’s a healthy snack but once in a while it can provide a good treat for toddlers. In which case, leave out the chili powder and reduce the salt.

To make this you will need a sev maker. These are available from good Indian cookware shops, ebay and my favourite Spices of India.

Sev maker

You will also need a deep fryer or a karai, a large bowl to put the cooked sev and mumra into lined with kitchen towel to soak up the oil, a large tray again lined with kitchen towel and an airtight jar for storage.

Ingredients for Sev (gram flour sticks):

  • 1 cup gram flour (besan)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha) – optional
  • 1/2  tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/2 black peppercorn ground – optional
  • 1/2 cumin seeds – optional
  • 2 tbs hot oil
  • 3- 4 tbs water for dough
  • Salt to taste. I went easy on this and had only 1 tsp
  • Oil for deep-frying – this time I used groundnut but think I’ll switch to sunflower next time as it’s healthier

Ingredients for mumra (puffed rice)

  • 1 cup easy cook long grain rice
  • Oil for deep-frying  as above

Cooking sev

  • Sift the gram flour into a bowl. Add the other dry ingredients and blend really well
  • Add the oil and with a spoon (as it’s hot) mix it in thoroughly
  • Add enough water to create a firm dough (perhaps to the consistency of old playdoh)
  • Now grease the inside of the sev maker. The disc with the smallest holes is used to make sev
  • Heat your oil in a karai or deep frying to medium heat. It’s ready when you drop in a tiny bit of the dough and it slowly rises to the surface
  • Now put some dough in the maker and close the lid. Screw it down until it’s touching the dough (tiny bits should start popping out of the holes
  • Carefully hold it above the hot oil and then turn the handle so that long strands start to come out. In a circular motion let these drop into the oil. APPARENTLY, to stop the strands you turn the handle the other way but this didn’t work for me so I just used my finger to pull them off and drop into the oil
  • Cook the sev for a minute on each side. Don’t let it get too dark. The colour should be a light yellow
  • Take out the sev with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl lined with kitchen paper
  • Cook rest of sev this way

Cooking the mumra

In India mumra is cooked in a hot wok like device with black sand. In America, it was first cooked by being shot out of a cannon!! It can either be cooked with hot air in an oven (as Rice Crispies is) or a hot wok (didn’t work for me, the end result was distressing as brown rice kernels stuck to my lovely wok) or deep fried (not healthy! but works)

  • Heat oil to medium to hot. Oil is ready when you drop in a kernel of rice, it quickly sizzles then puff to the top.
  • Drop a few rice kernels in at a time. If you are using a karai or a large deep fryer, then use a sieve to drop them in as it’s easier to take them out
  • When they puff up, quickly take them out with a slotted spoon. The result should be a puffed up white rice.  If the rice ends up brown, your oil is too hot
  • Take out and put into a bowl lined with kitchen paper
  • To blot off excess oil, I also lined a large tray with kichen paper and laid the cooked rice on this

Once the sev is cooled, break it into very small bits, then combine the mumra. Put into an airtight jar.

NOTE: if it’s not going to be eaten by toddlers, then before putting it into storage, add salt, chili powder and sugar to the mix to taste.

It should last a few weeks in the jar.

A great way to eat it is chop up some white onion into very small dice, add the sev mumra, throw in a handful of boiled white chickpeas and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The recipe for sev is very flexible as I said above. You can make variations by adding garlic paste, or carom seeds (ajwain), or cumin seeds (jeera).

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Gentleman’s toes (tindora nu shak)

Gentleman's toes coccina grandis

Tindora are known as “Ivy Gourd” in English, “Coccinia Grandis” in science speak and, according to Wikipedia, are sometimes referred to as “Gentleman’s Toes”.  How deliciously salacious!!!

I like okra which are lady fingers and I like gentleman’s toes which luckily don’t smell or taste cheesy . In fact, these little green veg have very little flavour. So they are bland or they are mild depending on your point of view. My view is they are mild which makes them an ideal side dish. There are many recipes for tindora on the web full of ingredients.I prefer to keep things simple and have two variations: with tomatoes, sesame seeds and curry leaves as a main, without these three when serving as a side dish.

Go for bright green ones with smooth skin. When chopped the flesh inside will be a pale green white colour. Older tindora have crinkly skin and the insides will be turning red.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs ground nut oil MAX. Anymore and the result will be a very oily dish
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed or finely sliced
  • 1/2 inch ginger finely grated
  • I forgot to weigh but about 3 cups full tindora.
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds – optional
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 medium ripe tomato – optional
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • 4 curry leaves – optional
  • Coriander to garnish

Preparation:

Sliced tindora

  • Wash the tindora thoroughly, makes sure you rub them whilst hold under running water
  • Top and tail the tindora then slice into four as shown above

Cooking:

  • I prefer to cook these in a large frying pan. However, they will cook in a medium cooking pot if you prefer.
  • Over a medium heat, add oil. Once warmed, throw in the cumin seeds and wait for them to start sizzling
  • Add the chilies, garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds until they start browning
  • Add the tindora and sesame seeds (optional). Stir fry for about 5 minutes, turning frequently
  • Add the spices, curry leaves and tomatoes. The latter two are optional. If I have this as a main, I use tomatoes but for a side dish I leave them out to create a wonderful dry dish.
  • Add lemon juice to taste and then cook for a few more minutes until you are satisfied with the consistency. As I like the bite I don’t cook for long.
  • Garnish and serve with rotlis, shak and accompaniments.

Tindora curry

Pasta with spicy tomato sauce

The first thing I learnt to cook for my family all by my ownsome was pasta with spicy tomato sauce. I made the recipe up and would pour it over spaghetti then serve with huge dollops of butter to give extra creaminess. These days I use cheese instead of butter but the rest is the same.

I know many Indians who each have a recipe for pasta sauce. My dad makes the most divine spicy pesto sauce. Not only is it easy but in areas where Indian vegetables are hard to come by or is cash is tight, it enables you to have a spicy meal relatively quickly and cheaply. I lived on the stuff at university and to this day enjoy it at least once a week.

The following sauce works well with penne rigate, spaghetti, tagliatelle, rigatoni (today’s option!), casarecce, conchiglie. For a short description of these look on the National Pasta Association site

The following will feed 2 very greedy people, or 4 sensible eaters.

Ingredients

  • 400 g pasta
  • 3 tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 medium brown onion – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves garlic – crushed or sliced very thinly. If you like garlic like I do, add 1 more clove
  • 5 peppercorns – optional. You may leave this out and give your guests the option of having ground pepper added to their servings as per taste
  • 1 fresh green chili – sliced into 1/2 cm pieces
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes – I use vine but I guess you could use pomodoro. Alternatively, half a can of chopped tomatoes (use a good brand like Napolina)
  • 4 tbs double concentrate tomato puree (again use a good brand)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander leaves and stems. NOTE do not discard the stems that hold the leaves together, they are often more full of flavour than the leaves. However, do discard the stem part that was in the ground.

Preparation:

  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. When you drain the pasta, save the water as it’s used in the sauce
  • If you can be bothered (which means, I never do but know I should) then peel skin off tomatoes. First boil some water. Then drop the tomatoes. The water should cover the tomatoes. You will see the skin split. After 5 minutes, fish out the tomatoes carefully as the water will be hot and and peel skin off. Chop into fine dice. I usually discard the woody centre of the tomato.

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil in a very large pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start sizzling and going brown
  • Add the cinnamon and onions. Cook until the onions start to caramelise. This can take up to 10 minutes. Don’t rush.
  • Add the garlic, chilies and peppercorns. Cook for 2 minutes
  • Add the diced tomatoes and spices. Cook until it reduces down as the picture above shows
  • Add the tomato puree and then use water that the pasta was cooked in to make the sauce more liquid. I usually put in about 3 ladles full
  • Cook sauce for about 5 minutes, then pour over the pasta and continue cooking for another few minutes so that it saturates into the pasta
  • Add the finely chopped coriander and serve with grated cheddar cheese and garlic bread

Variations

  • I like to add red or yellow peppers to increase my 5-a-day intake. Roast the peppers until the skin is black. Cool and peel off the skin. I  recently saw a tip from James Martin where you put the peppers into a sandwich bag and close up. The steam from the hot peppers makes it easy to peel the skin off. Chop the skinned peppers finely and add at the same time as the diced tomatoes.
  • Another variation is to cook the sauce with red onions instead of brown, add green peppers and cook with quorn. Then serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle as an alternative to spag bol.

Lilee chutney (green chutney)

Green chilie chutney

Looking for the perfect accompaniment to go with your samosas, bhajias and pakoras? An excellent and easy to make chutney is lilee chutney which is green chutney. The green comes from chillies and fresh coriander. I especially like eating this on freshly made, ghee smeared rotlis first thing in the morning with a cup of tea. Today I swapped a meal of green chutney, puris and pea&potato shak for a ukulele lesson 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 100g red peanuts (get raw uncooked ones from your local Indian grocer)
  • 1 bunch fresh fragrant coriander.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 or 7 chillies (optional to use more or less depending on how hot you want it)
  • Water as needed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  • Carefully check through your peanuts to make sure there are no dud ones.
  • Wash the coriander thoroughly. Cut off the bottom segment of stems (just hold the whole bunch and cut across about 4 inches). Then chop up both the leaves and remaining stems roughly. Believe it or not these stems hold a lot of flavour
  • Cut the top off the chillies and then roughly chop into 1cm pieces

Cooking:

You don’t really cook anything but as most of my recipes are sorted into Ingredients/Preparation/Cooking, I thought I’d use the pattern here

  • In a grinder, chop the peanuts to a coarse consistency like breadcrumbs in appearance
  • Add the coriander, chillies and lemon juice to the grinder and whizz it up. If you find that it’s not whizzing add a little water at a time until you have a consistency like double cream …that is not so runny that it just runs off a spoon but not so solid that it doesn’t move off.
  • Take out into a bowl and stir in the salt and sugar. The amount you put in is entirely up to your tastes so just add as you want. You may also want to top up the lemon juice.

Serve with your favourite snacks. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge in a glass jar for a week.

Variations:

You can add favourite ingredients like desiccated coconut, finely crushed garlic or grated ginger. The quantities are dependant on your tastes but I’d advise adding a little at a time as it’s much easier to put in than take out (yes, yes, I’m stating the obvious, it’s a character flaw!)

Toor dhal (lentil dhal)

The typical Gujarati meal is made up of four elements: Dhal, bhatt, shak, rotli. Yes I’ve missed out an ‘and’ but this is how it’s said: “I’m having dhal, bhatt, shak, rotli“. Bhatt is rice, rotli is chappatis. As we are a small family, I rarely make all four. Normally we just have shak and bhatt which means we have half a meal but tot was at nursery today so I had time to go the whole hog and have all four! Normally, the shak and rotli is eaten first with accompaniments like raita, chutneys, poppadoms and salad. Then you finish off with bhatt and dhal.

When mum was in hospital she mistakenly ate someone else’s dhal. When I visited her, she said she knew that it wasn’t my cooking immediately. I think it was a compliment and really hope you enjoy making and eating this version.

Ingredients:

Oily toor dhalIngredients for dhal

  • 200g oily toor dhal
  • 3 pints water
  • 3tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 tsp rye/methi (mustard and fenugreek seeds)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
  • pinch of hing (asafoetida) – optional
  • 10g ginger – grated
  • 2 green chillies – sliced lengthways
  • 8 lawing (cloves)
  • 1 stick taj (cinnamon)
  • 2 tsp nimak (salt) or to taste
  • 1 tsp murcha (red chilli powder)
  • 1/2 tsp hurder (turmeric)
  • 2 tsp gaur (jaggery/molasses) – 3 tsp sugar can be substituted
  • 5 kokum (mangosteen flower)
  • 8 limra (curry leaves)
  • 160g very ripe red tomatoes – chopped finely (half a can of tomatoes can be substituted but doesn’t have the same depth of flavour)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Coriander to garnish

Preparation

  • Wash the dhal to clean off the oil. This will take about 6 changes of water at least. Then boil with the water for about 25 minutes in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, then boil in a pan – keep an eye on the water and top up as needed. The dhal should be completely cooked through
  • Liquidise the dhal with the water it was cooked in

Cooking

First you make the vagar and then you add that to the boiled dhal. Ensure the room is well ventilated for the vagar as it can be quite pungent and make your eyes sting.

  • In a large pot, warm the oil over a medium heat
  • Put in the bay leaves and wait for them to sizzle
  • Add the rye/methi and jeera seeds and wait for them to sizzle and pop
  • Add the tiniest pinch of asafoetida
  • Add the ginger and chilies and cook for about 30 seconds
  • Add the salt, turmeric, chili powder, cloves and cinnamon. Stir and cook for 1 minute
  • Stir in the gaur or sugar. Let it dissolve
  • Now turn down the heat a little and add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes
  • Keep cooking until it’s all very mushy / tomatoes have reduced down
  • Pour the liquidised cooked dhal into the vagar, then add the curry leaves, mangosteen and lemon juice
  • Bring to a boil and then turn to a bubbling simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir occasionally to stop it sticking to the pot. Taste to ensure there is enough salt for your tastes. If there is not enough, add more. If there is too much, counteract the salt with a few drops of lemon juice
  • Personally, I like a thicker dhal so reduce mine quite a bit but it’s entirely up to you. Turn off the dhal when you are happy with the consistency
  • Garnish with coriander. Don’t miss this out unless you are allergic to it as dhal with coriander is not as tasty.
  • Serve with the shak, rotli and bhatt.

NOTE: there are lots of ingredients in the dhal which can get in the way when eating so you may want to do what my aunty does and strain it through a sieve.

NOTE 2: This dhal will thicken overnight so don’t be alarmed. It will be delicious.

NOTE 3: it is not uncommon to find groundnuts in the dhal. The roasted nuts are added at the stage when the vagar is mixed with the dhal so that the flavour is combined well

Home made coconut ice

My lovely sister-in-law gave me Life is Sweet which is about old-fashioned confectionary. The style of writing is hilarious and the recipes seem easy enough. My eyes lit up when I saw on page 79 a recipe for Coconut Ice. I love all things coconut. I found out recently that my favourite coconut choc bar made by a company named after a planet, is not vegetarian. Many tears later I remembered this book and thought I’d have a bash at the ice. I’m sure it won’t be as good as the C.I. that you can get on St Ives high street but home made sweet making is a new adventure for me.

Being a cautious biddy, I chose to make half the quantity hence saving a can of condensed milk for millionaire’s shortcake (though last year’s attempt at that was DISASTROUS!)

So I have

250g icing sugar

1 397g can of condensed milk

200g desiccated coconut (I used Natco’s fine desiccated coconut but think that a finer version should be used!)

Pink food colouring from Morrisons which is made of beetroot so natural and is 100% vegetarian.

First sift the sugar into a bowl. Icing sugar has a tendency to go everywhere as it’s so fine. I must have looked like a ghost as some blew all over me!

Then pour in the milk. I used my spoon to get the last gooey lot out of the can (waste not, want not!)

Sugar and milk

Next add the coconut and mix well. This took a bit of time and I was alarmed at how quickly the mixture seemed to start setting. It’s a bit of a strange, but not unpleasant, sensation mixing the stuff up. I was surprised at the creamy colour since the picture in the book shows the icing as white. Perhaps when it sets. Or perhaps I didn’t have enough of the sugar and coconut.

The ingredients for coconut ice

Half the mixture is meant to go into a baking tin lined with clingfilm. I came a cropper here as the stuff stuck to my hands and each time I tried to lift my hand out of the tin, the clingfilm came too. It was horrifying! So I abandoned the tin (which would have been too big anyway as I was only using half the ingredients) and decided to use my silicon fairy cake tray instead.

Coconut ice in a red tray

I’m going to leave it overnight to set and hopefully the blocks will just pop out of the tray. I’ll update the post tomorrow. And before any of you think I’m having it all to myself, rest assured, half is going to a mate. Of course, if it doesn’t work or taste nice she can have it all. Only joking – I’ll just cheat by jumping in the car, driving 10 miles to the Hope and Greenwood shop and buy some ( though suspiciously they ingredients they list don’t include condensed milk and the aforementioned mate may become wise to my deception?!?)

UPDATE

Today I took these out of the fridge and they were still a little squishy so hadn’t really set as hard as the coconut ice I’m used to. That must be down to the condensed milk which is in the book recipe but not in the shop version ingredients.

This is what the chunks looked like when I squeezed them out of the silicon tray:

Coconut ice on a plate

The taste is creamy and coconutty without the sugar overdose that you find with shop versions. Plus a major advantage to making the ice at home is I know it’s vegetarian compared to buying it (a lot of sweets use non veg colouring which is full of nasty e-numbers). To make it prettier, I decided to divide and roll the chunks into small balls which gave me a nice marbled effect. I think that these would taste even better wrapped in dark chocolate but I am sure that would send me into some sort of diabetic coma!

Coconut ice balls