07 December 2006

It's a ........

...... GIRL!!!!!!!

Avani was born on 6th December at 1447 in Tsuruoka, Japan. She is 47.5 cms tall and weighs 2668 grams and is absolutely adorable!

05 December 2006

Preparing for the newest gourmet

Now that D-day is around the corner, I've been quite caught up with things... Was it this hectic last time around?? I don't remember. I don't think so.

This time around, the rigmarole is starting to show signs of getting 'Lost in Translation'. I had a very exhausting 2 hour interview with the nutritionist at the hospital a couple of days ago. Somehow by the time I got through to her about what I eat and don't eat, I was quite ready to give up and tell her just give me rice and curds, and I'll get my own pickles, thank you. Being a vegetarian in this neck of the woods isn't all that easy.

First I had to explain that I don't eat meat and fish. No fish?? Yes, ma'am, no fish. So the nutritionist gets some printouts from her file and my translator asked me whether fish is 'meat'. Now, how on earth does one answer that? So the next step was to explain that I was NOT vegan, and that I could take milk, cheese and other dairy products. Yes, eggs are OK too. No, I do not mind eating tofu and eggs every day to make up for nutrition components.

Then I had to explain that chicken, beef and pork are not OK, neither are ham, bacon or sausages. By the time we got through that part, I was so tired. Then came the kicker. 'So does that mean prawn, shrimp and crabs are alright?' Sigh... we were back to square one. And the poor lady went through a list of vegetables to find out what was OK and what was not! After a point I gave up saying 'every vegetable is fine, every single one', and stuck to okaying each individual vegetable as it was read out.

I don't know who was more shocked by my diet, the nutritionist or the translator. I'm sure they think I'm from another planet. But I'm quite impressed that the hospital is taking this much trouble to accomodate the diet of a vegetarian. Do keep in mind that vegetarianism is totally unheard of here in Japan, especially in the backwoods like where we live. The nutrition consultant did ask if I had any favourite dishes, and would I give them the recipes for any special preparations that I would need. My sister thinks I should have asked them for dosai and sambar!

I'm signing off for a few days. I have lots and lots of lovely recipes and pics to post, but haven't got down to doing any serious blogging in days. The latest addition to the family is due in a couple of days, and I'm feeling quite tense. I have been through this entire rigmarole once before, but not quite like a 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. And do drop me a line for any interesting post-natal recipes that you think I'd like. Variety is welcome, anyday!

So start guessing folks.. will this be a boy or a girl??

26 November 2006

1-2-3 soup

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel you'd be at peace with the world with a piping hot bowl of soup? Of course you do. Open a can, and there you go!

Have you also wished that that soup could be homemade? Made from scratch so that there is that extra element of satisfaction to it? But nothing too complicated, not too many ingredients, and of course taste really great?? Tall order there?? Actually, no.

My neighbour, back in Singapore, used to make this particular soup quite often, whenever her kids, who were very picky eaters, wanted soup. And once I saw just how easy it was to put together, I had to jot down the recipe, and start making it as and when I wanted a nice hot bowl of soup.

I call it the 1-2-3 soup because that's the proportion of ingredients needed. 1 potato, 2 onions, and 3 tomatoes. And some water, salt and pepper. How much easier can it get?

1-2-3 soup
serves 4

1 potato (peeled)
2 onions (peeled and halved)
3 tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
salt to taste
pepper to garnish

In a cooker, cook potato, onions and tomatoes with just enough water to cover.
Take cooked tomatoes out with a slotted spoon. Peel and discard skins.
Cool the vegetables slightly, and puree in blender, adding tomato paste if using.
Pass through a strainer.
Use water from the cooking to adjust consistency as required.
Heat on a low flame and bring to a simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot.

Make sure the potato, onions and tomatoes are the same size (i.e. all small, all medium or all large)
Tomato paste just gives this soup a richer red colour. Its optional.

Bread and butter pudding

Ever had one of those days when you wanted some comfort food, but didn't want to work too hard at it? I managed to find the perfect dish for those days - bread and butter pudding.

This version is very stripped down, and takes only about 45 minutes to make - less than ten minutes of basic preparations and then the baking time. I call this the perfect recipe for instant gratification.

Bread and Butter Pudding
serves 1

2 slices white bread (crusts removed)
2 tbsp butter
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg

Preheat oven to 150 C.
Butter bread slices. Trim and completely line an oven proof dish with the buttered bread.
Beat remaining ingredients together for the custard.
Pass custard through a fine sieve and pour over bread. Make sure custard covers bread by at least 2 cms.
Let it soak for about 10 minutes.
Bake for 30 minutes, or till tester inserted comes out clean.
Serve warm.

Always ensure that even after soaking, custard completely covers the bread slices. (or pudding might end up slightly dry like this one)
If you use small molds, layer with just one slice/piece of bread in each. Bakes faster.

25 November 2006

Thai Curry

One of my favourite, simple to make, yet slightly fancy, foods is Thai curry.

The key ingredient to a good Thai curry is the curry paste. For those who don't mind a little fish sauce and shrimp paste, there are a lot of options available on the supermarket shelves. For vegetarians like us, that rules out buying readymade paste. After lots of experiments, I came up with a nice curry paste for tangy hot Thai curry.

As long there's some curry paste in the fridge, I don't even have to think about what to cook. I just raid the freezer, take out assorted frozen cut veggies, put them all together, make rice, and lo presto, a nice hot meal ready in less than 20 minutes.

It's really wonderful... especially on a lazy, cold winter day! Piping hot curry, the sweetness of coconut milk hits you first, lulling one into a false sense of complacency before the spice makes its presence known in no uncertain terms. Thats the ideal time to reach for iced tea (or a beer, as a certain self-proclaimed gourmet claims).

Thai Red Curry Paste

15 -20 dry red chillies (or to taste)
1 cup boiling water
10 shallots (peeled)
10 cloves garlic
3 inch piece of fresh ginger (galangal if you can get your hands on some)
6 stalks lemongrass
4 kaffir lime leaves, (or zest from 1 big lemon)
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp pepper
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp Oil

Soak the red chilies in boiling water for 15 minutes (or till they are soft). Drain chilies and reserve water.
Finely chop tender part of lemongrass.
Grind chilies, shallots, ginger, garlic, lime leaves (or zest) and the tender portion of the lemongrass, coriander and pepper to a smooth paste, using reserved chili water, one tablespoon at a time, as required.
Transfer to a clean, dry bottle, with a tight fitting lid.
Heat oil and let it cool. Add to the curry paste and stir well.
Can be stored in fridge for about a week.

1. Don't go by the colour of my paste as posted here. I used just 8 chilies as I wanted it slightly bland. The ideal colour is a fiery red!
2. For green curry, use 1 doz green chilies instead of the red. Also add well cleaned coriander roots, and coriander stems (about 1/2 cup) and more basil leaves (about 1/2 cup). No need to soak, chillies. Grind all ingredients to smooth paste as above.

Thai Curry
serves 4

5 tbsp Thai curry paste (or more, for spicier taste)
2 tbsp Oil
1 cup Broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 cups mixed cut vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, asparagus, french beans)
1 cup Soya chunks (optional)
2 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Salt to taste

Soak soya chunks in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water and keep aside.
Heat oil. Fry curry paste till it loses its raw smell.
Add vegetables, and fry for 2 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup coconut milk, salt and just enough water to cover vegetables.
Reserve some basil leaves for garnish and add the rest to the curry.
Cover pan and cook vegetables on low heat till done (about 10 minutes).
Add remaining coconut milk and cook on low heat till it starts to simmer.
Garnish with remaining basil leaves.
Serve hot with rice.

1. Other vegetables like eggplants, squash, capsicums and sweet potato can be added to the curry. Go ahead and use any mix that sounds good to you!
2. As a rule of thumb (for one serving) use 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp curry paste, use 1 cup assorted mixed vegetables, and 1/2 cup coconut milk.

16 November 2006

Thank you.. with a Rich fruit-cake

While browsing through assorted blogs, I came across Meeta's Monthly Mingle, themed Give Thanks. I've just spent a good 2 weeks baking one of my favourite dishes, a rich fruit cake, and somehow it seemed just the right thing to contribute to such a lovely theme.

First things first. The thanksgiving!

Thanks are due all over the board. To my parents and sister for always being there for me, to my husband for putting up with ante-natal temper tantrums and emotional outbursts, and to my lovely 3 year old daughter (who for obvious reasons will not be allowed to even sample my culinary genius this time) for just being the sweetheart that she is!

To Kartik, Sangeeta, Soumya and Mythily for years of unconditional friendship and support. To Hemu and Axe who patiently listen to hours of my cribbing about something or the other, to my dearest friend Pons who's going to be a Dad sometime next year, to Sriram for helping me with photography tips n tricks (so the pics look more like food and less like manhole covers or bacteria cultures). And "Thanks" too, to other food bloggers who've dropped by and read my incessant ramblings!

So why did I pick this recipe?? Because it's so perfect, so what if a little off season, as a 'Thank You'. It never fails to warm me, like a sincere 'Thank You'...

Lots of assorted dry fruits, candied fruit and peel, soaked for as long as three weeks in brandy, baked for a long time and then allowed to ripen..... the end result, this simply fantastic cake! From the very first time I tried some, and then tried baking some, this has always been a bit of a challenge. I've spent ages trying to get it just right. I started with the original recipe, took some tips and hints from assorted sources, combined them all, and finally ended up with this gem.

The cake has three major steps. First is the soaking, then the baking and finally the aging! Trust me folks, it's worth every bit of hassle, and is definitely a keeper. The cake itself has a wonderfully long shelf life thanks to all the alcohol that goes into it!

And finally, Thank You Joan aunty, for sharing your family's special christmas cake recipe, inspiring me to higher standards in baking all those years ago and all your valuable baking tips and inputs.

Rich fruit cake

Fruits to soak

600 grams of assorted mixed fruits, candied fruit, candied peel

100 gms golden raisins
100 gms currants
100 gms dried plums (or cherries)
100 gms candied fruit
100 gms candied peel
100 gms dry seedless dates (chopped fine)
1 cup large sooji (rava)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp allspice
500 ml brandy

Lightly dry-roast the sooji and cool to room temperature.
Toss assorted fruits, sugar and spices to mix well.
Keep aside 1/4 cup of mixed fruit.
Toss remaining fruit with sooji.
Put in a bottle with a tight fitting lid.
Pour brandy over fruit till just covered, and top with remaining 1/4 cup fruit.
Keep aside for at least 3 days.

I let my fruits soak for nearly 2 weeks before baking them. If you live in warm climate, I suggest placing the fruit mix in the fridge, and to soak for a maximum of 3 days.
Rum, or Marsala wine are a fantastic substitute for brandy. Dark rum gives it a lovely dark colour.

The cake mix

250 gms unsalted butter (at room temperature)
250 gms brown sugar
250 gms cake flour
2 tbsp baking powder
5 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp almond essence (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Line 4 loaf pans (3"x3"x8") with greaseproof paper.
Sift cake flour with salt and baking powder. Keep aside.
Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Beat eggs till frothy.
Add beaten eggs, little at a time, to the butter mix and blend well.
Add the essences and mix well.
Add flour, 4-5 tbsp at a time and mix well after each addition.
Before the final addition of flour, add the fruit mix.
Add the last batch of flour and stir gently till well combined.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in the bottom rack of oven for about 55 minutes.
If the top layer of the cake seems to be firm, loosely cover pans with foil and continue to bake till tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pans overnight.

This cake needs to be baked dryer than normal pound cakes. So give it 10-15 minutes more than you nromally would. Do remember to cover with foil so that the upper crust does not char/burn.
If you don't have cake flour, plain or self-raising flour work fine too. If using self-raising flour, just skip the baking powder.

The Ripening

1 cup Brandy/Rum/marsala (optional)

Cool cakes are completely.

If you wish to flavour it further:
Prick holes into cake over regular intervals. Sprinkle liquor of choice over cake.

Double wrap each cake in 2 layers of aluminium foil.
Wrap once more with cling film, and keep in a cool, dry place away from light.
Let cake stand for at least a week before serving.
Store foil and plastic wrapped in airtight containers for upto 2 months.

If you wish to add more liquor to the cake after the baking, be advised that it can be a little intoxicating, and not at all suited to little kids.
I've had people swear that this cake lasts for as long as 6 months, but I've never managed to keep any that long. All gets eaten as soon as I unwrap the first packet after ripening!

The end result is normally darker than the slices shown above, but yours truly could not wait to cut and try it out before ripening it. Also, I haven't seasoned it after baking. That would give it a richer colour.

So anyone game to join me for a nice afternoon tea?? I promise to serve this cake with a pot of nice hot tea. Just perfect for the thoroughly cold weather that we're having right now!

10 November 2006

Chaat cravings - 2

After our panipoori dinner I was left with flat and broken pooris, and I just had to make Masale-poori.

Each time I go to Mysore, the day I land, or the next day at the latest, I make it a point to go the friendly-neighbourhood chaat-wala and have a plate of piping hot Masale-poori. I have to admit that it always tastes better in a streetside gaadi that at a restaurant.

Masale-poori is a great comfort food. Especially so in the cooler months and in the rainy season. Crushed poori, topped with cooked dry green peas, the piping hot masale, spiced potatoes, crunchy chopped onions, tomatoes, crisp sev, sweet 'n sour chutney, a dash of yogurt and a sprinkling of chaat masala and chilli powder. Yum.... now I wish home was a short bus-ride away, or at least a direct flight away! Ah well... I can still dream of that delicious masale-poori, can't I??

The weather co-operated quite well too. It was a nice cool day. And by 5pm it was pitch dark outside, and started to get quite chilly indoors. A nice hot serving of masale-poori, a fairly decent movie on video, and we were all quite happy in our little corner of the world.


Spiced Potatoes
Tamarind-date Chutney
Chickpeas or Dry Green Peas
1/2 cup plain yogurt (beaten)
1 medium onion (chopped fine)
1 tomato (diced)
1 cup nylon sev (or plain sev)
Chaat masala to taste
Chili powder to taste
Chopped coriander or cilantro for garnish

clockwise from top left: spiced potatoes, chickpeas,
chhole-masala (the masalé), tamarind-date chutney

Chickpeas or Dry Green Peas
1 1/2 cup chickpeas (or dry green peas)

Soak and cook peas with a little salt.
Drain, and reserve 1 1/2 cup water.
Keep half the peas aside. Use other half in masale.

Cooked peas (chickpeas or dried green peas)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp chhole masala
salt to taste

Puree the peas with reserved cooking water.
Add the masalas, adjust salt to taste.
Simmer for 5 minutes.

clockwise from top: fresh beaten yogurt,
diced onions, diced tomatoes

To Assemble

Crush one handful of pooris and spread on plate.
Top with one handful each of chickpeas and spiced potatoes.
Pour 1/2 cup of masale over the peas and potatoes.
Sprinkle sev, onion and tomatoes over the masalé.
Garnish with tamarind chutney, yogurt and garnish with chopped coriander.
Sprinkle chaat masala and chili powder to taste.
Serve immediately.

Simmer the masale just before serving. Or reheat it before serving. There's no zest in this dish if the masale isn't piping hot.

Chaat cravings - 1

During my usual blog checks last week I came across Hema's post on Gol-Gappas. After cribbing for months about non availability of Chaat in this neck of the woods, I decided to surprise A with panipooris for dinner. Was he thrilled! After all, we were eating (any) chaat for the first time since late March this year. He didn't even crib about some of the pooris that were slightly.... er... hmmm... many shades darker than what's usual!

Having started on this without adequate pre-planning, there were some substitutions I'd had to effect. I didn't have any panipoori masala, just that last bit of mint and coriander that I'd been hoarding for over a month, but I went for it anyway! And it didn't turn out too bad.

Making pooris from scratch takes absolutely ages. It took me about 3 hours to make about 120. And it lasted one dinner and one Masala-poori snack the next day! A little too much work for instant gratification.

I did have to tweak the recipe for the pooris (from Hema's blog) a little. And the end result worked fine! Just fine.

(clockwise from top left: Finely chopped onions,
pooris, tamarind-date chutney, Pani)


1 cup sooji
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp wheat flour
1 tbsp rice flour
salt to taste
Rice flour for dusting

Soak sooji in just enough water to wet all the grains. Keep aside for 15 minutes. (10 mins for fine sooji)
Knead the sooji well by rubbing it into the vessel with your palm till it turns creamy white.
Add all purpose flour, wheat flour, rice flour and salt with enough water to make a stiff dough. Dust a clean surface with rice flour and roll into small round bite-sized pooris.
Alternately, roll into one large sheet and cut rounds with a bottle lid/cookie cutter of suitable size (1.5" diameter works fine)
Heat oil.
Deep fry pooris in batches on medium-low heat for about 7-8 minutes, 3-4 minutes on each side.
Drain on paper towels, and store in an airtight container once cooled.

Note: some pooris may not puff up evenly, or may not puff up at all. Separate those from the well puffed ones and store separately for Masala-poori or paapdi chaat.


1 cup chhole (soaked, cooked in salt, and drained)
2 medium onions (peeled, chopped fine)
(clockwise from top left: Chhole, potatoes,
tamarind-date chutney, finely chopped onions)

Spiced Potatoes
2 large Potatoes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp chaat masala
salt to taste

Parboil potatoes. Peel and dice.
Toss well with salt and spices. Keep aside.

Tamarind-date chutney
1 1/2 tbsp Tamarind concentrate
1 big lemon size ball Jaggery
1 cup dates (seedless)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp dry mango powder
1 tsp chaat masala

Soak dates. Discard waxy skin if any, puree in blender.
In a saucepan bring tamarind, jaggery and dates puree to a boil, stirring constantly to remove any lumps.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add seasonings and adjust salt to taste.
Let it cool before serving.

2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp dry mango powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 green chilli
3 tbsp jaljeera
5 cups cold water
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
(L to R: pani, tamarind-date chutney)

Blend mint and coriander leaves, green chilis, jaljeera, dry mango powder, cumin powder and lemon juice to a slightly coarse paste.
Add to water.
Adjust salt to taste.

Break a poori. Fill with potatoes, chhole and chopped onions.
Add tamarind-date chutney to taste.
Dip into prepared pani and enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Vegetable puffs

Here's a simple snack for a cold, rainy day. Takes hardly any time to put together, and totally delicious.

In the good old days, when it rained in the afternoon after college was out, it was understood that we'd all troop down to the friendly neighbourhood bakery and have some nice hot puffs, with a kadak chai. The warm layered pastry with a spicy vegetable filling was always guaranteed to hit the spot and give our spirits the badly needed boost to start cycling back home.

With store bought puff pastry, making this lovely snack becomes a breeze. Do try it out.

Vegetable puffs

3 large potatoes
1 cup frozen cut vegetables (thawed/defrosted)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garam masala or kitchen king
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Microwave potatoes on high for 8-10 minutes. (potatoes can be parboiled too)
Peel potatoes and coarsely mash.
Heat oil. Add powdered masalas and fry for a few seconds.
Add potatoes and thawed vegetables.
Add salt to taste.
Stir well, and cook till dry.
Keep aside.

1 pack frozen Puff Pastry (thawed)

Preheat oven to 180C.
On a well floured surface, roll out thawed pastry to 3mm thick sheets.
Cut into 2" squares with a pizza cutter.
Taking 2 squares at a time, put 1 1/2 -2 tbsp of filling on one square. Cover with another. Seal edges with wet fingertips.
Transfer to baking tray. Repeat till all pastry and filling are used up.
bake in the lower rack of the oven for 15 mins, or till tops are golden brown.
Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

09 November 2006

Mamma Mia!

Last month, I received the most wonderful hostess gift ever. A's collaborator from Italy was here on a visit, and he gifted me this generously large wedge of the most wonderful Parmigiano Reggiano... rind and all.... And the timing was so brilliant too. I'd been doing the rounds of assorted supermarkets here for a half decent Parmesan for some bread recipes that I wanted to try out.

So I sat with this block of lovely aromatic, pungent cheese in front of me, and between nibbles tried to figure out what to make with it. After a lot of browsing online, I decided on a simple Cream of Vegetable soup, Parmesan rolls and a light Risotto.

Yes, my 3 year old helped too. She saw me kneading the dough for the Parmesan rolls. After the rolls had risen well, I'd kept them aside before putting them in the oven. Next thing I know, she's telling me how she's cooking like me. That did set the alarm bells ringing. I went to the table, and there she was, busy punching down the rolls for her dear Amma. The bread tasted real good, but it was a tad hard and crusty. Next time I make some, I plan to let it rise on a very high surface. Maybe on top of the refrigerator!

A looked rather skeptical while dinner was cooking. And even he loved the end results. He insisted that since his daughter helped with the bread, it tasted great.... so what if it was a challenge to his teeth.

Nothing beats a really great cheese to make a simple dinner something out of the ordinary.

Thanks, Sandro... this is the best gift ever!

There's still a generous chunk of the cheese sitting tight in my refrigerator. I'm waiting for some more inspiration to strike. Suggestions, anyone??

Parmigiano-Reggiano Rolls
makes 6

2 tsp yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup grated Parmesan (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Keep aside for 7-10 minutes till it turns foamy. Stir in olive oil.
In a large bowl, mix 1 3/4 cups flour with salt and grated cheese. Stir in yeast mixture.
On a well floured surface, knead the dough adding more of the flour as required till the dough loses its stickiness (about 7-8 minutes) and is smooth and pliable.
Divide dough into 6 equal balls, and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to rise till double in volume (1 1/2 hours)
Preaheat oven to 200 deg C.
Bake rolls in the middle of the oven till golden brown.

Notes: A dash of oregano and black pepper gives these rolls a lovely flavour. After dividing dough into rolls, lightly coat each roll with a few drops of olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano and black pepper.

Cream of Vegetable Soup
serves 4

1/4 cup cabbage (finely chopped)
1/4 cup cauliflower (finely chopped)
1 small carrot (peeled and finely chopped)
1 potato (peeled and finely chopped)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
1/4 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed)
1 cup warm milk
2 +1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp white pepper powder
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
Salt to taste

Make roux:
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour. Keep stirring over low flame ensuring there are no lumps.
When mix starts to bubble, add warm milk, stirring continuously. Simmer for 1 minute.
Add white pepper and keep aside.

Heat remaining butter in saucepan.
Saute onions till onions start to turn transparent.
Add remaining vegetables. Saute for 5 minutes more.
Add stock and simmer for about 5 minutes till vegetables are soft.
Add roux and garlic powder. Mix well.
Add water, if required (a little at a time), to adjust consistency.
Simmer till well combined. Adjust salt to taste.
Sprinkle dried oregano.
Serve hot.

serves 2

1 cup long grained rice
1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1 small red capsicum (deseeded and diced)
1 small green capsicum (deseeded and diced)
1/4 cup frozen peas (thawed)
1 small onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tbsp butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
3 cups vegetable broth/stock
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings for garnish

Melt butter. (or Heat oil)
Saute onion and garlic till transparent.
Add capsicums, corn and peas and saute till capsicums are slightly soft.
Add rice and saute for one minute. (Make sure rice doesn't burn and stick to the bottom of the pan)
Add 1 cup vegetable broth. Cover and simmer till it's fully absorbed.
Repeat till all broth is used, and rice is fully cooked. Stir in grated cheese.
Serve hot, topped with cheese shavings.

I left out any mention of salt in this recipe. If the vegetable broth/stock is not salty enough for your taste buds, do add some salt with the last addition of broth/stock to the Risotto. This is generally not required.

07 November 2006

Chhole in a jiffy

My little one has started to like Chhole... Glory be!

But she does ask me for chhole at the drop of a hat. Out of the blue she's likely to ask me for some, just as I'm about to start cooking. I have started to store cans of Garbanzo or Ceci beans just on the off chance that I'm asked to make some chhole in a hurry.

This is my solution, very simple uncomplicated, light and very delicious chhole. Takes all of 10 minutes to make! And best of all, no ginger, garlic, onion or tomatoes. This brings down prep time to almost nil. And best of all, very little oil!

Sounds too simple, doesn't it? But it's still very very yummy!

When I do plan to make chhole in advance, I soak some chana for a few hours, and cook it with some salt before following this recipe.

Quick and Tasty Chhole
serves 3

1 cup chana, soaked overnight and cooked with salt, OR,
2 cans Garbanzo or Ceci beans

1 tbsp oil
1" cinnamon
3-4 cloves
2-3 black peppercorns
1 bay-leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 pod green cardamom
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp dry mango powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp Chhole/Chana masala
2 medium potatoes (peeled and cubed)
salt to taste

Drain beans, if using canned, and rinse. Keep aside.
Mix all powders (coriander powder, cumin powder, dry mango powder, turmeric, chilli powder, chana masala ) with a little water and make a smooth paste.
Heat oil. Temper with cinnamon, bay leaf, cumin seeds, cardamom, black pepper and cloves.
Add the masala paste. Add a little water if mixture is too thick.
Fry on low flame till oil separates.
Add chana, potatoes and cover with just enough water.
Adjust salt to taste.
Cover and simmer till potatoes are done (about 7-8 minutes).
Take 1/2 cup cooked chana and potatoes and mash well. Add it back to the simmering chhole.
Adjust consistency with a little more water if required.
Simmer for 2 minutes.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

02 November 2006

Kaju-pista burfi

This is the reason I staggered out my Diwali goodies posts... no time! After a couple of prompts, I decided that today, come what may, I should get this done!!

Kaju Pista Burfi

Kaju Burfi
100 gms Cashewnuts
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

Soak cashewnuts in hot water for 15 minutes.
Drain and grind to a fine paste.
In a heavy bottomed pan, make a syrup of one string consistency with 1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water.
Add ground cashewnuts and stir on a low flame till mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan.
Before taking off the flame, stir in cardamom powder.
Spread evenly on a greased plate.
Keep aside.

Pista Burfi
100 gms Shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 drop Green food colour (optional)

Soak pistachios in hot water for 15 minutes.
Drain well. Clean and rub off any extra skin left on the pistachios.
Grind to a fine paste.
In a heavy bottomed pan, make a syrup of one string consistency with 1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water.
Add ground pistachios and stir on a low flame till mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan.
Before taking off the flame, stir in optional food colour and cardamom powder.
Spread evenly over the cashew burfi.
Let it stand for 5 minutes and cut into pieces while still warm.

Very simple, what??

I haven't used any food-colouring in this preparation, but if you feel you want a nice green, do add a drop or two.
Also, instead of stirring cardamom powder into the burfi, I sprinkled all of it over the first layer before pouring the pista burfi mixture over it.

25 October 2006


Adeeti, my neighbour back in Singapore, taught me to make this lovely snack last Deepavali. This year, I decided to try doing it again, and it turned out wonderfully well.

You'll need a rolling pin, and a pizza/serrated cookie cutter.

Thanks, Adeeti! Thought of you every bite!

makes about 400 gms

1 measure ghee
1 measure milk
1 measure brown sugar
5 measures all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cardomom powder
Oil for deep frying

(Note: When I say measure here, I used a regular serving spoon, with a volume of about 80ml. The proportions stay the same even if you use a larger measure like a teacup.)

Bring ghee, milk and sugar to boil in a heavy bottomed pan. Simmer till sugar dissolves completely.
When done, take it off the stove, and add cardamom powder. Add flour, 1 measure at time, mixing well after each addition. Knead into a smooth dough.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts.
On a smooth surface, roll each part into a chappati of about 2-3 mm thickness.
Cut into small diamond shapes with a pizza cutter.
Heat oil.
Fry in batches till browned. Drain on a paper towel and store in an airtight container when cool.

Badam Halwa

Badam Halwa

150 gms Almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup ghee (or more if required)
a few strands saffron
2 tbsp almond slices or slivers (for garnish)

Soak almonds in hot water for 20 minutes. Peel, and grind to a smooth paste with milk. Keep aside.
Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to boil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Simmer and stir occasionally till sugar completely dissolves. Lower flame and simmer for 5 mins more.
Add almond paste and saffron. Stir till will blended and there are no lumps.
Cook on a very low flame till the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan.
Add cardamom powder and mix well.
Add ghee, 1 tbsp at a time, stirring well after each addition till ghee to totally absorbed.
Transfer to serving bowl, and garnish.

Notes: If you continue stirring too long after mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan, it might tend to harden into a burfi after it cools to room temperature.

Hemu's delicious kodubale

I've been wanting to eat kodubale for ages now, but in this neck of the woods, one has to make it onself. I'm the sort who always went down the road, back home in Mysore, to a friendly neighbourhood thindi joint to get my fix of kodubales and chaklis on demand. In the backwoods of Japan, however, this is not so easy. Even the ready snacks available at the Indian stores in Tokyo are all Haldiram stuff. That stuff is good too, but not quite the same as a nice crunchy kodubale!

Then I started bugging people all around for the recipe. Each person I asked gave me a different proportion for the same stuff! So I made a little at a time. When I say little, I mean very little. Somehow I wasn't too satisfied with the results. Most of them called for coconut. And dessicated coconut really doesn't make the mark as a substitute.

Last week, just before Deepavali, I started cribbing to Hemu how I wasn't getting it right at all. Hemu who?? Once upon a time, used to be the annoying kid brother of my best friend! But even all those years ago, he showed all signs of a good foodie. And he was more than game to volunteer his tasting and critical analysis at any kitchen experiment! Now he's all grown up and busy in a high flying job, but is still a foodie at heart! This is one guy who should start his food blog. Maybe I should get his big-sister to motivate him to start one...

Anyway, Hemu delivered. He got me this recipe, which, with a minimal tweaking, worked wonders!

Hemu's wonderful Kodubale

3 cups raw-rice
1 cup roast chana dal
Red chillis to taste
1 tbsp (generous) jeera seeds (roasted)
1 cup coconut
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
water for kneading
oil for frying

Dry roast red chillis till fragrant, and let cool.
Grind to a fine powder with rice and roast chana dal.
Dry roast jeera seeds till fragrant. Add to the flour. Add salt to taste.
Grind coconut.
Heat 2 tbsp oil and add to the flour and mix lightly.
Add coconut and mix well.
Knead into a hard dough, adding 1 tbsp water at a time, as required.
Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 mins.
Heat oil.
Roll small portions of dough into 5mm diameter cylinders.
Take about 4cm or so of rolled dough, gently bring ends together. Seal ends to firm a circle.
Deep fry in batches in moderately hot oil for about 4-5 minutes a batch, till well browned.
Drain on paper towel, and store in airtight container when cool.

If using dessicated coconut: In a small microwave safe bowl, soak coconut in just enough water to cover, for about 5 minutes. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Then grind to paste.
The oil needs to be about the heat you'd use to fry Gulab Jamuns. Hot, but not smoking.

My entry for RCI: Karnataka hosted by Asha.

Happy Deepavali

Happy Deepavali one and all.

I've been busy cooking up a storm all of last week, sweets and the nominal savory, the odd dinner party, and of course our regular meals. All of it turned out wonderful. I unfortunately didn't get pics of all the yum grub I cooked at the Deepavali dinner party we hosted for a few friends. And by the time I realized that I'd forgotten, it was all gone! That is the best compliment I could ever hope for.

Here's the sweety-snacky spread I made up for the festival (clockwise from top left): Badam Halwa, Shankarpalis, Kaju-pista burfi and Kodubales.

My first thought was that I'd post it all in one big posting, but then decided to split it into smaller posts. Makes things easier that way.

10 October 2006

Recycled Oothappam

Nice thing about the festive season is how often we end up having hot Urad-dal vadais. But sometimes I do go overboard, and end up with more vadai batter than I can handle, and the resident gourmets decide they've had enough, and wouldn't care for anymore, thank you so much.

The problem with vadai batter is that it doesn't taste all that great if it isn't used (up) immediately. If it sours even the least bit its a disaster. The last time I had surplus batter, and other leftovers, I tried this little experiment. And it didn't turn out all that bad.

Batter, rice flour, cooking soda, veggies, a little tadka and lo-presto... Oothappams!

Recycled Oothappams

1 part Urad-dal vadai batter
3 parts rice flour
cooking soda (depending on volume of batter)

Mix well and let it stand for an hour and a half.
Add grated carrots, finely chopped onions and any other veggies that you like in an oothappam.
Optional: a tadka of mustard seeds and hing.

Heat tava (griddle).
Spread one cup (depending on tava size) batter on tava. Add a little oil around the edges. (Please don't try to make this paper thin like a dosa)
When done, and roast the other side too.
Serve hot with sambar, chutney or any other condiment of choice.

09 October 2006


What's a vegetarian to do when she's got a bad craving for a nice Mexican dinner? Cook it herself of course. I'd planned to post this one weeks ago, but somehow never got around to it.

It was an awesome dinner. Tacos, Mexican style rice and (unfortunately) virgin coladas!

I'm so thankful that I was able to get my hands on taco shells. I certainly wasn't looking forward to making tortillas from scratch. Tacos were to be filled with (clockwise from top left) store-bought taco sauce, shredded lettuce, beans, and grated cheddar cheese.

Bean filling
makes 4 cups

1 can refried beans (I used El Mariachi)
1 big onion (sliced)
1 tomato (diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
2 jalapenos (minced)
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

Heat oil.
Saute onions and garlic till the onions start to brown. Add tomato, jalapenos and crushed red pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add refried beans. Adjust salt to taste.
Stir till well combined. Simmer for 3 minutes.
It's now ready to serve.

Mexican rice
serves 4

1.5 cups long grained rice (I used basmati)
4 cups tomato puree
1 big onion (chopped fine)
6 cloves minced garlic
4 tbsp oil
2 tbsp jalapenos (minced)
1 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup vegetable stock
salt to taste

Heat oil in a wok.
Add onions and garlic and saute till onions are transparent.
Add rice, and saute for just 1 minute on a very low flame.
Add tomato puree, cumin powder, crushed jalapenos, vegetable stock.
Stir gently to combine, and ensure that rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Adjust salt to taste, and simmer for 25 minutes, or till almost done.
Stir in chopped cilantro. Cover wok until rice is fully cooked.

Pina Colada (virgin)
makes 2

There are quite a few recipes for this mocktail online, but this one best replicates the one I liked best, as served at Margarita's, my favourite Mexican restaurant in Singapore.

3 cups pineapple juice
1 cup coconut milk
2 scoops Ice-cream
Pineapple wedges for garnishing

Blend in a food processor and pour into serving glasses.
Top with whipped cream, and a slice of pineapple.

The ice-cream - I prefer using pineapple sorbet, or if I can find it, any store bought coconut or pineapple ice cream. Vanilla works perfectly. If using vanilla ice cream, do add a drop of pineapple essence before blending. That brings out the pineapple flavour.

Dal Dhokli

All this cold and gloomy weather does inspire me get some fancy cooking done. Fancy?? Hmm.. at our place, anything other than sambar, rasam and vegetable gets classified as fancy cooking!

The first time I tried dal-dhokli was when a neighbour made some for me in Singapore. And I was well and truly hooked. What I like best about is that it's a one dish meal. Filling and extremely satisfying. Flavourful, yet not too spicy-hot for my three-year old. It doesn't show in the pic, but it's full of what I call desi-pasta, chappati dough cut into small pieces and boiled in the dal base. Served with rice and sliced onions, it can be quite a heavy meal.

Absolutely nutritious and delicious too!

Dal Dhokli
serves 4

2/3 cup wheat flour
1/2 tsp ajwain
salt to taste
water to knead

Make a tight dough with all the above (like for pooris).
Roll into slightly thick chappatis (about 2-3mm)
Cut chappatis into 1" strips. Make diagonal cuts and shape like diamonds.
Keep aside.

1.5 cups yellow moong dal
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 onion (chopped fine)
1 tomato (chopped fine)
1/2 cup groundnuts (cooked)
1" piece ginger (grated)
1 green chili (or more, to taste)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 pinch asafetida (hing)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Oil for tempering
water, if required, to adjust consistency
chopped coriander leaves

Wash and cook moong dal with turmeric, in plenty of water.
After dal is cooked, stir well till its a smooth blend.
Heat oil. Temper with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and hing. Add whole or chopped green chili.
Add onion and saute till it turns transparent. Add ginger and garlic and continue to saute till the raw smell is gone.
Add tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add cumin, coriander and garam masala powders.
Add the cooked dal and groundnuts.
Adjust salt to required taste.
Bring to a boil, adding water to adjust consistency.
Add the cut chappati bits, a few at a time.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or till the chappati bits are cooked through.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve hot

Ideal consistency, prior to adding chappati pieces, would be slightly thin, like tomato sauce. It tends to thicken as it simmers.
I use whole green chilies. It imparts flavour, and at the same time, doesn't make the dish too spicy. Easier to discard if one doesn't want to bite into a piece by mistake :)

Ratatouille & Pasta

I was browsing Epicurious in my usual hunt for something new, something different, and I came across this gem.

Lacking access to all the basil and thyme called for, I thought 'why not use what I can get?'

And it was quite a success. No leftovers!!!

Initially I was quite skeptical of whether the resident gourmets would like the combination of eggplant and pumpkin, but decided to follow the recipe to that extent anyway. And it worked out real well. The combination of oregano, crushed red chilli and fresh ground black pepper was really awesome!

So here's my version of that lovely ratatouille.

Ratatouille with pasta
serves 4

2 eggplants (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
2 onions, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
2 cups yellow pumpkin (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
1 red capsicum (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1 green capsicum (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp (minced) garlic cloves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tsp crushed red chillis
3 cups penne
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 180C.
Toss together eggplants, onions, 1/4 cup oil, and salt in a large roasting pan.
Roast mixture in oven for 15 minutes.
Toss in squash, bell peppers, 2 tbsp oil, and more salt and roast mixture, until bell peppers are tender, about 20 minutes.
Simmer tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and remaining oil in a heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.
Add roasted vegetables, crushed chilli and adjust salt to taste.
Add fresh ground pepper to taste.

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente and drain.
Toss pasta with 1/3 of ratatouille and serve topped with remainder.

Garnish with grated parmesan, if desired.

Does adding crushed red chilli make this less 'authentic'?? Do tell...
Next time I want to add more veggies to this. Any suggestions?

08 October 2006

Apple pie

Can anything beat a lovely apple pie on a cold rainy day?? And that too when the sun has set by quarter past 5??

This was one of those days... by 4, I had to have the lights on in the house. And the gloomy weather was starting to make me cranky. Very cranky!!

And I was in the mood to whip up a nice, warm dessert that wasn't overly sweet.

A quick look in the freezer showed that I had some sheets of puff pastry. And there were a handful of apples close at hand. And that lead to the making of a lovely warm apple pie! Perfect indulgence on a gloomy, dreary day.

For an amazingly simple and utterly delicious apple pie, do read on.

Apple pie
makes 2 pies in an 18cm pie plate

4 sheets puff pastry (20cmx10cm) (thawed)
4 large apples
1 cup raw sugar (brown sugar)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 160C
Peel, core and slice apples.
In a large bowl, toss apples with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let stand for a few minutes. Transfer to a large colander and let the excess liquid drain out.
Lightly grease pie plates.
Trim puff pastry to requires size and line the bottom and sides of the plate, leaving a 1/2 cm overhang.
Arrange apple slices neatly over base. Cover with remaining pastry.
Seal the edges and trim away any excess.
Bake till the crust is well browned (took me about 30 minutes)
Serve warm.

Notes: If you are making a fully covered pie, do remember to make a few slits on the top sheet to let out steam. A lattice pattern like this one has its steam vents :)

04 October 2006

Orthodox cooking...

.. no problem! Some random surfing and linking lead me to 'Cooking with Kurma'.

I suddenly developed this craving for some of that totally delicious, onion-and-garlic-free grub served at the ISKCON temple at Bangalore. And random linking led me to the site of Kurma Das, an Aussie chef , who's a member of the Hare Krishna movement. All said and done, one should really appreciate the sheer variety of dishes developed by the Hare Krishna chefs.

I once attended a wedding where the bride and groom were serious followers of the ISKCON movement. And that has to be one of the most delicious wedding meals I've ever eaten. The variety of food was amazing, and the creativity that went into the entire menu planning was the work of genius. I'll never forget one particular course of bhaturas served with mixed vegetable korma. That has to be among the best korma I've ever tasted. That too without onions or garlic.
Does anyone have any such recipes to share?? I'd really be grateful for some inputs!

Getting back to 'Cooking with Kurma', the site doesn't have too many recipes, but what's there is quite interesting. I think that menu planning link is interesting. I've already got some good ideas for menu combinations for my next party!

29 September 2006


Is that cool, or what?? (Check #7 in case you're trying to figure what on earth I'm talking about!)

Traditional South Indian Meals - 2

A more popular combination of tradtional festive lunch: sambar, rasam, vadai and a traditional salad.

Whats a festive meal without piping hot urad vadas? Hot vadas in sambar are my idea of comfort food.

And vadais dunked in a light spicy rasam are absolutely perfect on a slightly chilly day!

Of course this was accompanied by the requisite 2 vegetables, one roasted/fried, and the other with a little coconut. Standard choices being roast potato curry and some beans with coconut!

I've invited a few Japanese friends over for a Navaratri lunch this weekend, and I've decided to serve a traditional south Indian meal this time. Here's wishing me luck!

Sambar (with fresh ground spices)
serves 6

The spices:
Roast individually and grind to a smooth paste
40 gms coriander seeds
20 gms dry red chillies
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp tuvar dal
1 pinch hing
1/4 cup grated coconut

1 lemon size ball of tamarind (dissolved in 3 cups water)
1 cup tuvar dal (cooked with a little turmeric)
1 cup sliced white radish
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 pinch hing
curry leaves
salt to taste

Heat oil. Temper with mustard and fenugreek seeds and hing.
Add radish slices and stirfry for 2 minutes.
Add tamarind water, salt and the ground spices.
Bring to a boil, and the reduce to a simmer till the radish pieces are cooked.
Add cooked dal and curry leaves. Adjust consistency with more water if desired.
Bring to boil.
Serve hot.

serves 6

1/4 cup split yellow moong dal (Soaked in water for 30 mins and drained)
2 large carrots (peeled and grated)
1 large firm tomato (chopped fine)
1 tbsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
1 tsp green chilli (finely chopped)
1 tsp ginger (grated)
1 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)
2 tbsp grated coconut (optional)
salt to taste

Toss all the above in a large bowl, and transfer to a serving bowl.
Refrigerate till ready to serve.

Traditional South Indian Meals - 1

With the festival season on now, yours truly is on a cooking spree... traditional dishes, no onions or garlic... yummy time..

Of course I miss being in Singapore, where I could get every vegetable I wanted, whether in season or not. And did I mention these were fresh veggies? No frozen stuff at all! Ah well, now I can still make a nice traditional meal with what is available in this neck of the woods!

This is one of my alltime favourite combinations- morkuzhambu, beans parappu-usli, and brinjal pittla. Pittla is one of my favourite dishes... ever. Mom makes lovely pittla with karela or white pumpkins. I don't get the latter here and hubby won't eat the former!

This combination is great for entertaining too. Hearty, filling and does have a festive feel to it. I used to make this whenever we invited some of our more orthodox friends who wouldn't eat onions, garlic etc.

serves 4

3 tbsp Chana dal
2-3 green chillis
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup grated coconut

1 cup white pumpkin (cut in 1"cubes and boiled)
2 cups sour yogurt
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch hing
2 cups water
Curry leaves
salt to taste

Soak Chana dal, green chillis, coriander and cumin seeds for 30-45 minutes. Drain and reserve water. Grind to a very smooth paste with the coconut (use reserved water if needed).
Heat oil. Temper with mustard seeds and hing.
Add boiled pumpkin and saute lightly.
Add water and the ground spices and bring to a boil.
Beat yogurt till smooth.
Reduce flame and add yogurt to the spice mix.
Add salt to taste.
Add curry leaves.
Stir until well combined and bring to a simmer. Serve hot.

Note: One thing to remember is, NEVER boil after adding yogurt. Take the pan off the stove as soon as the mix begins to simmer. Otherwise the yogurt tends to curdle. That's why I boil the spices in water first, so that the chana dal gets time to cook fully, AND yogurt doesn't curdle.

Beans parappu-usli
serves 4

500 gms french beans (strung, cut, parboiled in salt and drained)
1 1/2 cups tuvar dal
1/2 cup chana dal
2-3 red chilis
1 pinch turmeric
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch hing

Soak the dals and red chilis for about 45 mins.
Drain and grind to a coarse slightly dry mix with turmeric and a little salt.
Steam the dal paste.
Let it cook, and break it into crumbs with your fingertips, taking care never to mash it to a paste-like consistency.
Heat oil, temper with hing and mustard seeds.
Add cooked beans. Fry for 4-5 minutes.
Add steamed and crumbled dal. Mix well.
Adjust salt to taste. Cook for 5-7 minutes till well combined.

Note: The dryer the dal is ground the better. After steaming, if the dal is dry enough, I grind it to a dry powder in a food processor. Takes lesser cooking time this way, and way less oil too.

Brinjal Pittla
serves 4

1 cup groundnuts cooked
1 cup tuvar dal cooked (discard excess water, or save for rasam)
1 lemon sized ball of tamarind (dissolved in water)
1 pinch haldi
1 pinch hing
salt to taste

Grind to paste or powder:
2 tbsp roast dhania
1 tbsp roasted and crushed chilli
1 tbsp roasted chana dal

For tadka:
4 tbsp oil
chana dal
2 urad appalams
1/2 cup grated coconut

salt to taste
1 - 1.5 cup diced brinjal

Soak the brinjal in tamarind water, and bring to boil with haldi, hing, salt and the podi/paste.
When the vegetable is cooked, and the raw tamarind smell is gone, add the groundnuts, cooked dal, salt and bring to boil. Keep aside
Heat oil. Fry the appalams. Break and keep aside.
In the remaining oil make tadka of mustard, hing and chana dal.
In the same vessel, roast the grated coconut till browned.
Add the tadka, appalam and coconut to the pittla.
Mix well and let soak for at least half an hour before serving.

Notes: Pittla can be made with white pumpkin or bitter gourd (karela) too.
For white pumpkin pittla, cut pumpkin into 1cm cubes, and cook with salt and a pinch of haldi first. Then start as with recipe.
For brinjal pittla you could add 1-2 tbsp of the podi used for brinjal curry, instead of the masala paste suggested here.
For karela pittla, fry karela pieces till light brown and then start the recipe as above.

06 September 2006

Vermicelli and Milk Pudding - SHF23

(Just so I don't offend the traditional Indian chefs reading this, I gave Semiya Paayasam this slightly anglicised name to make it more recognizeable to other chefs in this month's SHF)

Since I first heard of SHF, I've wanted to work on one, but somehow never got around to it. But this month's sounded just wonderful, and I'd just tried this twist on a traditional favourite to rave reviews... from my husband and three-year-old daughter, who're absolute gourmets, and are rather difficult to please.

The traditional Semiya Paayasam is made with roasted vermicelli, milk, and sugar, and garnished with roasted cashewnuts, raisins, powdered cardomom and sometimes saffron.

The last time I made some of this lovely pudding, I thought, why not give it a few extras and see what comes of it?... I decided to fry figs, almonds, and cashewnuts in clarified butter, ground them to a smooth paste and added them to this old-fashioned traditional dish. The result was nothing short of spectacular. So here's hoping this is acceptable as a SHF entry! I'm posting this picture because I don't have a better one :( But I'm going to make it again before the deadline for this SHF, and hopefully get a better picture. (I could use some photography tips here)

Vermicelli Pudding
makes 6 servings

The Basics
1 cup fine vermicelli (broken into 1/4" pieces)
1 liter full cream milk
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1/2 cup water
1 pinch baking powder (optional)

1 tbsp chopped cashewnuts
1 tbsp raisins
2 pinches powdered cardomom
1 pinch saffron

The Surprise
4-6 dried figs
2 tbsps chopped almonds
1 tbsp chopped cashewnuts

1/4 cup clarified butter or ghee
(Note: If you're making ghee just for this one recipe, use one stick of butter in this recipe)

Heat 2 tbsps ghee. Lightly fry the figs , cashewnuts and almonds. Let cool.
Grind these to a smooth paste, adding water (if required) a teaspoon at a time. Keep aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat remaining ghee (clarified butter).
Lightly fry the cashews for the garnish till golden brown. Keep aside.
Lightly fry the raisins till well plumped. Keep aside.

Fry broken vermicelli , stirring frequently, till it starts to turn golden brown.
Add water and stir well. Add milk and baking powder and bring to a boil.
Lower flame and let the pudding simmer till reduced by 1/3rd. Stir frequently.
Add sugar. Stir and continue to simmer till completely dissolved.
Add the fig and nut paste, and stir until there are no lumps in the mixture.

Pour into a serving bowl, and garnish with the fried cashewnuts, raisins, cardomom powder and saffron.

This dessert can be served hot or cold. Tastes wonderful the next day too.

Note: I use baking powder only if I think the milk is likely to curdle... again, depends on kind of milk.

29 August 2006

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
(makes 12 regular/48 mini muffins)

300 gms flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
180 gms unrefined (or regular) sugar
150 grams butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)
2 eggs
350 ml milk (full cream, preferably)
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
1 cup blueberries (fresh, frozen and thawed, or canned)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease muffin moulds, or line with paper cups.
Blend butter, milk, eggs and vanilla till smooth.
Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.
Pour in the liquid mixture and stir till just about mixed. Do not beat like in a cake.
Gently fold in blueberries.
Pour into prepared cups and bake for 15 minutes (or till done).

Substitute blueberries with raisins. If using raisins, leave out cinnamon.


Pav Bhaji
makes 8 servings

4 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup chopped french beans
1 large carrot
1 cup peas
3 large onions (finely chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic (grated fine)
1 capsicum (deseeded and chopped fine)
3 tomatoes (chopped fine)
3-4 tbsp pav bhaji masala
Butter or oil for frying

1 large onion (finely sliced)
8 wedges lemon

8 hot dog buns (cut in half and slit vertically)
Salted butter

Peel potatoes. Parboil potatoes, cauliflower, carrot, beans and peas till tender. Mash very coarsely and keep aside.
Heat oil/butter.
Fry onions till browned. Add garlic and fry till the raw smell is gone.
Add half the masala and some salt.
Add capsicum and fry till done.
Add tomatoes and cook till oil begins to separate.
Add the mashed vegetables. Mix well.
Adjust salt and let it cook for for about 5 minutes.
Add remaining masala and take it off the flame.

Heat a skillet. Add a little butter, and immediately press the slit buns, cut side down and roast till lightly browned. Turn over and lightly brown other side. Repeat for all buns.

Serve with bhaji and garnish.

Birthday party

Aditi turned 3 earlier this month, and we had a small party for her. Small party being every single person we knew here who had kids. There were a total of 22 guests, predominantly Japanese. Working out a vegetarian menu that would work for kids too was a real challenge. The end result was this lovely spread you see below...

Idlis with sambar and onion chutney, thayir-vadai, pav bhaji and blueberry muffins. I didn't have a large enough oven, so I ordered a 'Miffy' cake at a local bakery. Not a bad effort, eh?? And I did it all single handed too! And in a kitchen that's the same size as my closets! Of course, there were lots of short-cuts in the menu, but it all turned out brilliant. Contrary to my expectations, the thayir-vadais were a super-hit... I had very little left over. Come to think of it, there were hardly any leftovers!

Final count?? About 70 idlis, 50 vadais, 2 ltrs sambar, 1/2 kg chutney, 2 kgs pav-bhaji and about 45 muffins. Not bad at all in an excuse of a kitchen and in a place that's at the back of beyond, eh?

Next year, we've decided to have it in MacDonalds, and watch everyone else eat, and come home and eat some curd-rice.....

01 August 2006

A recipe and a contest

First of all, I need to find a name for this wonderful concoction. So do try making it, name it and the winner gets my special fruit-cake recipe. Fruitcake? Did that sound a little pedestrian? My special fruitcake takes ages to make.... you see, the fruits are soaked in rum for 3 weeks...

I'm sure that just caught your interest!

I used to eat something similar at this little continental restaurant in Bangalore. I'm sure Golly remembers the place and what this thing used to be called! I suddenly developed an absolutely craving for it, and decided to recreate it from scratch, and from memory too. The result was fantastic! Arun had seconds, thirds and fourths!! That surely means it tastes great!

So all I need now is to think up a nice name for this one..

serves 4

1 big onion
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 big potato
1 cup cauliflower florets
12-15 french beans
1/2 cup peas
1 carrot
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 capsicum
4+2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1+1 cups milk
1 cup cream
1 cup vegetable stock (or 1 soup cube dissolved in 1 cup water)
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
4-6 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Make roux:
Warm one cup milk.
Melt 2 tbsp butter over a very low flame.
Add flour, and stir well ensuring there are no lumps.
When mixture starts to bubble stir in warm milk, stirring continuously to avoid any lumps.
Simmer for 2 minutes.
Keep aside

Peel, wash and cut all vegetables into small pieces (I suggest 5mm as optimum size)
Melt 4 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add bay leaf.
Add onions, garlic and saute till transparent.
Add all other vegetables, stir well, cover and cook for 5 minutes on a low flame.
Add vegetable stock and 1 cup milk and continue to simmer for 5 minutes more, or till vegetables are cooked, and retain a little crunchiness.
Add roux, and stir well so there are no lumps.
Season with salt and pepper.
Let is simmer till well combined. (about 10 minutes)
Serve hot with rice.

31 July 2006

Dinner party

This must be the most mixed crowd I've ever catered for! A invited a few of the research students from the Univ to dinner. I cooked for a group comprising of a Slovakian, Hungarian, German, Korean, Malaysian, and of course, Indians... US!

Since it's been a while since we last entertained (all of 3 weeks) I decided to make something slightly fancy. And with the mixed crowd in mind, also considering that the Europeans and the Korean had never eaten Indian food, I had to plan a good menu... balancing out the mild with the unbelievably hot.

The menu I finally came up with has to be one of my best ones to date. Naans, Tandoori salad, Aloo matar, Biriyani, Raita, Malai Kofta and Ice-cream for dessert. I decided on store bought naans as I don't have an oven... yet..
The recipes for biriyani, raita and aloo matar have been blogged here before. The only change, I dunked in about 250 gms of green peas along with the potatoes, and cooked it the same way.

Malai Koftas
serves 8

Koftas as made in this recipe.
Optional: Stuff koftas with chopped cashewnuts and raisins before frying them.

3 big onions
4 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger
1 cup milk powder (or khowa)
1/2 cup almonds (soaked and peeled)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp garam masala
1" cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 pod cardamom
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Peel onions, garlic and ginger. Boil till onions are clear. Reserve water used in boiling. Cool and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
Grind almonds to a smooth paste with milk. Keep aside.
Heat oil. Add dry spices and let them splutter.
Add onion paste and fry for 3 minutes.
Make a smooth paste of milk powder and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water. Add to the onion paste and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add ground almonds, Garam masala and adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 3-4 minutes till well combined. Dilute with reserved water to adjust to desired consistency.
Arrange fried koftas on serving platter.
Pour hot gravy over them just before serving. Garnish with cream.

Tandoori Salad
serves 4

100 gms Paneer
1 big tomato (very firm)
1 big onion
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
1 yellow/orange capsicum

For the marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsbp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (ground)
salt to taste

Peel onions. Deseed Capsicums.
Cut paneer, and vegetables into equal sized chunks.
Blend ingredients for marinade till well combined.
Let vegetables and paneer marinate for at least 2 hours.
Grill in batches for 5-7 minutes (turning when they start to brown)
Alternately, bake in topmost rack of oven at 180C till browned.
Skewer before serving.
Serve hot.