Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baked Malpua Tarts with Creamy Khira !! (Diwali Desserts Collaboration)

The fairy lights have come up and the house smells of freshly washed curtains and cushion covers. A sporadic burst of crackers can be heard now and then. The cracker shops can be spotted at every clearing with the crowds thronging them seeming to be rather oblivious to the fact that it is all about perfectly good money up in smoke. Something we could do without in cities that already have their lungs choked with smoke and pollution.

Personally, I have resolved to skip bursting crackers to celebrate Diwali and instead use the money to spread a few cheers. A rocket worth five hundred bucks may not make you smile for more than five seconds but imagine the joy of your maid/driver/watchman when they get a few hundred extra bucks to celebrate this festival. It may translate into that new t-shirt that their kid has been demanding or the high school textbook that their child score better marks in the board/entrance examination. Small gestures can make a lot of difference.

And I am really one to believe in the power of small changes. That is why I ended up buying a lot more clay lamps this year to support the potters who earn the lion's share of their living during this season. Even as I enjoy the faint sizzle and the earthy smell as these lamps soak a tub of water, it is time to add the most awaited post for the ongoing Diwali collaboration.

Giving the perfect twist to the traditional Malpuas, I baked them in the shape of earthen lamps and filled them with lightly chilled Khira (or chenna payas ) just before serving.

[ Yumm Alert - More mouthwatering dishes to be discovered at the bottom of this post !! ]

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 25 mins for Malpua  + 1 hour  for Chenna Payas

Ingredients -

For Malpua -

  • 1 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 1 overripe banana 
  • 2 tsp condensed milk 
  • 2 tsp cream 
  • 1 tsp powdered fennel (pana mahuri)
  • oil for frying
  • pinch of baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar ( as per taste  )
  • milk required to make a tight dough

For Khira - 

  • 1.5 liters whole milk ( or 1 liter milk and 2/3 cup Ricotta cheese )
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 7-8 cashews
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp Demerara sugar ( or as per taste )
  • 1 vanilla bean or few drops of vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 tsp ghee/clarified butter

Preparation - 

For the Malpua - Add the butter to the wheat flour and rub it in so that it resembles bread crumbs.

Take the banana in a mixing bowl and mash it nicely using a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and mix everything into a tight dough. Pop it into the fridge for 30 mins.

Dust a working surface. Take out the dough and roll it into a sheet about 3 mm thick. Cut out circles from the rolled dough, pierce them with a fork and place them into the cavities of a muffin tray. Using slightly wet fingers shape the edges to resemble earthen lamps. 

Pre heat oven to 180 degrees for 10 mins. Put in the tray and bake for 12-14 mins till the tarts start browning a bit. Remove from the oven and allow to stand outside till completely cooled down.

For the Creamy Khira -

Dilute the vinegar with 2 tbsp water.

Boil 1/2 litre of milk in a pan. When it comes to full boil, add the diluted vinegar. Boil for another 4-5 minutes so that the chenna/ricotta cheese ( solid portion of the milk) clearly separates from the remaining liquid. Drain the liquid. Wash the chenna/ricotta cheese under running water to remove traces of vinegar. Squeeze out the remaining liquid from the chenna/ricotta cheese. Allow it to cool down.

Heat a little ghee on a pan. Fry the cashews to a golden shade. Remove from pan and keep aside.
Add the raisins to the same pan and lightly fry for 30 seconds. Remove from pan.

Heat a thick bottomed wok. Add the remaining milk and bring to a boil. Put a slit in the vanilla bean and toss it into the wok. Allow milk to reduce to half the original volume.

Then add condensed milk, sugar and fried cashews. Let it simmer for 10 mins before you add the chenna/ricotta cheese.

Keep stirring at regular intervals till the mixture becomes thick ( 'rabdi' like consistency ), Add the pistachio flakes, remove from the flame and keep aside.

Allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Take the Baked Malpua tarts and fill them with the slightly chilled and delicious creamy khira . Serve to your guests and brace yourself for the deluge of compliments.

And do check out these fabulous recipes by my fellow bloggers !!!

Saswati's luscious  Mawa Cupcakes with Kesar Pista Malai Frosting !


Parinaaz's tantalizing Paan Pops !!

Happy Diwali ! Let the lights guide you !!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eggless Pumpkin Oats Cookies ( Diwali Collaboration )

Along with delectable desserts that are the highlight of every Diwali celebration, savory snacks like Namak para, mathri, khara boondi, sev and murukku also form an unavoidable part of the festive menu. Unfortunately, most of these call for deep frying or at least kneading with copious amounts of fat to make them crispy and flaky.

While the desserts can be prepared with a Sugar substitute or even replaced to some extent with fruit based desserts, the savory goodies were my primary concern. I was wondering what could be done to introduce some health and nutrition in this part of the menu when I stumbled upon the 'OatoberFest' series being run in the TOI by Quaker Oats and my culinary God Vikas Khanna. That gave me the idea to try something with oats. However I did not want to proceed with any of the usual flavor combinations.

I wanted the cookies to take on some traditional flavor and yet make them seem exotic at the same time. Going though my own blog for inspiration, I stumbled upon this 'Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry' that I had prepared sometime back. With a large pumpkin siting on my kitchen counter, it seemed a wonderful option. Since I make this curry quite often (whenever I am faced with a deluge of fresh pumpkin), I already had the curry powder in my fridge.

Deciding against the use of wheat flour or maida, I decided to make the cookies with oats, grated pumpkin, freshly grated coconut, a touch of the curry powder, brown sugar and just a little bit of grease. Even as the first batch was taking on a light brown hue in the oven, exquisite aromas enveloped the entire house. As expected the cookies turned out to be moist, chewy and mind-blowing good. Enough to get the compliments flowing.

But that is not all ! This being a part of a blogger collaboration with my talented friends Parinaaz and Saswati , there are more savory goodies to be discovered at the end of this post.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 50 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups Quaker Oats
  • 1 cup grated pumpkin (tightly packed)
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut ( lightly packed )
  • 2-3 tsp brown sugar (or Demerara sugar )
  • 1/4 cup Rice bran oil
  • 1 tsp Sri Lankan Curry powder (recipe HERE)
  • 1/2 tsp coarsed ground peppercorns
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Take all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix everything thoroughly into a tight dough.

Take a baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Pinch small portions of the dough and shape into flat discs or squares. Put them on the baking tray.

Cooking - Preheat the oven at 180 degrees for 10 mins. 

Pop in the tray and let it cook for 10 mins on the middle rack. 

Remove the tray and flip them over. Put back into the oven and bake for another 6-7 mins. The cookies will have become firm and browned on both sides.

Remove from oven and let them cool down. Store in airtight jars.

Do check out these fabulous snacks by my fellow bloggers -


Saswati's Nimki !!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meet our Desi Superhero … here comes A Flying Jatt!

If there is one thing that the human race will never stop believing, it is the victory of good over evil. It does not matter how many times the good guy takes a fall, he is the one to emerge as the winner at the end of it. Does not matter that he does it with an swag that cannot be described as human. Even by any stretch of imagination. That is unless one is a Superhero.

And Superheros are the stuff that our Hollywood and Bollywood movies are made of. The Flying Jatt is another fine example of a superhero movie that is played out in the backdrop of the environmental disaster that is looming large on the horizon. A thorough entertainer which includes the foot-tapping 'beat pe booty', I would never miss it for anything !

Here are the 10 reasons why I would be watching the film on Zee Cinema on 22 Oct@8PM -

1. India’s first flying Superhero :
India’s first flying superhero – A Flying Jatt saves the day in the coolest way. Bestowed not only with this incredible superpower our man can also display some jaw-dropping martial art moves. And not to forget that chiseled physique .

2. This Superhero has a Supermom :
Most of the superheroes that we know pledge to save the world and have lost their parents to an accident. But this super hero has a supermom who constantly reminds him of his duties. A typical Indian mother, she scolds him every time his reluctant to use his superpowers. She definitely is a supermom!

3. Powers + Killer dance moves = Legendary Superhero :
You might be Superman or Batman but one thing our flying Jatt wins at is killer dance moves. Saving the world and burning the dance floor all in one - WOW! Now that is what they call a superhero. Let’s shake our booty on the beat with this superhero.

4. The youngest Superhero :
Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan also had special powers in movies like Krrish and Ra.One respectively. But what sets Tiger Shroff apart is his age. At 26, he bagged a superhero movie as his third film while the others have had a longer run in films before had a long career preceding their superhero ventures.

5. Jatt Fly Karda :
As the name suggests, Flying Jatt is all about a superhero who not only goes all out to save his city, but also believes in his prime religious duty of helping mankind. He is the first superhero who has incorporated his human and religious sensibilities in saving his city.

6. Accidental superhero :
Our very own superhero was not born with these powers but became a superhero by accident. A superhero at heart and and one who is courageous enough to fight despite being scared is what makes a ordinary man a true superhero.

7. Do your chores before you catch the ‘chors’ :
He is no ordinary superhero because at home, he has to do all the chores like any other child. From lending a helping hand in cleaning the house or buying vegetables, this superhero has to do it all. He might be a superhero for the world but at home, you have to do what your mother asks you to do. Now that is really cute !

8. A hero with a consciousness:
We all have to give back to our society and the Flying Jatt definitely believes in this.  A protector of mother nature and a condemner of pollution, this superhero does all to protect the environment.

9. A child at heart:
He might have a serious job at hand but he is a child at heart. This is what sets him apart making him a fun, relatable superhero. He has the superpowers but he also has a child in him who will touch your hearts.

10. He is coming to meet you soon:
This superhero has no airs about having special powers and is very down to earth and humble. So, he has decided to meet you and save his beloved city of Amritsar with the World Television Premiere of his film, A Flying Jatt on 22nd October, 2016 at 8PM.

Gondhoraj Lemonade with Chia seeds and Mint ( Diwali Collaboration)

As the festive season draws to a close, Diwali becomes the perfect excuse to indulge oneself in every possible way. Unfortunately, it is also the time when we pile on the calories and the resulting kilos. Suddenly that skinny pair of jeans that one picked up last month from a sale seems too tight and the love handles just don't go with the halter blouse that one had got stitched for a cousin's wedding. That leaves one with no option other than hitting the gym with renewed vigor and simultaneously praying for a miracle to melt all that lard in less than a fortnight's time.

Enough reason to revisit our eating habits for the festive season. And cut down of the consumption of high calorie foods. One of the key points to be considered while planning a menu is that the brain often confuses between hunger pangs and thirst signals. Hence while our body might just be craving for some liquid replenishment, one can end up mistaking it for hunger and end up stuffing oneself with food.

To reduce the chances of needless calorie consumption, it is important to keep oneself hydrated. And the best way to do it is by introducing a traditional drinks like shikanji, buttermilk and jal jeera in the Diwali menu. Most of them aid in digestion, replenish the water content of our body and also make us feel somewhat full. And in turn, we end up putting less on the plate.

Keeping this in mind, I prepared a lemonade with the famed Gondhoraj lemons which are found in West Bengal and North-East regions of India. These highly fragrant limes are a rather rare find in Bangalore but then I got lucky on a weekend trip to the vegetable market. I ended up adding some crushed mint (for digestion) and some chia seeds (for fiber) to the lemonade. It turned out quite refreshing, delicious and attractive. The soaked chia seeds settling down on the mint leaves make for a rather pretty sight.

And this being a Diwali Collaboration with my blogger friends Parinaaz ( A Dollop Of That ) and Saswati ( Delish Potpourri ), there are more drinks recipes to be discovered. (Just scroll down to the bottom of this page ! )

Read on for the recipe of 'Gondhoraj Lemonade' -

Preparation Time - 5 mins ( plus 40 mins soaking time )

Ingredients -
  • Juice of 1 Gondhoraj lime
  • 1 sprig of mint
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar syrup ( use Sugarfree Natura if you want to avoid calories/sugar )
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 200 ml water
  • a pinch of salt (optional)

Preparation - Mix in the water, salt and sugar syrup in a jar.

Lightly crush the mint sprig and drop it into a tall glass.

Pour in the lemonade. Sprinkle the chia seeds on the top.

Put it in the fridge for 35-40 mins for chilling. The chia seeds will also get soaked in the meantime.

Remove from the fridge and serve.

Do check out these fabulous drink's by my fellow bloggers -

Parinaaz's Babri Beol Thresh


Saswati's Ice Creamy Gulkand Shake .

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kadali Bhanda Bara (Plantain Flower Fritters with Oats)

'Ek muthi ka poshan' says my culinary God. And it sticks in my head. Jut like every other day, I go around like clockwork making breakfast and lunch for the family even as his words ricochet inside my skull. Without missing a beat, I pick up that packet of oats even as I take out the lentil jar from the cupboard. A small wok is put on the burner while I chop the vegetables. Two fistful of oats get slow roasted for 3 minutes as I carry on with my cooking. The vegetables are now being cooked and I am getting ready to knead the flour for making rotis. The roasted oats have cooled down and I give it a quick buzz to make a fine powder out of it.Three fourths of it go into my 'atta' while the rest is kept aside for lack of inspiration.

The lunch is almost ready and as I gather the ingredients for the final dish, a bulb suddenly lights up in my head. A teaspoon and half of the powdered oats make their way into the mix for my plantain flower fritters. I continue to make them the usual way, that is pan-fried with very less oil. And as every time they turn out to be delicious. Lesson learnt. Moral of the story is that it does not need to be path breaking all the time. As long as it gets the job done, it is perfectly fine.

So, here is the recipe inspired by Vikas Khanna and Quaker's #OatoberFest, a week long celebration of health and nutrition -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 2 cups cleaned and chopped plantain flowers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon besan
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • a pinch of garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil for pan frying

Preparation - Add the chopped plantain flowers to a saucepan of boiling water for 5 mins. Drain and wash under running water to remove all bitterness.

Squeeze out all water before transferring to a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients along with very little water to get everything together.

Cooking - Drizzle a few drops of oil on a ceramic pan. Once it is hot, add small portions of the mixture to the pan and pat gently to spread into a layer which is about 2-3 mm thick.

Cook till done on one side. then flip it over and add some more oil.

Once cooked on both sides, remove from the pan.

Serve hot.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Plantain - The Gastronomical Wonder Ingredient of Odia cuisine!!

A thick shiny green trunk tinged with shades of brown and red. Large dark green older leaves, some of them fraying and yellowing at the edges. Light green ones emerging at the top, the newest one still rolled tight. Not a solitary sentinel, but one that thrives in a communal setting. No wonder, a plantain grove makes for an amazing sight !

If you happen to be one of the lucky ones who have had the opportunity to spend a few years in a small town, chances are that you might be used to having a small plantain thicket in the backyard along with the 'de rigueur' Tulsi plant. And there is a good reason behind omnipresence of this multi-utility plant ! From the green fruit to the ripe ones, the fibrous white stem to the purple-yellow flowers, even the peel of the green fruit is completely edible. But that is a not all. The glorious verdant leaves are considered to be a platter fit for the Gods and are actually rated higher than utensils made out of precious metals. Coming back to lesser beings like us, they multitask beautifully as the most aromatic wrap for desserts/savory dishes and as disposable plates for those sit-down lunches and dinners!

The widespread use of plantain in cooking lies in the numerous health benefits that it holds. All parts of the banana plant are high in fiber and hence beneficial for weight loss. The ripe fruit is an excellent source of carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index. People suffering from gastrointestinal disorders can benefit from the regular consumption of various parts of the banana plant.

Each of these above mentioned ingredients hold a special place in Odia cuisine. Be it the 'dalma', 'ghanta', 'santula' or even any of the mixed vegetable preparations, plantain is an integral ingredient of each one. These are some of the famous Odia recipes which showcase the various parts of the plantain plant -

1. Kadali Manja Raee ( Made from plantain stem ) - Rich in potassium and vitamin B6, it is touted as the traditional cure for a variety of ailments like kidney stones, constipation, gastric disorders, UTI and even diabetes.

While the juice is especially beneficial, it is good to include it as a vegetable 1-2 times in one's weekly diet.

This delicious preparation with minimal spices is one of the best ways to make it a part of your everyday menu.

2. Kadali Bhanda Raee ( made from plantain flower ) - It is most beneficial for women as it keeps the uterus in good condition. Consuming banana flower on a regular basis reduces free radical activity, prevents excess bleeding, alleviates the symptoms of PMS and also help in milk production among lactating women. Just like the stem, it is also rich in fiber and helps ease constipation .

Though it can also be consumed as a juice, it is best to eat the flowers to get the maximum benefits .

Cooking in the signature Odia style with mustard paste, garlic and chili, the delectable dish is sure to have to hooked on to this vegetable.

3. Kadali Chopa Patua ( made from the peels of green plantain ) - A rich source of potassium, the peels are supposed to contain higher amounts of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. This part of the plantain is also rich in Trytophan, an amino-acid that increases the production of serotonin or the 'happy chemical' that improves one's mood.

Lutein, an important antioxidant present in the peel, is especially beneficial for eye health.

Making the best use of waste, save the peels for this yummy side dish when you cook green bananas the next time.

4. Kancha Kadali Bhaja ( made from green/raw plantain ) - The green banana is a good source of fiber, vitamins (mainly potassium), minerals and most importantly resistance starch which is known to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Resistance starch helps lower the blood cholesterol levels and leaves one feeling full for a longer period of time.

Though it takes almost zero effort to prepare, this simple pan fried dish will make a convert out of most people.

5. Malpua ( made from ripe plantain ) - Considered to be the best among the lot, they have the highest concentration of antioxidants along with Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. They are touted to keep away a host of diseases like Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disorders, osteoarthritis, obesity, depression and even kidney stones.

For people who can't make do without desserts, this simple dish made out of overripe bananas is the prefect indulgence. To reduce the calories consumed, just pan fry the malpuas and drizzle with some sweetening agent like 'nolen gur' or even maple syrup.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

5 Fabulous 'Green' Desserts to Try This Diwali !!

Diwali is just a fortnight away and the preparations are in full swing. I am totally occupied with house cleaning, buying new furnishings, new clothes, putting the fairy lights in place and finally getting the ingredients for those delicious desserts that are the mainstay of this festival. For what is Diwali if not another grand excuse to indulge one's sweet tooth !!

But all Diwali sweets need not be calorie bombs ! Here are some fabulous green desserts that will have everyone asking for more even as the neighbors turn green with envy -

1. Green Papaya Laddoo -

Made from raw papaya and sweetened with Sugarfree, his amazing dessert won me the third position on Sanjeev Kapoor's Sugerfree Dessert Finale. So, it won't be wrong to say 'is dish me dum hai' !!

2. Creamy Spinach Granita -

Popeye's energy potion is loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients ! No wonder this superfood is on every health freak's kitchen counter. Though people swear by their Palak paneer or palak chicken, it makes for an equally mean granita !! Use brown sugar or demerara sugar instead of white sugar to add flavour to this fabulous dish .

3. Kiwi and Black Rice Pudding -

The exotic flavour of black rice combines with the tang of green kiwis to present a dessert that is visually striking !! However you need to taste it to experience the mind blowing flavours !

4. Paan and Gulkand Kheer -

Paan and Gulkand makes for the most unforgettable flavour combination ! Give it another twist by substituting the sugar with Demerara sugar !!

5. Vegan Mango Mousse -

With canned mangoes available around the year, you can try serving this yummy and healthy dessert to your guests ! One can also substitute mango with cocoa powder for creating another flavour .