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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pindi Choley

There is a certain level of comfort associated with cooking from a cookbook. After all, these are recipes that have been tried, tested and honed to perfection by experts who have spent years mastering their art. No air of confusion/indecision, mad scrambling at the last moment to find some ingredient to balance the flavors or nail-biting anticipation about how the dish will finally will turn out. I know it can be quite exhilarating at times but it is not something you want to experience every time you walk into the kitchen.

So, when I am in a mood to relax I look no further then my  favorite cookbook author Tarla Dalal. Her recipes are crisp and precise, with useful notes added wherever necessary. This is one such recipe that I had in mind for quite sometime. Read on:


















Preparation Time - 45 mins

Ingredients - 1 cup kabuli chana (garbanzo beans), 1 tbsp chana dal, 1 big cardamon, 1 inch long cinnamon, a pinch of baking soda, 1 tsp tea leaves, 1/2 cup grated onions, 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp pomegranate powder, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1 green chilli (chopped), 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 3/4 cup tomato puree, 2 tsp chole masala, 5 tsp oil, salt to taste.

Preparation - Soak the kabuli chana and chana dal overnight.

Cooking - Wash and transfer the pulses into a pressure cooker. Add cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, salt and tea leaves along with 2 1/2 cups water. Cook for 2-3 whistles.

Allow steam to escape before opening lid. Drain the water and it keep aside (do not throw way). Remove and discard the big cardamom and cinnamon stick.

Heat the oil in a kadai. Add grated onion and fry to a light brown.

Add chopped tomatoes and cook till they soften. Add the grated ginger, green chilli, pomegranate powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Fry for 1 minute.

Add pureed tomatoes and cook till oil starts to separate from the gravy.

Add the boiled pulses and choley masala. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the drained water and adjust the salt. Cook till semi-dry or as you prefer it.

Garnish with onions and coriander leaves. Serve hot with rotis/parathas or bhatura/puris.




     














Note - This is a semi-dry dish unlike the gravy laden Punjabi Choley.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My First Experience With ZopNow ( A Review )

The numbers of e-tailers in India are multiplying faster than rabbits. I am coming across a new one almost everyday. Even the regular brick & mortar stores have joined the bandwagon. Most have stated their own websites or are fast tying up with the existing ones.

With the traffic situation in Bangalore making Grocery shopping such a pain, these e-grocery sites are the ones that I am really looking forward to. Sometimes I catch up a recipe midweek and it is something that I need to make the next day. Such sites are a boon for food bloggers like me. After shopping numerous times with BigBasket, I decided to checkout another one. Actually it was quite by chance that I landed up on the ZopNow webpage. I had been looking for Patanjali products in Marathahalli without any success and decided to check if they are available online. To my surprise, ZopNow stocks quite a decent range of these products.






My first experience with ZopNow was really good. I had placed the order on Monday night and it was delivered by Tuesday afternoon ( actually theNewsy have 5 slots each day and I chose the second one ). And that too with a freebie.


















Unlike BigBasket, they have free home delivery for orders above Rupees 500 (restricted to South & East Banglore). So, it is quite convenient even if you order for a few items.

To sum up my experience -

What I like about ZopNow -

1. Free home delivery for orders above rupees 500
2. Stocks Patanjali products
3. Wide range of grocery items
4. Wide range of frozen items (both veg and non-veg)
5. Stocks economically priced spices along with their organic variants.

What I do not like about ZopNow -

1. Does not stock fresh vegetables & meat (eggs are available though).
2. Does not stock gifts (BigBasket has started stocking those lately but the range is limited).

Overall I would rate it a 4.0/5 (Sorry about it but I still need to go to the nearest vegetable vendor to pick something midweek.  But if it starts stocking some fresh veggie and meat, I would prefer it over BigBasket anyday).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jerk Chicken

I first heard of it on TLC in Jamie Oliver's show. This Jamaican grilled chicken recipe draws its flavor (Read HEAT) from the deadly Habanero chillis (which are touted to be hotter than our own 'Bhoot Jholoka') and allspice. The spice mix seemed heavenly to me and the recipe quite easy to follow. Moreover it is a grilled recipe which is quite healthy and low on the calories. I had been looking for something different from our regular tikkas to serve for starters to our guests (most folks aviod the oily/fried varieties these days) and this one fitted the bill perfectly.

Hence I got some 'Allspice' powder from Hypercity and tried it (alternatively you can buy it online from Bigbasket). Mindblowing. One word is enough of suffice this one. (Do choose the chilli carefully so that you can bear its heat.)

Read on for the recipe (Note - I have made some little changes to Jamie's recipe. Incase you like to lookup his version, checkout his site)


















Preparation Time - 30-35 mins

Ingredients - 2 chicken breasts, 5-6 shallots, 2-3 spring onions ( use the whites ), 3-4 garlic cloves, 1/2 inch ginger, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp peppercorns, 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp honey, 3-4 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice powder, 1 green chilli ( preferably a hot one ), 1 tsp light soy sauce, half of a lemon, 1 tsp olive oil/canola oil/ricebran oil, salt to taste.

Preparation - Take all the ingredients ( except chicken ) in a mixer jar. Pulverize to get a fine paste.

Clean the chicken and put little cuts in the skin. Rub the spice paste all over the chicken preferably with your hands (wear gloves though).

Cooking - Pre-heat a oven to 250 degrees (Celcius). Put the chicken on a griller and place it in the middle rack of the oven with both the top & bottem heating elements switched on. Cook for 20-25 minutes or till it is done. Take care to regulate/lower heat because the marinade tends to burn easily as it contains sugar/honey.

Serve hot with some lettuce, sliced carrots and blanched tender beans.



















Note - Leg/Thigh pieces turn out to be juicier than the breast ones but are higher in fat content. So if you do not mind the calories, use the leg pieces for preparing jerk chicken.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Garlic Chutney

Ever since dosa has become an integral part of our menu, I am always looking for easy chutney recipes to serve with it. As neither my husband nor my son likes the podi & ghee combination, I have to whip up something fresh every time I make dosa. This recipe caught my attention while leafing through a half torn ( :)...what can I expect with a kid running around ?) Tarla Dalal handbook. Since the recipe was half gone and only the ingredients section was remaining, I modified and improvised the preparation method.

Read on for the recipe :


















Preparation Time - 7-8 minutes

Ingredients - 6-7 garlic flakes, 2 dry red chillis (medium spicy), 1/2 cup sliced coconut, 5-6 curry leaves, 1 pinch

asafoetida, a tiny bit of tamarind, 1 tsp oil, salt to taste.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the crushed garlic, asafoetida, curry leaves and broken red chilli. Fry till garlic

turns light brown in color.

Add the coconut slices and fry for another minute. Remove from flame and allow to cool down.

Once it is cool, take the fried ingredients in a mixer jar (use the small chutney jar), add salt and tamarind. Add a few

teaspoons of water and grind into a smooth paste. (Add a little more water if it is too dry)

Serve with idli/dosa or even with rice, rasam, papad and a little ghee.

















Note - The original recipe called for Begdi or Reshampatti chillis which give a nice red color. But since I could not find those I used the normal ones lying in my kitchen.

Tomato Rasam

Adding another one to my growing repertoire of rasams. Tomato rasam is my current favorite and well received by everyone in the family.

Anyone well versed with the benefits of this fruit cum vegetable would be aware that cooked ripe tomatoes are the best source of Lycopene, an antioxidant which helps ward off a variety of cancers. In addition to being low in calories and high on water content, it is great for your skin and waistline. (Lycopene is also the one that also gives tomatoes their luscious red color.)

Read on for the recipe :








Preparation Time - 12-15 mins

Ingredients - 3 medium tomatoes (ripe juicy ones), 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind, 2 tsp rasam powder, salt to taste, pinch of turmeric, coriander for garnishing.

To be ground in a coarse paste - 5-6 shallots or 1/2  of a small onion, 1 inch long ginger, 3-4 garlic cloves, 3 tsp chopped corainder roots, 1 sprig curry leaves.

For tempering - 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 sprig curry leaves, 1-2 broken red chillis, 2 generous pinches of asafoetida, 2 tsp oil.

Preparation - Take all the ingredients to be ground in a mortar and pestle. Crush everything together so that they give off a lovely aroma.

Tear/chop the tomatoes and put in a mixing bowl. Add the ground paste and rasam powder. Mix with hands and crush the tomato pieces slightly.

Soak the tamarind in a bowl of warm water. Crush it with hands and separate all the pulp. Repeat with another 1/2 cup water. Throw away the remaining solids.

Cooking - Take the tamarind extract along with 4 cups water in a large saucepan. Add salt and turmeric. Boil for 5-6 minutes till theraw taste goes away.

Add the tomato mixture and boil fr another 5-6 minutes. Adjust salt if required.

Heat the oil in a tempering pan. Add the broken red chillis, cumin and mustard seeds to the hot oil. Once spluttering starts, add asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry for 30 seconds.

Pour the tempering over the contents of the saucepan. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from flame.

Serve hot with rice, ghee and papad.




















Note - This can also be served as a soup to the kids. Just strain the liquid and discard the solids. Add 1 tsp sugar and a dash of tomato ketchup to each bowl and mix it. ( I prefer adding less rasam powder if I am planning to use it as a soup.)

Thandaii

Maha Shivratri is the single most important festival for the Shaivites or the devotees of Lord Shiva. It is widely believed that whoever worships the divine Lord in a particular ritualistic manner on this day will have his wish fulfilled. This festival is more commonly observed by the married womenfolk who pray for the well being of their husband and son(s). Some unmarried girls also keep a fast to attain an ideal husband like Lord Shiva.

People who observe the day get up early in the morning and take a dip/bath in a holy river. They then wear new clothes and duly visit a Shiva temple. Abhisekha or 'giving bath' to the Lord is then done with milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, sugar and milk (this concoction is also called 'Panchamrit'). Finally a 'Bilwa patra' or 'Bela patra' with 3 leaves is placed on the Shiva Linga (to cool the short-tempered Lord). Most folks observe a fast throughout the day and only eat food the next day after the 'Deepam' is placed on the apex/top of the temple (sometime after midnight). A few even give up water for the entire day.

While no Shivratri is complete without an offering of 'bhang' or cannabis to the Holy Lord, the medium is usually different. In Orissa some people offer it wrapped in betel(paan) leaves while in the North, bhang is usually mixed in 'Thandaii' or in sweets. Thandaii is more spicy and flavorful version of the regular 'Badam milk' that is popularly consumed in South India. It is very common during Shivratri and Holi. With spices like green cardamon, khuskhus, rose petals and fennel, it is known to keep the body cool during the Summer months.

A few years ago I had not even heard of it but today I am able to succesfully make a batch at home. Thanks to all my blogging friends (especially Deepa from whom I first heard about it). Here is my version of the very refreshing drink called 'Thandaii':























Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients - Milk ( 1 liter ), almonds ( 16-18 nos ), cashews ( 10-12 nos ), khuskhus ( 1 1/2 tbsp), watermelon seeds (magaj) (1 1/2 tbsp), fennel ( 1 1/2 tbsp), green cardamon (4-5 nos), peppercorns ( 1 tsp ), saffron ( a few strands ), rose water/essense ( 1 tbsp/few drops) (use fresh petals if you find some, the dark pink ones are best), sugar ( 1 cup or to taste ).

Preparation - Soak the almonds, cashews, khuskhus and watermelon seeds togather. (remove the almond skin once it is soaked)

Dry roast the peppercorns, fennel and cardamom till it gives off a fragrance.

Cooking - Bring the milk to boil in a thick bottomed vessel. After it boils for 5-6 minutes, switch off flame.

Add the sugar and saffron strands to the still hot milk. Mix gently so that the sugar dissolves.Allow to cool.

Transfer the roasted spices to a grinder and make into a paste. Add all the soaked nuts and spices and grind everything till it becomes very fine. Add a little water to thin the consistency if it is getting too difficult to grind. Add this paste along with rose essence to the milk and allow to stand for 1 hour.

Use a cloth to strain and transfer the milk into another vessel (an earthern pot would be ideal but do not worry if you cant find one)

Refrigerate for a few hours.

Garnish with silver foil (warq)/rose petals, nuts and a few strands of saffron and serve chilled with some Gujiya (Karanji).


















Note - Fresh rose petals if used, need to be ground along with the nuts and spices.

I have not used any bhang (cannabis) in this preparation. If you want to make bhang thandaii, soak 10-15 cannabis leaves along with the nuts and follow the same procedure as detailed above.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ambur Chicken Biriyani

'Ambur probably has more Biriyani shops per square km than any other town in the world.' says a report published in 'THE HINDU'. Add to think that I had not even heard of it before moving to Bengaluru. This small town on the Chennai Banglore highway which is a must stop for regular travellers. Tracing its origins to the reign of the Nawabs of Arcot, this biriyani is subtly different fom the Hyderabadi biriyani. More tangy and fiery but quite restrained when it comes to the use of masalas is how I would like to describe it.

My husband has been a Hyderabadi biriyani regular for the last ten years and hence it was a little difficult to sell the idea to him. But it has no coconut milk or curry leaves as opposed to the other South Indian biriyani varieties I reasoned (and hence more palatable). Some persuasion followed and he finally gave in. Finally he was the one who enjoyed it even more than I did.

As Friday dinners and Sunday lunches are a special occasion @ home, I made this for one such meal. Read on for the recipe which could add that special magic to your Sunday:

















Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients - Chicken (250gm), basmati rice (2 cups), onion (2 large), tomato (1 large + 1 medium), lime juice (1 tsp), yogurt (6 tbsp), green chilli (1 no), whole spices ( 3 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 2 maratti moggu, 1 bay leaf, 2 mace), cinnamon powder (1/3 tsp), turmeric powder (1/2 tsp), a handful of mint leaves, 3-4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, oil (2 tbsp), ghee (2tbsp), salt to taste.

To be ground into a paste - 1 1/2 inch long ginger, 12 garlic cloves, 5-6 dry red chillis (again it will depend on the heat content of the chillis and your tolerance levels :)).

Preparation - Deseed and soak the red chilli in hot water for 20 mins. Grind into a paste and remove from the jar. Add the ginger and garlic to the same jar and grind into a paste.

Add the red chilli paste and 3/4 th of the GG paste to the cleaned chicken pieces. Add turmeric, cinnamon powder, lime juice and half of the yogurt. Add salt and mix with your hands so that the masala is uniformly distributed. (Do wear gloves as the chilli paste might cause severe burning sensation on your hands)

Keep aside for 2-3 hours.

Finely chop the onions and tomatoes.

Cooking - Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add the whole spices and fry for 10-15 seconds. Next, add the onions and fry till translucent.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till nicely mashed. Add yogurt and fry the mixture till oil leaves the sides.

Add the marinated chicken along with the marinade. Cook for 15 mins (covered) till 3/4 done. Add the mint and coriander leaves and mix in. Fry for 1 minute.

Add washed rice and mix it with the chicken. Use a spatula and smoothen the upper layer of the rice and chicken. Add water so that the watermark or waterline is 1.5 inches above the rice and chicken layer. (This is tried and tested for a regular 2.5 liter pressure cooker and some variations will be there for a 5 liter or a handi model pressure cooker)

Cook for 12-14 minutes or as long as is mentioned on the packet of the Basmati rice. Keep aside till steam escapes.

Open and fluff the rice with a long pronged fork. Allow to stand for another 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serve with raita.


















This is what 'Maratti moggu' or 'Marathi Moggu' looks like. It is known as 'Kapok buds' in English and 'semul' in Hindi. They are supposed to be the dried buds and tender fruits of the silk cotton tree.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chicken 65

Chicken 65 is perhaps one of the most loved chicken dishes ordered as a starter. Both my South Indian and North Indian friends like it equally. Not to mention any foreigners that I have come across. Spicy and tangy this one is bound to have you asking for seconds.

Among all the stories that abound of its origin, I believe the one that says ' It was the 65th item on the menu of restaurant in Chennai and that the year was also 1965. Hence the name stuck' . However my husband believes that it is made from chickens who are 65 days old. Another version has it that 65 ingredients go into the making of this dish. But even if I tried i could not go anywhere beyond 35 ( had even started imagining some exotic spices by then ). Stories apart, even the flavor changes from region to region and restaurant to restaurant. The best I have ever sampled came from a modest place called 'Dhawat' in Hyderabad.

While it is usually distinguished by its fiery red color, I chose to omit food coloring and went with Kashmiri red chillis. These are a natural coloring agent and have been used since long time in Indian cooking. Read on for my version :




Preparation Time - 30 mins ( Plus 2 hours for marination )

Ingredients -
For the marinade - 200 gm chicken breast (use thigh if you prefer), 1 egg white, 1 tsp GG paste, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/3 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder, juice of half lime or 1 1/2 tsp lime juice, 1 tsp corn flour, 1 tsp maida/all-purpose flour, salt to taste.

For the saute - 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 10-11 cashews, 3-4 dry Kashmiri chillis (or use any other medium spicy one), 2 sprigs curry leaves, 3-4 green chilli (seeded and slitted), 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, 2 tsp tomato sauce.

For the paste - 1 tsp cornflour, 3 tbsp yogurt, 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder, salt to taste. (Add a few drops of red color is using)

Oil for deep frying.

Preparation - Cut the Chicken into small pieces ( 3 cm X 2 cm X 1 cm ). Wash and pat dry with paper towel.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade. Add chicken pieces and mix.
Keep aside for 2 hours.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the paste. Add a little water to thin if required.

Cooking - Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Bring up the flame. Once it reaches the right temperature, add 6-7 marinated pieces and lower the flame. Fry with regular stirring so that it gets cooked uniformly. Once done ( 3 mins or less ), remove and keep aside.

Add another batch of chicken and repeat. Fry all the remaining chicken in the same manner.

Heat another wok. Add 2 tsp oil to it.

Add the cashews, fry for 30 seconds and remove from wok.

Add the green and red chillis along with curry leaves. Then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.

Add the yogurt paste and saute for 1-2 minute.

Add the fried chicken pieces and saute on medium to high till all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from flame.

Garnish with the chopped coriander and fried cashews. Serve hot as a starter or side.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

One of the simplest and most elegant spaghetti recipes that I have come across, it takes time to master. But the payoff is excellent and totally worth it. One can add fried bacon, chicken or even veggies to make it a wholesome meal. Read on for the recipe:





Preparation Time - 12-15 mins (Or a long as it takes for the spaghetti to be cooked aldente)

Ingredients - 100 gm spaghetti, 1 egg + 1 egg white, 1/2 cup grated cheese (preferably one that melts easily), 1/4 cup warm milk, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, 2 garlic flakes, 1 tsp olive oil, salt to taste.

Preparation - Chop the garlic into thin slices.

Whish the egg and egg whites togather. Add the grated cheese to it amd mix well.

Cooking - Boil water in a large saucepan. Once it gets to a boil, add the salt.

Now add spaghetti. Cook till done yet firm. (Do stir a few times in between to prevent the strands from sticking to each other)

Drain into a colander. (Take care to save about 1/2 cup of the spaghetti water)

Heat a frying pan (Do this just 1-2 minutes before you drain the pasta). Add the olive oil and allow to warm. Add garlic slices and fry till light brown (do not burn).

Transfer the pasta back into the still warm saucepan. Add the egg-cheese mixture along with the warm milk and mix vigorously (and I really mean it). This will transform the egg-cheese into a white sauce that will coat each and every strand of spaghetti uniformly. (If you think the spaghetti is too dry, add some of the spaghetti water and mix further)

Add more grated cheese and pepper. Mix well and serve hot.

















Note - This spaghetti dish tastes best when hot. And the ideal cheese for it is 'Parmesan' but if you do not find some go for cheddar or even mozarella. If you feeling more indulgent, then add cream instead of milk.

Schezwan Sauce

Another recipe to help you manage your household budget (By cutting down on eating out!!).

Instead of hopping over to your nearest Chinese eatery or ordering some to be delivered at your doorstep, whip up your favorite recipes at home. With a homemade batch of Schezwan sauce, the possibilities are quite endless. Plus the feel-good factor at avoiding most of the preservatives found in the store bought one. (If you are still feeling lazy, opt for the Ching's brand of Noodles and mixes. They are good value for money.)
















Preparation Time - 10-12 mins

Ingredients - 2 inch long ginger, 10-12 garlic flakes, 10-12 dry red chillis, 1 tsp peppercorn, 1 tsp vinegar, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp tomato sauce, 1 tsp sugar, salt to taste, 3 tsp oil.

Preparation - Soak the red chillis in water for 2 hours. Grind into a smooth paste with 1-2 tbsp water. (Remember to remove the seeds before soaking the chillis. They can make the sauce really hot.)

Chop the ginger and garlic into really small pieces. Grind the peppercorns.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the chopped ginger and garlic. Fry for 2-3 minutes till light brown.
Add the chilli paste and fry for 3 minutes.

Now add all the remaining ingredients. Fry till the sauce reduces to required consistency (about 3-4 mins).

Allow to cool down before storing in a airtight container. Use as required.

Note - Stays fresh up to a fortnight in the fridge. (It will last a month I think but mine gets used up real fast.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jeera- Pepper Rasam (Jeerakarra - Milagu Rasam)

This week I am having rasam everyday as the fluctuating weather in Bengaluru and the weekend indulgences have wrecked havoc on my digestive system. I could not think of a better cure than a dose of pepper and cumin, both of  are medically proven to benefit digestion. So, here is another rasam recipe. This time I have used a homemade rasam powder. Read on:





Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients - 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind, pinch of turmeric, salt to taste.
For the rasam powder - 1 tsp peppercorn, 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 dry red chilli, 1 tsp toor dal, 1/4 tsp asafoetida.
For the tempering - 2 tsp oil, 2 tsp chopped onions, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, dry red chilli, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 2 pinch asafoetida.

Preparation - Dry roast all the ingredients for rasam powder. Allow to cool down and then grind into a smooth powder.
Soak the tamarind in 3 cups warm water for 20 mins. Squeeze out all the juice and dicard the pulp.

Cooking - Boil the tamarind water with turmeric and salt in a saucepan. Allow to boil for 5-6 minutes till the raw taste goes away.
Add the rasam powder dissolved in 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Heat oil in a tempering pan. Add broken red chilli, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the spluttering starts, add onions and fry till translucent. Now add curry leaves and asafotida. Fry for 30 seconds.
Pour the tempering over the contents of the saucepan. Simmer for 3 minutes. Switch off flame.

Serve hot.


















Note - This rasam is great for curing indigestion, lack of appetite and even a bad cold. One can drink it directly as a hot/warm drink.

Ladyfinger Biscuits

With the budget being the flavor of the moment, I will be posting some recipes that will help you manage the household budget in a better manner. Here comes the first one.

I have been planning for a Tiramisu for sometime. It is one of my favorite desserts but I have not had a chance to indulge in it of late. All my plans to make a batch at home were being stonewalled as I was unable to get my hands on some Ladyfinger biscuits. Ladyfinger Biscuit's form the base of the dessert, helping to soak up the coffee and cheese flavors.

I finally found some on the net but they were ridiculously priced, something around Rupees 350 for 500 gm. And since I could not locate a good substitute, I decided to bake some myself. And it turned out to be pretty easy. The only hitch being my oven which has been acting up lately. But somehow I managed a decent batch.
Read on for the recipe:


















Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients - 2 eggs (separated), 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder,  sugar ( 1 tbsp + 1/4 cup ), butter for brushing on the foil/baking sheet.

Preparation - Beat the egg whites till stiff. Add 1 tbsp sugar and beat for another 2-3 mins.

Beat the egg yolks separately with the remaining sugar till very pale yellow in color.

Add half of the egg whites to the yellow and fold in. Add the flour and baking powder.

Add the remaining egg whites and gently mix it.

Put it in any icing bag or make your own makeshift one. Use the discarded milk packets or any packet for that matter. Put in the batter and tie it up. Cut off one end and pipe the batter though it.

Grease a foil/baking sheet with butter. Pipe 1 inch wide strips that are about 5-6 inch long. Do not get them too close.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Put in the baking tray and bake the biscuits for 7-8 mins. They will be slightly soft when you remove them but will harden as they cool.

Store in a airtight container.








Note - They taste great even if you dip some in coffee and have it as it is.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Shallots Rasam (Onion Rasam / Vengaya Rasam)

I had a wonderful weekend and the high point was a Sunday dinner @ Rajdhani (UB City Mall, Bengaluru). With a wonderful rooftop ambiance and really hospitable waiters in addition to the delectable Rajasthani-Marwadi fare, one is guaranteed an unforgettable experience. Be it the iconic Dal-Bati-Churma or the Surati Undhiyo, you will be left licking your fingers. Roti, Methi thepla, paratha, makki ki roti, aloo tikki, dhokla, sukki alu sabi, green moong subzi, panner, meethi dal, spicy dal, kadhi, coconut chutney, garlic chutney, bhavnagri mirchi, achar, papad, jalebi, halwa, basundi. Phew, I hope I have it all listed. Do visit the place if you can.

While the taste was incredibly good, all that makhan/butter made me feel quite lethargic the next morning. Even though I had just one slice of bread for breakfast, I did not have any appetite for lunch. That's when I saw these lovely shallots sitting in my fridge. And I knew that I just had to have them, preferably in the form of a rasam. The preparation turned out to be yummy and I had it with hot white rice and roasted urad dal papad. Read on for the recipe:



Preparation Time : 15-20 mins

Ingredient - 14-15 finely chopped shallots, 1 large tomato, 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind, 1/3 inch finely chopped ginger, 3-4 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1-2 tsp chopped coriander roots, 1 tbsp rasam powder (use homemade or store brought), pinch of asafoetida, salt, 2 tsp oil.

For tempering - 1 tsp oil, 1 dry red chilli, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 pinch asafoetida, 2 sprigs curry leaves.

Preparation - Take the garlic, ginger and coriander shoots. Crush together using a mortar and pestle.

Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water. Dissolve the rasam powder in 1/2 cup water.

Cooking - Heat 2 tsp oil in a sauce pan. Fry the shallots till light translucent. Add the crushed ginger-garlic-coriander shoots with asafoetida. Fry for 1 minute or till raw smell goes away.

Add the chopped tomato. Cook till it softens but does not dissolve completely.

Add the tamarind water (but leave out the tamarind bits) with salt and another 2 cups water. Boil for 3-4 mins.

Add rasam powder dissolved in water. Boil for 2-3 mins.

Heat oil for tempering. Add broken chilli, mustard, cumin and asafoetida. When spluttering starts, add curry leaves. Pour this mixture over the boiling rasam.

Adjust salt and water. Boil for another 5 mins. 

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.

















Note - One can use normal red onions in place of the shallots. But both have their own distinctive flavors and cannot replace each other in the real sense.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Slut's Spaghetti ( aka Spaghetti alla puttenesca aka whore's pasta )

Slut's spaghetti. Now that's not a new term coined by celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. Not that anybody is complaining. Anything for revenge, especially if the person concerned is the current flame of your-ex. And I love her perfect timing, with Valentine's day just around the corner. (Kudos to the paparazzi for picking up a scent as would befit a Police sniffer. The lady in question being none other than Trinny from the 'What not to wear India' on TLC, who I think has definitely got her basics wrong when it comes to Indian dressing.)

The recipe has been around for quite sometime ( since the 60's if I am not wrong ) and one can find quite a versions in cyberspace. One such story goes that the recipe is attributed to the Italian whores who with their uber busy lifestyles did never get around to the markets to buy some fresh produce. Instead they relied heavily on the canned stuff like anchovies, tomatoes, capers and olives. Hence the tangy and predominantly salty flavors.

Quite an effortless dish, it is no connoisseur's delight. Best served for brunch with your gang of girls or even as a lazy dinner for one.


















Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients - 200 gms spaghetti, 12-14 cherry tomatoes, 1 large tomato, 2 garlic flakes, 1/3 tsp chilli flakes, 1/3 tsp peppercorn, 1 tsp olive oil, 1-2 small green mango (pickled in brine), 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp dried parsley.

Preparation - Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.

Similarly chop up the green mango into very small bits. (Larger bits can be quite overwhelming if one bites into them)

Cooking - Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. Add sufficient amount of salt till the water tastes very salty. Add the spaghetti and give it a stir or two in between. Cook till aldente. (Takes 13-14 mins for the Borges brand of spaghetti). Drain off the water while saving 1/3 cup for the sauce.

Start on the sauce once you drop the noodles into the boiling water. Add the olive oil to a wok. Once warm, add chilli flakes and chopped/crushed garlic. Fry for 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they soften slightly. Add fish sauce, crushed peppercorn, chopped green mango and dried parsley. Allow the sauce to reduce a bit.

Drop in the strained spaghetti. Add a bit of the water in which it was cooked. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes till it soaks up all the flavors. (Add some more water if you feel it to be too dry)

Serve hot.

















Note - The original recipe calls for capers and pitted/Kalamata olives. But I believe in using locally sourced ingredients and I find pickled green mango (or ones preserved in brine ) to be a good substitute.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tiramisu

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert which literally means 'pick me up'. It is attributed to the combined effect of coffee(expresso), cocoa and sugar. One bite and you really get to know why they call it so.

















Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients - 12 ladyfinger biscuits, 1 tsp Nescafe, 1/2 tsp cocoa powder, 1/4 cup warm water, 1/4 cup milk, (5-6 tsp + 3 tsp) sugar, 1 cup cream cheese, 1 tsp butter, 2 tsp fresh cream, 1 egg yolk, 6-7 drops vanilla essence, cocoa powder for dusting.

Preparation - Dissolve the coffee and cocoa powder in warm water. Allow to cool. Then add the milk as well.

Beat the egg yolk with 5-6 tsp sugar till it is fluffy and very pale in color.

Beat the cream cheese with butter and fresh cream till light and fluffy. Fold in the egg yolk mixture gently. Add the vanilla essence.

Take a square dish. Line the ladyfinger biscuits. Add sufficient coffee-milk liquid onto the biscuits to wet them but not to make them very soggy.

Spoon over half of the cheese-yolk mixture. Sprinkle some cocoa powder. Add another layer of the biscuits. Drizzle with coffee liquid. Add the remaining cheese-yolk mixture.

Finally sprinkle as much cocoa powder as you like. (Add a few choco-chips if you want)

Refrigerate overnight. (Since I made this in a hurry, I had only about 7 hours for the dessert to set. The longer time you soak it, the better as the coffee flavors permeate into the cheese.)

Serve chilled.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mushroom Biryani ( Celebrating my 400th post )

My 400th post. So it had to be something celebratory. My sincere and heartfelt gratitude to all my regular and not so regular readers. Your comments and encouragement is much appreciated and help me keep going. And a big thanks to my husband for putting up with my experiments in the kitchen. Thanks everyone for being a part of this wonderful journey.


















Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients - 2 cups basmati rice, 200 gms button mushrooms, 2 large onions, 2 tsp GG paste, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp garam masala, 4 tsp thick yogurt, 3 tbsp tomato puree, 6 tsp chopped mint leaves, 6 tsp chopped coriander leaves, whole garam masala ( 1 mace, 1 star anise, 2 pinch nutmeg powder, 3-4 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon, 1 green cardamon), 1 tsp ghee, 4 tsp oil, salt to taste.

Preparation - Clean and wash the mushroom. Cut along the length into slices of medium thickness.

Soak the mushroom in a pan with water and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder for 1 hour. Drain off the water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Take the yogurt, GG paste, cumin powder, chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric half of the chopped mint and coriander leaves, garam masala and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add the mushrooms and coat them thoroughly with the marinade. This helps the mushroom absorb the spice flavors. Allow t rest for 1-2 hours.

Cut the onions into thin long pieces.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add half of the sliced onions and fry on low flame till they turn brown. You can add 1/2 tsp sugar to hasten the process. Remove the caramelized onions and keep aside.

Add 2 tsp oil to the same wok. Add the remaining onions and fry till light brown. Add the tomato puree and fry for another 2-3 mins.

Add the marinated mushrooms along with the marinade. Cook for 4-5 minutes till the excess water evaporates and masalas are well cooked. (It is ok if mushroom is still under-cooked, it gets done along with the rice.)

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pressure cooker. Add the remaining mint and coriander leaves. Fry for 1 minute.
Add the whole masalas and fry for 30 seconds.

Add the washed basmati rice, mushrooms and 2 2/3 cup water (add another 1/3 cup if you want softer rice). Mix gently. Sprinkle ghee and salt over the contents. Add half of the caramelized onions. Close the lid and cook for 1 whistle.












Allow steam to escape before opening lid. Keep aside for 10-15 mins before serving. Just before serving gently mix the rice and mushrooms so that they are evenly distributed ( mushrooms tend to rise to the top while cooking ).

Serve hot with raita and papad.


















Note - Add 1/2 cup capsicum to the marinade along with the mushrooms. Give a really nice twist/flavor to the mushroom biryani. ( Again it depends on whether you like capsicum ). Also if you are not really into mushroom, try a combination of baby corn and capsicum which is equally good.

Ambila

Ambila. This watery yet yummy sweet-sour preparation from Orissa can also be termed as 'Odiya rasam' as it is similar to the south indian delicacy. But as compared to the latter it is quite loaded with vegetables, usually the seasonal variety. Hence it is nutritious and low in calories at the same time. Read on for the recipe:

















Preparation Time - 25-30 mins

Ingredients - 1/2 cup cubed pumpkin, 1/2 cup thickly sliced cucumber, 1/2 cup cubed colocassia, 1 large tomato, 3 tsp yogurt, 1 tsp besan, 1 tsp tamarind pulp/ 1-2 ambula, 2-3 pinches turmeric, 1 tsp oil, salt to taste, 1 tsp sugar.

For tempering - 4-5 crushed garlic flakes, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1-2 tbsp chopped green onions, 2-3 dry red chillis, 2 pinch asafoetida, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp oil

Preparation - Take yogurt, besan and 3-4 tsp water in a bowl. Mix well till no lumps remain.

Dissolve the tamarind pulp in 3-4 tsp water and keep aside. ( if using ambula soak it for 2-3 hours before using)

Cooking - Boil the pumpkin, cucumber and colcassia with 5-6 cups water, turmeric and salt in a large saucepan.

Heat another pan/wok. Add 1 tsp oil. Fry the chopped tomato till mushy. Add the tomato to the other vegetables when they are half cooked. Boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the yogurt mixture and keep stirring for 5 minutes till it gets to a boil. Add the tamarind water/ambula and sugar.

Heat oil in a tempering pan. Add broken red chilli, mustard and cumin seeds. When it starts spluttering, add the asafoetida, crushed garlic, curry leaves and spring onions. Fry for 30-40 seconds.

Pour the tempering over the contents of the saucepan. Boil for 2-3 minute. Switch off flame and remove from stove.

Serve cold. (Tastes even better the next day, just take care to remove it from the fridge a good 2-3 hours before consuming.)

Note - Other vegetables like eggplant, radish, okra, ash gourd, amaranthus stem are also added to this recipe. But I had prepared this with all the leftover veggies in my fridge. 

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