Google
 

December 31, 2007

Fruit Cake







There are cakes and then there are cakes... and then there is the fruit cake. The market always fills up with fruit and plum cakes this time of the year. And I while I have this strong urge to buy a cake and eat it, the urge to bake my own is stronger. This year, while I began preparations for my cake in the first week of December, the thought of making caramel put me off. You might all remember the mental fatigue that I experience when I am faced with a slightly arduous task. This seemed to be yet another classic example. I wanted to bake my cake a week before Christmas, so we could eat it on Christmas Day. I finally got down to it on Christmas Day. The picture above is of the cake I've saved for tonight. The one below is of the cake we devoured the very day it was made.


This recipe has been in my family for about 20 years now. And I made it almost every year from the time I discovered it. And exactly where did I discover this oh-so-simple recipe? On the reverse of a Rex Baking Powder label. I think this was about a year after I took an active interest in baking. I figured the recipe had one major error because of which I got pristine white cakes year after year with a generous sprinkling of fruits. The recipe asked me to mix the sugar and water and then boil it to form caramel. It just formed sugar syrup. After a few years, I started burning the sugar to form caramel and from then on I got a totally different avatar. And we were hooked.

This year, however, I made a few more changes to the recipe. I soaked my dry fruits in rum instead of in lime juice (and used twice the quantity of dry fruits and nuts the original recipe called for). I also substituted brown sugar for white sugar.




2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Dry Fruits (figs, apricots, prunes, raisins, currants and sultanas), chopped
1/4 cup Candied Peel
1/4 cup Tutti Fruiti
1/2 cup Mixed Nuts (Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds), chopped
1 cup Dark Rum (optional - you could use 2 tbsp Lime Juice to soak the dry fruits)
1 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup Oil
3 cloves
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder

For the Caramel:
1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Boiling Hot Water

Soak the dry fruits, candied peel and tutti fruiti along with the cinnamon powder and cloves in 2/3 cup rum for anywhere between 24 hours and 1 year. (I soaked them for 3 1/2 weeks.) Do remember to remove the cloves before using the fruits.

When you are ready to bake the cake, start by making the caramel. In a heavy bottomed pan, place the 1/2 cup of sugar and heat slowly. The sugar will begin to melt. Stir this mixture with a spoon slowly as the caramel forms. When all the sugar crystals have melted, slowly add the boiling water and stir to form a smooth mixture. Cool this completely.

Sift the flour along with the baking powder. In a mixing bowl, add the oil, eggs and brown sugar and beat well. To this, add the flour mixture, the fruits and the nuts by turns. Whisk well and then add the cooled caramel.

Grease and line two 8 inch baking tins and divide the batter between the two. (I used a loaf tin and an 8 inch square tin.) Bake at 190 C/375 F for about 50 minutes. When baked, make small slits in each cake and pour the remaining rum over them. While this cake is delicious straight out of the oven, try storing it for a week before consuming it. (To do this, wrap the cake in foil and then cover it with cling film.) This cake ages beautifully. In the past, I've never been able to save it long enough as it always disappeared in 2 days. This time around, I have put one cake away and we'll cut it at midnight tonight. A friend ate her bit last night and told me it was wonderful. I really can't wait.

I couldn't have chosen a better item for my last post of 2007. The time of the year demands such a cake and I got a chance to share one of my most treasured recipes with all of you. It is by far the simplest recipe for a fruit cake that I have come across and it tastes divine. Off this goes to Lakshmi and Latha of The Yum Blog as my second entry to AFAM - Dry Fruits.


Just as I have always believed that one can find love in the most unusual of places (and my own life stands testimony to this), I firmly believe that one can find the best of recipes in the most unusual of places. If only we cared enough to look!

Happy New Year!

December 29, 2007

The Year That Was

I haven't been able to view too many blogs in recent times. I manage to read some through my Google Reader, but there are so many more that I simply cannot view. I don't know what the matter is, but I hope it gets resolved soon. I miss commenting on people's blogs, learning new stuff from there, trying out new recipes and then blogging about them.


I noticed a lot of blogs had a round up of the year that went by and finally managed to read Nupur's blog. Now I know what this is all about. It looks like several food bloggers started their blogs sometime this year. I thought I was terribly late to join the wagon, but I know I am not. There is a food blogger born every day.
 
I had been blogging for quite some time when I chanced upon Nandita's blog. I had never visited a food blog before. And I definitely did not think of starting my own. For some reason, I thought food blogs were run by people who make exotic stuff everyday. So, how could I, someone who has made one black forest cake (that too some 14 years ago), think of having a food blog? Most of the stuff I make would come under the express meals category. Most would, again, be what I consider "normal" food. But Saffron Trail was an eye opener.
 
Despite the fact that I didn't expect so many of you to visit (and I am ever so thankful that you do), I decided to start my food blog. It all started with a humble post on the 2nd of May, 2007. I thought that I could use my blog as a permanent recipe diary. I collect recipes from just about everywhere. My mother remains my greatest source of recipes, not to mention inspiration. My journey with cooking and baking started over two decades ago. Ann Pillsbury, Tarla Dalal and Sanjeev Kapoor have had a role to play in furthering my interest.

Blogging took my interest to a whole new level. Cookbooks can teach you how to make Penne Genovese or Navratan Korma, but how many sources do you have for Kaddu ki Sabji? Recipes are handed down through generations and I am now able to try stuff out. I am able to cook with several vegetables that weren't part of my repertoire. I had not known what to do with Kaddu or Tendli. I have never cooked with Horse Gram before. I'd never attempted to make pizza by myself. (On the non food front, I'd never thought it possible for me to do a free fall into the Ganges 25 feet below.) But when you have a whole bunch of people egging you on, telling you that you can do it, you have little choice but to trust them and yourself.



I have so much to be thankful for this year. This food blog and its success will be a biggie. Success, not in terms of its popularity (I have a long way to go on this one!), but in terms of the sheer number of friends I have made. The fact that I am trying out new things is a bonus. The fact that I now know that participation in food blogging events is not by invitation will count as the cherry on the cake. Be it WBB, RCI, JFI, AFAM, MBP, TST or the A-Z (which I joined in only from S), I have enjoyed participating in each one. It has been like a mini challenge that people posed and even with some really ordinary dishes and some lousy photographs, I still feel like a winner.


My top 5 posts this year would be:



These have either been my tried and tested pieces or things I have been courageous enough to experiment with. It is difficult to say why the five above or the eight below made it to this list, but since the choice was up to me, I picked these.

The best dish from each month:


November: Pizza
December: Candy Cake


My best meal this year (that is featured on this blog) would be Breakfast Burgers

Discovery of the Year: That I can substitute oil for butter in cakes.

Restaurant of the Year: Earth

Post of the Year: This tribute

Ingredient of the Year: Yeast

What will 2008 bring to The Singing Chef? More soups, more salads, lots more cakes and bakes. I noticed that there's an RCI dedicated to Konkani food next summer. So, you can all look forward to more amchi recipes. My big cooking resolution is about not sharing cookbooks. I am not in a position to promise regular posts and so can't say that 2008 will see 366 posts on The Singing Chef. But I fully intend to try out more stuff: from cook books, from your blogs, from just about everywhere. I hope to take another step in the right direction by cooking healthier stuff. I have started and need to do more on these lines. I hope to get a little more organized as far as the kitchen and fridge go. Starting January, I'll resume my commute across the three states of Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as my office shifts base to NOIDA. So, I have to do everything possible to ensure we still eat everyday and that we eat healthy everyday.


My other blog has suffered a bit because of the food blog, but I will revive that and use that space for my non food related ramblings.


I wish each of you and yours a very happy 2008. May it be a year you remember for all the right reasons. May it bring you every happiness. May it keep us all as close to one another as we are now and allow us to embrace new people, thoughts and foods. Bon appetit!

December 28, 2007

Egg Paratha



Leftovers. They always come in handy, don't they? There are days when we plan to have rotis for dinner and so they are made, but then we decide to eat dinner outside. The next day, I’m in no mood to reheat the rotis and have them. And our rotis are not exactly great the next day as they are zero fat rotis. At times I make Kothu Roti and at others, I make stuffed parathas. The only problem is that I cannot use any dry ingredients. I have to use something that will keep the two rotis together. Egg is one such ingredient.




6 Rotis
2 Eggs, beaten lightly
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Chilli Paste
1/2 tsp Ginger Paste
Salt to Taste
Oil for frying





Heat a griddle (tawa) and grease it lightly.


Mix the onions, coriander, chilli paste, ginger paste and salt with the beaten eggs and keep aside.


Place a roti on the griddle and spoon some of the egg mixture on to it. Spread the mixture evenly over the roti. Cover this with another roti and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn it over and cook on the other side for a couple of minutes. Use a little oil for frying.
Take it off the griddle and cut into quarters. Serve hot with tomato ketchup.


Apart from breakfast, these can be had as an anytime snack.

December 27, 2007

Broccoli Mushroom Soup



In some attempt to make our meals healthier, at one point, we were on a soup and salad diet. We don't do it on an everyday basis now, but we intend to in the new year. Salads form a big part of our meals on days when we are not hardpressed for time. Soups make for easy dinners. I don't like to look at soup as an appetizer, I look at it as a meal in itself. Most dinners at my parents' place would be some vegetable soup and crackers.


I remember seeing Nupur's post on Broccoli Soup made in the microwave. I couldn't access her blog to follow the recipe, but decided to try my hand at this. I had a packet of mushrooms at hand and wanted to use the two together. Along with some flavoured crackers, this soup made a wonderful weekday dinner.


1 cup Broccoli florets
1 cup Mushrooms
1 cup Milk
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Parsley
Salt and Pepper to Taste


Cook the broccoli and mushrooms in a covered microwave dish with a little water for 5 minutes on high. Cool a little and blend to a paste.


Heat the milk and blend in the broccoli mushroom paste. Add the salt, pepper, basil and parsley and bring to a boil. Serve with toast or crackers.





This soup is ready in less than half an hour and is capable of filling you up. This is a lifesaver on days when you get home late and still want a hearty home cooked meal. Since both these vegetables are in season, I plan to make this more often.

December 26, 2007

Pancakes




I love pancakes. My affair with these round beauties must have begun sometime when I was watching Tom & Jerry. I love having pancakes for breakfast with a dollop of butter on top and lots of maple syrup running all over. It is not something which S fancies. So, I made these when he was at work and I had the day off. My friend and I polished them off. Since she isn’t a big fan of butter (she’ll run in the opposite direction in fact) I didn’t put a blob of butter on my stack. She’s reading this for sure and I must tell her now that there was butter in the batter. This reminds me of the Betty Botter tongue twister.

When Movenpick set up shop in Chennai, everyone raved about their waffles. I was super thrilled and went there almost immediately. I was disappointed when they served me Belgian Waffles with honey. I wanted my Maple Syrup. I decided to make own pancakes. I couldn’t find Maple Syrup then and started googling to find out if I can make it at home. To my delight, I found a recipe online. But there was just this one teeny-weeny problem. The recipe asked me to find a maple tree!!! Now, I stock up on maple syrup when I find it. Nowadays, it is available almost everywhere and so I can use it rather freely.


I make these pancakes on my Hawkins Futura Hard Anodized pan. This is not non stick, so I have to use a little butter for the very first pancake. Also, when I start, I must ensure that the pan is really hot. The temperature can be controlled after that.


1 cup Flour
1 tbsp Sugar
1 Egg
1 cup Milk
½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Vanilla Essence
1 tsp Butter
A pinch of Salt
½ tsp Butter for frying

To Serve:
Butter
Maple Syrup


Beat the egg and then add milk. Gradually add the flour and the baking powder while continuing to blend. Add the sugar, salt, butter and vanilla essence and mix well.

Heat the pan and add the butter. Coat the entire pan with the melted butter. Pour a ladleful of the batter onto the pan. Do not spread it with the ladle. Allow the batter to flow and form a circle. Cook for a minute and turn over. Cook on the other side for about half a minute and then transfer to a plate.

Proceed in the same manner with the remaining batter until you have a lovely stack of pancakes. Place a small dollop of butter on top and drown the pancakes in maple syrup.


Hmmm, if only all days began this way!

December 25, 2007

Banana Muffins



I was
chatting with Nandita a few days ago about how I'd never tasted banana breads, cakes or muffins. She really couldn't bring herself to believe me. I can understand how she felt as the banana bread was the first cake she baked. I'd been eyeing Anita's banana muffins for a while too. In the last 4-5 months, I think we've brought home bananas half a dozen times just for this. And just when they were really overripe, I got extremely busy and so in they went along with some milk to become our smoothies for breakfast.




On Sunday, I went to a bookstore to use up a voucher I got from my workplace for my birthday. I'd decided which book I wanted to buy. But there was a 10-90% discount sale on. I bought The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge at an 80% discount. I also bought 2 other books, one about cookies, one about decorating cakes and I got a third book free. I picked one on making cakes. That's a lot for someone who doesn't bake much these days. But I fully intend to start real soon. To add to my thrill, a copy of Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" is also on its way. I've lent a few cookbooks to my friends over the years only to find my collection rapidly depleting. I have had to buy second copies of books I've had for years because the person who borrowed them has simply forgotten about them. My new year resolution is that nobody is going to be allowed to carry any of my books outside my home. Should they want to read or try something out, I can hand them a pen and paper and they can make all the notes they want.




The Cookie Book carries this recipe for Banana Muffins and I tried them last morning. The reactions have been mixed. I quite liked them. My colleagues fought over the last muffin in the box ( I think that says a lot!). But S said it wasn't the best he'd eaten of my cakes and muffins.




I adapted this recipe from this book.



3 large overripe Bananas

2 cups Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

1 Egg

1/3 cup Raisins

1/4 cup Oil




Sift the dry ingredients together.




Mash the bananas using hand mixer. Add the egg, oil, and brown sugar and mix until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients little by little, mixing well after each addition. Add the raisins and stir well with a spoon.




Pour into 12 lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 20 minutes.



I used an egg replacer instead of the egg. I wanted to try it out for a long time and yesterday, I actually ran out of eggs!!



Off this goes to Sunita for this month's Think Spice... Think Cinnamon event and also goes to the Yum Blog for this month's A Fruit A Month event.

December 24, 2007

Mushroom Saung


Potato Saung or Batata Song is a very popular konkani side dish. It is one of those HOT side dishes that every amchi loves. Given my special level of tolerance for spicy food, Amma used to make this dish with coconut. I came to know only last year that this dish doesn't call for any coconut. I assumed that Rasachandrika had made a printing mistake by omitting this vital ingredient.





I visited Dee & Chai's blog sometime back and read about Mushroom Saung. I thought this would be a great variation to Potato Saung for 2 reasons:

  1. We love mushrooms
  2. We don't use too many potatoes in our cooking

I decided to try the recipe out and just love it. My version is completely simplified as I always have readymade tamarind paste and I also bought some readymade red chilli paste.

400g Button Mushrooms, chopped

4 Onions, sliced

2 tbsp Tamarind Paste

2 tsp Red Chilli Paste

1 tbsp Oil

Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a kadhai. Add the onions and fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the tamarind and chilli pastes. After a couple of minutes, add the mushrooms and salt. Cover and cook for a few minutes. Serve with rotis or with rice and dal.


This was a super duper hit at home and I think I may have added a little more chilli paste than I should have. Even S felt he had smoke coming out his ears, so you can think of what happened to me. So, I have reduced the chilli in the recipe here. Of course, I wasn't complaining one bit.


I bought a whole host of baking books last evening and baked a batch of Banana Muffins this morning. I am so excited about this. I will start my X'mas cake baking only tomorrow. I am running late on just about everything, but let me be right on time to wish you all a merry X'mas.

December 21, 2007

M.L.A. Pesarattu





Elaborate breakfasts are only on weekends. But then again, at times we miss breakfast completely on weekends and go straight to lunch. But then there are Saturdays. Then there those 'odd' Saturdays when I get to stay home and S gets to go to work. (That will change in 2008, thankfully!)



When I remember during the week, I prepare dosa or pesarattu batter so that I don't have to think too much about what to make for breakfast. I don't ferment my dosa batter at all (much to the shock and disgust of many Tamil food connoisseurs) and my favourite dosas are the ones I make for myself just as soon as I've ground the batter. They're like my little treat for all the effort I've just put in.



When I was newly married, I called my MIL to ask for the recipe for Pesarattu, a type of dosa made with green moong beans. She gave me a recipe that was so complicated that I decided this was not for me. I like Pesarattu, but it didn't seem worth all that effort. And she told me that I should make upma along with it and serve the two together. I told her that I could, at best, make any one item for breakfast. But one Friday, I'd made Pesarattu, and had left over batter. So, on Saturday, I made upma and together whipped up a proper Andhra style breakfast: M.L.A. Pesarattu.





I devised my own sweet way of making Pesarattu. When it is my way, it has to be the simple way. Here goes:


1 cup Whole Green Gram, soaked overnight

3 Green Chillies

2" piece Ginger

Salt to taste



Wash the green gram and grind to a paste along with the chillies and ginger. Use enough water to get a dosa batter consistency. Add the salt.


For the Upma:

1 cup Rava (Sooji/Cream of Wheat)

2 Onions, sliced
1 tbsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
1/2 tsp Urad Dal
1/2 tsp Chana Dal
1 Red Chilli
1 Green Chilli
1/2 tsp Ginger Paste
7-8 Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Coriander leaves for garnish
1/2 tsp Sugar
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the urad and chana dals. When the urad dal starts to brown, add the mustard, cumin and asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, add the onions, red and green chillies, curry leaves and ginger paste. Add the rava and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups of boiling water to this. Add the salt and sugar and mix well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. The upma is done when the rava sets and is not sticky.





To proceed:


Heat a tawa and smear a little oil on it. Simmer the flame and pour a ladleful of the batter in the centre of the tawa. Quickly spread the batter while forming concentric circles (spiral actually!).


Add a little oil on the sides and centre. Usually not more than 1 small spoonful per dosa. When crisp, carefully turn the dosa over and allow the other side to cook a little. Place some upma along the diameter of the dosa and fold the sides over.


Serve this with some chutney or pickle. It is quite filling and you can go on for a few hours without a complaint from your tummy.


Wishing all of you a very happy holiday season.

December 18, 2007

Avial



Here's one more of those dishes I've developed a taste for over the years. In other words, I hated this stuff initially. Now, I look forward to the rare occasions when I get to eat this stuff.




Part of many traditional feasts, I simply love eating this during the Padinettam Perukku and Pongal festivals when Kalanda Saadam (Mixed Rice - Puliyodarai, Coconut Rice, Lemon Rice etc) is part of the menu. My favourite way to eat avial is with Coconut Rice. (Yeah, I am a Mangalorean all right! I can manage overdoses of coconut.) Usually, however, we eat this with rice a yelai paruppu (plain dal).




I made this for the first time last week and was thrilled with the results.






2 cups Mixed Boiled Vegetables (I used Carrot, Beans, Ash Gourd, Raw Banana, Peas, Potatoes)
1/4 cup Coconut, scraped
1 cup Curd, beaten
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
3 Green Chillies, slit
1 tsp Oil
Salt to taste

For the seasoning:
1 tsp Coconut Oil
7-8 Curry Leaves


Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the cumin seeds along with the green chillies. When the cumin seeds crackle, turn off the flame and add the coconut. Grind this mixture to a paste.

Take the beaten curd in a vessel and add the mixed vegetables along with the paste. Add the salt and bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

Heat the coconut oil in a frying ladle and add the curry leaves. Add this to the avial.

The way we relished it was with some rice and yelai paruppu (plain dal). I also made some rasam and some raw banana curry. With curd and papad, it was a complete meal.

December 17, 2007

Chocolate Orange Marble Cake



It was a busy Sunday. I hadn't baked a cake in ages and although I have a box of raisins and figs soaking up some rum, I haven't gotten around to baking my fruit cake. But it was the birthday of my dear friend, P, and I couldn't think of anything better than a home made cake. I found the idea for this lovely cake in a cook called "Everyday Chocolate" by Parragon Publishing. I modified my existing cake recipe to suit this cake. I haven't become very comfortable with the grams and ounces measurements yet and prefer using the standard cup measure.





For the Orange Portion:

1 cup Flour
2 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4cup Oil
1egg
1/4 cup Milk

1/4 cup Orange Juice
1/2 tsp Orange Essence
1 tsp Grated Orange Rind



For the Chocolate Portion:

3/4 cup Flour
1/6 cup Cocoa

2 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Oil
1 egg
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla



Butter and flour for dusting




For the decoration:


300g Icing Sugar
12 tsp Orange Juice, filtered
2 drops Orange Food Colouring
Chocolate Sprinkles

Sift all the dry ingredients for the each cake separately into a food processor jar with the dough blade. Pour in all the liquid ingredients and run the processor for 2 minutes. Prepare two 8 inch round cake tins by first smearing a little
butter all over the tin and then dusting it with flour.

Place spoonfuls of each batter alternately in the pans. Swirl the batter using a knife or skewer to create a marble effect.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. The cakes are done when a knife or skewer inserted into them comes out clean. Remove the cakes to a cake rack and cool completely.






Prepare the icing by whisking the icing sugar along with the orange juice and the food colouring to a running consistency. Pour over the cooled cakes and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.

I am not a big fan of orange flavoured chocolates, but these two flavours gelled pretty well in this cake and I was rather surprised. We enjoyed small pieces of the cake and P took the rest of it to a family get together where, according to her, it was relished and gone in no time. My cousin P and her husband S completed 6 years of married life yesterday as well. This is a small cake for them too.

I am sending this to the JFI - Chocolate hosted by Deepz.

I hope that during this time of the year when it is not at all bad to spend time in the kitchen (the temperature being 4 degrees C and our houses having no central heating), I will be baking more and trying out newer stuff. I need your continued support.

I am still unable to view many blogs on blogger. I have two blogs. I am able to view one but not this one. I am able to read several blogs through Google Reader, but am unable to comment. So, do bear with me.

December 16, 2007

Kultha Saar-Upkari




The Arusuvai Friendship Chain found its way to cold Gurgaon. I was out in the Himalayas when Lakshmi's packet got to me. I opened the packet on Monday morning and instantly knew what the contents were. Horse Gram!! Although this is of the pulses that is almost alien to most Indian homes, Amma had this in her kitchen and we've had this once in a while for Sunday lunch.


I graduated with a degree in Botany and we studied this in our third year. The professor told us about the goodness of horse gram and said, "This is not eaten by humans, it is only fed to horses." I stood up and told her that this was not the case and that we ate it at home too. I was the object of ridicule for about a while as classmates thought I must belong to some weird family to be eating horsefeed at home.


I was rather excited to see the contents of this packet as I have not seen this in local markets. It was served for lunch one day at Camp Kyari, near Corbett. I figured the hill people must be eating it too. I cooked the stuff this afternoon for lunch. And I'm sharing the recipe for Kultha Saar-Upkari with all of you. I was so impatient that I attempted to take pictures when the saar was still steaming hot.



Kultha Saar


1 cup Horse Gram

4 Garlic Cloves

4 Red Chillies

1 tbsp Tamarind Paste

1 tsp Coriander Seeds

Salt to taste


For the seasoning:

6 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1 tsp Oil



Pressure cook the horsegram with 4-5 cups of water. Drain the liquid into a vessel. Keep the horsegram for the upkari.



Grind together about 2 tbsp of cooked horsegram with the coriander seeds, tamarind paste, red chillies and garlic. Add this paste to the liquid in the vessel. Add the salt and bring to a boil.

In a frying ladle, heat the oil and add the crushed garlic pods. Add this to the saar.



Upkari


Cooked Horsegram (from recipe above)
1 tsp Oil
4 Red Chillies
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
4-5 Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Jaggery
1 tbsp Coconut, scraped
Salt to taste



In a kadhai, heat the oil. Add the mustard, red chillies and the curry leaves. When the mustard splutters, add the cooked horsegram, salt and jaggery. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Uncover and add the scraped coconut.
Serve this with rice and some papads on the side. Ideal lazy Sunday lunch.
Thanks Lakshmi for the lovely surprise ingredient you sent over. Nandita, your surprise ingredient will reach you shortly. I hope you have fun with it.

December 12, 2007

Vegetable Lemon Coriander Soup



I lived in Hyderabad for a couple of years. At the time, I steered clear of multi-cuisine restaurants. In fact, I probably still do. Any place that serves Indian, Chinese and Continental probably is a jack of all and master of none. But this place was different. It was called 36 Jubilee Hills because it was located on the popular Road No. 36 of Jubilee Hills. A mere five streets away from where I lived, it was one of the few decent restaurants close to Hi-tech City in those days. So, several of our office lunches were organized there. Their north indian dishes were superb, but the two items that stood out were the Vegetable Biryani and the Lemon Coriander Soup. (I went back last year after I got married and the management of the place has changed and so has, sadly, their food!)





I found a great recipe for the Lemon Coriander Soup in a Tarla Dalal book. That recipe calls for Lemon Grass and I didn't have any. (I used up whatever I had for my kashay to help my cold.) The soup at 36 Jubilee Hills had freshly squeezed lime juice and that is what I did yesterday. I wanted a filling soup that would soothe my throat.


1 Carrot, thinly sliced
8-10 French beans, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Cabbage, finely chopped
3 Button Mushrooms, sliced
3 Spring Onions, leaves chopped and bulb sliced
3 Broccoli florets, sliced
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Green Chilli Sauce
1/4 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Garlic, finely sliced
2 tbsp Coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 tsp Oil
1 tbsp Lime Juice

Heat the oil in a vessel. Add the spring onion whites and fry for a minute. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add the vegetables including the spring onion greens and saute for a minute or two. Add the soy and chilli sauces along with the salt. Add 4 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Take off the flame and stir in the lime juice.

I really enjoyed this soup and will make it even when I get better. Try it, I'm sure you'll love it too.

December 10, 2007

Punjabi Kadhi Pakoda


There are cookbooks and then there are cookbooks. And then there's this book called Favourite Vegetarian Dishes. I have talked about this book often as I have tried out several recipes. I found this recipe for "Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce" and was intrigued. One look and I knew I had the recipe for Kadhi Pakoda. Why would I use a British book printed in China to make a dish that is as local to Saddi Dilli as the Idli is to Madras? Because I found it in a book I trust. I'd marked Anita's recipe to make at home, but couldn't open my machine that morning. So, I made this to go with rice. Many Punju colleagues of mine tasted this and said they couldn't tell it was the first time I'd made it. S called from work and said his colleagues said this was much better than the dabbawalla's stuff and as good as the stuff made in their homes.






I quite liked it and think of it as a lovely way to use of sour curd. I have, in the recent past, made all the dishes I know of that help use up sour curds: Punjabi Kadhi, Gujarati Kadhi, Mor Kuzhambu and Avial. I enjoyed this stuff while growing up, but had my own reservations about making them. I am glad they all turned out great and I'll be posting them one by one.


Pakodas (Dumplings):

2/3 cup Gram Flour

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 tsp Green Chilli Paste

2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, chopped

Salt to Taste

Oil for frying


Kadhi:

1 1/4 cups Curd/Yogurt

3 tbsp Gram Flour

2/3 cup Water

1 tsp Ginger Paste

1 tsp Garlic Paste

1 1/2 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Coriander Powder

1 tsp Cumin Powder


Seasoning:

1 tbsp Oil

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

4 Red Chillies


To make the dumplings, mix the gram flour with the chilli powder, salt, baking soda, onions, green chilli paste, and coriander leaves. Add enough water to form a thick batter. Heat the oil and drop spoonfuls of the batter into it. Fry until golden brown, turning once. Drain on absorbent paper.







To make the kadhi, whisk the curds with the gram flour and water. Add all the spices and salt and mix well. Bring this mixture to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly.


For the seasoning, heat the oil in a frying ladle and add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the red chillies and take off the flame.


To proceed:

Add the fried pakodas to the kadhi. Add the seasoning and serve hot with rice.


I really enjoyed this dish and I am certain I will not be ordering this at a restaurant. If I feel the urge, I'll make some for myself, right here, at home.


I am home with a nasty cold and fever. I hope to get well real soon and be back in full swing. I've been missing all of you.

December 7, 2007

Candy Cake with lots of love

I Owe It All To Mother!
It’s your birthday, Mom.
So I will raise a cheer.
For without you, wondrous person,
I would not be here.
Yes, I owe it all to you, Mom.
From the time that I was small,
You encouraged me in everything,
And tried not to let me fall.
Throughout my life your caring,
Brightened each and every minute.
You loved me and enriched my life,
And I’m so glad to have you in it!




I came across this wonderful poem on a site called http://www.poemsource.com/ and this poem was penned by Karl Fuchs.


Today is the birthday of one of the most important people in my life. She's the lady that many of you admire without even having met her. The lady who broke many barriers in her lifetime, most without even her own knowledge. She travelled to the United States when she was just 20. That too, in the late 50s when most people in India didn't get to travel within their own cities. She married of her own choice, outside her community. Switched careers half way through to be able to have a full time career and raise her two children with no compromise. She has been my source of strength when I've faced trouble at work. She's the woman who called me at 2 a.m. because she knew I'd be awake after a painful breakup. I can count on her to laugh with me and double my joy and to cry with me to reduce my pain. As I always say, "If I can achieve, in my lifetime, even a tenth of what she has so far, I'll count this life a successful one." She says she's lucky to have gotten a great family, but we feel we're luckier because we got her.



I didn't bake this cake today. It was my colleague's birthday about a month ago. And I decided to bake a little cake for her. As you can all see from the picture, I'm not exactly great when it comes to decorating my cakes. I have a long way to go. This is yet another recipe adapted from my much used and much loved Ann Pillsbury's Baking Book. The recipe calls for chocolate bits and I ran out of chocolate chips. So, I decorated the top with chocolate vermicelli and confetti. I should really be saying that I tried to decorate the cake.




P, my colleague for whom I baked this, was thrilled to bits. She didn't expect me to get her a cake. And she said this was the first time someone baked her something for her birthday. Well, she liked it. And that is all that really matters.



2 cups Flour

4 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

3/4 cup Sugar

1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1/2 cup Oil

2 eggs

3/4 cup Milk

1 tsp Vanilla Essence


1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Butter and flour for dusting



Sift all the dry ingredients for the cake together into a food processor jar with the dough blade. Pour in all the liquid ingredients and run the processor for 2 minutes. Pour into a prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the batter and bake for 30 minutes at 350F.

I will be making something special today or tomorrow to celebrate. Two other special people also celebrate their birthdays. My friend and partner in crime from my college days, Subha, is one of them. My best friend's daughter, Meghana, turns one today. I was to travel to Madras today and celebrate this special day with my family. But my plans changed. I will be visiting next month. In the meanwhile, I have sent a bunch of roses and a chocolate cake. That's really the best I could do. That's the simplest way for me to be able to say:
Happy Birthday Amma.

December 5, 2007

Spicy Black Eyed Beans



Have I been on a break? Not really. I just continue to be busy and I believe that the period from October to January should be declared the international blogging holiday season. Just as I recovered from the "5 weddings in 7 days" attack, I was back in the Himalayas. This time I did upstream canal tunnel crossing, rappelling from 100 feet and trekked 9 km alongside a river, crossing it about 33 times, to reach the ashram where Sita is believed to have spent time during her exile. I had a great time and am back in the NCR now for the next phase of weddings. And we have more guests starting today.


I had very little time in November and my blog witnessed another low in terms of the posts.
I missed several events. For some reason beyond my comprehension, I am unable to access most blogs on Blogger (including my own). I can reach blogger.com, but not blogspot.com. So, I can post, but I cannot view this.


I had never tried cooking these beans. I bought a packet some time ago and made sundal. When my cousin was visiting, she suggested that I could make this to go with rotis. I always thought that karamani or lobia always needed to be soaked overnight, quite like any dhaanya. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it could be made without prior soaking. (And now I know why I had mushy sundal.)


In addition to the usual masalas, I added Pav Bhaji Masala to this dish. Ever since I bought the packet, I have made everything but Pav Bhaji using the contents. I hope to rectify this soon.


1 cup Dried Black Eyed Beans (Karamani/Chawli/Lobia)

2 Onions, finely chopped

2 Tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste

1 tsp Red Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Cumin-Coriander Powder

1 tsp Pav Bhaji Masala

1 tbsp Oil

1/4 tsp Asafoetida

Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a pressure pan and add the asafoetida. Add the onions and fry for a few minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes along with the turmeric, chilli, pav bhaji masala and cumin-coriander powders and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans and the salt. Add about 2 cups of water. Cover and pressure cook for 3 whistles (10 minutes). When done, mash the beans a little to thicken the gravy. Serve with rotis.



I think this is a great entry for the
Grindless Gravies event that Sra is hosting. I hope as always to be regular, but there are times when I have no choice but to refrain from blogging (and that includes blog hopping). Au revoir!

November 25, 2007

Miracle Bars



What does one do with corn flakes? Have it straight from the pack as a light snack? Sprinkle sugar and cut fruit over it and eat it for breakfast with some milk? Sprinkle it over ice-cream to make ice-cream healthy? OK, what else?



I sometimes add a banana smoothie to a bowl of cornflakes to make my breakfast a single bowl affair. Did you need any more proof for my laziness? I thought of several things to do with my bag of corn flakes. I didn't want to miss this event. After all, Weekend Breakfast Blogging is an event that celebrates my most important meal. But I couldn't think of doing anything fancy with cornflakes. I could put it in a cake, but then cakes aren't meant to be breakfast. I could put them in muffins, but that would mean that any breakfast or fruit related event in the blogosphere has me thinking of just one item. Although, let me admit that I am not exactly the most creative of folks around this place.



I bought a book last year titled "Chocolate & Baking". I didn't realise it at the time, but this book has all measures in grams and ounces. I am used to books that have measures in cups and spoons. So, for a long time, I just kept looking at the book. Earlier this year, I got myself a kitchen scale. So, I think I can start using this book more often now. This afternoon, I found a recipe for Miracle Bars that I modified. The original calls for coconut and I decided to use cornflakes instead. I have no idea why they're called Miracle Bars. Maybe the mystery will be resolved upon eating them.


100g butter, melted
125g Digestive Biscuits, crushed
175g Chocolate chips
75g Corn Flakes
125g Mixed Dry fruits and Nuts
400g can Sweetened Condensed Milk
A little butter for greasing the tin



Heat oven to 350F.


Grease a 9-inch square tin with butter and line it with butter paper. Pour in the melted butter and sprinkle the crushed biscuits over this. Add the chocolate chips, cornflakes and dry fruits and nuts over this mixture. Pour the condensed milk over this.






Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into squares. I guess these would taste like granola bars. I hope they turn out to be chewy bars as I just discovered S doesn't particularly enjoy the crunchy granola variety. I don't have enough time today to allow the bars to cool and cut them. They just got done and I've taken pictures without cutting.
I hope they are the tasty bars I want them to be. This is my last post for the day and I have to get ready for the wedding this evening. And if I don't post this now, I may be very late for the WBB and Nags will never speak to me. I send this to Nags for the "Weekend Breakfast Blogging #17", the theme of which is Corn Flakes. Happy hosting Nags.

Adraki Dal





We eat more dal than we do sambar or rasam. This is for several reasons. The most important aspect being the ease with which it can be made and the fact that both of us love dal very much. And while we try to consume different varieties of lentils, red gram dal or toor dal is the one we relish the most. My much loved version way of eating this dal has to be Dali Saar. But I keep trying new stuff.



We had Aloo Chokha for dinner a couple of nights ago and I made this dal to go with the rice. When I make Dali Saar, I cook the ginger with the dal. This time I tried something a little different and it turned out lovely. S walked into the kitchen and said, "You've never made anything that smelled so lovely. Is this a different dal?" I was so thrilled. My food may be tasty, but it almost never gives out the kinds of aromas that I've noticed in others' cooking. Yes, there are times when I have the fragrance spread throughout the apartment, but those are few and far between.


I wanted to bake ginger snaps for Sunita's Think Spice... Think Ginger event, but I've been hardpressed for time. I spent a day in Chennai buying all sorts of things to enhance my baking skills, but I've gotten around to doing nothing at all. And this week has me busier than ever. Three weddings over a weekend is no joke, really. Given the delicate system I've been blessed with, I am scared to even think of the condition of my tummy about 48 hours from now. So, I try to make my meals outside of these weddings as simple as possible. So, baking anything exotic (or even simple) is too much to think about right now.


This dal fits very well into the menu given my craving for utterly simple food.


1 cup Toor Dal
2 Onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp Ginger, ground
1 tsp Green Chilli paste
1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
Salt to taste
Coriander Leaves for garnish







Heat the oil in a pressure pan. Add the mustard seeds. When the mustard splutters, add the asafoetida and the cumin seeds. When the cumin crackles, add the onions and fry for a few minutes. Add the ginger and chilli pastes and fry for a few minutes. Add the turmeric powder and chilli powder. Add the dal and the salt and fry for a minute. Add about 3 cups of water and cover and cook for 3-4 whistles. When done, beat the dal well and garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve hot with rice.


As I send this to Sunita, I will also send it to Linda for this month's JFI: Toor Dal. And no Bee, I won't be able to sneak in dates or corn flakes into this. I tried very hard, but I couldn't. Do you have any ideas?

Dali Ambat




One of the side benefits of having relatives come over and spend time with you is the food. We had some very yummy amchi food. Simple, yet tasty. Dali Ambat is one of those dishes that is not widely talked about, but made quite frequently in most amchi homes. I forgot to take a picture of this dish when it was made and remembered when it was almost over. So I quickly took a picture of my plate halfway through dinner. Please forgive the near lousy picture and believe me when I say this picture doesn't do the dish much justice.



1/2 cup Toor Dal, pressure cooked in 3 cups water
1/4 cup Coconut, scraped
4 Red Chillies
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/4 tsp Fenugreek seeds, fried in oil
1 tbsp Tamarind paste
Salt to taste
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp Oil


Grind the coconut, red chillies, turmeric powder, tamarind paste and the fenugreek seeds to a fine paste. Add this paste to the dal. Add salt and bring the mixture to a boil.


In a small kadhai, heat the oil. Add the chopped onions and fry till the onions turn brown. Add this to the boiling mixture. Serve hot with rice.
If you're looking for a no onion/garlic version, you could use this tempering:

1 tsp Cooking Oil
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Asafoetida (Hing)
7-8 Curry Leaves

In a frying ladle, heat the oil and add the mustard. When the mustard splutters, add the asafoetida and turn off the flame. Add the curry leaves. Fry for a minute and add this to the boiling mixture.


I am sending this to Linda for this month's JFI: Toor Dal.