October 25, 2007

Peach Apricot Bread Pudding

There are recipes that are handed down through generations. Intact as they pass from mother to daughter until they reach the likes of moi! Some day, I'll share my grandmother's recipe for a bread pudding with all of you. It is what I consider the ultimate comfort dessert. For now, you'll all have to be content with my new version. Peachy, you say. I agree.

I made this last night for dessert. And I'll have more of it through this week. And I'll also send a bowlful to Mansi for the A Fruit A Month (AFAM) event.

4 slices Brown Bread

2 tbsp Peach Apricot Crush, diluted with 2 tbsp water

1 cup Milk

3 tbsp Sugar

Soak the bread slices in the peach apricot juice mixture and arrange in a baking dish.

Bring the milk to a boil and add the sugar to it. Pour this mixture over the bread slices and cook in a microwave for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy it hot. Keep it in the fridge and enjoy it cold for a few days after that.

I'll upload the pictures of this dish later. Have been swamped and haven't had a chance to upload any pictures from my camera.

October 22, 2007

Happy Birthday

I am not a narcissist. Really, no. But it is my birthday today and I have to let you all know. Because if you don't know, you can't wish me. And if you don't wish me, you'll all feel bad. And I'll feel bad that you felt bad.

Here's a cake to celebrate one more year on this planet. The rafting expedition made this birthday even more special. I had a whale of a time.

I didn't bake this cake for myself. Far from it. I baked it a month ago for my boss on his birthday. He is lactose intolerant, so I made this lactose free cake. And Cynthia just told me that she is lactose intolerant too. So, I do hope this makes her day. I'd not want to leave anyone out on this special day.

The recipe remains the same as my standard Golden Glow cake and I just substituted 1/2 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of cocoa powder. I substituted soy milk for milk and made the icing by whipping 100g of icing sugar with 4 tsp of ice cold water. Ready in a jiffy and as tasty in a way that only homemade cakes can be.

I can't tell you all how happy I am to be celebrating this special day with all of you.

October 18, 2007

Badam Kheer

I am not a kheer/payasam person. Whichever way you look at me. But there are a few that I love. Vermicelli and Cream of Wheat (Rava/Sooji) I can relish. The rice, sago and other varieties I really don't care much for. I have never made them and would jump at the idea of eating it should someone offer it to me. I do have a liking for the amchi kheers like Madgane, but I hardly ever make the stuff.

Having said all this, I must admit that there is one beauty that never fails to make me go weak at the knees. I love it so much that I can have it everyday (like that's going to happen!). I even had it served at my wedding as one of the desserts for the muhurtam lunch. (Yes, I had a traditional banana leaf lunch and a traditional banana leaf reception dinner too!) The first time I had this was many years ago. My parents had returned after Appa's brief stint in Eindhoven, Holland and we suddenly had more almonds than we could use. After S and I got married, we somehow never had almonds at home. About 6 months ago, we got a packet of almond slivers from my cousin in Canada. And recently, I decided to buy a packet. And the very next day, I made badam kheer.

1/4 cup Almonds, soaked overnight and peeled
1 tbsp Cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (Milkmaid/Mithai Mate)
4-5 cups Milk (I used a litre)
1 tbsp Clarified Butter (Ghee)
2 tsp Raisins
2 tsp Cashews
a pinch Saffron, dissolved in some milk

To garnish (Optional):
Almond Slivers
A few saffron strands

Grind the soaked almonds and cashews to a fine paste adding a little milk.

Bring the milk to a boil in a large vessel and add the condensed milk to it. Keep stirring until the mixture is even (else you'll have burnt condensed milk). Add the cashew-almond paste and the saffron paste and simmer the mixture for about 10-15 minutes. It will begin to thicken nicely.

In a small frying ladle, heat the clarified butter and add the raisins and cashews and fry for a minute or two. Add to the milk mixture.

Garnish with the almond slivers and the saffron strands, if using.

As we complete 13 months of marriage today, I send my favourite kheer to Sunita for her Think Spice... Think Saffron event.

My last post was about how I've been inspired. Now I'd like to introduce someone who has been inspired by me and my blog. My friend and neighbour, S, has just started her own food blog. Please visit and give her the encouragement she needs.

I'm off to the Himalayas again for a weekend of treks and white water rafting. I'll see you all when I get back. Have a happy Dassara.

October 17, 2007

The Joy of Blogging... something that one rarely gets from cookbooks. The kind of cookbooks I use has a lot of pictures. So I do get a thrill when something I make turns out like it is in the picture. Of course there are those books such as Rasachandrika or Samaithu Paar where there are not many or any pictures and yet I get a thrill. Because what I've made turns out the way I "remember" it.

But blogging, the food variety, gives me kicks like never before. I find recipes of new things that intrigue me, I find recipes of stuff I've tasted at some point, I find recipes I've been hunting for. And the best part is that I can go right back to the blogger and say: THANK YOU.

In the past, I've adapted my

Carrot Chutney from Seema's blog
Eggless Masala French Toast from Coffee's blog
Quick Mango Sandesh from Nandita's blog
Kaddu ki Subzi (Pumpkin Curry) from Richa's blog
Egg Roast from Cinnamon's blog
Almond Raisin Muffins from Sharmi's blog
Cheesy Wheat Bread from Anita's blog
Fried Egg with Curried Mushrooms from Meeta's blog
Goodies for Ganpati: Kozhukattais: Uppu & Ammini from Latha's and Laavanya's blogs

At times they've been exact replicas, at others my posts have been inspired by the originals. These have been individual posts. I haven't been able to blog much of late and don't want to delay this thanksgiving. So a combined post for all the recipes that I have tried out:

Sunny Salubri-Tea from Anita's blog. I mixed it with Lime Tang and was amazed at how good this tastes. And the cute smiling sunflower is the kitchen radio S got me a couple of months ago.

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Chelsea Buns from Jai and Bee's blog. It has become a lot cooler in Gurgaon and my dough didn't rise much. And I was in a tearing hurry as always. So, these are not as soft as I thought they'd be and I used a mixture of walnuts and raisins for the filling.

Fried Rice from Jai and Bee's blog: I used whatever vegetables I had and skipped the eggs. It is really surprising how I had everything the recipe called for the very day these guys posted the recipe. This made for a very quick meal just before S and I rushed to catch Ratatouille!

Egg Roast from Sig's blog. I didn't have the patience to slice the onions, so I ground the onions along with the tomatoes and all the spices and just sauted the paste in some oil.

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Kadala Curry from Sig's blog. I had eaten this dish 3 times in the past. All three times in Kerala. Each time with a different rice item: Appam, Idiyappam and plain rice. And I loved it. I couldn't believe my eyes when Sig posted the recipe on her blog. I finally got around to making it with Tandlya Rotis for our guests on Saturday night. It was a super duper hit and I've been eating a little everyday since.

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I think this covers most of my cooking from other blogs so far. I know I will do more of this as I keep bookmarking new recipes to try. A big thank you to all of out there who keep inspiring me to do a bit more, to try a little harder and most of all, to never give up.

October 15, 2007

Kadalai Paruppu Sundal

Navaratri. The 9-night long festival that brings back a flood of memories. We had a nice golu in our house for as long as I can remember. Every year, we'd try to add to the golu on the two sides. A park one time, a village scene another time. Attention to detail was essential. All schools would close immediately after the Mahalaya Amavasya except for my own. We'd have school till the 5th or 6th day of Navaratri and then remain closed for some 7 days after Dussera. I find it funny to this day that just because it was a central government school, we had to follow the north blindly in terms of holidays.

Fortunately, my school didn't have a quarterly exam system, so we were spared excessive studying during festival time. We'd accompany Amma to Parry's Corner to buy bags, coconuts, sweet lime, betel leaves, turmeric, supari, and some steel items to give away. Then we'd sit late into the night making vettalai paakku bags for all guests.

We had cute invitation cards printed. Amma would draw up a list of people from the IIT Madras directory. Then there was this list of Appa's relatives that we'd send invitations to. Amma's colleagues, our school teachers... so many people. Then H and I would drop these invitations around campus. We'd also get invited to people's houses and everyone used to have the standard, "Oru Paattu Paadu Maa" (Please sing a song!). I was a moody child just as I am a moody adult. And I never did like singing at other people's golus. Forgive me all of you die hard Cartnatic music fans (I am one myself, but even then) for saying this. Maamis would ask me to sing and then give me "expert advice" on technique, gammukkam, taalam (like I went to music class with some other intention!) and succeeded in killing any residual interest I may have had in classical music. Today I regret giving up learning, but try and see the world through the eyes of a 14 year old who has been learning music from the age of 4, who is interested in good music and not necessarily in raagas and azhuttam and all the associated stuff and you'll know what I mean. For those of you who asked about which genre of music I sing: bhajans, semi classical music, hindi film music and retro English numbers.

While Navaratri is almost synonymous with loads of classical music, it is also synonymous with sundal. Nine varieties of sundal on 9 nights. What fun! Much as the family I grew up in is not a believer in "kitchen religion", I indulge every once in a while. While I am not making a sundal every evening this Navaratri, I will be making it on as many days as I can.

We had invited some guests over for dinner on Saturday and made this kadalai paruppu sundal. I was the only one in the group for whom sundal was a tradition. The other three, my hubby included, were from A.P. and had no clue about the navadhanyam for navaratri concept and had never eaten or heard of sundal.
But they loved it and that's all that matters!

1/2 cup Gram Dal (Chana Dal), soaked for 1 hour

1 tsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Urad Dal
1/4 tsp Chana Dal
1 tsp Green Chilli Paste
1/4 tsp Ginger Paste
1 Red Chilli
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
1/4 tsp Dry Mango Powder (Amchur)
1 tbsp Coconut, scraped
Salt to taste

Pressure cook the chana dal with salt for 2-3 whistles. Drain when done.

In a kadhai, heat oil. Add the urad and chana dals, mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves, ginger and chilli pastes, and the red chilli. Fry for a minute. Add the cooked dal and a little salt. Cover and cook a couple of minutes with a little water if necessary. Garnish with the scraped coconut and enjoy.

I am sending these to
Viji as my second entry for the RCI - Tamil Festival event. I am also sending this to Vee for her Dassera event.

October 12, 2007

Vegetable Pulao - 5 Star Style and a Me-Me

Home made pulaos. There’s something so homely about them. Despite the masala and the grinding, I just love sitting down for a meal with freshly made pulao in front of me. The 5 star pulao is a different species altogether. Pristine white, picture perfect, with just a few vegetables that add a dash of colour. It is a dish that goes well with just about anything. And that is the catch. I like my food to be one dish meals as long as I am the one making it. When someone else is cooking, I am a different animal.

This is beautiful party dish and I make it for all the parties that I don’t throw and serve it to all my guests who aren’t there. And so as you can see from my photograph, this, too, has become a lunchbox item. Amma loves this pulao and it is thanks to her that I gave it its name. There are those who call this fried rice. Now, to me, fried rice is Chinese and my 5 star pulao is Indian. And I was just telling a friend recently, I still can’t tell the difference between a pulao and a biryani.

This goes very well with dal of any kind, but I packed it with some spicy raita. And I always add as many vegetables as I can. So my pulao isn’t the white picture perfect thing you are served in the buffets of 5 star hotels. It has far less white and more than just a dash of colour.

1 cup Basmati Rice
1 cup Carrot, cut in long pieces
1 cup Beans, cut in long pieces
1 cup Peas
1 tbsp Oil
5 Cloves
2” stick of Cinnamon
3 Cardamoms
1 tsp Peppercorns
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure pan. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and peppercorns and fry for a minute. Add the vegetables and fry for another minute. Add the rice and salt and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 ¾ cup hot water and cook on a slow flame for 1 whistle. When done, fluff the rice a little and serve.

Easy breezy 5 star pulao. If you pack it in your box, and have a microwave at work, make sure to pack lots because people are going to be queuing up at your table as the aroma of your pulao draws them there. (Picture Jerry wafting in the air following the smell of cheese! Yeah yeah, Tom and Jerry still crack me up.) But you do get the picture, don't you?
Sig of Live to Eat has tagged me for the Fantastic Four Meme.

4 Places I’ve lived:

The 4 that I have the fondest memories of:

Chennai , India
Bangalore , India
Hyderabad, India
Poughkeepsie, USA

4 Jobs I’ve had:

The 4 that shaped me:

HR Head
Music Instructor and Teacher

4 Favorite places I’ve holidayed:

Orlando – For the best childhood memory
Singapore – For everything it meant to me
Paris – For the sights, the food and the people
Coorg/Manali - For not being able to decide where I had more fun.

4 Favorite foods:

Pizza: the way Amma makes it
Paruppu Urundai and Vazhaippoo Paruppu Usli
Dali Saar and Avrya Bendi
Mushroom Alfredo Pasta

4 Places I’d rather be:

Somewhere in the mountains
At the beach (even Elliots will do!)
Home having a drink
My workplace is fine. I love it here.

4 bloggers I like to tag:



October 9, 2007

Breakfast Burgers

In my post on potato pancakes, I talked about the elaborate breakfasts that we whip up together on weekends. Here is one of those. There’s equal participation from S in this and the omelette is in fact his creation. We can’t dream of making such stuff for breakfast on a working day, but a weekend is a completely different story.

To break away from the usual omelette, hash browns and juice/milkshake combo, we decided to make burgers. We had some buns lying in the house and so I got this great idea. The burgers weren’t the greasy, mayo filled burgers that one gets outside, but they were rich on the whole. And they kept us going for the next 5-6 hours.

For the omelette:

4 Eggs
2 Onions, finely chopped
1 Tomato, finely chopped
1 Capsicum, finely chopped
1 tsp Green Chilli Paste
1 tsp Mixed Herbs (Oregano, Parsley, Basil)
1 tbsp Coriander, chopped
Salt to taste
½ cube Low Fat Cheese, grated

For the Hash Brown Patties

1 cup Potato, grated
1 Onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp Green Chilli Paste
½ cube Low Fat Cheese, grated
¼ tsp Mixed Herbs (Oregano, Parsley, Basil)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Butter/Olive Oil for frying

2 Burger Buns

Beat the eggs until fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Heat some butter/oil in a frying pan and pour this mixture gently into the pan. Cook for a few minutes and flip over carefully. Cook on the other side for a couple of minutes. Remove from fire and keep aside.

Pat the grated potato on a towel until dry. Place in a bowl and mix the other ingredients with the potato. Form small patties and shallow fry in a pan using a little oil. Cook these on a slow flame so that the patties are evenly cooked.

Slit the burger buns in two. Apply a little butter to the cut side of the buns and toast on a griddle.

To assemble:

Take the lower half of each bun and place a piece of the omelette on top. Place the hash brown patty over this and cover with the upper portion of the bun.

Presenting your weekend brunch indulgence.

Off this goes to dear Kanch of Married to a Desi as my entry to WBB # 16.

And I have a long way to go before I start taking good pictures. But that’s not going to stop me from participating in the photography event hosted by blogosphere’s favourite couple. All my pictures, unless otherwise specified, are taken using the still picture setting of my small palm sized handycam: The Samsung Miniket VP M2100. Unlike most of my fellow bloggers, I use a 2.1 megapixel camera to take pictures. (I do have some pictures taken using a 3.2 megapixel Kodak camera as well.)

This last picture of the burger is the one I like best and I am sending this to Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi for their Click event.

October 6, 2007

Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad

We love eating out. And one of our favourite restaurants is Earth, an Italian lounge. Their tag line is "Heaven is a place on Earth" and we definitely agree. Now we end up going there so often that their entire staff recognizes us. We're friends with the manager and the head-chef. And we're probably the only ones who go on stage and sing along with the artist who gives live performances. It's one of those restaurants where we feel totally at home.

But having friends has its advantages. We were recommended another restaurant by the manager there as he felt that we also needed some change. He made reservations for us and we landed up there. Our experience there wasn't great and we left after having a drink each and an appetizer. The serving size was so terribly small and the drinks so expensive that we decided to leave early. Moreover, for an oriental lounge, the DJ was playing hindi music. Something we thought totally out of place.

But the appetizer we had was really nice. The waiter claimed it was a Thai dish. I didn't think so. Then he said they had Indianized the dish (as they had the music) to suit clients' tastes.

I decided to try it at home. I had all vegetables that we had that night except for mushrooms. To convert it into lunch, I added a handful of boiled pasta.

3 cups Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli, Capsicum, Baby Corn, Mushroom
), sliced

1/2 cup Boiled Pasta

Salt and Pepper to taste

For the marinade:

Grind together

1 cup Coriander leaves

3 pods Garlic

2 Green Chillies

1 Onion

1/2 tsp Salt

1" piece Ginger

1 tsp Lime Juice

Toss the vegetables in the marinade and grill for 15 minutes.
Add the boiled pasta and toss well. Add salt and pepper.

Apart from tasting really nice, this salad is a treat for the eyes as well. My photograph doesn't do it much justice (the world knows I have lighting probl;ms at home!). But it is a very colourful salad. I'm going to make this more often when the lovely vegetables are in season.

October 5, 2007

Apple Pie

As easy as apple pie! Has anyone ever said that to you?

I always thought that baking a pie would be a really difficult thing. And when I saw the UTV ad with the tagline "as easy as apple pie", I'd look at Amma and say, "He's kidding, isn't he?" And she'd say, "No, it is supposed to be a very easy dessert." By that time, I had been baking for about 6-7 years and had even baked a black forest cake from scratch for my brother's 21st birthday, but I'd never tried my hand at shortcrust pastry.

Off I went to Ann Pillsbury's book for some more lessons on baking. This pastry dough is easy to master and I was so thrilled that I could bake lovely pies. Many years later, when I was with GE, there was a bake a cake or dessert contest. I didn't have a fridge, an oven or even a pie tin so I'd decided not to participate. I was spending the weekend with a colleague who was planning on baking gingerbread for the event. I went with her to the INA market and suddenly got very excited. Seeing my enthusiasm, she suggested that I buy the stuff and bake my pie in her house. She didn't have a pie tin, but she said I could use any cake tin of hers. I didn't even have a recipe, but there are times when I can really rely on my memory. And that moment was one of those. I did bake my pie and guess what? I won the first prize. Ever since then, I've been baking this at regular intervals.

Last week, a close friend was visiting from Bangalore. She has recently completed her PhD and started working. When we'd gone to see the Qutb Minar, I asked her if there was anything specific that she'd like me to make for her while she's here. She thought for a bit and asked, "Can you bake me an apple pie?" And I actually said, "Wow, you picked the easiest. Sure."

So, I baked this on Sunday morning. We ate a little, I packed some for her to take back and we've been savouring the pie, slice by slice.

The recipe modified from Ann Pillsbury's baking book:

For the crust:

2 cups Flour

2/3 cup Butter/Margarine

5-6 tbsp Ice Cold Water

1 tsp Salt

For the filling:

4 Apples (Granny Smith preferably, but anything works), peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 cup Sugar

2 tsp Cinnamon Powder

1 tsp Lime Juice

1/2 tsp Butter

Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl and mix together till the mixture resembles small peas. Gradually add the water and knead gently till it forms a dough. (Do not knead as you would for chapati/poori dough.) Divide the dough in two portions.

Roll out on portion and carefully place it in a pie tin.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon powder.

Arrange the apple slices over the dough.

Sprinkle some sugar of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Repeat this until you run out of both. Pour the lime juice over this. Top with the butter.

Roll the second portion of the dough and cover the pie. Pinch the edges together to form a pattern using the thumb and index finger of one hand to pinch some dough and the index finger of your other hand to seal the two layers. Make 3 or 4 slits in the top crust.

Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes and then at 350 F for 30-40 minutes.

Allow to cool a little (just a little) and cut into slices. Enjoy it while it is warm.

With apples in season here, I am going to make this more often. I am not sure how substituting oil for butter will work on this dough, but its worth a shot. Apples and cinnamon go so well together that I am certain the experiment won't fail anyway.

October 4, 2007

Paneer Pakoda

Too much health food worrying all of you at The Singing Chef? I now bring you a plate of home made paneer pakodas. These are technically bajjis, but paneer is not native to bajjis' hometown, so using musical's reasoning below, I will call these paneer pakodas. (Not pakoras, mind you!)

Oh Raaga, and about pakodas vs. bhajiyas or bajjis, that was really cute, i know that situation :).In Punjabi atleast pakodas is a generic name for both of them, and certain combos have to be pakodas, like say onion or spinach, really crispy! Stuff like cauliflower can be used to make both and veggies like eggplants, potatoes, mirchis etc only for the softer bhajjis. One just specifies karare (this term means kara+crispy) or polle (soft). In several Punju dialects bhajiya or bhujiya would refer to stir fries! Like aloo bhujiya, meaning aloo chopped fine and stir fried with jeera and coriander leaves.

Paneer is the vegetarian's meat. Or so I'd like to believe. Any dish that earned fame as a non vegetarian dish immediately gets reincarnated as a paneer dish. And so was born Paneer Butter Masala. I used to live in Gurgaon in the late 90s. My uncle and aunt were visiting me from Bangalore and I had made a nice meal including some puliyodarai and bisi bele bhat. My landlady had told me that she loved tamarind rice and had devoured it each time she visited her sister in law in Bangalore. So, after my uncle and aunt left, I took some over to her place. I laugh even today at the conversation that followed:

Aunty: Aapke mausa mausi aaye the? (Had your uncle and aunt visited?)

Me: Haan ji (Yes)

Aunty: Yehi sab khilaya unko? (You fed them these things?)

Me: Haan ji. Mixie ke bagair zyada nahin bana pati. (Yes. Without a mixie, I find it tough to make much.)

Aunty: Non veg nahin banaya? (You didn't make non-veg?)

Me: Hum log khate nahin hain Aunty. (We don't eat it.)

Aunty: To paneer hi khila dete kam se kam. (So you should have at least fed them paneer.)

Me: Hamare khane mein paneer dalta nahin hain. (Paneer isn't a part of our cooking)

Aunty: Beta, yeh theek nahin kiya. Ghar aaye hue mehman ko aapne na non veg khilaya na paneer. Aapne unka bada insult kar diya. Paneer to khila hi dena tha. (You shouldn't have done this. You gave your guests neither non veg nor paneer. You have insulted them. Paneer should have been offered.)

And I thought, "Had I offered paneer with my BBB, that would have been more insulting to my aunt."

In any case, I was sick of paneer back then. I couldn't look it in the eye. But so many years later, I have changed. I can eat it, I can enjoy it and I can even rely on it coming to my rescue when all else has failed.

5 months after we moved in to this apartment, I finally found a milk supplier. And since I wasn't used to having milk delivered everyday, I'd gotten out of the habit of boiling it and storing it. One weekend, I found I had a surplus of 2.5 litres of milk. I quickly turned it into paneer by following Arundathi's instructions. I added about 2.5 tablespoons of lime juice to the milk just as it started to boil.

I hung this in a piece of cheesecloth and was left with these solids which turned into the lovely paneer below when I placed a heavy vessel over it.

I have made paneer before and have always been left with crumbs that I can only make bhurji with. I used toned (3%) milk and got this result. I am very happy. Thanks Arundathi.

I turned these into pakodas that we devoured the same night.

1 cup Paneer cubes

1/2 cup Gram Flour (Besan)

1/4 cup Rice Flour

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/4 tsp Asafoetida

Salt to taste

1 tbsp Hot Oil

Oil for frying

Mix all the ingredients except the oil for frying and the paneer cubes together in a bowl. Add enough water to make a thick batter.

Heat oil in a kadhai or frying pan. Dip the paneer cubes in the batter and deep fry in the hot oil. Remove when the cubes are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Put all the pakodas in a big bowl, keep your bottle of ketchup handy and get comfy in front of the TV. Eat like there is no tomorrow. Err, is there?

October 3, 2007

Pumpkin Soup

We're going the healthy way... and how! Smaller meals, salads, and soups. At the time of the year when people start eating because the weather's getting cooler, I'm turning and moving in the other direction. But it doesn't matter, does it? As long as we're all having fun along the way.

I found this recipe in the same book (Favourite Vegetarian Dishes) that I found Potato Wedges, Garlic and Sage Bread, and Middle Eastern Salad in. This book has pictures that make me drool and also has step by step pictures and makes the most ordinary dish look like a million bucks.

After cakes, soups are the first things that I started making on my own after referring to cookbooks. Tarla Dalal's soups in her first few books, Joys, Pleasures and Delights of Vegetarian Cooking, were made at home almost everyday during the long vacation after I completed my class 10 exams.

I first made this soup to accompany my Garlic and Sage Bread. All of you know that this was ages ago. But when an entire month is dedicated to an event, non event stuff does take a back seat. (During such a time, I am only posting event related stuff, I am not necessarily making and eating the same.)

I have modified this recipe each time I have made it and I am now writing this from memory.

1/2 kg Pumpkin or Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded, and chopped into cubes

1 Onion, chopped

1 tbsp Garlic Paste/ chopped Garlic

1 tsp Ginger Paste

1 Bay Leaf

1 tsp Lime Juice

1 cup Milk

2 tbsp Oil/Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure pan. Saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the bay leaf and the ginger and saute for a minute. Add the pumpkin pieces and saute for a couple of minutes. Add about 3 cups of water and cook for 1 whistle (5 minutes).

When done, remove the bay leaf and blend in a liquidizer or pass through a sieve. Add the lime juice and bring to a boil. Add the milk and simmer for 2 minutes. (Do not boil the soup after adding the milk as it will curdle.)

Serve with cream if you wish. I didn't wish, so I didn't!!

October 2, 2007

Middle Eastern Salad

In an effort to make our meals healthier, we decided to switch to salads for lunch. Over the past 6 weeks, we have been having a filling salad for lunch at least three times a week. We eat 5-6 small meals instead of 3 large ones and a salad for lunch seemed to fit in very well with this plan. I must admit that the idea came to me when I was travelling to NOIDA everyday. After breakfast at 7, I'd be hungry by 11 but had to wait until 2.30 to eat lunch because of the cafeteria's restrictions. So, I started packing a light snack, a fruit box and a salad everyday. (I was on this high protein 6 small meals a day diet some 4 years ago, but forgot about it with time.)

Salads to me somehow always meant kosumbaris or plain green salads. I hadn't, until three or 4 years ago, experimented with salads. Amma makes a lovely Waldorf salad that I am yet to attempt. But the best salad I've eaten to date is an Oriental Glass Noodle Salad at the Noodle Bar in Parel. I wish I had been smart enough back then to ask the chef for the recipe.

All this blogging has made me refer to cookbooks more and more. One of the books that I have often talked about is Favorite Vegetarian Dishes. I found this Middle Eastern Salad that I adapted to create this. It is very rare that I find a recipe that calls for several ingredients, all of which I have. So when I do, I go ahead and make it right away.

200g Chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked

2 Carrots, diced

1 bunch Spring Onions, chopped

1 Cucumber, cut in quarters

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Pepper

3 tbsp Lime Juice

1 Red Capsicum, diced

Mix all the vegetables with the chickpeas in a large salad bowl. Add the salt and pepper along with the lime juice and toss gently. Enjoy it right away or chill it for about 30 minutes.

I love this salad and will be making it often. It is almost criminal for something so simple to taste so good. But as long as it does, I'm not complaining.

October 1, 2007

Potato Pancakes

Weekend breakfasts are so much fun. On days when we are not visiting Naivedyam for our weekly dose of Mysore Masala Dosa and Idli Vada, I make something slightly elaborate. There are days when both of us get into the kitchen and make a breakfast so time consuming and filling that it is about lunch time when we get around to eating it and as a result, we've saved ourselves the effort of making lunch.

I love pancakes. Nicely stacked up on my plate with a small blob of butter and loads of maple syrup. In one Tom & Jerry episode where Tom is to disinherit millions if he were to harm “even a mouse”. In that episode there’s this breakfast scene where Jerry soaks up all the syrup on the plate with the last piece of the pancake and eats it. How I love doing that!

I tried these potato pancakes for a change and they turned out really well. I use very little butter in the batter and grease the pan just once. After that these beauties are totally on their own.

I made the batter using

1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Atta
1/2 cup Potatoes, mashed
2 tbsp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
1/2 tsp Mixed Herbs (basil, parmesan, oregano)
2/3 cup Milk
1 egg
1 tsp + 1 tsp Butter
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Place all ingredients and 1 tsp of butter in a food processor jar with the dough blade fitted. Blend for2 minutes.

Heat a frying pan and add 1 tsp of butter. Melt the butter and line the pan evenly.

Pour one ladleful onto the hot pan and allow it to spread by itself. After a couple of minutes, turn over and cook on the other side. Stack on a plate and enjoy them with any sort of relish. (We ate them with idli molaga podi!!)

I have always had my pancakes sweet but I enjoyed the savoury ones just as much.