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May 31, 2007

Soya/Paneer Capsicum



This is what happens when you forget that you have a blog and then remember when most of the food is gone that you have to take a picture. This is a dish that I made twice in the same day. With paneer in the morning and with soya in the evening. I remembered to take a picture of the dish when my guests had finished eating most of what I'd made. A pretty simple dish that I made without referring to any cookbook. Just going by taste and figuring out the ingredients that might give it the flavour I want.



Ingredients:


1 cup Soya Chunks or Paneer Cubes


2 Onions, sliced


1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste


1-2 tbsp Oil


2 Tomatoes, blanched and sliced


2 Capsicums, sliced


1 tsp Cumin Powder


1 tsp Coriander Powder


1/2 tsp Garam Masala


1 tsp Chilli Powder


1 tsp Turmeric Powder


1-2 tbsp Tomato Puree


Salt to Taste


Chopped Coriander leaves for the garnish




If you are using soya chunks, prepare them as per the instructions on the pack.




Heat the oil in a kadhai and fry the onions along with the ginger-garlic paste. Add the capsicum slices and the sliced blanched tomatoes. Fry this for a bit. Add the spices and salt and fry for 1-2 more minutes. Add the tomato puree and a little water if need be. Add the soya chunks or paneer pieces. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes and then garnish with coriander leaves.




This dish goes very well with phulkas and we have eaten it with rice as well (Rice always saves me cooking time and effort!).



May 30, 2007

Aloo Gobi (Potato and Cauliflower)



I love cauliflower and I love potato, so it goes without saying that I love the combination. This is a dish that I make when I'm in a hurry. The dish gets done by the time my rotis are ready and and the preparation time is not much.



Ingredients:



4 big Potatoes, cut into cubes

1 medium Cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 tbsp Oil

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Cumin Powder

1/4 tsp Asafoetida

Salt to Taste



Heat oil in a kadhai and add the asafoetida, mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard splutters, add the cauliflower and potato. Add the spices and salt. Cover and cook on a low flame for 10-12 minutes. Serve with rotis.



I'm quite a bad food photographer and so don't go by the looks of my food. Just try this simple recipe and I'm sure you'll like it.

May 26, 2007

Chewy Choco-walnut Brownies



My friend, Prajakta, was visiting me on a Saturday afternoon with her 3 year old. And to get the 3 year old to my place, she told her that the two of us would make brownies. P asked me to keep all ingredients ready and told me that she would bring a bar of Hershey's chocolate and walnuts. I couldn't find a recipe that used Hershey's chocolate in a brownie, but landed up at the Hershey's site. I discovered a recipe that I modified that afternoon to make an amazing batch of brownies.



Ingredients:




1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup loosely packed demerara sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour (Maida)
1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Chocolate (Powdered in a mixie jar)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts



If you are using cocoa, add 1/3 cup of cocoa and increase the sugar by another 1/4 cup.


Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. 



Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a food processor jar and blend using the dough blade. Add eggs; blend well. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, running the food processor until evenly blended. Add the walnuts. Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares and enjoy them with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream or just by themselves. The brownies come out crisp on top, but are gooey and truly chewy on the inside.




I baked a fresh batch just now with cocoa instead of chocolate and the picture's up for all of you to see and am sending this as my entry to Meeta's Monthly Mingle. Happy Birthday Meeta!

Spinach and Corn Rice


I was commenting to my friend, Prajakta, about how I'm always looking for lunchbox recipes that are easy to prepare and are tasty and nutritious at the same time. She, a hotel management grad and a long time friend, gave me this recipe. I tried it twice so far and it was wonderful. I took this picture as I was packing our boxes.

S is for Spinach and this is one of my entries to Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables.

I make pureed Spinach whenever I have the time and store it for future use. I usually wash the leaves and cook them in the microwave for 5-8 minutes. When they are cooked, I blend them in a liquidizer.


Ingredients:


1 cup Spinach puree
1 cup Basmati Rice, washed and drained
1 cup Sweet Corn
1 Onion, sliced
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
2 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a pressure pan. Add the asafoetida and the cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the sliced onions and fry for a while. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and the dry spices and fry a little. Add the corn and the spinach puree. Add the rice and 1 1/4 cup of hot water. Add salt to taste.


Pressure cook for 2 whistles or 10 minutes on a low flame. Enjoy this rice with jeera raita or plain curd.

Apple Crumble


I won a contest many years ago for my Apple Pie (the credit for which goes to Ann Pillsbury). Initially, when I heard the phrase, "as easy as apple pie", I would think, "what's so easy about that?" and then when I made it, I realized that it was a very simple dish to make. But earlier this week, when I'd invited a friend over for dinner, I didn't have the time to bake a pie, I decided to make Apple Crumble. I tried to look for the recipe in several books (as I didn't have access to the net that day), but I found none. So I made this from memory and it turned out yummy. Don't let the picture deceive you.


Ingredients:
1 Granny Smith Apple (Green)
1 Washington Apple (Red)
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1/2 tsp Lime Juice
1/4 cup Brown sugar
2 tbsp Butter
1/3 cup Maida


Peel and slice the apples. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon powder. Arrange the apple slices in an microwave safe dish and sprinkle the sugar. Build 2-3 layers alternating the apples and the sugar mixture. Sprinkle the lime juice over this. Leave about a spoonful of the sugar mixture aside. Cook oh high in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.


In a separate bowl, mix the maida and the butter along with the remaining sugar mixture until it resembles bread crumbs or small peas. Press this mixture over the cooked apples and bake in the microwave on high for 8-10 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes for the crust to harden. Cut into pieces and serve with vanilla ice cream.
This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, started by Kalyn and hosted by Kalyn herself.

Palak Soup (Spinach Soup)


My biggest problem with Spinach is the effort that goes into cleaning it. Spinach or any other "keerai" (leafy green) wasn't a hot favourite of mine until I too, like countless other kids in the US then, and across the globe now, discovered PopEye the sailor man. I started eating whatever dishes Amma made using the creamed spinach that she bought at the Supermarket in the hope of becoming strong. And ever since, I've been hooked.


Madras in the 80s had a lot of keerai varieties, but palak or spinach wasn't always easily available. My aunt in Bangalore made palak soup for us whenever we visited them. This was definitely made at least once during our trip. And when Amma tried making it with other varieties of leafy greens, it didn't turn out the same.


In Delhi, you get palak and few other greens. So, I make a variety of dishes. This soup is an adaptation of what I learnt from my aunt. It is a quick soup with little hassle and is very hearty.


Ingredients:
2-3 bunches Spinach, thoroughly washed
1 onion, chopped in big pieces
3 pods of Garlic
2 slices of brown bread
Salt and Pepper to taste


Place all the ingredients except salt and pepper in a microwave safe vessel. Add enough water to cover the leaves. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.


Blend in a liquidizer and boil in a vessel adding salt and pepper. If you wish, you may add a little milk or cream at this stage. Enjoy it on a wintry evening (or just about anytime you feel like!)
S is for Spinach and this is one of my entries to Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables.

May 16, 2007

Egg Curry



Eggs, Soya, Paneer… these are things I love to serve when I have guests. It cuts down on the cleaning, peeling, chopping time and effort. And the dishes aren’t bad tasting, they're in fact great.

One evening, when S decided to invite a few people from his office for dinner, I was thinking of what to cook. I made up this dish. I didn’t want to make a tomato based gravy as I was serving a tomato based Soya dish. I didn’t want to make it green as my pulao was green. I didn’t want to use coconut as my Biscuit Roti and Pulao had coconut. Too many considerations! I decided my curry was going to be yellow. So this is what I made.

Ingredients:

8 eggs
Salt to Taste
2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Asafoetida
½ cup water

Masala (Grind to a Paste):

¼ cup Cashews
¼ cup Coriander Leaves
2 Red chillies
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 medium Onion
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
¼ tsp Khus Khus
½ tsp Turmeric powder

Boil the eggs and peel them. Cut each egg lengthwise into 2 pieces.

Grind the ingredients for the masala in a mixer using a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the cumin and asafoetida. When the cumin splutters, add the masala and fry it until the oil leaves the paste. Add the salt and water and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the eggs and cook this for 5-7 minutes.

This egg curry goes well with rotis and rice.

Peas Pulao


This would go down in my cook book, if I ever write one, as Amma’s signature party dish. This is one dish that never fails to impress and I dish it out at almost every get together. The vegetables do vary depending on inventory. But since I almost always have frozen peas at home, I can prepare this in a jiffy. Variations include cauliflower and peas pulao, mixed vegetable pulao etc.

Ingredients:

1 cup Basmati Rice
1 ½ cups Peas
Salt to Taste
4 tbsp Oil
¼ tsp Asafoetida
1 sliced Onion
1” stick Cinnamon
2 Cloves

Masala (Grind to a Paste):
½ cup scraped Coconut
1 cup Coriander Leaves
2-3 Green chillies
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 medium Onion
1” stick Cinnamon
2 Cloves

Grind the ingredients for the masala in a mixer. This will look like coconut chutney.

Wash the rice and drain the water.

In a pressure pan, heat the oil, fry the onion, asafoetida, cinnamon and cloves. When the onions are golden, add the ground masala and fry till the oil starts to separate from it. Add the peas, washed rice and 2 cups of hot water. Cover and pressure cook on a slow flame for 10-15 minutes or for 1-2 whistles. Serve hot.

When I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to slice onions, I just omit that step and add the masala to the oil. It tastes just as good. Don’t go by the picture. (My husband has told me that he will take pictures for my blog from now on as mine are quite sad.)
This is one rice dish you’ll love to serve and love to eat.

May 14, 2007

Rasayan



Here’s another example of a dish that my mother didn’t make. I learnt it from my uncle who passed away last year. He made it with finely chopped jackfruit pieces. I am told that this can be made with banana as well. I, of course, made it with mango. It is a dessert that can made in a jiffy. I decided at the last minute to make it on Saturday. Since I always keep Dabur coconut milk cartons ready, this was ready in a few minutes. S was taken by surprise. Dessert specially made when only the two of us were lunching! (I ran out of jaggery and used brown sugar instead. The dish tasted as nice.)

Ingredients:

1 ripe big Mango
1-2 tbsp Jaggery
1/2 carton Dabur Coconut Milk
¼ tsp Cardamom powder

Chop the mango into small pieces. Add the jaggery and mix it well. Add the coconut milk and the cardamom powder. Mix it thoroughly and chill for an hour before serving. Quite like Aamras, this dish also goes very well with poories. Try it if you're in the mood for it.


This is my entry to WBB #11, hosted by Padmaja of Spicy Andhra.

Ambya Sasam (Mango Sasam)




By far, one of the easiest mango dishes to make. It is sweet and spicy at the same time and contrary to popular belief, this dish is not dessert. It is a side dish that is eaten along with the meal.

The name is derived from the main ingredient, sasam, or mustard. Since my father didn’t like the pungency of raw mustard seeds, Amma started making it by omitting them. It tastes as good either way. If you like the taste of mustard, do add a teaspoon of mustard seeds while grinding the paste.

Ingredients:

2 big ripe mangoes
2 tbsp grated jaggery
Salt to taste

To be ground to a paste:

½ cup scrapped coconut
2-3 red chillies
1 tsp Mustard seeds (Optional)

Wash the mangoes and peel them. Put the peels in a bowl with a little water. Cube the mangoes and put the seeds in the bowl, along with the peels. Extract as much juice as you can. Place the cubed mangoes in a bowl and add the jaggery and salt. Allow it to marinate a bit. Add the juice extracted.

Grind the ingredients for the paste. Add this to the mangoes and mix well. Chill and serve.


This dish is also made with pineapple or mixed fruit (apple, orange, mango, banana, grapes, pineapple).



This is my entry to the AFAM event hosted by Deepa of Recipes N More.

Biscuit Roti


A misnomer all right! Here’s one of my favourites, but it is neither a biscuit, nor a roti. It is more like a stuffed poori. It is one of the best tea time snacks that I have had, though I sometimes make it for brunch. I recently made it as an appetizer when S invited a bunch of his office folks for dinner and everyone, including 3 year old Abhi (S’s colleague’s son) enjoyed it. And only when it was almost finished did I remember I wanted a picture of it for this blog.

Since it is deep fried, I don’t make it that often. But this is what I would classify as “memory food”. Unlike comfort food, this isn’t something I eat when I am down to feel better. This is something that I have one huge or several small, but deep-rooted, memories linked to. My oldest memories of Biscuit Rotis go back to about 20 years ago. I was all of 10, a girl guide and on my way to my first national jamboree in Shimoga, Karnataka. This was to be the first of many such camps that I attended until I received the highest accolade: The President’s Award. (More about this will be featured soon on my other blog.) I’d never been to a camp, that too for 7 days, except for one that I attended the previous year. But that was at KV CLRI, across the street from my own IIT campus. Amma packed a whole lot of these in foil and gave them to me. I ate about one a day and my classmate, Anandhi, shared my treasure. She, too, has fallen in love with this. After that, this became a feature in all camps and when I was in Garhpuri in 1991 for the Rashtrapati Puraskar camp and I got to the packet only on the last day. Surprisingly, they were good even then; despite containing coconut and coriander.

Ingredients

For the Poori:

3/4 cup Wheat flour
1/4 cup Semolina (Rava/ Sooji)
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp oil
Water to make the dough

For the Stuffing:

½ cup scraped Coconut
½ cup chopped Coriander leaves
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 ½ tsp Green chilli paste
2 tbsp Gram Flour (Besan)
Salt to taste

Mix the dry ingredients for the dough and the oil. Add water and keep kneading till the dough is like poori dough (a little hard). Make into small balls and keep aside.

Mix the coconut, coriander leaves, ginger and chilli pastes and the salt. Add the besan, a little by little until you are able to make small balls of the mixture that do not disintegrate.

Roll one ball of dough a little, place a portion of the stuffing mixture in the middle. Bring the outer edges together and seal the mixture in. Pinch off any excess dough. Roll this in some wheat flour, ensuring that it is not too thin at any point (ensuring that the stuffing does not peek out).

Deep fry in hot oil and drain on a tissue. These biscuit rotis do not need anything to go along with them and taste great as they are. Most friends of mine who’ve tasted this have fallen head over hells in love with this. Try it; I am sure you will too.

Tandlya Roti Ani Lasnye Chitni (Rice Roti and Garlic Chutney)



Though I can speak Konkani, my mother tongue, very fluently, I am quite terrible at transliterating words. So, please bear with me.

Rotis made of rice flour are very popular in many parts of Karnataka. The Akki Roti of North Karnataka (something I will cover in a few weeks’ time) is quite famous, and very very tasty. The rice rotis of Saraswats are similar to the Akki-rotis of the Coorgis. (Not that I am expert. I just happen to have traveled across the state and sampled a lot of local food in the process.) Now, I am also told that this is made in Bengal too. Maybe all the rice eating regions have their own versions of rice rotis

This Amchi version is, again, something Amma didn’t make too often, but relished whenever she got a chance. I used to bring rice flour from Madras by the kilo as I had never seen it in stores here. The Spencer’s Hypermart has opened in Gurgaon and I get, among other south Indian things, Ambika Appalams, rice flour and L.G. Hing. Now that I get rice flour in the local market, I can stop using it so sparingly and make these rotis more often.

Rice Roti Ingredients:

250 g Rice Flour
¾ cup water
Salt to taste
A little rice flour for rolling

Bring the water and salt to boil in a vessel and add the rice flour, a little at a time. Keep mixing the mixture while cooking on a low flame. Add more or less rice flour depending on the consistency. Take this off the flame and keep mixing it. The dough must be soft and moist, yet not sticky or watery. Make small balls and roll them in generous amounts of rice flour. (Considerably more than what you’d use while making rotis or phulkas). Cook the rotis on a tawa without any oil. When one side is cooked, turn the roti around and press it with a piece of cloth so that it cooks evenly and puffs up. Serve with garlic chutney.



Garlic Chutney Ingredients:
3-5 pods Garlic
4-5 tbsp Grated Coconut
2-3 Red Chillies (More or less depending on taste and spice tolerance levels)
½ tsp Tamarind paste
Salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients together in a mixer using a little hot water. I usually add about ½ a tsp of Kashmiri Chilli powder for the colour.

Those of you who aren’t familiar with Saraswat cooking will realize through my blog that 75-80% of our cooking uses coconut. In fact, in Mangalore and other parts of Dakshina and Uttara Kannada districts, the status of a family is determined by the number of coconuts used per day. I tend to use about 2 coconuts every 3 months or so. Again, I use it sparingly, more out of need than health or other reasons. Amma keeps scraped coconut ready for me when I visit her and I store it for months in the deep freezer, taking out just the quantity I need. I don’t venture out attempting to buy coconuts locally and scrape them for my use. When I run out, I cook without it.

May 11, 2007

Fusilli with stir fried vegetables




I am always looking for one dish meals that would fit well in our lunch boxes. This is something that I make very often and is tasty as well as nutritious.

Ingredients:

1 packet Fusilli Pasta (I use Bambino)
2 onions, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 capsicum, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup Soya chunks, soaked in water or cooked, depending on the type
2 tbsp and 1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp each of oregano, thyme, pasrley and basil
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp garlic paste
2 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper to taste
A few sprigs of fresh Parsley

Boil the fusilli in a pot of water with a little salt and 1 tsp olive oil till it almost done. Drain and wash under running water.

Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add the chilli flakes, garlic paste and onion slices. When the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes, mushrooms and capsicum and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the soya chunks, herbs and the tomato puree along with the salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Add the boiled pasta and mix well. Garnish with parsley and serve.

May 3, 2007

Tomato Saar


This is one of my favourites. I had it as a child at my doctor aunt's place and fell in love with it instantly. This is one dish that I don't recollect Amma making. But like the Samaithu Paar (Cook and See) book by Meenakshi Ammal that lists out recipes for Tambram (mostly Iyer) cuisine, Chitrapur Saraswats have their version in "Rasachandrika" by Ambabai Samsi. I have very limited tolerance for spice and so my recipes have far less chillies than traditional CS (fondly called Amchis) households use. While I picked up the list of ingredients from the book, the proportions have been modified.

Tomato Saar is similar to Rasam, but then again, it is very different. Because of its soup like consistency, this makes for a good appetizer. But it can also be mixed with rice (and as discovered by my friend last evening, it tastes good too).


Ingredients:
5-6 large Tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp grated Coconut
2 Green chillies, slit
1 small lemon sized ball of Jaggery
Salt to taste

For Tempering Version 1

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

For Tempering Version 2

1 tbsp Cooking Oil
3-4 Small Garlic Pods, crushed slightly


In a pressure cooker, place all the ingredients except those for the Tempering, and add 2-3 teacups of water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles. When done, blend the contents in a liquidizer and strain. Bring to a boil.

In a small kadhai, heat the oil and add the ingredients for tempering based on your preference. (If using mustard seeds, add the curry leaves after the mustard has spluttered.) Add this to the boiling mixture and serve.

P.S. After 4.5 years, I managed to get a better picture of this dish.

May 2, 2007

I can cook!

I have been cooking and baking for a really long time. I started blogging recently and in the past week, I discovered food blogs. My favourite so far has been Dr. Nandita Iyer's Saffron Trail, which I visit regularly. Her blog is informative and very well presented. And I have been inspired to put up recipes of everyday stuff that I make.

Being part Chitrapur Saraswat and part Iyengar meant that I grew up with a variety of vegetarian dishes. I don't remember feeling that anything Amma placed in front of us was repetitive or boring. My classmates still find it extremely funny that we would have soup and crackers for dinner and not want to "eat" after that. Or that we would eat sandwiches or a bowl of fruit for lunch and sometimes have pasta or pizza for dinner.

I started baking when I was 10, thanks to a book my mother picked up for 50 cents when she was living in the US: The Ann Pillsbury Book of Baking. The recipes were so easy to try out and Amma never worried about the messy kitchen. I spent all the time in the morning watching Amma cook. Come to think of it, I doubt I lent a helping hand... but I watched... standing on one foot. (And that unnerved Amma!). When I was 13, my aunt needed to undergo surgery and Amma rushed to be by her side and I took over the kitchen. It helped that Appa and H, my brother, were very supportive. They didn't complain about the salt less rasam or the semia upma that I made with twice the amount of water.

Then, at the Madras Book Fair, we discovered Tarla Dalal. And that opened up a whole new world for me. I started with a new soup for lunch everyday during my 3.5 month long vacation after my tenth boards. Soon, I was making handmade pasta with lovely sauces. For H's 21st birthday the following year, I made lunch for 10 people. Starting with cream of carrot soup and ending with a black forest cake with navaratan pulao, vegetable jhalfrazie and shahi paneer. (Much as I have a great memory, I met Prajakta, a friend of H's and mine 2 weeks ago who was at that lunch and she recalled each and every dish. I forgot everything other than the cake.) Marriage brought into my life, not only my dearest friend, but one of the greatest fans of my experiments. The shift from "Do I really need to cook?" to "what should I try out today?" is mostly thanks to S, my better half.

A few years ago, Amma discovered the Chennai Culinary Institute and did a host of courses from there. I got to try out a lot of recipes from those classes. Constant browsing got me recipes of unusual things such as butterscotch brownies and oatmeal cookies. More recently, I discovered that my hotel management friends could give me a lot of new ideas and also that chefs at restaurants do share recipes. Most recently, however, I discovered food blogs. And I decided to blog about my experiments with food.