August 30, 2009

Baked Somashe

Festivals are always about food, aren't they? When I know a certain festival is coming up, I plan what I'm going to make. This year, Gowri Tritiya and Ganesh Chaturthi came on the same day. (I doubt I will ever understand the Indian calendar system!) So, while we performed both the pujas in the morning, I decided to make Tritiya food for lunch and Chaturthi food for dinner. (Including dali saar and Patrodo.)

I decided to take it easy and brought the chaklis from a store. I then decided to take it even easier and use readymade wonton wrappers for the somashe. And given how sultry it was, I chose to bake them. They taste almost nothing like the hand rolled, deep fried versions. In fact, these are more like cookies with their caramelized sugary flavour and that crunch. I would definitely make these again.

20-22 Wonton wrappers

For the filling:

1 1/8 cup Sugar

1 cup Water

3/4 cup Coconut, scraped

1/2 cup Cream of Wheat (Rava/Sooji)

1/4 cup Cashews

1 tsp Cardamom powder

2 tbsp Sesame Seeds

Roast the coconut, cream of wheat and sesame seeds individually and keep aside.

Make a sugar syrup of 1 thread consistency with the sugar and water. Add the coconut, sesame and cream of wheat along with the cashews and cardamom powder. Mix well and allow to cool.

Place a wonton wrapper inside a somashi press. Place some filling on one half and dab a little water along the edges. Cover with the other half and close the press and hold it down. Remove the somashi from the press, remove the excess wrapper and seal the edges again with your fingers (just to be doubly sure!). Place on a damp towel and cover. Repeat with the other wrappers.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Place these on a greased baking tray and bake for 7 minutes. Turn each somashi over and bake for another 7 minutes. Your almost "no-sweat" somashe are ready! This post is late for Ganesh Chaturthi, but by the time you get to read this, I would be attending the Visarjan puja at my uncle's place in Matunga. I hope you all had a good Teyi/Chavati.

August 28, 2009

Panchratni Dal

For the longest time, I cooked with only Toor Dal. At best, I'd make this moong dal preparation. I have tried very often to cook with other dals and I find that mixing them up is the way that works well with me. The flavours are part known and part unknown. So, I know for a fact that I won't be completely repulsed by a new flavour.

This is one such mixed dal. I got the idea from one of Tarla Dalal's books (yet again!), but have modified it and made it many times. It is a great hit at office and at home. I felt the need to impress my parents with some "wow" food. I served this at lunch when they were visiting and they were impressed. The dal isn't too spicy nor too mild. It is one of those dishes that make you say, 'Just perfect!"

1/2 cup Mixed Dals (Moong, Masoor, Urad, Chana and Toor)
1 tsp C
1 O
nion, chopped
1 tsp C
oriander powder
1 tsp C
hilli powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Coriander, chopped
1 tbsp Ghee
Salt to taste

For the tempering:

1 tbsp Butter
1 Tomato, chopped

1/2 cup Curd

1/4 tsp Garam Masala

Wash the dals and soak them for about 30 minutes.

In a pressure pan, heat the ghee and add the cumin. When the cumin starts to crackle, add the onion and fry for about 2-3 minutes. Drain the water from the dals and add this to the onion mixture. Fry together for about a minute and add about 2-3 cups of water. Cover and cook for 3 whistles. Open the lid after the pressure has been released and add the coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Cook this mixture until the dal thickens. Mash the dals.

In another pan, melt the butter and add the chopped tomato. When the tomato has cooked a bit, add the curd and the garam masala and cook for a minute or so. Add this to the dal. Garnish with chopped coriander and enjoy the dal with rotis or rice.

I'm sending this to Barbara's event A Taste of Yellow with a hope to help raise awareness for cancer on a global level.

August 26, 2009

Pumpkin and Mixed Vegetable Soup

Every once in a while, I find that I have to cook for just myself. Either S isn't home for dinner or he's traveling. I don't like to cook up a storm on those days unless I have friends coming over. Soups come to my rescue at such times. I don't believe in there being the "right weather" for soup. There isn't a right weather for rice or rotis, so why single out soups.

I had some chopped yellow pumpkin in the freezer. I decided to make pumpkin soup with that. But I also noticed some mixed vegetables. It was too small a quantity to be used anywhere else, so I decided to add them to the soup.

1 cup Pumpkin, diced

1/2 cup Mixed Vegetables, chopped (Carrots, Beans, Peas)

1 tsp Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 tsp Parsley
1/4 tsp Basil

1/4 tsp Chilli Flakes

1/4 tsp Garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure pan and add the onion. Fry till the pieces turn translucent. Add the pumpkin pieces and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chilli flakes, basil, parsley, and garlic. Add the mixed vegetables along with some salt and a little water. Cover and cook for 2-3 whistles.

When cool, blend the vegetable mixture in a liquidizer with a little milk. Transfer this to a vessel and add the remaining milk and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy this soup as it is, or with some toast to make it a complete meal!

August 20, 2009

Blueberry Cake

Birthdays without cake. To me, it is almost like going through college and not earning a degree at the end of it. There's a certain feeling of incompleteness. There are many people I meet who tell me I should grow up and not worry so much about cake on a birthday. There's no fun in growing up, if it means you have to live without cake, is there?

So, although we returned home after a six hour drive. And although I didn't sleep on the way (and in fact drove along the NH1 for a good bit), and although I had to make dinner after we got home (we were sick of eating out for 3 days), I decided I had to bake a cake before midnight and have S cut it. And he did. (In many ways, it is a good thing I don't have to look at a cookbook for a basic cake anymore!) My regular camera conked out on our trip and I am using this very basic camera now. So, please ignore the bad pictures. (Plus, my hand shook and this camera has no image stabilizer!)

1 cup Flour

1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda

Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Oil
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 cup Dried Blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400F (200 C).

Prepare an 8 inch square cake tin by greasing it and dusting it with flour.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, sugar, oil, and vanilla essence. Beat well together. Add the flour mixture to this and blend well. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife/skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.

August 18, 2009

Methi Mangodi

I bought some mangodis for the first time two years ago. The store manager of the supermarket where I picked it up was really nice and he even told me how to cook the stuff. I have not really made the dish he told me about, but I liked the fact that he took the trouble to explain stuff to me. One day, I shall blog about his recipe.

When it comes to trying out new Gujarati or Rajasthani food, I always stick to my favourite. I picked this recipe from Tarla Dalal's Rajasthani Cookbook. I modified it to suit my taste and we had it for lunch with chapatis. Here I am, sharing this wonderful recipe with all of you.

According to Tarla Dalal ( Mangodis are sun-dried grape sized dumplings made from soaked and ground moong dal or sometimes from urad dal. Due to scarcity of vegetables, the ingenious Rajasthanis use different forms of pulses to whip up healthy and tasty meals. Mangodis or moong dal badis are often used to rustle up several tasty and mouth-watering recipes.

1 bunch Fenugreek Leaves, chopped
1/2 cup Mangodi, crushed
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Ginger Paste

1 tsp Chilli Paste
1 tsp Coriander Powder

1/4 cup Milk
1/2 cup Curd, beaten
1 tsp Sugar
4 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the ginger-green chilli paste and stir for a minute. Add the mangodi and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fenugreek leaves and fry for 5 - 7 minutes. Add the coriander powder, milk, curds, sugar, turmeric powder, salt and ½ cup of water and bring to a boil while stirring continuously.

Pressure cook for 1 to 2 whistles or until the mangodis are soft and cooked. Serve immediately with rotis.

August 16, 2009

Mixed Vegetable Ricotta Quiche

A few weeks ago, S and I were running around to make sure we filed our IT returns in time. We left home after a good breakfast and hoped to return by lunch time. That wasn't to happen. When we were done with all our little errands, including our returns, we were famished. We stopped by for a quick bite at the newly opened coffee shop: Mocha. I've been to Mocha in other cities, but I loved the look and feel of this one, just one street away.

I ordered a garden vegetable pie and loved every bite of it. It came doused in some mushroom bechamel sauce. Absolutely divine! I realised that I hadn't baked savoury pies, tarts or quiches in ages. In fact, the last time I baked a vegetable pie was at least 7-8 years ago. Inspired by that garden vegetable pie and this quiche, I decided to make this quiche for lunch today.

1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour / Atta
1/3 cup Margarine
2-3 tbsp Ice Cold Water
1 tsp Chilli Flakes
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Parsley
1 tsp Salt
Oil for greasing the tart tin

Grease the tart tin.

Place the flours, salt, chilli flakes, herbs, and margarine 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.) Chill the dough for about 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough and place it in the tart tin. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes. (You may use baking beans to help retain the shape of the tarts. I used some dried lentils and that I use only for this purpose.)

For the filling:

1 Onion, chopped
1/2 cup Mixed Vegetables, chopped and cooked (Carrots, Beans, Potatoes)
1/4 cup Mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Flour
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Parsley
1/2 tsp Basil
2 tsp Chilli flakes
1/2 tsp Garlic Paste
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 slice Low Fat Cheese (optional)
1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese

1 Egg
1/4 cup Milk

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and fry for a minute. Add the parsley, basil and chilli flakes and fry for another minute. Add the flour and fry without browning the flour. Add the mushrooms and fry for about 30 seconds. (Do not fry the mushrooms for too long as the water in them gets released.) Add the vegetables along with the milk and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring continuously. If adding cheese, add it at this point and stir the sauce well. As the sauce thickens, add the salt and pepper. Cool and blend in the ricotta cheese.

In a bowl, beat the egg and add the milk.

To proceed, fill the semi baked quiche shell with the filling. Pour the egg-milk mixture and return to the oven. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until the top is firm and browned. Carefully remove from the tart tin and serve.

I suppose I could have served this with some bechamel sauce, or with a salad, or something like that. But this was so tempting when it came out of the oven that we cut it up and ate it right away!

August 15, 2009

Eggless Chocolate Almond Cookies

Janmashtami! One of the more important festivals for my family. There seemed to be some confusion with the dates. Apparently, it was to be celebrated on the 13th, but everyone around me at work, was celebrating it on the 14th. Then Amma dropped the bombshell last afternoon. She said some folks were celebrating it next month. So, it didn't seem wrong to celebrate it on the 14th after all.

I didn't have the day off as many people in the city did. I thought a lot about what I wanted to make. Two years ago, I made chocolate chip buns for little Krishna. My philosophy is that had Krishna lived in this day and age, as a child he'd have loved Cadbury's. Along the same line of thought, I decided to make chocolate almond fudge this year. But I changed my mind and decided to bake cookies instead. They turned out absolutely divine and I do hope that Krishna had a bite too. A plate of chocolate almond cokies was my neivedyam this year.

¾ cup(generous) Flour

2 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1/8 tsp Cooking Soda

¼ cup Powdered Sugar

1/3 cup (generous) Ghee (Clarified Butter)

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

2 tbsp Almonds, slivered

Cream the sugar and the ghee until well blended.

Sift the flour with the soda. Add this to the sugar-ghee mixture. Add the vanilla essence. Make a dough and divide into small balls. Flatten each ball onto a cookie sheet and sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 C.

Allow to cool and enjoy.

August 13, 2009

Zucchini Kootu

Exotic vegetables needn't be only used for exotic dishes. They can be adapted to our day to day foods as well. Now, it is one thing to use local vegetables in our traditional dishes, but quite another to find special vegetables and then use them in "ordinary" dishes. I remember the first time Amma bought Brussels Sprouts in Madras. And she made upkari in the same manner as she'd make this. I thought she just wasn't creative then. But when I make mushrooms this way or zucchini in this manner, it does amount to the same thing.

Vaishali recently blogged about the Zucchini Kootu. The idea seemed wonderful and I wanted to try it out. I was feeling quite lazy and didn't want to do much work. I married her idea to Amma's recipe and landed with this. I really enjoyed the kootu and look forward to eating this more often!

1 cup Zucchini, peeled and diced
1/2 cup Moong Dal
2 tsp Sambar Powder
2 tbsp Coconut, scraped
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Urad Dal
1 tsp Oil
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
Salt to taste

For the Tempering:
1/2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Urad Dal

Pressure cook the diced zucchini along with the moong dal and the sambar powder.

Heat the oil in a frying ladle and add the urad dal. Fry till the dal turns golden brown. Grind this along with the cumin seeds and the coconut. Add this paste to the zucchini-moong dal mixture along with the salt. Add the asafoetida and mix well.

For the tempering, heat the oil in the frying ladle and add the urad dal. Add this to the dish and serve hot with steamed rice.

August 11, 2009

Mirchi ki Sabzi

I had this bag of chillies that I have no idea why I bought. My friend suggested that I pick it up so I could make Mirchi ka Salan. The idea seemed nice and all that, but I never did get around to making mirchi ka salan. After all, that dish tastes best with some authentic biryani on the side. Now, I’d think it is an effort to make biryani itself. So, for me to make biryani and then this mirchi ka salan would be a bit much. (It would be easier to go to Hyderabad than to try cooking all that at home, don’t you think?) Though I must admit, I ALWAYS buy these chillies hoping secretly to make salan!

The bag of chillies lay languishing in the crisper until one Saturday afternoon, when I felt really sorry for them and decided to do “something” about them. I decided to cook them in a standard tomato onion gravy. In addition to the Aashirwad Multipurpose cooking paste, I now have access to Maggi Bhuna Masala too. But when I started to make this, I got carried away by different things I saw around me in the kitchen and the resultant dish was nothing like what I’d intended it to be. But it was great tasting nonetheless. I served it with some jeera rice and while I was happy for sure, I had one very happy husband at home that afternoon. The one question he repeated over and over was: I know you experimented, but do you remember what you actually put in this?

250 g Large Green Chillies, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 packet Maggi Bhuna Masala (for gravies)

To be ground to a paste

¼ cup Peanuts, roasted
1 tbsp Sesame seeds, roasted
3 Red Chillies
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Coriander Seeds
Salt to taste

Heat a kadhai and add the contents of the Bhuna Masala. (Alternatively, you could heat some oil and fry 1 chopped Onion, ½ tsp Ginger Paste, ½ tsp Garlic Paste. When the onions are fried, add 1 chopped tomato and fry for a minute or two. Add a little water and make it into a gravy.) Add the chopped chillies and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the ground paste and fry again for 2-3 minutes. Add a little water and bring to a boil.

I am certain this dish would taste as great with rotis as it does with rice.

August 9, 2009

Rajma Sundal

There are snacks and there are snacks and then there is Sundal. To me sundal has always been a tasty and filling snack. But more than that, it is a guilt free snack. I mean, how many snacks do you know of that would fit the bill here? While I have used kidney beans in a variety of ways. I was surprised to note that I hadn't tasted it in its sundalavatar! I tried it and I was quite impressed.

1 cup Kidney Beans, soaked overnight
1 tsp Oil

7-8 Curry Leaves
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 tsp Dry Mango Powder (Amchur)
1 tbsp Coconut, scraped
Salt to taste

Pressure cook the soaked kidney beans with salt for 4-5 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 kidney beans, dry mango powder, and a little salt. Cover and cook 4-5 minutes. Garnish with the scraped coconut and enjoy.

This is perfect for breakfast, as a snack or even as a side with your meal.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

This is one cake I've made many times over. It is supposed to be the one cake that Appa loves. For some reason, I always remembered this recipe as being extremely complicated. It had been a while since I baked this last. At least 7 or 8 years, if I remember right. For years, I followed the recipe that Tarla Dalal's book, "The Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking" carries. This afternoon, I used my own recipe, but followed her method.

My friend had bought a can of pineapple slices and had been after me to make this Pineapple Upside Down Cake for a few weeks now. Finally, the muhurtam for this cake came today. After an elaborate lunch of mixed vegetable sambar, cluster beans curry and zucchini kootu, we set out to make the cake. I don't know if it is just that I've baked a lot more in the last 2-3 years or if I interpreted the recipe differently earlier. Even the "original" recipe didn't seem very complicated today.

My friend's 5 year old helped me by breaking the eggs into the bowl, helping hold my hand mixer while I mixed the batter and later, she placed the cherries decoratively after some deliberation about where all the candied cherries could be placed.

Here is the recipe:

4 slices Canned Pineapple

Candied Cherries for Decroration

4 tbsp Golden Syrup

1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Baking Soda
a Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Oil
1/2 tsp Pineapple Essence
1 Egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400F (200 C).

Prepare an 8 inch square cake tin by greasing it and dusting it with flour. Arrange the pineapple slices and the cherries decoratively in the tin. Pour the golden syrup over the slices, making sure that the entire base of the tin is covere

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, sugar, oil, and pineapple essence. Beat well together. Add the flour mixture to this and blend well.

Pour the batter over the pineapple slices. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife/skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.

Cool the cake and transfer the cake onto a plate. Cut into slices and enjoy! My dear friend's daughter Dhwani turns three today. This little cake is being sent to the Netherlands through this blog just so she can enjoy it today. Happy Birthday Dhwani.

August 7, 2009

Turai Thuvayal

There are many vegetables I just never bought because I didn’t know how to cook them. For the longest time, I only cooked with the so-called English vegetables. Slowly, over the last couple of years, I have started getting better acquainted with many vegetables. While I have jumped with joy to find even those vegetables that I couldn’t have cared less for in a different avatar, I have started incorporating more local produce. In fact, when I made Tinda Koora, I couldn’t help but think of this post at Nupur's blog. At the same meal, we had this other very south Indian dish made with a very north Indian vegetable. Given my penchant for making thuvayals/thogayals out of every vegetable I can lay my hands on, this comes as no surprise.

4 medium SpongeGourds (Turai/Tori/Mantav Ghashale), scraped and chopped
4 Red Chillies
1 tsp Mustard
3 tsp Urad Dal
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
3 tsp Oil
1 tbsp Tamarind Paste
Salt to taste

Place the sponge gourd pieces in a microwave safe bowl. Add 2 tbsp of water and cook on high for 2 minutes. Squeeze out the water when cool.

Heat the oil and fry the red chillies, mustard, asafoetida and urad dal for a couple of minutes. Grind the chillies along with the tamarind paste and salt. Add the sponge gourd pieces and grind again. Finally, add the fried mustard and urad dal and grind lightly.

Serve this with rice and a little ghee and some papads or vadams on the side. We ate this with rice, sambar and Tinda Koora.

August 4, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins

Happy Birthday Sachin!

We went to Kasauli to spend the "birthday weekend". But just as soon as we returned home, even though the birthday was almost over, I baked a blueberry cake. Birthdays just aren't complete without the customary "cake cutting", are they? I haven't had a chance to post the pictures of the cake I baked for S. That would warrant a separate post.

For today, I leave you all with a quick simple recipe of one of my favourite muffins. The addition of chocolate chips and walnuts take these otherwise plain banana muffins to an altogether different level.

1 3/4 cup Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
¾ cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Toasted Walnuts, chopped

1/3 cup Chocolate Chips
3-4 Bananas (overripe), peeled
1/3 cup Oil
2 Eggs

Sift the dry ingredients together.
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the muffin pans by lining them with paper muffin cases.

Combine the bananas, eggs, oil and brown sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend all these to a rough paste. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and add the toasted walnuts and chocolate chips. Mix well and pour into the prepared muffin cases.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy these muffins warm (but I must tell you they taste great the next day or so). I was lucky I had some left over 2 days after I'd baked them. So, I really know. On that really sweet note, S, I wish you a very happy birthday and happiness always.