December 31, 2010

Mixed Fruit Crumble

How does one even begin to summarize a year which seems to have packed in so much? The year which began for in the absolutely cold snow mountains and will end in the sunny and warm tropics. On January 1, 2010, if someone had told me that the year would bring a whole host of changes, I'd have laughed and said that that is what every year does. But as I look back today on the year gone by, I realize that this year was special.

There were so many ups and downs that this year brought with it. The highs outshone the lows and I am glad that the year will be remembered for the highs and it will only be a matter of time before the lows are forgotten.

On the blogging front, both my blogs suffered as a result of the highs and the lows. There simply wasn't any time. The project 365 suffered because as the monsoons began, my travel time to and from work increased from 3.5 hours a day to around 5.5 hours one way. While I did take loads of pictures, the last thing on my mind when I reached home just a little shy of midnight was to upload the pictures to the laptop or the blog. Slowly, I was so far behind that it didn't make sense to try to catch up.

The food blog suffered because there was no time. There was also no "new" cooking that happened. It is a miracle that cooking even happened on some days. I think August and September must have seen the maximum consumption of Maggi, Subway sandwiches and McDonald's burgers. We also ate out so often because that meant no washing up afterwards (a lifesaver when your maids have been thrown out of the city for 30 days).

In our initial days in Singapore, I barely cooked and definitely didn't cook new stuff. But I realized that I could churn out 3 meals a day with just 3 pans, a 2 hob induction cooker and a microwave. For someone whose kitchen articles make up 30-35% of the entire household stuff, that is a BIG revelation. The pressure cooker queen cooked for 30 days sans the sweet sound of the whistle of her precious cookers.

I have no plans for 2011. I hope to write about my experiences in a new place in my other blog. I hope to cook with the new variety of ingredients that I have access to. I hope to be able to try out the recipes that I could only fantasize about until I moved here. I don't want to make concrete plans. 2011 is going to be the "take it as it comes" year.

Keeping in with tradition, I leave you with a dessert recipe. A little warm, a little cold. A little tart, a little sweet. Just the way this year has been: a mixture of flavours that surprises you with each bite, but leaves you with a happy feeling when the last bit has been savoured.


1 Apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup Cherries, halved
1/4 cup Strawberries, chopped
1 Pear, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup Brown sugar
2 - 3 tbsp Butter
1/3 cup Flour

Arrange the fruit in a microwave safe dish and sprinkle the sugar. Build 2-3 layers alternating the fruit and the sugar. Leave about a spoonful of the sugar aside. Cook oh high in the microwave for 4-5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the butter along with the remaining sugar until it resembles bread crumbs or small peas. Press this mixture over the cooked fruit 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.

I hope 2010 was a good year for each of you. Wishing all of you and yours a very happy 2011.

December 29, 2010

Moong Dal Cheela

I miss going to work. The reasons are countless. One of the biggest food related pluses of going to work is getting to taste different kinds of dishes. One of the other pluses is getting new ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner or just being able to give new twists to routine dishes. But the food related aspect I miss the most about working is being guaranteed company at mealtimes. Eating alone is a pain.

One of my former colleagues had a maid at home who would make the best breakfast dishes I've ever had out of a box. She could be on Masterchef. A sandwich would not only have a great filling, but would be cut in 4 pieces and there'd be a wee bit of tadka on each piece.

This breakfast idea comes from this lady. To me, a cheela was always made with besan. And a pesarattu was always made with whole green moong. To make a cheela with moong dal was unknown to me (I know a lot of you have known this a long long time.) as was making a pesarattu with moong dal. This is like a cross between a cheela and a pesarattu.

1 cup Moong Dal, soaked overnight
2 Green Chillies, roughly chopped
1" piece Ginger, roughly chopped
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
Salt to taste

Grind the moong dal with the green chillies, ginger, cumin and salt. Add enough water to make a thick batter.

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 a few drops per cheela. When crisp, carefully turn the cheela over and allow the other side to cook a little.

I serve these with whatever I have on hand. But it tastes best with some green chutney. As a variation, you could also sprinkle some finely chopped onions and tomatoes on top of the batter as soon as you spread it on the tawa. This makes it a very visually appealing breakfast.

As long as you remember to soak the moong dal at night, this is a no sweat breakfast in the morning as there's no fermentation required.

December 27, 2010

Macaroni with Parsley-Peanut Pesto

There was a time I hadn't heard of pesto. Then came the time when I'd heard about it, but knew nothing about it. Then came the time when I first ate it. And then came the present. The time when I've heard about it, I know about it, I've eaten it, I make it and I experiment with different flavours. I've come a long way from asking a friend to bring me pine nuts from the US to using the humble peanut in my pesto.

At one time, I'd substitute pine nuts only with cashews. But I've become a bit more adventurous of late. Any nut and any kind of herb (needn't be a herb) and I've got a pesto going. To make it suitable for a lunch box, I added some mushrooms and some milk.

1 cup Macaroni, Cooked/Boiled with a little oil and salt

1 tbsp Olive Oil
2-3 tbsp Milk
1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced

For the Parsley Pesto:

1/2 cup Parsley Leaves
1 cube Low Fat Cheese
2 tbsp Roasted Peanuts
2 pods Garlic
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grind together all the ingredients for the pesto.

Drain the pasta and keep aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Saute the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes. Add the pesto sauce and fry for a few minutes. Add the milk to get a sauce like consistency. Add the pasta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

A meal that comes together in minutes. There's not much chopping involved. And since I use a food processor to grind the pesto, there's no pounding to be done either. This is a perfect recipe for times when you want a nice meal and don't want to slave over the stove too much.

I hope all of you had a good Christmas. Happy Holidays!

December 9, 2010

Savoury Butternut Squash Waffles with Mushroom Cream Sauce

The last few months were a little crazy for us. Work, the commute, the rains, and the Commonwealth Games. Bang in the middle of all this, came our decision to move to a different country. Work had become more hectic all of a sudden. The unprecedented rains caused traffic snarls that transformed my otherwise 2 hour commute back into a 6 hour commute. The roads caved in for most part. To add to the trauma, the Commonwealth Games meant that one lane in the already congested roads of Delhi was to be cordoned off. Then came the final blow. Our domestic help was asked to leave for a month and return after the games.

My project 365 came to an absolute standstill and this blog saw months go by with just one (and even no) post. There are several factors that have helped revive this blog. The most important of them all is Vitamin T. I am unemployed after more than 11 years of working continuously. I have plenty of time on my hands. I'm based in a truly global city and that means that I have access to plenty of ingredients that I'd have considered exotic earlier. I also have access to the Food Network channel (which I seem to watch almost all the time). I get new ideas and more importantly, I am reminded of my love for cooking.

This week started with Amma's birthday and I wanted to celebrate it here. I had several ideas and I also wanted to clean up the (really small) fridge that I have here. I got the idea for savoury waffles from a show on TLC. I combined that idea with a dish I'd eaten many years ago in Chennai: Crepes with Sauteed Mushrooms and Cream Sauce. I decided on savoury butternut squash waffles with and a mushroom cream sauce. I also made a Mini Caprese Salad, sticking to the original recipe for most part and adding a cucumber to the cherry tomatoes.

Butternut Squash Waffles

3/4 cup Butternut Squash (peeled, diced, cooked and drained)
1 Egg
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Chilli Flakes
1/2 cup Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (optional)
Salt to taste

Beat the egg in a bowl. Add the butternut squash and beat until the mixture is well blended. Add the other ingredients and beat for a minute or so. (If the mixture is too thick, you could add a little milk.)

Heat the waffle iron and pour the batter onto it. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Mushroom Cream Sauce

1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp each of Basil and Parsley
1/4 tsp Chilli Flakes
1 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Flour
3/4 cup Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onions and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the parsley, basil and chilli flakes. Add the flour to the mushroom mixture and pour the milk into this after the flour has fried for 2-3 minutes. Mix well and allow the mixture to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the waffles on a plate and pour the mushroom sauce over the waffles. Dig in. Restaurant style fancy dining guaranteed at home with not much effort. Belated Happy Birthday Amma. I can't wait to cook this for you when you visit.

December 8, 2010

Stuffed Brinjal

The one big food related plus of having time on my hands, which was a scarce commodity barely two months ago, is being able to make dishes that require a little more time than others. It helps also to live in a city where many ingredients are easy to come by. For instance, I found this bag of almost identical sized baby brinjals   when we went grocery shopping. I bought the bag immediately, wanting to make Ennai Katrikkai. But I was missing a crucial ingredient. I decided to make this dish instead.

This dish is not a family recipe or anything like that. We had a lady working for us many years ago. One day, she asked Amma if she can make a side dish to go with chapatis. Amma agreed. She made this and all of us really liked it. It featured regularly on our menu for several years. I'd forgotten about this dish and made it just once earlier after Amma reminded me about 1-2 years ago. I made it again last week and it was gone before we knew it.

1/4 kg Baby Brinjals, slit crosswise with stems intact
2 Onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp Coconut, scraped
2 Cloves Garlic
1" piece of Ginger
1/4 cup Coriander Leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1/4 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 cup Roasted Peanuts, coarsely crushed
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Oil

For the tempering
1 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
7-8 Curry Leaves

Heat the tablespoon of oil and add the onions. Fry for about 3-4 minutes and add the coconut. Fry until the coconut turns brown. Grind this mixture with the garlic, ginger, and coriander leaves. Mix the turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, and salt into this paste along with the crushed peanuts.

Stuff this mixture into the slit brinjals.
Heat the teaspoon of oil in a kadhai/pan. Add the mustard. When the mustard splutters, the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Add the stuffed brinjals and cover and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the brinjals are cooked. Uncover and cook for a minute or two.

Serve hot with chapatis or with some rice and dal. I could just eat this on its own. I also realized that this dish doesn't take as long to prepare as I'd imagined. Agreed that it has more steps than a simpler side dish, but it is in no way complicated.

December 3, 2010

Tendlya Bhutti

Here is the dish I really wanted to send in to the RCI Udipi and Mangalore (how long ago was that?) event that Sia hosted. I just didn't make it in time. This dish is Mangalorean in every possible way. Amchi in every possible way actually. It has all the ingredients that amchis love: coconut, tamarind, jaggery, bedgi chillies and tendli! Though this is made with a little gravy (not much), I make it a little dry as S likes it that way. (Did you just buy that? Well... as always, I sauntered out of the kitchen with the dish on the stove and returned to almost no gravy!)

1 1/2 cups Ivy Gourd (Tendli/Kundru/Kovakkai/Dondekkai), sliced into discs
Salt and Jaggery to taste

For the masala:
3-4 Red Chillies (preferably Bedgi)
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
1/2 tsp Black Gram Dal (Udad Dal)
1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
4-5 Garlic Cloves
3 tbsp Coconut, scraped
2 tsp Tamarind Paste
1 tsp Oil

For the tempering:
1 tsp Oil
1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida

Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the asafoetida. Add the ivy gourd pieces to the oil and fry for a minute. Add the salt and jaggery, mix well and cover and cook for 4-5 minutes.

In the meanwhile, heat the teaspoon of oil for the masala and fry the red chillies, coriander seeds, black gram dal, fenugreek seeds and garlic for a minute or two. Grind this to a paste with the coconut and the tamarind paste.

When the ivy gourd pieces are tender, add the ground masala to the vegetable and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the ivy gourd pieces are covered with the masala and the entire mixture is a little dry.

This is a dish that you can enjoy with chapatis as much as with some rice and dali-saar.