May 31, 2009

Leek and Celery Soup

I know what you're thinking. This is probably the saddest looking bowl of soup you've ever seen. I didn't have enough time to dress the soup up. And considering "So between them both, you see, they licked the platter clean", I didn't have any leftovers. So it's not even like I could have dressed it up later for the photo shoot!

This was one hearty bowl of soup that came together in a very short time. I am sure I will make this very often. (Provided leek and celery prices remain within the "affordable" range!)

1 cup Leeks, chopped

1/2 cup Celery stalks, chopped

1 tsp Mixed Herbs (Parsley, Basil)

1 tsp Olive Oil

1 tsp Garlic, chopped

1 cup Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a pressure pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add the leeks and celery and fry for 2-3 minutes. Now add the mixed herbs and 1 cup of water and cook for 2-3 whistles.

Cool the vegetable mixture and blend in a liquidizer. Transfer the contents back to a pan and add the milk. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

May 25, 2009

Amritsari Aloo Wadi

The first time we went to Amritsar, I didn't know much about wadis. So I came back with a packet of papads and a whole lot of fake chicken legs. Later, I learnt about these little wadis that are very similar to the vathal made in the southern part of the country. I remembered reading in Asha's blog that the north indian cousins aren't meant to fried and eaten. Quite like the vathal that go into Vathal Kuzhambu.

One evening, on the long ride back home from work, I asked my colleague how to use the wadis I brought from Amritsar this time around. She gave me her recipe and I followed it mostly. It was quite easy to make and tasted very nice. I am sure to make this more often, especially when I am out of vegetables.

2 Potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup Amritsari Urad Wadis, crushed

1 Onion, chopped finely
1 Tomato, chopped finely
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Chilli Powder

1" stick Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Coriander Powder
1/4 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pressure pan. Add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the cinnamon stick and onions and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the ginger paste along with the turmeric, coriander and chilli powders. Add the crushed wadis and fry for another 3-4 minutes. Add the salt and the tomato and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add a cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the potatoes. Cover and cook for 3 whistles. Open the pressure pan and add the garam masala. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Serve hot with rotis. This protein packed dish had me licking my lips after lunch. Thanks Namrata for a keeper recipe.

May 23, 2009

Yard Long Beans Curry

Yard Long Beans. This is one vegetable I haven't made up my mind about. I eat it every time it appears on the menu. Wait! I even buy the stuff and cook with it. I have to admit that I don't really like it.

We had a garden patch where this vegetable grew. Known as Alsando in Konkani, Alasandamu in Telugu, Karamani in Tamil and Lobia in Hindi, this vegetable is supposed to have been a favourite of my grandmother's. My mother and most of her sisters love this vegetable. In fact, one of my aunts would make this vegetable for lunch each time we landed at her place by the Brindavan Express. Traditionally, this vegetable is made quite in the same manner as this. Maybe it was sheer overdose that has resulted in my not liking this vegetable as much.

I made it slightly differently and we had it with rotis. I enjoyed the dish and I hope you will too.

2 cups Yard Long Beans, strung, cut into 1" pieces and steamed

1 Onion, chopped

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/2 tsp Kitchen King Masala

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1/4 tsp Asafoetida

2 tsp Oil

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a kadhai. Add the cumin and asafoetida. When the cumin crackles, add the onions and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, chilli powder, Kitchen King masala and turmeric powder. Mix well and fry for a minute. Add the steamed beans. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Serve with rotis or as an accompaniment to rice and dal. If you have a favourite way to eat this vegetable, I'd love to hear from you.

May 21, 2009

Rava Payasam

I'm not the biggest payasam fan to walk the face of the earth. I like some varieties, I avoid the rest like the plague. Well almost. I guess after two years of telling all of you what a good child I've always been, it is difficult to make you believe that I can avoid any kind of food.

After semia payasam and badam kheer, this is my favourite milk payasam. I do like a few of the coconut milk varieties.

1/4 cup Cream of Wheat (Rava/Sooji/Semolina)

1/2 can (200g) Sweetened Condensed Milk (Milkmaid/Mithai Mate)

1/2 litre Milk

½ tbsp Clarified Butter (Ghee)

½ tsp Cardamom Powder

a pinch Saffron, dissolved in some milk

For the garnish

1 tbsp Ghee

2 tsp Raisins

2 tsp Cashews

Heat the ghee in a vessel and roast the semolina for 4-5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the semolina and cover the vessel. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the milk and the condensed milk to this. Keep stirring until the mixture is even (else you'll have burnt condensed milk) and bring to a boil. Add the cardamom powder and saffron mixture. Simmer the mixture for about 10-15 minutes.

For the garnish, heat the ghee in a frying ladle. Add the cashews. When the cashews turn golden, add the raisins. When the raisins become plump, pour the contents of the ladle into the simmering mixture.

This can be had hot or cold. When kept in the fridge, this payasam takes on a creamy, pudding like texture. This is really like best had when cold. If you're fond of puddings, that is.

May 19, 2009

Chocolate Almond Cake

Impromptu dinner invitations. I’m almost always game. I like to have about an hour’s notice though. That is enough to make cake batter, put it in the oven, get ready, get the cake out of the oven, pack it and leave for the venue. I get the feeling that folks who have us over regularly will soon be tired of eating cakes that I take along. Until that happens, I probably will not experiment with other goodies.

Our dear friends were moving to another apartment. They were going from across the street to several streets and main roads away, in the same city. So this was an impromptu “last” get together at that address. I quickly baked this cake to take along. Everyone loved it. We brought some back home and quickly distributed it to friends and colleagues. This is a cake meant for almond lovers. If you don’t like the slight bitter taste that almonds add to your dessert, I would suggest you omit the ground almonds and replace the almond essence with vanilla.

1 1/2 cups Flour

1/3 cup Cocoa Powder

3 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 cup Sugar

a Pinch Salt

1/2 cup Oil

2 eggs

1 cup Milk

1/4 cup Almonds, ground

1 tsp Almond Essence (or Vanilla, if you find Almond essence bitter)

Butter and flour for dusting

Almond slivers for decoration

Sift all the dry ingredients for the cake together into a food processor jar with the dough blade. Pour in all the liquid ingredients and run the processor for 2 minutes.

Prepare two 8 inch round cake tins by first smearing a little butter all over the tin and then dusting it with flour.

Divide the batter equally between the pans and sprinkle the almond slivers over the batter. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. The cakes are done when a knife or skewer inserted into them comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a cake rack and cool completely.

Cut into wedges and enjoy while the cake is still warm. As always, I'm sure this would be divine with some vanilla ice cream on the side. But that's just a serving suggestion!

May 17, 2009

Palak ki Sabzi

I need a bigger fridge. And I definitely need a bigger freezer. I seem to make double batches of just about everything so that I can save time another day. I seem to chop, grate, puree and pressure cook wholesale. I don’t cook and freeze full meals. I like to eat fresh meals but I’m not against freezing entire meals. It’s just that my freezer is already bursting at its seams and I feel sorry for it at times.

But there are some things that I cannot bring myself to do on a regular basis. Like clean spinach. That is something I do in bulk. And then dishing out something like this to eat with chapattis is not tough at all. In fact, I cook and puree the spinach before freezing it.

1 bunch Spinach, cooked and pureed
1 Onion, ground to a fine paste
2 tbsp Tomato Puree
1 tsp Green Chilli Paste
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/4 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Oil
Salt to taste

Heat the oil and fry the onion paste for a few minutes. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic pastes and fry for a minute. Add the tomato puree, salt, chilli and turmeric powder and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the spinach puree. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.

At one point, I'd eaten this with rice too. But it tastes best with chapattis and bread. Let me know how you like it.

May 15, 2009

Strawberry Crumble

Once in a blue moon, I crave a sweet something after dinner. This doesn’t happen more than 3-4 times a year (thank goodness for that!). Even a lone bar of chocolate lasts for months. That is probably why I haven’t tried too many desserts.

When strawberries were in season earlier this year, we had our fill with milkshakes. I even made kulfi and these two cakes. When a friend got me another tub of lovely strawberries (the best of the season), we ate a lot of them right then. I had a little less than half left when I had my craving for a sweet something. After a light dinner of pasta and baked vegetables, I decided to make this dessert quickly. It isn’t much of a recipe, but I have to admit, it was very tasty. S and I literally scraped off every bit of the jam like strawberry mixture from our ramekins.

1/2 cup Strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup Brown sugar
1 tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Maida
Butter for greasing

Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease 2 ramekin cups.

Arrange the strawberry slices in a single layer in each of the 2 ramekin cups and sprinkle some sugar on top. Build 2-3 layers alternating the strawberries and the sugar. Leave about a spoonful of the sugar aside. Cook for 4-5 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 strawberry mixture and bake for another 10 minutes.

I'm certain this would taste divine with some vanilla ice cream. It was great on its own too.

May 14, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

Birthdays. They're never supposed to go by without a cake. To me, somehow, it has always been about the cake. It was also about the gifts for a long time. Nowadays, it doesn't matter if it is a store bought black forest cake or a home made sponge, I just feel that a cake makes a birthday complete.

So, in order to make his birthday complete, I'm sending this lovely banana chocolate chip cake to my brother who celebrates his birthday today.

1 3/4 cup Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

¼ tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Salt

¾ cup Brown Sugar

2/3 cup Chocolate chips

3-4 Bananas (overripe), peeled

1/3 cup Oil

2 Eggs

Oil and flour for lining and dusting

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease and dust a loaf tin.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

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 chocolate chips. Mix well and pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean). Cool on a rack for a few minutes.

When I made this cake, we didn't eat all of it at one go. We had enough left for a few days to learn that this cake gets better with time. A nice twist to the usual banana walnut cake to celebrate your birthday, H. Happy Birthday!

May 13, 2009

Mango Mint Cooler

Mangoes! They seem to make summer worthwhile. I see no reason to look forward to summers if it were not for these fruits. And the many other fruits that make an appearance for a short while each year. Raw mangoes start appearing a little before their fully ripe siblings. We bought some mangoes and I only wanted to make a chutney. But with the temperatures soaring to 46 C, a chutney or thuvayal was the last thing on my mind. I had a bunch of fresh mint leaves and decided to make this drink. It was great as it is and also as a mixer with vodka.

1 cup Raw Mango, peeled and diced

1 tbsp Roasted Cumin Powder

1 tsp Rock Salt, powdered

1/4 cup Mint Leaves, chopped

2-4 tbsp Sugar

Cook the mangoes with the rock salt, cumin powder and sugar, using a little water if necessary. Cool for a bit and grind to a paste with the mint leaves.

This mixture can be mixed with water (1:3 ratio) and makes for a great mixer as well. Pour over lots of ice and bid summer goodbye!

May 11, 2009

Sambar Style Egg Curry

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. And I couldn’t agree more. One evening, I returned home to an almost empty fridge. I don’t like that. I like to be prepared, at least mentally, for what to cook for dinner. I have a long commute back home and I use this time very productively. By thinking of what to cook for dinner!

Whatever vegetables I had in the fridge seemed very uninteresting. I thought of rice and egg curry. The idea seemed very appealing. S loved the idea (he loves any idea that rice is a part of) and I set to work. Suddenly I felt that the usual tomato onion gravy would be too boring. I thought of sambar. Sambar with eggs, nah. Vathal Kuzhambu with eggs, maybe. I ended up with this dish which is part sambar, part vathal kuzhambu, but is really just an egg curry. We loved it. I will make it a little more liquidy the next time I make it. (That only means that I shall stand and watch the dish and not wander away to return to a dry curry.)

4 Eggs, boiled and shelled
1 tbsp Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
¼ tsp Asafoetida
7-8 Curry Leaves
2 Green Chillies, slit
2 tbsp Tamarind Paste
2 tsp Sambar Powder
Salt to taste
Coriander Leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a kadhai. Add the mustard, cumin and asafoetida. After about half a minute, add the curry leaves and the slit chillies. Add the onions after a minute and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the sambar powder and salt and fry for a minute. Add the tamarind paste with about ¾ cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil.

Make incisions in the eggs and add them to the boiling gravy. Allow to thicken a little. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and enjoy this with some steamed rice.

May 9, 2009

Instant Pasta

I can have pasta for lunch or dinner. I can have it as an in between snack as well. I love pasta in any form and in any kind of sauce, stir-fry, sauté or salad. That pasta is an extremely popular breakfast dish is something I learnt only after I moved to Gurgaon this time around. The only pasta I’d eaten for breakfast had to be vermicelli.

I still don’t quite relish pasta for breakfast. But my colleague, D, brought this one morning and I loved it. I made it a few days later as a pre dinner snack (as dinner is mostly soup these days). It came out exactly like her dish.

I may not make this very often, but it is a keeper recipe that I had to save on my blog for posterity. Make it again, I certainly will.

1 cup Pasta of your choice, prepared according to instructions
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp Olive Oil
½ tsp Garlic Paste
2 tbsp Mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
¼ tsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic paste and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the mayonnaise and tomato ketchup along with the oregano, salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and toss well.

(Remember to go easy on the salt as the mayonnaise and ketchup have enough already.)

Enjoy this with a bowl of soup or some toast or just as it is. It is lip-smacking delicious.

May 7, 2009

Cabbage with Panch Phoron

This is a very simple dish that my cousin’s wife used to make (and probably still does). I am not a big fan of cabbage. I am rather neutral to this vegetable. I usually prefer to make it the
steamed way as a side with rice and sambar. For rotis, I end up making Cabbage Jhunka this way, substituting cabbage for the spring onions. But my cousin’s wife made this dish fairly often (I visited them almost every weekend for 12 months, so I guess I have to mention this to be fair to her). And I found I liked to eat it with rotis. Years later, I asked her how she made it and she told me. I couldn’t believe how simple it was. The panch phoron makes this dish come alive.

1 cup Cabbage, chopped
2 tsp Oil
2 tsp Panch Phoron (a mixture of mustard, cumin, fenugreek, fennel and nigella seeds)
2 Green Chillies, slit
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the slit chillies and the panch phoron and fry for a minute. Add the chopped cabbage and salt. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.

That is it. It is as simple as that. Since I almost always have chopped veggies in my freezer, this dish is a life saver when time is of essence.

May 5, 2009

Moong Dal

I can't remember where I tasted this dish first. I think it may have been the day the three boys who lived in the apartment downstairs invited me over for dinner. This was during my Hyderabad days. I somehow remember asking another friend how to make this dal and she told me. (Though, now she says she never had that conversation with me.)

1 cup Moong, soaked overnight and drained

1 Onion, sliced

1 tsp Green Chilli Paste

1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste

1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/2 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Ghee

1/4 tsp Cumin Seeds

Salt to taste

Heat the ghee in a pressure pan. Add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the onions, green chilli paste, and the ginger garlic paste. Fry for a minute. Add the turmeric and chilli powder and fry for another minute or two.

Add the drained moong along with the salt. Add 2-3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Open when the pressure is released and mash the moong with the back of a spoon and cook for a minute or two. Garnish with some chopped coriander if you like.

I've had this with rice and with rotis. I've even eaten it all by itself. So whichever way you have it, it is bound to be a winner.

May 3, 2009

Chhole Tikki

Instead of a big lunch or dinner, our meals are small and spread out during the entire day. Very often, I run out of ideas for snacks. A fruit box, sundal, or a salad sometimes doesn't make the cut. And I have very little time to actually cook something for our snack box. I had some leftover chhole in the fridge. I decided to use it to make these tikkis. Incidentally, I also found a couple of cooked potatoes in the fridge. I put everything together and then allowed these patties to cook on a skillet while I got the rest of our lunch going. If you don't have chhole, I'm sure cooked chickpeas will work just as well, with a teaspoon of chhole masala.

1 cup Chhole

2 Potatoes, cooked and peeled

1 slice Bread

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Coriander Powder

Salt to taste

Oil for frying

Blend the chhole in a mixer. Transfer the mixture to a vessel. Add the potatoes and the slice of bread. Add the chilli powder, coriander powder and the salt. Mash everything together and form 5-6 balls. Flatten each ball.

Heat a skillet and spread a little oil over it. Place the flattened balls on the skillet and cook them on both sides. Serve with ketchup or chutney. This is a perfect afternoon snack and helps keep hunger pangs away for a long time.

May 2, 2009

Onion Coriander Mini Muffins and some Gratitude

Food. It has never ceased to amaze me. The flavours, the combinations. The traditional, the fusion foods. Everything about it seems wonderful. I'd be lying if I said I was always interested in cooking. I have been doing it for a long time. I started out of sheer necessity. Baking was a different journey altogether. There was no "need" to bake. There was just a book lying on Amma's bookshelf that intrigued me. After years of sticking to recipes, I have finally started experimenting.

For the first party we threw in a long time, I was sure I didn't want to make any deep fried starters. I made some oven baked aloo tikkis, savoury cookies, and spicy crackers. Somehow, I got the feeling that these may not be enough. So, at the last minute, I decided to make some savoury muffins. I served with these with salsa. They were simply superb.

1/4 cup Oil
1/2 cup Wheat Flour
1 cup Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Coriander Leaves, chopped

1/2 tsp Green Chilli Paste
1 Onion, chopped
50g Cheese, diced

Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F). Grease a 24 - mini muffin pan.

Sift the dry ingredients and keep aside. Whisk the eggs, milk and oil. Add the chilli paste, coriander, cheese and onion. Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir gently. Place a spoonful of batter in each cup.

Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm with some salsa on the side. (I served it with Karen Anand's Mexican Salsa.) Wait for the compliments to pour in.

When I look back, I think of the many opportunities I missed. The many times I could have asked someone how they made a certain dish and written it down, but didn't. The many times I could have come back home and tried to recreate a dish I'd just tasted at a restaurant, only to have forgotten about it over time.

I don't know how many times I bought new notebooks and wrote "Cookbook" on the first page only to forget after the initial enthusiasm faded away. I've lost count of the photocopies I've taken of other peoples' recipe books, only to misplace them during shifting and then forget about them altogether. I've stopped collecting the envelopes on which I've quickly noted down Amma's recipes over long distance calls. I guess that's because I finally got organized when it came to keeping my recipes in tact. Through this blog.

That's all this blog was intended to be. My answer to all those forgotten notebooks, lost photocopies and envelopes thrown in the bin accidentally. My attempt to take down a recipe from Amma or my aunts just once and save them for posterity. It's funny how popular this blog actually turned out to be. I remember telling Nandita in my very first post that I didn't plan on uploading any pictures. Egged on by all the wonderful blogs and the even the more wonderful bloggers, I took pictures, learnt how to make them better, and above all else continually got the energy to keep this blog going. I don't know how to say thanks.

I was never lucky in any sort of "lucky draw". But through the food blogging experience, I won a lovely book from Sig last year. My last minute entry to the AFAM Cherry won me this wonderful handmade gift from Rachel. Thank you for the lovely kitchen set Rachel.

This past year, this blog, and through it, I, have featured in leading newspapers and magazines. The Hindu featured this blog in their Food Bytes section. The Telegraph ran this story in their Sunday edition. In March this year, Ritu interviewed me for this story in Live IT. A couple of glimpses:

A closer look:

You never know where an initiative can take you. From my first newspaper mention for this blog to my first sale of a banana nut loaf, this year has been eventful. Thank you to each and everyone of you for helping me reach 450 posts in 731 days. If it wasn't for each of you, I doubt I'd be saying, "Happy 2nd Birthday, The Singing Chef!"

May 1, 2009

Vada Pav

The Indian Burger! That would best describe the Vada Pav. I don't remember when I ate my first vada pav. My strongest memory of the batata vadas dates back to the late seventies. As the Dadar Express pulled into Karjat, Amma would start looking out of the window. Somewhere amidst the Kedbari, Feystar, Jings ( Cadbury's, Five Star, Gems) she'd find a Batata Vada vendor and call him. They'd talk in marathi (and we didn't understand a word) and at the end of the conversation we'd have a newspaper with 6 vadas, some garlic chutney and a few green chillies. Every year, we looked forward to this moment. Finger licking goodness!

I got hooked to the Vada Pav much later. I tried several different vendors until I figured this guy outside the LIC building on my way to the station from Nariman Point dished out the best vada pav. I wasn't that keen on making the stuff at home, so I didn't pay attention to his chutney. (When you got it for 2.75 a piece, why would you bother?) I tried it at home years later. It wasn't as good as his, but it was definitely good.

For the Batter:
1/2 cup Gram Flour (Besan)

1/4 cup Rice Flour

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Garlic Paste

Salt to taste

1 tbsp Hot Oil

For the Filling:
3-4 Potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubed

1 tsp Green Chilli Paste

1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste

2 tbsp Coriander Leaves, chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for frying

For the Chutney:

6-8 Garlic Pods
4 Red Chillies
Salt to taste

6 Pavs

Mash the potatoes and add the salt, chilli and ginger-garlic pastes, and coriander leaves. Make small balls and keep aside.

Mix all the ingredients for the batter. Add enough water to make a thick batter.

Heat the oil in a kadhai. Dip the potato balls in the gram flour batter and drop carefully into the oil. Deep fry the batata vadas until they turn golden brown all around. Drain on absorbent paper.

Grind together all the ingredients for the chutney. Slit each pav horizontally (not all the way) and spread some chutney. Place a batata vada over the chutney and enjoy your snack.

P.S. S had a new version of vada pav at the Mumbai airport recently. He said the vada was baked int the bun. A little more time consuming I'm sure, but he says it is a very non messy way to enjoy the snack. With all this baking going on, can I say no?