Saturday, December 6, 2008

JFI:Carrots The Roundup

Hosting this event was just what I needed to get back to blogging. Sheer laziness was keeping me from blogging. But now I'm back to enjoying that particular high one gets after clicking the Publish button.
Thanks to JFI, I also met several new bloggers.

Months ago I signed up to host JFI and promptly forgot about it. Thanks to Srivalli for her gentle reminder.
Thanks to Indira for giving me the chance to host an edition of Jihva For Ingredients.

Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds and possibly the best source of vitamin A. They are delicious eat raw or cooked. Fortunately the abundant beta-carotene is not destroyed when cooked. In fact slightly cooking or steaming the carrots breaks down the cell wall making the fiber more available.

Without much ado here is the roundup.

If I have inadvertently missed listing your entry, please let me know.

I now pass the baton to Ammalu's Kitchen who is hosting JFI:Sprouts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quinoa-Carrot Pulao

If it doesn't contain any rice is it still a pulao?
This is a riff on the classic carrot-pulao.
I go thru these phases where I make an extra effort to eat less rice.

During one such phase, when a friend mentioned how she has virtually given up rice and instead eats quinoa I was all ears.
Even before we could complete our conversation, in my mind the carrot-pulao had morphed into a quinoa-carrot!

This is an incredibly aromatic pulao and no, we didn't miss the rice one bit.
Equally delicious when hot or at room temperature. I'll be making this pulao quite often. The next time I do, I'll swap out the blurred photo.

Quinoa-Carrot Pulao
4 cups cooked quinoa
2 medium sized carrots, grated or chopped
4-5 black peppercorns
3 cloves (lavang)
½ inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp fennel (bishops weed)
2 pods cardamom
1 green chilies, chopped
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste
4-5 stalks cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil. When hot, add the green chillies.
Next add all the spices and saute for about a minute.
Add the carrots and let them cook for another minute.
Add the quinoa and salt. Mix well.
Cover and cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
Adjust the salt and garnish with cilantro.
Enjoy this protein rich pulao on its own or with a simple raita.

My entry to JFI:Carrots.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Forbidden Rice Pudding: Two Ways

During a recent trip to China I brought back some exquisite looking black rice, also called forbidden rice.
I was told that when cooked, the colour of this rice changes to purple!
One of my favourite cookbooks has a recipe for a black rice pudding, which is what I had in mind when I bought the rice.
But that recipe called for coconut milk, and we are not big fans of coconut or coconut milk.

Even though I wanted to give coconut milk another chance, I wasn't sure of the others so I had to have another version.

After toying with several ideas I decided make some almond milk to mix with the cooked rice. Almond milk, sounds exotic doesn't it?
Well it is just soaked almonds, ground to a fine paste and then thinned with water. At least this is my version of almond milk.

Since I was making two versions of the pudding, I first cooked the rice in the pressure cooker, using the usual 1:2 rice:water ratio.

To make the pudding, mix the cooked rice, sugar, and either coconut or almond milk.
The quantity of sugar depends on how sweet you like your pudding and the quantity of the milk depends on the desired consistency.

While no one hated the coconut flavoured pudding, I had no leftovers of the the almond flavoured pudding. The colour was gorgeous in either case.

Both these puddings now make their way to Srivalli's table to join the Rice Mela.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

JFI Announcement: Date Extended

The announcement for this month's JFI was made a little later than expected.
But Dee (Ammalu's Kitchen) has graciously let me extend the deadline for JFI:Carrots to December, 4th 2008; effectively overlapping her event by a couple of days. Thanks Dee.

Keep them entries coming.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kneadless To Say It Was Wonderful

On many occasions I tried to make the knead less bread. But the time consuming process always got in the way. The prep time was difficult to fit in our every changing schedule.

So when I saw a recipe for a fast no knead bread, I started to pre-heat the oven. Not literally because once mixed, the dough needs to rest for about 5 hours. Five hours I can manage, not the 14 to 20 hours required by the original no knead bread.

There are two versions of the quicker no knead bread. Of course I tried the whole wheat version. The recipe also called for rye flour and coarse corn meal. Didn't have any rye so I doubled the quantity of corn meal.

About the corn meal, the recipe specified using coarse corn meal, but what I had was extra coarse corn meal. I should've followed the recipe and used coarse corn meal because the extra coarse grains rather spoil the texture making it quite gritty.

Despite this minor issue, I was quite happy with the outcome.

This is my entry to Suganya's Vegan Ventures Round 2.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nibble On This

Mix sliced carrots with a bit of oil, salt, and a generous quantity of ground pepper.
Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.
Watch them disappear before meal time.

My entry to JFI:carrots.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Late I'm Late: JFI: December: Carrots.

I truly feel like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

I'm late in announcing JFI: December 2008.

JFI, Jihva For Ingredients, is one of the most popular food blog events around. JFI,the brainchild of Indira (needs no introduction), showcases an ingredient each month.

The ingredient chosen for this month is carrots.
From appetizers to desserts, carrots find a place in each course and in every cuisine.
All you creative cooks out there send me recipes that prominently feature carrots. That rabbit needs them and so do I.
No rules for participation, just some guidelines.
  • Prepare a dish showcasing carrots and write about it in your blog in the month of November. No limit to the number of entries you can send. Non bloggers, email the recipe along with a picture of the dish.
  • Make sure your post links to this announcement.
  • Send an email to with JFI:Carrot in the subject line. Please include the following information in your email:
    --Your blog name
    --Name of the entry
    --URL of your post

Updated: The roundup is here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reality Bites

At the start of the summer vacation I had visualised such an ldyllic setting, no homework, no projects (not that I was doing any of these myself), agenda-free days, so much time to cook and blog. Happy Happy!
Some busy times at work, guests, day trips with the kids, a family vacation, and at time sheer laziness ensured that blogging out of the (happy) picture.
The problem with agenda-free days is that there is always time to fit in one more craft project/ book/ phone conversation/ TV show etc. etc.

Though I wasn't able to cook anything from my new cookbooks (some bought, some gifted), I did get a chance to tackle the ever increasing must-try folder. The following recipes have been made so often that they are now a part of our everyday/ commonly made foods.

Here are some of them:

  • A few days after I bought a microplace zester, ET posted a recipe for Cranberry-Orange loaf. This seemed like the perfect recipe to break in the zester.
    I've lost count of the number of times I've made it. I've also lost count of the variations. Mostly I experimented with reduced quantities of butter, sour cream and sugar. Greatly reduced quantities of butter surprisingly didn't affect the texture or the taste. Since this loaf almost always disappears with amazing alacrity, it is difficult to know how the reduced butter would affect it's shelf life.

  • The only way I now prepare collard greens is Suganya's way. It comes together in a jiffy. Taste delicious with rice or on it's own accompanied with thinned buttermilk.

  • Nicole's Silken raspberry mousse is ridiculously easy to make. It is the perfect warm weather dessert. I've tried this mousse with several fruits, but our favourite remains raspberry with an addition of orange zest (gotta use that new zester).

  • The idea of steaming stuffed peppers before sauteing them is just ingenious. Such an idea had to come from Richa.

  • Jugalbandi's chocolate rum cake is incredibly moist, rich tasting and quite guilt free. What more can one want from a chocolate cake?

  • Shyam's tiger cake is by far the most spectacular looking cake I've baked so far. Whoever thought of this technique is indeed a genius.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sweets For A Sweetie

A few months ago a baby girl was born in our family.
We now have another niece and the children have another cousin to dote over, to spoil, and to love unconditionally. Though I haven't met her yet we already have a special bond; she, my father, and I share the same sun sign!

Maharashtrians celebrate the birth of a baby boy by distributing pedhe and burfi if it is a baby girl.
Why the difference? Pedhe were supposedly more expensive than burfi; the underlying thought being that the joy was greater when a boy was born and so the extra expense is justified.

In Marathi, the pedha is assigned a masculine gender while the burfi is assigned a feminine gender (to pedha ani tee barfi).
In our family we prefer this explaination to the earlier one.

This burfi is in honor of my newest niece.
Sandeepa's microwave recipe for kalakand, besides being utterly delicious, is extremely easy.
In its simplest form calls for just three ingredients, ricotta cheese and condensed milk and elaichi. I added keshar (saffron) to make it extra special.

Condensed milk is not something I enjoy as it is way too sweet for my palate. But combined with ricotta cheese the result is out of this world.

This is my entry to MBP:Less is More, hosted this time by the hostess with the mostest Nupur!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cool Off

Recently a friend very generously shared some kokum that her family had sent all the way from India. The same day I happened to borrow from her the definitive book on Saraswat cuisine, Rasachandrika.
While perusing the book I came upon the recipe for kokum saar.
Though I had intended to serve it for dinner that day, I ended up chilling the saar and enjoying it as a pre-prandial aperitif. Since then this has been the beverage of choice for the significant-other and me. Move over carbonated drinks and corn syrup laced fruit juices!
By coarsely grinding the cumin and peppercorns, you occasionally bite on the piece of the spicy peppercorn or the comparatively sweeter cumin. Lovely!
For an oil-free version, check Ashwini's recipe for kokum saar.

Kokum Sarbat
Inspired by Kokum Saar from Rasachandrika.

6-8 pieces of kokum (amsool)
4-5 black peppercorns
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp oil
sizable dash of asafoetida
sugar (jaggery) and salt, to taste.
a couple of stalks of cilantro

Soak the kokum in 2 cups of hot water and set it aside for atleast ½ an hour.
Squeeze the kokum to extract as much of the juice. Save the skins for a kokum chutney, see below.
Lightly roast the peppercorns and the cumin.
Grind then to get a coarse powder. We don't want a fine powder.
Heat oil, add the asafoetida and the peppercorn-cumin powder.
Add the kokum water and turn off the heat.
Cool completely before adding the sugar and salt.
Garnish with cilantro.
Serve chilled.

You can make a simple chutney by grinding together the kokum skins, garlic, green chillies, and a bit of salt.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fry Me A River: Wada-Pav

I just couldn't think of a title for this post. But when one of the kids started a rare whine-fest ' promised you would fry something today etc. etc.' I had the title (lame as it may be).

Had we gone to Pune this year, we'd be enjoying a wada-pav right this minute.
Our favourite wada-pav comes from two small no-name places: one close to the Best Western Pride Hotel and the other at the intersection of Senapati Bapat Road and the road leading to Patrakar Nagar.
Much as we enjoy the wada-pav from these places, we cannot bear to eat them there.
Something about that ambiance and the sanitary conditions gets in the way. We enjoy them better in the comfort of our home.

This time I used AdhiPotoba's recipe ; which frankly is not too different from mine.

A must-have with wada-pav is lashni-chi chutney (dry garlic chutney) much like Nupur's.
This will tide me over till my next visit to Punya Nagari.

This wada-pav is crossing the pond as my entry to MBP:Street Food, hosted this month by Sia.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Methamba Using Apples

My kids go thru these phases when they get hooked on a certain food and for the next several days that is what they want for each meal. So sometimes it is waffles for breakfast, waffles in the lunchbox, waffles when they get back from get the idea.

Shouldn't complain too much as I, too, sometimes tend to binge similarly.
The last time this happened was when I had way too many apples on hand.

These were some absolutely delicious, crunchy, tart granny smith apples.
When looking for ways to use them up, I stumbled on a post in this thread for using up granny smith apples.
This recipe (replicated below for convenience) gave green apples the methamba treatment. Methamba is a delicious chutney/ relish made using green mangoes.

The result was absolutely delicious (and like the kids I couldn't get enough of it). This is an idea I would've liked to have thought of myself.

Apples-Methi Chutney (Methamba Ishtyle)
2 medium sized granny smith apples, cored and cut into small pieces
2-3 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
6-7 curry leaves
2-3 (or more) dried red chillies, stems removed
½ tbsp (or more) brown sugar
a pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
2 tsp lemon juice (optional, depending on the sourness of the apples)

Mix and set aside the apples, salt, and lemon juice. (I didn't use any).
Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and asafoetida.
Add the methi seeds, curry leaves, chillies, brown sugar, and the apple mixture.
Cook for about 2-3 minutes (more if you want a mushy chutney).
Cool completely before adjusting the salt.

Stays in the refrigerator for about a week, I think.
Given the way this chutney is attacked in our home, it has never lasted that long.
This chutney tastes good with rotis, freshly steamed rice, in a sandwich, as a dip with crackers, etc. etc.

Traditional versions of methamba are here and here.
Here is a way to make, panha, the quintessential summer drink using apples (specifically applesauce) instead of green mangoes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

256 Types of Cookies

Multiple Choice Cookies
Years ago the kids gave me a couple of books by Joanne Fluke for my birthday.
'Since you like reading and cooking, we bought these books because the main character owns a bakery. The books also have recipes'. This is by far one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

We've been planning to cook from these books for a long time. This week we actually did. Yes, it was a collective effort. To be fair, my son did most of the work; I occasionally chimed with expert comments.

These cookies provide instant gratification. My son made these on his own and was immensely thrilled with himself. He definitely seems to have been bitten by the baking bug.

Multiple Choice Cookies
½ cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
One ingredient from each of the following columns:

Column 1Column 2Column 3Column 4
(1½ cups)(2 cups) (2 cups)(1 cup)
Graham cracker crumbsSemisweet chocolate chips Rice crispiesChopped pecans
Vanilla wafer crumbsRaisins Frosted cornflakes (crushed)Chopped pistachios
Animal cracker crumbsChopped dates Frosted cornflakes (crushed)Chopped mixed nuts
Sugar cookie crumbsMilk chocolate chips Marshmallows, smallChopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Grease just the sides of a 13x9 in baking pan.
Melt the butter and pour it in the pan.
Sprinkle the chosen ingredient from column A.
Drizzle the condensed milk over the butter.
Sprinkle the chosen ingredient from column B, then column C and lastly the one from column D.
With the palm of your hand, press down the layers.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Note: Given that there are four ingredients in each column, and four column in all, 4x4x4x4 varieties of cookies are possible.

I'm sharing these cookies with Bhags for her This book makes me cook event. These cookies were made from the Blueberry Muffin Murder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Maharashtrian Kaccha (raw) Masala

Lagna-cha Masala

When going thru a new cookbook, I always go to the TOC to check if there is a section on condiments/ masalas etc. Most cookbooks on regional Indian cuisines do have such a section and usually provide a preview of the cuisine.

For various reasons I hadn't ever read the small section at the beginning of each Ruchira volume which presents simple masalas along with basic techniques used in cooking such has making a one-thread sugar syrup (ek taari paak). The main reason I skipped the part on masalas is that my Aai is the main supplier of home-made masalas.

Tucked away in this section was the recipe for a masala called kaccha masala. None of the ingredients are fried or roasted, hence the name (kaccha=raw). Even after it was made, I wasn't sure of this masala. Though the masala was quite aromatic on its own, it didn't have any special zing to it.
I first made a masale bhaat similar to this one but making sure to fry the masala before adding the vegetables and the rice.

At the very first whiff one is transported into a wedding mandav (pandal), right in the midst of the bustling, anxious folks from the girls side, and the uber relaxed, glad-we-don't-have-to-work-as-hard folks from the boys side, the rustling silks, the glittering jewelry, the cumulative fragrance of mogra, zhendu (marigold), chandan (sandalwood), agarbattis (incense), and kaapoor (camphor), small kids randomly running around, conversations that begin with 'Did you hear...?', gossips exchanged or started, everyone except the bride and groom having a gala time.

Right there I knew that this masala would have to be rechristened to Lagna-cha Masala.
Use the masala in a rassa such as this or this or Ashwini's masale bhaat (mentioned above) or Manasi's version of Ashwini's masale bhaat!

Here is a slightly modified version of this masala.

Kaccha Masala (Lagna-cha Masala)

½ cup coriander seeds (dhane)
¼ cup cumin seeds
1 tbsp kala jeera
12-14 cloves
2 1-inch cinnamon sticks

Grind the ingredients in a spice grinder to a get coarse powder.
Store in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Papad Ki Subji

With so many events going on in the blogsphere, it is difficult to keep track of them all and much less actually participate.
Each time I read about a new event I make fancy plans of sending in a dhinchak (for those not from Pune or Mumbai, this loosely translates into cool, fantastic, incredible) entry. But when each day of the work week pans out like a manic Monday, all those plans fall by the wayside.

I was not able to participate in several RCI events and felt terrible about that. Wasn't going to let RCI:Rajasthan slip by in a similar fashion. This wonderful blog event, initiated by Lakshmi of VeggieCuisine , urges us to explore the varied regional cuisines of India and is one of my favourite blog events.

The only problem this time around was that I didn't posses a single book that had Rajasthani recipes. I couldn't even rely on previous Rajasthani meals as I had Rajasthani food just once; daal-baati served with an outrageous amount of ghee.

After hunting around for inspiration I settled on papad ki subji. The idea of using papad was rather intriguing. Going by the many versions I found for making this subji there didn't seem to be a right or a wrong way to make it. This suited me just fine as I'm notorious about not sticking to a recipe.

(Standard disclaimer: the food in the picture is tastier than it appears.)

One of the versions that appealed to me used methi seeds. I happened to have fresh methi leaves on hand so I added those as well. If one type of methi is good, two types will be better. Right?

This subji came together in no time. Almost no preparation required.
The dahi (yogurt) made it nice and tangy. Had I used regular or low-far yogurt, it would've been creamier. The papads get incredibly soft and the resulting texture of the dish is similar to the Maharashtrian Daal-Phal (waran-phal) or the Gujarati Daal-Dhokli.

Papad Ki Subji
(serves two)
2-3 avegage sized papads (I used Lijjat plain urad papads)
2 tbsp methi seeds, soaked in a cup of warm water
3 tbsp dahi (yogurt)
½ tsps each mirchi powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder
1 cup fresh methi leaves, chopped
1 tbsp oil
dash of hing (asafoetida)
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
a pinch of garam masala, optional (I didn't use any)
salt to taste

Soak the methi seeds soak in warm water for ½ an hour.
Break the papads into small pieces.
Heat the oil, add the mirchi, turmeric and cumin powders.
Add the hing and the methi seeds (with ½ of the water).
Cover and cook for a few minutes, till the methi seeds soften slightly.
Add the methi leaves and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the yogurt and a cup of water and let it come to a boil, stirring frequently.
Add the papad pieces and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
Taste and add salt accordingly. I didn't need to add any salt.
Enjoy with hot rotis.

My entry for RCI: Rajasthan, hosted by Padmaja.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tamale Pie: Stacked

Tamales are made usually made by steaming corn dough (masa) wrapped in corn husks. A filling is optional. More about them here.
Though I used similar ingredients, the method of preparing them is not the same (didn't steam them in corn husks). So what I made is technically not a tamale pie. But it is so good!

This is one of our new favourites. I made it for the first time a few weeks ago and I've already made it twice since then.
Instead of making individual pies, I stacked the ingredients in a pan and baked it. Much easier to make and serve. But you can get fancy-shmancy and serve individual portions like in the picture.

The base of this pie is polenta. Make your own or buy it pre-made. Either is fine. Making polenta is easy, just ask her.
The polenta is topped with a bean & green mixture and some sharp cheddar. A few minutes in the oven is all that is needed. Top with fresh salsa and dinner is served!

It is with the bean & green layer that you can get really creative. Literally anything goes.
So far I've used a combination of black beans, cannelini beans, leeks, and mustard greens. But a garbanzo bean, spring onion, and kale combination won't be too far behind.

Tamale Pie
(Inspired by a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.)
Enough for four quasi hungry people.
Use the quantities given below just as a guideline.

Prepare the polenta
You will need about 12 polenta slices.
Cook both sides of each slice, till it is slightly crispy.
Set aside.

Prepare the (simple) salsa
Mix together 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved), 4-5 stalks of cilantro (chopped),
½ cup chopped onions, salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the beans and greens
You will need:
2 cups cooked beans
4 cups cooking greens
1 cup leeks, chopped
8-10 stalk cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste.

Heat the oil and add the cumin & oregano.
Add the leeks and cook till they soften (4-5 minutes).
Add the beans. With the back of a spoon mash most of the beans, leaving some intact.
Add the greens and mix well.
Cook for about 10 minutes.

Assemble the pie
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease a 13x9 baking pan. Arrange the polenta in a single layer.
Spread the bean & green mixture over the polenta.
Top with a couple of cups of shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is recommended).
Bake for about 10-15 minutes.

Before serving top with salsa and chopped cilantro.

Sending this pie to DK's A.W.E.D: Mexican Food event.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Who You Calling Weird?

Haven't I done this before?

That was my reaction when Sra tagged me for the weird things meme.
What I had been tagged for earlier was the random things meme.
Clearly I must've misread the theme of that meme b'cos weirdness was what came out rather than randomness. Take another look to see what I mean.

Anyway, here are some food-related weird things:

  • Supermarket cakes.
    I'm done with them, finito, khatam. At birthday parties if I notice the cake is from a supermarket, I go to great lengths to avoid it. Same routine at work.
    Even if I don't notice the box it came from, a small taste and it is immediately apparent where it came from.
    Can one even call such cakes food? What are they made of?
    Not everyone will find this weird. But some find these tendencies extremely weird and snobbish. What e.v.e.r!

  • Idli-bhajji
    I had this years ago and still remember how annoyed I was then. You take a perfect idli, dip it in perfect bhajji batter and fry it. In the process waste two perfect ingredients. What a shame!

  • Ripe Mango-vegetable Salad
    Have a salad; enjoy a mango. Don't put them together; unless it is a fruits-only salad.
    Plain mango, aamras (mango juice/ pulp), mango milkshake, mango ice-cream. All ok.
    I will not cannot eat a mango in any other form. Not even aamrakhanda (mango shrikhanda).
    So to see a mango in a savoury dish or to see a mango rubbing shoulders with an onion... That is just wrong. So wrong.

  • Poli/ Chapati/ Roti
    I can't make decent ones even if my life depended on them. Frankly I gave up trying years ago. Parathas, I can manage. Not polya.
    Growing up, we'd have a lady come in every morning to make polya for the family. What a luxury.
    Now I have a nice Indian lady who lives in our neighbourhood make polya for me several times a week. Lucky me!

  • Bowl matters
    I prefer eating in a bowl rather than a plate. This drives the significant-other nuts.

Anyone who hasn't been tagged and would like to do this meme, consider yourself tagged by TheCooker.
But specifically I'd like to tag a fellow Punekar, the person behind Adhi Potoba.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Agretti Parathas

The CSA season is in full swing. Every week the bag brings us just-harvested, lovingly grown, organic vegetables. A recent bag contained, amongst other things, bok choy, cilantro, broccoli, baby carrots, kale and agretti. While reading the newsletter that accompanies the produce, I mentally made plans for each item; but at the last one I hit a major speedbreaker.

Each year we get introduced to a couple of new vegetables/ cooking greens. Last year it was lamb's quarters. This year it is agretti. More about agretti here.

When presented with a new cooking green, I usually try them for the first time in a daal or in parathas. Both don't need a recipe per se which make them ideal for experimentation. If the green is not welcomed in the daal or paratha avatar, it is unlikely we'd like them prepared any other way. But so far we haven't met a cooking green we didn't like.

This time I made agretti parathas. Here is a picture of the parathas and a spring (bunch?) of agretti.

We were quite happy with the results. The inherent sourness came through quite well.
The only herb/ spice I used was chopped garlic and some mirchi powder. Next time I can load up on the spices as this is quite a sturdy green. Owa (ajwain, carom) with agretti already sounds good.

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup chopped agretti
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp mirchi powder
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium high heat, add garlic. Don't let it brown.
Add the mirchi powder, salt, and agretti.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the cilantro.
Let cool slightly before adding the flour.
Add water as need to make a soft dough. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into about 20 pieces.
Roll each piece into parathas of even thickness.
Use a little oil and cook both sides of the parathas on a heated pan.
Enjoy with yogurt!

These parathas go to Srivalli's Roti Mela.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Birthday Cupcakes

Years ago I saved this recipe (from a much forwarded email) and promptly forgot about it.
I chanced upon the recipe when going through my archives looking for a new recipe for chocolate cupcakes.
This recipe is astonishingly similar to the one from One-Pot Cakes so I suspect it originated there.

These were the cupcakes I made for my daughter's birthday last month.
I made several batches of these cupcakes and each batch baked up consistently good. Soft and sweet; not the toothache inducing sort of sweetness. The cupcakes remained moist even a couple of days after they were baked. A keeper recipe, no doubt.

6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cup flour
½ cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Prepare the cupcake pan (either grease and flour the pan or use cupcake holders).
Put the butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 45 seconds.
Add the chocolate and microwave for about a minute; till the chocolate is mostly melted.
Stir the mixture till the chocolate melts completely.
Add the brown sugar and stir till combined.
Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix well.
Add the flour and sprinkle the baking soda. Mix well.
Stir in the hot water.
Spoon the batter into the cup; roughly ½ full.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes; till a tester inserted in one of the cupcakes comes out almost clean.

Though the yield is supposed to be a dozen cupcakes, I always had some batter leftover. So I'd say each recipe yields about 14 cupcakes.
Cool completely before frosting.
The cupcakes deflate slightly as they cool.

The frosting was similar to the one used here, except I omitted the coffee powder and the liqueur.
The cupcakes were topped with one of these flowers.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It Was A Good Year

It all started with wanting to participate in Nupur's A to Z of Indian Vegetables.
It has been a year since my first post and quite a year it has been!

I had no idea where I was headed with this blog (not sure I know even now). But blogging has been one of the most creatively satisfying projects I've ever undertaken.

Along the way I've met some truly wonderful people, people I wouldn't have met if it hadn't been for this blog. A few of them right in my back yard.

A huge thank you to all who have visited my blog, commented on the posts, tried some of my recipes and, most importantly told me how they turned out.

Thank You!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Flowers From My Kitchen

The child couldn't make up her mind.
One day it was butterflies. An hour later ladybugs were requested.
Finally, she settled on flowers.
We were talking about the decorative topping for her birthday cupcakes.

Several year ago I had made simple designs using melted chocolate piped onto parchment paper and I remembered being quite happy with the results. Great to embellish simple cakes.
But since she wanted colourful flowers (not just chocolate flowers), I turned to candy melts.
Though the process of making these flowers is just a little time consuming, the results are so wow-inducing that it is worth all the time.

Here is how I made them:
Step 1
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (not wax paper).
Melt about ½ cup of chocolate chips. I usually microwave them for about 20 seconds at a time till most of them are melted. At this point, stir the chips till they all melt and become smooth.
Spoon the melted chocolate in the corner of a zip top bag. Snip off a tiny piece of that corner. How much you snip off depends on how thick you want the outline.
Pipe the desired shape onto the parchment paper. Since I was making flowers, I piped an outline of the flowers.
Let the outline dry completely before moving onto Step 2.

Step 2
Follow directions on the package to melt the candy pieces. Spoon the melted chocolate in the corner of a zip top bag. Snip off a tiny piece of that corner.
Pipe the melted candy to fill in the petals and the center of the flowers. Make sure you completely fill into the outline.

Don't worry about flowers not being smooth. The side that is visible right now is the wrong side. The other side that is perfectly flat and smooth will be visible on the cupcakes.

After the flowers have cooled they slip right off the parchment paper.
They can be stored for several weeks in an airtight container.
As they taste pretty good on their own, you have to hide them from sneaky people.

The finished product:

Here is a flower topped cupcake. These were some super moist chocolate cupcakes. More about them in the next post.

Monday, March 31, 2008

PBP: Peanut Butter Pear Sandwiches

These sandwiches are a favourite snack.
Any kind of pear will do. As long as it is not too ripe and retains a bite.
Unsalted crunchy peanut butter is preferred.
Snack on!

Raaga, these are coming your way; my entry to AFAM: Pear .

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh Crepe!

"You haven't made crepes in such a l-o-n-g time. Could you please make crepes, please please".

Such a simple request. But this guilt package was twice as heavy. First, the obvious guilt of not having made something that they enjoy so much. Second, the request was for crepes. Those ridiculously easy to make crepes.

So here I was serving up crepes for breakfast wondering why I don't make them often enough.
We've enjoyed crepes for breakfast and dessert. We once even had them for lunch at a fast food place, but those were ginormous ones stuffed with spinach, onions, cheese etc. Totally spoilt the delicateness of the crepes.
Apart from being so easy to make, they can be made ahead for time. Not only can you store the batter in the fridge for a couple of days, the crepes can be stored (separated by wax paper)for just as long. Such lifesavers.

This time I made several substitutions, replaced part of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour, one egg with an equal measure of egg substitute, 1 tbsp of butter with a tbsp of oil. I was quite happy with the results.
The amount of sugar is greatly reduced as I much prefer to sweeten things with fruit or yogurt. Another reason for not making the crepes sweeter is that they can also be used for savoury fillings or toppings. Less work is good; especially since I'm not inclined to making two versions of the batter.

¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 eggs (or 1 egg and egg substitute for 1 egg)
½ cup milk (nonfat is ok)
2 tbsp butter, softened (or 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil)
1 tbsp sugar (or more)
pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients and run them through a blender or food processor till well combined.
Heat the pan (I use a 6-inch nonstick pan) and add a tiny dab of butter.
Pour a little less than ¼ cup of the batter in the middle of the pan.
Lift the pan and twirl the pan to spread the batter evenly, covering the entire pan.
(With just a little practice one gets the hang of it and is able to make the crepes of even thickness and avoid the supercrispy outer edge. Not that the edges are a bad thing.)
Cook for about 1 minute on medium heat. The crepe will start pull away from the sides of the pan.
Flip and cook the other side for about 45 seconds.
Makes about 8 6-inch crepes.
This recipe can be easliy doubled.

Some Variations We Enjoy
In addition to the usual yogurt and fruit (even here the permutations and combinations are endless), PBJ is good too.
A little bit of Nutella-love spread on the crepe and topped with a little chocolate sauce and some toasted nuts.
Fruit and thinned jam.
Spinach and cheese.

One day, some day I want to try this crepe-cake.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate (shrug)

Around this time of the year, my son and I have a conversation which typically goes:

Me: So, what cake do you want for your birthday?
Him: Plain Chocolate. shrug (not even looking up).
Me: Filling?
Him: Chocolate. shrug (still not looking up).
Me: Frosting?
Him: Chocolate. My usual. Why change a good thing? (Can't argue with that).
I thought our conversation ended here, but moments later he continued (finally making eye contact) 'This time, how about chocolate-hazelnut with a bit of coffee in there somewhere?'

Aww, me boy is growing up!

Though this is without doubt our most favourite cake, it was never requested by the kids as the birthday cake. The cake is not too sweet but is moderately rich. The hazelnut flavour is just fantastic.

I found this recipe scribbled on a wee piece of paper tucked in my copy of Joy of Cooking. The recipe was in all likelihood jotted down from a book (sigh, don't remember which one) when browsing thru books in the local public library.

I usually use hazelnut meal but if I take the time to buy the nuts, roast, and grind them, I'm amply rewarded.

Most often, I make a chocolate-ganache which acts as the frosting and the filling. This time I made a chocolate-coffee frosting (recipe below) which turned out to be just right. So incredibly flavourful, full of that coffee-chocolate taste; a perfect foil for the hazelnut cake.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups turbinado sugar (see Notes below)
2 large eggs
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cup sour cream (low fat is ok but not fat-free)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts or hazelnut meal(see Notes below)
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 3 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate.

Grease the baking pans (one bundt, two 8inch round pans, or one 13x8 pan).
Preheat the oven to 350C.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Cream the butter and sugar till well blended and fluffy.
Add and beat the eggs, one at a time.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mixture alternately with the sour cream.
Stir in the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake 35 mins (25 mins if using two pans) or till a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Instead of the turbinado sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar can be used as well. But the turbinado sugar is preferred as it adds a bit of a crunch.
You can increase the amount of the hazelnut up to 1½ cups; proportionately decrease the quantity of the flour. If you increase the hazelnut any more, the cake doesn't hold well; been there, done that.

Chocolate-Coffee Frosting
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp coffee liqueur

Mix all the ingredients and beat on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes (or till the mixture gets stiff enough for spreading).

Friday, February 29, 2008

Kolhapuri Flower-Batata Rassa

When looking for recipes to use the masala that Nupur sent, my stack of Saptahik Sakal came through in a big way. Though I found several recipes for Kolhapuri food there, most of them were either for non-vegeterian food or they didn't involve using any pre-made masala.

Finally I settled on making a rassa. Any vegetable preparation with gravy is categorised as a rassa (ras/ rus = juice). The usual suspects in a rassa are caulifower, potatoes, and green peas. Sometimes a tomato puts in an appearance.

One common thread I noticed in the recipes for the non-vegeterian dishes was that the masala was added to sauteed onions and then ground to a paste (kalwan). This paste was the main seasoning.
If the masala was aromatic to begin with, the kalwan was even more so.
Taste wise it packed a major punch. None of those delicate, subtle or barely-there flavours.
The masala that was stuck to the sides of the mixer bowl was carefully collected, spread over a slice of bread and one squirt of lemon later I was in sandwich heaven.

Kolhapuri Flower-Batata Rassa

2 cups cauliflower florets
1 medium sized potato, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp Kolhapuri masala
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste

Heat 1 tbsp oil and saute 3/4th of the onions till brown.
Add the masala and cook slightly (just under a minute). Do not add any water.
Grind the onion-masala mixture (kalwan).
Heat the remaining oil and saute the onions that were set aside.
Add the kalwan and cook for about 1-2 minutes, stiring constantly. If the kalwan sticks to the pan, add a bit of water. The colour reduces a bit on cooking.
Add about a cup of warm water, salt, and the vegetables.
Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes (or less if you like the vegetables to retain a crunch).
Adjust the salt.
Enjoy with bhaat (rice), bhakri, or ghadi-chi poli.

Adding links to the chain
Being a part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain (US edition) has been a lot of fun. The most satisfying aspect of blogging is getting to know like minded food bloggers (snobs and all).
I'd like to pass on Aurusuvai mystery packages to the following bloggers who continue to inspire with their fresh take on food, their writing, and their breathtaking photographs:
Food For Thought and Evolving Tastes.

When the Bay Area Indian food bloggers get together was announced, I heard from several non-bloggers who were interested in meeting the people behind the blogs. As it was a strictly bloggers-only event, I had to turn down these requests. But if they'd like to receive an Arusuvai package from me, please send me an email (

Monday, February 25, 2008

One Hot Package

It is not often that I receive a package in the mail. So when I saw the packet sent by Nupur in the mailbox, I literally ripped it open in a childlike fashion. Fortunately for me, I was by myself at that time. The package that I'm talking about is part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain. It is all about sharing the bounty of your kitchen with your foodie friends via surprise packages. The ladies behind the Yumblog initiated this effort in India. Latha brought it closer to home.

Inside my package was a packet of fiery red masala, a bag of nutty crunchy toffee and, a wonderful handmade card. From the card dangled a certified sho-shweet little Kolhapuri chappal. The candy is wicked addicting stuff.

The masala is incredibly bold and spicy. It obviously had red mirchi, garlic, coconut, and onions. It was my hunch that what I held in my hands was kolhapuri masala. And that exactly what it was, as Nupur confirmed.

Stay tuned for some earthy Kolhapuri fare.

Meanwhile the Amish Friendship bread starter that Bee sent aeons ago is being fed and is getting smellier by the day. Something good should come out of it pretty soon.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Meet & Eat

I don't remember the last time I was under so much pressure. Is the place clean enough; tidy enough? Will I run out of the punch? Should I have gone with the (alcoholic) sangria instead of this fruity version.
Is the hummus any good....I must've tasted it a dozen times. What if the tarlets turn soggy?
And the biggest one: what if there are long periods of silence where one doesn't think of anything to say. Shudder.

Playing host to a group of confirmed foodies (whom one is meeting for the very first time) is not something that ones takes lightly.
Even an impending visit from the in-law-types wasn't ever so stressful.

My fears and worries vanished soon after TasteTinkerer walked in followed by Mythreyee and got the party going.
Each new arrival was then put through a guess-test. Who needs ice-breakers?
I didn't do quite as well as the others in matching the person in front of us with their blog identities. The only person I guessed correctly was Ashwini.

What followed then was one of the best afternoons in a really long time.
And no, there wasn't even one nano second of silence; the decibel level was quite high in fact. So high I didn't even realise when the husband escorted the kids away from the madness.

On to the food: we started off with a fruity punch (rasberry-cranberry, orange, and lemon juice with apple cubes; left to mingle overnight in the fridge), hummus & crackers and savoury tartlets inspired by Nabeela.

Sreelu brought along another appetiser but I'll let her tell us about it.
Hop over to her blog find out.
Shankari ,who initiated this meet and greet eat, wasn't able to join us. What a shame after all the effort she put into organising this event.

Meanwhile about that hummus:
In the food processor bowl, mix a couple of cups of garbanzo beans, 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 2 tbsp tahini sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil, juice from a medium size lemon, salt to taste. Pulse till well blended.
Adjust the salt and lemon juice levels.

I used a combination of garbanzo beans and white cannelini beans. As these beans are similar in texture, colour, and to some extent the taste, you couldn't tell that there were two kinds of beans in the hummus.

For the savoury tarlets: Thaw the pastry sheets. Cut each rectangle (each pack has 6 rectangles) into four pieces. Roll each piece slightly and line the moulds of a mini-muffin pan. Stuff with a mixture of roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, and jalapeno jack cheese. bake at 350F for about 10-12 minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lapping up the Lapsi

Most weekday dinners are poli (or phulkas), a bhaaji (vegetables) and a simple daal.
There are times (a particularly hectic day, an aced test, or just a very good day) one craves a sweet something to go along. On such days, a welcome addition to the meal is a bowl of kheer or sheera (suji halwa).
Child development experts frown on using food as rewards etc., but sometimes a bowl of warm kheer does so much more for the soul than the body; especially if fat free milk and conservative amounts of sugar are used! So I don't mind; we are like that only.

The kheer of choice is ravyachi kheer (suji, cream of wheat) but I'm always on the lookout for alternatives.
Making the lapsi from Tarla Dalal's The Complete Gujarati Cookbook
has been on my to-make list ever since I bought this book last year.
It seemed too rich (6 tbsps of ghee) and too sweet (1 cup of sugar) for my tastes. Using greatly reduced quantities of these ingredients, I went ahead and made the lapsi anyway.
We loved it! But then I already knew I was going to like it.
What ever little was left over tasted even better the next day. The nutiness of the cracked wheat, made better by roasting it in ghee is totally delicious.

So here is a low-fat version of the Fada Lapsi:

1 cup cracked wheat (dalia)
1 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup and it was sweet enough for us)
6 tbsp ghee (I used 2 tbsp)
3 cups hot water (see Notes below)
a pinch of powdered elaichi
10-15 almonds, coarsely crushed (optional)

Over medium-low heat, roast the dalia in the melted ghee.
Slowly add the water to the dalia.
Add the sugar and elaichi and mix well.
Cook this mixture stirring often and breaking any lumps that form.
Let this mixture cook for about 8-10 minutes or till you see ghee on the sides of the pan. If you use less ghee, it won't be visible right away. In that case cook till the wheat is cooked.
Add the nuts, if using.

Lapsi is made with either milk or water. This time I used just water, but next time I'll definitely be using milk. Since I've greatly reduced the quantity of ghee, milk (even fat-free) will add some richness.

This lapsi is my entry to RCI:Gujarat, hosted by Mythili. Regional Cuisines of India (RCI) is a brainchild of Lakshmi.

Quinoa Kheer

Though we like the savoury Desi version of quinoa, quinoa kheer is good too.
To make this kheer, wash cooked quinoa in several changes of water to remove much of the bitter taste. In savoury dishes this bitterness is welcome; not so much in sweets.
Add milk, sugar, a pinch of elaichi, and a strand (or two) of keshar and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
The quantity of milk and sugar depends on how thick you like your kheer and the preferred sweetness levels, respectively.
I've also made a vegan version of this kheer using soymilk. My cousin, who is a vegan, loved it...I'll take his word for it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


My days usually begin and end with a cup of tea. Orange pekoe, lightly brewed, with a little milk, no sugar.
No matter how much my tastes and preferences have changed over the years, my cup of tea has remained the same. Another thing that has not changed is the need to dunk something in the tea. For tea, the dunkers of choice are the good old Britannia Marie or Parle G biscuits.

But when it comes to coffee, the dunkers are either day old poli or biscotti.
If you think poli dunked in coffee is weird, you just have to try it at least once.
The next best thing to dunk in coffee is biscotti.
Chocolate-hazelnut biscotti dunked in the coffee of choice. La dolce vita!

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
3 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar (or more if you like sweeter biscotti)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped.
½ cup hazelnuts (or walnuts, pecans, almonds) chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix the rest of the ingredients.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well (don't over handle the dough).
The dough will be sticky. Divide the dough into two. Shape each portion into a log, either by using plastic wrap or using your hands (lightly floured).
Arrange the logs on the baking sheet making sure they are not too close to each other.
Once the logs are placed on the baking sheet, flatten the logs a bit.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Let the logs cool a little (10 minutes) before slicing them.
Lay the slices on the baking sheet and bake them once again. This time for about 7-8 minutes, or till they start browning.
Turn them over and bake for 8-9 more minutes.
The biscotti will harden when cool.
Dunk on!
The yield depends on how thinly you slice the biscotti.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CA Bay Area: Indian Food Bloggers Meet

A few of us got thinking and decided it was high time we all met.
If you live in the California Bay Area, do join us on Saturday, 16th February 2008.
Send me an email ( if you are interested.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Makar Sankranta

Best wishes to you on the occasion of Makar Sankranta.
Or as we say in Marathi 'til-gool ghya good bola' which is a condensed way of saying
'May the sweetness of the jaggery sweeten our talk and may the unctuousness (snigdha-ta) of the sesame bind our friendship.'.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Raising the Bar

After a much needed and relaxing break, we are now back to school, projects, homework, and of course school lunches. A favourite school lunch staple of mine are granola bars.
Quick to make and devoid of any preservatives, corn syrup, HFCS, anything unpronounceable. I can never make enough of these bars. Full of nuts and dried fruits along with that woodsy oaty flavour; these are the best granola bars we've ever eaten. No contest!
Though these bars contain all good stuff, they are quite calorie-dense; in a good way.

My version is based on a recipe from Good Housekeeping. Over the years I've made several variations and continue to make more variations mostly based on current favourites. It is a work in progress.

Here is latest version.

2 cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking oats)
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup (or more) brown sugar, packed
½ cup lightly toasted wheat germ (optional, see notes below)
1/4 cup flax seed meal (optional)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
a pinch of salt
1 tsp (or more) ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, dried blueberries
½ chopped nuts
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line a 13x9 baking pan with foil leaving an overhang on all sides.
Spritz the foil with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
Add the oil, honey and egg.
Mix well.
Using wet hands pat the mixture in the pan.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes, till the edges start browning slightly around the edges. Don't over bake as the granola bars will very quickly go from nice and woodsy to cardboardy.
When cool, use the overhanging foil to lift the entire batch onto a cutting board.
Cut into bars.

You could use only whole wheat flour. But after much experimentation, I've settled on this proportion of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour.

If the wheat germ is omitted, replace with an equal amount of oats.

If using flax seed meal, refrigerate the granola bars as the flax seed may start smelling off if left for too long at room temperature.

The egg can be omitted but the bars don't hold their shape as well.
Next time I make these bars, I want to try Nupur's idea of substituting the egg with flax seeds.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

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