Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Had Me At Samosa

The samosa casserole has been calling my name for a while. This week I finally got around to making it.
While the idea of a samosa filling topped by a whole wheat crust was absolutely appealing, the combination of spices and the way they are used, not so much.
Fortunately for me, I found this recipe for aloo phoolkopur samosas. Now this was more like it!

Our dinner yesterday: Bengali-ishtyle Potato-Cauliflower Samosa Casserole.
I followed the recipe for the samosa stuffing closely, just decreased the amount of potatoes and added in more vegetables (carrots, handful of chopped spinach, and corn).

The proof of the casserole was in the absence of any leftovers. The accompanying photo, as usual, does no justice to the dish.

This Pac-Man like casserole goes to Nupur's Blog Bites where the theme this time is one dish meals.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me for stopping by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zucchini Overload

"I have something for you."
Flowers? Chocolate? A string of South Sea pearls?
Not even close.
The significant other then handed me a zucchini of extraordinary proportions.
So huge one could fatally whack someone in the head with it and destroy the evidence by eating it up.

The zucchini in a 13x9 baking pan.

Over the next week I was literally chipping away at it.
Here is how:
Zucchini cake
Incredibly moist and moderately sweet. Though I usually reduce the quantity of sugar, in this case when I make it again I'll increase it a tad. I stayed true to the recipe but baked the cake in a bundt pan and instead of the cream cheese frosting used a crunchy lemon glaze.

Zucchini pancakes
Omitted the egg, added a bit of chopped cilantro, and upped the heat level.
Served with a dollop of Greek yogurt and ketchup (or Sriracha sauce) it was a satisfying and guilt-free snack.

Zucchini skillet cake
Used shredded zucchini instead of the berries, increased the sugar by ¼ cup, and added about a cup of chocolate chips.

The rest of the zucchini was roasted along with carrots and onions and tossed with pasta.

When I first cradled that zucchini in my hands I wondered how much of it would be reduced to a neglected and slimy mess. I'm happy to say I've used up every bit of it and now I'm done with zucchini for this year.

This is my entry to Nupur's BB7:The Iron Chef Edition.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me for stopping by.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Party Of One

The morning tea at my Ajji's place (grandmother, in this case my paternal grandmother) was a leisurely and elegant affair. It stretched from about 7 am to 9 am; sometimes even longer than that.
The silver tea service was beautiful, the handmade cozies for the teapot and the milk pot colourful and functional, the cups and saucers light and dainty. Everything was perfect and exactly to her taste.
So was the tea. None of that prepackaged stuff. Her tea was a blend of a couple of different black teas mixed in just the right proportions.
The proportion of tea leaves to the quantity of water had to be just so and so had the temperature of the milk. Any deviation would result in gathered brows and some sharp words.
The tea was steeped in boiling water but never boiled.
She liked her tea very light. So light that a few drops of milk were enough to lighten it. During the course of the morning other family members and invariably some neighbours would come along for a cup while Ajji presided over the tea table. The tea pot would be refilled several times by our cook who expertly straddled tea time with lunch preparations.

It was an absolute delight to be asked to join her with our cup of Bournvita/ Ovaltime/ Cocoa and the buttered toasts. My Ajji a.k.a the dragon lady was one of the most influential persons in my life. Though I enjoyed those tete-a-tetes, I was more often that not too busy to join her. Just thinking of those missed mornings leave me in a puddle, every time. What I wouldn't do for a cup of tea with her right now.

My tea time right now is diametrically opposite hers and is a party of one.
I don't often drink tea in the morning nor do I crave a 4pm fix. My cup of tea is almost a night cap and helps me unwind after an invariably busy day.
I drink my tea out of a mug and instead of loose tea I use the much maligned tea bags. My current favourite being PG Tips.
Fortified with tea I reach out to my inner-Ajji and wonder what she would've said to
--that whiny parent who couldn't provide 20 pieces paper rectangles for a class project because she had guests for dinner.
--that nosely mom who wanted to know if my child got 'all correct' in the math quiz.
--those overbearing colleagues who think they are the cat's whiskers.
--to those friends who while sitting in my own living room made plans for a getaway without bothering to include me in their plans.
--to people unnecessarily doing terrible things.

Such an exercise is always therapeutic!

This post was originally written for Manisha's IFR:Memories event. It languished in the drafts folder till it was rescued for Anita's Tea Party.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Difficult Daughter

"Difficult daughter"!
That is what my father was surely muttering under his breath as he went up and down the bylanes of MG road in Pune.
He was, on what was turning out to be, a fools errand.
Who knew it was going to be so difficult finding Parsi sambhar masala in Pune?
Finally he was lead to the home of the Parsi couple who ran a home-based business selling Parsi fare.
By the cold and terse reception he got there he was convinced the couple was Parsi in name only.
Noted playwright, author, musician, composer P.L. Deshpande (fondly known as Pu La) observed that the most inconsequential, useless, bothersome, and ignored entity in a shop run by a true Punekar is the customer.
(Put two and two together, people.)
The masala justified the means. I know, easy for me to say that.

One of the first recipes I tried with this masala was the Chana ni Dar from My Bombay Kitchen.
I had made it once before but without the fiery sambhar masala. This time around I wanted to make the chauli (black-eyed peas) variation that she suggests. Since I did not have enough of those beans on hand, used dried peas (vatana) instead.
Though I started with the recipe for Chana ni Dar, I cheated quite a bit. Didn't use some ingredients either because of a lack of resources (dhana-jiru masala) or simple laziness (potatoes).

We loved the Parsi Vatana; sambhar masala is fierce. Most certainly not for the faint of heart.

I was happy and relieved with the outcome. Relieved because after some consecutive bad meals, I was back!
Note to self: file radicchio+methi+paneer under bad ideas.

Parsi Vatana
adapted from My Bombay Kitchen

1 ½ cup vatana (dried green peas), wash and soak overnight
½ large onion, chopped
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 large chilli, de-seed and chop
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (or grated)

2 tbsp oil
1 tsp turmeric
salt, to taste
5-6 stalks of cilantro, chopped
juice of a lemon

Drain the water that the vatana was soaking in.
Add about 3 cups of water along with the chilli, tomatoes, turmeric, and salt.
Pressure cook for 2 whistles.

Heat oil. When hot add the onions till they start browning. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the sambhar masala. If the mixture starts sticking to the pan, add a bit of water to keep things moving.
Add the cooked vatana along with a cup of warm water. More if you want it soupier.
Cook over medium heat till the oil separates and floats to the top.
Add the cilantro and lemon juice.
Adjust the salt level.

The first day we enjoyed the vatana with steamed rice and plain parathas.
The next day the flavours deepened fantastically. Needed no accoutrement except maybe some yogurt.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

He Cooked. And How!

As the kids get older they are no longer satisfied staying on the other side of the kitchen counter. As a result, the kitchen is getting crowded and I couldn't be happier.
I will be using this space to list some basic recipes, family favourites, and ideas for quick meals for their reference.

The son usually plays the role of a consultant. Sitting by the kitchen counter very generously doling out comments, advice, and suggestions.
      You could go with less garlic!
     Potatoes and Paneer, now that's some combination.
     This tastes too healthy.
     Are you stressed? Cos this really doesn't taste that good.
     etc. etc.

When he actually attempts to cook something he, like his father, asks so many questions that in exasperation I ask him to step aside and end up finishing what he tried to start.

The daughter on the other hand gets into the kitchen and just gets it done. A couple of weeks ago, amongst other things, we got a bunch of radishes and a jar of basil-sunflower seed pesto in our CSA bag. As soon as we got home she went into the kitchen, washed & sliced the turnips and spooned a bit of the pesto on it! It was wonderful.

He wanted to repair his reputation. So he offered to make something simple, all by himself. So we switched spots and I took my place on the other side of the kitchen counter.

About the recipe: years ago it started as an attempt to re-create a restaurant style pineapple rice but it has morphed into something else. Though the ingredients are similar it tastes nothing like the offerings of a Thai restaurant. But we like it anyway.

Pineapple Fried Rice
3 cups rice (brown or white), cooked.
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1½ inch garlic piece, minced
4-5 spring onions, chopped (we used 4-5 baby leeks)
6-7 pineapple rings, chopped
½ cup chopped nuts
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 jalapeno, chopped. Discard seeds.
1 (or more) tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp oil
1 cup chopped vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans)
½ cup Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped. We used baby basil leaves and didn't chop them
salt, to taste
juice of a lemon

After the rice is cooked, spread it on a plate making sure the rice doesn't clump together.
Heat oil over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, and the jalapeno.
When the mixture starts browning slightly add the leeks (or the white part of the spring onions).
When the leeks (or spring onions) start browning add the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and the vegetables.
Cook for about a minute.
Add the rice, salt, nuts, and the pineapple pieces.
Cook for another minute.
Adjust the level of spice and salt levels.
Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
Squeeze the lemon before serving.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to cook rice

The crowded kitchen
As the kids get older they are no longer satisfied staying on the other side of the kitchen counter. As a result, the kitchen is getting crowded and I couldn't be happier.
I will be using this space to list some basic recipes, family favourites, and ideas for quick meals for their reference.

The easiest and quickest meal, I think, is varan-bhaat. Especially if both the rice and the daal is cooked at the same time in the pressure cooker. The downside of this approach is that the rice is almost invariably overcooked because of the difference in the cooking times for the daal and the rice.
This is one reason why I prefer to cook rice in a pot. The other reason is that the excess water and starch can be drained off from the pot!
Though this post talks of white rice I hope to update it soon with information about brown and red rice. This post is very much a work in progress.

1 cup rice (Basmati, ambemohar, or sona masuri)
2 cups (or more) water

Wash the rice in several changes of water.
If you have time, soak the rice for a couple of hours.

**Pressure cooker method (results in a stickier rice)
Add about 2 ½ cups water to the pressure cooker.
In a pan/ pot that fits inside the pressure cooker add the rice and water (1:2 proportion)
Put on the whistle and pressure cook for 1-2 (not more) whistles.
Allow the pressure to come down (7-8 minutes) before you open the pressure cooker.

**Pan method
In a pan add the rice and enough water to cover the rice and then some more.
Cook over medium-high heat for approx 8-10 minutes.
Drain the excess water, cover the pan with the lid and leave undisturbed for 4-5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork.

While such a rice is perfectly fine as an accompaniment to amti or daal sometimes what you need is just plain fluffy rice where each grain stands apart, phad-phadeet bhaat as we say in Marathi.
If cooked in a pan the rice grains do not stick to each other as much, but for me this is a hit-or-miss sort of thing. So when I need rice for a pulao-type dish such as this one here is what I do:

Wash the rice (preferably Basmati) in several changes of water.
Add enough water to cover the rice and set aside for several hours or at least one hour.
Drain the rice.
To a pot add the rice and three times as much boiling water.
Cook over high heat for exactly 10 minutes.
Drain the water.
Add about ⅛ cup water and ½ tsp butter for each cup of rice, give a gentle stir, cover with a kitchen towel and put the lid on.
Leave undisturbed for about 15 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve!

This results in phad-phadeet bhaat each time.

This is my entry for Jaya's Back to Basics event.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cake Pops: Finally

I've wanted to make these cake pops for the longest time.
Today I finally got a chance to make them.
Here they are:

Seriously, how cute are they?

They were quite easy to make: crumble cake/ cupcakes, mix in some frosting, make the balls of this mixture, poke in a candy stick, freeze them for a bit, dip in melted chocolate or candy melts, decorate, and finally ready yourself for the oohs and aahs.
There were a couple of botched cake pops before we (daughter and I) got the hang of the dipping process. But once we did, we were just cranking them out. The sprinkles were fantastic in covering up the mistakes; just made them more colourful!

These cake pops go to the anything goes a.k.a the Potluck edition of BB6 hosted by Nupur of One Hot Stove.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rosemary Daal

My daughter and I love rosemary in everything. Literally everything. In addition to the usual (savoury) suspects such as bread, salad dressing, and flavoured oils we especially like it in daal. Usually moog daal (split mung beans) or toor daal (split pigeon peans, arhar, tuvar). Though rosemary-toor daal is good too, my preference is for the rosemary-moog daal combination.

The non-distaff side of the family mocks us when we rave over rosemary-daal; more for us.

Rosemary Daal
1 cup cooked moog daal
1 tsp chopped rosemary
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt, to taste
juice of ½ lemon (not optional)
1 tsp oil, mild
1 cup (or more) warm water.

Heat oil over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic, do not let it brown.
Add the cooked daal. Add water to thin it as per your preference.
Add the rosemary and salt.
Bring it to a boil.
Add the lemon juice just before serving.

Serving Suggestions
We like this daal with some freshly steamed rice or we just sip devour bowls of this daal much like a soup.
The daal is great warm as well as at room temperature.

This is my entry to MLLA#25, a long running blog-event celebrating legumes. This event is the brain child of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Simple Food

The simplicity of this dish takes your breath away.
This is a simple and unpretentious way to prepare chard.
The addition of rice gives it such a fantastic texture.
If you use red chard, the rice grains take on that colour. Beautiful!

Increase the quantity of rice and this becomes a meal in itself.

Red Chard-Rice Bhaaji

1 bunch chard, washed and chopped
1 (or more) green chillies
1 inch piece of ginger
¼ cup rice, coarsely ground (a spice grinder works best)
Phodni kit (mustard seeds, asafoetida, and turmeric)
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste
lemon juice

Make a paste of the ginger and green chillies. Set aside.
Over medium heat make the phodni (tempering): heat oil, when hot add mustard seeds, when they stop dancing, add the asafoetida and the turmeric.
Add the ginger-chilli paste and saute a bit (about 10-20 seconds).
Add the chard and give it a good stir.
Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and salt and give it another good stir.
Cover and cook for another 5 minutes, or till the rice is cooked.
Add a bit water if the chard starts sticking to the pan.

Adjust the salt.
Squeeze a bit of lemon juice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Berry Good

Several months ago my friend A lent me her cast iron skillet; one which she hardly used at all. I'm seriously in love with this skillet. I've used it so often for so many things that unless A explicitly asks for the skillet it is mine.

The first thing I baked in the skillet was a whole wheat-semolina bread. It was to die for. The recipe needs some fine tuning before it is ready for prime time (on this blog).

Meanwhile here is a muffin-cake that I recently baked. This is Vaishali's recipe for blueberry muffins baked in a skillet instead of a muffin pan. They take longer to bake than regular muffins but I think the results are absolutely worth the extra time.

We loved this muffin-cake. The grainy raw sugar added a nice crunch and the oats provided the nuttiness.

I had to make some minor changes to the original recipe because I did not have some of the ingredients (milk) on hand.
Here is the recipe with my modifications.
The original recipe is here.

Berry Muffins
(makes one large or 11 medium muffins)
1½ cups flour (I used a mixture of whole wheat, oat, and quinoa flours)
½ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup raw sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 1½ cups berries

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Mix all the wet ingredients and add to the dry ingredients.
Combine well.
Add in the berries.
Pour the batter in the skillet and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the skillet comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gooey Goodness

For as long as I remember my son's birthday cake has been the same: chocolate cake, chocolate filling, chocolate frosting. Sure there are times when he deviated slightly but those were rare occasions.

My daughter, on the other hand, firmly believes that variety is the spice of life.
Earlier this month when I asked her what cake she wanted for her birthday, pat came the answer 'chocolate lava cake'. The little to no time she took to reply told me that the little minx had thought about it earlier and was probably waiting for me to ask her.

While we've enjoyed such a cake on several occasions I've never tried to make one at home.
The only reason for that is because ingredients for most recipes I've seen called for
x egg yolks.
What do I do with the x egg whites?

Fortunately for me, I found this recipe!

The cakes turned out really well.
A tad sweet for me even after I had reduced the sugar slightly; but that's just me. The other good thing about the recipe was that it did not make me look for ways to dispose off any remaining egg whites.

The look on my daughter's face when the gooey goodness came gushing out of the cake was priceless!
At that instant I was crowned The Best Aai (mother) in the Whole Wide World.

The hot cakes go to One Hot Stove where Nupur is hosting Blog Bites: the Copycat Edition.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Constant Craving

You know how sometimes a tune gets stuck in your head and keeping on playing. You can't get it out of your head. This is particularly vexing if it is a cheesy tune and it gets stuck in the early hours of the day.

Something similar happened last week; instead of a tune, the voices kept saying 'muthia, muthia'.

This was surprising since muthias are not something I make often. So where was this craving coming from? Weird!
Anyway since the craving wasn't for something like pound cake or some deep fried goody I gave in.

Muthias usually have a fair amount of flour, cooked rice, or both.
Since I usually don't have any leftover rice on hand, I used leftover quinoa instead. The quinoa has to be warmed and pounded (into submission) before adding it to the dough. Otherwise the quinoa grains stay apart and don't bind the greens and the rest of the ingredients together.

Here is my take on the very traditional muthias.

Chard Quinoa Muthias
The proportions are a mere guideline.

1 bunch chard leaves. Set aside the stems, see notes below
1 tsp grated ginger
1 (or more) green chillies
1 tsp owa (ajwain, bishop's weed), lightly roasted
½ whole wheat flour
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp oil
a generous pinch baking soda
salt, to taste

6-7 kadhilimba (curry leaves)
1 tbsp brown sesame seeds
kothimbir (coriander leaves, cilantro) for garnishing
Phodni kit (oil, mustard, turmeric, asafoetida)

Wash and finely chop the greens. Set aside. Drain/ wipe much of the water.
Grind the chillies and the ginger to make a paste.
Slightly warm the quinoa and run it through the food processor/ blender to get a pulpy mass.
Mix together the greens, ginger-chilli paste, quinoa pulp, flour, owa, oil and the baking soda to make a soft dough.
Do not over mix but make sure all the ingredients are evenly mixed in.
You may need to add more flour if the greens are too moist.

Divide the mixture in 4-5 parts and form each part into a long oval.
Steam (in a pressure cooker) for about 15 minutes or till a glaze appears.
Or your could insert a tooth pick, if it comes out turn off the heat.

Cool completely before slicing.

Prepare the tempering
Heat oil, add mustard seeds. When they start crackling add the turmeric and then the asfoetida.
Add the curry leaves and then the sesame seeds. Toss them around for a bit and turn off the heat.
After about a minute add the lemon juice.
Pour the tempering over the muthias.

This is how I used the stems: chopped them finely, added a bit of yogurt, salt, a pinch of sugar and topped with a bit of phodni (tempering) made for the muthia. Fantastic!

For more muthia variations, see this and this.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Renewed Taste Reference

There are many foods for which I do not have a taste reference; either I never had one or have forgotten it.

Mawa cake is one such food. This cake is available in most bakeries across India but I do not remember the last time I ate one.
A friend had recently baked mawa cupcakes which she shared hoping to know how close they were to the real thing; for she too had no taste reference! Though the cupcakes were good no doubt, we couldn't vouch for the authenticity of the taste.

Moog daal halwa falls in the same category. I no longer remember how it is supposed to taste.
This halwa started showing up in wedding buffets in the lates 80s and was usually served with vanilla ice-cream. This trend of serving gajar halwa, moong dal halwa, or gulab jam with vanilla ice-cream was quite annoying.
Why would you want to mix gulab jam with vanilla ice-cream? Enjoy them separately. Clearly I'm in the minority here as several have (unsuccessfully) tried to convince me that they taste fantastic together. Oh well!

As I had lost the taste reference, how would I know if it turned out right? Fortunately my Aai (mom) is here with me right now and it turns out that is halwa is a favourite of hers. My great grandparents lived in Jaipur for several years and as a child Aai enjoyed this halwa when visiting them.

Armed with the recipe (courtesy Simran and Lata) we set out to make it. While I planned to stick to the recommended proportions of sugar and ghee I chickened at the last minute: ¼ cup ghee!
I roasted the daal before soaking which I think resulted in a nuttier taste.
The halwa was rich and needless to say rather tasty and was enjoyed by everyone at home.

Here is the recipe that I followed:
1 cup moog daal
½ cup ghee (I didn't use as much ghee.)
1 cup (or less) sugar
½ cup milk
Cashews/ raisins roasted in ghee for garnish. (I skipped these and instead added a pinch of powdered cardamom.)

Roast the moog daal till it browns just slightly.
Soak in water.
Grind the soaked daal to make a smooth-ish paste.
Heat a heavy pan add half the quantity of ghee and the moog daal paste.
Stir continuously. The daal eventually thickens.
Start adding the rest of the ghee, a little at a time.
After a while, the ghee will will start separating from the daal.
Heat the sugar and milk and stir till the sugar dissolves.
Add the sugar & milk to the (still cooking) daal.
Continue cooking till the colour of the daal changes and acquires a distinctly dark hue.
Stir in the cardamom (or raisins and cashes, if using).

More information on Indian Cooking challange (ICC), see this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Plated Dressing

Last week I had met some friends for a potluck lunch. Along with a few other things I had volunteered to take along a salad. The main reason for offering to bring along a salad was the hope that I'd venture to make something other than my usual basil dressing. Unfortunately the days leading up to the potluck were rather hectic and I ended up taking along my same boring dressing.

As I was getting ready to get a picture of the dressing my daughter asked if she could plate the dressing for me! (Clearly too much food tv). Talk about an offer one can't refuse.
So here is her handiwork:

Basil Dressing

The proportions are a mere guideline.
1 cup basil leaves, packed
¼ cup olive oil
¼ white balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves
¼ tsp (or more) red pepper flakes
¼ tsp (or more) crushed pepper
Salt, to taste
pinch of sugar (not optional)
water, if you want to thin the dressing

With the food processor motor running drop in the garlic cloves.
When they are roughly chopped, slowly pour in the oil and then the vinegar.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

This dressing stays well in the fridge for up to 10 days, more if you freeze it.

Variations/ Additions
Too many!
Here are some of my favourite:

  • sauteed onions.
  • nuts always welcome! Any kind as long as they are lightly toasted.
  • zest of one lemon.
  • one tbsp peanut butter.

Boring it may be to me (only because I make it too often), it's versatility cannot be denied.
We've enjoyed it with just about everything: salad, pasta, sandwiches, parathas, you get the drift.
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