Monday, September 30, 2013

Whole Wheat Pancakes with apple compote

I have been impatient to make pancakes from the day I put that apple and pear compote (recipe here) in the refrigerator. This pancake recipe had very good reviews and I decided to try it out. The only thing I changed was to substitute the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Try this recipe for whole wheat pancakes once and you will never go back to the white flour recipe. The pancakes were nice and fluffy and the flavor of the wheat flour came through beautifully. A good thing about this recipe is, it is made without buttermilk, yes, a no buttermilk pancake using readily available ingredients.

Cooking the pancakes is easy, there is no need to spread it and worry about getting a circular shape. Pour a ladle of pancake batter in the center of the griddle and let it spread on its own. The batter spreads on it own into a nice round shape.
This method reminds me of the dosa that you get in old Kerala chayakkada (tea house) during breakfast time. It is not spread thin like in the restaurants nowadays. A large ladleful of the dosa batter is poured on an iron griddle and the ladle is used to spread the batter very cursorily and the dosa is almost half an inch thick! But they are amazingly soft with the texture more like the middle of an appam. And when the chutney is poured on these dosas they soak it up like a sponge. I remember as a child when we visited Kerala, I would absolutely refuse to eat these thick dosas there.
Whole wheat flour - 3/4 cup
Milk - 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp
Egg - 1/2
Sugar - 1.5 tsp
Butter - 1.5 tbsp
Baking powder - 1 3/4 tsp
Vanilla essence - a couple of drops (optional)
Salt - a pinch (if using unsalted butter)
Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature.
Take a bowl and mix the whole wheat flour, sugar, salt (if using) and baking powder and sift them together two times.
In another bowl, beat the egg and keep only half the quantity of the beaten egg and discard the rest. Then add the butter into it and beat it again only till it is blended together. Add the milk and the vanilla essence (if using) and beat. I did not add vanilla essence to my batter and it was good without any of that eggy smell. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and mix together.
Heat a griddle, I used the iron griddle that I use for making my dosa and uttapam. Typically, an iron griddle is used to make pancakes in American homes. Pour a ladleful of the batter right in the center and leave it. The batter spreads a little on its own into a clean circle. The top starts breaking out in bubbles and slowly turns opaque as it cooks. When the base firms up, flip the pancake over and cook the other side. Take it out when done.
I served these pancakes with a blob of butter, a little honey and my sweet and spicy apple compote. Try getting your hands on some maple syrup and drizzle some syrup over buttered pancakes. Or go the sinful way, stack a couple of pancakes top with a blob of butter and syrup then add some chopped fruit and cover with whipped cream! Then slice through the stack to get a bit of everything and just pop it into your mouth and enjoy this sweet mouthful!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Potato masala bhaji like in Udipi restaurants

This potato masala / bhaji or aloo sabzi was made famous by the ubiquitous Udipi restaurants as the masala in the masala dosa. It also makes an appearance in the puri bhaji, thali and toasted sandwich in an Udipi menu. It is simple to make and hence, I guess, was added to the menu of many a homes. This aloo sabzi goes well with chapati, puri and of course dosa. We also make a stuffed toasted sandwich with this potato masala for filling. 
At home, we tend to make this aloo sabzi when we run out of vegetables or to go with dosa. And then some rare times we make puri bhaji as well. 
Potatoes - 4 medium
Onion - 1 large
Green chilli - 2
Mustard seeds - 1tsp
Udad dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 7 to 8
Coriander leaves - 1tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Peel, wash and dice the potatoes and keep in water. Slice the onions, chop green chilli and coriander leaves and keep aside. 

Boil the potatoes till just done in water with a little salt. Reserve about half cup of the water and drain off the rest.
Heat a kadhai, add the oil and when hot add the mustard seeds and udad dal. When the mustard seeds splutter add the sliced onion, chopped chilli and curry leaves and sauté till the onion turns light golden. Add turmeric powder and the boiled potatoes with the reserved water and mix well. Let it boil and during then roughly break the potatoes with the back of the spoon. Check for salt and add chopped coriander leaves and take off heat.
Serve with puris and sheera for a sinfully heavy meal like we did.
Variation: I have seen some restaurants add a little tomato into this, which should then be added when the potato and water is added and cook till the tomato is done. Continue the recipe as given above.
 fluffy puris
Potato masala
This Udipi restaurant style Potato Masala recipe goes to "Side dish mela", hosted by cooking4allseasons. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Apple and Pear Compote

Compote is pieces of fruit cooked in a syrup with a few spices or flavorings like cinnamon, cloves, orange zest and sometimes even bits of nuts. Compote was a French dish originally and was served as a dessert along with cream. It is different from fruit preserves - 1. compote has whole pieces of fruit and 2. compote does not contain pectin which gives jams and marmalades its jelly like texture.
For me, I have always had a fancy for preserves. I have often bought preserves from stores and have stuffed myself with bread just so I could eat some of the preserves :) Another thing that fascinated me is the use of fruit sauces on puddings, ice creams and desserts in general. So, I checked for recipes and liked the idea of making compotes since it does not use preservatives and can be easily made at home with available ingredients.
During my last two trips to the weekly market, I saw these green apples that were going quite cheap as compared to the otherwise inflated prices. And the pears are also making a come back in the markets right now. I bought them both, some to be eaten raw and I wanted to give a compote recipe a try.
Apple - 1 cup
Pear - 1 cup
Honey - 2 tbsp
Cinnamon - 1/2 inch piece
Bay Leaf - 1 small
Lime essence - 1/2 tsp
Water - 1/4 cup (+3tbsp)
The apple and pear are to be peeled, cored and diced into small pieces and then measured. The size of the fruit will hence decide how much you need to use. It took me 1 apple and 1.5 pears to make a cup each. The recipe is quite simple, put all the ingredients except the lime essence together in a pot and mix well. Put the pot on low heat and cover and cook. When cooking, keep an eye on it so it does not catch the bottom and burn. The fruits should soften in about 15 minutes. Once done add the lime essence and take it off the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
The apple and pear compote is ready.
It can either be cooled, bottled and refrigerated to be used later as a topping on ice creams and puddings or can be served for dessert on it own. To serve, take a dessert goblet and spoon the compote till half full, top with whipped cream and a pitted cherry.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Farfalle Pasta in Zucchini and Aubergine Sauce

This is an easy and quick pasta recipe since the sauce comes from bottle - the Barilla Zucchini and Aubergine sauce. Normally, I prefer making the pasta sauce ground up but this time I had this bottle from a gift pack and decided to give it a try.
Farfalle pasta - 1 cup
Onion - 1/2
Tomato - 1
Garlic - 3
Olives - 1 tbsp
Barilla Zucchini and Aubergine Sauce - 3 tbsp
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Water - 4 cups
Salt as per taste
Cheese - 2 tbsp
Heat the water in a pot and when it starts boiling add salt to the water and then add the farfalle. Cook the farfalle till it is al dente (that is when the pasta sticks to the tooth when bitten) for the authentic Italian experience. I like my pasta cooked so it doesn't stick to the teeth which takes a couple of minutes more of cooking. Reserve about half a cup of this water and drain off the rest. Keep the pasta in a colander to drain off.
As much as possible, cook the pasta and the sauce simultaneously so that the pasta can be mixed with the sauce when still hot.
Chop the onions, tomatoes and garlic. Heat a pan, add olive oil and when it is hot add the garlic. Sauté the garlic for a minute and add the onions and sauté till the onions are translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue sautéing. Add the Barilla Zucchini and Aubergine Sauce and the pasta and mix well. Take off the heat and add the grated cheese to the pasta. Use parmesan cheese and if it is not available use the processed cheese available widely in the stores.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Naadan Varatharacha Motta Curry / Kerala Egg Curry

Varatharacha curry is a popular coconut and coriander seeds based gravy for non vegetarian dishes in Kerala. My mother made both eggs / motta and chicken / kozhi in a varatharacha gravy. Here, in this recipe for Varatharacha Motta curry, I have added a little whole spices, but this curry / kootaan can be made omitting them as well. In which case, the taste of the coconut and coriander seeds with the coconut oil varatha iddal will stand out which is the most authentic taste of Kerala.
In Kerala, many households continue to cook only in coconut oil and many a times the oil is extracted from the coconuts got from their own houses. The process of oil extraction is laborious and is best done with extra pairs of hands and when the sun is at its hottest. At my grandmother's house in Kerala, once the coconuts are collected from the grounds and fields, some are kept aside for extracting oil. These have to de-husked, then broken in half and put out to dry in the sun. After a few days in the sun, the kernel shrivels a little and the shell starts separating from it. At this point, they have to be manually separated and the kernels are again put out to dry. The coconut kernel has to be sun dried completely else the extracted oil goes rancid. These dried coconut kernels are then taken to the mill to be pressed to extract oil.
The last time, my parents visited Kerala, they got me some home milled coconut oil that I am using currently. Since it is home milled oil without any preservatives it tends to go rancid much earlier than the branded oils. I prefer to keep it in the frig and only keep about 200gms out in room temperature to be used sparingly so I can stretch it as much as possible.

And now getting back to my Varatharacha Motta Curry, this is a great dish to be paired off with appams for breakfast and with rice or parathas for lunch or dinner. The recipe:
Eggs - 4
Coconut - 1.5 cups
Onion - 1 medium
Tomato - 1 large
Turmeric pwd- 1tsp
Red Chilli pwd - 2 tsp
Garlic - 5
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Oil - 1tsp
Salt as per taste
whole spice / khada masala
Coriander seeds - 3tbsp heaped
Peppercorns - 8 to 10
Cloves - 3
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Star Anise - 1 or 2 petals
Green Cardamom - 1/2
Black Cardamom - 1/4
for tempering
Coconut oil - 1tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1tsp
Dry red chilli - 2
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Boil the eggs and let them cool. When cool shell them and lightly sauté in 1tsp oil and keep aside. Pierce the boiled eggs with a knife so that the gravy can seep in. Fine chop the onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic and keep aside separately.
Heat a pan, first dry roast the grated coconut till brown, then do the same with the coriander seeds separately. Then dry roast the pepper corns, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, green cardamom seeds and black cardamom seeds together till the aroma is released. Heat a spoon of oil in the same pan and sauté half the chopped onions. When the onions are translucent add the chopped ginger and garlic and sauté till the raw smell has gone. Grind together the coconut, coriander seeds, whole spices and onions-ginger-garlic with some water to a fine paste.
Heat a sauce pan and add the ground paste and stir it for a minute. Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder and chopped tomatoes and sauté till well mixed. Add 2 cups of water, a few curry leaves torn and cover and cook till the tomatoes have turned soft. Add salt according to taste and check if the gravy is semi-thick. If the gravy is watery boil for sometime so some water evaporates or if gravy is thick then add some water to thin it. Add the eggs. Lower the heat and let the eggs soak in the gravy for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and keep covered.
Heat a pan for the tempering or varatha iddal / tempering and add some coconut oil, when hot add the mustard seeds. When it splutters add the onions, curry leaves and the dry red chillies and sauté till the onions are golden brown. Take off the heat and immediately pour into the egg curry. Cover the egg curry with a lid till ready to serve. Adding cheriya ulli or shallots instead of regular onions for the varatha iddal / tempering gives a lovely flavor to this curry.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Semiya Kheer / Payasam

No sadhya is complete without kheer / payasam; in fact nowadays most sadhya in Kerala serves not one but two payasams - usually one milk based and the other coconut milk based. When payasam is served at a sadhya, it is served along with pappadam and pickle. It is said that having pappadam and pickle between mouthfuls of payasam helps in having some more payasam! Many people ask for the payasam to be poured on the banana leaf and then crush pappadam into it and scoop it all together. Most times it is a jaggery sweetened payasam that gets this treatment. I have never tried this but maybe sometime :)
At home, we make payasam on occasions like Onam, Vishu, and piranaals (birthdays) and it is either semiya or parippu payasam. This year for Onam, we made semiya payasam and for a change, I added saffron strands along with cardamom powder.
Semiya / Vermicelli - 100 gms.
Condensed milk - 1 tin (400gms)
Whole Milk - 1.5 ltr.
Sugar - 3tbsp (optional)
Cashew nuts - 20
Raisins - 20
Green Cardamom - 4
Ghee - 2tsp.
Saffron - 1/2 tsp.
Powder the green cardamom seeds finely. Warm a little milk and mix in the saffron and keep aside.
Heat a pan and add the ghee, when hot add the cashew nuts and fry till light brown. Scoop the nuts out, draining as much oil as possible and place on a paper towel. Add the vermicelli to the pan and sauté on low heat till light golden. Take off the heat and add the raisins in and stir for a minute, drain as much ghee as possible and put it on a paper towel and keep aside. 
Take a saucepan and boil the milk in it. Keep stirring it in between so that it does not catch the bottom. (I changed the vessel after boiling the milk because it did catch the bottom a little).  Once it boils, lower the heat and add the condensed milk and stir till it mixes completely. Add the roasted vermicelli / semiya little by little into the milk stirring all the while so it does not clump together. Add the cardamom powder as well and stir. It will take about 15 minutes for the vermicelli / semiya to cook on low heat. When the semiya has cooked, add the sugar (I added it because I found the payasam a little less sweet) and stir till mixed in. Add the saffron milk, cashew nuts and raisins and mix well. Take it off the heat. Serve hot or cooled in a frig.  
1. Stir when adding the semiya and continue stirring in between else it will clump.
2.To powder the cardamom finely in a mortar pestle, add a teaspoon of sugar to the cardamom seeds when powdering. 
3. Sugar should be added only after the rice or semiya is cooked, else the milk may split.
4. Choose the thinnest vermicelli for payasam.

This Semiya Kheer / Payasam goes to these events
-  "Diwali Special" hosted by gayathriscookspot.
-  "Diwali Bash 2013" hosted by cooksjoy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mathanga Vanpayar / Pumpkin and Red Cow Peas Erissery

Erissery or Erussery is a dish served at all Kerala feasts or sadhya. It is a vegetable and dry peas combination cooked in a double coconut gravy. Like in a Do Pyaza gravy where onions are added in two forms, here also grated coconut is added in two forms! Erissery can be made with different combinations of vegetables and dry peas and some of the variations are pumpkin and red cow peas (mathanga - vanpayar), raw plantain - yam (kaaya - chenna) and jackfruit (chakka). Personally, I love the mathanga and vanpayar combination the most. The mingled flavors of a ripe sweet mathanga with the earthiness of vanpayar in a double coconut gravy, I think is a great combination. And like kids love to say, - my mother makes the best mathanga erussery that nobody in this world can beat!
And I have this recipe and some tips from her to make a tasty erissery :
1. Use only a ripe orange mathanga / pumpkin, nothing can beat its flavor and sweetness.  
2. Keep the quantity of the vanpayar / cow peas less than the manthanga / pumpkin.
3. Avoid stirring too much, the pumpkin will crumble.
4. And don't hold back on the coconut!
Erissery was one of the items I made for the Onam sadhya and along with the potato ishtew, they were the first ones to get over!
Mathanga / Pumpkin - 500 gms
Vanpayar / Red Cow peas - 1 cup
Coconut - 1
Cumin seeds - 1tsp
Curry leaves - 4 to 5 sprigs
Green chilli - 2
Dry red chilli - 5 to 6
Turmeric pwd - 1tsp
Mustard seeds - 1tsp
Salt as per taste
Oil - 2tsp
Grate the coconut and divide it into 3 portions. Take two portions of the grated coconut, add into a blender. Add the cumin seeds, 2 green chillies, 2 dry red chillies and 4 to 5 curry leaves and grind to a thick paste. Add only a few spoons of water, just enough to grind. Keep aside.
Heat a pan and dry roast the remaining one portion of the grated coconut on low heat. When cool, put into a blender and give it one whisk to roughly crush it. Keep aside.
Wash the vanpayar / red cow peas and drain. Add 1.5 cups water and boil it in a pressure cooker. Peel and dice the pumpkin and put it into a saucepan along with a little water, just enough to keep it from catching to the bottom. Add the turmeric powder and salt as per taste, cover the vessel and cook on low heat. Keep a watch on the pumpkin, it cooks quickly since it is ripe. When the pumpkin is half cooked, add 1 sprig of curry leaves and the coconut and chilli paste. Cover and cook on low heat. Check if done after about 5 minutes and add the roasted and crushed coconut to the cooked pumpkin and place a sprig or two on the top, cover and take off the heat.
Tear the dry red chilli into pieces and keep a few curry leaves ready. In a separate pan heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and add the red chilli pieces and curry leaves, quickly stir with a spoon and take it off the heat. Pour the mix on to the erissery and cover. When ready to serve, gently mix the varthu iddal / tadka into the erissery.
Erusseri served on vazhayila for the Onam sadhya

Sunday, September 15, 2013

State Bhavan Canteen Review - Gujarati Restaurant at the Gujarat Bhawan

Gujarati Restaurant, as the canteen or mess at the Gujarat Bhawan on Kautilya Marg is called, is open to both residents / guests and the general public. (Gujarat Bhawan is the State House of the Government of Gujarat in New Delhi). Currently, the Gujarati Restaurant has a fixed menu for breakfast and thali for lunch and dinner. They rotate the items daily and each meal has one Gujarati dish to appease the Gujarati cuisine fans. The restaurant plans on expanding and will introduce an a-la-carte  menu in 3 months.
The Gujarati Restaurant offers a cool air conditioned haven from the hot and humid streets of Delhi. The restaurant is on the ground floor and has about 10 to 12 tables spread around a biggish hall with a huge wall mounted television on one side. And coincidentally, the TV was tuned to a news channel showing Narendra Modi addressing the public after his selection as the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate. There is enough space between tables not to feel crowded. When we went to the restaurant, there were 3 tables occupied with families. We opted to sit at a table nearest to the kitchen and immediately a water jug and a tissue holder  was brought over and the waiting staff then confirmed that we would have a thali. They brought the thali with two alu vada, salad and papad served. A server then brought over lobia / black eyed peas in rasa, gujarati dal, paneer stuffed alu, and a tendli sabzi. Next the server came around with piping hot phulkas in a casserole and glasses of chhaas. The service is excellent with the servers hovering around waiting to push more food on the plate. They had hot phulkas ready to be served the moment you were eating the last one or to top the katories of sabzis or dal. After the phulkas, they brought out a casserole of simple jeera muttar rice. The sabzis, dal and phulkas were unlimited and were brought over numerous times. At the end of the meal, we were offered fruit salad - the dessert of the day which was not included in the thali. The food was simple, freshly made, hot and served with a smile. In fact, our eating could not keep pace with their serving.  
We chatted with a young server and he told us that they had plans to expand in 3 months and would introduce a menu card then. For now, they have thali for lunch and dinner and include one Gujarati dish per meal after realizing that not all would like the sweetish taste of Gujarati cuisine. Today, we had Gujarati Dal for lunch, Gujarati Kadhi was planned for dinner and breakfast was fafda jalebi.
We were happy with the simple meal that was filling and cheap at Rs.90.00 per thali, Rs.20.00 for a fruit salad and Rs.30.00 for a plate of alu vada. A satisfying lunch for two at Rs.250.00. A definite recommend from us.  

The lunch thali at Gujarat Bhawan - papad, salad, black eyed peas, dal, stuffed alu, alu vada, tendli sabzi and phulkas

Ganesh Chaturthi

Has it ever happened to you that you are out of your city during a festival and the new place does not celebrate it at all. It is as if that festival does not exist. Since we moved to Delhi we missed action on some festivals that Bombay celebrates, like Ganesh Chaturthi. Mumbai would have witnessed so many idols being transported by big and small vehicles to homes and sarvajanik pandals. Chants of "Ganpati Bappa Morya" would be heard all around to the beat of Nasik dhol. The local pandal would bring Ganpati Bappa in a truck with a groups of youngsters dancing to film music in front of the idol. We would stand in our balcony and see them going by tapping our fingers in tandem with the music. In complete contrast, we don't see any action in Delhi and the lone Sarvajanik Ganpati we know of is at the Maharashtra Sadan on Copernicus Marg.
Last year, we went to the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav at the Maharashtra Sadan and for the first time we saw few Marathi speaking people, together at one place in Delhi. The pandal was decorated simply and had a beautiful Ganpati Bappa, with a pujari doing the pujas. There was lunch set up on the grounds and hoping for a good Maharashtrian meal we went to the grounds only to find out it was a regular buffet Punjabi food. With our hopes dashed we went to the Canteen on the first floor and tried their thali. Nothing great to write about and yes, it could be described to a very small degree as a Maharashtrian thali. We were hoping they would have modaks, the steamed variety (ukdiche modak) but no luck on that front as well. Feeling disappointed we promised ourselves that we would try to be in Mumbai for the next year's Ganesh Chaturthi. But again this year, we are in Delhi, ruing that there is no indication of the festivities that Mumbai must be witnessing right now. So as appeasement we promised ourselves a visit to the Maharashtra Sadan for the evening aarti.

The evening aarti was at 6.45pm and it was simple with a few people, most probably employees at Maharashtra Sadan, singing the aarti songs. There were in all about 80 to 100 people gathered for the aarti. People could go and take darshan and prasad was distributed to all. There were 4 stalls in the grounds selling vada pav, puranpoli, modak, pani puri and some crafts. We were only interested in the vada pav, puranpoli and modak stalls and made a beeline and stood there even before the stall was set up. While we waited for them to get the stuff, more people had started gravitating towards the vada pav stalls. Goes to show how much the vada pav is missed by the Maharashtrians here! The minute one stall was set up we placed our order of vada pav, enough to take home for dinner and then bought some more from the other stall to eat right there. Satiated, we left from there with our booty - vada pav, fried modak, puranpoli and shengdaana chutney.
Ganpati Bappa at the pandal
Ganpati Bappa at the pandal
 People crowding at the vada pav stall
People crowding at the second vada pav stall
People on the dais seeking darshan
People on the dais seeking darshan
People on the dais seeking darshan

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sheera / Sooji ka Halwa Naivedyam

Sheera / Sooji ka halwa is often offered at pujas as prasad. Since it is Ganesh utsav, I made this for naivedyam a few days back. It is not difficult to make sheera, just stick with the measurements and after making it a few times you will be able to make it on your own.
Semolina / Sooji / Rawa - 1/2 cup
Ghee -  a little less than 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Water - 1.25 cups
Green Cardamom - 1 crushed
Cashew nuts - 8 to 10
Raisins - 8 to 10
Almonds - 6 to 8
Heat a pan or kadhai and pour the ghee after reserving a tablespoon. When warm add the cashew nuts and sauté it till light golden then take it out onto paper towels.
Separately heat water in a saucepan and add the sugar and the crushed cardamom to it. Let it boil well. Take off the heat and keep aside.
Lower the heat and add the sooji or rawa to the pan stir continuously so that it does not burn. Sauté till light brown. Add the raisins and the fried cashew nuts to this rawa, mix well. Raise the heat and pour the sugar - water mix into the rawa, stirring all the while. When the rawa starts coming together add the ghee that was kept aside and mix well. Cover and take off the heat when all the water is absorbed. Garnish with almond slivers.
Take it into a bowl and offer it to Lord Ganesha.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Sambhaaram / Chhaas / Spiced Buttermilk

Sambhaaram, the Kerala version of Chhaas is a good summer drink that helps to cool the body and is a way to increase the liquid intake. It is also a healthy drink especially if the amount of salt that's added into it is controlled. Sambhaaram has ginger and curry leaves in it and is known to aid digestion especially after a feast. As children, we were responsible to pick some lemon and curry leaves from the garden especially for the after Onam and Vishu feast drink. Crushed lemon leaves, if you can get some, is a refreshing addition to this Chhaas.
Traditionally, sambhaaram is served at the end of the meal but if had sometime before a meal it helps in filling up the stomach healthily and in reducing the food intake.
Curds / plain Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Water - 1 cup
Curry leaves - 2
Ginger - 1/2tsp
Salt to taste
Green chilli - 1/2 (optional)
In container combine the curds / plain yogurt and water and beat it till well blended. Crush the ginger, green chilli (if using) and the curry leaves and add it to the buttermilk along with salt. Beat well to make it a little frothy. Pour it out into a glass and it's ready to be served.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Omelette Masala Fry

This is an easy recipe that can be made dry or with a little gravy and can had with rice. My husband made this omelette masala fry as a quick dish one evening when he wasn't too happy with the curry I had prepared. Instead of making the usual omelette or bhurji make this spicy, onion tomato masala added variation for a change.
Eggs - 4
Onion - 1 medium
Green chillies - 2
Tomato - 1
Coriander pwd - 2tsp
Turmeric pwd - 1tsp
Red chilli pwd - 1tsp
Curry leaves - 6 to 8
Coriander leaves - 1 tsp
Oil - 2tbsp
Slice the onion and chop the tomatoes, green chilli and coriander leaves finely.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add a little salt and 1 chopped green chilli and beat it nicely till it becomes frothy. Heat a flat pan, when hot, pour 1 teaspoon oil and spread it all over the pan. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and swirl it around to spread it evenly. Once set, turn over to cook the other side as well. Take it off the heat cut the omelette into 1inch squares and keep aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a kadhai and when hot add the onions. Sauté on medium heat till light golden and add the curry leaves and green chilli and sauté for a minute. Add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and sauté for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes and sauté till the tomatoes turn soft, add a little salt (keep in mind the eggs have a little salt already) and mix well. If making it into a dry dish add a few tablespoons of water and mix well. Add the egg squares in and mix well making sure the onion and tomato mix coats the eggs well. Stir till the water dries up and add the coriander leaves.
If making this with a little gravy add about a cup of water and with the back of the spoon mash the masala well. Let it boil and then add the egg squares and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and the Omelette Masala Fry is ready to be served.
This recipe goes to "Side dish mela", hosted by cookingfor4allseasons

Mutton Kolhapuri

Long back, Bombay Times used to carry a series where they featured family recipes from various regions. One article featured a recipe for Chicken Kolhapuri and I had cut the recipe out and clipped it to my diary to be tried sometime. I tried that recipe once and we all loved it. But I lost that paper clipping and could not redo that recipe. Years later, I got this recipe for Chicken Kolhapuri from either the TV or the net and seemed similar to the one  I had tried. In case this recipe is from your blog / site do let me know so I can acknowledge it here. This time round, I substituted the chicken with mutton to make Mutton Kolhapuri and it turned out really well. In fact, the leftover Mutton Kolhapuri tasted better the next day, so it might be an idea to prepare it a day in advance since the taste of the meat and masala would mingle very well by the time it has to be served.
As the name suggests, this dish is from Kolhapur a city situated in the southwest in Maharashtra State. And all Kolhapuri dishes are known to be fiery hot and spicy. This goes for my recipe of Kolhapuri Mutton as well. If you need to tone down the fieriness a bit, reduce the quantity of black peppercorns and red chilli powder. Another alternative is to use Kashmiri chilli powder to get the color without the heat.
Mutton - 500gms
Onions - 2 large
Bay Leaf - 2
Turmeric pwd - 1tsp
Red chilli pwd - 2tbsp
Tomato - 1 large
Coriander stalk and leaves - a handful
Salt to taste
Oil - 6 tbsp
for paste
Onion - 1 medium
Ginger - 3 inch
Garlic - 8 to 10
whole spices / khada masala
Copra - 2tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1.5tbsp
Cumin seeds - 3/4th tsp
Cloves - 1tsp
Cinnamon - 2 pieces of 2inch each
Black Pepper - 1tsp
Shah jeera - 3/4th tsp
Sesame seeds - 3/4th tsp
Mace - 2 pcs
Nutmeg - 1/4th
Green Cardamom - 2
Black Cardamom - 2
Khus khus - 1tbsp
Star Anise - 1 small
Saunf - 1tsp
Wash and clean the mutton and squeeze out as much water as possible. Apply some salt, turmeric powder and 1tbsp red chilli powder and keep in frig for an hour.
Grind the onion, ginger and garlic listed under "for paste", without any water. Heat a pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and sauté this paste till the rawness has gone and the mix comes together. It will take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Dry roast each and every spice listed under "whole spices / khada masala" on low heat. Roast the copra separately, the same with khus khus, saunf and sesame seeds. The rest of the spices can be done together. Let it cool and dry grind it.
Finely chop the 2 onions and tomatoes and keep aside. Heat a cooker with about 5 tablespoon oil and add the bay leaves in when hot. After a few seconds add the chopped onions and sauté till light golden. Add the sautéed onion-ginger-garlic paste and mix well. Add the marinated mutton and sauté till the meat has firmed up and has changed color slightly. Add 1.5tbsp roasted and ground spice / masala mix and remaining red chilli powder and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt (if needed) and stir and add 2 cups water and mix well. Let this come to a boil, add the coriander stalks and then close lid and give 2 whistles. Once the pressure is released, open lid and check for salt and spice.
Put the cooker on heat and add some more of the spice mix if needed. The gravy should in between watery and thick and add water if necessary. Give it a boil on high heat and top with coriander leaves. Take off the heat and keep covered till ready to serve.

Chicken Biryani

This recipe for Chicken Biryani is my attempt to make biryani using khada or whole masalas rather than ready masalas. In this, I tried a slightly different combination of masalas from my recipe of the mutton biryani. I added a piece of mace and a small piece of nutmeg to the whole masala mix, after checking the recipe of Thalassery biryani in which they add both these spices. There was no strong flavor from the two spices and that could be because I added them in quite minute proportions.
Chicken - 600gms
Rice - 2.5 glasses (approx. 450gms)
Onions - 4, medium
Ginger - 3.5 inch piece
Garlic - 20
Potatoes - 5 small
Tomatoes - 1 large
Yogurt - 1.5tbsp
Red chilli - 1tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 cup
Oil - 3tbsp
Ghee - 5tbsp
whole spices or khada masala for Chicken
Green Cardamom - 3
Black Cardamom - 2
Shahi Jeera - 1.5tsp
Jeera - 1tsp
Cloves - 8 to 10
Cinnamon - 3 pieces
Pepper - 6
Bay Leaf - 2
Mace - 1 piece
Nutmeg - 1/4 of 1 small
Coriander pwd - 1tsp
whole spices or khada masala for Rice
Shahi Jeera - 1tsp
Cloves - 5
Cinnamon - 2 piece
Green Cardamom - 1
Black Cardamom - 1
Bay Leaf - 1
Clean and wash the chicken pieces and cut it into medium sized pieces. Grind the ginger, garlic, red chilli pwd, little salt and yogurt and apply to chicken and keep in the frig. I put this in for about an hour and thought the meat had absorbed the marinade well.
Slice the onion, chop the tomatoes. Peel the potatoes, prick with a fork all over and put them in a bowl of water. Clean the coriander and chop it. Wash the rice and keep aside.
Heat a cooker with 3tbsp oil and 2tbsp ghee. Add the bay leaves, green and black cardamoms, shahi jeera, jeera, cloves, cinnamon, crushed pepper, mace and crushed nutmeg and fry for half a minute. Add the sliced onions and sauté till light golden, add coriander powder and sauté for a minute. Add the marinated chicken along with the marinade and sauté. Keep sautéing for 10 to 12 minutes or till the raw smell of the ginger and garlic goes away.
Separately start the process of cooking the rice - boil 6 glasses of water. In another vessel heat 1tbsp ghee add the whole spices /khada masalas for the rice, after half a minute add the rice and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sautéed rice along with some salt to the boiling water, stir it well and lower the heat and cover with a lid. The rice has to be cooked only till 3/4th done. This does not take much time hence keep an eye on it. Once done drain the excess water out and try and separate the rice, add a teaspoon of ghee when doing this.
Back to the chicken, add the potatoes and sauté for a minute or two then add the chopped tomatoes and again sauté for a minute. Add about half cup water and cover and give one whistle so that the meat and potatoes are cooked. Cooking chicken does not require a cooker and can be done just by covering with a lid and cooking on low heat.
Once cooked, take off the heat and scoop the chicken and potato pieces out, leaving some masala and as much oil / ghee back in the cooker. Start the layering, put in half of the rice first, then sprinkle the chopped coriander on it. Add all of the chicken and potato, spread to cover the rice completely. Then spread the remaining rice over the chicken. Spread the remaining chopped coriander leaves on the rice. Warm the remaining ghee and pour on and around the layers and close with lid. Put a tawa on low heat and put the cooker without whistle on top of it and leave for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and serve after an hour or two. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meen chaaru / Fish Curry straight from Kerala

Fish is a staple food in the diet of most people living along the coastal region in India. In Kerala, many families can have a meal of just rice and fish with no accompaniments and be content. There's an oft-said  joke that a person from the coastal area can have a plateful of plain rice just by sniffing the aroma of fish wafting in from a neighbor's house.

The last time I went to the fish market I got some black pomfret and decided to make this fish curry with it. Traditionally in Kerala, this fish curry is cooked on a wooden fire in a chattee and is supposed to be served only the next day. Since coconut is not added to this fish curry it keeps well for the next day by which time the spices have seeped into the fish and the gravy has absorbed the fish flavor as well. The mud chattee, the smoke from the wood fire and the kodumpully (type of tamarind / kokum) all lend their own flavor to this curry. This curry is thick and very very hot and hence just a few drops would be enough for a ball of rice. In Kerala, balls of rice are made and one side of these balls are lightly dipped in the curry and popped into the mouth. Anymore curry and one would have the whole galaxy bursting in the mouth, it is that hot.
This recipe is not that hot since I have added coconut milk to it and hence it also does not keep for the next day unless put into the frig. Though this curry does not have the flavors of the chattee and the wood fire, the inclusion of the kodumpully, the cheriya ulli (sambhar/small onion) and the karuveppila (curry leaves) manage to make it a yummy curry. Kodumpully is a sour fruit that is first sun dried and again dried in smoke imparting a smoky flavor to fish curries. It is the kokum of Kerala and is primarily added to fish curries as a souring agent.
Fish - 250gms cleaned pieces (any fish -sardine, mackerel, pomfret, king fish)
Sambhar onions - 10 to 12
Garlic - 10 to 12
Ginger - 1.5 inch
Red chilli pwd - 1.5tbsp
Coriander pwd - 1.5tbsp
Turmeric pwd - 1tsp
Fenugreek pwd - 1tsp (fenugreek seeds roasted and powdered)
Coconut milk - 6tbsp
Vegetable / Sunflower Oil - 2tbsp
Coconut oil - 2tbsp
Curry leaves - 4 to 5 sprigs
Slice the shallots or sambhar onions and finely chop ginger and garlic, Mix the red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and fenugreek powder together in a bowl and make a paste with a little water.
Heat a kadhai, add 2tbsp oil and 1tbsp coconut oil and when hot add the sliced onions and fry till light golden. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the masala paste and fry till the oil starts coming out and the mass comes together into a ball. Add 1.5cups water, 3 sprigs curry leaves, salt and kodumpully and let it boil. Check for taste and add the fish pieces and let it cook. Add a couple of tbsp of coconut milk and when done add the rest of the coconut milk, curry leaves and let it come close to a boil. Pour the remaining 1tbsp coconut oil on top, cover with a lid and immediately take off the heat. 
- The curry tastes best after letting it rest for a couple of hours.
- Use a mix of Kashmiri chilli powder and hot chilli powder to get the red color along with the hot spiciness.
- The fenugreek may make the curry taste a little bitter at the start but let it rest and the bitterness will go down.
- Use at least a little coconut oil to get the authentic Kerala taste.
This Fish Curry - Kerala style goes to the "Side dish mela", hosted by cooking4allseasons.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Naivedyam of Ukdicha Modak / Kozhukattai

Kozhukatta / Kozhukattai or Modak is the most favorite naivedyam of Lord Ganesha. And today being Ganesh Chaturthi, I made kozhukattai / ukdicha modak as offering to the food loving, pot bellied, Lord Ganesha. I normally prefer making sheera or sooji ka halwa for naivedyam and was a tad bit apprehensive about making kozhukatta / modak, until today. But this year, I decided to give this a shot and hoped it would turn out well. Once I got rolling, it seemed really easy, so my advice to all those as yet unsure people, do try it, it is not so difficult. As you can see I did not get the shape right but a little practice will definitely yield a modicum of success.  
I did check a few sites for exact measurements and tips and primarily followed the recipe given on & Both these sites give good tips and pointers on getting the kozhukattai right. Below is the recipe that worked for me. I used readymade rice flour to make the dough.
Outer rice dough
Rice Flour - 1 cup
Water - 1 + 1/3 cup and about 3tbsp more in case needed
Salt - 1tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Inside filling
Coconut grated - 12tbsp
Jaggery - 12tbsp
Elaichi pwd - 1 pinch
In a kadhai add grated jaggery and 2tbsp water on low heat and start melting the jaggery. Stir it and press any jaggery pieces with the back of the spoon to melt it quickly. Once it is done, take off the heat and sieve it to remove any impurities. Put the clean jaggery syrup back on heat and add the grated coconut and mix well. Keep on very low heat and stir so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom. Keep stirring till the mix starts coming together, take it off the heat and keep covered.
To make the rice dough, I followed the recipe given on Chitra's blog. Heat water, add the salt and bring to a boil. I would suggest then take 3tbsp water out and keep it nearby if needed. When the water is boiling add the rice flour slowly in a steady stream stirring all the while with a wooden spatula. I used the recommended 1 1/3rd cup and since the flour was still dry I added 3tbsp water additionally to get a soft and pliable dough. Once the dough wasn't as hot, I took it into a bowl and kneaded it well and applied oil onto it and kept it tightly covered.
To make the kozhukatta
Make equal sized balls of the rice dough and the filling, this mix should give you 11 equal balls. I did not make equal balls and hence got 9 kozhukattas mostly big sized. Flatten each ball to about 2 or 3 inches diameter circles. Place the ball of filling in the center and bring the ends of the stuffing together to form the shape of the kozhukatta. I tried making folds at the top when bringing the covering together and then pinched it at the top to make that mooku. Once all kozhukattas are done heat water in a cooker or idli cooker, place these kozhukattas on the stand making sure the water does not touch the stand. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Open the steamer a minute after taking off the heat and then after a few minutes take the kozhukattas on to a platter. The kozhukattas should look shiny from the outside. Serve after offering to Lord Ganesha.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

@Pizza Hut Chef's Table

Yesterday, I attended the Chef's Table hosted by Pizza Hut with their partner Barilla at the Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj. Chef Arjyo Banerjee from Pizza Hut and Chef Luca Ciano from Barilla, together, led an interactive, live cook out session for a group of food enthusiasts and connoisseurs. It was a lively session with lots of conversation, discussion and tastings and we literally spent the time, seeing, breathing and tasting pastas.
The Chefs had planned a Menu of the Day, including Beverages, Appetizers, Pizzas (of course!), Pastas (the high note of the day) and Dessert. The invitees were welcomed with some nice coolers and the session started with Chef Arjyo preparing the Red O White pasta, fusilli tossed in a creamy and tangy sauce with baby corns and zucchini. During all this, the Appetizers - Assorted Veg and Non-Veg Platters were served at the table during this time and the participants were welcome to go up close and see the cooking session in progress. Chef Luca's warm Prawn and Pasta Salad with lemon and oregano followed this. The prawns was marinated in olive oil and seasonings and then tossed in warm spaghetti and although the prawns were not directly cooked it seemed so and had firmed up by the time the dish was served. Next, was a Lasagna Bolognese from Chef Arjyo and lastly, Chef Luca prepared a Penne Rigate with Sicilian Vegetable Caponata. This dish was a visual treat with aubergine peel juliennes, dusted with corn flour and fried and used to top off the penne.

After each cooking session by the Chef's, we were served a portion of their creations and then followed a healthy discussion on herbs, sauce - meat pairings, food presentation, plating, unique touches and several tips from the Chefs'. I will be sharing the tips in another post separately. Through all the work that the chefs put in, we invitees were plied with beverages, appetizers and traditional hand tossed pizza, all of which were yum.
The session was enlivened with the Chefs relating personal incidents like - Chef Arjyo relating how as a student he discarded the stalks of celery and retained the leaves like we do in the case of Coriander. And yes, some of the jokes were on us as well. Every time, we participants were asked if we treated our pastas in what Chef Luca called a criminal manner, my hand shot up. If we had a contest on who botched the Pasta Best, I would win, with, most probably, an eye-opening, personal cooking tutorial from the Chef himself and the Chef's Bag of goodies!!!

The evening ended on a sweet note with Warm Chocolate trio and an open forum where we could address our questions to the Chefs and Sunay Bhasin, the Director Marketing, Pizza Hut Dine In India.
The good news is that some of the dishes we tasted in there, will be introduced in the regular menu of Pizza Hut soon.
(Images from the event)
The Non-Veg Appetizer Platter
The Sipping Cheese Cake
The Veg Appetizer Platter
The Chefs @ Work
Chef Arjyo personally serving the Red O White pasta
Prawns marinating in olive oil, herbs and seasonings
Warm Prawn and Pasta Salad with lemon and oregano topped with seasoned bread crumbs
 Traditional hand tossed pizza with roasted bell pepper, arugula and parmesan
Penne Rigate with Sicilian Vegetable Caponata
Chef Luca serving the Penne Rigate with Sicilian Vegetable Caponata, the right way
Warm chocolate trio