Short cut to Rasmalai

This year started out like any normal year. But ended like none that I have known before. It might not have been the end of the world, but indeed the end of the world as I knew it before. I am so very sick and tired of all the crime that is happening around us, right from cowardly swines violating women like never before, little girls violated in play schools, little kids slaughtered by manics, the list goes on. God! the news paper is full of horror stories. The world might have survived the Mayan calender. It should given that the 'Kali Yuga' has just started. But the ferocity of this time is something absolutely stunning. Humans beings are behaving in ways totally unexpected? Such a disgrace. Some times I sit back and think as a parent what world would I bequeath my Sunny boy? Something inside me snapped and I feel very nervous and sleepless.

A news-addict, I need my daily dose of newspaper every day. But past few weeks, newspapers have gotten me just worried and sleepless. I have decided to stop reading news papers for now. I am looking for something sweet to cheer myself up too. I usually make from-the-scratch Rasmalai . But the gloomy mood made me a little lazy. Just re-posting the short version of the recipe.

We will need,

Ragolla 1 can
Sweetened condensed milk 1 cup
Evaporated  milk 2 cups
Milk 1 cup
Saffron a generous pinch
Cardamon 1 seeds crushed
Almonds 1/4 cup (grated)

Method:
  • Drain then  Ragollas and set them aside.
  • Warm the milk and set the saffron in the milk. Sit it for at least 10 minutes.
  • Heat the condensed milk and evaporated milk along with the saffron mixture. 
  • Once the mixture heats up and is combined about 7-8 minutes, throw in the remaining ingredients.
  • Remove from heat and chill it in the refrigerator.

Shahi Choley

Our season of eating continues and after days and days of entertaining I had practically exhausted all my options to make something different. So fell back on good old Choley. Because this particular evening, I was making very few dishes and had to step up the Choley a bit, to make it good enough for the center piece. This one did stand out!
 
We will need,

Kabuli Channa  (cooked)  3.5 cups
Onion medium (fine chopped)
Garlic cloves 3 (grated)
Ginger 1" (grated)
Peanut oil 4 tbsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Cardamon 3-4
Bay leaf 2
Cinnamon 1"
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder 2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Cumin powder 2 tsp
Yogurt 3 tbsp
Tomatoes 2 (pureed)
Coconut milk 4-5 tbsp
Green chillies 2 slit
Coriander a handful shredded
Garam masala a pinch
Salt

Method:
  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the Jeera, bay leaf, cardamon and  cinnamon.
  • Throw in the onions and saute till brown. Once the onion is brown, throw in the garlic and ginger. Saute till fragrant about 30 sounds.
  • Add the turmeric, chilli powder, dhania powder and cumin powder.
  • Stir in the yogurt cook till the oil separates. Pour the tomato puree and cook till the masala is fragrant.
  • Add the channa, coconut mik about 3-4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil. Simmer till the curry comes together.
  • Adjust salt and finish with green chillies, coriander and garam masala. Serve hot with rice or roti.

Broccoli Soup

We humans might pride ourselves with all our achievements. Yes, we sent one of us on to Moon, may be Mars very soon; we have eradicated small pox, we have defeated tuberculosis & malaria, we have created excellent channels of communication, we can talk to people on the other side of the world seamlessly. But, we are also the most cruel of all the species on this earth. I have never heard of animals killing fellow animals 'just like that', I have not heard of animals indulging in opportunistic sexual violence. God! How can we behave this way? how can we be so anti-social while calling ourselves the most social of all species? There is of course the court of law, but what about our conscience? Do we have nerves at all in our moral spine? This week has been  brutal, first the gunning down of innocent children and then the brutal assault on a young girl in Delhi. Not that either of the two incidents were the first or that they are going to be the last. Gun violence is so common here in the States that it is a part of routine life, it does not shake people or make them stand up and run , unless of course you see the gun being pointed at you.
Similarly sexual violence is very common in India, more so in Delhi. The location of the latest attack, the charter buses, everything is so familiar to me having been in JNU for half a decade. I would never go out of my campus after dark. Delhi never made me feel safe. Never. After all these years and after living in the States for the better part of the decade, I now know the difference. The probability of becoming a victim in Delhi is far higher than any of the other cities in the developed world. India cannot ensure the safety of half its citizens and wants to think of herself as an emerging giant?  what rubbish.

All these episodes and the fact that my own Sunny boy thinks that 'Amma can fix everything for me'  chilled my bones. I needed something to warm up my bones as well as my heart. This Broccoli soup tried to do that. It was hard but an effort in the right direction for I confess I am a die hard foodie.
We will need,

Broccoli (florets and steam and all) 1 lb
Butter 1 tbsp
Potatoes 1 diced
Garlic 1 clove
Onion 1 small diced
Bay leaf 1
Cloves 2
Nutmeg a dash
Milk 2 cups
Black pepper and salt to taste

Method:
  • Trim and wash the broccoli. Discard the tough ends and the fibrous skin on the stem. Dice and set it aside.
  • Heat the butter in a soup pot. Once the butter starts to brown on the edges, throw in the garlic. Saute for a few seconds. 
  • Once the garlic is golden in colour, throw in the onions and saute till they are brown at the edges. 
  • Throw in the potatoes. Saute till they are golden brown in colour. 
  • Throw in the broccoli and saute till the broccoli bits brown a bit and reduce heat.
  • Throw in about a cup and water and cook the vegetables are very tender. 
  • Once the vegetables are fork tender, puree the mixture in a blender and return it the the soup pot. 
  • Stir in the milk, adjust salt and pepper and simmer till nice and thick. Serve it with a choice of bread and some cheese.
P.S: I almost never use stock or broth in my soups. They sort taste way too weird for me.  However, I use fresh garlic, spices like bay leaf, cloves and nutmeg which more than compensates for the stock. Also I find that cornstarch as a thickener sort of turns down the soup a notch. So I prefer to use Potatoes in my soups. Not only they thicken the soup but gives it a lot more body which I love. I also hate stock cubes. They are nothing but beautifully packaged garbage.

Panner Pepper Masala

Watched the movie Talaash. It was disappointing to see supernatural in a movie backed by an actor like Amir Khan -  thinking Khan. I would never have watched it had I the tiniest of clue of the movie having a supernatural theme. Come on Amir, it is so disappointing. Wonder what he to say on this one.

I had a gallon of milk left over from the previous  week. I turned it into Panner. Just that the home made Panner is not as sturdy as the ones off the store shelf. But the crumbled Panner was just as good in this dish. It is a take on the Panner Burji.

We will need,

Panner  1.5 cups (crumbled or chopped coarsely)
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/2 tsp
Onion 1 medium chopped
Tomato 1 medium chopped
Chilli powder 1/2 tsp (more if preferred)
Dhania powder 1 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Capscium / Bell peppers 2 medium
Milk 1/4 cup
Garam Masala  1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Lime juice to taste
Coriander fresh a handful

Method:
  • Heat ghee in a Kadai. Throw in the mustard, Jeera  and the fennel seeds. Once they crackle,  throw in the onions, saute till the onions are soft.
  • Throw in the chilli  powder, dhania powder and turmeric. Saute till the spices are fragrant.Throw in the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes are soft and mushy.
  • Throw in the bell peppers and saute for a few minutes. Throw in the Panner. Mix everything gently.
  • Pour in the milk, add garam masala and simmer till the favors combine.  
  • Adjust salt, lime juice and coriander. Serve with Rotis.

Zucchini Tovve

I find it very uncomfortable when absolute values are imposed on us, either by the politically powerful or the socially powerful. It is up to individuals to make a decision for themselves, whether they marry a person of the same sex or opposite sex, why should the government be bothered? In a sense it is so Orwellian, that today the state decides who should marry whom and where tomorrow it will be something more drastic. Just read that the ruling party in the UK is mulling to legalize same sex marriages in churches. Thankfully, on the other side of the Atlantic, same sex marriages are becoming more acceptable. Maine and Washington voted to legalize same sex marriage. Back home in India, the queer parade was a big hit. They are such a fringe group back home. It is so unfortunate. Personal liberties mean nothing at all in this context. I have heard people say that being 'gay' is just a fad, people will realize that and sometime they will get back to being straight!! I have not heard anything more ridiculous than this. Well, why do not we think of it this way,  some people like red, some black, some yellow and some blue. We all have a right to choose a color of our choice. Similarly, people should have the right to choose their love. Should such a simple expression of personal liberty be fought for? Does such prejudice have a room in this century?
 We call ourselves a 'morally upright' society. Ha! What a joke. We are a society which tolerated the commodification of women in the name of religion, we are a society which tolerated extra-marital affairs as long as it the man who is committing it. We are the society which are killing young people in love because they are marrying against the socially acceptable castelines. Now we call two people in love, loyal to each other but they are of the same sex, 'immoral?'. Two hoots to such double standards.

Here is some Zucchini Tovve. On rainy, cool days, I do not feel all the sunny at all. I am still at heart a Tropical-sun-loving person. On one such day, dished this one out because it takes but minutes to cook this.
 
We will need,

Toor dal  1/4 cup

Turmeric a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Dried red chillies 3-4 broken
Curry leaves a handful
Garlic cloves 2 (optional, somehow I like a little garlic in this dish)
Zucchini 2-3 medium diced
Salt to taste
Lime juice to taste
Fresh coriander a handful.

Method:
  • Wash the dal in several changes of water, till the water runs clear. Place the dal, along with the turmeric and a drop of ghee along with about 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker and cook till the dal is fall apart tender. That is about 2 whistles in my pressure cooker. 
  • To prepare the zucchinis, heat the remaining ghee in a wok. 
  • Throw in the mustard seeds and the Jeera. Once they stop spluttering, throw in the Hing, chillies and cury leaves. Once they crackle, throw in the garlic. Saute the garlic till golden brown.
  • Throw in the zucchini. Toss well and sprinkle a dash of salt. Saute till the zucchini is tender but firm. Remove from heat and set it aside.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the cooker and pour the dal into the zucchini. 
  • Adjust salt and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and adjust lime juice. Finish with fresh coriander if desired. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kumbalakayi Bajji / Mash Pumpkin

"Look outside the weather is cool
Bears hibernate and birds migrate
Lets sing a song for autumn is here...."
I heard Sunny boy mumbling this cute song he was taught in his school. Ah! I wish we were like bears. Hog all summer long and hibernate during the cooler months. The worst of weather is supposed to be a few weeks away, but the unseasonable chill has already cooled my bones. I am not even thinking of all the holiday displays and the decorations and the holiday songs that are being played everywhere! All I can think of is warm soups and nibbles all day long. I wish it were a typical fall with balmy days and cooler nights. If it were a typical fall, we would have enjoyed our share of Halloween and Pumpkins. Alas, Sandy thought we did not deserve it this year and ruined both our Pumpkins and Halloween.  Lucky me,  I had a stash pumpkins and squash from late summer. I still have a few left. Picked them up when they were a dollar a piece. So we are still eating the Pumpkins we picked with our own bare hands. This time I got the tiny sugar Pumpkins. They did not impress me much. They are too tiny and barely any flesh. For the quantity we consume, we will need at least 3 sugar Pumpkins. I did rather get a huge chuck of the larger variety from our local Indian stores all cut up and ready to go. The sugar Pumpkins were probably sweeter than the larger ones though.
After our share of Pumpkin Huli, Palya, soup and even thanksgiving Stuffing, I really wanted to make something different. This Bajji was the answer. It is very simple and cooks in a jiffy. It is mouthwatering delicious, especially if you are like me- a big Pumpkin eater :)


We will need,
Pumpkin/ Kumbalakayi /Butternut Squash  1lb (cleaned and cut into chunks)
Peanut oil /Coconut oil  1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Green Chillies 4-5 (slit lengthwise -adjust according to taste)
Jaggery  1 tsp (crushed)
Salt to taste
Yogurt 2-3 tbsp (preferably tart)

Method:
  • Steam Pumpkins till soft. This can be done using a steamer like the Idli steamer or using a steamer inset of a Pressure cooker. Allow it to cool down and coarsely mash the cooked Pumpkins.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the the Mustard seeds, Jeera, Fenugreek, fennel seeds. Once they crackle, add the hing and curry leaves.
  • Throw in the slit green chillies. Saute till blisters appear on the chillies.
  • Throw in the mashed Pumpkin. Mix well,  throw in the Jaggery and adjust salt. Allow any excess water to evaporate. 
  • Once the mixture is thick, remove from heat. 
  • Stir in the yogurt and fresh coriander. Check salt once more and serve immediately. Goes well with Chapati. I can eat it all by itself too...

Vegetarian Chilli

'Chilli' is a hearty bowl of stew that can be made with everything but the kitchen sink. It has a variety of beans, vegetables and a medley of warm spices. Usually it also calls of some meat but very much possible to eliminate meat altogether and no one will even know! In fact this stew is so versatile it can be served with a bread of choice or rice or all by itself. This afternoon, the weather gods blessed us with more snowfall. When ever they forget the time of year and decide to bless us with snow storm(imagine it is still the middle of November), a bowl of warm Chilli soothed my soul. Coming back after clearing the snow perched on our car with numb fingers ad toes, a second serving of the Chilli brought back my pinkie toe to life!

We will need,

Kidney beans 1/4 cup
Kabuli Channa/ Garbanzo 1/4 cup
Organic cold pressed Coconut oil 2 tbsp (yeah! I found it in Costco and love it)
Garlic 3 cloves
Onion 1 medium (chopped)
Zucchini 1 small diced (organic too)
Carrots 1 small  diced (organic)
Bay leaf 1
Shitaki Mushrooms 1 pack (stalks discarded)
Button Mushrooms 1 Pack
Tomatoes 4 medium chopped
Sun dried tomatoes 2 tbsp (chopped)
Green chillies slit
Jeera powder 1 tsp
Red Chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Salt and Sugar to taste

Method:
  • If using the dried beans, soak overnight and pressure cook till soft. It can also be quick soaked. Bring the beans in plenty of water to a roaring boil and turn out the heat, sit for an hour and then pressure cook till tender. I usually cook a giant batches of beans and freeze them in multiple bags.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pot. Throw in the garlic and cook till the garlic is golden brown. 
  • Throw in the onion and saute till pale in colour. Throw in the bay leaf and green chillies, saute.
  • Throw in the zucchini, carrot and saute till they look tender. Throw in all the dry spices. Saute them till the spices are fragrant about 5-6  minutes.
  • Throw in the tomatoes and all their juices. Pick up bits at the bottom i.e de-glazing the toasted spices. 
  • Add about a cup water if the mixture is dry.
  • Once the mixture comes to a boil throw in the mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and the beans. Adjust salt and simmer till the flavours combine about 30-45 minutes. 
  • Add a generous pinch of sugar and lime juice if preferred. 
  • Serve warm with Avocados, cheese and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
Ian  usually very creative with this one dish because it is forgiving. I add vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, kale, chard etc. In simple terms, what ever I happened to have in my refrigerator that day. Sending this as my entry to the Green Foodie event. It is heart warming that organic food movement is  taking deeper roots and people are appreciating organic way of eating. Well, it was not long  back that my own family would tell me organic is just waste of money. If I could, I did eat only what I could grow. But that is a long shot. Hopefully someday we will not miss mother nature at our dining tables.
natureonmyplate

Chiffon Cake

It is the season of baking here! Started it with Honey's birthday.Birthday cake poses a complex problem. There are so many parameters to be considered- should look good and cute, should taste good, should be tender and should be good made-ahead. I love butter cakes. They taste awesome when fresh and warm, they are sturdy and stand up well for hardy frosting-fondant etc. But they are not very good made ahead. They sort of become dry and caked up if kept in the refrigerator for a while. On the other hand, Chiffon cakes are not all that yummy or buttery but are good  made ahead and popped in the refrigerator. They remain tender for days, they to hold up to frosting and light, very light, something that does not make you cringe at the end of a heavy meal. The disadvantage of a chiffon cake is that it can be a little 'eggy' if not flavored well.
I have always loved Chiffon cakes because they are like a blank canvas, paint your mood and it will hold up. This time it was all fruits. Me and Sunny boy put together the cake. Well Sunny boy sure is not old enough to beat eggs, but he does runs around me in the kitchen as I go about the cake. He did pick a few strawberries  for me. In fact Strawberries were his idea.  He had grown very fond of them (for now, that is!).
After a long days wait, it was indeed hard to keep Sunny boy from knocking the cake down or to take a picture. I wish I had a better shot. But for now this is all I have.


We will need,
All Purpose flour 1 cup minus 1 tbsp
Corn Starch 1 tbsp
Baking powder 1/2 tbsp
Sugar 6 tbsp
Salt a pinch
Refined sunflower oil 1/4 cup
Extra large eggs 4
Orange zest 1 tsp + juice 3 tbsp
Vanilla 1 tsp

Method:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350F. Line a piece of parchment onto an 8" baking tin. Do not grease the tin.
  • Sift the flour, cornstarch and baking powder multiple times and set it aside. Stir in the sugar and salt gently.
  • Separate the eggs and beat egg whites till stiff. 
  • Mix the egg yolks, oil, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Beat till combined.
  • Stir in the wet ingredients into dry ingredients gently.
  • Fold the egg whites into flour mixture very gently. 
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake till a toothpick inserted in the center comes clean.
  • Frost the cake as desired. My favorite is the fresh whipped cream and cream cheese frosting. 
  • Decorate it with assorted fresh fruits, chocolate, nuts as desired.  

Seven cups ...may be just six cups

Seven cups is indeed a strange name for a sweet.But then what is in the name? A rose by any other  name is just as sweet. Well seven cups indeed will be utterly sweet  so we usually trim it down to six cups. This was lso a part of our Diwali platter and we all loved it so much.

We will need,

Chickpea flour 1 cup
Sugar  2 cups
Milk 1 cup
Coconut grated 1 cup
Ghee 1 cup
Cardamon 1 (seeds crushed, skin discarded)
Saffron soaked in a tsp milk

Method:
  • Grease a cookie sheet and set it aside.
  • Heat the chickpea flour in a non stick pan and toast it till fragrant. Remove from heat and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once cool, gently add the milk into the flour  a little by little and stir well, making sure that there are no lumps. Stir in all of the milk and make a paste.
  • Now stir in the sugar, coconut and the ghee. Place the mixture on a gentle heat. Cook it till the mixture leaves the side of the pan.Throw in the cardamon and the saffron.
  • Once the mixture starts to harden on the edges, pour it onto the greased sheet, spread it around and score it.
  • Once the mixture has set up, cut it and store it in an air tight box.

Godi Laadu / Whole wheat laddoo

My Diwali platter this year was a combination of  various grains. This one is made of whole wheat flour. It is surprisingly simple to make yet utterly delicious.
We will need

Whole wheat flour /chapati flour 1 cup
Ghee  about 1 cup  (more or less)
Sugar 1-1.5 cups (use the finest variety)
Cardamon 1 (shelled and the seeds crushed)

Method:
  • Heat a non-stick pan  with about 3 tbsp of ghee. Dump the flour and  toast it till fragrant about 15-20 minutes. The colour of the flour deepens a bit and the flour sort of plumps up too. More than  anything it becomes sweet and fragrant sort of like toasting nuts.
  • Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Stir in the sugar,cardamon and let it cool enough to handle.
  • Now melt the remaining ghee. Make a well in the center of the flour-sugar mixture and pour in the ghee a little at a time.
  • Work the ghee into the flour. Pour more ghee  if  the flour absorbs all of it.
  • Gather some  of the mixture in your palms and form it into balls Laddoos. If it crumbles, the mixture needs more  ghee. Arrange the finished Laddoos in a single layer on a big platter. 
  • Allow  the Laddoos to air dry for a few hours and pack it in an air-tight container.

Happy Deepavali

Wishing you all a very happy, prosperous and safe Deepawali. Here is a list of  Sweets apt for the occasion.
Here is sending my virtual love to  all of you and your family.

This time around, started a new tradition of gifting home made goodies. Everything is  home made. The tray is just a regular Chinet dinner plate which I hand decorated with motifs of Rangoli, Swastika and earthen lamps.  Finally the plate is filled with sweets  like Ragi Burfi, Kajjaya, Seven cups and Godi Laddu. The recipes will be coming up later. The plate is then wrapped with festive cellophane finished with ribbons and a handmade six legged bow. Just that the photograph  did not turn up all that well. I wish I had a better photograph.


Once  again have a happy, prosperous and safe Deepavali.

Ragi Burfi

It is Deepawali time, time to share, feast and enjoy the victory of good over and evil and to acknowledge the large heart Bali Chakravarthy who will be visiting us his beloved citizens on Balipadyami. To the feasting part. I have finished preparing my Deepawali spread. This time doing something ambitious. Prepared all the goodies at home! So now they are all nicely packed and ready to go. But had planned to do this post a few days back but could not. Here we go.
My plan was to have sweets made of different grains. Kajjaya is made of rice, Wheat Laddo out of whole wheat flour, 7 cups out of chickpea flour. Decided to try something with Ragi. The Ragi halbai is very tasty but rather time consuming so was figuring out what to do. All of a sudden came an idea to combine the goodness of Ragi Halbai and Burfi, and I should confess I did not go wrong. This was the most appreciated sweet of all. Also I adds a beautiful rustic touch to the Deepawali gift platter.


We will need,

Ragi flour over 2 measures
Khoa 1measure
Sugar 3 measures
Ghee 1 measure
Whole milk 2 measures
Cardamon 2
Saffron a generous pinch
Cashew pieces to garnish

Method:
  • Grease a cookie sheet or a jelly roll tin with a little ghee and set it aside.
  • Sieve the ragi flour using a fine mesh strainer. Discard any rough bits and coarse grains. We need only the fine part of the flour. Use two measures of this fine flour.
  • Heat a non stick pan, place two tbsp of ghee in the pan and throw in the Ragi flour. Toast the Ragi flour till fragrant. It takes a while to get there. It took me almost 20 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat and set it aside.
  • Grate the khoa using the finer side of the grater. It will be easier to use either chilled or frozen Khoa.
  • Combine the Khoa, toasted Ragi flour and sugar. Make a hole in the middle and pour small quantity of whole milk mixing it into the flour mixture. Make sure that there are no lumps. Stir in all of the milk to get a slurry. 
  • Place the mixture on medium heat. Pour in the ghee and cook the mixture till it leaves the side of the pan and the mixture starts to solidify on the edges. Stir in the powdered cardamon and saffron. 
  • Pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet. Spread it into about 1/4" thickness. Score the sheet into Burfi of desired size, mine area about 1" *2 "
  • Place bits of cashews on each of the Burfi. Cut them as scored once they are slightly cool but set. 
P.S: Use any container of choice to measure the ingredients. Just make sure to use the same container to measure out all the ingredients. Also vegetarian silver vark can be used to decorate the Burfi.

Habanero Chutney

I love-hate Habanero, love it that it starts off fruity, very fragrant and slightly sweet but ends up with frantic call to the fire department. On our last trip to the farm where we pick our vegetables on good summer days, I found some pretty looking Habaneros, some red, some sort of yellow, they were indeed so adorable. I had to pick them. Never thought of what to do them. Once home, I started thinking of making a pickle with the fiery fellows. But my heart fainted when I ended up using just a couple in a curry in place of green chillies I had just run out. Boy! That was something. So instead of making a pickles with more chilli powder and spices, decided to do a chutney instead. So here comes the Habanero chutney, call the fire department.

Well I also did something very stupid.I decided to discard the seeds and ribs of the Habaneros. Despite knowing how nasty this fellow can get, I did it with my bare hands. Needless to say, my palms were burning for a long time. Tried every possible thing in the kitchen and bathroom closets, but the fiery fellow persisted. Some one told me to rub my hands with some alcohol. It seemed to have worked. So beware, never use bare hands to work on these little fire bombs.

Honey dumped a ladleful of this chutney thinking it was Pumpkin Palya! He did think it was not all that wise of him to do that.


We will need,

Habaneros 4-6 chopped (seeds discared)
Pineapple chopped 1 cup
Kopra 1/4 cup
Peanut oil `/4 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Jaggery 2 tbsp crushed (a little more or less depending on preference)
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Chop the Habaneors and discard the seeds and the veins. Reserve
  • Toast the Kopra and pound it into a fine powder.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pan. Throw in the mustard, jeera and hing. Once the spluttering stops, throw in the curry leaves. Toss in the chopped chillies, saute for a few minutes.
  • Toss in the pineapple along with their juices. Saute for a few minutes and then throw in the Kopra.
  • Give it a stir. Add salt and jaggery. Add a little water if the mixture is dry. Cook till the pineapples are tender and the dish comes together.
  • Serve as a part of any meal. Goes well with rice, rasam and Mosaranna (curd rice)

 

Dry Fruits Laadooo

It is Dasara time and I have been trying hard not to make any sweets for Naivendya- offering to the good gods. We have had a great time with extended family the last 3 months and a large part of it was eating manic eating! Just the time we thought we had returned to more sane eating, here comes Dasara. I have not made any of my Dasara staples this time around. But for Saraswathi Pooja I simply could not resist the urge to make something sweet. So here is something that is no cook and no sweat.
We will need,

Raisins 1 measure
Copra 1 Measure
Dates 1 measure
Figs (dried) 1 measure
Almonds 1 measure
Cashew 1 measure
Cardamon a few seeds

Method:
  • Toast the copra, cashews and almonds separately on a moderately hot skillet. Set it aside to cool.
  • Once the nuts are cool, combine everything in a mixer and pulse till smooth and comes together.
  • Remove from the mixer and press it into balls the size of limes. 
  • Enjoy it as a prasada or as a part of a meal.
P.S: I did not add sugar because the dried fruits are quite sweet by themselves. If needed sugar can be added to the mixer before pulsing as desired.

Dasara Navarathri

'Mysooru Dasara yestondu sundara..' goes an old Kannada film song. Indeed, the Dasara celebrations in Mysore is world famous. We lived just off the Mysore Palace and had the good fortune of watching festivities up close. I remember the concerts of big artists like M.S.S, Bhimsen Joshi and the there was the Palace the 'Aramane' as we call it fondly in regal splendor complete with hundreds and thousands of light bulbs. In those times the bulbs were supplied by the Mysore Lamps. Wonder who is supplying the light bulbs since the company went belly up. Then there were the elephants, Drona the magnificent. Miss him every time I see the Jambo Savari. He did not have to die the way he did. If only we were a little sensitive as a species.

The entire nine days of celebrations meant lot of food consumed, sweets, savories everything. One hallmark of the old Mysore dasara is the festivities in almost all local temples. In most temples dedicated to goddess Devi, the nine days is celebrated with nine Alankaras, one on each day. The goddess will be dressed up to represent her various Avataras. Some times the theme will be "Asta-Lakshmi' some times 'Vishnu-Dashavatara' and others as well. I love temple hopping during this time of the year, not only  for the Alankaras but also for the prasadas that are served during the evening poojas. Temples seem to overflow with prasadas at this particular time. Visiting two-three temples mean dinner not required! I know I am shameless when it comes to food.

This is our Bombe Habba part of Navarathri. Most of my collection, which is quite large is back home. These are just a few I accumulated here, meant to be taken back home to be a part of the broader collection. For now this is it. I am finding it hard to restrain Sunny boy from touching these display. Wonder how long it would last.
To all of you  here is wishing you the best on the occasion of Navarathri. Dasara Habbada Shubhashayagalu.

Masala Akki Rotti

Akki Rotti is beloved favorite among southern Kannadagidas. We love it and eat it way too often, say like the north Indian eat their Parathas. Akki Rotti is again like a blank canvas, color it which ever way you  want. Mil makes amazing Masala akki rotti, the variety that has so many goodies in it that chutney need not be served at all. This time when she made it, I pushed her to measure down ingredients and viola, here it comes.


We will need,

Rice flour 1 cup
Water 1 cup
Onion minced 1 medium
Coriander fresh chopped a handful
Curry leaves shredded 10-12
Green chillies minced 2-3 adjust according to taste
Avarekalu /Indian beans (tender ones, cooked) 1/2 cup
Jeera 1/2 tbsp
Sesame seeds 2 tsp
Salt to taste

To cook the rotits and serve we will need Peanut oil /ghee/butter as preferred, but definitely optional

Method:
  • Stir a tbsp of rice flour with about 1/4 cup of water to form a slurry. Now combine the rest of the water in a non-stick pot, add salt and bring it to a boil.
  • Once the slurry starts to boil, dump the remaining flour and the rest of the ingredients except the ghee/oil/butter if using and stir. Cook for about 1-2 minutes and remove from heat.
  • Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, knead it as you would the dough for chapati. The mixture should be pliable but should come together easily  as well. If it is too wet, add a little extra rice flour. If it is too dry, add a little hot water. 
  • Once the kneading is done and the mixture has come together and is sort of uniform, divide it into three or four smaller balls. 
  • Preheat a skillet
  • Place one of the divided balls on a piece of plastic sheet or a parchment paper and start spreading it out into a large flat disc using your fingers. Dab a little oil on your fingers if the dough sticks. Once the disc is about 8" to 10",  poke a few holes, one in a center and a few around it. Mil makes five of them. 
  • Place it carefully on the preheated skillet. To do that, you can either gently remove the disc on to your palm and place it on the skillet or invert the Parchment disc side down on the skillet and gently peel the parchment away. 
  • Once the Rotti cooks on one side and the edges look set, dab a little oil/ghee if using and flip the Rotti carefully.Cook on the other side till golden. Remove from heat and serve it right away.
P.S: Other ingredients that makes this Rotti even more lovable are chopped dill, fenugreek greens, carrots.

Mango Tokku Mavinakayi tokku

We as a culture hate wasting.  Though a land of abundance, India has always emphasized a frugal lifestyle. We almost never waste anything. Food being equal to the Goddess Annapoorneshwari is never wasted at all. That is how I grew up. My mother never cooks food in huge quantities, she never wastes anything. I was like her while growing up. But of late the culture of my adopted homeland is getting the better of me. Still I make an effort to not through away food especially  the Produce. I might throw away a musty croissant with great impunity while try an salvage most of a rotting apple. I have stopped buying a lot of produce and stuffing it in my fridge. While the same is not true for prepared foods. There are times when I pick a huge pack of croissants from Costco or some cupcakes from our super market. Many a times such things end up in the garbage.
There are such ingenious ways of making the most of what we have, Typically during the summers when we start the pickle 'factory', we fetch good tart mangoes in huge quantities. Most of the fleshy parts of the mango goes into the Mango pickles- uppinakayi, the ones stuck to the seed in the core is grated and converted to either Tokku or use up in Chitranna . The seed itself goes into a curry. The entire fruit is used up with minimal wastage. Same with a messy fruit like Jackfruit. We use up the seeds, the fleshy parts and more.
This last batch of Mango pickles, made specially for my Fil, who happened to love my Mango pickles, I dished up some Tokku as well.

We will need,

Raw mango grated 2 cups
Fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a generous dash
Dried red chillies 3-4 (Byadagi variety preferred)
Curry leaves a handful
Chilli powder 1-2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Turmeric 1/4 tsp 
Jaggery 1 tbsp (crushed, lightly packed)
Salt to taste

Method:
  • On a hot skillet, toast the fenugreek seeds till fragrant, remove from heat and cool. Once cool enough to handle, pound it into a powder. Reserve.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom pot. Throw in the mustard, hing, dried red chillies and curry leaves.
  • Once they stop spluttering,throw in the grated mangoes. Saute the mangoes till they are no longer raw.
  • Throw in the remaining ingredients and simmer till the oil separates, the spices fragrant  and the mango tender about 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Once it is back to room temperature, the mixture can be filled in glass containers and it stays good for at least a couple months in the refrigerator. 

Lane Cake

If Macaroons are for french and scones for Scots, layered cakes are for Americans. I was amazed when I  discovered the layers and layers of cake and fillings that seemed to defy gravity! But this is the nation of deep fried Oreos, Tur-Duc-Chicken, multiple stack Cheeseburgers and Paula Deen. Layer cakes belong to that genre of unapologetically rich foods that can either melt your heart or and make you curl up in a ball. In fact, layered cakes might just as well do the trick in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran etc albeit inexpensively. So as a tribute to a great nation and its even heavier culinary heritage I had to try and do layered cakes.I choose Lane cake, something that is mentioned in the book 'To Kill a Mocking Bird'. Back as a kid when I read the book for the first time, Lane cake was yet another food, I knew nothing about, just like the ones in Enid Blyton's 'The Secret Seven' series and 'The Famous Five'. Boy! it sure looked like kids in 'foreign' countries ate a lot of strange foods. Thanks to the British Library, the mist lifted when I was barely out of my teens.

 
The thing that struck me most when I looked up for the recipe of Lane cake on PBS was the addition of desiccated coconut in the filling. It reminded me so much of the Iyengar Bakery 'Dilkhush' and 'Dilpasand'. Imagine the goodness of cake and the sweet filling ah! I got all the energy required that very second. and off I went to make the cake.Purist might cringe at my version, but that is what enriches and grows a culture, a nation and us.India was the greatest nation during the first millennium because it was so outward looking, so open to new ideas, a laboratory of innovations. That India embraced and internalized foreign knowledge, culture and languages leading to successful institutions like Nalanda, as well as great advances in science, medicine, politics and philosophy. The acceptance and internalization which weakened during the reign of Sultanates ultimately crumbled under the British. Sadly, post-independent India started as an inward looking experiment, the burden of which is still obvious today. May be as a nation we will realise that inward looking India can never be as glorious as the outward looking India always was. The same thing with the United States. It is the most powerful country today only because of its ability to accept and internalize traditions, thoughts and people. The best and brightest come here only because they are welcome, their idea appreciated and rewarded. As long as the country remains receptive to people, ideas, culture it will be the richest and most powerful county.  This is my humble tribute to two great nations the world's oldest and largest democracies.
 We will need,

White cakes 8" 2 (boxed mix will do, mine is from the scratch) cooled

For the filling:
Kopra/ Dessicated coconut 1/4 cup
Raisins  3 tbsp
Tutti- fruiti or candied fruits 3 tbsp
Sugar 1/4 cup
Butter 2 tbsp
Heavy cream a few tbsp
Cardamon 1 (seeds crushed into a fine powder)
Nutmeg a dash

Frosting:
Heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup
Cream Cheese 1/2 a pack (4 oz)
Sugar 4 tbsp (adjust according to taste, I went slightly overboard this time for Fil loves his desset sweeeet)
Vanilla a few drops

Method:
  • For the filling, combine the raisin, Tutti-fruiti and coconut in a food processor and pulse till well combined and sort of comes together in a ball. 
  • Heat butter in a thick bottom pan and throw in the raisin mixture. Saute for a few minutes till fragrant. 
  • Add the sugar and cook till the sugar melts.Throw in the cardamon and grated nutmeg.
  • Add cream a tbsp at a time to loosen the mixture. The mixture should be have a jam like consistency and should be spreadable. Reserve.
  • To prepare the frosting, whip up the heavy cream into soft peaks, throw in about 2 tbsp sugar and work it to stiff peaks.
  • Cream the cheese and throw in about 2 tbsp of sugar and vanilla and whip it till smooth and creamy.
  • Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture gently till evenly combined.
  • To assemble the cake, Place one cake on a cake stand and spread the cooled raisin mixture starting the center, generously all over, except the last centimeter of the cake from outside.
  • Place the second cake, bottom up on the first cake-raisin filling. Press it gently making sure that the cake is sort of even.
  • Slather the frosting on top of the cake and all along the sides. Garnish with chocolate shavings, fruits and nuts of choice.

Carrot Kheer

It is Blog hop Wednesday time. This time I am paired with Farah . As I went through her collection, I fell in love with her Carrot Kheer. So here it is.

We will need

Carrots  2 cups grated
Whole milk 6 cups
Sugar 3 tbsp (adjust according to taste, this was just right for me, Honey would have preferred it sweeter)

Raisins a handful
Ghee 1 tbsp
Almonds 2-3
Saffron  a pinch 

Method:
  1. Combine the carrot and the milk in a heavy bottom pot. Cook till the carrots are soft.
  2. Once the carrots are soft, throw in the saffron and the sugar. Simmer till the sugar dissolves. 
  3. In a separate pan, heat the ghee and throw in the raisins. Cook till they plum up.Remove from heat.
  4. Pour the raisins into the simmering carrots and remove from heat.
  5. Garnish with almond shavings. Serve warm or chilled.
 

Egg masala

There are many nights when I get sick of the dozen or so eggs lying in the refrigerator for several weeks. We do not consume eggs all that often but once I manage to finish a carton, my hands will itch till I put another one in my shopping cart when at Costco! So the cycle repeats. Finish one and get another one immediately to think about. It is on one of those days that I badly wanted to get done with half a dozen eggs that I prepared this dish and we all enjoyed this dish with some hot Rotis.

We will need,

Eggs 6 no
Peanut oil 3 tbsp
Fennel seeds 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves 8-1074
Cardamon 2
Onion 1 medium minced
Garlic 3 cloves grated
Ginger 1/2" grated
Green chillies 5-6 minced
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Dhania powder 1/2 tsp
Jeera powder 1/2 tsp
Tomato 1 medium
Garama Masala a generous pinch
Salt to taste
Fresh Coriander a handful chopped
Mint a handful torn
Lemon juice to taste

Method:
  • Heat oil in a Wok. Throw in the fennel and the cardamon. Once they sizzle, throw in the curry leaves, immediately followed by the minced onions.
  • Saute the onions till the onions are very well caramelized and almost brown in colour. 
  • Once the onions are done, throw in the garlic, ginger and chillies. Saute for a few minutes. Keep moving the mixture lest they burn.
  • Once the mixture is fragrant, throw in the turmeric, Dhania powder and the Jeera powder. Saute for a few seconds. Throw in the chopped tomatoes. Cook till the oil separates.
  • Meantime crack open the eggs into a mixing bowl breaking the yolks.
  • Push the onion-spice mixture to the sides and pour the eggs into the wok. Cook on low till the eggs start to cook. Stir and scrap the bottom to make sure the eggs or the masala does not burn. 
  • Once the egg start to solidify, fold in the Masala. Keep stirring the mixture till all the moisture evaporates and the eggs are cooked through.
  • Adjust salt. Throw in the Garam Masala. Finish with the torn mint and coriander. Serve immediately with rotis.

Cucumber Kosambari

Kosambari is our  typical  raw dish in a meal mostly with some soaked-sprouted legumes and some crunchy vegetable/fruit. This time around it was all about the summer cucumber. I had run out of the usual split green gram and had to throw a Kosambari dish on the table. So did something with just some tender, summer cucumber that we had picked ourselves from a nearby farm. The cucumbers were so tender almost sweet and as crisp as it gets.
The Kosambari has a strategic position in our meals. The sweets address the sweet tooth of course, the rice dish fills up the soul and the palya is the good-nutritious part which fills the belly. The Kosambari sort of acts like a palate cleanser along with lightening the entire meal. We adore the Kosamabri and it is a summer staple. So lets capture the warmth of the fleeting summer in this dish of cucumbers.

  We will need,

Cucumber 1 medium chopped
Coconut 3-4 tbsp
Peanut oil 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/8 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a few
Dried red chillies 3-4
Fresh coriander a handful chopped
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste

Method:
  • Place the chopped cucumber in a bowl. Toss in the coconut.
  • Prepare the Oggarane. Heat the oil in a wok. 
  • Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera, hing, curry leaves and broken red chillies. Turn off the heat when it stops sizzling. Allow the Oggarane to cool down.
  • Toss the Oggarane with the cucumber-coconut mixture. 
  • Adjust salt and lemon juice. Stir in the chopped coriander.  Serve immediately. 

Menthya Bhaath

We had a lot of fun celebrating the Gowri-Ganesha festival with family. For a change, after a long long time we did go to the temple as well. And after the temple visit it was all about eating. It is so very important for me to put a festive spread every traditional festival. After all, most of my early childhood memories are connected to food. Hopefully Sunny boy will remember his childhood similarly. Living in a country where traditions are very different from my own, it is quiet difficult to give Sunny boy a piece of my own childhood. He will never know what it is to go to the temple first thing in the morning on Gowri Habba, tummy rumbling yet dressed in crisp and new 'Reshme-langa' the traditional silk skirt and new colorful glass bangles. And then it would be waiting for the seemingly for-ever-lasting pooja to finish so that we did get some prasada to eat. He will never know what it is to get 'Tambula','Bagina' something he would quite simply term it as a 'return gift'. Then coming back home from the temple after demolishing the assorted fruits, Kosamabari, Tambittu and all the goodies the come along with the Tambula and sitting down to a hearty meal of Kadubus and Holiges. The last is probably the only part that I can still pass on to my Sunny boy. If not all the little joys that comes as a package back home, I can put a festive spread on the table and hopefully he will remember the food as well as the good times around the table.
Traditionally our festive meals will have one sweet Payasa -pudding, one or more sweet dishes, one or more vegetable palyas, one or more salads like Kosamabari, spiced rice dishes, fried goodies like papads, fritters and spiced yogurt etc.
This time for the Gowri Habba, we had lemon Chitranna and Menthya Bhaath
 
We will need,

Cooked rice (preferably short grain) 4 cups
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves 10-15
Fresh Fenugreek greens1 big bunch
Tomatoes 2 medium

for the spice blends

Channa Dal 1 tbsp
Urad dal 1 tbsp
Dhania seeds 2 tbsp
Dried red chillies 8-10 (Preferably the Byadagi variety, adjust according to taste)
Cinnamon 1/2"
Marathi Moggu 1
Kopra 1/2 c (grated loosely packed)

Method:
  • Prepare the fenugreek greens. Chop and discard the roots and tough stems. Save the tender stems and the leaves. Tear them into small pieces. Wash and keep aside.
  • Heat the oil in a thick bottom wok. Throw the Jeera and mustard seeds. Once they crackle, throw in the hing, curry leaves followed by the washed and cleaned fenugreek. Saute.
  • Meantime. Prepare the spice blend. On a dry skillet, toast the spices one after the other till golden brown and fragrant. Remove and pulse in a food processor till the spices are powered. Heat the same skillet and throw the Kopra on the skillet. Turn the heat off. Pulse the Kopra into a slightly coarse powder as well.
  • Once the fenugreek is tender, throw in the spice blend. Saute for a few minutes till the mixture is fragrant.
  • Throw in the chopped tomatoes and cook till oil separates from the mixture. 
  • Dump the ground Kopra adjust salt. Cook and stir well to combine everything.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • Mix the prepared fenugreek and the rice with some ghee and lemon juice if desired. Adjust salt and serve immediately. 
For best results use cooked and cool rice. using hot rice will break the grains and the presentation will be poor.

Ellu-Gasgase Kadubu / Stuffed sweet rice dumplings

Gowri-Ganesha habbada shubhashayagalu..Wishing you all a very happy Gowri and Ganesha festival. Ganesha is such an adorable god,  he is cute, chubby and he is fond of food. We celebrate the occasion of lord Ganesha's birthday by feasting! (No prizes for guessing) This is the picture of our sweet little Ganesha. We lit the tea lights, offered the Kadubu to the birthday boy and then the Aarti before settling down to the feast.

We loved everything. On the menu was Menthya Baath, green beans palya, Kosambari, Nucchinaunde, kayi haalu and assorted Kadubu. I made Kayi Kadubu and MIL made the sesame-poppy seeds Kadubu. The Kadubus were served with Kayi haalu and oodles of ghee. Thanking my MIL for the Kadubu as well as the recipe.

We will need,

For the filling

Poppy seeds 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds 1/2 cup
Kopra  1/4cup
Coconut grated 1/2 cup
Cardamon 1
Jaggery 1-1.5 cup (adjust according to taste)

For the Kadubu
Rice flour
salt a pinch

Method:
  • To prepare the filling, toast the poppy seeds on a hot skillet till the seeds pop and smell fragrant. Remove on a plate and set it out to cool.
  • Toast the sesame seeds next on the same hot skillet till the seeds pop and are golden in colour. Remove on a plate and set it out to cool.
  • Toast the Kopra and coconut separately till fragrant. Remove on a plate and set it out to cool.
  • Pop the poppy seeds into a grinder and blitz it into a fine powder. Repeat with sesame seeds and coconut.
  • Crush the jaggery in to a coarse powder.
  • Toss the poppy seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, jaggery and crushed cardamon. Set it aside.
  • For the Kadubu, mix 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt and two spoons of rice flour.Bring the mixture to a boil. Dump 3 cups of flour into the water. Stir well and cover and  cook the mixture. To know if the dough is cooked, touch the dough with a wet finger. If it sticks, it needs a few more minutes. If it does not, then the dough is ready. Allow the dough to cool.
  • Once the dough is cool, pinch lime sized dough and roll it between palms. Roll out the dough into a three inch circle using either a rolling pin or your fingers. 
  • Place a spoonful of filling on the right half of the dough circle and close the left half over the filling. Pinch to close the two semi circles into a dumpling. Repeat till all the filling is used.
  • Serve it with ghee and Kayi haalu
P.S: To make the dough, 1.5:1 ratio of rice flour:water works well usually. But several times I have used more/less flour too. It depends on the quality of the flour. Adjust the proportions accordingly.
Sending this out to Prasada special in the let's party event.

Jeerige Kattu

Like I mentioned in my previous posts, we are enjoying a prolonged period of feasting. My aunt J used to make this delicious curry which I last tasted decades ago. The taste lingered in my memory and it took us these years to get down to the kitchen stove and simmer a pot of curry. When she visited us this time, we all wanted her to make this curry. She did and we loved the curry very much.

We will need,

Toor dal 1/4 cup
Turmeric a pinch
Black pepper corns 1 tsp
Ghee 1 tsp

For the masala paste
Onion 1 medium
Dried red chillies 6-8(Byadagi chillies)
Huli Pudi/ Sambar powder 1 tsp
Tomato 1 medium
Jeera 1.5 tsp
Coconut 3 tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves
Tamarind 1/4 tsp

Ghee 3 tbsp
Mustard 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Dried red chillies 2-3  
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Wash and clean the dal and combine it with 2-3 cups of water, pepper corns and turmeric in a pressure cooker.
  • In a wok, toast all the ingredients for the masala paste except the tamarind one by one. Remove and allow the mixture to cool down. Pulse the mixture into a smooth paste.
  • Combine the masala paste with a cup of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and bring it to a simmer.
  • Meantime, pulse the dal and the peppercorns in a blender till smooth. 
  • Pour the dal paste into the simmering masala paste. Increase heat and add a little water to bring the mixture to a desired consistency. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer the mixture again.
  • Prepare the Oggarane/Tadka. Heat the ghee. Throw in the mustard, curry leaves and he dried red chillies. Once they splutter, remove from heat and pour into the simmering curry. 
  • Adjust salt and serve hot with rice.


Rawa Rotti

We love Akki Rotti. But sometimes it is difficult to make them, especially if time constrained or if just a bit lazy.  It is on such days that I end up making this one.This variety is a lot less messy and very easy to roll out. Here it is

We will need,

Chiroti Rawa 2 cup (the finest variety Rawa available)
Salt a pinch
Water 1.5 cups

  • Heat water and salt in a pot preferable non stick pot for easy cleanup.
  • Once the water comes to a gentle boil, dunk in the Rawa and stir well to make sure there are no lumps. Turn off the heat. Cover and let the mixture cool enough to handle.
  • Once the mixture cools down, knead the mixture and bring it together.
  • Pinch small balls of the dough and flatten it on a rolling board.
  • Pre-heat a Tawa. Roll out the flattened balls of dough using a rolling pin into discs about 6-8 inches in diameter.
  • Cook the discs on a hot Tawa on both sides and serve hot with butter/ghee and a curry of choice.

Capscium Masala

Sunny boy started school. He is having a tough time. He cries all the while, right when I hand him over at the school till the time I pick him up.It is so hard. I feel like crying my heart out and I did. I hate myself for putting that my precious little boy into such hardship. Many times I did consider pulling him out of school even if it has just been four short days with an hour session each. But somewhere down inside there is an urge to do the right thing, may be a little painful but give him some time to adjust to the strange world called school. Every night before I slip into sleep, I tell myself, O.K, just tomorrow, just one more day let me send him to school and what if he comes home happy and full of stories to tell me about his school, his teacher,his new friends.What if he likes it today....

Otherwise, I am still busy with family visiting from India and the other day we picked some peppers from a farm. They were lovely, fresh and colorful. I dished out some Capsicum Masala  along with Rawa Rotti. Everybody loved it.

We will need,

Peppers/ capsicum  1lb diced
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Jeera 1/2 tsp

Onions 2 medium
Garlic 5 cloves
Garlic 1"
Chiili powder 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Jeera powder 2 tsp
Turmeric 1/4  tsp
Tomatoes 2 medium
Almonds 6-8
Garam Masala 1/4 tsp
Butter 2 tbsp (optional)
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Combine onions, garlic and ginger in a blender along with a little water and pulse till smooth.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottom wok. Toss in the Jeera when the oil is hot. Once the Jeera stops sizzling, add the onion paste carefully, not to splatter the mixture all over.
  • Stir the mixture and cook it till the raw smell disappear, about 15 minutes. 
  • Meantime, blend the almonds and tomatoes into a smooth paste  and set it aside.
  • Once the onion mixture is cooked, throw in the turmeric, chilli powder, Dhania powder and the Jeera powder. Stir well add a few tbsps of water if the mixture is too dry. Cook till the oil floats on top and the mixture is fragrant.
  • Pour in the tomato mixture and stir well. Simmer and cook till the mixture is homogenous about 10-15  minutes.
  • Throw in the diced capsicum and salt and cook for 5-10 minutes till the capsicum is slightly tender but very well crisp. Throw in the butter at the end if using. (I love the butter)
  • Serve hot with a bread of choice.

Aloo Vadi

Last month was a busy month. We had a family reunion and it was a lot of cooking, cleaning and traveling. Sunny boy started school this week too. Poor little Sunny boy, he is not liking school much, keeps crying till I go there to pick him up.It feels so bad to leave him crying there. Sometimes I feel I should just get him off the school and let him play at home with me. But then I will have to bite the bullet sometime, if not today tomorrow or next year. I am confused and  Sunny boy crying makes it even worse. I only hope he feels better soon. I just feel like hugging him close to me, and keep him there forever.

This one again from my days at Amritsar. During the lean summer months, fresh vegetables are hard to come by. It is during that time that such innovative use to pantry staples becomes imperative.

We will need,

Vadi also called Badi 1.5 cups
Potatoes 2 medium diced
Brinjal 1 small diced
Peanut oil 3 tbsp + Sunflower oil to deep fry
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel 1/2 tsp
Onion 1 small
Tomato 1 medium
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp (adjust  according to taste)
Dhania powder 2 tsp
Jeera Powder 2 tsp
Garam masala  a generous pinch
Fresh coriander  a handful
Salt to taste

Method:
  • Break the Vadi into bite size pieces and deep fry them in hot oil. Remove and drain it on paper towels. Set it aside.
  •  Heat the peanut oil in a wok and throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera and the fennel. Once they stop spluttering throw in the onion. 
  • When the onions are translucent add the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, till the potatoes are ever so slightly tender but not all the way cooked. 
  • Now throw in the remaining spices and saute till the raw smell of the spices disappear. 
  • Add the eggplant, tomatoes and the deep fried Vadi along with a little water, cover and cook till the vegetables are cooked and the spices are well blended.
  • Adjust salt and finish with the fresh coriander. 

Kadhi

I love yogurt and anything and everything that is made of yogurt. Sunny boy loves yogurt, just like little Krishna. This is yet another recipe I learned long back when my father was posted in Amritsar. I instantly fell in love with the velvety, tangy and spicy Khadi complete with crunchy Pokade. These days my Khadi is complete without Pakodes. We all love it.

We will need,

Yogurt 2 cups
Chickpea flour 2 tbsp
Chilli powder 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Dhania powder 1.5 tsp
Turmeric  1/2 tsp

For the tadka
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds 1/8 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Green chillies  1-2 slit length wise

Salt and Kasuri Methi to finish

Method:
  • Make a paste with the chickpea flour, chilli powder, turmeric, dhania powder and a little water.
  • Beat the yogurt well and add two cups of water.Stir in the chickpea paste. Place the mixture in a thick bottom pot and bring it to a gentle simmer. Cook the mixture till it smells fragrant.
  • Make the tadka. Heat the oil and throw in all the ingredients listed under the tadka one after the other.Once they stop spluttering, remove from heat. 
  • Pour the tadka  into the simmering yogurt mixture. Cook for a few more minutes. 
  • Finish with two  tbsp of crushed Kasuri Methi and adjust salt.
  • Serve hot with rice and may be some Boondi or Pakode.
 

Mixed Vegetable Masala

It is Blog hop Wednesday again. This time I am paired with Rajini . She has a collection of eclectic dishes and I loved her Potato roast. Thought of doing just the potatoes but at the last minute found that I had just one big potato left and so were a handful of okras and half a zucchini. Decided to throw everything in and we were surprised how good  the dish came out to be. The masala called for in the recipe can be counted on the fingers in one hand but that is what makes this dish stand out. Simple yet delicious. Also decided to start and finish the on stove top as against the original recipe.
We will need,

Potato 1 large chopped
Okra chopped 2 cups (toast the chopped okras on a hot griddle till the slime disappears)
Zucchini chopped 1 cup
Tomatoes 1 medium
Green chillies 2 slit
Salt
Peanut oil 3 tbsp

For the masala paste
Onion 1 medium
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Jeera 3/4 tsp
Chilli powder to taste

Method:
  • Combine all the ingredients for the masala paste in a blender and grind it into  a smooth paste. Set it aside.
  • Heat oil in a Thick bottom wok. Throw in all the vegetables and saute for a few minutes. Once the vegetables are brown and crisp on one side, pour the masala paste and toss well.Cover and cook till the vegetables are tender crisp and the masala fragrant.
  • Adjust salt and serve warm with Roti.

Rice Salad

It is the balmy days of summer. It is so short, that even before we realize it is gone. While growing up in India, sunny days were not a problem at all.  Mysore was so very well endowed with sunny days that the year we moved to Bangalore was an unhappy one, for Bangalore used to be a cloudy-cool hill station! Heck, it is no longer one. It feels much hotter and lot more uncomfortable these days. The green canopy around the K.R.Circle area and the one on R.V.Road is but history. Bangalore is not the garden city any more. A few years from now clean air for breathing will probably be sold in canisters in Bangalore. It is indeed so sad to see your beloved city die a slow suffocating death.

Coming back to summer, it is time for salads. It is a common tradition to start summer back home with Kosambari on Sri Ramanavani. It used to be around  the time that our  summer vacation started and my late maternal grandfather would take us kids (me, my sister,cousins and a bunch of others in the neighborhood) to his ancestral farms about couple of kilometer from our home, to the sacred Banni tree with a small concrete platform around it. He would also carry vats of Panaka a sweetened beverage which is supposed to have a cooling effect on the body, some spiced buttermilk and then huge baskets of Kosambari. We did all sit around the tree, pray to lord Rama, recite the Rama bhajane. Our din would by then invite farmhands working nearby and our neighboring farmers (mostly related to us)  and then we would all drink and eat. Back then there were no plastic cups and plates (thank god!!) We would be served on leafy plates called 'Mutukada ele' /Donne or on shreds of plantain leaves. Drinking was tricky. Grandpa would have carried only a few steel cups with him. We did take turns to drink out of it. But then we did have to pour the beverage into our mouth from a distance lest our lips touches the cup polluting it. Obviously others could not use the polluted cup unless it has been washed thoroughly and purified with the sprinkling of tamarind water. (Watch  old Kannda movies if you do not believe me) For us it was just a summer picnic that we would look forward to once our school closed for the year. I sometimes feel so sad that Sunny boy will never know what it is to eat Kosambari  on a leafy plate, or pour a drink into your mouth from a distance while others are breathing down on you waiting for their turn.He is growing up so far away from things that were the elements of childhood. We still own those farmlands but there is hardly any life left there. The mango orchards could not bear to be away from Grandpa, so they joined him soon afterwards. My last visit a few years back was disastrous. All the old trees were gone. Actually it was such a thick and green canopy back then but a mere fallow parched earth the last time I went there. I have decided not to go there anymore. It is not worth it. I cannot hear the wind whisper in my ears, I do not feel the leaves of the old trees coming to hug me as if they recognize me from the ages past,I do not hear the Nightingale sing sweet as the mangoes themselves,nor see Kingfisher sunning after a quick dip. The stream is all dried up, not even trace of sand, just parched earth mutely singing its own eulogy.
Change they say is part of life. But for me it is a sad tribute to a part of you that just died. It is sadder that Sunny boy can never know when I relate him the stories of my childhood.

This rice salad is my tribute to summer when cooking for long hours is rather tedious but fresh produce at the farm stand makes it difficult for you to stop cooking.
We will need,

Rice 2-3 cups  (cooked and cooled, preferably left over rice)
Peanut oil 1 tbsp
Zucchini/ Squash 1 medium diced
Carrot 2 diced
Onion 1 medium diced
Mushrooms a handful diced.

Dressing:
Toasted peanut oil 1 tbsp
Soy sauce 1 tbsp
Fresh green chillies 2 -3 minced
Garlic 2 cloves minced
Ginger 1/2" piece minced
Juice of a lime
Fresh Coriander a handful chopped
Basil leaves a handful chopped (optional)


Method:
  • Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and sit it at  room temperature for at least 20 minutes. This mixture can also be whizzed in a blender for a more homogenous dressing.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of peanut oil in a wok and stir fry the onions, carrots till slightly caramelized about 5 minutes. Toss in the zucchini and Mushroom and fry for  another 2-3 minutes till the moisture is gone and the vegetables are crisp tender. Remove the vegetables into a bowl. 
  • Throw in the rice into the hot wok and toss around to slightly warm up the rice. Once the wok is cool,  throw in the vegetables and the dressing. Toss till everything is combined.
  • Check for seasonings and serve at room temperature.

Pesto chutney pasta and Miracle berry

It has been a crazy few weeks. After weaning Sunny boy I had/have postpartum depression issues. As if it is not enough, my weight seem to go haywire! I had never had a problem with my weight. Not that I was ever skinny, I love food, and I have good fitness levels and my weight has always been constant. But now I feel pressured to act.I do not believe in crash dieting and things that can prove to be problematic in the long run. But I have decided to to stick to two simple things. Number one- go sugar free, as strictly as possible. Then the second one, go for a drink of water when ever the craving to eat something strikes. A compulsive grazer that I am, I am always foraging the refrigerator or the pantry.So to get away from the habit, I am going to drink water when ever I feel like eating something. Rest of my diet is going to remain the same. Honey did loose a few pounds when he started on the sugar free diet. But he quickly exited the diet as well. I need to see how long I can stick to it. Hope to see encouraging results in the next few weeks.

We also had a tasting party the other day for Miracle Berry.It was indeed a unique experience. It is a berry that is native to Africa. The mberry version of it process the berry into tablet form and then the taster places the tablet on the tongue and allow the tablet to melt before consuming food.
We tried a bunch of things lemon, strawberry, cheese, pineapple, bitter gourd, hot chillies.Wow! it was a great experience. The tablet itself tasted like a berry. Loved it. But the surprising factor was the lemon. Lemon tasted like orange just as sweet, may be sweeter. Strawberry tasted wildly sweet. Everything tasted sweet. The chillies tasted sweet with just a hint of pungency and then the bitter gourd started sort of  mildly  bitter but then end flatly sweet. Cheese was not salty at all. We ended up wondering what it was all about. Boy how could this happen. I do not think I am going to miss sugar at all.

Coming back to the pasta, a generous bunch of basil was one of my finds the other week at the pick-your-own-farm. After the usual Caprese salad I still had way more basil than I could think of finishing, so here comes Pesto chutney yet another  Kannadised creation in my kitchen.

For the Pesto

Fresh Basil leaves 2 cups packed
Almonds toasted 2 tbsp
Tamarind 1" piece
Garlic 1 clove
Green chillies 2
Extra virgin olive oil 3 tbsp

Salt & black pepper to taste

For the pasta
Pasta (any shape but I used whole wheat Rotini) 2 cups
Zucchini 1
Grape tomatoes 1 pint
Mushrooms 4-5 medium
Extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
Parmesan cheese grated 2tbsp

Method:
  • Combine everything under the pesto and blend it in a food processor. Add a little water to get the mixture going. Once the mixture is smooth and well combined the pesto is ready. Remove it into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. 
  • For the pasta, heat oil in a sauce pan. Throw in the chopped mushrooms. After about 3-4 minutes, throw in the chopped zucchini. Saute till the vegetables are crisp tender. Throw the tomatoes in at the  last minute and turn off the heat.
  • Cook pasta according to the package instruction. Once the pasta is drained, toss it with the vegetables and about 3-4 tbsp of the pesto. 
  • Mix everything together and stir in the cheese. Add more pesto if the mixture lacks punch. Add a little bit of the pasta-cooking water if the mixture is too dry.
  • Serve immediately.



Chiroti -South Indian 'Emperor' pastry

If Mysore Pak rules the hearts of Kannadigas, then Chiroti rules their weddings. I do not remember a wedding in my family that did not serve Chiroti. I have seen them in my parents' wedding album. (Obviously I was not invited to their wedding), It was there in my cousins' wedding, my wedding, my sister's the list goes on. Everything on the menu can change, you know 'Gobi Manchuri' taking the place of 'Pakoda','fried rice' instead of 'Bisibelebath'. But Chiroti has its place. Nothing says indulgence like Chiroti. So it has remained on the wedding menu for ages and looks like it will stay around for a while. While most of the meal in weddings is served on plantain leafs, mid meal extra steel plates are placed for Chirote or sometimes Pheni the noodle like cousin of Chiroti. So a lot of people who love either of these delicacies adjust their appetite or game plan after they see these plated being served at a distance. Boy demolishing an entire serving of chirote still remains a challenge to me and requires some degree of planning ahead.
The way it is served is also interesting. Chiroti in itself is just a pastry, it is not sweet but extremely rich. So once the  Chiroti is placed on a plate, powdered sugar is generously sprinkled followed by warm Badam milk. So people who like it crisp (like me) avoid the Badam milk. But those who love it softer, allow the Chiroti to sit in the warm milk for a few seconds.Even as I write these line, my mouth starts to water. I am craving for a wedding meal- the plantain leaf, the assorted nibbles on the top part of the leaf and the Chiroti in a steel plate next to the leaf- Ah! that is how I grew up, that is what my Sunny boy is missing.

I never took to these flaky pillowy buttery goodness as a kid. I simply hated the plate sized pastry staring at me mid-meals when my stomach is already loaded. As I grew older and my capacity increased and my tolerance for grease increased, I came to appreciate it better. It still remains an indulgence, something I can afford to have once in may be a year or two. I made these after a long research. Actually, Chiroti is flaky and tender, they are not crunchy/crisp at all. They are also super rich, so rich that every bite should leave a 'fatty' after taste, mostly 'shortening' or 'Dalda' ish taste. While making it, all I could think of was the person behind this delicacy. How could so much fat be incorporated in one single dish. Must have been Mughal or some Royal kitchen behind this dish. Only a royal kitchen could have afforded so much fat and only a king could have digested it in the by gone era.

So, let us be kings for a day and indulge in Chirotis. Only change is that the original recipe calls for shortening and I hate it. Worked out mine without the shortening. In fact substituting the shortening for the butter and ghee in the recipe makes it much easier to work with the dough and faster too.

We will need,

All purpose flour  1 cup
Butter 60 grams
Salt a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp
Rice flour 2 tsp
Ice cold water a few tablespoons
Ghee / refined oil to deep fry (oh! yes more fat)

To serve
Sugar powdered
Cardamon
Milk
Badam Milk Mix

Method:
  • Place the flour and salt in a food processor. Cut the cold  butter into small pieces and throw it into the food processor. Pulse till the mixture is crumby. 
  • Add ice cold water by the tablespoon till the mixture comes together into a dough. 
  • Remove the dough and wrap it in a piece of plastic and rest it in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
  • Meantime, mix the ghee and the rice flour till pluffly and smooth paste like. It is called 'Saathi'
  • Once the dough is well rested, divide the dough into 4-5 parts, using a rolling pin roll out each part like a roti. Smear the Saathi using a pastry brush and set the roti aside. Follow it with another roti and a layer of Saathi till all of the dough is used up.
  • Now gently roll the stack of rotis a bit using a rolling pin and brush it with more Sathi. Start to roll the roti from the edge on one side and roll it into a cigar/log shape. Gently all the while.
  • Cut the log/cigar of roti into two and then the twos into two and so on to end up with twelve pieces of dough. 
  • Roll each of the piece of dough between your palms to give it a roundish shape. Place it on floured surface and roll it into 4-5" discs. 
  • Deep fry these discs in hot ghee till they  fluff up and the color changes slightly. Flip them once.Cook  till the color changes and remove. Drain these on several layers of paper towels.
  • Once the Chirotis are cool, serve it with a mixture of powdered sugar and cardamon and hot badam milk. Both on the side. That way everybody can decide how sweet they want their Chirotis to be.
Phew!! I need to hit the elliptical after this. 

Saffron Baklava

Summers are for garden parties, barbeques and picnics. We never prefer dinner parties in summer, hey! we have the entire frigid winter for dinner parties. But garden parties, barbeques and picnics are great on a nice and warm summer day. I hate to cook in the kitchen during the hotter days as well. Boy! turning on the oven makes the kitchen one inferno. This past week we were invited to a sandwich party and the food was lovely. I pitched in with the dessert and foolishly I set upon making a Baklava. The end result was fantastic and everybody loved it. But the kitchen got really hot, so hot I was wondering if the eggs would get cooked if left on the counter. So I have decided not to turn on the oven till the sun decides to sleep longer.
But it is Saffron Baklava for now. I have another version of Baklava as well. Love to Indianize-Kannadize everything in my kitchen.
I love making Baklava because it is one of those dishes that making twenty is as easy as making two or two hundred.It is easily scalable and perfect for a large party.
We will need,

Fillo sheets  1/2 package
Butter  1 stick (115 grams)
Almonds 1 + 1/4 cup
Sugar 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp
Saffron few strands
Cardamon 1 skin discard and the seeds crushed


Method:
  • Thaw the fillo sheets on the kitchen counter for a while, may be 20 minutes. 
  • Toast the almonds either in the oven or on a thick bottom Kadai till fragrant and set it aside to cool.
  • Once the almonds are cool, pulse it in a food processor with 2 tbsp of sugar. Remove and set it near by.
  • Melt the butter and a grease a 12 x 8 baking dish with the melted butter and set it near by.
  • Remove the fillo sheets from the package and spread the sheets on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cover it with  a damp kitchen towel.
  • Pre heat the oven to 350 F.Start assembling the Baklava.
  • Spread one sheet of Fillo on a work surface and brush a little melted butter thoroughly. Fold it into fours and place it in the dish. Repeat with another layer.
  • Brush the top most layer with some more butter and spread the almond mixture generously.
  • Place another butter filo layer followed by more almond mixture, alternating with the almond and the fillo layer ending with two sheets of fillo each folded into fours at the top. 
  • Once the layers  are done, cut the Balkava into desired pieces, the knife barely touching the bottom most layer.
  • Place the Baklava in the oven and bake till the top is golden and the baklava is fragrant.
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely
  • Prepare the sugar syrup. Combine the sugar with half a cup of water and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, throw in the saffron and cardamon and simmer till the mixture attains single thread consistency. i.e when the syrup is pulled  between wet thumb and fore-finger, the syrup should form a single thread.
  • Remove the syrup from heat and spoon over the hot syrup on the cool fillo layers. Rest the Baklava for a few hours on the counter uncovered. Cut the pieces thoroughly using a pizza cutter and serve.