Besan Unde/ ladoo

March already seems like April-May but our lucky stars are going to sullen starting next week. These two weeks we have been eating plenty of salads and enjoying the weather as long as it lasts.

Besan Unde reminds me of Nagarapanchami. Back home in the northern part, the celebrate the festival of Nagarapanchami with great gusto. A variety of undes or ladoos are made and lots of goodies including Jowar/Bajra rotti. These rottis are served with assorted side dishes. Slurp...We in my family make Besan Unde when ever we feel like eating! It is pretty easy to make, the ingredients are all off the self and it stores well for a week - 10 days. My sister makes excellent Besan Unde. She had made it the last time I visited her and I kept on eating till the whole box was empty. This is my humble version, not as good as the one she makes but not bad either.

We will need,

Chickpea flour  1 cup
Ghee      1/2 cup
Sugar (fine variety) 3/4 -1 cup  (I prefer it at the lower end, but if I am making it for my FIL I will go all the way up to 1 cup and may be a couple of tablespoons over it)
Cardamon 1 (seeds crushed and the pod discarded)
Almonds 1/4 c toasted and chopped fine (optional)
Copra   2 tbsp grated and toasted (optional)
salt a pinch

  • Sift the chickpea flour a couple of time to ensure that it is free from impurities and is lump free.
  • Melt the ghee in a thick bottom pot and throw in the chickpea flour. Keep moving the mixture till well combined. Make sure it is not lumpy. 
  • Cook the mixture till it changes colour and is fragrant. Remove from heat and set it aside to cool.
  • Once it is slightly cool, but still warm to touch, stir in the remaining ingredients.
  • Gather enough mixture to fit in your palm and pat it into balls the size of golf balls.
  • Cool it on parchment lined cookie sheet and store it in an air tight box once it is completely cool.

Tomato soup

A few decades back, I was just a little kid. Whenever we went to a fancy restaurant to eat 'North Indian Food' we did order tomato soup, gobi manchurian, roti, panner and probably a vegetable subzi and fried rice- noodles. Finish it with the tall decadant 'Gud-Bud' icecream. I was a kid who loved slurping the scary red tomato soup. In fact soup to most of us back then meant tomato soup. Was it not the food colour tainted thinned down version of a cheap bottled ketchup tongue ticking? Of course it was, for my untrained palate and my blissful ignorance.
Then a few years later during the peak of Delhi winters, the Maggi version of tomato soup kept my heart warm and my body and soul together.
Now it is time to think of Sunny boy and what he did like to eat. He is a 'soup guy'. He adores soup. Just this afternoon his lunch was two tiny bowls of thinned down tomato ketchup version of Tomato soup. My heart bled looking at him eat the warmed up concoction of artificial food colours and unidentified stuff out of all sort of coloured cans. I felt like screaming at the top of my lungs, to convey the point. But it is hard to convince a two year old.
Never mind, another day he will figure out what is the better deal. This is a picture of something made at home and tastes like nothing ever served at a regular restaurant.

We will need, Tomatoes canned 1 (Else 3 medium tomatoes blanched and skin removed)
Butter 1 tbsp
Cloves 2
Garlic clove 1
Cilantro 1/2 cup
Sugar  1 tbsp
Black pepper
Heavy cream (optional)

  • Heat butter in a soup pot. Saute the garlic and throw in the cloves.
  • Once the cloves are fragrant, throw in the tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes are soft. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
  • Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, throw it into a blender with the cilantro and pulse till smooth. Thin it down with water to the desired consistancy.
  • Pour the soup back into the soup pot and turn on the heat. Adjust salt and pepper.
  • Once the soup is hot,stir in the heavy cream if using. Else serve it with a crouton of your choice.

Spinach Mosaru Shaale

We all love yogurt in my family. Sunny boy adores dairy, be it yogurt, be it butter or cheese. The other day I just opened my refrigerator to get some butter for blueberry muffins, I noticed that the butter had been gnawed all over. 'Could it be rats?' came a horrified thought, the very next second, Sunny boy grabbed the butter from my hand, 'Benne....Amma benne kodi, Thank you' and started gnawing at the butter that very moment. My heart almost skipped a beat. Thank god it is not rats it is just my Sunny boy. The same thing with yogurt. I would keep the yogurt to set in the oven, If I am not around, two little hands will grab the bowl of yogurt and eat it with bare fingers, licking, spilling et al. If I am in my patient mode, I did smile and say 'Ah! nanna chinni Krishna' and give  him a hug, If I am in my not-so-patient mode, I will yell 'A*****, you little monster, katte nan magane' and probably spank him on his bums.

So that is story of dairy in my house. I get raw dairy,which is creamy,rich and yummy beyond words. It makes for the ultimate yogurt, butter and ghee. The creamy rich and sweet but tart yogurt is perfect for a dish like Mosaru Shaale . It is nothing but uncooked mixture of coconut and spices combined with yogurt.The other day I was talking to my Doddamma, and she gave me an idea to spruce up the dish with some crunchy onions. We loved it. I also managed to sneak in some spinach, thus the lovely green color. It is a good way to use up buttermilk as well.

We will need,

Yogurt 1.5 cups  or butter milk 3cups
Spinach  2 cups
coconut 1/4 c
Green chillies 4-5 (adjust according to taste)
Cilantro a handful
Ginger grated 1/4 tsp
Garlic 1 clove
Black pepper corns 6
Peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves a handful
Onions 1 small chopped.

  • Beat yogurt well, combine 1.5 cups of water and beat it again till homogeneous.
  • Cook spinach in the microwave oven till soft but still vibrant in colour. Else blanch it in hot water and  allow it to cool.
  • Once cool, combine the spinach, coconut, green chillies, cilantro,ginger, garlic and pepper cloves in a blender and pulse till smooth.
  • Stir the spice mixture into the yogurt and stir it well.
  • Heat oil in a Kadai. Throw in the mustard seeds, jeera and curry leaves. Once they stop spluttering throw in the onions.
  • Once the onions turn pink, remove it from heat and allow it to cool. When it is reaches the room temperature, stir it into the yogurt mixture. Serve it with hot rice and some ghee.

Cardamon and Maple syrup Baklava

I love parties, it brings together some of my favorite things in the world - friends, food and good times. The other day I was pitching in with dessert for a potluck. I am always the dessert person!Wonder if I would have been a good pastry chef :) So there are few recipes that are actually easy to make, travels well and well appreciated. Fruit cake , Rasmalai  are few of those and Tiramisu and Baklava are the other.  Baklava is here, Tiramisu will be for another day.

Baklava is a Mediterranean dessert made of alternating layers of richly buttered Fillo and slightly sweetened nuts.It is probably the predecessor of our very own Iyengar bakery 'Dil Pasand'. It is usually flavored with spices like cinnamon,nutmeg and the walnut is the nut of choice. I hate walnut, I am from the south and we ain't got any walnut there. So got to try more preferred nuts, what else but almonds and pistachios. I made a small batch, as I always say, our age and activity level deserve ever so small portions of desserts, how  much ever I like making, serving and relishing desserts. If soul craves for something sweet, fulfill the craving but control the portions. I am not one of those who would strike foods off my list just because some MNC sponsored study branded those foods as dangerous. Prudence as much as in eating is what is necessary as it is in personal finance. For now  it is Baklava.

We will need,

Fillo Sheets  4 (cut into fours)
Butter 3 tbsp melted
Almonds 1/4 cup (toasted)
Pistachios  1/4 cup (roasted and unsalted)
Sugar 4 tbsp
Maple syrup
Cardamon seeds from 1 pod

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Thaw the Fillo sheets as instructed. Keep it covered with a wet paper towel.
  • Combine almonds, pistachios and sugar in a food processor. 
  • Crush the cardamon seeds, discard the skin of the cardamon and throw it into the food processor. Pulse till the mixture is finely chopped, resembling say coarse breadcrumbs.
  • Grease a 12* 8 baking dish. Set it aside.
  • Melt butter and start working with the fillo. Spread a cut sheet of Fillo on to the greased baking dish, brush melted butter generously. Top it with another fillo sheet and brush melted butter on top.Repeat till you have a layer of four sheets in the baking dish
  • Divide the almond mixture into four equal parts. Spread one part evenly on the buttered Fillo layer in the baking dish.
  • Start again with the Fillo sheets and place a layer of two sheets.Spread another part of the almond mixture evenly in the baking dish.
  • Build layers of fillo and almond-pistachio mixture with the top most and bottom most layers of fillo being 4 sheets thick; while those in between being about 2 or 3 sheets thick.
  • Once all the Fillo and almond mixture is used up, cut the Baklava into 12 portions. Make sure to run the knife about three quarters through the layers leaving the bottom layer intact.
  • Pop it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes till fragrant and done.
  • Remove it from the oven and drizzle the maple syrup on top of the Baklava. Rest the Baklava on the counter for a few hours uncovered. I leave it overnight. Cut into pieces and serve.

Apple Tokku

It has been a benign winter till now. I guess we have earned it by going though the very eventful 2011 weather-wise, first the 'Snowmegadon', then 'Irene' then the scorching summer in between, of course the autumn snow fall that ruined my sunny boy's big day.Still there are cold days in between, that begs for food that warms you from within, things like hot rice, ghee and Tokku like Mango, Tamarind Tokku or may be the more season appropriate Apple Tokku..
Granny Smith apples are quite tart and they hold up to the cooking as well. I have never tried any other variety. The ones that I used was just not tart enough so I ended up using a little bit of Tamarind as well.

We will need,

Granny Smith Apples 2
Fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp
Peanut oil 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Jeera  1/4 tsp
Turmeric 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Red chilli powder 2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Tamarind extract 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Jaggery 1 tbsp ( or less depending on taste)

  • Wash the apples and wipe it dry. Grate it over a box grater and set it aside for a minute.
  • Heat a skillet toast the fenugreek seeds and once fragrant remove it on a cool plate, set it aside.
  • Pour the oil into the skillet. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera, turmeric and hing in quick succession.
  • Add the grated apples and cook on medium heat for a few minutes till the apples slight change in color.
  • Crush the fenugreek seeds using a rolling pin, and throw it into the skillet with the apples. 
  • Stir in the chilli powder, tamarind extract and Jaggery. Cook till the apples are soft and the mixture resembles a thick jam in consistency.
  • Adjust salt and mix well. Remove from heat. Stores well in the refrigerator for a week.

Mango Cheesecake with almond crust

A very happy new year to all of you friends.. After a very busy party-season, I am still trying to get into the grove!Indeed it was lots of baking, lots of eating, lots of drinking, sleeplessness and then of course fun. Now as usual trying to eat healthy. That has only meant eating-healthy-meal followed by a soul-stomach-pleasing-regular-meal. Looks like I am better of eating the not-so-healthy-soul-stomach-pleasing-regular-meal instead of two meals after all. So what do you say to some Mango cheesecake. My tummy is already rumbling. Got to eat it to believe how good it was :)

We will need,

for the crust,
Almonds toasted  3/4 cup
Sugar 3 tbsp
Whole wheat flour 1 tbsp
Salt 1 pinch
Butter 2 tbsp (melted)

for the filling,
Cream cheese  12 oz (1.5 packages) room temperature
Eggs 2 room temp
Sour cream 1/4 cup
Mango pulp 1/2 cup ( I used the canned stuff, it sucks, but better than the woeful Mexican mangoes)
Sugar 1/4 cup
Cardamon seeds from 1 pod (crushed)
All purpose flour 1 tbsp

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line a 8" spring form pan with parchment paper.
  2. Run the almonds, sugar and whole wheat flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles  fine bread crumbs.
  3. Pour in the melted butter and run till the mixture comes together.
  4. Dump the almonds on the spring form pan and spread it out evenly using a spatula. (I finish it by pressing the bottom of a heavy glass bowl to get a even layer)
  5. Pop in the oven for about 10-12  minutes till golden and fragrant. Remove and cool.
  6. For the filling, cream the cheese till smooth, add eggs one at a time and beat it till well incorporated. Keeping the beater on, stir in the other ingredients one after the another till well incorporated.
  7. Once the crust is completely cool, pour in the mango cheese mixture and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes. It is done even as the center is slightly jiggly. Remove and cool it down to room temperature. Once at room temp, refrigerate it over night before cutting and serving. This pie yields about 8 servings. (or four it is me and honey at the table)