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

  • 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
Badam Milk Mix

  • 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

  • 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.

Hunna Huralikayi Huli / Mature green Beans curry

My favorite time of the year is here. The pick-your-own produce is in full swing and the farmer's market is full of vitality and colors. This past weekend we hit our favorite farm and loaded up on beautiful and fresh vegetables. We loved what we saw and we loved what we ate and are eating. This time around we got a bunch of our favorite vegetables including the bitter gourd, egg plants, capsicum including the purple ones, never seen that one before and the purple colored mature beans. I was delighted  to see the mature beans still hanging on the plants and decided to get a bunch of those. I hope I did not ruin the farmer-lady's plans of converting it to seeds for the next season. As usual Sunny boy had a great time at the farm. He picked a lot of good and not-so-good vegetables and then 'helped' me shell the beans too. They sure to grow up fast.

A sad update on my gardening venture. The past week's scorcher dried up most of my plants,including the sunflowers.My coriander did sprout. They were not irradiated after all, but they ended long before they could be on our table. May be I should try again,  the season is still long enough of a couple of attempts.

The mature green beans are a delicacy and we relish it very much. Traditionally, it is cooked with eggplants and potatoes in a curry and served with Akki Rotti or rice. This is our dinner tonight

We will need,

Mature green beans shelled and the skin discarded 1 cup
Eggplant cubed 2 cups
Potatoes cubed 1 cup
Huli Pudi/ Sambar powder 1.5 tsp
Tamarind concentrate 1/2 tsp
Onion 1 small
Coconut 1/2 cup
Ghee 1 tbsp
Mustard 1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Curry leaves a handful
Salt and Jaggery to taste

  • Peel the onion and discard the skin. Stick it to a metal skewer or a fork and hold it over the flame. Roast it till the skin develops charred spots. Remove from the fire and set it aside to cool.
  • Combine the coconut, Sambar powder, tamarind and the cooled onion in a blender and puree the mixture into a smooth paste along with a little water.
  • Remove the coconut paste into a thick bottom stock pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil. Simmer and throw in the beans, eggplant and the potatoes. Cover and cook till the vegetables are tender.
  • Meantime, prepare the oggarane/tadka. Heat Ghee in a pan. Throw in the mustard seeds, Jeera, Hing and curry leaves in quick succession until they pop. Remove from  heat and pour the contents into the curry. 
  • Adjust salt and throw in a small piece of Jaggery. Stir well and remove from heat. Serve hot with Rice or Akki Rotti

Mango Milk shake

It is blog hop time.I missed the email earlier this month some how and was caught by surprise when I found other buddies posting already. This time I am paired with Gayathri.She has a wonder blog and I have been eying quiet a few of her recipes for a long time especially the Vatha Kolumbu. But the dish calls for ingredients not normally found in my pantry. So that one will have to wait. For now it is the Mango milkshake to fit into my Thursday fast :)

Made a small substitution. Instead of the fresh fruit called for by Gayatri, I am using Mango pulp therefore skipping sugar altogether.

We will need,
Whole Milk 1 cup
Mango Puree 1/2 cup
Cardamon powder a tiny pinch
Crushed Ice as preferred

  • Combine everything in a blender jar and blitz till smooth.Serve immediately or well chilled.
Sending it out to  Radhika's Blog hop Wednesday .

Soup with avocado cream

Of late, I have been going through a rough patch. I have become very slow, as if somebody pushed the button on the remote for a speed of 0.2x from x; an unexplained lack of interest in everything I do and lack of motivation to do things that apparently I loved to do; I have stopped dropping comments on my favorite blogs, I have posted fewer recipes; The kitchen is a mess, the living room resembles an earthquake zone, but I do not have the energy to clean up or brighten things. The days look long and I am just looking for my hour to shut down and snooze. Then I wake at unearthly hour and try to kill time counting sheep and imagining weird things. Sometimes I feel so tried and so long to be alone that Sunny boy ends up watching cartoons for hours. I get irritated for no apparent reason, crying and loosing my temper for little things. I have been wondering for a while as what could be wrong with me. PMS? come on those dont last for months. Postpartum hormones? hey my baby is two and a half! Then I started considering menopause...but barely thirty and menopause did not fit in either. But that was the strongest suspect. Otherwise, why would I, a very enthusiastic person, who had all the time in the world for everything she liked/wanted, who's best friend was sunshine, and who signed up for motherhood after carefully weighing in all the options and of course brought up in the best of traditions and educated and modern for god sake, act like a psychopath portrayed in the movies? monster-like one minute and terribly sorry and full of self-pity and crying the other? I could see something just was not right, I was not being my own reasonable self. I could not subject my actions to any logic and I could not explain my own behavior to myself. This had never happened to me before. How can 'I' ..'I' of all the people in the world act unreasonably?
Despite knowing that something was wrong, I never bothered to seek help. I still have not, but at least now, I guess I know what could be wrong.

It was just a matter of chance. I was speaking to my  friend the other day, she started telling me her experiences after weaning. The story could have been mine. Everything started with me weaning Sunny boy. I had nursed him till he was very well past two. I felt ready to call it a day, I felt he was ready to call it a day too. We did it and it was not painful at all. There was no crying, no protesting nothing. It was one fine day and we both decided that nursing was beyond us and we could do well with just hugs and kisses. Sunny boy is doing very well indeed. (The only day Sunny boy demanded to nurse was at the ER with a cashew stuck way up in his nose and waiting for the doctor to pull it out. That story for another day). That was it, else that is what I thought.

But that is where the trouble began. While nursing, a mother's mood gets a lift because of all the good hormones Oxytocin and Prolactin. When the mother starts weaning, there is a gradual drop in the levels of these hormones and then bingo postpartum depression hits you when you cannot even imagine. Hey no body told me about this one. My doctor kept asking me if I am feeling blue soon after delivery. Well I was slightly sleep deprived but with my beautiful baby in my hands and all the good hormones baby sitting my nervous why would I feel blue? I was on the top of the world. She never told me when I can expect it to kick me,it did at a time when I was least expecting it. Well, you act up when you are pregnant, people are sympathetic, 'oh! poor gal,I know pregnancy can  be hard'..your baby bump justifies everything. Then when your baby is young and nursing, you act up and people are still sympathetic,'poor gal, she is sleep deprived, good work gal, keep up with the good work'..... the baby at your breast justifies everything. But once the baby talks and walks, there is absolutely no sympathy. 'Hey! what is wrong with you? are you crazy' is all you get, when actually your nervous are being whacked by the dancing hormones.

What is surprising is the fact that despite all the advances in the modern medicine, there are these unspoken, un-highlighted areas which can catch well meaning, educated and well informed women like me unguarded. Now that I know what could be wrong, I am better equipped to handle myself. If only my doctor gave me a heads up on this one. It is also surprising that such a big problem is still not mainstream, there are not many researches on this one and not many resources to help one cope up. So friends, if you are there like me, hang in there and this too will pass.

Here is a soul warming soup recipe made during one of my down days.

For the soup

Carrots 1 cup chopped
Mushrooms 2 cups  chopped
Chickpeas cooked 1 cup
Vegetable broth or chicken stock 2 cups
Extra virgin olive oil 1tbsp
Garlic 1 clove smashed
Salt and pepper to taste.

For the avocado cream

Ripe Avocado 1
Green chillies 1-2 minced
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh coriander
Salt to taste

  • Heat oil in a stock pot. Saute the garlic for a few seconds.Throw in the carrots and mushrooms. Cook till they are tender but crisp. 
  • Throw in the rest of the ingredients and  two more cups of water and simmer for a few minutes till everything comes together about 15minutes.
  • Prepare the avocado cream in the mean time. Scoop the avocado from the skin, discard the seed and the skin. Place the flesh in a bowl and mash it with the back of a fork. Throw in the remaining ingredients.
  • To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl and place a dollop of avocado cream on top and serve it right away.