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)

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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)

  • 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...