Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ginger Tea

Originally posted on 17/Jul/07

You must be thinking that it's ridiculous to have a post dedicated to something as simple as tea, but lately it has an important place in my daily routine. My love affair with tea is rather recent... growing up, my father and I never had tea or coffee, it was always milk with Maltova. We even refused it when offered occasionally. I have indulged in some 'Lemon Tea' a couple of times when visiting my father's office - it was an extremely sweet, golden coloured tea with no milk but lemon juice added- but that's about it.

During my University days, I used to have some tea once in a while to wake me up from the afternoon drowsiness that comes from poring over books in the comfy, air-conditioned library or to keep me awake for an intended overnight cramming session just days before the exams! We used to head out around 11pm or so to the nearby 'Hawker Center' (they are ubiquitous in Singapore) and order some 'Thé Aaliya' which translates to Ginger Tea. It was absolutely heavenly - it was hot, had a strong ginger flavour and was sufficiently sweet. They would pack it in a plastic bag with a straw to boost and that would really hold us over for quite some time - so our chatting (ahem, studying) could continue.

After I begun work, we rarely made tea and I didn't even know how to make it properly. My friend Suman was always assigned this task since she made the best version. Later we begun having some cold bubble tea... which is basically milky fruit juice (hardly any tea) with chewy tapioca balls and a wide straw so we could get a few of those tapioca balls to chew. A very interesting experience and a delicious one at that. It was so popular at one point and there were so many stalls along Orchard Road that sold these.

Moving on... my husband, Arun was also not a tea or coffee person so again it took a backseat after my marriage... until we moved to DC and our weekends with our friends and neighbours (Raji & Nirmal) were incomplete without a cup of tea. So, i started enjoying it on a more regular basis. This intensified once my in-laws, who are avid tea drinkers, visited us. That's when I started consuming it more often and now I have it practically every evening - I even crave for it! I almost always add grated ginger to it and sometimes to make it special, I add some powdered cardamom to finish it off. Recent Sun TV ads introduced me to this special blend of tea (Brooke Bond Natural Care) which has 5 herbs/spices added to it, which makes it more flavourful and even healthy - I soon got some packets of it from india and we like that a lot.

I like to think I make a decent tea. There has been some research of late that suggests that drinking tea with milk reduces it's antioxidant properties but I don't really drink it for it's health benefits but more for the soothing, comforting feeling it brings about. So, my recipe calls for very little water and lots of milk.
Even as I start to make the tea, I get more relaxed...
Here's how I do it...
Serves: 2

Water - 1/4 cup or less
Ginger - 1 inch piece crushed/grated fine
Sugar - 2 to 4 tsp. depending on your sweet tooth
Tea powder - 1.5 tsp to 2 tsp (again depends on the type of tea you have)
Milk 1% - 1 cup
Elaichi - a pinch, powdered

- Add ginger to the water and bring it to a boil
- Add sugar and tea powder at this point and let it boil for about a minute or until the colour changes to a brown *the aroma at this stage is so inviting and soothing*
- Now add the milk and let it come to a boil. Keep a close watch since it will boil over just when you decide to turn your head away (a warning based on the many times I've had to clean the stove because of this)
- Reduce the flame to very low and let the milk simmer for as long as you want (longer, stronger the tea).
- Add powdered Elaichi, switch off and let the tea just stay for a few minutes before you filter it and serve with some rusk, biscuits or biscotti.



- Sit back, enjoy the heartwarming (ginger does that) hot tea and unwind after a busy, maddening day.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Kothu Parotta

I've always been fascinated by Parottas and their variations ever since I was a child. Growing up in Madurai which is famous for its roadside parotta stalls, I've tasted it quite often but mostly it was the plain parottas with a vegetable kurma as a side (not a combination that you normally find in the roadside stalls since they usually have some non-vegetarian curry). The elusive

'Kothu parotta' was out of my reach unfortunately since I almost never came across a vegetarian version of it. Yet, the 'tun-tun-tun' noise you hear as they mince the parotta makes your mouth water, just by imagining its taste.

Luck soon favoured me... the very first time I had it was at the 'Madura Coats Club' - where Friday night movies in an open-air theater were the norm with a lip-smacking snack at around 7:30pm. Almost all the time I went in on Fridays was for the yummy food - not so much the movies. They always had something different on the menu, something more exciting than the usual fare that we normally eat at home. On one glorious day it was 'Kothu Parotta' - both veg and non-veg versions of it so I had a taste *finally* and loved it.

Sometime back, I started searching for recipes of kothu parotta and devised my own version based on what I read and what I remembered... This dish is however not a regular at our home, mainly because I know now that parottas are not the healthiest food (after I saw how they were made - with immense amounts of oil and also because it is purely maida instead of whole wheat flour) but when we crave it, or when I'm short on time this is perfect. I have absolutely no patience to make the parottas from scratch so I just use the frozen parottas that we get here in the US (not the Malaysia Kawan Paratha) - the small round, flaky ones.

KOTHU PAROTTA
Ingredients

Parottas - 5
Onion - 1, medium size, chopped
G. Chillies - 3, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, small, chopped
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
Channa/Dried Green Peas - 1/2 cup, soaked & cooked with salt
Bell pepper - half, chopped
Curry leaves - few, chopped
Eggs - 1 or 2
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Jeera powder - 1/2 tsp
Pepper - 1/4 tsp (or to taste)
Salt
Oil - 2 tsp

Method

1. Cook the parotta on a tawa and tear it into small pieces

2. In a wide skillet, heat oil, add curry leaves, onions, g. chillies & ginger-garlic paste. Saute for a while. Now add the channa/peas and bell peppers. Once they cook a bit, add the tomatoes and salt.

3. Once the tomatoes get mushy, push the vegetables to the corner of the skillet and in the middle, pour the eggs and scramble them with a little salt and pepper.

4. Mix the vegetables and egg once they are done and add the parotta pieces.
Update: Add some of this Thin Kurma to give it a lot of flavour and some moisture.

5. Now add the spice powders, mix them and let it fry on a medium flame till it's well cooked and gets a bit crispy.


You can add vegetables of your choice and it tastes good even without the eggs.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wheat Upma and a Smoothie

Growing up, upma wasn't my favorite thing - I would normally greet it with some groans and how comes... The exception to this rule was Semia Upma, though it barely made it to our table since my father didn't like it one bit. It's appearance was limited to the few times when he was away on business. But as I grew, so did my tastes and now I like a wide variety of upmas, especially the one made with cracked wheat, mainly because it has a better texture, kind of chewy.





WHEAT UPMA



Ingredients
Cracked Wheat (or Bulgur) - 1 cup
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Tomato - 1/2, chopped
Carrot - 1, chopped
Green Beans - 12-15, chopped
Peas - 1/4 cup
Green Chillies - 5
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece, chopped
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 5
Sambar Powder - 1 tsp

Method:
1. Heat Oil, season with mustard, urad dhal and curry leaves
2. Add onion, garlic, ginger and green chillies. Saute until they soften. Now add tomatoes and salt.
3. Once the tomatoes soften, add the chopped vegetables and sambar powder.
4. Saute them for about 4 to 5 mins. Add 2.5 cups of water and allow to boil.
5. Simmer and cover until the vegetables soften.
6. Add the cracked wheat, cover again and let it cook.

Serve with some coconut chutney or lemon pickle.

I made a Banana Strawberry Smoothie to go with this for our dinner. This is a simple, nutritious, very filling drink. A glass of this before a meal is sure to curb your appetite. The following recipe makes 3 generous 8 oz. servings. You can shake it up by varying the fruit and yogurt.

Banana Strawberry Smoothie




Ingredients
Banana - 1, ripe (frozen works too)
Strawberries - 6 large
Flavoured Yogurt - 1 container (I've used Yoplait Light in this case but anything that you have on hand, else susbstitute with home-made yogurt and some sugar)
Low Fat Milk - 12 oz
Icecubes (optional)
Honey / Sugar - to taste (optional)

Method
1. In a blender, swirl the banana, strawberries and icecubes (if using)
2. Once this is pureed, add the yogurt and milk. Blend again.

That's it - you are done!
Normally I never find the need to add sugar if using the flavoured yogurt but give a taste, add some honey or sugar to taste and blend for a few seconds more.


This is also my entry for creative Ms. Nupur's's A-Z of Indian Vegetables

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bread Cups with Creamy Vegetables

Here's a tasty breakfast dish - perfect for weekends. It's pretty healthy and wholesome too with whole wheat bread, vegetables and cheese.

I originally got this recipe from Tarladalal's website which I have modified a bit to suit my taste. I've made this many a time and its popularity hasn't decreased an ounce.

This is my entry for Trupti's Spice it up! for WBB-12

BREAD CUPS with CREAMY VEGETABLES

Ingredients

For the bread cups:
Whole wheat bread – 8 slices
Low fat butter or tub style margarine – 1 to 2 tbsp, melted

For the filling:
Frozen mixed vegetables - 1½ cups, cooked (I put it in the microwave)
Onion - 3 tablespoons, chopped
Green Bell pepper - 3 tablespoons, chopped
Green Chillies - 2 teaspoons, finely chopped
Low fat milk – 1 cup
Cornstarch – 1 tbsp
Olive oil – 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste

For baking:
Low fat pepper jack cheese - 1/4 cup, grated




Method:

For the bread cups:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
Remove the crust from the bread slices
Wrap them in a cheese or muslin cloth and steam them for 5-7 minutes (I use a pressure cooker without the whistle). This makes them soft and pliable.
Roll them out a little and press into the cavities of a muffin tray which is greased lightly with butter
Brush with melted butter and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden

For the filling:
Heat oil in a non-stick pan, add the onions and sauté till golden brown
Add the chopped bell pepper and jalapenos and fry for 1 minute
Add the cooked vegetables, cornstarch, salt, then add milk and cook till the mixture thickens. Add pepper, if desired, to taste
Fill a little of this mixture in each bread cup, sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 5-10 mintues until the cheese melts.
Serve hot

Monday, June 18, 2007

Vendakai - Poondu Vathal Kuzhambu

My mom makes a mean Vathal Kuzhambu - also called Puli Kuzhambu at our home. The one I prepare does taste a tad bit different from hers inspite of me following the same procedure. I do go easy on the oil however though normally this is made with quite a generous amount of nallennai (Sesame / Gingelly oil). This recipe uses powders that we have on hand.

Update: One can also use manathakkali or sundakkai vathal to make this kuzhambu. For this, first heat some oil in the pan and fry the vathal on medium flame till roasted (it shouldn't get burnt though), strain with a slotted spoon and set aside. After the kuzhambu is done and has thickened, add this fried vathal towards the end and switch off the stove. Here are some pictures of this vathal kuzhambu prepared this way (the rest of the procedure is the same as below but I usually don't add other veggies like vendakkai).


This can be made without any vegetables except shallots but I added in some Okra (Vendakkai) and Garlic (Vellapoondu) as well.

This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables for the letter 'V' this week.

VENDAKKAI POONDU VATHAL KUZHAMBU


Ingredients
Okra - 7 to 8 tender ones (can be more if garlic is not used)
Garlic - 1 bulb or 10-12 cloves, peeled
Shallots - 10 to 12 or Red Onion - 1 small (sliced thick)
Tamarind - Lemon sized, soaked in warm water
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 3 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 to 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt, to taste
Gingelly Oil - 1 tbsp

For Seasoning:
Curry leaves - few
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek (Vendhayam) - 4 to 5 seeds
Asafoetida (Perungayam) - a pinch

For the Finishing touches (Optional):
Fenugreek powder - a pinch
Asafoetida (Perungayam) - half a pinch
Black pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Gingelly oil - 1/2 to 1 tsp

Method:
1. Cut Okra into 1 inch pieces or bigger and microwave them for about 5-6 mins.

2. Extract tamarind juice from the soaked pulp after adding about 2 cups of water.

3. Heat a deep pan, add oil, the seasoning ingredients, onions, garlic and okra.

4. Saute this until the garlic and onion get browned slightly.

5. Add the turmeric, chilli, coriander & sambar powders and saute them for 2 to 3 minutes more.

6. Immediately add the tamarind juice and salt.

7. Once this comes to a boil, cover and let simmer and low-med flame for about 20 to 25 minutes

8. When sufficiently thickened and vegetables are completed cooked, add a tsp of oil on top of the gravy and add the powders under the finishing touch. After a minute, mix thoroughly and remove from the stove.

This is now ready to be served. The result is a tangy, spicy curry with a subtle sweetness lended by the caramelized onions. This tastes even better the following day and is a good accompaniment to soft dosas as well.



Our lunch for Father's Day - Rice with Vathal kuzhambu, mung dhal thovaiyal , pan-roasted cauliflower , sorakkai-channa dhal poriyal and pepper papad.


Cooking from other blogs

Here are some recipes that I've tried from other blogs:

Nupur's wonderful recipe for >Bombay Pav Bhaji
This turned out to be very delicious and authentic tasting, that too without the hassle of chopping onions for the gravy.


Nabeela's recipe for Limeade

Made these over the weekend and they are perfect to beat the summer heat. I also got a good workout whacking the limes and squeezing the juice out of them... not to mention the stress relief this provides. My 20 month old daughter had fun pretending to whack the limes as well along with me.

(sorry I have no pictures of this)


Indira's recipe for Nimona

This made a rich, luxurious gravy and was a delicious deviation of the standard aloo-mutter.

(again, sorry I don't have pictures of this)


There are quite a few recipes that I want to try out and I will post them once I have (hopefully with pictures this time).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ulundhu Vadai

This is my favorite among Vadais... though the masal vadais are crispy, crunchy and yummy somehow, this is the vadai that always stole my heart. The softness inside with a crisp, golden exterior, with pieces of fried onion, ginger that you get to bite into - absolutely tasty.

Here's my recipe for Ulundhu vadai (Urad-dhal vadai) and this shall be my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Vegetables.

Ulundhu Vadai
Ingredients

Urad dhal (I prefer to use whole, white) - 1 cup
Onion - 1
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Peppercorns - 3
Curry Leaves - 3
Green Chillies - 2 to 3
Salt, to taste
Oil , for deep frying

Method

1. Soak Urad dhal for an hour to two.

2. Finely chop 3/4 of an onion, and cut the remaining quarter into big chunks

3. Finely chop green chillies, ginger and curry leaves

4. Drain and grind the urad dhal (preferably in a grinder - it's better than a mixie) with as little water as possible. It should be soft and fluffy, just like when we grind for idlis.

5. Grind the quarter-onion cut into big chunks and add to the batter (this will give it extra crispiness), along with the chopped onions, g. chillies, curry leaves, ginger, salt. The peppercorns can be ground or added whole.

6. Make round patties of these on a cling wrap sheet that has been wet (wet your hands as well so it doesn't stick to your hand)... make a small hole in the middle

7. Slide into hot oil carefully and deep fry these on medium heat until golden brown.

8. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Tomato Kurma

This Tomato Kurma immediately brings back memories of my childhood holidays spent in Trivandrum with my cousins... My (Jyothi) periamma used to make these with Idlis and it was a wonderful change from the chutneys that were the usual accompaniment. I was pleasantly surprised to read a recipe on Mallika Badrinath's book, which sounded a lot like my periamma's recipe - so I tried it, with a few, slight modifications and it hit the nail on the head. We love it! I suppose it would be good with chappathis as well but I've always served this with soft, spongy, idlis.

This is also my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables.

TOMATO KURMA


Ingredients
Onions - 2 medium, chopped
Tomatoes - 2-3 Large, chopped
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves, chopped (optional)
Oil - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Aniseeds (sombu) or Cumin - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - few
Cloves - 1
Cinnamon - 1/4 inch piece
To Grind:
Coconut - 2 tbsp
Cashewnuts - 6 to 7
Poppy seeds (khasa khasa) - 2 tsp
Red Chillies - 4 to 5
Green Chillies - 3
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp or to taste
Garam Masala powder - 1/2 tsp

Method:
1. Heat oil in a pan, season with aniseeds or cumin, cloves, cinnamon and curry leaves
2. Add finely cut onions and garlic. Fry till golden brown.
3. Add the tomatoes and salt and fry for a few more minutes
4. Add the ground masala paste and saute for just a minute more.
5. Add sufficient water and allow the gravy to boil for about 10-15 minutes.
6. When the gravy is thick enough, remove from fire and serve.

Lauki Kofta (Sorakkai)

Sorakkai in Tamil has several names - Lauki, Dudhi and Bottle Gourd.
It's not a very popular vegetable, atleast at our house, but the first time we loved it and barely recognized it as Sorakkai was when my father made a Kofta dish with it. My cousins who tasted it were amazed too and liked it a lot.

Though both my parents are excellent cooks, my mother specializes in the traditional fare while my father is the more daring, bold cook who always experiments with new tastes, methods, ingredients and also tries new recipes based on what he has tasted someplace. Since then, everytime I see a Sorakkai at the market, I envision a Kofta curry but since it involves deep-frying I don't make it all that often. I have also learnt a few other recipes using this smooth, green, luscious looking vegetable, but so far the Koftas are the tastiest.

Onto the recipe...
SORAKKAI (LAUKI) KOFTA
Ingredients

For the Koftas:
Sorakkai - 2 small
Onion - 1/4, chopped
Green Chillies - 3, finely chopped
Ginger - 1/2 inch, finely chopped
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coriander lvs - 3 stalks, chopped
Besan - 4 tbsp
Salt, to taste
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Oil, for deep frying

For Gravy:
Onion - 1, cut into big chunks
Tomato - 1 big, cut
Garlic - 4 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch
Chilli powder - 1.5 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1.5 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt, to taste
Coriander leaves - For garnish
Canola oil - 2 tsp

Method
1. Grate the Sorakkai and squeeze out as much water as possible (I used a soft sieve - in the pic). Keep the liquid aside.

2. Add the remaining ingredients under the Kofta list and mix thoroughly. Ensure that the dough binds well, if not, add more besan.

3. Deep fry the koftas in medium hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels

4. Heat the 1 tsp of oil and fry onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes till wilted, with some salt.

5. Allow this to cool and grind to a paste.

6. In the same pan, heat 1 tsp oil, add cumin seeds, fry the paste add the masala powders.

7. Add the reserved liquid from the gourd and 1 cup of water. Let this simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

8. Add the koftas and simmer for 5 minutes more. Garnish with coriander and keep covered until ready to serve.




Egg Biryani

This recipe is from my friend Raji and I think she makes the best version of this. Eventhough she has given me the recipe several times and I have even observed her preparing it, mine still doesn't taste as good as hers... something about her touch and expertise I guess :)
All the same, I want to give the recipe
EGG BIRYANI


Ingredients
Basmati Rice - 1.5 cups
Eggs - 5, Hardboiled and peeled
Onion - 1 Large, sliced thinly
Green Chillies - 5, sliced
Tomato - 1/2 tomato, chopped
Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Ginger - 1 inch piece, chopped finely
Garlic - 4 cloves, peeled and chopped finely
Coriander leaves - 5 stalks, chopped
Mint Leaves - 8 to 10, chopped
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Shakthi Egg Masala Powder - 1 tbsp or more to taste
Salt, to taste
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Canola Oil - 1 tbsp

Method
1. Cook Basmati Rice separately, ensure grains are separate and allow to cool
2. Halve boiled eggs and make 2 light slits on each half (white side)
3. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, add green chillies, onions, ginger and garlic
4. Saute until onions soften and caramelize a bit
5. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, dry masala powders, coriander and mint leaves
6. Allow this to cook well into a mushy state
7. Mix yogurt with about a cup of water until smooth and add this to the fried onion-tomato mixture
8. Once this comes to a boil, slip in the eggs and let this simmer until the gravy thickens, about 10-15 mins.
9. Remove the eggs, keep aside and let the gravy continue to cook until it thickens a little more.
10. Mix the cooked rice with the gravy completely. Take care not to smush it.
11. In a greased, oven-proof bowl, add half the rice mixture, arrange the boiled eggs, and top with the remaining rice mixture.
12. Cook this in a pre-heated oven at 350F for about 15 mins.

13. Garnish and serve.

Vegetable Noodles

Originally Posted 1st June 2007

Here's a recipe for a popular Indo-Chinese dish - Vegetable Noodles. I make this often and can add any amount of vegetables, even the ones that Arun doesn't normally favour, and not have to worry about it being rejected. Any combination of vegetables works. Even my daughter likes it but it gets a bit spicy for her.


Ingredients
Egg Noodles / Plain Noodles - 1 pkt (200g)
Onion - 1, sliced thin
Garlic - 5 cloves, chopped
Ginger - 1 inch, chopped
Carrots - 2, peeled and julienned
Green Beans - 20, sliced diagonally
Cauliflower -1 cup, sliced
Broccoli - 1 cup, sliced
White Mushrooms - 8 to 10, sliced
Bell Pepper - 1/2, julienned
Purple Cabbage - 1/4, chopped
Soy sauce - 1 tsp
Sriracha (Chilli Garlic Sauce) - 2 tsp
Ketchup - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Black Pepper, to taste
Canola Oil - 2 to 3 tsp









Method
1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Ensure it's not mushy. Drain and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan, add onions, garlic and ginger. Saute for a few minutes.
3. Next, add bell peppers and mushrooms with a little salt and stir-fry some more
4. Add the remaining vegetables, chilli powder, sufficient salt and saute on a medium-high heat.
5. Once they have cooked well, add the sauces, noodles and toss well.
6. Add black pepper now and reduce heat to medium, toss occasionally - this will ensure that the noodles get crispy.


That's it... noodles are ready. This is on the spicy side so go easy on the sauces based on your tolerance.

Tandoori Paneer and Birthday Cake

Originally Posted 24th May 2007

TANDOORI PANEER
I came across this recipe on Mamta's Kitchen and we tried it with a few modifications. We loved this for it's taste and simplicity. It doesn't call for a lot of oil either so that's good considering we are using paneer (which has enough saturated fat as it is).



Ingredients

Paneer - 250gm, cubed
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Garlic - 2-3 cloves, peeled
Green Chillies - 2-3
Lemon Juice - 1/2 of a lemon
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Tandoori Masala - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt to taste
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Onion - 1/2, Cut into big cubes Red & Green Bell Peppers - 1/2 each, cubed (similar to onion)
Red Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Canola Oil - 1 tsp

1. Grind together ginger, garlic and green chillies, cumin seeds with the lemon juice and make into a fine paste.
2. Add garam masala, tandoori masala, salt. Mix well.
3. Add paneer pieces to the paste and marinate overnight in a fridge or at least for a few hours.
4. Meanwhile, toss the onions, green and red bell peppers separately with oil, salt and red chilli powder.
5. Place marinated paneer, onion, bell peppers on a baking dish lined with aluminium foil, sprayed with some oil
6. Bake in a very hot oven 450º F for 10 minutes or so. It cooks very quickly so keep an eye on it. Paneer is done when it is sizzling and the edges begin to look slightly burnt/brown, like they have been barbecued. You may need to turn it over once during the cooking, to ensure even browning.
7. Use toothpicks to skewer then so you have paneer, onion and bell peppers alternating. The vegetables and paneer make for a great combination.



Here's a snap of Arun's birthday cake - (his birthday was on April 5th but didn't get time to post these earlier). It's a pineapple, layered cake. I made pineapple jam with fresh pineapples and sandwiched that between layers of cake. I also added toasted, sweetened almonds, cut pineapple pieces and sweet, whipped cream. It was quite good but Arun is very partial to the pound cake I make. Ever since I made the pound cake, he has lost his ability to enjoy any other cake... yet I wanted to try making this and used his birthday as an excuse... :)
The decorations are nothing to be proud of... but I hope to get better someday.



Of Paninis and Frittatas

Originally posted 2nd December 2007

Arun loves both, Paninis and Frittatas.. A panini, basically is a sandwich that is made with vegetables or meat and cheese - which is then pressed down with a weight while being heated through so the cheese melts and the bread gets toasted and crispy. I make them with lots of roasted vegetables and slices of pepper jack cheese.. I also make it a tad spicier than what you normally get at the restaurants. In fact we bought a Panini making set just before we left for India and we've been aching to give it a try. It has a cast iron grill pan, a weight with a handle, tongs etc. It's easy to make these even without a panini maker or the grill pan, I used to just put them in an oven until the sandwiches were heated through and the cheese melted - it had pretty much the same effect sans the grill marks.

A Frittata, is an omlette but is loaded with vegetables and is kind of thick. Some cheese is also added to it and it's finished off in an oven.

We made both of these last weekend and I remembered to take some snaps... so here goes.

ROASTED VEGETABLE PANINI









Ingredients:
Ciabatta, Baguette or Focacia (sliced horizontally)
Red Onion – 1 Big, sliced fairly thick
Garlic Cloves – 12, peeled
Zucchini – 1 big or 2 small, cut into thick strips of about 2 inches length
Yellow Squash – 2 small, cut into thick strips of about 2 inches length
Carrots – 2, peeled and cut into thick strips of about 2 inches length
Red pepper – 1, seeded and cut into thick strips of about 2 inches length
Green Pepper – 1 , seeded and into thick strips of about 2 inches length
Roma Tomato – 1 (optional), cut in 8 big pieces
Olive Oil – 3 tbsp
Pepper Jack Cheese – 6 oz sliced
Sriracha Chilli Sauce – to taste (optional)
Salt, Pepper and dried Italian herbs
Oil Spray
Directions:
Preheat Oven to 425 degrees F
Lightly coat or spray a baking sheet with oil
Toss cut vegetables with olive oil, dried Italian herbs, salt and pepper
Arrange vegetables as a single layer on roasting pan
Allow to roast in Oven for 20-25 minutes or until roasted and caramelized
To the bottom half of the sliced bread, spread a thin layer of Sriracha Chilli sauce. I also spread half of the focacia in this case with pesto.
Top with roasted vegetables
Arrange the layers of Cheese on the vegetables and put the top layer of the bread
Put the sandwiches in a Panini maker or into the hot oven and cook until the cheese melts and it’s heated through.
Slice and Serve warm



FRITTATA
Ingredients:
Small Red Onion – Sliced thinly
Portobello Mushroom – 1 big cap, sliced
Red Bell Pepper – Half, seeded and cut into thin strips
Green Bell Pepper – Half, seeded and cut into thin strips
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped finely
Spinach leaves – 1½ cups chopped
Small Roma Tomato – 1, chopped
Egg beaters (any Egg substitute) - 1½ cups
Low Fat Pepper Jack cheese – ½ cup, grated
Red Chilli flakes to taste or Jalapeno peppers – 2, chopped
Low Fat Milk – 1/3 cup
Olive oil – 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Salt, pepper, nutmeg

Method:
Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick pan
Sauté sliced onions and garlic. Add red chilli flakes or jalapeno peppers
When onions soften and start to brown, add mushroom and peppers with some salt
Finally add tomatoes and garlic and sauté until mushy and spinach has wilted
In a bowl, lightly beat egg substitute and milk , mix in ¼ cup of pepper jack cheese
Add cooked vegetables to the egg mixture with sufficient salt and pepper. Grate some nutmeg.
In an oven proof sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil, turn pan around to coat it
Add the egg mixture to the pan and cook on low heat, covered until mostly set – about 15 minutes
Meanwhile pre-heat the broiler
Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cheese on the frittata and put in oven
Broil for 3-5 minutes until the top browns lightly
Slice and serve warm. Tasty even when cold.


Brahadeesh's Birthday Banana Cake

Originally Posted 18th August 2006

Today is my brother, Brahadeesh's birthday, I decided to bake a banana cake. He is not into celebrating, now that he's all grown up so we just called and wished him the very best. He said it would be like just another day and headed off to college. Hope he had some fun with his friends atleast.

Well, Arun is happy if I make something sweet, especially if I bake something so he was very excited at the prospect of a banana cake. I decided to give Pusiva's Banana Cake a shot - here's the end result.


Taste Verdict: We liked it but it wasn't sweet enough.

Pushpa's baking skills are really great and her blog is full of wonderful recipes.

Paal Payasam

Originally posted August 15th 2006

Happy Independence Day!

Today marks India's 59th year of Independence. I am extremely proud to be a citizen of this grand country.
I remember celebrating by hoisting the Indian Flag as a kid in school and at the play-ground near our home where we would all assemble and sing the national anthem. In Singapore however, my friends and I would head to the Indian embassy to partake in the celebration there and also the hot, yummy breakfast they served.

This year however, our celebration will be limited to the paal payasam I made and the numerous Sun TV programmes of which I've been catching glimpses on and off - as time permits. Today was just an excuse to satisfy my craving for paal payasam. Infact the desire to have it was pretty intense a month ago that I called my father to get his special method/recipe. I consider him the master of paal payasam and I still remember that in many family get-togethers he was requested to prepare this payasam. He surprised me with his answer stating that my mother is now the reigning queen of paal payasam - apparently her recent attempt was a grand success. So, she gave me her method and I've been waiting to make it ever since. It finally materialized today.

Infact I wanted to make payasam the day she landed here - last September, but it was a fiasco. I saw a recipe on the web that said that I could add everything to the pressure-cooker, but when I tried there was milk all over the kitchen when the first whistle came... I rushed to remove the cooker off the stove after which we had to clean the stove, countertops, floors and even the walls!! Thanks to this, we were late to receive my mother and she called from the airport wondering where we were.. poor thing! After that I salvaged the payasam somehow - but it didn't taste that great.

This time, I think it's different or atleast hope so. I simmered the milk for a really long time and it tastes good - albeit very sweet... here are some photos and the recipe.

1.5 litres of milk (I used low fat )
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp or lesser of basmati rice
few saffron strands (optional)
elaichi, powdered
cashews, raisins, for garnish
ghee - little

1. Heat the milk in a heavy bottomed pan and once it boils, stir continuously and allow it to thicken. Medium flame worked for me. Though you have to stir constantly initially, after it reduces a bit, you can let go and stir every few mins or so.

2. Meanwhile, saute the basmati rice in little amount of ghee until fragrant and pulse in a mixie to break it. Sieve it, if it's very powdery and use only the pieces and discard the fine powder.

3. Now there are 2 options. One is to cook the rice directly in the reducing milk, the other option is to pressure cook it with milk. I went with option one.

4. Once the milk reduces to about one-third and the rice is cooked, add sugar and elaichi powder, stir. Also add the saffron strands soaked in some warm milk.

5. In ghee, roast cashews and raisins and add to the payasam. Ready to enjoy!



Have a sweet day!
Oh by the way, i noticed this (corny) co-incidence, today is the 15th of August and it's also my 15th post in this blog.

Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu

Originally Posted 17th July 2006

Paruppu Urundai Kuzhambu
This is my mother's delicious recipe...
Guess this is the south-indian take on koftas and I must say this is much healthier since the balls of thuvar dhal are steamed (not fried) and this dish is protein rich.

For the Urundais

1/2 cup Thuvar dhal (soak for 2 hours)
2-3 dried red chillies
a big pinch of asafoetida
1 clove garlic
1/3 onion chopped
few curry leaves chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger chopped
Salt

To Grind

1/3 cup coconut shredded
1/4 tsp sombu
1/4 tsp jeera
1 small onion (shallot)

For the Kuzhambu (gravy)

Lime sized piece of tamarind - soaked and juice extracted
1 tsp Chilli poweder
3 tsp Coriander powder
1/4 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil, mustard seeds and split urad seeds, jeera, curry leaves

Method

1. For the urundais, grind coarsely the soaked, drained thuvar dhal, red chillies, 1 clove of garlic, asafoetida and salt. It should not be a fine paste and no water should be added or the balls will become hard.
2. To this, add the chopped onion, ginger and curry leaves.
3. Shape this into small balls loosely (around 1.5 inches diameter) - Do not press too hard to make balls.
4. Steam them in an idli cooker for around 7-10 mins.
5. Grind to a fine paste the coconut, sombu and jeera and shallot
6. In a deep pan, add oil, mustard, urad seeds, jeera. Once the mustard splutters, add curry leaves, chopped onion and garlic.
7. Add the chili and coriander powders and saute for a few more mins.
8. Add the tamarind extract, salt and allow to boil well with sufficient water.
9. Then, add the ground coconut mixture and allow to boil.
10. Add the urundais and allow to cook for some more time (about 5 mins or so) and it's ready to serve with rice.








Tofu Scramble

Originally posted 17th July 2006

Tofu Scramble
Most people find Tofu pretty bland and my husband is no exception - but this, he loves. It resembles scrambled eggs and infact it tricked a few of his friends too into thinking it was egg. The trick is to cook the tofu well till all the sogginess disappears. This is a very versatile recipe and you can change the vegetables to your liking. I've substituted finely chopped broccoli for mushrooms and so on...

1 pack of Firm Tofu
1 big onion, chopped
1 big carrot ,shredded
6 mushrooms, chopped
1 small capsicum (green or red bell pepper) chopped
1/2 tomato chopped
red chilly powder, turmeric powder, salt to taste

Method
1. Wrap Tofu in several sheets of tissue and press down with a weight to drain. Crumble it.


2. In oil, saute onions, then add bell peppers and allow to brown a bit

3. Next, add mushrooms, shredded carrot and once that cooks down, add tomatoes and salt.

4. Now add turmeric powder and chilly powder and saute well.

5. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the crumbled tofu and fry for 20 minutes - stirring occasionally.

6. Make sure the tofu dries up and is cooked well.

Serve with bread or as a side for rice.


Eggless Chocolate Cake

Originally Posted on June 25th 2006

Today being my mother-in-law's birthday, I decided to bake a cake but wanted an eggless version since I haven't included eggs yet as part of my recent 'Elimination Diet' - so i was browsing through several recipes in search of a good one. I don't easily trust all recipes and prefer those that have comments after people have tried them - unfortunately, today i couldn't find any that matched my criteria. So i had to take my chances with this recipe that I came across, but we were amazed at the result. For an eggless, butterless cake the end product was a very moist, light cake but without the icing it wasn't too sweet - so you may want to increase the sugar in the cake if you want it sweeter.

Here's the recipe :

EGGLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients
225g/ Half lb plain flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g/5oz caster sugar
63ml/2 fl oz vegetable oil
150ml water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:
113g/4oz icing sugar
13g/ Half oz unsweetened cocoa powder
38g/one and a half oz butter, diced
3 tbsp milk

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir in the sugar.

2. Combine all the wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once and beat with a whisk until smooth.

3. Pour the batter into a greased 8 inch square cake pan and bake for about 20 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean (place a sheet of foil over the top of the cake if it becomes too dark). Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

4. To make the icing: sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre.

5. Gently heat the butter and milk until the butter has melted, then pour into the well in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

6. Beat with a wooden spoon until the icing has cooled and thickened slightly. Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake.

Here are some snaps of how the cake turned out for us.



















Radish Chutney

This is a recipe that my Mother-in-law created during her visit here.
I never thought it was possible to make such a delicious chutney with these red radishes (I normally just added them to sambar).


Red Radish Chutney
(great with idlis and dosas)

7-8 Small red radishes - chopped (do not peel)
1/4 big onion - chopped
2-3 dried red chillies
1 tsp urad dhal
a small piece of tamarind
2 tsp shredded coconut
1-2 tsp Oil
Salt
For seasoning: mustard seeds, urad dhal and curry leaves.

1. Heat a tsp of oil, add urad dhal and red chillies, once that browns slightly add tamarind, onions and red radish - sauté for a few mins
2. Add the shredded coconut and remove from the stove and allow to cool slightly.
3. Grind this to a fine paste with water as necessary. Salt to taste.
4. Finally season with a tsp of oil, mustard seeds, urad dhal and curry leaves.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Here's a wonderful recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms.

Stuffed Mushrooms

25 Cremini mushrooms or baby bellas
2 tbsp butter
5 small red onions (shallots), finely diced
several pinches of dried basil
Couple piches of dried red chilli flakes or chilli powder
1/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs
1/8 cup grated parmigiano or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 425F
2. Trim stems from mushroom and wipe with a damp cloth
3. Finely chop about 4-5 of the mushrooms and reserve the remaining whole.
4. Heat a tbsp butter in a pan, add onions and cook till tender.
5. Add basil, red chilli flakes, chopped mushrooms and some salt cook till soft. Now add the remaining tbsp of butter.
6. Transfer to a dish and add bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Adjust salt and pepper and let cool.
7. Butter or spray a baking dish and arrange the whole mushrooms in a layer. Season the mushrooms with little salt.
8. Stuff each mushroom with the onion-mushroom-bread mixture to a tall mound
9. Drizzle the mushrooms with olive oil and bake for about 20-25 mins.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do.






First Post...

This blog is a spin-off from my other year old blog - Nuggets of our Life.

I just felt that it was time to create a blog dedicated to my posts about food so I can be a more active member of the huge Food Blog community... To that effect, I present to you 'Cookery Corner' !

My other blog will still be there but my writings there will be more about Anushka and just happenings in our life.