Sunday, December 19, 2010

Veggie Snack Bites

I'm sure you all are getting ready for the upcoming Holidays. I'm looking forward to some downtime so I can relax for a bit with family.... Things have been rather hectic lately so I haven't had time to blog hop or post as much but wanted to squeeze in this recipe... These are great when you are entertaining because they don't need any advance preparation, can be baked (not fried) so it's easy to make large quantities, a crowd pleaser and a great way to get kids to eat their veggies....

VEGGIE SNACK BITES/BALLS

Ingredients:Celery - 2 to 3 stalks, chopped finely
Carrots - 2, medium, peeled & chopped
Bell pepper (Red/Green) - 1 small, chopped finely
Frozen corn kernels - 1/4 to 1/3 cup
Peas - about half cup
Bread Crumbs - 2 to 3 cups (I had an old loaf of bread that i ground into crumbs
Pepper jack cheese - about 1 cup, shredded (keep abt half cup extra to help bind)
Walnuts (or Almonds) - 1/3 cup, chopped into small pieeces
Dried Italian herbs - 1 tsp
Red Chilli flakes - 1 to 2 tsp
Garlic powder - 1 tsp (or use a few cloves of chopped garlic)
Ground black pepper - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves / Parsley - 1/4 cup, chopped
Salt - to taste
Olive oil - 2 tbsp

Method:1) Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and add the finely chopped celery, carrots, bell peppers and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes before adding the frozen corn and peas.

2) Add some salt (go easy because we are adding cheese later), garlic powder, dried herbs, pepper and red chilli flakes and cook the veggies until crisp tender.

3) Switch off the stove, stir in the bread crumbs, cheese, walnuts (or almonds) & coriander leaves. The cheese will now melt and combine with the bread crumbs and that will help bind the veggies together.

4) Preheat oven to 400F, line a baking sheet with foil and spray/spread with some oil. Make small balls of the veggie mixture (adjust the cheese/bread crumbs amount to help them hold their shape) and arrange on the baking sheet.

5) Spray with a bit more oil and bake for about 20 minutes, turning them over once in between & cook till golden brown.

6) After removing from the oven, I fried them for a bit in a wide pan with a tbsp of oil until evenly crisp on all sides - this step is optional though.


Serve with ketchup or Maggi hot and sweet sauce. The next day, I made a sandwich with the leftovers and was extremely pleased with that combination too.



Wishing you all a very Happy New Year ahead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Soft Garlic Bread Sticks

With the weather being what it is, a comforting bowl of hot soup paired with some soft garlic rolls makes a perfect meal. This was a hit with everyone at home and was gone in no time. Store bought pizza dough would work just as well and it could save a lot of time especially when making this on a weeknight. Just spread it out, slather on the garlic topping and bake.

SOFT GARLIC BREAD STICKS / ROLLS


Ingredients
For Crust:

All purpose Flour - 3 cups + a bit more
Active Dry Yeast - 1 packet (2 and 1/4 tsp)
Brown sugar - 1 tsp
Warm water - 1.5 cups (not too hot or cold)

Salt - 1 tsp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Dried Italian herbs - half tsp

For Garlicky Topping:
Butter (melted) - 1.5 tbsp

Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Minced fresh garlic - 1.5 tbsp
Garlic powder - half tsp (optional)
Red Chilli flakes - half tsp to 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

-
Mix all of the above in a small bowl.

Method:
1) For the dough: In half cup of warm water, mix in the brown sugar and yeast, cover and allow to proof for about 5 minutes. If the yeast is active, it will become foamy and rise up.

2) Stir in the italian herbs, salt and olive oil along with the proofed yeast and first add about 2.5 cups of flour. Slowly add the remaining warm water and knead to make a soft dough, adding flour as needed.

3) Place it in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place (the oven with the light switched on always works for me) for about 1 hour.

4) Once doubled in size, punch down the dough and knead lightly again to make a ball. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, and put in a pan greased lightly (and dusted with some corn meal if you prefer). Allow the dough to rest for 15 to 20 minutes during which time you can preheat the oven to 425F.

5) Now spread the garlic topping on the dough as evenly as possible and allow to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or till light golden. Remove, slice and serve and warm with some soup or as is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baklava

This is a greek sweet which is made with flaky sheets of phyllo pastry, filled with layers of nuts and soaked in a sweet honey-sugar syrup - even writing this makes my mouth water... I first made this about 8 yrs ago for Diwali wanting to try something different and it became such a hit amongst our friends. It's not all that daunting and comes together in no time. The phyllo sheets are very thin and are almost translucent but they are not all that hard to work with.

What I like about phyllo dough is that it's very low in fat and though it requires brushing with butter, it's still something I can control as opposed to puff pastry sheets that come loaded with butter as-is. In the US, these can be found easily in most grocery stores in the freezer section (usually next to the puff pastry sheets). It can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes.

BAKLAVA


Ingredients:
Phyllo dough - 1 (8 oz) roll, thawed acc. to package directions
Chopped nuts - heaped 1 cup (I used walnut & almonds, roasted lightly & pulsed coarsely)
Raisins - 2 tbsp, chopped (optional)
Cinnamon powder - half tsp
Butter - 1/4 to 1/2 cup, melted (I use a light hand when it comes to brushing with butter)

For Syrup:
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Honey - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - half tsp

Method:
1) In a small bowl combine the nuts, cinnamon & chopped raisins if using.


2) Preheat oven to 350F and butter the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.

3) Cut the thawed phyllo sheets in half (lengthwise) so they can fit in the loaf pan. Work with them quickly, to avoid them drying out. So, keep everything ready and closeby (nuts, butter and sheets) so you can start the layering.


4) Layer 2 to 3 sheets of phyllo in the pan and brush the top with butter, add another layer of 2-3 sheets and butter the top layer, add one more final layer of 2-3 sheets and top with butter.
5) Now sprinkle a light layer of nuts mixture and top with 2-3 sheets, butter the top layer, sprinkle another layer of nuts, top with 2-3 more sheets, butter and nuts.. repeat until all but 8-9 sheets are left and all the nuts are used up.


6) Now layer the sheets similar to what was done for the bottom part, put 2 sheets, butter the top layer lightly, place 2 more sheets, butter and so on until all the sheets are done. Butter the top most layer with some butter.

7) With a sharp knife, cut the layered phyllo in the pan into squares (this will make it easier to make pieces after it has been baked). Bake this in the oven for about 35-40 mins, until light brown.

8) Meanwile, heat water, sugar and once all the sugar has melted, add the honey and allow to simmer for 20 mins. Cool this syrup in the refrigerator until the baklava is baked.

9) Once the baklava is ready and out of the oven, pour this cooled syrup on the hot baklava uniformly and allow it to soak the syrup overnight (uncovered so it retains it's crispness). This is now ready to serve.

More recipes using Phyllo:
Spanakopita
Apple Strudel

Friday, November 19, 2010

Potato & Kale Fry

I'd never tried the daunting looking Kale but one day I decided to give that a shot after the success with Swiss Chard. Back home, my parents would definitely make one new green each day of the week -so I grew up loving greens of all kinds... they would mostly be poriyals, kootus or masiyals. This recipe that I tried looked different - pairing Kale with potatoes and adding indian spices appealed to me and this is now a regular dish at home(with some modifications). It's goes well with rice or rolled up in a chapathi.

POTATO & KALE FRY


Ingredients:
Potatoes - 2 big or 3 medium
Kale - a small bunch, 4 to 5 cups, chopped (after removing the stalks)
Ginger - 1 inch chopped
Garlic - 4 to 5 cloves, chopped
Turmeric powder - half tsp
Chilli powder/Sambar powder - half tsp (or to taste)
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - quarter tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp

To Grind:
Coconut - 3 to 4 tbsp, grated
Green Chillies - 6
Pottukadalai (Dalia) - 3 tbsp or Almonds - 12

Method:
1) Boil the potatoes and peel them (I usually microwave them for 7 mins).

2) Grind the coconut, pottukadalai (or Almonds) & green chillies to a paste with a tiny splash of water.

3) Heat oil in a big pan, season with mustard and cumin seeds, then add the minced ginger and garlic, quickly followed by the chopped kale. Saute this until the greens wilt a bit. Cover and allow them to cook for about 10 mins or so.

4) Now add the turmeric powder, salt and chilli/sambar powder followed by cubes of potatoes.

5) Cook them for a few minutes together before adding the ground coconut paste.

6) Keep roasting this on a medium flame until the potatoes and kale are completely done (another 5 to 7 mins) & dry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crepes

How often do you get inspired by airline food? For me, almost never what with me being a vegetarian - most of my airline meals consist of rice, potatoes, dhal of some sort or spinach and if i'm lucky then some paneer maybe thrown into the mix. But this time, I had the opportunity of trying some crepes with a quark and raisin filling topped with a slightly tart yet sweet cherry sauce and I was completely bowled over.

Wanting to recreate that at home, I read up about quark and decided to use ricotta cheese as it's substitute... As for the recipe for the crepes, I borrowed Alton Brown's. Not having cherries on hand it was the strawberry jam that was cooked with a touch of water to form a sauce... The resultant dish was pretty good though it didn't have the same taste as the one i had on the flight. I guess I must try with the real quark sometime.

The crepes came together in no time and that recipe is definitely a keeper. The next day morning, I made another batch and spread some nutella and topped with some banana slices and those were gobbled up in no time. I would like to try some savoury fillings next time...

CREPES


Ingredients:
Eggs (large) - 2
Milk - 3/4 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
All Purpose Flour - 1 cup
Melted butter - 3 tbsp
Butter for coating the pan

Method:
1) In a blender, combine all the ingredients and pulse together. Keep this batter in the fridge for an hour so the bubbles will subside. The batter can be made ahead and used within 48 hrs.

2) Heat a small non stick pan on medium and coat with butter, pour about 1/8 cup of batter and swirl (like you would for aapams). Allow to cook, flip over and cook the other side as well.

3) Keep the crepes separate by using a sheet of parchment paper in between.

Ricotta Filling:
Ricotta cheese sweetened with some sugar and plump raisins. Topped with a thinned down strawberry jam that has been heated to a sauce.


Nutella Filling:
Spread Nutella and arrange banana slices. Fold over and dust with some powdered sugar

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lemon Rasam & a quick snack

The past few days we've all been down with fever and cold one after the other and all we've been craving and making is loads and loads of rasam... mostly using this recipe but I made this tasty rasam for a variation. The lemon and ginger taste amazing together and I simply love the flavour and brightness that only limes/lemons can impart.

LEMON RASAM


Ingredients:
Tomatoes (I used Roma) - 2 (not too big), peeled (peeling is optional)
Toor dhal - 2 to 3 tbsp, cooked
Green chillies - 4 to 5, slit in half
Ginger - half inch piece, chopped
Coriander leaves - 3 tbsp, finely chopped
Lemon/Lime - 1/2, juiced or increase/decrease to taste
Cumin seeds - half tsp
Black pepper (whole) - half tsp
Rasam powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - half tsp
Salt - to taste

Seasoning:
Nallennai (Gingelly oil) - 1 tsp
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - quarter tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp
Curry leaves - 5
Asafoetida - a small pinch

Method:
1) Chop the peeled tomatoes finely. Microwave with some water for 5 minutes. Allow to cool a bit and mash.

2) Coarsely pound cumin and pepper together ( I used my handy-dandy mortar & pestle). Dissolve the 2 to 3 tbsp of well cooked toor dhal in 2 cups of water & keep aside.

3) Many people season rasam at the very end, but I do it in the beginning. Heat a pan with 1 tsp of nallennai, and season with mustard seeds, once it splutters, add cumin seeds, asafoetida & curry leaves.

4) Next add the crushed cumin and pepper, chopped ginger, slit green chillies and after a few seconds of sauteeing them, add the crushed tomatoes with the water they cooked in. Next add the rasam powder, salt, turmeric powder and the toor dhal mixed with water. Allow this to boil for about 10 minutes.

5) Switch off the stove, add the lemon juice, coriander leaves and the tsp of ghee. Cover and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

VEGGIE CRACKERS
Here's a quick snack I made when we had some surprise guests... It's just vegetable crackers (plain, salted ones will work too) that has been topped with a layer of 'Laughing Cow' cheese (any flavor), topped with thin slices of cucumber/tomato slices with a tiny dollop of sour cream and a leaf of cilantro/coriander. Best eaten as soon as it's made or it can get soggy. My daughter loved making and eating them as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Princess Castle Cake

My daughter turned 5 today (10-10-10) and we wanted it to be magical in every way (unfortunately we have been falling sick one after the other) so we couldn't celebrate like we had planned. Though it was low key, we still made it special for her and I baked her this Princess Castle Cake. We had been planning on this for a while now. .. it was supposed to be bigger with 5 turrets instead of just the one but then we stuck to the smaller, scaled down version due to lack of time and energy. She had an awesome time decorating it - helped roll the cones in purple sprinkle sugar, stuck the nougats, m&ms, jelly beans, the flags and was extremely happy about it.


I used store bought icing which was too thick and inspite of me freezing the cake for an hour & trying to do a crumb coat, it was very hard to get it on smoothly. Well, i should've just made my cream cheese icing instead which definitely is easier to work with.

Here's one with with the birthday candles lit up...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Veggie Pizza & Pizza Sauce

You may have noticed the new look - i changed it on a whim and I'm still not sure how I feel about it but I've always wanted a template that allows 3 columns instead of two so that's why I started to experiment. Well, onto the recipe of the day...

When I'm running short on time but still want something different and exciting, I rely on store bought pizza crust. I used to buy the refrigerated ones (e.g. Pillsbury) but not anymore... Almost all the supermarkets carry their own fresh made pizza dough and after having sampled them from many stores in my area, i prefer the ones from Harris Teeter. It yields a nice soft, fluffy crust and they also have whole wheat versions of the same which tastes equally good and is a whole lot better than the ones in the cans. I'm also including a recipe for a no-cook pizza sauce which tastes delicious - I got this from the allrecipes website.

I also prefer home-made pizza because I can pile on the veggies, add my favorite Tandoori Paneer & make it spicy. Here are a few of my favorite toppings:


VEGGIE & PANEER PIZZA

Ingredients:
Pizza crust of your preference (store bought/homemade) - 1
Marinara / Pizza sauce - home made (see below) or storebought or use this Thokku recipe
Mozzarella cheese / Pepperjack cheese - about 6 to 8 oz, shredded
Toppings of your choice - choose from Tandoori Paneer, Sliced Red Onions, Bell Peppers (Red & Green), Broccoli, Pineapple pieces, Olives, Mushrooms, jalapenos & Tomato slices.
Chilli Powder, Salt & Pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 to 2 tbsp

Method:
1) I usually saute the veggies separately in a tsp of oil and season them with chilli powder and salt. This lends a spiciness to the pizza. As for the Broccoli and mushroom I add salt and pepper (instead of chilli powder). For the paneer follow this recipe to marinate them. Following which, toss them in a pan with some oil for a few minutes or leave them as is and they will get cooked when on the pizza.

2) Preheat oven to 400F or 425F. Roll out (or flip if you feel particularly adventurous :) ) the pizza dough, in a wide sheet pan that has been sprayed with oil, to desired thickness Spread pizza sauce uniformly. Sprinkle some crushed red pepper if you prefer for some added heat or some crushed (dried) pizza seasoning.

3) Sprinkle a good layer of cheese on the sauce. Now place the toppings making sure they are evenly distributed. Add a touch more cheese on the top. You could add a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top but I usually don't because my veggies are already sauteed - maybe if you are using raw veggies that would be a good idea.

4) Place in a preheated oven and cook for about 15-20 mins or until the crust is cooked through. The cheese would've melted & become gooey by now. Remove, cut into slices and serve.


HOME-MADE PIZZA SAUCE (no cook) - makes enough for 2 pizzas

Ingredients:
Tomato paste (canned) - 6 oz
Hot water - 6 oz
Grated Parmesan cheese - 3 tbsp
Garlic - 1 tsp, minced
Honey - 1 tbsp
Onion powder - 3/4 tsp (it's okay to skip if you don't have this)
Dried Oregano - 1/4 tsp
Dried Marjoram - 1/4 tsp
Dried Basil - 1/4 tsp
Black Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/4 tsp
Dried Pepper flakes - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste

Note: if you don' t have the individual herbs, use italian seasoning or pizza seasoning instead.

Method:
Combine all of the above in a bowl and stir well until they are mixed together completely. Use on pizza as a sauce base.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chettinad Vegetable Kurma

This is a recipe that I tried from here and it was quite a hit at the party for which I made this. It was mild and creamy and was a tasty variation to the usual red gravies. It pairs really well with chapathis or parottas or even with some ghee rice. I made this a while ago but couldn't post it sooner.

MIXED VEGETABLE KURMA (Chettinaad Style)


Ingredients:
Carrot - 1 big, cut into small cubes
Beans - 10, cut into small pieces
Peas - a handful
Cauliflower - half cup, florets
Potato - 1 small, cut into small cubes
Capsicum (Green bell pepper) - 1/3 cup, cut into cubes
Onion - 1 medium, chopped finely
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Seasoning - 1 clove, 1 small cinnamon, a pinch of sombu
Oil - 3 tsp

To Grind for Masala Paste:
Grated Coconut - about half cup (not packed)
Cashews OR Almonds - 6
Pottukadalai (Roasted gram) - 1 tbsp
Poppy seeds (Kasa Kasa) - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 small piece
Clove - 1
Cardamom - 1
Fennel seeds (sombu) - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 10
Ginger - half inch piece
Garlic - 6 cloves

Method:
1) For the Masala paste -
In a tsp of oil, add cinnamon, cardamom, clove & fennel seeds then add the ginger, garlic & green chillies, pottukadalai, poppy seeds, cashew/almond and fry for a few minutes. Finally add the coconut. Grind this to a smooth paste with some water .

2) Microwave the cut vegetables with a few tbsp of water and some salt for about 5 to 7 minutes.

3) In a big pan, heat oil and add clove, cinnamon and sombu, followed by chopped onion. When that softens and gets cooked, then add the tomatoes and salt & the chilli powder - cook till slightly mushy.

4) Now add the microwaved vegetables and allow the mixture to boil for a few minutes. Now add the ground masala paste and sufficient water. When it starts to boil, allow this to simmer covered for about 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure the curry doesn't become too thick. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Microwave Mango Halwa

Hello everyone, it's good to be back blogging. Hope you all had a good summer and soaked in all the sun. We had a great vacation at home and the kids had a blast with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins and my daughter was particularly thrilled to visit the beach.

Talking of India, i missed the mango season but had lots of my favorite 'Naturo' - an awesome snack made of mangoes (similar to fruit leather found in the US). It is sweet with a slight tang and I couldn't get enough of it as a kid... infact I still love it just as much. Now, my daughter loves it too. Dreaming of Naturo... i made this Mango Sweet, inspired by this fabulous picture, using store bought, canned mango pulp. It took a long time in the microwave but the end result was close to naturo and the texture was exactly what I was looking for. Onto the recipe...

MICROWAVE MANGO HALWA

Ingredients:
Canned Mango Pulp (found in Indian stores) - about 2 to 2.5 cups
Sugar - about half cup to 1 cup (depending on how sweet you want it)
Ghee - 1 tbsp

Method:
1) Combine mango pulp and sugar in a big, microwaveable bowl and microwave it in 5 minute intervals (with a lid to avoid splatter). Stirring every 5 mins. Do this about 5 to 6 times.

2) Once the mixture thickens considerably, reduce cooking time to 2 to 3 minute intervals (this is trial and error) and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes, add ghee at this point, until the mixture is almost comes together.

3) Transfer this to a plate greased with ghee, smooth out the top with a flat ladle that has also been coated with ghee. Allow to cool before cutting into cubes. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to cut perfect squares. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Corn on the Hob & some Cakes

The markets are filled with an abundance of sweet, fresh ears of corn and that too on sale that it is quite impossible to not bring home a bunch. That is what I've been doing the past few weeks and I'm quite happy just boiling them with some salt and eating. However, my husband is not a fan of this and keeps asking me to spice it up. So, in an effort to get him to eat the corn I tried this method that a friend suggested and he had 3 ears of corn that evening! It had a bit of charred taste and was lemony and spicy so quite irresistible. I call it 'corn on the hob' because I cooked it on a direct flame on our stove.

CORN ON THE HOB / CHARRED, SPICED CORN


Ingredients:

Fresh ears of corn (preferably in their husk) - 4, (I used sweet white)
Lemon/Lime - half
Salt & Chilli powder - to taste (mixed together)

Method:
1) Dehusk the corn and remove the silky threads. Skewer one end of it and place on a direct flame on the stove and keep turning it every once in a while and moving it so all areas of the corn are exposed to the heat. The corn will make a popping sound but there's nothing to worry... (it was a little bit like distant firecracker sounds on a Diwali night). In about 3 to 4 minutes when all of the corn is browned (some parts will be charred but that is okay), remove carefully.


2) Rub with the halved lemon/lime all over and when cooled a bit, rub the chilli powder and salt on the corn and bite in.

We had this with my curried egg salad sandwich for an easy and quick weeknight dinner.
I've been baking quite a few cakes the past few months and wanted to do a quick post about them.

The most recent one I made was this Chocolate Cherry Cake since I had some unsweetended baking chocolate and a big bunch of cherries to use and I am so very glad I made it after eyeing it for so long. Initially (when warm) I wasn't very impressed with it and found it too crumbly but after I refrigerated it overnight, it was so dense and for bitter chocolate lovers out there this is just perfect - I can't get enough of it now. I made a few changes - used almost double the sugar the recipe calls for and added in a tsp of instant coffee powder for a more intense taste. My husband loved it with some good vanilla ice cream and i love it plain. Once refrigerated it held its shape well. here's a picture.


The last one was Praline Sponge Gateau that I tried from here and not sure if I messed up something but again the cake itself wasn't too soft but I was quite amazed at it's texture for a cake with no butter. I'll probably use the cake recipe to make a pineapple cake and soak it to make it more moist the next time. I know the picture and decorations are far from good but this was done in a hurry.

I also made Black Forest cake using this recipe & this has to be the most time consuming cake I've made so far and though it was good, there are a few changes I'll probably make the next time... and soak the layers in syrup a bit more to make it more moist and also avoid maraschino cherries since I do not like them at all and substitute with something else.

Thank you fellow bloggers for these delicious cake recipes.

BLOG BREAK:
I will be off to India soon and most likely will not have the time to post from there so I will see you all again in September. Ciao.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ginger Chutney - 2

My love for all things ginger can't be expressed sufficiently in words - a large chunk of it is smashed up and added to my daily tea and I typically incorporate it in most every dish I make. This is the second Ginger Chutney recipe on this blog but this version is quite different and something my MIL whipped up as an accompaniment to idlis/dosais. It was spicy, thick and delicious. The previous version however goes really well with rice.

GINGER CHUTNEY for Idlis/Dosas


Ingredients:

Ginger - 100 gms, peeled and chopped
Urad Dhal - 2 tbsp
Dried Red Chillies - 10 (yes this is a spicy chutney)
Tamarind - small piece
Jaggery - small piece
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp (preferably Gingelly)
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - few

Method:
1) Heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the urad dhal , red chillies and ginger and roast on medium till golden & fried. Add the tamarind towards the end and switch off the stove.

2) Allow this to cool a bit and grind along with salt and jaggery to a paste with water as required.

3) Heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour over the chutney and serve.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

I have been on an unannounced, unplanned break (yet again) for too long and have been itching to get back to the blogging world but things have been far too hectic lately and they have prevented me from doing so. Today has been a real long day with intense preparation to have some 20+ pple home for lunch. On the Menu : Bhel Puri, Egg Biryani, Peas Pulao, Chettinad Vellai Kurma, Rajma, Chapathis, Curd Rice, Pineapple Upside Down Cake and Vanilla icecream...


But this post has nothing to do with the above items and I will probably post the Chettinad vegetable kurma soon but today is all about the delicious, moist, Tres Leche Cake (3 milk cake is the literal translation).

I have been wanting to taste this cake for the longest time after reading its description but almost always when I do find it on the menu at any restaurant, they will be out of it and so I've never had the opportunity to try it. So, for a potluck party we had a few weeks ago, I decided to make this for dessert and I must say it went over really well and everyone loved it... some even thought it tasted like paalkova. This is very milky and moist and it's amazing how the sponge absorbs so much liquid - I couldn't get enough it inspite of knowing how fattening it was! :) Now onto the fabulous recipe...

TRES LECHES CAKE (MILK CAKE) - makes one 9x13 inch cake

Ingredients

For the Cake :

All purpose flour - 1.5 cups Butter - 1/2 cup (1 stick)
Sugar - 1 cup
Eggs - 5, separated

Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp

Soaking Liquid:

Condensed milk - 1 can (14oz)
Evaporated Milk - 1 can (12 oz)
Whole Milk - 1 cup (8 oz)
Heavy Whipping Cream - 6 oz (or substitute with equal amount whole milk)

Icing:
Heavy Whipping Cream - 1 to 1.5 cups (depending on how much icing you'd like) Confectioner's Sugar - 3 tbsp

Method:

1)Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour one 9x13 inch pan.

2) Beat egg whites on high separately in a clean bowl until light and fluffy and soft peaks form.

3) In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar till fluffy, add egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat well.

4) Add flour 3 tbsp at a time to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.

5) Now, fold in the egg whites carefully making sure not to deflate it too much. Pour this batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean and cake is light brown.

6) Pierce the cake several times with a fork all over the cake (this will enable the soaking liquid to penetrate completely). Allow cake to cool completely.

7) Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, whole milk and heavy whipping cream (listed under the soaking liquid) and pour this mixture uniformly over the cake, ensuring that the corners are sufficiently moistened as well.

8) FOr the icing: Chill the bowl, beaters and the cream really well to ensure you can get fluffy whipped topping.

9) Whip heavy whipping cream and once soft peaks form, add 3 tbsp sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread this on cooled cake.

10) For best results, refrigerate this cake overnight before serving. This will allow the cake to soak up all the milky goodness and be just perfect. You can decorate the cake with some cherries but I scattered some tutti frutti that I had.

I know this sounds too involved but I think the results made it well worth it :) Also, I know the pictures are very dark but I remembered to take pictures after pple had started to dig in so it was all rushed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tofu Sambal

A sambal is basically a chilli based sauce and there are several varieties of this spicy sauce. The sambal oelek sauce that one finds commercially typically contains shrimp paste. It's easy enough to make this at home with the dried red chillies that we almost always have at home. This spicy sauce is a perfect combination for the bland tofu and this was the first dish that had my tofu-hating husband start appreciating tofu. Nowadays he is perfectly fine with tofu in any form and I make quite a few dishes using it.

FIERY TOFU SAMBAL


Ingredients:
Firm Tofu - 1 pack (16 to 19 oz), drained & cut into 1 inch cubes
Medium Onions - 2, sliced thinly and cut into 1 inch pieces
Tomatoes - 2 small (roma), chopped
Garlic - 4 cloves, chopped, finely
Ginger - 1 inch, chopped, finely
Tomato Puree/ Paste (canned) - 1 tbsp
Dried Red Chillies - 7 to 8 (or adjust based on spiciness desired)
Sugar - 1 tsp (recommended since it gives a caramelized flavour)
Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped for garnish


Method:
1) Saute chopped fresh tomatoes with a bit of salt & a wee bit of oil till mushy.

2) Place dried red chillies in a bowl of water, bring it to a boil and let boil for about 5 minutes. Switch off the stove, cover and allow to stay for about 10 mins. Drain the chillies.

3) Grind the drained red chillies with the sauteed tomatoes & the tsp of sugar to a smooth paste.

4) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide saute pan, sprinkle a bit of salt and add the tofu pieces, allow them to brown on one side, sprinkle more salt on top and flip them over, allowing the other side to brown as well. Remove from the stove and keep aside.

5) In the same pan, heat the other tbsp of oil and saute onions, ginger & garlic till browned. Add the fried tomato -chilli paste along with the tbsp of tomato paste and fry till thick & the raw taste has gone - about 5 to 8 minutes.

6) To this, add about a cup of water, mix well and stir in the tofu cubes. Cook until the tofu absorbs the masalas on a low-medium flame. The mixture will be semi solid. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Semiya - Javvarisi Payasam

This used to be my favorite payasam as a kid.. I loved the little glassy, chewy balls of tapioca/sago/javvarisi in the payasam. I remember crushing the appalams into this milky payasam when this was served at weddings. It was a nice salty + sweet taste and it also enabled sopping up the runny payasam off the plantain leaves that served as plates (because the appalams/papads made the consistency thicker). I haven't eaten this way in many many years since I rarely make this payasam with papads but would love to just to see if I still like the combination as much as I used to :)

This payasam/kheer could very well be made with just semiya/vermicelli and the javvarisi/sago could be skipped.

SEMIA - JAVVARISI PAYASAM - serves 6 to 8


Ingredients:
Semiya/Vermicelli - 3/4 cup, broken into small bits (in case you have the long variety)
Javvarisi/Sago - 1/3 cup
Milk - 1.5 litres or 6 cups (I used 2%)
Sugar - 1 cup (or a few tbsp more)
Cardamom - 3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed with some sugar finely
Ghee - 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Raisins - 1 to 2 tbsp
Cashew pieces - 1 to 2 tbsp

Method:
1) In 1 tsp of ghee, roaste the javvarisi/sago for a few mins.. It will turn a bit shiny and translucent. Transfer this to a heavy bottomed, preferably deep pan, add about half cup or so water and allow to cook on a low flame. The roasting will ensure that the sago pearls don't stick.

2) Roast the Semiya/Vermicelli separately in another tsp of ghee until golden brown and keep ready.

3) Once the javvarisi/sago has almost cooked through, add the roasted semia followed by all the milk. Allow this to come to a boil and simmer on a low-medium flame taking care to ensure it doesn't boil over. I typically sprinkle a few drops of water if I think it's going to boil over and also keep a wooden spoon in the milk at all times. This mixture has to simmer until the milk thickens and reduces a bit... Typically, I let it reduce to about 3/4 of the original volume... it doesn't have to thicken too much like Paal Payasam. During this process, the semiya will be cooked and so will the sago.

4) When thick enough, add the sugar & cardamom powder and stir. Switch off the stove. This payasam/kheer, typically thickens upon cooling thanks to the starchiness of the tapioca.

5) In a separate pan, heat the 1 tbsp of ghee and roast cashews and raisins till cashews turn golden and raisins plump up. Toss the entire mixture into the payasam and now it's ready to serve when warm. My husband loves this cold.

If you notice that the payasam is very thick upon standing, adding some milk will help thin it out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bagel Crisps

Kids and consistency (especially when it comes to their likes and dislikes in food) don't go hand in hand - atleast in the case of my daughter. What is her favorite one day may not be all that appealing to her a few days later and I have to constantly think of new ways to keep her interest engaged and go with what her current preferences. So, what once seemed like the perfect lunchbox idea - bagels and veggie cream cheese (since she couldn't get enough of it & it was an easy fix for me when paired with some baby carrots and fruit) was quickly dismissed and that too soon after I bought a pack of mini bagels. So, these poor guys just hibernated in one of our refrigerator shelves waiting to see the light of day... until I got the idea to use them and make bagel crisps so it could serve as a crunchy snack for tea time. Now, I have a good way to use these leftover bagels and have also figured out my daughter's latest craze which is heart shaped stuff.. so i can send her anything i want for lunch (bread, dosa, idli) as long as they are shaped like hearts... so it all ended well - atleast for the time being :)

BAGEL CRISPS


Ingredients:
Left over Bagels - about 6 mini bagels, sliced very thinly (mine were a bit hard due to the refrigeration so it was easy to do this with a sharp knife)
Olive oil - 1/4 cup
Garlic powder - half tsp
Red Chilli flakes - 1 tsp
Italian seasoning - half tsp
Salt & Pepper - 1/4 tsp each or to taste

Method:
1) Preheat oven to 300F and line baking sheets with foil and spray lightly.

2) In a small bowl, combine olive oil and heat gently until warm. Stir in the seasonings and remove from the stove.

3) Place the sliced bagels on the baking sheet in a single layer and brush this seasoned oil evenly.

4) Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 to 7 minutes till golden brown and then flip over and bake the other side as well until crisp and golden.


These are delicious as is for a snack or when served with soup.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vegetable Manchurian

The mention of manchurian always brings a smile to my husband's face and it makes me very happy too. If it weren't deep-fried, we'd definitely be making & eating it more often... :) I've already blogged about the much-loved Gobi Manchurian and this has a similar sauce base but instead of cauliflower this has fried vegetable balls that consist of minced cabbage, carrot, beans etc. Since I use the mixie to pulse the veggies this comes together in no time and so is great to make for a crowd or parties. You can also make a dry version of this to use as an appetizer and follow the method as given in this recipe after making the fried manchurian balls.


VEGGIE MANCHURIAN


Ingredients:
For the Manchurian Balls:
Cabbage - about 2 cups, minced (I use the mixe & pulse after cutting them into big chunks so it results in a coarse texture, ensure it's not pastey)
Carrot - 2 big, minced (same method as above)
Green Beans - 12 or Cauliflower - 1 cup florets, minced (same method as above)
Spring Onions - 2 to 3 stalks, white and green parts, chopped
Ginger - 1 inch piece, minced
Garlic - 3 cloves, minced
Green Chillies - 4 (mince the Ginger, garlic & Green chillies in the mixie or using a mortar & pestle)
Cornflour - 4 tbsp
All purpose flour - 2 tbsp (adjust based on consistency)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp (or to taste)
Salt - to taste
Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Oil - to deep fry

For the Sauce:
Onion - quarter, chopped finely
Spring Onions - 3 or 4, chopped finely. Reserve some of the green parts for garnish
Ginger - half inch piece, minced
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves, minced
Green Chillies - 2, minced
Red and/or Green bell peppers (capsicum) - half cup, chopped finely
Soy sauce - about 1 tbsp
Chilli sauce - 1 to 2 tsp (I use Sriracha)
Tomato Ketchup - 1 tsp
Cornflour - 1 tbsp
Pepper - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - about 2 cups
Oil - 1 tbsp

Method:
1) For the manchurian balls, combine all the ingredients (except the oil for deep frying) in a bowl. Heat oil in a pan on medium flame (ensure it's not too hot or the insides won't cook). Make balls of the dough with your hand and deep fry them in oil till crisp & golden on the outside. Make sure the mixture is not watery and adjust cornflour & all purpose flour accordingly. Drain the fried veggie balls on a paper towel and keep aside.


2) For the manchurian sauce, heat a tbsp of oil in a deep pan and add the chopped onions, spring onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and fry till they wilt a little bit. Then add the chopped bell peppers with a bit of salt (be careful since the sauces we will add later are salty too) till they are tender crisp.

3) Add the soy & chilli sauces and ketchup at this stage and stir for a minute or two before adding 1.5 cups of water.... Let this come to a boil. Taste and adjust seasonings as required.

4) In the remaining half cup of water, dissolved the corn syrup to a smooth paste and once the sauce starts to boil, stir this in and you will see the sauce thicken almost immediately and turn a bit translucent. Add powdered black pepper at this stage. Once bubbles pop up, the sauce is ready.


5) If you are serving immediately, you can add the fried veggie balls to the sauce and let it cook for a minute or two before removing from the stove. Else, keep the sauce and veggie balls separately until it's time to serve. Reheat the sauce when ready to serve and pour over the veggie balls and garnish with spring onion tops.

We enjoyed our vegetable manchurian with this delicious and easy peppered vegetable rice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Murungakkai (Drumstick) Poriyal

This vegetable used to be one of my favorites and something we had in abundance thanks to the large tree that my grandparents had in their home. My grandma made good use of this veggie and the leaves and there was always plenty to hand out to the neighbours too. Now, of course, I don't find these fresh anymore and I stick to what I find in the freezer section of the Indian stores and sometimes they are very sorry looking and thin... :(

When you see the picture below though you will notice that it doesn't look like a trademark drumstick curry - you might even think - where is the drumstick?! They have been cooked and the pulp inside has been separated to use in this curry so it will be easier and less messy to eat this veggie. I don't mind eating this in the typical way but sometimes that's not ideal when you have to pack lunch for work so nowadays this is how I make this. This recipe is from Mallika Badrinath.

This tasty curry is one of the many ways we enjoy this vegetable besides adding to sambar , avial or thengaipaal kuzhambu.

MURUNGAKKAI CURRY


Ingredients:
Frozen Drumsticks - 1 pack
Onions - 1, big
Tomatoes - half, chopped
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Sombu (Fennel) - 1/2 tsp
Coconut - 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - few
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp

Method:
1) Cook the drumsticks in a microwaveable bowl with few tbsp of water and some salt for about 7 to 10 minutes (covered) till soft. Allow to cool, peel, and scrape the fleshy insides with a spoon. Keep aside.

2) Chop half of the onion into big cubes and chop the other half finely. In a tsp of the oil, fry the big cubes of onion for a few minutes till light brown. Grind this with sombu & coconut to a paste with some water.

3) Heat the remaining oil in the pan and season with mustard seeds & curry leaves, once they splutter add the finely chopped onions and saute until cooked, then add the tomatoes with some salt and allow to cook till mushy.

4) Add all the spice powders at this stage and the ground paste and cook for a few minutes.

5) Add the scraped flesh of the murungakkai and some water, cover and allow to cook on low for about 5 to 7 minutes. Once the flavours have been absorbed cook the curry in an open pan until almost dry. Serve with rice for a delicious curry.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rava Kesari

Will you believe it if I say I've made Kesari a grand total of just two times (once for our grihapravesam and the other was when I made TBC's Pineapple Kesari - which we loved) in the past 10+ years since I started cooking? Considering that this is one of the simplest and quickest desserts and something that frequently appears in many homes for the exact same reasons, one has to wonder why it didn't feature more often at our place. Both, my husband and I aren't (make that weren't) exactly big fans of this sweet and that would explain why this hasn't made it to our table often. But recently my mom made this when we had a few visitors and I found that it tasted quite delicious as did my daughter & husband. So, last week when my MIL made this I quickly noted down the measurements & took pictures since now, this is a sweet that I will definitely make more often than before. When you have surprise guests at home, this can be whipped up at a moment's notice with ingredients that are almost always available at any point of time.

RAWA KESARI


Ingredients:
Rava/Sooji/Fine Semolina - 1 cup
Sugar - 1.75 cup (or 2 cups if you want it very sweet)
Water - 3 cups (or replace part or whole of it with milk for a richer taste - called Sojji instead)
Ghee - 1/4 cup
Orange food colouring - as reqd
Cashew bits - 1 tbsp (I didn't use since my daughter is allergic)
Raisins - 2 tbsp
Elaichi powder - from 2 to 3 cardamoms

Method:
1) Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a heavy bottomed pan and fry cashews & raisins till the cashews are golden & the raisins puff up. Remove them with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
NOTE: Refrain from popping these into your mouth while making the kesari regardless of how tempting this may be - this is really hard for me to do... :)

2) In the remaining ghee, add the rava and roast till fragrant. It should not turn brown. Keep this aside as well.

3) Bring to boil the 3 cups of water in the pan and add some orange food colouring. Reduce the flame at this point and add the roasted rava in a steady stream while constantly stirring with the other hand. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken.

4) When thick enough (the rava would've cooked by now), add the sugar and cook until the mixture thickens again, adding ghee little by little until it is shiny and leaves the sides of the pan. Stir in elaichi powder and fried raisins (& cashews, if using).

If you want to cut into shapes, allow to cool a bit and then do so. Delicious Kesari is now ready to dig in. My daughter loves anything that is heart-shaped so sandwiches, pooris, dosa, chapathi and even this kesari has been shaped thus to appeal to her.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Crispy Stuffed Tacos & Chocolate Fondue


A quick weeknight meal needn't be mundane or boring. With just a few easy steps, it's possible to have a meal that is delicious & different from the usual. I didn't have a lot of time two days back and needed to think of something for dinner and remembered that I bought a pack of crisp taco shells at the grocery store last week along with a can of refried beans (vegetarian of course) and decided to use them. The resultant was a crisp taco, filled with beans, spiced boca soy crumbles, rice & veggies topped with lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes and cheese. To round off the meal, I made a super quick chocolate fondue into which we dipped pieces of luscious strawberries and banana chunks - yummy! Now tell me if that is not a sure fire way to brighten up a weeknight dinner :)

CRISPY STUFFED TACOS


Ingredients:
Crisp Corn Tacos (I used store bought) - 1 pack
Refried beans (Vegetarian) - 1 cup (make sure there is no lard in the ingredient list)
Romaine Lettuce - about 2 to 3 cups
Tomatoes - half cup, chopped or use Salsa if you have that.
Spring Onion Tops - 3 tbsp, chopped
Shredded Cheese - 1/4 cup
Avocado/Guacamole - some (optional, I didn't have any so skipped it)

For the Rice, Veggie and Soy stuffing
Boca meatless ground burger - half packet, thawed
Cooked Rice - 3/4 cup
Onion - half, chopped
Spring Onion whites - 2 tbsp
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
Tomato Paste - 2 tbsp, mixed with little warm water
Carrot - 1, cut into small cubes
Green Bell pepper - half cup, chopped
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Sambar powder - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt - to taste

Method:
1) Heat oil in a pan and add garlic,and onions and when slightly browned, add the carrots and bell pepper with some salt and fry till a bit tender. Add the sambar powder along with the boca meatless burgers crumbles, tomato paste and water mixture, cover and allow to cook on medium till the veggies soften.

2) Now add the cooked rice, toss together and let it cook until the mixture is dry. Adjust salt as necessary.

Assembly:
Take each crisp taco shell, warm them in an oven lightly and put in first a thin layer of refried beans, followed by the rice-soy mixture and add toppings of your choice.. except for the guacamole, I added the rest - lettuce, tomatoes, green spring onions, shredded cheese & sour cream and bite into it.

CHOCOLATE FONDUE (makes a small portion)

Ingredients:
Semi sweet chocolate chips - 2/3 cup
Heavy whipping cream - 1/4 cup (or substitute with 1/4 cup milk + half tbsp butter)
Instant coffee granules - 1/4 tsp (optional, I like the coffee - chocolate combo)
Vanilla essence - half tsp

To Dip: Washed & dried strawberries, peeled banana chunks

Method:
1) Find a combination of a bowl and saucepan such that the bowl fits in the saucepan (see pic below) so as to form a double boiler.


2) Take some water in the saucepan making sure that the bowl on top will not touch the water beneath and bring the water to a light boil. Reduce flame and allow to simmer gently.

3) Place the bowl on top and add the chocolate chips, cream (or butter & milk), coffee granules and keep stirring. In a few minutes, the chocolate will start to melt and become smooth and satiny. Stir in the vanilla essence and switch of the stove.


You could transfer this to a fondue pot or in our case, we just moved the entire arrangement to the table and started dipping the fruit in with our skewers :)



I know the picture is not good but believe me it tasted great.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tomato Rice

My husband has some pretty weird requirements when it comes to tomato rice... he wants it to be tangy & spicy but not too tomatoey (if that is a word). I've had a really tough time catering to this and most of my attempts have not been met with much enthusiasm. I tried quite a few recipes and most of them had a lot of tomatoes in the ingredients list and I knew right away that it wouldn't fit the bill... if I scaled back too much on the tomatoes then it didn't have sufficient tang :( but help arrived in the form of my mom's tomato rice... Finally i found a version that was met with approval and I promptly took note of the measurements. So, this may not be the tomato rice for everyone out there but even for someone who loves tomatoes (like me) , this is a very tasty and quick rice dish.

TOMATO RICE a.k.a Thakkali Saadham


Ingredients:
Basmati Rice - 2 cups (levelled, not heaped), soaked in water for 20 minutes with a bay leaf and cumin seeds  and drained
Roma Tomatoes - 3, chopped
Onion - half of a big one, chopped finely
Coriander leaves - 1/4 cup, chopped
Mint Leaves - 1/4 cup, chopped

Yogurt - 1 tbsp 
Tamarind paste - 1 tsp (optional, needed if using tomatoes that are not very sour)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Sambar powder (I use Shakthi) - 1.5 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 to 1 tsp
Water - 3.5 cups
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tsp


For Tempering:

Kraambu (Cloves) - 1
Pattai (Cinnamon) - 1 inch piece

To Fry & Grind:

Cinnamon - 1 small piece
Sombu (Fennel seeds) - 1 tsp (always a good combination with tomatoes)
Elakkai (Elaichi) - 1
Clove - 1
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Coriander  leaves and stems - some

Onion - half of a big one, cut into big cubes

Tomato - 1
Garlic - 8 to 10 cloves, peeled
Ginger - 1 inch, peeled
Green Chillies - 8

Method:1) Heat 2 tsp of oil and fry the masala ingredients, one half of the onion (cut into big cubes),tomato,  garlic, ginger & green chillies till the onion is light brown. Cool and grind this to a paste.
2) Heat the remaining oil in a pressure cooker and season with  clove & cinnamon Then add the chopped onion and cook till it is browned. Now add the chopped tomatoes with some salt and turmeric powder and cook till mushy.
3) Toss in the chopped coriander and mint leaves, and the ground paste along with the chilli powder, sambar powder and garam masala, yogurt and tamarind paste (if using). Fry this really well for about 5 to 7 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, drain the rice, saute in ghee for a few minutes & keep aside.
5) Add the drained and fried rice to the onion-tomato spice mixture and 3.5 cups of water. Check and add more salt if necessary. Cover with lid, place the weight on top and once the pressure builds allow to cook for 5 minutes on medium flame before switching off the stove (there will be no whistle). Let this rest for 20 minutes atleast before opening the cooker. Stir gently and serve with some raitha and chips.