Aug 31, 2013

Matar paneer

Left to themselves, my family can survive on matar-paneer and matar-aloo.
200 gms paneer, cubed
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 onions, chopped fine
2 tomatoes, chopped fine
2 tbsp dhania patta chopped fine
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp jeera powder
2 tsp dhania powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

Heat the oil, and saute the onions till transparent. Add the tomatoes, ginger garlic paste and all the spices, and saute till the tomatoes turn mushy. Add the coriander leaves, and heat for another 30 seconds.
Let it cool, and whizz it in a mixie till it forms a smooth paste.
Return the masala to the kadhai, add about 2 cups water, mix well. Add peas, and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the flame, cover, and let it cook for 10 minutes. 
Add the paneer, bring to a boil, turn off the flame, and let it cook in it's own steam for a couple of minutes before serving.

Aug 29, 2013

Potion for keeping the cold at bay

The monsoons are lovely when you are viewing it from the safety of your covered balcony, but unfortunately, we need to get out of the house too, and when we do, the sniffles follow us back home. This is the potion that is keeping me alive.

Dry roast 1 tbsp dhania powder, 1 tsp jeera powder, 1 tsp peppercorns, and roughly pound it.

Take 2 cups of water.
Add a 2 inch piece of ginger roughly sliced, and the ground spices, and bring to boil. Lower heat, and let it simmer till the volume becomes half.
Have it hot, but not boiling hot.
Add 1 tsp honey, for taste, if required.

Aug 28, 2013

Cucumber dosa

Since the kids were going to have a holiday today, I'd planned a nice, lazy meal for them, but late last night, they informed me that they would not be having a holiday today. Even the best laid plans go awry, and with no dosa batter to fall back on, I had to improvise.

A couple of weeks back, I had found this recipe for a cucumber-wheat-coconut dosa, and I thought this was the best time to try it out. It turned out better than I expected- crispy, yet soft, and with a harmonious blend of flavours.

Wheat flour - 2 cups Grated cucumber - 1 cup Grated coconut - 1/2 cup crushed/powdered pepper - 1 tsp jeera powder - 1 tsp salt to taste water - as required. Make a smooth batter mixing all the ingredients. Keep it aside for 15 mts. Make dosas. You get good soft doasas.Any type of chutney goes with it.

Gokulashtami Sweet Appams

My grandmother always made sweet appams on Janmashtami, and for the first time in my life, I decided to follow on her footsteps. I should have known better. Domestic Diva I will never be. After all that roasting and grinding and mixing and kneading, when I poured the batter into the hot oil, instead of the perfect circles I was expecting, I got maps of undiscovered continents.
In the entire batch, I got three appams that with a bit of imagination looked like what they were supposed to look like. I do, however love the taste, so will make it again with my trusty paniyaram pan.
I can only hope that the new born Krishna will be more concerned with the taste!

Raw flour - 3/4 cup
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder -1/4 tsp
Grated jaggery - 1 cup
Wheat flour - 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp
Oil for deep frying
Take the rice flour, grated coconut, cardamom powder and grind it to a smooth paste, adding a bit of water.
Add grated jaggery to it and mix well till it dissolves.
Add wheat flour and mix well .The appam batter should be of dosa batter consistency, so adjust accordingly.
Heat oil in a small kadai, keep it in medium flame, take a small amount of batter in a table spoon or small ladle and drop it gently into the oil.
When it puffs, turn over and cook the other side also till golden brown. Drain the oil using a slotted ladle and take it out from the kadai. Deep fry one appam at a time.
Repeat the same process for the rest of the batter.

Gokulashtami Special- Paruppu Payasam

Normally, I stay away from attempting traditional prasadams on festivals. There is a reason for it- my mother and grandmothers are/were all excellent cooks, and nothing I churn out comes to their level. More importantly, while I love the idea of traditions, my family doesn't particularly enjoy traditional dishes, and I end up having to finish everything off myself.
Having said that, I have been craving for paruppu payasam for a very long time, and the first Gokulashtami in our new house was as good an excuse for it as any other. Since I decided to make it at the last moment, I didn't have time to get the recipe from my mother, and used this one.

Milk - 2 1/4 cup

Pasi paruppu/Moong dal - 1/3 cup
Jaggery - 3/4 cup
Grated coconut -1/4 cup
Rice flour - 2 tsp
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Cashew nuts - 6

Dissolve jaggery in very less water and filter it to remove any impurities.
Heat a tsp of ghee and fry cashew nuts.
In the same pan roast pasi paruppu until you get a nice aroma of roasted dal. Immediately add water to the dal. Wash and drain that water.

Grind grated coconut and rice flour just for a second.
Pressure cook dal with enough water, keeping the coconut + rice flour mixture in a cup for 3-4 whistles.
Add the mashed up dal, coconut + rice flour mixture, cardamom powder to the jaggery and mix it well.
Keep it in low flame and let it cook until everything gets blended well.
Meanwhile,boil milk in medium flame until it reduces a little. Keep stirring now and then to prevent the milk from getting burnt. Let the milk cool to room temperature.Add the milk (at room temperature) hot jaggery syrup (the temperature difference is necessary to prevent curdling). Add the fried cashew nuts, simmer for 2-3 minutes and switch off the flame.
Serve cold.

Gokulashtami Special- Tattai

One traditionally makes deep fried savouries on Janmashtami. I am never entirely comfortable with deep frying, but since it is our first festival in the new house, I had to make an exception. And the results were quite satisfactory, even though a purist might say they should be a bit more crispy.
The recipe is not mine, though. It was taken from here, though I did halve all the quantities.

4 cups Rice flour
4 tbsp Urad flour (Roasted and powdered) 
2 tbsp Butter/Ghee
2 tbsp Chana dal, soaked
1 tbsp White sesame seeds
2 and 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
Water to knead the dough
Oil to deep fry
Curry leaves few
A Pinch Hing
2 tbsp Salt

Soak the chana dal for about an hour before using it.
In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients except oil and water,mix well.
Now add water little by little and knead the dough,till it become soft. Roll into small balls (slightly larger than a marble)
Grease a ziplock bag, or an empty milk packet, place the balls on it, and pat into small discs.
Heat oil in a kadai,transfer the discs carefully into the oil.
Deep fry till golden colour. Store it in air tight container.

Aug 26, 2013

Nutty Makhana Curry

I last had Makhana when I was in my early teens- while not quite a staple, it was something that was often made at home as long as we were living in Jharkhand. But once we moved to Calcutta, it disappeared from the dining table, and remained only as a vague memory.
Once I started visiting food forums, I was reminded afresh about makhana- if i made an effort, I could almost taste the crispy goodness, but the real thing remained a dream. Until, we moved to our new place, and I sighted makhana at the local grocery store. Thencame the challenge- the makhana was available, but I couldn't find the recipes I had lusted after. A detailed search finally yielded a recipe that looked interesting, but which was far too rich for my taste. I decided to replace the myriad dry fruits with flax seeds, and voila- one lip smacking dish that takes virtually no time to prepare.

4 pods of garlic, thinly sliced
2 inch piece - ginger, grated
1/2+1/2- yellow and red pepper, thinly sliced
2 1/2 - onions, thinly sliced
1 cup - makhana
1 tbsp - ghee
1 cup milk
1 tsp - garam masala
Oil to sauté vegetables
3 tbsp flax seeds
6- 8 cashew nuts
1 tsp kasuri methi
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste


Heat the ghee in a non stick pan, add the makhanas and fry for a couple of minutes or until light brown. Keep aside.
Coarsely grind the flax seeds and cashew nuts (without water). Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a non stick pan, add the thinly sliced garlic, ginger, onions and pepper and saute for a minute on medium heat.
Add the coarsely ground nuts and cook for about a minute. Add the 1/2 cup of milk and cook until the milk evaporates.
Add the garam masala, salt, sugar and 1/2 cup of milk and bring it to a boil.
Add the fried makhanas and the kasuri methi and mix well.
Serve immediately. Goes best with hot rotis.

Easy-peasy masala roti

After a weekend of binging on peas and more peas, I had a whole lot of matar-aloo staring at me. Since I was sure nobody was going to want to set eyes on it in it's current form, I kneaded it with atta, and what do you know, we had easy-peasy masala rotis for lunch!

Aug 24, 2013

Aloo matar aur saare matar

"Aloo matar aur bahut saare matar", went one of the most popular ad-lines in the '80s. That's exactly what he had tonight, prepared and consumed with love.
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 onions, chopped fine
2 tomatoes, chopped fine

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp jeera powder
2 tsp dhania powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

Lightly fry the potatoes in 1 tbsp oil for about 10 minutes and keep aside.
Add the rest of the oil, and saute the onions till transparent. Add the tomatoes, ginger garlic paste and all the spices, and saute till the tomatoes turn mushy.
Let it cool, and whizz it in a mixie till it forms a smooth paste.
Return the masala to the kadhai, add about 2 cups water, mix well. Add potatoes and peas, and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the flame, cover, and let it cook for 10 minutes, or till the potatoes are well done.

Aug 23, 2013

Peas-ful pulao

Hubby wanted aloo matar and roti, but since I was just not in a mood to make rotis, I made this peas-ful pulao instead. Paired with lightly spiced curds, it was almost as good as having aloo-matar!

1 measure rice, washed and soaked
1 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp jeera
1 badi elaichi
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
1/2 measure peas
1 large onion, cut into slices
Salt to taste

Start cooking the rice with 3 times the quantity of water.
Heat the ghee, add jeera, and when it starts spluttering, add the onions, and the spices, and saute till onions start browning.
Add the peas and saute for a couple of minutes
When the rice is a little over 1/2 done,  add the peas and salt, mix well, and leave it on a low flame till the rice cooks completely.
Serve with curds.

Masala Foccacia Bread

I've always regarded baking bread as one of the ultimate culinary accomplishments. For a long time, I had excuses- lack of availability of yeast, no proper oven- but I ran out of excuses after we moved to our new home. With a spanking new OTG, and a grocery store that stocked practically everything, the only thing I had to confront was fear itself. Fear that it will be an unmitigated disaster, fear that I am not upto the task.
But the only way of dealing with Fear is by facing it head on, and that I did. Took a recipe from Tadka Pasta, because they never go wrong. And I confronted my deamon. The aroma of freshly baked bread was out of the world, and I had to physically restrain myself from tearing off chunks and popping it into my mouth long enough to take photographs.

1½ Cups lukewarm water
1 Heaped tablespoon active dry yeast
1 Teaspoon sugar
2½ Cups all-purpose flour or maida
1 Cup whole wheat flour or atta
2 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
1½ Teaspoon salt
1 Cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
A few packets of chilli flakes
Prepare a 13” x 9” baking pan by lining with parchment and greasing it well with the oil. Leave a little extra olive oil in the bottom and this will ensure a crunchy, golden crust.
Pour the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl. To bring the yeast to life stir it into the water along with a teaspoon of sugar. The key to success is the temperature of the water – too hot, and you will kill the spores before they can work their magic, and if it is too cold the yeast will not be able to kindle to life.
Wait for about five minutes or until you see the liquid start to bubble up.
Now add the flours, salt and chilli powder to the liquid. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer, or by hand, using a sturdy spatula, for a minute or so.
Blend in the cheese.
Scrape the gooey mass into the prepared pan, and coax it towards the corners with your fingers dipping them into a bowl of water if it is sticky.
Cover the pan snugly with a kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour or so in a comfortably warm place.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Once the bread has risen, gently poke the surface of the dough with your wet fingers to get the focaccia’s signature dimply look. Drizzle olive oil liberally over the top.
Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
Let the bread cool in the pan for five minutes. Run a knife along the sides and turn out onto a cooling rack.
Cut into thick slabs, and serve warm.

Aug 21, 2013

Green moong-zucchini muffins

Ever since the kids changed schools, and were put in the afternoon batch, my limited culinary skills have been stretched beyond what I thought possible. How on earth do think of something that is healthy, tasty, quick to make and easy to eat five days a week????

This was an experiment that I was quite satisfied with. To be honest, the younger one had to be force fed most of it, but what's new?

- three measures green moong, soaked overnight
- one measure tur dal soaked for an hour
- one zucchini
- green chilli
- half inch piece of ginger
- salt to taste
- grated cheese 
- white sesame seeds

Grind all the ingredients, with sufficient water, to a slightly coarse batter.
Half fill the greased paniyaram moulds, sprinkle a layer of cheese, then topped it up with batter. 
Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the muffins, just before turning them over.
Serve with coconut chutney or tomato ketchup

It takes longer for this to cook than normal paniyarams, but the wait is well worth it.

Aug 20, 2013

Bread upma

Bread slices - 3 or 4 (a day or two old is better)
Curds- 2 tbsp, diluted with an equal quantity of water
Peanuts- 2 tbsp (optional)
Onion- 1/2 chopped
Ginger- 1/2 inch piece
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Green chilli- 1
Cooking oil- 1 tbsp
Haldi powder- 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Tear the bread into bite sized pieces.
Heat the oil, add mustard seeds, and after it splutters, add onions, green chilli, peanuts and ginger pieces and saute till onions start to turn translucent.
Add the bread pieces and salt and haldi, and mix well. Sprinkle the diluted curds on top, lower the flame, cover and let it cook for about a minute.

Aug 19, 2013

Aloo posto

Growing up in Calcutta, it is hard for you not to develop a taste for aloo posto. But once you move out of the city, and no longer have access to Bong food, it is hard not to forget many of the dishes you loved so much when you were young. And then, suddenly, you are reminded of them, and you want them, but there is nobody around to make it for you :-(
I got one filling of aloo posto when I visited Delhi, and my father-in-law's maid made it for me. But if I though it would satiate me, I was mistaken. It just left me panting for more. And I had to learn to make it myself. This was my first attempt- I followed the verbal instructions given by the maid- but I was later told to make changes to make it more authentic. Some of those changes I liked, some I didn't, and I am sticking to my version, even if it is not the authentic aloo posto.

3 medium potatos, peeled and cubed
4 tbsp khus khus/ posto
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp jeera/ kalonji/ panch poran (depending on personal preference)
A pinch of haldi powder (not used in the original version)
Salt to taste
Mustard Oil

Soak about posto in warm water for 20 mins, then grind with green chillies. You can do it in a mixer, but I prefer the mortar and pestle- basically pound it till the chillis disintegrate.
Splutter jeera in a kadhai, add potato chunks and fry on a low flame till potatoes are done. Add the posto paste, salt to taste and haldi powder, mix well, cover the dish and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Top with some MO and serve.

Dal rotis- made with leftover dal

There is only so much that the mother of a fussy eater can take. I reached that point yesterday, and yelled, "is there anything at all that you like?". Pat came the reply, "I love that awesome paratha that you gave me in the old house!"
It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but when I did, I was pleased- it was do rotis that he. Was taking about, and I happened to have a stash of leftover dal in the fridge that I didn't know what to do with.

3 measures whole wheat flour
2 measures leftover dal
1 tsp ghee
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the ingredients, and kneed till the dough is soft. You might have to vary the proportions depending on the consistency of the dal- I prefer to use more dal than less, because that's the easiest way to get the kids to have their proteins.
Keep aside for about 30 minutes (you can skip this, but it pays to let the flavours seep into the dough).
Roll into a long cylinder, and cut into the desired number of balls. Roll them into rotis, and cook on a tawa in low heat.
I like it with pickles, but the kids have it with dahi.

Make this, and you will be surprised how quickly the kids can eat if they really want to!

Aug 11, 2013

Beet rotis- experimens of the pink kind

After making Red Velvet Cupcakes, I had quite a bit of beet puree left over, and had no clue what to do with it. For awhile, I contemplated making my (now) famous Barbie Pachidi, but decided to be adventurous instead.
These beautiful rotis is what resulted.

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup beet puree (beetroot steamed for about 10 minutes, then pureed till soft)
Garam masala and salt to taste

Knead the flour and the beetroot puree into a dough, adding water if necessary. Keep aside for about 15 minutes.
Roll  into rotis, and cook them on a tawa.
Add a dollop of ghee before serving.
You don't need to serve it WITH anything- it stands on it's own!

Aug 8, 2013

Red Velvet Cake- aspirations are made of these- even if a tad healtier than they should be

Ever since I read about it, I have been fascinated by the idea of a Red Velvet Cake. Isn't there something incredibly Audrey Hepburnish about the name. Can't you just picture yourself in a Little Black Dress, with a strand of classy pearls, biting into a cupcake of maroon awesomeness?
And yet, the amount of food colouring that it consumed was a huge deterrent. Someday, I will attempt it with beets, I promised myself. 
That day arrived, when I decided to inaugurate my new OTG on my friend, MM's birthday. About a year back, I had introduced her to the glories of the humble beet root, and in the ensuing months, she surpassed me in finding uses for it. This, then, is in Pinky's honour!

1 1/2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fresh pureed beets*
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 capful vinegar (this I to maintain the colour of the beet- recipe asked for more, but I wasn't brave enough)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*3 medium sized beets give approximately 1 1/2 cups of purée.

Wash the beets, scrape/ peel and slice them. Cook them (steam cook or microwave) till they’re well done. Cool and purée the cooked beets along with about 3 or 4 tbsps of water, in a blender till smooth. Keep aside. You can do this ahead and refrigerate the purée for a day or else freeze it till required.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a bowl till well mixed. Keep aside.
Put the puréed beets, oil, lemon juice and vanilla extract into another bowl and lightly whisk together till mixed well.
Pour this into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine. Line a cake dish with butter paper, and pour the batter into it.

Bake at 200C for about 20 to 25 minutes. A skewer/ toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean once they’re done.
Cool completely and decorate with frosting of your choice- I did not.

Aug 5, 2013

Bajra Whatever

This dish is special, because it is the first meal I cooked for myself in the kitchen of our new house. About a week after we moved in, I got fed up of ordering takeaways (though there are some awesome places to order from here), and soaked some bajra with the intention of making bajra khichdi for lunch.
But when the time came to actually make it, I couldn't find the coconut grater and someone had finished off my stock of singdana, so I had to innovate.

I stir fried garlic, onions and a carrot, added salt, pepper and dry parsley to taste. Threw in the cooked bajra, and some milk, and let the whole thing simmer till I got a consistency I liked.

Tasted much better than I hoped, and the intention is to make it more often, because it makes a change from a regular bajra khichadi.

Aug 4, 2013

First dinner

Shifting to a new home is always stressful, doubly so when the workmen are still milling around, and the unexpected heavy rains are paralysing the city. The last thing in my mind has been food, but at some stage, I could take it no longer, and prepared lunch. 
Just paniyarams (made with store bought batter) and coconut chutney, but eating food cooked by you in your own house is a pleasure like few others.