Jul 30, 2014

Appam and Istew, with sweetened coconut milk

Here is a picture of the complete meal, and one I was quite satisfied with.



Sweetened coconut milk- mix grated jaggery with coconut milk till completely dissolved and add cardamom powder for flavouring.

Vegetable Istew / Kerala style vegetable stew

Aapams are not completely without vegetable stew (or istew, as it is called). And once I plucked up the courage to tackle appams, I decided to make vegetable stew to go with it. I followed this recipe.

2 small to medium sized carrots, peeled chopped
2 potatoes or 1 large potato, about 150 gms, peeled and chopped
¾ or 1 cup peas
70 to 80 gms french beans
1 large onion or 5-6 shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic, crushed into a paste in a mortar-pestle
1 inch ginger, julienned
2-3 green chilies, slit
1.5 inch cinnamon
4-5 cloves, crushed or kept whole
1 tsp crushed black pepper
3 to 4 green cardamoms, crushed or kept whole (optional)
2.5 cups thin coconut milk or water
1 cup thick coconut milk
12 to 15 curry leaves
2 to 3 tbsp coconut oil
Salt to taste

Heat coconut oil, add the whole & crushed spices - cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, black pepper, and saute till fragrant.
Add the ginger, garlic, green chilies, sliced onions and curry leaves. Saute till the onions become translucent- do not brown
Add the chopped veggies and stir well. Add 2 cups water, and cook the veggies in a pressure pan till tender and done.
Add the thick coconut milk, stir well and simmer for just half a minute.
Temper 1 tbsp coconut oil with a few curry leaves, pour over the istew, and serve with appams.

Appam/ lacy rice hoppers

Ever since I had my first appam and vegetable stew at a restaurant in Bombay soon after my marriage, I have been a fan of the dish. So much so, I spent severeal months in Delhi, hunting for a place that would satisfy my craving for it.
A few years back, I saw my friend making it, and have been wanting to try it at home, but that day never seemed to come. Untill I finally mustered up all the courage I possessed and tried it out. I followed this recipe, and am reasonably satisfied with the result.

2 cups regular rice (I used kolam)
1 cup boiled rice
A fistful of cooked rice
1 cup grated coconut
½ tsp dry active yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt or add as required
Water or as required for grinding
Oil as required

Rinse rice and soak together for 4 to 5 hours.
Drain, and place in the grinder. Add grated coconut, cooked rice, salt and most of the sugar.
With the remaining sugar and 2 tbsp water, proof the yeast for 10 minutes.
Add required amount of water and grind all the ingredients to a smooth flowing batter- the batter would have to be very smooth.
Add the yeast, mix well, pour into a large bowl, cover and keep aside for fermenting for 8 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature conditions.
The batter will rise and increase in volume the next day.
Heat a kadai or an appam pan with handles. Smear some oil on the kadai.
Pour two ladles of batter, turn and tilt the pan to spread the batter
Cover the pan and let the appam cook, till the base is light golden. Do not flip over
Serve hot or warm with vegetable stew, or sweetened coconut milk.

Patra/ aluvadi

ISomewhere along the course of my stay in the city, I discovered 'patra' and grew to love it. Even though it looked as if it was drenched in oil, I couldn't resist picking it up for lunch a couple of times a week.
It was only about a year back that I learnt how to make it, and it took me about a year after that to actually buy a bunch of colocasia leaves and make it. 
And now I wonder why I never attempted it before!
3-4 medium sized colocasia leaves
For the batter:
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp dhania powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp jeera powder
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
3/4 cup besan
2 tbsp jaggery
Salt to taste
Water as required

For tempering:
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
Grated coconut for garnish

Wash the colocasia leaves, pat dry and remove the stem. Turn over, and slice out the mid vein with a sharp knife, taking care to ensure the leaf itself remains intact.
Make a batter with the ingredients, add water only sparingly- the batter should be thick.
Cut each leaf along the midrib.
Spread batter on the first leaf, then place the next leaf so it points the other way, and spread batter on it. Continue till all the leaves are used up.
Press the vertical edges in, then start rolling tightly. Once completely rolled, tie it with some twine, and place on a greased steamer (I used an idli stand).
Steam for 20-25 minutes.
Remove the twine, and slice finely with a sharp knife.
Heat some of the oil, and lightly brown both sides of the patras.
Heat the rest of the oil, temper the mustard seeds, then add the sesame seeds. Pour over the patra.
Serve garnished with coriander and grated coconut.

Curd dip, with spring onions

The simplest dip to make is also one of the most effective ones. There are very many variations to this, but this is my favourite.

1 cup curds
1 spring onion
1/3 tsp paprika powder
Salt to taste

Place the curds in a muslin cloth and hang it up for a couple of hours till the water drains out (you can reserve the water to drink, or use while making rotis)
Chop the spring onion (including the leaves) into small pieces
Beat the hung curd with a fork, add spring onions, paprika powder and salt and mix well
Serve with chips, cucumber slices, parathas or over crackers/ toast

Jul 29, 2014

Aloo paratha

Aloo paratha with butter is a family favourite. But for some strange reason, I don't make it as often as I could. Here's my favourite version.

For the dough:
2 cups wholewheat flour/ atta
Salt to taste
For the stuffing:
3 medium potatoes (one per person is a thumb rule that works)
1/2 medium onion
1 green chilli
a few sprigs of coriander leaves
1/3 tsp red chilli powder
1/3 tsp jeera powder
Salt to taste

Ghee/ oil to cook

Make the dough, and keep aside for about 30 minutes. Ensure that the dough is neither too dry, not too sticky.
Cut the potatoes into 8 pieces. Pressure cook, peel and mash.
Chop the onions, green chillis, and coriander leaves very fine. Add to mashed potatoes with the dry spices and mix well.
Divide the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Roll each one into a 6 inch disc. Place the stuffing in the centre, and pull the edges together, join and press down to get a flatish disc. After gently removing all the air pockets, roll it out to get a regular sized paratha- roll along the edges, to ensure the shape is circular.
Heat a tawa, place the paratha on it, drizzle ghee/ oil along the sides, and cook on a low flame till browned. Flip over and cook the other side.
Serve hot with a dollop of butter, and curds/ raita.

Jul 27, 2014

Mishti doi

It is impossible for someone to have grown up in Calcutta, and not love mishti doi. And I am no exception. Which is why I was in heaven, when a leading milk producer started making mishti doi. It was so popular that it would disappear almost as soon as it came on the shelves, but I learnt the art of hoaring it whenever I saw it. And then, it disappeared from the store, and I was returned to a Universe without mishti doi- one made even more unlivable because I had experienced it for an entire year!
So, when I saw a recipe for mishti doi, I decided to try it out, and it tastes pretty good.

Sugar 8-10 tbsp
Whole Milk - 1 ltr
2 -3 tbsp fresh curd
Butter- 1 tbsp

Heat the butter, and caramelize 7 tbsp sugar till the sugar turns dark brown but not black.
Add the milk and stir till all the caramel melts. Add 3 tbsp of sugar.
Boil the milk for 10-15 min till it thickens to 75% of it's original volume. Cool.
When the milk cools down, but while it is still lukewarm, add 2-3 tbsp of plain curd. Strain. Pour in a ceramic bowl and set overnight.
If the weather is cool, preheat oven for 2-3 mins, put the bowl in, and cover tightly with a lid. After 2-3 hrs, again preheat oven for a minute.(essentially, this wil set well only when kept in a v warm place).take out after 6 -8 hours.

Spaghetti in creamy pesto sauce

Sundays are made for indulgences, and this spaghetti in creamy pesto sauce gives the maximum impact for very little work. The chicken sausages are to satiate the hubby, and the stir fried veggies makes me believe I am serving a balanced meal.

For Pesto sauce:
1/2 cup basil
2 tbsp melon seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
4 pods garlic
Salt and paprika to taste 

For white sauce:
2 cups milk
2 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp grated cheese
Salt to taste

200 gms pasta

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, drain, and reserve some water.
Make the pesto sauce by blending all the ingredients listed under it till you get the desired consistency.
Bring 2 cups milk to boil.Make a paste with 2 tbsp cornflour, mix with the boiling milk, lower the flame and let it bubble.
Add the entire quantity of pesto sauce, 2-3 tbsp grated cheese. Mix well. Adjust for salt, if required. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to it.
Pour the sauce over the cooked spaghetti, and mix well.
You can sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese over the pasta- I didn't.

For the stir fried vegetables, heat some butter, add the vegetables, and fry on a medium- high flame by stirring consistency. When the corn starts browning, add salt and paprika powder to taste and mix well, before serving.

Jul 25, 2014

Hummus with green chickpeas

1 cup hara channa, or green chickpeas
3 tbsp sesame seeds
5 sprigs coriander leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic
Paprika pwd, to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Soak the green chickpeas for 6 hours, then pressure cook for 20 minutes.
Puree the cooked chickpeas and sesame, with the lemon juice, olive oil, coriander leaves, garlic and salt till smooth
If it is too thick you can add some of the water in which the chickpeas were cooked.
Garnish with olive oil and paprika.

Stuffed karela

The first time I visited her after marriage, my mother in law made stuffed karelas for dinner. More out of politeness than anything else, I told her it was lovely, and after that, she insisted on sending me karelas everytime anyone was coming to Bombay. To stop that, I asked her for the recipe, and even though I haven't made it too often, the recipe is inked in my mind.
Karela- 250 gms
Onions - 250 gms, I picked really small ones
Dhania pwd- 1/2 tsp
Red chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Haldi pwd- 1/2 tsp
Amchur pwd- 1/2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Cooking oil- 3 to 4 tbsp

Scrape the skin of the karela, slit lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cover with salt, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze the excess water out, and remove the salt.
Mix all the dry spices and salt.
Stuff the karela with the mixture.
Cut each onion in a cross (making sure to ensure you do not cut right through), and stuff with the spice mix.
Heat the oil, slide the onions and karela in, and fry for 5 minutes. Turn off the flame, cover with a lid, and let it cook in its own steam for another 10 minutes.

Jul 24, 2014

Sugarfree Date-Banana Bread/ Muffin

A couple of weeks back, I decided to cut sugar out of my diet for "sometime". And then without warning, I was subject to carpet bombing of the most sinful desserts imaginable. Turning away from temptation requires far greater will power than I possess, and yet, I am too stubborn to admit defeat. "Necessity is the mother of Invention", they say, so I tinkered around with a basic vegan banana bread, and came up with this sugar-free version which tasted just as good as a more conventional muffin/ cupcake would.

4 bananas
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
⅔ cup coconut oil
3/4 cups dates
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
A few drops vanilla essence

Soak the dates in water, bring to a boil, and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Remove the seeds, discard the excess water, and blend the dates in a mixer.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees
Add bananas to the date puree, and blend till smooth.
Add coconut oil and vanilla essence and blend till well mixed.
Sieve flour, baking soda and baking powder a few times.
Fold the flour into the puree, making sure it is well mixed.
Grease the molds with coconut oil, pour the batter, and bake for 25 minutes (or till done)

*- I was skeptical, so made a really small amount of batter. The recipe I have written out doubles all the ingredients. That would also ensure that the cake is a bit taller, because more batter will go into each of the molds.

Jul 23, 2014

Palak paneer, with yoghurt

Palak paneer is a dish I make often, because almost everyone in the family loves it. But today, I wasn't in a mood to make it the conventional way, and so innovated with spices and cooking style. And it came up trumps- not only did it look very different, it tasted lighter than usual, and disappeared as soon as it was placed on the table!
250 gms paneer
1 bunch spinach, cleaned well
2 small onions chopped
4-6 pods garlic
1/2 inch piece ginger
1/2 tsp jeera
1/2 tsp saunf
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3 tbsp curds
Salt to taste
Cooking oil

Heat the oil, temper with jeera and saunf, and when they stop spluttering, add onions, garlic and ginger, and saute till the onions turn transparent.
Meanwhile, boil 1 cup water, and blanch the spinach for about 15 minutes.
Grind the onions to paste, and keep aside
Grind the spinach till smooth, and keep aside.
Beat the curds and salt till smooth.
Mix the spinach puree, onion paste and curds. Return to the fire, adding water if required. Once it starts boiling, reduce the flame and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add paneer pieces (reserving a few to grate on top as garnish), bring to boil, before turning off the flame.
Garnish with grated paneer, and serve hot with rotis.

Plum raita

One of those experiments that worked really well, and which I definitely plan to attempt more often, because it is just so easy to whip up. I had it with a dosas, and it went really well with it. Will also go well with stuffed parathas and dal roti.

2 cup curds
2 tbsp plum chutney
1 plum
Mint leaves for garnish

Whisk the curds with a fork till smooth.
Add the plum chutney, and mix well
De-seed the plum and cut into eighths. Add to the curd mixture and mix well
Garnish with mint leaves before serving.

Tiranga dosa

With Independence Day around the corner, I thought of making a tiranga dosa instead of the regular one. While the dosas definitely looked good, and tasted good too, the kids didn't seem overtly thrilled with the novelty of the dish, and I might just stick to the regular dosa in future. Those are far less labour intensive.

For the batter:
2 measures boiled rice
1 measure urad dal
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste

1 carrot
3/ 4 sprigs coriander or mint or broccoli
Cooking oil

Soak 2 measures boiled rice and 1 measure urad dal overnight, along with 1 tsp fenugreek seeds. 
Grind it smoothly, with minimal water, and let it ferment for 6 hours. 
Take about a third of the batter, and grind it again with one chopped carrot

Take another third of the batter and grind it with either broccoli or coriander or mint (chillis if you like)

Heat a pan, bring the temperature down by sprinkling water on it, put one spoonful of orange batter. Place one spoonful of white batter on it, and one spoonful of green batter over that. Grease the edges, turn over when the edges start lifting off. Serve hot.

Rasam vadai

I had the most amazing rasam vadai at a restaurant a few weeks back, and have been craving it since. Once I found a recipe for takali (tomato) rasam, I whipped up a batch of vadais, and have been in food heaven since!

Takali rasam- tomato rasam

I've been craving rasam vada for a couple of weeks, but have been putting off making it, because I thought you needed rasam powder to pull off a rasam. Then I stumbled upon this recipe that doesn't require rasam powder, and I whipped this up before I could change my mind. It tasted much better than it looked, actually.

6 tomatoes
1/2 cup coriander stems (with or without leaves)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
8-10 peppercorns
1 tsp jeera

Salt to taste

For tempering
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of hing
1/2 tsp urad dal
1 sprig curry leaves
2 red chillis
1 tbsp oil or ghee

Blanche the tomatoes by soaking in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Peel the skin, chop into quarters and puree in a grinder.
Grind the coriander, peppercorns and jeera to a coarse paste, either using the grinder or a mortar and pestle. Mix the ginger garlic paste and keep aside.
Heat the oil/ ghee, and add mustard seeds. Once they start spluttering, add the rest of the tempering ingredients and fry for about a minute.
Add the ground masala and saute for a minute, then add the tomato puree, salt and about 2 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, reduce the flame, and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Serve hot.

Jul 22, 2014

Fusion Vermicelli

Fed up of the same thing, but not wanting to stray too far from the tried and tested formula, this was the lunch I rustled up for my son and me on the first day when he had to fend for himself while his mother was at work. He, however, didn't seem to like it much, so one idea gone out of the window.

1/2 cup vermicelli
1 head broccoli
1/3 cup sweet corn
6 leaves basil
4 pods garlic
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp butter
Salt to taste.

Cook the vermicelli according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and keep aside
Heat the butter and when it is melted add the garlic and stir till the aroma starts getting released. Add the corn, and broccoli, and saute till the corn starts getting browned.
Add torn basil leaves, paprika powder and salt adn mix well.
Mix with the vermicelli, and serve hot.

Jul 21, 2014

Bell Peppers in Sweet-Sour Peanut Sauce

I bought a couple of bell peppers a few days back (literally a couple- one red, one yellow), intending to try out a bell peppers in peanut gravy that I had found. Unfortunately, however, I wasn't able to locate the recipe again, so mixed and matched a few recipes to come up with this dish. It tastes really good with rotis, and is a good dish to have in the repertoire for a time when you want to serve something other than paneer to guests.

1 bell pepper (or 1/2 and 1/2 as I used)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup of peanuts, skins removed
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 lime sized ball of tamarind
2 tbsps of jaggery
2 cloves
1-inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin (jeera)
Salt to taste.
Cooking oil

Grind the peanuts, jaggery and tamarind together to get a smooth paste
Heat the oil, temper the jeera, and when it stops spluttering add the whole garam masala and onions. When the onions start to turn transparent, add the chopped bell peppers, and saute for a minute.
Add the peanut paste, about 1/2 cup water, and salt, and mix well. Cook for about 10 minutes.
Tastes excellent with rotis.

Jul 18, 2014

Baby potatoes in green gravy

The only time I boil raw onions is when I am making bise bele bhaat. I love the special flavour it imparts, and was curious to try out a new recipe where the onions were boiled before being ground. However, I was hesitant to try it out with chicken, so adapted the recipe for baby potatoes instead. The flavour was similar to that of a coconut based gravy, and it made for a very pleasant change. Definitely a recipe I am trying out again
250 gms baby potatoes
1/2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
green chillies to taste (recipe called for 3, I used 1)
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
2 bay leaves
1 badi elaichi
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves
1/2 tsp jeera
1/3 cup curds, beaten till smooth
Salt to taste
1 tbsp cooking oil


Pressure cook the baby potatoes for 15 minutes, peel and keep aside.
Boil the onions, then grind to paste
Grind coriander and green chillies to a paste
Heat the oil, saute the boiled potatoes on low heat till they start browning. Keep aside. (this can be skipped, if you want to save on oil). Prick each potato with a fork, two or three times.
Add some more oil, temper with jeera. Once the jeera stops spluttering, add the whole spices and fry till it releases the fragrance.
Add onion paste, curds and salt and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the baby potatoes, and the green paste, and cook for a further 2 minutes till done, adding water, if required to get the desired consistency.
Test for salt, and serve hot with rotis.

Soya Mince Sauce with Bell Peppers

I had a little bit of this, and a little bit of that in the fridge, and since I was feeling too lazy to make anything elaborate, I put together this creamy mince sauce which we had with toast for lunch. It was only after having the meal, that I realised that it covered all the essential food groups.

1/2 cup soya granules
1 bell pepper (preferably 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red)
5-6 basil leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
4-6 cloves garlic
1 cup milk
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter

Boil 1 cup water, add the soya granules and drain after 10 minutes
Meanwhile, heat the butter, add chopped garlic and saute till it
starts browning. Add the bell peppers, and saute for about a minute.
Add milk, and bring to boil. Make a paste of the cornflour with the
milk, and add to the boiling milk with continuous stirring to ensure
no lumps are formed.
Add the cheese, salt and pepper, torn basil leaves and the cooked soya
nuggest. Stir well, and take off the flame after about 30 seconds.
While I served with hot toast, it can also be added to pasta.

Jul 17, 2014

Cucumber-bajra dosa

Thanks to their erratic timings, I end up having to make dosas of some kind or the other for lunch almost every weekday. My mother is a great fan of bajra, and the inspiration for this recipe comes from her.
While you are at it, please admire the table decoration- I was told my cucumber plant needed pruning, and guess what I did with the pruned leaves!

1cup bajra flour
1 cucumber grated
A pinch of baking soda
Salt to taste
Whey or water to make the batter.

Mix the bajra, salt and soda together.
Add whey/ water gradually, till you get a thick batter. Allow it to stand for 30 minutes
Meanwhile, grate the cucumber, squeeze the water into the batter, add the cucumber to the batter and mix well. Add more water if required to get the proper consistency.
Make dosas, and serve.

Methi masoor dal

I love methi. Masoor dal is my favourite. We have dals for dinner every day. Enough said!

1 measure masoor dal
1/2 tsp haldi powder
1 bunch methi leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion,chopped fine
1/2 tsp jeera
1 green chilli
Salt to taste
1 tbsp mustard oil

Clean and wash the dal, and cook it in a pressure cooker with haldi powder till soft. Mash and keep aside.
Meanwhile, heat the mustard oil, splutter the jeera seeds, then saute garlic and onions till onions turn transparent.
Wash the methi, remove the leaves, and chop into fine pieces. Add to the onions, and saute till it releases water, and then dries up. 
Add the cooked dal, and more water if required. Bring to a boil, lower the flame and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes. Serve with rice or rotis

Jul 16, 2014

Chocolate spread, without sugar

I didn't think too much before deciding to give up sugar for awhile, but gradually, the doubts started emerging. Prime among which was- how on earth can I manage without Nutella? I turned to Google, and got dozens of hits. Most of the recipes I couldn't even think of since they required ingredients I only encounter in vegan recipe blogs. Almost all required hazlenuts, which are not available in India. But going through all of them, certain common features emerged, and I threw them all into the mixer, and came up with this.
It is definitely not Nutella, but it is pretty good, and will at least keep the cravings at bay.
Though I didn't realize it then, while writing down the recipe, I found that it is a five ingredient wonder!

1 cup almonds *
10 dates
3 tbsp cocoa
3 tbsp coconut oil#
A pinch of salt

Dry roast the almonds for a few minutes, and while it is still hot, put it in the mixer, and blend for 3-4 minutes (blend for a minute, check, then blend again- do it till you get a creamy consistency).
Deseed the dates and add them to the almonds. Add the cocoa powder and salt, and pulse for 1 minute
Add the coconut oil, and pulse for another 2 minutes, or till the spread is creamy.
Spread it on toast, and enter a sugarfree heaven.

* hazlenuts are recommended, but you work with what you have
# there are many other oils that are recommended, but we don't get any of them in India. Coconut oil adds a new dimension to the spread, but one that goes well with it.

Methi matri

One look at the photograph, and I knew I had to have it. I first wondered if I could try baking it instead, but the instructions were so precise, I though it best to do it the right way at least the first time. I'm happy I did. Next time, baked!

1 cup All Purpose Flour (Maida)
1/4 Cup Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasoori Methi)
1/2 Tsp Salt
Pinch Soda B-carb (optional)
1/2 Tsp Carom Seeds (Ajwain)
1/3 Cup Gram Flour (Besan)
3 Tbsp Pure/Desi Ghee
1/4 Cup Water
Oil - Enough For Frying
1/4 Tsp Crushed Cloves
Making the Mathri Dough-
Take a big enough bowl to contain all flour and make the dough. Add All-purpose-flour, Gram Flour, Salt, Carom Seeds, crushed Cloves, Desi Ghee, Soda and Dried Fenugreek Leaves. Knead them with the help of your hand.
Once mixed, add water gradually and knead to make a hard dough. Do not make it soft like chapati dough. The total amount of water for making this dough should not exceed 1/4 Cup as mentioned in the ingredients simply because we want a harder dough. Don’t think that we are talking about a rock solid one here but a decent one that can hold itself tight.
Once dough is ready, cover it and keep aside for 10 minutes. This would help in making crisp Mathri.
Rolling the Methi Mathri-
Take a small portion (about 2 inch thick) from dough and roll it in round shaped ball with the help of your palms.
Repeat the same with the rest of the dough.
Now pick up each ball and use your palms again to press it into a flat-bread by creating a sandwich (of your palms). You may use a rolling pin as well but we recommend using just your hand.
Now, we are ready to fry. Lets move on.

Frying the Mathri-
Take a frying pan, add Oil and heat it up on high flame for 2 minutes.
Now, turn the flame on low and add raw Mathri for frying.
Fry until they turn golden brown.
When they turned golden brown from all the sides, take them out on a Oil soaking paper napkin.
Switch off the stove and the Methi Mathri is ready to serve hot.

Jul 15, 2014

Bird's Nest Spaghetti

When I was in primary school, my mother often made what she called Bird's Nest Spaghetti for lunch. I'd forgotten all about it till April, when my older one started having a proper lunch at home after school. When I asked my mother about it, she vaguely recalled making it, but had no idea how. And therefore, I innovated.

200 gms spaghetti
100 gms soya nuggets
6 pods garlic
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
2 large tomatoes
50 gms tomato puree
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions, drain and retain some of the water in which it was cooked.
Soak the soya nuggets in boiling water, till soft. Drain and keep aside.
Heat oil, and saute garlic and onions till transparent.
Chop the tomatoes directly onto the onion-garlic mixture, and saute till it turns mushy.
Add tomato puree, paprika powder, and the dried herbs, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add about 1/3 cup water, fresh herbs, salt and soya nuggets. Mix well, and squeeze the soya nuggets a bit, so the water is drained and the gravy can take it's place.
Add cornflour, mix well, and let it bubble till the sauce thickens.
Arrange the spaghetti in a circle around the plate (this amount is sufficient for two large, or three small helpings), put the sauce in the middle, and serve.

Cauliflower stir fry

I had a huge head of cauliflower in the fridge, but didn't want to make the same boring cauliflower subji. The hubby doesn't like cauliflower dalna, and since I didn't have the veggies to make fried rice, any Chinese dish was out. Time to innovate. Taking off from this recipe, I threw together a whole bunch of stuff, and was pretty surprised when everyone said it was awesome!

1 medium cauliflower (or equivalent)
6 pods garlic (the more the better)
2 tbsp cooking oil (I used olive oil)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chilli sauce (or to taste)
2 tbsp honey
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish

Remove the stem and leaves of the cauliflower and cut/ break into small pieces. Soak in salt water for about 10 minutes to remove any worms that might be there.
Heat the oil, throw in the garlic and cauliflowers, and stir fry on high heat till the cauliflower starts browning.*
Add the soy sauce, lemon juice and chilli sauce, lower the flame, and cook with stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
Add salt to taste, and the honey, mix well. Turn off the flame, cover, and let it cook in its own steam for about 10 minutes.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

* I had some stir fried yellow bell pepper, so threw that in too, but it did nothing for the dish, so not adding it next time

Jul 11, 2014

Apple kheer

Two days back, I decided to give up sugar for a few weeks to see how my body adapts to the change. Since it was a spur of the moment decision taken during the course of a single run, I didn't have time to prepare myself for the change. And of course, the one thing my tongue doesn't stop craving is ... you guessed it.... sugar.
I could cheat, and use honey or palm sugar, or some other sugar substitute, but I prefer to play by the rules I have set for myself. This apple kheer (adapted from chana payash) was a perfect compromise- the sweetness comes entirely from natural sources, and it is definitely enough of a dessert to satisfy my craving.

1 litre milk
1 large apple
1 tbsp curds
1/2 time
A pinch of nutmeg powder

Make paneer out of 1/2 litre of milk (paneer recipe here- I mixed in curds before boiling, and added the lime juice after it started boiling).
While the paneer is draining, take the rest of the milk in a heavy bottomed vessel, and reduce it on a low flame till it is about 75% of the original volume.
Add finely sliced pieces of the apple, and keep stirring till the volume reduces to half the original volume.
Grate the paneer into the milk, and cook on a low flame till you achieve the desired consistency.
Add nutmeg powder, and mix well.
Chill before serving.

Jul 10, 2014

Indianised beans on toast- a.k.a what to do with leftover rajma

I was in no mood to make lunch today, and the kids drew the line at leftover rajma chawal, and rajma roti. Innovation to the rescue. I slathered the rajma on pieces of toast, dumped a whole lot of cheese on it, grilled for a couple of minutes, and passed it off as beans on toast.
Though neither of them was fooled beyond the second bite, they ate it without complaint!

Jul 8, 2014

Haleem/ Khichada

I first tasted this during Ramzan at a chawl in Jogeshwari (the chicken version was made specially for me and two others- the rest feasted on mutton), and loved it so much, I got the ladies to part with the recipe. I try to make it at least once a year during Ramzan, but sometimes I forget. The good thing is that I've not got down to halving quantities, so my family eats for a meal, and I feast on leftovers for a few days after.

2 cups wheat (or broken wheat)
2 tbsp chana dal
2 tbsp tur dal
2 tbsp masoor dal
2 tbsp moong dal
2 tbsp rice
3 cloves garlic
1 green chilli (the recipe called for more, so revise upwards if you want)
1 tsp oil

500 gms chicken (or mutton)
1 large onion chopped
1/2 tsp dhania pwd
1/2 tsp red chilli pwd
1/2 tsp haldi pwd
1/2 tsp garam masala (or if you can get your hands on haleem masala, you don't need any of the other powders)
2 tsp oil

1 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp jeera
4-5 pods garlic
1/2 tsp haldi

1 large onion sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp mint leaves


Soak the wheat, rice and dals overnight, then pressure cook with garlic, oil and the green chillis for 20 mins (or till done).*****
Once cooled, blend it in a mixie and keep aside.

Meanwhile, saute the onions till transparent, add the dry spices and chicken (or mutton) and fry for 2-3 mins. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and pressure cook till soft.
Fry the onion slices till well browned, and keep aside.
Temper the ghee with jeera, sliced garlic and haldi, add the cooked wheat-dal mixture, and mix well. Add the cooked chicken (or mutton), with all the water, mix well. Add salt and 1 tbsp chopped mint, mix well and cook on a slow flame for 10 minutes.
Serve hot, garnished with browned onion, chopped mint leaves and a dollop of ghee.

*****- alternately, you can dry roast the dals, and coarse grind them, and cook the ground dal, broken wheat and rice- it gives a very different texture, but I prefer this one

Jul 7, 2014

Savoury cookies with whole-wheat flour

Sometimes, the Fates conspire against you. Today, it was in the form of three lovely ladies who each posted their variety of cookies, making me want to have cookies NOW. Just whip up a batch, you might say, but there was a slight problem- I'd run out of butter, and much that I craved cookies, I didn't particularly want to wade through ankle deep water to get it.
But necessity is the mother of invention, and Google Uncle can sometimes be useful, and a whole lot of other sayings which may or may not make sense.
Net result, I baked up this batch of savoury cookies with whole-wheat flour, olive oil, kalonji seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds and salt. Can't say my cookie obsession has been satiated, but at least now, I can wait another day.
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp flax seeds
1 tsp kalonji seeds
Salt to taste
Water to knead the dough

Mix all the ingredients to make the dough. Add only as much water as is required.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roll the dough into a disc, cut into desired shapes, and bake for 10 minutes or till done.

Atta dosa with stewed apples, and some apple raita too

Coming up with lunch ideas for the kids is just not easy. I guess I could train them to have dal-chawal every single day, but that somehow doesn't seem fair to me. So, the quest continues.....
This is one of the easy ones that worked well for the kids.

For dosas:
1 measure atta
2 tbsp grated/ dessicated coconut
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
Sufficient water to make batter

For stewed apple:
1 apple
2 tsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup water

Mix the atta with the other ingredients,adding sufficient water to make batter of the same consistency as dosa batter. Let it stand for 10-15 minutes.
Heat the dosa pan, pour the batter, making a circular shape. Edge with ghee, and let it cook on a low flame till the edges start to rise up. Turn the dosa over, and let the other side cook.
Serve with stewed apples.

Dissolve the sugar in water, and heat it till boiling.
Once it starts boiling, add the apple pieces and the cinnamon stick. Bring to boil, then reduce flame and let it cook for about 5 minutes

If you have some stewed apple left over, you can mix the syrup well with curds, and add the apple pieces to make an apple raita.

Jul 4, 2014

Puffed up Puris

Hubby and kids all love puri with sooji halwa, and I make it often for them. But for some reason, though the puris always puffed up, they didn't remain puffed up for too long. This time, I tried a different recipe, and they stayed puffed up long after I finished clicking the picture too!
3 Cups- Wheat Flour
2 tbsp sooji
1/2 tsp – Ajwain (Carrom Seeds)
1/2 tsp- kalonji seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil for the dough
Oil for deep frying

Mix the wheat flour, sooji, ajwain, kalonji and salt well. Make a depression in the centre, pour in the oil, and mix well. Once well incorporated, knead to a dough, by constantly adding warm water. Do not add more water than necessary. The dough should be non sticky and smooth.
Rest the dough for half an hour.
Make balls of the dough and roll them out into small rounds of 4-5 inches diameter.
When you are nearly done, heat oil in a Kadhai till it is very hot. To test the oil, put a small flattened piece of the dough in the oil and if it immediately rises up the oil is ready.***
Put one rolled out poori into the oil and lightly press it with a spatula so that it swells up.
Now flip it over and once both sides are golden brown, take out the poori. Drain on kitchen napkins, and serve hot.
***- The oil needs to be hot, but not smoking hot. Do not let the temperature fall, because that only makes the puri absorb more oil. Keep testing the oil with small pieces of dough, if necessary.

Aloo subji- Mum style

At our place, Sunday Lunch was always Puri-Aloo subji. My father and I would be sitting at the table, and my mother would make puris for us, garam-garam. We'd vie with each other to grab the plumpest one- a fruitless endeavour because they were all really plump. And finally, she'd join us and have the last few puris that she made for herself.

So, on her last night at our place, I wanted to return the compliment, and serve her garam-garam Puri-Aloo. But since it was a surprise, I had to invent the recipe myself, and I did a fairly good job, I think. Based partially on my recipe for aloo palya.

5 large potatoes boiled
1 medium onion chopped fine
1 green chillie
1 inch piece ginger, chopped fine
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp channa dal
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp haldi powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Heat the oil, and temper mustard seeds, ginger, channa dal, green chillies and curry leaves.
Once the mustard stops spluttering, add chopped onions and saute till they turn transparent. Add salt and haldi and stir for about a minute.
In the meantime, cut half the potatoes into eighth's and mash the rest of the potatoes.
Add the potatoes, and about 1/2 cup water. Once the water boils, lower the heat, cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
Serve with piping hot puris.

Pasta in creamy carrot sauce

"Can we have pasta tomorrow?", asked my older one. How could I say no, specially since my Italian basil plant was in need of a haircut? This is a recipe I made up, and it worked superbly well.

200 gms pasta
1 carrot
1/2 onion
1 tomato
3 pods garlic
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp paprika powder
Salt to taste
1 cup milk
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp grated cheese
Basil leaves for garnish

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Drain and keep aside, and reserve some of the drained water.
Heat the butter, add sliced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add chopped onions and saute till it turns transparent.
Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and carrot til you get a fairly smooth paste. Add to the frying onions, and saute till the raw smell goes. Add the spices, mix well, then add milk.
When the milk comes to a boil, add the cornflour, and mix so it forms a nice sauce. Add grated cheese, and let the sauce bubble for about a minute.
Add pasta to the sauce, mix well, and add the reserved water if needed.
Garnish with torn basil leaves, and serve.

Jul 2, 2014

Tomato onion chutney

Once I had decided to make upma kozakattai for lunch, I had to find something to go with it. Too lazy to make sambar, I settled on this traditional tomato-onion chutney instead. Next time, I'll make it with shallots.

3 tomatoes
1 onion*
6 pods garlic
1 red chilli

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal
1 sprig curry leaves, chopped
A pinch of hing
Salt to taste
1 tsp cooking oil

Chop the onions, and keep half aside for tempering.
Grind together tomatoes, 1/2 onion, garlic and the red chilli.
Heat the oil, temper with mustard seeds, and once it stops spluttering add urad dal, 1/2 onion, curry leaves and hing.
When the onions start turning transparent, add the ground masala, and cook on a low heat, till the oil starts seperating.
Serve with dosas, idli, paniyaram or upma kozakuttai.

*- you can replace with 1/2 onion and some shallots.

Upma kozhukattai

A couple of weeks back, a couple of Tam Bram friends were talking about popular "tiffin" items, and the name upma kozhukattai came up. It looked interesting, and I immediately wanted to make it, but I put it off, and other things took over. Yesterday, I saw the dish again, and since both the kids were home for lunch today, I made it right away.
My mother tells me that this is not the authentic version, but it works for me, and I am sticking to it.

¾ cups rice flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsp of water
1 tsp gingelly oil
1 mor mozhaga

½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp urad dal
1 large pinch jeera
1 large pinch hing pwd
1 green chilli – chopped
Curry leaves – 1 sprig chopped

Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard, wait till it splutters, add all the other ingredients except rice flour, salt and water. 
Once the dal starts to turn brown, add water and salt, then pour in the rice flour, stirring all the while. 
Switch off the fire and continue to stir till the rice forms a ball around the spoon. Let cool a bit and then shape into tiny balls (I made 36 balls from this amount). 
Place in a greased colander and steam for 7-8 mins on high till soft but springy. Serve hot with sambar, rasam or chutney.

Quick chunda

I've been wanting to make chunda from before the mango season began, but life was super hectic during those summer months, and I never got down to doing so. Once the alphansos came (and went), I resigned myself to waiting another year before I could make chunda- and then surprise of surprise, I came across a few raw mangoes and picked them up.
However, before I could gather the ingredients to make chunda, the monsoons arrived and I was left holding a raw mango that I didn't know what to do with. A quick google search showed me something called a quick chunda that could be made without having to keep it in the sun, and before I could change my mind, I whipped up this batch for me.

1 raw mango grated
1/2 tsp haldi powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp jeera roasted and powdered
3/4 cup sugar (I got about a cup of grated mango)

Add haldi and salt to the mango, mix well.
Add 2 tbsp sugar, mix well, and leave it for 5-10 minutes till it is well incorporated. Add another 2 tbsp and keep repeating the process till all the sugar is incorporated.
On a very low flame, heat the mango mixture till all the sugar dissolves- do not heat too much or the sugar might start crystallizing.
Add red chilli powder and jeera, mix well and store in an airtight container.

The chunda is ready to eat right away, and tastes incredible with dal rotis made from leftover dal.

Filter coffee

The Monsoons have finally arrived, and what better way to celebrate than with a steaming mug of filter coffee?

1 tbsp ground coffee powder
1/3 cup hot milk
Sugar to taste
Coffee filter

Bring 1 cup water to boil.
Layer the top of the filter with the coffee powder, and press lightly with your fingers to pack it in. Cover with the press.
Pour the water into the filter, close and let it stand for 10 minutes till all the water drips down.
This is the first draw. You can also pour another cupful of water to get a second draw, or pour the first draw into the filter again to distill more of the coffee out.
Add milk, and pour into a container from a height, alternating containers till the froath is built up. Add sugar and serve.

Jul 1, 2014

Rajma-chawal - a quick version

After maintaining an uneasy truce with it for several years, my relationship with rajma chawal has finally started thawing. Though I still don't make it very often, I do end up making it once in two or three months, which is much better than the way it was earlier. Today, I tried out an easier version, which tasted as good as the original. Will that make me cook it more often- only time will tell.

250 gms rajma, soaked for 6 hours
2 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
1 star annise
1 badi elaichi

3 tomatoes, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 green chilli
Cooking oil
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp dhania powder
1 tbsp kasoori methi
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt to taste
A pinch of nutmeg powder
2 tbsp cream (or milk)

Pressure cook the rajma with the whole spices and sufficient water (it takes me 20 minutes).
Meanwhile, saute the chopped onions till it starts to turn transparent. Add tomato and green chilli  and when the tomatoes turn mushy, add the ginger garlic paste, dhania powder, kasoori methi and garam masala powder, and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
Let it cool, then grind it in a mixer till you get a smooth paste. Return the paste to the kadhai on which you fried it.
Remove the whole spices, and add the cooked rajma and water to the ground masala. Mix well, and cook in a low flame for about 10 minutes.
Add nutmeg powder, salt and cream/ milk. Bring to a boil, turn off the flame, cover and let it cook in its own steam for 5 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice.

Marble Cake

One of the first cakes I baked was a chocolate-vanilla marble cake. I was in my early teens, and I still remember mixing the batter in my mother's ceramic mixing bowls (where did they go, I wonder), and drawing marbling patterns with a knitting needle. Though I've made double flavour cakes several times in the past few months, I didn't really get down to making a proper marble cake. This is my attempt to change that!

Batter for making Sponge Cake- this is a good recipe
Food coloring and flavouring of choice.

Divide the cake batter into two halves. Put in a few drops of colouring and essence in both parts, and mix well (I used lemon and yellow in one and strawberry and pink in the other).
Line the baking dish with butter paper.
Put three tablespoon size globs of batter on the dish.
Pour three tablespoons of batter of the other colour in the empty spaces, taking care to cover the surface entirely.
Drop three tablespoons of batter over the blobs in the other colour. Fill up the empty spaces with the other colour.
The batter should get over in two layers, but if it doesn't, repeat with a third layer.
Smoothen the level, then dip a knitting needle in the batter, and draw swirl patterns.
Bake as per recommended settings.