Saturday, December 29, 2007

And the New Year Rolls Around Again - Best of 2007

It seems just like yesterday that the New Year of 2007 was upon us and I was happily spending hours of my day browsing through all the food blogs. You see I had only just discovered the wonderful world of food blogging. When I realised that I could also blog and it was not so technologically challenging either, I decided that my New Years resolution would be to start a blog of my own. But honestly, I had absolutely no idea on how to go about it. I decided to enlist the help of my very tech savvy 16 year old (it is amazing how the kids of today just pick up these things). But try pinning down a teenager to do something as "boring" as setting up a food blog for his mom.

January rolled around, then came February and still no signs of my blog starting. So finally, I took the plunge on my own, did a simple google search, came to and close to 50 posts later here I am.

It has been a pretty eventful journey and I have enjoyed every single moment of it. Once someone asked me " what do you get out of blogging?" I just said that it was just a hobby. Just a hobby? You must be joking. This, for me is now an all consuming passion. It gives me so much fulfilment and so much to look forward to. I have made so many new friends as a direct result of my hobby. My creativity is blossoming in so many fields. What more can I say? And what more can I ask for?
When Nupur of One Hot Stove came out with this event of looking back at 2007 and picking the best from it, for me it was a lovely walk back. It was very hard too (how can choose the best among your babies? Each one is so special in its own way).

In some the pictures are great, in some the content, in others the recipe has been a huge hit at home... But here I am doing my best and putting down my favourites.

I took a family poll on what I should feature as the best post in my blog, and unanimously, the answer was the Chocolate Brownie. Everyone here loved the picture, the write up and the final product. Oh there was no doubting that, the final product was absolutely scrumptious. This is a definite make once a fortnight recipe.

My personal favourite just has to be the Falafel. It was an outstanding recipe and very new for us. This recipe was a nice introduction for my children to the Middle Eastern cuisine. They throughly enjoyed it too.

Next comes the Dibba Roti. This is one recipe I always associate with my mom's cooking. She made this very often when we were kids. She improvised and made it in one of those contraptions they called ovens those days ( those round thingies without any temperature control whatsoever, yet Mom always managed to turn out perfect cakes and bakes in them)

The Hara Bhara Kababs comes in next. It was the one which garnered the maximum comments for the first time which was extremely exciting for me.

The last one I shall put down are the Baby Butter Naans. They was consumed so heartily by all at home when I made them and they enjoyed every morsel. Ans personally, I loved the name. It was just so adorable.

My one regret for this past year is that I did not take part in as many blogging events as I would like to have had. I find, the events expand one's repertoire, brings a lot of variety into food made at home, and introduce new tastes to everyone in the family.

My plans for the coming year will surely include taking part in more blogging events. I have been a little lax this year what with ill health and then just being generally busy.

The other thing will have to be that I have post a lot more, a lot lot more. I will make up this coming year for sure.

Thanks Nupur for this lovely walk back into the past few months. I know what you mean when you say you write and then forget about it. It was so enjoyable going through all the baby steps again and seeing my growth as a cook, photographer and most of all a writer.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Matar Paneer

Being holiday season and kids being on a break, I find that the children's friends drop in at home on the spur of the moment. I like them to stay over for lunch, but usually there is never anything exciting that they would like to eat, as the regular home fare is simple and consists mainly of healthy green vegetables. So I decided to immediately stock up the freezer with kid friendly foods that can be heated at a moments notice and served with chapatis or puris. Things that the kids will relish. So I toodled off to do some grocery shopping and picked up paneer, peas (which are now flooding the market) and got ready to make some Matar Paneer.

I have been looking for a nice matar paneer recipe for the longest time. I have tried many many different recipes out but somehow something was always wrong with it. The taste would just not be right. Something was lacking in each of them even in the Nita Mehta recipe.

The other day I happened to chance on this recipe from Cookery Corner. It looked good and easy to make too. So tried it out immediately.

Thanks, Laavanya for helping me find my perfect Paneer Matar recipe. This is a keeper for me, for sure. Easy and perfect tasting.

Now for the recipe with no changes at all except the quantities as I was making it for a larger number of people.....


600 gm Paneer
2 cups Peas, parboiled
2 teaspoons Chilli Powder
2 teaspoons Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Kasuri Methi - about 1/2 tsp, crushed between your fingers
Salt, to taste
4 tablespoon Yoghurt
4 tablespoons Oil
2 teaspoon Jeera (Cumin seeds)

Grind to a paste after cooking:

4 large Onions, chopped
6 Tomatoes, chopped
8 cloves Garlic
2 inch piece Ginger
50 grams Coriander leaves


Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and saute the onion, garlic and ginger till the onions brown a bit. Then add the tomatoes and cilantro and cook with a pinch of salt till it softens. Grind this to a paste in the mixie once it has cooled down a bit.
Pan fry the paneer cubes on either side till light brown. I sprinkle some salt after spraying the pan with oil before adding the paneer.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add jeera seeds, then add the ground paste along with all the masala powders and let this cook well with frequent stirring.
After about 5 minutes, add a cup of water to this paste and let it come to a boil.
Add the paneer pieces and peas and allow to simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes.
Now add the crushed Kasuri methi and stir in the yoghurt.
Heat for a few minutes and serve with chapatis, puris or naans.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Veggie Burgers

Its been a while since my last post but as mentioned earlier, things have been a little hectic around here.

My kids are on their new ( I call it "adoloscent") phase where they want to eat out all the time. I feel so old when I tell them "but we never would eat out at all as kids". Things were different back then. I guess it was a combination of no restaurants and the fact that the concept of eating out was just not existent. We did eat out but that was only once in a way, when we were out of town. Mom ensured that we got goodies to eat but they were all homemade. We never even thought to complain. We would have been finished if we even entertained the idea. But now..............

Kids of today and also mainly the city bred kids think nothing at all of eating out every meal, despite having good wholesome and innovative food made right here at home. My older one who is touching 17 has to be threatened during holidays to eat at home. So now we have a deal going where one meal has to be at home other than breakfast.

I think the effect of globalisation is seen right here with the amount of choice that there is out there. Different cuisines, different price ranges ( thats important depending on whether parents are a part of the program or not. This is how it works. Parents present - pricier places. No parents?? Cheap and best) And just the habit they get into of finding food outside of the house tastier as it is loaded with all the unhealthy things like sugars, transfats etc..
This I think is a real challenge facing most urban parents of today. Things tend to get a little unpleasant when we put our foot down and say " NO"

One of his fave low cost eating places is the little burger kiosk found all over the city, Burger Man. He just loves the burgers there. So today I decided Mr.Burger Man was going to have competition. Nice healthy competition and I was not going to back down from the challenge.

Got the ready-made burger buns, picked up all the veggies and started my making my healthy version of a burger.

Can I be honest and preen a bit and tell you how well they came out? The crunchy cutlets, the delicious mayo, and the nice spicy chilli tomato sauce all came together into this absolutely tasty delicious whole.

Anyway, enough of the preening, now for the recipe..

This makes 8 veggie burgers.

8 Burger buns
2 tomatoes sliced finely ( totally about 20 slices)
1 onion ( or about 8 slices)
1 head iceberg lettuce
8 tablespoons mayonnaise ( i used eggless mayo)
8 slices cheese
8 veggie cutlets ( recipe follows)


Cut each burger bun into half horizontally.
Apply mayo on the inside of the upper half.
Place a leaf of the iceberg lettuce on the lower half.
Place two to three tomato slices on this and top it with a slice of onion.
Place one cutlet on the onion. Top this with a slice of cheese and cover with the upper half.
If you like it hot, you can either microwave the whole thing for about 15 seconds or toast the halves of the bun in an oven and then assemble it.

Serve with chilli-tomato ketchup and enjoy.

Now for the cutlets...

1/2 kg potatoes boiled, peeled and mashed
1 carrot diced very finely
100 grams cabbage finely diced
2 slices bread torn up into bits
2 onions chopped finely
2 cloves garlic minced
1 inch piece ginger minced
1 green chilli minced
2 teapoons oil
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder ( dry mango powder). Can be substituted with juice of 1/2 a lime.
2 tablespoon all purpose flour ( maida)
200 grams bread crumbs


Microwave the carrots and cabbage in the microwabe for about 2 minutes.
Heat the oil in a kadai. Add the onions and the ginger, garlic, green chillis and fry till translucent.
Mix this into the mashed potatoes along with the carrot/cabbage mixture. Add the bread pieces, the salt, pepper powder, the amchur/ lime juice.
Mix well.
Add a little water to the flour to make a paste.
Shape the cutlets into rounds with the diameter of the burger bun.
Dip into flour paste to coat well all round.
Press nicely into the bradcrumbs till there is a thick cover ( thicker the better as this makes the burger really crunchy).
Deep fry. (Maybe be unhealthy but it is way better than the ones found outside)


Friday, December 14, 2007

Peach Pie and the Arusuvai Friendship Chain

The other day I received a very pleasant surprise in the mail. It was from Srivalli of Cooking4allseasons. This was a surprise ingredient ( along with a very sweet letter seen above) sent to continue the Arusuvai friendship chain where we send something to a fellow blogger for them to make a dish using the surprise ingredient. She is one of the only fellow Chennai bloggers that I have met. Unfortunately the same reasons for not blogging are also the reasons for not meeting up with everyone.

She sent me a very sweet letter and a nicely packed little packet of something. It was a puzzling few minutes for me till I figured what it exactly was. Then it struck me. China grass.
Though vegetarians, I have always stuck to using gelatine in all my desserts as it was something I was used to doing. I never really tried out the vegetarian version of gelatine which is Agar Agar or popularly known as China Grass in India.

Agar or agar agar is a gelatinous substance chiefly used as a culture medium for microbial work. It is an unbranched polysaccharide obtained from the cell membrane of some species of red algae or seaweed. It can be used as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, injellies, icecreams and Japanese desserts such as anmitsu, as a clarifying agent in brewing, and for paper sizing fabrics. The word agar comes from the Malay word agar-agar (meaning jelly). It is also known as kanten, agal-agal (Ceylon agar), or China grass. Chemically, agar is a polymer made up of subunits of the sugar galactose. Agar polysaccharides serve as the primary structural support for the algae's cell walls.
Agar-Agar is the sea's natural gelatin. White and semi-translucent, it is sold in packages as washed and dried strips or in powdered form. It can be used to make jellies, puddings and custards. For making jelly, it is boiled in water until the solids dissolve. One then adds sweetener, flavouring, colouring, fruit or vegetables, and pours the liquid into molds to be served as desserts and vegetable aspics, or incorporated with other desserts, such as a jelly layer on a cake.Agar-agar is approximately 80% fiber, so it can serve as a great intestinal regulator. Its bulk quality is behind one of the latest fad diets in Asia, the a Kanten diet. Once ingested, kanten triples in size and absorbs water. This results in the consumer feeling more full. Recently this diet has received some press coverage in the United States as well. The diet has shown promise in obesity studies.
In Indian cuisine, agar agar is known as "China Grass" and is used for making desserts.
( Source- Wikipedia)

So after a lot of brain storming and looking for things to make, I decided to use it exactly the same way as I did gelatin and used a recipe that I already had for a Peach Pie using yoghurt, just substituting the gelatin with the China Grass.
I had a lot of doubts about it as I was not sure if it was going to set ultimately, but I carried on regardless. The recipe called for 1 tablespoon of gelatin and this was something which proved very tricky. Not sure how much was a correct quantity of China Grass to substitute, I just forged ahead with the entire quantity that Srivalli sent. I had seen other recipes calling for 5 grams of China Grass but again I was not sure how much she sent. But thankfully the entire dessert set ( I will not say it was very well set, it was still pretty wobbly. Maybe, I need to up the quantity next time round).
In all this, I have to recount my kitchen disaster which almost happened. I left the china grass after dissolving to cool down before I added it to the yoghurt mixture. When I was ready to add it, IT had already set into this mass of jelly. I promise, it was still warm like I was supposed to keep it but it was this wobbly nicely set jelly. Anyway, I still added it to the mixture. I now had this nice tasting creamy base with all the absolutely hardened china grass bits floating in it. OOPS!!! You can say OOPS again. I just put the whole thing into the blender, said a little prayer and whirred it a bit. The bits disintegrated quite nicely and I poured into the crust, said another little prayer, and placed it into the fridge.
Yipppee!! It set in a nice wobbly fashion.
But the final product was quite delicious and looked interesting too until it started to collapse as I began taking the pictures. But it sure tasted good and I finally consoled myself that THAT is the bottomline, isn't it?

Now for the recipe....

200 grams Marie biscuits powdered
50 grams butter melted
2 tablespoons sugar powdered

600 grams yoghurt ( before draining the whey)
1 cup sugar
200 grams cream, whipped
5 grams (?) China grass ( or substituted with 1 tablespoon gelatin)
3/4 cup of water

1 can peaches drained
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons sugar


Mix the biscuit crumbs, butter and sugar and press well into a pie dish to make a crust. Put in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.
Cut 4 peach halves into small pieces and puree the remaining in the blender.
Tie the yoghurt in a muslin cloth till all the whey drains out. Mix in the sugar well.
Soak the China Grass in water and put on very low heat and cook until dissolved well. KEEP WARM.
When bearably hot, add to the drained curd and sugar mixture.
Add the whipped cream to this.
Put the chopped peach bits on the crust.
Pour the curd, cream mixture on top. Leave to set in the refrigerator
In the meantime, mix the pureed peaches with the cornflour and the sugar and cook it over a low flame till it thickens and becomes glossy. Cool it down to room temperature.
When the dessert is set, pour the pureed peaches over. Leave to set fully and garnish with cream and mint leaves.
To keep this awesome chain going, I am sending my secret ingredient to Laavanya of Hope she enjoys it and makes something interesting with it. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gajjar Halwa and Celebrating the 10K milestone

Yes!!! Finally!!! Waited for a long time. I used to dream about it. When I first started the blog, I used to get so excited each time I got a hit. Everyday was something to look forward to. Get up wondering, how many new people have seen my blog today?

Then came along Food Blog Desam and my slow interaction with my fellow bloggers , and the numbers grew exponentially. It was a slow but very steady growth.

And now here I am having touched the 10,000 mark. ( I remember a movie, Twins where Danny Devito on hearing he could make 10 million dollars says "ten million dollars" in many different tones. Now if only I could write the words ten thousand in different ways. )
Ten thousand is a landmark figure and I am thrilled to be here.

To celebrate, I made Gajjar Halwa.

I once met a cook at a Guest House who was an old Sindhi man. He taught me this version of Gajjar Halwa. He is now no more but memories of his delicious Gajjar Halwa stay on.

It is a time consuming progress. Not laborious, just time consuming. Simple ingredients, and a very delectable result.

Gajjar Halwa is a hot favorite at home. Come December, we wait for the " Delhi" carrots to come in(the purple variety). Immediately we buy a few kilograms and now we are all set.


1 kg Purple carrots washed and peeled

1.5 litres milk ( seems like a lot but that is the key to yummy gajjar halwa)

350 grams sugar

3 tablespoons ghee

1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

1 tablespoon each cashewnuts, almonds and raisins fried in a little ghee


Grate the carrots. Cook along with the milk till all the milk gets absorbed ( I warned you, it was going to be time consuming). This should easily take about an hour.

When done, the milk would have condensed into milk solids along with the cooked carrot.
Now add the ghee. Fry for a bit longer and then add the sugar. Keep cooking till the sugar dissolves well and is absorbed into the halwa.

Garnish with cashews, almonds and raisins and serve hot.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Citrus Cake and Taste of Oranges

As mentioned in my earlier post here, the change of seasons brings the freshest of fruits and vegetables. Right now with winter on our heels, the market is flooded with delicious kamala oranges. I think nature also knows what is good for us and when. Oranges with their high Vitamin C content helps protect us against colds and any other passing infections. And sure enough, right on cue, oranges come right when we need them to.

Oranges are one fruit that the children really enjoy. Even if they are a little tart now and then, they still down them at a furious pace. Oranges are supposed to have a high satiety factor even compared to bananas.

Oranges are such a versatile fruit. Can be used in so many different ways. Cakes, desserts, juices, cooking, just by itself... the list goes on.

The other day a friend asked for a cake for a bake sale. I had been wanting to make this cake for a long long time. This then became the perfect one to make for the sale.

It is an easy recipe which can be made by anyone, even rank beginners.


2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon essence
1/2 cup orange juice

For glace frosting:

2 cups icing sugar/ confectioners sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
juice of 1 lime


Sift together all the dry ingredients ( flour, baking powder, salt).

Cream the softened butter and sugar till light. Add lemon essence and eggs one at a time. Mix well.

Add milk and the dry ingredients and continue to beat till well mixed.

Bake in a greased and lined 9 X 13 inch pan at 175 deg C for about 25 minutes

When the cake is still hot, take out from the pan and poke holes in it. Pour orange juice over it till it gets soaked.

Frost the cake.

Frosting method:

Sift the icing sugar. Heat the orange juice and mix with the icing sugar and lemon juice. Pour over the cake and leave to set.

Decorate with sprinkles.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Traditional Shortbread and Sharing Recipes

How many of you have found people out there who simply hate sharing recipes? I have found many many such folk. I have had strange experiences in this. When you taste something that a good cook has made and ask them for the recipe, they prevaricate. For instance, once I had the most amazing fried rice at a friend's place. So I asked her how she made it. She said ( these are her words and I quote) " Oh, so easy, just take cooked rice, add some salt and whatever vegetables you have on hand and toss it all together" She simply refused to elaborate beyond that. Obviously I got the message and did not probe further.

Then another friend who is a fabulous baker said she did not like to share her recipes because we work hard at it, try out many different variations before we strike gold ( the analogy is like kissing a number of frogs before finding the prince). She said that we do all the hard work and people simply enjoy the fruit of our labour. So she is particular about sharing recipes only with friends who share their recipes with her.

Now as a blogger, that goes completely against the grain. Don't you agree? Here we are, happy to share (for absolutely no fee) all our hard work over the years. Not just our hard work but even that of our mothers and mothers in law and grandmothers also. It is simply for the joy of giving and sharing. Each of us brings to the table, foods and recipes that we have tried and tested and perfected. Much blood and sweat and tears has gone into it. I cannot imagine not sharing a recipe.
Anyway, now for Shortbread...
Shortbread is traditionally a Scottish cookie which is now synonymous with Christmas. It has a deliciously crumbly buttery texture which simply melts in the mouth.
Shortbread is a type of biscuit/cookie which is traditionally made from one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts all purpose flour although other ingredients like ground rice or cornflour are sometimes added to alter the texture. Shortbread is so named because of its crumbly texture(from an old meaning of the word short). The cause of this texture is its high fat content, provided by the butter. The related word shortening refers to any fat that may be added to produce a short (crumbly) texture. The term "short" is used in reference to the fact that the fat molecules inhibit the formation of long gluten strands, making it "short". (source - Wikipedia)
This is an easy recipe that I learnt when in college.
100 grams Butter
1 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup Rice flour
3/4 cup icing sugar/ confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Sift all the dry ingredients together.
Cut in the butter into the flour mixture and mix well till a stiff dough forms.
press out into a 9 inch circle.
Score into wedges and bake at 170 deg C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tutti Frutti Cookies and not posting enough

Now what does one say about not posting for such a long time? For sure, it is not that I have become lazy or lost interest in my blog. I am sure being busy on all fronts in life should qualify as enough reason for not blogging. But the blog is not too far from my thoughts. It eats at me every morning when I realise one more day has passed without anything new on here.

This is now a far cry from my earlier post on being addicted. So now I have decided that If I can't do it then I can't do it. No pressure, right? Hopefully I should be able to accelerate the cooking, photo taking and the posting to keep the momentum going.

Let me quickly get to the point now.

Doesn't the name Tutti Frutti Cookies make you feel a kid again? Some things are always associated with childhood and I think the word tutti frutti features right on top of that list. I loved tutti frutti ice cream as a kid. How many of you remember that silly ball ice cream? I think Kwality made that. It was only ordinary vanilla ( not that vanilla can ever be ordinary) But we would simply die to eat that. And then carefully wash it out and use the plastic to play for a bit. I cannot still understand my fascination for that but well... thats how childhood is, I guess.
Anyway, here is the quick and easy recipe.
180 grams Butter
1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
3 cups All purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
200 grams tutti frutti (candied peel)
Soften the butter and add the brown sugar. Mix well till light and creamy.
Add the egg and vanilla essence and mix well again.
Sift the dry ingredients. Add to the butter sugar mixture.
Add the tutti frutti. Roll into logs of 2 inch diameter.
Put it into the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
Cut into thin slices and bake at 170 deg C for about 8 minutes or till done.
Cool and enjoy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dal Palak

I used to hate spinach as a child and those days Popeye wasn't such a popular character. So I received absolutely zilch inspiration on that front. I simply hated the sight of spinach in any form. I don't think I even tried it once. I guess just the look of it (so green and bursting with goodness and health) that was so unappealing. It used to make an appearance in many avatars and find its way on to the dining table ever so often but no, I would not touch it.

One day when my mom was out of town, I came back from college and I was simply starving. You know the of feeling rats gnawing in the tummy and all that. I went into the kitchen looking for something yummy to eat. To my horror, all I saw in the fridge was rice and palak dal. OMG!!! That was the scariest thing to happen to me ever. But by now I was starving. I had no choice in the matter. Took the rice, added some dal very gingerly, put in lots and lots of ghee and heated the whole thing up in hopes that it will morph into something that I loved. But no, the gods were not on my side. It still remained the same vile looking palak dal and rice..

Put the whole thing into a bowl and sat at the table with a book for company (mom wasn't there, remember?). Put one spoon of it into my mouth. I cannot even start to describe the shock I got.

It was heavenly. Tasted so good. Till today I cannot say if I loved the taste because I was hungry or because it just tasted yummy. But ever since then, it has remained one of my favorite dals. And has triggered my tastebuds into loving all the different varieties of greens.

So now I dont ever refuse anything until I taste it once and the same rule applies to the kids too. One taste and if you still don't like it, then its ok, you don't have to eat it. But one taste is mandatory.

So here goes my mom's version of the Palak Dal


1 Bunch Palak ( maybe about 100 gms)
6 cloves of garlic peeled (if the smaller garlic is used, feel free to put in more)
1 teaspoon jeera
1 teaspoon oil
1 cup toor dal washed and boiled till done
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
salt to taste


Wash and chop the spinach finely.

Heat oil in the kadai and when medium hot, add the jeera and fry till it sizzles.

Add garlic at this point.

When the garlic is browned nicely, pour the dal into the kadai. Add salt and chilli powder.

When it starts to boil add the finely chopped spinach leaves. Heat through for about 5 minutes till the leaves start to wilt.

Switch off the heat.

Serve hot with rice or chapatis.

Note: The garlic adds a lot of taste to the dal. So feel free to use a little more than the quantity I have mentioned.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Badam Halwa and Happy Deepavali

Deepavali – The festival of lights… The festivities are all set to begin.
It is a magical time when everyone is in high spirits - full of joy and happiness. The atmosphere is absolutely thrilling and excitement is at an all time high whether young or old.

With Deepavali round the corner, one can sense the excitement slowly building up. Children wait eagerly for the roadside firecracker shops to set up shop. Families make the dreaded but absolutely necessary trip to chaotic T Nagar in the hunt for the perfect Deepavali dress, sari, outfit…. Everyone starts planning for the special day. Gifts to be given are decided on. Gifts are also received with a great deal of joy.

In a nutshell, Deepavali can be said to be a festival celebrating shopping, eating, fireworks, eating, gift giving, eating, lighting diyas, eating, getting fat. Agree with me?

Menus for the lunch are decided and of course how can one forget the sweets (the downfall of all dieters and weight watchers)?? I think nowadays, sweets are the most important part of Deepavali. Everyone is on the look out for that scrumptious sweet recipe that they can try out.

But hold it right there. There are conditions: 1) It has to be easy to make and quick and 2) it has to be different from what the others will make.

So I tried out a Badam Halwa recipe in preparation for Deepavali. Now when it comes around, I will have the perfect sweet to make.

This was one of the simplest things to make. Not too many ingredients and no complicated steps in the preparation process.

Now for the Almond Halwa...


1 ½ cup almonds
1 ½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons ghee
A few strands saffron dissolved in a teaspoon of hot milk
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
½ cup water


Heat 2 cups of water. Put the almonds in. Boil for a minute. Take it off the heat. Peel the almonds.
Grind in the mixie along with the milk till it is a smooth paste.
Heat the sugar with the water till it starts boiling. Add the almond paste and keep stirring well to avoid any lumps and making sure that it does not stick to the bottom of the vessel. Add the saffron milk mixture now. Add ghee a little at a time.
Stir till it becomes thick. (Note: It gets a lot thicker on cooling.)
Add cardamom powder and take off the heat.
Serve cool.

BTW: There is this description of eating Badam Halwa which says it all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Macaroni Hotpot

This name itself is so cute, isn't it? One just feels like immediately digging in into this hot and comforting sounding food. Well this certainly does live up to its name. It is hot, cheesy and very comforting. That too with the weather in Chennai the way it is right now, all wet and rainy and shockingly enough COLD ( can you believe it?), one feels like eating foods that make one's insides all warm and (sorry to use the word again) comforted.

I had eaten this many many years ago at a friend's place. But never really thought of asking her how to make it or the recipe. But I simply remembered it as a delicious dish, which my kids also enjoyed.

The other day while going through a Tarla Dalal cookbook I chanced upon this recipe. It immediately rang a bell. (imagine that you are reading a comic book and when the character gets a brilliant idea, this bulb lights up above the characters head?? It was exactly like that !!!) I remembered instantly that this was what I had tasted at R's place.
Quickly took out all the ingredients and assembled it and then popped it in the oven.
Out came this delicious dish...
Any tweaking of the recipe will involve 1) cutting the vegetables into small bits rather than the rounds she has suggested and 2) maybe at some point add more tomatoes/tomato paste and substituting the baked beans with corn. Will give an update when I make it with corn.
Now for the recipe....
100 grams shell or elbow macaroni
1 can Baked beans
3 capsicums, diced into 1 inch bits
3 onions, chopped into 1 inch bits
4 cloves, garlic minced
4 Tomatoes, skinned and chopped finely
5 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
salt to taste
100 grams cooking cheese, grated
Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water till 'al dente'( 80 % done) and drain. It cooks further during the baking process and we dont want it all breaking it up. It should hold its shape even after the baking process.
Heat the butter in a pan and add the onions and the minced garlic.
When it gets translucent, add the capsicum and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy.
Add the baked beans, tomato puree, red chilli flakes, macaroni and salt.
Put into a baking dish and generously sprinkle grated cooking cheese over and bake at 200 deg C for about 20 mins till the top is bubbling.
Serve hot. You can serve some garlic bread with it, if desired.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Malpuas, Hot and Sweet

90% of my working life has been in the hotel business, having done my hotel management. I loved working in that industry especially in the Food & Beverage department (no prizes for guessing why!!! I guess my interest in food was just blossoming then). But when I settled into work, I gravitated towards the Banquets which was very interesting. I helped in planning menus and execution of the dinners/parties/weddings. It helped me really develop an interest in food and understand the whole concept of menu planning. However much all this is taught theoretically, it is only when you do something practically that it is understood well. Also, I learnt a lot about the various cuisines of India because wedding menu planning is whole different ball game compared to dinner menus.

One very special dish on the menu which was often requested for, particularly for weddings would be hot Malpuas made on the spot and served along with Rabdi or vanilla ice cream. It was simply divine. I looked forward to this being featured on the menu because then I would have a yummy dessert to look forward to after a hard day's work. That was back in the day when I did not even look at the calorie count of anything. The combination of really piping hot Malpuas with ice cold rabdi or vanilla ice cream has to be tasted to be believed. It is the ultimate waistline busting dessert. It is so calorie laden, that even one look at it makes one gain a few pounds.

Malpuas are usually made of full cream mixed with flour and fried (albeit shallow, that is it's only saving grace) in ghee. It is then dipped into a hot sugar syrup flavored delicately with saffron and cardamom. And if one thought that the calorie intake was not enough at this point, it is served with chilled Rabdi.

Simply typing all this is making me feel I have put on a couple of pounds.

But now everything cannot be forsaken in life, can it? We have to have these treats every now and then.

So I lightened up the recipe and made it a little less calorie dense. Used milk instead of cream and shallow fried it in oil instead of ghee and on a non stick so that reduced the oil. This at least made me feel better about eating Malpuas.

So let me quickly move on to the recipe....


100 grams Maida (all purpose flour)
100 grams fine Rava (semolina)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
A few strands saffron
4 cardamoms peeled and coarsely powdered

For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon rose water (optional)

Oil/ghee to fry


Make a batter with maida, rava, sugar and milk. The batter should be thick like idly batter. Add a little more milk if the batter is too thick. Add the saffron and cardamom to it. Keep aside for ½ an hour.
In a deep dish mix the sugar and water and boil till it becomes thick. Skim off any impurities. Add the rose water.
Heat the oil or ghee is a shallow frying pan till medium hot. Pour in a little batter and make a small circle of about 3 inches diameter.
Fry till it is golden and turn over and fry the other side as well.
Dip into the sugar syrup for a minute and strain.
Serve hot along with chilled rabdi.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rabdi and Reminiscing About Childhood

I remember as a kid, everytime we had a party or an official do at home, my mother's favorite dessert to make would be rabdi with jelly. She was not at all culinarily challenged, but for some strange reason this would show up again and again. Even if there were other desserts, this just had to be on the menu. It was total overkill, even if it was tasty overkill.

At that time, I think my siblings and I were heartily sick of rabdi with anything and so it was many years before I ventured close to anything which looked, smelt or tasted like Rabdi. But then as you grow up, childhood tastes start haunting you and you just have to recreate the taste for yourself. They take on a larger than life image (or should I say taste in this case?) in your mind's eye and soon you start craving for those tastes even if it is something you once hated.

So, sure enough I started wanting to eat rabdi again (obviously many many years after mom stopped making it).

Rabdi is one of the easiest desserts to make and goes awesomely well with any hot dessert like hot jalebis made on the spot, hot gulab jamuns , malpuas... rabdi pretty much goes with anything. Need I mention rabdi falooda, (as if I was not drooling enough already. To think I hated it so much at one time).

Think now I should head on and give you the actual recipe before I digress into other things.


2 Litres full cream milk
½ cup sugar
6-8 almonds slivered
10- 12 cardamoms, peeled and coarsely powdered
Few strands saffron dissolved in a teaspoon of hot milk


Heat milk in a deep dish. Bring gently to a rolling boil. Reduce the flame and continue boiling the milk. Scrape/skim the top cream and keep adding it to the boiling milk. When reduced to half its quantity, add the sugar, cardamom powder and saffron. Garnish with slivered almonds. Chill and serve either by itself or with any of the items mentioned above.

This also goes as my entry for Think Spice Think Saffron hosted by Sunita of Sunitas World. Hope I am not too late.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Corn on Toast

Some days the kids come home with a heartfelt request. "Mom, I don't want regular food. Can't I have something different and yummier to eat?" It is always such a challenge. We have to get the fine balance of yummy and nourishing bang on. That's after all a mother's job. But I guess, sometimes its ok to have just a hearty snack even if it is not that nutritionally sound.

But nice and easy AND quick have to be the hallmarks of most things we make. One of the easiest snacks that I have made has to be corn on toast. It is hot, very filling and very easy on the tastebuds. And corn being the ultimate comfort food, the kids love it. And this recipe is pretty open to any amount of tweaking to suit personal tastes.


2 cups corn steamed/boiled till done. (Can use corn niblets too. That does not need any steaming and tastes even better)
2-3 onions, chopped finely
1 green chilli chopped finely
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon italian seasoning (I use the sachets that come with the pizza order)
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
4- 6 tablespoons grated cheese (I use Amul)


Heat butter on a medium flame. Add chopped onions and green chilli.
Fry till onions turn translucent.
Add the flour and fry for about a minute till it get gets cooked but not brown.
Add milk, stirring all the time so that there are no lumps.
Let it cook for about 10 minutes till it thickens and a saucy consistency is reached. Add the salt, pepper, seasoning and chilli flakes.
Let it get to be thick and not very liquidy(?). It should have the consistency of thick idly batter or thick cake batter.
Now add the cheese and stir till it melts.
Add the corn at this stage.

Serve hot on buttered toast.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Quest For The Perfect Brownie

I am surrounded by a family of chocoholics. Chocolate in any form is devoured at a rapid pace in this household. I have yet to see this level of dedication to chocolate anywhere else. There are people in my family who at a chinese restaurant, will eat lychees with chocolate ice cream. That is the truth, cross my heart. There are others ( you know who you are!!!) whose idea of heaven on earth is Death by Chocolate eaten at Corner House, Bangalore. No visit to Bangalore is complete without one visit there. Damn the diet, and forget the calorie count. Everything is left by the wayside when it comes to chocolate for all of them.

Sure enough, genetics ensured that my son ended up being a chocoholic too. I have seen him "Drool"... Yes drool, no other word fits the description of him salivating when he sees a bowl of decadent chocolate mousse or an absolutely yummy chocolate truffle cake. When we are out at dinner, he will ensure that he orders the most chocolate saturated item on the menu. And eat it with such pleasure too. It is most amusing to watch him savour every bite of his chocolate.

In trying to satisfy his chocolate cravings I have been on the lookout for a nice fudgy brownie recipe almost forever (you know you can never have that absolutely perfect recipe for anything). Looked and looked and tried out many many recipes.

Finally got this one a couple of years back from a friend and then realised later that it was from the Hersheys site. The recipe is easy and the brownies come out really fudgy and chocolatey. For me the final approval obviously came from my son who rated it as "very nice, mummy. Can I have some more? Plenty more?"

It has a nice crumbly outside, and the insides are 100% melty gooey chocolate goodness. Needless to say, it is pretty rich (I mean, have you looked at the ingredients? :)

Here's the recipe....

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts(optional)


Heat oven to 170 deg C. Grease and flour 9-inch square baking pan. A suggestion here is to use parchment paper or foil to line the pan otherwise it may stick to the bottom.

Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl.

Add eggs and beat well with spoon.

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.

Stir in nuts, if desired.

Spread batter evenly into the pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Dust with powdered sugar for decoration.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Possible Reasons For Use Of Spices

This is an extremely interesting article on the reasons why some cultures tend to use more spices than the others. I always wondered why Indian food was so full of spice as opposed continental food which is pretty bland.
A lot in this article made sense to me.

Food Bacteria-Spice Survey Shows Why Some Cultures Like It Hot

Fans of hot, spicy cuisine can thank nasty bacteria and other foodborne pathogens for the recipes that come -- not so coincidentally -- from countries with hot climates. Humans' use of antimicrobial spices developed in parallel with food-spoilage microorganisms, Cornell University biologists have demonstrated in a international survey of spice use in cooking.
The same chemical compounds that protect the spiciest spice plants from their natural enemies are at work today in foods from parts of the world where -- before refrigeration -- food-spoilage microbes were an even more serious threat to human health and survival than they are today, Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman report in the March 1998 issue of the journal"Quarterly Review of Biology".
"The proximate reason for spice use obviously is to enhance food palatability," says Sherman, an evolutionary biologist and professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell. "But why do spices taste good? Traits that are beneficial are transmitted both culturally and genetically,and that includes taste receptors in our mouths and our taste for certain flavors. People who enjoyed food with antibacterial spices probably were healthier, especially in hot climates. They lived longer and left more offspring. And they taught their offspring and others: 'This is how tocook a mastodon.' We believe the ultimate reason for using spices is to kill food-borne bacteria and fungi."
Sherman credits Billing, a Cornell undergraduate student of biology at thetime of the research, with compiling many of the data required to make the microbe-spice connection: More than 4,570 recipes from 93 cookbooks representing traditional, meat-based cuisines of 36 countries; the temperature and precipitation levels of each country; the horticultural ranges of 43 spice plants; and the antibacterial properties of each spice.
Garlic, onion, allspice and oregano, for example, were found to be the best all-around bacteria killers (they kill everything), followed by thyme,cinnamon, tarragon and cumin (any of which kill up to 80 percent of bacteria). Capsicums, including chilies and other hot peppers, are in the middle of the antimicrobial pack (killing or inhibiting up to 75 percent of bacteria), while pepper of the white or black variety inhibits 25 percentof bacteria, as do ginger, anise seed, celery seed and the juices of lemons and limes.
The Cornell researchers report in the article, "Countries with hotter climates used spices more frequently than countries with cooler climates.Indeed, in hot countries nearly every meat-based recipe calls for at least one spice, and most include many spices, especially the potent spices,whereas in cooler counties substantial fractions of dishes are prepared without spices, or with just a few." As a result, the estimated fraction of food-spoilage bacteria inhibited by the spices in each recipe is greater in hot than in cold climates.
Accordingly, countries like Thailand, the Philippines, India and Malaysia are at the top of the hot climate-hot food list, while Sweden, Finland and Norway are at the bottom. The United States and China are somewhere in the middle, although the Cornell researchers studied these two countries'cuisines by region and found significant latitude-related correlations.Which helps explain why crawfish etoufée is spicier than New England clam chowder.
The biologists did consider several alternative explanations for spice use and discounted all but one. The problem with the "eat-to-sweat" hypothesis-- that people in steamy places eat spicy food to cool down with perspiration -- is that not all spices make people sweat, Sherman says,"and there are better ways to cool down -- like moving into the shade."The idea that people use spices to disguise the taste of spoiled food, he says, "ignores the health dangers of ingesting spoiled food." And people probably aren't eating spices for their nutritive value, the biologist says, because the same macronutrients are available in similar amounts in common vegetables, which are eaten in much greater quantities.
However the micronutrient hypothesis -- that spices provide trace amounts of anti-oxidants or other chemicals to aid digestion -- could be true and still not exclude the antimicrobial explanation, Sherman says. However,this hypothesis does not explain why people in hot climates need more micro-nutrients, he adds. The antimicrobial hypothesis does explain this.
The study of Darwinian gastronomy is a bit of a stretch for an evolutionary biologist like Sherman, who normally focuses his research on the role of natural selection in animal social behavior and is best known for his studies of one of nature's most social (and unusual-looking) creatures, the naked mole-rat ("Heterocephalus glaber") of Africa. But eating is definitely one of the more social behavior of "Homo sapiens"s, he maintains, and it's a good way to see the interaction between cultural evolution and biological function. "I believe that recipes are a record ofthe history of the co evolutionary race between us and our parasites. The microbes are competing with us for the same food," Sherman says."Everything we do with food -- drying, cooking, smoking, salting or adding spices -- is an attempt to keep from being poisoned by our microscopic competitors. They're constantly mutating and evolving to stay ahead of us.One way we reduce food-borne illnesses is to add another spice to the recipe. Of course that makes the food taste different, and the people who learn to like the new taste are healthier for it."
For biology student Billing, the spice research for a senior honors thesis took her to an unfamiliar field, food science, and to the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, where the library contains one of the world's largest collections of cookbooks. Now that the bacteria-spice connection is revealed, librarians everywhere may want to cross-index cookbooks under "food safety." And spice racks may start appearing in pharmacies.

Top 30 Spices with Antimicrobial Properties
(Listed from greatest to least inhibition of food-spoilage bacteria)
Source: "Antimicrobial Functions of Spices: Why Some Like It Hot,"Jennifer Billing and Paul W. Sherman, "The Quarterly Review of Biology",Vol. 73, No.1, March 1998

1. Garlic
2. Onion
3. Allspice
4. Oregano
5. Thyme
6. Cinnamon
7. Tarragon
8. Cumin
9. Cloves
10. Lemon grass
11. Bay leaf
12. Capsicums
13. Rosemary
14. Marjoram
15. Mustard
16. Caraway
17. Mint
18. Sage
19. Fennel
20. Coriander
21. Dill
22. Nutmeg
23. Basil
24. Parsley
25. Cardamom
26. Pepper (white/black)
27. Ginger
28. Anise seed
29. Celery seed
30. Lemon/lime

Source of article:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This, That and Dots on my Ceiling

For the last week, I have been laid up in bed with a bad back. Having been advised total bedrest by the doctor, I looked for occupying my time productively. Therefore to keep myself really busy and productive all day, I have been counting all the spots on my ceiling. I now know for a fact that there are a) few patches which have been badly painted.. b) there is one little spider's web which needs to be removed... and c) a clock who's(?) hands dont keep proper time...

I have so much time on my hands and nothing to do with it. I really miss working on my blog (on that all important task in my life these days). Poring over all the other bloggers posts. In all this I have had enough time think of all the new and exciting foods that I am going to make and feature in my blog.Visions of me cooking these delectable dishes, turning out these picture perfect creations, getting a million comments and a gazillion hits.. all these have been floating before my eyes. Well, a girl can dream, can't she?

But all that will still take some time till I am completely fit.

In the meantime, I decided as I can neither cook nor take those pictures and as I can at least type now, I shall be posting articles from sourced from the internet that I think may be of interest to all. Sounds like a good idea? It will keep me from climbing the walls for sure ( I am not really sure which walls and what climbing I am really in a position to do) but as you can gather, its only a figure of speech.

The articles will feature anything that I find interesting, of note, important, humorous, food based or otherwise....

To start off, here is a sampling of jokes on candy and desserts.



1. Q: What happens when you eat too much candy?A: It makes you THICK to your stomach.

2. Q: What do they call a man who abandoned his diet?A: DESSERTER.
3. Ice cream is exquisite... --what a pity it isn't illegal.

4. The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole, and the realist sees the calories.

5. A birthday greeting: For someone special as you, only ANGELFOOD would do. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

6. Did you hear there are two suspects in Two Ton Charley's death? --BEN and JERRY.

7. Don't eat too much fudge, or else you will have so much pudge you won't be able to budge. --Daniel Worona "The Candyman"

8. You know you're a mom if... Popsicles have become a staple food.

9. Mexican candy makes my taste buds say "OLE!"


11. Dieters are being advised to avoid drinking Pepsi, "THE PAUSE THAT REFLESHES."


Hope you enjoyed that!!!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Apple Pie

Mother nature has really perfected herself. Each day the sun rises and sets, moon waxes and wanes when they should. Seasons come and go just when they should. The nicest part of all these changes are that the fruit and vegetables also change. One really looks forward to summer when you know mangoes will flood the market. In December, it is the Kamala oranges from Nagpur. Come February and the grapes are there. Though nowadays with globalisation, the world is getting to be a smaller place and you seem to get most fruit all through the year. I guess it must be autumn in the Southern hemisphere when it is spring in the Northern parts. (Like a friend would say... If he wanted a drink a little earlier in the day then he would simply justify it by saying it was 7 pm in some other part of world and would very conveniently imagine himself there enjoying his tipple.)

But in India, during its season each fruit or vegetable takes pride of place. If it is apples, mangoes, oranges, cauliflowers or peas then every street corner you see nothing but that... on handcarts, on pavements, in stores.
It just makes you want to run into the kitchen and make something using them.

At home, come September ( remember the old Ventures tune?) then it is Apple Pie time. If time is a constraint, then it becomes Apple Crumble.

This time I had enough and more time on my hands as you can see. I had enough time to try out the lattice on top which I learnt from here.

Now for the recipe...

For the crust:

400 grams all purpose flour.
200 grams butter ( really cold and hard)
1 teaspoon sugar

For the Filling:

6 apples sliced finely
3 tablespoon flour
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder


For the crust

Sieve the flour and add the sugar into it.
Put in the butter into the flour mixture.
The key here is using absolutely cold butter. Using a knife, cut the butter into little pieces in the flour itself. Then using only your finger tips, mix the butter into the flour till it starts looking like fresh bread crumbs.
Put a couple of ice cubes into 1/4 cup cold water. Use this very cold water a tablespoon at a time to gather the dough together. Don't make the dough too mushy or you will have a hard time rolling it out.
Keep it in the fridge immediately.
The idea of keeping everything so cold is that it helps make the final shortcrust pastry really flaky.
Divide the dough into two. Roll out one half to a size a little larger than the pie dish you are using. Place it in the pie dish. Use a fork to make little holes in the base crust to prevent it from rising while baking.
The other half of the dough can now be rolled out and strips cut to make into a lattice top after piling the apple filling.

Now for the filling.

Slice the apples. Mix in the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pile it into the base crust till it is about 2 to 3 inches above the pie plate.

Make the lattice on top otherwise just roll out and place another full crust on top.

Bake at 180 deg C for about 30 minutes or till the top is golden brown and the apple filling is bubbling.

Another tip is that if you want a shiny look then you can lightly coat the top of the crust with an egg wash ( a mixture of equal quantities of egg and water) before baking.

Friday, September 21, 2007


You know the old rut. " Ma, You never make anything nice nowadays. Its always soooooo bbbboooorrrring". Somehow whatever we make, the grass is always greener on the other side. A vegetable made in a friend's house is always "ssoooo yummy!!!!!" whereas the same thing when made at home, will get a response of " yuck, no". Like they say 'ghar ki murgi dal barabar' ( translated as a chicken from ones own house is equivalent to an ordinary dal)
Its always a challenge to come up with nutritious yet tasty, new but not too different tastes...

So thats something I am always on the look out for, new recipes loaded with nutrition, and of course lot of vegetables hidden in it.

A few years ago on a holiday, I had falafel . The taste was so familiar to my palate, but yet so different.
But I somehow forgot about it after that first time. The other day just scouting around all the blogs looking for something for the MBP event on bread, I came across a reference to a falafel recipe on Nupur's blog. It was a part of the Pita sandwich. I had anyway decided on the whole wheat pita bread for an event. So this was just taking the concept forward and going the whole hog.

It looked so yummy and interesting, I had to give it a try immediately. So here goes.

I used the same recipe she did with wonderful results.

No changes at all. It was yum.

I also made the "taratour sauce" to go with it.

I had to make the tahini from scratch. I blended
1/2 cup lightly roasted sesame seeds along with
3 tablespoon light sesame oil.

To make the taratour sauce exactly as per her recipe I added
1/2 cup yoghurt,
1 minced garlic clove,
salt to taste ,
2 tablespoon lemon juice,
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder to the

I made pita bread ( recipe here ) and made a pita sandwich. I stuffed the pita with 2-3 falalfels, some sliced iceberg lettuce, and a salad made with diced tomatoes, cucumber, red/yellow/green capsicum, coriander leaves and parsley, salt and pepper.

The final sandwich was very tasty only it lacked that spicy kick that most Indian palates enjoy. So I add a few drops of tabasco to add that hot taste. PERFECT!!!

( BTW, the kids loved it. They thought it was something quite different). I am glad I tried this one out. It will definitely be a repeat at home.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

I quite enjoy baking and I find it quite therapeutic. Usually it is restricted to cakes and cookies and pies. I find that when you get used to making something often, it becomes second nature and there is no challenge involved in it. But on the other hand, when you try something new, it keeps the interest going and you have to concentrate just that little extra to get it right.

The other day a friend of mine gave me a few packets of instant yeast and I was wondering what to do with them. Made baby naans and they were a huge hit as usual.
Coincidentally or as I prefer to call it - divine intervention, I saw Coffee's blog event on MBP: Bread. It was perfect. I had all this yeast and now I had the perfect opportunity to make something new AND send it for an event. So scouting I went. I had been wanting to make pita rounds for a while. The idea of stuffing them with different fillings really appealed to me. Very novel idea and an opportunity for the children to try out something different.

I landed up at Jugalbandi. They had a very nice healthy looking recipe for whole wheat pita bread. I followed their recipe for the most part, except I used 4 cups of whole wheat flour instead of 3.25. I also had to use 2 cups of warm water to make the dough.

Result?? Excellent. The pita bread was soft , round, well puffed and easily separated. I kept in mind that it should not be too brown. Though I have to admit, I missed a few which got toasted to a crisp :(.

I loved their phrase of 70% puff rate. I like to think I had the same result. They were pretty easy to separate even in the 30 % stuck part of the bread.

I stuffed them with falafel and taratour sauce ( recipe follows).

And Coffee: My most favorite aromas in the kitchen will have to be:

1) Strong South Indian coffee percolating in the filter early morning.

2) Ginger/garlic sizzling in the oil when added to the tadka.

3) Brownies baking in the oven.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Avakai - Andhra Food Series

Though from Andhra who are traditional pickle eating people, our family never ate that many pickles. Even if we did, as children, we would wash the mango piece (wash off the spices) and then take little bites from it to eat along with curd rice.

But as I got older, I developed a taste for the famous Andhra pickles. What do you think? Are we genetically wired to like some foods? Or is it that we feel its familiar and therefore end up liking it?

The pickle that I enjoy eating is Avakai which is mango pieces in mustard and chilli powder with oil and salt. The hot chilli taste really appeals to me and in combination with curd rice..?? I cannot describe the heavenly taste. Also, just plain avakai masala with plain hot rice and a dollop of melted ghee????? .. Simply delicious.

But the only thing was that my mom never made pickles back then. Cos we did not consume pickles regularly, it was not the annual routine summer time event. All this changed when I got married. Here every summer, come mango season and the pickle making would start. Jaadis will be washed and thoroughly dried. Powders will be bought.. Scout for good mangoes and then a whole day will go in the pickle making. Mom in law uses the recipe given by her mom in law... and so the tradition goes on. I always thought pickle making to be a hard, laborious process, but actually it is not that hard. Just need to have everything at hand and put it together.

When I heard of Sunitas think spice event on mustard, I thought avakai will be the perfect entry as it typifies the use of mustard. Ava itself means mustard in Telugu and Kai refers to raw fruit. This is my entry for the Think Spice: Mustard event.

This is the recipe handed down to me by my mother in law which was handed down to her by her mother in law. So I can safely say that this is a tried and tested recipe.


1 kg Mango pieces cut with a part of the shell in each
250 grams mustard powder
125 grams chilli powder
250 grams salt
1/4 litre gingelly oil
2 teaspoon turmeric powder


1 teaspoon methi seeds(fenugreek)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds


Mix all the dry powders together.
Heat 2 teaspoon oil and fry seasoning ingredients.
Cool and add with remaining ingredients to the powdered ingredients.
Finally add to it the mango pieces and mix thoroughly.
Store in a DRY clean bottle or Jaadi. It should easily last for about a year.

Main thing to watch out for is that no moisture should come in contact at any point. This will result in the pickle getting spoilt.

UPDATE: I believe this is also called Mavinikai Upinikai in Kannada so this goes as another entry for RCI: Karnataka.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Banana Halwa

For a long time before I started this blog, I used to spend a lot of time reading all these blogs which are now so familiar. Drool over the pictures, sternly make up my mind that I will make this that and the other.
One of the recipes which caught my eye a long time ago was Banana Halwa which I saw in Indira's blog here. Knowing how much I love banana in any form, I was determined to try it for a longest while, but as usual just sat on it. I think this where all these food blogging events come in really handy. One gets down to things just because there is a date by which it has to be submitted.

Finally, today went and picked up the Nendram Pazham and got down to it.
This was an easy enough recipe - very simple and straight forward. I had to tweak it a bit because I did not have a couple of the ingredients. But I have to say the end product did not suffer because of this fact. It was delicious, not too rich and just what I need after my lunch. I have an extremely sweet tooth and this fitted the job to a T.

This is my entry to JFI : Bananas hosted by Mandira of Ahaar

Now for the recipe which I used:


2 nendram pazham
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons all purpose flour mixed in 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cardamom powder

( I missed the lemon juice and cashewnuts as I did not have them handy. Lemon juice may have added that tang and clarified the sugar syrup, I am not sure. Cashews are only a garnish anyway. Also, I used far less ghee than what the original recipe called for as I wanted to watch the calories)


Peel , deseed the Banana fruit. Cut into small chunks.
Pressure cook for about 3 whistles and then when cool, mash in the mixie.
Heat the sugar along with the water. Cook till it reaches a one string consistency.
Mix in the mashed banana till well blended.
After is is a homogenous mass, add the flour / water mixture. Cook again till it looks well cooked. Slowly add the ghee little by little.
Finally add the cardamom powder and cashewnut if using.
Serve. And enjoy the compliments

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chocolate Cake and the Recliner

Recently for my husband's birthday, the kids and I got him this recliner that he had his eye on for a long time. It was one herculean effort to get the recliner up, make space for it in the room, setting it up... But now that it is set up... its a whole new story....

The room duplicates Kurukshetra and the biggest battles now at home resemble mini Mahabharatha yuddhas. Ask me why. Everyone is now is vying for possession of the chair. It is like a land grabber who will not give up for anything on earth. I did not realise how quickly a sweet husband and two lovely children can turn into a bunch of vultures circling their prey. One just has to get up when under him, the other has wriggled in....No one is willing to give an inch. It is a sight to see. To make up for my time on the chair, I end up sitting and rocking myself at 6 in the morning while brushing my teeth. Thats the only time the seat is free for me.... What's a girl to do???? I submit with good grace

Now for the chocolate cake. We made this for his birthday. Turned out well and looked good too.

Heres the recipe...

2 1/4 cup Flour
1 2/3 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Butter softened
2/3 Cocoa
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


Preheat oven to 190 deg C
Grease and flour a 9"X13" pan.
Cream butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla till light and fluffy.
Sift all the dry ingredients till well mixed.
Alternately add flour mixture and water to the creamed mixture.
Pour into the greased pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

PS: When I say grease and flour it means first appl a little butter or vegetable oil to the baseand sides of the baking pan and then dust a little flour on it till there is a light spinkling of flour coating the base and the sides. This helps in freeing the cake from the pan without any mishaps. Otherwise just use parchment paper to line the base after greasing it.

I use an icing when it is for a celebration. But no butter in the icing. I just make a simple glace icing with sugar and cocoa.

1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons hot water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa. Mix in the hot water one teaspoon at a time till the icing is pourable but not runny.
Pour on top of the cake and spread gently with a knife.Put some grated chocolate or some sprinkles on top and leave to set.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Paneer Bhurji

Very often, we get into a rut and don't know what to make for dinner. I am sure a lot of you out there know what I am talking about. At home that is quite a frequent occurence. Then we go back to our good old favorite, paneer. Paneer in any form is a welcome meal at home. But the thing is all of us look for healthy low oil recipes.
This recipe gives us all those and is a wholesome meal with phulkas. It is light and more importantly, it is quick and very easy to make.


250 grams Paneer grated
2 onions chopped finely
2 tomatoes diced finely
2 capsicums diced finely
1 teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
salt to taste

1 tablespoon coriander leaves


Heat oil. When hot add jeera till golden and sizzling.
Add onions and capsicum. Fry till translucent and still crunchy.
Add tomatoes and cook till they start losing their shape before they get mushy.
Add salt and chilli powder.
Finally add grated paneer and garnish with coriander leaves.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Batata Poha and Wives Are Priceless

I read this online today and was most amused by it. I thought I should share it with all of you.

A man came home from work and found his three children
outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty
food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.
The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door
to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding
into the foyer, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had
been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against
one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a
cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys
and various items of clothing.
In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was
spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog
food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the
table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back
He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and
more piles of clothes, looking for is wife. He was worried
she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.
He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way
out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet
towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor.
Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been
smeared over the mirror and walls.
As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled
up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked
up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.
He looked at her bewildered and asked, "What happened
here today?"
She again smiled and answered, "You know every day
when you come home from work and you ask me what in
the world did I do today?"
"Yes," was his incredulous reply.
She answered, "Well, today I didn't do it."
Wives are Priceless, aren't they?

:) Funny isn't it?
Source: Humor World

Now for the Batata Poha:


250 grams thick poha ( flattened rice. Use the thicker version of poha as it does not disinegrate so easily on adding water))
2 potatoes diced really really small
2 onions chopped finely
2 green chillis chopped finely
2 tablespoons coriander leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon oil
juice of 1 small lime
2 tablespoons grated coconut ( optional)


Wash the poha under running water in a colander. Leave to soak for about 1/2 an hour.
Heat oil in a kadai. When medium hot, add the mustard seeds till they crackle.
Add the onions and chopped green chillis and saute till translucent. Add the turmeric powder and immediately add the potatoes. Keep frying till potatoes are cooked. If required sprinkle a little water every now and then to hasten the cooking process and to reduce the sticking.
Add salt at this point. Then add the soaked poha. Mix around for a few minutes and add the lime juice.
Garnish with coriander leaves and grated coconut and serve hot.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kosambari and Random Acts of Kindness

Once long ago I watched a talk show which spoke about random acts of kindness. It really touched a chord within me. We go through life sometimes in such a hurry that we miss a lot of things along the way. We miss a lot of opportunities to help others. Little realising that we need people as much as they need us. One act of kindness performed will come back manyfold even if it is in the form of just smiles. No one need know that we are doing it. It can be our little secret. It is one thing that benefits both the giver and the receiver.

Helping someone disabled cross the street... feeding someone who just needs the next meal... just a smile at people in the lift..volunteer at the school...have a conversation with the elderly at an old age home..just say something nice to everyone you meet a long lost friend.. tell your parents how much they mean to you...there are ways and means. Everything we do need not be linked to money. Each of us has within ourselves the time, patience or talents to give others.

I guess teaching this one value to the kids will help them a lot in the long run. It makes the world a better place to live.

I read on one of these blogs about the blogger helping out in a community kitchen and making things from whatever is available. I am sorry I forgot which one. What a commendable job.. That is exactly what I am talking about. Volunteering your time and effort. Thats all it takes.

Now for the food part... Kosumbri is a salad made typically in Karnataka. It is a salad made up predominantly of lentils along with some raw vegetables and a tadka of mustard seeds.. Garnished with coconut and coriander leaves, it makes a wonderful accompaniment to a meal.

one carrot peeled and grated
one cucumber peeled, seeds removed and grated
3 tablespoons split moong dal soaked for 2 hours
1 green chili chopped finely
1/2 a lime juiced
2 tablespoon grated coconut
1 teaspoon coriander leaves chopped finely
salt to taste


Mix the grated carrot, cucumber, soaked moong dal, grated coconut and green chili.
Add the lime juice and salt when ready to serve ( otherwise the salt will make the cucumber water pour out and will dilute the taste)
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with a meal.