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: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/03/980305053307.htm

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."

Source: http://www.foodanddrinkhumor.freeservers.com/

Hope you enjoyed that!!!