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.