Friday, 31 December 2010

Apple Parsnip Soup

Apple Parsnip Soup

It is the time of the year when a hot soup is by far more comforting than an ice cream. For that reason, I have made up my mind to make more soups. While I was a young child, it was my father that introduced me to soups. He told me how they are usually called appetisers and served as starters. The choice of soups in many Indian restaurants was limited and my favorite was tomato soup. Now that I am in the western world where soups are more popular and by themselves make a meal, I have more options and opportunities to explore. Some days the main meal barely has any vegetable (like idlis etc.) and in those days I think soup is a great way to increase nutrition intake and also fill the stomach with less calories.This is a zero oil/butter dish and here is how I made it to serve two people...

1 apple, cored and peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 brown or white onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Any herb of your choice for garnish (I used coriander leaves)

Boil apple, parsnip and onion together until all are well done. Remove or add water based on desired consistency. I would rather not add too much water initially as I may lose some nutrients if I get rid of some before blending

Blend this in a food processor and season with salt and bring back to boil

Garnish with some chopped fresh herbs and serve hot with some black pepper powder on the table.

How easy was that?
If you want to inrease the richness, you can add some cream or milk after blending. My husband added some dried Italian herbs to the soup and quite liked it. I used eating apple and not cooking apple for this recipe.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Kanchipuram Idli

Kanchipuram Idli

Despite being a south Indian, that too a ‘Tambram’, I was never a big fan of idlis. That was mainly because I find them just too bland and I love dishes full of flavour. Ofcourse, I have grown up and so has my liking to idlis and make it more exciting with sambar and variety of chutneys. There is one idli that has been an absolute all time favourite. It is Kanchipuram idli and I simply love the flavours in it. What a wonderful dish have our ancestors created! Unfortunately I have very often come across recipes that call it Kanchipuram idli but they are just nowhere near it. I remember being served an idli in this name in my canteen and it was basically normal idli with turmeric powder, curry leaves and mustard seeds in it. I went on to ask the staff in the canteen whether Kanchipuram actually knows that this is what is their idli. Many popular chefs unfortunately have specified such recipes which are far from the authentic dish. My grandmother is from Kanchipuram and she is best at making these idlis. For those of you who do not know, Kanchipuram is a beautiful town which is popular for its temples and the silk sarees. So here is the traditional recipe

1/3 cup raw rice
1/3 cup par boiled rice (idli rice)
1/3 cup urd dal
1 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 inch piece dried ginger (called chukku in tamil)
1-2 sprigs curry leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon gingely oil or groundnut/sunflower oil
Salt to taste

Wash and soak the two rice and urd dal together overnight. Grind them to a consistency where they are neither fine nor very coarse (this idli batter should be slightly coarse but you may want to decide how coarse you will like), add salt and allow to ferment overnight or a day

Make a coarse powder of the peppercorns, cumin seeds and dried ginger. I usually use my mortar and pestle as ‘mixie’ may make it too fine. Add this to the batter and add oil and mix

Pour a ladleful in each idli mould and steam for 10-15 minutes. insert a tooth pick or fork and if it comes out almost clean, idli is done.

Serve hot with gun powder (idli milagai podi)

This idli tends to become a bit dry when kept for a day. What mom and grandmom usually do is if there is any leftover (which is seldom), they would crumble it, mix it with gun powder and oil. They will soak up the oil and flavours from the gun powder only to get so much more yummy!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter Masala

Have you been through times when you did not like the food you cooked, especially during the time you might have just started cooking. Then there comes a time when you realise you have actually getting better. Sure I have been through the first and gladly I have been through the second phase as well. This dish turned out to be yet another time when I thought I am getting better especially with North Indian dishes. There was just a couple of spoonful left over and I promptly refrigerated it. I finished it off the next day and realised it tastes even better when rested for a day. The measurement specified will serve 2-3 people.

4 tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon chilly powder
1 teaspoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 tablespoon milk
125 grams of paneer, cubed

Grind the following to a paste
2 medium onions
1 inch piece ginger
4 cashewnuts (ofcourse you can add a wee bit more if you fancy or skip it)

Fry the ground onion-ginger-cashew paste in some oil until the raw smell goes away

Add the tomato puree and cook until oil separates. I noticed that it helps to add a little water to prolong the cooking so it augments the taste

Add all the spice powders specified and also the kasoori methi and salt

Add the butter and stir until it melts

Add milk and paneer and water if needed. Boil until you get the desired consistency

Serve hot with any Indian bread or rice

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffin (eggless)

Chocolate Banana Muffin

It is the holiday season and although the atmosphere at home is certainly not festive, it is holiday anyway. Although we do not celebrate Christmas I thought it may be a good idea to do something that seems a bit festive so my son can have nice memories of this period of the year as he grows up. I have been watching foodnetwork channel often and figured baking would be the first step towards bringing the festive atmosphere although it more or less ended up being the only step this year. I do realise that sometimes we can indulge in some empty calories but somehow I struggle to come to terms with not having anything healthy in something that we put in our mouth. That’s why I decided to keep the muffins not too sweet and also added some currants and may add some more dried fruits next time. Rather than make it just with plain flour I added bit of oatmeal to increase the fibre content. To make it more suitable for adult palate I gave a coating of chocolate on top and kept some uncoated for my wee one. My husband loved it so I can safely say it was a success.

¼ cup oatmeal
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
2 ripe bananas
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
100gm butter
½ cup milk
Handful of currants or raisins or dry fruit of your choice
75 gm grated chocolate
For the chocolate coating, another 75 gm chocolate

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and add the oatmeal and sugar

Add mashed bananas, grated chocolate, currants, melted butter and milk and combine preferably using a spatula. Mix only until everything is well combined and do not overdo. Add more milk if needed so batter comes to spooning consistency.

Put in muffin moulds and bake at 160degC for 20 minutes. To check if they are done insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean, that’s it.

For the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate as per package instructions and spoon on the muffin. Serve!

Never fill the muffin moulds to the top, upto 2/3rd is enough as they will rise in the oven

Monday, 27 December 2010

MysorePak (low effort - shortcut)


Indeed it is true that idle mind is devil’s workshop and I am proving it just now. I have been trying to keep myself engaged by being creative in the kitchen and surprisingly in some cases I have even followed some recipes almost to the letter from some website or book. I need to keep my mind constantly working to get back to normal and what better way than writing and sharing some success stories from my kitchen. Am not exactly in the frame of mind to write a lot of stories now. I must however say that writing a post and dedicating it to my dad made me feel much lighter. Here is a recipe I made as he likes it. I was told it is customary to make some sweet dish on specific days and this was my start. I was in no mood or mind to stand near the stove and stir this recipe to perfection so took the shortcut of baking it. Here is what I did...

1 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar
100g butter

Melt the butter and in a mixing bowl, bring the butter, sugar and besan together to make a smooth paste

Place in a greased ovenproof dish and bake in preheated oven at 160degC for about 15-20 minutes Cool for about five minutes and cut into diamonds and serve!

The measurement I have given may not be ideal for a person with sweet tooth, so you may want to add about half to one more cup of sugar. Some people like Mysorepak soft while some people prefer it a bit hard like how many wedding caterers do. If latter is your preference, bake for bit longer. It keeps well for a few days in an airtight container.

Needless to say, this post is dedicated to me father.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

My Special Dedication

Here is an important lesson I learned moving to a western country and by act of God, I am forced to practise what I learned. When a person moves on from the mortal life, I have heard their relatives saying they would like to celebrate the deceased person’s life. Whether I like it or not, I need to bite the bullet as now is my turn to celebrate my dad’s life. My dad always thought of me as a brave girl and somehow thought it does not matter where I am or what situation I was in, I will always find my way and win. I promise I will be like that and get on with life. A number of values and principles he has taught me have been the foundation of my life and going forward I will teach them to my children as well. Of all the roles he played in his life, as a father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, etc. I think he was the best son any parent could ask for. One of the biggest learning for me from him was to take utmost care of one’s parents, no matter what. I am hoping to live like him in that way and impart that in my children as well as it is aligned with Hinduism as well. He may not be with me physically, but I will make him proud. Appa, I dedicate this post to you and thank you for bringing me up the way you did. For all the good deeds you have done, you will be with the Gods and not have to endure the sufferings of life again! Should God decide otherwise, I hope you will be my child so I can take great care of you!

Am sure whatever good writing skills (certainly meaning it in a humble way that too based on feedback received) I have, were from you so you will always be in everything I write.

May I thank all the readers for bearing with me during this difficult time and special thanks to all those who dropped a note to me and for your prayers. I would also like to thank my mom's friends and our neighbours back home for unfailingly supporting her during this very difficult period and would always be grateful to you. Time and again life shows that friends are forever and friend in need is a friend indeed.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Dahi Bread Chaat (Low Fat version of Dahi Vada)

Dahi Bread Chaat (Low Fat version of Dahi Vada)

For a long time and by that I mean from summer this year I have wanted to try some chaat dish with croutons. Reason I was so inspired by croutons was that without the need to be deep fried, they are so crispy and I thought combining that crispness with something Indian would be a good idea. Well you could fry the bread to make your croutons but they turn out perfectly fine when baked. Anyway, despite the idea being in gestation period for so long I never got to do it. Recently I saw a recipe here, by another blogger and that was the nudge for me. I thought it is time to execute and today I made my version. I chose to take a few bread slices and cut them up and wanted to keep them slightly bigger than usual croutons just so that they resemble our dahi vada or any other chaat. This dish is a combination of western crouton and the south Indian dhahi vada. In the end it tasted very close to our traditional dahi vada. Here is how I did it...

3 slices of bread, crust removed and cut into four pieces
1-2 cups yoghurt slightly beaten
1 inch piece ginger
1 green chilly
Pinches of chilly powder
Few tablespoons boondhi or omapodi for garnish
Few coriander leaves for garnish
Few pinches of chaat masala (optional)
Few drops cooking oil

Put a drop of oil on each slice of bread or skip the oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 180degC for 10 minutes.

Crush the ginger and green chilly and add to beaten yogurt

Pour this yogurt on the bread slices, garnish with omapodi/boondhi, chilly powder, coriander leaves. If you like the flavours from chaat masala sprinkle few pinches of it as well.

Allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so and serve. You could serve it chill as well. You could use readily available croutons instead of toasting the bread in the oven.

I find the salt in the yogurt adequate but if you wish add more salt to the yogurt.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Masoor Dal Pulao (Red Lentil Rice)

Masoor Dal Pulao (Red Lentil Rice)

For almost two weeks now, I have barely had the energy to cook even a basic meal leave alone anything new or special. Unfortunately this time the road to recovery seems so far off that I am not there yet. For the same reason my appetite has come down and the only thing I am able to enjoy is the traditional ‘paruppu sadam’ (pigeon peas mixed with rice and ghee). I was pretty sure I would not get any better staying away from vegetables and hence today I had to drag myself into the kitchen and make an easy and quick recipe which would have dal and vegetables in it. Before gathering the energy I had to send some important emails and then looked for some dal rice recipes. As with most dishes many people have posted many different varieties of recipes and I am just going to add one more to the list! I made it with barely any energy in my body so you can imagine how simple it must be!

¼ cup red lentil (masoor dal), rinsed
¾ cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1 red onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup green peas
½ teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)
½ teaspoon sambar powder (or use a mixture of coriander powder and red chilly powder)
½ -1 teaspoon red chilly flakes
Cooking oil
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder
A piece of whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves

Heat a tablespoon oil in a wok or skillet and add the whole spices. Once the spices heat up, add the rice and fry until it turns colour.

Add a few drops oil to the rinsed dal, add the rice and a cup of water and pressure cook (note that quantity of water may vary depending on the quality of rice. Usually people go with adding two portions of water to one portion of rice but for me, that does not work)

In the wok, heat some oil and add cumin seeds. Once it splutters add the red onion and fry until it changes colour

Add the tomato and peas and cook until done

Add turmeric powder, sambar powder and red chilly flakes and salt and cook for about 3 minutes then add the rice and mix well and remove the whole spices if you prefer

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with a raita or if you have more, make a nice side dish!

This way of frying the rice and pressure cooking helps me keep the grains separate as I am wary of the dal-rice mixture become mushy like a kichdi if I cook it in the saucepan itself. I am going to try this recipe with brown rice next time.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Kadala Curry (Black Chickpea/Channa Curry)

Kadala Curry (Black Chickpea/Channa Curry)

Channa or chickpea is a great source of low fat protein. As it is quite easy to make a curry with it, I usually keep some dry chickpeas as well as tinned ones handy. Despite being more nutritious the black chickpea does not always find a place in my kitchen. I would only buy it if I intend to do anything specific. So this time I had specifically planned to make kadla curry and probably the best accompaniment for it – puttu. This dish however turned out great with rice, chapatti as well. This is different from the typical channa dish as it is more south Indian style, specifically Kerala style. My husband was introduced to this dish in a Keralite run restaurant in Banglore. I never got to taste it and had to guess ingredients based on the description he gave. The first attempt was a while ago and was alright but this was great. Here is how I do it...

1 tin black channa (black chickpea)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 sprig curry leaves
Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon sambar powder (or chilly powder)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

For the masala paste:
1-2 inch long ginger piece
3-5 dry red chillies (adjust according to your preference)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon grated coconut/coconut powder/dessicated coconut
Cooking oil, preferably coconut oil

With the exception of coconut, fry all other ingredients mentioned for masala paste until onion is done. Cool and grind to paste along with coconut and required amount of water

In a skillet/wok, add couple of spoons of oil and once hot add mustard seeds. Allow it to crackle and add turmeric powder, asafoetida and onions and fry until it changes colour

Add the chopped tomatoes and curry leaves and little water and cook until the tomatoes become mushy

Add the chickpea (drained and rinsed), the ground masala paste and sambar powder. Add required amount of water and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and bear in mind that tinned chickpea already have some salt.

Serve hot

Friday, 3 December 2010

Banana Bread Loaf

Banana Bread Loaf

Did you notice that it has been a while since I posted a recipe on my blog? Well, it is because I am supposed to be on vacation. Having said that I did not mean to take a break from my blog as I thought I have more opportunity to not just post my drafts but also make more new dishes. Time and again I get reminded that man proposes god disposes. Leave alone cooking, I have been so unwell that I have not been able to even eat. Last few days have been the worst days and hope no one has to endure such pain. Anyway, I had written this recipe a while ago but never got to post it. Finally, here it goes...

1 cup plain flour and whole wheat flour mixture (you could use just plain flour too)
1 ripe banana, mashed to puree
Less than ¼ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 pinch baking soda
4 teaspoons curd/yoghurt
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Then add the sugar

Add the banana puree, milk, melted butter, yoghurt and oil and fold the mixture until combined

Grease a loaf tin and pour the batter and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180degC.

Cool for good few minutes and cut into slices

To check if bread is done, insert a tooth pick in the centre and if it comes out clean, it is done. You could add even a spice like cinnamon or nutmeg to the batter.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mushroom Peas Curry

Mushroom Peas Curry

For a while sighting some justifiable reasons my husband insisted on having proper south Indian meal for all his meals and that just left me having chapattis or any tiffin. Now my husband is back to his multigrain diet and my way of eating so that is a relief. On the very first evening he was back to this diet, I obviously had to make something nice so it is a great welcome back. I had some mushrooms on hand and decided to make peas mushroom curry. It was indeed very good that we both fancied it the next day as well. I did adopt a slightly different way of cooking wherein I had cooked the onion and tomato in a wee bit of water rather than by themselves. I have now found this successful and may try some improvements and more recipes this way. Honestly, I was surprised it actually made a difference. Here is how I did it…

300gms closed cup mushrooms or button mushrooms (pick your choice)
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 big red onion, roughly chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger, chopped
1 cup cooked peas
1 teaspoon kasoori methi (driend fenugreek leaves)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chilly powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Cooking oil

Bring together the onion, tomato, ginger and garlic in a saucepan and add quarter cup water. Cook until tomato is well done. Cool and grind to a fine puree

Heat about a teaspoon oil and add the cumin seeds and once it browns add the finely chopped onions and fry.

Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. You could also add peas and cook it with mushrooms rather than boil it separately, either way add the peas.

Add the ground puree and when it begins to boil, add the spice powders and kasoori methi and boil.

Add salt and some water and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or any bread.