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.

Monday, 22 November 2010



Kulcha is suppose be a popular Punjabi bread. I usually have it in an Indian restaurant here and quite like it. It is usually made out of plain flour (maida) and often has potato mixed with the dough or stuffed in. They are usually incredibly soft and that is the reason I wanted to try them. With very limited time to research a lot of options, I decided to try the simple plain kulcha. I did not want to use flour alone and added some wheat flour as well just so that there is some wholemeal and not just refined carbohydrate. The key challenge to me (this may sound very silly to many), was to get the yeast to froth. There have been a few times when the yeast never frothed and hence nothing would rise. This time and thereafter I now know the right temperature to put the yeast in. My tip would be that allow boiled water to cool until it reaches a point when you can touch it by hand and tolerate the heat. I have made this recipe a few times and it has always come out nice. Some may argue it is not exactly kulcha, but that is the closest name I could give it. It is a great bread anyway! Here is how I do it…

2 cups flour (equal parts of plain and whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt as required

Dissolve the yeast in about half cup water (temperature as described earlier) mixed with sugar. Allow this to rest for about 10 minutes so the yeast froths.

Take the flour in a mixing bowl and add some salt. Add the yeast water and required amount of warm milk to make a soft dough like one for chapatti. Put some oil on your hand and knead well. Knead for about 5 minutes.

Rest the dough covered with a wet cloth or cling film so the top does not dry up. Leave it in a warm place for about an hour so the dough doubles in volume. Knead again for five minutes

Make lemon sized balls and roll out like chapattis and do not make them too thin.

Put the rolled kulcha on hot tava (do not cook on low flame as it will not be soft), once white spots appear, turn and cook until bubbles appear. Flip again and gently press on the kulcha and it will rise beautifully.

Brush some oil or butter and serve with a nice gravy.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Low Fat Onion Fritters

Low Fat Onion Fritters

Not sure where my husband picked this habit of having something crunchy on the side for his main meal. Needless to say it often becomes the main dish and there comes an arguement at the dinner table. I have almost stopped buying crisps/chips so that crunchy stuff has to be something home-made. As the head chef of the family, I always avoid deep frying but it is not always easy to make a low fat crispy dish but as I have the need to do it, I do few experiments. This particular recipe has been quite successful and have done it a few times. I have seen such fritters being served either on the side in some restaurants and some places even serve this in the name of bhaji. I am sure it is more a cousin of pakora than bhaji. You could serve it as a starter with a nice dip or chutney or serve it as a tea time snack. Here is the recipe...

2-3 red onions, halved and then thinly sliced
3 tablespoon besan (chickpea flour)
½ - 1 teaspoon chilly powder
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon cooking oil

Try to separate the onions with your hands so they are not clustered. Add all ingredients except oil and mix well and then add oil and mix again

Cook in a preheated oven at 180degC for 25-30 minutes mixing every ten minutes.

Serve hot

Please have in mind that it takes around 20-25 minutes, the ingredients are cooked. However, it is after this that it becomes crisp. Keep an eye as depending on your oven, the timing may vary slightly and it may just start burning.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Cauliflower Pepper Curry (dry)

Cauliflower Pepper Curry (dry)

There are times when I am not sure if I have stock of few things and start wondering in the shop. I do not like coming back home to realise I bought something I already have, especially perishable food. This time it was bag of mixed peppers. I already had one pack and also frozen chopped peppers. I cannot say I didn’t know what to do with it considering I have a food blog. Well, I say so because they are fairly common ingredient and I should have no problem making something nice. I was originally planning to make what they call ‘achari’ style. I believe it is a Punjabi type of cooking vegetables where specific spices are used. However I thought it may not suit the texture of peppers and hence made something on the fly. It came out quite well and hence got a place in my blog. I had few pieces of what is called ‘bajji milagai’, it is a type of big chilly and I used that instead of green pepper. You can use any pepper of your choice. Now for the recipe...

5-6 florets of cauliflower, par boiled
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper (I used a type of chilly instead)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon onion seeds (kalonji)
2 dry red chillies, broken
1 teaspoon coriander powder (dhania)
1 teaspoon chilly powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder (jeera)
Turmeric powder
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2-3 cloves garlic chopped (optional)
Cooking oil
Salt to taste

Heat about a teaspoon oil in a wok and add the cumin seeds. Once it starts turning dark brown, add the onion seeds, dry red chillies and chopped onions.

Add the peppers, turmeric powder, ginger and garlic. Add little salt to encourage the cooking of peppers

After the peppers are almost done (check by piercing them with a ladle, if they yield easily, they are done), add the cauliflowers. Add the chilly powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and salt and cook on low flame for about 10 minutes

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with an Indian bread or rice.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Chilli Garlic Rice

Chilli Garlic Rice

My super time saver and energy saver is variety rice. It keeps the task of eating quite simple as well. Fewer dishes to wash and quicker to clean! In most of my rice dishes I add vegetables so we get good amount of nutrition. In this dish I happened to add Quorn, specifically roasted chicken style pieces. I really added it because I had to spend it as it was about to expire. You can add vegetables of your choice and if you are a non-vegetarian, you could add a meat of your choice. Reason I say so is because the garlic and the chillies make the dish more a non-vegetarian Indian dish. Garlic and chilli is a matter of personal preference and depending on your taste, you may like more or less of it. The recipe mentioned below is quite garlicky and hot, so adjust according to your taste.

10-12 cloves garlic
4-5 dry red chillies
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup vegetables of your choice
1 cup long grain rice, cooked (I use basmati rice)
Turmeric powder
Cooking oil
Salt to taste

In a wok, add some oil and fry the onions, add some turmeric powder and vegetables of your choice. Vegetables like cauliflower could be par-boiled before stir frying. If using peas, carrot, peppers, just add directly to the onion. Cook until veggies are done.

Grind the garlic and red chillies to a fine paste adding water as required.


Add this paste to the onion-vegetable mixture and cook until raw smell of garlic disappears.

Add the rice, salt and mix well

Serve hot with a raita

I normally pressure cook the rice in one cup water. This helps me get cooked grains that are separate and not mushy. I usually add less red chillies as my husband cannot take very hot food. I then add chilli flakes to my plate so it is more suitable for me. This is one advantage of using red chillies!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Veppampoo Rasam – Neem Flower Soup

Veppampoo Rasam – Neem Flower Soup

If you have had a chance to go for a walk during an afternoon in the month of May in Chennai, you will very much appreciate how great shade is. In some ways, to strike a balance nature has created some really beneficial trees. To one who has to be out in that heat, the cool breeze under a neem tree is like a boon. The tree not only provides shade but also a pleasant feeling around it. It is commonly found in most parts of South India and is believed to be holy as it represents a form of the goddess Shakti (Amman). It has been well known for its medicinal values for several millennia. Every part of the tree has medicinal values. This was so well known that the tree was called the ‘village pharmacy’. It is said to have anti-biotic, anti-viral, anti-malarial properties. I remember my brother and I used to be given a paste of tender neem leaves when we had chicken pox and that was the only ‘medicine’ given. It is said that there are some patents for use of neem as treatment for AIDS.

It is a shame that I did not really enjoy this dish when growing up. I just found the slight bitterness and unique aroma a bit overwhelming. But now, living so far from home, I have begun to appreciate the flavour and taste. I think it was with good reasons that our ancestors included bitter vegetables in our diet and I am not just able to appreciate that but also look forward to eating such dishes for a change. I keep this recipe incredibly simple and here it is

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon clarified butter (ghee) or cooking oil
1 tablespoon dried neem flowers (use more or less based on preference)
½- 3/4 teaspoon tamarind paste
½ teaspoon black pepper powder (Optional)
Salt to taste

Boil about 2 cups water. Add turmeric powder, asafoetida, tamarind and boil for 5 minutes. Add black pepper powder and required salt

In a heavy bottom vessel, add the ghee or oil and once hot, fry the neem flowers until they turn dark. Add it to the boiling liquid and boil for 5 more minutes

In the left over ghee, add some mustard seeds and once it crackles, add to the rasam.

Serve hot! This usually tastes great with root vegetables like potato or arbi/colocassia/seppankezhangu.


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Low Calorie Carrot Dates Halwa

Low Calorie Carrot Dates Halwa

I always thought low calorie sweets are a myth. However, I am sure one can always control quantity of some ingredients like ghee, sugar etc. As I have said in an earlier post, I try to rely on the sweetness of ingredients like fruits or vegetables like carrot and even that of milk. This way I reduce the amount of free sugar as it is purely empty calories. I had made the low fat khoya and now needed a dessert recipe in which I could use it. As I had very few ingredients on the Saturday morning and had a guest coming over, had to make something with carrots. For a change, I tried to add dates to it and make a halwa. I must say it was a risk I was taking in some ways. When this gues came over the first time, about 2 years back, I was so down with sickness as I was pregnant. The food was horrendous as the channa packet had some issues and was stinking. The next time he did not come for a planned meal, but as it was mealtime, I just made a quick paratha. This time I wanted to ensure it was all great and stuck to what I am somewhat ‘best’ at - traditional south Indian menu with a halwa as dessert. Low fat dishes do not always taste as good as their fat filled equivalent but I had to get this right. Anyway, results were good and that’s why I am sharing the recipe with you. Some people use sugar substitute to reduce calories further. As they are always a subject of controversy, I do not use them and indulge less often to make up for it. Here is how I did it...

3 cups grated carrot
6-8 dates, seeded, chopped
¼ cup sugar
Few pinches cardamom powder or 2-3 crushed cardamom pods
2 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)
½ cup low fat khoya, grated
Crushed nuts (I used pista,almond and cashews)

Add a teaspoon ghee and cook the carrots.

When carrots are half done, add the dates and sprinkle water.

Once the carrots are cooked, add the sugar and keep stirring.

Add the cardamom and grated khoya and couple of minutes later add a teaspoon of ghee.

Stir until it all comes together leaving the dish

 Add crushed nuts before serving. Nuts do add a bit more calorie but they have some essential fatty acids which are good for health and as long as quantity is watched, they are very good.

Carrot halwa usually tastes even better with ice cream especially vanilla. However as this version is more for the calorie conscious, you may want to just stick to halwa alone and not the guilt.

How to Make Low Fat Khoya

How to Make Low Fat Khoya

I have seen a few rich recipes i.e. high calorie recipes with lots of nuts, milk cream etc. One of the common ingredients in those was khoya. It is nothing but unsweetened condensed milk which is usually solidified. Milk is heated for a long time until it comes to a semi-solid to solid state and once cooled, it almost solidifies. This is then used in many sweet dishes and also to enrich some gravies. I usually do not use this because I cannot be bothered making the khoya, watching the milk forever. It can be done quicker in a microwave but as I do not use it anymore, I just avoid this as an ingredient. Not so long ago I got a number of books by Tarla Dalal and one of those was low calorie sweet. Usually I think once one decides to have sweets, there is no point in keeping it low fat and low calorie and should just have the treat once and stay away from it for a while. However, for more regular sweet eaters, it is easier said than done. I found her way of making low fat khoya not just simple but also quick. I tried it today to make a dessert and came out well. I may make this more often especially for some mughlai gravies. Here is how I followed her recipe...

1 cup semi skimmed milk powder

Mix few tablespoons of water to the milk powder to make it a stiff dough. The book said two tablespoons, however, I needed about 8 to get anywhere near a dough like consistency.

Wrap this in a thin white cloth and steam for about 15 minutes. Cool and grate and use as suggested in recipes.

This is not quite a recipe in itself but quite useful to know this shortcut to a low fat khoya as an ingredient to other dishes

Friday, 12 November 2010

Eggplant Chutney

Eggplant chutney

Eggplant/aubergine/brinjal all the same and all names refer to one of my favourite vegetables. Adapting to Spanish aubergine instead of the baby eggplants and variety of other brinjals I was used to was a learning experience in my culinary adventure. Once I got a hang of ways to cook this variety, I am now more comfortable experimenting it. I saw eggplant chutney recipe by Sanjay Thumma and I have adapted to my preference. Key difference is that I have charred the aubergine rather than frying it. It not only imparts an awesome flavour but also reduces amount of oil. The traditional eggplant chutney (thogayal) recipe in my family is different from this and will post that later. This dish tastes great with rice but can also be used as a dip or spread. Here is my version...

1 big eggplant
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 inch piece of ginger
3 green chillies
2-3 tablespoons dhariya (roasted chickpea aka ‘odaicha kadalai’)
½ teaspoon tamarind paste
¼ teaspoon fenugreek powder (optional)
Turmeric powder
1 sprig curry leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds and curry leaves for tempering

Wash the aubergine and char on direct flame until it is well done. Remove the skin and chop roughly

Heat a teaspoon oil, crackle mustard seeds and asafoetida, turmeric powder, add ginger, curry leaves, chillies, dhariya, fenugreek powder and fry for 3-5 minutes

Add tamarind and some water and cook for about 5 minutes then add the chopped aubergine and salt and fry for couple of minutes

Allow it to cool and grind to desired consistency, add required water while grinding. Add a teaspoon oil in a skillet and add mustard seed. Once it crackles add curry leaves and add the ground paste. Add little water and allow to boil briefly.

Serve with piping hot rice and some oil or enjoy as a dip or spread

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Banana Dates Payasam (Banana Date Dessert)

Banana Dates Payasam (Banana Date Dessert)

To me, payasam usually is synonymous with semiya (vermicelli) payasam. As I tend to make a sweet dish every Friday I try recipes other than the usual payasam. Fruits to me, are a great ingredient in a dessert. Main reason is that usually, in desserts with fruits, you need far less sugar as the sweetness from the fruits lends great flavour and taste and also that they usually do not need a lot of fat (butter or ghee) to make them delicious. This works great especially for people on calorie/fat controlled diet and even kids who may refuse fruits. Well, as much as I dislike disguising food, I do need to do it with my son especially if it is banana. It is strange how at one point, he would eat bananas for all meals but now he would not even touch it. Anyway, this is one of my fruit filled dessert to sneak the goodness in. This is similar to what Keralites may call ‘pradaman’. Here is how I did it…

2 ripe bananas
4-5 chopped dried dates
2 tablespoons jaggery
1 cup milk
2-3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon dessicated/fresh coconut
1 teaspoon ghee (optional)
2-3 teaspoons chopped cashewnuts (optional)

Add little water to the jaggery and allow it to boil for a minute. Filter the jaggery water so you get rid of any debris in it.

Heat milk, add the cardamom pods, followed by mashed bananas (keep stirring so bananas do not stick to the bottom)

When it boils, add the filtered jaggery water, coconut and boil for couple of minutes while stirring

Fry the cashews in little ghee or just put them directly into the payasam. Add chopped dates before serving.

If you do not have jaggery, you could possibly try brown sugar but you need not dissolve in water to get rid of debris because they are usually quite clean. You may want to add bit more milk so the dish is not too thick.