Sunday, 30 October 2011



Baklava is a Turkish sweet dish made with rich filo (fillo/phyllo) pastry and dry fruits and nuts typically. The filo pastry is made using all purpose flour, water and oil. It is quite a time consuming process and also needs a lot of patience because the dough has to be rolled to paper thin layers and tears are to be avoided. As for me, I would much rather prefer to buy readymade filo pastry from the supermarket fridge because I seldom use it and am ok with the little preservative that they add. If it was a regular in my kitchen, I would make it at home. Hopefully, sometime soon I will post another baklava recipe with homemade pastry. I used sugar syrup although some use honey syrup. Again, when I get to try honey syrup, I will post it. The quantity mentioned makes 16 pieces using about 8 filo sheets. You could use some dry fruits in the stuffing, I stuck to nuts. I liked the baklava recipe from Manjula’s kitchen and adapted the same.

8 filo pastry sheets
1/3 cup walnuts
½ cup almonds
¼ cup sugar (I mixed brown and white)
1/3 cup melted butter
Pistachio slithers for garnish

For syrup
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
Pinch of cardamom powder
1 teaspoon lime juice

Coarsely grind the nuts and mix with the sugar

Take two sheets of filo pastry together and apply butter then leave an inch gap from the shorter edge and spoon some filling along that side. A pastry brush would be helpful to apply butter evenly but mine had become hard for some reason so I used my best tool, hand

Roll the pastry twice and apply butter again

Roll again and apply butter. Repeat until you reach the middle of the sheet and now add more filling. Again roll and apply butter

Keeping the edge below, place the roll on a greased baking tray and apply butter

Repeat process until all sheets and filling are used

  Cut each roll into about 4 pieces and butter again

Bake in preheated oven at 180degC for 20 minutes (until it turns light brown)

For syrup:

Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil

Simmer until it reduces to about half a cup and is sticky. Add cardamom powder and once flame is turned off add the lime juice (this is to prevent crystallisation of sugar)

Let it cool and then poor over the baklava and garnish with chopped nuts like pista and serve at room temperature

Sunday, 23 October 2011



Rightly or wrongly some dishes were always associated with certain communities and some were usually thought to be not so typical of a community. Well, atleast we were of that thinking when it comes to aapam so needless to say it is not like I was very familiar with a side dish for it. Growing up in Chennai meant I had access to the variety of dishes popular among different communities and aapam was one such favourite of mine. It is usually served with sweetened coconut milk which I must say is not my favourite. I find it a bit bland and not lifting up the aapam but sometimes I am happy to tuck in. Couple of years back a friend and neighbour of ours had her MIL visiting her and she was kind enough to invite us to have aapam and sodhi. At that time I was not a food blogger but was interested in recipes. It was during a recent visit that I quickly asked her for the recipe and could not get the details. Based on what I picked up and tasted, I started making my version and it goes down very well. I am aware that usually sodhi is considered a laborious dish as it involves making coconut milk of desired thickness and most traditional recipes I was told do not use tomatoes. My version and the one I was offered uses tomato and kept things rather simple. It tastes great with aapam and you could have it with anything like dosa, idli or even rice. I add soya chunks and peas to it to enhance the nutritive value and also because I do not have to prepare vegetables separately. Here is how I make it…

1 cup peas
1 onion, finely chopped
Handful of soya chunks, soaked and boiled (or cooked as per package instruction)
1 sachet creamed coconut or 1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon sambar powder
1 teaspoon chilly powder
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder

Heat oil and allow the mustard seeds to splutter and then add the onions and cook until soft

Add the peas, turmeric powder asafoetida tomatoes and cook until mushy

Add the sambar powder, chilly powder, required water and also the coconut cream

Allow to boil and all the raw smell goes away and then add required salt and it is ready to serve!

I am sending this to,

Friday, 21 October 2011

Peshawari Paneer

Peshawari Paneer

Paneer is a popular Indian cheese that adapts quite well in the sense that it fits itself into most recipes. One could make paneer pulav by adding some fried paneer, paneer fry with spices as a starter, put it in kebabs, stuff in paratha, make desserts like rasmalai and so on. The other way of lending paneer different flavour is by choosing the ingredients for the gravy it will be in. Peshawari paneer is a fairly simple dish as we just need to bring most of the ingredients to boil and then blend. I have used coriander-red chilly powder freshly ground at home to enhance the flavour. You could either prepare this fresh when you make this dish or keep it handy as you could use it in a number of other dishes. I used a combination of red onions and white onions as teh former gives great flavour and the latter helps retain a light colour for the gravy. I have also tried the same recipe with tofu instead of paneer and had good results. Here is the recipe:

1 onion, large, chopped
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon melon seeds
2 cloves
2 green chillies
1 piece of cinnamon stick
3 dry red chillies
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 to 1 ½ cups paneer, cubed
¼ cup milk
Salt to taste
Cooking oil (optional)

Put the onions, melon seeds, poppy seed, cashew nuts, green chillies clove and cinnamon in a sauce pan and add enough water to boil until onion is soft

Cool and grind the above to a fine paste

Roast the coriander seeds and dry chilly and grind to coarse/fine powder (depending on your preference)

Heat oil, if using in a saucepan and add the paste and fry briefly

Add salt, the coriander chilly powder and also the paneer. A dash of kasoori methi will also add flavour but is optional

Add the milk, little water if needed and simmer

Serve hot with any Indian bread or rice

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Besan Payasam

Besan Payasam

I have always wanted to make custard at home. Somehow, I have not got around it yet and it is probably because deep down, I am not too keen to arrange a double boiler and stir the egg without scrambling it etc. But being an experimental cook, I will make it at some point. For now though, I ran into what I would call a lacto vegetarian custard. It is a very simple and light dessert. The raisins added a great taste and texture to an otherwise smooth dish. It can be made very quickly as well and can be served with a bowl of fruits too. Here is how I made it...

¼ cup besan
2 teaspoons ghee
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
Few raisins
1 tablespoon ground almond
Few strands of saffron

Heat the ghee and fry some raisins until they puff up and keep it aside

In the same ghee, add the besan and roast until it is aromatic

Add milk and mix well so there are no lumps

When it boils, add sugar and some ground almonds. Simmer until it thickens and just before taking off the flame crush the saffron strands and add the same

Serve warm or cold with raisins added

You could add some cardamom along with the ground almonds if you like.

Butter Beans Masala

Butter Beans Masala

Both western cuisine and Indian cuisine have a form of savoury crepe and stuffing something in it is common as well. This crepe is called dosa in India and the traditional stuffing is a mixture of mildly spiced onion and potato. This, beyond doubt, is a great dish and worth ordering when visiting a south Indian restaurant. However, when it comes to making it at home for a meal, I struggle because it has potatoes dominating and although it is one of the important vegetables we need to consume everyday, it is not one of the five a day vegetables. For this reason, I always try to combine more vegetables with fewer potatoes and make the masala/stuffing. In this one, I have used butter beans and carrots. Butter beans are extremely nutritious and are very good to keep blood sugar stable. It is also called lima beans or double beans. You could stuff dosas or even use this as stuffing in rolls. Here is the recipe. I noticed that the butter beans I get here do not need to soak overnight and just a few hours is enough. Also, they turn mushy when pressure cooked. No one knew there is butterbeans in it until I told them, so if you are looking for ways to disguise goodies, here you go...

1/3 cup butter beans, rinsed, soaked for few hours and cooked
1 large potato, boiled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
Few curry leaves
2 green chillies slit
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon grated ginger
Cooking oil
1 teaspoon sambar powder or half teaspoon chilly powder
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder

Heat some oil and add the mustard seeds. Once it crackles, add the onions, chillies and ginger and cook until soft

Add the cooked butter beans, potatoes (mash both by hand as you put them into the pan) and grated carrot. Also add turmeric powder, curry leaves and salt. Add little water so it does not burn

Add the sambar powder and cook for couple of minutes

Ready to be stuffed in dosa!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cheese and Vegetable Pizza

Vegetarian Pizza

Pizza is certainly not a regular at home. I have probably made it a couple of times in the last 3 years and they have been with the mix that I just need to knead a bit and roll. This time however I had some cheese to use up and for some reason wanted to try pizza. I must also mention that I did get a request for vegetarian pizza recipe from a reader when I posted the baked pasta recipe. Unfortunately, it has taken so much time to get around to making one. This is a very simple recipe and turned out absolutely fabulous. My husband’s feedback (I must say he is quite critical usually) was that it was even better than Domino’s or Pizza corner/Hut’s vegetarian ones. I thought so too and definitely wanted to share this recipe with you. I have read in the past that pizza could actually make a healthy meal because it has carbohydrates from the dough, calcium and protein from cheese (ofcourse from meat if you add any), vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and thus could be a wholesome meal if portion size is watched. I would like to add that I will not call this a healthy version yet because it uses refined flour. With this success, I will work on more wholesome pizza base recipes while you enjoy this one. I have suggested some quantities for cheese but it really is up to you. Certainly pizza with no cheese would not be for me but some cheese will be good enough. I used low fat mozzarella and low fat cheddar. Here is how I prepared it...

For dough:
2 ½ cups white flour (maida)
1 teaspoon yeast (1 sachet)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 to 1 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tin chopped tomato
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
½ teaspoon oregano
Salt to taste
¼ to ½ teaspoon onion ganules
3 garlic pods, finely chopped
Some olive oil

For topping:
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Few slices of mozzarella
Handful of chopped green pepper
Handful of sliced baby corn
Handful of sliced red onions

To make the dough:

Put the sugar in a glass of warm water and add the yeast to it and allow it to froth (about 10 minutes). In the meantime, combine the flour, salt and a portion of the oil and then pour the water with yeast and make a soft dough. Depending on the flour, you may need about half cup more water. Apply olive oil to the sides of the bowl and leave the dough covered until it doubles in size (about 1-2 hours depending on ambient temperature). Rub the remaining oil on the surface of the dough.

To make the sauce:
Heat some olive oil and fry the garlic until it begins to brown

Add the chopped tomatoes from the tin along with black pepper powder,oreganos, onion granules and salt. Add some water as well

Simmer until the sauce thickens

To assemble the pizza:

Take the dough and roll it to desired shape and thickness. I do not like it too thick and tried to keep the shape round. If you like, you could divide the dough to make two small pizzas. I did not dust using flour as the oil was enough to help me roll without being sticky

Roll up the edges of the dough to form the crust so you can fill the rest of it with the sauce and topping

Spread the sauce uniformly everywhere but the raised area that you created around the circumference

Add the grated cheddar cheese and spread evenly

Spread the vegetables – onion, babycorn, capsicum etc. uniformly and spread the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle more oregano

Bake in a preheated oven at 220degC for about 15-25 minutes. You know it is done when the edges look cooked and topping browns.