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"If I sing when I cook, the food is going to be happy." — Pasquale Carpino

Updated: 2017-12-10T19:09:27.494-08:00


Individual Bolognese Pot Pies


  What do you do when you have some lovely leftover meat ragu from a Spaghetti Bolognese dinner? Why you bake them into dainty little pot pies!Spaghetti Bolognese is a favourite at home but doesn't get made often because we don't eat mutton that often and plus its best to have during the winter when you don't mind a slightly heavier meal. I usually make use my tried and tested Bolognese recipe, but this time I tried Emeril Lagasse's recipe with a few changes and it was really delicious!I then had quite a bit of the ragu leftover so a couple of evenings later, I reduced it down to a thicker consistency and add some peas as well. Portioned it out into small ramekins (use bigger ones for single potions) and then rolled out some puff pastry to cover it. Baked it for about 15 minutes and voila! dinner was ready. I made some small cut out shapes of the pastry to decorate, but its really not necessary.  For the Ragu Sauce  Olive oil - 2 tspMutton mince - 300gm Bacon - 4 strips chopped4 chorizo sausages - chopped finely or crumbled Onions - 2 medium, choppedCarrots - 1 medium, dicedTomatoes - 5 pureed Tomato puree - 1/4 cup1 stock cube (chicken or beef) dissolved in 300ml of waterRed wine - 3/4 cupGarlic - 2 cloves, chopped finely Bay leaves - 2Freshly crushed black pepper - 1/2 tspRed chilli powder - 1/2 tspCumin powder - 1/2 tspDried oregano - 1 tspCinnamon powder - 1/2 tspSugar - 1 tspMilk - 1/4 cup Cooked Spaghetti - 300gmsParmesan powder - to serve1. Take a pan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the bacon and cook till browned and fat is rendered - about 3-4 minutes.2. Stir in the onions and carrots and cook for 4 minutes till soft. 3. Next add the bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, red chilli powder, cumin powder, cinnamon powder and oregano and saute for a minute.4. Add the mutton mince and finely chopped sausages and fry for 5 minutes till they are browned.5. Add the red wine and cook for 3 minutes breaking up any browned bits sticking to the pan.6. Add both the purees, the stock and sugar and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer covered till the sauce is thickened - about an hour and fifteen minutes. 7. Add the milk and check the salt. Stir well and remove from heat and keep warm. Serve over cooked spaghetti sprinkled with parmesan powder for Spaghetti Bolognese. For the pot pies:Peas - 1/4 cup Puff pastry - one sheet for the entire quantity or 1/2 or 1/4 if only working with leftover sauceEgg - 1, beaten with 1 tbsp water- add the peas and continue cooking for another half hour till the sauce is much thicker in consistency. - Spoon into individual ramekins leaving about half an inch at the top for the pastry- Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface and cut out circles which will fit inside the ramekins (I didn't tuck the pastry inside which I will do next time)- Brush the pastry with the egg wash and cover the ramekins tucking in the edges.- Make slits on top of the pastry to vent. You can decorate by cutting small shapes with cookie cutters from the pastry bits left over and then just pressing down lightly over the top of the pastry cover.- Bake in a pre heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes or till the top is golden brown and flaky.[...]

Spicy Punjabi Winter Vegetable (Gobi,Shalgam,Gajar ka Achaar)


Finally - yes, finally - managed to make these two wonderful winter pickles so typical of North India. I have had this Punjabi winter pickle quite a few times after coming to Delhi and loved the crunch of the vegetables in that piquant sweet and spicy mixture. I have been eyeing Anita's recipe for it for some time now and as soon as the fresh winter vegetables started flooding the market and the prices hit rock bottom, I made sure to buy a couple of kilos and get down to pickling before it was too late.  We don't normally enjoy sweet pickles but Anita's recipe is really, really good - not overwhelmingly sweet but just the subtle touch which is needed to offset the warm spices of cardamom and cinnamom added to it. Its almost like a vegetable you can have on the side with practically everything rather than an actual pickle!. For step by step instructions and the complete recipe - look here in A Mad Tea Party. I used the same proportions but halved the quantities of all ingredients.In addition to the slightly sweet one, I also made a spicy one based on my neighbour's mother's traditional pickle - Aunty is not doing too well and this is probably the first year she wasn't able to make her pickle and kanji - get well soon Aunty, we are all rooting for you!    The important thing to remember is to make sure the vegetables are cut into roughly the same sizes and are easy to eat rather than in huge chunks. Also, they should be dried thoroughly before pickling. The spoons you use should be clean and dry and the bottles as well. Moisture can make pickles spoil very soon. The vegetables are usually left out in the winter sun during the dayfor a week or so but since they are anyway enjoyed crunchy it doesn't matter if they don't get "sun cooked". I think the sunning may have been more to ensure that there is no spoilage?I am sending to this Indrani's event - Spotlight - Winter VegetablesSpicy Punjabi Winter Vegetable (Gobi,Shalgam,Gajar ka Achaar)An authentic Punjabi recipe given by Aunty KCauliflower, Radish and Carrot - 1 kg totally - about 300gm each of the radish and carrot - 500gms for the cauliflower because the stems will come off.Red chilli powder - 10gms (about 1 tbsp)Salt - 30gms (about 2 tbsp)Mustard Powder - 1 tbsp Mustard Oil - 2 ladlefuls (about 200ml)(I also added a tbsp of freshly crushed ginger and garlic which I fried for a minute in a tbsp of the mustard oil before adding to the vegetables)1.Wash the vegetables thoroughly. Cut the stalks off the cauliflowers. Lightly peel the radish and carrots after chopping off the tops and tails.2. Cut the carrots into 2" long batons, separate the cauliflower into medium sized florets and cut the radish into slices roughly the size of the carrots.3. In a large vessel, bring to boil a litre of water and then blanch the cut vegetables for 3 minutes.4. Drain and then spread on a clean cloth and dry in the sun completely.5. Combine the mustard powder, salt and chilli powder in a large bowl and then rub onto the dried vegetables. Spoon into a large, clean glass jar.6. Heat the mustard oil till smoking point and then turn off the flame. Cool slightly and pour into the jar over the vegetables.7. Close the jar (or cover with muslin cloth) and keep in the sun for 2 days.Shake and mix well.These are best eaten in a couple of months when the vegetables are still crunchy - serve with paranthas, khichdi, curd rice, dal chawal - actual anything![...]

Herbed Dinner Rolls


Its been a long time since I baked bread - what with all the cookies and cakes which happened in the last couple of months, bread baking took a backseat. Woke up one morning last week, with a yen to bake and when I asked my daughter what she would like to bake, she said bread. I was immediately excited , though felt it might be completely mistimed considering how cold it is right now. I wasn't even sure whether the bread would rise with such a cold wind blowing outside. But K hauled out the Bread Book by Sara Lewis (from which I have previously made an Olive and Feta Cheese bread, Carrot & Mustard Bread, Stuffed Mushroom and Garlic Baguette and Rapid Light Wholemeal Loaf) and we pored over the recipes on each page - she finally picked the Fancy Dinner Rolls, "because of the shapes". So dinner rolls it was then. She was thrilled to be kneading the dough for the first time and considering how fussy she is otherwise about getting icky stuff on her hands, didn't seem to mind the mess at all sticking to her fingers!  I finished up with the rest of the kneading and we set out the bowl of dough in the balcony to double. And it rose beautifully!She then shaped half the dough into pull apart rolls - basically , you make small balls of the dough and arrange them in the baking tray or dish in a kind of circle so that they touch each other. They stick together when they prove for the second time so that after they bake, you have to "pull them apart". The remaining dough I shaped into a simple coil and a knot.The shaped rolls rose for second time and after brushing them with a simple egg wash, I sprinkled the round rolls with sesame seeds and fennel seeds while the coiled ones were topped with some fresh basil from my potted plant. The rolls baked for about 10-15 minutes each and the baking bread filled the house with that heavenly, yeasty aroma which makes you want to grab the freshly baked bread and slather it with some butter and eat it just like that!Herbed Dinner RollsAll purpose flour (maida) - 475g (4 1/2 cups)Butter - 2 tbspSugar - 1 tspSalt -1 tspFast action dried yeast - 1.5 tspWarm Water - 275mlEgg yolk - 1 to glazewater - 1 tbspsesame seeds, fennel seeds, fresh basil (one can also use poppy seeds, paprika and fresh rosemary)1. Put the flour into the bowl and rub the butter into it till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.2. Add the sugar, salt and yeast and then slowly incorporate as much warm water as is needed to make a soft dough.3. Knead well for 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic but not too sticky. Put the dough into the bowl and cover loosely with an oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise till doubled in size - about an hour4. Knead the dough again on a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Grease a baking sheet or 2 traysFor pull apart rolls: - take 2 pieces of dough and divide each into 3 small balls. Arrange into a circle or 2 triangles so that they touch each other.For coils - take 2 pieces of dough and shape each one into a rope 10 inches long and then coil each rope into a spiral.For knots - take 2 pieces of dough and shape each one into a rope about 9 inches long. Loop one end of one rope and then thread the other end through the loop to make the knot. Repeat5. Cover the shaped rolls with loosely oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes to half an hour.6. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg yolks mixed with 1 tbsp of water and sprinkle with the seeds or herbs.7. Bake in a pre heated oven at 200C for 10 -15 minutes until the tops are golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped with the fingertips. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.[...]

Broccoli, Bell Pepper and Lettuce Salad with Fried Almonds


 This is a beautiful salad with a silky Asian flavoured dressing which makes it a great accompaniment to most meals. I usually don't like using mayonnaise in salads but it did work in this one and since I just used a little more than a couple of tablespoons, it didn't overwhelm the other flavours. In summer, I would replace the mayonnaise with feta cheese and a couple of more spoons of sesame oil.You can see cherry tomatoes in the picture because my daughter insisted on putting them in, but I don't include it usually since it gets a bit pulpy as compared to the other crisp vegetables. The almonds could also be toasted instead of being fried. The broccoli almond combination was inspired by this recipe from Kalyn's blog though the dressing is somewhat different from the one she has used. Broccoli, Bell Pepper and Lettuce Salad with Fried AlmondsIngredients: Broccoli - 1 medium separated into floretsRed Bell Pepper - 1Green Bell pepper - 1Yellow Bell Pepper - 1peppers to be deseeded and sliced thinlyLettuce leave s-4-5 tornOlive oil - 1 tspAlmonds - 1/2 cup, peeled and sliced thinlyDressingGarlic - 2 mincedGinger - 1" mincedRice wine vinegar - 1 tspSoya sauce - 1 tspChilli sauce - 1 tspSesame oil - 4 tspMayonnaise - 3 tbsp1. Bring water to boil in a big vessel and blanch broccoli florets for 3 minutes, remove and cool2. In the same boiling water, blanch the slices of pepper for a minute.3. Crush the garlic and ginger along with the salt. In a bowl, mix the crushed ginger, garlic with vinegar, soya, chilli sauce and sesame oil.4. Mix in the mayonnaise and beat; keep aside for 15 minutes.5. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small pan and fry the sliced almonds for 3-4 minutes till it is just changing colour and a bit crisp = it burns easily, so take care. Cool and toss with a pinch of salt.6. In a salad bowl, Mix the blanched broccoli florets, sliced pepper, lettuce leaves and half of the fried almonds.7. Toss with a little more than half of the dressing and then if needed, add the remaining dressing.8. Garnish with the remaining fried almonds and serve immediately.  This salad was my only contribution to a barbeque evening one of our friends had arranged at our place in early December - he is a good cook and had marinated the mutton mince for the seeksh kababs and chicken tikkas perfectly with just the right amount of spices. The kababs were great with that distinctive smoky flavour and the warmth from the grill was comforting against the chill of that evening outside. A beautiful baby spinach, cottage cheese and walnut salad made by my friend A who lives upstairs - never fails to please. The dressing is simple - olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed pepper - and the cottage cheese is marinated in it as well before being tossed with the other ingredients. Some wine and cheese completed the evening.[...]

Jam Sandwich Cookies (Jim Jams)


 My niece and nephew are visiting from Mumbai for the Christmas hols and its been great fun having them here. The lil' one at 3 is a complete delight and my 6 year old daughter is thrilled to have someone younger than her. My niece is now 12 and she has grown into such a poised, mature girl :) Its always nice catching up with SIL as well. \The kids were asking for cream biscuits (which is what we call cookies in India) the other evening so I asked them whether they wanted to bake jam biscuits. My niece was especially thrilled at the idea since she wants to learn to bake. So, I gave her the ingredients and she measured them out, kneaded and rolled and very painstakingly applied the jam gently on the cooled cookies before sandwiching them. She was so pleased with the biscuits, she couldn't stop beaming. K was suitable adoring of her elder cousin and even forgot to even ask to taste the batter at every stage.I divided the dough into two parts, one part went into making the jam cookies and the other we mixed in candied fruit (Tutti Frutti) into the dough and made cookies from it. I had rolled out the jam cookie dough a tad too thin than needed so it was a bit crisper than needed. You could also cut out the cookies after making a roll of the dough - but the dough might be a bit too soft for that. I did cut out the dough for the Tutti Frutti cookies and they were thicker.The Jam cookies were a hit with the kids - which one of us didn't like those jam filled biscuits!!And they did exactly what I used to = first took apart the biscuits, licked the jam from both sides and then ate the biscuits! Somethings never change :) Jam Sandwich CookiesFlour - 1 1/2 cups plus more for dusting and kneadingSalt -  a pinchEgg - 1 (can omit, use 2 tbsp milk and 1 tsp baking powder)Butter - 1/2 cupCastor Sugar - 1/2 cup Vanilla extract - 1 tspMilk - 1 -2 tbsp (as required)Jam - any jam, I used pineapple - about 1/4 cup1. Cream butter and sugar together till shiny. Add and egg and then beat till fluffy.2. Sieve flour and salt together and then gently fold into the egg mixture.3. Add vanilla extract and gently mix together to form soft dough, If too dry, add about a tbsp or two of milk. If too sticky, add flour one tbsp at a time till you are just able to form a rough ball of dough.4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour till firm.5. Sprinkle flour on the work platform and roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2" inch high.6. Cut with a cookie cutter, remove the uncut versions, form into ball and roll out again. Repeat till the dough is exhausted.7. This step is optional, if you have a small cookie cutter or a tiny bottle top, you could cut out holes in half of the cookies to form a window for the jam to be seen on top.8. Pre heat the oven to 180C, arrange the cookies in batches on a greased baking tray, leaving some space in between.9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cookies and number of cookies on the tray - start checking after 6 minutes to ensure they are just cooked and don't get burnt. Remove when tops are firm and just starting to change colour.10. Remove. cool and bake next batch. Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, spread jam on the the flat side of the cookies without holes on top and cover with the cookies with holes. Press gently and store in piles in an airtight container.[...]

Sarson Ka Saag (Steamed Mustard Greens simmered with Spices)


 Ever since we moved to Delhi, Sarson ka Saag (Mustard Leaves) has become such a regular at our table during the winter that I hardly pay any attention - especially since I can eat only tiny portions because of the high fibre content. It was made the other day when A (my friend from Upstairs) had come over for a mid week lunch and she remarked that it was quite different. Tara (my girl Friday) has been making this for so long now that I couldn't even remember the exact recipe.When I checked with Tara, she promptly showed me her book where I had written down a recipe 3 years back! It's simplicity personified - I now remembered that I had told her I didn't want any heavy garam masalas masking the flavours of the mustard leaves so there's only ginger, garlic and green chillies. There's spinach mixed in to mellow the pungency of the mustard and a little wholemeal cornflour (makki atta is Indian cornflour which has been ground to a fine consistency) to give it some consistency (though much lesser than the traditional version which is creamier because of more makki atta). I also didn't want the leaves to be pureed so it is just mashed roughly after being cooked and tempered with the  spices and simmered briefly. I would say this is on the lines of the keerai masiyal which we make and I love the flavours of the greens bursting through instead of being drowned in heavy spices and cream.Serve this with makki ki roti (flatbreads made out of Indian wholemeal cornflour) or just plain rotis and it makes for a beautiful meal!Sarson ka Saag1 bunch mustard greens (about 600)Half a binch of spinach (200-300gms)2 tbsp makki atta (Indian wholemeal cornflour, not refined cornflour)2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)2-3 green chillies, chopped3-4 cloves garlic, chopped1" ginger - choppedsalt to taste1. Soak the greens in water and wash well in several changes of water till you get rid of all the dirt. I include the stalks if they are not too woody and tough.2. Chop roughly and pressure cook for just 5 minutes (one whistle)- you can also cook on the stove top - Indian mustard greens are not very tender and I find the pressure cooker helpful.3. Remove from cooker and mash with a wooden "mathu" (masher) or the back of a wooden ladle for a consistency which is not s fine puree but a coarse mash.4. Heat 1 tbsp Ghee in a pan and add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and saute for a minute. Add the mashed greens and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the makki atta and simmer for another 5 minutes.5. Drizzle the remaining Ghee over the saag and turn off flame. Serve with rotis.[...]

Asian Style Baked Basa with Crispy Noodles


  Basa is the name some marketing dude has coined for Vietnamese Catfish (like the Patagonian Toothfish became popular on menus around the world as Chilean Sea Bass). This fish has become very popular in India in recent years - the restaurants were the first to begin and now it is available in most metros at neighbourhood frozen food outlets. In just a few years, the annual import of basa has crossed 1,500 tonnes with Kolkata alone consuming 500 to 600 tonnes - that local seafood loving city! With its firm, white flesh which lends itself to almost any kind of dish, and lack of "fishy" smell, it has become much favoured by the local palate especially for grilled and Oriental dishes.  The supply chain supports this demand by making perfectly frozen fillets available at competitive prices. My neighbourhood guy sells it at Rs. 450 /kg - I got 6 servings out of it, enough for 2 meals for 3 people. Compare this with Rs. 600-Rs. 700/kg for sole or even local fish like surmai or pomfret which are between Rs 350 - Rs 400 per kg. Of course, I would never use basa to replace local fish in Indian curries - but it seems perfect for appetizers and grilled mains. This time I used Asian flavours to marinate the fish and then baked it and served it over stir fried noodles. Delicious.  Asian Style Baked Basa with Crispy NoodlesServes 2 Basa Fillet - 1 large - about 350gmsMarinade/Dipping Sauce Fish Sauce - 1 tbspSoy Sauce - 1 tbspSriracha Sauce (or any Hot sauce) - 1 tbspOlive Oil - 1 tbspGarlic - 1tbsp, finely choppedGinger - 1 tbsp, thinly shreddedFor the baking processRice wine vinegar - 1 tbsp Lime juice - 1 tbspCoriander - 2 tbsp chopped Olive Oil - 1 tbspFreshly crushed black peppersalt to tasteSpring Onions - 2 sliced (reserve the green tops) Green chilli - 2 slitNoodles - 200gms (I was out of noodles and used spaghetti)Olive oil  - 1 tbspsalt to tasteGarlic - 2 cloves chopped finely1.  Mix all ingredients for the marinade, lightly whisk and keep aside.2. Divide the Basa fillet into two portions and marinate in the prepared marinade for about half an hour to an hour3. Pre heat oven to 180C. Mix the rice wine vinegar, Olive oil, lime juice, chopped coriander, salt and pepper.4. Pour the prepared vinegar mixture into a baking tray, remove the fish fillets from the marinade (reserve the marinade for the spaghetti) and place on the baking tray. Top each fillet with half of the chopped spring onions and one green chilli5. Bake in the pre heated oven at 180C for 15 minutes, till the fish is just flaky.6. While the fish is baking, bring a pot of water to boil, add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cool till just done (al dente). Takes about 6-8 minutes.7. In a wok or heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and saute for half a minute. Add the reserved marinade mixture and boil 2 minutes.8. Add the spaghetti to the wok and stir fry for 3-5 minutes till slightly crispy, season with a little salt if needed, usually the marinade mixture has ennough salt in it from the sauces.9. To serve, divide the noodles between two plates and place one fillet of fish on top of each pile. Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and a wedge of lime.[...]

Milk Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti for Christmas


 Biscotti is a crisp (some would say hard) biscuit of Italian origin,traditionally enjoyed  (in Italy) with a wine or orange juice and in places outside Italy with a steaming cup of coffee. The word Biscotti describes its preparation - it is derived from the Latin word biscoctus which means "twice cooked/ baked". It describes foods which were cooked / baked twice so that they lasted longer and could be used to feed soldiers or travellers on long journeys and during wars. Their origin being the town of Prato, they are known as Biscotti di Prato; but they are also commonly called "cantuccini" in Tuscany and Sicily.The traditional recipe only uses flour, sugar, almonds and eggs while not incorporating butter or yeast. The dough is baked in slabs and when fresh and warm cut into slices and baked once again till crisp. Recent recipes have started incorporating other nuts like hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts; baking powder and butter have also been included along with flavourings in the form of almond or vanilla extract and some spices like anise and cinnamon.I love my cookies a bit crisp and crunchy and don't much prefer the soft ones, so I have always wanted to bake Biscotti. Never got around to doing it though until now. The thought of baking them twice and the fear of them crumbling while cutting them into slices after the first round of baking made it a little daunting, but it was actually all very smooth when I did get around to baking it.I used milk chocolate (I had a large Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut slab a friend had gifted my daughter and she - like me- doesn't always prefer "things" coming in between her chocolate. So I decided to cut it up into chips and use it in the biscotti. I also had some macadamia nuts lying from my trip to Australia and decided to use those as well. I adapted this recipe from Canadian Living. I had my daughter's best friends over when I was making this so the tiny hands all wanted to shape the logs and they did a good job! My oven couldn't accomodate 14" logs, so I just divided the dough into 3 parts and made three smaller logs. The kids couldn't wait for the logs to be baked and then cool a bit so we could cut slices and I had a tough time restricting how much of the freshly baked logs they could consume - LOL! The slices cut quite easily with a serrated knife - you have to take care to use firm strokes to cut and not linger too much. The middle part of one of the logs was crumbling a bit, but there were a lot of takers for the crumbs, so I didn't have a problem with that :)The Biscotti came out beautifully flavoured, not too sweet and with just the right amount of crunch from the nuts. They were crisp and made for a lovely snack with just the right amount of hardness. This is definitely a recipe to repeat since it has become a favourite in our house - none of my other cookies have won such all round approval satisfying the picky husband (when it comes to sweets) and the savoury liking daughter.I have also baked my Christmas Cake with the kids - the one which I have been doing for many years and it is luscious with all the dried fruit inside - I sliced one portion and am dousing the other round cake with small spoons of orange juice till it is ready to be eaten on Christmas. I have another batch of dried fruit soaking with which I am going bake another Christmas cake when my niece arrives and we will have that one for New Year with friends and family. This is a different recipe I'm going to be using for the first time, lets see how it turns out. Have you baked your Christmas Cake - try this recipe here, its easy and you will love the flavour! If you haven't soaked dried fruit, ust steam the fruit for about 7-8 minutes gently in orange juice or rum and rest for 30 minutes, before proceeding with the recipe. Recipe hereNow back to the Biscotti. Milk Chocolate Macadamia Biscotti [...]

Mushroom, Miso, Tofu Noodle Soup


One of  my dear friends who is now in Hong Kong sent me a packet of miso paste (among other goodies!!). I have heard a lot about miso and even had it in a lovely miso soup in a Japanese restaurant called Ai in South Delhi. The umami flavour it imparts to a dish is amazing.Miso is made out of fermented soybeans, salt and the same bacteria which is used in making soy sauce and sake. This bacteria, I coincidentally found out, boosts the good flora required for digestion in the intestinal tract - which means its particularly good for me! It is also supposed to be good for the immune system - so perfect to keep those sniffles away just when they are about to begin. Read more here.I used mushrooms, spinach and tofu to make a very flavourful vegetable miso soup and added noodles so it became a nice one pot meal. Perfect for a cold, winter's day but light enough for the summer as well. The miso did really add a very unmistakable flavour to the soup and left you wanting for more - I suggest larger quantities next time!Mushroom, Miso and Tofu, Noodle Soup(Adapted from Sustainable Pantry)    Miso paste – 1 tbspSpinach – 1 cup sliced into small strips Carrot -1,  sliced into roundsMushrooms – 100gms, slicedTofu – 100gms, cubedNoodles -150gms (I used egg noodles, you could use Udon or Soba)Onion – 1 medium , slicedSpring onions – 2 sliced (white part, reserve green for garnish)Ginger – 1” piece, mincedGarlic – 4 cloves, mincedGreen chillies – 2 slitHeat 1 tsp oil in a large pan and sauté the onions, chillies, garlic and ginger for a minute. Add the carrots, mushroom and sauté 1 minute and then add 8 cups water and bring to a boil. Add ¼ tsp salt and simmer, covered, for 3-4 minutes.Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook as per package instructions.Meanwhile, dissolve the miso paste in 3 tbspof the soup from the pan and add back to the pan.Taste and add more miso to the soup if you require a stronger flavour. Add the tofu cubes, spring onion slices and the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve noodles in soup bowl and then ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with spring onion greens.This is a superb soup to have anyway, so if you don't have the miso paste, just make it using a stock cube and it should be a comforting, delicious meal. [...]

Orange and Chocolate Chip Muffins with Sprinkles


Do you know what happens when your 6 year old bakes muffins? -  you digress so far from the original recipe that it bears only a slight  resemblance to what you intended to bake. Almonds get turned down (because nuts are good only with chocolate, Amma), chocolate chips get added in (there's so little left in the packet Amma, lets finish it) and finally the muffins miraculously sprout sprinkles on top (Please Amma, can we have sprinkles on top - Please, please pleaaaaaase).I started with The Cooker's recipe for some delicious Orange, Oats and Almond Muffins - they seemed delicious. K had a compensatory holiday last Friday, after her Sports Day in school and was bouncing off the walls at home. So we decided to bake - and she said she would do "everything".  I helped her measure out the ingredients,  and as she poured and stirred and whipped, she slowly took over the kitchen till the recipe morphed into something else with a life of its own!  But she was so thrilled at the fact that she was doing "everything", that I didn't have the heart to turn down her suggestions. After all, what's a few choc chips and sprinkles between friends - am sure the Cooker wouldn't mind the transformation of her recipe! And this was also K's gift to Amma and Appa on their 14th anniversary :) - how much sweeter can it get? The muffins rose beautifully and were soft and fluffy. Must be all the love and enthusiasm which went in with those tiny hands.This also goes out to my best friend S whose anniversary it is today - Happy Anniversary S and A - here's wishing you many more!. Orange and Chocolate Chip Muffins with SprinklesIngredients½ cup Quaker Oats ground coarsely1 ¼  cup flour¾  cup whole wheat flour ½  cup butter (or oil)½ cup sugar (I used castor sugar and would probably increase the quantity a tad bit more next time)2 eggs1 cup orange juice½ cup yoghurt½  tsp baking powder½ tsp baking soda½ cup yoghurt½ cup multicoloured sprinkles½ cup chocolate chips1 tbsp orange zest, gratedMethod1. Mix the refined flour, whole wheat flour, oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder and orange zest in a bowl.2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together till shiny, then add the eggs one by one and beat for 2 minutes each.3. Add the orange juice, yoghurt and chocolate chips into the egg mixture and mix till combined.4. Gently fold in the flour mixture, one third at a time into the egg mixture till just combined; do not overmix.5. Pre heat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease 2 muffin trays (6 muffins each).6. Spoon the batter into the muffin trays till they just graze the top of the moulds. Decorate with sprinkles on top/7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes – a skewer inserted should come clean. Cool completely before unmoulding. [...]

Parippu Vadai / Masala Vadai (Crispy Spiced Lentil Fritters) for Terra Madre - Slow Food Day


 Parippu Vadais are Fritters made out of a Lentil Based batter. We usually make them for festivals without onions - and then for a snack, you add onions and some more spice and lo! you have Masala Vadais!  They are part of traditional Tamil cuisine and am sure found in other avatars in other Southern states as well. These vadais are particularly  delicious because they have a great crunch to them which is achieved by grinding the lentils to a coarse batter which leaves some of the lentils whole. These turn crispy and nutty when fried and taste great.  The key is not to add too much water while grinding the batter and just enough to keep the blender going till you have a coarse batter. I remember enjoying masala vadais at the non descript stations the train from Mumbai to Chennai, used to halt at. The vendor would wrap up our order in newspaper and thrust the steaming packet into our hands before going on to the next window - heaven on a plate! The last time I had this outside was last December in Chennai at Sangeethas in Mylapore. That was delicious too. But who needs Sangeethas when you can make these at home (and don't have to fret about the perfect hole as in the case of Medu Wadas!) These are far simpler and very delicious. These vadais are specially for Terra Madre Day which was on December 10. Terra Madre Day is an annual event celebrated on December 10 every year by the Slow Food network around the world. The objective of this day is to underline the importance of eating locally. Activities to celebrate Terra Madre Day take place all over the world: in cities, rural areas, schools and community centers, cinemas or on farms, restaurants or at home. Its important that we preserve our local and regional cuisine - especially in our country which has hidden gems around every turn - in the frantic pace of globalisation and franchising uniformity, lets not forget the quirks of enjoying a wide variety of cuisines which change every 200km or so!As Rushina of  A Perfect Bite says "Spread the word amongst your circle of friends, speak to people you know in the food industry or simply mark the day by serving local foods, cooking up traditional recipes and promoting better food systems to your friends family and loved ones through the days of 9-19 of December.This is a very special celebration. That of food. Your food, my food, global food. You do not need to pay anything, you do not need to leave your house. All you need to do is cook local seasonal, regional, traditional foods because the only way to keep traditional foods alive is by cooking them."  Parippu Vadai / Masala Vadai (Crispy Spiced Lentil Fritters)  Chana Dal (Bengal Gram lentil) - 1 cupTur Dal (Pigeon pea lentil) - 1/2 cupUrad Dal  - 4 tbspDried red chillies - 5-6Saunf (Fennel Seeds) - 1 tspCurry Leaves - handfulOnion - 1 small. chopped (optional)Salt to tasteOil - enough to deep fry the vadais1. Soak lentils together in  4 cups of water for about 2 hours.2. Drain water and grind along with the red chillies, curry leaves, salt and fennel seeds till you get a coarse thick batter, using as little water as possible. There should be some whole pieces of the lentils sticking out of the batter.3. Heat oil in a kadai or a heavy bottomed deep pan. Add the chopped onions to the mixture and shape into balls. Flatten the balls a little on your palm and then gently slide them into the hot oil. Fry on a medium high flame till golden brown and crispy. 4. Taste and adjsut the batter for salt if needed and continue making vadais in the same way with the remaining batter. Serve hot.[...]

Murungakkai Kathirikai Thokku (Drumstick Eggplant Curry)


  It's only after posting on the blog that I realise how many of my MIL's recipes have been included in our home cooking routine. I'm glad of course, since its always a good thing to carry forward traditional recipes so they aren't forgotten, but its happened very unconsciously. The Mudaliar style of cooking was a bit different from what I had been used to growing up and since I love trying new things I ended up liking quite a few dishes (ok, still can't deal with the omelet with sambar rice combinaton which is a favourite in some of his cousin's homes!) from her repertoire. This Brinji and this Urulai Roast are great examples of the delicious dishes she turns out and much appreciated in our home as well as whoever has tried it out. And of course that one pot wonder called Bisebele Bhath!The dish I have posted today features an unusual (to me atleast, since I hadn't come across it before) combination of drumsticks and eggplants. Drumsticks (for those in the West who may not know about it) are a vegetable (Moringa Oleifera  from the Tamil word Murungakkai) of the genus Moringa. They are thin and slender stick shaped (hence the name) - hard outside and fleshy inside. They are rich in calcium and phosphorus. The leaves are cooked and eaten too when tender and are known to increase breast milk production in lactating mothers. The flowers too are cooked and in some places the roots as well.Drumstick Sambar is one of my favourites - the flesh takes on the flavours of the tamarind and spices and its just great to scoop it out along with the soft seeds and savour the taste. This dish combines the drumsticks with eggplants in a slightly spicy, tangy, tomato based curry. Its a semi gravy dish we call thokku (and usually much thicker than what's in the pic; this was for the lunch box so made it with a litte more curry than usual). MIL adds sambar powder to the spice mix andI feel it really brings out the flavours. The soft eggplant along with the drumstick make for a great combination, especially dunked in that lovely curry. A must try!Murungakkai Kathirikai Thokku (Drumstick Eggplant Curry)Ingredients:Drumstick - 1 big or two small, cut into 2-3 inch piecesEggplant (Brinjal) - long variety, cut into long fingers and dunked in salted water to prevent browningOnion - 1 big, choppedTomatoes - 2 medium, choppedTamarind extract - 5-6 tbsp (if using readymade pulp, 1tbsp should do)Chilli powder - 1 tspCoriander powder - 1 tspSambar powder - 1/2 tspTurmeric powder - 1/4 tspTempering:Mustard seeds - 1 tspCurry leaves - a handfulOil - 1 tbspSalt to taste1. Heat oil in a wide, heavy bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves. Meanwhile par boil the drumsticks in water for about 5 minutes (they should not be fully cooked)2. Put in the onions and saute till soft. Add the tomatoes and fry till pulpy, then add the spice powders - chilli, coriander, sambar and turmeric - and saute on low till the oil shows through - about 5-6 minutes3. Add the eggplant and fry for 3-4 minutes till they soften a bit, then add the drumsticks and salt and 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for another 5-7 minutes till the vegetables are cooked through but not squishy.4. Add the tamarind juice and some more water if needed and simmer uncovered on a medium flame for another 5 minutes till the raw smell goes away and the curry thickens.5. Serve with rotis or rice. [...]

Beetroot, Pear and Feta Salad with Orange Balsamic Reduction


 This is a gorgeous salad and a must try. Even my Dad who is a little conservative in his tastes (as he ages, else it was he who was the ultimate foodie when I was growing up!!) loved it and had second and third helpings. I initially made this for this dinner with friends and served it with a Lamb Chilli and Spaghetti Aglio - E Olio, but it is so simple that this can be a quick addition for an everyday meal with just pasta or even grilled chicken or fish.The original idea comes from Feast on Cheap which has the beets roasted in her version while I pressure cooked them. Indian beets must be different because they just didn't cook in the oven after all that time. Pressure cooking was way simpler. Also, the orange balsamic reduction is from another recipe of hers but I liked it so much I incorporated it into this one. I omitted the onions/shallots in the original recipe because Indian onions are quite pungent. Be sure to mix the pears and the beets only when ready to serve because otherwise the pears will turn blood red - my pic was taken after 15 minutes and its already red.The sweet flavours of the beet and the pear are interpersed with a sharp tartness from the balsamic vinaigrette and heightened by the salty feta - my favourite!. Such a beautiful combination of flavours!!Beetroot, Pear and Feta Salad with Orange Balsamic Reduction(Adapted from Feast on Cheap) Ingredients:Beetroot - 3 mediumPear - 1 ripe - firm varietyFeta Cheese crumbled - 1/2 cup (about 100 gm)Walnuts - 1/2 cup (toasted and lightly rubbed to remove the peel)Coriander leaves - 2-3 tbspDressing:Orange juice - 4 tbspBalsamic vinegar - 1/2 cupOlive oil - 2tbspLemon juice - 2 tspGrated giner - 1/2 tspGrated garlic - 1/2 tspChilli powder - 1/2 tspFreshly crushed black pepper - 1/4 tspSalt to taste1.  Put the beets into a vessel or directly in a pressure cooker, with a little water and cook for one whistle (8-10 minutes)2. Meanwhile,  heat the balsamic vinegar and orange juice together on a medium flame till it reduces to half (about 4-5 minutes), stirring occasionally.3. Whisk in all the other ingredients of the dressing along with the orange juice reduction and keep aside to allow the flavours to meld.4. Once the pressure cooker can be opened and the beets have cooled, peel them, cut the ends and then cut into 1" cubes or thinner (I did thinner slices). Place in the salad bowl you will be serving them in.5.Cut the pears into very thin slices. Crumble the feta cheese.6. Add the toasted walnuts, feta cheese, and pears to the beets and toss with the dressing till well mixed. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve immediately.7. To make ahead and serve later, toss the beets in 1/2 the dressing and refrigerate covered. In another bowl. In another bowl, add the feta, pears and walnuts and rerigerate covered. Just before serving, add the pears, walnuts and feta to the beet bow, toss with the remaining dressing and garnish with chopped coriander.[...]

Lamb Chilli with Pumpkin and Kidney Beans


 Chili Con Carne - the classic stew with Mexican origins but now known more as a part of Tex-Mex cuisine - has long fascinated me. The flavours of the various chillies that are used in it and the method of slow cooking the meat in a rich gravy always made me wonder how it would taste. I still don't know what the real deal is - BUT I can say that I have made my own version of it and it was much appreciated!There were a couple of substitutions involved of course - not having access to the different kind of peppers or spice powders - habanero, poblano, chipotle etc - I had to come up with a spice mix of my own which I did after consulting a few recipes for chili spice mixes, online. I also substituted beef mince with goat's meat mince - what we call mutton in India. And instead of a crockpot, I simmered it for a couple of hours in my rice cooker.I served it with some French bread and Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and by the end of the dinner with friends, there wasn't much left over. There's something about a slow cooked stew which has had time for the flavours to come together (I made it the previous day) which makes for a great meal - especially one shared with dear friends.  Lamb Chili with Pumpkin and Kidney Beans  (adapted from this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen)Mutton Mince (I used goat's meat, you can use lamb) - 750gmsRajma (kidney beans) - 1 cup soaked overnight and cooked in a pressur cookerPumpkin - 350 gms choppedBell peppers - 2Garlic - 3-4 cloves Onions -2 dicedGreen chillies - 3 chopped Tomatoes - 6 choppedChilli powder - 1 tspCumin powder - 1 tspChili spice mix (store bought or see below for homemade) - 1 tbspBeef stock cube (or chicken stock cube) - 2 cubes dissolved in 1 litre water Spice MixRed chillies - 5Coriander seeds - 1 tbspCumin seeds - 1 tspblack pepper - 1 tspRoast and grind to a fine powder and mix withdried thyme - 1 tspdried oregano - 1 tsponion powder - 1 tspgarlic powder - 1 tspRun through the blender one more time1. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pressure pan or pressure cooker and saute the mince in it for about 8-10 minutes till browned. Remove and keep aside.2. In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and saute the onions and the bell peppers for 3 minutes, then add the garlic, chili powder, cumin powder, chili spice mix and saute for a couple of minutes more. Add the tomatoes and pumpkin pieces and saute for 3 minutes till soft.3. Add the beef stock and salt and bring to a boil, close the pressure pan and cook for 2 whistles on high and then lower flame and cook for 5 minutes.4. When cool enough, release pressure, open cooker and add the cooked kidney beans - mash about half a cup of the cooked kidney beans. Check seasoning and pour into a rice cooker.5. Switch on the rice cooker and making sure there is enough liquid, cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours till the stew reduces to a thick consistency.  Stir occasionally and check for the seasoning adding cumin powder or spice powder or chili powder depending on the overall taste. (Alternatively, you can cook the dish on the stove top in a heavy bottomed vessel for about an hour)6. Serve (preferably after keeping overnight in the fridge) with coarse bread or rice. (I served it with Spaghetti Aglio e Olio - a simple spaghetti dish tossed with olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes garnished with cheese - I also added some bacon)[...]

Jungle Getaway and Giveaway Winner!!


Some shots from my trip in January this year to the Satpura jungles in Madhya Pradesh - I had gone along with two other girlfriends to a jungle lodge which one of them is a partner in. We helped revamp their menu and train the kitchen staff who have been hired locally.  I had posted one of those recipes here for Patrani Machhi or Fish steamed in Banana Leaves.   Thank you for all your wishes on completing 4 years - couldn't have done it without your support and encouragement!I entered the serial numbers of the participants in the Giveaway into a random number generator ( and the number that was generated was of Sarah! Congratulations Sarah!!! I will mail you shortly for your address details - looking forward to sending you the Mainland China Cookbook - hope you enjoy cooking from it.(edited to add: I forgot you are from Ireland, so you will be getting Anjum Anand's new book - I Love Curry)[...]

Bisibele Huli Anna (One Pot Meal of Spiced Rice, Lentils and Vegetables)


I was introduced to this beautiful dish in MIL's home - she had learnt it while living in Bangalore when FIL was posted there in the 70s. This is a dish from Karnataka and she explained to me that Bisibele Huli Anna in Kannada literally meant -" piping hot lentils, tamarind and rice". Hubby loves this one pot meal and MIL is an expert at turning this out in the rice cooker at short notice for guests, for a meal which receives a lot of praise.There is an interesting anecdote I have regarding this dish. In the early days of our marriage, sometimes when I was tired at the end of a long day I would ask hubby as to what he would like to eat he would say "why don't you just cook Bisibele Bhath"? It puzzled me why someone who was usually looking to save me from spending too much time in the kitchen, suddenly asking me to make something which is a lot more work than normal. I figured out after a long time that he thought that Bisibele Bhath was just sambar and rice cooked together - which was of course much easier wasn't it? sorta like making khichdi?!! I had to explaint to him that it was much more complicated than that and actually involved grinding a spice mix from scratch.Talking about the spice mix - I disagreed a lot with MIL about the spice mix she uses and finally after doing a bit of research and cooking the dish a few times, came to a mix of spices which I feel is the best tasting for this dish. I basically don't like it too heavy on the whole spices like cinnamon and cloves and tone them down taking care not to tone it down so much that the dish tastes bland - it has lentils and rice after all as the main ingredients, so don't want it becoming just a plain khichdi. I'm also particular about the vegetables I use and don't agree with MIL's tendency to put in whatever's at hand - including bottle gourd (dudhi/lauki) and wax gourd (parwal) sometimes! I tend to stick to carrots, beans, peas and potatoes. I know - shocking for someone who otherwise substitutes with such ease!What my MIL excels at is the exact ratio of lentils, rice, tamarind and spice mix - it took me sometime to get that right so as to not end up with a stodgy dish or worse, one that had too much tamarind or was too spicy. I now realise that its quite easy to make it as long as one breaks it down to its components - the dal and rice cook together and then cooked again with the spices, tamarind juice and vegetables till it all melds into a beautiful symphony of flavours and a delicious one pot meal.We had this for Sunday lunch along with these Crispy Potatoes or Urulai Roast - another speciality of MIL's.  We were joined by our neighbours from upstairs for lunch that day so the company made it an even nicer meal. Just a reminder that I have a Giveaway on my blog and its the last couple of days to participate - so hurry over and leave a comment to win a beautiful cookbook!Bisibele Huli AnnaRice - 1 cupTur Dal (Arhar/Tuvaram parripu) - 3/4 cupTamarind - small lime sized ball soaked in a cup of waterVegetables - diced carrots, beans, potatoes, peas - 2 cupsOil - 1 tbspGhee - 1 tbsp and some more to servesalt to tasteturmeric powder - 1/2 tspCoriander leaves Spice Mix:Red chillies - 4-5Coriander seeds - 1 tbspCumin seeds - 1 tspMethi seeds - 1/4 tspBlack Pepper - 1/2 tspCinnamon - 1Cloves - 2-31 tsp chana dal1 tsp urad dal1/2 cup grated coconut Tempering:Mustard - 1 tspHing (asafoetida) - pinchCurry leaves - 5-61. Cook the rice and lentils together with the turmeric, in a pressure cooker - use a little more water than usual so they are cooked well and a little mushy.2. Meanwhile roast all the ingredients for the spice mix, except the coconut, in a t[...]

No Fuss Chocolate Mousse and a Giveaway


I used to be quite the expert at making chocolate mousse from scratch; dishing out smooth, velvety scoops of delicious goodness! Till I started reading about the dangers of consuming raw eggs especially for children. So I stopped.....Recently I started dreaming of a spoonful of chocolate heaven again but didn't want to go down the gelatine route either. There were recipes with cream and agar but frankly with the thin cream we get here (no double whipped) I was very doubtful of its ability to set well. That's when I remembered seeing a recipe in Nigella's book. Yes - it was very much there and used marshmallows.So I tried the recipe and it was a very easy and fabulous tasting one. The mousse turned out silken smooth and with no fuss at all! I made these for a dinner with friends during Navratri and served them in shot glasses as well as these antique glasses (antique - because they are 40 years old, my Dad got them from Japan when he was posted there!). The kids had a whale of a time licking the ends of the shot glasses which they couldn't reach with their spoons!My blog is now 4 years old!! Only apt that I celebrate with a chocolate dessert since I began this blog with another delicious chocolate dessert. Thanks to all my readers and especially the people who take time to comment and mail me - its your interest which inspires me to blog about my cooking efforts.And because I love y'all so much and to thank you for your support, I am hosting a GiveAway on my blog this month. For my Indian readers, I have The Mainland China Cookbook by Anjan Chatterjee to give away. The book will be sent to the lucky winner through Flipkart. This is one of my favourite restaurants and they have an amazing spread, not to mention some great customer service from a warm and welcoming staff. I have eaten in their restaurants in Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai and enjoyed most meals. The book has recipes for all their signature dishes - Crackling Spinach, Lotus Leaf Wrapped Rice, Lamb Stir Fry, Stir Fried Chinese Greens, Shao Xiang Chicken with Cashews and Chillies, Spring Onion Pancakes - in a crisp and clean format which makes the recipes easy to replicate in your own home.For my readers outside India - I am giving away one copy of Anjum Anand's new book "I Love Curry" - a lovely collection of Indian recipes (not only curries but also sides, raitas, breads, salads and rice) with a contemporary twist to them. Anjum Anand is the host of Indian Food Made Easy and I love her effortless style and how she breaks down Indian cooking to show the depth and variety the cuisine has to offer without making it seem too complicated and preachy. The book will be sent to the lucky winner via Amazon.So from Nov 1 to Nov 15th, 2011 - to participate in the Giveaway:1. Leave a comment with your email id and place of residence2. Tell me what's your favourite recipe on the blog3. Share with me the dishes / cuisine you would like to see more of, on PeppermillChocolate Mousse (serves 12-14)Marshmallows - 200gms chopped into smaller piecesButter - 100 gmsDark Chocolate - 400gmsCream - 300gmsVanilla essence - 1 tspTake a heavy pan and put in the chopped marshmallows, butter and chocolate (I had a packet which was a mix of white and pink marshmallows!) Chop the marshmallows else it takes a lot of time to melt. 2. Heat the pan over a low flame, stirring now and then till melted and comes together.Don't overheat or it might get clumpy. Remove from heat and keep aside.    3. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the vanilla essence until a little thick, and then fold into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture - it should be [...]

Diwali Bakshanam Series - IV - Rava Ladoo


 To end this series on a sweet note - one of the easiest sweets to make for Diwali - Rava Laddoo. My favourite too because of its melt in the mouth texture. And not the sticking to the palate kind of consistency unlike Ma Laddoos or Besan Laddoos.

Some recipes add milk, but I don't think that's a good idea because besides the fact that it reduces shelf life, it often makes the laddoos hard. Better to go with ghee.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year!

Semolina (sooji / rava) - 2 cups
Sugar - 1.5 cups
Ghee - 1 to 1/1/4 cups (melted)
Cardamom (elaichi) - 4-5
1/4 cup raisins and cashews

1. Add 2 tsp of the ghee to a heavy pan and lightly fry the cashews ansd raisins for about 3 minutes - the raisins will plump up and the cashews will turn light brown. Remove and keep aside.
2. Add 2 more tsp of ghee to the pan and lightly fry the rava for about 5 minutes on a low flame, constantly stirring. A light aroma of roasted rava is enough and it shouldn't turn brown.
3. Transfer the rava to a plate where it can cool.
4. Remove the cardamom seeds and mix it with the sugar and grind in a mixie till almost powdered.
5. Add the cooled rava to the mixie and grind till the sugar is completely powdered and the rava is still a little bit coarse.
6. Remove from the mixie into a separate dish.
7. Take a large plate - take about one third of the rava and add the warm, melted ghee 2-3 tablespoons at a time, to the rava - roughly a little less than half a cup should do. You can always add some more later if needed.
8. Take about 2 raisins and half a cashew for each laddoo and combine it with the rava and melted ghee and make small balls. If the mixture has too much of ghee, add a bit of the rava sugar mixture.
9. Once this is done, repeat with another one third of the rava and another measure of ghee and then again with the last portion of rava and some more ghee.

Don't panic if the laddoos are not forrming well, just add a wee bit more of warm ghee and it should come together. Also, you may have to warm the ghee midway once more, otherwise the laddoos may stop coming together.

Diwali Bakshanam Series - III - Ribbon Pakoda


This is the third in my series of posts this week on Diwali sweets and savouries. The first post was on Thenkuzhal and Mullu Murukku. Ribbon Pakoda is another universal favourite and I love this slightly spicy, crunchy snack. The main difference from the first two savouries is that we use Chickpea flour (besan) and rice flour instead of rice flour and split green gram flour. The murukku press uses the flat line shaped discs and there is also a bit of chilli powder added to the flour. So this snack is a lovely golden brown in colour.Ribbon Pakoda2 cups - besan (chickpea flour)1 cup - rice flourMelted Butter - 5 tbsp (I used unsalted butter, if you use salted butter, adjust the quantity of salt)Sesame seeds - 1.5 tspAsafoetida - 1/4 tspRed chilli powder - 1 tsp Salt - 1 level tsp (approximately) Water - I ended up using about 250ml of water totally, but added it very gradually so as to not end up with a sticky mass.1. Mix the rice flour, chickpea flour, sesame seeds and asafoetida in a large bowl. Melt the butter till just liquid and then mix into the flour gradually. Add the salt - its always better to add a little less and then increase it after tasting the dough. Mix till all the ingredients come together.3. The dough may just about be able to come together but not able to hold shape. Start adding the water a little at a time and knead into a soft, pliable dough. At this stage, you can leave it a little bit firmer than what is actually needed and then add some more water to each batch just before being pressed out.4. Divide the dough into 4-5 portions, each just enough amount to fit into the murukku press. Keep the rest aside covered by a damp cloth so that it doesn't dry out and work with one portion at a time.5. Grease the insides of the murukku press. Take one portion of the dough and add about a tbsp of water (if needed), put into the murukku press. Use the plate which has a star shaped hole in it.6. Press down on a oiled quarter plate or even a greased plastic sheet - it should be easy to press out and the shapes should form easily. If you are finding it difficult to press out the dough, then remove the portion and add one or two tbsp of water to it and try again till you come to a stage where it becomes easy to press out the ribbon shapes. It doesn't matter if the shapes don't come out into an exact round shape - as you keep pressing it will become easier to control. Don't press out too much at one time since it will take time to cook.7. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy bottomed kadhai/wok - test the temperature by putting a small bit of pressed dough into the oil, it should rise to the top. If not wait for some more time. Keep the flame on medium low at all times.  8. When the oil is hot enough, slide the pressed out shapes from the plate/plastic sheet onto your hand and then slide it slowly into the hot oil, taking care not to drop it from a height,else the oil might splash on to your hands. Put in a few more or as much as the pan can accomodate without overcrowding.9. When it rises to the top, flip over and fry for a few more minutes -  till the bubbling of the oil stops and the ribbon pakoda is cooked through and a golden brown in colour. Wait for the first batch to cool and eat one to check the salt and consistency. Accordingly adjust the seasoning if needed and correct the frying time for the next batch.10. Press out the remaining portions as well in the same manner.[...]

Diwali Bakshanam Series - II - Cornflakes Chivda


This is not a Tamil savoury snack - the similar snack which is made at Diwali in Tamil households is called "Mixture" and has a mixture of fried ingredients like omapodi, ribbon pakoda and peanuts and other savoury seasonings.
But I love the cornflakes chivda which you get in Mumbai and its much easier to make as well. I used this recipe from The Cooker and it was abosutely fuss free and such a delicious snack!

Cornflakes Chivda
(adapted from this recipe)

Cornflakes - 6 cups
cashewnuts - split into half - 1/4 cup
peanuts (with skin)- 1/2 cup
raisins - 1/3 cup
mustard seeds - 2 tsp
Curry leaves - handful
fennel seeds (saunf) - 1 tsp
red chilli powder - 1 tsp
salt - to taste
oil - 3-4 tbsp
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
lime juice - 1 tbsp
sugar - 1 tsp

1. Heat oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds and when they start popping, add the curry leaves and turmeric.
2. Then add the peanuts and fry till half roasted.
3. Add the cashews, raisins, red chilli powder, fennel seeds, lemon juice and fry for 3-4 minutes till the cashews are toasted, the rasins are plumped up and the peanuts are fully roasted.
4. Pour in the cornflakes and salt and turn off the flame. Mix well taking care not to crush the cornflakes. When slightly cool, add the sugar.
5. Store in air tight containers.

Diwali Bhakshanam Series - I - Thenkuzhal & Mullu Murukku


I rarely post recipes of Indian sweets and savouries because they seem so subjective to me. A lot of Indian sweet making is about perserverence and picking up a few tips rather than sticking to recipes to the letter, as in case of many Western recipes. The success to making Indian sweets lies in not getting caught up in the debate about one string or two string consistency but rather to get a natural feel of things by making them again and again. Even if only once a year - the next year will be a bit better than the previous one because of one more thing you found out for yourself.This year since I'm home and have the time (but alas not the energy and so have had my trusty Tara to help out with the actual stirring/making/squuezing out), I decided to involve my 6 year old so that she gets a feel of all the traditional Tamil sweets and savories which she wouldn't get to see otherwise in Delhi. I also decided to post the recipes with a few tips of what I have learnt over the last 12 years I have been making these on and off. I don't profess to be an expert but just making these again and again is what seems to have helped me in getting things right.I will be posting these dishes and their recipes over the next 5 days - hopefully, those of you who need a slight nudge will find these posts helpful to kickstart your Diwali preparations. While store bought is always convenient and time saving, it would be a little sad if we didn't make an effort to preserve just a few of our traditions!This post introduces the favourite Tamil savoury Thenkuzhal - literally meaning tubes of honey - and Mullu Murukku. These are fried savoruy snacks with a lovely crunch to them - made out of rice flour and split green gram lentil flour. The proportions and ingredients are what my Mom uses - haven't changed anything since it all works perfectly fine as it is. And please Use Butter. Thenkuzhal 2 cups - rice flour1/2 cup - urad dal (split black gram) flourButter - 5 tbsp (I used unsalted butter, if you use salted butter, check the quantity of salt)Cumin seeds - 1.5 tspAsafoetida - 1/4 tspSalt - 1level tsp (approximately) Water - I ended up using about 250ml of water totally, but added it very gradually so as to not end up with a sticky mass.1. You could buy urad dal flour readymade from the store - but if you don't get it (which I don't here), lightly roast 1 cup of split black gram till it barely changes colour (this takes about 8-10 minutes). If you roast it too much, you might not get the almost cream colour of this particular svaoury snack and it might turn out a bit darker. Which is fine - you can always keep it in mind and do it the next year!2. Mix the rice flour, urad dal flour, cumin seeds and asafoetida in a large bowl. Melt the butter till just liquid and then mix into the flour gradually. Add the salt - its always better to add a little less and then increase it after tasting the dough. Mix till all the ingredients come together.3. The dough may just about be able to come together but not able to hold shape. Start adding the water a little at a time and knead into a soft, pliable dough. At this stage, you can leave it a little bit firmer than what is actually needed and then add some more water to each batch just before being pressed out.4. Divide the dough into 4-5 portions, each just enough amount to fit into the murukku press. Keep the rest aside covered by a damp cloth so that it doesn't dry out and work with one portion at a time.5. Grease insides of the mould. Take one portion of the dough a[...]

Vadai Curry (Fried Lentil Dumplings in a Coconut and Fennel Spiced Curry)


Remember the fabulous coconut milk infused rice dish Brinji and the delicious golden crusted Roast Potatoes? Well this is another of MIL's specialities which I was introduced to after I got married - I have adapted it to my taste over the years and it remains a favourite at home though doesn't get made as often as we would like. It's not very time consuming, just that you need to remember to soak the lentils for the vadais beforehand. And these vadais are so tasty, I always make more vadais to eat on their own as a snack - either before lunch or at tea time.The flavour of the curry as well as the vadais depend on the addition of fennel seeds (saunf). MIL roasts whole spices and grinds them into the spice paste, but that's too strong a flavour for me. I prefer tempering the curry with the whole spices instead and also adding a dash of garam masala powder.Also, one could steam the vadais (and call them urundais - dumplings- instead of vadais!) and then put them into the curry - but really, since we don 't make this very often I find it worthwhile to have the fried vadais when I do make it. The taste of the crisp lentiil vadais soaked in the curry is absolutely amazing. Not to mention that we get to eat the crunchy vadais on their own for a snack!I made this for lunch on a Saturday and served it with rice and then we had the leftovers with idlis the next morning. Idlis and vadai curry is a classic combination and hard to beat.P.S I have made a few additions to the widgets on my blog - a long overdue Search button which many had been asking for. Also, a book list of the books I have been reading - I know there are many avid book readers out there and I know we are always looking out for some good recommendations. Feel free to mail me to check on any book you see in my list, I will be happy to share my impressions of the book. There are also widgets for some of the most popular posts on this blog as well as Subscribe via email button at the bottom. Do let me know if you have any feedback on the blog. Thank you! Vadai CurryIngredients:For the VadaiChana Dal (Bengal Gram Dal) - 1 heaped cup, soaked for 1.5 to 2 hoursFennel seeds (saunf) - 1 tspOnion - 1 small, finely choppedCurry Leaves - 8Dried red chillies - 3-4SaltOil to fry the vadaisFor the CurryMasala paste:Coconut - 3/4 cup gratedGreen chillies -2-3Fennel Seeds (saunf) - 1 tspCinnamon - 1 stickCloves - 4Onion - 2 small choppedTomatoes - 2 chopped Green chillies - 2 slitGinger Garlic paste - 1 tspChilli powder - 1/2 tspTurmeric powder - 1/4 tspCoriander powder - 2 tspGaram Masala powder - 1/2 tspCoriander leaves chopped - 2 tbspsalt to tasteOil - 1 tbsp1. For the vadais, grind the chana dal along with the red chillies, saunf and salt. Grind to a coarse consistency adding minimal water and do not make into a fine paste. It is fine if there are pieces of lentil showing. Add the finely chopped onions and curry leaves into the batter and mix well.2. Heat a deep wok with oil in it - enough to cover the vadais when they are fried. Shape the vadais into small balls and deep fry in batches on a medium high flame, till golden brown and crisp. Drain on absorbent paper and keep aside. 3. For the curry, grind the ingredients for the spice paste finely.4. Heat oil in a pan and add the cinnamon and cloves followed by the chopped onions - fry till transparent and then add the ginger garlic paste and the green chillies and fry for 2 minutes.5. Put in the chopped tomatoes, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder [...]

Vegetable Biryani - The Party Pleaser


 This is one of the first biryanis I tried when we started entertaining and I wasnt still comfortable cooking meat or chicken. So I would stick to a chicken curry and stay safe with the rice.  Plus in Chennai, we had friends who were vegetarians and it made sense to have one main which everyone could enjoy. More convenient for me as well to come home after work and just concentrate on a few things for dinner. But this biryani is definitely magical - good times assured and some very satisfied diners. Every. Single. Time. Don't take my word for it - go ahead and try it. I used to think it may have been all that rum and cola we DINKS were consuming - but no, its improved its reputation even as our choice of drinks has become a little  more diverse and refined. And now, since my repertoire has expanded in the past 14 years, I make this as a Sunday lunch as well - its no longer a "party dish" alone. I do have a confession though - part of this dish's popularity is aided by the addition of a ready made ingredient - Parampara Biryani Masala. It doesn't completely rely on it, but the taste definitely improves with the addition. You could replace with some other commercial biryani masala - I have tried Everest which works well too. This is going to Tickling Palates' event Hibernative Foods - she says our ancestors instinctively prepared foods which matched the seasons. Which is why, she says, the festival season from Dasera to Diwali during the cooler months, sees a surfeit of protein rich and fatty foods like sweets and savouries. So, the brief for this month was to prepare food rich in proteins as well as fat. Biryani of course is definitely a winter dish with its warming properties....and its a rich dish with protein and fats in the form of the vegetables, ghee and yoghurt. Rice - 2 cups Cloves - 3-4Cardamom - 2-3Cinnamon -2 sticksBay leaves - 1Oil - 2 tspSaltOnions - 2 big, sliced thinTomato - 1 meidum choppedChopped veggies - 2 cups (carrots, beans, peas, mushrooms, bell peppers) Yoghurt - 1 cupGinger garlic paste - 2 tspGreen chillies - 3 slit longRed chilli powder - 1/2 tspBiryani masala - 2 tbsp (Parampara paste is what I use)Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp choppedMint leaves - 1 tbsp choppedGhee / oil - 3-4 tbspsalt 1 Cook basmati rice in lots of salted water along with bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom,cardamom and oil till it is three fourth cooked. Drain the rice, fluff with a fork onto a platter and keep aside.2 Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy bottome pan, add the sliced onions, saute for 8-10 mts till nice and brown. Reserve half of the onions for garnish.3 In the same pan, add the ginger garlic paste,green chillis, mint leaves and coriander leaves lightly fry for 2-3 minutes.4. Add the red chilli powder and biryani masala along with the chopped tomatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes.5. Add the yoghurt and salt and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes till the masala comes together well and then add the vegetables, fry 2 minutes and cover and cook till just tender. Turn off flame and keep aside.6. .In a baking dish, smear some oil at the bottom and arrange half of the par boiled rice in an even layer.7. Take the vegetable yoghurt masala mixture and spread evenly over the rice8. Spread the remaining rice over the masala, top with the fried onions and some more of the coriander and mint leaves.9. Cover with foil and bake in a pre heated oven at 190C for about 30 minutes. let rest uncovered for about 5 min[...]

Nutella Pinwheel Cookies


I amo actually not much of a Nutella enthusiast - certainly not like my brother who can slather it on to bread slices and make sandwiches of it!! But I recently bought a jar in an attempt to persuade my daughter to finish up her lunch box - the deal being that she would get Nutella sandwiches one day of the week if she finishes up her lunch the other 4 days. (I don't even know why I am making these deals because its not as if the lunches on the other days are uninteresting or she doesn't like them. She just chats and eats so slowly that she runs out of time most days. Sigh....and some days she has Chocos from her friend's lunchbox - not to judge, but really Chocos for lunch?? Must be another harried Mom who was trying to make a deal with her 6 year old!Anyway, so when I saw this latest post on Anita's blog for some luscious Cinnamon Rolls,  what instantly came to mind were pinwheel cookies and the Nutella jar in the fridge. I thought Joy of Baking would have a recipe for pinwheel cookies of some sort, but they didn't and instead found a site called Joy of Desserts and I found this recipe which used chocolate. I adapted the recipe to use the chocolate hazelnut spread and it was a lovely combination.The humidity made it a bit difficult to roll out the dough even though I chilled it, so I finally had to roll out the chocolate part of the dough on top of the plain dough which is why the pinwheels are not as well defined as I would have liked them. Did nothing to the taste though; these were some seriously good cookies - soft and crumbly and with the delicious taste of chocolate and hazelnuts mixed in without being overwhelmingly cloying.Nutella Pinwheel Cookies (Adapted from Joy of Desserts) 1 1/2 cups flour (I ended up kneading in about another 1/4 cup of flour in my attempt to roll out the dough)1/2 cup butter ( I had only salted butter so skipped the pinch of salt in the original recipe)1/2 cup sugar2 tablespoons Nutella1 egg3 -4 tablespoons milk1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1. Sieve the flour with the baking powder (and salt if usinng)2. Cream the butter and then add the sugar and bear till light and shiny.3. Add the egg and beat for another 2 minutes.4. Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix well, adding milk one tablespoon at a time till you manage to get a soft dough.5. Divide the dough into two portions and add the Nutella to one of the portions.6. Wrap the dough portions with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.7. Turn the plain dough out and roll 1/8th inch thick. Roll the Nutella dough out to the same size as the plain dough.8. Place the Nutella dough over the plain dough and press together, Then roll away from you into a tight even cylindrical roll.9. Chill again for 10 minutes, Remove and cut into thin slices.10. Bake in a pre heated oven at 190C for 10 minutes.[...]



Laksa is one of my favourite noodle soups and I always try to order it when we are eating out at a restaurant which serves Oriental cuisine (and come to think of it we seem to land up at these places a lot because both of us love those flavours). This is a Malaysian dish, though to be more accurate it is supposed to have a lot of Chinese elements to it, so its popular in a place like Singapore as well.I was recently reminded of this dish when I saw a vegetarian Laksa being made on Rachel Allen's Home Cooking show - she made it with sugar snap peas and bean sprouts. I suddenly had a craving for Laksa and since I am still recuperating, decided to try making it at home with the help of my trusted Tara. It turned out to be a delicious one pot meal for our Sunday lunch which even my 6 year old enjoyed and smacked the last bits from her bowl.It was a perfect dish to have for my starved palate which has been surviving on khichdi and mostly bland food....the chicken was cooked to perfection as well. I used glass noodles instead of rice noodles and they made a nice change. You could use Thai curry paste instead of making the paste from scratch but I do believe that the freshness of the ground ingredients adds to the flavours which may otherwise get submerged in the coconut milk. Season this dish with caution since it has fish sauce as well as stock cube in it, both already have salt in them.Chicken Laksa - recipe adapted from Rachel Allen's LaksaChicken - 200gms boneless cut into strips and marinated with a little salt and lemon juiceVegetables - 1 cup sliced - I used babycorn and bell peppersCoconut milk - 400 mlChicken stock cube - 1 dissolved in 400ml of waterSesame oil - 2 tsp Spice paste:Ginger - 1" pieceGarlic - 4 cloves choppedLemon grass - 1 tbsp chopped (only the tender inner part not the tough outer stalks, if you'd rather not grind this because of the fibres, then just add the lemon grass whole to the laksa when its cooking)Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup choppedFish sauce - 2 tbspGreen chillies - 4-5Rice noodles/Glass noodles - 250 gms, soaked in hot water till soft and then rinsed in cold water. 1. Grind all ingredients for the spice mix to a paste - it will be a little coarse and not fine.2. Heat the sesame oil in a wok and fry the spice paste for a few minutes, then add the chicken pieces and fry on high for 3-4 minutes.3. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock to the wok and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 20 minutes till the chicken is cooked. Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5 more minutes.4. I usually take out a portion for my daughter at this stage and add a couple of slit green chillies for a little heat.5. Check the seasoning and add some salt if necessary.6. In individual serving bowls, portion out the cooked noodles and then pour some laksa over it. [...]