Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tres Leches Cake

'Tres leches cake' or 'Three milk cake' is a cake soaked in three kinds of milk - Evaporated milk, Condensed milk and Whole milk. This moist cake is so easy yet so impressive! Perfect for big crowds and almost always a stunner! 

When I first started hunting for recipes of this cake, I was worried the final product would be too heavy or too sweet. I was also a little apprehensive as it sounded too easy to be true. But when I finally did decide to give it a go, I was in love all over again! :) It was perfectly moist, perfectly sweet just .....PERFECTLY PERFECT!

Most of the desserts I cook for my parties at home are almost always just semi-homemade. I do not have the time or energy to go all traditional and super precise after I spend so much time cooking the main meal. This recipe too starts with a box cake mix. I generally use the classic white cake mix for this recipe. I find it much more airy and light compared to the other cake mixes. 

For the topping, I whip the cream at home as I the try to keep the sugar content in it quite low. This way it perfectly balances the sweetness in the cake. But if you think you don't have time for that, some cool whip or ready made whipped cream spray cans work just fine. 
Most of the tres leches cakes are topped with a maraschino cherry. They look the cutest, but I just do not like the taste. It spoils the dessert for me as you expect it to be sweet and it turns out to be weirdly synthetic. So I generally top my cake with some freshly cut strawberries or blueberries or raspberries just before serving. You could also toast some nuts or some coconut and sprinkle it on top of the cake. Just let yourself go crazy with the toppings here.

So without further delay, let us get to the recipe.

Level: Easy
Serves: 10 - 12 people

For the base:
1 classic white box cake mix
1/4 cup of whole milk (I use the 2% I usually have on hand)
1 14 oz can of condensed milk
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
For the frosting:
1.5 cups whipping cream
4 tblsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
Cocoa for sprinkling
Strawberries to decorate

Step 1 - Bake the cake as per the package instructions. Bake it in the same pan in which you plan to serve the dessert. Your pan should have higher sides as you will have to pour the milk mixture into the cake once it bakes and you do not want the milk to over flow from the top. Once your cake is baked, leave it for cool for 5 mins.

Step 2 - As the cake is cooling, let us get our milk mixture ready. Mix the milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk in a bowl. Stir well to make sure the condensed milk does not settle at the bottom. It is that simple. Keep aside.

Step 3 - After you have let the cake cool for 5 mins from Step 1, take a knife or fork and slowly poke the entire cake well all the way to the bottom. You might think you are destroying the cake, but remember the places this cake does not get poked, does not get the liquid goodness we will be pouring into it. So don't be too gentle!

Step 4 - When you are done piercing holes and the cake is still warm, pour the milk mixture all over the cake. (don't forget to stir the milk a little before you start pouring). At this point you will realize why I was stressing on a pan with a little high sides. The liquid will first pool on top and you might think it is a little too much. But the warm cake will soak up all the liquid in a matter of mins. Now let the soaked cake cool down completely. 

Step 5 - Let us work on the frosting now. In a large clean bowl add the whipping cream and vanilla essence. Start whisking this cream mixture. When the cream starts frothing, slowly add the powdered sugar one tsp at a time, continuously whisking. Beat the cream till it forms stiff peaks. i.e. when you take the beaters out, the cream stuck on your beater should hold shape. These are called stiff peaks.

Step 6 - Smear the ready whipped cream with a butter knife or a spatula all over the cooled soaked cake from Step 4. Try to spread it around as evenly as possible covering the entire top of your cake. 

We are done!

Just before serving, I cut out a piece and placed it on my serving plate. I sprinkled the top with some cocoa powder and I placed a beautiful red strawberry beside it. Doesn't it look pretty? I sure think it does!

Hope you enjoy this juicy goodness as much as my family and friends do!

If you are having a tough time finding the classic white box cake mix, go ahead and use the yellow cake mix. The cake may be a a little denser, but it doesn't compromise the taste.

If you think you are not up for whipping the cream yourself, go ahead and use some cool whip or whipped cream spray can to top off the cake.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lal Bhopalyachi Bhaji (Stir Fried Pumpkin)

After all the heavy and delicious food everybody indulged in during Diwali and Thanksgiving, it is time to get back on track (until Christmas that is..) with some simple grounded meals. With leftover pumpkin after a failed pumpkin pie attempt of mine, a quick stirf-fry recipe it was for all of us at home!

Low in calories and high in fiber, pumpkins are a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. All of these linked to fighting heart diseases and other ailments. Pumpkins are 90% water and are therefore one of the food items recommended by dietitians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.

The preparation I am sharing with you today is a very typical Maharashtrian style of eating pumpkins. The bright red chillies, give a necessary punch to the otherwise sweet fruit and the fenugreek seeds and jaggery gives this dish so many different levels of flavor. You can leave the coconut out if you want to keep it strictly healthy, but as I wanted to share the traditional recipe with all of you, I have added coconut to this preparation.

Here is the recipe.

Level: Easy
Serves: 2 - 3 people

1 lb yellow pumpkin
1.5 tsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
5 - 6 dry red chillies
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tsp jaggery
1/2 cup of water
Salt to taste
1 tblsp coconut for garnish
Few sprigs of coriander for garnish

Step 1 - Wash the pumpkin well. Peel the skin with a potato peeler. Scoop out the seeds and the fibers with a spoon. Cut the pumpkin into 1/2 inch cubes. Keep aside.

Step 2 - In a flat pan, heat the oil. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the asafoetida and fenugreek seeds. Stir for a few seconds. Add the dry red chilles and curry leaves. Stir for a few more seconds till the chillies get a little dark.

Step 3 - Add the chopped pumpkin and turmeric. Stir well till all the flavored oil coats the pumpkin. Reduce heat to medium low. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover and let it cook for 3 - 4 mins. Add the jaggery and salt. Mix everything together and cook again for 5 - 6 mins checking and stirring occasionally. Do not over cook the pumpkin. Once you realize that you can easily cut through the pumpkin with a spoon, immediately take it off the heat and keep it uncovered till it warms down.

Decorate with coriander leaves and coconut.
Serve warm with some hot chapatis.


For more pumpkin information head here:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Going Green with Palak Sev (Spinach Sev)

Once you realize how easy it is to make Sev, you are bound to go crazy! This year we decided to try out Spinach Sev for Diwali. Initially, I was a little worried that the dough would not retain it's lush green color post frying. But they did retain their color and how! 

I needed these sev to be spicy as they had to perfectly compliment the sweet ladoos that are made for Diwali. So I added some ginger and green chillies to the batter too. All in all, these turned out very interesting. 

Your chakli press has 2 discs for making sev. Thicker sev and thinner sev, as shown below. Just remember that if you are using the thinner sev disc, try and avoid whole spices as it is difficult to press the sev out of the chakli press and the spices get clogged inside the contraption.

Now let's get started.

Level: Easy
Serves: 8 - 10 people

2 cups chickpea flour
10 tblsp rice flour
2 cups packed palak/spinach
2 inch ginger, finely chopped
8 green chillies, finely chopped
5 tblsp cilantro, roughly chopped
1.5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tblsp red chilly powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tblsp carom seeds/ajwain, coarsely crushed
1 tblsp cumin seeds/jeera, coarsely crushed
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Salt to taste (I used 2 tsp)
2 tsp clarified butter (ghee) / oil (I used oil)
Warm Water as required
Oil for deep frying
Thin sev disc

Step 1 - Heat 5 to 6 cups of water. When it comes to a boil, dunk in the the spinach and boil it for 1 min. Take them out and immediately wash it with cold water. This process retains the green color of spinach.

Step 2 - In a mixer bowl, blend the spinach, ginger, green chillies and cilantro to a fine paste. Strain this mixture and keep aside.

Step 3 - Take a flat large pan and fill it with an inch of oil. Start heating it on medium high heat.

Step 4 - In a large bowl, measure out the chickpea flour, rice flour, red chilly powder, black pepper powder, crushed carom seeds, crushed cumin seeds, asafoetida and salt. Mix it with a spoon or with your hand till everything is incorporated well.

Step 5 - Add in the clarified butter or oil and mix the ingredients well. It should have a crumbly texture, which indicates that you have mixed all ingredients well with the grease. 

Step 6 - Now slowly add in the spinach puree from Step 2 and start kneading it into a dough, similar to a chapati dough. Use a little warm water if you have to. The final dough should be of a soft texture. Check for salt. If you need to add more salt, don't just sprinkle it into the dough. Mix the salt in a tsp of water, heat the water in the microwave for a few seconds. Mix till the salt dissolves well. Add to the dough and knead well again.

Step 7- Spray the interiors and the rod of the chakli press with some oil spray or just smear some oil with your hand to make sure the dough comes out well and does not stick to the surface.

Step 8 - Divide the dough into 2 parts, mould it into a cylindrical shape and push the dough into the chakli press. Close the contraption in place. The remaining dough needs to be oiled and covered well. We dont want the dough to form scales on the top while it rests.

Step 9 - Let us check the oil now. By now it should be perfectly hot. Take out a pinch of dough from our resting dough and add it to the oil. It should immediately come up and start sizzling. This indicates the oil is ready. Now take the chakli press and start rotating the rod till it starts squeezing the dough out. Holding the press above the hot oil, quickly squeeze out the dough. Keep moving your hand around so the pan is full of sev.

Step 10 - Let the sev fry for 5 - 10 seconds. With the help of tongs, turn the sev over carefully. Fry for another 10 - 12 seconds. Remove off the pan and place on a tissue lined tray. Start next batch. Make sure you do not brown the sev too much.

Step 11 - When the sev has cooled down, just slightly crush them down with the palms of your hand on the tray, so they break down. You can crush them as small or as long as you like them. Store them in an air tight container and gobble away.

Hope you enjoy munching on these.

For more Diwali recipes, don't forget to check out the Diwali Faraal tab on your right.

Make sure you are careful when you push down the sev into the hot oil. You dont want the chakli press to fall into the hot oil and splash oil all over you. To avoid this, before you start frying, make sure your hands or the chakli press is not oily.

Use a flat pan to fry these, so you can fry a large batch at one time.

When the dough touches the oil, there will be a lot of bubbles. Slowly the bubbles will start disappearing. This is the indication of the sev being cooked. Don't wait too long for the sev to change color here. They might end up burning.

When I was frying the sev, I did not pile them a lot as my pan was very flat. Due to this my cooking time was just a few seconds. If you have a deeper pan, and can pile your sev together into a heap, don't forget to  increase your frying time.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rava Besan Ladoo

Ladoos (Sweet Indian Rounds) are an integral part of Diwali celebrations at Indian homes. Though Indian cuisine boasts of making ladoos out of a variety of ingredients, Diwali celebrations mostly involve Besan Ladoos (chickpea flour ladoos), Rava Ladoos (semolina ladoos) or a combination of both these ingredients Rava Besan Ladoos (chickpea flour and semolina ladoos).

My personal favorite ladoos are Rava Besan Ladoos. I think they just have the perfect texture which takes me to 'Ladoo heaven'! Not too soft like Besan Ladoos and not too gritty like Rava Ladoos. Now that does not mean I am not a fan of the other ladoos. I just have a soft corner for these cuties. 

Everyone at our home likes simple ladoos. No fancy nuts or raisins in them. Maybe because that is how we remember eating them as kids when our ajjis made them. But you are free to add cashewnuts, almonds and raisins to this recipe. Just remember to toast the nuts well before adding them.

Now let us get to making these ladoos.

Serves: 20 medium ladoos
Level: Medium 

2 cups semolina/rava (fine)
1 cup chickpea flour/besan
6 tblsp ghee
2 cups + 2 tblsp sugar
1 cup water
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 pinch saffron strands
pinch of salt

Step 1 - In a heavy bottom pan, roast the semolina well on medium heat stirring continuously. Roast till it smells awesome and turns brownish. Keep aside to cool.

Step 2 - In the same pan, heat the ghee and roast the chickpea flour on medium heat till it turns golden brown in color. This mixture will not be dry like the semolina. It will form a paste. Take the pan off heat. Add the roasted semolina from Step 1 and mix well. Keep aside till we work with our sugar syrup.

Step 3 - In another pot, add the sugar and water. Start boiling on medium heat. Initially the syrup will foam up a lot. Keep boiling it for 5 mins. Till then you should see clear liquid bubbling. After 5 mins of rapid boiling, start testing the syrup. Dip a steel spoon into the syrup and stir it around well. Take out the spoon and swipe your index finger on the back of your spoon to test the syrup. Now touch your thumb to your index finger and gently pull the two fingers a little apart. A single thread should form in between these fingers. Keep joining and releasing these 2 fingers a couple of times rapidly. If you see a single thread form each time, you are done. Usually this should be achieved in 2 to 3 mins from your first boil.

Step 4 - Pour this sugar syrup into the dry mixture from Step 2. Mix well with a spoon. Make sure there are no lumps. Cover it and let this mixture rest till it cools down, absorbs all the syrup and thickens enough to form a ball. 

If you make this on a warm day, the mixture could take 4 to 5 hours to cool down and thicken up. On the other hand, if you make this on a cold day it could take just 30 mins. So do keep an eye on it. Once you realize that you are able to press the mixture together, you are good to go.

Step 5 - When the mixture is still a little warm, add a pinch of salt, the cardamom powder and the saffron strands. Mix well. Let the mixture cool completely.

Step 6 - Take a heaped tblsp of mixture into your hand and just press it together till it holds shape. Once you have the mixture clumped up well, roll them in the center of both your palms till it forms a smooth ball. Do not apply pressure while rolling as this might break the ladoos. Also, when you start rolling you might realize that the mixture is not looking as smooth as a ladoo. Do not worry. Keep rolling it into a round shape with minimum pressure. The heat in your palms will mold it into a smooth ball. 
If you are uncomfortable while rolling the mixture as it sticks a lot to your hand, you can apply some ghee on your palms before you start rolling.

We are done! Enjoy these any time of the day!

Hope you enjoy these ladoos as much as we do.

Even though it is true that the sugar syrup consistency is key to making ladoos, do not let that scare you. Try to get the one string consistency as correct as you can. This does take time. 
Just remember that if you under cook the syrup, all that will happen is your ladoos will be soft and will not hold shape. They are not going to taste bad.  And if you notice that you have boiled the sugar a little too long and now see 2 strings instead of 1 between your thumb and index finger, you have gone a little too far and you might not be able to roll out the ladoos well. When this happens, just put the ready warm mixture into a greased plate, cut them into squares or diamonds before they completely cool off and make Rava Besan Wadi (Bars) instead of round ladoos. 

The sugar testing process has to be done by testing the syrup when it is hot. When you touch your steel spoon to test the syrup, do not try to take a lot of it on your finger. Do understand that it is boiling sugar that you are handling. Also, just a tiny amount is necessary to test the consistency. When I was new to making ladoos (I am fairly new even now), I was paranoid about touching the syrup. So I always kept a bowl of cold water right next to me in case I burn myself. It is only after a few tries that you realize that such small quantities don't really burn you.

If you want to add nuts to this recipe, toast them well and add them at step 2 when you mix the roasted semolina and chickpea flour.
If you want to add raisins, add them when you start molding the ladoos in Step 6. You need not fry or roast these.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick Poha Chivda (Flattened Rice Snack)

With Diwali around the corner, the "faraal" (festive snacks) making has started at my home. The easiest and  most common snack prepared is "Poha Chivda". The recipe which I am sharing with you is a regular at Maharashtrian homes during Diwali.

Before we get to the recipe, I would like to mention that a lot of tips have been provided below the recipe to change the flavoring of the chivda to your liking. Do go through them to tweak the chivda as per your preference.

Let me also go through certain important tips before we start cooking:
When it comes to flattened rice, your supermarket may carry 3 different varieties: Thick Poha, Thin Poha and Nylon Poha. For this chivda recipe I would recommend the thin variety of poha.

I generally make my chivda with less oil. My measure is :
4 cups of flattened rice needs 2 tblsp oil. 

The most common problem new cooks face while making chivda is guessing the salt content. Though this is a personal preference for everyone, I have a fixed measure for that too.
4 cups of flattened rice needs 3/4 tsp ground salt. 
Do keep in mind that this is our personal preference. You can work around this figure to get your flavors right where you want.
You noticed I mentioned 'Ground' salt? It is nothing fancy! I just put some salt in a mortal pestle and grind it till it is powdered down well. This prevents the salt from settling to the bottom of your pan or the box where you store this chivda. Also, powdered salt perfectly coats the flattened rice and there is no residue at the bottom that makes your last batch of chivda too salty to consume.

I generally dry roast the nuts before adding them to the chivda when I make it at my home just as a regular snack. But when it is prepared during Diwali time, the nuts are shallow fried in oil.
Afterall Diwali is about (over) indulging. Isin't it!

And last but not the least, like most of the snack recipes, you will need to have all ingredients prepped and ready before you get to making the chivda.

Moving to the recipe..

Level: Easy
Serves: 8 heaped cups of chivda

(Chivda with onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime)

8 cups of thin poha/flattened rice
3/4 cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup roasted chana dal
12 garlic pods, thinly sliced
4 tblsp oil + oil for shallow frying nuts and garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 tsp asafoetida/hing
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
15 green chillies, wiped dry and finely chopped
15 -18 curry leaves, wiped dry
Salt to taste, powdered in a mortar and pestle

Step 1 - In a small pot, heat 4 tblsp oil. When the oil is hot, add the raw peanuts and fry till they turn light brown. Drain onto a paper towel. Next add the roasted chana dal and fry till they turn light brown too. Drain these onto the paper towel. In the same oil, add the garlic and fry it on a high flame till they turn brown. Drain these onto the paper towel too. Keep aside. Discard remaining oil.

Step 2 - Let us roast the flattened rice. Take 4 cups of flattened rice in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave cook on high power for 1 minute. Take out the bowl, stir the flattened rice around with a spoon and microwave cook again for 1 more minute. Keep aside. Repeat the steps with the next 4 cups of rice. You will notice that the puffed rice curls up a little, looks brittle and is crisp when it cools down.

Step 3 - In a huge pot, heat 4 tblsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Stir for a couple of seconds. Add the green chillies and saute them for a minute or two till the chillies turn brown.

Step 4 - Add the turmeric powder and immediately add all the fried nuts and garlic from step 1. Stir for a few seconds. Add the ground salt and mix well. Immediately add the roasted flattened rice and saute well till the oil coats each and every ingredient. Roast for 4 to 5 mins on medium heat.

The chivda will be crisp as soon as it cools down. Store it in an air tight container and indulge!

Unlike my folks at home, a lot of Indians enjoy their chivda a little sweet. 2 ingredients can help you with this. Raisins and Sugar. If you plan to add some raisins, make sure you fry them well in Step 1. If you plan to use sugar, you will have to powder it in a mortal pestle like we did for the salt and add it right at the end after your chivda cools down a little. If you add sugar when the chivda is hot, the sugar will caramelize and you will not get your desired texture and taste.

You can add dry coconut flakes in this chivda too. Like raisins, you will have to fry them till they are light brown in Step 1.

You need to remember that whenever you are using garlic in your chivda, it is the last ingredient that you will fry. While frying, as we are using less oil, garlic tends to cling to your spoon and become sticky. You may not be able to fry anything else after you fry garlic.

If you do not own a microwave oven, you can roast the flattened rice in a flat pan on medium to low heat stirring continuously. This process would take upto 12 - 15 mins. Do not rush.

A lot of Indian stores have 'Chivda Masala' available. You can substitute this spice mix instead of turmeric in this recipe.

If you are not comfortable adding green chillies into the chivda, you can substitute it with red chilly powder. Just add it immediately after the turmeric. Make sure you do not let it burn.

Roasted chana dal is readily available in the market. If you do not have it, just skip it. Do not roast the regular chana dal you have at home. It does not mimic the store bought version.

We enjoy this chivda with some chopped onions, lots of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Perfect with our evening tea or coffee.

If you have any further questions or if I have missed any points, please feel free to drop me your queries in the comment box below. I will try my best to answer them.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Goan Egg Drop Curry

This curry is stunning both for your eyes and tastebuds! Personally I have never tried egg curry in Goa. With so much fish in front of me..I never looked at anything else. But being the only one at my house who indulges (read over indulges) in fish, I have to be nice sometimes and prepare dishes which could help my loved ones experience the amazing flavors of Goa.

Eggs have taken a beating in recent years, due to its impact on cholesterol and heart problems. Inspite of this, I do not believe it needs to be completely avoided. I wouldn't be surprised if a decade later people find out how much harm has been caused by banning eggs from our diets.
Don't get me wrong here, I am not one of the crazies! I do not deny that egg yolks are bad for you, but a couple of eggs in a month, should not kill you anyway. Unless a doctor specifically asks you to stay away from them.
I believe that our bodies need to achieve a balance. We cannot forget that eggs are a good source of low cost high-quality protein, providing 6.3 gms of protein in 1 egg for a caloric cost of only 68 calories. Numerous vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin are also packed into this oval-shaped staple. Very few foods share the same diverse nutrient makeup available in a single egg. Many of these nutrients are specifically needed for the health of the nerves and brain.

That being said, I do not completely ignore the tons of research available that link eggs to increase in cholesterol. We just reduce them in our diets, instead of banning them for life!
We mostly include more of the egg whites in our diets as it contains no cholesterol, but it is in dishes like the  one I am sharing here, where you really cannot do without the egg yolks. Using only egg whites would give you just scrambled egg white curry, which would not be as interesting.

A lot has been said. Let me share the recipe with you now..

Serves: 4 people (1 egg per person)
Level: Easy
Adapted from: Goan food recipes

For the Egg Curry Masala:
10 dry kashmiri red chillies (mild variety)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
4 tblsp grated fresh coconut (I used frozen)
1 tsp tamarind pulp
3 garlic flakes
Other Ingredients:
1.5 tblsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic flakes, finely chopped
1/2 cup thick coconut milk (I use Maggi coconut milk powder)
4 eggs
Water as required
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Let us make the masala first. Take all the egg curry masala ingredients in a blender and blend well with a little warm water till it forms a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Let us make the coconut milk. Make 1/2 cup of coconut milk with the coconut powder by following the instructions on the packet. (I added 1.5 tblsp in 0.5 cup of warm water). Keep aside. You can use freshly squeezed coconut milk or canned coconut milk for this recipe too.

Step 3 - Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onions and garlic. Saute till the onions turn brown. Add the egg curry masala from Step 1 and some salt. Stir well and saute for a good 7 - 8 mins, till the masala starts to shine. Do not hurry here. You need to cook the ingredients well as all raw ingredients were used in the paste. Add water till the curry reaches your desired consistency. Let it boil for 5 mins. Adjust the taste to your liking, by playing with the tamarind pulp and red chilly powder if you would enjoy more heat  and tang.

Step 4 - Reduce heat to medium-low, wait a couple of minutes for the boil to slow down and carefully drop in the eggs one at a time, a little apart from each other. Take care and try not to break the egg yolk while dropping them in the curry. Do not stir at this stage. Immediately cover the pot with a lid and let the eggs cook in the curry for 3 - 4 mins. Open the lid. If your eggs are completely in the curry, you are good. If they are slightly above the curry (if your pan is too flat), gently toss some of the curry over the eggs to help it cook. When you notice that the eggs are steady and won't break when touched, gently stir the curry from the base so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Boil for 2 more mins.

Decorate with coriander and serve piping hot with some plain white rice or paav.

Hope you enjoy this curry as much as we did!

I am sure you can add boiled eggs to this curry instead of dropping eggs into the curry. Just don't forget to call it Egg Curry instead of Egg Drop Curry.

Some more information on eggs: Head here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lapsi Biryani (Cracked Wheat Biryani)

Inspite of rice being very dear to many Indian hearts, this is one recipe that you are very likely to enjoy instead of rice. Personally, this is my favorite healthy alternative to Basmati rice.
'Cracked wheat' has a soft texture when cooked and also has an interesting "nutty" flavor. To make cracked wheat -raw, whole wheat kernels are crushed down into smaller bits. By including this outer portion of the wheat - bran and germ, cracked wheat comes along with even more benefits than whole grain.
Being naturally low in fat and absolutely free of saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fat, this food is also a great way to help maintain a consistent weight loss regimen.

So let me share this wonderful Lapsi Biryani recipe with all of you and help you introduce whole grains in a delicious way into your diets.

Serves: 5 to 6 people
Level: Easy
Adapted from: Amhi Sare Khavaiyye (Cookery Show)

1.5 cups cracked wheat/daliya/lapsi
3 cups water
2 tblsp oil
1 tblsp butter
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 green cardamoms
3 cloves
3 black peppers
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tblsp heaped biryani masala (I used Shan Bombay Biryani Masala)
4 tblsp yogurt, lightly beaten
1 tsp broken cashewnuts (optional)
2 tsp slivered almonds (optional)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups assorted veggies
(I used cauliflower, peas, corn, green beans, carrots)
1/2 cup paneer, grated/cubed (Indian cottage cheese)
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - In a pressure cooker pan, heat 2 tblsp oil. Add the cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, black peppers, bay leaf and cumin seeds. Saute for a few seconds.

Step 2 - Add the onions and saute till they turn light brown. Add turmeric powder, red chilly powder, ginger garlic paste and biryani masala. Stir well. Add the butter. Stir again. Add a few tblsps of water if you think the spices are sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Add the beaten yogurt and the cashewnuts and almonds if you plan to use them. Stir well.

Step 3 - Add the lapsi/cracked wheat and mix everything well. Add the assorted veggies, potatoes and salt. Saute for a good 6 - 7 mins. Add the water and stir well. Adjust the salt and red chilly powder. Let the water come to a boil. Pressure cook for 2 whistles or till the cracked wheat is completely cooked. Generally the time taken is the same as you need for cooking rice.

Step 4 - Add paneer into the cooked biryani and lightly mix everything together.

Decorate with coriander, some almonds and grated paneer and serve hot with some raita.

Need a few more reasons to include cracked wheat into your diet?
-Cracked wheat is packed with dietary fiber which helps to maintain your entire digestive track on the whole.
-With high levels of iron, magnesium, Vitamin E and B and even some antioxidants to boot, cracked wheat can help prevent fatigue and fend off stress as well as preventing anemia and low blood iron. When put up against the much more processed white rice, it is clear which is the champion for overall nutrition.

Source: Read some more on cracked wheat here!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Instant Oats Lapsi Idlis (Oats & Cracked Wheat Idlis)

Oatmeal is thought to be one of the few foods that can actually help lower cholesterol. This is because oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which is thought to decrease the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Oats gain part of their distinctive flavor from the roasting process that they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Although oats are then hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ allowing them to retain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients.
Cracked wheat is made by cutting or crushing whole raw wheat berries (kernels) into small pieces. It has all the benefits of wheat flour and since it contains the outer bran and germ of the wheat, it provides some additional benefits as well.

Inspite of understanding the importance of these super grains, Indian cuisine rarely gets them included in our diets. Oats are quite restricted to porridge that you have for breakfast which is not really enjoyed by most. It is just about gulping it down for the day as it helps lower cholesterol. Let me help you include some of these super grains in your diet.
Let us kick off with - Oats Cracked Wheat Idlis. Now don't expect these idlis to mimic the taste of regular rice idlis, mostly because they are not! But trust me, they are a great snack and just like our regular idlis they go really well with piping hot sambar and chutneys. No fermentation time required is always a huge bonus. You can make these anytime you feel like having some.

Serves: 20 medium idlis
Level: Easy
Source: Instant Oats Idlis - Sharmis Passion

1 cup instant oats (I used Quaker)
1/2 cup cracked wheat (daliya/lapsi)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 medium carrot, grated
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp asafoetida
4 tsp coriander leaves
1/2 tsp baking soda
Water as required
Oil spray (to grease the idli plates)

Step 1 - Dry roast the instant oats till they let out a nutty aroma and slightly turn brownish. This should take around 3-4 mins only. Cool and grind. Dry roast the cracked wheat for 4 -5 mins. Set aside.

Step 2 - In a pan, heat 2 teaspoon of oil. Add mustard seeds, let them pop. Add the asafoetida, green chillies and grated carrots. Saute for 3 - 4 mins till the carrots get slightly soft. Add the coriander leaves. Mix well. Keep aside to cool. We do not want to cook down the carrots a lot as they will be steaming with out batter soon.

Step 3 - In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted ground oats, the roasted cracked wheat, yogurt, sauteed carrots, salt, and baking soda. Mix well and add water till you get a thick lump free batter. Batter consistency should be similar to idli batter.

Step 4 - Grease the idli plates with oil. Pour the prepared batter till each mould is 80% full. Steam for 15 - 18 mins or until done.

Serve hot with some piping hot sambar and chutney of your choice.

Do not skip the baking soda. This will be the ingredient that makes your idlis fluffy.

You can add any veggies of your choice instead of carrots and indulge in these healthy idlis.

You can just grate and add your veggies, instead of sauteing them if you are in a hurry. They will get cooked while steaming.

How to steam idlis in an idli steamer/pressure cooker?
Step 1 - Grease the idli moulds with oil. I use an oil spray. I also spray the bottom of the mould, so the batter from the bottom stacks do not stick to the base of the top plate.

Step 2 - Fill each idli mould with the prepared batter. If the batter is too thin, it will seep out of the tiny holes the idli moulds have. So be careful while adding water if you are not used to the process.

Step 3 - Take your idli steamer and add water to it. The water should be at such a level that your lowest idli plate should not be immersed in water. You do not want to boil the batter. You need to steam it.
Until you get used to it, every time you add water, place your idli plate in your steamer and pick it up to make sure no water touched it's bottom. Also, do not be too paranoid and add very little water. You will be boiling water for almost 15 - 18 mins for every set. You do not want the water to completely evaporate. This will burn the base of your steamer. After adding water, cover the steamer with a lid and let the water boil.

Step 4 - Once the water boils, carefully place the idli stands into the steamer. The placement of these stands is also crucial. You will notice that your idli stand has idli moulds and 2-3 holes between each mould. Stack in such a way that moulds do not get stacked on top of each other. They should alternate each other (Holes over moulds). Idlis need space to plump up.

Step 5 - After 15 mins, carefully open the steamer. Using oven mits, remove the idli plates and let them rest for 2 - 3 mins. Run a knife around the edges and remove the idlis with the help of a spoon onto your serving dishes.

Step 6 - Every time you steam a set, you will need to add water into your steamer and repeat the process.

You can also steam the idlis in a pressure cooker. You need to place the idli stand on a grid or a steel rack, so the stand would not touch the water. Also while steaming do not keep the whistle or pressure on. Steam each set for 10 - 12 mins.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Masala Papad (No fry)

Masala Papad does not need an introduction. They are everybody's favorite at an Indian restaurant. A perfect snack to munch on, till your food arrives.
Masala papads are generally deep fried and then topped with onion and tomatoes. The health conscious roast these papads before topping them. Though healthy, topping roasted papad with onions and tomatoes makes it soggy and chewy almost instantly.

So why not find a mid way?! The technique I use to make these masala papads, will fool your tastebuds into believing that they are fried. All the taste and very little calories, I think this recipe is a keeper!

A few tips before we go ahead. You can use your favorite flavor of papad for this recipe. Just remember to cut down on the spice if you plan to use black pepper or green chilli papads.
Some recipes call for a squeeze of lemon juice in the end. But I avoid this as the Chaat Masala takes care of the tangy flavor and the addition of lemon juice often softens the papad really fast.

Serves: 6 papads
Level: Easy

6 papads (I used green chilli papads)
1/2 onion
1 tomato
3 tblsp fresh coriander leaves
2 green chillies
Red chilly powder, as required
Chaat masala, as required
Black pepper powder, as required
Fine sev as required (optional)
Oil Spray/2 tsp oil

Step 1 - Let us get everything ready and arranged onto a plate. We cannot waste time once our papads are ready. Chop the onion finely. Cut the tomato into half, scoop out and discard the liquid with a spoon and finely chop it. Finely chop the green chillies and coriander leaves. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Spray oil onto your raw papad on both the sides and microwave cook for 50 - 55 seconds. Do not let it burn. If you do not have an oil spray, smear oil on the papad using a brush/spoon dipped into oil. Every microwave is different. So keep an eye on your first papad to decide how long each piece takes to cook in your microwave.

Step 3 - Place the papad on your serving dish. Scatter some onions, tomatoes and green chillies if using. Do not overload the papad. Sprinkle some red chilly powder, black pepper powder and chaat masala. Scatter some fresh coriander leaves and some sev if you plan to use any.

Serve immediately with some cold beer or any drink of your choice.

Do not sprinkle salt on the papad. The salt in the chaat masala and the salt already present in the raw papad, takes care of the flavor. Moreover addition of salt could result in the onion oozing out it's water. We do not want that.

Generally 2 or 3 fully prepared masala papads are kept on top of each other. You can do that too. But do not make a tower out of this.

After reading my post, if you still think you want to fry the papad or you do not own a microwave, make sure you fry the papad in a flat pan. This will make sure that the papad does not twist and turn into a roll while frying.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dudhichi Patal Bhaji (Bottle gourd curry)

Dudhi-Bhopala/Lauki or Bottlegourd is found in almost all households in India. This vegetable has gained a lot of popularity these days because of it's huge positive impact on blood pressure and heart diseases. It is also considered as one of the best weight loss foods since it has 96% water and provides just 12 calories per 100 gms of serving.

My fondest memories of having this dish is at my cousin's home when her grandmother from 'Ugar' visited and she served this dish with hot hot phulkas with a huge dollop of ghee. Yum!!
Dudhi-Bhopala or Bottlegourd preparations were almost always greeted with a frown at our dining table, until we were introduced to this preparation. This is by far my favorite way of enjoying dudhi-bhopala. It has a mild nutty flavor and the entire curry is perfectly spiced and textured to enjoy with both rotis and rice.

I really hope you all enjoy this preparation as much as we do!

Level: Easy
Serves: 2 - 4 people
Source: Ugar chi ajji

1 large bottle gourd/dudhi, peeled and cubed
2 tblsp chana dal (soaked for 2 hrs)
2 - 3 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tblsp raw peanuts
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 tblsp chickpea flour/besan
1 marble sized ball of jaggery
1 tsp tamarind pulp
1 tblsp coconut (fresh or frozen)
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt as per taste
Water as required

3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinch asafoetida
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
4 - 5 curry leaves

Step 1 - In a pressure pan add the cubed bottlegourd, chana dal, green chillies, peanuts and the turmeric powder. Add water till the ingredients are almost completely soaked. Do not drown them in water. This could result in  a very watery consistency. Pressure cook for 1 whistle or till the bottlegourd is well done and soft.

Step 2 - Grind together the coconut and 1 tsp of cumin seeds with a little water to form a smooth paste. Keep aside. Mix the chickpea flour with 2 tblsp water and make a smooth paste. Keep this aside too.

Step 3 - Once the pressure settles down, open your pressure pan and slightly mash a few bottlegourd pieces. Do not mash all of them. Just a couple will do. This improves the consistency of the dish. Add the coconut and chickpea pastes from Step 2, tamarind pulp and jaggery. Mix well. Add salt and adjust taste. This curry should be slightly sweet and tangy.

Step 4 - In a small pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Add mustard seeds and let them pop. Add the asafoetida and the cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds start changing color add the curry leaves. Mix quickly with a spoon and pour this into the boiling dal in the pressure pan. Mix once.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with some hot rotis or phulkas. This preparation goes well with steamed rice too.

Do not over handle or boil the bottle gourd for too long. This could make the curry paste like. That would spoil the chunky texture this dish needs to have.

Bottle gourd cooks really quickly. So if you are not sure how long you need to pressure cook this, do it one whistle at a time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Beetacha Raita (Beetroot Salad)

SHOCKING PINK! The insane reason I end up serving this salad at parties. Like all yogurt based salads, this one tastes great with meat curries or spicy pulavs and biryanis.
There are multiple benefits of consuming this root vegetable. Even though beetroot has one of the highest sugar contents of any vegetable (upto 10%), this sugar is released slowly into the body without causing any sudden rush. The benefits of consuming beets, from helping boost stamina and making muscles work more efficiently to reducing blood pressure, have made the news recently.

I have prepared this salad in a typical maharashtrian way. This recipe could be used as a base recipe. Just keep changing the vegetables. Cucumbers or raddish make great replacements in this preparation.

Hope this recipe gets you another step closer to including this super food in your diet.

Serves: 5 - 6 people
Level: Easy

2 medium beetroots
2 cups yogurt
3 - 4 green chillies, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
2 tblsp ground roasted peanut powder (optional)
1 tblsp clarified butter/oil
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3 pinch asafoetida
3 - 4 tblsp coriander leaves finely chopped

Step 1 - Boil the beetroots in a pressure pan for 2 whistles. Peel with a vegetable peeler and grate it into a small bowl.

Step 2 - Add the yogurt in another large bowl. Beat it a little till it is lump free. Add salt and sugar. This yogurt should be just a little sweet. Add the green chillies, roasted peanut powder and the grated beetroot. Mix well. Add a little more yogurt if you need a runny salad.

Step 3 - In a small pan, heat the clarified butter. Add cumin seeds. When they get nicely roasted add the asafoetida and immediately pour this into your mixed salad. Stir well. Add the coriander leaves.

Serve immediately.

Even though I have mentioned that the roasted peanut powder is optional, I would recommend adding it whenever possible as it gives this salad a great nutty flavor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins! (Eggless)

A lot of my blogger friends were trying out Nigella's Double Chocolate Chip muffins and I could no longer resist! They looked so easy and tempting. And noticing those sly chocolate chips staring at me every time I opened the freezer, I caved and got to it! 

I have altered the recipe a little to suit my family's tastes and also based on some viewer comments. I have also substituted the egg for flax seeds which made me feel a little healthy while I indulged. Thank god for little pleasures..:)

These muffins are a little more than just a breakfast muffin. They are a chocolate muffin studded with chocolate chips! Things may not get any better. 
You can play around with this recipe. Add any variety of chocolate chips you like. Add some walnuts or pecans for a little crunch.
The sugar quantity I have used makes fairly sweet muffins. I prefer the sweetness the milk chocolate chips give these muffins rather than sugar. But if you plan to use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, do add in a an extra 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.

Now let us head towards heaven!

Serves: Makes 12 - 13 muffins
Level: Easy
Adapted From: Nigella Lawson's Recipe

1.75 cups all purpose flour/plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
4 tblsp cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/3 cup + 2 tblsp vegetable oil
(1 tblsp flax seeds + 4 tblsp water) / 1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips to sprinkle on top


Step 1 - Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line a muffin pan with liners and lightly spray these with some cooking oil. 

Step 2 - Let us get the egg substitute ready. Grind 1 tblsp flax seeds. Add these to 4 tblsp water. Stir well. Keep aside for a couple of minutes. 

Step 3 - Take a medium sized bowl. Add the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, granulated sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix well with a spoon. Add the 3/4 cup of chocolate chips. Stir well again till all the chocolate chips are coated with the flour and cocoa mixture. Keep aside.

Step 4 - Take a large bowl. Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg substitute from Step 2 and vanilla extract. With a wire whisk, mix all the ingredients well for a minute.

Step 5 - Slowly start adding the dry ingredients from Step 3 into the large bowl of our wet ingredients. Lightly mix together. Do not over mix. Remember that a lumpy batter makes the best muffin.

Step 6 - Pour the batter with a spoon into the muffin cups. Fill only till it is 3/4th full. Randomly sprinkle the 1/4 cup of chocolate chips on top of the batter. Bake these muffins in the preheated oven for 18 - 20 mins. They are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out batter free.

Serve warm for breakfast or as dessert with some vanilla ice cream.

Remember that while testing your muffins for doneness in the end, your toothpick could have some liquid chocolate stuck to it. Do not worry about this. This is just hot melted chocolate chips. You just have to make sure there is no wet batter sticking to the toothpick.
Chocolate muffins are easily burnt as the color makes it difficult to know if your muffins are burning. So keep an eye on your timer.

If you want to use the egg and not the egg substitute, add it into the wet ingredients in Step 4.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kakadi Pudina Raita (Cucumber-Mint Raita)

'Raita' refers to a salad with a yogurt base.
Cucumber raita is a summer special at our home. The cooling properties of this raita beautifully balances the spices in Indian cooking.
Cucumbers are a combination of dietary fibers and water. A must have for those nasty summer days!
There are infinite variations of preparing this quick dish. I will share a few of my favorite methods with you. 

Today's recipe is a particularly cooling one. Mint being one of the key ingredients, gives this dish a wonderful fresh flavor. I generally accompany this preparation with spicy biryanis or meat curries. You can also use this as a dip to be served with some sliced veggies or with some flatbreads.
This quick recipe demands to be bookmarked!

Serves: 3 - 4 people
Level: Easy

2 large cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 cups yogurt, whisked till smooth
3 tblsp chopped coriander leaves
6 - 8 mint leaves
3 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds

Step 1 - In a mortar and pestel, punch together the coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chilies, sugar, salt and cumin seeds. If you don't own a mortar pestel, coarsely grind the ingredients together in a grinder with no or as little water as possible. Your chutney is ready.

Step 2 - In a large bowl  add the yogurt and the coarsely ground chutney from Step-1. Mix well. Add the finely chopped cucumber. Mix everything together.

Refrigerate till you are ready to serve.

This salad can be made ahead for a party. You can keep the yogurt-chutney mixture ready. Just before serving add the cucumber, mix well and serve.
We cannot add the cucumber and keep the salad for a long duration as the salt reacts with the cucumber and the salad starts getting watery!

Hope you enjoy this one!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chicken Ghee Roast (Mangalorian)

I did not know about this fantastic Mangalorian preparation until I joined a few Food Groups. The dish was posted on one of the forums and I drooled! I had guests coming over that night. There was an immediate change of menu and this was going to be the 'Star' at my party that night. 

'Ghee Roast' is said to be native to coastal Karnataka and apparently originated in Kundapur (near Udupi).
If you read the recipe you will realise that the ingredients are going to create something amazing. Chicken roasted in ghee (clarified butter) with a perfect combination of spicy and tart ingredients. The bright red color just adds to the beauty of this dish. Once I was done cooking, I had to hide it from myself in the refrigerator. It was just too tempting!

Now, you could make this dish healthy by reducing the quantity of ghee, but I think it will miss that distinct aroma and flavor which roasting in ghee gives it. I would suggest indulging in this heavenly delicacy only occasionally.
This preparation is supposed to be really dry and not with a little gravy like I have made it. But I needed this dish to go well with the soft dosas I was going to prepare. So a little gravy worked great for us.
The bright color of this dish is because of the 'Byadgi chillies' I have used. These chillies give more color than spice.

Am sure by now, you all are looking forward to skipping right to the recipe instead of reading what I have to say. So without further delay, let me get to the recipe.

Level: Easy
Serves: 5 to 6 people
Adapted from: Cherie's Stolen Recipes, RuchikRandhap

2 pounds chicken (bone-in, cut into medium pieces)

Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup + 2 tblsp yogurt
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste

5 - 6 tblsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp sugar
10 - 15 curry leaves
20 dry red chillied (8 - 10 if you have the spicy variety at home)
15 black peppercorns
1 tblsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
10 - 12 garlic flakes
1 tsp tamarind paste (or to taste)
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - We have to thicken the yogurt a little. Tie yogurt in a muslin cloth and let it hang for 30 mins or like me just plop the yogurt in a large fine strainer and let it drain for an hour.

Step 2 - Wash the chicken well and pat dry. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and apply it well to the chicken pieces. Make sure the marinade coats all the chicken pieces well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Overnight works best).

Step 3 - Let us make the masala. Heat a medium sized pan on medium low heat. Dry roast the red chillies. Let them change their color slightly. Make sure you do not burn these. Burnt chillies will totally spoil your dish as this is our star ingredient. Remove them onto a plate. Now add the peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Dry roast them till coriander seeds turn brownish and it gives out a great roasted aroma. Remove these onto the plate too.

Step 4 - In a mixer bowl, blend together the roasted spices, garlic cloves and tamarind with as little water as possible to form a thick paste. Use less tamarind if you are not sure how sour your brand is. We can always adjust it later in the preparation. Keep aside.

Step 5 - Take a wide heavy bottomed pot. Heat the clarified butter. When the butter is hot, add in the marinated chicken and stir it for a good 8 - 10 mins on medium or medium high heat. Cook the chicken till it is almost done (90%). Transfer the chicken pieces onto a plate. Do not pour out the ghee. We will use it in our cooking ahead.

Step 6 - In the same pan add the ground masala paste from step 4 and saute it for 6 - 7 mins on medium heat till the raw smell of the spices vanishes and oil starts to leave the sides of the pot.

Step 7 - Add the cooked chicken pieces back into the pot. Add a little water (1/4 cup) if the entire mixture is too dry and is sticking to the pot. Cook well together on medium heat, stirring occassionally till the mixture gets as dry as you would like and coats the chicken pieces well. Add sugar and mix lightly.

Garnish with curry leaves and coriander leaves.
This tastes best when served hot with some Neer Dosas, but I do not have a grinder that behaves! So we settle for some nice soft thin dosas made from the ready made batter we get from our Indian Stores. You can serve these with plain steamed rice or hot chapatis too. Heaven!

Happy Drooling Everyone!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Paratleli Batata Bhaji (Pan Fried Potatoes)

What do you do when you suddenly realize that your guest list has increased by 5? Add in some super quick dish.
Nothing can be as super quick as this 'Paratleli Batata Bhaji'. But such a regular dish besides gems like mutton, chicken, fish...nahhh...
Remedy.. make it pretty! And that is just what I did!

Everyone loves this preparation and if you are a Maharashtrian, this is one of the regulars at your dinner table. But if it has to be presented at a party, you cannot just randomly chop the potatoes and make the dish look blah!
The other benefit of chopping the potatoes like I have, is that the dish gets cooked in less than 10-12 mins. Jackpot!
That being said, you can always save time by roughly chopping potatoes into medium to small cubes and continue with the preparations.

So here is a super quick, pretty and a party favorite recipe for all of you!

Serves: 6 to 8 people
Level: Easy

12 medium potatoes, chopped into tiny cubes
0.5 tsp mustard seeds
3 pinch asafoetida
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
0.75 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilly powder or to taste
4 - 5 tblsp oil
Salt to taste
2 pinch sugar
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Chop the potatoes as pretty as you can and submerge them in water so they do not change color.

Step 2 - Take a flat pan and heat some oil in it. Add in the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. Stir them a little till they change color.

Step 3 - Add the turmeric and saute it for 2 - 3 seconds. Do not let it go brown. Immediately add the potatoes and stir them around till they are all well coated with the oil and turmeric. Then, just spread them around in a single layer and let them cook on a medium flame. Stir occasionally.

Step 4 - When the potatoes are 50% cooked, add the red chilly powder, sugar and salt. Saute for a couple of minutes so the spices spread all over the potatoes. Cook till the potatoes are done.

Decorate with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with some soft hot chapatis.

Many homes cook this dish with only mustard seeds or only cumin seeds. So you can use whatever you would enjoy.

Do not over handle the potatoes. You want them to brown a little while cooking. So stir only if you think they are sticking to the bottom of your pan or burning.

Try and use a flat pan for this recipe so that all the potatoes can be spread in a single layer and they don't pile on each other. Piling could cook a few potatoes too soon and some might remain raw. Plus you will not get proper browning of the potatoes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ambyacha Cake (Mango Cake/Burfi) - Eggless

A perfect blend of Rava Cake and Chitale's Amba Burfi!

This recipe is easy and effortless. I found this gem while I was hunting for some quick mango recipes. I was in the mood to try a dish I had never tried before. This cute looking cake was immediately bookmarked by me mainly because it felt a little too simple to be true. End result - Absolutely Fantastic!
Only thing you need to remember is not to bake this cake till it browns. That would ruin the sunny yellow looks of this cake. You can also cut this cake into diamond shapes or squares and serve it as a burfi on special occasions.

Now to the recipe..

Serves: 4 to 6 people
Level: Easy
Source: RedChillies

1 cup semolina (fine variety)
1 cup mango pulp (I used sweetened canned Alphonso mango pulp)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder


Step 1 - Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

Step 2 - In a large bowl mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon or spatula till they are well combined. No need to over mix.

Step 3 - Pour the batter into a greased baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 mins till a toothpick entered into the center of the cake, does not have any raw batter stuck to it. Keep an eye on the cake after 20 mins as you do not want it to brown on top.

Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can store this cake in the refrigerator for a week. Whenever you are ready to indulge, just microwave it for 30 seconds and it will be warm and soft again.


Rack Your Brains!
Alphonso mango is considered one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. It is one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in the Konkan region of Western India.
The Alphonso Mango is named after Afonso de Albuquerque. This was an exquisite and expensive variety of mango, that he used to bring on his journeys to Goa. The locals took to calling it Aphoos in Konkani and in Maharashtra the pronunciation got further transformed to Hapoos. This variety then was taken to the Konkan region of Maharashtra, South Gujarat and other parts of India.
Read more here!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kairiche Lonche (Raw Mango Pickle)

Mangoes Everywhere! My favorite time of the year!
Being a fruit lover, I do enjoy the occassional Mexican or  South American mangoes we get around here. But  nothing can ever replace my love for 'Hapus Amba'  (Alphonso Mango). 
Come summer, my pantry is stocked with Alphonso mango pulps from the Indian grocery stores. Then we have a stream of Mango lassi, Mango milkshakes, Morambas (mango relish), Amras-Puri...the list does go on...
But to enjoy mangoes like we did in India, we treat ourselves with mangolicious recipes only in the summer. This way, we always look forward to summer and mangoes..Weird arn't we? :)

So to kick off this Mango-Mania of mine, I cannot think of anything better than 'Kairiche Lonche' or Raw Mango Pickle.
Eating fresh pickle totally rocks! No store-brand can ever get close to freshly made pickle. Maybe it's the love (read lack of preservatives) that we add in it!
But whenever I make pickles at home, the quantity is very little. I make pickles that can last us for just about a week. This way, we are excited about it, the freshness is intact and I don't have to bother with ways of preserving it for a longer duration which in turn would result in excess salt and oil usage. Low sodium and lesser grease can never be a bad thing!

Now let us get making some fresh homemade 'Kairiche Lonche'.

Level: Easy
Serves: 1.25 cups pickle

1 large raw mango
2 tblsp oil
3/4 tsp salt
1.5 tblsp red chilly powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tblsp mustard seeds powder
2 - 3 curry leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp asafoetida + 1 pinch asafoetida
10 fenugreek seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds

Step 1 - Wash and scrub the raw mango well. Wipe dry with a kitchen towel. Let it dry for an hour. Chop the mango into tiny pieces. Place it in a bowl. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Add the salt, red chilly powder, asafoetida (1/8 tsp) and mustard powder. Mix well. Every piece of the raw mango should be well coated. Be gentle here. Leave aside for 20 mins. This process softens the mango pieces as the mango releases some water due to the addition of salt.

Step 3 - In the mean time, take a small pan. Dry roast the fenugreek seeds till they slightly change color. Crush them into a rough powder either in your blender or like I did in my mortal and pestal.

Step 4 - In the same pan, heat the 2 tblsp oil. Once you are sure it is hot (not smoking), add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Quickly add in the turmeric powder. Let it heat for 2 - 3 seconds. Pour this into a small heat proof bowl. Let this cool down for 10 - 15 mins.

Step 5 - By now, the 20 mins of standing time for the spiced raw mangoes will be done. They will be nice and soft. Carefully pick out some tiny bits, look around and pop it in your mouth when noone is watching. Add the fenugreek seeds powder from Step 3 and the cooled flavored oil from Step 4. Mix well. Taste it and adjust salt and red chilly powder if you would enjoy some more.

Store in a clean container. This pickle can be enjoyed for 2 weeks, but I don't think it will last for more than one. It is sooo finger-lickin good!

Do not pour hot oil from Step 4 onto the marinated raw mangoes. This might slightly cook them and that would change the flavor of our pickle.

In your Indian grocery stores, you get mustard seeds crushed coarsely or finely. Any variety would do for this pickle.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Daalichi Amti (Malwan Style)

The smell of this 'Daalichi Amti' gets me instantly home sick!
Aai used to make this a lot of times to go with fried fish. Best combination EVER!
And then all of a sudden, new recipes came in the picture. 'Daalichi Amti' took a back seat and everyone forgot about it.
Then a few days back I got a request from my friend to help her with some Daal recipes! My mind started travelling back in time, as I wanted her to experience the traditional daal recipes, rather than try some of my not-so-awesome experiments. So I called my mom and we were discussing which maharashtrian daals would be blog worthy! Yea, I just said that..
We picked a few traditional ones, Ambat Varan (tangy daal) Kudal-deshkar style, Brahmin style and CKP style. Then we jotted down, some quick moong daal recipes and then she said, I should start with Malwani Daal! I was confused. What was she talking about? She told me the recipe and me not being a seasoned cook, had no recollection of the flavors she was talking about. She gave me many instances of having tried it as a child with fried fish and my mind was completely blank. Finally I took the recipe and decided to try it and post it on my blog if I enjoy it as much as she claimed I would. It was when I was half way through, the aroma in the kitchen made me nostalgic! It got back every memory and instance of enjoying this daal and I called Aai immediately and told her that I finally understood why she was so excited about this!

So here is the 'Malwani Daalichi Amti' recipe that has been passed on through generations in my family.
Hope you enjoy it!

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people

1 cup toor daal
5 - 6 drumsticks
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 pinches asafoetida
4 - 5 kokum
2 - 3 green chillies
8 - 10 fresh curry leaves
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 marble size piece of jaggery
Coriander to decorate
Salt to taste

To be ground:
2 tblsp fresh coconut
3 tblsp chopped onions
8 - 10 black peppercorns

Step 1 - Pressure cook the toor daal, turmeric powder, asafoetida, onions, 1/2 tsp salt and drumsticks for 2 whistles or till the daal is cooked well.

Step 2 - Grind the fresh coconut, onions and black peppercorns to a fine paste. Try to grind it without water, but if you do not have a high quality grinder, which I don't, you might have to add in a little water to make the ingredients move.

Step 3 - Take a large pot. Add the pressure cooked daal and the ground mixture. Add some water to make this mixture a little liquidy. Bring it to a boil on medium heat.

Step 4 - Once the daal begins to boil, add in the kokum and jaggery. Adjust salt and water to your desired consistency and let the daal boil for a good 8 - 10 mins on medium-low heat.

Step 5 - Take a small pan. Heat 1 tblsp oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the cumin seeds. Stir till they slightly change color. Add the curry leaves and asafoetida. Saute for a few seconds. Pour this into your boiling daal. Decorate with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with some steamed rice and fried fish!
If you know me, don't forget to invite me when you try this recipe at home!

Drumsticks give this daal the typical Malwani flavor. If you skip adding this, you will end up with a tasty daal, but not with Malwani Daalichi Amti.

Fresh drumsticks are ideal, but I have made this daal with frozen drumsticks too, when I could not find any fresh drumsticks around. Slight difference in flavor, but it works.

"Malwani cuisine" is the standard cuisine of the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa and some northern parts of West Karnataka. Altough Malwani cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, there are many vegetarian delicacies. Altought it is an independant cuisine, it overlaps Maharashtra cuisine and Goan cuisine.
Malwan is a town in the Sindhudurg district on the west coast of India.
Malwan being a coastal area in Konkan, has it's own distinct way of cooking food. It uses coconut liberally in various forms such as grated, dry grated, fried, coconut paste and coconut milk.
To know some more, head here.