Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Doodhatla Pithla

Every Marathi household has a copy of this, either borrowed from mom or one that was gifted to a new bride. 
I'm talking about Kamala bai Ogale's famous cookbook, 'Ruchira'.  
This is one of the oldest cookbooks and is still very popular. The recipes (in book 1) concentrate on Marathi cuisine and include a range of simple, day to day recipes and some complex ones as well.
The book gained popularity because of the dependable recipes but in my opinion, also because, it used simple measurement tools, the 'vaati' (katori / steel bowl) and 'chamcha' (steel spoon used in every kitchen). This made it easy for the Indian home maker and cook, who largely depended on eyeballing everything when cooking. 

My Mother has an old copy of Ruchira, I never really looked at it, it was just... there. It was because I did not have enough time on my hands to cook (because of work pressure) or just because it was in Marathi, which I was not too comfortable reading. 
But I love reading it now and cooking from the book. 

I grew up up in  a Marathi- Kannada  home, my Mom mostly made Maharashtrian food and it wasn't until I started blogging that I realized how vast the range of recipes was. 
There are so many variations to everyday recipes and just when you think you know a bit more, you realize, ah! no! that was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Take for example, the humble 'pithla'.
This ubiquitous 'curry', is something most people won't bother talking about. It's one of those, 'taken for granted' recipes. When there is a shortage of time or ingredients, this is the go-to recipe. 
It requires few ingredients, the base is 'besan' (chickpea flour) add to boiling (tempered) water. 
There are variations, like using garlic or even a different base (I've used kulith - horsegram flour).
But what I never imagined was using milk, instead of water.

So when I was leafing through the recipes in Ruchira, I spied, 'Dudhatla pithla' I was intrigued. 
I would never have imagined using milk in a recipe that wasn't sweet. You learn something new, everyday! 
  
This recipe comes together in a jiffy and is very mild and makes a nice change, once in a while. 


Marathi Pithla, Milk pithla, dudh pithla

This recipe is very forgiving, just be careful as it is milk based and follow the steps as mentioned to ensure that the milk does not curdle. 

I halved the proportion, that was more than enough for the 3 of us. 

I used 
2 Cups of Milk
1/4 cup Besan
1 Green chili, chopped 
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds, powdered
Salt to taste
Chopped Cilantro to garnish
Fresh coconut  to garnish ( I did not use )
2 Tbs Oil
1tsp Mustard seeds
Hefty pinch, Asafetida
1/4tsp Turmeric powder
Curry leaves.

Dissolve the besan in 1/4 cup milk and make a smooth paste. Set aside.
Heat a deep sauce pot or a kadhai. Add the oil and one the oil is hot (not smoking),add the mustard seeds.
As the mustard seeds pops, lower the heat and add the asafetida, turmeric, curry leaves  and the chopped green chili. Add the cumin powder and stir to mix. 
Now add the milk (1 1/2 cup) and stir to combine. Let the milk come to a boil, add the besan (mixed in milk) and stir to mix it in well.
Once the besan is cooked ( the consistency changes, it becomes tick and has a slight shine) add the salt.
Let it cook for a couple of minutes.
Garnish with coconut and cilantro before serving.
Serve ladled over plain, steaming hot rice with some pickles and papad for a comforting meal.




Notes:

-This is a mild Pithla, add another green chili if you want to amp up the heat. But this proportion is kid approved. 

- Be careful with the heat, keeping the flame on high or induction on high, will result in milk burning and smelling awful. Keep the heat at medium and stir frequently. 



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Friday, April 13, 2018

East meets West. Gulab Jamun Cheesecake bites

A family get together at my Ajji's (Grandmother) home was always the happiest of times. We all sat together talking, laughing, with the 'kid gang' doing idiotic stuff and hooting with hysterical laughter at ourselves. 
There was music, my Mama (maternal uncle) had a vast collection of cassettes and we would listen to tape after tape of Lata, Rafi, Kishor Kumar or perhaps Manna Dey. 

Ajji made lots of food to feed her hungry family and dessert, favored by the 'bachhe mandali' (kids) was gulab jamun (except during Ganpati festival, then it was ALWAYS puran poli and modak).

We, cousins, would peep into the big pot full of plump gulab jamuns and mentally pick out the biggest and the best looking. So when it was actually time to eat dessert, we would point to the ones we wanted. Our parents would rebuke us saying they all are the same, but Ajji never said a word, she would patiently pick out the ones we pointed to and serve us. It was her love that made them the best gulan jamuns in the universe. 

We would sit on the floor, cross legged and out 'vati' (steel bowl) in front of us and Mama would dim the lights, and then he would play songs. We knew many of these songs and we would sing along and enjoy our dessert. 
Satisfied, we would then curl up in our respective mom's laps and listen to the melodies in the background as they gently lulled us to sleep. 

As time passed, we all went our separate ways, job, marriage, moving to a new city or country, but with those precious, precious memories warming our hearts when we missed one another and most importantly, missed Ajji. 

I sat at the dining table, holding a tin of Haldiram's Gulab Jamun a guest had brought, thinking of all those days, missing home and family.

That wouldn't do, at all! Shaking off the nostalgia, I packed the tin in the pantry and went about doing what needed to be done. 

But when I picked up this book from the library, I could not resist trying out the cheesecake. 
I love, love, love cheesecake. 
The first time I made this recipe, it turned out delicious, but I had to make some adjustments. The recipe was for 6 cheesecakes ( small ). I needed to adjust the quantity a bit as well as the baking time 
to get it right. 
 I topped my first batch with Strawberry preserves and fresh strawberry. 
My son was thrilled and loved this mini cheesecake. As against the regular Graham crackers, I used some lemon cookies I had at home for the crust. The light burst of lemon and the strawberries worked well. 
It certainly was very tasty, but a tad over baked, in my opinion. The top sunk in the middle too.
We didn't care about the sunken top, we loved every single bite. 
Mini bites disappear fast. 


I made a second batch, this time I made small changes. With the previous batch, I followed the exact measurements and that yielded 11 mini cheesecake bites. If I had made them smaller, I could have made 12, but that would have been a bit too mini, for my liking. So with the second batch I adjusted the baking time and the quantity (added 2 tbsp cream cheese).
It worked out well, the cheesecake bites were perfect and 12 in number. 

Batch 2 had some Nutella swirled into each bite.



The last batch I made were a fusion batch, East meets West.
I pulled out the tin sitting in the pantry. This, would make great dessert.

Here's how:

1 1/2 cup Marie Biscuits (available in all Indian stores), crushed

2 Tbsp Unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup Granulated sugar ( I took off some from this as the gulab jamun is also rather sweet, but this is optional)

One 8 oz. packet + 2 tbsp  Cream Cheese , softened (room temp)

1 large Egg

2-3 cardamom pods (remove the seeds and powder them)

6 Gulab Jamun pieces, halved ( do not use any syrup) I used ready made, if you have home made, those, IMHO are EVEN better! 


Do the prep:

Make sure the ingredients ( cream cheese, egg, gulab jamun are at room temp. Melt the butter and let it come to room temp) are ready and set in place.

Preheat the oven to 350 F 

Make sure the small inner disc of the cheesecake pan is in place and ready.

Pick out the gulab jamun and let them sit on a plate, I kept mine in a colander to let the excess syrup out. Halve them. Set aside.


Crush the cookies, I used my chopper to crush the cookies and then I added the melted butter to the chopper and pulsed it to make the base. If you do not have a chopper or a food processor, just add the cookies to a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush and make a powder. Remove from the bag and add the melted butter to make the base.

Portion the mix into the cheese cake pan and press down well to create a smooth base. Set aside.


In a deep saucepan, add the soft cream cheese, and using a hand / immersion blender with the wire whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese till it is lump free, smooth and fluffy. 
You can also use the stand mixer bowl, but since the quantity is so little, it won't work as well. You can also use a manual whisk.

Add the cardamom powder and the egg and beat until just combined.
Spoon a little of this batter into the prepared cheesecake pan, over the cookie base. Place one halved piece of gulab jamun in the center and then pour the cheesecake batter over the jamun. Ensure that just 2/3 of the 'cake well' is filled.
Repeat for the remaining pieces. 



Bake in the oven (middle rack) of the oven for 8 mins. ( this is what worked for me. As oven temperatures vary, keep an eye, you might need an additional minute or so)

Pull out the pan and set it to cool. The cheesecake tops will have the slightest jiggle/ look sort of uncooked in the middle, at this stage. That is perfect.

Let the cheesecake bites cool in the pan for a bit. Then carefully remove ( push the removable plate at the bottom to pop the bites up) the cheesecake and place them on  a rack to cool completely.



Cool them in the fridge to set completely. 
Serve once they are chilled and set.


Notes:

- In all the 3 batches, I used different base cookies. Lemon cookies (for the cheese cake with strawberry topping), Graham Crackers ( for Original Cheesecake) and Marie biscuits (for the fusion Gulab Jamun cheese cake). All 3 worked well.

-The top will sink a little, don't worry about it.

-Unlike the traditional cheesecake, we do not use a water bath.

-As per the original recipe, this makes 6 mini cheese cakes

- This is a make ahead dessert.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ghadichi Poli and Methi Zunka, OPOS (One Pot One Shot) style.

Every Marathi household, it seems is obsessed with 'ghadichi poli'.
My mother always made 'ghadichi poli', until one day she came home, full of enthusiasm. Her Gujarati friend ( could be a friend from the office canteen or the train or, bus stop, I have no recollection, she has friends everywhere) 'taught' her the art of making fulka. After that we had fulkas for a long time.
But, she went back to making what she grew up eating, you guessed it, 'ghadichi poli'.
My grandmother also, always made the same.
I never paid any attention.
Life went on..
Then one day, I was at a friends place, she was going to get married and we had gone shopping. We returned home and after a bit of rest, she went int o the kitchen and started cooking for her father and brothers. V, deftly rolled out a circle of dough, spread a thin layer of oil and folded it into a semi circle  and then into a triangle.
This she dredged into flour and proceeded to roll the triangle into a perfect circle.

I was *very* impressed!
I was at the amoeba stage of rolling out flatbread.

Years later, after I was married and living in California, I was a part of a small group of ladies who met in the park and organized potlucks and festive get together.

 So we had this orkut  (anyone remember that now?) message circulating listing what each one of us would bring to the potluck.
When I did the final list and sent it to all concerned, pat came a reply..

Pallavi, me Ghadicha polya anat ahe. Tu faqta poli lihilays majha nava pudhe, mhanun mhatla tula sangava. (Pallavi, I am making tri-fold type chapati (poli), you have mentioned only chapati, so I thought I'd better let you know)


To this day, I have no idea what difference it made, but I never asked or argued.

But I still find it funny. Maybe it is a big deal.

To come back to this post and to introduce to you ( if you aren't familiar with it already) the OPOS system. This One Pot One Shot method is currently revolutionizing cooking.

I found a video on youtube and just clicked on it to view what it could be and found this extremely convenient method of cooking.
I am attaching links below so you all can also benefit from it.

I have tried a few recipes and have had success with all of them. Now that I am confident, I  feel it is time to share it. Tried and tested and all that.
 OPOS uses a regular pressure cooker, a 2 liter one to quickly cook food, while preserving nutrients and skipping the long step by step process.

The first thing is to standardize the equipment (a simple process) and then get cooking. click here to  follow the steps to test and standardize your cooker. LESSON 1 

The gist of OPOS style of cooking is, layer food in a certain manner and cook it on high heat, thus yielding in completely cooked, tasty food in minutes!

The other recipe I tried and was happy with is Attalysis (autolysis, is the correct term)This is an easy method of 'kneading' whole wheat flour into a soft dough for making flatbread.

The idea is to add water to flour ( follow the video to understand how) and let it absorb, undisturbed.
The flour absorbs the water and makes kneading almost effortless! The resulting dough is also very soft and also stores well in the fridge for 3 days ( that's the most I've stored it).

So how is this better or different from using the traditional method of dough making or even using the food processor or the heavy duty stand mixer?
Very different!
When using the traditional method, we add water slowly to the flour and knead the dough to the consistency we require ( roti / poori). Most women eyeball the quantity of water and go by the 'feel'.
Similarly, we, I also add water to the flour when kneading using my stand mixer. And I admit, sometimes the dough is softer than I'd like.
And with the stand mixer, I knead more dough, because of the bowl capacity. Too little flour and you cannot mix it...

But this problem is eliminated when using  'attalysis'. plus, the biggest advantage, for me, is the almost no kneading. With my tendinitis and wrist pain, it is rather difficult for me to knead dough without feeling very uncomfortable. On days when I require a small amount of dough and don't want to use the stand mixer, this is the best and the easiest method.
To make 'ghadichi poli' :

Knead the dough using Attalysis method.
The proportion that worked for me is:

2 1/4 Cups of  whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup water

Mix the flour and salt.
Add the dry ingredients t the water and using a fork or a spoon, mix the water and dough to a shaggy mix. Don't over mix or knead. Just mix it and cover and let it rest for 30 mins.
After 30 mins., lightly oil you hand and knead the dough. You will notice  that the water has been completely absorbed and the shaggy dough is very easy to handle and comes together in a very short time to form a soft dough.
At this stage ( ready ball of dough) I cover and keep aside for 10 mins.
If you need the dough for later, just place it in an airtight container and place it in the fridge till you need it.

If you are ready to make roti /poli, set your tava on the gas and let it heat up. Now, take a small portion of the dough ( lemon sized). Roll it between the palms of your hand and make the ball smooth,



OPOS , one pot one shot
Roti Dough made using Attalysis

Dredge it in dry wheat flour and roll it applying even pressure. Roll it to approximately a poori size.


Using a pastry brush or a spoon, drizzle a bit of oil on the rolled disc and spread it around.


Fold it over and smear a bit of oil on the upper side.


Now, fold it in to a triangle, like so..


Dredge the triangle into some dry flour and start rolling. Apply even pressure and roll out the triangle into a round shape. And if it stays a triangle  (or decides to form a shape unknown), never mind, it will still taste good. Just roll it evenly. 


Once you have a thin flat bread, carefully lift the disc and place it on the hot tava. Be careful.


Keep the heat at medium-high and let the flat bread cook. You will notice that it puffs up beautifully! It will also cook well and have brown spots.


Flip it and cook it on the second side as well. If you feel that the first side is completely cooked, do not flip again. IF any portion needs a bit of browning, flip it once more and let it cook for a few seconds and then take it off the heat.


Apply ghee and serve or place in the container ( policha dabba) for later. 

Ghee is a Must!


Ready to serve and enjoy! 

NOTES:

-This method of making roti keeps the roti softer for a longer period of time
- The technique of folding and rolling out creates thin layers in the bread. 


I served the flatbread with Methi Zunka. A staple in most Marathi homes, this humble Zunka is very versatile and can be made with very few ingredients. It is 'everyday fare' for a farmer toiling in the fields and now, many fancy restaurants are serving it up, garnished and glamouring (you know what I mean) it up! 
I often make this as a 'subji' to go with my flatbread. 
This time I tried OPOSing it and boy! I was pleasantly surprised!

The OPOS Zunka is simple and time saving.

I made some small changes. 

I used 

1 cup Besan (chickpea flour) to which I added a bunch of spices, 1/2 tsp EACH of roasted Cumin and Coriander powder, 1/2 heaped tsp of Garam Masala, Salt and some sugar,  1/2 tsp of Turmeric, 1/2 tsp of  Red chili powder 

Chop 1 medium onion and divide it. 

To this dry mix I added half the finely chopped Onion and one bunch Methi (fenugreek) leaves and  mixed it to form a dry mix, Do not add any water, the salt in the dry mix will make the onions and methi release moisture and make the mix slightly damp.                           

To the 2 L pressure cooker, add 3 Tbsp water. 

Add 3-4 Tbsp oil ( I know this sounds a lot, but this is what worked for me. If you are not happy about using all that oil, cut it to 2 tbsp, as the chef recommends.)

Add the remaining onions. This is the buffer layer.

Now add the besan mixture. Do not pack it in, just layer it lightly on top of the onions. If you press it down, that will cause burning. You don't want that. 

Cook this over high heat for 1 whistle only. This should happen around the 3 min 30 seconds mark.

Switch off the heat and release pressure manually. 

Stir the ingredients.

Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro ( this is optional). 

Serve with Bhakri or Poli.

*watch the video linked above to also see how not to make this zunka in a cooker. 

- If you use 2 tbsp oil, there will be some charring at the bottom.
Since I doubled the oil proportion there was absolutely no charring and the zunka was moist and well cooked. 


#OPOS


NOTES:

- Please go through the lessons on OPOS method of cooking.
- Use the equipment as suggested.
- Keep track of the changes you make with notes, if you want to modify or understand how and where things changed if the recipe did not turn out the way you wanted,

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Simple bare necessities. Bittergourd (Karela) stir fry.

You either love it or loathe it.  Most people agree that the bitter gourd has properties to lower your blood sugar levels among other benefits. 
The trouble is eating this *extremely* bitter vegetable. 

My association with the bitter gourd, karela, is not a happy one at all. Traditionally, a stir fry is served as a part of the 'shraddha' (a death anniversary ritual) lunch. It was one occasion where I could not turn up my nose at the food served (solemn occasion, my grandfather's shraddha) and eating it was nothing short of a punishment. I remember hissing in my mom's ear, "Aai, karla nako ga, please!  Nahi tar agdi thoda vadh, like one sliver". I've even gulped it down with water and almost choked and shuddered at the bitter after taste. 

That does not mean it isn't made on other days. But my mom never got or made this. We refused to even try it.

The first person, in my little circle, who loved  the dreaded karla / karela was my Mami (aunt). But I never tasted any. The first time I tried and tasted (and liked) was this recipe. But over time, I pushed it away and forgot all about it. 
If you, like me, have started liking (or even trying) this vegetable late in life, chances are, you will eat it once, forget it for a few days months  years and go back to it, slowly. 
But now, I pick up the gourds without a second thought. 
This recipe is one I picked up from a friend. Its a very, very simple one.
There are no spices, no sugar. Just the basic, turmeric and red chilies powder (optional) and salt. And yet, it is tasty. 
If you pick the gourds carefully, they may not be 'that' bitter. I read in a Marathi cook book, the pale green bitter gourds are generally  better and I prefer smaller sized gourds. 
I also did not salt and set aside the chopped bitter gourd ( this takes away some of the bitterness by drawing it out). Nothing needed. 

Begin by washing and patting the gourds dry. I used 3 gourds (the size of an IPhone 6).
Slice them in to thin rounds.
Slice a small red onion, lengthwise. 

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a kadhai / wok/ cast iron griddle.
Add the karela /bitter gourd rounds. 
I keep the heat at #7


Bitter gourd stir fry

Sprinkle a hefty pinch of salt and keep turning the karela, so both sides brown and cook evenly.
Add the onions and salt. Stir and cook well.

quick karela stir fry
After about 7-10 mins add 1/2 tsp Turmeric and 1/2 tsp red chilies powder (if you want).

Lower the heat and let it cook, helps crisp the edges of the karela and makes it tasty! 


Karela subji

Serve with a Ghadichi Poli (coming up soon).

Have a great week ahead, folks! 
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Staff Appreciation Week and Indian food (Vegetable Pulao and Aloo Mutter)

I was one tiny drop in an ocean of a school. There were classes up to grade 10, 10 divisions and about 75 kids in a single class. 
If that wasn't enough, we had English medium, Marathi and Gujarati medium of instruction too.
So, you see what I mean by the tiny drop?
The teachers were strict. I don't remember them smiling and being cheerful and so supportive at all.  Now, when I think back, it must have been a stressful job for them. So many kids, so many challenges... Teens in a co-ed. Yes, it was chaos. 

And then, when my son went to school, everything was just SO different. Teachers were sunny and cheerful, kind to children and encouraging. Everything was 'awesome', 'fantastic' and any task done was always a 'good job'. Students never got a rap over the knuckles, were never asked to stand outside the classroom-facing the wall.
I used to think teaching was an easy job, but now I know, there are challenges, takes a lot of patience to deal with different personalities all day. 

Likewise, the school administrative staff, they are also cooperative and cheerful. 

As a gesture of appreciation, our school had the annual Staff Appreciation Week.
The work for this began early in January. A small committee discussed themes and ideas.I was lucky to be a small part of this make plans.
During the week, the plan was to treat the teachers and admin staff (a total of 70) to breakfast and lunch. Each day would also end with the staff getting a high-five, not the hands, this high five was a memento of the day, a small way of saying thank you.
A theme was set for everyday of the week. 
Mid-week was to be the big luncheon and 'Around the World' theme was decided, with breakfast being Indian themed. 

Another mom and I were in charge  and it was fun deciding on a menu. I chatted with  Nupur and Shankari and a Face book group and had tons of ideas. The thing was, getting volunteers for making those ideas a reality. 
So we settled on something very do-able.
The breakfast was to be omelet (Indian style) and Idli- chutney (The idli-chutney (sauces) were loved by all). 
Lunch, as it was a big affair and 'Around the World', we had a lot of variety (Indian, American, Mexican, German).

The Indian table was loaded with 30 servings each of  Pulav, Aloo mutter , Chana Masala, Naan, Butter chicken, Chicken Biryani, carrot salad. The dessert table had varieties like gulab jamun, kaju katli, pedha, kesari.

We got wonderful reviews and no leftovers! 

I took Aloo Mutter and a simple Veg Pulao.

For the Aloo mutter I used this recipe. I just scaled down the heat, a lot. 

Peas, potatoes in an onion tomato gravy
Peas and Potatoes in an onion tomato gravy. Aloo Mutter

The pulao recipe is one I make quite often. This recipe is #kidapproved

Here is a scaled down version.

Prep:
Chop 1 small Onion, lengthwise.
Measure out 1 cup of Peas and Carrots ( I used frozen)
You also need:
1 bay leaf
2-3 Green Cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 x 1 inch piece of Cinnamon
1 tsp Jeera/ Cumin seed
1 tsp each - Ginger and garlic paste
2 Tbsp Oil + 2 Tbsp Ghee

Wash 1 cup White Basmati Rice in several changes of water, drain and set aside.

If using Instant Pot or other Electric Pressure Cooker:
Start the IP / EPC on Saute mode. Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick) and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Hit the 'cancel' button and seal the IP / EPC. Select 'Manual' mode and 6 minutes.
Once the timer beeps, let it go on warm mode for 5 mins (this is optional, but I've always done this) and the do QPR (Quick Pressure Release) carefully.

Empty the pulao to a plate /tray to cool down.This ensures that each grain of rice is separate.

If using the stove top method:

Use a deep and strong bottomed pot.
Add Oil and then Ghee ( this ensures that the ghee does not burn).
Add the cumin seed, bay-leaf. As the Cumin sizzles, add the other spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick)and let them sizzle. Once they smell aromatic, add the onion and saute till it's soft and browning at the edges.
Add the ginger and garlic. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice and mix gently, ensuring that the spiced oil coats the rice well.
Add the peas and carrots and salt to taste.
Add water (1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cup to get separate grained pulao).
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and let it cook till the water is absorbed and the rice is fluffy and the grains are separate.
Serve with a vegetable curry, raita, pickle. papad or enjoy it as is.

*NOTES: I've often substituted fried onions (store brought) instead of regular onions when in a hurry and that tastes very good too.Just eye ball it to about 1/4 cup or a bit more.  Add it on with the vegetables.  Please adjust the amount of salt, reduce the quantity as the fried onions have salt in them.

Rice Pulao with simple spices and vegetables
Vegetable Pulao


I have often come across questions like, 'doesn't Indian food require a lot of special spices and ingredients?', or, ' all those spices, I'm not sure I want to buy them and then end up not using them', or, 'what if I buy those big packs of spices and never know what to do with them, I'm not used to cooking Indian food, you know.'

I get it. For someone who might be trying Indian food for the first time, or is not comfortable buying all those ingredients and blends, only to waste them, it is a big deterrent.
I've so often wished for smaller ( read, single portion) packs of spices where I waste neither money nor the spices. so, for the High-Five of the day, which was to be a small memento, I thought of making a small packet with a recipe card and adding spices to it (pre-measured).
The challenge was to come up with a simple / non-fussy recipe. One that had few ingredients and simple to follow instructions. 
I narrowed my choice to finding a recipe from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries. After shortlisting 2 recipes, I also messaged him and sought his opinion. and then went with his recommendation (Pyaaz Murghi). The result was, we had typed out the recipe cards and the only spices needed were Turmeric and Garam Masala. These were added to small Ziploc bags and labeled.
I am not very good at wrapping up things and making them look pretty, but I hope they don't mind. 




We also had a Photo Booth set up. One mom made the booth with PVC pipes and hung white shower curtains. Another mom sent filmy posters and some oxidized jewelry and I took along some dupattas  and some imitation jewelry I had. The teachers and staff who came up to the booth had fun trying on the trinkets and bindis, an embroidered jacket, my friend Prachi loaned me and bangles and posing for us! 

This was for all the entire staff.

But I also wanted to do something for my son's class teacher. So I asked the 'Room Mom' if she knew anyone who did gluten free baking (our teacher has allergies). I have never baked anything Gluten Free  and did not want to experiment this time. Luckily one mom stepped up and said she'd bake a cake and I would decorate it. I went with my buttercream recipe for the floral decorations. I hope Mrs. T liked the cake.
Buttercream floral cake


It was a hectic week and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

But now, I want to take it easy and make simple food, you know, the amti-bhaat, poli- bhaji  meals. Which reminds me of the simple recipes I am planning to share with y'all. Coming up soon on AC@H.

Enjoy the long weekend and mid-winter break! 
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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Desserts for two. Cinnamon Streusel Cake

There are days when I pick up my son from school, hand him a lunch box with hot food and a spoon and ask him to eat up as I drive him directly to the library and then to tutoring.
On those days, he sits in the library and will finish his work and I stroll through the book aisles and pick a book here, a comic there or a magazine to flip through.
He works, I read.
Occasionally, he pays more attention to what I have, than to his work. I would too, I mean, c'mon, is math as interesting as a book which has tempting pictures of delicious desserts?

That's what I found on one of my 'walks'. A book that was just what I needed, Best sweets and treats for two
In February 2017, I went along with Nupur on the sugar free month, it's almost a year now and I am glad I broke that bad habit of gorging on something sweet. I can now say no and not regret it one bit!

But sometimes, it feels nice to have a little something to nibble on.  And who can say no to cake? But, making a usual portion is a lot and nobody wants to eat it after a day. This book solves my problem. This recipe serves 3, when the adults are careful of portion control ;)

small treat, cake, tea time


This recipe makes 2 mini loaves. What makes it a breeze is, this recipe uses a store brought mix, its semi-home made. While I like to measure out the ingredients and bake from scratch, this short cut is  rather convenient.

You need :

1 1/2 cups Store brought Yellow cake mix
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Water
3 Tbsp Butter (unsalted), melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar ( i used light brown, it was what I had)
1/2 cup All purpose flour
1/2 tsp Cinnamon 
3 tbsp Butter, chilled and diced
1 Cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp Milk


Pre-heat the oven to 350F
Grease the mini loaves
In a mixing bowl of the stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the cake mix, egg and egg yolk, water and melted butter and mix until well combined ( about 2 mins)

Make the streusel: in a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, brown sugar. Using a fork or your hands rub the butter into the flour and sugar till pea size crumbles form

Pour the cake batter in the greased pans, pour half way only. Now sprinkle the streusel mix over the batter. Pour remaining cake batter. Top it off with the remaining streusel mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 20-25 mins ( until the toothpick comes out clean)

Remove from pan ( after about 10 mins) and set it on the rack to cool completely.

The book does not state the use of the last two ingredients, the powdered sugar and the milk. I'm guessing that is for the glaze. 
I did not make the glaze. The cake is perfectly sweet and does not need anything more. 

If you, however, like sweet, add the milk in the powdered sugar and mix to form a thick glaze and drizzle it over the cooled  cakes.


Last slice, hastily clicked before a hungry 9 year old grabbed it and gobbled it up! 
Since this recipe worked well, my son has bookmarked several recipes he liked in the book and has urged me not to waste any time, but try and make them all. I am tempted! And with small portions, it really works well for us. 
So stay tuned for some more sweet treats. 

That's it from me! See you soon (hopefully) with new recipes and updates. 
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Millet Idli

My mother made idlis using idli rava at home. Weekends mostly. I remember waking up to the smell of sambar and the aroma was motivation enough to scramble out of bed, rush through everything to arrive at the table, hungry as a hunter. 
 We used to love them! I still do. In fact, these were the only ones I used to make until I got my wet grinder. And then the game changed. The previously loved idli rava idlis became a thing of the past. They are great, but there is something so perfect about the idli rice, idlis. They are heavenly! And so, I kept churning out soft pillowy idlis, week after week and enjoying every single morsel.
Every couple of weeks I make idli batter. I look forward to making soft melt-in-the-mouth Idlis. The process is simple, though time consuming. Its a great option for a quick meal or to pack in the lunch box ( for the husband, who can heat them in his office). 

The highlight of our summer (2017) was my parents visiting us. They came in time for my son's birthday and stayed for mine. Oh what a wonderful time it was! Their love and good food was the best part of last year. I cooked a lot, clicked pictures on my phone and well, they're still there. I guess I'll work on the posts this year. LOL! 

During this time, I tried a variation on the regular idlis and they did not disappoint.
Instead of rice, I used millet. Hulled millet is available packaged in most grocery stores and in the bulk bin section as well.
Pic courtesy : Google search

You need:
1 cup Gota Urad Daal 
3 cups Millet 
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds

Wash the Urad daal in several changes of water (scrub lightly with your fingers. The water will turn very cloudy. Drain it, add fresh water, repeat till the water runs clear). Soak the urad daal in plenty of water. Add the fenugreek seeds.

Wash the millet and soak it in a separate container in plenty of water.

Soak the daal and millet overnight.

Before grinding, discard the soaking water. I also give both ingredients a quick rinse under running water.

Begin with grinding the urad daal. 

If using a wet grinder or a blender, add the urad daal and start grinding. Gradually add little water. Do not add too much. You don't want a runny daal paste. That will ruin the idlis. 

Grind till the urad daal turns a pale color and looks 'fluffy'.

Remove to a container.

Grind the millet now. Take care not to add too much water. This will take a bit longer to grind. Be patient. 

Once the millet turns to a smooth paste, add it to the ground urad daal. Mix well.

The batter should have a dropping consistency. Too runny- the idli will be flat and gummy, too thick (where you need to give the ladle a shake to make the batter fall into the mold) will make rock like idlis, better used as hockey pucks.

There are two options now: 
  1.  stick the pot in a warmish oven and let the batter ferment (between 10-12 hours )
  2. Pour the batter in the inner steel pot of your Electric Pressure cooker /  Instant Pot and set it to 'yogurt' mode for 8 hours on seal mode. 
Once the batter is fermented, make idlis as usual.
If you are making idlis for the first time: 

Add some salt to the fermented batter and fold it in gently. 

Before making idlis, add water to the idli cooker and set it on the stove. 

Once the water is bubbling, grease the idli molds with either oil / oil spray or ghee.

Ladle idli batter into the molds ( do not overfill) and place the stand in the steaming water. Close the lid and steam the idlis on high ( on a dial from 0-10, keep the heat at 8-8.5). Continue cooking for 15-18 mins ( when you open the lid- carefullllly- the idli tops must be plump and not sticky.

Switch off the heat and using a thick kitchen towel or baking mitten, remove the idli stand and set it aside for a couple mins. 

Carefully unmold the idlis, these should slip out easily, if not use a spoon or a butter knife to loosen the sides and transfer to a  container.

Serve idlis with chutney or sambar or both. 

I made this zuchhini chutney for my family and they enjoyed the combination very much. I unfortunately couldn't eat it as it has peanuts.


Learn to make idlis without the rice. Use Millet to make delightful idlis for a perfect breakfast.


Notes:

These idlis are very tasty. But do not compare them to the regular rice idlis,

The batter can be used to make dosa as well.

These are a very good alternative to rice idlis, specially for people who avoid rice in their diet.

These idlis can be steamed in the Instant Pot as well, but I am not very comfortable doing that. I just haven't learned how, strange as this sounds. If you have, please share the method with me.

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