Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Paneer Vegetable Pulao / Cottage Cheese Vegetable Pilaf



I was supposed to be baking and packing homemade edible gifts this month, but I am taking it slowly as time is a big constraint for me this month.  Like I mentioned in my last post, my first batch of Kerala Plum cake was baked, but it didn't last for long.  The cake was served during Christmas caroling.  My kids and hubby asked me to bake another cake.  I am planning to share some cookie recipes too.  Meantime I want to share something simple that can be prepared in a jiffy, but it surely looks festive enough for the season.  Yes it has the red and green color.  But it’s not a dessert and it’s not restrained to X'Mas season, you can make it anytime when your tummy calls for it.


Today's post is a simple Pulao/Pilaf.  Basmati rice is cooked to grain perfection with a blend of whole spices and ghee.  Then the aromatic rice is mixed with lightly seasoned vegetables cooked separately.  I prefer cooking the vegetables separately to retain their shape and color rather than cooking along with the rice.  The star ingredient in this recipe is the paneer/Indian cottage cheese cut into cubes.  I prefer homemade paneer as I like to season them while making it.  It’s so easy to make paneer at home and I am sure once you start making it your own, you will like it.  If you don't want to make paneer, you can very well buy it.  I will post the homemade paneer recipe sometime soon as I didn't take enough pictures of paneer when I made it. Pictures matters to me…you know me…so I assure that I will do a separate post soon.




I mainly follow 3 methods to cook basmati.  They are: 
  1. Boiling method - Simply boil the washed rice with excess water and drain the excess water after the rice is cooked using a strainer.  I use this method to make half a batch of rice when making Biriyani.  You will lose starch content and any nutrition while following this method though.  But you can get the perfect grains if you drain the water out when the rice is 95% cooked.
  2. Pressure Cooker method - It’s tricky to get non-sticky rice.  Soaking time, cooking time and cooling time is very important in this method to get non-sticky rice.  But it’s a very easy and quick method.
  3. Stove top pan method.  In this method you cook the soaked rice with double the amount of rice - 1/2 cup of water in a non stick pan with the lid on and cook for 15-20 minutes till the water is completely absorbed by the rice.  This is the fool proof method anyone can try.  This method works perfectly for Pulao/Pilaf and it retains the flavor and texture of the rice.


Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups - Basmati rice
1/2 tsp - ginger garlic paste
4 1/2 cups - water
salt to taste


Whole spices
4 - cloves
4 - green cardamom
1 - small piece of cinnamon
1 - star anise
1 - bay leaf
1/2 tsp - black peppercorn
1 tbsp - ghee/butter


Vegetables
1/4 cup - red bell pepper cut into small pieces
1/2 cup - green peas
1/2 cup - carrots cut into small cubes
2 cups - paneer cut into cubes
1/2 tsp - ginger garlic paste
1/4 cup - chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp - freshly ground garam masala
1/2 tsp - freshly ground pepper powder
1 tbsp - ghee/butter
salt to taste

chopped cilantro to garnish


Directions:

  • Soak Basmati rice in water for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes drain the water and keep the basmati rice aside.
  • Take a big wide mouth non stick pan with a tight lid.  Melt 1 tbsp of butter in the pan.  Add the paneer pieces and fry till golden brown.  If using store bought paneer sprinkle some salt over it.  Transfer the paneer pieces into a plate.
  • Now add 1/2 tsp of ginger garlic paste to the pan with the left over ghee/butter.  Cook till raw smell is gone.  Add the carrots and bell pepper; adjust the salt and cook on medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes.  Add garam masla powder, pepper powder and cook for another minute.  Finally add the green peas and toss well.  Cook for a minute and turn off the flame.  Add chopped cilantro to the veggie mix, stir well and transfer the veggie mix into the fried paneer plate.
  • Melt 1 tbsp of ghee/butter in the same pan.  Fry the whole spices for couple of minutes and add ginger garlic paste.  Let it cook till the raw smell is gone.  Add the soaked rice into the pan and fry for a minute.  Add salt and 4 1/2 cup water.  Adjust the salt at this step.  Cook on high flame till the water comes to a rolling boil.  Lower the flame to medium heat and cover the pan with the lid.  Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.  Open the lid and give a stir.  Lower the flame again and cover the lid.  Cook for another 6-8 minutes till the water is completely absorbed by the rice or till rice is cooked completely.  Turn off the flame and let the rice sit for 5 minutes.  Use a fork to fluff the grains, they will not be sticking to each other.
  • Add the paneer veggie mix to the rice and gently mix using a wooden spoon without breaking the rice grains.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy the Pulao with your favorite curry.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Kerala Style Aval Vilayichathu / Kerala Style Sweetened Beaten Rice Flakes



I cannot believe that we are already in the month of December.  It is the time of the year I go on a baking and shopping spree.  This year I am trying to cut down the shopping.  I already baked my Kerala Plum cake and its sitting in the dark to mature the flavors. Meantime I thought to make something traditional to kick start my December post.  I wouldn't be exaggerating if I say that I love my Mom's 'Aval Vilayichathu' the best out of what I had so far.  Of course anyone would feel the same about this Mom's food, right?  But I can assure you that you will fall in love with this 'Aval Vilayichathu' if you try it your own.


  Traditionally it’s served with small type of Indian banana ('Poovan' pazhum).  Since it’s not readily available where I live, I enjoy them with the regular banana.  Each time I visit my parents, my Mom makes a batch as my hubby is an ardent fan of 'Aval Vilayichathu'.  And I have a confession to make to my readers that I was so spoiled by Mom by getting bags of this snack each time that I never tried making it my own.  Since my parents are on vacation trip to India, I had no choice other than making it by myself.  I had asked my Mom for this recipe several times and I never bothered to jot it down each time she explained it to me as I knew that she will make it for me.  But I had to call my Mom to get the recipe and my Mom was like 'Really you don't know this!! I had given you this recipe 100 times'.....hehe....that me.  There are lots of traditional snacks she used to make when we were young and I haven't even tried at least 10% of what she knows.

 

Let’s come back to 'Aval Vilayichathu'.  It’s simple and nothing tricky.  It takes only 30 minutes to prepare this delicious snack/dessert.  All you need is to get the right ingredients from your Indian grocery store and you are all set.  Make sure to pick the darkest jaggery blocks/balls you can get.  It gives the nice traditional dark color to the 'Aval'.  You can very well adjust the types of nuts you add to the 'Aval'.  Traditionally you don't add Vanilla and raisins, but my Mom adds that and it gives a nice flavor and chewy bite to the 'Aval'.  Also make sure to use the brown rice (Matta) flakes as it tastes better than the regular rice flakes.  Thin Poha will not work for this recipe.  You have to use the Kerala style beaten rice for this recipe.  You can find it in any Indian store that carries Kerala grocery.  Hope you will try this recipe during this Christmas time.

Ingredients
500 gm/6 cups - beaten rice flakes/Aval
4 cups - grated dark palm jaggery (2 big dark jaggery balls)
3/4 cup - water
4 cups - grated coconut
2 tbsp - ghee/butter

To fry
1/4 cup - raw peanuts
20 - cashew nuts
1/4 cup - dark and golden raisin mix
1/4 cup - fresh coconut pieces
3 tbsp - ghee/butter

To flavor
1/2 tsp - roasted cumin seeds/jeera
8 - good quality green cardamom
1/2 inch - dry ginger piece
1 tsp - vanilla extract

Directions:

  • Melt the grated jaggery in 3/4 cup of water in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Turn off the flame and strain the liquid to remove any impurities.  The jaggery syrup should be boiled just enough to melt the grated jaggery during this step.
  • Powder the ingredients under the 'To Flavor' list using a pestle & mortar or in a coffee grinder and keep it aside.
  • Melt 3 tbsp of ghee in a non stick pan and roast the cashews first.  Remove them  and roast the peanuts, coconut pieces and finally the raisins.  Turn off the flame and keep the roasted items aside.
  • Check the beaten rice flakes for any rice husk and remove them.
  • Take a heavy bottom non-stick pan or 'Urili' ( the authentic Copper pan) and add the strained jaggery syrup.  Turn on the flame and let it come to boil.  Add the grated coconut and 2 tbsp of butter and mix well.  Let it cook till the syrup gets half its quantity.  When tested the syrup should be little sticky when pressed between your fingers.  Turn off the flame and add vanilla extract and mix well.  Now add the cleaned rice flakes in batches and keep stirring till the coconut jaggery syrup is completely soaked by the rice flakes. 
  • Add the powdered ginger, cardamom and cumin followed by the roasted nuts, coconut and raisins and mix the 'Aval' well.
  • Let it cool down and absorb all the flavors and moisture for at least 4 to 8 hrs in the same pan.
  • Enjoy them the next day with banana.  The left over can be stored in the air tight container for a week outside or in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Note:
  • The best way to enjoy the Aval Vilayichathu is by warming it up in the microwave for 30 seconds and mix with banana.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Candied Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallow And Pecan Topping



I had mentioned previously that our tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with my family since my brother got married.  It’s a huge get together.  Guess what, this time we won't be celebrating together as my parents are on vacation to India and my brother and family moved to Texas.  My sis-in-law and I had been talking over the phone for the last 2 weeks and how bad we are going to miss this huge get together.  We are going to miss the most exciting black Friday shopping that me and my sis-in-law does every year just by ourselves by leaving the kids to guys to watch.  Kids are very upset too.  I promised my kids that we will celebrate Thanksgiving here at home on Wednesday and on Thursday we will have the get together by the Thomas family.




So for this Thanksgiving, I will be making my sis-in-laws sweet potato dessert that she makes during Thanksgiving.  I am the one who really finishes all the left over as I am an ardent lover of sweet potatoes.  I slightly modified the method and made them in ramekins for individual servings.  These flavorful candied sweet potatoes are super delicious and go well with Thanksgiving dinner as a dessert.  You can set it up the day before and bake it on the day of the dinner.  I made a small batch to share before Thanksgiving so that you can try it for the dinner. 


Serves - 2
Ingredients
2 - medium size sweet potatoes peeled and cut into small squares
2 tsp - fresh orange juice divided
2 tsp - butter divided
1 tsp - brown sugar divided
1/2 tsp - orange zest divided

Topping
mini marshmallows to top
10 - pecans for topping divided
a pinch of nutmeg powder (optional)
1/4 tsp - orange zest
1/4 tsp - brown sugar

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Grease 2 ramekins with butter or cooking spray.  
  • Divide the cut sweet potatoes into equal portions and arrange in the ramekins.  Add 1 tsp of butter, 1/2 tsp, brown sugar, 1 tsp of orange juice and 1/4 tsp of orange zest into each ramekins and mix well.  Cover the ramekins with aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet and bake it for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes check the sweet potatoes, it should be soft.  If they are not soft and candied bake it for another 5 minutes.
  • Take the ramekins out and remove the aluminum foil.  Arrange mini marshmallows and 5 pecans in each ramekins.  Sprinkle nutmeg,orange zest and of brown sugar on the top of the marshmallow and bake till the marshmallow starts to melt a bit.  It takes between 5 - 7 minutes.  Serve them warm.

Jerk Seasoned Cornish Hens With Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing


I always find it better to adapt what my conscience tells me as goodness in a culture.  It’s always good to understand the kernel meaning and uphold the spirit of anything and everything you celebrate these days.  Thanksgiving is not merely a get together of family and friends and having a feast.  Traditionally Thanksgiving was celebrated as an occasion of special thanksgiving for the harvests with thanks and prayers among several religions.  It’s celebrated in different ways in different cultures like a harvest festival.


If I look back to my childhood days in India, I can relate Thanksgiving to something similar.  My grandpa used to own lots of rice fields, as rice is the main staple grain of Southern India.  We used to get truck loads of rice for the whole year round of use and the rest were sold right in the farm.  By the time truck comes home, there will be lot of people gathered in the backyard to process the whole cut rice plant and get the grains separated from the stems.  I still remember day and night people used to work hard and they all come to grandpa's house in the morning and the kitchen will be working day and night.  Meals were provided to the workers and the lengthy process of boiling, drying and storing the rice grain would take weeks or even a month to settle down depending on the weather and the harvest load.  All I remember was its like a festival, lots of people are there to help and there will be music/news played all the time through the radio.  Sometimes we used to play cassettes with comedy songs, dramas or even audio version of movies for the workers.  They will be loud and at times they signal us for cold drinking water by giving a special howling sound.  It was all loud, noisy and energy packed days.  I relate this to Thanksgiving because all the family gather together to be part of the harvest to help out my grandpa.  My dad used to take time off from work and go to Kerala to help grandpa when we were in North India.  When all the harvest work is done, a feast will be given to the workers and rice sacks will be donated to them and our church.  This was not the just the tradition of our family, but everyone around us used to bring a little amount of their harvested product to church and the cooks of the church used to prepare a sweet porridge out of the rice with loads of grated coconut and jaggery.  The taste of porridge still makes me drool.  I wonder if anyone does that anymore as there are no more rice fields and people are busy and stay away from farming these days.
Red skinned baby potatoes, garlic powder, parsley flakes, red chili flakes, salt,  fresh rosemary, olive oil and 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice is tossed together and wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 400 ° F for 40 minutes.

Thanksgiving to me is the time to thank for all the countless blessing we enjoy in our life.  The blessings are passed on to us by the prayers and good gestures of our parents and forefathers.  Never take anything for granted that you enjoy, it can be lost in a split second by the acts of cruelty and selfishness that is invading this world day by day.  Let us not just remember one day for thanksgiving; we should be thankful for each and every day that we get to spend.  Make this life beautiful and more meaningful by thinking positive and sharing and caring for each other so that there will be peace and joy everywhere.

I know I am late in posting the recipes for Thanksgiving.  But here is what I made today so that I could share with you before Thanksgiving.  I served the Jerk seasoned spicy stuffed cornish/game hens with mushroom wild rice stuffing/dressing and a side of herb roasted red skin baby potatoes.  The juices that was left over after baking the birds had all the flavors and seasoning needed for the gravy, so I served it as the gravy for the bird.  I used turmeric in the marination to give a golden yellow hue to the bird.   I served candied Sweet Potatoes topped with marshmallows and pecans as the dessert.  


Ingredients for jerk seasoned hens
3 - cornish/game hens with skin on and cleaned
To brine
1/3 cup - salt
1/3 cup - sugar/brown sugar
8 cups - cold water
3 cloves - garlic crushed with skin
1 tbsp - black peppercorn crushed
3 - dry red chili torn (optional)
1 sprig - rosemary

Marination
3 - scallions chopped
5 cloves - garlic (big ones)
1 inch - ginger piece peeled
1/4 cup - extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - peppercorn
1 tbsp - jerk seasoning
1 tsp - brown sugar
1 - habanero/bonnet pepper flesh only (no seeds)
salt to taste


Jerk seasoning
1/2 tbsp -  garlic powder
1 tsp - cayenne pepper
1 tsp - onion powder
1 tsp - dried thyme
1 tsp - dried parsley
1 tsp - sugar 
1 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - paprika
1/2 tsp - ground allspice  
1/4 tsp - black pepper
1/4 tsp - dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp - ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp - ground cinnamon

Basting mix
1/4 cup - olive oil
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning

Wild Rice mushroom stuffing
2 cups - wild and long grain rice
4 cups - chicken broth
1 tbsp - butter
1 - medium size onion slice
1 clove - garlic minced
1 cup - chicken broth
8 oz - mushrooms sliced
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning
1/4 cup - walnuts
salt to taste


Directions:

To brine
  • Dissolve the salt and sugar in the cold water in a non reactive container.  Add the crushed peppercorns, garlic and red chili into a small cheese cloth and tie it to make a small bag.  Place the cornish/game hens in the container with the brine and drop the spice bag into the container.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.


To marinate
  • Blend all the ingredients under marination to form a smooth paste.  Take the birds out of the brine. Give a rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Apply the marination inside and out side of the whole hens.  Use a skewer to poke few holes on the skin.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hrs.

Stuffing/Dressing
  • Cook the wild and long grain rice mix in 4 cups of broth/water or as per the package direction.
  • Melt butter in a pan; roast minced garlic till golden brown.  Add onions and sliced mushroom and cook till they turn golden brown.  Add jerk seasoning and walnuts and saute for 2 more minutes.  Adjust the salt and add the chicken broth and wait till it boils for a minute.  Add the cooked rice to it.  Mix well and turn off the flame.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 ° F.
  • Transfer the rice mix to a greased baking pan and cover with an aluminum foil.  Bake for 20 minutes in .  Remove the aluminum foil and bake it for 10 minutes till the top turns light brown.

To bake
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare the baking pan by lining the bottom with a heavy duty aluminum foil and greasing it with butter or cooking spray.  Stuff the birds with 2 to 3 tbsp of rice stuffing and cross the legs and tie it with a clean string.  Arrange the birds in the baking pan without touching each other.  Brush the top of the birds with basting mix.  Loosely cover with aluminum foil and cook for 1/2 hr.  Take the baking pan out and test the internal temperature.  Cook it covered till the internal temperature gets to 170 F or the thicker portion is no longer pink.  It took me 1 hr. 
  •  Remove the aluminum foil and bast the top of the bird with basting oil.  Set the oven to broil option and bake for 10 more minutes till the skin turn golden brown.  
  • Collect any juice that remains in the pan after cooking.  Take the chicken out and loosely cover with a aluminum foil and leave it out for 10 minutes undisturbed.  Brush rest of the collected juices on top of the chicken and add the rest to the stuffing.  Enjoy!!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mushroom Green Tomato Theeyal/Mushroom And Green Tomato In Roasted Coconut Gravy



I love mushrooms and they are so cute when available in 8oz blue containers with their snow white color and button shape.  I never think twice to pick up the mushrooms when they are fresh sitting in cute baskets in the farmer’s market aisle.  Mushroom is a beautiful subject to shoot too.  So the other day when I saw them in the market, I picked up 2 containers of these snow white cuties.  I always get excited about buying stuff and then go into a passive mode of what to do next with it.  As a blogger my notion was to take some fun pictures and come up with a recipe to blog about.  I wanted to make something Indian and came up with this idea of making Theeyal, which is a flavorful curry that is made by cooking the vegetable in spicy roasted coconut gravy.  Even though I don't make Theeyal that often, my kids could recognize the aroma of dry roasted coconut with shallots and spices.  They knew that Theeyal was on the menu for the meal for the weekend.  


I always find it difficult to style soups and curries.  They are tricky subjects to shoot.  Mushroom theeyal is a usual fare in my Mom's kitchen, but this was the first time I attempted it and it was really delicious with steamed rice.  I prefer it to have thick gravy than runny.  I made use of some green tomatoes in this recipe that I got hold of from fall season.



Do you feel that you could have styled a subject better when you look back into the pictures later?  I always feel so.  There are only rare cases when I feel otherwise.  Do you feel the same? Perseverance and patience are the basic aspects when you think about food photography and styling.  Hope I develop more patience to take better pictures. 
                      Above is a still life picture of green vegetables and fruits I took for fun.

Here is another theeyal recipe that you can find on the blog:

Asparagus Shallots Theeyal
Ingredients:

20 - white button mushrooms
1/2 cup - green tomatoes cubed
1/2 cup - red onion sliced
3 - green chili splits
1/2 tsp - tamarind paste/a small tamarind ball
1 cup - water
1 1/2 tsp - oil
salt to taste
1 sprig - curry leaves

For dry roasting
1 1/2 cup - fresh / frozen grated coconut thawed
1/4 cup - thinly sliced shallots/pearl onions
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - chili powder
1/8 tsp - fenugreek powder
1/3 cup water

Tempering/Tadka
4 - pearl onions thinly sliced

1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1 - dry red chili
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
2 tsp - oil

Directions:

  • Dry roast the grated coconut and sliced shallots on very low heat in a cast iron pan or non stick pan for 15 - 20 minutes or till the coconut turns medium brown by continuously stirring.  Add the coriander powder, chili powder and fenugreek powder and roast for 2 minutes on low heat. Turn off the stove and let it cool.  Grind the dry roasted ingredients with 1/3 cup water into a smooth paste.
  • Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup luke warm water.  Once soaked well, strain the pulp and save the water.
  • Wash the mushroom and pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut them into half and slice the halves again into 3 pieces.
  • In a non stick wok or deep pan, saute the mushrooms with onion and green chili in 1 1/2 tsp oil till the mushroom is cooked and all the moisture is absorbed.  Now add the cubed green tomatoes and adjust salt.  Cook it covered for 2 - 3 minutes till the tomatoes are cooked.  
  • Now add the coconut paste and tamarind juice without the pulp into the pan.  Add 1/2 -1 cup of water if the gravy is thick.  Cook till gravy boils for 2-3 minutes.  Adjust the salt.  Turn off the burner.
  • In a non-stick pan, splutter mustard seeds in 2 tsp of oil.  Add the shallots and dry red chili and cook till it gets golden brown.  Turn off the burner and add the curry leaves to the tempered onions.
  • Garnish the Theeyal with the tadka/tempered mustard and onions and serve the Theeyal with steaming plain rice and seasoned buttermilk.
Notes:
  • You can use a ripe tomato instead of the green tomatoes. In that case you have to adjust the amount of tamarind paste to get the right amount of sourness to the curry.
  • Make sure to saute the mushroom so that the water is absorbed well before you add the green tomato because you want to overcook the tomatoes so that they will lose its shape.
  • I like theeyal to be thick rather than runny.  Adjust the amount of water per your desired consistency.
  • If you don't have a good blender, use a spice grinder/clean coffee grinder to grind the warm dry roasted coconut till its powdered well and the ground coconut starts to stick to the sides.  Now transfer this into a blender and add enough water to grind it into a smooth paste. 
  • Alternatively you can freeze the grated coconut for 30 minutes and pulse the frozen coconut in a food processor to get small flakes.  This will help to get the coconut evenly roasted without burning.
  • It is important to roast the coconut well to attain the right taste and to get a smooth coconut gravy. 
  •  If the coconut is not roasted well, it is hard to grind it into a smooth paste and the theeyal will not impart the authentic flavor. 
  • Make sure that you don't over roast the coconut and burn it.

Tips to grind the Roasted Coconut without an expensive blender

  • If you don't have a good blender, use a spice grinder/clean coffee grinder to grind the warm dry roasted coconut till its powdered well and the ground coconut starts to stick to the sides.  Now transfer this into a blender and add enough water to grind it into a smooth paste. 
  • Alternately you can freeze the grated coconut for 30 minutes and then pulse it in food processor to get a course powder.  This will help to get evenly roasted coconut while dry roasting it with shallots.
  • It is important to roast the coconut well to attain the right taste and to get a smooth coconut gravy. 
  •  If the coconut is not roasted well, it is hard to grind it into a smooth paste and the theeyal will not impart the authentic flavor. 
  • Make sure that you don't over roast the coconut and burn it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Super Easy One Pot Spicy Kidney Beans Curry/ Rajma Curry





The most beautiful time of the year is here, the fall.  I adore the beauty of this season.  To me the surroundings are awe inspiring for those who love to capture the scenic view through their lens.  I planned to do so, but got lazy :(. Nature splashes its canvas with vivid colors like an artist.  The gentle breeze that passes through brings in a shower of colorful leaves and makes a bed on the ground and sun's ray that strains through the yellow and orange shades of leaves embellish the surrounding with a golden hue.  One can get mesmerized by the beauty of this season.  At the same time it reminds me that it’s the beginning of something profound to come, yes the very bitter cold winter.  Moody days make me lazy and I wish to stay on the couch without moving a muscle.  But that seldom happens, because I make up my mind to go with something simple and comforting to prepare instead of lying on the couch and rely on some take out food. 



This recipe is on my lazy day cooking menu which needs no special attention.  You chop some onions and tomatoes and simply throw it with spices into the pressure cooker along with the beans and wait for some time for it to get cooked.  From start to end you need only a single pot which is the pressure cooker; there is not sautéing involved in this recipe.  This recipe can be tagged for a novice cook.  It’s that simple and you will end up with a delicious spicy Rajma curry that can be served with some pulao or steamed rice.  Last weekend when I made it, I served it with some carrot rice.

I read this quote somewhere that 'Laziness fuels more laziness'.   Are you lazy to cook an elaborate meal today?  Then this recipe is for you my friend.  A novice cook can also try this recipe without any failure.  Its fool proof and simple.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup - dry kidney beans
4 cups - water
1 tsp - coriander powder
1/2 tsp - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp - chili powder
1/2 tsp - garam masala
2 - medium tomatoes chopped
1 - medium onion chopped
2 tsp - ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - cumin seeds
salt to taste
4 tbsp - heavy cream/coconut milk
Garnish with Cilantro leaves and onion slices
Directions:
  • Soak kidney beans with 6 cups of water for over night.  After soaking for minimum 8 hrs, rinse the kidney beans thoroughly in running water and drain.  Transfer the kidney beans to a pressure cooker followed by 4 cups of water.  Add rest of the ingredients to the pressure cooker except garam masala.
  • Pressure cook for 20 whistles and turn off the flame.  Once the pressure subsides, open the lid and check the texture of the beans, it should be mushy.  Using a ladle mix everything well.  Check for the gravy consistency and adjust the amount of water during this step. Add garam masala; close the lid and cook for another 5 whistles and turn off the burner.  
  • Once the pressure completely subsides, open the lid and mush the curry with the back of the ladle to get the right consistency.  Add the heavy cream or coconut milk and garnish with chopped Cilantro leaves and onion slices.  Serve with warm steamed pulao or plain basmathi rice.  

Notes:
  • Pay attention to the kidney beans I had used in this recipe.  I used the light brown colored beans which cooks faster than the darker version.
  • Don't forget to soak the beans the day before.  Always discard the water in which the beans is soaked to remove the toxins the kidney beans contains.  Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all impurities from the beans even if you got an imported quality beans.
  • Adjust the amount of water and spices per your taste.  Kidney beans tastes better when the gravy is spicy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sweet Potato Almond Burfi



Diwali, the Indian festival of lights is coming up soon and all sweet lovers prepare a galore of sweets to welcome this festival.  No matter in which corner of the world you are, all Indians love to enjoy the vibe of this festival by either making sweets or at least buying them from Indian stores and of course lighting up fire crackers. 



I was pondering on sharing a Diwali treat that would go with the fall color.  Then this idea of burfi came up.  I have this ardent love for burfi from my childhood, so no matter what or where my mind flies, but it always land on burfi.  So it was final that a burfi recipe was going out on the blog.  I had all the ingredients with me and thought to experiment.  Since sweet potato is one of my favorite and its orange color was so vibrant, I simply couldn't deny my urge to try this.  I like to keep a bag of sweet potatoes in my pantry most of the time because I like the roasted sweet potatoes in my salads a lot.  Here are few other recipes you can check out that uses sweet potatoes:

While I was grating sweet potatoes, my kids were mused to try their hand on grating, but soon they gave up and wanted to see the end product.  Once I was done making the burfi, my hubby peeked and checked if he can have a piece.  I simply denied and said it needs overnight refrigeration.  They had to satisfy their sweet tooth with some scraping those were left out in the pan and the spatula.  The burfi came out really firm and the nutty and chewy texture from the almonds made it so delectable that you cannot stop with one piece.  My hubby gave me thumbs up for the burfi.  Hope you will try this recipe for Diwali!!  

Other Diwali recipes on the blog are:

2 cups - grated sweet potatoes (orange colored)
454 g - ricotta cheese
1/2 cup - granulated sugar
2 cups - milk powder
1/2 cup - crushed almonds/pistachios
1/4 tsp - green cardamom powder
4 tbsp - ghee
Almond slices/pistachio slices to decorate

Directions:

  • Wash and peel 2 medium sized sweet potatoes and grate them.  Grating should be done just before you are ready to prepare the burfi to avoid any discoloration.
  • Take  a heavy bottom wide non-stick pan and melt 1 tbsp of ghee.  Add the grated sweet potatoes and saute for 5 minutes on low to medium heat.  Now add the sugar, it will start to melt and coat on the cooked sweet potatoes.  Now add the ricotta cheese and mix well so that there are no lumps, followed by 2 cups of milk powder.  Keep the flame on low as it will start to splutter if the ricotta has too much moisture.  Once all the ingredients are mixed well, add the crushed almonds.  Continue stirring till the whole mix starts to leave the sides.  In between add the rest of the ghee one spoon at a time.  It took me 20 minutes to get the right consistency.  Pinch a small piece from the burfi mix and try to form a ball and if stays tight, you can tun off the flame.
  • Grease a glass container (pyrex) with ghee or line the container with wax paper with overhang on all four sides.  Transfer the burfi mix to the prepared container and level the top using a wax paper or the bottom of a greased spoon.  Leave it outside to cool down for 10 minutes.  Close the lid of the container and refrigerate for overnight.
  • Once the burfi is set, cut them into desired shapes and top them with Almonds/Pistachios slices and enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Garlic-Herb Breadsticks Without Leavening Agent



I had mentioned in one of my previous post about the love for bread sticks by the Thomas family.  We love them to the core especially when its garlic-herb bread sticks.  I had posted a recipe earlier to make the easy version of break sticks.  I don't have enough bread recipes in my repertoire and on my blog, so my intent is to do more trials on breads.  So I tried out another bread sticks from a recipe book last week and they came out super puffy and flaky and they were like the melt in mouth kind of bread sticks those resemble the ones we get in the restaurants.  The eggs and butter gives the puffy and hollow texture to these bread sticks.  Garlic and fresh rosemary plays the vital role in enhancing the flavor of this bread sticks.  Everyone in my family loved it and the only complaint they had was why I didn't double the recipe :(.  I didn’t get to take pictures of the dough since it was a last minute decision to blog about this since the results were approved by my family.  I am glad that this quick and easy recipe became a keeper.

Pull up your sleeves and make this quick and easy bread sticks that doesn't use any leavening agents and can be prepared under 40 minutes.  Serve them with a bowl of piping hot creamy tomato carrot soup and trust me your family will love it.  It’s apt for the cold evenings.  So are you ready to do some easy baking for dinner tonight?  I recommend trying these bread sticks with the creamy tomato carrot soup because I think that is the perfect combination and you cannot go wrong with both of the recipes. 

Yields - 8 - 10 bread sticks

Ingredients:
1/2 cup - all purpose flour
1/4 tsp - salt
1 tsp - minced garlic
1/2 tsp - fresh/dry rosemary chopped
1/2 cup - water
4 tbsp. - butter
2 - eggs

Directions:
  • In a heavy bottom sauce pan bring the water and butter to a rolling boiling stage.  Adjust the flame to the lowest temperature.  
  • Add flour, salt, garlic and rosemary to the water butter mixture.  Using a wooden spoon stir continuously till the mix forms a ball.  Turn off the flame and leave it to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Add one egg at a time to the dough ball and stir continuously to incorporate it completely into the dough.  The texture of the dough will become loose and crumbled, but keep stirring till it forms the ball again.  Cool it for another 5 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
  • Fill the dough into a heavy duty ziplock bag and seal.  Cut the tip to form a finger sized hole.  Squeeze the dough to form equally sized log shaped bread sticks on a greased baking sheet.  Bake it for 20-25 minutes till they puff up and attains golden yellow brown on the top.
  • Enjoy them with a bowl of warm soup.

Notes:
  •  You can also use a piping bag with big round tip instead of a ziplock bag to pipe the dough into log shaped bread sticks.
  • These bread sticks will puff up and the hollow shaped bread sticks are very delicate and they tastes awesome when served fresh.
  • You can brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with some sea salt and fresh rosemary before you serve them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Almond Blueberry Coffee Cake







Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
I made my best friends during my college days while I was doing my post graduation when I was away from home and staying in the hostel/dome.  We were the Trio.  We used to go home together for the study leave and vacations.  There was an excellent chemistry between us.  We were together in trouble and fun during the hostel days.  I remember our first cooking experience.  It was with one of the Trio who was from Trivandrum.  Her parents were not home at that time, so we decided to explore our culinary skills by trying out some lemon rice.  It was a flop; it turned out to be sticky bitter tasting rice.  As novice cooks we didn’t care for the measurement and used lot of rice for our experiment, so the task to clean up the kitchen without any evidence and cover up the mishap was not as easy as we thought.  We had to clean the scene before her parents were back.  After pondering a bit she came up with an idea and I concurred with her.  We waited for night.  Then the actions took place very quickly on the terrace of her house.  The lump of sticky rice was transformed in to small balls and we threw the balls into the next plot where nobody was living at that time.  We pretended as nothing happened and I believe she knew how to make rice and she made another batch of rice for dinner as nothing happened.   That was just one incident among many that makes me chuckle even today.   We used to stay in a hostel run by nuns.  The horrible food and the strict study hours were the tortures we used to tackle together.  I was the sleepiest of all and my friends will signal me before the nun comes for the rounds during the study time.  We made friends with the cook in the kitchen and used to get some extra goodies from her...lol.  We were the partners in crime.  We moved together to a better hostel later.  After our final exams we left the hostel and promised to be in touch with each other.  We used to call each other for some time.  I then pursued my professional studies and went farther away from them.  Years later everyone got married and started their lives.  Then we all got busier with our lives and slowly lost contact of each other.  I literally lost all contact info of the other two, but I used to search them in social media all the time with no luck.  Couple of weeks ago I tried the Trivandrum phone directory and found out my friend's home address, but the phone number was not under her father's name, but I decided to make that call.  It was early morning there, but the female voice on the other side told me that she had heard my name many times.  It was my friend's brother's house.  I was thrilled to find out that she still talks about me even after so many years of no contact.  I finally got her number from her sister-in-law and made my first call after years.  The voice at the other end sounded the same as I had heard years ago.  I said 'Its Shibi' and I wanted to be witty, so asked if she knows any one named ‘Shibi’.  The answer was 'I know only one Shibi'.  That was the best overwhelming answer I could get from a long lost friend.  I wasn’t sure where to start.  I think I did most of the talking; she was listening.  It was late night for me, but I wanted to wake up my hubby and kids who were in sound sleep and shout out my joy.  I was eagerly waiting for the next morning to break the news to my family.  It was really exciting and thrilling.


Last weekend I was talking to her and she inquired me about many recipes pictures she saw on my fb wall and thought I was simply sharing someone’s recipes.  I couldn't stop laughing because she knew me well; she never expected it from me as my cooking passion was never unveiled to anyone at that time, not even to myself!!  We shared our nostalgia of the first cooking experiment and some college day’s memories.  Now we are trying to find the third lost link in our TRIO!!  Hope we can find her soon. 




Today I am sharing a recipe for a simple coffee cake that you cannot have enough of it.  There is no tricky ingredients and the method is quite simple, but the resultant cake is totally addictive.  The combo of cinnamon and blueberry and the crunchy almond slices is the highlight of this coffee cake.    So don't skip cinnamon if you are planning to make this cake.  The soft texture of the cake base remains soft even when left outside.  My whole house was smelling incredibly good when I baked this.  So waiting long for the cake to cool down completely was not an option for us,  I won't blame anyone, it was all my fault that I baked it ...lol.  Please give this recipe a try and I am sure you will like it.




Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup - all purpose flour
2 tsp. - baking powder
1/2 tsp. - salt
3/4 cup - granulated sugar
4 tbsp. - softened butter
1 - egg
1/2 cup - milk
2 tbsp - plain yogurt/sour cream
1 tsp. - Vanilla extract

Topping
2 tsp. - granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. - ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup - fresh/frozen blue berries
1/3 cup - sliced almonds

Glaze
2 tbsp. - powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. - cold milk

Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375° F/190° C.  Grease a 9 inch round cake/spring form pan and line the base with parchment paper.
  • Sift all purpose flour, salt and baking powder together and keep it aside.
  • Cream together the softened butter, egg and sugar in a mixing bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment or use a hand mixer for this.  Add plain yogurt, vanilla and milk and mix well. Slowly add the sifted flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix till there are no lumps and everything is incorporated well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top using a spoon.
  • Mix the blueberries, cinnamon and sugar together and gently push the mixture on the top of the batter using the base of a spoon.  Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of the berry mix evenly.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes till a tooth pick comes out clean when tested on the center of the cake.  The sides of the cake will get a golden brown hue and the blueberries will be popped on the top.  Let the cake cool for 20 minutes.
  • Meantime prepare the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar with milk and mix well.  Spoon the glaze over the cake.  It is really irresistible and it will be really hard for you to wait for the cake to cool down completely, so slice them and enjoy them while they are warm. 

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