Monday, March 28, 2016

Orange Yogurt Tart

 Gadgets and electronic items have a great influence in today’s world.  It seems to invade a person’s life like a parasite.  Seldom do you see a person sitting idle.  Smart phones have replaced relationships.  Look around you where ever you are now, you see majority of the people in their own world with smart phones, let it be airport, doctor's office or a small line at a takeout place, it’s hard to overcome those waiting minutes without touching and browsing through the smart phone at least once.  These gadgets have changed the human nature drastically.  The dearth of normal courtesy and manners is extending its limits.  The bad cell phone etiquette of talking loud in public is the most petulant behavior. 

You might be wondering why I am bringing this up.  Recently I encountered an incident where cell phone had took over someone's thinking and behavior to cause annoyance for others.  It made me ponder the influence of gadgets in our day to day life.  This happened few weeks ago when I went to a store with my kids after picking them from school after my work.  Long 8 hrs in front of the computer really makes you feel some off time from screens and loud noises.  I was dragging myself to the store to get my grocery done for the week.  As soon as we entered the store, I noticed a well dressed lady.  She was going through each and every aisle talking loud on her smart phone.  It didn't take much for us to realize that she was following us each and every aisle by talking loud about her work.  People around her were literally starring at her.  I had no answer for my kids' inquiry why she was so loud and following us.  I figured that she lost her focus what to shop for as she was so loud and intensely talking to the person on the other end of the phone and hence started to aimlessly follow us into each aisle with a cart.  On the way she was knocking thing down on the aisle as she was juggling between the shopping basket, a heavy hand bag and a smart phone with her two hands.  I had to make a quirk to the billing counter to put an end to the situation.  Literally we had to abruptly cease the shopping and flee from that  I am sure you might have seen people like this around you.  It is sad to see people behave like this in public causing nuisance to others.  

Weather is getting better here in the North East and we see the sun shining brighter day after another.  Signs of spring are sprouting in my yard and I am glad to see the small nib of tulip greens trying to push the dirt hard and protrude out.  The sunshine perked my mojo to make something apt to enjoy the warmth and make use of the bright light that was gazing my kitchen through my patio window.

Here is a simple yogurt orange tart to welcome the spring.  This recipe was adapted from better homes and gardens magazine.  It’s a simple, quick and easy guilt free dessert.  With this post I was able to use my tart pan I bought couple of years ago :).  It took me so long to post my first tart recipe.  I love my non-stick Wilton tart pan with removable bottom.  They worked well even with coarsely crushed corn flakes crust in this recipe.
Homemade Plain yogurt

I had put together a collage to show the setup pictures.  I used a 24-70 mm zoom lens to get various shots for this post.  Prime lens are recommended for food shots.

1 1/2 cup - crushed corn flakes
1/3 cup - butter melted
2 tbsp - brown sugar
1 tsp - unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp - water
1 1/4 cup - plain thick yogurt (refer notes)
1/4 cup or more - honey (depending on the sourness of yogurt)
1 tsp - orange zest
1/4 cup - orange marmalade (refer notes)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Combine the crushed corn flakes, melted butter and brown sugar in mixing bowl.  Press the mix into the bottom and sides of the tart pan and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Take it out allow it to cool.
  • Bloom the gelatin powder in 1 tbsp of water in a bowl.  Mix the yogurt and orange zest together.  Warm up the honey in microwave for 30 seconds and mix with the bloomed gelatin and add to the yogurt mix.  Combine well and pour over the prepared tart crust.  Cover it and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hrs or overnight.
  • If using store bought marmalade, warm it up in microwave for 20 seconds till melted.  Peel and slice a clementine or tangerine or a naval orange into thin slices and arrange them on the yogurt tart.  Pour the marmalade over the orange pieces.  Slice them and enjoy the guilt free dessert.
  • Yogurt - Take a heavy bottom steel sauce pan.  Rinse the inside with cold water.  Pour 4 cups of milk into the sauce pan.  Set the stove flame to low ( settings 2) and the timer to 30  minutes.  The milk will boil within 30 minutes on a regular stove.  Turn off the flame and let the milk come to luke warm temperature.  Remove the layer of fat that accumulates at the top like a skin.  Pour the milk into a glass or ceramic dish.  Add 4 tsp of plain yogurt (greek or regular that comes in a cup) into the milk.  Warm the oven to 170 °F.   Turn off and wait for 5 minutes.  Place the prepare milk into the oven and cover it with a lid.  Close the oven door and leave it in the dark for 4 to 8 hrs.  Plain thick yogurt will be ready.  If using 2% milk, you will see some amount of whey.  You can drain the excess whey using a muslin cloth.  The plain yogurt is ready to be used for anything.  Make sure to use a clean dry spoon to transfer some freshly culture of yogurt into a clean glass container with a air tight lid to prepare another batch of yogurt if you like.
  • Marmalade - Warm up 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 tsp of orange rind without the pith, 1/2 tsp of orange zest and 4 tbsp of sugar in a saucepan till everything is combined well.  Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 1 hr.  The marmalade or orange syrup is ready to be used as a topping for anything.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Horse Gram Chutney Powder / Muthira Chamanthi Podi

ISO 100  30 mm    f/8.0   1.3 sec
I remember growing up enjoying freshly made homely food.  The only 2 items those were made ahead and preserved were pickles and coconut chutney powder.  Before the monsoon starts, green mangoes are brined in big ceramic jars and sealed; they are preserved for rest of the year.  Likewise all the tubers and coconuts were harvested and store in dark store room.  These routines were religiously followed in my grand parents’ house.  We used to get a good share of home grown goodies even when we moved to our house from the joined family.

ISO 100  42 mm  f /8.0  1.3 sec - shot straight from the top using tripod
Among the special preparations, the one for coconut chutney was most eventful and exciting one.  On the day of chutney making, the specially picked dry coconuts are double checked for readiness.  Then the helpers start their exertion of husking, grating and dry roasting the coconut with a special blend of spices and shallots.  The exquisite aroma of dry roasted coconut then propagates to the whole neighborhood.  The most amusing part for me as a little kid was to watch them ground the chutney in the huge stone handheld grinder (Ural & Olaka).  There will be two ladies who will be performing the art of grinding the chutney with hand held long pestle at the same time.  They follow a rhythm for grinding by alternatively using their pestle to ground the chutney without hitting other person's pestle.  You hear the chit chats and exchange of gossips during this time.  In between my grandma comes to check the readiness of the chutney and keeps the helpers focused.  A bigger batch of chutney made with at least 40 - 50 coconuts surely needs lot of man power, so the whole day exertion ends around evening during the snack time.  The freshly ground chutney is all set to be packed and send out to different places where other family members are.  The job of packing starts once the chutney cools down.  The whole day event ends with a satisfaction on my grandma’s face with a smile for a good job done.  The helpers are paid their wages and my grandma makes sure to pack a batch of chutney for each person.  The old stone handheld grinder is still in my uncle's house back in India and it is still used to make bigger batch of chutney powder when we visit.

 ISO 100  51 mm f/8.0  1.3 sec

I enjoyed chutney powders mostly during my hostel days in the college life.  The only tasty sides we had with our bland hostel meals were the coconut chutney powders and pickles that each one of us brought from home.  So I had developed a special love towards the coconut chutney since then.  Our classmates used to bring different kinds of chutney powders that they served with Dosas (lentil crepe) and Idlis (steamed lentil dumplings).  They were really delicious and expanded my know how of different kinds of chutney powders. 

Setup Picture
Today's recipe is a special chutney powder made out of horse gram.  I had never used horse gram in my life before and didn't know anything about it till I saw it in the Indian grocery store recently.  After researching and realizing the medicinal value of this legume I was determined to use it.  I found different kinds of chutney recipes online, but wanted to try the dry version with some improvisation.
Health Benefits of Horse Gram:
  • They are well know for their diuretic properties.
  • It is used as diet to reduce weight.
  • Horse gram helps to reduce cholesterol levels with the soluble fiber present in them.
  • Studies shows that the lipids found is horse gram can help to treat peptic ulcer.
  • They are excellent source of protein and iron.

Like any other food, it should be taken in a moderate level.  Excessive consumption of Horse gram can cause increased bile production.
1 cup - horse gram cleaned
1/2 cup - grated coconut
2 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
1 tbsp - urad daal
8 - dry kashmiri chili, stem removed
1/2 tsp - black peppercorns
1 tbsp size - dry tamarind
salt to taste
1 tsp - oil

1. Rinse the horse gram twice with cold water and drain.  Spread it on a kitchen towel and wait for 5 minutes.  Transfer it into a heavy bottom kadai or non stick pan.  Dry roast on low to medium flame for 5 minutes till it turns to light pink.  Transfer it to a bowl.
2. Dry roast the grated coconut on very low flame till light brown color by stirring continuously for 5 - 8 minutes.  Transfer it to the bowl.
3. Add 1 tsp of oil in pan and slightly brown the urad daal, then add kashmiri chili, curry leaves and peppercorns.  Roast on low flame till the dry chilies are crisp.  Add the tamarind piece and mix for another minute.  Add the roasted coconut and horse gram back into the pan and mix well for a minute and turn off the flame.  Add salt at this point.  Let the mix cool down little bit.
4. Grind the mix in a blender or spice/coffee grinder in batches to get a coarse chutney mix.  Check the salt in between and adjust as necessary during the grinding process.
5. Store the chutney powder in a clean air tight container at room temperature.  They can stay fresh up to a month.  You can enjoy the chutney powder with steamed rice, Dosas or Idlis.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Grandma's Vegetarian Fish Curry


I am struggling hard to jot down anything these days.  My mind is like a blank white paper when I sit down in front of my PC.  I sense the lack of motivation deep inside me.  Too many things are happening around and the focus is getting distracted.  There might be a kindle of my passion lying deep down in my heart, which might be the one thing that drags me back into the track.  I wish I could do a better job in blogging with a consistent schedule.

We all admit that old is gold, especially when it comes to the recipes that are handed to you from generations to generations.  The first person who comes into my mind when I mention food is my late Grandma.  My grandma was not a vegetarian, but she mostly preferred vegetarian food and occasionally small fishes.  Most of the vegetables were grown in their backyard.  I remember that there was a section for taro root plants in my grandparent’s backyard.  The harvested taro roots were stored in dry place to be used in off season.  On those days, nothing goes into the trash as each and every part of the harvest was used in some manner or other.  She was a pro in transforming the taro root into delicious dishes.  Even a bowl of the steamed taro root with spicy bird eye chili chutney was served as a quick evening snack. She used to make a fresh coconut paste based yellow curry with the taro root which was one of her best dishes. Oh, those memories make me drool.

Fish curry was a daily fare in my grandparent's house as others in the joined family preferred a daily quota of fish.  During lent time she makes this special curry that tastes just like fish curry with freshly harvested taro roots.  My attempts to replicate the curry never yielded the same taste as what she used to prepare.  I don't think that even my Mom makes it the same way.  But here is my take on her recipe.  Freshly harvested taro roots and earthen pot contributes to the flavor of this dish.  I prepare this curry during lent season to get the feel and flavor of fish curry.  It’s best when served with plain steamed rice, buttermilk and a stir fry.

My shooting Setup Picture
5 - taro roots/chembu
2 cloves - garlic peeled & sliced
1/2 inch - ginger peeled & chopped
1 - medium size tomato chopped
1 piece - fish tamarind
2 tsp - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp - coriander powder
1/4 tsp - fenugreek powder
1/4 tsp - asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1 3/4 cup - water
1 spring - curry leaves
2 tbsp - coconut oil
salt to taste

3 - shallots thinly sliced
1/2 tsp - mustard seeds
2 - dry red chili
1 sprig - curry leaves
1 tbsp - coconut oil


  • Peel the fuzzy skin of the taro root and cut them into one inch long pieces and wash them thoroughly.  Use a kitchen gloves or a strainer to wash it, otherwise it can cause itchy feeling to your skin.
  • Wash the fish tamarind good and soak in 1 3/4 cup of water.
  • In a earthen pot heat oil and saute ginger, garlic and shallots till light golden brown.  Lower the flame and add all the powders and cook till the raw smell goes away.  Add the cleaned taro root and mix well.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes on low flame.  Now add the chopped tomato and curry leaves and saute till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.  Add the tamarind piece along with the water and salt.  Cook it with a lid on for 15 - 20 minutes on low to medium heat till the gravy starts to thicken up and the taro root is well cooked.
  • Prepare the tadka by spluttering the mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil in a separate pan.  Add the shallots and red chili and cook till light golden brown.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves.  Pour the tadka over the prepared curry and enjoy it with plain steamed rice and seasoned buttermilk.

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