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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas with my Choco Fruit cake!!

Just two days to Christmas and then another brand New Year!New hopes,new plans,new wishes,new resolutions.The sun will set as usual on 31st evening and will rise again on 1st morning, just like any other day - but the morn will be a new one.

I am embarking on a week-long vacation starting tomorrow and will away from my blog during this time.For Christmas this year, I baked a Chocolate fruit cake for my family and friends.It was a bit different from the usual Fruit cake because of the addition of chocolate - but the chocolate genuinely added to the depth of the fruit cake.I would love to share this recipe with you in my post today.Probably this is the last post from my den this year - hope to meet all of you again in the New Year.

Linking this recipe to 'Cooking Concepts # 6 - Chocolate Fest' at Srav's place!


Sending this to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's and 'Midweek Fiesta#10' at Amy's place!!  
 ~Wish everyone a very happy and Merry Christmas  and heartiest good wishes for a very Happy New Year 2012 to all of my readers!Meet you in 2012!~

Christmas Choco Fruit cake
You will need:
All purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Light brown sugar - 1 and 1/4th cup
Dark cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
Instant coffee powder - 2 teaspoons
Butter - 1/2 cup,at room temperature
Cashew nuts, walnuts and almonds - 2 cups, finely chopped
Cranberries - Chopped
Glazed cherries - Chopped
Pineapple pieces - Chopped
Ginger - About an inch, finely chopped
2 large eggs
Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
Vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons
Salt - 1/4th teaspoon

How I made it:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a round baking tin with parchment paper.
2. Take the fruits in a medium-sized bowl and add 2 teaspoons of flour and mix well.

3.Take a deep-bottomed bowl and cream together the butter and sugar till creamy.Next add in the eggs,one at a time and beat well after adding each egg.To the mixture, add in the dark cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking soda, vanilla extract,salt and chopped ginger and give a good round of mixing.

4. Next add in the nuts to the mixture and fold well with a wooden spatula. Add in the chopped fruits and fold together till everything comes together.

5. Now add the flour in batches to the wet mixture till all of it is incorporated well.Fold together into a fairly tight mixture.Note that this cake does not rise too much and is haevier than usual due to the presence of the chopped fruits and nuts.
 6. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake in an oven for 70-80 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.allow to rest for one whole day before serving.The cake usually tastes moist and better one day later than instantly.Spread the joy in your home with others and may you have a very nice time.Stay well and keep well till we meet again:)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Half n Half Chocolate muffins

I hate dreary winter afternoons.
 When the sun is lost somewhere behind the grey veneer of nebulous clouds. The sunrays steal fleeting glances at the darkened earth below and make haste in a jiffy.Slanting rays illuminate a part of the balcony and before you know it, the afternoon stealthily changes into evening.The streetlights knowingly blink to life.Winter evenings are much more better.The soft light pans out from the mustard-colored lampshade on the mahogany table by the window.Fills the room with a much-wanted warmth and comfort.The string of tiny lights draped by the sitting area window, run all the way along the lining of the blinds.I put then on and the dazzle of the lights brings back cheer into my home. Mindless banter, hearty laughter, sumptuous food, engrossing stories with friends - a distant throw from the smothering dankness of the cold, sunless winter afternoons.
 I have always wished this time of the year to linger just a bit longer.Like any other festivity, the time that runs down to Christmas, seems far more celebratory than just the day itself.The day finishes off just like that - feels like all the preparations, done all these months, gets wrapped up in seconds.And then ensues a year-long wait for everything to happen again.And that is when the heart becomes heavy.
 But just at this moment,what spruces me up like magic is Chocolate.I've read about the therapeutic effects of Chocolate in books and magazines but have not been able to fathom if that works for me as well.But I'm sure that anything chocolatey happening in my kitchen at such a melancholy moment definitely gives a me a kick every time!Which is why,I baked my half n half Chocolate muffins a couple of days back.It was another sunless,wintry day and I was feeling very run down, inspite of Christmas spirit in the air.So I baked my chocolate muffins with all the chocolate I had in my pantry which was both dark chocolate and milk chocolate.Hence the name Half n half!The Husband and I enjoyed the muffins with our pot of evening tea and before long the wintry blues were gone.So here goes the recipe for today's post - Happy Holidays everyone:)

Sending this to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's and 'Midweek Fiesta#10' at Amy's place!Also linking this recipe to 'Cooking Concepts # 6 - Chocolate Fest' at Srav's place!
Half n Half Chocolate muffins
You will need:
All purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Light brown sugar - 1 and 1/4th cup
Warm milk - 1 cup
Dark cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
Milk chocolate  powder - 2 tablespoons
Instant coffee powder - 2 teaspoons
Warm water - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1/2 cup.at room temperature
2 large eggs
Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
Vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons
Salt - 1/4th teaspoon

How I made them:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and butter the muffin tray. If you are using muffin molds, no need to butter the tray - just line the muffin molds. I like to bake my muffins without the molds and so need to butter the tray.

2. Take the cup of warm milk and add both the dark cocoa powder and milk chocolate and stir together well to form a smooth,silky mixture. To the cup of warm water, add the instant coffee powder and stir well.

3.Take a deep-bottomed bowl and cream together the butter and sugar till creamy.Next add in the eggs,one at a time and beat well after adding each egg.To the mixture, add in the chocolate milk and the coffee and give a good round of mixing.

4. In a separate bowl, sit together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in the flour mixture in batches to the wet mixture till all of it is incorporated well.Add in the vanilla extract and finish off with another stir.
 5. Pour the batter into the muffin tray and bake for 20-22 mins or till an inserted toothpick comes out clean.Drizzle generously with honey and serve hot - will prove to be the perfect panacea for the winter day melancholia!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cauliflower stir fry - a wintry delight!

Sometimes what is needed is food that is very quick,tasty and filling.
In this last but one week of the year,running down to Christmas,people are really having a tough time at work - collating everything together to ensure that nothing goes amiss before the vacation starts!Coupled with that are the last-minute preparation for Christmas - the shopping,the packing,the goodies,the baking - phew!Seems like the whole world is on roller skates!

Thinking on these lines and watching the busy world pass by,I thought of posting a very easy yet utterly flexible dish today - Cauliflower stir fry.When I was growing up in a small town in India, this particular stir fry dish would often be on the menu at my home in winter.Unlike now - when you can see cauliflower all through the year in air-conditioned supermarkets - cauliflower was a veggie that would be available in the markets only during the winter months.Fresh,green and crunchy.It was like waiting for the winter months to come, just to relish Maa's chosen cauliflower recipes! The temperature would often plummet towards the end of December and Maa would switch to making 'Roti' (a type of Indian flatbread made of wheat or flour) as a staple for dinner instead of the usual white rice.The advantage of having flatbread was that it could be matched up with a wide range of curries, both veg and non-veg and the fluffed up hot 'Rotis' provided a lovely comforting warmth to the dinner table.Curry or no curry,I preferred to have a stir-fried green veggie,be it cauliflower or eggplant or green beans with my flatbread. 
 Years later,I have still hung on to that old obsession of mine with having stir-fried veggies in winter. Since all it takes is chopping up the veggies and frying them,I find it easy,reliable and nutritious too!Better still if you have a pack of frozen veggies languishing in your freezer - you can do away with the chopping part and all you need is to fry.Since I have never been as industrious as my Maa - on days when I do not like to make the 'Roti', I simply toast a slice of bread lightly,slather it with butter and strewing on the stir-fried cauliflower on top,gorge it down as a sandwich.Believe me,nothing could taste better than this!
 So while you are busy and thinking of what to cook and eat right now,bring out that cauliflower from your freezer and cook this up!I'm sure you'll enjoy that fast tuck-in and have a very exciting countdown to the Holidays!

Sending this to  Amy's place for 'Midweek Fiesta # 8' and 'Full Plate Thursday'!
Also linking this to 'Healing foods - Cauliflower' event at Vardhini's wonderful place!
Cauliflower stir fry
You will need:
Cauliflower - Cut into florets leaving a good part of the stalk on.This prevents the florets from disintegrating while frying.
Potatoes - Roughly same in amount as the cauliflower florets.Peeled and cut into roundlets first. Roundlets then cut longitudinally into long thin strips
Fresh green peas
Green chilies - 2,split
Nigella seeds - 1/4th of a teaspoon 
A pinch of salt
A pinch of turmeric powder
A pinch of Red chili powder(for garnish) - optional
Mustard/canola oil,for frying - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons

How I made it:
1. Take a skillet and heat up the oil. When the oil starts getting hot, add the Nigella seeds and the split green chilies.

2.When the chilies start to splutter, add in the cauliflower florets first and stir with quick strokes to fry.Since potatoes cook faster than cauliflower,the potatoes will go in later.

3.When the cauliflower starts to cook, add in the potato strips and stit fry everything together with short,quick strokes.Cover for 1-2 mins intermittently and check back to see if the veggies are cooked through.

4. Add in the fresh green peas and sprinkle a pinch of salt and a pinch pf turmeric powder.Mix everything together and fry for a couple of more minutes.
5. When the cauliflower florets are fried and the potatoes are cooked through,put off the flame.Sprinkle a dash of Red chili powder on top for garnish and serve hot with any type of bread.Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fusilli with green beans and carrots

It has been a strange kaleidoscope of climes for the past couple of days.In between fleeting glimpses of chill(it even snowed early one morning!), we are still having a balmy breeze,much like one that grazes the skin in mid-autumn.The weather here seems to want to drag in winter on one hand but is still reluctant to let go of autumn on the other!But unless there is snow fizzling all around,how can one feel the festivity in the air,how can the Christmas lights around town glitter alongside the merry Snowman-how can Santa glide down the chimney and leave stockings stuffed with gifts for little children!
 A couple of years back,when I was spending my first Christmas in Canada,I remember donning my snow jacket and huddling together with my husband to walk down and marvel at the Christmas lights adorning each garden along our street.How ethereally beautiful it all looked - the lights crafted out cute little reindeers with horns jutting out,ready to pull at Santa's sledge while little bells tinkered in the soft chilly breeze.I am waiting with bated breath to walk down the street this year too - only that it will not be that chilly(I think!) since this place is well down south in the US.
 Whatever that leaves me with,I am doing a lot of cooking this Holiday season and my focus this time is more on trying out healthy new recipes that will be easy on the cook but extremely nutritious at the same time!I will share my recipe for Fusilli with green beans and carrots for today's post.Believe me, there is nothing better than grabbing this quick and hearty meal in between scuttling around making preparations for the Holidays!Have loads of fun!

Sending this to  Amy's place for 'Midweek Fiesta # 8' , 'Presto Pasta Nights' at Ruth's and 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's!!
 
Fusilli with green beans and carrots
You will need:
Fusilli pasta - 250 gms
Fresh green beans - 1 cup,chopped finely
Shredded carrots - 3/4th of a cup
Shredded chicken - 1/2 a cup (I use the shredded chicken from Tyson available in the Frozen section;you might use fresh boiled chicken and shred it roughly)
Cooked sweet corn - 1/2 cup
Spring onions - 1/2 a cup, finely chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves,finely minced
Italian seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Olive/canola oil,for cooking
Butter - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Shredded Mozzarella cheese

How I made it:
1. Cook the pasta in a deep-bottomed bowl and drain the water. Add a blob of butter to keep everything nice and slick.
 2.In another pan, heat up the cooking oil and rest of the butter.Add the minced garlic,spring onions,chopped green beans and shredded carrots and cook everything together for a couple of minutes till the rawness of the carrots disappears.

3. Next add in the shredded chicken and sweet corn and top with a generous sprinkling of Italian seasoning,salt and freshly ground black pepper. Give everything another good mix before adding the drained and cooked pasta to this beautiful tapestry of healthy veggies.
4. Sprinkle a whole lots of shredded Mozzarella cheese as a final topping and take off the heat.Let the cheese melt a little to coat the pasta and then dig your spoon for a tasty mouthful!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fried Pepper Tilapia - a new dish for a new predicament!

It is deep into the night now and I'm rapping on my keyboard buttons to type down this post.My laptop has recently been plagued with horrendous attacks of a nasty virus and that has been driving me nuts for the past couple of days.I had some very interesting recipes lined up to be posted - but grappling with this virus attack has sapped me of a major chunk of my energy and enthusiasm.I have been visiting blog posts from my friends and leaving comments to let them know how much I liked the recipes,but I kept feeling very lethargic when it came to posting one of my own.
It is a dire situation where some searches that I make on my Google browser undauntedly get redirected to some bogus advertising website.There are a couple of such advertising websites which seem to have creeped into the system and it is extremely irritating to endure this!I have been trying working on this with some reliable anti-malware resources and hope to get to the bottom of this pretty soon.If I can keep my patience and cool,that is!
For that, I'm trying to do what I love most doing - writing out a heart-to-heart blog post and ranting about one of my very own recipes!This is a very interesting recipe which I had rustled up just a couple of weeks back.It is a Tilapia fish recipe which is absolutely easy to make but is delectably tasty.Just check out about how I made it,give it a try with any improvisations if needed,and feed to your loved ones.Don't forget to let me know how things went-I plan to be back in the fray really soon again!


Sharing with 'Hearth and Soul blog hop and also sending this to  Amy's place for 'Midweek Fiesta # 8', 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's and the 'Fish Blog Hop' at Katherine's place!!!


Fried Pepper Tilapia
You will need:
Boneless Tilapia fillets - 3
Green Peppers - Diced roughly
Onions - Diced into chunks,same size as the green peppers
Garlic - 2 cloves,finely minced
Spring onions - 3 sprigs,finely chopped
Tomato - Half; de-seeded and roughly diced
Green chilies - Finely chopped
Fresly ground Black Pepper - 2 teaspoons
Salt, to taste
Canola/Vegetable oil - 3 tablespoons
Turmeric powder - a pinch


How I made it:
1. Rub the boneless Tilapia fillets with a pinch of turmeric and salt and leave for 1-15 mins.Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and when hot,release the Tilapia fillets.


2. Fry one side to a golden brown and then flip over to let the other side fry. When golden brown on both sides, scramble the fish fillets into rough chunks using the tip of the spatula.Drain on a kitchen towel and keep aside.


3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the same skillet and allow it to heat up slightly. Now add the minced garlic, green chilies, diced green peppers and onions and the chopped spring onions to the hot oil.Stir fry all the veggies with quick strokes and then add in the diced tomatoes.
4. Sprinkle salt and black pepper powder to season the stir-fried veggies. When the rawness of the peppers disappers and they become soft and succulent, add the scrambled Tilapia fillets and mix everything together. Sprinkle a second round of black pepper to season the dish evenly.Serve hot with noodles or white rice, as a sandwich filling or simply shove your fork into this gorgeous dish and enjoy the taste of the juicy,spicy Tilapia as is.hope you will enjoy - stay well and have fun!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Simple Fruit and Nuts cake

Christmas season is here and all around me,blogs are abound with sumptuous cake recipes.How I wish I could bake each and every one of them in my own kitchen.I just cannot decide which one to bake cause each and every one of them is sinfully delectable!To add to that,my Maa has carefully foraged a couple of very appealing and delicious cake recipes and sent them across- she just knows too perfectly about my crazy obsession with cakes - eating them,that is:) I just want to do something specially for the Christmas season - something that will spread out a Christmassy warmth all through my house! 
So while I still decide which one to zero in on, I will share my recipe for a very simple fruit and nuts cake that I had baked a couple of weeks back.My friends might already have had a glimpse of it here,when I had sent a B&W version of it to Susan's Black&White Wednesday event. So here go the details of all I had put in it. Wish everyone a very happy time and enjoy to your heart's fill!


Sending this to Amy's lovely weekly event 'Midweek Fiesta # 7' and 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's place!


Simple Fruit and Nuts cake
You will need:
All Purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Almond powder - 1/2 a cup (You can grind whole almonds in the blender for this)
Soft dark brown sugar - 1 and 1/4th cup
Butter (softened/at room temperature) - 1 cup
Dry fruits - 1 cup
Apple cider/Apple juice - 3/4th cup
Glazed mixed peel - 1/2 a cup
Rind of an orange, finely chopped
Rind of a lemon, finely chopped
2 large eggs
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon powder - 1 teaspoon
Baking soda - 3/4th of a teaspoon
Whole cashews(For garnish)


How I made it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a baking tin. Place a parchment paper along the sides of the baking tin in such a way that the parchment paper sticks up to almost the same height above the rim of the baking tin as under.This will prevent the top of the cake from being burnt while baking.
2. Soak the dry fruits in the apple cider/apple juice for 1 hour before starting to bake the cake.Take the pre-soaked dry fruits is a bowl and add the glazed mixed peel and the finely chopped rinds of an orange and a lemon and mix everything together.


3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour,almond powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder together and keep aside.


4. In a large bowl, take the softened butter and soft light brown sugar  and cream together with an electric beater. Add the eggs one by one and beat very well after adding each egg. Once creamy, add the dry fruits and mixed peel mixture and mix everything well with a spatula.


5. Next, add small batches of the flour mixture to the batter and keep on folding in with the spatula till all of the flour mixture is incorporated into the cake batter.


6. Garnish the top of the cake with the whole cashew nuts or any other adornment of your choice.Avoid putting any dry fruits having water inside like cherries,berries etc on top as they can get scalded and burnt while baking.It is a better option to put nuts of your choice instead.
7. Bake the cake for about 45-50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. The top of the cake will be rich and dark in color due to the brown sugar and the cake will be rather heavy and will not rise too much due to the presence of the dry fruits inside.


Please note - This cake will need a standing time of 10 mins inside the oven,once it is baked.Please do not take out the cake immediately otherwise the middle of the cake will slump down,as had happened in my case.This happens due to the difference in temperatures inside and outside the oven.


Enjoy a slice with your morning tea and savor the joy of winter!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some musings,Beet fried rice - and an award!

I have started blogging for quite some time now and feel so much a part of this blogging world. A day doesn't go by,when I do not steal a peek into my blog.The loveliest and most exciting part is, of course, checking out the comments!All the kind words,all the chitchat that people care to share - all the little nibbles that I get to see from the lives people around me are living,make me feel so alive!
I have spent days fiddling with my blog and have slept at ungentlemanly hours just to perfect a blog post picture - not because there is some crazy rat race that I aspire to join.Simply because, it is so much a part of me!And not to mention the lovely awards,like the beautiful 'Cheery on Top' award and the 'Triple Cute Awards' that my dear friend Ambreen from 'Simply Sweet 'N Savory' cared to pass on to me - thanks so much Ambreen!Meant a lot to me!
Still there are times,when things about the blogging world hurts me. I hate unscrupulousness in any form and when I see people stooping low enough to copy someone's blog post or blog idea and claiming it to be one's own,I'm painfully put off. There have been friends who have been so hurt by such incidents that they have stayed off their blogs for months together.There are bloggers who will resort to being copycats simply because they have run out of ideas.No harm in taking inspiration from someone,but if that is the case, it should and it must be accompanied with the proper credits.Pity those souls who have to ravage such a fertile forum of creativity to please their own sweet whims and buy a tainted name for themselves!
And then,there are the silent readers.Who will read and browse and forage but will not say a 'Hi'.Yes,I admit that even saying a simple 'Hi' adds a count to the number of comments - if that is what you think from a blogger's perspective.But then,why not? Just imagine a situation where you are visiting someone's place for the first time and after devouring a lot of sumptuous savories,you suddenly bolt out of the door without even saying a word to the host!Does that figure in your dictionary of etiquettes - I guess not!Then why not care to leave a line - a few words for all the effort put in or even an honest opinion!Personally for me,the best part is reading what everyone has left for me to read and savor and believe me,the connection that you make over time remains indelible.I am fortunate enough to have lovely friends who always make it a point to leave a caring line and that makes a world of difference to me!For all the lurkers out there,do give it a try if not yet done!
You must be wondering what drew me to this tirade.Well,nothing that I have faced till now but something very demeaning that has happened to a friend. And that really made me feel very low.Anyway, I hope I have not managed to put you off even before I put forth my recipe for this post.It is an extremely healthy full meal dish - Beet Fried rice.It is nutritious,it is tasty and it is very easy to prepare.So here goes my recipe for Beet fried rice - enjoy and stay well everyone!


Sending this to Amy's lovely weekly event 'Midweek Fiesta # 7' and 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's place!!

Also sending this to the exciting event 'New U' at Vardhini's place! 
Beet Fried rice
You will need:
Boiled rice - 1 and 1/2 cups (Cold leftover rice from last night would be perfect but fresh boiled rice would also work)
Onions - Finely slivered
Garlic cloves - 2 to 3,finely chopped
Ginger - Finely chopped
Green peppers - Finely julienned
Bell peppers (Red/Yellow/Orange_ - Finely julienned
Sweet corns - 2/3rd of a cup
Green peas - 1/4th of a cup
Beet - Finely julienned
Beet stems and leaves - Finely chopped
Butter - 1 tablespoon
Salt
Black pepper
Sugar
1 egg
Canola/vegetable oil for cooking - 2 tablespoons

How I made it:
1. For this dish,the rice needs to be very flaky and should not stick to each other.If the rice is fresh, lay out the rice on a flat dish to drain off all the water and use when dry.

2. In a wok, heat the oil and when hot, add the julienned beet. Shallow fry till the beet becomes soft and then drain the fried beet on a kitchen towel.

3. Next in the oil, add the butter and then start adding the veggies one by one. Start with chopped garlic,ginger and onions.Saute slightly and then add the green peppers and the bell peppers. After a quick fry, add the sweet corn and green peas and stir-fry everything together.

4. When the onions are nicely done, add the fried beet and finely chopped beet stems and leaves and mix everything together. Next add in the rice. The color of the rice will turn to a purplish hue from the color of the beet. Add half a teaspoon of sugar and season with salt and black pepper.

5. In a separate bowl, break and egg and season with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, heat some oil and scramble the egg, breaking into smaller pieces.
6. Now take the fried rice off the flame and strew the scrambled egg on top. Have it smoking hot and it is a wholesome meal in itself. For the vegan version, you can do away with adding the scrambled egg and can add mushrooms instead. For more non-veg additions, shredded chicken or shredded cold turkey would be lip-smacking options.Try and see for yourselves!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Gulab Jamun - sweet warmth to welcome winter!

It has become unusually cold here.Just last week I could stroll about the balcony with a tee on and my fleece jacket pulled tightly around me. But yesterday morning when I tried the same, my feet grew numb out of sheer chill and it took quite some time to stop the shivering,even after I hurried back inside and closed the balcony door.What a ruthless shock early in the morning!
The saving grace was a cup of hot tea that I had with my buttered toast. The Husband had the laugh of his life when he heard of this,and did not waste a moment in berating me afterwards about how I could be so irresponsible!I could have caught a cold,could have been plastered down to the bed complaining of a nagging headache. That he would have to drag himself up Sunday evening to make dinner was a dreaded apprehension left untold!But all the wise wives know!
Well,nothing like that happened and I was hale and hearty all day. What I managed to rustle up in the warm comfort of my home was a hot,comforting and sweet Gulab Jamun. One of my very dear friends Patsy, from Pattycakes in the Kitchen had asked me for a Gulab Jamun recipe a couple of days back. A niece of hers had been to India for some months and she had been greatly taken by the food and people there.She had talked about Gulab Jamun a lot and that had drawn Patsy's interest.So sweet to know this Patsy - made me so happy that a dessert from my country did please her so much:) Gulab Jamun is a very soft,spongy sweet available very popularly in sweet shops throughout the length and breadth of India. In my own Bengali lineage, we have a sister sweet called 'Ledikeni' or more locally put, 'Pantua'. The word 'Ledikeni' is a colloquial distortion of the word 'Lady Canning'! Surprised?!? Yes, this is quite amusing - the legendary Bengali sweetmaker Bhim Nag had come up with the idea of creating this sweet dessert on the occasion of the birthday of Lady Charlotte Canning, wife of the reigning Governor-General Charles Canning in British-ruled India. 'Lady Canning' got famously distorted by word-of-mouth to 'Ledikeni' and the name struck. Even now, in some Kolkata circles, the name 'Ledikeni' ceremoniously lives on as compared to the more oft-used 'Pantua'.
So bearing the weight of all this heavy historical trivia, I set out to make 'Gulab Jamun' in my kitchen. This recipe has two parts to it - one is preparing the sweet dumpling balls and the other is preparing the sweet sugar syrup in which to dip the balls.Here goes my version - and this is for you,Patsy! Enjoy the recipe and take care in the chill!


Sending this recipe to 'Zesty Palette Series #2 - Sinful Delights' at Vardhini's place...
and 'Jingle all the way' at Kavi's beautiful place!


Also sending this to Amy's lovely weekly event 'Midweek Fiesta # 7'!


Homemade Gulab Jamun
You will need:
For the dumpling balls:
Milk powder/Creamer - 1 cup (I would recommend using a very quality milk powder;that really makes a
difference)
White All-purpose flour - 4 tablespoons
Baking soda - Half a teaspoon
Milk - 4 tablespoons
Plain Yogurt - 2 tablespoons
Melted Butter - 2 tablespoons
Canola/Vegetable oil - About 2 cups,for deep-frying the dumplings (Don't worry - you can always use this oil for other purposes later since the dumplings are not sweetened!)


For the sugar syrup:
Sugar - 1 measure
Water - 1 measure
(By 'measure' I mean the same cup/utensil/measurer should be used to measure the sugar and the water.In this case, I had used 1 coffee mug of sugar and 1 coffee mug of water. Please note that this measure should be accurate for a perfect sugar syrup.)


How I made it:
1. Start preparing the sugar syrup first. In a deep-bottomed pan, add the water and the sugar and put on the flame. Allow the sugar to caramelize a little and then stir occasionally till the liquid comes to a bubble. Once it starts boiling, bring down the flame and allow the liquid to reduce till it becomes thick and syrupy.


2. In a bowl, take the dry ingredients first - milk powder/creamer, flour and baking soda.Mix well and then start adding the wet ingredients. Add the yogurt and melted butter first and start kneading the dry ingredients into a dough. Gradually add the milk, a little at a time, and keep kneading till a soft,pliable dough is formed.


2. Add as much or as little milk as you need to form a smooth dough.You may not need all of the milk. The dough should be smooth and soft to the touch.


3. Keep the dough aside for 15-20 mins before forming small balls.To form the balls, pinch off marble-sized   balls from the dough and then roll within the palm of your hands to form balls with a smooth surface. 


4. In a wok, start heating the cooking oil and when little hot, add one dumpling. The dumpling should initially sink to the bottom of the wok and once fried inside,it will gradually rise to the top on its own.This will tell the correct temperature of the oil.Once the outside is browned, take out the dumpling and dump into the sugar syrup,while still hot. Follow the same procedure for all the dumplings, frying not more than 2-3 dumplings at a time.
5. Allow the dumplings to seep up the liquid for about an hour before serving. Serve as a delectable dessert as it is or serve with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.Tastes awesome anyway!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lentil fritters in Mustard sauce

I was just back from this whirwind tour last week and had almost nothing left in my fridge to cook with. Before leaving, I had carefully exhausted every perishable veggie and had spared only stuff that would not rot in a week. That included a box of eggs, milk, some potatoes, onions - and yes, a lot of pulses of various kinds. 
We are a very legume-loving family, and almost like every other Indian family, 'Dal' or 'Lentil soup' is mandatory with every meal that we take. The Husband, particularly, is very fond of lentils and will have it whichever way it is cooked. So that makes me store a whole lot of Indian pulses like Moong, Musur, Chhana and Urad daal in my pantry.
Lunch will usually be rice, a daal, a veggie concoction and fish or chicken or eggs but on this particular day, I had to substitute pulses for veggies and my mind went onto a wild goose chase!Until I remembered this very savory Lentil fritters in Mustard sauce dish that we used to have quite often back home. It is almost like a curry, which you can have with plain white rice. I do not find it taste that good with bread, but if you are game to try, why not? So off I went to work, whirring my Moong lentils into a coarse paste, frying the fritters and rustling up a flavored Mustard sauce. The dish was right off our plates in a jiffy(In fact, I love munching on the fritters themselves just like that and they just taste awesome!) and I was so happy with myself for pulling up such a quick trick to cover-up for my empty veggie tray!Clever me,huh?!?
So here you go with the recipe - do try it sometime and hope you like all the flavors in the dish!Take care!


Sending this to Amy's lovely weekly event 'Midweek Fiesta # 7'. Also posting this recipe to my event 'Love for Lentils' for everyone to enjoy!


Lentil fritters in Mustard sauce
You will need:
Moong lentils - About 100 gms (Available in any Asian/Indian grocery store). Soak in a bowl of warm water for 45-60 mins before cooking.
Cumin powder - 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Red chili powder - 1/2 a teaspoon
Red onion - 1 small, julienned
Green chilies - Finely chopped
Ginger - 1/2 an inch, chopped
Nigella seeds - 1/4th of a teaspoon
Salt to taste
Mustard oil, for frying the fritters and preparing the sauce - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons


For the sauce:
Black Mustard seeds - 2 tablespoons
Green chilies - 4 whole (2 for tempering the sauce)


How I made it:
1. In a blender, pulse together the pre-soaked Moong lentils,cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and red chili powder to form a coarse,grainy paste. To this paste, add the chopped green chilies, ginger, onion and Nigella seeds and mix well with a spoon. 


2. Heat oil in a wok and when the oil is hot, tear off little balls from the lentil dough with your fingertips and release in the hot oil. Take care not to burn the fritters, since lentil have a very high smoking point and can well burn in seconds. When the outside is crispy and light golden brown, take out the fritters and drain on a kitchen towel.


3. To prepare the sauce, put the black mustard seeds together with the green chilies and half a cup of water in a blender. Once blended, the mustard seeds will emit a very sharp pungent smell and will turn to a greenish-white paste replacing the black color. Do not blend too much as that could make the mustard paste bitter.


4. Now take a sieve and strain the mustard paste through the sieve so that you get only the runny,liquid part of the paste and the black shells of the mustard seeds are left behind in the sieve.Press down the shells against the base of the sieve to extract all the liquid and this will be the sauce for your curry.


5. In the same wok where you fried the fritters, put on the flame and add 2 whole green chilies to the oil.Next add the strained Mustard sauce and allow it to come to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and once it starts boiling, add the fried lentil fritters in to the sauce and put off the flame.
6. Add a teaspoon of Mustard oil over the top of the dish before serving and garnish with green chilies. have it hot with plain white rice and enjoy the myriad flavors!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chicken in Cashewnut sauce

I have always wondered what it is with nuts.
As a kid,I was never fascinated by the thought of them. Leave alone fascinated, I would be totally put off by the idea of even nibbling on them. In my part of the world, nuts would be a very handy option, used graciously in certain foods and oft-used as a snack. Peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts. My Dad, on his jaunts abroad would bring back packets of chocolate having macadamia nuts and hazelnuts jostling for space!As much as I loved having the chocolate on its own, I despised the idea of embarking on this wonderful journey of having silken chocolate running through your mouth and then suddenly have you teeth crackling on a hard nut, like an annoying boulder blocking the smooth path!This often compelled me to eschew the packets of chocolates altogether, much to the glee of my sister who would now had it all to herself!


As times changed, my aversion and bitterness towards nuts slowly diminished. I started enjoying walnuts and cashew nuts in cakes and brownies, savored those flaked pistachios in my ice-cream or 'Kheer' and enjoyed roasted hot peanuts, rolled in salt,black pepper and red pepper powder, while watching the cascading rains outside my window on many a rainy day. I was finally turning nutty after all!
While researching about food, which if my favorite pass time, I realized that Mid-eastern and Arabian cuisines have a whole treasure of skills in using nuts in their food - and that food means meat as well,not just desserts.Even in my own Indian cuisine, nuts find a place of prestige specially when it comes to Mughlai food. Finding all about that, I finally shed off my disdain and started using nutty pastes in my chicken and mutton curries and believe it or not, the result was magical every time!


A couple of weeks back,I cooked Chicken in cashew nut sauce for a couple of friends coming to dinner at our place and I was really flattered at the texture the rich cashew nut paste lent to the otherwise ordinary chicken curry. So I'm posting this recipe for today's post. Try it sometime, enjoy it and savor the goodness of the nuts after all!


Sending this recipe to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's place and 'Hearth and Soul Blog Hop'!


Chicken in Cashewnut sauce
You will need:
Chicken - 500 gms
Red onions - 1 whole(if big) or 2 (if medium),roughly diced
Ginger - About an inch
Garlic - 3 to 4 fat cloves
Green pepper - Roughly diced
Green chilies - 2 to 3 chopped
Cashew nut - 150 gms, ground to a coarse paste with 1/4th cup of water in a blender
Turmeric powder - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Cumin powder - 1 tablespoon
Roasted coriander powder - 1 tablespoon
Red chili powder - 1/2 a teaspoon
Garam masala powder - 2 teaspoons
Mustard/canola oil - 2 and 1/2 tablespoons, for cooking


How I made it:
1. Wash the chicken pieces well and run with some turmeric powder and cumin powder. Keep aside for 10-15 mins while the spice base is prepared.


2. In a wok, heat the cooking oil. Blend the red onions, ginger, garlic, green peppers and green chilies with half a cup of water in a blender to form a smooth,fragrant paste. When the oil is hot, add half a teaspoon of garam masala powder and after a few quick strokes, add the blended spice mixture to the oil. 


3. Allow the spice base to cook well and keep on stirring occasionally. When it starts changing color, add the turmeric, cumin, roasted coriander and red chili powders and give a good stir. Cook till oil starts coming out of the mixture, when you know it is time to add the chicken pieces.


4. Add the chicken pieces to the spice base and coat the chicken pieces well with the spices. Add salt as per taste and mix well. Next add about 2 cups of lukewarm water, or just enough to cover the chicken pieces and cover with a lid to let the chicken cook.
5. Keep a check on the chicken and it will take 15-20 mins to cook through and become soft. When the chicken is cooked, add the cashew nut paste to the chicken and stir everything together. The gravy will start thickening. Check the seasoning and add a bit more salt if require. Now turn off the flame and sprinkle the rest of the Garam masala poder over the top of the dish.Serve hot with any bread,roti or rice. Tastes good with anything as an accompaniment!