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30 August 2006

Off on a short break

Friends,
Am off to Coorg and Mysore for a week...Will be back soon with loads of pictures and inspirations...

Cya soon!

27 August 2006

Banana Cardamom Bread (Eggless) - Baking from blogs continues...


I have tried several recipes for Banana bread and they have all turned out well. Even a vegan one that uses in all just 2 Tbsp of oil and a mixture of warm water, oil and baking soda to fluff up the mixture.

This one that I found at Simply recipes,yesterday, was slightly richer with 1/3rd cup butter and 1 cup sugar. I kept the butter in as I was baking it for my family and my mom maintains that she doesn't like butterless cakes. Weighing just around 50 kg, she is well justified.


A few modifications that I did-
  • My usual aversion to using too much refined flour made me replace half of it by whole wheat flour.
  • Reduced the 1 C sugar to 3/4 C but next time will use only 1/2 C. The 3/4 C sugar was also a little too sweet. Guess it also depends on the degree of ripeness of the bananas and the sugars in the banana.
  • Didn't use the one egg, replaced it with 2 T milk.
  • Added 1/2 tsp of cardamom powder to the batter
  • Sprinkled some cardamom powder and sugar on the top before baking.
  • I had to bake for just 35 minutes at 175C and then reduced to less than 170C for 5 minutes. By 40 minutes the cake started charring a bit on the top, so I got it out.





A loaf of Banana cardamom bread

The result was a perfectly browned and intensely aromatic cake. The cardamom and banana combination is as magical as the banana-cinnamon combination, if not better. My aunt-uncle and mom called up to say that they loved it. It didn't taste like one of my low sugar, low fat ventures and they were glad about it!

Bake this one, and wrap it in a nice paper and send it across to your friend or relative. Home baked goodies always make the best and most personalised gifts.

Or simply bake it on a Friday and you can enjoy a thick slice of this as a breakfast-dessert.

This is my entry for Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 4 that Pavani has agreed to host end of this month, while I'm away on a short break. Do send your breakfast entries to her before August 31st at cookshideout@gmail.com .

For details of the event, click here.

Related posts:

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24 August 2006

Herbed Breadsticks


Yes, I baked these babies this afternoon.

Nic from Baking Sheet blogged about this one as a Cooking School recipe and it was in true terms a great learning experience. Proofing the yeast, the patience with the dough and gentleness with the sticks did indeed feel all so new and beautiful to me.

I almost followed Nic's recipe to the Tee...Now, what kind of an oxymoron is that?

Well, instead of using 2 cups AP flour, I used half all purpose and half whole wheat flour. Instead of using dill and parsely, both of which I don't care for much, I used my favourite oregano and thyme, a tsp of each and substitued caraway seeds with good ol' cumin.


Herbed breadsticks



The end result was fantastic and encouraging enough to keep me playing with yeast each weekend. By the way, Nic mentions 25 minutes for these to bake to perfection. Since I use a smaller counter top over and I baked 4 at a time, mine got done in less than 15 minutes.

One of them has already been dipped in tea and relished. Couldn't wait till dinner for soup.

Thanks Nic. Your recipe has proven to be extremely dependable.

Find the recipe here.



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23 August 2006

My love-hate relationship with Chinese restaurants & my version of fried rice

We love eating out. My latest favourite Chinese joint is Dynasty on S.V. Road, Santacruz. For one, its close to home and secondly, the aroma of soy sauce and schezwan sauce beckons you inside. The only downside is that, on weekends there is a minimum wait time of 45 minutes, and they take reservations only upon arrival.

Its happened on so many Sundays that we end up going to a new place to eat, and on our way back, I say, 'Isse toh achcha hum ghar par hi khaate' -Loosely translated, it means, we would have been better off eating at home. Either the food wouldn't be all that great or the server would have been off-putting. A Chinese meal at made at home is fast, flavourful and filling. How's that for an alliteration?

A real super-fast menu would start with a Knorr Vegetable Soup modified into a lip-smacking Veg Mein Chow soup-ask me how? Actually I'm all eager to share this idea with you. But more about that in some other post. The salad would be Ginto. Ok, ok, I admit this is Thai and not Chinese. But what the heck-it goes fantastic with the spicy soup. I think I'll write about this salad and soup together sometime.

Now on with the rice. I've seen the kitchens in some of the Chinese restaurants, all in Bombay ofcourse. Havnen't made the trip to China yet. I have been thinking if I will ever be able to make it, especially after hearing an episode where my vegetarian friend was served a little snake (yeah snake, not snack) all coiled up as a garnish on top of his 'veg' rice. I didn't find that amusing at all..

Getting back to kitchens in Chinese restaurants, their Wok is filled with oil 1/4 th of the way to the top. They quickly dump in the customary green chillies, ginger and garlic, almost deep fry the veggies and add the cooked rice or noodles with the sauces. And all this happens while you were blinking. While I do like the tastes, this kind of cooking, doesn't do much for my health-conscious soul. If I wanted to eat deep fried food, I'd go for a samosa guys, not fried rice.

Anyway, so that's how I end up making my own version of fried rice that tastes as good if not better and feels good to be eating too.

Feel free to use any vegetables you have on hand. The day I made this, I had some fresh green beans that I had stringed, cut and saved. So green beans fried rice it was. And because I always have onions and frozen peas on hand, it wasn't a bad idea to add those too.

I prefer putting in a whole lot of vegetables into the rice, so that each spoonful gives me almost as much of vegetables as much as rice. You may cut down on the veggies if they don't excite you much.




Chinese fried rice



Ingredients

2 cups cooked rice, separated with a fork( I used regular kolam-a short grained rice)
1 generous cup of finely chopped French beans
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 medium onions halved and sliced

6 cloves garlic, 1/2" piece of fresh ginger, 3 green chillies- All finely chopped
1 T sesame seeds (This one makes the rice taste extra yum)

2 T dark soy sauce (adjust according to strength of sauce)
1 T vinegar
1/2 tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder (Optional)

1 T oil (See I told you this was healthy! )
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


In a wok, heat the oil. Throw in the sesame seeds first. Once they start turning golden, put in the ginger, garlic, chillies. Saute for 30 seconds, don't let the garlic brown please.

Now, put the veggies in. Add a pinch of salt. Saute them for 2-3 minutes, until their rawness is gone but crunch is maintained. Mix in the rice, soy sauce, vinegar, spice powder, pepper. Check for salt and adjust.

You may garnish with freshly chopped coriander if you wish.

Eat just like that or with a salad.

Note:

~While making this may take a little more time than what the chef in your local Chinese take-away does, it is still very quick. The only effort is in cleaning and chopping the beans. If you have a pack of frozen beans-then this wont take you more than 10 minutes :)

~It is also a great way of finishing up left-over rice.

Green beans are a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamin C, copper and Manganese making it a super-anti oxidant food. I could go on and on about the benefits of this humble vegetable, but that's matter for my weekly column. After a long break, I'd like to send this for Cate's ARF Tuesdays.

Do check the update on WBB # 4, Pavani's looking forward to your entries.



Related posts:


~Ginger Sesame Hakka Noodles
~Mango Pudding


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22 August 2006

Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 4- UPDATE

Jewelled Omlette

WBB is on its 4th Fortnight. I shall be travelling from 30th August and Pavani from Cook's Hideout has very kindly volunteered to take over hosting for WBB # 4.

Please send her your entries by 31st August at cookshideout@gmail.com with the title WBB# 4. The entries that I have already received, shall be forwarded to her. I request you to please spread the word in your post, that this time, it's Pavani who is doing the hosting.

I've also got this feedback, that the fortnightly event is getting a bit confusing for people to time their entries. I'm thinking about making it a monthly event.

Probably next time onwards, we shall have themes to work on breakfast For eg: Baked goodies, Cooking with fruit, From other cultures and so on. I can already think of so many! More on this after the WBB # 4 round up, when I'm back from my trip...

The rules are the same:

  • The entry must be a dish that can be served at breakfast.
  • It must be posted on your blog before 31st August.
  • Send an email to Pavani at cookshideout@gmail.com with the following:

Title and permalink of post, name and url of your blog, your name and location. Images sent can be resized to 75px X 75px for the convenience of the host.

See you all at the round up then!

21 August 2006

Bitter-Gourd with Ripe Mango- an Ayurvedic curry

Weekend Breakfast Blogging Update

  1. WBB is on its 4th Fortnight. I shall be travelling from 30th August and Pavani from Cook's Hideout has very kindly volunteered to take over hosting for WBB # 4.
  2. Please send her your entries by 30th August at cookshideout AT gmail DOT com with the title WBB# 4. The entries that I have already received, shall be forwarded to her. I request you to please spread the word in your post, that this time, it's Pavani who is doing the hosting.
  3. I've also got this feedback, that the fortnightly event is getting a bit confusing for people to time their entries. I'm thinking about making it a monthly event. Probably next time onwards, we shall have themes to work on breakfast For eg: Baked goodies, Cooking with fruit, From other cultures and so on. I can already think of so many! More on this after the WBB # 4 round up, when I'm back from my trip...

Blogger postcards of the world update

I'm so happy that Alison of Someone's in the Kitchen, AR, USA, finally received my postcard. This has reinstated part of my faith in the postal system. And I received a surprise post-card from Meeta, one of my dear blog-buddies. But she is not my BPW partner, so I am still awaiting my postcard from whoever-is-my-partner.


postcard from Weimar

Apples from Weimar

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Aurvedic Bitter-gourd Mango curry

ayurvedic curry From an Ayurvedic standpoint, food can be categorised into the following six basic flavours. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, punget and astringent. It is also recommended that our daily diet be a mix of all six flavours, for that perfect physical as well as psychological balance. This curry is my attempt to blend as many of the six flavours into one dish.

Also, I recently read this article on how curry can prevent cancer published in the LA times. Turmeric and onions have long been known for their anti-inflammatory properties. So here's to curry power!


Ingredients

2 large bitter-gourds (Washed thoroughly, sliced)
2 medium sized tomatoes
1 large onion-sliced
1 large ripe mango-roughly chopped

4 large garlic cloves- finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger-finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp curry powder / garam masala
1 sprig of curry leaves

1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp oil

Salt to taste

curry close-up

Ayurvedic Curry

Method

1. Place the sliced onions and bitter gourds with 1/4 cup of water, a pinch of salt and turmeric powder in a microwave safe bowl with a lid (with small vent for steam). Nuke for 5-6 minutes at HIGH. Check if it is tender at the end of 6 minutes. If not, microwave for some more time until bitter gourd slices are soft.

2. Heat the oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot enough, pop the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the ginger and garlic, saute for 30 seconds.

3. Add the microwave cooked bitter gourds-onions to the pan. Put in the chopped tomatoes, chopped ripe mango, curry powder, salt, red chilli powder. Saute them together well and cover the pan. Let this simmer for 5-7 minutes for all the flavours to come together.

4. Check for salt and take the curry off the flame. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the top and serve hot with Phulkas or a simple khichdi.

Ayurvedic flavours

Sweet is mainly carbohydrates, dairy products. Here, it is from the chapatis and ripe-mango

Sour is from tomatoes and lemon juice

Salty is from salt

Pungent is from the onions, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and curry powder

Bitter is from Bitter Gourd

Except for the 'Astringent' flavour which is imparted by tart fruits, beans and legumes, this curry contains all the basic flavours in it.

Taste-wise

The amalgamation of 5 different flavours to form one is something that one must experience to understand. After all the birthday partying the previous day, this curry with Phulkas as a simple dinner felt totally divine.

Note

  • This bitter-gourd recipe is perfect for diabetics and low-carb dieters.
  • If you don't have a microwave, then you may pressure cook the gourd and onions for one whistle.
  • I sometimes soak the sliced bitter-gourds in sour buttermilk overnight to remove the extra bitterness. But since, this was a conscious effort to make a healthy curry, I haven't taken that extra effort.

Check out Vaishali's recipe using bitter gourds and raw mangoes here.

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20 August 2006

Food Destinations # 2- Scenes from a Mumbai Marketplace

Just noticed that the theme for this month's Food destinations is 'My local greenmarket' and it would be a shame if I weren't able to share my favourite market scenes with fellow foodies. I shall be updating this post with more marketplace pics to make it more worthy for the wonderful event hosted by Maki of Just hungry.
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Market: Vile Parle East Vegetable Market, Mumbai, India
Located on the station road with 70 odd stalls, vendors sell all kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs. Only fresh produce is sold here.
Open all year round
Timing: 10 am to 10 pm
Prices of vegetables vary from day to day and a little bit of bargaining is always acceptable as well as fun.
The vendors mostly hail from Northern parts of India, they have made Mumbai their home.
Vegetables are grown in the out-skirts of the city and are brought in by trucks. There is no refrigeration and any other such modern amenities available in this marketplace.

Chillies and ginger

Milder light green chillies, fresh ginger and dark green fiery chillies


Tomato stall

Tomatoes-15 Rs/ Kg


Tomato stall

Fruit stall-mostly tropical fruits like Bananas, Papaya, Chikoos, Pomegranates, Custard Apple and some others


Radish and some other greens

Radish and green onions


One of the vendors

Awaiting business
I had been avoiding my weekly trip to the vegetable market since a month because the rains in Bombay turn the entire market place into a slushy mess. We do have 3 supermarkets around our place, and they carry every kind of vegetable-even those that aren't considered local here, for eg. Zucchini, Celery, Peppers in all colours, red cabbage, Baby tomatoes etc. However I desist from buying the 'exotic' stuff-mainly because they are generally stale (Poor turnover?) However, herbs like basil and parsely are quite popular.
Green Markets here are in the open-mostly outside of railway stations, so that people getting off the trains can pick up the stuff they want on their way home. Or atleast, that's my guess. Most of the vegetable vendors are called 'bhaiyyas'. In local parlance, they are called 'bhaaji market'-bhaaji meaning veggies.

There are some vendors that sell just one vegetable-for eg. Tomatoes. (See tomato man above) Some that sell one type of stuff, for eg. Greens like different kinds of spinach, spring onions, coriander, dill etc, and some that sell a little of everything.
The market that I go to is considerably large, extending onto two whole streets and on both sides of each street and everyone shouting the price of his wares-especially if it is CHEAP. (at this point, I strongly regret not having taken a pic of the marketplace in my so many visits-will post one soon enough ). Vendors sit behind HUGE mounds of green peas, beans, tomatoes. Huge as in a kid could be standing inside and not seen!
A friend of mine who has once come visiting from Bangalore was quite amazed to see the variety and quantity of stuff. It was then I realised the advantage I had in being able to procure such fresh stuff plus having a variety of stuff to choose from.
Trucks bringing in sacks of vegetables from the wholesale markets obstruct the street. Then there are small boys-'mobile vendors' as I call them, selling stuff like lemons or drumsticks. Especially so when they are available cheap like 10 lemons for 5 Rupees, or 5 drumsticks for 10 Rupees and they have this nasty habit of calling every female-"Aunty" despite her age. They have another nasty habit of sticking these things under your nose and forcing you to buy their wares or they will block your way with the long drumsticks, until you push them away or buy them.
It's total chaos there. I realised on my last visit that I'd prefer this 'Bazaar' therapy anyday to a retail therapy. Probably stems from the market visits I used to make as a child holding my granny's hand. The smells, the sounds, the whole atmosphere is probably very deep rooted in anyone who grew up in India.


What I got home

What I got home
Vegetables-
French Beans, Carrots, Ridge Gourd, Giant Cucumber, Radish, Tomatoes, Snake Gourd
Herbs-
Coriander, Baby Fenugreek
Fruits-
Lemons (the lemons here are much smaller and skin is thinner), Papaya, Pomegranate




Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch with ingredients fresh from the market

Indian Carrot-Peanut salad

Indian Carrot Peanut Salad

This is an entry for Gabriella's Summer Salads event.

Traditionally, Indian salads are made with vegetables like carrots, cucumber, onions, tomatoes. They are either mixed in yogurt to make a raita or simply cut fine / grated with a simple seasoning. The concept of 'dressing' isn't really a part of Indian salads, which makes it much lighter and healthier.

Indian Carrot-Peanut Salad

Putting it together

2 Medium carrots-washed, scraped and grated

2 Tbsp roasted and coarsely powdered peanuts

1 tsp finely chopped fresh cilantro / coriander

Juice of half a lime

1 green chilli / jalapeno finely chopped or a pinch of chilli flakes

Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and serve immediately.

You can serve this salad as an accompaniment to kebabs, grilled fish or chicken. It's light and flavourful, sweet, sour and a little spicy from the chilli.

Note:

There can be many variations to this salad.

You can use the following instead of carrots:

-Raw papaya

-Cucumber

You can use any roasted and coarsely powdered nuts instead of peanuts too.

Traditionally there would be a tempering with some mustard seeds in a little oil which is put on top of the salad, but I have avoided that. You can also garnish with a bit of fresh grated coconut.

Check out another traditional Indian salad-Minty Cucumber raita.

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19 August 2006

Rum n Raisin Rice Pudding

This is my entry for JFI-Milk hosted by Vineela.

I've grown up with Payasam. Anyone's birthday, any auspicious day, a feel-good day- Payasam was the only common dessert at home. My favourite was always the 'Semiya Payasam' which is Vineela's own entry to the event. Payasam with rice was never one of my favoured ones. I wouldn't even second glance it.

We call it Payasam, they call it rice pudding. Rice pudding surely sounds much more acceptable to me only for the reason that it'll allow me to put in my own ingredients, use my usual crazy creative methods. These methods are no good to be messing around with traditional and respected recipes like 'payasam'. Imagine turning the Gods against me if I added some untoward ingredients in it !!!

So Rum and Raisin Rice pudding it is...
Simple, rich and flavourful, serve it in a beautiful bowl and your guests will remember it for a long time...




Rum and raisin rice pudding
(Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
1 cup condensed milk (sweetened)

1/3 rd cup basmati rice-washed and soaked in warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

A few saffron strands for colour

1/4 cup raisins
4 tbsp Dark Rum like Bacardi Reserva (I'm down to the end of the bottle just making desserts)

Method:

Soak the raisins in the rum for a few hours

Combine rice and salt, and cook the rice in one cup of milk with saffron, by simmering for 7-8 min till most of the milk is absorbed. Or just pressure cook it in milk for one whistle till half-cooked.

In the cooked rice, stir in the remaining milk, half the condensed milk ,sugar and boil till rice is very well cooked. This will take another 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the beaten egg rapidly. It's ok if it curdles a bit, it will mix in well.

Take the pan off the heat, add remaining condensed milk, vanilla extract, raisins soaked in rum. Stir well.

Pour into a bowl and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of pudding to prevent a layer from forming on top.

Serve chilled with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.


Notes:
The main tastes are those of rum and a mild sweet vanilla flavour. You can add sugar depending on the sweetness of condensed milk.

The original recipe asked for 3 cups of half and half which I substituted with whole and condensed milk, therefore reduced the sugar. If you use half and half, use 1/4 cup of sugar.

Also the rice was initially cooked in water, while I cooked it in milk. I hate adding water to rich desserts.

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18 August 2006

Coleus aromaticus, Coleus fritterous and Coleus chapaticus

Seeing the title, you'll wonder if this is a post for Inji Pennu's Green Blog Project or is it a thesis paper on confusing little plants? Read on to find out...

I was all set to write a quick post for GBP but it wasn't to happen so. A little internet research revealed that my plant was not at all the plant I thought it was.

I started growing this plant some 6 months ago from a small sapling that was planted at home by a local plant-vendor. I was under the impression it is the Ajwain plant. You must have heard of Ajwain or Omum, which is the fragrant seed that's used in Indian cooking. Ajwain is called Bishop's weed and when i saw the pictures of this plant online, it hardly looked like the one at home.

With some more research using Marathi and Tamil names, I hit upon the actual name for this plant which is Coleus Aromaticus. It is called Karpooravalli in Tamil and Pan-Ova in Marathi. The leaves look fleshy and scaly. It grows rapidly and with ease. In started growing so much out of the pot like a mini-jungle that I had to trim it off to decent proportions a month ago. And now, it's growing into a pretty bush.

When I chopped off the excess stems and threw them away, little did I realize that I was throwing precious stuff down the drain. Apart from using crushed leaves in a Raita or Dal, i hadn't put them to any major use. A few weeks ago both my Maharashtrian friends , Ujwala and Shaila, told me that I could make fritters with these fleshy leaves and they taste out of the world.

That sounded like so much fun. As it is I was feeling terrible about not being able to grow peas, avaraikkai and tomatoes like some of my favourite bloggers, and this was a small consolation- to be able to make something from my own garden.

Some info that I've unearthed about the usefulness of this plant (ref: http://www.frlht.org.in- Encyclopedia of Indian Medicinal Plants)

NAME: All-Purpose herb, Five Seasons Herb, Mother of Herbs (Plectranthus aromaticus syn. Coleus aromaticus).


DESCRIPTION: This succulent herb has the typical four-cornered stem of the Lamiaceae family. The leaves are very thick and succulent, grey-green and hairy. The plant grows to around 50cm tall. The leaves are highly aromatic with a strong flavour of mixed herbs.

ORIGIN: Seychelles, India & South East Asia

CULTIVATION: The herb grows easily in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tender and grows well in sub-tropical and tropical locations, but will do well in cooler climates if grown in a pot and brought indoors, or moved to a warm sheltered position in winter. Water only sparingly.

USES: The leaves are strongly flavoured and make an excellent addition to stuffings for meat and poultry. Finely chopped, they can also be used to flavour meat dishes, especially beef, lamb and game. The leaves have also had many traditional medicinal uses, especially for the treatment of coughs, sore throats and nasal congestion, but also for a range of other problems such as infections, rheumatism and flatulence. The herb is also used as a substitute for oregano in the food trade and food labelled "oregano-flavoured" may well contain this herb.


Coleus Fritterous (How exotic is that? )

Ingredients:

Freshly plucked leaves (as many fritters as you want to make)

Batter for 10-12 fritters

3 Tbsp besan (gram flour)
1 Tbsp rice flour
1/2 Tsp red chilli powder
Pinch of turmeric
Tiny pinch baking soda
Pinch of salt

Few Tbsp water to make a thick batter.
Oil for frying

Method:

Wash and pat dry leaves.
Mix all other ingredients to make batter.
Heat the oil and put the leaves covered with batter one by one into the oil. Fry on medium heat till both sides are golden brown.
Serve hot.

Taste:

These REALLY tasted out of the earth. The leaves have an oregano-ish taste, spicy and aromatic and you cant miss that taste even after deep frying. You don't need any accompaniments to this bajji- Just a cup of tea and your favourite book will do!


More:

This plant is really easy to grow and since it doesn't require heavy watering, you can also beautify your indoors with it too.



And that's something I did for fun with a little round of chapati aata that was left after making a batch of chapatis- let's call it Coleus chapaticus?


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17 August 2006

Gokulashtami Bhakshanam-Stuff even God looks forward to...

Krishna Pooja in my own little way


Gokulashtami is the birthday of Lord Krishna and it is celebrated by Hindus all over India in their own way. In our homes, it is intimately related to food as a variety of fried sweet and savoury snacks are prepared and offered to the naughty Lord Krishna who was known for His love for butter.

Since childhood this was one festival that I used to eagerly await as it used to be windfall of goodies. I used to crib about the fact that my grandmom used to make all the good stuff on one day and then for a few months to come, there wouldn't be any of this stuff to eat.

But that's how the Gods like it and that's how it's done at home.

Both my mom and Geeta chithi live in adjacent buildings which is an hour's drive from my place. They've been preparing to make the bhakshanam for over a week by picking, soaking, drying and grinding rice to make fresh rice flour. Most of the savouries use rice flour as the base. My mom, aunt and grandmom generally sit in one of their kitchens together, in the afternoon. The gas stove is placed on the floor they prepare the snacks over latest family gossip and a hot cup of tea.
The stuff prepared is then divided into 5 portions for each one of us to do the Naivediyam in our respective homes.




The line up for Naivediyam is as follows:

Sweet aval with coconut and jaggery
Vadai
Appam
Thattai
Murukku
Uppu cheedai
Vella cheedai
Tenkuzhal


Sweets this time: Badam cake and Besan-milk cake

The sweet cheedais are known to explode like mini-missiles in oil if the proportion of ingredients is even slightly changed. I couldn't make it to mom's place on the day they were preparing the savouries-or else I would have had a field time photographing the various procedures. But I did manage to capture amma and chithi in the kitchen yesterday, making suda suda vadai for our favourite Lord. And that is precious footage for me :)


Geeta chithi in the front and Amma behind :)

16 August 2006

Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 3-Round up

Thank you friends for sending me your entries for Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 3. I have three new bloggers participating this fortnight:

RP from My Workshop
Jayashree from My experiments with food &
ArSu from Flavour Ride.

I welcome you to the event friends and thanks to the regulars for sending me lovely stuff straight from your breakfast table. Here's the round-up for you !


WBB#3

filter kaapi


Row I: L-R

Rokh, from Tham Jiak, one of my favourite blogs from Malaysia, sends us lovely Whole wheat chocolate banana muffins. One look and you will want to bake them right away. They don’t ask for too many ingredients and they freeze well. So make sure you bake a whole big bunch of them.

Krithika from Manpasand sends us a simple recipe for golden crisp Goduma dosas. Serve them with your favourite Sambhar and it’s a traditional breakfast in a jiffy.

Cecille from Essences brings these absolutely adorable Mini Frittatas. These have been baked in a muffin pan and that’s what makes them look so uniformly beautiful. Also, you can bake all of them at once. Your kids will love them too.

Row II: L-R

RP from My workshop gets innovative with her waffle iron and dosa batter. The result is a perfect example of fusion food-Waffle dosa. She serves this with a fresh green chutney made from the mint leaves growing in her kitchen garden.

Glenna from A fridge full of food makes a breakfast for four –the Ozarks Country Benedict. These are Eggs Benedict served with country potatoes and a Cheesy sauce served with English Muffins. With stuff like that, you can’t go wrong can you?

Vaishali from Happy Burp seems to be on an environment protection drive. She makes another of her eco-friendly chutneys with bottle gourd peels, peanuts, coriander and sesame seeds. It’s mild tasting and the perfect accompaniment for Idlis, she says.

Row III: L-R

Pushpa from Pusiva’s Culinary Studio fondly remembers her favourite breakfast from Malaysia- The coconut bun which she loves to have with a mug of Milo. This is so inspiring that I might end up baking a bun one day


Jayashree from My experiments with food has prepared Sabudana Khichdi for breakfast. This is a very popular Maharashtrian breakfast and a much loved fasting food. This khichdi tastes so good that I don’t really mind fasting if I’m going to be eating this.


Arsu from Flavour Ride sends in Curry leaves dosa. She says that this dosa with the fresh young tender curry leaves bursts with full of flavour and aroma and unlike other dosas this can be relished immediately after grinding.

Row IV:

Have a choice of breakfast from the platter above and wash it down with a tumbler of Madras Filter Kaapi which is my entry for the fortnightly event. Fix your cuppa kaapi here.


Appeal:

I shall be travelling to Coorg / Mysore from the end of August to first week of September. I'll really appreciate it if one of you can take over the hosting of WBB#4 that will have to be rounded up by 3rd September, 2006.

Please let me know on saffrontrail AT gmail DOT com, so that I can publish the details soon!

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In case you missed them, here are the earlier round-ups-

WBB #1
WBB #2 -Part I
WBB #2- Part II

How to make South Indian filter coffee



Kumbakonam Degree Kaapi


This is a long-intended post. Right since June when my in-laws were visiting us from Chennai. I've always loved the aroma of traditional filter Kaapi. I also have two filters jostling for space in my over-crowded cabinets. Just that I'm not an extremely well-planned person and I can't wait for the coffee to percolate in the morning, when I want my caffeine fix in a hurry. Also, my decoction would always be too watery, so much so that I could easily pour half a cup of decoction into half cup of milk and still it would never be as 'strong' as I'd like it to be.

I observed Mom-in-law's technique when she was here and it was some serious technique. Seriously good coffee in the end. That's how I make my coffee nowadays and I make sure if I want that coffee fix in the morning, I get out my percolator the previous night. Other days it's good old tea. Not that I love tea any less.


Mom-in-law's Filter Kaapi

~You'll need a traditional percolator which is made of 4 parts.

~Coffee powder-Well, I'm not the girl to buy coffee beans and grind it fresh. Store bought coffee powder is just fine. A fine grind is used with a small percentage of chicory mixed in. Mom-in-law's brand of choice is from Vimala Coffee works in Chennai.

~Use a clean filter. Remove the lid and umbrella. Put 2 heaped Tbsp of coffee powder per person and press it down with a spoon. Keep the umbella back and gently pour fresh water brought to a rolling boil over the umbrella in the top container.

~The water will percolate down slowly depending on the quantity of powder placed. 6-8 tbsp of coffee powder will take the decoction almost 6-8 hours to collect at the bottom. (So it's better done at night, to have your morning cuppa). If you've put a lot of coffee powder, you wouldn't have a chance to put enough water to percolate resulting in very concentrated but less quantity of decoction at the bottom. In this case once the decoction collects below, you can add more boiling water at the top to collect the concentrate 2-3 times.

~Just remember that the consequent collections wont be as concentrated as the earlier ones. You might want to collect the entire lot and mix it together to get an even concentration of the whole lot of decoction in the end.

To prepare coffee: In a tumbler (traditional steel glass) or a mug, take upto 3/4th level milk and add decoction with constant stirring to make a coffee to suit your liking, mild or strong. Add sugar if you wish. Enjoy the aroma as you take a sip of Madras culture.

Note:
In my opinion, filter kaapi must be drunk in a traditional tumbler-davaraa, and the coffee swished a couple of times between the two to produce delicious foam (norai) on the top. I don't think my mom-in-law approves of this though. The disadvantage being the coffee getting cold while swishing it around ;) It is called Meter-Kaapi in someUdupi hotels as the coffee is poured into the glass from a meter's height to produce maximum foam

I submit this for the fortnightly WBB event on my blog. Have your pick of breakfasts from the fare on the table but wash it down with a tumbler of deliciously hot and aromatic filter kaapi!

14 August 2006

Hic...hic...Happy Birthday, dears- Chocolate Rum Apricot Cake



Today is my dear friend Punita's birthday and tomorrow is dear hubby's birthday. We have a small get-together with friends at home. Though I ordered out most of the stuff, dessert is something I wouldn't give up for someone else to do.

I've baked this Chocolate rum cake for both S and Punita. One cake for two dear people. Actually it's the first time, I've ever made a proper cake with icing etc. It looks pretty delicious, it's to be seen how it tastes. Before it gets all smashed and eaten, here's a pic for you!



Its two layers of chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream inbetween and on the top. The cream is topped by chopped dried apricots soaked in rum. BTW the cake is soaked in rum too :)

So much rum around that when hubby came in home, he said- "I smell rum in the air, are you upto something ?"

Recipe will be posted later. Right now I'm just waiting for my guests who are all delayed by the severe security arrangements due to the terrorist threats in the city. Hope everything passes off peacefully tomorrow...

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Chocolate-Rum-Apricot cake
Makes 12 generous slices
Not for consumption by children

Required:
Two chocolate sponges-baked and cooled (400 g each)
300 ml fresh cream-whipped with 4 tbsp of icing sugar
1/4 cup of sliced dried apricots soaked in dark rum for 2-3 hours
30 ml Bacardi Reserva to soak the sponges
Few tbsp of orange juice
One Hershey's dark chocolate Kisses
Icing bag /Ziploc bag
Icing sugar for dusting

Method:
Mix the Bacardi rum and orange juice and soak both the layers with the rum-juice mixture. Let it rest for 15 minutes until the liquids are fully absorbed.

DUst some icing sugar on a plate and place the bottom layer of the sponge. Spread whipped cream on this layer and place the other layer on top of this. Spread cream on the top of this layer evenly.

Arrange the rum-soaked apricot slices on the cream.


Put the remaining cream into a ziploc bag, give a small nick in the botom corner and use it to make concentric circles on the cake over the apricots. Make the hole slightly bigger and make a flower in the center. Keep four slices of apricot as each of the petals and place a Hershey's Kiss in the center.

Dust the cake with some icing sugar and chocolate shavings (optional). Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

Verdict-
All my friends LOVED this liquor drenched dessert. The best compliment came from my husband who said that it was the best dessert he had had till date. I just hope it wasn't all the Famous Grouse and the rum from the cake talking :)


Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day
On 15th August, 2006, India celebrates her 59th year of Independence.

9 August 2006

Red hot Thai curry with basil


Lemon grass cafe in Bandra is one of my favourite restaurants. They serve a variety of Oriental food. Thai, Singapore, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese...you name it they have it on the menu. And unlike a run-of-the-mill oriental restaurant, they don't add soy sauce to everything!


I tried re-creating their Ginto (Raw papaya salad) at home, and to our delight it came out exactly the way I wanted it to. Will probably blog about that when I buy raw papaya from the market. I don't like the vague sweetness in food belong to certain Asian cuisines due to use to peanuts and a sweeter version of soy sauce. Spicy Thai red curry is therefore one of my all time favourites. Somehow, I could never lay my hands on an authentic recipe for Thai red curry. I then decided to put together my own ingredients from the tastes I've remembered from my visit to the Lemongrass cafe.

The flavour is heightened with generous use of fresh basil.

Ingredients-

5 dried red chillies ( I used the 'bedki' variety)
8 cloves garlic peeled
1 medium sized onion-roughly chopped
1/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves
1/4 cup thick coconut milk ( I used Dabur homemade)
1 tub fresh mushrooms (wiped thoroughly and chopped roughly)
2 green peppers-chopped roughly
1/2 cup frozen peas.
2 tbsp tomato puree
Salt
Turmeric -pinch
1 tbsp peanut oil / vegetable oil

Method-

1. In a saucepan, take a cup of water. Add the chillies, garlic, onion. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7-8 minutes, till the spices have softened. Remove in a bowl and cool.

2.Once cooled, grind the spices with the basil leaves to a fine paste adding a little bit of water which was used for boiling. In case you dont have tomato puree, you can grind a big tomato into the paste.

3. In a pan, heat the oil. Saute the green peppers with a pinch of tumeric and salt, for 3-4 minutes, then add the mushrooms, peas and saute till almost cooked.

4. Add the red paste, tomato puree, coconut milk, salt to taste. Garnish with freshly chopped basil.

If you thought that was too hot, cool off with my entry to Meeta's Beat the heat- a tall glass of Ginger lemon iced tea.


Notes-

~Serve hot with rice / noodles.

~I served this with instant sevai (Indian rice noodles) and the combination was just perfect. The curry wasn't over the top spicy-probably because the chillies were boiled in water. You can add or subtract the number of red chillies as per your heat-tolerance.

~Thai red curry served with steamed rice and Ginto makes a great dinner combination.

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8 August 2006

Beat the heat-Monthly mingle


I love iced tea. In fact I love tea in any form. A post solely dedicated to brewing good tea has been long on my mind, and it will come soon.


When Meeta asked us what would one do to beat the heat-my immediate answer was- a tall glass of chilled iced tea. In fact that's the drink I like to have best, when I come home after being outdoors in the harsh afternoon sun. In Mumbai, summers are pretty ruthless. We face the kind of temperatures everyday at which California reports a 100 deaths due to sunstrokes. May be Indians are genetically programmed to bear this kind of sun.

Ginger-Lemon Iced Tea

Ingredients-

One ginger-lemon tea bag, 5-6 cubes of ice, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp lime juice, pinch of salt, 4-5 mint leaves finely chopped, 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger

Boil 1/2 cup water. Steep the tea-bag in boiling water for 5 minutes. Take 5-6 ice cubes in a tall glass. Pour in the tea and other ingredients. Mix well.

Drink chilled.

Check out:

Some wonderful tea recipes in Darjeeling's Tea board of India website here. From basic brewing tips to exotic stuff like Thai iced tea, tea ice cream and almond tea, there's something to surprise you all.


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How to nurse a half-broken tooth?

One of my molars has been in a perilous condition for a few weeks now.But my dentist phobia combined with general procrasination led to a half-broken dangling molar. I never expected that the tooth that survived the heavy grinding of 'murukku' and 'kadalai urundai' could succumb to a weakling like 'kurmura'.

Since this happened at 3 pm, I had to wait for a local dentist to open shop which would be around evening. As luck would have it, she doesn't practise evenings, without prior appointments. The appointment is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Friends, I need all the luck I can because a dental appointment almost feels like a walk to the gallows. (Biting my nails furiously). Fortunately there's no insurance hassle in the middle, I can just choose to go to anyone I fancy. Why this must feature on a food-blog one might wonder! But aren't teeth intimately related to food?

I've been on liquid diet so far, and any liquids just wont do. They have to be something that can keep me from missing food. (If my mom happens to read this she might mutter under her breath-"Had she kept some religious fasts-she would have been prepared for this! But when has the girl ever listened?"

Two simple recipes to sail through a half-broken tooth (Literally)

Wheat Flour Porridge

Dot a pan with ghee. Put 2 Tbsp of wheat flour in the pan and saute till nice and brown. It will smell so good that you'll think, "How come I didn't know wheat flour could smell so good?". Meanwhile dissolve a Tbsp of jaggery in some water. You can microwave the jaggery with some water for 30 seconds.
Mix one cup of skimmed milk into the jaggery solution. Add this to the golden wheat flour on a low flame and with constant stirring. Sprinkle some cardamom powder to this after the wheat flour is throroughly dissolved and free of lumps.
Add some more cold milk if it's too thick for your liking.

Tasted yum-I almost felt happy to be eating/drinking this.

When can you eat this?

Don't worry, you don't have to break a tooth to eat this wonderful porridge. You can have it for breakfast if you've run out of cereal. Read what I've written about 'Cereal' killers.
Actually this gives me the idea of keeping some roasted wheat flour in stock to make this porridge in a jiffy whenever i feel like it!

Apple honey shake-This was my dinner. But you can have it as a breakfast shake or a post-dinner soothing drink.

Chop a peeled and cored apple into small pieces. Put it in a blender. Add a cup of skimmed milk, a tbsp of honey and a pinch of cinnamon powder. Blend at high speed for 2 minutes, until the apple is completely mashed.
Pour ino a tall glass and drink immediately.
I guess adding protein powder to this one will make it more filling.


No pictures this time. The stuff above wasn't so picture-worthy. It's just slurp worthy.

Wish me luck for my dental appointment. (Luckily you see the typed word. Had you seen the written word, you'd see how I was shivering ;)


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7 August 2006

BPW- My postcard (Sorry I'm late)

I'll be sending this to....


my BPWmy BPW



Would you believe it if I told you how difficult it is to find picture post-cards in Bombay? Half the shop-keepers didn't understand what it meant, and the others looked at me as if I had gone mad !
One guy asked me if i wanted a 'Picture of a postcard' and the other said, you are the first person who has asked me for this since I've opened my shop. I had almost given up hope when my dad went looking around for this one, he finally got me two cards that depict Bombay's important landmarks.
The other hurdle I faced was due to my own forgetfulness. I was at my mom's place whole of last week ( celebrating Varalakshmi nombu and devouring kozhakattais and vadais ), i had forgotten to carry the cord that connects the cam to the laptop. Hence couldn't post a pic of my card...Boo..hooo

Meeta told me I could post it when i reached my own place. And here's it..I'm sending to A...friend hahaha

It's a picture of Flora Fountain. Completed in 1864, the Flora Fountain was erected by the Agri-Horticultural society of Western India out of a donation by Cursetjee Fardoonjee Parekh. Built in imported Portland stone, but now defaced with white oil paint, it was originally meant to be named after Sir Bartle Frere, then governor of Bombay. However, the name was changed before the fountain was unveiled. It stood in the center of the town as it then was. Now this area is the heart of the business district of the town.


Flora fountain-Then

Flora Fountain-Then

Flora fountain-now

Flora Fountain-Now




This is what Mumbainet has to say about this structure-

"This is the very heart of Mumbai, circumscribed by stately colonial buildings that stand like proud old sentinels of a bygone era. Flora is the Roman Goddess of Flowers, her pretty alabaster face continually assaulted by grime and pollution. Next to her are a pair of torch bearing stone patriots that rise from the Martyrs Memorial nearby. Flora Fountain is now called Hutatma Chowk or Martyr's Square to honour those who died in the tumultuous birth of Maharashtra State. All around the square sit Mumbai's infamous vendors selling just about everything under the blazing tropical sun -- from cheap nylon saris and ballpoint pens to herbal remedies and sexshop gewgaws. Tooting horns and traffic complete the chaotic picture, but through it all Flora manages to retain her serene composure."

1 August 2006

Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 2 - Round up-Part II

...Contd from Round-up Part I . I'll take a raincheck for my own entry, due to some technical problems, I'm unable to transfer my pics to the laptop. The problem with formatting continues ( a long scroll to reach the table) and I haven't got any suggestions yet :( Until then, scroll on...














































































Surya from Healthy and Spicy sent in a healthy yet tasty breakfast that's oozing with culture and tradition. This is one of Kerala's traditional recipes, called Ada. She has prepared two variations, but from where I see, it seems like an extremely versatile recipe which can be made sweet or savoury with a variety of stuffings.
Vaishali of Happy Burp-calls this a healthy, environment friendly chutney that will go with most breakfast items like Idlis or Dosas. Environment friendly, because she actually uses ridge-gourd peel in this one. Red peppers, onions, red chillies, tamarind, peanuts and of course the peel- you have a combination of a variety of textures and flavours there.
Sumi says this is her idea of a good filling brunch. Most people are familiar with Idlis but Vada Curry is something not many have heard of. Lentils are soaked, ground, steamed and then cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices to make this hearty idli accompaniment.

Pavani from New Jersey, talks about her love of eggs. Omlette and toast is indeed almost a universal favourite and she sends in her Indianised version Frittata stuffed with onions, tomatoes, potatoes and peas.

Paz takes us on a trip to Africa through her post about a typical African porridge called Rice Water. It seems to be to be an African version of our Rice Kanji. The cultural similarities between countries at such distances from each other, never ceases to amaze me.
While we are in Africa, I'd like to introduce you to Carolyn who blogs from South Africa. Her blog Field to feast is totally Africa inspired writing, cooking and eating.She talks about the Baobab tree and what she did with the Baobab fruit her basket-weaving friend brought her. It's called Mawuyu.
Vineela goes the whole nine yards as she makes an elaborate menu all from the scratch. Idlis, Vadai curry and Bell pepper chutney. Her Vadai curry recipe is different from Sumi's. Check out how! Looks like bell pepper chutney is the flavour of the season.


Anna from Morsels and Musings, Australia sends in the baked beans and eggs that get set in the oven, while you catch up on sweet nothings. She also makes a light fruity dessert of pears poached in passion fruit juice that perfectly complements the beans. Conversations over glasses of Moscato d’Asti- a ‘gorgeous wine with a light spritz, subtle sweet flavour and wonderful floral fragrance’-can you ask for a better weekend morning with your partner?


Priya Jadhav goes the Idli way too, but this one from Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is this culture soaked town in South of India famous for its temples, grand gold bordered silk sarees and ofcourse the Kanchipuram Idli. When regular idlis become a bore in South Indian households, these variations provide the much needed respite. And then there is yet another Bell Pepper chutney.


Rachel from Tham Jiak, Malaysia writes about what breakfast means to her and her childhood trials with a half boiled egg. For WBB #2, she sends a breakfast cake made with Ginger and Molasses. You must read her very interesting thoughts on ‘Breakfast like old times’ where you’ll know how Malaysians have this beverage called ‘cham’ which is a unusual blend of tea and coffee.


Shammi sends us a steaming hot plate of a family of Idlis with a difference, These are Semiya-Rava idlis made from the scratch. Serve them with steaming hot with traditional coconut chutney and you will see contented smiles around you. And yes, those baby idlis sure will make your kids happy too.


The chocolate lady from Greenwich Village, NYC, presents two Clafoutis, both made with Apricots, but one made even more decadent with bittersweet chocolate. This recipe is good enough a reason for me to call a brunch party for friends at home the coming weekend. This will be a super-hit! Come on gals- what are you waiting for?

Mahek from Love for cooking, talks about her son's love for dosas. She has prepared a variety of dosas and sends in the very appetising Green Moong Dosa for the weekend breakfast event.




How about a little dessert to end the WBB #2 on a sweet note? Meeta puts together a bunch of berries, vanilla flavoured yogurt and crushed cantuccini cookies in her simple yet elegant style to make a Very berry dessert.

Tags: Recipes, Breakfast, WBB, Foodbloggers, Event

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