28 August 2007

Vattayappam - Steamed rice cakes from Kerala



I first tasted these fluffy rice cakes when my ex-boss got them in her lunch box. She said her mom made them with ground rice and yeast and it is quite simple. Several google searches later, trying all possible spellings, I landed on this recipe given by a forum member of Forum Hub, which was dug out from the Hindu archives. You will also find a discussion on Vattayappam on the Another Subcontinent food forum.

Kerala cuisine does have a variety of appams apart from this one, which I learnt while researching through several forums - Kallapam, Palappam, Vellayappam, Frill Appam - if anybody would like to clarify the differences, it would be really nice!

This is a typical Kerala Christian recipe and it seemed pretty simple and armed with the potent yeast (yeast is to be used in absence of toddy) that Anita was so kind to send me - I was wanting to try it out for a real long time. It took me several months to make up my mind to try this out because each recipe on the net had different ingredients (eggs, cumin, shallots, coconut milk and so on) in different quantities! I am not quite game to using shallots in a sweetish dish and hence steered clear of any recipes including them. Since I did not recall my boss mentioning presence of eggs in the recipe, such recipes were out too. Finally the one I tried had simple ingredients which seemed right and JFI Rice was a perfect occasion to try it out.




For breakfast- vattayappam wedges cut into small cubes-


microwaved with 1/2 cup milk and some raisins



Vattayappam / Vatteyappam (Steamed rice cakes)


Category: Gluten free, steamed cake, breakfast


Serves- 4


Adapted from a recipe from The Hindu Archives - here.



Ingredients

1 heaped cup raw rice - washed and soaked for 3-4 hours
1/2 coconut - scraped /grated
100 ml water
Scant 1 tsp instant dry yeast OR 15 ml fresh toddy
1/4 cup sugar
a fat pinch cardamom powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp raisins (optional)

Directions

1. Drain the soaked rice . Grind to a fine paste with coconut.

2. Add yeast or toddy, sugar and let it ferment for 6-8 hours.

3. Add salt & cardamom powder and keep aside for 30 minutes.

4. Grease flat containers or cooker separators (2) & pour in the batter. Garnish with sultanas if using. Steam for 15-20 minutes, and cut into wedges and serve.


Note
Idli steamers can be used to get idli-shaped vattayappams.

This is my submission for JFI- Rice hosted by Sharmi of Neivedyam, JFI has been conceived by Indira of Mahanandi

24 August 2007

Farka - a Tunisian breakfast porridge



(If you love trying out something new, then do prepare something ethnic for breakfast, something different from your own culture and send it across to Glenna for WBB #14 by 27th August, 10 pm Central Time, details here)
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Picking a recipe from a place I've never visited and preparing it to the best possible level using locally available ingredients gives me a kick of experiencing at least part of the culture of the place. After all, food is a large part of one's culture.
Ever since Glenna announced an ethnic theme for WBB, but different from your own culture, I have been doing searches and looking up a couple of world cuisine books to see what vegetarian breakfast I can make.

All the research narrowed down to a North African breakfast dish from Tunisia called Farka. According to Wiki Cookbook -
Tunisian meals have shown to incorporate various traditional cuisines from the surrounding ares of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and many Arab countries. For this reason, it is no surprise that Tunisian recipes incorporate many of these traditions including couscous and generous amounts of seasonings and spices. It goes without saying that it is almost guaranteed that any single Tunisian entree will be prepared with peppers, since the Tunisians enjoy a rather spicy meal. Also, Tunisian meals are considered social events, so expect a typical collection of dinner recipes to contain several appetizers, a selection of main dishes, and a vast array of desserts.


Traditionally Farka is cooked with couscous, sugar, oil & water - enriched with nuts and dates, the mix is baked off in an oven and served with extra milk and sugar. While you would think, this seems like dessert, Tunisians actually have it for breakfast. And you could too....reduce the sweetness a bit and it is actually a healthy whole grain breakfast, high in fiber and protein.

I have modified the recipe to suit the availability of ingredients and the time on hand.


Tunisian Farka
Category - Breakfast porridge, Whole grains
Time taken - Under 30 minutes
Serves - 2
Recipe Source - Adapted from here


Ingredients
1 tsp ghee
1/2 cup broken wheat
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp jaggery
2 tbsp mixed nuts and dried fruit, chopped
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp dried ginger powder

Prepared ingredients for Farka

Directions

1. Take ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the broken wheat along with chopped nuts to the pan and saute on low flame for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, keep 1 1/2 cups water to boil adding in the sugar, jaggery and grated ginger.
2. Once the water has come to a boil and the broken wheat has turned golden brown, add the sweetened water to wok over the wheat. Close the wok with a lid and let this simmer (on a low flame) till wheat is cooked and the water is absorbed. This will take 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the broken wheat particles. (See pressure cooking shortcut in notes)
3. Once the wheat is dry and almost cooked, add in 1/2 cup milk, stir well and keep covered for 2 minutes until it is absorbed and the grains are fluffed up. Switch off the stove and keep this covered for another 10 minutes, till all the moisture is absorbed and the porridge is dry.
4. Serve warm with some extra milk by the side to add if necessary.

Notes
  • You can try this porridge with any whole grains you have on hand - eg. couscous, bulghur, semolina (not very fine).
  • Use of ginger is entirely optional, I prefer some spicy notes in any sweet dish to make it suitable for my kapha constituency (Ayurvedic body type). You could substitute it with cinnamon or cardamom too, or leave it plain. To find your dosha (Ayurvedic body type), take the quiz here.
  • Jaggery is my preferred sweetener, it also gives a rich golden colour to any dish. You could use plain sugar, demerara sugar or any sweetener that works for you.
  • Instead of cooking it off in the wok, you can also transfer the sauteed broken wheat with the water into a small pressure cooker and pressure cook for 5 minutes, taking care that there is enough water to prevent the mixture from burning.

This is my submission for Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 14 hosted by Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food.




20 August 2007

Instant Mushroom Methi Curry with Onion Rice



Last week we had a pre-Independence day party at home. The night before the party, since I was already busy with all preparations, I was in no mood for any elaborate cooking. We generally do not have rice on a week night, because we both prefer to have rotis or pasta / noodles. Rice comes to rescue when I want to get out of the kitchen in 15 minutes and my tiny Hawkins pressure cooker helps me to do just that. Mushrooms, apart from the few extra minutes it takes to clean them, are a breeze to cut and cook. Chunky and full of taste, they are one of my favourite vegetables (not calling them Fungi, because I really don't care for any other fungi than the edible ones).

This meal is one such perfect hurried meal, where when you sit down to eat, you forget that it was made in a hurry. The rich flavours of the curry balanced by the delicately flavoured rice makes it a perfect weekday curry-in-a-hurry meal!!

Instant Mushroom Methi Curry

Ingredients
1 pack button mushrooms 12-15 pieces
1 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds


1 tsp cooking oil
For curry paste:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1/2" piece of ginger, sliced
4-5 shallots, sliced or 1 small onion sliced
1 medium tomato sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 dried red chillies

1 heaped tbsp besan (gram flour)
1/2 cup buttermilk or 2 tbsp yogurt whisked with water to make 1/2 cup
1/2 tsp salt


Directions
1. Scrub the mushrooms clean and chop them into bite sized pieces. In a wok, heat 1 tsp oil, splutter mustard seeds, add the chopped mushrooms and dried methi leaves. Saute till the mushrooms are nearly cooked - this takes about 3-4 minutes. Remove from wok and keep aside.

2. In the same wok, heat 1 tsp oil. Put in all ingredients for curry paste except tomatoes and saute till shallots are soft. Towards the end put in the tomato slices and stir till they are almost soft. Remove and cool for 5 minutes. Grind to a fine paste.

3. Whisk the besan (gram flour) in buttermilk and keep aside.

4. Place the sauteed mushrooms in the same wok you started with. Put in the curry paste along with the buttermilk mix. Let this simmer for 3-5 minutes till thick. Add the salt at this stage, simmer for a minute more and remove from flame. Garnish with fresh coriander (optional).

Note:
This goes perfectly well with chapatis or rice. You can make this curry with boiled and chopped soya nuggets to make it a high-protein curry.

For the quick meal, I served this with some Quick onion rice pressure cooked with whole spices.

Quick onion rice
1 cup Basmati or any other fragrant rice
1 tsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1 small piece cinnamon
1 star anise
3-4 cloves
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt

Directions
1. Wash the rice in plenty of water, drain and keep aside.

2. In a pressure cooker, heat 1 tsp ghee. Add all the whole spices. Stir for 30 seconds. Add the sliced onions, stir for a minute till somewhat soft. I do not brown the onions, but you can do so if you like the taste.

3. Add the washed rice with 1 1/2 -2 cups of water, depending on the instructions that come along with the brand of rice you use. Since pressure cooking is very fast, adding more water will make the rice soggy. Salt the water and pressure cook on medium flame till you get one whistle. Switch off the cooker and let it cool for the next 15 minutes or so and the excess water will be absorbed by the rice making it fluffy. Open the cooker after it has cooled and remove the pilaf into a bowl. Fluff with a fork if necessary and serve with any curry or dal.

Note: The green chilli pickle is made using Anita's recipe, the only change I've made is to add mustard oil instead of peanut oil.

17 August 2007

Ratatouille with Cochiglie Rigate - Dinner last night !



(Inspired by the cute promos of the Pixar movie - Ratatouille (Rat-a-too-ee) in the papers. This movie releases in India on August 24)

We all have a slight hesitation when it comes to cooking foreign foods in our kitchen especially because of the unavailability of some ingredients and also doubting its acceptance by the people we are cooking for. But there are some dishes like Ratatouille that can be tried in any world kitchen due to its simple ingredients and procedure.

It is a traditional French Provencal stewed vegetable dish that originated in Nice. You can either have it as a meal by itself or serve it with simple bread, rice or mashed potatoes. I've discovered that using it as a chunky hearty sauce with your favourite pasta will make it an unforgettable meal. The people you serve this to, will want to kiss your hands for the rest of their lives. So be careful, whom you serve it to!!


Ratatouille with pasta
Category: French-Italian fusion
Time Taken: 30 minutes
Serves: 3 or two really hungry people
Source: Adapted from Sara Moulton's recipe

Ingredients
1-2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic – peeled, smashed and chopped
1 large onion - thinly sliced

1 cup diced eggplant (Use the big sized roasting variety eggplant)
1 large bell pepper, cut into short strips
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes (with seeds)
1 loosely packed cup finely shredded spinach

200 ml tomato puree (unsalted)
1 tsp red chilli powder /chilli flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds
½ tsp dried thyme
½ cup basil leaves
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper powder

For pasta
Take 1 ½ cups of your favourite pasta (short variety like penne, spirals, conchiglie )
A large pot of salted boiling water
Cook pasta according to pack instructions, drain and keep aside.

For Ratatouille
In a large soup pot / saucepan, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Start with the smashed, chopped garlic, saute for a few seconds. Do not brown. Add the sliced onions with a fat pinch of salt and stir it on a low flame for 3-4 minutes till soft.

Put it in the diced eggplant and bell pepper strips. Stir this occasionally until they are half done. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Next, add the zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Season with chilli powder, remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes till vegetables are cooked. Lastly throw in shredded spinach, stir for 2 minutes until the leaves wilt and blend with the rest of the vegetables. Add spices and dried herbs, torn basil leaves, black pepper powder and give it a good stir.

Add the cooked pasta and combine well with ratatouille. Serve hot garnished with some more shredded fresh basil.

Notes:
  1. It is not necessary to chop all vegetables before you place the pot on the stove. Just keeping the garlic and onions chopped, the remaining vegetables can be chopped and thrown while the previous ingredients in the pan are cooking.
  2. The red chilli powder is added to give it more flavour as it is combined with bland pasta.
  3. You can substitute the oregano and thyme with herbs de Provence if you have it on hand.
  4. It is a very good idea to double / triple the recipe and freeze the extra portions. You will be rewarded for the extra effort, on a day you come back home late and you have this splendid meal waiting for you in the freezer.
  5. This is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables in your fridge as you can add almost any non-starchy veggie into the pot.
  6. Eggplant with pasta may seem like a crazy idea, but do try it once. You will be fascinated by the amalgamation of flavours and I can guarantee that the plates will be licked clean.


Let me add that this was the best pasta meal we've ever had (yes, hubby agreed with me too) and we had to give it a equally grand finale like a shot of the golden Remy Martin XO!





16 August 2007

Poori Kizhangu

Poori, Kizhangu and Anita's Green Chilli Pickles in mustard oil


When Anita, one of my favourite people among the food bloggers called out to us to make pooris, I could not bear to refuse. And let me confess, this is the first time I've ever made them. They puffed up beautifully and were a great colour, but I did not want to handle the camera with oily hands, hence don't have the proof of any puffy pooris.

Just today, I saw a Pictorial in Poori making on Mahanandi. Indira has explained in simple terms - How to make pooris that I don't feel the need to explain. I have seen my people add some rava (semolina) in the poori dough, I did that too. It gives the pooris a slightly crispier texture.

The traditional Tambram accompaniment to pooris is potatoes in gravy and this combination is called poori-kizhangu in Tamil, kizhangu short for urulaikizhangu, which means potato. This was included in my earlier post dedicated to potatoes - Potato in Tambram cuisine.

I have fond memories of my granny preparing this occasionally, as a special tiffin (a 4 o' clock mini meal). She would place the smaller one-burner stove on the floor and sit down to deep fry the beautiful pooris and the potato gravy simmering on the other stove would be lovingly ladled into kinnams (small bowls) as she served out the pooris as soon as they came out of the frying pan.



Poori-Kizhangu
Serves 4 people

Ingredients
4-5 medium sized potatoes (boiled and peeled)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tsp udad dal
1 tsp chana dal
4 green chillies, slit or finely chopped
1" knob of fresh ginger, slivered
Large pinch of asafoetida
2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp gram flour (besan)
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sambar powder (optional)

For garnish
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh coriander, chopped

Directions
Dice half the potatoes and roughly mash the other half. Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed wok. Splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Put in the lentils (udad and chana dal) and fry till golden. Add a pinch of asafoetida powder, slivered ginger and green chillies - saute for 30 seconds.

Next, put in the sliced onions, a pinch of salt and saute the onions of medium flame till they are soft. Add the mashed and diced potatoes, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and blend well with spices for about a minute.

Mix the gram flour in 1 1/2 cups water with 1 tsp with a fork/whisk so that there are no lumps.
Pour in this mixture over the potatoes and let it come to a simmer. The gram flour will thicken the gravy in about 5 minutes. Check for salt and add the sambar powder and lime juice at this stage.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Note:
The gravy should not be runny. If it is, then mix a tbsp or so of gram flour in 3 tbsp water, add it to the gravy and simmer for 3-4 minutes, till thick.

You can increase or decrease the spice level by adding more or less green chillies, as per your tolerance. The kizhangu will taste as good even without the sambar powder- it just adds some depth to the flavour.

This can be served with plain rotis too, but is a perfect accompaniment with pooris. Serve with your favourite pickle.

Other potato posts on Saffron Trail
Simply Delicious Potato Wedges
Potato in Tambram Cuisine
Potato Rosemary Focaccia Pugliese


14 August 2007

Independence Day Special - The K2K Food Court

If you are an Indian and a foodie, you MUST read this one....it will have you salivating and feeling utterly patriotic at the same time.

Published in the Hindustan Times, New Delhi - 12th August, 2007

The K2K food court
Indian cuisine is like the English language — a stunning repertoire of its own as the foundation while totally open to new elements. That's why it's so madly eclectic and adventurous while retaining its distinct identity. Arab, Persian, Chinese and Western food have all acquired Indian avatars and purists who can't take the heat just leave the kitchen — to sneak back for a taste. Check out these 60 K2K (Kashmir to Kanyakumari) classics that celebrate the way we are.
Read the rest here.

And don't forget to add your 'classic to the list'.

My addition would be Upma Kozhakattai.

13 August 2007

Gobo inspired Mango Salad

Update: Continuing from the JFI-Chillies round up, I'd received an entry from Elizabeth of Blog from Our Kitchen (Toronto). Since her site was down during the round up I could not access it. She has sent in Ras el Hanout - North African spice mix especially good as a spice rub for grilled meats.
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I love the Kesar variety of mangoes. If there was a competition between Kesar and Alphonso, I would actually vote for the Kesar. It is sweetness personified and the fruits are long and graceful (no wonder, it is called the Queen of Mangoes in India) , almost lady like as against the short-stocky Alphonso. I know, I could just be e-murdered for voicing out my opinions like this - but hey, this is my space.... ha ha!

This season, when I ate an exceptionally tasty fruit, the thought of sticking it in the mud and growing my own tree lead me into doing just that. And 3 weeks later, I saw the tiniest bit of green shoots coming out of the opened up seed and it was such joy to watch them grow.

I think the photo shows a mango plant which is about 2-3 months old. And boy, the leaves are just as big as you would find on a big mango tree. When our under-construction house is ready, I plan to take it there and let the tree blossom there. It is to be seen if the Gujarati mango finds itself at home, at some distance down South. I'm not giving up hope anyway!

Mangoes from our Madras home

Gobo is a vegan restaurant in NYC, located in both West Village and Upper East Side. It is tough to get a place to sit on most days and once you are in, it is tough to get away from all the delicious, gorgeous food. You will be surprised that a vegan restaurant has such a roaring business, but it does!! I had the good luck to be there in one of our partying weekends from Rochester in upstate New York. NYC was a 5-6 hour drive and we had a good friend living in the heart of Manhattan. It was always fun, trying out new dive bars, new places to eat and just walking about the streets.

When I tried out this salad, it had such simple flavours and ingredients, that I had to re-create it at home. The original salad had loads of baby spinach, mango pieces, crispy onion slices and candied walnuts in a vinaigrette dressing. I replicated the same salad in a couple of weeks after we had visited Gobo, at a house party and the salad was a huge success. Since I don't find baby spinach in Bombay, I do it using just mangoes. With a fruit like that, I dare say, we really don't miss the spinach! In case you were wondering where I'm getting mangoes in the midst of monsoons, it is from our tree in the Madras house. My father in law tells me they are a cross between a Banganapalli and some other variety, giving it quite a fibrous, very sweet flesh.

While I consider peeling the whole mango with one stroke (ie. the peel should not break off, giving one long peel in the end) as a fun challenge, that is not everyone's idea of fun. Check Elise's step-by-step demo on how to cut and peel a mango.


Chilled Mango Salad


Mango Salad
Category: Salad, summer food
Time taken: Under 15 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients

2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces
Scrape the flesh upto the seed and reserve
Handful of almonds, roasted in microwave for 1-2 minutes till crisp

For dressing
1/2 - 1 tsp strong English Mustard (I used Coleman's)
3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried parsely
few turns of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt
scraped mango bits
Whisk all the above together with a fork and keep aside

Directions
Place the diced mangoes in a bowl.
Whisk the dressing well. Pour over the mangoes, toss till it evenly coats the mangoes.
Chop the toasted almonds into small pieces, each into 3-4 pieces and scatter over the salad just before serving. Serve chilled.

Notes
1. You can serve this salad on a bed of baby spinach or salad greens, and use candied walnuts / any other nuts instead of almonds.

2. This salad goes well with grilled food such as fish or chicken, cutting through the tastes with its sweet freshness. You can also serve this beside a biryani or if you are like me, you can eat it just like that.

Interesting reads


A Mango Medley - by Gowri Ramnarayan for The Hindu

On Mangoes & the love for Banganapalli




New!! Request-a-recipe

ear Readers,


This page is for you. Here, you are free to post your request for recipes, only vegetarian though. If you are looking for any particular recipe from Tamil Brahmin cuisine, I shall be glad to ask my mom/aunts/grandma and be of assistance.

Also, if there is any recipe you would like me to try and make low cal / healthier or suited to a particular diet as as for diabetics, hypertensives or low-cholesterol - please write in and I shall try my best to help you out.

You will find this page as a link on the sidebar so that it saves you the trouble of emailing me.

Warm regards
Nandita

Updated 16th August,2007

Recipes requested so far
  1. TamBram Kozhambu without using dal (lentils)
  2. Kurma for Porotta
  3. Avial
  4. Soya Chunks Curry

12 August 2007

What fun times we had last night (in my husband's words)

Last night, we had the good luck (due to good friends) who took us along for a spa's promotional party at the Taj Hotel - Apollo Bunder. The highlights of the evening were a hair-style fashion show, 3 salsa performances and another fashion show in which the spa's own members showed off a variety of 'out-of the world' hair styles! That is a short and straight version....for the longer version, check Sumanth's blog. He beat me to writing the gory details about the fun time we had last evening!

And it's Ammas birthday today! Wishing you a very happy birthday Amma.

9 August 2007

A healthy cake in 15 minutes

A no-bake, no-eggs, no-sugar cake and it is delicious

Whenever I see a dessert recipe whose ingredient list does not feature sugar and a gazillion calories worth of butter, I almost try it out on the same day...firstly too see if it would still taste good and secondly, it is quite difficult to resist such a recipe. When I chanced upon a steamed 'rava' (semolina) - banana cake, it seemed too good to be true. When my newly married cousin in Bangalore tried it out and gave me a really bright green signal, I had to try this out. Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes has something similar on her blog, an authentic Goan recipe sent to her by a reader, but her recipe uses sugar instead of jaggery.
I've made slight modifications to the original recipe, in terms of microwaving the batter instead of steaming, and I did it on a trial and error basis, because my kitchen doesn't have a big enough steamer to take the whole batter in one go.

Using the microwave for this recipe did seem to have its advantages:
1. Lesser cooking time (7 minutes as against 25 minutes of steaming)
2. Lesser cleaning up - just one microwave safe dish other than the wok used to mix ingredients
3. Even your kids can handle the recipe from the assembled-ingredients stage

Semolina-Banana-Coconut Cake (No bake)
Time taken - Under 15 minutes
Serves 6-8 people or more
Category - Healthy dessert, Festival food, Neivedyam



Ingredients
1-2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter, see notes) If you don't have this, use unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup semolina (buy the finer of the varieties)
3/4 cup jaggery (see notes)
3 bananas - medium sized
1 pack thick coconut milk (I used Dabur's 200 ml pack)
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions
1. Grease a 9" or so microwave safe flatware with some ghee on your fingertips. Keep aside.

2. In a blender / mixer, place the 3 peeled bananas with the jaggery, make a smooth paste and keep aside.

3. Heat the remaining ghee in a heavy bottomed wok, put in the semolina. On medium to low flame, constantly stir it around until it turns lightly golden. This part requires your full attention for 5-7 minutes and the slightest burnt semolina will spoil the taste of the cake.

4. Once the semolina turns golden, turn flame to lowest possible, pour in the banana-jaggery paste, stir till it is nearly absorbed by the semolina. This will take 30 seconds to a minute. Take the wok off the flame.

5. In a jug, whisk well the coconut milk, water, salt, baking powder, cardamom powder and pour it into the semolina mix in the wok. Stir well till ingredients are blended through.

6. Pour this mix into the greased microwave safe dish. Garnish with any nuts /dried fruits or candied fruit to make it more appealing to kids.

7.Microwave at 100% for 5 minutes. Check the degree to which the cake is cooked and then depending on that microwave at 80% for 2 minutes or so. Remove, cool and cut into squares /diamonds.

8. Serve warm.

Health tip:

This cake needs to be refrigerated because of its coconut milk content which may go rancid if left out for longer time. You can warm it by nuking it for 20 seconds or so. It makes an excellent dessert idea for the tiffin box for your kid or your spouse.
Jaggery is known to be rich in iron because of the huge iron vessels in which it is processed, hence better that sugar which is just empty calories. Diabetics, please be informed that eating jaggery does nothing better than sugar for your blood sugar levels as they both have the same glycemic index - calorie-wise and carbohydrate-wise, both are nearly the same. If you have to choose between the two, jaggery is just a slightly better choice because its more natural and nutritive than plain sugar.

Notes:
1. You will find jaggery, rava and ghee in any store selling Indian groceries.
You can also make ghee at home from unsalted butter - instructive posts here, here & here.
2. In case you do not have a microwave, you can surely steam this cake as per original recipe's instructions.
3. A lighter coloured jaggery will yield a paler cake and a dark brown jaggery will give you the rich brownier one. If you do not find jaggery, by all means use brown sugar or even white sugar.
4. My cousin tried this with whole wheat flour instead of semolina and said the results were as good. Just increase the baking powder a tad bit.
5. Try it out with spices of your choice. I love the taste of cardamom and hence it found its place in this recipe. You could try out cinnamon or clove powder or even all spice powder.
6. This quick recipe can also fit into the 'Neivedyam' category, which is the offering to Gods made in most Indian homes for festivals and auspicious days as it has no eggs. And from what I hear, most Indian Gods and Goddesses love jaggery as well as bananas :) , and we love them for that.

(This was written for the Family-Lifestyle blog Daily Tiffin)

8 August 2007

Randomly yours...

A lotus in the Orchid Park, KL

Since I've been tagged by quite some friends (one being Arundathi) for this one and because after a serious JFI round up, we all need to celebrate and have some fun, here I am - telling you seven (no more than that) random things about me in no particular order. DH refers to my dear husband.

This is a kind of post that is best written after a stiff drink...because that's when I tend to get introspective. There are plenty of random things about me as there are about anybody else, but I'm also stumped as to whether I should do a long ramble or make it short & to-the-point. A long ramble is more like me and is likely to find more approval with my readers :O

1. On our first visit to Pondicherry, I went berserk in Auroshikha, their sales outlet. I bought almost 20 types of incense sticks, number of candles, candle holders, perfume sachets....so much so that I've been regularly using those incense sticks for over two and a half years and the stock isn't over yet. Ditto with the candles from Pier 1 Imports! Call me an aroma junkie!

2. I always thought baking was some kind of wizardry until I landed in the US, and generally started tinkering with the oven. The fact that something edible emerged from the ingredients used, actually shocked me, the first time over. When we were moving from Rochester to Bombay, the topmost on my mind was an oven, so that I could continue my baking experiments even in Bombay. I'm glad I did because its lovely to see the surprise and happiness on the faces of friends and family members when you take them home-baked goodies. I firmly believe in the fact that when you have to gift something to a person who has everything, make it a handmade gift!

3. I have always taken the local trains in Bombay since my college days. Though they were always crowded as hell. They still are. But ever since I came back to Bombay after a gap of one year of living out of this city, I must have boarded the train not more than 5 times. After the train blasts on 7/11 last year, DH has made me promise I wont get into a train without keeping him posted. More than the fear of a blast, I feel I have simply lost my edge, in nudging my way into the compartments. One need to practice constantly to stay on top of these things, you see!

4. I bought my own house (alright, alright, it was on a loan from the bank) when I was 27, going through the loan process, the agreements, the stamp duty all my myself. The red tapism had me in tears several times during the process, but finally when I stepped into a house which was my own, it was a feeling that cannot be described. The fact that the bank was willing to loan me so much money was yet another high! Well, we sold it a year after since I was leaving the country and I did not want a loan hanging on my head while I was away, but that is another story. Being single instills tremendous courage and determination in you, so for all those girls who are single, go out and do it. You don't have to be someone's daughter or someone's wife to buy a house of your own. You can do it as you!

5. I was a total Hindi film music junkie until I got married to S and I have no shame in admitting that. There was no exposure to western music and I was quite content humming our Desi tunes, especially when I could hardly ever catch the lyrics of the English songs (those days Google wasn't there to come to our rescue either). All my knowledge / appreciation of Western music today from pop to rock to disco to classical to jazz to heavy metal, is all thanks to DH. I call him a walkie-talkie rockopedia and just hearing him talk / write about music and hear his selection has made me quite knowledgeable (if I may say so) in this department.
P.S.
Nowadays, thanks to a certain nasal high-pitched music director turned singer turned actor, I am forced to stay away from Hindi film music, which is in a way strengthening my bond with English music ;)

6. I've never been too fond of animals. More so after my best friend's dog bit me on my chin when I was 7 years old. I'm afraid of stray dogs following me on the road. I don't mind pups though and cats don't scare me either. It's just the dogs and I always feel they are out there trying to get a chance to nip me. It's quite the opposite in DH's case. He's grown up with six dogs and I'm quite convinced that if we ever move into a house with a lawn, I'm going to have to tend to a couple of pet dogs too - BIG ones at that!

7. Till recently, I would crib endlessly to DH and our good friend Lalit to please find me some girl pals (Lalit would say, if he had to run after girls to find me friends, they'd mistake him for a stalker, but I would continue to pester him). It was just plain luck or my karma that I had only guy friends, and would never come across girls of my type (Now you don't want to ask me to detail that! ) ! Of course I found loads of lovely girls in the food blogging scene, some of them in places as far as Weimar, Seattle and Delhi! No one to hang out together in the evening or catch up on shopping while the whole city is on sale or just bond over a chick flick that none of our spouses will be seen dead watching. But off late, as in since May, things have changed and I have atleast 5 good girl pals now, including Preeti who made Mango Sandesh for us.

Anyone who would like to get tagged on this, can please take it up from here.

6 August 2007

JFI Chillies - Round Up


An abnormally twisted pair of chillies

When I asked Indira a couple of months ago, what she thought of 'Chillies' as a theme for JFI amongst some others, she gave a double thumbs up! After all which person from Andhra worth his / her salt will not light up with excitement at the thought of chillies...

Dried Kashmiri Red Chillies

For detailed information on varieties of chillies in India with pictures, read this post from the cook's cottage and my write-up on India's pride - Bhut Jolokia.



Bloggers used a variety of chillies ranging from fresh green and red, Thai, Bedgi, Kashmiri, Poblano, Chipotle, Anaheim, Yellow banana peppers, bell peppers, chilli powder, chilli sauces, etc. in total 62 63 64 65 entries. Thankfully no one used the Bhut Jholokia, or else they'd me cursing me for using 'Chillies' as a theme!

I hope the round up has managed to cover all the participants as almost half of them kept landing in spam, and guess I have managed to fish all of them out. Just in case you find your entry isn't featuring here, please mail me and I shall include it promptly.

SNACKS

Mirchi Bajji
- Cinnamon from Cinnamon Trail
Long green chillies stuffed with peanut – tamarind mix, dipped in batter and deep fried to make a spicy, crispy snack.

Mirchi Bajji – Rajini, Swagruha
The all time favourite snack in Hyderabad in which long green chilllies are stuffed with either a tamarind-sesame paste or peanut powder or potatoes, dipped in batter and deep fried – served with tomato ketchup or coconut chutney

Stuffed Chilli Bajjis - Prema, Prema's Cookbook
Green chillies stuffed with spiced potatoes, dipped in batter and deep fried

Jalapeño popper – Roops from Delectable Delights
Jalapeño peppers stuffed with cheddar cheese and wrapped in prosciutto or zucchini slices, grilled instead of deep fried, making them a healthy alternative indeed.

Grilled Jalapeño poppers - Sig, Live to Eat
A simple party starter using only three ingredients is originally a Mexican recipe. You can't go wrong with this one! Cheese complements chillies perfectly, right?

Beer Battered Aachaar stuffed Peppers - Zlamushka, Sweden
This self proclaimed chilli addict has a blog all about spices and spicy food. No wonder her recipe rates all five stars on the 'spicometer' - the name says it all!! But if you are a spice lover, you must try it out.


PICKLES, CHUTNEYS & OTHER ACCOMPANIMENTS

Pandu Mirapakaya Pachchadi – Suma Gundlur from Veggie Platter
Fresh red chillies ground with tamarind and salt, seasoned with mustard seeds and asafoetida to make an easy traditional Andhra pickle, a perfect accompaniment to rice.

Pandu Mirapakaya Pachchadi
- Priya , Akshayapatram
Fresh Fresno peppers pickled using same ingredients as above but made made the rustic way aka hand pounded

Mirchi in ajwain - Raji, Talimpu
Vaamu Lo Mirapakayalu - Tender mild green chillies slit and seasoned with coarsely ground ajwain and salt, preserved in oil

Phodnichya Mirchya -Tee, Bhaatukli
A traditional Maharashtrian recipe passed on by Tee’s grand mom, this has green chillies and potatoes sautéed in seasoned oil. A coarse peanut powder gives it the crunch and the grated coconut a boost a flavour. This is to be had in small quantities along with the main course.

Mirchi cha Thecha - Madhuli, My Foodcourt
Dark green ‘lavangi’ fiery hot chillies grilled on a flame, coarsely ground with cumin seeds and mixed into yogurt, seasoned with sugar and salt- to be served with sago khichdi or bhakri, surely not for the faint hearted

Zhanzhanit Thecha – Aarti, Aarti’s Corner
In Aarti’s words- “Zhanzhanit- meaning extra spicy in Marathi is an exclusive word used for chilli preparations , mostly the ones that are so hot that it makes one cry while eating.” Thecha is a traditional Maharashtrian chutney prepared from fresh green chillies. This one has peanuts and garlic too, goes perfectly well with bhakris.

Zhanzhanit Kolhapuri Thecha - GV Barve, Add Flavour
A Kolhapuri version of Thecha made with red chilli powder and garlic pounded together the traditional way.

Chilli Chutney - Pravs, Simply Spicy
A spicy accompaniment for idlis, dosais and even chapatis, this is made using Serrano peppers and sesame seeds and a traditional tadka to top it.

Milagai Chutney – Pearlin, Purl up and Crochet
A spicy chutney made using pacchai milagai ie. Fresh green chillies ground with tamarind, asafoetida and salt, and a traditional South Indian tempering – perfect with curd rice.

Chipotle Chilli Chutney - Indira, Mahanandi
A simple spicy chutney made using Chipotle chillies, cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves. This one with a smoky flavour goes well with chapatis as well as fries, says Indira.

Chilli garlic - Coffee, Spice Café
This is an interesting mix to stock in the refrigerator. A simple coarse mix of fresh red chillies and garlic pods that can be used in Chinese and Italian cooking alike. Nice tip, coffee!

Milagai Podi – Kanchana, Married to a Desi
This hot chilli lentil powder is a staple in all Tamil homes where it is available at all times to dip idlis and dosais into, without going into the rigors of making freshly ground chutney at tiffin time. At meal time this powder is mixed with gingelly oil on the plate itself. The spice quotient can range from mild to really fiery depending on the preference of each household.

Puli Milagai – Suganya, Tasty Palettes
A traditional pickle / chutney made using fresh green chillies and tamarind as the name suggests (in Tamil), with a bit of jaggery to take the edge off – goes best with dosais or even curd rice.
In Suganya’s words – “Spicy green chillies are simmered in tamarind with, surprisingly, very few spices. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of chilli in the recipe, after all, it is the star of the recipe. The recipe is put together with ingredients that takes care of the spiciness leaving you with mildly spicy and tangy sauce with a hint of sweetness from the jaggery.”

Puli Milagai - GV Barve, Add Flavour
Gayatri ji makes the South Indian pickle with green chillies in an instant tamarind-jaggery gravy.


Pickled green chillies - Dee, Ammalu's Kitchen
A tangy green chilli pickle seasoned with pickling spices and cooked on the stove top after which it is ready to be served with ghee rice.

Madhur Jaffrey's green chilli pickle - Pelicano, Elaichi Etcetera
Sliced green chillies seasoned with mustard seeds, red chilli powder, ginger and lemon juice made over a few days under a sunny spot.

Instant green chilli pickle (Mirchi ka achaar) -Anita, A Mad tea party
This pickle is made with medium hot green chillies seasoned with mustard seed and fenugreek seed powders and lime juice, best had in small quantities while the chillies are still crispy.

Pickled green chillies - Madhavi, My Veggie World
A very simple technique using vinegar and salt to pickle deseeded green chillies. These chillies can then be used to spice up any bland meal.

Chilli Thokku - Sheela, Delectable Victuals
This is no ordinary thokku. Creative as she is, Sheela adds her own touch by using dried hibiscus flowers for colour and unusual flavour along with ancho-pasilla chillies and green chillies to make this delicious pickle.

Molagu Thottu Kootan (Green chilli chutney) - Shaheen, Malabar Spices
The name implies that "a curry to be tasted (not poured)" - explains Shaheen. This chutney has the flavours of onions, garlic, ginger, tamarind and green chillies mainly and is best served with ghee rice or rotis.

Thayir Molagai - Ammupatti, Ammupatti's Thoughts
These are green chilies marinated in curds and sun dried. In Ammupatti's words - "Curd rice garnished with fried thayir molagai tastes heavenly." and I'm sure the well marinated home made chillies are any day better than the store bought ones.

Kanthari Mulagu Chammanthy - Green chillies, Curry Bytes
The blogger tells an interesting tale about chillies and childhood and shares the recipe for a chammanthy made with Thai chillies, shallots, coconut oil and salt.

Red chillies and cilantro pickle - (Kothimeera, Pandu mirapa Pacchadi) - Vani, Batasari
A traditional Andhra pickle recipe using fresh red chillies, coriander leaves and tamarind with tadka. This pickle needs no refrigeration.

Chilli Potato Pepper Salad – Padmaja, Spicy Andhra
New potatoes and peppers baked and seasoned with red chilli flakes, green chillies and black pepper to can a spicy start to any lazy weekend.


MAIN COURSE

Mirchi Ka Saalan – Viji from Vcuisine
Banana peppers or mild large green chillies and kidney beans in a tangy tomato gravy thickened using groundnut and sesame seed powder, this is a traditional Hyderabadi recipe served hot with rotis.

Mirchi Ka Saalan – Rajini, Swagruha
A Hyderabadi curry made with whole large green chillies sauteed and cooked in a tangy creamy gravy best served with a Hyderabadi biriyani, when chillies are in season in winters.

Manasi's Mirchi Ka Saalan
- Manasi, A Cook @ Heart
The very fact that Manasi pulled this recipe out of the ten she had for this Hyderabadi curry makes me feel that it is surely worth a try. Serrano peppers and red & green bell peppers in tangy creamy sauce sure sounds good!

Priyanka's Mirchi ka Saalan
- Priyanka, Lajawaab Aahaar
Another version of the saalan, this one including eggplant.

Mirchi Besan bhaji – Asha, Foodie’s Hope
Banana peppers and large green chillies in a tangy creamy gravy made using chickpea flour, served as an accompaniment to rotis / Indian breads along with a cool yoghurt raita
Also check out her version of Mirchi ka saalan

Peppers Stuffed with Potatoes and Peanuts – Jai & Bee, Jugalbandi
As the name suggests, steamed Anaheim peppers are stuffed with a mix of mashed potatoes, peanuts and freshly ground spices, and grilled. This can be served with rotis or rice and kadhi.

Chilli Paneer – Vanamala, Nalapaka
An Indo-Chinese Paneer recipe made with green and yellow bell peppers, spice up with green chillies and green chilli sauce – great as a snack or as a party starter!

Chilli Gojju - Lakshmi, Taste of Mysore
Green chillies, coconut and onions in a spicy gravy to go with rice pooris

Stuffed Capsicum - Ammupatti, Ammupatti's Thoughts
Green bell peppers stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes and steamed or baked

Capsicum Paruppusili- Sheela, Delectable Victuals
Sliced bell peppers sauteed with steamed spicy lentil paste to make a traditional Tam Bram vegetable dish.


OTHERS

Poached eggs in spicy tomato and chilli sauce
(All day breakfast) – Sajeda from Chachi’s Kitchen
Green chillies and red peppers sautéed with spring onions and tomatoes onto which eggs are broken and half cooked – served on toasted ciabatta bread

Chilli pepper wraps – Swaha Miller, The Miller Melting Pot
Poblano peppers and yellow banana peppers stuffed with two cheeses into soft flour tortillas to make spicy cheesy wraps.

Jalapeño pie – Lisa, Food and Spice
Made from jalapeños fresh out of Lisa’s garden and just four ingredients in all, this pie is a great idea for an light dinner, and of course spicy too!

Zucchini and green chilli soup - Chocolate Lady, Inmolaraan
A most exotic and beautiful soup made using the most unique combination of ingredients viz. Zucchini, beet greens, cashews, hemp seeds, herbs and ofcourse chillies.




Yelimicha Sevai - Raaga's was one of the first entries I'd received and sadly it got left out. Here it is - a lemony, spicy Indian rice noodles that can be had for a light dinner or at tiffin time!

Chilli and rosemary smashed potatoes – Sajeda from Chachi’s kitchen
Whole potatoes boiled and smashed with their skins, seasoned with chilli-garlic-rosemary oil and baked until crispy.

Endimirapakaya Pappu (Red Chilli Dal) – Srivalli, Cooking for all seasons
A traditional Rayallaseema recipe made using yellow lentils (tur dal). Cooked dal is made tangy using tomatoes and tamarind, the dozen dried red chillies give it the fire. This one surely needs some company such as bland rice, only the brave-hearts can have it as it is.

Fish curry – Shn, Mishmash!
Fish curry with a Kuttanadan touch prepared Kerala style, is spiced using both fresh green chillies and red chilli powder. In Shn’s own words – “Also known as Meen Mulakittathu, Meen Vattichathu, Red Fish curry, this fish curry is made without coconut milk and it’s actually poetry in red chilly powder and Kudam-Puli / Gamboge infused with the intense and unique flavour of coconut oil and the wonderful aroma of curry leaves.”

Kerala Fish Fry - Nagalakshmi, For the Cook in Me
Fish pieces marinated in a spicy chilli paste and deep fried in coconut oil to crispy perfection

Chidambaram Gothsu – Lavannya, Cookery Corner
Eggplant and onions cooked in a tangy tamarind gravy spiced with both red and green chillies, best served with a Tamil style Ven Pongal or even dosais / idlis

Homemade citron pickle (Naarthangai Oorugai) – Bharathy, Spicy Chilly
A delicious homemade South Indian pickle made with the citron fruit spied up with fresh green chillies as well as red chilli powder, using very little oil.

Mushroom curry – Prajusha, Magic Kitchen
Mushrooms marinated in a spicy red-chilli and shallot paste, seasoned with spices and served with Indian bread like chapati

Spicy bottlegourd fritters (Sorakaya Boorelu) – Jyothi, Andhra Spicy
Grated bottle gourd spiced up with green chillies and other condiments, mixed with rice flour, flattened into pooris and deep fried. Makes an excellent spicy snack, especially in rainy weather over hot cup of Indian spiced tea.

Spicy Sunday meal – Hima, Snackorama
A variety of spicy pizzas, made with various toppings such as pickled jalapeños, bell peppers, tomatoes and pineapples along with a yummy pasta dish made with Indian spices and of course plenty of green chillies

Jalapeño deviled eggs - Chandrika, Akshaya Patra
These deviled eggs are truly devilish as in hot, because the yolks are spiced with jalapeño paste amongst other ingredients. The yolks turn a brilliant green colour under the influence of chillies.

Chatpatta Bhel - Anu-Sachin, A pinch of this & A dash of that
A popular Indian street food made using puffed rice as a base with onions, tomatoes, potatoes and a variety of chutneys. Here it is made super spicy using both chopped green chillies and some red chilli powder.

Paneer Do Piazza - Meeta, What's for lunch honey?
A roti accompaniment with paneer as the main ingredient, cooked with two types of onions and subtly spiced with dried red chillies.

Mirchi-pudhina-cheese Parathas - Musical, Musical's Kitchen
Musical's special paratha combination where the dough is spiced with green chillies and stuffed with grated mozzarella cheese.

Masoor Dal with Mirchi - Musical, Musical's Kitchen
A Bengali recipe for dal which is spiced with green chillies and of course seasoned with paach phoron.

Batata Song
(Spicy potato curry) - Ashwini, Food for Thought
A traditional Konkani recipe for a potato curry spiced with a red chilli-tamarind paste. The secret of this recipe is Byadagi chillies that impart more colour and less fire.

Bean Chilli Enchiladas - Nupur, One Hot Stove
Flour tortillas spread with salsa verde and stuffed with roasted Poblano peppers, beans and cheese makes a gooey filling dinner and tastes great when accompanied by your favourite chilled beer.

Lemon Pickle
- Elle & Chikki, Lemon and Chillies
A simple lemon pickle spiced with red chilli powder and allowed to mature in the sun for about 5 days, can be stored in refrigerator and used when needed.

Gobhi Manchurian - Rajitha, Hunger Pangs
Cauliflower florets dipped in batter, deep fried and rolled in a spicy chilly gravy to make this popular Indo-Chinese dish.

Bibim Guksu - Mathy, Virundhu
Mathy prepares this dish using soba noodles, loads of veggies and a spicy sauce to go with it.

Peach lassi with cayenne pepper – Pintoo, Zaayka
A popular Indian yogurt drink made exotic by blending in peaches and some cayenne pepper for an extra kick.

Chilli hot chocolate - Savithri, Savithri's Spot
Savithri has combined some Mayan, Parisian and Indian elements into her hot chocolate that's extra rich with melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Spices like cloves and cardamom give it the exotic taste and finally the pinch of chilli powder to 'kick it up another notch' as Emeril would say!!

And from yours' truly - Pavakkai Pitla, a traditional Tam Bram bitter gourd in gravy made with freshly ground spices

Other hot reads:
Ancient Mexicans ate spicy food
Capsicain's health benefits
Growing chillies in containers or grow bags

The cover of Me, DNA's Sunday Magazine Supplement surprised me by featuring Chillies on their cover page on 5th August! Did they know of our 'hot' little secret??

Leaving you with a great song from the band - Red Hot Chilli Peppers- who else?



Over to Sharmi at Neivedyam for JFI - Rice.




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