Saturday, 31 October 2009

White as snow in August!

It was pure chance that I came to know about Flowerfest. The idea appealed to me instantly. The main reason being that I am very bad  at recognising flowers and that is such a shame because I love flowers so much. I have seen a lot of flowers & I know a lot of names but I cant seem to connect the two together.Picture 154

For example, take this one. I have seen this flower too many times. I know that there is a flower called Daisy. But I had never associated the two. It was only when I googled that I came to know this was indeed a Daisy – African Daisy, the botanical name being Dimorphotheca pluvialis. This snap was taken when we had visited the Leeds castle back in August.


I am hoping to improve my flower knowledge through this series. Thanks Manisha for this event.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Almost Perfect Nankhatai

One of the fondest food memories of mine are about the bakery man who would come with a Tin Canister loaded with baked goodies – Khari biscuits & Nankhatai. He would go door to door asking regular customers, if they needed a refill of their favourite evening time snack and attracting new ones, with the aroma wafting through every time he opened the box to make a delivery. During the later years however, they stopped coming door to door, but the local bakery was never far away and we kept getting the regular supply of the delicacies.

Staying out, here in London makes me crave for these things & as usual I tried to recreate them at home. But I didn't always think they could be made at home. To be honest I did not consider making them at home until I saw some of the blogs with crunchy & delicious looking cookies and then I started my search for a perfect recipe.

My quest for the perfect Nankhatai has taken me to several websites, seen me cutting out many magazine & newspaper articles for the recipe. Since this all started when I could hardly call myself a baker, many unmentionable incidents have happened. The only one which was sort of a success, found its way on to this blog here. ‘Sort of a success’ because the end result was not exactly a Nankhatai but the ‘cookies’ were delicious and the only reason it could have been so was that I had had a little experience with baking by then but more importantly  because I followed a trusted recipe.

I then happened to come by this one, on a site that I frequently visit,either for new recipes or to confirm the classic ones that I make. I wondered why I had not checked this website earlier for the Nankhatai recipe. The basic ingredients seemed to be the same, but the list did have some items which I have not tasted in the normal Nankhatai, so I just skipped them. Even the procedure looked quite familiar to what I had been trying for such a long time. I gave it a try nevertheless & while I was sliding in the baking tray in the oven, I knew that this time I have found the perfect one.


Picture 1581

Makes approx 25-30


  • 2 cups Plain flour (Maida)
  • I cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clarified butter/Ghee (I used butter)
  • 1 Tblsp Milk (Adjust according to need)


Pre heat the oven to 180 deg C.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar & Clarified butter (butter in my case) until light & fluffy.

Add the flour in batches and keep mixing using very little milk.

Knead the mixture well and then make make small balls and flatten them, shaping them.

Picture 102

Arrange them on a baking sheet and bake for 15 min or until they start turning slightly golden.

Let them cool completely before storing them into an airtight container.

Picture 165

My Notes: While this was the closest I came to the Nankhatai sold in the shops in Bombay, I felt that they were a bit like Shortbreads.

But apart from this one small thing, they turned out delicious & were gone within no time.

The original recipe also had cardamom, saffron & nuts in it. But I don't remember getting that cardamom flavour in the Nankhatai I have had all my life in India, so I skipped it. Also since I did not want any kind flavour to it, I skipped the saffron & nuts as well.

Picture 168

I was very happy with the results here & concluded that this is as close as I will get to the Nankhatai at home!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Stuffed Peppers

Living away from ‘home’ means different things to different people. Opportunities, better prospects, better standard of living, better comforts etc might come across as Pros of living outside one’s country. But where there are Pros, there are bound to be some Cons. Staying away from your family, specifically parents in most cases, missing all those lovely festivals being celebrated in their true form (grandeur & all), being away from your friends back home, not to mention the food!

But once you have kids, the list of Pros & Cons starts getting longer. Again better opportunities for the kids for overall development as opposed to the stress & pressure of competition, the ability to give them a better standard of living in terms of facilities, hygiene & cleanliness etc maybe the Pros. But the Cons are not far behind. S, for example stays away from her grandparents & other relatives & only interacts with them through voice chats & webcam (Thank god for them!). Of course many kids living in India do not stay with their grandparents either & only visit them during their vacation, but somehow it feels like a bigger thing when the physical distance between them also is so huge.

Then there is the matter of exposure to our culture. How will they get to know about our ‘roots’ if they stay away from it. Yes, we can replicate most of it at home but are we able to give them that environment to understand the importance of all that?

Wondering why I am going on about these things today? Well, an incident at S’s toddler group triggered my thoughts and I haven't stopped thinking about it since then. It was her Music class & they were ‘exploring’ Indian music.

It was introduced as traditional Indian classical music & they played Hindi film songs, not exactly classical music if you ask me(Hindustani or Carnatic). While most of the activities involved playing a particular instrument (bells, maracas, drums etc) on any of the Hindi film songs, they played ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ for one of the segments. Thats when I realised that my daughter will never understand the importance & significance of this song as well as I do. I understand because I associate the song immediately to Mahatma Gandhi & the happenings of the whole freedom struggle right from the first Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 to the day of 15th August 1947 come flooding to me. Apart from being a Bhajan, there are those sentiments attached to the song that are very difficult to convey even to grown ups who do not know the importance & significance of this song. If she was in India, she would study about these things in her curriculum & eventually know & understand everything, the way I did.

Maybe I am wondering in vain. Maybe as she grows up she will be in a better position to understand and appreciate things of her own country. Maybe when she is old enough, I can tell her stories about the freedom struggle, make her realise the role played by all those who brought us our independence. But till then, I am sure the list of things that she is & will be missing will keep increasing, with me realising that there is so much that we take for granted.

Anyway, when I was not thinking of the above, I was thinking about the Red & Yellow Peppers lying in the fridge. The original plan was to use them in Fried Rice or a salad. But having cut down on the carbs, rice was not something I readily wanted to make. And salad, well the less said the better. We are somehow not ready for a meal of Salad only.

Finally this was our dinner yesterday night. Having contemplated making Stuffed peppers for a long time, I took this opportunity & made do with whatever was in hand. I followed this recipe loosely and adapted it as per the ingredients available with me.

Stuffed Peppers

Picture 076

Serves 2


  • 2 large Peppers (Any colour)
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 3-4 Tblsp Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 tblsp Olive oil
  • 2-3 tblsp Spring onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed & minced
  • 1/2 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 4-5 Baby corns, cut into small rounds
  • 2-3 Tblsp Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Cherry Tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • Salt & Pepper


Pre heat the oven to 200 deg C.

Cut off the tops of the Peppers & scoop out the seeds.

Arrange them on a baking tray & bake for 10-15 min. Remove & set aside.

Mean while for the stuffing, heat the olive oil in pan & add the chilli flakes.

As it begins to sizzle, add the garlic & spring onion. Sauté until the onion starts to soften.

Add the baby corn and mix well. Add the oregano and a bit of salt. Cover & cook on low flame till the baby corn is cooked.

To cook the couscous, take 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Switch off the flame & add the couscous, mix and cover and leave aside for 3-4 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

Fluff up the couscous with a fork and then add a tsp of olive oil & salt and mix well.

Add the cooked couscous to the baby corn-spring onion mixture and mix well on a low flame. Adjust the salt & season with some pepper.

Turn off the heat and mix in the Ricotta cheese.

Fill this mixture into the part baked Peppers and arrange them in a baking dish upright. Cover the peppers with Aluminium foil & bake for about 20 min. After 20 min remove the foil and continue to bake for another 5-10 min till the Peppers start to char. I had to turn the grill on for this.

Picture 083

Serve immediately.

My Notes: I also had half a red pepper & I filled it with the couscous mixture without Ricotta cheese but we realised that the ones with Ricotta cheese were much better since it helped to bind the couscous together.

The original recipe had Feta cheese but since I had Ricotta, I used that instead, will definitely be trying it with the Feta soon.

Sending this to WYF:Light Meal at Simple Indian Food.

PS: I am quite happy with the Music Class by the way, where else can Shreya be exposed to instruments such as the Dholak, Ghunghroo etc!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Muruku for ICC

While this is not the first time I have come across them, I knew them by a different name – Tengul. I got introduced to them at my friend N’s place and had found them very different from the ‘Chakali’ that we prepare at home specially for the Diwali Faral.

This month’s ICC has brought back all those memories and I was actually visualising Manni’s kitchen, while I fried these Muruku. The recipe itself was simple enough and very quick to prepare. Of course, quick because I took a shortcut and used readymade rice flour instead of soaking, drying & grinding the rice myself. Apart from this I also reduced the quantity to make only a few because currently we are trying to cut down on fried & fatty foods.

As is the case sometimes with new recipes, I did have a minor setback because the first lot that I had put in the chakali maker yielded in bits & pieces of Muruku, instead of shapely ones. So I made them out into ‘Sev’ instead. I then realised that it was because the dough was a bit tough. A few drops of water solved the problem and I finally got the Chakali shaped Muruku.


Picture 314

Makes about 6-7 proper Chakali shapes, similar to the ones in the pic!


  • 1/4 cup Urad Dal (Split Black Gram without the skin)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Sesame seeds (Til)
  • Salt
  • Oil for frying


Roast the Urad Dal till it turns a light brown. Allow to cool down and then grind into a fine powder.

Mix the Rice flour, above ground urad dal, salt, cumin seeds & sesame seeds in a bowl. Add the cold butter and mix with your hand to get breadcrumb like consistency.

Now dissolve the hing in a little water & add it to the above mixture. Add some more water to get a firm but soft dough.

Prepare the Chakali maker by oiling it well. Fill this with the dough and then press out through the chakali ‘blade’ and shape them into spiral chakalis directly in to the hot oil for frying. Or as Srivalli mentions in the original recipe, you can also make out the shapes on a plastic sheet & then slide them in the oil.

Fry them on a medium heat till they are just turning brown, drain on a kitchen towel. Once they are completely cooled, store them into air tight containers.

Picture 308

My Notes: The Muruku tasted exactly as I remembered the Tengul but with slightly less crunch. They were not as crispy as I would have liked them to be. Maybe it was the extra water I had added but Then otherwise I wasn't getting the Murukus to shape at all. I guess its a balance that I might achieve only with practice!

And speaking of practice, I think this was a good one, before I embark on making Chakali for the Diwali Faral. I was a little apprehensive of attempting it for the first time on the occasion itself, having brought the Chakali maker on my last visit to India. But muruku making has given me a little confidence to handle the gadget better when I make Chakali for Diwali!

So watch this space for Chakali & hopefully some other Faral items soon!