Wednesday, 25 June 2008

CLICK: Yellow for Bri

Dr. MA has been our family doctor for a few years now. Jovial, helpful and friendly, she comes across as a person who enjoys life and also wants others to do the same. Although I have not had the chance of spending a lot of time with her, I know her from my mother in law and a few meetings whenever we have been in India. Whether it is talking about her 3 year old daughter, assuring a patient that everything will be fine or just chit chatting, she is ever smiling. And this is the image of her that I have always carried with me.

But to learn that she is now suffering from Blood Cancer was a shock to say the least. They have only come to know about this a couple of months back and she is undergoing treatment for the same. She has already had 2 sessions of Chemotherapy and one round of Cell transplantation (I hope I have got that right)

I could not bear to talk about her with her husband, also a Doctor, when I was in India last month. But he himself was forthcoming about her situation knowing that we were concerned. Going by the things he told me, I am sure she is still maintaining her happy go lucky attitude and in fact must be assuring others about her condition, instead of giving up.

Very much like what Bri is doing! Briana Brownlow (Figs with Bri) was diagnosed with Breast Cancer two and a half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. Read the complete details here.

Bloggers all over the world have come together to support Bri in this difficult time. Having taken the initiative, Jai & Bee of Jugalbandi, with the help of a few others, have organised various events.

There is a raffle with exciting prizes. Details here.
They have organised a fund raiser. Details here.
CLICK, the monthly food photography event organised by the team at Jugalbandi is also special this month. Here is my entry for CLICK: Yellow for Bri.

This is the picture of freshly made Toop/Tuppa/Ghee (Clarified Butter). The detailed post about this will follow.

I wish Bri a speedy recovery. You have done it once Bri, you can do it again!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Boondi Raita

Mint is one of my favourite herbs. For me it denotes instant freshness. Add it to curries, salads, dips, to anything you want & what you get is a 'fresh' and unique taste. There has to be a reason why most of the mouth fresheners(and toothpastes!) are mint flavoured.

The only place I don't like it is with Chocolate, though mint flavoured chocolate is supposed to be a huge rage! I prefer my chocolate to be 'pure'. Some flavours do blend in well with Chocolate such as Coffee, even Orange but not Mint for me. Having said that there are some dishes where I wont compromise at all without the Mint. This Paneer Pasanda for example gets that special taste only because of the mint.

The pairing of mint with curd/yogurt is one of the best, if you ask me. The only adjective that comes to mind when I think about both of these together is 'COOL'.
I generally serve a curd based side dish with a spicy vegetable/curry preparation to balance the taste. This could be a koshimbir, raita or just plain curd with some sugar! A couple of days back I had made Boondi raita on one such occasion. When I was looking for fresh coriander to add to the raita, my eyes fell upon this bunch of mint and I picked that up instead.The combination was awesome and reminded me of the dip served in one of the Indian restaurants which I had liked a lot.

Boondi is a snack on its own, prepared by deep frying tiny balls of besan (gram flour) batter. These tiny balls are achieved by using a perforated ladle, generally used while handling fried items. Boondi can be sweet or salty. Sweet boondi is also made into ladoo/laddu usually prepared during festivals or marriages. A North Karnataka wedding is considered to be incomplete without these in the menu for the D day! Boondi ladoo, huge ones at that, is also the main prasadam at the Balaji Temple in Tirupati having a unique taste of its own.

Minty Boondi Raita
  • 2 cups of curd/yogurt
  • 1 cup Boondi (Salty)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak (rock salt)
  • 1/2 tsp chat masala
  • 1/2 tsp jeera powder (Cumin powder)
  • 7-8 mint leaves

Whisk the curd in a bowl adding a little water . Add all other ingredients except the Boondi and stir well.
There are two ways that the Boondi can be added. If you are serving the Raita immediately, then soak the boondi in some warm water for 2 min, take them out & squeeze out the water and then add them to the curd. Otherwise they can be directly added to the curd and kept in the refrigerator. I prefer to add the boondi directly even if serving immediately because I like the slight crunch of the crisp boondi in the raita.

The raita ideally has to be kept to rest for sometime for the flavour of the mint to get infused properly.

This Minty Raita is on its way to
Siri's Frozen Yogurt @ Siri's Corner

Dee's Herb Mania @ Ammalu's Kitchen

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Stuffed Masala Bhindi

My obsession with Bhindi (Lady's finger in India & Okra elsewhere!) is well known among my close family & friends. I might have been the only one who liked to eat Bhindi just like that. Oh no, not raw! Nobody can be that obsessed! What I mean is the bhaji without anything to go with it such as Chapati/Roti or rice. I would sit with a bowl full of the bhaji and finish it off in no time. It did not matter what type it was, my mother used to make 2-3 different varieties of the bhaji. Dry, with a little gravy, with curd etc.

Although the fanaticism has gone down, but Bhindi still remains one of my favourite vegetables and I make it very often. Stuffed Bhindi presented here, is our favourite.

Serves 2
  • 15-18 pieces Bhindi (Okra)
  • 1 Medium sized onion, sliced
  • 2 tblsp oil
  • 3 tsp Dhaniya-Jeera powder (Ground Coriander-Cumin)
  • 2 tsp Red Chili powder
  • 1 tsp Aamchur (Dry Mango powder)
  • Salt
Mix all the dry ingredients and keep aside.Wash and dry the Bhindi. Cut off the tips and make a slit lengthwise. Fill all of them with the above prepared dry masala. Reserve any remaining masala.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the sliced onion and fry for sometime. Add the stuffed Bhindi, any remaining masala and mix properly. Cook on medium heat without adding any water and without covering. Keep stirring in between so that the Bhindi does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Cook till the Bhindi is completely cooked. Serve hot with Chapati/Roti/Phulkas. Since this is a dry Bhaji, I usually serve a Dal along with it such as this.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Saffron-Almond Cookies for Tried & Tasted

Zlamushka has Chosen Nupur's One Hot Stove for this month's Tried and Tested event and it proved to be a very difficult one for me for the main reason that there are so many great and deliciuous looking recipes that I was totally stumped. I wanted to make everything that I saw and then I came across this recipe for Nankhatai. Even though we get a lot of Indian snacks and eatables here in London, there are some that we miss too much because what is available here is not at all in the league of what we get back home. Nankhatai is one such thing. So I was very happy to see the recipe on Nupur's blog. Also I had bought a new Hand Mixer which I was itching to use and this presented me with a good opportunity to do that.

I made a few changes to the recipe.Since I did not have Pistachios with me, I used Almonds and I also ended up using a little more saffron than specified. The end result was not exactly 'Nankhatai' and were more like cookies, but they tasted great nevertheless. I decided to call them Saffron-Almond Cookies and also made the resolution to get all the ingredients together next time and make Nankhatai!

The original recipe for Kesar-Pista Nankhatai can be viewed here. I am reproducing the recipe here with the changes I made.

Makes about 18 pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (I had slightly salted Butter, so I used that)
1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup powdered pistachios (I used Almonds instead)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (Skipped this)
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp saffron (Increased the qty to 1/2 tsp)
pinch of salt (I skipped this as I was using salted butter)

"Cut" the butter into the flour using two blunt knives or a pastry blender till the mixture is sandy. Mix other ingredients into the dough. Knead very gently to form a dough, using as little water as necessary.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes if it is too sticky. This tip came in very handy. Keeping the dough in the refrigerator for sometime makes it very easy to shape the cookies.

Form 18 balls with the dough. Flatten each ball to form a fat disc. Place on ungreased parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes till the bottom of the cookie is just browning. Turn off the oven and let the cookies stay inside the warm oven till the top is slightly golden. Cool completely on a rack.

I have a number of recipes bookmarked on Nupur's blog and will be trying them one by one very soon. But for now I am sending these Saffron-Almond cookies to Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen as my entry for this month's Tried and Tasted event.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Banana Flavoured Chocolate Milk Shake & my first Award!

This was more out of a necessity to finish off the single Banana which would have gone bad if left for one more day and the chocolate bars that we so enthusiastically bring once in a while during our weekly grocery shopping.
Now this chocolate along with so many others, was brought home when it still hadn't struck me that I was putting on weight. One of the various 'by-products' of being a mother ( a fairly new one at that) is that no one expects you to be very slim & will never point out even if you are double of what you are supposed to be! Earlier it always used to be " have put on so much since I saw you last time!" Now I keep wondering " Have I put on too much?" and everyone is trying to convince me otherwise. " On the contrary you have reduced considerably with all the running around you do" they would say.So its only up to you to keep a watch on your waistline (if you still have one).

Coming back to the incident in question, the realisation struck me & how! So i decided not to even look at those chocolates, truffles & all the other heavenly looking & tasting things till I got some control on my figure (ahem) & weight. But around 3 weeks later today I don't know if I have made any progress but while cleaning the larder came across this box full of chocolate bars. Now GM is not too fond of chocolates, he will have a truffle or two now & then but chocolate is not exactly a favourite with him. So I was wondering what to do with them.
Then there was this single banana which I was in no mood to eat just like that. So here is what I did..

Makes 1 glass of Milk Shake
  • 1 Ripe Banana, sliced
  • 1 small bar of Chocolate, grated
  • 3/4 glass of milk
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional, I gave this a miss as the chocolate is already sweet)

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler. For the boiler, I brought some water to boil in a saucepan and held the grated chocolate in a small vessel which fit onto the edges of the saucepan. Heat it this way for about 2-3 min and stir.

Blend together all the ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator for sometime and enjoy with some more grated chocolate on the shake.

I was avoiding eating chocolates because I didn't want to put on weight. I don't know how having the same in a milk shake will help but I am consoled that I had it with other healthy things like Milk (full of calcium & Vit D) and Banana (Calcium again). There are some who believe that even Bananas contribute to the weight gain but I am not very sure of that. Any information on this is welcome.

And now for the Award! EasyCrafts of Simple Indian Food has given me the 'Rocking Girl Blogger' Award. When I read the email I thought this must have come to me by mistake, but on checking her blog it turned out that it is really Me! I am thrilled to bits! This is my first award and I have only just started my blog. Alright, it has been a while now, but it still feels like I am still starting out.

Thanks a lot EC, this means a lot to me!
PS: I still have to think about finishing off the remaining chocolate, without feeling guilty....or is that an impossible task?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Raw Mango/Kairi Chutney

How can I let the mango season go by without making this chutney? This one is a personal favourite and very popular among all my friends and everyone I know. Mom gets constant demands for this chutney in the mango season and complying with that there is a constant supply of the same. Now there are two different versions that can be made. One of these can be stored for as long as up to 3-4 months and longer if kept in the refrigerator. So we generally get this one every time we go to India. But I like the other version better which has to be consumed within a few days of making. So this time I made an attempt to make this one at home and it turned out quite well.

This was the first recipe request I had got from my friend N, when I started this food blog. So here it is....:)
  • 4 medium sized Raw Mangoes (Kairi)
  • 2 lemon sized balls of Jaggery
  • 1/2 a cup grated dry coconut
  • 4 tsps mustard seeds
  • 3 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2-3 tsps Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 4 tsps Red Chili powder (This can be altered as per taste)
  • Salt to taste


Peel the mangoes and chop into small pieces. Grate the jaggery and add it to the mango pieces and keep aside for an hour.

The mangoes will let out water as the jaggery dissolves.
Grate the dry coconut and grind it into a powder. If it does not get powdered easily, try roasting it slightly before grinding.
Heat oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. Heat this till the mustard seeds splutter and the fenugreek seeds turn reddish in colour. Grind this into a powder as well. My mixer is not very good to handle small quantities, so I use fenugreek powder instead of the seeds, add it when the mustard seeds splutter and then add the whole thing to the chutney while grinding.
Now grind the mango pieces, dry coconut powder, the above mustard-fenugreek mixture into a coarse paste. Heat oil and fry the hing and add it to the chutney. Add the salt and chili powder and again grind it so that everything gets mixed properly.

The chutney has to be ground using the water let out by the mangoes only without adding any extra water. The sweet/sour taste can be adjusted by changing the quantity of the jaggery.
Our typical lunch thali in the mango season consists of Aam Ras, Kairi chutney, Batata Bhaji, Chapati, Aamthi and bhaat....enjoy!
PS: How many of you can resist tasting a slice of kairi with salt & chili powder while chopping/grating/cutting it for some dish? I can not!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Raw Banana/Plantain Bhaaji

The only edible things I could imagine with raw bananas was the yellow coloured salty chips(A Kerala speciality), which I absolutely love and can survive on those for any number of days! and the pakodas which were a regular at my place. But that was until I tasted this delicious dry bhaaji which my Mom made one fine day using the remaining Baalekayi (Raw banana in Kannada). The reaction that I get from most of the people when I offer this bhaji is the same that I gave my mom when she made it for the first time. The hardest part is to convince someone to have this, after that, all the work is done by the bhaaji itself to get the person hooked on to it!

The recipe is as simple as it can be and can also qualify as a 'Jain' dish (The followers of Jainism are strictly vegetarian and in addition to that also avoid eating underground vegetables). In fact raw banana is used as a substitute for potatoes in most of the Jain dishes.

Here in London, I easily get Plantains which, as is pointed out here, is not the same as Raw Banana! To be very honest I did not know the difference myself until I read this post from Jugalbandi.
This bhaaji tastes great when made with plantains as well.

Serves 2
  • 2 Plantains
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
  • 7-8 Curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • A pinch of Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp Haldi (Turmeric powder)
  • 1-2 tsps Red Chili powder
  • Salt (As per taste)
  • 1-2 tblsp oil

Peel the plantains and chop them into small cubes. Keep these immersed in water or else they will get discoloured.

Heat oil in a kadai. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once they start spluttering add the curry leaves, hing and the haldi.
Mix in the plantain cubes and saute for sometime.
Add the chopped tomatoes and mix. Add the salt and Chili powder, mix and cover and cook for about 10-15 min stirring regularly. Any of the curry masala or garam masala can also be added here but it tastes best without any masalas.
If the bhaaji starts sticking to the bottom sprinkle some water, stir and again cover and cook until the plantain is soft and tender.
Serve hot with Chapatis/Phulkas.

I hope the picture here is tempting enough to convince everyone to at least try this once!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Back after a break...

Its always good to have a break in between, even if you enjoy doing something. I took a break from blogging for a few days owing to my suddenly planned India trip. The trip was impending as it was S's first Birthday & we wanted to celebrate it amongst family members. It was sudden because as opposed to the original plan where I would have got only 4 days in India, I got to spend almost a month there, thanks to GM's suddenly cropped up official work. This of course meant that I missed some of the blog events which were otherwise in the schedule & in the planning stage! I still somehow managed to contribute to Meeta's Monthly Mingle.
As for the trip, it was super just like all India trips always are. Hectic to the hilt but memorable nonetheless. We are still trying to cope with the jetlag which comes as a package deal with such trips!
One of the events I felt very bad about missing was Dhivya's A.W.E.D Mexican, specially because the post was almost ready and the Mexican meal had already been devoured by us, but I just did not get the time to post it. So let me start the 'Break ke Baad' posts with this one.
Both me & GM are fond of trying out new cuisines whenever we get a chance. We are open to any kind of Vegetarian food but prefer something which is closer to our Indian tastes, flavourful & on the spicier side apart from being substantial. In that sense, Mexican cuisine fits the bill perfectly. We often go to this Mexican restaurant called Cheeko's very near to our place. Everything that we have tasted has been absolutely delicious and makes us go back for more. The portions are just perfect - not too heavy but filling at the same time. They have recently started serving Indian cuisine too - all the more reason for us to visit this restaurant!
The A.W.E.D. event prompted me to make Mexican after a long time at my place. Thanks Divya for coming up with such a lovely event.
I decided that we would have a complete Mexican meal instead of just one dish. So I made Nachos, Guacamole and Bean Enchiladas for dinner last week. Enchiladas makes a regular appearance at our dining table but Nachos and Guacamole were something I had never made at home. The first task was to get all the ingredients together. I saw GM giving me strange looks
while I was picking up the Avocados for the Guacamole, during our weekly grocery shopping. We had never bought Avocados before this. But ever since I started blogging, he has got used to buying different veg/fruits that we had never thought of getting home earlier.
Without any further chit chat, here are the recipes.

Tortilla chips
Cheese (I used mature Cheddar)
Baked Beans
Pickled Jalapeno chillies

For the Salsa
3 medium sized Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 medium sized Onion, finely chopped
1 Capsicum, finely chopped (I used half a green and half a yellow pepper)
Cucumber, finely chopped
Fresh Coriander leaves.
1-2 Chillies
1/2 tsp Garlic paste
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and store for at least 1-2 hours for the flavours to mix properly.

To assemble:
Arrange the Tortilla chips on a baking sheet in a circular manner. Cover most of the chips with the Salsa, also add the jalapeno chillies
Arrange another layer of chips over this. Add the grated cheese and bake for 5-10 min at 180 deg C or until the cheese melts. Another variation could be adding a layer of baked beans and then adding the grated cheese.

2-3 Avocados
1 small Onion, chopped
1 small Tomato, chopped
Fresh corainder leaves
1 clove of Garlic
1-2 chillies
2 tsp Lime juice
Cut the Avacados into halves, reserve the pits/seeds and scoop out the flesh. Mash this using a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and either pound in a pestle to desired consistency or puree it out. Now the traditional Gaucamole is supposed to be a little chunky meaning it is not pureed to form a paste but I preferred to blend it out. As regards to the seeds, when I was searching for the recipe for Guacamole, some sites suggestedthat adding the seeds to the prepared Guacamole will prevent discolouration of the same. But when I reached the Wikipedia, it completely dismissed this notion saying that Guacamole will get discoloured once it comes into contact with the oxygen in air, no matter what you do. Read more about it here.

This makes for a good dip with the nachos.

2 Tortillas
Tomato Sauce

For the tomato sauce
1 tsp Olive oil
4-5 ripe Tomatoes, boiled & pureed
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2-3 tsp Mixed herbs (Basil, Thyme, Sage, Marjoram, Oregano)
1-2 tsp Red chili flakes

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the crushed garlic and saute. Add the tomato puree, mixed herbs and chili flakes and let this cook for 10-15 min or until the mixture thickens.

For the filling
1 tsp Olive oil
Baked Beans
1 small onion, sliced
half a Capsicum, chopped
Heat olive oil. Saute the onions and capsicum for sometime. Add the baked beans and cook on high flame. Season with salt and pepper powder.

For the Tortillas
1/2 cup Wheat flour
1/2 cup Cornmeal
1 tsp mixed herbs

Prepare a stiff dough with all the above ingredients. Roll out thinly and cook on both sides on a griddle.

To assemble:
In a baking dish, pour half of the tomato sauce. Lay down the tortillas. Add the filling and fold the tortillas into wraps.
Pour in the remaining sauce. Add grated cheese on top and bake for 10-15 min at 180 deg C or until the cheese melts.

This is usually served with rice, but for us this along with the Nachos was more than filling!