Tuesday 29 June 2010

Celery and Apple Soup

I know this might sound odd, but I have only recently started to use Google Reader, any reader for that matter. Now, that doesn't mean I didn't follow all of your blogs before this, but the method I followed was, well a little different. As primitive as this might sound, I used to actually bookmark or mark as favourite the blogs that I wanted to read & every other day I would go to each of the sites to see if there was a new post. I know, very time consuming but thats how I used to do it. Just imagine the extent of my loyalty for all your blogs here!

There was no particular reason for not using a reader, I just didn't look into it. But now that I have ‘discovered’ it, I cant get enough of it. For one, I can follow so many more blogs & sites because I dont have to think about crowding my bookmark folder. Plus I dont have to go to each site wondering if there will be a new post. I just know who has a new one by just looking at the list on the reader. Oh! This is making me sound more & more stupid for not having used it earlier!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Spicy Brown Rice Khichadi

Let me start this post with a list of grains, lentils & beans in my Pantry.

  • Toor Dal (Split pigeon pea)
  • Yellow Moong Dal
  • Green Moong Dal
  • Black eyed beans
  • Sona Masoori Rice
  • Basmati Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Urad Dal (Split Black gram)
  • Chickpeas
  • Red Kidney beans
  • Moth (for Matki)
  • Whole Moong Beans
  • Whole Urad (Whole Black gram)
  • Dried Vaal (Hyacinth Beans)
  • Brown Chickpeas
  • Red Chori (Adzuki Beans)
  • Chana Dal (Split Bengal gram)
  • Masoor (Brown lentils)


Thats one huge list specially considering the size of my kitchen. Apart from the above I have the usual ‘essentials’ such as wheat flour, all purpose flour, rice flour, nuts, Semolina, Besan and so on. The list really is endless here.

I do try to use all of these regularly and sometimes manage to do it, but very often some of things get pushed in the back to make room for newer finds and then conveniently forgotten until you get up & decide to clean the pantry or till an event comes by to jolt you and make you think about these things.

I had got Brown Rice in the hope of replacing normal rice with it & thereby start eating healthy. I tried to do that but we were not very comfortable with the idea of having the very nutty Brown rice with Aamti or varan & could not even imagine a curd rice with it! So as expected the packet was put in the back to be used as & when I found something interesting to make with it. Nupur’s Blog Bites ensured that I did just that. Sra promptly posted a perfect recipe a few days back, almost as if she could read my mind. Now I had no excuse to avoid using the Brown Rice which was really pushed back in the shelf.

Spicy Brown Rice Khichadi


Serves 2 as a meal

  • 1.5 cups Brown Rice, soaked for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 tblsp Ghee
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 1” piece of Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Hing (Asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1-2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Coriander powder
  • 1 medium sized potato, cubed
  • 1 Carrot, diced
  • 1 Medium Tomato, chopped

Heat the Ghee in a deep pan or in a pressure cooker.

Add the cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds and as they start sizzling add the hing.

Add the potatoes & carrot and fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the salt, turmeric powder, garam masala, red chilli powder and coriander powder. mix well and let it fry a few more minutes.

Add the soaked and washed rice, mix well and fry for another minute. Add 3 cups of water, close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for approx 10-15 minutes. The time will depend upon the type of pressure cooker so calculate accordingly.

Serve hot as is or with a raita.

My Notes: Although the method is quite similar to the preparation of Masala Bhaat that we make quite often, the ghee made it taste entirely different. The Brown rice was perfect for this and we enjoyed it on its own.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Pani Puri (Gol Gappe)

While this month’s Indian Cooking Challenge was not new to me, I had never gotten around to make at home, what is a major part of this challenge. Pani Puri, or Gol Gappe as they are called up in North India, was the almost unanimous choice when Srivalli opened the space for suggestions and I have to admit that although I didn't register my choice, I was quite happy that Pani Puri was chosen.

Pani Puri happens to be my favourite chaat item and while I prefer to eat it out at the stalls, I started making it at home (when in India) just to achieve that taste and here in London because of the lack of such chaat stalls. The ones that you get in proper restaurants somehow dont have the same charm for me!

The dish itself brings back a lot of memories, all of them associated with friends. What is the fun in having Pani Puri alone? Try having a Pani Puri eating competition with your friends and you will know what I am talking about.

And then there were the preferences for a particular ‘bhaiyya’, i.e. the chaat stall owner. I always preferred the Dhaniya-Pudina Pani (water) while some of my friends preferred the ice cold one which had tamarind in it as opposed to the Lime juice in the former.

But whichever option you choose, nothing can beat the experience of having Pani Puri from your favourite stall, waiting impatiently for the Pani Puri to arrive on your plate, trying to fit the whole puri in your wide open mouth, never once thinking about how funny you might be looking at that instant, relishing the sweet, spicy, sour taste and then struggling to finish it in time for the next one that has been already plonked on your plate.

Coming back to the challenge, as I have mentioned I had been making Pani Puri at home for a long time but had never tried to make the Puri at home although it was in my ‘to-do’ list. I failed miserably at my first attempt and had to go back to look at the recipe to see if I had missed any note or important point. Thats when I read in the comments about using baking powder instead of the soda. So I tried that and the puris puffed up nicely after that. But now I think that the first attempt might also have failed because there was a tad bit more maida and sub consciously, I corrected that the second time. Next time I am going to try reducing the Maida and using the soda to determine if the Soda was indeed the culprit.

Also I used lime juice in the Pani instead of tamarind as this is how we prefer it.

Pani Puri


Makes about 3-4 plates i.e. 18-24 puris

For the Puri
1/2 cup Rawa (Semolina)
1 tsp Maida (All purpose flour)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
A small pinch of salt
Oil to deep fry

For the Pani (Spicy water)
2-3 tblsp chopped mint leaves
1-2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Juice of 1 lime
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder
Black Salt (to taste)
4 cups of water

For the sweet (Tamarind) Chutney
2-3 tblsp Tamarind pulp
2-3 tblsp grated Jaggery (Increase if the chutney gets too sour)
1/2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin powder
Black Salt (to taste)

Filling for Puri
1 Potato, boiled & roughly mashed and mixed with a pinch of salt


For the Puri
Take all the ingredients except for the oil in a mixing bowl, combine & make a stiff dough using very little water. Since Semolina is the main ingredient here, you will need only a few drops of water to make the dough. Knead for 2-3 min and then cover it with a damp muslin cloth and let it rest for 15 min to half an hour.

Heat the oil for deep frying. Pinch off a little dough at a time and roll out very small Puris, keeping in mind that they have to be had whole.
I rolled the dough out into a big chapati and used a cookie cutter to give me small puris, gathered the remaining dough and repeated until all the dough was used up. This was quick and gave me uniform sized puris.

Deep fry the puris in the hot oil just like you would a normal puri so that it puffs up. Drain them on kitchen towel and allow them to cool down completely before storing them in an air tight container until required.

For the Pani
Grind together all the ingredients mentioned for the Pani, except the water. Use a little water for grinding to give you a paste. Mix this paste with the 4 cups of water and chill until ready to serve.

To assemble
Take the puris, crack open a bit and fill with the potato filling. Add about 1/2-1 tsp of the sweet chutney and then fill it up with the spicy Pani and gobble up immediately!

My Notes: The puris turned out great but I would have liked them to be a little more crispier. Maybe the Maida was the real culprit all along. I will definitely try it again and update this space.

You can try other filling options such as

Boondi – Soak salted Boondi in warm water for 5-7 minutes, drain and then use them as a filling
Lentils – Boil Chana Dal till completely cooked & mushy, add salt, turmeric powder & Garam Masala. This is a bit like the Ragda and can be used as a filling

Its great to have Pani Puri made at home and specially with no one watching you make those funny faces but I will still vouch for the ‘stall’ experience and urge those who have access to go out once in while and have Pani Puri at their favourite stall.  My favourite used to be a stall in Ghatkopar (West) near the station, I still go there every time I visit India.

What has been your favourite place to have it? Would love to know.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Gnocchi with a Tomato Basil Sauce




The little girl was circling around her mother for a long time trying to get a glimpse of what she was doing on the kitchen counter. She, the girl i.e., always liked to watch her mum working in the kitchen. giving an impression that she was trying to learn the tricks of the trade or so to speak, never mind her young age.

With all her interest in food & cooking, you would think that she must be a very easy kid to feed, but it was entirely the opposite. She was a very fussy eater and a very typical one at that. No rice, only potatoes for vegetables, moody when it came to sweets and so on. But Pasta was a different story altogether. She always liked pasta and the fact that they came in so many different shapes & sizes added to the excitement for her.

So her mother was quite confident about dinner time today since the child will have no problem with Pasta. But all that if only she would allow her to cook in peace. She chopped the tomatoes for the sauce & opened a can of chopped tomatoes as well. They all liked it to be tangy.

” I dont like tomatoes!” cried the girl. “ They are not for you, we are going to eat them.” replied her mum thinking that once the sauce was all mushy &  done, the girl will not realise that she was eating tomatoes.

She took out the basil packet from the fridge & glanced towards her attempt at a herb garden in the kitchen. The Basil was growing slowly & that made her smile and she thought that it wont be long before she would not have to buy these herbs any more. The girl had followed her glance and she got all excited at the sight of the plant. “ Look! A Beanstalk!”  “ Thats not a beanstalk, its Basil” replied her mum.

” I like Basil a lot, it tastes great!” said the girl. 

“Dont just say anything to please me, do you even know what it is & where it is used?” snapped the irritated mother.

”In the Pasta, of course!” said the girl and that definitely silenced the mother. How did she know that?

She somehow managed to finish cooking and sat to feed her daughter and was taken aback when the girl refused to eat it. “ This is not Pasta, I want Pasta!” The mother realising that she had never before seen Gnocchi, tried to explain that it was a kind of pasta, only a different shape. But the girl wouldn't have it.

” But its made of Potatoes…..” She tried one last time.” Oh! Why didn't you tell me that?” said the girl and happily started gobbling up the pasta.


“Of Chalks and Chopsticks” is an event designed to let our creative juices flow and the second edition is being hosted by Sandeepa. This post will make it just in time for the event.

As for the recipe,

I am making a simple Tomato-Basil sauce for Pasta for the first time. Before this, my sauce used to have almost all the Italian spices to make it full of flavour, we being very particular about how the food should taste of something and not just the ‘seasoning’  - salt & pepper. BTW, can you even taste the finely ground black pepper if it is just sprinkled the way they show in all those cookery shows? I for one cant. It has to be loads for me!

Anyway the point here is that my Pasta sauce almost always had too many things, so when I saw this simple recipe in my favourite book, Delia’s Vegetarian Collection, I hadn't paid much attention but a few days back thought of trying it just for the sake of it. We anyway wanted a change from the usual Tomato sauce with the pasta.


The Pasta itself was different this time, Gnocchi, which is a dumpling kind of pasta generally made from potatoes.

Gnocchi with Tomato-Basil Sauce

Picture 0071

Serves 2
2-3 cups Gnocchi

1 Small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2-3 Tomatoes

1 Can of chopped tomatoes in juice
A handful of fresh Basil leaves
1 tblsp Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup, cubed Mozzarella (optional)
1-2 tblsp grated Parmesan (optional)

Heat the oil in a deep pan. Reserve 1 of the tomatoes & chop the rest.

Fry the chopped onion & crushed garlic in the oil until the onion turns translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Now add the chopped tomatoes (fresh & canned) along with 1/2 of the basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper and then let it simmer for about an hour or so. This is the part that gives the sauce all its flavour & taste. You have to wait till it thickens and reaches a chutney or jam like consistency which concentrates the flavour of the Tomato.

Then roughly chop the reserved Tomato and add this along with the remaining Basil leaves. Cook for a minute and then stir in the mozzarella if using. The cheese here is not mandatory as the sauce packs enough flavour even otherwise but it does result in a creamier texture.

Simmer the sauce for another 2-3 minutes while the mozzarella melts.

While the sauce is cooking bring a pan of salted water to boil and drop the Gnocchi in it. They take only 2-3 minutes to cook & once cooked will float on to the surface. Drain them and add the butter and season with salt & pepper. Mix well until combined.

Picture 011

To serve, place the Gnocchi in the serving bowl and spoon over the Tomato Sauce and then sprinkle the grated Parmesan over it.

My Notes:  The slow simmering of the Tomatoes works wonders here. You have to be patient with it. In fact once it is put to simmer you can carry on with other things and only check it once in a while to stir it up. At the end it will all be worth while just for the aroma it lets out!

Thursday 3 June 2010

Madeira Cake (Butter/Pound Cake)

It has been quite a while that the same picture stares at you whenever you visit this blog. The only consolation was that it was Ras Malai :)

The past couple of weeks have been very hectic, more than the usual that is. The daughter turned 3 years and it was like a week long celebration with 2 parties & the whole time went in planning & executing them. But S was very happy & still keeps talking about how much she enjoyed everything, so it was worth while.

This Birthday also saw me baking the Birthday cake. I do bake cakes & other stuff at home, but I had never ventured into making a Birthday cake as big as this one – to serve 40 people. I was very glad that it turned out great & was even more happy to receive compliments! 

Having said all that I am not presenting that cake in this post. I feel that when it comes to cakes, I should first mention the one that got me started and then slowly graduate to the more elaborate stuff :)

This is the cake which has endured all my baking trial & errors. I started to bake with this one and after having had some bad & not so bad results I can easily say that I have perfected it now. From preparing for the whole day to taking just 15 min to put the cake into oven, I have come a long way, almost 3 years!

I remember I used to feel nervous for the first 3-4 times that I put this cake into the oven, wondering if it will turn out good this time. I could barely hold myself from taking it out and having a look again & again – now that definitely spoils your cake!

Although it has been a while since I wanted to post this here, I always forgot to photograph it every time I made. By the time I remembered it would be too late i.e. the cake would have been long devoured. Even this time I can easily say that the cake is far more delicious than the photo gives credit, I guess my trials & errors on that front (the pics) will have to continue a lot more. But really I am a great fan of this cake & GM is a bigger fan. He wants me to make this everytime I am thinking of baking something.

Butter Cake (Madeira Cake)

Picture 160

2 Cups All Purpose flour (Maida)
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt


Pre Heat the oven to 180 deg C. Grease & flour a 9 inch round cake tin and keep ready.

In a bowl, combine the butter & sugar. beat them together until light & fluffy using an electric mixer or with a whisk.

Sieve together the flour, Baking Powder & salt and keep aside.

Add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract & beat for another minute.

Now add the 1/3 of the flour mixture & beat on gently to combine. Add half the milk and mix until blended. Add the next 1/3 of the flour & continue as earlier with the remaining milk.

Finally add the remaining 1/3 flour and beat till combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure that all the ingredients are mixed together.

Pour the batter into the prepared Cake tin and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Ti check if the cake is done, insert a sharp knife in the centre of the cake & if it comes out clean without any batter clinging to it, then it is all done.

Picture 1301

Tale it out of the oven & let it cool in the tin for sometime before turning it over on a rack to cool down completely.

If it doesn't get over immediately, store in an air tight container. This stays well for about 3-4 days.

My Notes:

Although I have mentioned a round tin to be used,I have earlier made this as a loaf & also a square cake. Make sure to use a pan equivalent in terms of volume. This time I baked it in a smaller round tin and also made 2 tiny ones.

I generally use salted butter instead of adding extra salt. The sugar can be adjusted as per your taste but the above quantity yields a cake which is not too sweet but just the way we like it.

I can easily say that this is a tried & tested recipe and never fails me. Of course I arrived at it after a lot of trials as I have mentioned earlier in the post.