Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chicken Kheema (Mince) Masala

When you have hard core non vegetarian tastebuds, it becomes a bit difficult to think of a variety of things to put on the dinner table. Being Mangaloreans we eat a lot of sea food, but then sometimes the availability of good fish becomes a challenge. Although Chicken was meant only for Sundays & other special occasions during my childhood, it has slowly transitioned itself into our weekly menu. 

But then eating too much Chicken (in meat form) can become a big bore which is why we find Kheema to be a refreshing change thanks to its versatility. You can use the same recipe for different types of meats (Chicken, Beef, Mutton) and it will still taste great. You can transform Kheema into cutlets, patties & meatballs too. You can also add rice to it & call it a Kheema Pulao or Biryani. One can never get bored of Kheema - at least not me. I tried a recipe about 3 weeks back which I am yet to post, but maybe that can wait. For now, its this gorgeous yet simple Kheema recipe for you which I randomly found on the internet.


Tip: While I was making this recipe I realised that a lot of fat was being let out (as seen in the picture below). I also read that commercially available Kheema usually contains more fat which cannot be separated from the meat, so if you have a mincer, its always advisable to use homemade Kheema - it's always the healthier option. If that's not possible, then while cooking use minimum oil & once the dish is ready slowly remove excess fat before serving


Chicken Kheema Masala

Adapted from: About.com Indian food

You Need:
  • 800gms kheema (washed & drained well in a fine slotted colander)
  • 3 medium onions finely chopped
  • 2 big tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala powder (I use Everest Garam Masala which I totally love)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
  • juice of 1 small lime or about 1 1/2 tbsp of juice
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander for garnishing (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp oil 
Method:
1. Heat oil in a wok/pan and add the cumin seeds. When they splutter quickly toss in the chopped onions and fry till golden.
2. Add the ginger & garlic pastes and fry for a minute. Toss in the powders - cumin, coriander, garam masala & fry for a minute
3. Add the kheema and mix well. Simmer and cook for 10minutes stirring in between to avoid burning (by now the kheema will let out some stock which will help in cooking. Do not add any extra water)
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes get mushy. You can also add the tomato puree for additional taste
5. Add the lime juice cook for a minute.
6. Remove from flame. Add the chopped coriander for garnishing.
7. Serve hot with white rice or chapathis

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Going Bananas! Chocolate Banana Cake

Don't we sometimes exclaim that we are glad we can choose friends if not relatives? It truly is a blessing to be able to choose friends. But what better than having friends who are also relatives? Cousins! Yes, its wonderful when you have cousins you grow up with who also become your confidantes & best friends for life. I have wonderful cousins - on both sides of my family - all talented, beautiful, smart & intelligent girls & boys with a funny bone each lodged in their spine - enough to tickle the hell out of me each time we get together. I am glad that although everyone is dispersed across the globe, we still are in touch with each other through Facebook.

Many of my fondest childhood memories are associated with this one cousin with whom I shared all my secrets, my sorrows & joys, my triumphs & my failures. The one who recommended the best books which eventually shaped up the quality of books I turned to. We would go to visit each others homes during vacations and yap the whole night away. It was so much fun. It was a time when cable TV, Mobile phones & the Internet had not yet taken the world by storm. Holidays meant lazing around the house playing Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo & Cards (Ispit as it's called in Konkani - haha I finally recall) or watching endless tapes of Tom & Jerry cartoons (when we were really young) and The Sound of Music and singing all the songs by heart when we were a little older. Thanks to the vast 'hithaals' (compounds) we had plenty of outdoor games to keep the sweat glands busy and what fun it was to pluck raw Mangoes & 'Karmbaal' (Star Fruit) and many other Summer treats that were laden on trees. The only time this darling person turned into a devil was when I messed up a neat stick of butter at the breakfast table :) Haha - messing up butter & slicing Mushrooms are something I find very therapeutic!

Before I bore you anymore, let me tell you the purpose of this narrative in relation to my cousins. I dedicate this one post to this dear cousin who has been with me through all my ups & downs - especially those related to baking. Since my mother never baked - I tried my hand at it after I got married & bought a microwave with convection. So I've been through many a disaster including a Christmas Cake that I baked 5 years ago which got so burnt thanks to mistaken microwave settings that I thought of using it as my foundation stone for my house in Mangalore :-( Never the one to give up (and always encouraged by my cousin to give it another try) I finally managed to master the art of baking in a microwave. It is just recently that I got an OTG as a gift and I had to figure that out all over again cuz it was a very old & basic model with no proper markings or indications on it. Just a few figures of the heating elements and that was it. So after another series of burnt & undone cakes, I have figured it again (if not mastered). 

I am dedicating this post with the recipe of a cake that turned out so gorgeous (scroll down to the end for the verdict) to my lovely cousin who suggested this recipe in the first place!

So, Premu Girl, this is for you. Muah!


Chocolate Banana Cake

Recipe Source: Joyofbaking.com

You Need: (Note: I exactly halved all the ingredients to give a smaller yield - serves about 8 people)
For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup mashed bananas (I used 1 large Golden Banana - similar to the Cavendish)
  • 200 gms granulated sugar
  • 123 gms flour
  • 38 gms cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 60ml milk
  • 60ml oil
  • 120ml warm water
  • 3/4th tsp baking powder
  • 3/4th tsp baking soda
  • 3/4th tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the Ganache:
  • 100gm semi sweet (I used bitter sweet cooking chocolate) chocolate - Use your favourite brand as it determines the quality of your cake
  • 60ml whipping cream - I skipped this as I didnt have any
  • 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
Method:
1. Sift the dry ingredients together - flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
2. Mix all the wet ingredients and whisk them together - egg, milk, oil, warm water, vanilla essence & bananas
3. Add the wet ingredients mixture to the dry mixture & mix well
4. Pour into a greased baking tin (I used a 7 inch square tin since I halved the ingredients. For double the quantity it is suggested to use a 9X13 inch (23X33cm) pan)
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees for 35-40 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes clean
6. Remove from oven & allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10minutes before transferring it onto a wire rack till it is completely cooled

7. Alternately heat the cream and butter in a saucepan or microwave it, bring it to a boil & immediately pour it over the chocolate (which you place in another bowl). Stir it slowly & whisk it when the ganache has cooled a bit.  




8. Slather the cake with the chocolate ganache. You can go all creative & decorate it as you please

9. Serve the way you like it - warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Enjoy!


Verdict: This was the simplest cake I had ever baked. Really fluffy & moist. Preparation time is not more than 15-20minutes and you need simple ingredients (I always need to plan my cakes when white butter is involved as all my grocers stock only salted butter...arrrgh!). There is no beating & whisking and any of that endless stuff - all you do is combine the dry & wet ingredients separately and then dump them together. Surprisingly, the cake has a very subtle taste of bananas. It is mildly pleasant & reminds you every now & then of its presence. A perfect cake to be whipped together if you have surprise guests as you can have a great dessert (or snack) on hand in 50-55minutes flat. I am definitely going to try this cake again & again (as many times as I have bananas which no one wants to eat :-)

The best part of this cake is that it freezes beautifully! I have some saved up in my freezer for a midnight snack ;-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Simple Chicken Roast

Hmmm, so I've read about all kinds of scrumptious eats such as scones & pies, cakes & pastries and meat pies and roasts all through my childhood in various books written by western authors especially by Enid Blyton in all her lovely books during my early childhood. Each time I read her book I would feel oh-so-hungry cuz she described all the fine details of a grand meal that her characters would have. Hearty breakfasts, early lunches, high teas with a dozen yummy snacks & of course the supper with a simple soup or a grand English dinner with a roast or a steak. 

I would always make sure I grabbed something to sink my teeth into each time i flipped a foodilicious page of her most endearing books. When I turned to my own kitchen, my mommy would always have only Indian fare to offer. Anyways, that never disappointed me either because I am such a lover of Indian food. It is just recently that in my quest to discover other cuisines that I asked my friend Jen for some simple & easy to make (and grill) recipes as I had to put my new OTG to use. 

Here is one of the most simple yet delicious recipes of a chicken roast. Preparation time is not more than 10-15minutes as you need to use simple ingredients which you would stock up in your pantry (skip the herbs if you really don't stock them up). Grilling time takes about a hour and 15minutes if your chicken is small & tender. It is suggested to serve this immediately when done because it is best eaten when it's piping hot! Unfortunately I made this late evening & by the time it was done we were so famished that I totally forgot to click the picture of the entire chicken!


Simple Chicken Roast
Recipe Source: My friend Jen
Serves: 2-3


You Need:
  • 1 kg whole chicken with skin
  • juice of 1 lime (reduce this to about 3 quarters of a lime if you prefer it less tangy)
  • 2 tsps pepper (i used a combination of white & black pepper)
  • 2 tbsp butter (use less if you are health conscious or just skip it & use olive oil as necessary)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (ideally the one that is suitable for grilling & baking)
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano* 
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt to taste (I used about 1 level tsp)
For serving:
  • 1 large potato - boiled, peeled & mashed & sprinkled with a dash of pepper
  • 1 cup green peas - boiled
Note*: You can use any dried herbs - I usually stock oregano, rosemary & thyme

Method:
1. Wash the innards of the whole chicken well, drain well (or use a kitchen towel to wipe it dry)
2. With your fingers, gently loosen up the skin so that you get pockets between the skin & flesh of the chicken - this is where your marinade goes. This is the whole reason why you need to buy a whole chicken with skin as it gives this lovely flavour to the roast.
3. Alternately make a coarse paste out of the lime, olive oil & garlic and mix it with the pepper, butter, herbs & salt to make a smooth marinade.
4. Use a spoon or with your fingers apply the marinate well inside the skin onto the flesh. Flip the chicken over & repeat the process. Use whatever's remaining to marinate inside the chicken as well. 
5. Fasten the ends of the chicken with a toothpick/cocktail stick so that the marinate doesn't spill out.
6. Preheat oven to 170 degrees on Grill mode & grill for 1 hour turning the chicken over halfway through the grill time. Baste it with its own juices every 15 minutes or so.
7. Check doneness of meat by inserting a skewer between the thigh & chest of the chicken.
8. Serve piping hot with mashed potatoes & boiled green peas!



Monday, February 21, 2011

Going Bananas! - Kelyanchyo Gariyo (Banana Fritters)

One of my readers mailed me a couple of weeks ago asking if I could upload the recipe of a quintessentially Mangalorean seasonal (summertime) snack - the Gariyo, but made with Bananas instead of the Jackfruit. I had never heard of Banana Gariyos but found the idea quite interesting and promised her that I would hunt for a recipe. I flipped through my favourite Mangy Cookery Bibles (a.k.a recipe books) and found a slightly different version than what my requestor wanted, but the outcome was quite nice. My DH (dear hubby) jokingly said this was the Goli Baje's (savoury fritters) sweeter cousin. Sure it was! A hybrid between the Goli Baje (in texture) and the Jackfruit Gariyo (in flavour). This is definitely not like the authentic Gariyo (which are more firm and a bit tough to eat), but a very good replacement if you want to pop a Gariyo anytime round the year. It is also different from the Banana Fritters which is very commonly made in Keralite households which involves slices of bananas dipped in batter & deep fried.


While the Jackfruit Gariyos are made with ground rice, jaggery, coconut and ripe jackfruit, the Banana version is quite simple - wheat flour, sugar, bananas & coconut milk come together to make the batter which can be whipped up in a jiffy. I am quite eager to try out the rice flour version of this recipe - I will try it soon enough & upload that recipe here too. And since Gariyos have been my favourite since my childhood (prefer them over the steamed Jackfruit Patholis), I am waiting for the summer so that I can hopefully find some Jackfruit in the supermarket, or better still, smuggle some from Mangalore :-)

While I limit deep frying to once a month (it's a highly unhealthy way of cooking), I did try this last evening as this post was due for a long time. I reduced the quantities as we are just 2 adults and a small mouth to feed :-)


Kelyanchyo Gariyo
Yield : 15 lime sized Gariyos
Recipe Source: Sambardo by J.B Lobo

You Need: (note that these are figures that I reduced by one third of the original recipe to give a yield of 15 gariyos, I measured each ingredient in grams. The cup/tbsp figures mentioned here are approximate)
  • 1 big ripe banana (Cavendish variety you get in Mangalore or the Golden Banana available in Mumbai)
  • 80 gms wheat flour (approx 3/4th cup)
  • 60gms sugar (approx 1/3rd cup or abt 5 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or 2tbsp coconut milk powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water or you can just use milk
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 egg (I skipped this)
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
Method:
1. Mash the banana well and mix it along with the wheat flour & sugar.
2. Prepare the coconut milk and add it to the above mixture. You can add small amounts of water or more coconut milk to arrive at a thick batter (cake batter consistency)
3. Heat oil for deep frying. Test the heat by dropping a small drop of batter. If it comes up immediately your oil is hot enough for frying.
4. Drop about a tablespoonful (or use your fingers) of batter into the hot oil & fry till golden brown.


5. Remove from the oil & transfer onto an absorbent kitchen towel.
6. Serve hot!






Sunday, February 20, 2011

Poori Baaji

One of the items on a 'set menu' in all Mangalorean Thindi (meaning snack in Kannada) hotels (thats how its called - hotel & not the fancy 'restaurant') is the Poori Baaji - Served for breakfast & lunch. I have tasted the best Poori Baaji in Mohini Vilas - a bungalow shaped hotel ('70's style - with spiral staircases & multi coloured mosaic flooring) in Hampankatta. Their Pooris used to be giant sized - almost like the North Indian Batura. Delicious melt-in-the-mouth Pooris with equally delicious Potato Baaji. Sadly, that place has been torn down a couple of years ago to make way for some commercial project. The good ol' charm of Mlore is quickly vanishing.

Till the time I landed in Mumbai, the word 'Bhaaji' was synomymous with the Potato Baaji served with the Pooris. Every time my maid used to speak about Roti aur Bhaaji, I would wonder why she preferred to cook the Potato Baaji everyday. Little did I know that anything that means 'vegetable dish' was called the 'Bhaaji'. If Sabzi is how they call it in other parts of India, most of Mumbai calls it the 'Bhaaji'. So I made sure to tell my maid I was making the 'Aloo ka Bhaaji' meaning Potato Baaji. You may have noticed the shift in the spellings used to describe the 'Baaji' and the 'Bhaaji'. Well, thats the whole difference. Down South, we call it the Baaji without stressing on the 'Bha!' ;-)


Poori Baaji


You Need:

For the Pooris
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • a little less than 1/2 cup warm water
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
For the Baaji
  • 1 big onion cut into thick slices & halved in between
  • 2 medium size potatoes
  • 1 medium green chillie chopped into rounds
  • 1 tsp udad dal (black gram dal)
  • 1/4 tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • 4-5 kadipatta (curry leaves)
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • oil for frying
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander leaves for garnishing
Method:

To Make The Pooris
1. Mix the flour & salt & add a little of the water and knead to make a smooth dough. Set aside for 10-15 (but you can skip this if you are in a hurry. Keeping the dough aside helps it to bind well & increase the elasticity which helps you make softer pooris)
2. Make 9-10 small balls (size of small size limes) and flatten them with your palm
3. Use a little flour on a working surface & with a rolling pin roll out mini round shaped chapathis (to fit your palm). Dont roll them out too thin or your pooris will be too crispy (unless you like them that way). Medium thickness will do.
4. Heat oil in a wide & deep bottomed kadai/wok. Test the heat by dropping a ball of dough (the size of a matchstick head) and if it rises immediately with bubbles all around it, your oil is hot enough.
5. Keep a regular ladle handy. Insert one poori into the hot oil & immediately scoop out ladlefulls of hot oil and bathe the poori with it - this helps your poori to immediately puff up like a poori should! Otherwise your pooris may remain flat. Puffing up of pooris also depends on how hot the oil is & how you have rolled them out.
6. Turn the poori on the other side & pour some more oil on it so that the colour changes to golden.
7. Remove with a slotted ladle and place the pooris on a kitchen tissue to absorb excess oil.
8. Serve hot with Potato Baaji


To Make The Baaji
1. Boil/Pressure cook potatoes with some salt (for about 4-5 whistles). Allow to stand & when the whistle is loose, remove, transfer to cold water, peel & mash them well
2. In a wok, heat some oil (about 1 tbsp) and add the mustard seeds, when it begins to splutter, toss in the kadipatta & then the washed udad dal (ensure its drained of excess water). Stir fry. Add the green chillie & the onions & fry till onions turn translucent. Toss in the haldi powder & mix well


3. Add salt to taste & mashed potatoes & cook on slow fire for about 2 mins, stirring & mixing the masala well with the potatoes.
4. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves & serve hot with Pooris

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lasagne (With Spinach, Mushrooms & Chicken)

I had tasted Lasagne like a million years ago (10 yrs to be precise) in a small Italian joint on Richmond Road, Bangalore - it was divine! As the years rolled by all I could remember was the rich white sauce and the layers, but nothing more than that. If you asked me to recreate the magic, I'd probably fall flat on my face. Since 2011 has been dedicated (by me) to try out all types of cuisines in a bid to improvise on my cooking skills & also bring some new flavours to the table, I asked my dear friend Jen for one of her Italian recipes - pat came her reply! Lasagne! To make things easy for me, she even dropped in to my kitchen to show me how exactly it's done - how sweet is that? Bless her! In a time & age when Youtube pretty much teaches you everything from sewing a button to folding a t-shirt & what not, making Lasagne seemed still a challenge to me although I could have browsed a few videos online - the personal touch of a personal tutor is something else. So I watched her as she made the Lasagne (the first time around) in a jiffy! It tasted awesome and was an instant hit with baby boy but sadly hubby dearest was travelling & couldnt taste it. I decided to wait for a week before I made it again. This time around I replaced the chicken cocktail sausages with some chicken kheema knowing that my little one simply loves it.

Making Lasagne (also spelled as Lasagna) is not rocket science - just make sure you have a couple of hours on your hands and are prepared to see a whole lot of dishes in the sink :-) Pretty much like a marathon Biryani session!



The crumbling effect! The layers of a lasagne when it just falls apart :)


Lasagne (With Spinach, Mushrooms & Chicken)

Recipe Source: My friend Jen

You need:
  • 200gms chicken mince OR 1 medium size can of chicken/pork cocktail sausages
  • 1 bunch spinach (palak)
  • 1 pack of button mushrooms (abt 15-20) sliced (I totally enjoy slicing mushrooms - find this very therapeutic :-)
  • 4-5 lasagne sheets
  • 100gms Parmesan/cheddar cheese (you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer or use this just for the top surface)
  • 100gms mozzarella cheese (you will require sufficient mozzarella cheese for the layers - use as much as you wish if you prefer a 'cheesy' lasagne)
For the Red (Tomato) Sauce:
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (Godrej/Dabur Hommade/Lacnor)
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 tsp paprika (chilli flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary (or any dried herb)
  • 1/4 tsp thyme (or any dried herb)
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • olive oil
For the White (Bechamel) Sauce:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp flour (maida)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Method:
To make the red sauce:
1. Place some water in a small pan & bring it to a boil. Add the tomatoes & blanch them well (for about 7-8minutes). Remove and place in cold water & peel off the skin. Make a puree out of it using a fork or a masher. Set aside.


2. In a large pan/wok heat some olive oil and fry the chopped onions till pale. Toss in the chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds & then add the pureed tomatoes, tomato ketchup & paste & cook for 2mins till oil leaves the sides.
3. Toss in the pepper powder, paprika, oregano and the herbs. Stir & cook for 1 minute
4. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir well, cover & cook for about 5minutes, stirring every now & then. They should appear limp but not mushy.


Red Sauce with Mushrooms


To make the white sauce:
1. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg powder) in a bowl & add the milk to it and mix well to avoid any lumps.
2. Heat a wide wok/pan and add the butter, when it melts add the milk+flour mixture and cook on slow flame for about 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Your sauce is done
3. To this sauce you can add precooked (boiled) chicken mince like I did for this recipe.
4. You can either add preboiled spinach to this sauce or use the spinach by itself during the layering


To prepare the lasagne sheets:
1. In a wide pan take sufficient water (about 6-7 cups) and bring it to a boil. Alternatively cut the sheets to the length that fits your baking dish.
2. When the water boils, add some salt and drop the sheets one by one. Give it a stir. Cook for about 3-4 minutes till 90% done
2. Drain & refresh with cold water, add a drop of oil to the water & stir gently to ensure the sheets do not stick to each other. You can leave them in the cold water or remove each sheet & place them on separate plates - be careful not to tear them (I left my sheets in the water - the first time around they were perfect, the second time they tore a bit because I missed to stir them in the cold water)


For the layering:
1. Take a square/rectangular baking dish (glass dish looks nice & fancy, but any thick bakeware will do) and place the first layer of cooked lasagne sheets. My dish was square - the only one small enough to fit into my tiny oven. I used two sheets per layer - side by side, but not necessarily two whole sheets as each sheet had to be cut to fit the length so I made use of the snipped off ends - so you see, no wastage in that department!
2. Spread some red sauce nicely over the first layer and grate some parmesan cheese over it - you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer.
3. Next, place two more sheets - this is your second layer. Spread the boiled spinach (if you have not added it to the white sauce). Grate some more cheese.
4. Place two more sheets - this is your third layer. Spread the white sauce. Grate the cheese
5. Repeat layering process till all your sauces/sheets are exhausted.
6. The top layer will not have any sauce - you can just grate a lot of cheddar cheese here.

Tip: Once you are done with the layering, you can place the dish in the fridge if you plan to bake it later. Always bake your lasagne 15-20 minutes before you are ready to serve. It is best enjoyed when it is fresh from the oven & piping hot.



7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese on top melts & dribbles into the lasagne


8. Remove from oven, cut into thick chunks & serve carefully to ensure that the layers don't topple over.





Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Special - Red Velvet Cupcakes!

Valentine's Day used to feel all nice & special while I was in college. We used to plan to wear something in red (or avoid to do so - depending on the mood of the season) to college and have a lot of fun watching the Romeos run after their Juliets to propose (confess their love to). Thankfully I got spared & had a pretty uneventful college life as far as Valentine's Day & it's controversies were concerned.

 Although in India, poor Saint Valentine and his day (and lovers who like to celebrate this day) have been at the receiving end of petty politicians & moral policemen who say it's not part of Indian 'culture' to celebrate this day & have done all possible things to display their real culture (from destructing person & property to disrupting peace at large). Florists & greeting card/gift companies however rake in their moolah and red is clearly the colour of this season.
However, since I thought it was quite an uneventful day in my household, I decided to spruce up the atmosphere a bit by decorating it with red roses & baking some Red Velvet Cupcakes. Hubby was pleasantly surprised & we wound up the day with some special Val Day dinner at a nice restaurant. It was one of the nicest days of my life. When you start the day with no expectations whatsoever & it ends up with some lovely memories!


Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from: Joyofbaking.com
Yield: 12 cupcakes
You Need:
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (125gms) flour
  • 1 tbsp (10gms) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 60gms unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4th cup (150gms) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk or thin yogurt (not too sour) beaten well
  • 1 tbsp liquid red food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar (you can skip this & increase the baking powder by 1/2 tsp making it a total of 1 tsp baking powder)
For the cream cheese frosting
  • 110gms cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (30gms) icing sugar sifted & free of lumps
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy whipping cream
Method:
To Make The Red Velvet Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and line 12 muffin tins with paper cup liners.
2. Sift together the flour & cocoa powder (and salt - if you intend adding it)
3. In a large bowl beat the butter till soft & then add the sugar & beat till light & fluffy for about 2-3minutes
4. Add the egg and beat  till incorporated, add the vanilla extract and beat again.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk & the red food colouring.
6. Add the sifted flour+cocoa mixture and the buttermilk+red colour mixture alternately in 3 parts, starting & ending with the flour.
7. In a small cup combine the vingegar (if you are using it) with the baking powder & wait for it to fizz a bit & immediately mix it to the batter.
8. Quickly pour batter into the prepared muffin cups upto the bring and smoothen with a spatula.
9. Bake for approx 20minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Remove, cool completely on a wire rack.
11. Decorate with cream cheese frosting (I used a simple granulated sugar with butter mixture because the cupcakes didnt even last until they cooled!!) & serve

 To Make The Cream Cheese Frosting:
1. Beat the cream cheese till smooth, add the vanilla extract and icing sugar and beat till smooth
2. Add the heavy cream gradually till you get a thick enough consistency to pipe. Add more sugar or cream as required


Red Velvet Cupcake With A Butter & Sugar Topping

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simply South! Ragi Muddhe (Finger Millet Balls) & Mutton Curry

Having balanced meals (and a variety of nutritious foods) eventually evolves into a healthy lifestyle and contributes to fitness of mind & body says my ex-dietician cum good friend. This encouraged me to explore all kinds of grains & legumes besides a whole range of vegetables & fruits. I am more of a 'grains' kind of a person - I love to explore that department more than I would buy a variety of vegetables even if they stare at me from the various shelves in the supermarket.

I introduced Ragi to my son when I weaned him & he managed to eat the Ragi porridge for about a year before he started throwing up at the sight of it. I re-introduced it in a more liquidy form when he turned 2 and he's been fine since then. I thought I should introduce this humble grain into our daily diet as well and off I went hunting for the recipe of the Ragi Muddhe which is eaten in most of Karnataka (except the coast) & Andhra Pradesh. Commonly known as the poor man's bread in these parts of India, today it has become popular for it's health benefits and is finding its way into kitchens and even foodstuff such as noodles and upma! Its also known to be strengthening & cooling - very beneficial for all ages especially infants, elderly and pregnant women. Give it a try if Ragi is available where you live.


Ragi Muddhe & Mutton Curry:
Recipe Source: Hubpages

You Need:
For the ragi muddhe
  • 1 cup ragi flour (1tbsp separated) 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp rice flour (optional)
For the mutton curry
  • 1 kg mutton
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tbsps coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

Method:

To make the ragi muddhe
1. In a thick bottomed pan mix 2 cups of water and 1 tbsp rice flour+1tbsp ragi. This is done to avoid lumps while the mixture boils.
2. Place the pan over a flame of medium high heat and bring the water to a boil. Add the remaining ragi flour. Do not mix. Leave it for about 6-7minutes when the water will slowly bubble over the flour. Leave it for another 2-3 minutes & then using a wooden spatula mix the mixture. Reduce flame & keep mixing till the mixture comes together like a ball.
3. Remove from flame, remove contents on a plate & allow to cool off for a few minutes till it is ok for you to handle the dough. Form into palm size balls & serve.

You can see the video of how to make the ragi muddhe here

To make the mutton curry
1. Heat some oil & fry the onions till golden brown. Add the ginger & garlic & fry for 2 mins.
2. Grind this along with the powders, coconut, tomato & coriander leaves - to a fine paste
3. Heat some more oil in the pan & toss in the curry leaves and stir on slow flame till you get a nice aroma.
4. Add the meat & salt & fry for about 5minutes & add the ground masala, mix well & if you have precooked the meat in a pressure cooker add the stock (I follow this method as pressure cookers speeden up cooking time). If you are adding uncooked meat, then add about a cup of water & cook it on slow-medium flame for about 30-40minutes. Check in between, stir & add little quantities of water to assist the meat to cook well & not stick to the bottom of the pan.
5. For precooked meat, allow the meat to stew a bit in the ground masala for about 5minutes on sim. Switch off flame & serve hot with   RagiMuddhes!                                                                                                     


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tendli Miriyapito (Ivy Gourd Pepper)

Ever heard this PJ (pathetic joke) - "Qsn: What is Bruce Lee's favourite vegetable. Ans: Tendli", well this vegetable is actually (and thankfully) pronounced in a nasal fashion in Konkani as 'Tendlein'. In Mangalore, many people grow this vegetable (which grows on vines) in their backyard. It's botanical name is Coccinia (pronounced as Coc-Sinia) Indica and is commonly known as 'Ivy Gourd'. I have made this correction here thanks to my cousin Prema who pointed out that although this vegetable is commonly known as 'Gerkins' in Mangalore, the actual name is Coccinia commonly known as Ivy Gourd

It either grows quietly along the Valche Baji (Spinach also botanically known as Basella alba) on its own 'matov' (makeshift pendal made with sticks) or is often found on the family's favourite Guava tree (like it was in mine). Once a month we had a good collection of organic ivy gourds.

I miss that so much about Mangalore - to be able to grow anything & (almost) everything in our backyards and also receive homegrown organic produce from neighbours & relatives - veggies such as Spinach, ivy gourd, breadfruit (botanical name is Artocarpus Altilis & is known as bakri-chajhar in Hindi) yam & seasonal fruits such as mangoes, chikkoos, jackfruits, guava, bananas, cashews (and nuts), custard apples (seethaphal & ramphal), thorange, pineapples, papayas - the list is endless.

With no offence to my dearest Keralite friends, I found this so cute....Rightly said isnt it?     "Kerala may be God's own country but He comes to Mangalore for vacation"   Dr. K. B. Mallya


Tendli Miriyapito
(Printable Recipe)

Recipe Source: My Mum
You Need:
  • 300gms gerkins
  • 1/4 tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder
  • 1/2 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 1 green chilly (optional)
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 3-4 sols (or 1 tsp lime juice)
  • A dash of sugar (or about 1/4 tsp)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil or ghee (ghee gives a great fragrance)
 Method:
1. Wash & drain the gerkins. Remove ends (stalk & bottom) & gently mash each gerkin with a pestle. This is just to ensure that the spices enter the ivy gourd which would otherwise be bland. You can even slit them halfway, but the pestle is a far easier option.
2. In a pan (or a pressure cooker) add the ivy gourds and all the ingredients mentioned above. Stir & add about 2-3 tbsps of water. Cover the lid, add the weight (whistle) and cook on high flame. Turn off flame when the first whistle blows off.


 3. Allow the weight to loosen, open, stir well to ensure all ingredients have been mixed properly.
4. Serve hot with steaming boiled rice & fish curry

  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chicken Kheema (Mince) Masala

When you have hard core non vegetarian tastebuds, it becomes a bit difficult to think of a variety of things to put on the dinner table. Being Mangaloreans we eat a lot of sea food, but then sometimes the availability of good fish becomes a challenge. Although Chicken was meant only for Sundays & other special occasions during my childhood, it has slowly transitioned itself into our weekly menu. 

But then eating too much Chicken (in meat form) can become a big bore which is why we find Kheema to be a refreshing change thanks to its versatility. You can use the same recipe for different types of meats (Chicken, Beef, Mutton) and it will still taste great. You can transform Kheema into cutlets, patties & meatballs too. You can also add rice to it & call it a Kheema Pulao or Biryani. One can never get bored of Kheema - at least not me. I tried a recipe about 3 weeks back which I am yet to post, but maybe that can wait. For now, its this gorgeous yet simple Kheema recipe for you which I randomly found on the internet.


Tip: While I was making this recipe I realised that a lot of fat was being let out (as seen in the picture below). I also read that commercially available Kheema usually contains more fat which cannot be separated from the meat, so if you have a mincer, its always advisable to use homemade Kheema - it's always the healthier option. If that's not possible, then while cooking use minimum oil & once the dish is ready slowly remove excess fat before serving


Chicken Kheema Masala

Adapted from: About.com Indian food

You Need:
  • 800gms kheema (washed & drained well in a fine slotted colander)
  • 3 medium onions finely chopped
  • 2 big tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala powder (I use Everest Garam Masala which I totally love)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
  • juice of 1 small lime or about 1 1/2 tbsp of juice
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander for garnishing (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp oil 
Method:
1. Heat oil in a wok/pan and add the cumin seeds. When they splutter quickly toss in the chopped onions and fry till golden.
2. Add the ginger & garlic pastes and fry for a minute. Toss in the powders - cumin, coriander, garam masala & fry for a minute
3. Add the kheema and mix well. Simmer and cook for 10minutes stirring in between to avoid burning (by now the kheema will let out some stock which will help in cooking. Do not add any extra water)
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes get mushy. You can also add the tomato puree for additional taste
5. Add the lime juice cook for a minute.
6. Remove from flame. Add the chopped coriander for garnishing.
7. Serve hot with white rice or chapathis

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Going Bananas! Chocolate Banana Cake

Don't we sometimes exclaim that we are glad we can choose friends if not relatives? It truly is a blessing to be able to choose friends. But what better than having friends who are also relatives? Cousins! Yes, its wonderful when you have cousins you grow up with who also become your confidantes & best friends for life. I have wonderful cousins - on both sides of my family - all talented, beautiful, smart & intelligent girls & boys with a funny bone each lodged in their spine - enough to tickle the hell out of me each time we get together. I am glad that although everyone is dispersed across the globe, we still are in touch with each other through Facebook.

Many of my fondest childhood memories are associated with this one cousin with whom I shared all my secrets, my sorrows & joys, my triumphs & my failures. The one who recommended the best books which eventually shaped up the quality of books I turned to. We would go to visit each others homes during vacations and yap the whole night away. It was so much fun. It was a time when cable TV, Mobile phones & the Internet had not yet taken the world by storm. Holidays meant lazing around the house playing Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo & Cards (Ispit as it's called in Konkani - haha I finally recall) or watching endless tapes of Tom & Jerry cartoons (when we were really young) and The Sound of Music and singing all the songs by heart when we were a little older. Thanks to the vast 'hithaals' (compounds) we had plenty of outdoor games to keep the sweat glands busy and what fun it was to pluck raw Mangoes & 'Karmbaal' (Star Fruit) and many other Summer treats that were laden on trees. The only time this darling person turned into a devil was when I messed up a neat stick of butter at the breakfast table :) Haha - messing up butter & slicing Mushrooms are something I find very therapeutic!

Before I bore you anymore, let me tell you the purpose of this narrative in relation to my cousins. I dedicate this one post to this dear cousin who has been with me through all my ups & downs - especially those related to baking. Since my mother never baked - I tried my hand at it after I got married & bought a microwave with convection. So I've been through many a disaster including a Christmas Cake that I baked 5 years ago which got so burnt thanks to mistaken microwave settings that I thought of using it as my foundation stone for my house in Mangalore :-( Never the one to give up (and always encouraged by my cousin to give it another try) I finally managed to master the art of baking in a microwave. It is just recently that I got an OTG as a gift and I had to figure that out all over again cuz it was a very old & basic model with no proper markings or indications on it. Just a few figures of the heating elements and that was it. So after another series of burnt & undone cakes, I have figured it again (if not mastered). 

I am dedicating this post with the recipe of a cake that turned out so gorgeous (scroll down to the end for the verdict) to my lovely cousin who suggested this recipe in the first place!

So, Premu Girl, this is for you. Muah!


Chocolate Banana Cake

Recipe Source: Joyofbaking.com

You Need: (Note: I exactly halved all the ingredients to give a smaller yield - serves about 8 people)
For the Cake:
  • 1/2 cup mashed bananas (I used 1 large Golden Banana - similar to the Cavendish)
  • 200 gms granulated sugar
  • 123 gms flour
  • 38 gms cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 60ml milk
  • 60ml oil
  • 120ml warm water
  • 3/4th tsp baking powder
  • 3/4th tsp baking soda
  • 3/4th tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the Ganache:
  • 100gm semi sweet (I used bitter sweet cooking chocolate) chocolate - Use your favourite brand as it determines the quality of your cake
  • 60ml whipping cream - I skipped this as I didnt have any
  • 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
Method:
1. Sift the dry ingredients together - flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
2. Mix all the wet ingredients and whisk them together - egg, milk, oil, warm water, vanilla essence & bananas
3. Add the wet ingredients mixture to the dry mixture & mix well
4. Pour into a greased baking tin (I used a 7 inch square tin since I halved the ingredients. For double the quantity it is suggested to use a 9X13 inch (23X33cm) pan)
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees for 35-40 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes clean
6. Remove from oven & allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10minutes before transferring it onto a wire rack till it is completely cooled

7. Alternately heat the cream and butter in a saucepan or microwave it, bring it to a boil & immediately pour it over the chocolate (which you place in another bowl). Stir it slowly & whisk it when the ganache has cooled a bit.  




8. Slather the cake with the chocolate ganache. You can go all creative & decorate it as you please

9. Serve the way you like it - warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Enjoy!


Verdict: This was the simplest cake I had ever baked. Really fluffy & moist. Preparation time is not more than 15-20minutes and you need simple ingredients (I always need to plan my cakes when white butter is involved as all my grocers stock only salted butter...arrrgh!). There is no beating & whisking and any of that endless stuff - all you do is combine the dry & wet ingredients separately and then dump them together. Surprisingly, the cake has a very subtle taste of bananas. It is mildly pleasant & reminds you every now & then of its presence. A perfect cake to be whipped together if you have surprise guests as you can have a great dessert (or snack) on hand in 50-55minutes flat. I am definitely going to try this cake again & again (as many times as I have bananas which no one wants to eat :-)

The best part of this cake is that it freezes beautifully! I have some saved up in my freezer for a midnight snack ;-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Simple Chicken Roast

Hmmm, so I've read about all kinds of scrumptious eats such as scones & pies, cakes & pastries and meat pies and roasts all through my childhood in various books written by western authors especially by Enid Blyton in all her lovely books during my early childhood. Each time I read her book I would feel oh-so-hungry cuz she described all the fine details of a grand meal that her characters would have. Hearty breakfasts, early lunches, high teas with a dozen yummy snacks & of course the supper with a simple soup or a grand English dinner with a roast or a steak. 

I would always make sure I grabbed something to sink my teeth into each time i flipped a foodilicious page of her most endearing books. When I turned to my own kitchen, my mommy would always have only Indian fare to offer. Anyways, that never disappointed me either because I am such a lover of Indian food. It is just recently that in my quest to discover other cuisines that I asked my friend Jen for some simple & easy to make (and grill) recipes as I had to put my new OTG to use. 

Here is one of the most simple yet delicious recipes of a chicken roast. Preparation time is not more than 10-15minutes as you need to use simple ingredients which you would stock up in your pantry (skip the herbs if you really don't stock them up). Grilling time takes about a hour and 15minutes if your chicken is small & tender. It is suggested to serve this immediately when done because it is best eaten when it's piping hot! Unfortunately I made this late evening & by the time it was done we were so famished that I totally forgot to click the picture of the entire chicken!


Simple Chicken Roast
Recipe Source: My friend Jen
Serves: 2-3


You Need:
  • 1 kg whole chicken with skin
  • juice of 1 lime (reduce this to about 3 quarters of a lime if you prefer it less tangy)
  • 2 tsps pepper (i used a combination of white & black pepper)
  • 2 tbsp butter (use less if you are health conscious or just skip it & use olive oil as necessary)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (ideally the one that is suitable for grilling & baking)
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano* 
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt to taste (I used about 1 level tsp)
For serving:
  • 1 large potato - boiled, peeled & mashed & sprinkled with a dash of pepper
  • 1 cup green peas - boiled
Note*: You can use any dried herbs - I usually stock oregano, rosemary & thyme

Method:
1. Wash the innards of the whole chicken well, drain well (or use a kitchen towel to wipe it dry)
2. With your fingers, gently loosen up the skin so that you get pockets between the skin & flesh of the chicken - this is where your marinade goes. This is the whole reason why you need to buy a whole chicken with skin as it gives this lovely flavour to the roast.
3. Alternately make a coarse paste out of the lime, olive oil & garlic and mix it with the pepper, butter, herbs & salt to make a smooth marinade.
4. Use a spoon or with your fingers apply the marinate well inside the skin onto the flesh. Flip the chicken over & repeat the process. Use whatever's remaining to marinate inside the chicken as well. 
5. Fasten the ends of the chicken with a toothpick/cocktail stick so that the marinate doesn't spill out.
6. Preheat oven to 170 degrees on Grill mode & grill for 1 hour turning the chicken over halfway through the grill time. Baste it with its own juices every 15 minutes or so.
7. Check doneness of meat by inserting a skewer between the thigh & chest of the chicken.
8. Serve piping hot with mashed potatoes & boiled green peas!



Monday, February 21, 2011

Going Bananas! - Kelyanchyo Gariyo (Banana Fritters)

One of my readers mailed me a couple of weeks ago asking if I could upload the recipe of a quintessentially Mangalorean seasonal (summertime) snack - the Gariyo, but made with Bananas instead of the Jackfruit. I had never heard of Banana Gariyos but found the idea quite interesting and promised her that I would hunt for a recipe. I flipped through my favourite Mangy Cookery Bibles (a.k.a recipe books) and found a slightly different version than what my requestor wanted, but the outcome was quite nice. My DH (dear hubby) jokingly said this was the Goli Baje's (savoury fritters) sweeter cousin. Sure it was! A hybrid between the Goli Baje (in texture) and the Jackfruit Gariyo (in flavour). This is definitely not like the authentic Gariyo (which are more firm and a bit tough to eat), but a very good replacement if you want to pop a Gariyo anytime round the year. It is also different from the Banana Fritters which is very commonly made in Keralite households which involves slices of bananas dipped in batter & deep fried.


While the Jackfruit Gariyos are made with ground rice, jaggery, coconut and ripe jackfruit, the Banana version is quite simple - wheat flour, sugar, bananas & coconut milk come together to make the batter which can be whipped up in a jiffy. I am quite eager to try out the rice flour version of this recipe - I will try it soon enough & upload that recipe here too. And since Gariyos have been my favourite since my childhood (prefer them over the steamed Jackfruit Patholis), I am waiting for the summer so that I can hopefully find some Jackfruit in the supermarket, or better still, smuggle some from Mangalore :-)

While I limit deep frying to once a month (it's a highly unhealthy way of cooking), I did try this last evening as this post was due for a long time. I reduced the quantities as we are just 2 adults and a small mouth to feed :-)


Kelyanchyo Gariyo
Yield : 15 lime sized Gariyos
Recipe Source: Sambardo by J.B Lobo

You Need: (note that these are figures that I reduced by one third of the original recipe to give a yield of 15 gariyos, I measured each ingredient in grams. The cup/tbsp figures mentioned here are approximate)
  • 1 big ripe banana (Cavendish variety you get in Mangalore or the Golden Banana available in Mumbai)
  • 80 gms wheat flour (approx 3/4th cup)
  • 60gms sugar (approx 1/3rd cup or abt 5 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or 2tbsp coconut milk powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water or you can just use milk
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 egg (I skipped this)
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
Method:
1. Mash the banana well and mix it along with the wheat flour & sugar.
2. Prepare the coconut milk and add it to the above mixture. You can add small amounts of water or more coconut milk to arrive at a thick batter (cake batter consistency)
3. Heat oil for deep frying. Test the heat by dropping a small drop of batter. If it comes up immediately your oil is hot enough for frying.
4. Drop about a tablespoonful (or use your fingers) of batter into the hot oil & fry till golden brown.


5. Remove from the oil & transfer onto an absorbent kitchen towel.
6. Serve hot!






Sunday, February 20, 2011

Poori Baaji

One of the items on a 'set menu' in all Mangalorean Thindi (meaning snack in Kannada) hotels (thats how its called - hotel & not the fancy 'restaurant') is the Poori Baaji - Served for breakfast & lunch. I have tasted the best Poori Baaji in Mohini Vilas - a bungalow shaped hotel ('70's style - with spiral staircases & multi coloured mosaic flooring) in Hampankatta. Their Pooris used to be giant sized - almost like the North Indian Batura. Delicious melt-in-the-mouth Pooris with equally delicious Potato Baaji. Sadly, that place has been torn down a couple of years ago to make way for some commercial project. The good ol' charm of Mlore is quickly vanishing.

Till the time I landed in Mumbai, the word 'Bhaaji' was synomymous with the Potato Baaji served with the Pooris. Every time my maid used to speak about Roti aur Bhaaji, I would wonder why she preferred to cook the Potato Baaji everyday. Little did I know that anything that means 'vegetable dish' was called the 'Bhaaji'. If Sabzi is how they call it in other parts of India, most of Mumbai calls it the 'Bhaaji'. So I made sure to tell my maid I was making the 'Aloo ka Bhaaji' meaning Potato Baaji. You may have noticed the shift in the spellings used to describe the 'Baaji' and the 'Bhaaji'. Well, thats the whole difference. Down South, we call it the Baaji without stressing on the 'Bha!' ;-)


Poori Baaji


You Need:

For the Pooris
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • a little less than 1/2 cup warm water
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
For the Baaji
  • 1 big onion cut into thick slices & halved in between
  • 2 medium size potatoes
  • 1 medium green chillie chopped into rounds
  • 1 tsp udad dal (black gram dal)
  • 1/4 tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • 4-5 kadipatta (curry leaves)
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • oil for frying
  • salt to taste
  • chopped coriander leaves for garnishing
Method:

To Make The Pooris
1. Mix the flour & salt & add a little of the water and knead to make a smooth dough. Set aside for 10-15 (but you can skip this if you are in a hurry. Keeping the dough aside helps it to bind well & increase the elasticity which helps you make softer pooris)
2. Make 9-10 small balls (size of small size limes) and flatten them with your palm
3. Use a little flour on a working surface & with a rolling pin roll out mini round shaped chapathis (to fit your palm). Dont roll them out too thin or your pooris will be too crispy (unless you like them that way). Medium thickness will do.
4. Heat oil in a wide & deep bottomed kadai/wok. Test the heat by dropping a ball of dough (the size of a matchstick head) and if it rises immediately with bubbles all around it, your oil is hot enough.
5. Keep a regular ladle handy. Insert one poori into the hot oil & immediately scoop out ladlefulls of hot oil and bathe the poori with it - this helps your poori to immediately puff up like a poori should! Otherwise your pooris may remain flat. Puffing up of pooris also depends on how hot the oil is & how you have rolled them out.
6. Turn the poori on the other side & pour some more oil on it so that the colour changes to golden.
7. Remove with a slotted ladle and place the pooris on a kitchen tissue to absorb excess oil.
8. Serve hot with Potato Baaji


To Make The Baaji
1. Boil/Pressure cook potatoes with some salt (for about 4-5 whistles). Allow to stand & when the whistle is loose, remove, transfer to cold water, peel & mash them well
2. In a wok, heat some oil (about 1 tbsp) and add the mustard seeds, when it begins to splutter, toss in the kadipatta & then the washed udad dal (ensure its drained of excess water). Stir fry. Add the green chillie & the onions & fry till onions turn translucent. Toss in the haldi powder & mix well


3. Add salt to taste & mashed potatoes & cook on slow fire for about 2 mins, stirring & mixing the masala well with the potatoes.
4. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves & serve hot with Pooris

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lasagne (With Spinach, Mushrooms & Chicken)

I had tasted Lasagne like a million years ago (10 yrs to be precise) in a small Italian joint on Richmond Road, Bangalore - it was divine! As the years rolled by all I could remember was the rich white sauce and the layers, but nothing more than that. If you asked me to recreate the magic, I'd probably fall flat on my face. Since 2011 has been dedicated (by me) to try out all types of cuisines in a bid to improvise on my cooking skills & also bring some new flavours to the table, I asked my dear friend Jen for one of her Italian recipes - pat came her reply! Lasagne! To make things easy for me, she even dropped in to my kitchen to show me how exactly it's done - how sweet is that? Bless her! In a time & age when Youtube pretty much teaches you everything from sewing a button to folding a t-shirt & what not, making Lasagne seemed still a challenge to me although I could have browsed a few videos online - the personal touch of a personal tutor is something else. So I watched her as she made the Lasagne (the first time around) in a jiffy! It tasted awesome and was an instant hit with baby boy but sadly hubby dearest was travelling & couldnt taste it. I decided to wait for a week before I made it again. This time around I replaced the chicken cocktail sausages with some chicken kheema knowing that my little one simply loves it.

Making Lasagne (also spelled as Lasagna) is not rocket science - just make sure you have a couple of hours on your hands and are prepared to see a whole lot of dishes in the sink :-) Pretty much like a marathon Biryani session!



The crumbling effect! The layers of a lasagne when it just falls apart :)


Lasagne (With Spinach, Mushrooms & Chicken)

Recipe Source: My friend Jen

You need:
  • 200gms chicken mince OR 1 medium size can of chicken/pork cocktail sausages
  • 1 bunch spinach (palak)
  • 1 pack of button mushrooms (abt 15-20) sliced (I totally enjoy slicing mushrooms - find this very therapeutic :-)
  • 4-5 lasagne sheets
  • 100gms Parmesan/cheddar cheese (you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer or use this just for the top surface)
  • 100gms mozzarella cheese (you will require sufficient mozzarella cheese for the layers - use as much as you wish if you prefer a 'cheesy' lasagne)
For the Red (Tomato) Sauce:
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (Godrej/Dabur Hommade/Lacnor)
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 tsp paprika (chilli flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary (or any dried herb)
  • 1/4 tsp thyme (or any dried herb)
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • olive oil
For the White (Bechamel) Sauce:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp flour (maida)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
Method:
To make the red sauce:
1. Place some water in a small pan & bring it to a boil. Add the tomatoes & blanch them well (for about 7-8minutes). Remove and place in cold water & peel off the skin. Make a puree out of it using a fork or a masher. Set aside.


2. In a large pan/wok heat some olive oil and fry the chopped onions till pale. Toss in the chopped garlic, stir for a few seconds & then add the pureed tomatoes, tomato ketchup & paste & cook for 2mins till oil leaves the sides.
3. Toss in the pepper powder, paprika, oregano and the herbs. Stir & cook for 1 minute
4. Add the sliced mushrooms, stir well, cover & cook for about 5minutes, stirring every now & then. They should appear limp but not mushy.


Red Sauce with Mushrooms


To make the white sauce:
1. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg powder) in a bowl & add the milk to it and mix well to avoid any lumps.
2. Heat a wide wok/pan and add the butter, when it melts add the milk+flour mixture and cook on slow flame for about 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Your sauce is done
3. To this sauce you can add precooked (boiled) chicken mince like I did for this recipe.
4. You can either add preboiled spinach to this sauce or use the spinach by itself during the layering


To prepare the lasagne sheets:
1. In a wide pan take sufficient water (about 6-7 cups) and bring it to a boil. Alternatively cut the sheets to the length that fits your baking dish.
2. When the water boils, add some salt and drop the sheets one by one. Give it a stir. Cook for about 3-4 minutes till 90% done
2. Drain & refresh with cold water, add a drop of oil to the water & stir gently to ensure the sheets do not stick to each other. You can leave them in the cold water or remove each sheet & place them on separate plates - be careful not to tear them (I left my sheets in the water - the first time around they were perfect, the second time they tore a bit because I missed to stir them in the cold water)


For the layering:
1. Take a square/rectangular baking dish (glass dish looks nice & fancy, but any thick bakeware will do) and place the first layer of cooked lasagne sheets. My dish was square - the only one small enough to fit into my tiny oven. I used two sheets per layer - side by side, but not necessarily two whole sheets as each sheet had to be cut to fit the length so I made use of the snipped off ends - so you see, no wastage in that department!
2. Spread some red sauce nicely over the first layer and grate some parmesan cheese over it - you can grate as much cheese as you like per layer.
3. Next, place two more sheets - this is your second layer. Spread the boiled spinach (if you have not added it to the white sauce). Grate some more cheese.
4. Place two more sheets - this is your third layer. Spread the white sauce. Grate the cheese
5. Repeat layering process till all your sauces/sheets are exhausted.
6. The top layer will not have any sauce - you can just grate a lot of cheddar cheese here.

Tip: Once you are done with the layering, you can place the dish in the fridge if you plan to bake it later. Always bake your lasagne 15-20 minutes before you are ready to serve. It is best enjoyed when it is fresh from the oven & piping hot.



7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese on top melts & dribbles into the lasagne


8. Remove from oven, cut into thick chunks & serve carefully to ensure that the layers don't topple over.





Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Special - Red Velvet Cupcakes!

Valentine's Day used to feel all nice & special while I was in college. We used to plan to wear something in red (or avoid to do so - depending on the mood of the season) to college and have a lot of fun watching the Romeos run after their Juliets to propose (confess their love to). Thankfully I got spared & had a pretty uneventful college life as far as Valentine's Day & it's controversies were concerned.

 Although in India, poor Saint Valentine and his day (and lovers who like to celebrate this day) have been at the receiving end of petty politicians & moral policemen who say it's not part of Indian 'culture' to celebrate this day & have done all possible things to display their real culture (from destructing person & property to disrupting peace at large). Florists & greeting card/gift companies however rake in their moolah and red is clearly the colour of this season.
However, since I thought it was quite an uneventful day in my household, I decided to spruce up the atmosphere a bit by decorating it with red roses & baking some Red Velvet Cupcakes. Hubby was pleasantly surprised & we wound up the day with some special Val Day dinner at a nice restaurant. It was one of the nicest days of my life. When you start the day with no expectations whatsoever & it ends up with some lovely memories!


Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from: Joyofbaking.com
Yield: 12 cupcakes
You Need:
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (125gms) flour
  • 1 tbsp (10gms) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 60gms unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4th cup (150gms) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk or thin yogurt (not too sour) beaten well
  • 1 tbsp liquid red food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar (you can skip this & increase the baking powder by 1/2 tsp making it a total of 1 tsp baking powder)
For the cream cheese frosting
  • 110gms cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (30gms) icing sugar sifted & free of lumps
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) heavy whipping cream
Method:
To Make The Red Velvet Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and line 12 muffin tins with paper cup liners.
2. Sift together the flour & cocoa powder (and salt - if you intend adding it)
3. In a large bowl beat the butter till soft & then add the sugar & beat till light & fluffy for about 2-3minutes
4. Add the egg and beat  till incorporated, add the vanilla extract and beat again.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk & the red food colouring.
6. Add the sifted flour+cocoa mixture and the buttermilk+red colour mixture alternately in 3 parts, starting & ending with the flour.
7. In a small cup combine the vingegar (if you are using it) with the baking powder & wait for it to fizz a bit & immediately mix it to the batter.
8. Quickly pour batter into the prepared muffin cups upto the bring and smoothen with a spatula.
9. Bake for approx 20minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.
10. Remove, cool completely on a wire rack.
11. Decorate with cream cheese frosting (I used a simple granulated sugar with butter mixture because the cupcakes didnt even last until they cooled!!) & serve

 To Make The Cream Cheese Frosting:
1. Beat the cream cheese till smooth, add the vanilla extract and icing sugar and beat till smooth
2. Add the heavy cream gradually till you get a thick enough consistency to pipe. Add more sugar or cream as required


Red Velvet Cupcake With A Butter & Sugar Topping

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Simply South! Ragi Muddhe (Finger Millet Balls) & Mutton Curry

Having balanced meals (and a variety of nutritious foods) eventually evolves into a healthy lifestyle and contributes to fitness of mind & body says my ex-dietician cum good friend. This encouraged me to explore all kinds of grains & legumes besides a whole range of vegetables & fruits. I am more of a 'grains' kind of a person - I love to explore that department more than I would buy a variety of vegetables even if they stare at me from the various shelves in the supermarket.

I introduced Ragi to my son when I weaned him & he managed to eat the Ragi porridge for about a year before he started throwing up at the sight of it. I re-introduced it in a more liquidy form when he turned 2 and he's been fine since then. I thought I should introduce this humble grain into our daily diet as well and off I went hunting for the recipe of the Ragi Muddhe which is eaten in most of Karnataka (except the coast) & Andhra Pradesh. Commonly known as the poor man's bread in these parts of India, today it has become popular for it's health benefits and is finding its way into kitchens and even foodstuff such as noodles and upma! Its also known to be strengthening & cooling - very beneficial for all ages especially infants, elderly and pregnant women. Give it a try if Ragi is available where you live.


Ragi Muddhe & Mutton Curry:
Recipe Source: Hubpages

You Need:
For the ragi muddhe
  • 1 cup ragi flour (1tbsp separated) 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp rice flour (optional)
For the mutton curry
  • 1 kg mutton
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 8-10 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tbsps coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

Method:

To make the ragi muddhe
1. In a thick bottomed pan mix 2 cups of water and 1 tbsp rice flour+1tbsp ragi. This is done to avoid lumps while the mixture boils.
2. Place the pan over a flame of medium high heat and bring the water to a boil. Add the remaining ragi flour. Do not mix. Leave it for about 6-7minutes when the water will slowly bubble over the flour. Leave it for another 2-3 minutes & then using a wooden spatula mix the mixture. Reduce flame & keep mixing till the mixture comes together like a ball.
3. Remove from flame, remove contents on a plate & allow to cool off for a few minutes till it is ok for you to handle the dough. Form into palm size balls & serve.

You can see the video of how to make the ragi muddhe here

To make the mutton curry
1. Heat some oil & fry the onions till golden brown. Add the ginger & garlic & fry for 2 mins.
2. Grind this along with the powders, coconut, tomato & coriander leaves - to a fine paste
3. Heat some more oil in the pan & toss in the curry leaves and stir on slow flame till you get a nice aroma.
4. Add the meat & salt & fry for about 5minutes & add the ground masala, mix well & if you have precooked the meat in a pressure cooker add the stock (I follow this method as pressure cookers speeden up cooking time). If you are adding uncooked meat, then add about a cup of water & cook it on slow-medium flame for about 30-40minutes. Check in between, stir & add little quantities of water to assist the meat to cook well & not stick to the bottom of the pan.
5. For precooked meat, allow the meat to stew a bit in the ground masala for about 5minutes on sim. Switch off flame & serve hot with   RagiMuddhes!                                                                                                     


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tendli Miriyapito (Ivy Gourd Pepper)

Ever heard this PJ (pathetic joke) - "Qsn: What is Bruce Lee's favourite vegetable. Ans: Tendli", well this vegetable is actually (and thankfully) pronounced in a nasal fashion in Konkani as 'Tendlein'. In Mangalore, many people grow this vegetable (which grows on vines) in their backyard. It's botanical name is Coccinia (pronounced as Coc-Sinia) Indica and is commonly known as 'Ivy Gourd'. I have made this correction here thanks to my cousin Prema who pointed out that although this vegetable is commonly known as 'Gerkins' in Mangalore, the actual name is Coccinia commonly known as Ivy Gourd

It either grows quietly along the Valche Baji (Spinach also botanically known as Basella alba) on its own 'matov' (makeshift pendal made with sticks) or is often found on the family's favourite Guava tree (like it was in mine). Once a month we had a good collection of organic ivy gourds.

I miss that so much about Mangalore - to be able to grow anything & (almost) everything in our backyards and also receive homegrown organic produce from neighbours & relatives - veggies such as Spinach, ivy gourd, breadfruit (botanical name is Artocarpus Altilis & is known as bakri-chajhar in Hindi) yam & seasonal fruits such as mangoes, chikkoos, jackfruits, guava, bananas, cashews (and nuts), custard apples (seethaphal & ramphal), thorange, pineapples, papayas - the list is endless.

With no offence to my dearest Keralite friends, I found this so cute....Rightly said isnt it?     "Kerala may be God's own country but He comes to Mangalore for vacation"   Dr. K. B. Mallya


Tendli Miriyapito
(Printable Recipe)

Recipe Source: My Mum
You Need:
  • 300gms gerkins
  • 1/4 tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder
  • 1/2 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 1 green chilly (optional)
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 3-4 sols (or 1 tsp lime juice)
  • A dash of sugar (or about 1/4 tsp)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil or ghee (ghee gives a great fragrance)
 Method:
1. Wash & drain the gerkins. Remove ends (stalk & bottom) & gently mash each gerkin with a pestle. This is just to ensure that the spices enter the ivy gourd which would otherwise be bland. You can even slit them halfway, but the pestle is a far easier option.
2. In a pan (or a pressure cooker) add the ivy gourds and all the ingredients mentioned above. Stir & add about 2-3 tbsps of water. Cover the lid, add the weight (whistle) and cook on high flame. Turn off flame when the first whistle blows off.


 3. Allow the weight to loosen, open, stir well to ensure all ingredients have been mixed properly.
4. Serve hot with steaming boiled rice & fish curry