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Monday, January 30, 2012

Eggless Chocolate & Bottle Gourd Cake

The first month of this year has flown by so quickly and as I do every year, this year too I exclaim "Wow! Wasn't it the 1st of Jan just the other day?" How many of you are thinking on the same lines as me? Well, it's time to get into a retrospective mood and see if we've really achieved anything that we set out to achieve. Anyway, whether or not we've done things we should have we must applaud ourselves for the small goals we have achieved. So here's a really simple, delicious and healthy (almost!) cake for you!


When I came across this recipe in Raji's blog - Vegetarian Tastebuds my eyes were glued on that one picture which made me drool. Literally! I have a weakness for chocolate cakes even though I can't go beyond a couple of bites or a slice at the most. And owing to the fact that I have a fussy toddler (who's getting better) and his tastebuds to deal with, I am on the prowl for cake recipes which have some way of sneaking in otherwise unpalatable veggies - Bottle Gourd included! So I was actually pretty amazed and amused that someone had actually thought of sneaking this humble veggie into it. True to what Raji said, nobody could guess that this cake had a vegetable in it - my son and my friend's kids happily ate it bite after bite thoroughly enjoying the moist cake with a deliciously thick sauce dribbling from all sides. My friend warns me never to disclose the secret to her kids and send the same cake every month!


What I loved about this cake is that it can be made with simple (and cheap!) ingredients without any fuss - all you need to do is sift the dry ingredients once and then 'dump' them along with the wet ingredients,  combine well & then bake it. The best part is that it adheres to a vegetarian or vegan's diet. Veganism is a practice that abstains from the use of animal products and includes foods such as eggs, meat (and all animal-derived products), dairy milk (and all its by products) & honey. Even the sauce/ganache does not require you to buy expensive bars of chocolate and then go through the drill of having to melt it in a double boiler and such. 

My only regret is that I made this pretty late in the evening, when the sun was about to set and ended up with a whole bunch of blurry pictures. I have selected the best ones for you. Couldn't help decking up the cake with strawberries that are so much in season and in abundance here in Mumbai. I hope it doesn't mislead you into thinking that it's strawberry cake or something like that. But then you see, deception is the whole idea here ;-)

P.S: This cake is especially for Usha D'Silva-Rego who requested me for recipes of easy to make cakes with veggies sneaked in them and which made no use of butter. Don't we all love cakes made with oil?


Eggless Chocolate & Bottle Gourd Cake

Preparation time: 15mins | Baking time: 30-35mins
Yield: One 7" cake | 8 servings

You Need:
  • 1 cup (125gm) all purpose flour (maida)
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hintz dark cocoa) * see notes
  • 1/2 cup+2 tbsp powdered sugar *see notes
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1/8th tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup odourless oil (olive or canola)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (diluted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • 3/4 cup (approx) water
  • 1 cup grated bottle gourd (dhoodhi or lauki in Hindi/sorekai in kannada/boblein in Konkani)
For the chocolate sauce:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm dairy milk or soy milk 
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp maida/all purpose flour
Method:
For the cake:
1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C for 10-15mins.
2. Grease a 7" round cake tin with oil and line it with parchment paper - or just grease it well & dust it with flour. Keep aside. 
3. Sift all the dry ingredients - flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking soda & coffee powder together in a large bowl
4. Make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients - oil, vinegar, vanilla & water. Mix well.
5. Squeeze out excess water from the bottle gourd and add to the mixture and combine. Pour the contents into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35mins or till the skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 10-15 after which you can gently invert it onto a wire rack and leave it uncovered to cool completely.
7. Serve as it is with a cup of tea or served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Or slather with sauce and enjoy!

For the chocolate sauce
In a saucepan combine all the ingredients and whisk so remove lumps if any. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir to avoid burning at the base. Boil for a couple of minutes till the mixture appears to thicken. Remove from the heat. The sauce will thicken as it cools. 

Pour the sauce over the cake and spread using a spatula. Cover sides too. Decorate as desired and serve


Notes:
For the cake, increase the sugar with upto 3/4th cup if you are using dark unsweetened (Dutch processed) cocoa like Hintz. My cake turned out a wee bit bitter. If you are using regular unsweetened cocoa like Cadbury's in India, the above mentioned quantities are just fine


Recipe Source: Vegetarian Tastebuds

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chane Ghashi (Konkani Style Chickpeas Curry)

After all the festivities that we saw in the last 2-3 months, life has come back to normal. There are routine and regular activities taking place in my life as well as in the kitchen. A post-it with ideas for breakfast is hanging on my fridge - more than being the 'organised' kinds, I am more of the forgetful kinds who needs notes all over the place to remind me of chores waiting to be finished. So yes, a comprehensive list was drawn keeping everyone's tastes & preferences in mind. This helps simplify things a lot during the week when the early morning madness grips me. Most mornings see me running around like a headless chicken. And sometimes my face draws a complete blank at the mention of 'what's for breakfast?'. So a list of breakfast ideas helps me plan ahead, stay in control and put something that is satisfying yet quick on the breakfast table.


Pooris (deep fried flat bread) are undoubtedly the family's favourite, however, it's not one of the healthiest options for me as there is deep frying involved - but an occasional (read monthly) indulgence is pardonable. Though it is not one of the 'quick' options on my breakfast menu public demand cannot be turned down easily you see. And then the thought of tearing a piping hot Poori and savouring it with some delicious side dish like this Ghashi has me drooling from the night before and so in an almost mechanical fashion you will find me doing the drill - washing & soaking the chickpeas, checking if a coconut needs to be freshly grated and if there is sufficient whole wheat flour in stock.


Until I discovered this recipe, I used to always team up Pooris with Baaji - a spiced mashed potato side dish that is famously found under wraps (literally!) in a crispy Masala Dosa. Poori Baaji is a famous Mangalorean dish that is eaten along with the morning or evening tea. However the other lip smacking alternative is to eat the Pooris with Chane Ghashi (chickpeas in a spiced coconut base) or Kurma (mixed vegetables in a spiced coconut base). These two variants are typically famous Konkani preparations and you are bound to find either or both on the menus of some famous oota-thindi (meals & snacks) restaurants in Mangalore. 

The best part about writing a blog is that one gets to make friends from all walks of life. What makes it even better is that when requested these friends more than willingly contribute tried and tested recipes, handed down from their own mothers and grandmothers, tweaked to perfection with every try. These are the recipes I love to try with confidence. So a big thank you to Mrs. Vidya Nayak Shenoy who I met via Facebook and whose Dali Tove recipe is a much loved staple in my home and has received a lot of applause and appreciation from many readers who have tried it with perfect results. She was also kind enough to share her Khotto/Khottige (Idlis steamed in Jackfruit leaf baskets) recipe with the fine details.


Although I had taken this recipe from her long back, it never made it to the blog despite having been tried several times in my kitchen. You see, the mad rush in the mornings to make breakfast, pack my son's snack box and send him to school takes up all my energy and then I am in no mood to click any pictures. Today, invariably I knew I had to do it as my Pooris came out quite good (although not perfect - I am still working on them). But by the time I captured the Ghashi the Pooris fell flat :-( Nevertheless, I knew that this recipe, irrespective of the quality of pictures needed to be shared. It would be a shame not to!

This is one recipe, like the Dali Tove, that is simple to put together and so very yum! 

Poori  Ghashi - a match made in heaven. A piping hot meal eaten with relish and washed down with a steaming hot cuppa. Aah! A perfect way to start your day...


Chane Ghashi
Soaking time: 8-10 hours | Preparation time: 5-10 mins | Cooking time 15-20mins
Serves 2-3

You Need:
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (kabuli chana/choley) soaked overnight or for 8-10 hours
  • salt to taste
For the masala (to be ground)
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 5-6 (or to taste) long dry red chillies (preferably Bedgi/Byadgi chillies)
  • 1-1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 small ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
  • 2-3 small garlic flakes
For the seasoning 
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1 sprig (or 7-8 leaves) curry leaves/kadipatta
  • 2 tsp oil (preferably coconut)
Method:
1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and refresh with fresh water. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas, add salt to taste and pressure cook for about 6-7 whistles or until the chickpeas are tender. Turn off the flame and allow the cooker to cool down to room temperature. Remove the lid, stir and keep aside.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan heat 1tsp oil and toss in the dry chillies and fry for a half a minute. Grind them along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' to a fine paste.
3. Add the ground paste to the chickpeas and add the stock or sufficient water to arrive at a thick gravy like consistency (make a thinner gravy if you wish to eat it with rice). Check salt to taste. Bring the curry to a boil. 4. In a smaller pan heat the oil for seasoning. Toss in the mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering add the fenugreek seeds & curry leaves and immediately take off the flame. Temper the curry with this seasoning and cover the pan with a tight lid. Turn off the flame.
5. Serve hot with pooris (recipe here), chapathi or rice.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fresh Fig Jam

I was not a jam & jelly kind of a person. Until now. Well, I took up the challenge on Mumbai Food Bloggers' forum on Facebook that revolves around creating a dish with the fruit, vegetable or ingredient of the week. And hence my hunt began for figs, that are in season now. Although I sent hubby to look for them all over the place the week before last, we eventually found them in Hypercity Malad, our well stocked supermarket, and I couldn't wait to try my hand at making my own home made jam! 


When I was little the only jam I knew was the mixed fruit jam by Kissan - the quintessential Indian brand for jams & tomato ketchup. We used to buy it occasionally and slather it generously on buttered bread slices for our Sunday breakfast - breakfast on Sundays was always bread, butter, jam & a Cavendish banana. The kind of 'light' breakfast that used to make my head go dizzy in exactly one hour - yes, somewhere in the middle of the Sunday morning mass that I used to attend. Being a hearty breakfast kind of a person, this 'light' breakfast used to vanish before I took my last bite. The hunger pangs would then send signals to my brains and I used to only picture all kinds of delicious things that my mum had set out to prepare for the Sunday afternoon meal and actually pounce on the food the moment the table was laid without even as much waiting to say the grace before meals.


Well, I simply abandoned the Kissan jam when my cousin from abroad (who was exposed to all kinds of organic jams) told me that most Indian jams were loaded with artificial/synthetic flavours & colours. This was decades ago - before 'organic' became popular even in a place like Mangalore where half the produce was grown at home and was organic anyway. Then came the weight loss era and so once again anything sweet for breakfast (or any meal) was a big no no. Last year I did attempt making Strawberry jam, however, it was done so dispassionately, that I don't think it had any takers and luckily it was a small batch so down the drain it went eventually. 


In 2011 I tried my hand successfully at making wines and I thought it was a good start to try my hand at other kinds of preserves - jams & pickles as well. So luckily for me, this challenge was announced and I am glad I made this jam although a very small batch. I managed to get 600gm of fresh figs that were in good condition. If you wish to make a small batch for yourself (and not to distribute) anything between 500gm-700gm of figs is good to go (unless you plan to eat this seasonal fruit the whole year through). If you have never bought fresh figs before (like me) - remember to pick those that are not pre-packed & sealed (especially in supermarkets in India) - you may get cheated (like me). Clever packing techniques ensure that bad fruit is placed at the bottom of the box and the good ones facing up. You will be in no position to check if each fruit is perfectly ripe and firm. Some of them will be on the verge of rotting. It is better to buy from a known source especially your local fruit vendor who stocks up the best produce.


Figs, known as Anjeer in India range in colour from purple-black (which is what I bought) to pale green. When buying look for slightly yielding flesh as figs don't ripen after picking so buy them ready to eat. Figs go well with sweet and savoury dishes and you can find some yummy and exotic yet simple to make recipes in this month's (Jan '12) BBC GoodFood magazine. 

Figs by the way are one of the oldest fruits - references to the fig tree are made in the Bible as well. The reason why I have named this recipe as a Fresh Fig Jam is because 'Figs' often invoke the picture of dried figs that are very popular. However, this jam is made from the fresh fruit. 

By the way, this time I think I should shut up and let the pictures do the talking. The first one below is my favourite. I have got a million shots of this one. Figs coated in granulated white sugar. Every time I see it a  sense of calm descends over me. I can stare at this picture forever! Pink, white and traces of green - such beautiful colours of life in full bloom. For all those of you who are living in places where the weather is bleak & dreary, I hope these pictures brighten up your mood a bit!

(Above Pic: Figs quartered and mixed with granulated sugar and a cinnamon quill)



 (Above Pic: Figs after being kept overnight mixed in sugar. The sugar has turned into a syrup)

        (Above Pic: Figs gently stewed on a slow fire for 45 minutes and then mashed with a fork)

                               (Above Pic: Fig jam, cooled and packed into a sterilized jar)


                                                   (Above Pic: Fig jam, ready to eat)

Fresh Fig Jam
Preparation time: 5 mins | Cooking time: 45mins
Yield: 600gm approx

You Need
  • 500gm figs
  • 200-250 gm sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 cinnamon quill/stick (optional)
Method
1. Remove the stems of the figs, wash & drain them. Cut into quarters or chop them up if you want jam in a paste like consistency (I prefer a junky jam so I quartered each of them)
2. Ideally after de-stemming the figs you can weigh them again & use sugar which is half the weight of the figs - this is for a mild to moderately sweet jam. If you wish to make a very sweet jam you can use figs and sugar in the ratio of 1:1
3. Place the figs, sugar and cinnamon quill in a wide bowl & mix the ingredients well. Cover and keep refrigerated overnight. 
4. The next day, heat a heavy bottomed pan on a slow fire and add the fig & sugar mixture. Add the lime juice and let it cook for approx 35-40mins - the sugar will thicken while the figs get stewed. Ensure that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir every now & then. Crush the figs gently using a fork.
5. Towards the end of the cooking time you can do a 'gel' test by placing a little jam on a metal spoon that has been dipped in ice cold water. Allow the mixture to cool and check the consistency desired. When a good gel stage is reached, the surface of the fruit mixture will wrinkle slightly when pushed with a finger
6. Turn off the flame and spoon the mixture into sterilized jars when the mixture is still hot (once the mixture cools it will get sticky and it will be hard to handle). Leave the jar lids open until the mixture has cooled. Close the lids and store in a cool place. 
7. Enjoy the jam with some warm bread & butter!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Plantain (Raw Banana) Curry

I love recipes that turn out perfect the first time I try them. But that depends on whether the recipe has been shared accurately and in its entirety. Most times for reasons best known to them people don't share proper recipes - maybe out of fear that you will outdo them & turn into a skilled cook overnight! One trait I quite dislike in people who don't part with their treasured recipes (even if they don't run a restaurant or a catering business) is that they simply wriggle out of the situation when asked to share their star recipes. A few encounters with such people made me even more determined to learn to make those dishes on my own anyway - using the trial and error method or by hunting for them online or simply asking people who are more than willing to share - love such kinds!

I realise that I have started this post with a negative line - something business schools tell you not to do, but this ain't a business mail :D and I needed to get it off my chest. Phew! So we are back to this recipe which turned out quite like the way I wanted - thanks to the person who shared it on Tarla Dalal's website. I have tried it thrice already, dabbled with the ingredients here & there, yet the result has always been good, so I stuck to the original quantities (almost).


I have been a die hard fan of vegetarian food and a pure veg meal served on a nice big banana leaf makes me drool even at the thought of it. So I was not surprised when this innate desire translated into a strong craving when I was an expectant mother. I was in Mangalore during the fifth month of my pregnancy and I dragged one of my good friends (who had already had her lunch) to Woodlands Hotel (opposite to the Goldfinch Hotel) where they used to serve the afternoon meals on banana leaves. I stuffed myself silly with everything that was served on my leaf, even shamelessly asking for seconds & thirds and my friend who was forced to eat along with me had a good time watching me hog! I used to frequent this place when I was working and as part of the Sales team had many a lunch break that could accommodate eating at leisure so my colleagues & I had an opportunity to taste the food at many good restaurants in Mangalore. Among all the dishes that were part of the elaborate thaali (platter) meals, anything that was prepared with plantains (raw bananas) were my favourite. I loved the chunks of banana stewed in an aromatic coconut curry or stir fried in a host of tempered ingredients. For me it was as gratifying as it for those who love anything made of potatoes. So yes, I am always on the lookout for a recipe that makes good use of plantains in curries and this one has never failed me. 

What I liked best about this curry is its simplicity - of method & ingredients. I say 'method' because now I am adept at grinding masalas with coconut in it, so it may not be so simple to those who detest grinding masalas. And I say simplicity of ingredients because contrary to most South Indian curries that call for a hundred ingredients, this one does not ask for the the ingredient I hate to work with - onions! I dislike the peeling & the crying that is involved while getting to work with onions. I envy the Jains - honestly I do. They come up with the most brilliant dishes without making use of onions. But this one makes use of garlic (which I absolutely love in any form!). You can have the pleasure of eating it with rice and whatever is leftover can be savoured as an accompaniment to chapathis for the next morning's breakfast



A vegetable curry figures at least once a week or ten days on my menu - simply because I don't stick to making just a Dal every time we eat fried fish (it is almost a custom in Mangalorean Catholic homes to make Dal when fish is fried). Sometimes I make a simple tomato Saar (clear soup) made with Maggi stock cubes, sometimes its the Daliso Saar (lentil clear soup) or the Dali Tove (Konkani style spiced lentil broth). When I am lazy to make two dishes - I put them together and come up with a vegetable curry sometimes teamed up with legumes/lentils. So joining the bandwagon of a vegetarian's (vegan's) delight - Valchebaji Ani Gule (Spinach & Black Eyed Peas), Pikya Ambyachi Kadi (Ripe Mango Curry), Deeviso Guzo Ani Dal (Breadfruit & Lentil Curry), Mogem Ani Kulta Kaat (Field Marrow & Horsegram Curry) or the recently posted Mogem Losun Miri (Field Marrow in a Garlic & Pepper Curry) is today's Plantain Curry

P.S: The difference between plantains and bananas is that the former is starchy, low in sugar, has a thicker skin and needs to be cooked before consuming. Bananas are sweeter and consumed as a fruit. However, the variety that is cooked is popularly referred to as the raw banana. 


Plantain (Raw Banana) Curry
Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time 20-25 mins
Serves 3-4

You Need:
  • 3 large or 4 medium sized plantains (raw bananas)
  • half a lime size ball  (or 2 tsp paste) of tamarind
  • salt to taste
For the masala
  • 1/2 coconut grated (or 1 cup of grated coconut)
  • 5-6 red chillies (I used Bedgi) * see notes
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic with skin
For the seasoning/tempering
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 sprig (or 7-8 leaves) curry leaves (kari patta)
  • 7-8 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 red chilli broken into two
  • 2 tbsp oil (preferably coconut oil)
Method:
1. Wash the plantains, remove the skin carefully (so as to not damage the flesh) and cut into medium size cubes and soak in water (to avoid them from turning black). If you are using tamarind pulp, soak it in a little water to extract the juice.
2. On a hot tawa/skillet, roast the whole red chillies, coriander seeds and coconut one by one. Allow to cool and using a little water grind them along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' to a fine paste. Retain the water from the mixie
3. In a pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the tamarind water (or tamarind paste) and salt to taste and cook the plantain cubes till tender but not mushy.
4. Add the ground masala, mix gently and add a little of the water from the mixie. Adjust consistency of the curry as desired (if you wish to eat it with chapathis, then keep a semi dry consistency). Simmer for 2 minutes. Adjust salt to taste (remember that salt was added while precooking the plantain)
5. In another pan, heat the oil for seasoning. Toss in the mustard and when it stops spluttering add the curry leaves, broken red chilli, crushed garlic and finally add the coriander and cumin powders - quickly toss the ingredients in the hot oil using a spoon and remove from the flame immediately before the powders burn. Add this seasoning to the curry and cover the pan immediately so as to retain the aromas of the seasoning. Turn off the flame.
6. Serve hot with chapathis or rice.

Notes:
I use Bedgi/Byadge variety of chillies that impart a great flavour & aroma to the dish. They are moderately spicy. If you are using the same chillies & prefer a spicy curry use 7-8 chillies. You may use Kashmiri chillies as well - increase the quantity by 2-3 chillies for a spicy curry.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mogem Losun Miri (Field Marrow/Madras Cucumber in a Garlic & Pepper Curry)

One of the most traditional Mangalorean vegetarian curries would have to be the Mogem Losun Miri - a delicious all season curry made with Field Marrow (found in supermarkets today under the label 'Madras Cucumber') in a mildly spicy and fragrant curry made predominantly of garlic, pepper, chillies and onions ground to a fine paste along with other ingredients. 


In the olden days when people used to eat a lot of home grown vegetables, the Mogem (nasal pronounciation of 'Mogay') along with other vegetables that were harvested from one's own field and those that had a longer shelf life used to be stored for many weeks by hanging them from the ceiling, firmly bound by dhoriyo (thin coconut fibre ropes). Every household had many mouths to feed and hence one could find a host of such veggies ranging from Field Marrows (Mogem), Pumpkins (Dhudheim), Ash Gourds/Pumpkins (Kualo) & Bottle Gourds (Bobleim) waiting patiently to be cooked one by one in a khodi (spiced coconut curry with a combination of vegetables & legumes/dried sea food/meat) or fugath (dry side dish made with the tempering method) or thel piao (semi dry side dish made with the stir fry method) or sweet dishes like kheers (payasams) or halwas. 

This 'hanging garden' used to be found in a long corridor beside the kitchen in almost every house with a tiled roof. By the way, the architecture of all these houses were almost the same. Three or four steps led to the entrance of every house which then branched into a sopo (porch) that was built in a symmetrical fashion. One side of this long and thin porch overlooked the garden - one could sit on the graadhi (parapets) & enjoy the evening breeze - I have spent many childhood moments enjoying the breeze or watching the pitter patter of raindrops during the monsoon from these parapets. The porch was also a place where the less important activities were held and the special happenings took place in the inner hall or living room which again branched out into bedrooms and the kitchen (which was almost always on the left side of the hall). This kitchen - the place which housed the hearth fuelled by lankhod (firewood), pidey (dried palm stems), sonna (dried coconut husks) & khatti (coconut shells) was the place where the most delicious meals were prepared. However, such kitchens were not the prettiest thanks to all the kheri (coal dust) that formed a layer on the walls & ceilings - but then no one complained as every kitchen met the same fate and modular kitchens weren't in vogue then anyways!


I think the aromas (of the earthen pots, the firewood & the spices) that wafted through the kitchens were sealed in the dish that was being cooked and made the food more enjoyable & sustaining. I can't imagine a modular kitchen giving the same result today - which is why I largely believe that traditional methods and modes of cooking play a predominant role in the superior quality of a dish. This along with the right combination of foods made for a complete meal. When I say 'combination of foods' it means that a vegetable curry for example when eaten with unpolished rice, a side dish of meat, fish (often dried fish), pickles & curds was nothing but a simple yet healthy combination of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and nutrients.

Hence a combination of the right cooking techniques, organic ingredients and a balance meal played its part in ensuring healthy minds and bodies - little wonder then that our ancestors were far more healthy & with fewer ailments than the modern generation.


Mogem Losun Miri
Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 20 mins
Serves: 2-3

You Need:
  • 1/2 a medium size/ 350gm mogem/field marrow/madras cucumber
  • 1/2 onion finely sliced
  • jaggery to taste (about 1 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
For the masala
  • 4 long dry red chillies (I use Bedgi)
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 1-1/2 medium onion
  • 4 flakes of garlic with skin
  • 1 marble size ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
For the seasoning/tempering
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic (with skin) crushed
  • 2 -3 tsp oil (preferably coconut oil)
  • 4-5 curry leaves/karipatta (optional)
Method:
1. Wash the the field marrow and cut it into half and then quarters, remove the pith & seeds and then cut into small cubes. Keep aside.
2. Using a little water, grind all the ingredients mentioned in 'For the masala' to a fine paste
3. In a wok or pan add the masala, 1-1/2 cups of water, cubed field marrow, sliced onion, jaggery and salt to taste. Mix and bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the flame to a medium low and cook till the field marrow is tender but firm.
4. For the seasoning - heat oil in a small pan and toss in the mustard, when it stops spluttering add the crushed garlic and pour this seasoning into the curry. Cover the pan immediately to retain the fragrance of the seasoning. Turn off the flame.
5. Serve hot with rice

Notes
You can save cooking time by making this curry in a pressure cooker. Instead of a regular pan add all the ingredients mentioned in Step# 3 in a pressure cooker. Close the cover of the pressure cooker and place the weight (whistle) and cook on a full flame till one whistle goes off. Turn off the flame immediately and allow the pressure cooker to cool down for a couple of minutes and then slowly try releasing the pressure by lifting the whistle with a spoon. Open the cover carefully, stir once and proceed to Step#4



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chicken Lollipops

A couple of days ago my friend Rinku told me that if I wasn't going to start blogging again soon, I would forget what it was all about! She was so right. Ever since I returned from my Christmas holiday the home has beckoned me to tackle every possible thing that I didn't do while on vacation - doing the laundry, cooking, sorting, de cluttering and tuning myself back to a 'routine life' - things that sap the energy out of you and make you wish that you could take off on another vacation! So blogging has taken a back seat as I was trying to fit in the above mentioned mundane tasks and a fresh bunch of things I want to achieve this year - commonly called as 'new year resolutions'. To be honest I never make new year resolutions on the 1st of January - (I make & break new resolutions everyday - Ha Ha!)


I didn't intend this to be a post on my achievements of the previous year or the things that I want to achieve this year. I'd rather write that post at the end of this year if and when I have achieved those things, but I realised that sometimes you have to think aloud to reinforce your intention of getting something done. It is like making a commitment in public that you are bound to honour lest you lose face if you don't complete it. So technically you can say that the reason behind not posting more than one recipe in the last15 days lies behind the very resolution for this year - to read more books - physical books that are falling off my book shelf for lack of space. Did I ever tell you that more than reading books I accumulate them with a hope of reading them 'soon'? That 'soon' hasn't come in years and all I have is piles of brand new books unread waiting to fulfil the purpose of their lives. I can't part with them either as I hate lending my books (they usually never come back - it's a universal truth) Neither to do I sell my books at the second hand shop because I intend keeping them for my son to read when he grows up. But with all the eBooks and Kindles and iPads I wonder if technology will get the better of him or if he will respect the piles of books his mother has lovingly collected for him all these years. So yes, coming back to my resolution - I tried to stay off the blog and read some books - I flopped myself on my couch and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading a real book - with real pages - pages you can touch and feel and burrow your nose into, taking in the fragrance of the books and letting even your senses enjoy the experience of reading - eBooks are devoid of this fabulously personal experience. So after having read a book cover to cover in 2 days I headed back to the bookstore and bought some more fat classics that should see me through till the end of March at least - so I am a happy girl now!



Since I consider 2011 to be one of the crappiest years of my life, I was really looking forward to 2012 - and I have decided to focus on someone who never got too much attention till date - Me! Yeah, it sounds selfish, but I think as moms we begin to neglect ourselves without realising it and put everything and everyone else ahead of us. So this year will be about taking care of my health (those seemingly insignificant things such as taking care of my feet, hair, nails and skin) and happiness (reading a lot of books, watching a lot of movies and blogging at leisure of course). Yeah, that's all - nothing over the top - I told you I don't make major resolutions. I think one needs to break down those major ones into baby steps and tackle them one by one lovingly. And even if I don't achieve all of these in this calendar year, it does not matter. Life is all about forming good habits that go a long way - not just something that has a start & end date like a project or course or even a bottle of medicine.


Another thing that I really want to do this year (not a resolution as such) is to make things from scratch  - that includes a whole range of things - from grinding my own masala powders to utilizing my kitchen waste to make organic compost that can be used for my plants. Compost? Well, will leave that for another post. For now, I am back with another recipe that will delight most readers. I say 'most' because unless you are a pure vegetarian or do not like deep fried foods, you simply cannot resist these irresistible chicken lollipops - the star attraction of most Indian parties. The young and the old will love them - a delicious appetiser. Crunchy on the outside and succulent on the inside these lollipops are best eaten fresh and piping hot with a sprinkle of chaat masala powder and served with onion rings and a dip, sauce or chutney of your choice. 


While using a store bought masala powder is the easiest thing to do if you are trying to make this appetiser for a bunch of guests who drop in on short notice, you can try the method of grinding your own masala and marinating the chicken a day in advance and refrigerating it. It will take your load off this extra task on the day of your party and you can focus on other things.

I keep improvising on the masala by adding a bit of this & a dash of that and the result is always satisfying. Do give it a shot when you are planning the menu of your next party!



Chicken Lollipops
Preparation Time: 15 mins | Marinating Time: 4- 12 hrs | Deep Frying Time: 3-4 mins per batch
Serves: 6-7

You Need:
  • 1kg (approx 32-34 pieces) chicken lollipops
  • oil for deep frying (about 1 litre)
  • strips of aluminium foil to wrap the base of the lollipops
For the marinade
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1/3rd cup/30gm cornflour (cornstarch) 
  • 1/3rd cup/30gm maida (all purpose flour)
  • 1 egg
  • juice of 1 small lime (optional - use this if you are not using sour curds)
  • 1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango) powder - optional
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
To be ground to paste
  • 10 bedgi chillies *see notes
  • 10 kashmiri chillies * see notes
  • a 3 inch piece ginger
  • 10 -12 cloves garlic (Indian) without skin
  • 2/3rd cup thick sour curds (yogurt)
  • salt to taste (about 2 tsp)
For garnishing (optional)
  • 2 sprigs coriander or mint leaves chopped
  • lime rings or wedges
  • onion rings
  • a sprinkling of chaat masala powder 
Method:
Marinating the chicken
1. Wash the chicken lollipops and allow to drain completely on a colander. If you find traces of water, pat them dry with a kitchen tissue. Keep aside
2. Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'To be ground to paste' - use a little water only if required as the curds is sufficient to help grind the dry ingredients. Transfer the paste into a wide deep bowl, add the remaining ingredients mentioned under 'For the marinade' and mix well. Check the taste & adjust salt & lime juice as required.
3. Add the chicken lollipops and marinate the pieces well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Ideally keep the chicken marinated for 8-12 hours before frying.

Frying the lollipops
1. Heat oil in a deep heavy bottomed kadhai or wok. The flame needs to be on a medium high as a full flame will burn the lollipops on the outside and leave the insides uncooked. The oil is ready for frying when you drop a small piece of marinated meat and it comes up to the surface within 2-3 seconds. The oil should not to be too hot or else the outsides will brown too fast leaving the chicken uncooked.
2. Carefully drop 5-6 lollipops (or as many as your kadhai can comfortably accomodate) into the hot oil and fry for about 3-4 minutes until the colour deepens to a dull red/maroon. After a couple of batches of frying reduce the flame slightly if you feel that the outside is browning too fast.
3. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain the pieces of excess oil by slanting the spoon against the sides of the kadhai. Transfer the lollipops onto an absorbent kitchen tissue.
4. Repeat the process to fry the remaining pieces.

Plating & serving
1. Wrap strips of aluminium foil around each lollipop bone and place on a serving plate.
2. Decorate the plate with onion rings and/or lime wedges or rounds.
3. Garnish with chopped coriander/mint leaves.
4. Serve hot with tomato sauce or a Mint & Yogurt Dip (Recipe to follow)



Notes:
The chillies (10 bedgi & 10 kashmiri) may seem a lot, but for the above mentioned quantity of chicken lollipops it is moderately spicy. The combination of flour (maida) and cornstarch (cornflour) balances out the spice, however use your discretion and increase or decrease the quantity of chillies. Note that the Bedgi variety are for the spice and flavour and the Kashmiri chillies are low on spice but lend a beautiful colour - this eliminates the need to use any food colouring. You can use any variety of chillies that are spicy along with the Kashmiri variety.

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Pudim (East Indian Christmas Pudding) - For the Twelfth Night




    Let me begin the first post of this year by wishing each one of you a very Happy New Year 2012!! May you have a bright & beautiful year ahead filled with all good things and the very special gifts of peace, happiness & good health!

    So I am back after a long break - vacation to be precise. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, I was all geared up to celebrate Christmas & New Year with my brother's family this time and was excited to meet the rest of my family complete with uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. Family reunion was more like it and boy! do I love reunions! Meeting people you love every once in a while is a huge stress buster, don't you think? Throw in some retail therapy and you are all charged up like the Duracell battery to last another hundred months or till the next reunion :-)


    While I had planned to post a lot of 'Xmassy' recipes to last till the end of December, the last minute shopping, packing & a wedding in the family during mid Dec made it impossible for me to sit at leisure and post them. Which is why a couple of them including today's recipe is making an appearance just in time before the Christmas season officially comes to an end. Yes, today, the 5th of January is celebrated as the Twelfth Night - the traditional last day of Christmas, the night before the Epiphany (Feast of the Three Kings) that is celebrated on the 6th of January. The custom of celebrating the Twelfth Night which was popular across the western countries has largely died out now. The Twelfth Night used to be marked by baking of a special cake, laced with spices, remembering the kings who came from the East to see the new born baby in a manger - Jesus Christ. I am sure by now you have been reminded of the famous traditional Christmas carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' which has been roughly interpreted which you can read here

    Although today's recipe is not a typical Twelfth Night cake, I thought it was the perfect day to wind up my Christmas recipe series with this perfect steamed Christmas pudding or 'Pudim' a recipe that I found in the BBC Good Food magazine and is claimed to be a part of the East Indian Christmas spread that celebrates the flavours of Maharashtrian-Portuguese fusion cuisine. Although I had only heard about Christmas puddings I had never eaten one, and this was a perfect way to savour a traditional pudding made by the local Christian community in a place I now call home - Mumbai.


    This rich pudding is a refreshing change from the usual Christmas goodies that are either baked or deep fried. It tastes great when eaten fresh out of the steamer and is sinful if eaten with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The combination of the steaming hot pudding with the richness & tartness of all the fruit and the icy cold ice cream with the milky sweetness makes for one helluva Christmas dessert experience. It is the perfect dessert that doubles up as a Christmas cake for those who do not have an oven - all you need is a large steamer and a couple of hours on hand (you need not remain in the kitchen all the time)


    Pudim
    Servings 10-12
    Preparation time: 20mins, Soaking time: 8-12 hours, Steaming time 2-1/2 hours

    You Need:
    • 110gm cold butter (unsalted)
    • 1/3rd cup/50gm self raising flour *see notes
    • 110gm white breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
    • 1 tsp mixed spice * see notes
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon powder
    • 1-1/4 cups/ 225gm brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
    • 1 tbsp lemon zest
    • 2 eggs
    • 150ml beer
    • 50ml red wine
    Fruits/Dry fruits/Nuts to be finely chopped
    • 1 apple (the sweeter the better)
    • 110gm raisins (brown kishmish)
    • 110gm sultanas (golden kishmish)
    • 275gm currants (black kishmish)
    • 275gm prunes
    • 25gm almonds
    Method:
    1. In a large mixing bowl grate the butter and sift in the flour. Add the bread crumbs, salt, spices and sugar and mix everything well. Add the finely chopped fruit, lemon zest and nuts.
    2. Whisk the eggs and add them to the above mixture. Pour in the beer and wine and mix well. The mixture will be of a sloppy consistency which is fine. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight in a cool dark place.
    3. The next day pour the mixture into lightly greased medium size glass or metal round serving bowl (or whatever shape you want the pudding to be). Cover the dish with greaseproof/parchment paper and then a sheet of foil over it. 
    4. Place sufficient water in a steamer and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the prepared bowl into the steamer, cover & steam for 2-3 hours. Top up with boiling water as required (check at frequent intervals if the water has dried up). Once done, remove and allow to cool. Replace the greaseproof paper and foil and replace with fresh ones. Store in a cool dark place, preferably in a refrigerator if you are not serving it on the same day.
    5.Prior to serving, reheat the pudding by placing it in a steam bath (steam lightly for 10-15minutes). Serve generous helpings of the warm pudding - as it is or with vanilla ice cream.


    Notes:
    Since the recipe asked for self raising flour which I did not have, I used Maida and 1/4 tsp baking powder for the required quantity.
    You can make your own breadcrumbs by lightly toasting bread slices on a hot tawa/skillet and then pulsing the chunks in a dry mixer grinder for a couple of seconds.
    Mixed spice is a combination of powdered spices - cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, coriander & dry ginger. I will post the recipe shortly
    Due to non availability I skipped the sultanas altogether - it did not affect the taste or texture of the cake. Feel free to dabble with the quantities as long as you preserve an approximate of the total required quantity of dry fruits.
    Make sure the dry fruits are finely chopped which is what gives the dense texture to the pudding - I missed to take care of this which is why I got a slightly chunky pudding.

    Monday, January 30, 2012

    Eggless Chocolate & Bottle Gourd Cake

    The first month of this year has flown by so quickly and as I do every year, this year too I exclaim "Wow! Wasn't it the 1st of Jan just the other day?" How many of you are thinking on the same lines as me? Well, it's time to get into a retrospective mood and see if we've really achieved anything that we set out to achieve. Anyway, whether or not we've done things we should have we must applaud ourselves for the small goals we have achieved. So here's a really simple, delicious and healthy (almost!) cake for you!


    When I came across this recipe in Raji's blog - Vegetarian Tastebuds my eyes were glued on that one picture which made me drool. Literally! I have a weakness for chocolate cakes even though I can't go beyond a couple of bites or a slice at the most. And owing to the fact that I have a fussy toddler (who's getting better) and his tastebuds to deal with, I am on the prowl for cake recipes which have some way of sneaking in otherwise unpalatable veggies - Bottle Gourd included! So I was actually pretty amazed and amused that someone had actually thought of sneaking this humble veggie into it. True to what Raji said, nobody could guess that this cake had a vegetable in it - my son and my friend's kids happily ate it bite after bite thoroughly enjoying the moist cake with a deliciously thick sauce dribbling from all sides. My friend warns me never to disclose the secret to her kids and send the same cake every month!


    What I loved about this cake is that it can be made with simple (and cheap!) ingredients without any fuss - all you need to do is sift the dry ingredients once and then 'dump' them along with the wet ingredients,  combine well & then bake it. The best part is that it adheres to a vegetarian or vegan's diet. Veganism is a practice that abstains from the use of animal products and includes foods such as eggs, meat (and all animal-derived products), dairy milk (and all its by products) & honey. Even the sauce/ganache does not require you to buy expensive bars of chocolate and then go through the drill of having to melt it in a double boiler and such. 

    My only regret is that I made this pretty late in the evening, when the sun was about to set and ended up with a whole bunch of blurry pictures. I have selected the best ones for you. Couldn't help decking up the cake with strawberries that are so much in season and in abundance here in Mumbai. I hope it doesn't mislead you into thinking that it's strawberry cake or something like that. But then you see, deception is the whole idea here ;-)

    P.S: This cake is especially for Usha D'Silva-Rego who requested me for recipes of easy to make cakes with veggies sneaked in them and which made no use of butter. Don't we all love cakes made with oil?


    Eggless Chocolate & Bottle Gourd Cake

    Preparation time: 15mins | Baking time: 30-35mins
    Yield: One 7" cake | 8 servings

    You Need:
    • 1 cup (125gm) all purpose flour (maida)
    • 6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hintz dark cocoa) * see notes
    • 1/2 cup+2 tbsp powdered sugar *see notes
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
    • 1/8th tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup odourless oil (olive or canola)
    • 1 tsp white vinegar (diluted)
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
    • 3/4 cup (approx) water
    • 1 cup grated bottle gourd (dhoodhi or lauki in Hindi/sorekai in kannada/boblein in Konkani)
    For the chocolate sauce:
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup warm dairy milk or soy milk 
    • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp maida/all purpose flour
    Method:
    For the cake:
    1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C for 10-15mins.
    2. Grease a 7" round cake tin with oil and line it with parchment paper - or just grease it well & dust it with flour. Keep aside. 
    3. Sift all the dry ingredients - flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking soda & coffee powder together in a large bowl
    4. Make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients - oil, vinegar, vanilla & water. Mix well.
    5. Squeeze out excess water from the bottle gourd and add to the mixture and combine. Pour the contents into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-35mins or till the skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
    6. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin for 10-15 after which you can gently invert it onto a wire rack and leave it uncovered to cool completely.
    7. Serve as it is with a cup of tea or served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Or slather with sauce and enjoy!

    For the chocolate sauce
    In a saucepan combine all the ingredients and whisk so remove lumps if any. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir to avoid burning at the base. Boil for a couple of minutes till the mixture appears to thicken. Remove from the heat. The sauce will thicken as it cools. 

    Pour the sauce over the cake and spread using a spatula. Cover sides too. Decorate as desired and serve


    Notes:
    For the cake, increase the sugar with upto 3/4th cup if you are using dark unsweetened (Dutch processed) cocoa like Hintz. My cake turned out a wee bit bitter. If you are using regular unsweetened cocoa like Cadbury's in India, the above mentioned quantities are just fine


    Recipe Source: Vegetarian Tastebuds

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Chane Ghashi (Konkani Style Chickpeas Curry)

    After all the festivities that we saw in the last 2-3 months, life has come back to normal. There are routine and regular activities taking place in my life as well as in the kitchen. A post-it with ideas for breakfast is hanging on my fridge - more than being the 'organised' kinds, I am more of the forgetful kinds who needs notes all over the place to remind me of chores waiting to be finished. So yes, a comprehensive list was drawn keeping everyone's tastes & preferences in mind. This helps simplify things a lot during the week when the early morning madness grips me. Most mornings see me running around like a headless chicken. And sometimes my face draws a complete blank at the mention of 'what's for breakfast?'. So a list of breakfast ideas helps me plan ahead, stay in control and put something that is satisfying yet quick on the breakfast table.


    Pooris (deep fried flat bread) are undoubtedly the family's favourite, however, it's not one of the healthiest options for me as there is deep frying involved - but an occasional (read monthly) indulgence is pardonable. Though it is not one of the 'quick' options on my breakfast menu public demand cannot be turned down easily you see. And then the thought of tearing a piping hot Poori and savouring it with some delicious side dish like this Ghashi has me drooling from the night before and so in an almost mechanical fashion you will find me doing the drill - washing & soaking the chickpeas, checking if a coconut needs to be freshly grated and if there is sufficient whole wheat flour in stock.


    Until I discovered this recipe, I used to always team up Pooris with Baaji - a spiced mashed potato side dish that is famously found under wraps (literally!) in a crispy Masala Dosa. Poori Baaji is a famous Mangalorean dish that is eaten along with the morning or evening tea. However the other lip smacking alternative is to eat the Pooris with Chane Ghashi (chickpeas in a spiced coconut base) or Kurma (mixed vegetables in a spiced coconut base). These two variants are typically famous Konkani preparations and you are bound to find either or both on the menus of some famous oota-thindi (meals & snacks) restaurants in Mangalore. 

    The best part about writing a blog is that one gets to make friends from all walks of life. What makes it even better is that when requested these friends more than willingly contribute tried and tested recipes, handed down from their own mothers and grandmothers, tweaked to perfection with every try. These are the recipes I love to try with confidence. So a big thank you to Mrs. Vidya Nayak Shenoy who I met via Facebook and whose Dali Tove recipe is a much loved staple in my home and has received a lot of applause and appreciation from many readers who have tried it with perfect results. She was also kind enough to share her Khotto/Khottige (Idlis steamed in Jackfruit leaf baskets) recipe with the fine details.


    Although I had taken this recipe from her long back, it never made it to the blog despite having been tried several times in my kitchen. You see, the mad rush in the mornings to make breakfast, pack my son's snack box and send him to school takes up all my energy and then I am in no mood to click any pictures. Today, invariably I knew I had to do it as my Pooris came out quite good (although not perfect - I am still working on them). But by the time I captured the Ghashi the Pooris fell flat :-( Nevertheless, I knew that this recipe, irrespective of the quality of pictures needed to be shared. It would be a shame not to!

    This is one recipe, like the Dali Tove, that is simple to put together and so very yum! 

    Poori  Ghashi - a match made in heaven. A piping hot meal eaten with relish and washed down with a steaming hot cuppa. Aah! A perfect way to start your day...


    Chane Ghashi
    Soaking time: 8-10 hours | Preparation time: 5-10 mins | Cooking time 15-20mins
    Serves 2-3

    You Need:
    • 1/2 cup chickpeas (kabuli chana/choley) soaked overnight or for 8-10 hours
    • salt to taste
    For the masala (to be ground)
    • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
    • 5-6 (or to taste) long dry red chillies (preferably Bedgi/Byadgi chillies)
    • 1-1/2 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1 small ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
    • 2-3 small garlic flakes
    For the seasoning 
    • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
    • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
    • 1 sprig (or 7-8 leaves) curry leaves/kadipatta
    • 2 tsp oil (preferably coconut)
    Method:
    1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and refresh with fresh water. Add enough water to cover the chickpeas, add salt to taste and pressure cook for about 6-7 whistles or until the chickpeas are tender. Turn off the flame and allow the cooker to cool down to room temperature. Remove the lid, stir and keep aside.
    2. In a heavy bottomed pan heat 1tsp oil and toss in the dry chillies and fry for a half a minute. Grind them along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' to a fine paste.
    3. Add the ground paste to the chickpeas and add the stock or sufficient water to arrive at a thick gravy like consistency (make a thinner gravy if you wish to eat it with rice). Check salt to taste. Bring the curry to a boil. 4. In a smaller pan heat the oil for seasoning. Toss in the mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering add the fenugreek seeds & curry leaves and immediately take off the flame. Temper the curry with this seasoning and cover the pan with a tight lid. Turn off the flame.
    5. Serve hot with pooris (recipe here), chapathi or rice.


    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Fresh Fig Jam

    I was not a jam & jelly kind of a person. Until now. Well, I took up the challenge on Mumbai Food Bloggers' forum on Facebook that revolves around creating a dish with the fruit, vegetable or ingredient of the week. And hence my hunt began for figs, that are in season now. Although I sent hubby to look for them all over the place the week before last, we eventually found them in Hypercity Malad, our well stocked supermarket, and I couldn't wait to try my hand at making my own home made jam! 


    When I was little the only jam I knew was the mixed fruit jam by Kissan - the quintessential Indian brand for jams & tomato ketchup. We used to buy it occasionally and slather it generously on buttered bread slices for our Sunday breakfast - breakfast on Sundays was always bread, butter, jam & a Cavendish banana. The kind of 'light' breakfast that used to make my head go dizzy in exactly one hour - yes, somewhere in the middle of the Sunday morning mass that I used to attend. Being a hearty breakfast kind of a person, this 'light' breakfast used to vanish before I took my last bite. The hunger pangs would then send signals to my brains and I used to only picture all kinds of delicious things that my mum had set out to prepare for the Sunday afternoon meal and actually pounce on the food the moment the table was laid without even as much waiting to say the grace before meals.


    Well, I simply abandoned the Kissan jam when my cousin from abroad (who was exposed to all kinds of organic jams) told me that most Indian jams were loaded with artificial/synthetic flavours & colours. This was decades ago - before 'organic' became popular even in a place like Mangalore where half the produce was grown at home and was organic anyway. Then came the weight loss era and so once again anything sweet for breakfast (or any meal) was a big no no. Last year I did attempt making Strawberry jam, however, it was done so dispassionately, that I don't think it had any takers and luckily it was a small batch so down the drain it went eventually. 


    In 2011 I tried my hand successfully at making wines and I thought it was a good start to try my hand at other kinds of preserves - jams & pickles as well. So luckily for me, this challenge was announced and I am glad I made this jam although a very small batch. I managed to get 600gm of fresh figs that were in good condition. If you wish to make a small batch for yourself (and not to distribute) anything between 500gm-700gm of figs is good to go (unless you plan to eat this seasonal fruit the whole year through). If you have never bought fresh figs before (like me) - remember to pick those that are not pre-packed & sealed (especially in supermarkets in India) - you may get cheated (like me). Clever packing techniques ensure that bad fruit is placed at the bottom of the box and the good ones facing up. You will be in no position to check if each fruit is perfectly ripe and firm. Some of them will be on the verge of rotting. It is better to buy from a known source especially your local fruit vendor who stocks up the best produce.


    Figs, known as Anjeer in India range in colour from purple-black (which is what I bought) to pale green. When buying look for slightly yielding flesh as figs don't ripen after picking so buy them ready to eat. Figs go well with sweet and savoury dishes and you can find some yummy and exotic yet simple to make recipes in this month's (Jan '12) BBC GoodFood magazine. 

    Figs by the way are one of the oldest fruits - references to the fig tree are made in the Bible as well. The reason why I have named this recipe as a Fresh Fig Jam is because 'Figs' often invoke the picture of dried figs that are very popular. However, this jam is made from the fresh fruit. 

    By the way, this time I think I should shut up and let the pictures do the talking. The first one below is my favourite. I have got a million shots of this one. Figs coated in granulated white sugar. Every time I see it a  sense of calm descends over me. I can stare at this picture forever! Pink, white and traces of green - such beautiful colours of life in full bloom. For all those of you who are living in places where the weather is bleak & dreary, I hope these pictures brighten up your mood a bit!

    (Above Pic: Figs quartered and mixed with granulated sugar and a cinnamon quill)



     (Above Pic: Figs after being kept overnight mixed in sugar. The sugar has turned into a syrup)

            (Above Pic: Figs gently stewed on a slow fire for 45 minutes and then mashed with a fork)

                                   (Above Pic: Fig jam, cooled and packed into a sterilized jar)


                                                       (Above Pic: Fig jam, ready to eat)

    Fresh Fig Jam
    Preparation time: 5 mins | Cooking time: 45mins
    Yield: 600gm approx

    You Need
    • 500gm figs
    • 200-250 gm sugar
    • juice of 1/2 lime
    • 1/2 cinnamon quill/stick (optional)
    Method
    1. Remove the stems of the figs, wash & drain them. Cut into quarters or chop them up if you want jam in a paste like consistency (I prefer a junky jam so I quartered each of them)
    2. Ideally after de-stemming the figs you can weigh them again & use sugar which is half the weight of the figs - this is for a mild to moderately sweet jam. If you wish to make a very sweet jam you can use figs and sugar in the ratio of 1:1
    3. Place the figs, sugar and cinnamon quill in a wide bowl & mix the ingredients well. Cover and keep refrigerated overnight. 
    4. The next day, heat a heavy bottomed pan on a slow fire and add the fig & sugar mixture. Add the lime juice and let it cook for approx 35-40mins - the sugar will thicken while the figs get stewed. Ensure that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir every now & then. Crush the figs gently using a fork.
    5. Towards the end of the cooking time you can do a 'gel' test by placing a little jam on a metal spoon that has been dipped in ice cold water. Allow the mixture to cool and check the consistency desired. When a good gel stage is reached, the surface of the fruit mixture will wrinkle slightly when pushed with a finger
    6. Turn off the flame and spoon the mixture into sterilized jars when the mixture is still hot (once the mixture cools it will get sticky and it will be hard to handle). Leave the jar lids open until the mixture has cooled. Close the lids and store in a cool place. 
    7. Enjoy the jam with some warm bread & butter!

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Plantain (Raw Banana) Curry

    I love recipes that turn out perfect the first time I try them. But that depends on whether the recipe has been shared accurately and in its entirety. Most times for reasons best known to them people don't share proper recipes - maybe out of fear that you will outdo them & turn into a skilled cook overnight! One trait I quite dislike in people who don't part with their treasured recipes (even if they don't run a restaurant or a catering business) is that they simply wriggle out of the situation when asked to share their star recipes. A few encounters with such people made me even more determined to learn to make those dishes on my own anyway - using the trial and error method or by hunting for them online or simply asking people who are more than willing to share - love such kinds!

    I realise that I have started this post with a negative line - something business schools tell you not to do, but this ain't a business mail :D and I needed to get it off my chest. Phew! So we are back to this recipe which turned out quite like the way I wanted - thanks to the person who shared it on Tarla Dalal's website. I have tried it thrice already, dabbled with the ingredients here & there, yet the result has always been good, so I stuck to the original quantities (almost).


    I have been a die hard fan of vegetarian food and a pure veg meal served on a nice big banana leaf makes me drool even at the thought of it. So I was not surprised when this innate desire translated into a strong craving when I was an expectant mother. I was in Mangalore during the fifth month of my pregnancy and I dragged one of my good friends (who had already had her lunch) to Woodlands Hotel (opposite to the Goldfinch Hotel) where they used to serve the afternoon meals on banana leaves. I stuffed myself silly with everything that was served on my leaf, even shamelessly asking for seconds & thirds and my friend who was forced to eat along with me had a good time watching me hog! I used to frequent this place when I was working and as part of the Sales team had many a lunch break that could accommodate eating at leisure so my colleagues & I had an opportunity to taste the food at many good restaurants in Mangalore. Among all the dishes that were part of the elaborate thaali (platter) meals, anything that was prepared with plantains (raw bananas) were my favourite. I loved the chunks of banana stewed in an aromatic coconut curry or stir fried in a host of tempered ingredients. For me it was as gratifying as it for those who love anything made of potatoes. So yes, I am always on the lookout for a recipe that makes good use of plantains in curries and this one has never failed me. 

    What I liked best about this curry is its simplicity - of method & ingredients. I say 'method' because now I am adept at grinding masalas with coconut in it, so it may not be so simple to those who detest grinding masalas. And I say simplicity of ingredients because contrary to most South Indian curries that call for a hundred ingredients, this one does not ask for the the ingredient I hate to work with - onions! I dislike the peeling & the crying that is involved while getting to work with onions. I envy the Jains - honestly I do. They come up with the most brilliant dishes without making use of onions. But this one makes use of garlic (which I absolutely love in any form!). You can have the pleasure of eating it with rice and whatever is leftover can be savoured as an accompaniment to chapathis for the next morning's breakfast



    A vegetable curry figures at least once a week or ten days on my menu - simply because I don't stick to making just a Dal every time we eat fried fish (it is almost a custom in Mangalorean Catholic homes to make Dal when fish is fried). Sometimes I make a simple tomato Saar (clear soup) made with Maggi stock cubes, sometimes its the Daliso Saar (lentil clear soup) or the Dali Tove (Konkani style spiced lentil broth). When I am lazy to make two dishes - I put them together and come up with a vegetable curry sometimes teamed up with legumes/lentils. So joining the bandwagon of a vegetarian's (vegan's) delight - Valchebaji Ani Gule (Spinach & Black Eyed Peas), Pikya Ambyachi Kadi (Ripe Mango Curry), Deeviso Guzo Ani Dal (Breadfruit & Lentil Curry), Mogem Ani Kulta Kaat (Field Marrow & Horsegram Curry) or the recently posted Mogem Losun Miri (Field Marrow in a Garlic & Pepper Curry) is today's Plantain Curry

    P.S: The difference between plantains and bananas is that the former is starchy, low in sugar, has a thicker skin and needs to be cooked before consuming. Bananas are sweeter and consumed as a fruit. However, the variety that is cooked is popularly referred to as the raw banana. 


    Plantain (Raw Banana) Curry
    Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time 20-25 mins
    Serves 3-4

    You Need:
    • 3 large or 4 medium sized plantains (raw bananas)
    • half a lime size ball  (or 2 tsp paste) of tamarind
    • salt to taste
    For the masala
    • 1/2 coconut grated (or 1 cup of grated coconut)
    • 5-6 red chillies (I used Bedgi) * see notes
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 2 cloves of garlic with skin
    For the seasoning/tempering
    • 1 tsp mustard
    • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
    • 1 sprig (or 7-8 leaves) curry leaves (kari patta)
    • 7-8 cloves of garlic crushed
    • 1 red chilli broken into two
    • 2 tbsp oil (preferably coconut oil)
    Method:
    1. Wash the plantains, remove the skin carefully (so as to not damage the flesh) and cut into medium size cubes and soak in water (to avoid them from turning black). If you are using tamarind pulp, soak it in a little water to extract the juice.
    2. On a hot tawa/skillet, roast the whole red chillies, coriander seeds and coconut one by one. Allow to cool and using a little water grind them along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' to a fine paste. Retain the water from the mixie
    3. In a pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the tamarind water (or tamarind paste) and salt to taste and cook the plantain cubes till tender but not mushy.
    4. Add the ground masala, mix gently and add a little of the water from the mixie. Adjust consistency of the curry as desired (if you wish to eat it with chapathis, then keep a semi dry consistency). Simmer for 2 minutes. Adjust salt to taste (remember that salt was added while precooking the plantain)
    5. In another pan, heat the oil for seasoning. Toss in the mustard and when it stops spluttering add the curry leaves, broken red chilli, crushed garlic and finally add the coriander and cumin powders - quickly toss the ingredients in the hot oil using a spoon and remove from the flame immediately before the powders burn. Add this seasoning to the curry and cover the pan immediately so as to retain the aromas of the seasoning. Turn off the flame.
    6. Serve hot with chapathis or rice.

    Notes:
    I use Bedgi/Byadge variety of chillies that impart a great flavour & aroma to the dish. They are moderately spicy. If you are using the same chillies & prefer a spicy curry use 7-8 chillies. You may use Kashmiri chillies as well - increase the quantity by 2-3 chillies for a spicy curry.



    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Mogem Losun Miri (Field Marrow/Madras Cucumber in a Garlic & Pepper Curry)

    One of the most traditional Mangalorean vegetarian curries would have to be the Mogem Losun Miri - a delicious all season curry made with Field Marrow (found in supermarkets today under the label 'Madras Cucumber') in a mildly spicy and fragrant curry made predominantly of garlic, pepper, chillies and onions ground to a fine paste along with other ingredients. 


    In the olden days when people used to eat a lot of home grown vegetables, the Mogem (nasal pronounciation of 'Mogay') along with other vegetables that were harvested from one's own field and those that had a longer shelf life used to be stored for many weeks by hanging them from the ceiling, firmly bound by dhoriyo (thin coconut fibre ropes). Every household had many mouths to feed and hence one could find a host of such veggies ranging from Field Marrows (Mogem), Pumpkins (Dhudheim), Ash Gourds/Pumpkins (Kualo) & Bottle Gourds (Bobleim) waiting patiently to be cooked one by one in a khodi (spiced coconut curry with a combination of vegetables & legumes/dried sea food/meat) or fugath (dry side dish made with the tempering method) or thel piao (semi dry side dish made with the stir fry method) or sweet dishes like kheers (payasams) or halwas. 

    This 'hanging garden' used to be found in a long corridor beside the kitchen in almost every house with a tiled roof. By the way, the architecture of all these houses were almost the same. Three or four steps led to the entrance of every house which then branched into a sopo (porch) that was built in a symmetrical fashion. One side of this long and thin porch overlooked the garden - one could sit on the graadhi (parapets) & enjoy the evening breeze - I have spent many childhood moments enjoying the breeze or watching the pitter patter of raindrops during the monsoon from these parapets. The porch was also a place where the less important activities were held and the special happenings took place in the inner hall or living room which again branched out into bedrooms and the kitchen (which was almost always on the left side of the hall). This kitchen - the place which housed the hearth fuelled by lankhod (firewood), pidey (dried palm stems), sonna (dried coconut husks) & khatti (coconut shells) was the place where the most delicious meals were prepared. However, such kitchens were not the prettiest thanks to all the kheri (coal dust) that formed a layer on the walls & ceilings - but then no one complained as every kitchen met the same fate and modular kitchens weren't in vogue then anyways!


    I think the aromas (of the earthen pots, the firewood & the spices) that wafted through the kitchens were sealed in the dish that was being cooked and made the food more enjoyable & sustaining. I can't imagine a modular kitchen giving the same result today - which is why I largely believe that traditional methods and modes of cooking play a predominant role in the superior quality of a dish. This along with the right combination of foods made for a complete meal. When I say 'combination of foods' it means that a vegetable curry for example when eaten with unpolished rice, a side dish of meat, fish (often dried fish), pickles & curds was nothing but a simple yet healthy combination of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and nutrients.

    Hence a combination of the right cooking techniques, organic ingredients and a balance meal played its part in ensuring healthy minds and bodies - little wonder then that our ancestors were far more healthy & with fewer ailments than the modern generation.


    Mogem Losun Miri
    Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 20 mins
    Serves: 2-3

    You Need:
    • 1/2 a medium size/ 350gm mogem/field marrow/madras cucumber
    • 1/2 onion finely sliced
    • jaggery to taste (about 1 tbsp)
    • salt to taste
    For the masala
    • 4 long dry red chillies (I use Bedgi)
    • 4-5 peppercorns
    • 1-1/2 tsp cumin (jeera)
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
    • 1-1/2 medium onion
    • 4 flakes of garlic with skin
    • 1 marble size ball of tamarind or 1 level tsp tamarind paste
    For the seasoning/tempering
    • 1/2 tsp mustard
    • 3 cloves garlic (with skin) crushed
    • 2 -3 tsp oil (preferably coconut oil)
    • 4-5 curry leaves/karipatta (optional)
    Method:
    1. Wash the the field marrow and cut it into half and then quarters, remove the pith & seeds and then cut into small cubes. Keep aside.
    2. Using a little water, grind all the ingredients mentioned in 'For the masala' to a fine paste
    3. In a wok or pan add the masala, 1-1/2 cups of water, cubed field marrow, sliced onion, jaggery and salt to taste. Mix and bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the flame to a medium low and cook till the field marrow is tender but firm.
    4. For the seasoning - heat oil in a small pan and toss in the mustard, when it stops spluttering add the crushed garlic and pour this seasoning into the curry. Cover the pan immediately to retain the fragrance of the seasoning. Turn off the flame.
    5. Serve hot with rice

    Notes
    You can save cooking time by making this curry in a pressure cooker. Instead of a regular pan add all the ingredients mentioned in Step# 3 in a pressure cooker. Close the cover of the pressure cooker and place the weight (whistle) and cook on a full flame till one whistle goes off. Turn off the flame immediately and allow the pressure cooker to cool down for a couple of minutes and then slowly try releasing the pressure by lifting the whistle with a spoon. Open the cover carefully, stir once and proceed to Step#4



    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    Chicken Lollipops

    A couple of days ago my friend Rinku told me that if I wasn't going to start blogging again soon, I would forget what it was all about! She was so right. Ever since I returned from my Christmas holiday the home has beckoned me to tackle every possible thing that I didn't do while on vacation - doing the laundry, cooking, sorting, de cluttering and tuning myself back to a 'routine life' - things that sap the energy out of you and make you wish that you could take off on another vacation! So blogging has taken a back seat as I was trying to fit in the above mentioned mundane tasks and a fresh bunch of things I want to achieve this year - commonly called as 'new year resolutions'. To be honest I never make new year resolutions on the 1st of January - (I make & break new resolutions everyday - Ha Ha!)


    I didn't intend this to be a post on my achievements of the previous year or the things that I want to achieve this year. I'd rather write that post at the end of this year if and when I have achieved those things, but I realised that sometimes you have to think aloud to reinforce your intention of getting something done. It is like making a commitment in public that you are bound to honour lest you lose face if you don't complete it. So technically you can say that the reason behind not posting more than one recipe in the last15 days lies behind the very resolution for this year - to read more books - physical books that are falling off my book shelf for lack of space. Did I ever tell you that more than reading books I accumulate them with a hope of reading them 'soon'? That 'soon' hasn't come in years and all I have is piles of brand new books unread waiting to fulfil the purpose of their lives. I can't part with them either as I hate lending my books (they usually never come back - it's a universal truth) Neither to do I sell my books at the second hand shop because I intend keeping them for my son to read when he grows up. But with all the eBooks and Kindles and iPads I wonder if technology will get the better of him or if he will respect the piles of books his mother has lovingly collected for him all these years. So yes, coming back to my resolution - I tried to stay off the blog and read some books - I flopped myself on my couch and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading a real book - with real pages - pages you can touch and feel and burrow your nose into, taking in the fragrance of the books and letting even your senses enjoy the experience of reading - eBooks are devoid of this fabulously personal experience. So after having read a book cover to cover in 2 days I headed back to the bookstore and bought some more fat classics that should see me through till the end of March at least - so I am a happy girl now!



    Since I consider 2011 to be one of the crappiest years of my life, I was really looking forward to 2012 - and I have decided to focus on someone who never got too much attention till date - Me! Yeah, it sounds selfish, but I think as moms we begin to neglect ourselves without realising it and put everything and everyone else ahead of us. So this year will be about taking care of my health (those seemingly insignificant things such as taking care of my feet, hair, nails and skin) and happiness (reading a lot of books, watching a lot of movies and blogging at leisure of course). Yeah, that's all - nothing over the top - I told you I don't make major resolutions. I think one needs to break down those major ones into baby steps and tackle them one by one lovingly. And even if I don't achieve all of these in this calendar year, it does not matter. Life is all about forming good habits that go a long way - not just something that has a start & end date like a project or course or even a bottle of medicine.


    Another thing that I really want to do this year (not a resolution as such) is to make things from scratch  - that includes a whole range of things - from grinding my own masala powders to utilizing my kitchen waste to make organic compost that can be used for my plants. Compost? Well, will leave that for another post. For now, I am back with another recipe that will delight most readers. I say 'most' because unless you are a pure vegetarian or do not like deep fried foods, you simply cannot resist these irresistible chicken lollipops - the star attraction of most Indian parties. The young and the old will love them - a delicious appetiser. Crunchy on the outside and succulent on the inside these lollipops are best eaten fresh and piping hot with a sprinkle of chaat masala powder and served with onion rings and a dip, sauce or chutney of your choice. 


    While using a store bought masala powder is the easiest thing to do if you are trying to make this appetiser for a bunch of guests who drop in on short notice, you can try the method of grinding your own masala and marinating the chicken a day in advance and refrigerating it. It will take your load off this extra task on the day of your party and you can focus on other things.

    I keep improvising on the masala by adding a bit of this & a dash of that and the result is always satisfying. Do give it a shot when you are planning the menu of your next party!



    Chicken Lollipops
    Preparation Time: 15 mins | Marinating Time: 4- 12 hrs | Deep Frying Time: 3-4 mins per batch
    Serves: 6-7

    You Need:
    • 1kg (approx 32-34 pieces) chicken lollipops
    • oil for deep frying (about 1 litre)
    • strips of aluminium foil to wrap the base of the lollipops
    For the marinade
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric (haldi)
    • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
    • 1 tbsp garam masala powder
    • 1/3rd cup/30gm cornflour (cornstarch) 
    • 1/3rd cup/30gm maida (all purpose flour)
    • 1 egg
    • juice of 1 small lime (optional - use this if you are not using sour curds)
    • 1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango) powder - optional
    • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
    To be ground to paste
    • 10 bedgi chillies *see notes
    • 10 kashmiri chillies * see notes
    • a 3 inch piece ginger
    • 10 -12 cloves garlic (Indian) without skin
    • 2/3rd cup thick sour curds (yogurt)
    • salt to taste (about 2 tsp)
    For garnishing (optional)
    • 2 sprigs coriander or mint leaves chopped
    • lime rings or wedges
    • onion rings
    • a sprinkling of chaat masala powder 
    Method:
    Marinating the chicken
    1. Wash the chicken lollipops and allow to drain completely on a colander. If you find traces of water, pat them dry with a kitchen tissue. Keep aside
    2. Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'To be ground to paste' - use a little water only if required as the curds is sufficient to help grind the dry ingredients. Transfer the paste into a wide deep bowl, add the remaining ingredients mentioned under 'For the marinade' and mix well. Check the taste & adjust salt & lime juice as required.
    3. Add the chicken lollipops and marinate the pieces well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Ideally keep the chicken marinated for 8-12 hours before frying.

    Frying the lollipops
    1. Heat oil in a deep heavy bottomed kadhai or wok. The flame needs to be on a medium high as a full flame will burn the lollipops on the outside and leave the insides uncooked. The oil is ready for frying when you drop a small piece of marinated meat and it comes up to the surface within 2-3 seconds. The oil should not to be too hot or else the outsides will brown too fast leaving the chicken uncooked.
    2. Carefully drop 5-6 lollipops (or as many as your kadhai can comfortably accomodate) into the hot oil and fry for about 3-4 minutes until the colour deepens to a dull red/maroon. After a couple of batches of frying reduce the flame slightly if you feel that the outside is browning too fast.
    3. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain the pieces of excess oil by slanting the spoon against the sides of the kadhai. Transfer the lollipops onto an absorbent kitchen tissue.
    4. Repeat the process to fry the remaining pieces.

    Plating & serving
    1. Wrap strips of aluminium foil around each lollipop bone and place on a serving plate.
    2. Decorate the plate with onion rings and/or lime wedges or rounds.
    3. Garnish with chopped coriander/mint leaves.
    4. Serve hot with tomato sauce or a Mint & Yogurt Dip (Recipe to follow)



    Notes:
    The chillies (10 bedgi & 10 kashmiri) may seem a lot, but for the above mentioned quantity of chicken lollipops it is moderately spicy. The combination of flour (maida) and cornstarch (cornflour) balances out the spice, however use your discretion and increase or decrease the quantity of chillies. Note that the Bedgi variety are for the spice and flavour and the Kashmiri chillies are low on spice but lend a beautiful colour - this eliminates the need to use any food colouring. You can use any variety of chillies that are spicy along with the Kashmiri variety.

      Thursday, January 5, 2012

      Pudim (East Indian Christmas Pudding) - For the Twelfth Night




      Let me begin the first post of this year by wishing each one of you a very Happy New Year 2012!! May you have a bright & beautiful year ahead filled with all good things and the very special gifts of peace, happiness & good health!

      So I am back after a long break - vacation to be precise. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, I was all geared up to celebrate Christmas & New Year with my brother's family this time and was excited to meet the rest of my family complete with uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. Family reunion was more like it and boy! do I love reunions! Meeting people you love every once in a while is a huge stress buster, don't you think? Throw in some retail therapy and you are all charged up like the Duracell battery to last another hundred months or till the next reunion :-)


      While I had planned to post a lot of 'Xmassy' recipes to last till the end of December, the last minute shopping, packing & a wedding in the family during mid Dec made it impossible for me to sit at leisure and post them. Which is why a couple of them including today's recipe is making an appearance just in time before the Christmas season officially comes to an end. Yes, today, the 5th of January is celebrated as the Twelfth Night - the traditional last day of Christmas, the night before the Epiphany (Feast of the Three Kings) that is celebrated on the 6th of January. The custom of celebrating the Twelfth Night which was popular across the western countries has largely died out now. The Twelfth Night used to be marked by baking of a special cake, laced with spices, remembering the kings who came from the East to see the new born baby in a manger - Jesus Christ. I am sure by now you have been reminded of the famous traditional Christmas carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' which has been roughly interpreted which you can read here

      Although today's recipe is not a typical Twelfth Night cake, I thought it was the perfect day to wind up my Christmas recipe series with this perfect steamed Christmas pudding or 'Pudim' a recipe that I found in the BBC Good Food magazine and is claimed to be a part of the East Indian Christmas spread that celebrates the flavours of Maharashtrian-Portuguese fusion cuisine. Although I had only heard about Christmas puddings I had never eaten one, and this was a perfect way to savour a traditional pudding made by the local Christian community in a place I now call home - Mumbai.


      This rich pudding is a refreshing change from the usual Christmas goodies that are either baked or deep fried. It tastes great when eaten fresh out of the steamer and is sinful if eaten with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The combination of the steaming hot pudding with the richness & tartness of all the fruit and the icy cold ice cream with the milky sweetness makes for one helluva Christmas dessert experience. It is the perfect dessert that doubles up as a Christmas cake for those who do not have an oven - all you need is a large steamer and a couple of hours on hand (you need not remain in the kitchen all the time)


      Pudim
      Servings 10-12
      Preparation time: 20mins, Soaking time: 8-12 hours, Steaming time 2-1/2 hours

      You Need:
      • 110gm cold butter (unsalted)
      • 1/3rd cup/50gm self raising flour *see notes
      • 110gm white breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
      • 1 tsp mixed spice * see notes
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon powder
      • 1-1/4 cups/ 225gm brown sugar
      • 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
      • 1 tbsp lemon zest
      • 2 eggs
      • 150ml beer
      • 50ml red wine
      Fruits/Dry fruits/Nuts to be finely chopped
      • 1 apple (the sweeter the better)
      • 110gm raisins (brown kishmish)
      • 110gm sultanas (golden kishmish)
      • 275gm currants (black kishmish)
      • 275gm prunes
      • 25gm almonds
      Method:
      1. In a large mixing bowl grate the butter and sift in the flour. Add the bread crumbs, salt, spices and sugar and mix everything well. Add the finely chopped fruit, lemon zest and nuts.
      2. Whisk the eggs and add them to the above mixture. Pour in the beer and wine and mix well. The mixture will be of a sloppy consistency which is fine. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight in a cool dark place.
      3. The next day pour the mixture into lightly greased medium size glass or metal round serving bowl (or whatever shape you want the pudding to be). Cover the dish with greaseproof/parchment paper and then a sheet of foil over it. 
      4. Place sufficient water in a steamer and bring it to a rolling boil. Place the prepared bowl into the steamer, cover & steam for 2-3 hours. Top up with boiling water as required (check at frequent intervals if the water has dried up). Once done, remove and allow to cool. Replace the greaseproof paper and foil and replace with fresh ones. Store in a cool dark place, preferably in a refrigerator if you are not serving it on the same day.
      5.Prior to serving, reheat the pudding by placing it in a steam bath (steam lightly for 10-15minutes). Serve generous helpings of the warm pudding - as it is or with vanilla ice cream.


      Notes:
      Since the recipe asked for self raising flour which I did not have, I used Maida and 1/4 tsp baking powder for the required quantity.
      You can make your own breadcrumbs by lightly toasting bread slices on a hot tawa/skillet and then pulsing the chunks in a dry mixer grinder for a couple of seconds.
      Mixed spice is a combination of powdered spices - cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, coriander & dry ginger. I will post the recipe shortly
      Due to non availability I skipped the sultanas altogether - it did not affect the taste or texture of the cake. Feel free to dabble with the quantities as long as you preserve an approximate of the total required quantity of dry fruits.
      Make sure the dry fruits are finely chopped which is what gives the dense texture to the pudding - I missed to take care of this which is why I got a slightly chunky pudding.