Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baked Cucumber Mandas - Thoushyache Mandas ~ Traditional Mangalorean Rice & Cucumber Pudding ~ Eggless & Gluten Free!

One of Mangalore's most traditional sweet dishes is the 'Mandas' (pronounced as 'muhn-daas'). Every community prepares it and every household has a different version of it. Taste wise it comes close to a Zucchini bread or any cake with a good amount of fruit in it. It's more of a pudding than a cake as it has this puddingy wobbly texture and density. 

Similar to how the western 'Cake' started off without a leaving agent - yeast, baking powder or baking soda (apparently the Egyptians were the first skilled bakers) our dear old Mangalorean ancestors learnt to bake their own version of the cake sans leavening agent, although it was more or less dense and thick and the preparation of which took a very long time.

The women of the house would rise early and get the day's meal ready and also start off with the preparation of the Mandas which involved soaking the rice, grating coconuts to extract the thick milk (called as roce in Konkani) and gathering & preparing the cucumbers to be ground in a traditional vaan (grinding stone/mortar pestle). The batter was then poured into a pan smeared generously with ghee and kept on very slow fire. The sweet dish would then be ready for tea time as men would return from the fields or workplaces and the children from school and would devour this hearty snack.


Sometimes the preparation began late at night, when the day's cooking was done and the family was preparing to retire to bed. The pan containing the batter was placed over a dying fire and live coals were placed on the lid that covered the pan. This ensured that the heat of the stove was enough to slowly cook the batter from below the pan and the live coals on top provided a two way heat. This technique was called as 'voir pondha uzo' (voir means up/top and pondha means down or underneath and uzo means flame/fire) which was a local 'oven' technology. Live coals were easily available in those days as every ranchekood (kitchen) had a quintessential ranni (earthen stove fueled by firewood). Charcoal was also available in plenty as traditional bathrooms which housed large copper cauldrons called as 'baan' to heat water were also fueled by firewood, sticks, dried coconut shell (katti) and its fibre (sonn), dried coconut palm (pido) and dried leaves (sukhi koli).


Owing to the fact that every family was large in those days each having at least 8-10 children and their parents and a few more adults thrown in for good measure, Mandas was prepared in bulk. Since rice was a crop grown in their own paddy fields, people could afford to make several dishes out of rice including sweets to feed an army of a family (usually a joint family). So it is little wonder that if you look through some old recipe books written by your mom or grand mom you will find quantities mentioned in bulk - 2 kilos of rice, 1 kilo of cucumbers, 1 kilo of jaggery and so on which in today's age is probably enough to feed your entire building society! Nuclear families living in cities don't have the luxury of eating a Mandas made the traditional way (with live coals & all) and they also need to scale down the ingredients drastically. Which is what I've done. I did post a recipe of Mandas earlier, but this recipe is a better one as it is made from lesser quantity of ground grated coconut which packs more flavour into it than coconut milk (it takes more coconuts to extract thick milk/first extract)

Although the process may seem lengthy, it really is a simply, delicious and nutritious snack - best eaten on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Do try it and let me know how you liked it!

Above pic: The first attempt at baking - the surface should have a lovely brown colour.

About the dish
Baked Version
Mandas is a traditional pudding cooked for over an hour over slow fire or live coals. It has a pudding like texture and a great aroma thanks to the fragrance of firewood. Since I have baked it in an oven I have called it a 'cake', but don't expect a fluffy sponge cake - you will be sorely disappointed. Since it makes no use of yeast or baking powder (although you can add some if you wish) it will be dense. Be generous with the ghee which provides all the moisture it needs in an oven. Towards the end of the baking time you may change the oven setting to 'Broil/Grill' to get that browned surface - just in case you like it made the traditional way. However, be watchful and don't let the surface burn like I did!

See the picture above - it was my first attempt which resulted in a lovely brown - the second attempt is the picture below  - perils of being forgetful and not keeping a timer :-(



Steamed Version:
To make a steamed version, reduce the jaggery a bit (see notes). You will also need a idli / dhokla / sanna steamer (tondor). Place sufficient water in the steamer and place sufficient banana leaves to cover the entire plate (shelf inside the steamer). Grease the leaves with ghee and then pour in the batter. Steam on a full flame for about an hour. Do the knife/skewer test to check doneness. The thickness of the Mandas will depend on the diameter of your steamer - a larger diameter will result in a thinner Mandas and vice versa.


Vegan Version
This dish is eggless, gluten free, dairy free, soy free and can be nut free and vegan if you skip the cashew nuts and ghee!

Baked Mandas (Rice & Cucumber Pudding/Cake)
Prep time: 30 mins + soaking time: 3 hours | Baking time: 1 hr 15 mins (approx) | Servings 6-7

You Need
  • 1 cup (200 grams) parboiled rice /Idli rice / Mutambo *see notes
  • 1 cup (2 medium sized) cucumber roughly chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup jaggery (150 grams) * see notes
  • 1/2 cup ghee * see notes
  • 2 cardamoms
  • a fistful cashewnuts roughly chopped * see notes
  • salt to taste (approx 1/2 teaspoon)
Method:
1. Wash the rice a couple of times till the water runs clear. Cover it with enough fresh water and keep aside for 2-3 hours.
2. Wash and peel the cucumbers and cut them vertically, scoop out the pith (seeds) and then chop into small cubes. Grind the chopped cucumber and grated coconut to a fine paste. If using a mixer grinder, add very little water only if required.
3. Add the soaked rice and grind to a fine rawa like grainy texture. The consistency of the batter should be thickish like dosa batter. Use water sparingly to grind. Add the powdered jaggery, cardamom pods and salt to taste and continue to grind until all the jaggery has dissolved and there are no lumps. Finally add the ghee and pulse for just a few seconds till well mixed.
4. Grease a 7" round cake tin with ghee or butter. Line it with baking parchment and grease the insides again. Preheat oven at 220 degrees C for about 10 minutes.
5. Pour the ground batter into the prepared tin and stir in the chopped cashew nuts. Decorate the center with whole cashewnuts. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180 degrees C and bake for approximately 1 hour 10 minutes (see notes) or till the knife, skewer inserted comes out clean.
6. Remove the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Invert the tin and allow the mandas to cool completely.
7. Peel off the parchment paper, cut and serve.

Notes:
1. If you do not have par boiled rice, you can use a mix of boiled rice & raw rice.
2. You may substitute ghee with coconut oil, but it wont taste as good. Alternatively you can mix the two if you wish.
3. Depending on the size of the tin and oven used the baking time may vary between 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. If you want a brown surface you can change the oven settings to the 'Broil/Grill' mode for the last 5 minutes (if you have a small oven). A brown surface will add to the taste.
4. Adjust the jaggery to taste. 150 grams will not be too sweet if you are wondering just that. However if you are making the steamed version, reduce the jaggery to about 3/4th cup instead of 1 cup (or adjust to taste) or else it may taste too sweet if you intend to have it for breakfast.

Tip:
Lightly fry the chopped cashewnuts in ghee before adding them to the batter - this enhances the taste of the Mandas


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tomato Saar (with Cumin & Pepper) ~ Spicy & Watery Tomato Soup

Folks, I am back with another Mangalorean favourite. Tomato saar is a simple watery soup - a lot like rasam minus the blend of spices. Tomato saar is prepared in every home in Mangalore - irrespective of cast, creed & status. Its one of the most simplest meal time preparations. I had a lot of readers asking me for this recipe as it is typically Mangalorean and can be made in a jiffy.


I am not sure how I missed to post this recipe before, but let me tell you that this recipe varies from home to home. Most Mangaloreans I know prepare the saar by chopping up the tomatoes and sauteing it in the hot oil before adding the seasoning & water. However today's recipe is made by boiling the tomatoes, skinning and pureeing them to a paste with two simple ingredients - cumin & pepper.

Cumin (jeere) & pepper (miri) are two popularly used spices in Mangalorean cuisine - so much so that we prepare many dishes the Jeere-Miri way - fish, chicken & veggie curries are soaked in an aromatic spice base of cumin, pepper and a few other spices tossed in. I will post those recipes one by one. 


About the dish:
This is an absolutely easy recipe that can be made with a few ingredients and under 30 minutes. Tastes wonderful with any dry side dish - be it non veg (beef sukka, chicken sukka) or veg (sonay sukhe). You can drink it up - freshly made & piping hot, if you have a cold - perfect to get rid of a stuffy nose, headache and the works. The amount of peppercorns used in this preparation may seen too much, however, surprisingly it doesn't feel enough in comparison to the tang provided by the tomatoes. But do play safe if you must and reduce the quantity. I recommend you keep freshly ground/pounded pepper handy to sprinkle later if you must. Don't use store bought pepper if you can help it.

Tomato Saar (with pepper & cumin)
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 10 mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes * see notes
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns *see notes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin/jeera
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind juice (optional) * see notes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste) (optional) * see notes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
  • salt to taste
For seasoning
  • oil for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin/jeera
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
Method:
1. Wash the tomatoes and transfer into a deep pan. Add enough water to cover them and bring it to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes or till you see the skin cracking up - retain the boiled water and transfer the tomatoes into a bowl of fresh water.
2. Skin the tomatoes and rinse the skin in the boiled water and discard. Chop the skinned tomatoes and grind them along with the peppercorns and cumin to a fine paste. It is ok if one or two peppercorns remain whole.
3. On a medium flame heat the oil for seasoning in a kadhai/wok or a heavy bottomed pan and toss in the 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and fry for a couple of minutes, reduce the flame add the curry leaves and the ground paste for a couple of minutes. Fry for about 2 minutes or till the oil leaves the masala. Add 2 cups water, salt to taste and bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Optional step: Depending on how sour the tomatoes are adjust the taste by adding tamarind juice if required. Adjust the spiciness by adding chilly powder.
5. Turn off the flame, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice.

Notes:
1. Preferably use juicy round tomatoes that are just ripe.
2. Increase the peppercorns to a total of 2 tablespoons if you like a spicy saar. Alternatively use the chilli powder to adjust the spice - this is a better option than increasing peppercorns as it can turn very spicy


Friday, February 15, 2013

Jeeryaso Kasai - Cumin Tea/Jeera Khashayam ~ Pre Natal Recipe

So Lent has begun and I am wondering what kind of recipes I should try out to make my Lenten season more meaningful. While I am not the one who gives up any kind of food/meatduring Lent, I do believe in eating simple meals and letting go of  a few habits - excessive internet browsing is on top of that list. Besides letting go of those things that I have been holding on to, I also want to do things that I have been postponing. Every day is going to be an anti procrastination day. There are a whole lot of things that I keep writing on my daily to-do list on my phone. Somehow, I don't see even 10% of these being ticked off as completed tasks. Busy or lazy? This is something I need to ask myself.


I have finally decided to start posting all the recipes that I have collected during my confinement (post delivery) period and will be posting them one by one. As per the Mangalorean tradition, different foods are consumed by a woman during her pregnancy to ensure well being of the mind and body and to provide nourishment to the child in her womb. Some foods and beverages are also consumed with the belief that they will aid easy and normal delivery.


One such beverage that was given to me is the cumin tea which I have relished during both my pregnancies. Cumin or jeera is believed to possess many medicinal benefits including the ability to stimulate lactation (mother's milk) and reduce pregnancy related nausea. Since cumin is readily available in Indian kitchens, it is featured with great love on the pre & post natal food menu and added to a host of foods.

While the cumin tea is usually consumed during the pre natal period (before delivery), it can be had even after delivery as it aids lactation.


About this preparation
Cumin tea can be prepared quickly and easily with minimal effort. Dry roasting the cumin imparts a great aroma and flavour to the drink. Expectant mums can enjoy this preparation by skipping caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee. Let this simple beverage not limit itself to pregnant & new mums - it can certainly be enjoyed by men and women of all ages. You can only stand to benefit from it.

Jeeryaso Kasai
Prep time: Nil | Brewing time: 5 mins | Serves 1 - 2

You Need:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 (or 1 cup) milk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds/ jeera
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) sugar
  • drop of ghee (optional)
Method:
Dry roast jeera on a tawa and powder it. Brew it in 1/2 cup of water for about 3-4mins or until it reduces to half the quantity. Add milk and sugar to taste and serve.

Note: The cumin sediment at the bottom of the cup needs to be drunk along with the tea as this is beneficial.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rose Petal Cupcakes

February is the season of love and in Mumbai it is the season for strawberries. However, for this Valentine's Day, I wanted to try something that was neither made of strawberries, nor chocolate nor something in red. I made red velvet cake for the past two years. Two years ago I attempted the red velvet cupcakes. Last year it was the red velvet brownie bites and I think I am done with the ton of artificial food colouring that goes into it! Nevertheless both these cakes were delicious and were much appreciated at home.


This year I rummaged through the only cake book I own. Its a tiny book of essential baking recipes for everyday baking and a couple of recipes that I have tried so far turned out pretty good. I was particularly keen on trying out the pretty looking rose petal cupcakes. I found the idea of using sugar coated rose petals rather nice. The recipe was also very simple and required simple ingredients except for the rose oil which I skipped.  


I have attached different pictures of the cupcakes of the various attempts at baking them - all of them were successful and I got the hang of frosting too. Till date I thought it that cake decorating was something I would never do. I guess you can only get better with practice and I have vowed to better myself at it. 


The edible rose petals are so much fun to make - ask a kid to volunteer and see the gleam in his eyes! The frosting is very simple & if you like butter cream icing, these cupcakes are just for you!


The only glitch is that I was never able to get some good shots although the cupcakes tasted great. Somehow, my first attempt resulted in a frosting that flopped, on my second attempt, everything was perfect - one reason why the cupcakes didn't last beyond 30 minutes - even before I could get my props and camera out they were gone! The last & final attempt was made last night when again I got too adventurous with the frosting and tried different colours - with one piping bag! Bad idea!! Plus the fact that there was no natural light made it difficult to get good pictures. Tube light is not a great idea at all.


Nevertheless I wanted to post the recipe today because this really is a nice recipe which you can try tomorrow to impress that special someone. If you ask me, try them just for yourself - each of us is special, -so why not make ourselves happy on V - Day?!


About the dish
Very simple plain vanilla cupcakes with a hint of rose flavour & aroma - this is if you are using the rose oil/extract (not the same as rose water). I substituted the rose oil with regular cooking grade rose water, but that hardly made any difference. I suggest you replace the rose oil with almond oil if you wish, but you may skip it altogether. All in all a great recipe to be tried for any simple or special occasion. 

Rose Petal Cupcakes
Prep time: 15 mins | Bake time: 12-15mins | Makes 12-15 cupcakes

You Need
For the cake
  • 175grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 115 grams caster sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2-3 drops of edible rose oil or 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the edible frosted rose petals (optional)
  • 24 rose petals * see notes
  • 1 egg white
  • caster sugar
For the butter cream frosting
  • 6 tablespoons butter softened at room temperature
  • 175 grams icing sugar
  • 1 drop of red food colour * see notes
  • silver dragees  (silver decoration balls) to decorate
Method:
Prepare the frosted rose petals
Wash the rose petals carefully and dry them using a paper towel. Beat the egg white lightly and using a pastry brush coat the leaves with the mixture. Sprinkle caster sugar all over the leaves and gentle dust off the excess. Transfer onto a plate and leave it to dry overnight.

Prepare the cake
1. Preheat oven to 200 C for 10 minutes and line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake liners/cakes. Keep aside.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt a couple of times and keep aside. In a large bowl beat the butter and caster sugar till fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
3. Add the milk, rose oil/water, vanilla extract and combine. Add the sifted flour and fold gently. If the batter is a bit dryish add an extra tablespoon of milk and mix.
4. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners till about 2/3rds full. Bake for about 12-13 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove and transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the butter cream frosting

1. To prepare the frosting, transfer the butter into a large bowl and beat till fluffy, sift in the icing sugar and beat till it is combined. Add just a dab of red food colour to get a baby pink colour. Or use pink food colouring.
2. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag and decorate as desired. Alternatively you may just spoon the frosting over the cupcakes.
3. Ensure that the roses have not been sprayed with harmful chemicals. If you are not sure, just skip the rose petals or don't eat them. 

Place the rose petals and sprinkle the silver dragee over it and serve

(Picture clicked at night under artificial light)
(Picture clicked at night under artificial light)
Adapted from Everyday Muffins & Bakes

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kaleez Ankiti / Sarpatel (Mangalorean Sorpotel) ~ Pork Offal Curry ~ When Hubby Cooks

It is rightly said that the poet and the pig are often appreciated only after their death. Howeve,r many a poet has risen to fame only when his/her poetry got published much later ~ sometimes several decades too late. Thankfully, the pig is appreciated almost immediately. Pork is a much celebrated meat in Mangalorean Catholic cuisine. We celebrate every good occasion with this meat - cooked in the famous Bafat style, Indad or Salad. Today, Mangalorean homes cook many different varieties of pork - this includes the much Indianised pork chilli too.


Pork Sorpotel is a fiery dish made of pork meat (with liver added to it sometimes) and a  medley of spices. A dish that originated in Goa soon found its way along the Konkan region and became very popular in Mangalore. It is primarily eaten by the Catholic community and is very common on the festive occasion or wedding menu. Kaleez Ankiti is a crude form of the Sorpotel and is also called as Sarpatel (pronounced as sarpa-thel) in Mangalore. Crude in the sense that this recipe travelled to Mangalore along with those Goan Catholics who migrated from Goa between 1560-1763 and now involves the addition of the offal - the 'spare parts' of the pig. While the mention of the offal is enough to put off those who have never tasted it, every Mangalorean Catholic who has eaten it swears by its taste and aroma that tickles one's senses.



Kaleez (heart) Ankiti (intestines) are just among the few things that go into this dish. The rest of the flavour comes from the aromatic & fiery spices, vinegar and tamarind that are absorbed by the meat and offal, slowly cooked for over a couple of hours in an earthen pot called the kundlem over a crackling fire fueled by firewood. If you think this was not gruesome enough - listen to this! Sometimes the dried blood of the animal is added to it giving it a unique flavour and taking the taste to a different level. This is the most traditional way of doing it. Little wonder then that the current generation of Mangaloreans has almost abandoned this dish and don't as much as even look at it when offered on a party menu.


Today, modern gas stoves have replaced firewood and more than this dish being prepared at home, it is prepared by caterers or small restaurants that specialise only in Mangalorean food. A lot of die hard Sarpatel lovers who live outside Mangalore make sure they carry their annual quota by freezing it into packets and carrying it back home - usually overseas. Because of this demand, a lot of people sell good quality and well prepared Sarpatel in Mangalore. Should you wish to prepare it yourself, the butcher will know exactly what goes into a batch of Sarpatel and give it to you. However, since the offal cleaning process requires a bit of time & effort it has become a ritual that is only indulged in once or twice a year.

Sarpatel is often found on the menu of the pre-wedding function called the 'Roce' along with the mutton polov. It is also one of the best loved starters during a booze party (I bet many of you are smiling here!). A nice glass of whiskey and a plateful of sarpatel goes really well and keeps spirits high (literally!) I am told. (he he, I stick to wines, just in case you thought otherwise)


Since the husband is an expert at making the Kaleez Ankiti, having learnt the recipe from his mother who makes it fabulously well, we picked up a kilo on our recent trip to Mangalore. It was high time we posted a truly traditional Mangalorean pork recipe that is so close to everyone's heart, so here it is, just in time to be made before Lent officially begins on Wednesday, or enough to tempt you to try it for Easter :-)

About this dish
Experience Nirvana - serve yourself a large portion of piping hot sarpatel and wipe it clean with freshly steamed sanna. Bliss! The dish speaks for itself!

Kaleez Ankiti / Sarpatel
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Cook time: 30 mins | Serves 4

You Need
  • 1 kg pork with a mix of meat and offal * see note#1
  • 2 tablespoons Bafat powder * see note#6
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 3 big onions cut into cubes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic halved
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies slit
  • juice of 1 lime size ball of tamarind (soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup of water to extract juice)*see note#4
  • 8-10 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 spoon of blood (optional) *see note#2
  • Salt to taste
 Method:
1. Wash the pork meat and dice the meat into small pieces. Keep aside.
2. Clean the offal with salt and bay leaves very well and boil it with 1 cup of water and 2-3 bay leaves for about 3-5 minutes. Drain and retain the water for later use. Cut the offal into small pieces. (If using the intestine boil it separately with 1/2 cup water and 2-3 bay leaves and discard the water and bay leaves).
3. In a large heavy bottomed vessel/pan (see note#5) add the meat & offal, bafat powder, garam masala powder, tamarind juice, stock from the pre-boiled offal and cook everything for about 5-10 minutes on a medium fire.
4. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, bay leaves, vinegar, salt to taste and cook till the meat is done. Stir every now & then and ensure that there is enough water so avoid the meat from scorching the pan. Finally add the blood, mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the fire.
5. Serve piping hot with freshly steamed sanna or boiled rice and daliso saar.

Notes:
1. Instead of the entire offal (kidneys, intestines, knuckles etc) only pork meat & liver can be used
We used 750 grams pork offal (kidneys, liver, tongue, heart, ear, knuckles, pork fat, lungs, intestine & tail) and 250 grams pork meat. You may use a 50:50 meat to offal ratio.
2. Dried blood is available on request with the butcher/meat shop. While adding it is optional, it is recommended as it enhances the flavour of the dish and is very much part of the traditional Mangalorean cooking. Alternatively, you may dry roast 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds on a heavy skillet/tawa and remove when they turn deep brown (not black!) - coarsely grind them and sprinkle over the meat to finish - it gives the same look as of the dried blood.
3. Additional water can be added for a little extra gravy/sauce
4. Adjust the vinegar / tamarind juice according to the taste if you prefer tangy flavor
5. Use of a traditional earthen pot (kundlem) greatly enhances the taste of this dish especially when simmered over a slow fire for a long time. This dish tastes spectacular on the next day as it allows the meat to absorb all the spices and flavours making it one of those few dishes that taste better on reheating. 
6. Bafat powder is usually prepared in bulk and stored the whole year round. You may substitute it with the . below recipe which helps you make a small batch for one time use. Do note that these measures are an approximation/fraction of the original recipe for bafat masala powder

To make approx 2 tablespoons of bafat powder the below 
  • 8-9 Kashmiri chillies
  • 20 peppercorns (adjust to taste)
  • 4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder/haldi
  • 2 cloves *see notes
  • 1/2 inch piece cinnamon *see notes
To make 2 teaspoons of bafat powder blend the below:
  • 1 teaspoon plain red chilli powder
  • 3/4th teaspoon coriander powder 
  • approx 2 pinches each of cumin powder, pepper powder & turmeric powder

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Walnut Cake

How many of you have the Christmas hangover like I do? Well, it's not the usual hangover that one tends to have after a night of partying hard. I am talking about the post festive season blues. Come January, the days seem long and dreary with nothing much to do except put away the Christmas tree, decoration and cards and just get back to the grind.

The other part about post Christmas blues is to actually assess the food stuff/ingredients on hand and put them to good use. If you are the kind who has plenty of visitors who come with goody bags, then you have to find a way not to trash it when you can't finish it alone. Secondly, you also need to put away the extra nuts and dry fruits that you may have received as gifts or have bought to make that cake or dessert - a plan which eventually got chucked as the days got busier. Well, this is something that happens in my house all the time. Not just during the festive season but almost the whole year round. So most times I end up looking for recipes that make use of ingredients that were intended for some other purpose altogether.



A couple of weeks ago when I went through my pantry and gave myself a hi-five that a bagful of pistachios were almost finished, I saw a small pile of walnuts that were threatening to go rancid if I didn't use them up soon. I flipped through all my cook books in search for a recipe that would need a good amount of walnuts to be added and not just a tablespoon or two.


Unsuccessful at my attempt to find anything decent in the books I turned to my best friend Google, to cough up a good recipe. To my dismay even a thorough Google search didn't result in anything satisfactory - no plain walnut cake recipes popped up that day. Zilch. It was either coffee-walnut or chocolate-walnut or such. Eventually I came across this gorgeous looking recipe which also calls for orange juice which I abandoned. Feel free to use the original recipe, it's a winner anyways.


I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of baking this cake and totally loved the taste. More than anything I enjoyed the photo session where I raced against time to capture a few good shots before sun down (cuz I normally do my photo shoot in the mornings) - I just figured out different places in my house that give a different look to the pictures. I hope you enjoy viewing the photos just as much as I loved clicking them.


The cake didn't last even half a day and is going to be one the cakes on my list of cakes to be baked during Christmas. I am definitely trying this one again. However the cake doesn't keep well too long at room temperature, so if you intend to keep it for longer (well, if it lasts that long!) make sure you store it in an airtight box and pop it in the fridge.


About the dish
This cake tastes nuttylicious! I have replaced orange juice with plain milk. Serve it plain or with whipped cream or a sprinkling of icing sugar. Tastes wonderful when eaten warm and is a great tea time accompaniment.

Walnut Cake
Prep time: 20mins | Bake time: 50mins | Serves 8 (makes one 9" cake)

You Need
  • 1-1/2 cups / 150gms chopped walnuts 
  • 1 cup / 115gms all purpose flour / maida
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/200gms granulated sugar powdered * see notes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp zest (grated skin) of a lime * optional
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch pan with parchment. Transfer the chopped walnuts into a food processor/dry grinder and pulse 2-3 times till the nuts resemble bread crumbs. Take care not to grind them for too long as they will turn into a paste. 
2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and add it to the ground walnuts and mix well. Keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs until frothy (whisk for about 2 minutes preferably with an electric whisk)
4. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture looks pale and thick - for about 4 minutes. Add in the walnut-flour mixture a little at a time and mix. Add the milk, lime zest and olive oil and fold. The batter will seem a little runny which is okay.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove and place the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, unmould and cool completely.
6. Dust the cake with icing sugar before serving. Enjoy it warm or cold with whipped cream or just as it is.

Notes:
The original recipe asked for 1-1/3rd cups of sugar which works out to approx 250gms. This results in a cake that is a tad too sweet for my liking. I would suggest you use just 1 cup granulated sugar and then powder it. The cake will taste just perfectly sweet - not too sweet.
If you are using readily available caster sugar please use your judgement according to the level of sweetness you desire.
Adapted from Lottie+Doof

Monday, February 4, 2013

Strawberry Jam

Come January the weather in Mumbai turns rather nippy making all of us pull out our woolens and enjoy the cold weather for bit. Real 'winters' start around mid January and last till mid February here and the temperatures sometimes dip as low as 10-12 degrees C. It is also the time when the season's best fruits begin to show up in the markets. In Mumbai, strawberries can be found at every nook & corner - sold at the market amongst other fruits or at the traffic signal - neatly placed in plastic boxes, most times the rotten ones strategically placed at the bottom of the box.


These fruits are found in abundance in well stocked supermarkets at a fancy rate of course, however the best deal is found with those vendors who sell them near residential complexes - neatly piled on reed baskets, looking oh so pretty and inviting that passersby - pedestrians and motorists are lured to stop and buy them. The good part about these vendors is that one can bargain the price with them, especially towards dusk when they are eager to sell off whatever's remaining at your price - strawberries don't keep well at room temperature and they have a fresh load to sell the next day. Plus you get to pick and choose the best out of the lot. 


I bought quite a few strawberries last year - most of which were consumed in the form of smoothies and a lot of them were hulled & frozen - the husband cannot figure out why. I have no clue what I intended to do with them as I didn't have any specific plan! So last year's fruit is still chilling in my deep freezer - hard as stones!

Spot the difference!

Anyway, I went out and bought some more strawberries this year and not wanting to face his wrath I put them to good use. I made some jam! Usually there are no takers for jam in my house. We grew up eating synthetic flavoured jams - mixed fruit to be precise - as that was the only flavour I liked during my growing up years. However, after I made my batch of home made fresh fig jam last year, there was no looking back.


The sad part of this exercise is that I was able to make just one batch from the strawberries I bought at a throwaway price from one of the vendors near my house. The very next day the cops drove away all unauthorised fruit & vegetable vendors from my area. I hope they are back before the strawberry season ends so that I can make another batch of this lovely jam.


I totally love making jams - from start to finish - While I am not such a jam lover, I think I can definitely make a business out of making & selling jams. I find the whole process of chopping the fruit and simmering it over a slow fire so therapeutic. And then capturing it from a thousand different angles - that's another joy altogether. I think I made this jam for the sake of being able to take a lot of pictures more than wanting to eat it. 


About this dish
So here's a jam recipe that is nothing fancy and is very easy to make. I have not made use of pectin or any other preservative so it is best refrigerated and eaten within a couple of weeks. Slather some strawberry jam over a nice warm toast and eat it with fried bacon. You can even make a simple jam sandwich with strawberry jam and amul butter piled between slices of bread - that in my opinion tastes simply divine - enough to beat your blues away!

Strawberry Jam
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 45mins | Yield: Makes 2 jars of approx 200ml each

You Need
  • 500 grams strawberries washed & hulled * see notes
  • 1-1/2 cups (approx 300grams) sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 star anise (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of butter
  • pinch of salt
Method:
1. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters - depending on how chunky you like your jam. Transfer them into a large heavy based pan - remember that the mixture will rise and turn frothy so use a pan with tall sides. Add the sugar, pinch of salt and star anise and simmer till the sugar is dissolved.
2. In a separate pan boil the jam jar/jars for 10 minutes. Remove and dry them thoroughly.
3. Continue to cook the strawberries till the mixture begins to thicken. You can do a test to check if the jam is ready by dropping half a spoonful on a steel plate that has been placed in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. The jam should wrinkle when you touch it with a finger, if not, continue to cook the jam. Do keep an eye on the mixture and continuously stir it as the sugar will stick to the bottom of the pan as it starts to caramelise.
4. When the jam has passed the wrinkle test, add the butter, mix well and skim off any scum on the surface (I missed this step!)
5. Allow the jam to cool off for 6-7 minutes before you spoon them carefully into the sterilized jars. Store in a cool, dry place.

Notes
How to hull strawberries easily: Just poke through the base of each strawberry with a strong drinking straw till the stem and leaves come off on the other end of the straw.

I have adapted the recipe from from here

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Simple Egg Roast - Bachelor's Recipe

My kitchen sees a lot of activity during the week, especially on Sundays when there's something special bubbling over the fire or baking in the oven. Mostly it is the day's lunch menu. In preparation of this day we try to keep our Saturdays simple - mostly with leftover food making its appearance on the dinner table. While we do have two days a week that are kept aside for this purpose, Saturdays are usually those when a really simple meal is eaten for lunch at least. 


I have been longing to make a simple egg side dish for ages. Especially the egg roast because I have very fond memories of eating a particularly delicious egg roast side dish at a small eatery across the college premises when I was doing my M.B.A at Mangalore University, Konaje. There were two very simple households that served afternoon meals to the students to make their two ends meet. One was Gulabi akka who made some mean fried sardines that we would relish with some piping hot boiled rice and curry. She was rather poor and had just a couple of benches that would seat a few students for a meal, so most of us would throng the house of her neighbour who had a slightly bigger setup. A few more long benches and tables that were happy to cram a handful of students for lunch. 


The meals were mostly vegetarian with boiled red rice, a vegetable curry, a greens or legume side dish, pickle and papad featuring on a thali accompanied by a nice steel tumbler of cool buttermilk. On days when the hard core non-vegetarian in me used to get stifled by the display of pure veg food I would order the egg roast. A beautifully browned whole hard boiled egg in an awesome thick masala served in a small steel bowl would satiate my senses. Sometimes two of us would share one egg and many a times a few of us who reached during closing time would fight over the last few eggs. Unlike Gulabiakka this family did not prepare fish, so the egg roast was a blessing for those who fainted at the sight of a pure veg meal. Those were the best meals of my life - simple, delicious and satisfying. What's more, they were budget meals. 

Since then I have tried high and low to find a recipe that would help me revive those memories. I have tried to recreate the taste in this recipe, this is the closest I could get! 



About this dish
This is dead simple recipe, nothing fancy at all. Perfect for bachelors and those who have little time on their hands to cook something decent, tasty and nutritious on a busy day. If you require more masala I suggest you increase the number of onions and adjust the spice accordingly as fried/browned onions tend to taste sweet. You may add a chopped tomato instead of lime juice - this will give you extra masala but the end result will be totally different - nothing close to what I wanted to achieve, but go ahead and get experimental!

Simple Egg Roast
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves 2

You Need:
  • 4 hard boiled eggs shelled & halved
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 large onion (or 2 smalls ones) finely chopped
  • juice of half a lime
  • 3 tablespoons oil or ghee for frying
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
For the marination
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilly powder (adjust to taste) *see notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
  • a pinch of turmeric powder
  • salt to taste (approx 1 level teaspoon)
Method:
1. Place all ingredients mentioned under 'For the marination' in a bowl, add a little water to make a thick paste. Marinate all the hard boiled egg halves with this paste and keep aside for a 5 minutes.
2. Heat oil or ghee in a wide based frying pan and toss in the curry leaves. Fry for a couple of seconds and then add the chopped onions and fry until they turn golden brown.
3. Place the marinated egg halves and fry on a very slow flame for about 8-10 minutes, flipping the sides halfway through the frying time. Sprinkle a little water to help the masala to fry. Adjust seasoning if required.
4. When the eggs have browned on both sides sprinkle lime juice and give it a gentle mix. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot as a side dish with rice and dal.

Notes:
1. Since I used Kashmiri chilly powder I also added pepper powder to the marinade. If you are using a spicy variety of chilly powder, you can reduce the quantity according to taste and/or skip the pepper powder. You may even use Bafat masala powder instead of red chilly powder.
2. You may use 1 medium sized tomato instead of lime juice - it will help you get some extra masala, however the overall taste will change. Instead add an extra onion and adjust the spices as fried/browned onions tend to taste sweetish.

Recipe adapted from here

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baked Cucumber Mandas - Thoushyache Mandas ~ Traditional Mangalorean Rice & Cucumber Pudding ~ Eggless & Gluten Free!

One of Mangalore's most traditional sweet dishes is the 'Mandas' (pronounced as 'muhn-daas'). Every community prepares it and every household has a different version of it. Taste wise it comes close to a Zucchini bread or any cake with a good amount of fruit in it. It's more of a pudding than a cake as it has this puddingy wobbly texture and density. 

Similar to how the western 'Cake' started off without a leaving agent - yeast, baking powder or baking soda (apparently the Egyptians were the first skilled bakers) our dear old Mangalorean ancestors learnt to bake their own version of the cake sans leavening agent, although it was more or less dense and thick and the preparation of which took a very long time.

The women of the house would rise early and get the day's meal ready and also start off with the preparation of the Mandas which involved soaking the rice, grating coconuts to extract the thick milk (called as roce in Konkani) and gathering & preparing the cucumbers to be ground in a traditional vaan (grinding stone/mortar pestle). The batter was then poured into a pan smeared generously with ghee and kept on very slow fire. The sweet dish would then be ready for tea time as men would return from the fields or workplaces and the children from school and would devour this hearty snack.


Sometimes the preparation began late at night, when the day's cooking was done and the family was preparing to retire to bed. The pan containing the batter was placed over a dying fire and live coals were placed on the lid that covered the pan. This ensured that the heat of the stove was enough to slowly cook the batter from below the pan and the live coals on top provided a two way heat. This technique was called as 'voir pondha uzo' (voir means up/top and pondha means down or underneath and uzo means flame/fire) which was a local 'oven' technology. Live coals were easily available in those days as every ranchekood (kitchen) had a quintessential ranni (earthen stove fueled by firewood). Charcoal was also available in plenty as traditional bathrooms which housed large copper cauldrons called as 'baan' to heat water were also fueled by firewood, sticks, dried coconut shell (katti) and its fibre (sonn), dried coconut palm (pido) and dried leaves (sukhi koli).


Owing to the fact that every family was large in those days each having at least 8-10 children and their parents and a few more adults thrown in for good measure, Mandas was prepared in bulk. Since rice was a crop grown in their own paddy fields, people could afford to make several dishes out of rice including sweets to feed an army of a family (usually a joint family). So it is little wonder that if you look through some old recipe books written by your mom or grand mom you will find quantities mentioned in bulk - 2 kilos of rice, 1 kilo of cucumbers, 1 kilo of jaggery and so on which in today's age is probably enough to feed your entire building society! Nuclear families living in cities don't have the luxury of eating a Mandas made the traditional way (with live coals & all) and they also need to scale down the ingredients drastically. Which is what I've done. I did post a recipe of Mandas earlier, but this recipe is a better one as it is made from lesser quantity of ground grated coconut which packs more flavour into it than coconut milk (it takes more coconuts to extract thick milk/first extract)

Although the process may seem lengthy, it really is a simply, delicious and nutritious snack - best eaten on Sunday mornings for breakfast. Do try it and let me know how you liked it!

Above pic: The first attempt at baking - the surface should have a lovely brown colour.

About the dish
Baked Version
Mandas is a traditional pudding cooked for over an hour over slow fire or live coals. It has a pudding like texture and a great aroma thanks to the fragrance of firewood. Since I have baked it in an oven I have called it a 'cake', but don't expect a fluffy sponge cake - you will be sorely disappointed. Since it makes no use of yeast or baking powder (although you can add some if you wish) it will be dense. Be generous with the ghee which provides all the moisture it needs in an oven. Towards the end of the baking time you may change the oven setting to 'Broil/Grill' to get that browned surface - just in case you like it made the traditional way. However, be watchful and don't let the surface burn like I did!

See the picture above - it was my first attempt which resulted in a lovely brown - the second attempt is the picture below  - perils of being forgetful and not keeping a timer :-(



Steamed Version:
To make a steamed version, reduce the jaggery a bit (see notes). You will also need a idli / dhokla / sanna steamer (tondor). Place sufficient water in the steamer and place sufficient banana leaves to cover the entire plate (shelf inside the steamer). Grease the leaves with ghee and then pour in the batter. Steam on a full flame for about an hour. Do the knife/skewer test to check doneness. The thickness of the Mandas will depend on the diameter of your steamer - a larger diameter will result in a thinner Mandas and vice versa.


Vegan Version
This dish is eggless, gluten free, dairy free, soy free and can be nut free and vegan if you skip the cashew nuts and ghee!

Baked Mandas (Rice & Cucumber Pudding/Cake)
Prep time: 30 mins + soaking time: 3 hours | Baking time: 1 hr 15 mins (approx) | Servings 6-7

You Need
  • 1 cup (200 grams) parboiled rice /Idli rice / Mutambo *see notes
  • 1 cup (2 medium sized) cucumber roughly chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 cup jaggery (150 grams) * see notes
  • 1/2 cup ghee * see notes
  • 2 cardamoms
  • a fistful cashewnuts roughly chopped * see notes
  • salt to taste (approx 1/2 teaspoon)
Method:
1. Wash the rice a couple of times till the water runs clear. Cover it with enough fresh water and keep aside for 2-3 hours.
2. Wash and peel the cucumbers and cut them vertically, scoop out the pith (seeds) and then chop into small cubes. Grind the chopped cucumber and grated coconut to a fine paste. If using a mixer grinder, add very little water only if required.
3. Add the soaked rice and grind to a fine rawa like grainy texture. The consistency of the batter should be thickish like dosa batter. Use water sparingly to grind. Add the powdered jaggery, cardamom pods and salt to taste and continue to grind until all the jaggery has dissolved and there are no lumps. Finally add the ghee and pulse for just a few seconds till well mixed.
4. Grease a 7" round cake tin with ghee or butter. Line it with baking parchment and grease the insides again. Preheat oven at 220 degrees C for about 10 minutes.
5. Pour the ground batter into the prepared tin and stir in the chopped cashew nuts. Decorate the center with whole cashewnuts. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180 degrees C and bake for approximately 1 hour 10 minutes (see notes) or till the knife, skewer inserted comes out clean.
6. Remove the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Invert the tin and allow the mandas to cool completely.
7. Peel off the parchment paper, cut and serve.

Notes:
1. If you do not have par boiled rice, you can use a mix of boiled rice & raw rice.
2. You may substitute ghee with coconut oil, but it wont taste as good. Alternatively you can mix the two if you wish.
3. Depending on the size of the tin and oven used the baking time may vary between 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. If you want a brown surface you can change the oven settings to the 'Broil/Grill' mode for the last 5 minutes (if you have a small oven). A brown surface will add to the taste.
4. Adjust the jaggery to taste. 150 grams will not be too sweet if you are wondering just that. However if you are making the steamed version, reduce the jaggery to about 3/4th cup instead of 1 cup (or adjust to taste) or else it may taste too sweet if you intend to have it for breakfast.

Tip:
Lightly fry the chopped cashewnuts in ghee before adding them to the batter - this enhances the taste of the Mandas


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tomato Saar (with Cumin & Pepper) ~ Spicy & Watery Tomato Soup

Folks, I am back with another Mangalorean favourite. Tomato saar is a simple watery soup - a lot like rasam minus the blend of spices. Tomato saar is prepared in every home in Mangalore - irrespective of cast, creed & status. Its one of the most simplest meal time preparations. I had a lot of readers asking me for this recipe as it is typically Mangalorean and can be made in a jiffy.


I am not sure how I missed to post this recipe before, but let me tell you that this recipe varies from home to home. Most Mangaloreans I know prepare the saar by chopping up the tomatoes and sauteing it in the hot oil before adding the seasoning & water. However today's recipe is made by boiling the tomatoes, skinning and pureeing them to a paste with two simple ingredients - cumin & pepper.

Cumin (jeere) & pepper (miri) are two popularly used spices in Mangalorean cuisine - so much so that we prepare many dishes the Jeere-Miri way - fish, chicken & veggie curries are soaked in an aromatic spice base of cumin, pepper and a few other spices tossed in. I will post those recipes one by one. 


About the dish:
This is an absolutely easy recipe that can be made with a few ingredients and under 30 minutes. Tastes wonderful with any dry side dish - be it non veg (beef sukka, chicken sukka) or veg (sonay sukhe). You can drink it up - freshly made & piping hot, if you have a cold - perfect to get rid of a stuffy nose, headache and the works. The amount of peppercorns used in this preparation may seen too much, however, surprisingly it doesn't feel enough in comparison to the tang provided by the tomatoes. But do play safe if you must and reduce the quantity. I recommend you keep freshly ground/pounded pepper handy to sprinkle later if you must. Don't use store bought pepper if you can help it.

Tomato Saar (with pepper & cumin)
Prep time: 10 mins | Cook time: 10 mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes * see notes
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns *see notes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin/jeera
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind juice (optional) * see notes
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste) (optional) * see notes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
  • salt to taste
For seasoning
  • oil for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin/jeera
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
Method:
1. Wash the tomatoes and transfer into a deep pan. Add enough water to cover them and bring it to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes or till you see the skin cracking up - retain the boiled water and transfer the tomatoes into a bowl of fresh water.
2. Skin the tomatoes and rinse the skin in the boiled water and discard. Chop the skinned tomatoes and grind them along with the peppercorns and cumin to a fine paste. It is ok if one or two peppercorns remain whole.
3. On a medium flame heat the oil for seasoning in a kadhai/wok or a heavy bottomed pan and toss in the 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and fry for a couple of minutes, reduce the flame add the curry leaves and the ground paste for a couple of minutes. Fry for about 2 minutes or till the oil leaves the masala. Add 2 cups water, salt to taste and bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Optional step: Depending on how sour the tomatoes are adjust the taste by adding tamarind juice if required. Adjust the spiciness by adding chilly powder.
5. Turn off the flame, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice.

Notes:
1. Preferably use juicy round tomatoes that are just ripe.
2. Increase the peppercorns to a total of 2 tablespoons if you like a spicy saar. Alternatively use the chilli powder to adjust the spice - this is a better option than increasing peppercorns as it can turn very spicy


Friday, February 15, 2013

Jeeryaso Kasai - Cumin Tea/Jeera Khashayam ~ Pre Natal Recipe

So Lent has begun and I am wondering what kind of recipes I should try out to make my Lenten season more meaningful. While I am not the one who gives up any kind of food/meatduring Lent, I do believe in eating simple meals and letting go of  a few habits - excessive internet browsing is on top of that list. Besides letting go of those things that I have been holding on to, I also want to do things that I have been postponing. Every day is going to be an anti procrastination day. There are a whole lot of things that I keep writing on my daily to-do list on my phone. Somehow, I don't see even 10% of these being ticked off as completed tasks. Busy or lazy? This is something I need to ask myself.


I have finally decided to start posting all the recipes that I have collected during my confinement (post delivery) period and will be posting them one by one. As per the Mangalorean tradition, different foods are consumed by a woman during her pregnancy to ensure well being of the mind and body and to provide nourishment to the child in her womb. Some foods and beverages are also consumed with the belief that they will aid easy and normal delivery.


One such beverage that was given to me is the cumin tea which I have relished during both my pregnancies. Cumin or jeera is believed to possess many medicinal benefits including the ability to stimulate lactation (mother's milk) and reduce pregnancy related nausea. Since cumin is readily available in Indian kitchens, it is featured with great love on the pre & post natal food menu and added to a host of foods.

While the cumin tea is usually consumed during the pre natal period (before delivery), it can be had even after delivery as it aids lactation.


About this preparation
Cumin tea can be prepared quickly and easily with minimal effort. Dry roasting the cumin imparts a great aroma and flavour to the drink. Expectant mums can enjoy this preparation by skipping caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee. Let this simple beverage not limit itself to pregnant & new mums - it can certainly be enjoyed by men and women of all ages. You can only stand to benefit from it.

Jeeryaso Kasai
Prep time: Nil | Brewing time: 5 mins | Serves 1 - 2

You Need:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 (or 1 cup) milk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds/ jeera
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) sugar
  • drop of ghee (optional)
Method:
Dry roast jeera on a tawa and powder it. Brew it in 1/2 cup of water for about 3-4mins or until it reduces to half the quantity. Add milk and sugar to taste and serve.

Note: The cumin sediment at the bottom of the cup needs to be drunk along with the tea as this is beneficial.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rose Petal Cupcakes

February is the season of love and in Mumbai it is the season for strawberries. However, for this Valentine's Day, I wanted to try something that was neither made of strawberries, nor chocolate nor something in red. I made red velvet cake for the past two years. Two years ago I attempted the red velvet cupcakes. Last year it was the red velvet brownie bites and I think I am done with the ton of artificial food colouring that goes into it! Nevertheless both these cakes were delicious and were much appreciated at home.


This year I rummaged through the only cake book I own. Its a tiny book of essential baking recipes for everyday baking and a couple of recipes that I have tried so far turned out pretty good. I was particularly keen on trying out the pretty looking rose petal cupcakes. I found the idea of using sugar coated rose petals rather nice. The recipe was also very simple and required simple ingredients except for the rose oil which I skipped.  


I have attached different pictures of the cupcakes of the various attempts at baking them - all of them were successful and I got the hang of frosting too. Till date I thought it that cake decorating was something I would never do. I guess you can only get better with practice and I have vowed to better myself at it. 


The edible rose petals are so much fun to make - ask a kid to volunteer and see the gleam in his eyes! The frosting is very simple & if you like butter cream icing, these cupcakes are just for you!


The only glitch is that I was never able to get some good shots although the cupcakes tasted great. Somehow, my first attempt resulted in a frosting that flopped, on my second attempt, everything was perfect - one reason why the cupcakes didn't last beyond 30 minutes - even before I could get my props and camera out they were gone! The last & final attempt was made last night when again I got too adventurous with the frosting and tried different colours - with one piping bag! Bad idea!! Plus the fact that there was no natural light made it difficult to get good pictures. Tube light is not a great idea at all.


Nevertheless I wanted to post the recipe today because this really is a nice recipe which you can try tomorrow to impress that special someone. If you ask me, try them just for yourself - each of us is special, -so why not make ourselves happy on V - Day?!


About the dish
Very simple plain vanilla cupcakes with a hint of rose flavour & aroma - this is if you are using the rose oil/extract (not the same as rose water). I substituted the rose oil with regular cooking grade rose water, but that hardly made any difference. I suggest you replace the rose oil with almond oil if you wish, but you may skip it altogether. All in all a great recipe to be tried for any simple or special occasion. 

Rose Petal Cupcakes
Prep time: 15 mins | Bake time: 12-15mins | Makes 12-15 cupcakes

You Need
For the cake
  • 175grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 115 grams caster sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2-3 drops of edible rose oil or 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the edible frosted rose petals (optional)
  • 24 rose petals * see notes
  • 1 egg white
  • caster sugar
For the butter cream frosting
  • 6 tablespoons butter softened at room temperature
  • 175 grams icing sugar
  • 1 drop of red food colour * see notes
  • silver dragees  (silver decoration balls) to decorate
Method:
Prepare the frosted rose petals
Wash the rose petals carefully and dry them using a paper towel. Beat the egg white lightly and using a pastry brush coat the leaves with the mixture. Sprinkle caster sugar all over the leaves and gentle dust off the excess. Transfer onto a plate and leave it to dry overnight.

Prepare the cake
1. Preheat oven to 200 C for 10 minutes and line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake liners/cakes. Keep aside.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt a couple of times and keep aside. In a large bowl beat the butter and caster sugar till fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
3. Add the milk, rose oil/water, vanilla extract and combine. Add the sifted flour and fold gently. If the batter is a bit dryish add an extra tablespoon of milk and mix.
4. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners till about 2/3rds full. Bake for about 12-13 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove and transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the butter cream frosting

1. To prepare the frosting, transfer the butter into a large bowl and beat till fluffy, sift in the icing sugar and beat till it is combined. Add just a dab of red food colour to get a baby pink colour. Or use pink food colouring.
2. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag and decorate as desired. Alternatively you may just spoon the frosting over the cupcakes.
3. Ensure that the roses have not been sprayed with harmful chemicals. If you are not sure, just skip the rose petals or don't eat them. 

Place the rose petals and sprinkle the silver dragee over it and serve

(Picture clicked at night under artificial light)
(Picture clicked at night under artificial light)
Adapted from Everyday Muffins & Bakes

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kaleez Ankiti / Sarpatel (Mangalorean Sorpotel) ~ Pork Offal Curry ~ When Hubby Cooks

It is rightly said that the poet and the pig are often appreciated only after their death. Howeve,r many a poet has risen to fame only when his/her poetry got published much later ~ sometimes several decades too late. Thankfully, the pig is appreciated almost immediately. Pork is a much celebrated meat in Mangalorean Catholic cuisine. We celebrate every good occasion with this meat - cooked in the famous Bafat style, Indad or Salad. Today, Mangalorean homes cook many different varieties of pork - this includes the much Indianised pork chilli too.


Pork Sorpotel is a fiery dish made of pork meat (with liver added to it sometimes) and a  medley of spices. A dish that originated in Goa soon found its way along the Konkan region and became very popular in Mangalore. It is primarily eaten by the Catholic community and is very common on the festive occasion or wedding menu. Kaleez Ankiti is a crude form of the Sorpotel and is also called as Sarpatel (pronounced as sarpa-thel) in Mangalore. Crude in the sense that this recipe travelled to Mangalore along with those Goan Catholics who migrated from Goa between 1560-1763 and now involves the addition of the offal - the 'spare parts' of the pig. While the mention of the offal is enough to put off those who have never tasted it, every Mangalorean Catholic who has eaten it swears by its taste and aroma that tickles one's senses.



Kaleez (heart) Ankiti (intestines) are just among the few things that go into this dish. The rest of the flavour comes from the aromatic & fiery spices, vinegar and tamarind that are absorbed by the meat and offal, slowly cooked for over a couple of hours in an earthen pot called the kundlem over a crackling fire fueled by firewood. If you think this was not gruesome enough - listen to this! Sometimes the dried blood of the animal is added to it giving it a unique flavour and taking the taste to a different level. This is the most traditional way of doing it. Little wonder then that the current generation of Mangaloreans has almost abandoned this dish and don't as much as even look at it when offered on a party menu.


Today, modern gas stoves have replaced firewood and more than this dish being prepared at home, it is prepared by caterers or small restaurants that specialise only in Mangalorean food. A lot of die hard Sarpatel lovers who live outside Mangalore make sure they carry their annual quota by freezing it into packets and carrying it back home - usually overseas. Because of this demand, a lot of people sell good quality and well prepared Sarpatel in Mangalore. Should you wish to prepare it yourself, the butcher will know exactly what goes into a batch of Sarpatel and give it to you. However, since the offal cleaning process requires a bit of time & effort it has become a ritual that is only indulged in once or twice a year.

Sarpatel is often found on the menu of the pre-wedding function called the 'Roce' along with the mutton polov. It is also one of the best loved starters during a booze party (I bet many of you are smiling here!). A nice glass of whiskey and a plateful of sarpatel goes really well and keeps spirits high (literally!) I am told. (he he, I stick to wines, just in case you thought otherwise)


Since the husband is an expert at making the Kaleez Ankiti, having learnt the recipe from his mother who makes it fabulously well, we picked up a kilo on our recent trip to Mangalore. It was high time we posted a truly traditional Mangalorean pork recipe that is so close to everyone's heart, so here it is, just in time to be made before Lent officially begins on Wednesday, or enough to tempt you to try it for Easter :-)

About this dish
Experience Nirvana - serve yourself a large portion of piping hot sarpatel and wipe it clean with freshly steamed sanna. Bliss! The dish speaks for itself!

Kaleez Ankiti / Sarpatel
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Cook time: 30 mins | Serves 4

You Need
  • 1 kg pork with a mix of meat and offal * see note#1
  • 2 tablespoons Bafat powder * see note#6
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 3 big onions cut into cubes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic halved
  • 1 inch ginger finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies slit
  • juice of 1 lime size ball of tamarind (soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup of water to extract juice)*see note#4
  • 8-10 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 spoon of blood (optional) *see note#2
  • Salt to taste
 Method:
1. Wash the pork meat and dice the meat into small pieces. Keep aside.
2. Clean the offal with salt and bay leaves very well and boil it with 1 cup of water and 2-3 bay leaves for about 3-5 minutes. Drain and retain the water for later use. Cut the offal into small pieces. (If using the intestine boil it separately with 1/2 cup water and 2-3 bay leaves and discard the water and bay leaves).
3. In a large heavy bottomed vessel/pan (see note#5) add the meat & offal, bafat powder, garam masala powder, tamarind juice, stock from the pre-boiled offal and cook everything for about 5-10 minutes on a medium fire.
4. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, bay leaves, vinegar, salt to taste and cook till the meat is done. Stir every now & then and ensure that there is enough water so avoid the meat from scorching the pan. Finally add the blood, mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the fire.
5. Serve piping hot with freshly steamed sanna or boiled rice and daliso saar.

Notes:
1. Instead of the entire offal (kidneys, intestines, knuckles etc) only pork meat & liver can be used
We used 750 grams pork offal (kidneys, liver, tongue, heart, ear, knuckles, pork fat, lungs, intestine & tail) and 250 grams pork meat. You may use a 50:50 meat to offal ratio.
2. Dried blood is available on request with the butcher/meat shop. While adding it is optional, it is recommended as it enhances the flavour of the dish and is very much part of the traditional Mangalorean cooking. Alternatively, you may dry roast 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds on a heavy skillet/tawa and remove when they turn deep brown (not black!) - coarsely grind them and sprinkle over the meat to finish - it gives the same look as of the dried blood.
3. Additional water can be added for a little extra gravy/sauce
4. Adjust the vinegar / tamarind juice according to the taste if you prefer tangy flavor
5. Use of a traditional earthen pot (kundlem) greatly enhances the taste of this dish especially when simmered over a slow fire for a long time. This dish tastes spectacular on the next day as it allows the meat to absorb all the spices and flavours making it one of those few dishes that taste better on reheating. 
6. Bafat powder is usually prepared in bulk and stored the whole year round. You may substitute it with the . below recipe which helps you make a small batch for one time use. Do note that these measures are an approximation/fraction of the original recipe for bafat masala powder

To make approx 2 tablespoons of bafat powder the below 
  • 8-9 Kashmiri chillies
  • 20 peppercorns (adjust to taste)
  • 4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder/haldi
  • 2 cloves *see notes
  • 1/2 inch piece cinnamon *see notes
To make 2 teaspoons of bafat powder blend the below:
  • 1 teaspoon plain red chilli powder
  • 3/4th teaspoon coriander powder 
  • approx 2 pinches each of cumin powder, pepper powder & turmeric powder

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Walnut Cake

How many of you have the Christmas hangover like I do? Well, it's not the usual hangover that one tends to have after a night of partying hard. I am talking about the post festive season blues. Come January, the days seem long and dreary with nothing much to do except put away the Christmas tree, decoration and cards and just get back to the grind.

The other part about post Christmas blues is to actually assess the food stuff/ingredients on hand and put them to good use. If you are the kind who has plenty of visitors who come with goody bags, then you have to find a way not to trash it when you can't finish it alone. Secondly, you also need to put away the extra nuts and dry fruits that you may have received as gifts or have bought to make that cake or dessert - a plan which eventually got chucked as the days got busier. Well, this is something that happens in my house all the time. Not just during the festive season but almost the whole year round. So most times I end up looking for recipes that make use of ingredients that were intended for some other purpose altogether.



A couple of weeks ago when I went through my pantry and gave myself a hi-five that a bagful of pistachios were almost finished, I saw a small pile of walnuts that were threatening to go rancid if I didn't use them up soon. I flipped through all my cook books in search for a recipe that would need a good amount of walnuts to be added and not just a tablespoon or two.


Unsuccessful at my attempt to find anything decent in the books I turned to my best friend Google, to cough up a good recipe. To my dismay even a thorough Google search didn't result in anything satisfactory - no plain walnut cake recipes popped up that day. Zilch. It was either coffee-walnut or chocolate-walnut or such. Eventually I came across this gorgeous looking recipe which also calls for orange juice which I abandoned. Feel free to use the original recipe, it's a winner anyways.


I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of baking this cake and totally loved the taste. More than anything I enjoyed the photo session where I raced against time to capture a few good shots before sun down (cuz I normally do my photo shoot in the mornings) - I just figured out different places in my house that give a different look to the pictures. I hope you enjoy viewing the photos just as much as I loved clicking them.


The cake didn't last even half a day and is going to be one the cakes on my list of cakes to be baked during Christmas. I am definitely trying this one again. However the cake doesn't keep well too long at room temperature, so if you intend to keep it for longer (well, if it lasts that long!) make sure you store it in an airtight box and pop it in the fridge.


About the dish
This cake tastes nuttylicious! I have replaced orange juice with plain milk. Serve it plain or with whipped cream or a sprinkling of icing sugar. Tastes wonderful when eaten warm and is a great tea time accompaniment.

Walnut Cake
Prep time: 20mins | Bake time: 50mins | Serves 8 (makes one 9" cake)

You Need
  • 1-1/2 cups / 150gms chopped walnuts 
  • 1 cup / 115gms all purpose flour / maida
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/200gms granulated sugar powdered * see notes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp zest (grated skin) of a lime * optional
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F. Grease and line a 9-inch pan with parchment. Transfer the chopped walnuts into a food processor/dry grinder and pulse 2-3 times till the nuts resemble bread crumbs. Take care not to grind them for too long as they will turn into a paste. 
2. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and add it to the ground walnuts and mix well. Keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs until frothy (whisk for about 2 minutes preferably with an electric whisk)
4. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture looks pale and thick - for about 4 minutes. Add in the walnut-flour mixture a little at a time and mix. Add the milk, lime zest and olive oil and fold. The batter will seem a little runny which is okay.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove and place the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, unmould and cool completely.
6. Dust the cake with icing sugar before serving. Enjoy it warm or cold with whipped cream or just as it is.

Notes:
The original recipe asked for 1-1/3rd cups of sugar which works out to approx 250gms. This results in a cake that is a tad too sweet for my liking. I would suggest you use just 1 cup granulated sugar and then powder it. The cake will taste just perfectly sweet - not too sweet.
If you are using readily available caster sugar please use your judgement according to the level of sweetness you desire.
Adapted from Lottie+Doof

Monday, February 4, 2013

Strawberry Jam

Come January the weather in Mumbai turns rather nippy making all of us pull out our woolens and enjoy the cold weather for bit. Real 'winters' start around mid January and last till mid February here and the temperatures sometimes dip as low as 10-12 degrees C. It is also the time when the season's best fruits begin to show up in the markets. In Mumbai, strawberries can be found at every nook & corner - sold at the market amongst other fruits or at the traffic signal - neatly placed in plastic boxes, most times the rotten ones strategically placed at the bottom of the box.


These fruits are found in abundance in well stocked supermarkets at a fancy rate of course, however the best deal is found with those vendors who sell them near residential complexes - neatly piled on reed baskets, looking oh so pretty and inviting that passersby - pedestrians and motorists are lured to stop and buy them. The good part about these vendors is that one can bargain the price with them, especially towards dusk when they are eager to sell off whatever's remaining at your price - strawberries don't keep well at room temperature and they have a fresh load to sell the next day. Plus you get to pick and choose the best out of the lot. 


I bought quite a few strawberries last year - most of which were consumed in the form of smoothies and a lot of them were hulled & frozen - the husband cannot figure out why. I have no clue what I intended to do with them as I didn't have any specific plan! So last year's fruit is still chilling in my deep freezer - hard as stones!

Spot the difference!

Anyway, I went out and bought some more strawberries this year and not wanting to face his wrath I put them to good use. I made some jam! Usually there are no takers for jam in my house. We grew up eating synthetic flavoured jams - mixed fruit to be precise - as that was the only flavour I liked during my growing up years. However, after I made my batch of home made fresh fig jam last year, there was no looking back.


The sad part of this exercise is that I was able to make just one batch from the strawberries I bought at a throwaway price from one of the vendors near my house. The very next day the cops drove away all unauthorised fruit & vegetable vendors from my area. I hope they are back before the strawberry season ends so that I can make another batch of this lovely jam.


I totally love making jams - from start to finish - While I am not such a jam lover, I think I can definitely make a business out of making & selling jams. I find the whole process of chopping the fruit and simmering it over a slow fire so therapeutic. And then capturing it from a thousand different angles - that's another joy altogether. I think I made this jam for the sake of being able to take a lot of pictures more than wanting to eat it. 


About this dish
So here's a jam recipe that is nothing fancy and is very easy to make. I have not made use of pectin or any other preservative so it is best refrigerated and eaten within a couple of weeks. Slather some strawberry jam over a nice warm toast and eat it with fried bacon. You can even make a simple jam sandwich with strawberry jam and amul butter piled between slices of bread - that in my opinion tastes simply divine - enough to beat your blues away!

Strawberry Jam
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 45mins | Yield: Makes 2 jars of approx 200ml each

You Need
  • 500 grams strawberries washed & hulled * see notes
  • 1-1/2 cups (approx 300grams) sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 star anise (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of butter
  • pinch of salt
Method:
1. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters - depending on how chunky you like your jam. Transfer them into a large heavy based pan - remember that the mixture will rise and turn frothy so use a pan with tall sides. Add the sugar, pinch of salt and star anise and simmer till the sugar is dissolved.
2. In a separate pan boil the jam jar/jars for 10 minutes. Remove and dry them thoroughly.
3. Continue to cook the strawberries till the mixture begins to thicken. You can do a test to check if the jam is ready by dropping half a spoonful on a steel plate that has been placed in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. The jam should wrinkle when you touch it with a finger, if not, continue to cook the jam. Do keep an eye on the mixture and continuously stir it as the sugar will stick to the bottom of the pan as it starts to caramelise.
4. When the jam has passed the wrinkle test, add the butter, mix well and skim off any scum on the surface (I missed this step!)
5. Allow the jam to cool off for 6-7 minutes before you spoon them carefully into the sterilized jars. Store in a cool, dry place.

Notes
How to hull strawberries easily: Just poke through the base of each strawberry with a strong drinking straw till the stem and leaves come off on the other end of the straw.

I have adapted the recipe from from here

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Simple Egg Roast - Bachelor's Recipe

My kitchen sees a lot of activity during the week, especially on Sundays when there's something special bubbling over the fire or baking in the oven. Mostly it is the day's lunch menu. In preparation of this day we try to keep our Saturdays simple - mostly with leftover food making its appearance on the dinner table. While we do have two days a week that are kept aside for this purpose, Saturdays are usually those when a really simple meal is eaten for lunch at least. 


I have been longing to make a simple egg side dish for ages. Especially the egg roast because I have very fond memories of eating a particularly delicious egg roast side dish at a small eatery across the college premises when I was doing my M.B.A at Mangalore University, Konaje. There were two very simple households that served afternoon meals to the students to make their two ends meet. One was Gulabi akka who made some mean fried sardines that we would relish with some piping hot boiled rice and curry. She was rather poor and had just a couple of benches that would seat a few students for a meal, so most of us would throng the house of her neighbour who had a slightly bigger setup. A few more long benches and tables that were happy to cram a handful of students for lunch. 


The meals were mostly vegetarian with boiled red rice, a vegetable curry, a greens or legume side dish, pickle and papad featuring on a thali accompanied by a nice steel tumbler of cool buttermilk. On days when the hard core non-vegetarian in me used to get stifled by the display of pure veg food I would order the egg roast. A beautifully browned whole hard boiled egg in an awesome thick masala served in a small steel bowl would satiate my senses. Sometimes two of us would share one egg and many a times a few of us who reached during closing time would fight over the last few eggs. Unlike Gulabiakka this family did not prepare fish, so the egg roast was a blessing for those who fainted at the sight of a pure veg meal. Those were the best meals of my life - simple, delicious and satisfying. What's more, they were budget meals. 

Since then I have tried high and low to find a recipe that would help me revive those memories. I have tried to recreate the taste in this recipe, this is the closest I could get! 



About this dish
This is dead simple recipe, nothing fancy at all. Perfect for bachelors and those who have little time on their hands to cook something decent, tasty and nutritious on a busy day. If you require more masala I suggest you increase the number of onions and adjust the spice accordingly as fried/browned onions tend to taste sweet. You may add a chopped tomato instead of lime juice - this will give you extra masala but the end result will be totally different - nothing close to what I wanted to achieve, but go ahead and get experimental!

Simple Egg Roast
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves 2

You Need:
  • 4 hard boiled eggs shelled & halved
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 large onion (or 2 smalls ones) finely chopped
  • juice of half a lime
  • 3 tablespoons oil or ghee for frying
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)
For the marination
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilly powder (adjust to taste) *see notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
  • a pinch of turmeric powder
  • salt to taste (approx 1 level teaspoon)
Method:
1. Place all ingredients mentioned under 'For the marination' in a bowl, add a little water to make a thick paste. Marinate all the hard boiled egg halves with this paste and keep aside for a 5 minutes.
2. Heat oil or ghee in a wide based frying pan and toss in the curry leaves. Fry for a couple of seconds and then add the chopped onions and fry until they turn golden brown.
3. Place the marinated egg halves and fry on a very slow flame for about 8-10 minutes, flipping the sides halfway through the frying time. Sprinkle a little water to help the masala to fry. Adjust seasoning if required.
4. When the eggs have browned on both sides sprinkle lime juice and give it a gentle mix. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot as a side dish with rice and dal.

Notes:
1. Since I used Kashmiri chilly powder I also added pepper powder to the marinade. If you are using a spicy variety of chilly powder, you can reduce the quantity according to taste and/or skip the pepper powder. You may even use Bafat masala powder instead of red chilly powder.
2. You may use 1 medium sized tomato instead of lime juice - it will help you get some extra masala, however the overall taste will change. Instead add an extra onion and adjust the spices as fried/browned onions tend to taste sweetish.

Recipe adapted from here