Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Winter Cauliflower Subzi

Growing up in North India, the fresh vegetable choices in the winter were reduced to mostly cauliflower, peas and the 'ever-blossoming' potatoes. Atleast this was the scene at at our local 'Munna' grocer's store. Come weekend, Mommie would instruct Daddie to get the freshest veggies from Munna and we would sometimes tag along with him with our handy-dandy baskets/shopping bags. Invariably, we came home cauliflower among other things. Throughout the winter, would have had different combinations of cauliflower, peas and potato curries!! Every parent in this world has tried to coax their child to eat cauliflower just because they look like 'trees'. This has worked on majority kids atleast when they are naive. (except some like Hubbie). But I think I have developed a taste for this flowery vegetable which represents 'childhood winter' for me!

Here is how I like to make them


1 small head of a cauliflower (yielding 2 cups of florets)
1 med red onion sliced
3 green chillies slit
3 cloves of garlis sliced
2 tsp jeera powder
2 tsp dhania powder
1/2 tsp amchur powder
2 tsp oil
salt to taste

How to proceed

1. Break the flower into bite size florets, rinse under flowing water. Toss with salt and steam cook for 4-5 mins (almost cooked, not tender... whats the word.. al dente). I usually place a steel (heat resistant) bowl contaning the florets in an electric rice cooker containing 1/2 cup water and turn it off after 5 mins.

2. Heat oil in a pan, add sliced garlic, green chillies and onions and saute until onions are soft. Add spices, and fry for a few seconds. Add the steamed florets and saute until mostly dry.

Serve with warm chappatis, leftovers can be sandwiched for next day's lunch.

I like to steam the florets to reduce the cooking time... they steam while I prep the other ingredients and 5 mins later... done.

This is my entry to the "From my Rasoi - winter" event hosted by the effervescent Meenakshi of Hooked On Heat.

Popover for some tea?

Hope everybody is relaxing and enjoying the holidays. I know I am! After a long time, I spent my afternoons in the kitchen, whipping up stuff I always wanted to try.

On our trip to Maine this past summer, we had wonderful ‘popovers’ after a a long hike at the Acadia National Park. This cosy little teahouse called ‘The Jordan Pond House’ is located right in the middle of the park exactly where most visitors are likely to end up tired and hungry. The location was picture perfect, weather was great and we were served hot tea and wonderfully warm, fresh out the oven popovers with strawberry jam. I can almost still taste it!!

What makes popovers intersting is that they rise without any baking powder, soda or yeast. When you split them apart, they are almost hollow in the center. They rise mainly due to the steam generated by the high water content of the recipe, and the eggs hold them together. They are surpisingly easy to make... Only 5 ingredients!! You would ideally need a popover pan, which looks like a muffin pan BUT each cup is completely separated from others on all four sides. I used a muffin pan but just filled out the four corner cups since I was only serving two people.

Here is my rendition of popovers... not quite like the one we had in Maine... but close enough to keep us satisfied until we visit again.

(Makes 4)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
3 tbsps melted butter

How to proceed

1. To a blender jar, add flour, milk, salt and eggs and blend together. Scrape the sides to ensure all dry flour is incorporated.
2. Pour into individual popover cups. If using a muffin pan, fill only the corner cups 2/3 full.
3. Bake in a 425 degree (F) oven for about 20 - 30 mins.

More tea any one?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Oh Mr. Kringle... It's soon gonna Jingle!!

It's that time of the year again! Finals, vacations, overdose of the red and green colors. I still feel deprived of the festive feeling of Diwali, since I have been preoccupied ('busy') ever since November. Now that I feel at ease, I decided to cook up some festive feeling this 'Holiday' and started out with baking a cake for Hubbie's colleagues at work.

This DRY FRUIT CAKE reciepe is courtesy of my friend 'Khatti Imli' is simple yet sinful. It is a cake with just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Most of the ingredients may already be in your pantry, so you can just get to work when you feel like cake:-)



2 Sticks butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups flour
1 cup raisins
1 cup desiccated coconut (Optional - I always leave this one out :))
1/2 cup walnuts (blended or pieces)
1/2 cup unsalted almonds (blended or pieces)
1/2 cup orange juice

How to proceed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix together the first 6 ingredients in microwaveable bowl and microwave for 3.5 minutes on high. Good idea to do 2 mins and 1.5 min batches and watch the bowl so that the contents don't oveflow. It is a sticky mess to clean.
3. Mix batter with spatula until smooth
4. Add flour a little at a time (to avoid lumps) and mix well until batter is smooth and has no lumps.
5. Add raisins, coconut, chopped nuts, orange juice and again mix well. The batter should now run smooth when dripped from the spoon.
6. If the batter appears lumpy, fill 1/2 the empty can on condensed milk with hot water and gradually pour into the batter while mixing.
7. Grease a 9x12 baking pan and pout batter in the pan and garnish with any nuts and raisins.
8. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes at 350 degree F.

Some observations and tips
1. Do not leave the batter of butter and condensed milk after warming... add the other dry ingredients immediately. Keep all the ingredients at hand before starting the recipe.

The smell of the melting butter and the cake baking is truly intoxicating :)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cracked Wheat Upma

Upma was one of my least favorite things to eat growing up. Poor Mommie tried everything she could to make it look and sound appetizing. For some time, the word upma was taboo at home... Mommie insisted on calling it 'khichdi'. Still, when we put the spoon to our mouths, we would know it was no khichdi, but upma in disguise.

Now when I am far from all things home, upma has made an ironic come back in my life. I end up making upma once in a while simply because it is easy, quick and filling. The irony of it all is that Hubbie is not so fond of upma either :-) He scrunches his nose at the sound of it. But after reading this entry on Mahanandi about Cracked Wheat Upma, I decided that it sounded too nutritious to pass off just because of its 'taste' :-) The only change to the recipe I made was in the use of vegetables in my fridge. Also, in addition to water, I added a cube of frozen V8 vegetable juice that I keep in the freezer. (Pour V8 juice into ice trays, freeze, once set, transfer them into a freezer safe zip lock baggie. One or two cubes into a gravy vegetable is a great substitute... especially when you are running short on tomatoes)

I need to work on my pictures... too much shadow on this one... but the upma was great!!

So the moral of this discussion is that if your son/daughter is being too picky or finicky about food, just send them out into the big bad world to fend for themselves... Then they will learn to appreciate the goodness of home cooked food :-)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Vegetarian Eggs?

This week at the supermarket, my eyes fell on Cage free 'Vegetarian Eggs'. I am not the keenest of observers, so not sure if it is a new product, but this is the first time I have seen it. More information on the company and which stores carry it can be found here. The gist is that they rear their hens in a 'farm' enviroment rather than a 'factory' environment, their feed is drug and hormone free. In the case of vegetarian eggs, the hens are fed grains and no animal byproducts. A dozen such eggs are priced at $2.99, about 60% more than regular eggs. In my opinion they are worth the extra cost and I can easily afford it by avoiding some of my frivolous expenses like too much coffee each day. After reading Indira's blog on milk, I do hope they reestablish cruelty free milk production soon.

Finally, without sounding too preachy - I hope with some of our support, companies like Egg Innovations can stay in business.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Avocado Parathas

It's true. You can make parathas of anything if you just put your mind to it.
We bought some avocados from our local wholesale retailer last week, which we have been trying to incorporate into our diet in many ways. We tried them sliced or mashed stuffed in sandwiches, which was a great lunch sandwich. Then the legendary guacomole. But anyone familiar with wholesale shopping wouldnot be surprised to know that we still have plenty of avocados to consume, but we are running out of ideas.

Avocado is actually fruit (like tomato), which is in season in the winter. It was first discovered in Mexico and then taken to the English. It is actually pretty versatile. It is used in salads, soups, breads, appetizers, maincourses even desserts believe it nor not. For more interesting food history of avocados and interesting recipes, visit . You should buy avocados that are fresh, just picked but not ripe. Ripen them at home by keeping them in a brown bag away from direct sunlight and the refridgerator. Ripe avocados are fleshy and yield to touch. Just word about nutrition. Avocados are known to have high fat content, but it is mono saturated, so it is good for you in LIMITED quanity and they say it can control cholesterol. It is said that you can avoid using butter altogether by spreading creamed avovados on your bread. hmmmmm...

So, when I got home last night and looked at the fridge for any quick options and my eyes landed on the avocados. Immediately I ran out and checked if hubbie was in a whacky, i-don't-mind-trying-new-stuff-today mood. So then I set to work...

1 ripe avocado, pitted and fleshed (remove skin like an orange or cut lengthwise and scoop out flesh)
2 cups of chappati flour
1tsp salt (to taste)
1tbs corriander pow
1tbs any other masala you fancy (chaat masala, jeera pow, garam masala etc)
1 tsp chilli pow
water as required (small quantity)

In a large bowl, mash avocado pulp with a fork. Add flour and all masalas. Rub the mixture together and use the moisture of avocado to knead a smooth dough, adding water only if necessary (I needed to add about 2-3 tbsps of water). The dough usually is pretty smooth due to the above stated fat content. Then, break into even sized pieces (about 10). Roll out into ~6 in rounds and slap it on to a hot tava/griddle. It was a weekday dinner, so I didn't spend time folding the rounds over and rolling them again to obtain layers. But I bet you would get nice flaky layers, again due to the above state (good) high fat content. When small bubbles appear, flip and slap the other side on the tava. When that side bubbles up and shows some color, flip again and apply slight pressure with a folded paper napkin or a clean kitchen towel to cook it through. Serve with dal or other vegetable for a complete meal.

The results, well hubbie didn't complain as much about experimenting on him, so I think they were good. I liked them too :-)

No surprise again, but we still have more avocados remaning, so if you liked this one, stay tuned for more recipes. May be I will try the avocado bread over the weekend. Lets not get our hopes up just yet.

In the mean time, let me know some of your whacky creations...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Date Cake

Very easy to put together, suitable for surprise entertaining. Even during CHAOS (Cannot Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Also the cake is eggless!!! It doesn't get any better :-)

Date Cake
12 dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda (not baking powder)
12 walnuts, chopped

To Proceed:
1. Boil the milk in a saucepan. Remove from heat.
2. Add the dates and let it stand until cool.
3. When cool put into a blender or food processor and process or blend until the dates are ground.
4. Add the oil into blender/food processor and blend/process again until incorporated and mixture becomes thick. Add sugar to the mixture in the blender/food processor and blend until incorporated.
5. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. Seive flour and baking soda well. Fold in the flour until it is mixed well.
Note: You can at this point add a little more milk in case you find the batter a little thick. The batter should be of pouring consistency like most cake batters.
6. Pour batter into a greased baking dish and bake at 375F for 25 - 30 mins depending on your oven.

We loved this cake and ended up making it twice in one week. I bet you could try this with dried apricots, figs etc for similar results.

As an end note, keep posted for experiments on slow cookers and how slow cooking is/isn't better than regular stove top cooking for Indian cooking.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Oven Fried Banana Chips

The inspiration for this week's cooking experiment came from Tarla Dalal's newsletter( which sends a bunch of 'new' recipes every 15 days or so. Now at this point, it is important to note that I am biased against Tarla Dalal's recipes. I have unsuccessfully tried following some of her very 'novel' westernized dishes with Indian ingredients. Mrs. Dalal, I like to follow recipies so that I don't have to exercise my noggin, but your 'novel' , 'imaginative' recipes need constant improvisation which makes me doubt if they have been tested. But credit should be given where credit is deserved. Kudos to you for building your own 'empire' and brand name all over the world based on the simple ingredients of vegetarianism. But - call me biased or inexperienced, I would recommend only your strictly Gujarati recipes to friends who are starting out. That said, MIL is a HUGE fan of yours and owns a copy of almost all of your books. One of them is also personally autographed by you.

On to today's topic. So Mrs. Dalal's recipe called for using the microwave oven to crisp the banana chips, but I had my doubts if that would work since microwaves tend to make wet foods soggy at the bottom. So I decided to use the conventional oven instead. One of these days I will try this using the microwave and report the results (which may be just as good)


One Raw Banana (Plaintain)
jeera pow
(or any other masala that strikes your fancy)
oil a few tsps

How to proceed

Peel the raw banana. This step was the hardest in my case because I own a lousy peeler which took several rounds of peeling to remove all the thick skin. I didnot want to use a knife and loose majority of the pulp. I would like any recommendation on what kind of gadgets would work well for plaintains.

Use a box grater or slicer to slice wafer thin rounds of the plaintain. The thinner the slices are, the faster it will crisp. You HAVE to be careful if you are using a conventional grater for this.

Preheat oven to ~400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. In a bowl (or a ziploc bag if you don't wont to dirty too many dishes) place the slices, add about 2 tbsps of oil and salt to taste. Toss around to coat both sides of the slices. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet. Use 2 baking sheets if you are making a big batch. Place in oven for 15 mins or till crisp. Flip over the slices once in between.

Once out if the oven and still hot, toss in other dry masalas like jeera pow, chilli pow etc.
Enjoy with rice and dal or rice and sambar or eat it just as is.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Just for Mommie

I am posting this separately because this one is special. This is the first real recipe I 'shared' with Mommie. The credit to the recipe of 'Rava Dosa' undoubtedly goes to MIL. It is a snap to put together and is a crowd pleaser.

Rava Dosa

2 cups dry roasted rava
1 cup rice flour
2-3 green chillies chopped
1 tsp jeera
pinch of asafoteda
1 tsp of grated coconut (optional)
Water (?? need some algorithm to calculate the amount of water)

Mix all dry ingredients together in a fairly large bowl. Add water until the mixture is very thin, watery (the thinner, the crisper the dosas turn out) . If you leave the batter standing for some time, most of the rava settles at the bottom. Before ladling it out, give it a vigorous stir to make sure all the good stuff from the bottom is incorporated.

Heat tava. After it is nice and hot, pour 1 cup of the thin batter. Drizzle some oil just like you would on a regular dosa. It takes longer to cook and crisp, but you only need to cook only one side. Serve with molagai pudi or any chutnies for a snack or with sambar for a full meal.

Scaling the recipe to 1 cup rava with 1/2 cup rice flour makes just enough dosas for two very hungry people.

Thanks MIL for this instant dosa recipe. Try this one and let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Around here the spice is just right. Or atleast I would like it to be. This blog is going to be about escapades pertaining to the kitchen realm. I am what you might call the average person living it up with a brand-new hubbie.

So we cook meals most of the weekdays and it is your regular desi veggie fare. Chappati/Bhaji or some form of rice, dals, pasta, beans etc. But on the weekends, hubbie refuses to eat anything ordinary. Funny how he has started calling chappaties ordinary and mundane. There used to be a time when he looked forward to chappaties (or is it chappatis?) in a near salivating manner. Maybe he needs a refresher dose on his not so recent student life cuisines? So as I was saying, hubbie demands special stuff on weekends - something 'scrumptuously delicious'. When I ask him what he means by that, he just repeats the word with emphasis on different syllables.

The eating habits on his side of the family has amazed me from day one. Bhajjis for breakfast and bhel puri/pani puri for dinner as a full meal, each meal has atleast one item deep fried in ghee/oil. Infact the first time I met his grandmother, we had pani puri for dinner. I must have eaten about 20 puris and a lot of that spiced water. Not too good for your GI tract :-) On the other hand, he finds the food habits on my side of the family equally strange. How we can enjoy and crave the delicate flavors of simplest things like curd rice always amuses him.

Hubbie's mother (shall be called MIL henceforth) is known around the entire neighbourhood and beyond for her hand at the chaat items as the uncrowned queen of party pleasing items. In fact if she was not in the profession she is in right now, she would have been an excellent cooking show host. Ask her innocently about one of her recipes and she will enthusiastically explain beginning from how to boil water accompanied by any sound effects, ending with a description of how to present the finished dish.

Mommie on the other hand is the uncrowned queen of multiplexing and improvisation. The sheer speed at which she weaves in and out of the kitchen with innovative meal creations is amazing. Her after school one dish meals were nutritious and satisfying. I don't think even she knew what she was making for dinner on a busy day. She would put a pan on the stove, pour some oil in it and run to the fridge and look for dinner options. In about half hour, she would have whipped up a 'balanced' meal. She is not afraid of trying unconventional things in the kitchen, and I think this has rubbed off on sis and me whether we realize it or not.

Sis will try/eat anything new. She will experiement with different recipes every other day and feed the neighbourhood kids :-) So as you can see I have a lot to live up to.

In my quest to discover new 'scrumptous' items to tickle hubbie's taste buds, I introduce this blog of experiences, success, contentment, disasters and spice. Until the weekend, eat well.