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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Minimal oil vegetable koftas

Fall is a beautiful season. The heat of summer is gone, but the bone chilling cold of winter is not yet here. The changing colors of leaves on the trees - the gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and flaming red - these are testimonials of nature's artistry. The leaves have now started falling, a signal that fall is coming to an end and colder weather is imminent.
 While deep fried snacks are enjoyed by us, I do try every now and then, to see if a recipe can be tweaked to use less oil. These koftas were made to be used in a curry that I wanted to serve with rotis. However, we soon found that these made for a great tea time snack. Luckily, I had enough of these on hand to make a curry after we were done with our snacking binge.

What you need:
Potato - 1 large or 2 medium sized, boiled, peeled and mashed
Carrot - 1, grated
Green beans - 10, chopped very fine
Spring onion - 2, chopped fine
Green chilli - 2, minced
Bread - 4 slices
Ginger - one inch piece, skinned and chopped fine
Salt
Dhania/corrainder powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Add the carrot, beans spring onion, ginger and chilli to the mashed potatoes. Mix in salt, garam masala, red chilli powder, dhania powder and turmeric powder. Dip the bread in water, quickly squeeze out all the water and add it to the vegetables. Knead well and then divide into small balls.
Heat a paniyaram pan/aebelskiver pan with about 1/4 tsp of oil in each depression. On medium flame, fry these koftas, turning over until they are well browned and crisp on all sides. Do not rush this process. It will take time, but the end result will be worth it.
The recipe for the curry I made with these koftas in it, will be up next.
This is my third post for BM #45 under the theme healthy tea time snacks.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45


Crispy corn

The temperature outside has been steadily dropping over the last few days. I am one of the few people who still go outside for a walk in the morning, but am not sure I will be able to do that for much longer, given how many layers of clothes I have to wear and how cold it still feels despite all those layers. Warm soups, adrak-wali chai (ginger tea) and crisp, deep fried snacks are what the stomach craves for every day.

Mainland China's crispy corn chilli pepper is something that I love and have ordered  every single time we've eaten there. I love how crisp yet juicy the corn is, and how beautifully it is presented in a fried fritter basket. Here's my version of this to-die for snack/starter.



What you need :
Frozen American sweet corn - 2 cups
Rice flour - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1 small, chopped fine
Spring onion(with greens) - 2, chopped fine
Green chilli - 2, slit into half
Juice of half a lemon
Salt
Oil - 2 tsp
Oil - to deep fry

Defrost the frozen corn. Remove it on to a paper towel, cover with another paper towel on top and gently press to remove moisture.  Transfer the corn to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the rice flour evenly over it so that each corn kernel has a fine coating of flour over it. Keep this aside for at least half an hour so that any excess moisture is absorbed by the flour.
Heat oil for deep frying. Fry handfuls of corn until crisp. Drain onto a paper towel and set aside.
Heat 2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add the green chillies, onions and spring onions and saute for a few minutes. Add the fried corn to it along with salt and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve hot.
This is my second post for BM#45 under the theme healthy tea time snacks.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45





Monday, October 27, 2014

Peanut chaat

Marina beach, the crowds, mallipoo (jasmine) sellers, Kwality ice cream carts, roaring waves......these sights, sounds and smells will be indelibly etched in your mind if you visit this beach even once. I love the raw mango, neatly sliced and sold with red chilli powder and salt that is commonplace in this area. Peanut chaat is another popular favourite that is sold along the beach. Boiled peanuts, raw onions, tomatoes, a dash of lime and salt - what's not to love about this simple dish?

What you need :
Peanuts - 1 cup
Onion - 1 small, finely chopped
Tomato - 1 small, finely chopped
Green chilli - 1, minced
Carrot - 1/2, grated
Juice of half a lemon
Salt
Corriander/cilantro - a little, for garnishing

Soak the peanuts in hot water for 2 to 3 hours. Drain, add half a cup of water, a pinch of salt and cook in the pressure cooker until three whistles. Remove and drain water completely. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Enjoy.
This is my post for Blogging Marathon # 45 under the theme healthy tea time snacks. It also goes to Valli's Kids' Delight event featuring nuts and legumes in a lunch box friendly avatar.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45
 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Apple crumble - the easiest and best dessert ever

Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I came home with a whole lot of apples after we went apple picking recently.  I've wanted to try an apple crumble for a long time and this seemed to be the perfect time to do it. I like to think of my version as a healthy one as it uses whole wheat flour for the topping, and very little fat in the form of butter. The smell while this is being baked in the oven is absolutely delightful and makes you want to keep opening the oven and breathing it in.


What you need :
For the bottom layer :
Apples - 2 medium sized (with peel), diced
Sugar - 2 tsp
Maple syrup - 1 tsp (optional)
Lemon juice - 1/2 tsp

For the topping :
Whole wheat flour - 4 tbsp
Brown sugar - 2 tbsp
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Cold Butter, cut into small pieces - 2 tbsp 

Take the chopped apples in a large baking dish. Squeeze lemon juice over it and mix well. Add the sugar and maple syrup and stir.

Take the ingredients for the topping in a mixing bowl. Mix with the tips of your fingers until it becomes crumbly. Evenly distribute the topping over the apples.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until the topping becomes dark brown and most of the moisture has evaporated. The mixture will bubble a lot once the apples start releasing their juices. So make sure your baking dish is big enough. Switch off the oven and let the dish remain in the oven for another 15 minutes. Serve warm as it is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Note:
This, served with ice cream, makes three small servings. It is easily one of the easiest and best desserts I have made to date. The topping is crisp and offers a wonderful contrast in texture to the soft, cooked apples.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#45

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eggless no food colour red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet cakes and cupcakes, with their bright red color and cream cheese frosting on top are stunning to look at and popular with adults and kids alike. I have shied away from making these because of the huge amount of artificial food coloring that is used to give the cake its vibrant red hue. In my search for alternatives to artificial food color, I stumbled upon this recipe which I recreated in my kitchen. Pureed beets are used in this recipe to give the cupcakes a natural red color.


What you need:
Whole wheat flour - 1.5 cups
Beet - 1 (medium sized, boiled with skin, cooled, peeled and pureed)
Sugar - 1 cup
Oil - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1.5 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Cocoa powder - 4 tsp
Curd - 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

In a large mixing bowl, take the oil, sugar, beet puree, curd and vanilla extract. Mix well until sugar dissolves. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix. Spoon the batter into a lined muffin pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degree F for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely and frost, if desired.

Verdict:
While the color of the cupcakes was gorgeous,(The photo doesn't reflect how beautiful the color is as I used my mobile camera) there was a slight smell and taste of beets in them and though the spouse and I didn't mind that too much, the child was put off by it. The quantity of beets and using other ingredients that would probably mask its smell is something I am planning to experiment with and will update on this post.

Whole wheat eggless apple walnut banana squares

Some days back, I went apple picking. Apples, fresh off the tree, are so delicious, so crisp and so juicy - the store bought ones cannot hold a candle to these. Seriously, they are so juicy that even if you were to accidentally scratch one with your nails, you can see the juice spurt out. I came back home with a huge bag of apples that we picked and other than eating them as is, have been trying them out in various bakes. This week's theme for the Blogging Marathon is baking with veggies/fruits and this healthy apple square fits the bill perfectly.


What you need : (Recipe adapted from here)
Whole wheat flour - 2 cups, leveled
Apple -  finely chopped(with peel), 2 cups (I used about one and a half medium sized apples)
Walnuts - 1/2 cup, chopped
Over ripe banana - 2, mashed well
Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 1 cup * (see notes at the bottom)
Baking soda - 2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 cup
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

In a mixing bowl, mix together, the mashed banana, oil, sugar, yogurt and vanilla essence. Stir in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt to this.  Mix in the chopped apple and walnuts. Pour into a 15x10x1 cookie sheet, spread evenly with the back of a spatula or wet hands and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees farenheit for 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Once cool, cut into squares and store in an air tight container.

Note :
The apples I had were sweet in themselves. Plus, I do not like my bakes to be overly sweet. One cup of sugar makes these squares only moderately sweet. Add up to half a cup more of sugar if you want it to be sweeter.




Saturday, October 04, 2014

Cabbage thoran - a Kerala sadya staple

A sadya (feast) in Kerala without a thoran(stir-fried vegetable) is unimaginable. It is simple dishes like these that make a feast memorable and complete.

What you need :
Cabbage - a small one, chopped fine
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp (optional)
Salt - to taste
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup
Green chilli - 2
Curry leaves - a few
Red chilli - 1
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Heat oil in a pan. Add the urad dal, broken red chilli and mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the chopped cabbage, turmeric powder, salt and just enough water to cover it. Cover and cook on a low flame.(*) Grind the coconut, chilli and curry leaves coarsely without adding any water. When the cabbage is almost done, add the ground mixture to it, stir well and cook uncovered until well cooked and all the excess water has evaporated. Serve hot.

Note : * The process of cooking cabbage can be quickened by cooking it in the microwave or steaming it in the pressure cooker.
Check once in a while to ensure that there is sufficient water for the cabbage to cook in.



Pavakka kichadi - a Kerala sadya staple

Diwali, though mostly associated with savory murukkus and ghee-laden sweets, is also about the feast that is prepared on the day of the festival. In this post and the next, I will be blogging about two simple and easy-to-make dishes that are an essential part of any sadya (feast) in Kerala.
The first dish is an accompaniment called kichadi by many and pachadi by some. Biitergourd, ladies finger/okra, tomato and beetroot are some of the vegetables that can be used to make this dish.
In this version, thinly sliced bittergourd  is fried to a crisp and then stirred into a spiced mixture of coconut, chillies and sour curd.


What you need :
Bittergourd - 2 small , sliced into thin small pieces after removing the pith and seeds
Sour curd - 1 cup
Fresh grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp + 1 tsp
Green chilli - 2 or 3 (depending on your spice tolerance level)
Oil - 2 tsp
Urad dal  - 1 tsp
Salt

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the urad dal and 1 tsp of mustard seeds along with some curry leaves. When the seeds pop, add the bittergourd, stir well, cover and let it saute until the bittergourd turns crisp and brown. Do not rush this step. Let the gourd cook in a low flame and stir every now and then so that it doesn't burn.
While this is getting done, grind the coconut, chillies and mustard seeds to a smooth paste adding a few spoons of the curd to it. Once the gourd is crisp, brown and cooked, add the ground paste to it along with salt and let it boil for a few minutes. Switch off heat. Beat the remaining curd so that it does not have any lumps and stir it into the pan. If you feel it is too thick, add some more curd.
Enjoy!!!



Gongura puliyodharai

After a long time, I am joining the Blogging Marathon again, this time with Festival Special dishes as my theme for the week. Though the festival that has been chosen is Diwali, I am going to be starting with something new that I tried out during Navaratri and felt that it is good enough to be offered as prasadam. 
I have often seen gongura (sorrel leaves) in markets in India and now here in the US. However, the only form in which I have tasted it is the bottled Priya Gongura pickle and to me, all Priya pickles taste and smell the same.
 Recently, spurred on by my friend, I bought a bunch of these leaves with absolutely no idea as to what to do with it. I plucked one and ate it and realized that it was tart enough to be used as a substitute for tamarind.  That's how the idea to use it to make puliyodharai was born. In fact, in this particular dish, the term puliyodharai is a misnomer, as no puli (tamarind) has been used.
A little bit of google-ing told me that not many people had tried out this idea. However, Sailu had a recipe here, which I modified to my taste.

What you need:
Rice - 1 cup, cooked and cooled
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp (I used gingely oil, but any oil you regularly use/like will work)
Salt
Peanuts - a fistful

To fry :
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Dhania seeds - 2 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Red chilli - 2
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Gongura leaves(washed) - 2 cups packed tight

Spread the cooked rice to cool. Add turmeric powder and 2 tsp of oil to it and set aside.
Heat a tsp of oil. In it, fry on low heat, the urad dal, chana dal, dhania, curry leaves, red chillies, and mustard. Set aside. Fry the washed gongura leaves in the same pan on a low flame till wilted. Let it cool.
Powder the fried spices to a coarse powder. Add the gongura and grind again to a paste without adding any water. Add this to the rice in small quantities and mix well. Add required amount of salt and mix. Top with some more curry leaves. Fry a fistful of peanuts in a teaspoon of oil and mix it into the rice.




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carrot payasam / carrot kheer

No feast in India is complete without a dessert. In a typical Kerala sadya (feast), dessert takes on the form of payasam/kheer. Palada pradhaman, arguably, is the best dessert from my home state.
This year, for Onam, I wanted to try something different and that is how this carrot payasam took shape in my kitchen. Having tasted it a few times before, I relied on my taste buds and memory to recreate it.

What you need :
Carrot - 3, washed, peeled and cut into large pieces
Milk - 3 cups
Water - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup *
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp (or 3 pods of cardamom)
Almonds - 8-10

Take 1 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of water in a pressure cooker. Add the carrots and almonds to it and cook until one whistle. Then reduce the flame to low and cook for another five minutes. Once the pressure settles, let it cool and then grind to a smooth paste. Set aside. Boil the remaining milk in a saucepan. Add sugar and cardamom. Once it boils, switch of heat and let it cool slightly. Add the carrot mixture to the slightly cooled milk and heat for a few minutes on low. Garnish with some slivered almonds.
This tastes great both warm and chilled. It is a quick and simple recipe to have on hand when a craving for something sweet strikes or when unexpected guests make an appearance.

Note : Do not add the carrot mixture to boiling hot milk as the milk may curdle. Also, do not boil the milk after adding the carrot puree to it.
* If you like your desserts  super sweet, you may need to add more than half a cup of sugar. I would suggest starting with half a cup and then, adding more if you feel it is required.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Olan - a Kerala sadya staple

A few months back, the blog turned eight, and as has been usual for a while now, this particular milestone went unnoticed. Around the same time, I also moved (AGAIN) back to the US of A and so, for the past few months, have been going through an almost endless cycle of packing, shipping, unpacking, and setting up house. I have cooked a lot of unconventional interesting food, but for some reason , I find that  though my drafts folder is crowded with pictures of my experiments, the task of sitting down and typing is something that I keep postponing until I forget how I made a particular dish.
Recently, I was asked for Onam sadya recipes and that is when I realized that there are a lot of simple must-haves in a traditional  Kerala feast that I have not posted here. Olan is one such dish. Easy to make, with a simple yet profound taste, this dish features on almost all sadyas (feasts). Peeled ash gourd is diced into thin squares and then cooked with black eyed beans, green chillies, salt and a dash of coconut milk to create this much loved dish.
Olan


What you need :
Ash gourd - peeled and cut into medium sized thin squares - 2 cups
Black eyed beans - 1/4 cup (either the red variety or the white can be used)
Green chilli - 2 or 3, slit lengthwise
Curry leaves - a few sprigs
Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Coconut milk - 3 tbsp (optional)
Salt - to taste

Soak the beans in water for at least an hour. Cook until one whistle. The beans should be cooked through but not mushy. Take the sliced ash gourd in a sauce pan. Add just enough water to cover the slices. Add the slit green chillies and salt. Cover and cook over a medium flame until just cooked. Add the cooked beans and boil for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk, if using. Stir well and switch off the heat. Add curry leaves and coconut oil. Do not stir at this time. Cover and keep aside for at least 10-15 minutes so that the aroma of the oil and the curry leaves blends into the dish. 

Mix well before serving.