March 30, 2008

Click photography event: March 2008

CLICK is a theme based monthly food photography event hosted by Jugalbandi. I became aware of this interesting competition only last week. So I decided to enter for the March contest. The theme for March 2008 is METAL, showcasing the use of metal in the culinary context in any setting. This picture is my "pick for CLICK" !!

Peas pilaf

Rice is a staple of the southern states of India and a typical South-Indian meal consists of rice served with different veg/non-veg gravies and dry dishes. Hence, variations in the preparation of rice is always desired, a welcome change from the routine plain rice. Infact the different ways in which the rice can be spiced up is endless. The wide variety of rice available is by itself mind-boggling. I should admit, I am not an expert on rice !! One of the varieties of rice is the Basmati rice which was probably made familiar to the people all over the world by the increasing popularity of biriyanis in the Indian restaurants everywhere. Anyways, here is a creative way to introduce variety to your daily menu. The green peas in the pilaf looks adorable against the white rice background and the fried topping of onions, raisins and cashews make the dish irresistible !! Since the weather was good yesterday, we went out and by the time we were back, my legs were aching after a long day of walking around - browsing and shopping for clothes and groceries. Even after such a tiresome day, this recipe looked so simple, it was our dinner !

Recipe (Serves 4)

Basmati rice - 2 cups
Green peas - fresh or frozen - 1 cup
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Water - 4 cups
Butter - 2 tsp
Onion - 1 small ( 3oz ), sliced
Chopped cashews - 2-3 tbsp
Raisins - 2-3 tbsp
Cinnamon stick - 1 in piece
Bay leaf - 1
Peppercorns - 3


Wash the rice 2-3 times in fresh water and soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain.

Boil the water in a heavy saucepan with a tight lid.

Add the rice, peas and salt.

Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

Spread out the rice in a flat dish or pan for about 30 minutes, to cool and dry.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat and fry onion until browned.

Add the cashews, raisins, cinnamon, bayleaf and pepprcorns and fry for a minute.

Spread the rice on a platter and garnish with the fried seasonings.

Serve hot with raita and curry !

Source: Creative cooking, the Costco way.

I would like to suggest the following changes.
  1. I would probably add a cardamom pod, cinnamon and a few cloves to the boiling water while cooking rice. The rice will be fragrant.
  2. I added about 1/2 tsp of salt. Adjust salt to your taste.
  3. Since the cooking time varies with the rice, check the rice at intervals to prevent overcooking.
  4. I would suggest using two onions for garnish.
  5. This pilaf would be best served with spicy curries.

March 28, 2008

Hyderabadi dum biriyani

Biriyani is a family of primarily South Asian dishes made from a mixture of spices, rice (usually basmati), meat/vegetable and yoghurt. Biriyani has always been an all time favourite Indian dish. All of us have a favourite biriyani either from a region (Hyderabadi, Malabari), by a special cook or from a specific restaurant. During my childhood, biriyani was always served as the special dish on family gatherings and important occasions. When I was in college, three of us close friends would get together after classes at one of our homes, buy a couple of biriyanis and share them between us. Even now, after 6 more years of studies, marriages and kids between the years, whenever I go to India, we would get together to share gossips and ofcourse biriyanis ! Until I came to the US, I never knew all the steps behind making the wonderful dish. This recipe for Hyderabadi dum biriyani from is one of recipes that I have frequented. Hyderabadi biriyani is notable because of the technique of cooking in dum, where the vessel is sealed with flour and the whole thing is cooked in the steam within. Eventhough this recipe has mixed reviews, I have found this to be one that has consistently given good results for me. I have tried this with lamb and chicken. Hope you will find this recipe to your liking too. Enjoy hot with raita !!


The changes that I made to the recipe include,
  1. I omitted the pudina (mint) leaves because I am not a fan of minty flavour.

  2. I also did not add saffron. The color can be attained by sprinkling a bit of water with yellow food color.

  3. The lamb in the US is not as tough as the meat in India, so it cooks at around 30 minutes.

  4. Be careful about the cooking time beacuse the meat layered at the bottom could burn if left longer on the flame.

  5. The biriyani shown was garnished with sliced hard-boiled eggs, fried raisins and cashew nuts.

March 27, 2008

How to make shaped chocolate garnishes

Shaped chocolate garnishes can be used to spruce up the visual appeal and taste of most of the desserts. Here is a tip on how to make simple chocolate art.

Place some milk chocolate or chocolate chips in the microwave for 15 seconds. Stir the chocolate. If using a small quantity, it must be melted by now. Microwave the chocolate for 10-15 sec at a time, until it is entirely melted. Take a small plastic sandwich bag and spoon the melted chocolate into a corner of the bag. Keep a piece of parchment paper ready for the chocolate pipings. Cut off the bag at the tip to make a tiny hole and pipe the desired shapes onto the paper. Keep the parchment paper on a plate and allow it to set in the freezer. When set, gently detach the shapes from the paper using a knife or an offset spatula. Use as needed.

Cappuccino shake

Eventhough the spring of 2008 officially began on March 20, Minnesotans unfortunately were not blessed with sunny days and beautiful weather. Just like on Christmas, we had a snow-fall and hence a white Easter! We still held out hopes that warmer temperatures were around the corner. The weather forecast had more bad news in the form of wintry weather for us. With warmth in our hearts we are awaiting the sunny summer days. Meanwhile here's something that you can enjoy on a warm day to cool you down !!

Recipe (Serves 2)

Cappuccino mix - 3 tbsp
Hot water - 4 oz (1/2 cup)
Half and half - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Ice cubes - 4


Make a strong coffee by adding the cappuccino mix to the hot water.

Allow it to cool to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.

Place the ingredients in the blender in the order listed.

Blend until smooth for about 25-30 seconds.

Pour into glasses and garnish with chocolate or cinnamon.

Serve immediately.


  1. 4 oz of espresso coffee or any other strong coffee can be used instead of cappuccino mix. In that case, add about 1 and 1/2 tbsp of
    sugar or as needed.
  2. The cappuccino mix is usually sweetened. So there is no need to add a lot of extra sugar.
  3. For tips on chocolate garnish, check this out.

March 25, 2008

Roasted boneless leg of lamb

I have been wanting to make a traditional American meal on a special holiday for some time now. But at the last minute, I would always go back to my comfort zone of Indian specialities like biriyani. This year I was determined to test my skills with a roasted lamb recipe. As with everything new to me, I searched on the Internet for recipes that I thought would best suit my needs ( I wanted to make a boneless leg of lamb) and my family's tastes. After reading through more than 10 recipes or so, I finally decided on a recipe from another blog. It involves some pre-planning because the lamb has to be marinated in herbs, lemon juice and wine. But the next day, I could see that it was well worth the trouble of all the prep. My husband, who is always conscious about his food portions, ate like anything ! The lamb was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful with a nice crust. So I thought that it is only just to share the wonderful recipe with you all. Please visit for the recipe. I found the step-by-step instructions to be very helpful with a lot of tips everyone could use, especially newbies like me. It also has several pictures illustrating the tips. Above all, I found that the combination of the herbs and marinade to be in perfect blend with our tastes. I am sharing the pictures of my first attempt on roasting the lamb. I sincerely hope that the pictures will inspire you to prepare this wonderful dish, especially if you have never tried roasting before. May it be the perfect introduction to roasting !!

  1. I cooked the lamb (4.25 lbs) until medium doneness which is about an internal temperature of 160F (approx around 1hr 40 min). I removed the roast at about 155F and the temperature rose to 160F while resting.
  2. A detailed table of cooking times, temperatures and other instructions can be found at the original website.

March 24, 2008

Frosty Coffee-Almond pie

Being a dessert enthusiast, I wanted to bring a new dessert to the table for Easter. But I knew that I would have my hands full with making the rest of the meal by myself (just one of the million times we miss our family in India). So I searched for something which would take minimal preparation time, but would still be considered home-made or rather home assembled ;-). I was going through a cook book when this recipe caught my eye. Its super easy, would take little time for preparation, but would still be a great finale to any meal. It brings together two of the well-liked flavors of cookies and ice-cream. I apologize for the slightly melted pie in the picture (it melted in the hot kitchen!) and I really hope that everyone would give this frrrozen treat a try ! :-)

Recipe (Serves 8)

Creme filled chocolate sandwich cookies - 1 and 1/2 cup crushed finely (about 18)
Melted butter - 3 tbsp
Coffee ice cream - 1 qt, slightly softened
Almonds - 1/2 cup sliced
Hot fudge sauce - 1 cup warmed (optional)


In a small bowl, mix the crushed cookies and butter until well blended.

Press the mixture on the bottom and sides of an ungreased 9 in glass pie-plate.

Freeze for about 15 minutes or until firm.

Carefully spread the softened ice-cream evenly over the cookie crust.

Sprinkle with almonds.

Freeze for about 3 hours or until firm.

Remove the ice-cream pie from the freezer about 10 minutes before serving.

Slice and serve with hot fudge sauce.

Store covered in the freezer.

Source: Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook.

  1. Coffee ice-cream can be substituted with any other flavor to your liking. (But I guess it would not be called a frosty "coffee"-almond pie !!)
  2. Ready made chocolate crumb crust can also be purchased to make it easier.
  3. For tips on how to toast nuts, click here.

Baked buffalo chicken

Buffalo wings is one of the most popular and tasty appetizers. Especially for us with spicy taste buds, buffalo wings remind us of the spicier foods that is popular in Kerala. I wanted to prepare the wings at home, but was discouraged because most of the recipes, that I went through on the Internet, involves frying the chicken. I decided to experiment with my own recipe and used other baked chicken dishes for approximate baking time. It turned out just perfect !! I hope everyone would try out this healthier version of buffalo wings !

Recipe (Serves 6):

Chicken drumsticks - 6 (approx 1.5 lb)
Hot sauce - 3 oz
Butter - 1 tbsp
All-purpose flour - as needed


Melt the butter in a saucepan, shut off the flame, add the hot sauce to it and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and spray with cooking oil.

Pat dry the drumsticks.

Dredge the drumsticks with flour on a plate, shake off the excess and place on the baking tray.

Repeat until all the drumsticks are lined on the tray.

Spray the chicken with a bit of cooking oil.

Reserve about 1/3 of the marinade.

Spoon the rest of the hot sauce marinade over the chicken and turn to coat well.

Place the tray in the pre-heated oven and cook for about 10 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to 400F and turn the drumsticks over.

Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when pierced.

Pour the reserved marinade over the cooked drumsticks and toss to coat evenly.

Serve hot with ranch or blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.

  1. Chicken wings or drummettes can be used instead of drumsticks. Chicken wings would be the best choice for this recipe.
  2. If using boneless chicken, adjust times accordingly and check often.

Lemon roasted potatoes

I made the lemon roasted potatoes for Easter, the perfect accompaniment to roasted leg of lamb. The preparation time is not much, and the roasting time would come to about 25-30 minutes. The recipe given below includes the quantities that I used along with the duration of roasting. Please refer to the tips for the actual recipe.

Recipe (Serves 2)

Idaho potatoes - medium (1 lb)
Extra virgin olive oil - 1/8 cup
Fresh lemon juice - 1/8 cup
Dried oregano - 1/4 tbsp
Kosher salt - 1/4 tbsp
Black pepper - freshly ground - 1/16 tsp
Water - 1/4 cup


Pre heat oven to 500 F.

Place the potatoes in a baking dish.

Add water, lime juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and a pinch of pepper.

Bake uncovered in the pre heated oven for 10 minutes.

Toss around the potatoes and roast 10 more minutes. If all the water has been evaporated, sprinkle a bit of water.

Once again toss the potatoes around, for even browning and keep them in the oven for 5 more minutes.

The potatoes are ready when they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife and brown on the edges.

Serve hot, garnished with oregano.

Source: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook 1200 Collected Recipes.

  1. The actual recipe called for 4 lbs of Idaho potatoes, so multiply the quantity of the rest of the ingredients by 4.
  2. Cooking time in that case would be approximately 40 minutes. Turn the potatoes halfway through for even browning.
  3. I used 4 medium sized Golden Yukon potatoes (1 lb) and cut each into 12 cubes.
  4. Kosher salt can be substitued with an equal amount of regular salt.
  5. 1/8 cup = 2 tbsp
  6. 1/4 tbsp = 3/4 tsp

March 23, 2008

How to toast nuts


Heat oven to 350F. Spread nuts in an ungreased shallow pan. Bake 6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light brown.Watch carefully because nuts brown quickly.

It can also be toasted in an ungreased heavy skillet over medium heat 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until light brown.

Source: Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook.

  1. I toasted some almonds using the skillet method. In about 3 minutes on medium heat, the almonds started to brown, so be careful and stir constantly.
  2. The almonds in the picture were just toasted for about 5 minutes.

March 21, 2008

Rava kesari

Kesari can be made without much pre-planning, especially if you are someone like me, who at times cook on a whim. It is a quick recipe with only a few ingredients, can be made in about 10 minutes and is definitely enough to satisfy your craving for something sweet !! It is a versatile dish which can be made plain, or dressed-up with fried nuts and dry fruits.

Recipe (Serves 5)

Semolina/Rava/Sooji/Wheatlets - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Water - 1 cup
Ghee - 2 tbsp
Yellow color - optional
Cashewnuts/Almonds - a few (optional)
Raisins - 1 tbsp (optional)


Heat the ghee in a pan and fry the nuts until golden brown. Keep aside.

Fry the raisins until they puff up. Keep aside.

In the same ghee, fry the rava until golden brown (approx 5 min on medium heat).

Add the yellow food color to the water.

Reduce the flame to low.

Pour the water into the pan and stir well so that rava is mixed in with the water. (The water will be evaporated in about a minute).

Stir in the sugar and mix well, so that no lumps are formed. Break up the lumps, if any, using a wooden spatula until the mixture is smooth.

Bring up the flame to medium and stir the mixture so that the excess moisture is evaporated and the kesari appears to come together.

Transfer the kesari to a pie-pan (or any other mould) and smooth the top.

Once cooled, transfer the kesari by keeping another plate over the pie-pan and inverting it.

Cut out into desired shapes.

Garnish with fried cashewnuts, almonds and/or raisins.


  1. Kesari can be made without the food color, but yellow color makes it more appetizing.
  2. The fried rava will give off a toasted smell and will be golden brown.
  3. Once cooled, the kesari will still be soft, but will hold its shape.
  4. Use dry-ingredients measuring cup for rava and sugar and liquid measuring-cup for water.
  5. The pictured kesari has almonds and raisins as garnish.