April 29, 2008

Great Cooks Blogroll !!


Wooohoo!!! Thanks to Jill McKeever of Simple Daily recipes, finally I too am a member of Great Cooks Blogroll !!! Great Cooks blogroll is a growing list of food blogs that serves as a resource for anyone looking for meal ideas, creative cooking techniques, or to meet other Great Cooks. The blogroll has a good number of creative bloggers as its members. Anyone who has a month old blog which has a minimum of 10 posts and 80% of the articles are food related can join the community. While you are at it, dont forget to be a part of the Great Cooks community where members can get to know each other, share recipes and tips! Above all, be sure to visit Jill's site Simple Daily Recipes which already has hundreds of recipes for everyone to try out!

Pizza rolls

Pizza rolls is a convenient change from the sliced pizza with all the actual taste and is loved by adults and kids alike. They are espcially great on the go and is relatively mess free. These yummy bits are excellent for kids and kiddie parties because it will be an instant hit. Here, I have taken basic pizza dough and instead of rolling it out as a regular pizza, cut them into quarters and filled them with the usual pizza toppings. Its easy to experiment with this recipe by changing the combination of fillings to your liking and thus personalising it. When given to toddlers like mine, you will end up with a well-fed kid rather than a big blob of pizza sauce on the high chair (well, er......before the rolls, mine usually did) !! Enjoy !

Recipe:

Basic pizza dough - 1 recipe
Pepperoni - 1.25 oz
American cheese slices - 3
Capsicum - 1/2 sliced thin and cut across in three
Black pitted olives - about 10, cut into rings
Pizza sauce - as needed
Egg - 1 (optional)

Method:

Prepare the pizza dough as in the recipe.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.

Divide the dough into two.

Roll out each half into a rectangle.

Cut each half into quarters.

Make each of the quarters thinner by rolling them out.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Cut the cheese slices lengthwise to from slender matchsticks.

Place a teaspoon of pizza sauce at about the middle of the small rectangle.

Top with pepperoni (about 4 slices), Sliced and chopped capsicum, olives and cheese.

Roll up the pizza dough in egg-roll fashion. Start from the edge closest to the toppings, gently pull over the toppings.

Fold the edges of the adjacent sides inwards to seal the fillings.

Continue to roll up the dough and fix the edge underneath the roll.

Repeat for each of the dough quarters until 8 rolls are made.

Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Prepare egg wash by whisking an egg with a tbsp of water. (optional)

Moisten the top of each roll with the egg wash mixture.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until browned.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Enjoy warm with marinara sauce.

Tips:
  1. I usually substitute 1 tsp of Italian seasoning for the 2 tbsp of rosemary in the basic dough recipe.
  2. I used tomato ketchup for the filling since I started the recipe thinking that I had pizza or pasta sauce, but I didnt. (I usually use traditional pasta sauce with meat since I like the flavor).
  3. While rolling up the dough, be sure to enclose the fillings well, otherwise cheese and sauce might leak out and burn ( a few of mine did !).
  4. The egg-wash step is optional, it does not add any special flavor to the rolls but does give a lovely brown sheen. Otherwise the rolls will not have the sheen and will appear as bread rolls.

April 28, 2008

Heart healthy Panna cotta


Panna cotta is Italian for "cooked cream" and is an unbaked, eggless custard which tastes superb. The texture is very smooth and silky and does not feel rich at all. Since this version is a heart healthy one, it uses just half-n-half and does not set hard, but is kind of delicate and wobbly. Usually panna cotta is best served in individual molds or cups and served either out of the mold on a serving platter or within the bowls. I would suggest serving in the bowls themselves because it could loose shape while transferring onto the serving platter. This recipe is so simple, the cooking part was done in a few minutes. Then came the painful wait for the cream to set. Once we took the pictures, it was gone in a matter of seconds. I had just made only half the recipe, we only wish we had more! With only a few ingredients and a quick prep time, this is my kind of recipe! Gustare (enjoy)!!

Recipe (Serves 4):

Half-and-half - 2 cups
Unflavoured gelatin - 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Dash of salt
Raspberry sauce or any other sauce

Method:

Pour half-and-half into a 1 1/2 quart saucepan.

Sprinkle gelatin evenly over cold half-and-half.

Let stand for 10 minutes.

Heat the half-and-half mixture over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is just beginning to simmer.

Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat.

Stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour the mixture into four 1/2 cup ramekins or 6-oz custard cups.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours or until set.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta.

Dip the bottom of each ramekin into a bowl of very hot water for 5 seconds.

Immediately place a serving plate upside down onto each ramekin, turn plate and ramekin over and remove the ramekin.

Serve with a sauce of your choice.

Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook, heart health edition.

Tips:

  1. Wet a mold with cold water and without drying, pour the warm panna cotta mixture into the mold. This usually helps in the easy release of the custard.
  2. I served the dessert with pureed strawberry.

April 25, 2008

Nutty Lace Wafers

I love browsing through cookbooks to indulge my mind in the wonderful variety of the recipes. Now that I have started blogging, I am now going through them with renewed interest to bring to my beloved friends- my readers, simple and easy recipes, so that they can enjoy them as much as I do. One of such recipes is this, nutty lace wafers which can be prepared in about 10 minutes and taste heavenly! They are lacy and beautiful and eventhough recommended to be served with creamy desserts, it can be served just as is for a snack or with coffee. The ease of the recipe is something you will admire once you try it out. This is an ideal recipe for the time-pressed and they will definitely look elegant with your desserts.

Recipe (Makes 18 wafers):

Blanched almonds - scant 1/2 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup
All-purpose flour - 1/3 cup
Caster (superfine) sugar - 1/2 cup
Heavy (double) cream - 2 tbsp
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Lightly grease two baking sheets.

With a sharp knife, chop the almonds as finely as possible. Alternatively, use a food processor or blender to chop the nuts very finely.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.

Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, caster sugar, double cream and vanilla extract.

Add the finely chopped almonds and mix well.

Drop teaspoonfuls 2 1/2" apart on the prepared sheets.

Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Cool on the baking sheets briefly, until the wafers are stiff enough to remove.

With a metal spatula, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Source: 1001 Recipes for every occasion, Edited by Martha Day.

Tips:
  1. The cook's tips suggest these wafers to be served with smooth creamy desserts.
  2. The cookies will appear to be soft after 5 minutes of baking. Do not overcook, they will become stiff and crisp on cooling.
  3. I actually put the nuts in a coffee grinder and processsed them to an "almost fine" powder.
  4. I found that the wafers will exude a lot of butter on baking, so next time I will reduce the amount of butter. (But I think the butter is key for the lacy appearence).
  5. I used granulated sugar instead of castor sugar, they turned out fine in taste. (I do not know if using castor sugar will have any change on the amount of butter released).

Grape raita

Raita is an Indian condiment/dipping sauce which basically has smooth plain yoghurt with a combination of vegetables or fruits. It is served as an accompaniment with biriyanis and pilafs beacuse the cool yoghurt soothes the palate when taken with the spicy food. The raita that I usually make has onions, tomatoes, green chillies and a bit of chopped coriander, along with youghurt and salt. This recipe for grape raita is taken from a cookbook and goes well with spicy biriyanis because it is balanced well with grapes and a slight flavor of cumin and cayenne. The tempered spices add another dimension to the usual taste of the raita. I made this as a side dish for the prawns (shrimp) biriyani and it went perfect with it! It is kid-friendly too because the creamy yoghurt, the sweet grapes and the mild spices would be very appealing to the li'l ones.

Recipe (Serves 4-6):

Plain yoghurt (Curd) - 3 cups
Seedless grapes - 1 1/2 cups, halved
Ground toasted cumin - 2 tsp
Sugar - 2 tsp
Cayenne pepper or paprika - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp or to taste

Tempering oil:

Canola oil - 3 tbsp
Cumin or black mustard seeds - 2 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 6 fresh or 10 frozen, torn into pieces (optional)

Method:

Whisk the yoghurt in a bowl until smooth and lightened.

Stir in the grapes and then add the cumin powder, sugar and cayenne/paprika.

For tempering, heat the oil with the cumin or mustard seeds in a small pan over medium-high heat.

Heat until the cumin seeds darken or the mustard seeds crackle, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the fennel seeds and curry leaves (if using) and cook uncovered stirring for 5-10 seconds more.

If using curry leaves, stand back as they spit when they hit the hot oil.

Pour over the yoghurt and chill well.

Just before serving, stir in the salt.

Source: Indian home cooking, a fresh introduction to Indian food by Suvir Saran.

Tips:

  1. Any variety of seedless grapes, red or black, or both can be used. I used red seedless grapes.
  2. The author suggests serving with lamb or chicken biriyani. I think this raita will go well with anything spicy!

April 24, 2008

Prawns (Shrimp) biriyani


Biriyani is one of our favourite dishes, a rice medley made of either vegetables or more commonly egg, chicken, goat, lamb or beef and flavoured with spices. Seafood biriyanis are also very popular and includes fish biriyani and prawns biriyani. There are regional differences in the preparation of biriyani with changes in the combination of spices used and/or the variations in the techniques of cooking. It is traditionally served with raita (a yoghurt sauce with vegetables or fruits), crispy wafers called pappads and spicy pickles. I am not a very big fan of seafood, so I do not experiment with a lot of seafood. Being born and brought-up in a city where fresh seafood is abundant, JM is fond of seafood dishes and favours prawns (shrimp), although the frozen shrimp available in the US is not as tasty as the fresh ones available back home.

When a fellow blogger visited my blog, I went back to explore hers. I found a recipe for a very appetizing prawns biriyani. It seemed good with a layer of cooked shrimp masala sandwiched between two layers of rice, covered and baked in the oven. After going through the recipe, I was left with a longing for such a biriyani from my kitchen and I knew that JM would appreciate it very much. Thankfully, I had a packet of frozen shrimp, so I planned the preparation for the next day. Usually, JM does not come for lunch, and I lured him home with the promise of a good lunch. I got to cooking after he left for work, and finished earlier than I expected. I did not have any cashewnuts because the "resident thieves" had raided the cashews reserved for such impulsive cooking. When JM came home for lunch, excited about my promise, I showed my creation to him. He was impressed by the presentation and we happily clicked away for my blog! As soon as we finished taking pictures, we started our taste-testing. Needless to say, we were not disappointed, infact we were hooked !! It was not very spicy, was cooked to perfection and looked stunning, perfect for when you have guests over. Thanks Remya for the wonderful recipe. I would suggest checking out her blog for the recipe and instructions. Do try this one out, the work you put in will be worth it! We had the biriyani with grape raita, the recipe for which I will be posting soon. Hope you'll enjoy the pictures of my biriyani, dont forget to leave words of encouragement. Enjoy, you all !!

Tips:
  1. I used frozen, deveined, cooked tail-on shrimp. Thaw before use.
  2. I would suggest to sprinkle about 2-3 tbsp of water over the layered rice and prawns, so that the baked biriyani will remain moist and flavorful.

April 22, 2008

Lime sorbet



Sorbet is a frozen dessert made from sweetened water flavored with iced fruit (typically juice or puree), chocolate, wine, and/or liqueur. Its Italian counterpart is called granita, is also common but is crunchier than a sorbet which is due to the difference in the freezing process (wiki). Lime sorbet is a simple but tasty dessert that can be served especially after a filling meal. Its a refreshing frozen treat which will feel yummy in your tummy. You wont feel guilty to have a serving because it is not as rich as ice-cream or other creamy desserts. It is slightly tangy, kind of tastes like smooth frozen lemonade, really light and easy to prepare. With just a few ingredients which are commonly available, it doesnt strain your pocket. The only work is to chop the freezing mixture at intervals, to achieve a smooth consistency. If you have an ice-cream maker, it will be easier- just pop it in the freezer and enjoy the smooth sorbet when ready. It will cool you off in summer months!

Recipe (Serves 4) :

Granulated sugar - 1 1/4 cups
Water - 2 1/2 cups
Grated rind - of 1 lime
Lime juice - 3/4 cup, freshly squeezed
Lemon juice - 1-2 tbsp, freshly squeezed
Confectioner's sugar, to taste
Slivers of lime rind, to decorate

Method:

In a small heavy pan, dissolve the granulated sugar in the water, without stirring, over medium heat.

When the sugar has dissolved, boil for 5-6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Combine the cooled sugar syrup with the lime rind and juice in a measuring jug (cup) or bowl.

Stir well, taste and adjust the flavour by adding lemon juice and some icing sugar, if necessary. Do not oversweeten.

Pour the mixture into a freezer container and freezer for about 3 hours until softly set.

Remove from the container and chop roughly into 3" pieces.

Place in a food processor and process until smooth.

Return the mixture to the freezer container and freezer again until set.

Repeat this freezing and chopping process two or three times, until a smooth consistency is obtained.

Alternatively, use an ice cream maker to freezer the mixture, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Transfer the sorbet to the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes, before serving to soften slightly.

Serve in scoops, decorated with slivers of lime rind.

Source: Desserts 500 delicious recipes, Edited by Ann Kay.

Tips:

  1. I didn't have to add any lemon juice or icing sugar. The initial mixture was just right for me.
  2. Instead of processing in the food processor, I just shook the container roughly for a minute each time (while softly set) and chopped with a fork (when frozen) to smoothen the sorbet.
  3. I think the recipe would serve 6 or more.

April 20, 2008

Food for plastic challenge at What's cooking?

I was delighted to see a foodie blog challenge with the theme "kids". The best part about the challenge is that Ben from "Whats cooking?" is trying to spread the word that the Tupperware is celebrating this month as Children's month. They are also donating a part of their sale to the Boys & Girls Clubs. Click on the logo for more information. I am new to the challenges on "Whats cooking?" and this is my first entry. I am picking my Noodle Doodle recipe for this challenge with the theme- kids, beacuse I enjoyed this dish a lot when I was a kid, and now my lil one is enjoying it as much as I did. So doesnt that count as working with the theme twice? ;-) Thanks to Ben, for conducting this event to spread word for a good cause.

Mocha Java


My family has always loved coffee from when I could remember and I loved the instant coffees that we could make in India with Nescafe and Bru. I still am a fan of coffee, not plain coffee, but the ones with milk. When I got married, JM's family were tea-drinkers, so I missed my coffee a lot. Then came the pregnancy when the lil one didnt take to coffee too well and so because of health reasons, I reluctantly parted goodbye to the refreshing drink. But I didnt take up the habit again probably because I realised that I could survive without it ( I do drink it, but less often!). My husband, though not a big java fan before, started having coffee at office. I dont know the difference between the mocha-frappe-java-latte-ccinos available in the coffee shops in US, so I dare not venture into these shops. When I saw this simple Italian recipe, I just knew I should try it (an excuse to have some whipped cream and chocolate!?). Mocha java is "the recipe" for black coffee lovers, if you like a bit of added flavor to your coffee. For Indian coffee lovers like me, add enough milk to make it just right!

Recipe (Serves 4):

Semi-sweet chocolate - 2 oz (2 squares)
Granulated sugar - 4 tsp
Heavy cream - 1/4 cup
Hot coffee - 4 cups, freshly brewed
Whipped cream - garnish
Grated milk chocolate - garnish

Method:

Melt the chocolate in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.

Stir in the sugar and heavy cream.

Blend until smooth and then gradually whisk in the hot coffee.

Divide the mixture among four coffee mugs, topping each mug with whipped cream and finely grated milk chocolate.

Serve immediately.

Source: http://www.espressoitaliano.com/ourreceipts.htm

Tips:
  1. I melted the chocolate in the microwave.
  2. If you do not like the taste of plain coffee, add milk to balance the flavor.

April 19, 2008

Cumin scented rice (Jeera rice)

The staple of South-Indian diet is rice and the varieties of rice available are extensive. In the Southern states itself, the preferred variety differs between the states. In Kerala, rosematta rice or Kerala red rice is the one preferred. Basmati rice is somewhat expensive and is bought only for special occassions or for famliy gatherings. Once we came to the US, we mostly used the basmati rice available in Costco and the local grocery stores. I just love the basmati rice more than the red rice because the basmati rice is very much delicate and feels light in your stomach whereas the red rice is heavier. When I went to the North-India for my college project, I always used to have their food and the students there used to tease me if I really was from Kerala. Thus it is wide-spread that Keralites love their red rice. Anyways, this is a quick recipe which gives a delightful flavor to the basmati rice without much work and is something that we can work into our routine menu. The cumin scented rice (jeera rice) would go well with any Indian curry but I would suggest slightly spicy ones which would pair the best with the subtle cumin flavor of rice.

Recipe (Serves 4-6):

Basmati rice - 2 cups, uncooked
Water - 4 cups
Canola oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp

Method:

Combine the oil and cumin in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the cumin is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice gives off a mild, toasted fragrance, about a minute.

Add the water and salt, and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down and simmer vigorously, covered, until the rice is tender and the water has been entirely absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Let the rice stand for about 5 more minutes to finish cooking.

Serve with spicy curries and/or pickles.

Source: Indian home cooking - a fresh introduction to Indian food by Saran Suvir.

Tips:
  1. Omit the cumin for a simple plain pilaf.
  2. I used tempered mustard seeds and urad dal as garnish.

April 18, 2008

Thumbprint cookies



I have come across recipes for these cookies many times and have always wanted to bake them at home. But everytime, I wouldnt have one of the ingredients at home, so I would drop the idea. This week, I made sure that I had all the ingredients at home and set out to make them. The dough is really easy to put together and the cookies have a short baking time. Thus it is perfect for anyday, even when you dont feel like baking. These cute little cookies will be worth the little prep work you do. If you have to make large batches for big gatherings, this is the one beacuse they look great and you know everyone will love it! I made a batch for the moms of my lil one's early-ed class and everyone loved it, I even got recipe requests! These cookies are sweetened perfectly, look really cute and taste heavenly, with the toasted crisp nuts on them. Go on, make them, you wont regret it !! Happy baking!

Recipe (Makes about 3 dozen cookies):

All-purpose flour - 1 cup
Brown sugar - 1/4 cup, packed
Shortening - 1/4 cup
Butter or margarine - 1/4 cup, softened
Vanilla - 1/2 tsp
Large egg yolk - 1
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Large egg white - 1
Nuts - 1 cup, finely chopped
Jam/Jelly - about 6 tbsp (any flavor)

Method:

Heat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg yolk with electric mixer on medium speed or mix with spoon.

Stir in the flour and salt.

Shape dough into 1" balls.

In a small bowl, beat egg white slightly with fork.

Place the chopped nuts in another small bowl.

Dip each ball of dough into egg white and then roll in nuts.

On an ungreased cookie sheet, place the balls about an inch apart.

Press thumb into the center of each cookie to make the indentation, but do not press all the way down to the cookie sheet.

Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown.

Quickly remake the indentations with the end of a wooden spoon, if necessary.

Immediately remove from the cookie sheet to a wire rack.

Fill each thumbprint with about 1/2 tsp of the jelly.

Lemon-Almond thumbprint cookies: Roll balls of dough into finely chopped slivered almonds. Fill indentations with lemon curd instead of the jelly.

Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook, heart health edition.

Tips:
  1. Instead of shortening, I used an equal amount of butter.
  2. Eventhough the recipe was for 3 dozen cookies, I only got about 20.
  3. I used both chopped almonds and cashews for the cookies.

April 17, 2008

Frozen Kulfi Cake


I was browsing through the Martha Stewart cookbook and this recipe instantly caught my attention. Kulfi is a traditional Indian dessert made by reducing milk on low flame over a long time, and is flavoured with cardamom and pistachios. It is generally frozen in conical kulfi molds and served as individual creamsicles. The idea of the Indian dessert turned into a cake definitely piqued my interest. This is a very rich dessert since it has condensed milk, coconut milk, cream and nuts. So when our friends A & A invited us along with another family of friends for dinner, I decided to make this since there will be a few people to share this fantastic treat. By the time we had our fabulous dinner and finished off with a A's dessert, we were so full, we couldnt eat another bite. So we all waited around for sometime, and tasted a little bit of the kulfi cake. The cake got very good reviews from all the guests. I wish everyone could have had more! I hope A & A enjoyed the rest of the cake. Anyways, this is a good choice for parties and family gatherings and will definitely be an instant hit. Enjoy this frrrrozen trrreat !

Recipe (Makes one molded dessert, Serves 8):

Unsweetened coconut milk - 2 cups
Whole cardamom pods - 8
Whole, shelled green pistachios or whole blanched almonds - 1/2 cup
Sweetened condensed milk - 1 1/2 cups
Blanched almond slivers - 1/2 cup
Heavy cream - 3/4 cup
Mango peeled, pit removed and cut into large pieces - 1 small
Light corn syrup - 2 tbsp
5-cup oval mold or any 5-cup mold

Method:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk and cardamom pods until the milk just reaches a boil.

Remove from the heat, cover and set aside to steep for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Place the pistachios on a baking sheet, toast until aromatic, about 8 minutes.

While warm, transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel, rub to remove the brown skins.

Set the nuts aside. (If using whole blanched almonds, simply toast and set aside).

Place the condensed milk, pistachios and almond slivers in the bowl of a food processor.

Process until well-blended and the nuts are finely chopped.

Strain the coconut milk into the nut mixture.

Pulse until just combined.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Gently whisk the cream into the coconut mixture.

Strain 1 cup of the mixture through a fine sieve into the bottom of a 5-cup oval pudding mold or any 5-cup mold.

Transfer mold to freezer, let chill until firm, about 1 - 1.30 hrs.(Poke the mixture lightly with your finger to test for firmness).

Now pour 1 1/2 cups of the remaining kulfi mixture over the frozen mixture.

Return to freezer and chill until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the mango to yield about 1/2 cup.

Combine the puree and the corn syrup in a bowl.

Pour the mango mixture over the frozen mixture, freeze until firm, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir the remaining kulfi mixture and pour (unstrained) over the frozen mango layer until the mold is full.

Cover with plastic wrap, freeze overnight.

To unmold the cake, remove the plastic wrap, place the mold, metal-side up, on a serving platter.

Wet a kitchen towel with very hot water and wring out.

Place the towel over the mold and press into the mold, being careful to press the warm towel into any curves or flutes of the mold.

Repeat this step as needed, until the kulfi slips out onto the platter.

Return cake to freezer on the platter until firm again, atleast 30 minutes.

The cake maybe made upto this point, a day ahead.

To serve, chill (in the refrigerator) about 20 minutes, until soft enough to cut with a serrated or slicing knife.

Serve immediately.

Source: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook 1200 collected recipes.

Tips:
  1. Instead of fresh mangoes, I used 1/2 cup canned sweetened mango pulp.
  2. While toasting pistachios, watch carefully as they brown quickly. I took them out in about 5 minutes.

April 16, 2008

South Indian Sambar - A successful new twist !


Sambar is a stew or soup made with dal and an array of vegetables and seasoned with sambar powder which is a mix of spices. It also has tamarind paste to give a tartness to the stew, which is very appealing. It is served garnished with some tempered seasonings including mustard seeds and dry red chillies. It is a very common side dish/ dipping stew available in South India and is usually served with idlis, dosas and also with rice. There is a wide variety of sambar depending on the vegetables added. When I was young, I always would keep the vegetables aside since I was not very fond of them. But nowadays, I put the vegetables that I like in sambar, which usually are just onions, potatoes and carrots. The way I used to make sambar was cooking the dal and vegetable first and then adding the spices and the tamarind paste, which usually result in a dull-brown sambar. So I wanted to experiment on making a golden-brown sambar, which will look much more appealing. I thought of making rasam (another kind of South Indian soup) and then adding the dal to see how it will be. I was very much satisfied with the result. The rasam recipe that I follow is from pachakam.com and makes a really tasty rasam. Click here for the original rasam recipe. I am posting the recipe for the rasam-derived sambar with the changes in the quantity of ingredients. I hope this will become your favourite in no time!

Recipe:

Roma tomatoes - 3 medium sized, chopped
Garlic pods - 2-3, crushed
Tamarind extract/ paste (thick) - 1 tbsp
Sambar powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - as needed
Cilantro - a few, chopped
Oil - 2 tbsp
Water - 2 1/2 cups
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Dry red chillies - 1 (broken into halves)
Salt - to taste
Toor dal (yellow pigeon peas) - 3/4 cup
Yellow onion - 1 medium, cut into chunks
Carrot - 1 medium, cut into chunks
Asafoetida powder - a pinch (optional)

Method:

Wash the dal in water, and transfer to a pressure cooker.

Toss in the carrot and onions.

Pour enough water to just cover the vegetable chunks.

Cook on high heat for four whistles, shut of the flame and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce-pan.

Crackle the mustard seeds and add dried red chilli and saute for a minute.

Add the crushed garlic and stir until fragrant.

Now add the chopped tomatoes and salt.

Stir until the tomatoes are cooked, becomes very tender, mashed and well blended.

Add the turmeric powder and sambar powder and saute for a few seconds.

Stir in the tamarind paste into the tomato mixture.

Add the curry leaves, cilantro and water.

Allow it to boil on a low flame for about 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash the cooked dal with a spoon, without mashing the vegetables.

Add the dal and vegetables to the tomato soup and stir well.

Allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes more.

Sprinkle asafoetida powder (if using).

Serve hot with rice, idlis, vadas or dosas.

Tips:
  1. The dal can also be cooked in a saucepan until they are very tender and easy to mash. It will just take a longer time.
  2. Vegetables other than onions and carrots can be added in addition, according to personal preference. The commonly added vegetables include potatoes, drumsticks, pumpkins, okra, eggplant etc.
  3. If using a pressure cooker, do not put the easily cooked vegetables (eg:- okra, eggplant) while cooking the dal as they will get overcooked. They can be added to the sambar once the dal has been added to the tomato soup, and boiled to cook.
  4. Adjust the quantity of water according to the consistency that you prefer. Add more water for thinner sambar, add less for thicker.

April 15, 2008

Mango - Lime fool



I recently bought a new dessert-only cookbook and couldnt wait to try out recipes from it. The book is fantastic with over 500 dessert recipes and about that many pictures in color. There was this dessert recipe in the book which did not involve much work. I love everything "cool/cold" and so this recipe fit my interest. The name by itself sounded interesting and the flavor combination was something that I wanted to try. So I decided to give this a go. A 'fool' is an English dessert made by mixing sweetened puréed fruit with whipped cream or custard, usually in equal quantities, and chilling for several hours (wiki). The name “fool” is believed to have originated from the French word “fouler” which means “to mash” or “to press.” The recipe is very easy to follow and ofcourse, is really tasty even with the tartness. I am posting the actual recipe from the book. Check out the tips for the changes I made to the recipe. Hope you will enjoy the cooool-fooool !!

Recipe:

Sliced mango - 14 oz can
Lime rind - of 1 lime, grated
Lime juice - of 1/2 lime
Heavy (Double) cream - 2/3 cup
Greek (US strained plain) yoghurt - 6 tbsp
Fresh mango slices - to decorate (optional)

Method:

Drain the canned mango slices and transfer them to a food processor bowl.

Add the grated lime rind and the lime juice.

Process until the mixture forms a smooth puree.

Alternatively, mash the mango slices with a potato masher, then press through a sieve into a bowl with the back of a wooden spoon.

Stir in the lime rind and juice.

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and add the yoghurt.

Whisk until the mixture is thick and then quickly whisk in the mango mixture.

Spoon into tall glasses and chill for 1-2 hours.

Just before serving, decorate each glass with fresh mango slices, if desired.

Source: Desserts 500 delicious recipes, Edited by Ann Kay.

Tips:

  1. I halved the recipe and substituted 7 oz of mango pulp for an equal amount of canned mango slices. Fresh mangoes can also be used for making the puree.
  2. When mixing cream and yoghurt mixture with the mango puree, whisk just enough to combine, so as not to lose the lightness of the whipped cream mixture.
  3. Another interesting tip while mixing in the mango mixture to the cream-yoghurt mixture is to fold the mixtures together lightly, so that the fool is rippled.
  4. If you are not very fond of tart desserts, reduce the amount of lime juice or add some sugar.

April 14, 2008

Prawns (Shrimp) Chilly fry


I happened across a recipe for prawns chilly fry on the Kerala tourism website. I was a bit confused after reading the recipe but decided to try it anyways. I experimented with the recipe and derived one that seemed good for our tastes. I should say that I was very pleased with the result. I ended up with a pretty HOT chilly prawns (even by Indian standards). The recipe below is my version with the exact amount of spices that I used. It would serve well for those with a bit of tolerance for spicy food. Others need not worry, just adjust the chillies to your tolerance level. I am pretty sure that you too will enjoy the adapted version of prawns chilly fry. Enjoy!

Recipe:

Prawns/Shrimp - 12 oz, shelled, deveined and tail-on (cooked)
Green chilli - 1, julienned
Garlic - 4 cloves, julienned
Ginger - 1/2 tbsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Red onion - 2 cups
Kashmiri chilli powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Lemon juice - 1/2 tsp
Salt - taste
Coconut oil - 4 tbsp
Water - 1/4 cup
Green chillies - 2, spilt lengthwise
Roma tomato - 1, sliced
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Garam masala - half a pinch

Method:

Wash the shrimp and drain.

Heat a skillet over medium heat.

To the prawns, add julienned green chillies, garlic, ginger, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilly powder, 1 tbsp coconut oil, salt and curry leaves.

Cook for about a minute. Keep aside.

Saute the onions in the remaining oil until light brown.

Add the remaining chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and saute for a few minutes, until the spices are cooked.

Stir often to prevent the spices from burning.

Pour the water and allow it come to a boil.

Saute well until most of the water is evaporated and the onions are tender.

Add the cooked shrimp, split green chillies, tomatoes and curry leaves.

Stir fry until well incorporated.

Shut off the flame, add lime juice and sprinkle garam masala.

Serve hot with rice.


Tips:
  1. I used vegetable oil instead of coconut oil. For the authentic kerala taste, use coconut oil.
  2. Use curry leaves, if available. If not, omit that.
  3. The above recipe makes a HOT prawn chilly fry. Adjust the amount of green chillies and/or chilli powder according to personal preference.
  4. A suggestion is to reduce heat is to omit the julienned green chillies, use 1 split chilly and reduce the amount of red chilly powder to 2 tsp.
  5. The actual recipe called for 40g of prawns! I think its an error, it must be 400g. I found that the recipe works well for 12 oz of shrimp.
  6. If using uncooked shrimp, add the raw shrimp to the onion gravy and cook until done.

April 13, 2008

Vanilla-cream fillo tartlets



A tart is a pastry dish, usually sweet, that is a type of pie with an open top that is not covered with pastry (wiki) and tartlets are small pastry tarts. With the availability of pastry sheets and shells, the work involved in making a good flaky pastry has been made easy. For this recipe, I am using the fillo shells which are amazing in their ease of use. They are pre-baked and hence require only a thawing period of 10 minutes!! They are the perfect option for the creation of our own tartlets be it for parties, potluck or just because and can be put together in minutes! They are versatile in that they can be used hot or cold or as appetizers, entrees or desserts based on the combination of the fillings. I made a few dessert tartlets with some vanilla pudding , but changed the garnishes. This is a good no-mess bite-sized dessert which is simply marvelous with the crispness of the shells a contrast to the sweet, smooth and creamy fillings. With variety in the garnishes, you can create a visually sophisticated treat which is both elegant and delicious!! Use your imagination and experiment with the fillings. Enjoy!

Recipe:

Fillo pastry shells - 15 (1 package)
Jello Instant Vanilla pudding mix - 15 tsp
Whipped cream - for garnish, if desired

Method:

Thaw the whipped cream according to instructions.

Thaw the fillo shells.

Prepare the vanilla pudding according to the package instructions.

Keep about 15 tsp of pudding aside for the tartlets.

Pour the rest of the pudding into molds, allow to set and enjoy!!

Place the whipped cream into a decorating bag fitted with an open star tip.

Spoon a tsp of the vanilla pudding in each shell.

Pipe a rosette of whipped cream over the pudding.




Vanilla choco-cream mini-cups: Garnish with grated chocolate and/or chocolate balls.







Mini fruit-shells: Garnish with chopped fruits of your choice.







Fruit and nut tartlets: Garnish with chopped fruits and nuts of your choice.







Choco-cups: Garnish with the chocolate bars of your choice.




Tip:
  1. You can also add mix-ins like fruits (banana, strawberries etc), nuts or candy to the pudding itself and then garnish with the toppings of your choice.


April 12, 2008

Egg roast- My way!


Palappam or appam is a wonderful crepe which is popular in Kerala and is made with a batter of rice flour and coconut milk which is then fermented using yeast. This lacy marvel can be served in combination with several of the curries or gravies. One among those wonderful accompaniments to the palappam is egg curry/roast. In this recipe hard-boiled eggs are served in a tasty gravy of sauteed onions and tomatoes seasoned with Indian masalas/spices. It does not require coconut milk, but still has a gravy of onions to dip the appams in. It can also be served as the side dish for any other Indian bread or with plain rice! This is my way of making egg roast. Do try this out and let me know how it turned out for you. Enjoy!!

Recipe (Serves 3):

Eggs - 3, hard boiled
Red onions - 2 large, cut into thin slices
Roma tomato - 1
Ginger - 1" piece, chopped
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped
Red chilly powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Water - 1/4 cup
Salt - 3/4 tsp

Method:

Heat oil in a pan and pop the mustard seeds.

Add the chopped ginger and saute for about 30 seconds.

Saute the garlic until fragrant and golden brown.

Slide the sliced onions into the pan, add the salt and saute until just wilted, about 2-4 minutes.

Once the onions are a bit tender, add the spice powders and saute for a minute or two until fragrant. (It will not have the strong smell of the spices, but rather a cooked smell).

Stir the spiced onions continuously so as not to burn.

Sprinkle a bit of water to cook the spices.

Toss in the chopped tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes are soft and blended well, about 2 minutes.

Pour about 1/4 cup of water to cook the onions and stir it until forms a thick gravy. (The amount of water can be adjusted depending on whether you want more or less gravy. If no gravy is desired, saute until the water is evaporated).

Add the eggs to the onion gravy and mix to coat.

Adjust the seasoning adding salt or pepper (if you have a spicy palate) as necessary.

Serve hot.

How to boil an egg straight from the refrigerator

This is how to boil an egg straight from the refrigerator, without cracking the shells while cooking.

Recipe:

Eggs - 2
Water - to cover the eggs

Method:

Take the eggs from the refrigerator and place them in a medium sized saucepan.

Add enough cold water to cover the eggs. (The cold water is added so that the eggs and water are at the same temperature).

Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Once the water starts to boil, reduce the flame to medium and allow to boil for 15 minutes.

Shut off the flame, drain the water and allow to cool.

Remove the shells carefully.

Use as needed.

April 11, 2008

French breakfast crepes




Crepes are French for "pancakes". But unlike regular pancakes, they are much thinner, and can be served with jam, jellies, syrups or fresh fruits. I made these for breakfast yesterday and they were so simple, the batter was put together in minutes. They look stunning served as roll-ups with fresh fruits and whipped cream. They are also great to-go with a bit of jam or jelly applied to the inside and rolled-up. My lil one was reluctant to try these at first, but I cut the rolls into thin slices. She was excited to try the sweet noodles and ate them happily!! I served them with a thin layer of strawberry jam inside, with banana slices, whipped cream and strawberries as garnish. Hope you enjoy them like we did!! Bon appetit !

Recipe (Makes 12 crepes):

All-purpose flour - 1 1/2 cups
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Milk - 2 cups
Butter or margarine - 2 tbsp melted
Vanilla - 1/2 tsp
Large eggs - 2
Butter, margarine or shortening
Applesauce, sweetened berries, jelly or jam if desired
Powdered sugar, if desired

Method:

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir in milk, butter (2 tbsp), vanilla and eggs.

Beat with the hand beater until smooth.

Lightly butter 6"-8" skillet or crepe pan and heat over medium heat until bubbly.

For each crepe, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter into skillet.

Immediately rotate the skillet until a thin layer of batter covers the bottom.

Cook until light brown.

Run a wide spatula around the edge to loosen, turn and cook the other side until light brown.

Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the skillet as needed.

Stack crepes, placing waxed paper between each, keep covered.

Spread your choice of topping thinly over each warm crepe and roll up.

Sprinkle with powedered sugar.

Unfilled crepes can be stacked with plastic wrap between each, then wrapped airtight and frozen upto 2 months.

Source: Betty Crocker cookbook, heart health edition.

Tips:
  1. I halved the recipe and still made about 8 thin crepes.
  2. If using a non-stick skillet, there is no need to use butter on the pan after each crepe.
  3. If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt.

April 10, 2008

Vanilla buttercream frosting

Recipe (12-16 servings, about 1 3/4 cups):

Powdered sugar - 3 cups
Butter or margarin, softened - 1/3 cup
Vanilla - 1 1/2 tsp
Milk - 1-2 tbsp

Method:

Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with spoon or with electric mixer on low speed.

Stir in vanilla and 1 tbsp of the milk.

Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth an spreadable.

If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.

Generously frosts a 13" by 9" cake or frosts and fills an 8" or 9" two-layer cake.

Source: Betty Crocker Ultimate cake mix cookbook.


How to make a basket-of-berries cake

I would like to share how I decorated the basket-of-berries cake. To see the actual posting, click here. The decorating techniques can be changed to personal preference by changing the color of the icing or filling the top of the basket with buttercream, fondant or gum-paste flowers. Enjoy decorating your cake and dont forget to share your experiences and tips with me.

Decorating a basket-of-berries cake:

Single layered easy two egg 8" round cake- 1
Vanilla buttercream frosting - 1 3/4 cups
Strawberries - as needed
Cake board - to assemble the cake
Basket-weave tip and open star tip, decorating bag
Curved craft wire to shape the handle

Method:

If the baked cake is highly domed, trim it down to form a slighlty smaller dome. (My cake was pretty much uniform on top).

Cut the round cake along its diameter into two to form two semi-circles.

Place one of the semicircles top down. Spread about 1/4 cup of frosting on the cake half.

Place the other half over the frosted half, so that the flat cut surfaces are aligned.

Now cut the curved side of the cake sandwich, parallel to the flat side of the cake so that it forms a level base when the cake is placed vertically.

Dab a tablespoon of icing over the cake board and keep the cake basket vertically with smaller flat surface touching the cake board.

Now crumb coat the entire surface of the cake with a thin layer of thin consistency icing.

Allow the icing to crust for a few minutes.

Color the rest of the medium consistency icing with orange color and incorporate well.

Place the basket-weave tip in a decorator's bag and pipe the basket-weave around the cake.

If you are not familiar with this technique, check this out.

Replace the basket-weave tip with a star tip and pipe stars around the upper rim of the cake.
Make a handle using a curved wire and ribbons or thread gumpaste balls on the wire to from a beaded handle.

Insert the edges of the wire, covered with foil, towards the narrower ends of the upper rim.

Place the strawberries on the basket cake to complete the decoration.

Slice and serve!!



Noodle doodle



Another day, another discovery!! I spent a part of the morning working on my blog, blog browsing and caring for my toddler. When it was almost noon, I realised that I didnt have anything for lunch. But again I was in the mood for experimenting and so was thinking about what to prepare for lunch. My lil one, the never-hungry miss, was running around playing and I thought I will make something that she would love to have - Noodles. In India, we get a quick-make noodles called Maggi, which has a taste-maker powder along with it and gives it the yummy masala flavor that we just love!! It is so popular than when you talk about noodles, everybody just assume that it is the Maggi noodles! But my aunt makes tasty noodles starting with plain noodles and that too with just a few ingredients, so I tried to recreate her recipe from my memory. I started with lomein noodles, added some veggies and sauces. I was pretty happy with the result because my li'l one ate the whole thing served to her which has happened very few times! This is probably an Indian-ised version of noodles, but it sure suits our tastes.

Recipe (Makes 2 medium sized servings):

Lomein noodles - 4 oz
Carrot - 1 medium, cut into thin matchsticks
Green beans - 5, cut into matchsticks
Green peas - 3/4 cup
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped
Black pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
Soy sauce - 2 tsp
Tomato ketchup - 2 tsp
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds - 1/2 tsp toasted, for garnish (optional)

Method:

Cook the noodles in boiling water according to packaging instructions.

Drain and drizzle vegetable oil over it to prevent sticking. Toss to coat.

Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet until light brown. Keep aside.

Heat sesame oil in a pan and saute the garlic until fragrant.

Add the carrots and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes.

Saute the beans along with the carrots until slightly cooked, about a minute.

Now add the peas and stir until the peas are also cooked and tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle the pepper powder and mix well.

Toss in the cooked noodles and mix in the veggies.

Pour the soysauce and ketchup on the noodles and toss to coat.

Stir until the noodles and sauces are heated through.

Serve hot, garnished with toasted sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

Tip:
  1. I used frozen beans and peas, but had fresh carrots.