Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kadai Mushroom

Mushrooms are a family favourite. Every trip to grocery store is in complete without buying lovely mushrooms. Back in India we used to use the thunder mushrooms that grow only during the monsoon season. Here I used the white cultivated mushroom that is easily available. I usually make traditional konkani style spicy mushroom song or bhutti or North Indian style subzi out of it. Some times I add it in Biryani's or pulaos too. I love to replace paneer with mushrooms in many of the paneer based dishes as I am not very fond of paneer pieces in my gravy. I like grated paneer curries or if making palak paneer or matar Paneer I like small pieces of paneer.
In the process of cutting down fat I regularly replace the paneer out of Kadai Paneer with mushroom. I usually make this dish dry but this time I made it a little with gravy so that Little A can eat his Phulka dabbed with home made ghee in it. He prefers gravy based dishes more than dry sabzi's.
Long back when Nupur announced "spice and something nice" event I had participated and got fragrant homemade kadai masala with other goodies from a very lovely girl Divya. This masala was so fragrant that every time I used it my curries I got rave reviews. The recipe that Divya shared with me is sightly different. Will share it here next time. Here is how I made a quick version of it.

Ingredients:
2 cups cleaned and chopped Mushrooms
1 green pepper Chopped to bite sized cubes(Coloured ones taste yummy too)
2 medium Onions chopped
2 tomatoes
1 tsp fresh ginger garlic paste
1tsp Tomato ketchup
2 tsp Kadai masala or (dry roast 2tsp coriander seeds, 2-3 red chillies and powder coarsely. Use this fresh powder and little bit of garam masala to taste)
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Chilli powder
3 tbsp Oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
a generous pinch of kasuri methi
salt to taste
chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Procedure:
1) Blanch tomatoes in hot water and puree them.
2) Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and saute green peppers until crunchy but done. Keep aside.
3) Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and add cumin seeds with bay leaf in to it. When cumin seeds start spluttering and change their colour add the chopped onions and ginger garlic paste. Fry well until done.
4) Add the tomato puree and cook further for 3-4 mins. Add in the masala powders and tomato ketchup and saute for 2 mins or until oil seperates.
5) Throw in the chopped mushrooms and cook uncovered on a medium to high flame until done. First the mushroom starts leaving water and when you continue to cook the water evaporates. Add salt and sugar to taste.
6) Finally add the sauteed peppers, Kasuri methi and cook for a minute or two and garnish with chopped coriander leaves and switch off
Serve with hot Phulka's or with mild pulao's.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year and Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wish you all a very very Happy and Prosperous New Year.


Hope everyone had a good start for the year 2014. We welcomed the New year in company of  very good friends and great food. I am really thankful for the wonderful year that passed by with lots and lots of good memories. My in-laws visited us and stayed with us for 4 months. The days when they were here passed in a jiffy with lots of travelling, visiting relatives ,friends and lots of fun. The little boy started his first school, the heart break of seeing him cry and hug me so that he does not have to go to school, our first beach visit in US, making sand castles and mud pies... Overall a wonderful year. Hope the year 2014 too brings in lot of happiness, prosperity and peace.

2013 saw me baking a lot. I utilized the huge oven to its fullest by baking for most of the occasions. I signed up for my son's class parties so that I could get a chance to try out different recipes that I had bookmarked. I love baking and the aroma that fills the entire house.  The house reminds me of the bakeries that I used to visit regularly during childhood.
I made this Chocolate chip cookie for my son's Christmas party and it was well received. This recipe was printed on the cover of Hershey's Chocolate Chips. I made a trail version before the actual party and my friends loved it. I followed the same recipe again and it was a hit - With crisp edges and soft and chewy center. I used milk chocolate as kids love the cookie sweet. Feel free to substitute with semi sweet chocolate chips or throw in few nuts and it will be a hit.

Here is what's needed:
1 cup or 2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Light brown sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2-1/4 cups All purpose flour
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Milk Chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)



Procedure:
1) Heat oven to 375 deg F.
2) Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, beat well.
3) Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts in using.
4) Drop using an ice cream scoop or teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 mins until lightly browned. cool slightly and transfer onto a cooling rack.

Tastes delicious when warm and served with cold milk. Enjoy

Monday, December 30, 2013

Instant Indian Plum cake ~ Tried and tested

Oh boy I am late I am late!!! I feel like the bunny from Alice in the wonderland.. Late in posting this recipe which should have been ideally posted around Christmas.. But I was so busy baking, eating and sharing(Yes!!in that very order) that I did not have time to sit down and post! This has to be the most easiest and yummiest plum cake that I have ever come across. Except for making the caramel this cake is easy breezy. Making caramel is tricky but not tough.

My fondest memories of Christmas is associated with plum cakes and Kuswar. Our neighbours back in Mangalore (both at my in-laws house as well as mums) are friendly Christians. We share sweets during major festivals. Come Christmas we are loaded with plum cakes and we don't complain as everyone in the family loves them. After coming to US I missed plum cakes the most. I searched the blogs and bookmarked a lot of recipes from blogs. Then began the search for tutti frutti. I did not want to leave these behind as they are the most important and my favourite part of the plum cakes. Wal-mart had tutti frutti with nuts in a jar with some liquid in it but was not sure of it so did not buy them. Finally got them at an Indian store that was miles away from our place. I wanted to soak the fruits but was not comfortable making boozy cake. I decided to make them in orange juice as i had seen in a lot of blogs.
In between all this I got to taste a wonderful piece of plum cake from one of the parents from my son's class and I got hooked. I shamelessly ate a big slice of cake and asked her for the recipe. She mailed the link to me and I was happy to see that it was the same recipe that I had bookmarked long back! After tasting the cake I was 100% sure that the taste would be great and made up my mind to bake the cake for Christmas.

This recipe is a from a wonderful blogger, Nag's. She has an awesome blog with many recipes that are easy to follow with step by step instructions. I have referred this recipe from her blog and made few changes.

Here is what's needed:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup chopped cashewnuts and walnuts
1/4 cup chopped big green raisins (I am not fond of black ones so replaced it with green)
3/4 cup mixed dry fruits (chopped dates, chopped cherries,tutti frutti. I did not use orange peels as I am not very fond of it. Instead used the zest of orange which gave a wonderful aroma to the cake)
1 + .5 cups white sugar
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 huge pinch of all spice powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp grated orange zest
A pinch of salt

Procedure:
1. Caramelizing sugar: Keep cool and In a pan on medium heat, melt 1/2 cup sugar slowly. It will first melt and then turn into a dark brown thick syrup. Keep stirring and let it turn a deep dark caramel colour. Don't let it burn. Turn off heat and add about 1/4 cup water. The sugar will harden. Turn the heat back on and slowly heat the mixture until the sugar crystals dissolve. This will take around 10 mins. Let this cool and set aside. If you doubt that your sugar is burnt then make a fresh batch of it. I burnt once and was so worried that I was extra careful next time. The trick is to watch carefully.

Pre-heat oven to 350F / 180C.

 2.Mix the dry fruits and nuts with orange zest and add 3 tbsp of flour to it. Mix well so that they are evenly coated with the flour. This is done to prevent the fruits from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking. Set aside.

3. Mix the remaining flour and baking powder, spices, and salt until well combined.

4. Beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy, 3-4 mins with an electric beater. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Next, add 1 egg and beat. Then add a bit of the flour mixture and fold. Likewise, alternate between the eggs and flour mixture until they are used up.

5. Add the cooled caramel and dredged fruits and gently fold in. Pour batter into a greased cake pan and smooth the top.

6. Bake for 50-55 mins until the top turns a dark brown and when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with dry crumbs.

7. Cool completely before slicing the cake.

I made a first batch of this cake to share with my friends and it got over within few minutes. The same night I made a second batch as I was expecting few friends over for dinner. The recipe is so simple and easy and the result is a perfectly baked cake. Thank you so much Nag's for sharing this wonderful recipe. I never imagined that I would be baking Plum cake at home

Update:
1)Here is a link that explains how to zest an orange pretty simple..http://www.wikihow.com/Zest-an-Orange
2) Instead of All spice powder: 1 clove + 1 cardamom pod + small piece of cinnamon + a pinch nutmeg (pound together to powder) can be used as per the original recipe. I just had access to this spice powder which worked well in the recipe.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Palak Paneer #2 ~ Tried and tasted!

Cooking would have been a boring task if not for the blogging world. I love cooking but do get bored If  I were to make similar dishes every other day. I love change when it comes to food and love to experiment with different recipes for a particular veggie or a particular dish. Thankfully, my family too loves to experiment with food. The little fellow is slowly picking up and I hope he too will learn to love and appreciate food as we both do.
Palak Paneer is an absolute favorite of mine. I have already blogged about it here. Even though I love that recipe, I kept looking for different ways to make it.When I saw the Palak Paneer recipe at Sia's Monsoon spice I was hooked! I knew I had to make it. I have always loved reading her blog and drooling at the amazing shots. Her posts take me back to my native Mangalore and churn up a lot of hidden memories.  Thanks Sia. Even before I could finish the dish I was sure it was going to be a hit. The aroma and the flavours were simply amazing! I have followed her recipe with minor changes. I am blogging it here for my future reference.

Here is what's needed:
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup Paneer cubed (I prefer to cut them into small cubes and avoid frying it. You may shallow fry or deep fry)
2 green chillies minced
1 Onion chopped fine
1 Tomato chopped fine
3 garlic cloved minced
1" ginger minced
2 tbsp fresh cream (As suggested by Sia may be substituted with 1/4 cup whole milk)
1/2 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

1" cinnamon
2 cloves
2 green cardamoms
1/4 tsp Jeera
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp Kitchen king masala
1 tsp Kasuri methi
a pinch of hing

Procedure:
1) Blanch the cleaned spinach in hot water for a minute and run it through cold water or immerse it in a bowl of ice cold water to prevent further cooking. Puree in a blender to coarse paste.
2) Heat oil. Add cumin seeds and when they crackle add the whole spices. Fry and then add hing. Add the chopped onions. Fry until golden followed by ginger, garlic and green chilies. Fry.
3) Add the spice powders and fry for a min. As suggested by Sia, I sprinkled a little water to prevent the spice powders from burning.
4) Add in the tomato and fry until soft and mushy. Add the spinach puree, salt and sugar. Add the cream and little water to adjust the consistency of the gravy. Cook until well incorporated.
5) Add Paneer and give it a soft boil. Switch off. Drizzle the lime juice and serve hot.

I served it with kerala parotta. It can be served with soft warm phulka's, roti , Nan's and stuffed paratha's too.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Masala biscuits ~ Tried and tasted!

Most of the dishes that we make have lot of memories attached to them. When I think of saaru it reminds me of our temple feast. When I think of Pathrado I am reminded of my dearest amma who makes the most delicious and soft Pathrado ever.. Shevai reminds me of my aunt who makes yummy shevai's with yam pickle..And when I think of Masala biscuits it reminds me of my mhanthu (my dad's elder brother). He has always been a fan of these sweet and spicy biscuits. He still stocks them at home at times to have with his tea. Growing up, we have always seen yellow coloured biscuits spiced with green chilli, turmeric powder and pepper in a transparent pearlpet jar at my uncle's house. The biscuits had sweetness from sugar and smelled heavenly. When I saw similar biscuits at Divya's place I was super excited. This does not taste exactly like those City bakery biscuits but you make them once you will not be able to stop yourself from making it again. These are simple and ADDICTIVE! I have made these around 4 times already and whomever I have shared them with had only good things to talk about!
Even though I had made them before I could never get a decent picture of it to post here. So when Nupur announced her "Spice and Something Nice" Event I decided to make these to be sent over to my new friend D.

I followed Divya's recipe to make these wonderful biscuits. I am copying her recipe here for my future reference.

Here is what's needed:

Maida - 1 cup
Butter - 75 gms ,softened
Powdered sugar - 2 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp
Green chillies - 3,chopped
Yogurt - 2 tbsp
Curry leaves - 10, chopped
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp,chopped
Ginger - 1/2' piece grated

Procedure:
1) Preheat oven to 150C.Grease/line a cookie tray.
2) Sift together flour,powdered sugar,baking powder and salt and keep aside.
3) In a mixing bowl,beat butter till smooth[about3-4 minutes].Mix in the cut chillies,chopped curry leaves,coriander leaves,ginger and yogurt.
4) Slowly mix in the flour little at a time and knead into a smooth dough.
5)Keep the dough inside a ziplock and seal it closed.
Start rolling-first to all four corners and then roll evenly till the dough stretches to all sides.
It might be sticky at this stage-so refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes or so.
Cut open the ziplock and cut the biscuits into shapes of your choice
6)Place the cookies on the baking tray and bake for 20-23 minutes.
Cool on a cooling rack and store in airtight containers.

Note:
The first time I made these I was in hurry to make them hence I skipped the step 5 and directly on a lightly floured surface rolled the dough and cut them into biscuits. It did not make much difference to end result and it was devoured in no time. Since it saves time I make it the same way even now. I have always made the biscuits a little thin but this time I rolled it a little thick and the biscuits puffed up beautifully and were very crispy. Perfect with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Thanks Divya for sharing this with us. This is going to be one of my fav recipe!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tandla rotti ~ Rice rotti


We have a small kitchen in our apartment here with few shelves for storage. We do not have a separate pantry for kitchen hence all my stuff that are not used frequently or those that are bought in bulk like dals etc sit cozily in a big box. Few days ago I was searching for some particular item in the box and was worried looking at the items in my storage box. There were 4 types of rice, variety of dals, legumes, poha etc. In addition to this my freezer is full of butter, Spice powders, dry fruits,frozen items like phyllo sheets, Ice creams, grated coconut, Paneer etc. I was worried looking at the items that we have collected in just 6 months of our stay here. I decided that I would stop buying legumes,dals for now and work on clearing the existing stock. The only itmes that I stock on now are Urad dal, Toor dal, Rice(Sona masuri) and veggies which I use very frequently. It will take some more time for me to clear my stock.  While on this cleaning process I chanced upon boiled rice(Brown rice) that I bought thinking we would shift to eating brown rice on daily basis and did so for a week or two and then gave up. We love brown rice but it takes some time to get it cooked so for the ease of it I went back to my old ways of eating white rice or phulka's.  This is when I remembered this rotti that is usually made for breakfast. It is usually served with fresh home made butter or with spicy chutney.

Here is what's needed:
3/4 cup brown rice
3/4 cup sona masuri rice or dosa rice
1 to 1.5 cup grated coconut (Fresh or frozen)
2 green chilli finely chopped
1" ginger  finely chopped
Salt to taste

Procedure:
1) Soak the two rice together overnight or for at least 6 hours.
2) Grind the soaked rice with grated coconut and salt to thick coarse paste. The batter should not be liquidy like normal dosa batter and should be the consistency of soft dough. Add water as needed while grinding.
3) Add in the green chilli and ginger and mix.
4) Heat tawa and add a little oil. Take a small lemon sized dough and pat it directly on the tawa with your fingers. Dip your hands in cold water if needed.  Cover and cook until the colour changes. Add oil over the rotti and flip. Cook for a minute or two on medium flame. Serve hot with butter and pickles/chutney.
I served it with sweetened coconut sauce called choornu. This is made by boiling jaggery with little water until the jaggery melts and turns a little sticky. Add grated coconut and cardamom powder.

Variations:

1) As kids amma made a snack with these rotti. She used to chop the rotti's and dunk them in the jaggery choornu and mix well. We loved this as kid and used to look forward to this tasty evening snack,
2) My dad did not like to eat dishes with Onions or garlic for breakfast. So the leftover rotti dough was mixed with finely chopped onions, coriander leaves, cumin seeds to be converted into tasty evening snacks.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Herb Cheese Pull Apart Bread ~ Tried and tasted


Baking bread has always been one of my dreams. I had read  bloggers mentioning as to how home made bread always tasted better. I would see the pictures, the description and then Sigh! I would wonder if it were all real, was bread baking so simple and easy? Will I also ever be able to bake such beautiful breads? I had bookmarked a lot of recipes from blogs to be tried, but never got around making it as I was too nervous. It all changed when Aparna blogged about this Herb and cheese pull apart bread. From the very first time I laid my eyes on the bread I was completely bowled over. I loved the flavors that she used in the bread. When she mentioned that she had good experience with the bread and that is was very easy to make got me hooked. In addition to that a lot other bloggers who participated in the bread baking group that she called " We knead to Bake" had only positive things to talk about. Everytime I saw a similar bread in one of the blogs It would work as a gentle reminder for me to get it started. I could not get my eyes off this bread and had made a mental note of making it sometime soon. Finally when Manasi mentioned about her event "I must make that" I knew this was my call to finally make this bread and I am really glad that I did it. From the time I started proofing the yeast and until the bread was done I was terribly nervous. But the final outcome was wonderful. This bread received a lot of positive feedback from my family and friends. I finally got over my yeast phobia. If I could bake this bread anyone can do! It is really easy and very very tasty. I made minor changes to the filling to suit my tastes. The end resulted tasted like lightly spiced garlic bread. This is Aparna's recipe with just a little modification of the filling. I am just copying it her for my reference. Please do visit her blog for her recipe and wonderful photographs that will motivate you to go ahead and bake this beauty! Thank you Aparna.

Here is what's needed:
For the Dough:

1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
25gm butter, soft at room temperature
3-4 garlic finely minced
3/4 cup milk

For the Filling:

15 to 20gm melted butter
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp red chilli flakes to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Method:

1) In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm milk. Keep aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast mixture bubbles up.
2) Put 2 3/4 cup of flour, salt, softened butter, and minced garlic in a large bowl and mix. Then add the yeast mixture and the 3/4 cup of milk and knead till you have a soft, smooth and elastic/ pliable dough which is not sticky. Add a little extra flour if your dough is sticking, but only just as much as is necessary. I did not use any extra flour as it was shaped really well.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it completely with oil. Cover and let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until almost double in volume.

3) Dust your work surface lightly with flour. Deflate the dough, shape it into a square and roll the dough out into a larger square that is about 12’ by 12”. Brush the surface of the square with the melted butter. I was all nervous and in spite of having melted butter next to me I forgot to do this.Evenly sprinkle the herbs,  chilli flakes and then the grated cheese. Use a rolling pin to very lightly press the topping into the dough to ensure the topping doesn’t fall off when you are stacking the strips.
4) Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough from top to bottom into 6 long and even strips – they do not have to be perfect. Lay each strip on top of the next, with the topping facing upwards, until you have a stack of the strips.
You can put the 2 strips cut from the sides in the middle of the stack so it looks neater. Using a pastry scraper or a sharp knife, cut straight down through the stack dividing it into 6 equal pieces (6 square stacks).
5) Grease and lightly flour a 9” by 4” (or 5”) loaf tin. Butter and lightly flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Layer the square slices, cut sides down into the loaf tin
Cover the loaf tin dough with a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour. Lightly brush some milk over the top of the loaf. I brushed the top with meted butter.
6) Bake the dough at 180C (350F) for about 30 to 40 minutes until it is done and the top is golden brown.

Here is another look at the cheesy bread

I will be making this bread again and beware it is addictive. This is my entry to Manasi's event "I Must Make That". Please check her blog for the details of the event. Thanks Manasi for considering my late entry!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Methi Pulao


When I see a bunch of fresh methi leaves I cannot resist buying it. I am a big fan of kasuri methi too and  find myself adding them to most of the North Indian curries. But the flavour and taste of fresh methi leaves rules my kitchen and mind! The only thing that I hate about these is the cleaning!
Growing up these were not commonly used in our house hold. When my mom was transferred to Bangalore (I was in the first year of my college then) she started getting a variety of greens from there. I remember visiting amma and going to market with my parents. I would go crazy looking at the veggies, fruit and flowers. The best time to go to the markets is early in the morning. I bet you will not return home until your bag/basket is full and are tired from negotiating the price with the vendors. Even to this day, If I go for groceries without a list I end up buying a lot of veggies and my fridge will start cursing me for all the burden that I give it. In spite of having a list at times I deviate and simply pick a veggie just because I loved its freshness. This usually happens with the greens. In my over enthusiasm last week I picked up a bunch of methi leaves, palak and arbi leaves too! Since I had already made Methi paratha a few days back I decided to make Methi pulao. The best thing about one pot meals like pulao's are that they are simple and easiest to make. When pressed for time and in need of a healthy and hearty dish I look up to them. This Methi pulao is healthy with all the veggies in it and gets ready in a jiffy. I got this recipe from one of my friend.  She had used only methi leaves and Onion and tomato. I wanted to make it healthier and added more veggies to it. I make mine in pressure cooker.

Here is what's needed:
1 cup Basmati rice
1 bunch methi leaves ( Use only the leaves and do not chop them)
2 medium carrots peeled and sliced
1/4 cup frozen green peas
1 medium Onion sliced
1 medium tomato chopped
2 tbsp Ghee or Oil
Salt to taste

Spices:
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1" Cinnamon stick
2 green Cardamoms
1 bay leaf
2 cloves

Spice powders:
1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
1 tsp Garam masala powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Procedure:
1) Wash and soak the rice for 10-15 mins. In the mean time boil 2 cups of water.
2) Heat ghee/oil in the cooker. Add cumin seeds. When they crackle add in the whole spices. Saute for few seconds. Add the Onion and saute till brownish.
3) Add the tomato and cook until mushy followed by methi leaves. Fry on medium heat until they have wilted. Add the veggies and masala powders. Fry for a min or two.
4) Add the rice and lightly fry it. Pour in the hot water. Add salt. Give it a good mix. Close the lid of the cooker without the whistle. Invert a steel glass over the steam vent. Turn the heat to high. After exactly 8 mins switch off the cooker. Let it sit covered for 10-15 mins. Fluff with  the fork to mix. Serve hot with raita and pickle.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Vegetable Biryani


I have always loved travelling by train. I love the comfort that train provides. You get to relax by the window watching beautiful scenery and read comfortably or you can spread your legs and sleep peacefully. My memorable journeys are the one's that includes a train journey. One such journey that I remember well is from Mumbai to Mangalore. I and my aunt were on our way back from Mumbai chatting happily with co-passengers. Suddenly the train came to halt, we expected that we were waiting for signal. After few minutes when we did not notice any other trains pass by people got impatient and started getting down. That is when one of the passenger told us that there was landslide ahead and it would take few hours for the tracks to be cleared. Since we were ladies travelling we were worried and we had no water to drink. We had carried a bottle of water and had decided to purchase the bottled water on our way.  Our compartment was the at the rear end of the pantry car and the food/water supply had got over by the time the it reached our compartment. One gentleman was kind enough to get some fresh water from a spring! My aunt had packed a big packet of Potato chips for us to carry home. I opened it and shared it with co passengers! One elderly man was kind enough to give me a Sidney Sheldon novel to pass my time. When the road got cleared and the train whistled all of us were relieved.  At dinner time, We got down at Goa station and bought a packet of piping hot Biryani. The aroma of the Biryani was mind blowing and when I opened it I was shocked to see plain white rice at the top. When digged further there was some chole type gravy at the bottom. Not sure if it was the hunger or the aroma, The biryani was enjoyed to the last bite. I was expecting a vegetable pulao type and this was completely new but tasty! Since then I have had a soft spot for Biryani's.
I never dared to make Biryani in my kitchen when I started cooking. Thinking about the dum cooking and the lengthy process got me worried. When I started blogging in 2008, I had all the time in the world to learn new dishes. That's when I chanced upon Nupur's Biryani. I was bowled over the recipe and the step by step pictures and decided that I had to make it. We did not get mint leaves easily then and this made me take few deviations from her recipe. But the inspiration is from her post! Thank you Nupur.

Now I have access to fresh mint leaves and I made this dish again after 3 years  and I was surprised that it came out wonderful and was loved by everyone!

Here is what's needed:

For the rice:
1.5 cupsc Basmati rice
2 green Cardamoms
1" Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 Star anise
3 cups Water
salt to taste

For the Gravy:
Vegetables:
2 Carrots peeled and chopped
12-15 Beans stringed and chopped
1 Potato peeled and chopped
a small head of Cauliflower cut into bite sized florets
10 Mushrooms cleaned and quartered
1/2 cup green Peas

To be chopped roughly
2 Tomatoes
1 Onion

Other ingredients:
1 tbspOoil
1 tsp Poppy seeds
2 tbsp Curds/Yogurt (Beat until smooth)
1.5 tsp Shan biryani Masala (This masala is very spicy and has red chilli powder in it. So I skipped using chilli powder)
1/2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Garam masala (optional)
1 tsp Kitchen King masala
Salt to taste

To Assemble:
2 medium Onions sliced thin
1/2 cup minced Coriander leaves
1/2 cup minced Mint leaves
12-15 Cashews split
1/3 cup Raisins
2 tbsp Ghee
1/4 cup Milk
1 tbsp of Saffron

Procedure:
Preparing the Rice:
1) Wash the rice in water until it runs clean and it in water for at least 10 mins. You can make rice in an open pan or in cooker. Normally I make rice by cooking in a large vessel with lots of water and whole spices and salt until 3/4th done and then drain it. Spread it on a plate to cool it until the time of using it. But this time I followed my friend's suggestion of making it in cooker. Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a cooker, add the whole spices and salt to taste followed by drained rice. Put the lid of the cooker without whistle. Place a steel glass inverted over the steam outlet and cook on high for 8 minutes switch off and let the cooker cool. Fluff with a fork and cool it on a wide plate. You can even add a tsp or two of ghee to enhance the flavor of the rice and make it non sticky as well.

Preparing the gravy:
1) Steam the veggies except mushrooms until tender. Keep aside.
2) Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and throw in the onions followed by ginger garlic paste. Saute until onions turn transparent and add the tomatoes. Cook until mushy. Cool.
3) In a blender add the onion mixture and poppy seeds and blend into a smooth puree.
4) In the same pan heat a tsp of oil and add in the mushrooms and cook until they have wilted and soft. Add the puree followed by the spice powders. Cook  for 2-3 minutes and add the steamed vegetables and salt. Bring the flame to low and add yogurt. Mix well and give it a boil. Switch off and let it cool.

Preparing the garnishing:
1) Heat a tbsp of ghee and fry the cashews until golden. Add the raisins and let them puff up. Keep aside to cool.
2) In the same pan heat another tbsp of ghee and add the sliced onions. Fry it on a low flame until they turn golden. Keep aside.
3) Mix the minced coriander leaves and mint leaves in a bowl.
4) Microwave or boil the milk on stove until it is warm and add the saffron strands by crushing it slightly with the fingers.

Assembling the Biryani:
Baking method:
1) I used a pyrex 9x13 inch dish as suggested by Nupur. Use any dish that is large enough to hold the biryani and also suitable to used in a oven. Lightly grease the pan with ghee.
2) Spread 1/2 of the rice in the greased pan evenly. Using a spoon pour 1/2 of the saffron milk evenly on the rice. Top it off with 1/2 of the fried cashews, raisins, coriander leaves and mint leaves. Pour the gravy and spread it to cover the rice. Add the remaining rice followed by the saffron milk, fried cashew and raisins, mint and coriander leaves.
3) If desired a tsbp or two of ghee can be added. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven with temperature set to 400 degrees F.

I have made this without oven too. By first adding a tbsp of ghee  followed by a layer of thinly sliced potato in a cooker or thick bottomed vessel and then assembling the Biryani as mentioned in the baking method. Cover with tight fitting lid and cooking on low flame for 20 - 25 mins.  This method was taught to me by my brother and the Potatoes that are used at the bottom of biryani tastes awesome!

Notes:
1) You can use only Biryani masala and omit the garam masala powder and Kitchen king masala. I find that the masala powder that I used was aromatic but was too spicy. So the next time I decreased the quantity of the biryani masala and added kitchen king masala.
2) When I am making this to be served at a dinner party ,I make this biryani early in the morning and refrigerate after assembling until I am ready to bake and serve.
3) Fried onions that are easily available can be used for garnishing instead of the homemade.

Serve the Biryani hot with Raita!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Vanilla Choco chip cake ~ Tried and tasted!

I have always loved the aroma when cakes are baked. The little boy too has taken a fascination for the oven. Whenever he sees the oven light on he comes running and looks in to the glass and says CAKE! He is not into sweets (He has not got my sweet tooth!) but will willingly try a bite or two of it.
I had lost touch of baking ever since we returned from Shanghai. When we first moved in to the apartment here in US, I was so glad seeing the big oven at my disposal. It brought back all the wonderful memories. In the initial days of baking I had faced a lot of problems and then bloggers like Divya, Aparna, Harini had given a lot of helpful advice. When I got back in to blogging world, the first thing I did was look up to these blogs.
Few days back, The baking bug bit me again and I decided to bake something easy and tasty.I decided to look into Divya's blog. I love the step by step pictures that she puts up which makes it easy for anyone to understand. I had choco chips in hand and was thinking of making cookies when I stumbled upon this cake. The cake was perfect and very much appreciated by everyone. Thank you Divya for this wonderful recipe. The pictures don't do justice to the cake but I did not want to wait until I bake this next time.


This is Divya's recipe and I am just copying it here for my reference.


Ingredients
Flour - 1 cup
Cornflour - 4 tbsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Butter - 1/2 cup[100 gms]
Powdered sugar - 3/4 cup [ I took a heaped 1/2 cup of sugar and powdered it]
Eggs - 2
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
Milk - 1/2 cup
Nuts - 1/4 cup[I used chopped almonds]
Chocolate chips - 1/4 cup

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease and line a loaf tin.
Sift together flour,cornflour and baking powder,reserve.
Cream together butter and powdered sugar till light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
Mix in the vanilla essence.
Spoon the flour mix about 3 tsp at a time alternately with milk and beat well till you get a smooth batter.
The batter would be thickish,not a flowing one--mix in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove the cake to a wire rack and let it cool down.
Cut into slices and serve.


Apart from this, I even made the masala biscuits and Dark fudgy brownies! I wish I had pics of it to share them here. They were delicious and I am going to make them again! Thanks Divya. Please do check her blog for a lot of wonderful baking recipes.