Thursday, February 26, 2009

Year of the Ox

I wanted to share few pictures of the Chinese New year. Chinese New year is popularly known as "Spring Festival" and it is marked by family re-unions at ancestoral homes. It is celeberated with a festive dinner on the eve of Spring Festival and bursting of fire crackers. This Spring festival concludes with the Lantern Festival. The celebrations last for 15 days. The schools,banks & offices remain closed for a whole week. The places of tourist interest are thronged with visitors. Chinese have 12 animals representing each year. This year was the year of Ox and ox dominated all the decorations. This year it was celebrated on 26th January.  For more information about Chinese New year click here and for Lantern Festival click here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jeera rice

Rice plays an important part in our diet. I keep looking out for new rice dishes to pack for my hubby's lunch box. We usually eat roti one time and one time rice. I prefer to make one pot meal as it saves my time and energy when we are in hurry to fix some thing simple yet tasty. One of such dishes that I make regularly is Jeera rice. It is simple to make and tastes great too. I prefer rice made this way than the one we get it restaurants.
Here is what's needed:
1 cup Basmati rice washed well and soaked for 10-15 mins
1 tbsp Jeera
1 big onion sliced thin
5-6 cashews split (Optional)
a small bunch of coriander leaves finely chopped
1tbsp Oil/Ghee (Ghee tastes better though!)
Salt to taste
1) Heat ghee/oil and fry cashews if using. Keep aside. Add Jeera and fry until its golden. Add onions and sauté until slightly browned.
2) Drain the rice and add it to the onions. Fry for a min. ( I read in Neeta Mehta's book that soaked rice should not fried for long as it tends to break)
3) Add 2 cups of water and salt. Give it a good boil. Add chopped coriander leaves and mix once. Lower the heat to medium and cook covered till done. Let it stand for 5 mins. Fluff with the fork to let the steam escape. Garnish with fried cashew and serve with raita or Dal fry.
P.S : Do not mix the rice while it is cooking. This prevents it from breaking.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crispy Onion Pakoda ~ a winter treat!

The weather last week had suddenly turned bad and it started raining all through the day. The temperature too came down to 2 C and we both were craving for some spicy snack to enjoy with a hot cup of coffee. 
Here is what's needed:
2 big Onions sliced
1 tsp Coriander seeds roasted slightly and crushed coarsely
1 small bunch of Coriander leaves chopped fine
2 tbsp Rice flour
Chickpea flour (Besan) as needed
Salt and Chilli powder to taste
Oil to deep fry
1) In a vessel add onions, crushed coriander seeds, chopped coriander leaves, salt and chilli powder. Mix well with hand.
2) Add rice flour and chickpea flour (add enough to cover all the pieces of Onion). Mix well. Keep it for five minutes. When salt is added onions release its juice. Use the same to make the batter. If needed you can add little water so as to cover the onions with flour evenly. The mixture should not turn watery but should be semi-dry.
3) Heat oil. Do not bring it to smoking hot. Drop in spoonful of batter and fry till golden and crispy on medium flame.
Serve hot with a cup of tea or coffee.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stuffed Capsicum ~ Amchi style

Our cuisine is mainly dominated by coconuts. Though I love traditional food I try to avoid the use of coconuts as they are not easily available here and for health reasons too. So once in a week or twice I make dishes with coconut. This is one of my mom's signature dish. I had almost forgotten this dish as I had not made it for almost a year. The other day when I was chatting with amma I was asking her for idea's for dinner. It was then she suggested this dish. We love capsicums in any form so I decided to make this for dinner. This can either be served with plain rice and Daalithoy or with phulka, dosa. 
Here is what's needed:
3 small green Capsicums 
2 large Onions chopped
1.5 cups grated coconut
6-8 red chilli's
a small piece of Tamarind
1 tbsp Coriander seeds
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
1 tsp Mustard seeds
6-8 Curry leaves
1) Wash the capsicum well and pat dry. Cut off the top. Keep aside.
2) Heat 1 tbsp oil. Fry coriander seeds and Fenugreek seeds until they turn pinkish. Remove and keep aside. In the same pan fry the red chilli's until slightly crisp. Take care not to burn any spices.
3) Grind grated coconut + red chilli's + coriander seeds + fenugreek seeds + tamarind + salt with little water until it forms a smooth paste.
4) Add 1/2 of the chopped onions to the ground masala. 
5) Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add curry leaves and fry for few seconds. Add the rest of the chopped onions with little salt and fry until golden.
6) Meanwhile fill the capsicums with the ground masala. Reserve the remaining masala. (I had large capsicums in hand so I cut them and filled).
7) Slide the stuffed capsicums into the Onions. Keep the heat on low. Add the remaining masala and water. Mix slightly and let it cook covered till done. The capsicums taste good when they are done but still crunchy. Do not overcook it. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tried & tasted ;)

I am always in constant search for new recipes. In this process I have reached several blogs, bookmarked several dishes and recreated a few in my lab successfully. I plan to note down the recipes here just in case the site becomes inaccessible to me. (A lot of sites that I used to visit before are not easily accessible these days) I prefer to try recipes from blogs as the picture gives us a clear idea about  how the final product will look likeand also over every recipe is tried and tested. The comments too gives a fair idea. Last week I made 2 dishes from  different blogs a snack and another a dessert. Both came out really good. 

Idli and Vada make a great pair. When I had made idli's last week hubby dear asked for Vada's. Now Vada was something we always had in hotels. I did not have the confidence to make them inspite of seeing them in so many blogs. I avoid deep fried food too. But when I saw neat vada's at Asha's blog I could not resist. The same day I made them and it came out perfect and crispy. I could not shape them as the mixie that I have here could not grind it into smooth paste without water. I added few more ingredients to make it more tasty. Please click here for the original recipe and drool worthy pics.
Here is what's needed:
1 cup Urad Dal
1 tbsp Rice (I used Basmati)
2 pinches of Baking soda
1 tbsp finely chopped Coconut
5-6 Curry leaves roughly chopped
small piece of Ginger finely chopped
1 Green chilli sliced into rings
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry
1) Wash and soak urad dal with rice. Keep it refridgerated. I soaked them for 6 hrs as I did not have much time. 
2) Grind it to a smooth paste. Avoid using water. I added more water hence could not shape them.
3) Add salt and soda. Add in the chopped chilli, curry leaves, ginger & coconut. Mix well.
4) Heat oil and pour a spoon full of batter into oil and fry on medium flame until crisp and golden.
Serve them dunked in Rasam or with Chutney of your choice. 
Next time I plan to add some finely chopped onions too to the batter. Thank you Asha for an easy and wonderful recipe. 

When I first saw this cake at Deeba's blog I was hooked on to it. I had bookmarked to try but having wanted to try Zebra cake first this was forgotten, The next time I saw it again in Divya's blog and finally decided to bake it. It came out really good. I did not make many changes to the recipe other than the amount of sugar and skipping out Coffee extract. I added 1/2 cup of sugar more than the recipe called for as the sugar that we get here is not at very sweet. In spite of the change in amount of sugar it tasted just right. Not too sweet. Thank you Deeba for a such a keeper recipe. Please click here for the original recipe.
I am noting the recipe here with the changes that I made.
Here is what's needed:
Flour - 1 1/2 cups
Wholewheat flour -1/2 cup
Cocoa - 2/3 cup
Instant Coffee - 2 tbsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Pinch of salt
Butter - 1/2 cup; at room temperature (I used a little more than 1/4th cup)
Sugar - 1 1/2 cup (Original recipe called for 1 cup)
Eggs - 2
Yogurt - 1 1/2 cups
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Coffee Extract - 1 tsp (I skipped this)
1) I did not have a bundt tin so used a greased disposable foil tin. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2) Sift the flours + baking powder + baking soda + cocoa. Keep aside.I sifted it twice.
3) Beat the butter & sugar. Add eggs & beat again. Add the vanilla extract, Instant coffee & beat.
4) Add the flour mix & yogurt alternatively and keep mixing it until well incorporated. Don't over mix.
5)Turn into prepared pan, level out & bake until skewer insterted comes out clean. For me it took 55 mins. I covered it loosely with aluminuim foil as the top was browning very soon. 
The only problem that I faced while baking was that after 7 mins of baking The batter started oozing out from sides. The top of the cake slided a bit downwards as if it was sinking. Was it that I had filled too much in my tin? Any suggestions are welcome. 
I am feeling much confident now in terms of baking. Thanks to all of you who took time to comment and give valuable suggestions when I last made Zebra cake. It actually helped me and I avoided doing the common mistakes like opening the oven door within 10 minutes of baking cake etc. There is still so much to learn.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Idli a favourite among many people, unfortunately was always hated by me. I also believed that I would never make idli's at home. The day we had idli for breakfast I would always look out for some other options for breakfast. Such was my hatred towards these white beauties. After marriage I was in surprise when I found that my in-laws and hubby loved idli. I slowly started eating Idli but was still not fond of it. I would just eat to fill my tummy or my MIL would make something else for me when it was idli for breakfast. It all changed when I came here. I did not even think of buying idli stand but hubby dear who came here before me (I joined him 3 months later) was craving for homemade food and steaming hot idli's. I did not have even pressure cooker or steamer. Finally, when we saw a steamer we bought it. I called up amma to ask her how to make idli's. Then finally on the D day we made idli's in deep steel plates and we got square idli's instead of round ones. But I liked the taste. I never imagined that I would make idli successfully and also like it. It was not that I loved it but I was and still am comfortable with having them for breakfast or dinner occasionally. During my last visit to India, I bought an idli stand. From then on, we regularly made idli's until the winter made its appearance. I had made idli when the winter was first making its appearance and my idli's were rock hard. I had to take care that it would not fall on my leg and hurt me (Ok.. not that hard ;) ). We were disappointed and I vowed that I would not make idli until winter was over. But one fine day both me and hubby felt that we were missing idli. So finally I googled and got a lot of suggestions. One suggestion said to use poha and it actually worked. So here is what I did for soft and fluffy idli's.
Idli rice - 2 cup
Urad Dal - 1 cup
A generous fistful of poha
1 tsp of Jeera (Optional)
Salt to taste

1)Wash and soak urad overnight. In another vessel soak poha and rice overnight.
2)Next morning grind urad to a fine paste with sufficient water until smooth and frothy. Do not add too much water. Add only if required. Keep aside. Grind rice and poha until rice becomes like coarse rava.
3) Mix ground Urad dal and rice. Add salt to taste. Let it ferment for 8-12 hrs. In winter I heat water in microwave for a min and keep the batter inside it. It takes more than 12 hours for me (some times 18-20 hrs).
4) Before making idli's I add Jeera to the batter. Since Urad dal creates gas in tummy, jeera is used to nullify the effect. Grease idli moulds and pour batter till 3/4. I usually fill little water in my cooker and pressure cook without whistle for 8-10 mins.
Cool for a min or two before removing them from mould sand serve with Chutney or piping hot sambar. I use readymade sambar powder from Udupi Diana hotel.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pani Puri

Chats happen to be one of my favourite. During my school days, every year we used to go to Mumbai during Ganapathi. I have my cousin's, uncles and aunts over there. My pacchi [Referred to Younger uncle's wife or mom's younger sister. Here it is my uncle's wife] used to make a lot of snacks like Ragda Pattis, Pani Puni, Bhel Puri at home. She was the first person who taught us how to make Pani Puri. When she came to our house from Mumbai she would make something for us kids and all my cousin's were invited. Infact, I first tasted Pizza at home. When I was 7th My bappi had come for some training. We got some ready Pizza bases. He made the topping and generously poured tomato ketchup and grated Amul Cheese. Since then I have been hooked onto it. My pacchi has taught me quite a few recipes and infact she had also got me few recipes of Shahi paneer, Malai kofta etc handwritten by my cousin sister,Shruthika. I still have that book back at home :). This time when I was in mumbai for 2 days I made it a point to have Vada Pav( near my pacchi's house in Chembur, there is a vendor who makes awesome Vada pav. I had them for dinner :P).
Anyway's coming to this post this has been long due since Deepawali. It was during that time, I along with my friend Smitha made Pani Puri. There were lot of hurdles when we started doing this. But final outcome was good and all of us were happy with the results. This recipe has been done with minimum ingredients that is available in everyone's pantry yet with satisfying results.
For the Puri:
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour/Atta
1/2 cup Semolina
salt to taste

1) Mix atta, semolina and salt well. Add enough water to make a stiff dough. It should be made like puri dough. Pinch a tennis sized ball and roll into a big chapathi. Using a cookie cutter cut rounds and deep fry in oil until crisp. Do not add to very hot oil as this will lead to browning.

For Paani:
When making pani puri we realised that we did not have chat masala or kaala namak. So we decided to make it with what we had in hand. We ground corriander leaves with few mint leaves, green chilli & salt. Added jeera-corriander powder. Added few Boondi's to the water. Tastes good when chilled.

For Tamarind Chutney:
Soaked equal parts of tamarind and jaggery together in little water for 1/2 an hour. Squeezed the tamarind out. Added salt and chilli powder to taste.

For Filling:
Sprouted moong (Green gram) partially boiled with salt to taste.

Make a small hole in the puri. Fill it partially with little boiled sprouts. Add Tamarind chutney and fill the puri with paani and eat immediately before it gets soggy.

Along with Pani puri we had also made Masala Puri. For making the masala I followed my Ragda recipe. Place roughly crushed puri's on plate. Pour the gravy. Add chopped onions, Tamarind and sev on top. Serve with chopped coriander leaves and curd if desired.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Akki Rotti

During the final semester of my Bachelor degree, I along with my best friend, Harusha were in Bangalore for our project work. We were lucky enough to stay with Harusha's grandparent's. We never missed home and were given a lot of love and attention by her grandparents and cousins. During those days I got to taste a number of Bangalore dishes and Akki rotti was one among them. I first had them for lunch at a Darshini (Vegetarian Fast Food center in Bangalore). It was right hot out of tava served on banana leaf with chutney. This was not the regular item at our place and I loved its taste. Once back to my own place I forgot completely about it. Until few days back when my friend Smitha reminded me. I was quite hesitant to try it as I was not sure about the consistency of the batter and also the style of making it. One day, when I was at her place she made this and both of us were hooked on to it. I noted her recipe and from then on this has been a regular item for lazy weekend breakfast. It is quick and tastes delicious too. 
Here is what's needed:
1 cup Rice flour
1/2 cup grated Coconut
1 medium Onion finely chopped
1 tsp Jeera
2 Green chilli's chopped
few strands of coriander leaves finely chopped
salt to taste

1) Mix all the ingredients well. Add water and mix well. The dough should not be like regular dosa dough. But is little softer than chapathi dough.
2) Heat a tawa. Take small amount of dough and pat it on either greased plastic sheet or aluminum foil. Transfer this on to the tawa. Fry on medium on both the sides by applying little oil.
Serve hot with chutney or pickles. I still need to work on patting them still thinner. 
The version with grated carrots or dill leaves too taste great.