Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Indian gooseberry and shoe flower mocktail

I have travelled home to be with my parents just for about two weeks and then to attend the first of its kind Indian Food Bloggers Meet in Bangalore, in less than ten days time.
I chose to travel light and did not bother to carry much of my equipment that would help me write a post, take pictures and blog about that. However, each update on the IFBM page gets us the participants more excited. Some of the sponsors have announced interesting contests and I am chiding myself for not being prepared for surprises. I would have loved to participate in all of those announced, though not hoping to win, yet to feel good about trying.
One of the sponsors Urban Dazzle have a simple contest for the participants. We just have to make a cocktail or mocktail with Indian flavours and blog about it. We abstain from any form of alcohol and thus I went on to prepare a mocktail. My nephew is around and both of us were voicing choices out that my mother got pulled in. After much debate, we went for this mocktail, I wish to share here as an entry to the contest.
In the past few months, as suggested by someone, my father is trying out a small ounce of hibiscus tea and consumes one steamed Indian gooseberry with his meal.This is a practice to keep his blood pressure under check along side his regular prescribed medicines. So both flower and fruit were available at home and all I needed was a soda drink that will add to the flavour.
The below recipe serves three in 330 ml tall glasses, I wish I could serve them in these Urban Dazzle glasses shown in their website.
Indian Gooseberry and shoeflower mocktail

What we had on hand
10-12 fresh hibiscus flowers/ shoe flowers
10 Indian gooseberries/ amla/ nellikkai chopped to come up to 1 cup and 1/3rds of the same
1/4 cup sweetened gooseberry candy chopped
Juice of three limes
1" piece fresh ginger grated
250 ml of 7up drink
Sugar syrup from 150 grams sugar

  How we combined the drink

We put the fresh hibiscus in a large pitcher and added the juice from the limes. We squeezed these by hand until the flower dissolved in the juice. We added some water and part of the sugar syrup.
We blended the goose berries, berry candy and the ginger in a blender and strained it.
We mixed both the juices and adjust the sweetness by adding sufficient sugar syrup.

To serve we placed a few ice cubes in glasses, poured in the juice and topped off with the 7 up drink.
Though both of the fruit and flower can be separately had as drinks, this combination worked wonderfully for the mocktail.
Don't you think it will be a great party pleaser too?

Monday, July 7, 2014

I will be at the first of its kind Indian Food Bloggers Meet –Will you be there too?

I am writing this post, I pause to check my packing checklist again. Going home to India is always exciting for me, no matter how often I go. It has only been a few months that I am back here after spending about three months, yet I am going again. This time I am as excited for the time I get to spend with my parents and a little more for I am going to be attending the Indian Food Bloggers Meet in August.

This idea had been brewing in the minds of four like-minded people who have spared no attempt to make it happen and see to that all will go smoothly. On a Skype call, some day late this last May, Aparna, one of the organisers told me about this and few more details as there was nothing in full shape yet. That made me wanting to plan to be part of something of such magnitude.
Four ladies, who share the same passion for excellence in whatever they do, thought that they should introduce more of us to each other and give us much more. They planned this Meet, inviting us to join.  They planned it for months on, to make this, first of its kind in India a memorable one for those who attend. Though there are limited slots they have tried to accommodate most of the people who have shown interest. I am happy to be one to register participation. There is a blog where they give us updates. With each post I read, my excitement grows. At the same time I am apprehensive as to how I might fit amidst so much talent that will be evident when I am physically there. But the anticipation overpowers the apprehension.
Why do I want to be there?
Through my blog, I have made friends; few of us have more interaction, while some others, I only know virtually. Sitting in some remote African country, I work the time zone differences to my advantage and keep in touch more. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet some of them for real? To me their blogs are an introduction and to get to know someone I would love to. I am hoping this event will provide an opportunity. That I am about to meet some forty other people, who share the same interest, is something I am looking forward to.
 I have been writing this blog for a little longer than five years now, however intermittently. Yet there is a nagging doubt about how much reach do I have? What more should I learn, what’s that my reader looks in this space and my blog? I know not the answers to these.  I might find out there?
Otherwise they have planned a few sessions that are going to help the likes of me to pick up points in that direction.

I am to understand that some very talented bloggers are willingly going to introduce us to many aspects of food blogging. Does my picture make you think, “Oh, I need to try this”? Does my writing interest you to read further? I do not know. But I am sure that someone there is going to give me a chance to know what I need to do more. How to present what I have put on the table for my family to kindle your interest, someone is going to introduce me to that aspect. And this is not all; I am, as I willingly label myself, ‘wary of technology’. To try something that I have to learn only through technology intimidates me a bit. Though I do not expect that one will hold my hand and take me there, I am hoping someone is going to tell me it is easier than what I think. Someone there will reassure me that they have ‘Been there, done that’ and that it is okay.

What am I hoping to experience?
With all the meticulous planning that the amazing organisers have put in, I am sure it will be a fun event with friendly food bloggers from throughout India. They have timetabled sessions that will expose me to blogging and beyond that. Guest speakers and interactive workshop sessions are sure to help me improve. I am sure that I will learn from the knowledge and talent that will shine there. Interactions with cookbook authors, food critics and more talented people, you cannot but take home knowledge.

I am sure that my network will expand; there are going to be new friendships made. Share interests and experiences with fellow bloggers. That might bring me more blogs to read and more friends to talk to.
Then there are the sponsors with their products for our tasting and testing and a few goodies to carry home with me. 

Summing it up, I have signed up to be part of the INDIAN FOOD BLOGGERS MEET that is planned for the 1st and 2nd of August 2014 and completed the registration process. Have you?
My travel plans are in place and so is the accommodation during the event with thanks to the organisers and a friend. Are your plans in full shape yet? Hurry and tick your checklist.
And to me the countdown begins :) If you are going to be there, see you then; if you are wishing to be there, try your luck and find a few slots are there or all sold out. 
If all fails, be the first to register next year, good luck.
If you would like updates on the event, all you have to do is, like their page on face book, find them on twitter handle .

All of the images in this post have been shared from the Indian Food Bloggers Meet Blog with many thanks to the organisers.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Avocado and Cilantro chilled soup

One fruit I got introduced to quite late, (only a few years ago) is avocado. I had been ignorant of its many benefits and even if it had been placed on the stands of the supermarkets, I may have walked past not knowing how to use it. Then with gained knowledge from many food blogs, and since we had a fruit yielding tree in the garden, I had wanted to use it. I could not however, get my husband to get used to the pretty bland tasting fruit. I made avocado chappathis from Pavithra's blog once and tried the gaucamole once; and that was it until recently. My friend told me that she pays heavily for the fruit in her country and she just scoops it up and eats as is. That would have been a bit tough for me to eat it raw. So the fruit had to be kept waiting until I find a way to cook it.
In the past few months, my daughter shares her everyday news and there is always food that we cooked being discussed. The other day she told us that she had just put in the fridge a cold soup with avocado and cilantro made with yoghurt. That got me and I tried the same for our lunch. I must say that they are a wonderful combination. Given that we are awaiting monsoons and the weather has been this way one day and that way another, this soup was a welcome chilled dish to have on a particularly hot afternoon.
I have copied my daughter's e mail with the recipe and her pictures. I have added my trial at the end. As you will see, I had to opt to garnish with tomatoes cucumber and coriander as I did not get fesh mint here. I made do with 1/2 of one large fruit a generous fist of coriander, a cup of yoghurt - that served  two of us along with steamed vegetables, paneer and kebabs in rice paper wraps.

Niki's recipe follows:
Serves sumptuously three portions.

 " here's the approximate recipe.. I looked at a bunch of blogs, all of which have multiple versions of this, and have added or omitted an ingredient or two - so this is my version.
2 medium sized ripe avocados - diced
1 cup cilantro
1 cup yogurt (this is a little here and there in terms of measurement - I went straight out of the yogurt box with my big spoon about 6 times.. but most people say equal amounts of yogurt and cilantro)

1 tsp lemon juice (I didn't add this but I think it would really taste great)
Water - to be added a little bit at a time to the blender, till you are comfortable with the consistency
mint and cucumber - to garnish.
salt and pepper - to taste

Put the avocado, cilantro, lemon juice and yogurt into the blender.
Add some water and run the blender till you make a smooth paste.
Add salt and pepper.
Keep adding water and blending till you achieve the consistency of thick soup.

Chill the soup for a few hours.
Garnish with mint and chopped cucumber to serve.
This isn't very set in stone, in terms of measurements and things, but close enough, I think :) if you manage to get an avocado, try it. Its really nice. The quantity that came out of this was quite enough for three portions."

The above picture is my trial at home. I made it medium thick, more soupy, not as thick as Niki had.
I squeezed a wedge of lime extra and my husband did with some more black pepper.
I might now try more combinations with avocado and yoghurt. Meanwhile make this and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Komaj - Persian Date Bread with Cumin and Turmeric - We Knead to Bake 18

I have been introduced to a few (read more than a few) breads that were unfamiliar thus far, in the past year and a half. Baking with the group though virtually, has helped me work my skills and techniques, I would have not otherwise attempted. Aparna, our guide in this group, enjoys trying breads from far and wide and we have travelled along the trail through many regions. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
This month we have here to share a bread that has originated from Persia. We baked the Komaj which has turmeric and cumin in the dough and sweet dates paired with cardamom in the filling. It is a sweet and savoury bread that is served along with tea. There is not much information about the bread other than what Greg and Lucy Malouf have to say in their book, Saraban - A Chef's Journey Through Persia. Here is what they have to say:
"This is our interpretation of a wonderful savoury-sweet bread we tasted in the oasis town of Mahan in the South East of Iran. Cumin is grown in abundance in the region and is used to flavour many of the local dishes, often in combination with turmeric."
They had cut their Komaj in heart shapes as that is how they had eaten them in Iran. However, I baked them in a rectangular shape and few in rounded shape. It just does not matter what the shape is, for you are going to be transported elsewhere with one bite into it. The heady aroma of the toasted cumin and the cardamom that flavours the dates filling and the soft texture of the bread is beyond compare.
This bread dough has three rises instead of the usual two rises. i have used the dehydrated dates that are soft and can be sliced through or chopped easily.

Komaj - Persian Dates bread with Cumin and Turmeric
Adapted from Saraban - A Chef's Journey Through Persia by Greg and Lucy Malouf

This recipe makes 10 filled buns
For the dough:
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1/8 cup warm water
3&3/4 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour)
2&1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg (optional) ( I have used extra water and milk to substitute for the egg, otherwise the dough was very stiff)
2/3 cups warm milk*
1&1/2 tablespoon olive oil

* I needed extra milk as I had omitted the egg.

For the filling:
12 to 15 dried dates, pitted and cut in chunks
25 grams unsalted butter softened and at room temperature
4 to 5 whole cardamoms - peel removed and seeds crushed coarsely
Milk/ cream for brushing the dough
Icing sugar for dusting

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and allow it to come alive, in approximately 10 minutes.
Place the flour, sugar, salt, turmeric powder and 2 teaspoons of crushed cumin in the bowl (of the processor, if using one).
Whisk/ Pulse in the processor for a couple of times to mix.
In a separate bowl, whisk the (egg if using), oil and warm milk. Add the proven yeast to this and combine them.
Add this to the flour mix and knead well until a smooth pliable dough has been achieved.
Shape the dough in a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough in oil on all sides.
Cover and allow the dough to double in volume, for an hour or so.
Once risen, deflate the dough gently and again roll in a ball shape and return it to the bowl.
Keep covered for another hour to again double in volume.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing the butter and crushed cardamom to the dates chunks.
After the second rise, divide the dough in eight equal portions.
Roll one portion of the dough in a rectangular shape that is between 1/8" to 1/4" thick.
Towards one half of the rectangle, make a mark with a circular/ square cookie cutter that is about 8 centimetres at its widest. Ensure that there is enough space around the edges as you will bring the other half of the rectangle over and seal the edges.

Brush a little water on the surface to make it easier to seal later.
Place just about a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of this marked space.
Bring the other half of the dough and cover it over the filling on to the edge.
Seal well and using the cookie cutter cut out the shaped dough bun. Check that it has been sealed well.
The scraps that fall off each portion can be later rolled in one or two more buns. That is how we started with eight portions, but resultant was ten buns.
Place the shaped dough on a lightly greased baking tray.
Roll out and shape the rest of the divided dough and the scraps into buns.
Place them on the tray allowing space to swell during baking.
Cover and allow a 15 minute rise for the shaped dough.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.
Brush some milk or cooking cream over the buns and top with the rest of the 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Press them slightly over the buns so that they stay intact.
Bake the buns for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven to cool on wire racks.

These are best had warm and with tea. However, they do remain fresh for a day longer and warming them slightly before serving is recommended.

The extra from the scraps depends on how you roll the dough out. So it is not necessarily thatyou get more than the dividend eight portions.

Please do check Aparna's post here, where other members have left a link to their beautifully baked Komaj bread.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Akki Rotti

I have read many posts on this akki rotti and it was a bit intimidating to have a  go at it. Then one fine evening, I was given an easy recipe and was guided by the chefs at The Gateway Hotel, Bangalore. They have this programme where you cook along with their team - The Chef's Hat - cook along a recipe that is on their menu. I chose to try my hand at the akki rotti and the jalebis.
I had wanted to make the recipe at home and then blog about it, and  as it has become a routine with me, I ended up not fulfilling. Again we were allowed entry to the kitchens of Vivantha by Taj where they repeated this recipe and served us. I picked up a printed recipe from their kitchen for this and the  Kaadu Manga kari (another post pending!)

Days rolled into months and one afternoon for lunch I made them. My daughter was around and she clicked the pictures too. Again there were other things on mind and this post never materialised. That was until two days ago, when my daughter called to check if I did not have those pictures and is that why I did not post it in the blog. She was planning to make them for dinner and looked up this space.
It initiated a long conversation with me giving her the recipe and tips. She sent the pictures of her good looking rotis to her father and that brought out this post. I had actually started off on another draft, but changed my mind and here I am sharing the easy version akki rotti.

Akki Rotti/ Akki Otti 

Recipe as guided by Team Gateway Bangalore/ kitchens of Vivantha Coorg

Makes 10 rottis


1/2 cup raw rice (Sona mansuri/ Kolam rice/ Thai Jasmine rice/ Basmati - will all work)
6 to 8 tablespoons rice powder (fine powder would work best)
4 to 5 green chillis chopped
1 red onion chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (optional)
Salt to taste
Few tablespoons cooking oil for greasing the surface and for cooking the rotis

You may add grated carrots, shredded cabbage as desired


Rinse the rice in few changes of water and pressure cook adding sufficient water.
Allow the rice to cool. You shall be able to mash the rice with your palms well.
Take the rice in a larger bowl or a flat dish. Add the salt, corainder and onion. Work the rice with the heel of your palm and mash it along with the added ingredients.
Add the rice powder in small increments as much as needed incorporating it to the dough.
Keep adding the rice powder and knead the dough until it is not sticking to your palms. do not add so much that the dough becomes very dry either.
By the end of the process you shall be able to make rounded portions of the dough that is not sticky and holds shape.
Divide the dough in 10 portions and make small balls of it.
Keep the dough in a bowl covered with a damp cloth.
You may pat the dough on a small cut banana leaf or on a plastic sheet.
Grease the surface of the sheet with some oil.
Put one of the dough ball in the centre and pat the dough with your hands shaping it in a circular disc that is about 1/4" thick.
If the dough is cracking at the edges, dip your finger in some water and gather it and seal the crack.
As you are working on the dough place a heavy griddle on heat.
Once the griddle is hot enough, gently peel the patted rotti off the sheet and transfer it to the griddle.
Smear some oil around the rotti and cook on one side first for1/2 a minute. Flip it over and smear a little more oil, cook until this side has been cooked well.
Remove and transfer to the serving dish.
Meanwhile you would have been able to pat out the next dough portion. Cook this to a rotti.
Likewise work all the dough and pack them one on top of the other on the serving dish.
Take care that a patted out dough does not dry out much, else it will tear while flipping or taking out.
Serve the rotti hot with soppina saaru which is a gravy with greens/ spinach, or a stew of your choice.
I have here served with a coconut milk based vegetable stew.
This is an easy rotti to make with cooked rice. I would love to try the pounded rice cooked to a dough version that I find in many blogs. I hope to make them soon and be able to share too, until then enjoy these.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mampazha Moar Kuzhambu

Yes it is, the mango mania continues! It seems that I am trying out as many possible recipes before the fruits are off their season. There has been ice cream and aam shrikhand at home, not to mention eating fruits raw and making juice and yoghurt.
It was when I made and shared the maanga pulisseri that Jayashree had suggested that I try the same with ripe mangoes. I intended to, but wondered if I might have a recipe to follow, as these were not regular fare in my home. Almost three years down the line, I found one to make and write a post about too. This time I had a recipe that had received much acclaim from friends of whom had made this recipe - a second cousin, whom I met at a wedding last year, and since contacted.
I had this update on facebook, a picture of few friends who had met for lunch, and my cousin had made the mampazha moarkuzhambhu, for them. There were rave reviews that it piqued my interest. I was hesitant at first to write to her, but my curiosity won. She was very kind to mail me the recipe within minutes and also had no issues that it goes on my blog. So here it is : cooked at home and enjoyed with steaming hot rice.

Mampazha Moar Kuzhambhu

Recipe shared by Mrs. Jayanti Hariharan
Serves 4 people

2 medium sized mangoes
2 cups curds
1/4 cup ash gourd/ winter melon cut pieces
1/8th teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
3 green chillis (adjust according to heat of chillis and taste)
3 dry red chillis (adjust according to heat level of the chillis and taste)
Salt to taste

For tempering:
2 teaspoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1-2 dry red chillis

Wash and cut the mangoes in three - stone and both sides in full.
Place the mangoes and the cut ash gourd pieces in separators and pressure cook them until two whistles.
When the pressure inside the pressure cooker has subsided, remove the gourd pieces, add some salt and the turmeric and keep aside.
Allow the mango to cool. Remove the outer skin and stone. Grind the pulp until smooth.
Take about two tablespoons of the curd and set aside.
Churn the rest of the curds adding little water as necessary.
Mix the mango pulp to the churned curds well to combine and the resultant is a very smooth liquid.
Grind the coconut, dry red chillis and green chillis to a smooth paste adding the curd that you set aside, and not adding water.
Add the coconut paste to the mango-yoghurt mix. If you find this too thick, add some water.
Place a heavy bottom pan/ kadai on the stove. Heat the oil in the pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle add the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and the red chilli. Put the cooked ash gourd pieces in.
Add the kuzhambhu to the above, required salt to it and lower the flame. Allow the kuzhambhu to simmer on low heat, stirring at regular intervals until desired consistency is reached. Do not allow the kuzhambhu to boil. The kuzhambhu has to retain a smooth consistency and not having clots of broken curd.
Remove from the heat and transfer to the serving dish.
Serve with hot steamed rice.

The kuzhambhu is to be slightly sweet. So you may add a teaspoon of sugar if your mango is not sweet enough.
The mango I had was fibrous and upon pressure cooking the fibre had separated, which I used a strainer and removed before adding the pulp to the churned curds.
Also I cooked the kuzhambhu after tossing the fenugreek seeds in little oil and made the tempering later.
My cousin had added that she had not given exact measures and went with eyeballing measures. I followed the same and I am glad that our measures matched largely. The dry chillis I have in my pantry are quite heavy on heat. So I have had to reduce the number of chillis in the grinding.
I hope you will also try the same and enjoy.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Khatta Dhokla

The last time I had to be away, and my husband had to cook for himself, my daughter and I suggested that we pick up a few 'ready to eat' meal packs and stock them for him. We find a good variety of brands that are imported at the local store. We wanted him to be able to cook something for his breakfast and eat it before he left for work. That meant he had to be able to cook in a span of fifteen minutes and have it too, add to it, the cleaning of the dishes to it. We persuaded him to try from these packets, however much he did not like them.We were off and when I came back, I found few packs unopened. It was not that he did not like the food, but the quantity was much more for him for a meal, so he had used up fewer packets of food. I had to clear them and realised that they were good for a meal once in a way, not for every meal.
I had happened to pick a pack of Khatta dhokla mix. I made the dhoklas and saved the pack to look up the list of ingredients. Reading that, I formulated the batter for dhokla which was very nearly that of adai batter that I otherwise make. But to be sure, I read a few blogs that convinced me that it is an easy recipe. All set and having set an extra bowl of curd, I was ready to try Khatta dhokla.
The google search will throw you so many recipes that you will be wondering which one to choose. I have adapted this from many sources and a branded mix box wrapper.

Khatta Dhokla

Makes 20 dhoklas
1 cup raw rice (Sona mansuri/ kolam rice)
1/3 cup urad dhal
1/3 cup channa dhal
1/3 cup thoor dhal
2 teaspoons semolina
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon curd
2 teaspoons ENO fruit salt + some for dusting the plate
2 tablespoons sesame oil + some oil to generously grease the plate
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida
Salt to taste

For tempering and garnish:
3 teaspoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
A sprig of curry leaves

Few teaspoons milagai podi/chutney powder

Wash and soak the rice for a few hours.
Place all the dhals together, wash and soak them in another bowl.
Drain the water from the dhals mix and grind to a coarse textured batter. Try not to add much water while grinding. Transfer to a larger bowl.
Grind the rice also not very smooth adding just about sufficient water.
Add the rice batter to the dhal batter. Wash the jar of the blender and add the retrieved water to the batter. Mix well and add the salt.
Allow this batter to ferment for about 8 hours.
Whisk the curd well and add it to the batter. Add the semolina also now. After this addition, the batter shall still be of dropping consistency, only slightly tending towards pouring. It shall not be very dense nor watery.
Give it a further half hour to an hour before making the dhoklas.
Place the steamer with water on fire.
Meanwhile, warm the tow tablespoons sesame oil to hot.
Prepare the plate in which you will be steaming the dhoklas while the water is warming.
Spread oil generously on the plate and sprinkle ENO fruit salt over the surface to dust it.
Add the hot sesame oil and asafoetida to the batter and give it a brisk mix.
Place the plate inside the steamer.
Just before transferring the batter to the plate, add 2 teaspoons ENO salt to the batter and mix. It will froth as you are pouring the batter on the plate.
Once the batter has been transferred to the steamer, cover and allow the dhoklas to steam for about 12 to 15 minutes.
You make test if the dhokla has been cooked by poking a thin skewer through. If that comes out clean, the dhokla has been cooked well. You may allow a little more time to be done well.
Once the dhokla has been done, switch the fire off and keep the steamer lid on for a minute or two longer.
Remove the plate from the steamer and allow the dhokla to cool a bit.
Turn over to another flat dish and make slices.
Heat the oil for tempering, add the mustard seeds and allow to crackle. Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Transfer the tempering on to the dhoklas.
Garnish a sprinkle of chutney powder on top.
Serve with coriander/ mint chutney.

This recipe I am sending to My Legume Love Affair  brainchild of Susan- The Well Seasoned Cook, now taken over by Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen for the MLLA -72 Edition hosted by Susan herself.