Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Varagarisi Badham Payasam - Kodo Millet and Almond Payasam

The Navarathri festival just got done with last week. During the nine days, I make different sweet dishes for each day and a legume based simple stir fried dish that we call sundal. I have with me a list of the specific neivedhyams offered as given to me by an elderly neighbour in Madras. He was a scholarly old man who was associated with eminent people in the literary field. This list was shared by one such person to this uncle. Thus I use it as THE guide. That list is just a part of all the special dishes that are prepared, while the payasams and sundals complement the menu.
During my recent visit to home, my sister told me that my cousin's doctor recommended her a diet with millets and that they find cooking them easy and that they enjoy them. There were magazines that were pouring in recipes and nutrient information that piqued my interest. Also, while I was there, the Government was promoting use of millets. There were organised events that promoted cooking and using of millets. I gave in and picked small quantities of most of those available in my local grocer's shelf. The dhobi who comes home to press our clothes purchased, picked and cleaned a few for me. she also instructed me how to cook them.
I packed whatever I had found and when I displayed my lot, the other one person whom I will have to share was skeptical. I was determined, however, and introduced them in dishes that they may blend well. Thus chola dosai (shorgum crepes), kudhiraivali ven pongal (savoury pongal with barnyard millet) etc. became regular dishes. Then with the advent of the festival, I announced to him that I am venturing a little further, and venture I did with relish. I cooked a few sweet dishes with millets going  more on a whim and fancy. Thankfully, I also knew to play them safe and I have a few recipes that we liked and decided were worthy of putting on this space.
Today's recipe is an attempted vegan dish which can also work with regular milk, though I prefer this version. I made this a bit thick in its volume so much as pudding; one may adjust to make it more of drinkable texture.

Kodo millet and almond payasam
Varagarisi Badham Payasam

This recipe makes 600 ml payasam that is creamy and has a slightly thick body.


¼ cup kodo millet/ varagu arisi

10-12 numbers almonds whole

½ cup powdered jaggery

1 cup first extract of coconut milk

Cardamom powder, nutmeg powder for flavouring

Almonds and cashews toasted in a little coconut oil for garnish


Soak the almonds in water, remove the peel.
Pick, wash and soak the kodo millet for about 20 minutes. Alternately you can run it in the mixer and make a coarse powder that can be added directly to the almond paste later.

Dissolve the jaggery in warm water, strain to remove impurities. Place it in a saucepan and boil until the rawness subsides.
Meanwhile, grind the soaked almonds and millet to a fine paste adding sufficient water.
Transfer the paste to a heavy bottom pan, add about 1 and ½ more cups of water and cook on a medium to low flame stirring regularly. The millet-almond mixture will easily thicken and form lumps if unattended.

Cook this for about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary until they cook to a creamy semi solid mass.
Pour in the jaggery syrup, mix well and finally add the coconut milk.
Cook until they blend well and just about until the coconut milk has lost the raw flavour.
Add the cardamom and nutmeg powders. Stir them into the payasam.
Remove from the heat.
To make the garnish:
Heat two teaspoons coconut oil, drop the broken cashews and slivered almonds. Toss until they are golden and fried until brittle.
Garnish the payasam with the above.

If you need to double the recipe, adjust the jaggery , not exactly double but a little less.
I was going vegan with the recipe, but I am sure ghee will add to the flavour.
Cut slivers of coconut tossed in ghee/oil will also be good in the garnish.
I usually add a hint of dried ginger (about a pinch of finely powdered chukku) to most vellam based payasams. Since I used nutmeg, I opted that out in this.

Serve warm or chilled. 

Tweak as you like, adjust sweetness and liquid levels to your liking and enjoy the payasam. The chilled payasam, that had the pudding texture and the time to absorb the flavours,
tastes good that would leave one wanting another helping.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pottukadalai Urundai

With the festival of Navarathri / Dhussera on I am cooking foods that are usually done for special occasions. And navarathri is special in a way that we celebrate over nine days +1 the tenth day that of Dhussera. This ensures that we make different offerings each day and enjoy the food. Once a neighbour gave me a list of the neivedhyams that are offered each day and then on, I stick to making the variety rice fare accordingly. But then festivities are not complete without a payasam and particularly for navarathri sundals (legumes cooked and stir fried) have to be part of the offering.
For those days when young children would visit to view the kolu arrangement, people make some sweet stuff that can be easily consumed by them. My grand mother used to stock up some laadoos and urundais or the powdered and sweetened roasted gram powder and such to distribute to children. It used to be the season for the guava fruit and many people gave away those to the children. When we were young, one visited homes of neighbours and friends, inviting them to visit your home during the festivities. It was not a routine, like what it is now, to gift or stock giveaways. The thamboolam and sundal or the kind sufficed. However, sundal was part of the offering and it was considered a good evening snack.
I have been seeing, on my social network sites, that my friends have been posting pictures of their arrangements and the offerings. I am hoping to get recipes for certain dishes I have seen and would want to try them here. Seeing the shared pictures have given me some new ideas to make a shift from routine. Aparna put pictures of her pottukkadalai urundais on facebook and seeing those I was remided of all of such sweetmeats that my grandmother and mother would cook. I made them soon after, and here is my post with the recipe of a simple, 'could-be-combined-in-about-half-an-hour' kind of sweet dish.
Pottukadali Urundai
 Makes 21 ping-pong balls sized roasted gram laddoos

(I use my 1/2 aazhakku measure which measures exactly 125ml)
375 millilitres/ heaped 1 and 1/2 cups roasted gram
125 millilitres/ packed 1/2 cup powdered jaggery
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

Little coconut oil/ ghee to grease your palms

Pick and clean the roasted gram and set aside. Bring the jaggery to boil until it is reduced to a thick syrup (hard ball consistency) in a kadai or any heavy bottom pan.
Test for syrup is that you drop a few drops in normal room temperature water and turn it to a ball in your fingers, it should quickly roll into a hard ball; and should you lift it off the water and drop it back in, it will hit the bottom with a ringing noise.
Remove the jaggery syrup from the stove, add the cardamom powder and all of the roasted gram. Quickly stir the mixture to coat the gram with the syrup.
Allow to cool just until your palms will be able to hold the heat.
Grease your fingers and palms with ghee or quality coconut oil. Take small portions of the gram-jaggaery mix and tightly hold them in ball shapes.
Place them on a large round plate and holding the plate at two edges, turn it around so the prepared laddoos roll all around. This ensures that they will remain spherical and, also from all the heat of the jaggery, not stick to the plate.
In case the mix cools so much that you cannot hold it in a ball, return the pan to heat to just soften the syrup and repeat the shaping.

I used 375 ml of roasted gram and 125 ml (tightly packed jaggery). I had 21 laddoos in all.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Eggless Chocolaty Chocolate Cake

It was my son-in-law's birthday few days ago. My daughter had been planning to bake his cake for him.She looked up different recipes, on the internet, in books and kept talking about that whenever we spoke to her. She wanted to be confident about baking the cake while she also wanted it to be a decorated one. I was of no help and only pointed to more blogs that sported nice looking cakes. I bake cake once in a blue moon and even those are nothing to boast about.
The one cake we are both very confident about showing as a decent one is this eggless cake with condensed milk. Then finally, she decided that she would use this recipe as her basic cake recipe, and work small alterations and bake the cake. Again, I could only, keep my fingers crossed that the cake will not fail. My fears were unwarranted; she baked it fine and did her glazing too pretty good. She was very excited with her cake that though she was aware of the time difference, she kept posting the pictures for us to see through the telephone. The next day, when we called to wish for the birthday, she promised to take pictures and send them to me with the recipe, which she told, I might want to blog. She did so promptly and I have been otherwise caught up in the festivities of Navarathri that I could not devote time to write about it. I would let it until too late, if I did not push myself to write that now.
It is her interest to try new things that is impressive. Her cooking experiments are well received and she sounds very happy that she can put good food on the table even when they have guests. I am thankful for all the blogs that she takes help from.
I am sharing here the mail that my daughter sent to me and the pictures are hers.

Eggless Chocolaty Chocolate Cake
Basic recipe can be read here:

Eggless chocolate cake  

 Mukund’s Birthday cake baked by Niki

Here's the cake! It's the same recipe as our eggless cake with a few additions. I'm typing it out here, if you want to blog it.
Makes one 9" round cake
All purpose flour - 200 grams
Unsweetened cocoa - 50 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
Soda  pop - 200 millelitres
Butter - 100 grams
Condensed milk - 1 tin (approx. 14 oz)
Vanilla essence - 2 teaspoons
Preheat oven to 350F/180C
Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda - set aside
In a big mixing bowl, add butter, vanilla essence and condensed milk, and beat till well mixed.
Add to this mixture, soda pop and sifted dry mixture alternatively, beating well after each addition.
Pour into a greased 9" round baking tin and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes (till skewer comes out clean)
For the glaze: (this is a Martha Stewart recipe)
4 oz of semi dark chocolate, chopped/broken to shards) - I just used Dairy Milk Royal Dark chocolate
3 tbsp butter cut into small pieces
1 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp honey (instead of the originally given light corn syrup)
Put chocolate and butter in a bowl and heat over a pan of simmering water, mixing gently until it is melted.
Once melted, add milk and honey and mix well
Use immediately, to glaze the completely cooled cake.
Decorate with maraschino cherries.

Enjoy the extra chocolaty chocolate cake with your loved ones.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pagash Pizza - We Knead to Bake 21

Last month members of the We Knead to Bake group posted many interesting filled and decorated savoury breads. We were given a free hand to choose and work around the chosen recipe. This month again, Aparna was not able to work on a recipe, she chose that we bake Pizza. This is what she said:
"So here's what we are going to do for September. Let's bake some PIZZA!
I'm sure a lot of us bake them at home regularly, so let's do something different. Find a recipe (and adapt or create one) and bake a pizza (sweet or savoury is your choice) that's out of your comfort zone, or different from what you usually make.
Get creative with the base, or/ and the toppings."
Well, there was a time I did not know what pizza was nor did I realise that so many variety of cheese can be. But then, pizzerias were not around anywhere in India back then.The closest to cheese we had ever has was hung curd and curdled milk that was home made. Later also, it took me a long while to get myself to try a cheese laden pizza. I would load my salad plate and excuse myself from sharing the portions of pizza. There was again a time, when we walked into Pizza Hut, Bur Said, many evenings for their garden fresh pizza. Now, when holidaying in India we are comfortable ordering them with the variety of Indian flavour toppings. That is so much for the relationship I have with pizza. Thus, I was stumped, that I have to bake my own. I could not put up the Calzone again. I had made them earlier for the same group bread baking.
I read recipes and more through the first week and still had not zeroed in on a recipe to try. Meanwhile, that members were already showcasing their efforts on the group's page, added to my misgivings. Then out of the blue I searched 'Polish Pizza'!
I joked with my husband that I thought of  Polish pizza because one of his business associates who lives there reads my blog. He had been generous to buy and carry me stuff across the seas during his visits to here. Whatever my reasoning, I was happy that I found Pagach/ Pagash ( pronounced: pah- gosh).
Pagach originated in Eastern Europe, though it is not clear whether it was Poland, Slovakia or anywhere else. Pagach is a delicious dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available. Most pointers go towards Slovakia and Poland. Think of it as peirogi in pizza dough. It is a lenten recipe, thus meatless with a potato or cabbage filling.The layers of potato and simple cheese filling make this simple dish very delicious.
Pagach is also made as a covered pizza, more like a pie. 
In this recipe I have chosen not to make it covered. That would have been too much for just two of us. I read some suggestions that along with potatoes in the filling, onions and tomatoes could be added. An open pizza would be a good way to show those off. I kept my filling simple and less than what I had seen on many sites. I liked it that it could use any kind of cheese; I used hung curd cheese and just for the topping cream cheese spread, which were both good on this pizza. I put my potatoes in the oven to roast a bit and caramelised the onions, added some rosemary, thyme and paprika for the herbs.

Pagash or Pagach Pizza:
Adapted partially from Lenten Pagach - Mince +Dice and
Polish Vegetarian pizza Recipe @ About Food

Recipe for pizza crust from my notes hurriedly scribbled from some book or television show.

This recipe makes TWO  9" thick crust pizza
For Pizza crust:
200 grams/ 360 ml/ 1 and1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
11/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
Corn meal or semolina for dusting
Extra olive oil for applying on the bowl and the baking dish

For the topping:
2 numbers medium size bake variety potatoes

2 large tomatoes
1 large red onion
2/3 cup curd cheese ( by hanging 1 and 1/2 cup home set curd to remove the water)
Seasonings as per choice (I have used paprika, rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
1/3 cup cream cheese
Few basil leaves and pitted olives

Wash and scrub the potatoes clean. Make small, deep cuts and fill in some salt and seasoning into them.
Whisk a little curd and apply a marinade.
Keep for about half an hour. Place them in an aluminium foil wrap bake them in a pre heated 180 degrees C oven for about 20 minutes. place a bowl half filled with warm water under the tray to allow some steam to cook.

Remove and keep ready by slicing the potatoes in  thin, semi circular discs.
Slice the onions in big chunks and place them in a pan with little oil and some salt. Allow them to sauté and caramelize.

Slice the tomatoes in circles and keep aside.
Now make the crust for the pizza.
Add 2 teaspoons sugar to the yeast in a bowl and add warm water. cover and proof the yeast.
In the bowl of you mixer/ or any bowl if you choose to knead by hand, mix the flour and salt.
Add the yeast mixture and knead until a soft, elastic but sticky dough has been achieved. Add the oil and knead further until well incorporated. The dough will still be slightly sticky.
Roll it in a ball and place it in an oil coated bowl, turning the dough all over in the oil to coat it. Cover and allow the dough to double in volume, for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down gently. Divide in two equal portions.
Work with one portion while the other is kept well covered. 

Keep the pan ready by applying some oil on its surface and sprinkling with cornmeal or semolina all over it. There shall be enough of the dusting that the pizza will slide out of the pan and not stick to it.
Dust the working surface with flour. Press your palms on the flour to coat them just a bit.
Work the dough with your hands and fist turning it around all the while stretching it outwards.
If the dough gets sticky, place it on the dusted surface, dust your fist and palms and work again.
If this would be too much, you may roll the dough in a circle of  9 inches in diameter.
Place the rolled out dough on the prepared pan.
Whisk the curd cheese to make it spreadable. Spread it lightly over the base.
Place the bakes potato uniformly over it. Top it with the caramelized onions. Place the tomato slices over these.

Sprinkle seasoning as required and spread the cream cheese on top.
Pre heat the oven to a high 250 degrees C.
Bake the pizza for about 7- 9 minutes until the cheese on top browns ever so lightly.
Remove from the oven and serve hot.

I chose to bake an open pizza and thus there were two pizzas for me. If you bake a covered pagash, the second half will make the covering. This quantity of dough and all of the filling within makes a heavily laden pizza. We wanted to have a lighter one and opted to bake two. I reserved one portion of the dough for later use. I have made a ball of it, doused it in oil generously and put in in a zipper locked plastic bag in the freezer. This will stay well in the freezer for upto three months. 
The extra on the potatoes and the onions were used in other dishes.
This is a thick crust pizza that is soft and will suffice for a meal with all the toppings. Pair it with some nice salad to serve for a hearty meal.

Please check out what pizzas have been brought to you by going through the members' pages.

Pagach is a delicious Slovak dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available to the Slovak people who made the best with what they had. Pagach is a great dish to serve at a buffet as it can be sliced like a pizza. Pagach makes a very satisfying meal and the filling can be customized to suit your tastes.

Read more :
Pagach is a delicious Slovak dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available to the Slovak people who made the best with what they had.

Read more :