Monday, December 21, 2009

Seasons greetings

Dear friends,
This post is addressed to each one of you who might read.
Through my six odd months of blogging, having made many lovely friends as you, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous new year.
May the joy and spirit of the festive season bring loads of cheers in your lives, many more reasons to smile and love to share.
Thank you all for the support and warmth you have surrounded me with.
Once again I convey my best wishes to everyone of you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dum Aloo Posto

'Tempt your taste buds with this delightful Bengali preparation of baby potatoes with poppy seeds', is the introduction my LG microwave cooking book has given for this recipe.
I picked some very beautiful baby potatoes freshly arrived on the supermarket counter. I decided to use them right away. This recipe said dum aloo and I thought that is lovely. The picture was more inviting to attempt it.
So here is what I cooked this morning! Since it was entirely microwave cooked, I finished few other chores along. I had prepared the paneer crumble earlier. They look more browned at the filling, in my recipe though the picture in the book was neat :(
Now I am off to a Christmas party for some destitute children with few other friends, organised by a very benevolent Indian lady. She is very sweet and dedicates most of her time, energy and money to this cause. I am happy I can do something little towards that.

250 grams baby potatoes
75 grams/ about 2 tablespoons heaped paneer crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped cashew nuts
1 tablespoon yoghurt beaten
3 fresh chillies
3 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt, dry chilli powder and pepper powder to taste.
Wash and peel potatoes. Carefully scoop out the centres.
Place the potatoes in a microwave proof bowl and adding some water, cook covered on micro power 100% for 5-6 minutes, depending on the output.
Soak the cashew nuts and grind along with green chillies. Mix with crumbled paneer. Fill in the hollows of the cooked potatoes.
Reserve some poppy seeds for garnish. Soak the rest in water and grind with the yoghurt to a smooth paste.
Microwave oil at 100% power for 30 seconds.

Add to this the marinade turmeric powder, salt and redchilli powder. Microwave at 60% power for 4 minutes and then place the prepared potatoes in the same bowl. Gently mix to coat the potatoes with the marinade.
Cover and microwave cook on high for 3 minutes. Sprinkle two teaspoons of water and cook for further 2 minutes, covered on 60% power.
In a micro proof flat dish place the reserved poppy seeds and 1 slit green chilli. Add one drop of oil. Micro wave on 100% power for 40 seconds.
Take this and spread on top of cooked potatoes. Place the potatoes on the flat dish and put them back in the microwave for few more minutes to allow them to get the roasted look.
This is a dry kind of curry. If you want it as a gravy, you may grind more cashews with some other spices and chopped onions. Cook them and add to the potatoes early on.
This aloo posto is being sent to Radhika who is hosting Sunita's Think spice featuring poppy-seeds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apple Sheera

Sometimes I have this urge to try out some recipe I have read or watched on a telecast, soon after I've read/seen the dish. I have tried few from fellow bloggers, Tarla Dalal shows and magazines. Though not all my attempts have had the same degree of success or have been well received, I am happy to have tried.
The other day, I watched this show on Sony TV. I missed a good part of the show as I am not following that regularly. It was just 'have some noise while ironing' mood, that I turned the TV on.
So I am not sure who this guest was, however, the recipe got me hooked on.
She created a sweet dish with less sugar (that too fruit extract) and lesser than usual fat.
I tried that entirely on microwave. I needed more sweet than they mentioned, and having done with microwave the fat was more than sufficient. So here is my version.
You may love to try this, especially if your apples are not being given a second look and you are feeling guilty of allowing them to rot.
You may need:
2 apples /400 grams
1/2 cup semolina
1/4 cup sugar ( I used light brown sugar as I don't get fruit sugar and such)
1/2 cup of water
1 table spoon ghee
few drops of ghee to roast the semolina.
Few cashew nuts and raisins for garnish
A pinch of ground cinnamon or cardamom optional

How to proceed:
Peel the apples, chop and run them in the blender enough to coarsely mash.
Cook this puree on micro power high for 3 minutes without lid. Add the sugar and cook on high for a further 2 minutes. Allow to stand 2 minutes. Remove the bowl and keep aside.
Add the few drops of ghee to the semolina and mix to a crumble. Take this in a flat micro proof dish. Micro wave on high for 2 minutes, open the door, give a toss and again allow to roast on medium high 60% power for 30 seconds without browning.
Allow this to cool and mix with the cooked apple. Add the water and ghee. Stir well. Return to the microwave to cook without lid on high power for 3 minutes.
Stir and cook on 60% power for 2 minutes.
The sheera is ready, after you allow it to stand a further minute in the microwave.
When you take it out, the ghee would shine on the surface and while stirring, the sheera will not stick to the sides of the bowl.
Add the condiments if you prefer and garnish with cashew nuts, dry roasted in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. They will still look under done but would have roasted really well without fat.

I make kesari for most of the festivals, just like payasam is a part and parcel of festival food. This is a regular sweet I offer on my Satyanarayan pooja or any such occasion.
So I am sending this to Cham's lovely space to celebrate her blog birthday as she is hosting Srivalli's MEC Event this December with MEC Festival specials.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chegodilu for Indian Cooking challenge

The recipe given by Srivalli for the December 2009's Indian Cooking Challenge was something I had never tasted before. So you might well imagine that I was confused as to how they might be to look at, leave alone knowing the texture or taste! When I googled them in, I found wonderful clicks in Sailu's Food blog.
Armed with recipes from Srivalli and pictures to guide from this blog, I set out to try them. I had no patience to soak rice and pound. I made them using the first of the two recipe variations given with store bought rice flour. Being dry flour the quantity of water seemed insufficient. But as I proceeded, I sprinkled some warm water and that solved the dryness.
The chegodis were so good that I wanted to try the second recipe the next day only. This recipe worked out very well even with store bought rice flour.
Later I pounded the rice and tried both the recipes after about a fortnight of the first attempt. Needless to say they were a big hit too. I found that making chegodi dough while the flour is moist resulted in tiny lumps that had to be broken and kneaded to get a uniform, smooth dough. But if you allow the flour to dry for a day or two, it was very good.
Now you may read both the recipes below and choose to try either.

Recipe 1:

Rice flour 1 cup
Water 1 cup
Split yellow dhal (moong dhal) 2 table spoons
Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon
Sesame seeds 1 teaspoon
Chilli powder 1 teaspoon
Ghee/ oil 1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

How to proceed:
For the dough:
Soak moong dhal in water for half an hour.Drain after soaking, just before adding to the water.
In a deep bottom pan, boil water. Add the salt, ghee and the drained moong dhal.
Bring to a boil, allow to simmer and stir in the rice flour gradually. Keep stirring to achieve lump- free dough.
When the dough looks cooked (as in outer dough for kozhukkattais), switch the stove off.
Mix well and cover. Keep this aside until the dough cools down, say for about 15- 20 minutes.
Add to the dough the chilli powder, sesame seeds and cumin seeds.
Mix them well.
Frying the chegodis:

Make small balls of the dough and roll them in ropes of about an inch and a half. Bring together the two ends of the rope and seal well.
Heat oil in a pan and once the oil is of optimum temperature, slide the prepared rope-rings into very hot oil. Fry only very few at a time.
Reduce the heat to low and fry the chegodis on both side until the sizzling of the oil subsides.
Remove from the oil with slotted ladle and place them on absorbent tissues.
Allow to cool and store in airtight containers.
While moulding the chegodis, keep the rest of the dough covered. Let the dough not dry in the air. Take out just as much of the dough to prepare enough number of chegodis that will fry in the oil.
Keep oil on high heat when you are sliding the rings in and reduce the heat to low as soon as the chegodis bounce back to the surface of the oil. They have to be fried really well or you might end up with oily, soggy chegodis.
Proceed thus with the entire dough.

Recipe 2:

Rice flour 3/4 of a cup
All purpose flour 1/4 of a cup
Water 1 cup
Turmeric powder a tiny pinch
Oregano seeds 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder 1 teaspoon
Ghee 1 table spoon
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

How to proceed:
Boil the water in a deep pan. Add the salt. When the water starts boiling, remove the pan from the fire.
Add the oregano seeds, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and the flours. Mix them briskly to ensure that they mix thoroughly.
Pour the ghee over it and cover with a tight lid. leave aside for a few minutes.
Heat oil in a heavy pan. Take small portions of the dough and roll out ropes. Seal the two ends of the rope to form a ring. Repeat this process with a few more.
When oil is hot, slide the prepared chegodis into it. When they bounce back to surface, reduce heat to minimum and deep fry until well done.
Remove from the oil and drain on absorbent tissues.
Allow to cool and store in airtight containers.
Repeat till entire dough is used up.
Remember to keep the dough covered to retain the moisture. If allowed to dry, they may crack and not retain shape.
This was a very interesting challenge. A new savoury snack learnt, thanks to Srivalli.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Capsicum macaroni soup

I baked some spiced buns and while chatting with my sister mentioned that it would be perfect if I made some spicy soup to go with them for dinner. Her son was home for holidays and she was making him different soups each day. She said that I can have noodles and scallions with bell peppers in a wholesome soup.The inspiration to the recipe was from Mallika Badrinath's 100 soups and soft drinks book. I said , "fine I'm on" and tried this soup. I had scallions and green bell peppers. I wanted to use up the macaroni in my pantry. The soup went well with the buns. We simply wiped the bowl clean with the last bit of bread crumb.

Following is the recipe for two servings.
1 large bell pepper
2 spring onions with the bulbs
1/4 cup of shell macaroni cooked and drained
1 table spoon butter
2 teaspoons masoor dhal soaked for 1/2 an hour
2 teaspoons cooking oil
Few basil leaves
1 red onion sliced
Salt to taste
Chop the bell pepper and the bulbs of the spring onions. Toss them along with the sliced onion in 2 teaspoons oil. Allow to cool and grind them to a paste with the basil leaves and the masoor dhal.
Melt the butter in a pan and toss the green of the sping onions. Add the ground paste and saute for a few minutes. Add the cooked macaroni and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for few minutes.
Serve hot with desired dinner rolls. I served them with my oats buns.

This soup is being sent to Meeta's Monthly Mingle currently hosted by Sunshinemom inviting heart warming soups.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deepavali Mixture

One of the 'must' make during deepavali is the Mixture. This can be easily prepared in large quantiies and makes easier while distributing to friends and neighbours. My mother always makes lot of varieties of the deep fried snacks to fill her brass and stainless steel cylindrical drums that might hold some 50 pieces easily. She used to labour a lot and soon after distribution day, the canisters will be almost empty. Then we realised that even if you gave away 200 grams of mixture, that looked sufficient quantity and no body complained. So they would order mixture and buy specifically for distribution.
I make mixture every year to fill a 12 litre pressure cooker vessel. That sounds like loads of work, but the advantage of the mixture is that you may make all the goodies that go into it at your convenience and add them finally.
I fry legumes like the channa, green peas after soaking them and lightly cooking them.
The cashews and peanuts are roasted with the microwave.
The almonds are blanched, dried, slivered and roasted in the microwave.
I usually make the diamond biscuits too, the sweet namakparas baking them.
The boondi, ompodi and the karasev or the ribbon pakodas are deep fried.
The aval/poha can be rubbed with some ghee and dry roasted in small quantities until they puff.
The combination of my mixture this deepavali was boondi, ompodi, kadai murukku, fried legumes and roasted nuts.

Deep frying the legumes:
1 cup each of dried green peas and kabuli channa.
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste.
Soak the legumes separately allowing to stand overnight.
Drain well and pressure cook them separately adding little water until 1 whistle of the cooker.
Drain the excess water and spread each on a dry cloth for about three hours.

Heat about 1/4 cup of oil in a heavy pan. Deep fry just about a fistfull of the legumes at a time.
Keep a lid handy as the legumes will shoot out while deep frying. Do not cover tightly, but just enough to cover that the spluttering oil does not harm your forearms.
Once fried well, drain excess oil on absorbent tissues. Repeat the process until all the legumes are fried well.
These make a very crunchy addition to the mixture.

Gram flour 2 cups
Rice flour 1/4 cup
A pinch of cooking soda
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste
Powdered black pepper to taste
Special utensil: The boondi ladle that has perforations to press the batter through.
Seive the flours and the cooking soda together. Make a batter adding water. The batter shall be like that of dosa batter.
Heat oil in a pan. Holding the boondi ladle as close to the oil as possible, pour on it a small amount of prepared batter. Rub the batter through the pores with the help of the back of the spoon.
The batter will pass through the perforated bottom of the ladle and drop in the oil forming small balls. Deep fry them. They will fry quickly. Remove with a slotted ladle and drain.
While still warm add the salt and the pepper powder to the boondis.

Kadai murukku:

2&1/2 cups rice flour
1 cup gram flour
1/2 cup powdered roasted gram (pottukadalai maavu)
Salt and chilli powder to taste
2 teaspoons oregano seeds
Hot oil 3 tablespoons to add to the dough
Oil for deep frying
Special equipment: Murukku press with one star hole plate.
Mix all the dry ingredients and the 3 tablespoons hot oil. Mix well and make a dough adding water.
Fit the murukku press with the single star plate. Place some of the prepared dough in the press.
Heat oil well and press the dough in the oil in no prescribed shape. we will have to break pieces of this to add to the mixture. Hence it is of no significance.
Deep fry the murukkus well.
Drain and save for adding to the mixture.

Plain Ompodi/ Sev:

2&1/2 cups rice flour
1 cup gram flour
salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Special Utensil: Murukku press fitted with sev plate.
Mix all ingredients but the oil. Make a dough of smooth consistency.
Use the murukku press fitted with the plate that has numerous tiny holes.
Heat the oil and press small portions of the prepared dough into the oil. Allow the sev to fry well.
Drain and break in small pieces and save for the mixture.
Roasting the nuts, raisins etc.:
Break the nuts in small pieces. Rub few drops of ghee thoroughly on the nuts.
Take the nuts in a microwave proof flat dish.
Microwave on high for 3 minutes initially. Toss them around and microwave on high power for a further minute and a half until the nuts are crisp.
This is applicable to cashews, blanched almonds and peanuts.
The peanuts can initially be roasted dry to remove peel and then again roasted by rubbing oil.
Add the salt and keep reserve for the mixture.
Rub some ghee on the raisins and placing on a microwave flat dish microwave them just for a minute until they puff.
Roasting the aval:
Toss the aval/poha in a flat pan in a fanning motion to remove the impurities. Alternatively, sieve and remove the finer impurities.
Heat some ghee in a heavy pan. Keeping the heat low, roast fistfulls of aval until they puff well. Keep tossing constantly so they puff evenly. Add salt while hot.
Similarly the curry leaves can be cleaned and roasted to be added to the mixture.
Thus prepared, all the dishes that combine to form the mixture are ready.
Mix them all in a vey big utensil.
Crunchy deepavali mixture is ready.
The roasted legumes are off to Susan's MLLA being hosted by Srivalli this Eighteenth helping.

Thool pakodas - crisp onion fritters

This is a recipe straight out of S.Meenakshi Ammal cook book. I find that in the given recipe the salt is on the higher scale, otherwise it is the best recipe to follow if you want crisp, melt in the mouth thool pakodas. They are so light, that you have to keep reminding yourself to stop picking just one more from the plate.

Red onions 175 grams (2 large onions) chopped finely
Gram flour 2 cups/ 200grams
Rice flour 1/4th of a cup/30 grams
Ginger 2" piece chopped
Green chillies 10 pieces chopped
Cashew nuts 15 pieces broken
Curry leaves few chopped
Coriander leaves a small bunch chopped
Ghee (in solid form)/Dalda 1 tablespoon
Soda bi carbonate 1/8 teaspoon (optional)
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Take the chopped onions, curry and coriander leaves with the salt in a bowl. Press with your hands applying enough pressure that you get the onions oozing water. Add the chillies, ginger and the ghee. Knead further, almost for around 10 minutes.
Seive the gram flour, rice flour and the bi-carbonate of soda together.
Add the flour mix to the prepared onions. Knead to a crumbly dough, stiff in texture. Add very little water as possible, only if needed. Normally the water that the onions have given out will suffice.
Heat oil in a heavy pan. When the oil reaches smoking hot, reduce the fire to medium.
Take a big portion of the dough and in a sprinkling motion drop small portions in the hot oil, as much as will fill the oil. You may pinch out small portions and deep fry too.
Fry until the pakodas turn brown. Remove with a slotted ladle on to absorbent tissues.
Repeat till entire dough is fried.
Carefully lift the small pieces of onions that may have dropped in the oil and would have been fried well. These taste very good too.
Serve them hot as tea-time snack.
These pakodas are being sent to WYF Tea time snack event being conducted @ Simple Indian Food blog by EC.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pori Urundai - karthigai special

Pori urundai is yet another neivedhyam for the Karthigai deepam festival. Some families have the tradition of just mixing the jaggery syrup to the puffed rice, while others make pori urundais. Ideally, the festival urundais are made with nel-pori, paddy puffed with husk by roasting,(The husk is cleaned later.) or with aval pori where the poha or beaten rice is roasted to puff up.
Stores in Tamilnadu will stock these up for this occasion. In my small town, you may send the paddy or aval and get it puffed at special shops selling the puffed rice.
Outside India, I have been lucky sometimes to find them at odd times and stock them up. I have tried puffing the aval/poha for mixture. The thin variety poha is not good for this purpose. Here I had not found the thick variety, so had to feel contented with the puffed rice I buy in the Indian stores. So this Karthigai was with puffed rice urundai at our home.
These are very easy to make and are good to eat anytime.

3 cups puffed rice
1/4 cup roasted dhal (pottukadali)
1 cup powdered jaggery
1/2 of a coconut cut in thin pieces
2 teaspoons dry ginger powder (sukku podi)
Ghee/coconut oil to grease your palms.

Clean the puffed rice by tossing around in a plate. Add the roasted dhal and coconut pieces to it.
Dissolve jaggery in some water, strain and remove the impurities. Add the dry ginger powder to it.
Boil the jaggery in a pan until the syrup is of a hard ball texture. (Place some of the boiling jaggery in a bowl of small amout of water, try to gather that in a ball. You will be able to form a ball with the boiled syrup.) This is urundai paagu in Tamil. This texture works well for any urundai made using jaggery syrup like the kadalai urundai, pottukadalai urundai, manoharam etc.
Mix well with the puffed rice, roasted gram and coconut pieces.

Allow to cool a bit and greasing your palms, gather the mix in balls of desired size.
Pori urundais are ready.

Offer on Karthigai deepam day and enjoy.

Adhirasams for Karthigai Deepam

I am very fond of adhirasam. When we were young our grandmother and mother used to make every festival special, cooking as per tradition. Patti goes a step ahead and makes the sweetmeats separately so that she can feed us even before offering and also the servants may get to eat.
During our school vacations at our maternal grandparents place, my grandmother used to make huge quantities with amazing ease, whenever one of us is going back after the vacation. She would advise her maid to come with someone to help pounding rice. Then, the room in the hind quarters, the viragu -ul (room where they store firewood) will be mopped clean and the iron stove with the firewood would be used. She used to pack lot of savoury and sweets for us. The workload that entailed and the ease with which they got things done with lesser technological facilties is beyond my comprehension.
However, as a young adult I have watched people do the adhirasam. Our Velammal was very good at making the correct texture required and used to be amma's guide after patti's demise.
There was one occasion when I saw a maami, as old as patti make seer-size adhirasams. Till date I can drool thinking of that. Once, in Chennai, my periamma came to visit us and stayed a couple of days. She made me pound small quantity of rice in my mixie and taught me to make adhirasam. Ever since, I have made these for karthigai every year.

Recipe for Adhirasam:
(The measures are in volume and you may use any size cup. I had used a 180 ml stainless-steel-coffee tumbler and got 21 pieces)
Raw rice 2 cups (heaped)
Powdered jaggery 2 cups (level, slightly lesser than this also is fine, but not more)
Cardamom powder 2 tablespoons
Ghee 1/4 th of a cup for pouring on the dough
Ghee/oil for deep frying ( You may keep small quantity as you will be frying only one at a time. Also that we shall drain excess ghee from cooked adhirasam and add it back to this)
Wash the rice until water runs clear. Soak for a few hours. Powder to a fine texture in a mixie. Seive and repeat to achieve the fine powder. Add the cardamom powder and set aside.
It is best to mix the moist flour with the jaggery syrup. I have never tried with the flour that has been allowed to dry.
Choose the jaggery which will yield good syrup, what is called paagu vellam in Tamilian stores, the round big ball variety.
Dissolve the powdered jaggery in 1/2 cup of water. Pass through a strainer to remove scum.
In a pan, boil this dissolved jaggery.

Check for the consistency of syrup by pouring little amount in water. At the point when the jaggery is boiling forming big bubbles, test the consistency.
The syrup will not mix in the water, if you try to hold it with finger tips, it will feel like pulp, not forming a firm texture. Since it will feel like touching the inside of tomatoes, in Tamil this is called thakkali pazha padham . A soft ball texture. (the next stage will be that it holds proper shape in water and you are able to make a ball of the syrup called urunadai paagu, take care not to boil till then).
Once the syrup is ready, add it to the prepared flour. Mix very well. Transfer to a vessel and pour some ghee on the top.
Now, you may proceed immediately or rest the dough even for two days. Only note that the syrup should be added to the moist flour.
To make the adhirasams, pinch small portions of the dough. The ghee you had added may form a layer on top. Using this to grease a tiny banana leaf or a plastic sheet, flatten the small portions to discs.
Heat ghee/oil in a pan and when it reaches smoking point, bring heat to medium and drop the prepared disc in it.
With the help of the ladle toss some of the hot ghee/oil over the adhirasam. It will puff like puris.
Cook on both sides until slightly brown. Drain and place in a colander with a plate under it.
With the help of a flat bottomed cup press the adhirasam in the colander slightly, the excess ghee/oil will collect in the plate placed underneath.
This oil can be returned to the ghee in the pan at intervals. It will not be much, yet can be recycled.
Remove adhirasam from colander and place on a plate. Allow to cool.
Repeat till all dough is used. Place the adhirasams separately until they cool down. If hot adhirasams are packed in a pile they may stick and tear while removing.
Adhirasams are easy to make if the syrup texture is mastered. They are such delicious sweetmeats, especially when you get to make them once annually.
Hope all of you had a safe and wonderful Karthigai pandigai.

We had heavy breeze that I had to keep lamps indoors. We did have a very happy festival though.