Monday, October 31, 2011

Mushroom pulav

At home, my parents never forced us to eat anything if we refused to. Thus, the three of us grew up avoiding many vegetables, fruits and food as such without much ado. There were some that one of us might hate to eat while the rest of us were fond of. So such dishes were cooked and enjoyed by the ones who liked it; one's loss was someone's gain.
Even if my mother would have tried to force anything upon us, we stood our grounds and looked for our grandparents to support us. That is possibly the reason why my younger sister has lot many on the 'no, never to try' list! I had spent a few years with an uncle and his wife had seen to that I eat everything that was cooked and was acceptable for a child.
However, growing up in rural India in the 70s and 80s meant that we were not aware of the existence of many vegetables that are so easily available today. For instance, I came across broccoli and asparagus sometime in my late twenties. Even some of the regular vegetables were kept aside on specific days in our home and some vegetables had a 'no entry' limit.
I was introduced to mushrooms as fungi, for the wild mushrooms grew like everywhere in our back yard once the rains came down. And their health benefits were unheard of.
Then on my husband's first appointment with a shipping agency, he moved to Khor Fakkan in UAE. There the containers that carried food items were strictly subject to checking by the Ministry of Health.
As a representative of the line, my husband's job included that he facilitated such inspections.
The official and a dietician will randomly open some of the packs and take away samples for inspection before certifying them fit for consumption and clearing the consignment. Those randomly opened cartons were distributed to the dock workers by the consignee. Sometimes they might leave a pack or two with the line's office also. That way we have tasted some very good quality biscuits to some rancid crisps.
On one such occasion he was handed two tins of mushrooms. I had no clue as to how to cook them. Our neighbour, a doctor, suggested that they were acquired taste and since we were not seafood eaters, we might not like the taste. She offered to cook the same at her place and share the dish with us. Possibly, the apprehension stemmed from the mention of seafood and I did not truly like the taste.
Many years later, my sister cooked mushrooms in pulav and gravy and fed my daughter. She seemed to like them then. Thus, mushrooms gained their entry into my kitchen, but only for my daughter to eat. My husband would pick the tiny mushrooms out from his pizza wedges and I might swallow them without biting into those pieces.
I hope you have guessed where all this is leading to. Yes, our freespirit blogger pal Anupama suggested a theme for this month. She wanted us to make something that we have hated (still hate) and would avoid given the opportunity. Or, she said, if you were one of those who never refused something, try some ingredient that you have never used so far.
I am one who has more on the likes list than the counterpart. As a youngster, I avoided elephant yam, I never had even a sip of coffee until I went to work, even worse, as a youngster I would not drink anything if milk has been added to it in my presence. That was so long ago and a far away time. Today, I eat, drink, consume many things without sniffing at it.
Thinking hard and pondering on the theme, I had to decide on mushrooms only, for I had to give myself and my husband a chance to try them. I purchased a small can of sliced button mushrooms, called my sister to share the recipe, cooked it at home, conveniently on a day when I had a friend for lunch.

But, to be honest, I think I might include these once in a way for they seem to carry a 'HEALTH" label all over them.

2 cups Basmati rice (brown rice or any long grain rice)
150 grams sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup coconut milk
1&1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1' piece cinnamon
5 units cloves
2 pieces maratta moggu
2 petals of star anise
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon green chilli paste
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon crushed dry mint leaves
1 teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves
2 medium onions
3 tomatoes
Salt to taste

For garnish:
1 tablespoon ginger juliennes saute'd in olive oil
1 small piece bay leaf
Few cashew nuts (fried) (optional)

Wash the basmati rice clean and spread on a cloth to drain excess moisture.
Slice half of one onion finely. The rest, chop coarsely as you may be grinding them.
Grind the coarsely chopped onions, dry mint and fenugreek leaves along with the garam masala powder to a fine paste.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in the pressure cooker, add the drained rice and saute' for a few minutes.
Transfer the rice to another bowl and add a cup and a half of water to the same. Keep aside for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes, cool and puree them.
Heat again 1/2 teaspoon oil and fry the onion slices until soft and transparent. Keep aside.
Heat the rest of the oil in the pressure cooker. Add the cinnamon, cloves, maratta moggu and star anise. Then add the ginger paste and then the green chilli paste. In a few seconds add the fine ground onion paste and then the garlic paste. Cook them in the oil on a very low flame until the raw taste subsides.

Drop the mushrooms in and add the salt. Toss until the mushrooms acquire a coat of the masala and then add the coconut milk.
While on a medium flame allow the coconut milk to warm and then add the rice along with the water and the tomato puree. Add another cup of water to the ingredients that are cooking. If the rice has been aged, you may require some more water.
Bring the above ingredients to a boil and place the lid of the pressure cooker on.
Soon as it steams, place the cooker weight and when the first whistle comes on, reduce the flame to the lowest and allow an extra minute to cook.
Switch the stove off and allow the pressure inside to subside.
Open the lid and give the cooked pulav a toss to fluff the same.
Transfer to a serving dish and add the saute'd onion slices and the ginger juliennes.
Serve hot with a curry of choice. I served mine with Lauki Koftas stewed in a gravy of ground almonds, cashews and onions.

Please stop by other Freespirit bloggers to check what ingredients were not their fancies, yet they wanted to try their hands on.

I am pleased to send this to Kavi's Healthy Lunch event, which is part of Smita's Healthy Cooking Challenge.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rawa badam burfi - Deepavali is around

I am sure many kitchens are buzzing with activity at this instant, for we will be celebrating our most important festival this week. For those who also usher a new year in, my warm wishes for the same also.
Every year the festive season is reason to get nostalgic. I am washed over by the wave of childhood memories. I seem to be smiling to myself as I set about preparing sweets and savoury dishes to share and eat.
Those days, my mother will pull out all her big brass and stainless steel containers, wash and sun dry them to use them for storing sweetmeats and snacks. We have seen her and my grandmother work long hours preparing stuff that we will eagerly wait to consume. You shall enter the house well prepared for the assault of aromas from deep frying or fat being cooked with a sugary mass. Now while I make them, somehow the thrill is lost between staying in the kitchen around those smells and aromas and the work load. Yet there is no complaint about that. Year after year I look forward to doing stuff, over and over again.
This time my household gets active with making the list of what I shall make and whom I shall have to send across to. Then my husband will start his suggestions, sometimes so hefty that I may have to veto the idea at the budding stage. He will wonder if I can try something as exotic as soan papdi and kaju kathlis. I may give in to few of his whims while I might have my own list in mind.
Thus this year, his choice went with Bombay jalebis and gulab jamuns and I added this rawa-badam burfi which I thought will be easy for packing in boxes for friends. The usual thirattuppaal is the very first I would make and hence along with the same the khova for the gulab jamuns got done. The savoury will be deepavali mixture and the ribbon pakodas.

This sweet came to my mind when I purchased the durum wheat semolina which was very fine in texture. S.Meenakshi Ammal book has one rawa burfi recipe that adds coconut to the same. I tried replacing the coconut with the almonds. We loved the sweet and quickly, I had to note down the changes I made. What better would be, than to make a post soon after I have enjoyed the sweet?

2 cups super fine semolina (I powdered this to a very fine texture)
1 cup (packed) ground almonds
3&1/2 cups sugar
1 &1/3 cup ghee (slightly lesser quantity of ghee will work too, my burfis were slightly on the fudge side)
2 teaspoons powdered cardamom

If you have ground almond feel free to use the same. Else, you may have to go about the procedure as what I did.
Soak some 40 numbers of almonds in very hot water for about 7 minutes. Skin them and spread the almonds on a cloth to allow them to dry. Change the cloth twice and allow them to dry well.
Coarsely pound them with a pestle and roast them on a low flame until the moisture is lost.
Transfer to the jar of a blender and pulse intermittently to achieve a powder that matches the semolina in texture.
Heat few teaspoons of the ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add the almond powder and roast the same on a low flame until aromatic. Transfer the contents to a flat dish and allow to cool.
In the same heavy pan, add a generous quantity of ghee and roast the semolina until golden to slightly brown and very aromatic. If you can powder this (like it is done for rawa ladoos) also to a slightly fine powder, the texture of the burfi will be smooth.
If you like the crunch in your burfi, you may proceed with a fine textured semolina.
Transfer this also to the same plate as the almonds. Mix them well.
Prepare a cookie plate or stainless steel plate by greasing the same with a few teaspoons of ghee.
Dissolve the sugar in some water in a heavy pan. Make a syrup that can be drawn in a long thread when pulled between your thumb and forefinger.
If there are impurities in the sugar, add a small ladle full of milk and when the scum surfaces remove the same. If this procedure is not done, the colour of the final product may jump to an undesirable brown.

When the sugar syrup has been achieved, add the roasted almond-semolina mix dropping the same gently into the boiling syrup while stirring the same with your other hand.
Stir the contents well and avoid forming lumps, until the mix cooks well and gathers in a mass, that starts leaving the sides of the pan.
Add the rest of the ghee in small quantities at intervals and add the cardamom powder also.
Once the mass has been cooked well and leaves the sides with big white bubbles appear, transfer to the greased plate.
Tap the contents to spread evenly and smooth the surface with the back of the spatula or using a small portion of banana leaf.
Allow the mixture to cool and cut pieces in desired shapes - squares, rectangles or diamonds.
When completely cool lift the pieces off the plate and store.
Enjoy the same and share with your friends too.
Wishing you all a very happy deepavali. May there be end to all evils and peace reign upon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nei karaboondhi -a savoury treat for deepavali

Most commonly made savoury treat during Deepavali is the deepavali mixture. Many crisp savoury items are made and mixed to create this mixture. That makes it quite voluminous in yield and often made purely because it is easy to distribute to friends and neighbours.
We were three girls having three (or more) choice crisps and our mother used to treat us to them. One of us liked omapodi while the other's choice was theankuzhal ( that reminds me to post both of those...for the love for sisters!) and mine would be the muththusarai. So come deepavali and amma makes all the three. Cooking all of these, she never attempted mixture and most times my father would order this with the local restaurant where the nei karaboondhi was famous. They used ghee to deep fry the boondhis and added just ghee roasted cashews, curryleaves and peanuts.
Even after I left home, initially on work and then marriage, the nei karaboondhi would be ordered to be sent fresh for us. This continued every holiday we went home so much that I brought back few kilos and to send to my husband's colleagues at work. One of his European friends would without fail remind me of the same when I travelled alone too.
This year I wanted to have it included in the dishes I made for deepavali. But having done with the mixture already, I pondered over the idea of using gram flour again. Then I chanced upon a small quantity of powdered flour mix that I had made the Manoharam boondhi with. That was such a welcome change. Since I had just about one cup of the flour mix, I went on to make the same. Lesser the flour the better, less work, less consumption and so on!
The measures given below are far more than to achieve 1 cup measure of flour, however, I shall share the same. You can reduce according to requirement.

2 cups raw rice
1 cup split bengal gram
1 cup split green gram
1 small pich of soda bi carb
5 tablespoons cashew nuts broken
3 tablespoons fresh curry leaves
5 tablespoons roasted peanuts
Ghee for deep frying
Salt to taste
Powdered black pepper to taste

Dry grind the rice and dhals separately each to a very fine powder. Sieve them together a few rounds.
To the flour mix add the soda-bi-carb and sieve again.
Heat little of the ghee in a pan and separately roast the cashews, curry leaves and peanuts. Set them aside.
In a bowl mix the salt and pepper powder and set aside.
Heat about 250 grams of ghee in a pan.
Take one cup of flour and mix water to the same to make a lump free, smooth and slightly thin batter.
Making use of a boondhi ladle, drop the batter into the hot ghee. The batter will fall through the pores of the ladle and quickly form round balls that will come to the surface and float. Remove the same using a perforated ladle draining the ghee.
Transfer the boondhis to an absorbent kitchen towel.
When still warm sprinkle some of the salt and pepper mix to the boondhis.
Proceed to make the same with the rest of the flour mix.
Mixing the batter for one or just two batches ensures that the boondhis will form well and rounded.
Salt is not added to the batter which also helps the boondhis to absorb less oil and turn out crisp.
Once the entire quantity of flours have been used and the boondhis are done, add to the same the ready roasted nuts and curry leaves.
Indulge yourselves to the most flavoursome ghee fried treat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Milagu vellam

There are certain dishes that bring you back memories from a distant past or sometimes a recent past. When it rains quite heavily, I will be reminded of two very 'rain-day special' dishes, that our aunt (father's brother's wife) used to quickly make for us. One of them is 'moarkali', a gluey mass of pounded rice cooked in yoghurt and spiced. It is such a thoroughly enjoyable feeling to take small portions of the moarkali, while still very warm and try to swallow, still wanting to savor in your mouth.
The other dish is the milagu vellam. This has such a peppery warmth that will soothe you when the outside weather is dark and gloomy.
It was an everyday practice at our home that curd will be churned and butter extracted. For the afternoon lunch we would have thick set curds while with the night dinner only the fat-removed buttermilk was served with rice. There will be so much buttermilk that we can have a second helping to drink with salt and asafoetida added to the same.
So it was quite often that moar kuzhambu, rawa dosai and yoghurt based dishes were prepared at home. My mother made the milagu vellam once in a blue moon, so to me that was a luxury that Hema chitti had pampered us with. That was one of the recipes I copied from my mother's note book early when my cooking expedition had started. I would not wait for a rainy day to have it.

This recipe has another anecdote to go with it, which is more recent and importantly more relevant. It was the recipe that gave me a chance to start a conversation with Jayasree some two years ago. She has this recipe in her archives. I was reading most of her earlier posts and when I read this I found that her recipe was slightly different and she had not added any picture. I chanced to find her online and we discussed this. I suggested she add a picture and both of us made a pact that we would post our versions with the picture. It did not transpire to date and will never happen in her blog anymore.

My daughter has added her thoughts here. It goes to prove that regardless of the age, Jayasree had endeared herself to many of us.

"Isn't it amazing how, somebody that met you but twice, can have a profound impact on your life? Jayasree was one of those people in my life. I remember hearing so much about her from amma, and got to meet her for the first time at her home in Palakkad. She was so cheerful and full of smiles, that she brought out the chatter-box in me in no time at all. I have met her only once after that - this past august, at their home in Pune, during my summer break. I remember Jayasree telling amma that we did not get to spend enough time together.. how true she was.... it has indeed been far too short.
The life lessons I got from my interactions with this wonderful person are numerous. She taught me acceptance, in her cheerful love for everybody she met, she taught me optimism, in her ready smiles and her positive outlook.. and most importantly, I believe, she taught me simplicity.. in the way she drew joy and contentment from small everyday things.
This lovely woman is no more, but the hearts she has touched are numerous, and I count myself blessed to have gotten the chance to know her. Her memory will forever be with me, and her thoughts will always put a smile on my face. I pray that God give her family the strength to go through this difficult time and that she rest in peace."

Getting to the recipe now. This can be done with less than five ingredients that can be easily available in the pantry mostly and cooked in under 30 minutes. This dish combines well with hot steamed rice and any vegetable stirfry can be had as a side or even crisps work well.

You can eye-ball the measures usually. However, I give the list of ingredients, that can be adjusted according to individual taste.

100 ml fat removed buttermilk (fresh or the previous day's will work well)
1 teaspoon gram flour/ besan
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt according to taste

1 teaspoon Ghee (preferred to oil)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Few fresh curry leaves

In a bowl add one cup of water to the turmeric powder and the pepper powder.
Place on a high flame and once the water boils, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for a good 12 to 15 minutes until the pepper blends and the volume of liquid is almost half.
Mix the gram flour to the buttermilk well free of lumps.
Pour this to the simmering pepper water. Stir continuously and bring it to a near boil stage.
Over boiling will curdle the mixture.
Switch the heat off, but do not remove the bowl from the stove top. Keep stirring for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the stove top and stir again. You will have a moderately thin kuzhambu ready.
Remember that you have not added the salt until this stage?
Allow the milagu vellam to cool to room temperature. Stir in the salt and mix well. (Salt is added to the end to avoid any curdling, that results in milk proteins and water being separated.)
Heat the ghee in a pan and add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves for tempering. Add the crackled mustard seeds and roasted curry leaves to the milagu vellam.
When you have a few spoons of this, you will feel the warmth travelling through the throat and then food pipe. Pepper has medicinal properties, which probably is the reason to have it when the outside weather is prone to bring infections.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'Whom the Gods love, die young' - in memory of a dear friend

The morning of the 12th of October dawned gloomily with heavily overcast skies in Lagos. I guess it was an omen of what was waiting in my mail box.
As is my routine, I bid my husband goodbye as he leaves for work, walk into my study and turn my computer on before proceeding for my walk and shower. This morning I do not know why, but I logged in to my Facebook account first.
Just then Aparna and then Harini messaged me informing the untimely death of a friend, a fellow blogger and a very special person Jayasree Satish.
To say that I was shocked would be the understatement of the year, for just a few days ago I had spoken to Jayasree and exchanged news about the navrathri celebrations. There was no indication of an ailment whatsoever that day.To comprehend the fact that she succumbed to pneumonia was (and still is) difficult for me.

Jayasree, for many who may know her, was a talented person. She managed work from home, tried as best as she could to follow traditions as ordained in the South Indian culture and was a very loving and caring individual.

I knew her through our mutual blogs initially. Then one fine morning we started chatting through social network sites, and with time the frequency increased and the topics varied ranging from our interests to families and beyond. The friendship developed irrespective of the differences in our age and the difference in time zones for we lived half way across the globe.

It was convenient that when on holiday, we travel by road to Udipi where my parents-in-law live, from our home in Coimbatore. We would chalk out the itinerary to include a detour in Palakkad, where at that time, she lived. We would just give her a call and drop by because it was not a long distance from Coimbatore to her home.

My husband fully recalls how animatedly she spoke even the very first time we met in person. She was full of smiles and news that the respective spouses had no choice but to leave us to ourselves.
It thrilled us to know that she was featured on television. The fact that they moved to a new city gave us an opportunity to visit them there.
When stuck with a recipe idea, I might call her to discuss; let her know if something worked to satisfaction and she might just do that. Even trivial matters were discussed, joked about and shared.

That lively girl no longer lives in this earth today. It is not just "Jayasree lived; Jayasree died", for she had touched many a heart, each of us knowing her in our own ways. The 'wall' on facebook is filled with tributes for the departed soul. I only wish that she had lived to see the love she deserved. Age has been no bar; the young and old alike want her back amidst us and are at a loss to comprehend the ways of The Almighty.

To honour the memory of her, I join my friends Aparna and Harini from the food blogging fraternity to request you to be part of 'TRIBUTE JAYASREE''
This was an idea we were pondering upon soon after we received news about her demise. At the very instant we were discussing the same, Niv Mani suggested that we honour her by cooking recipes that she shared with much love. We are thrilled that many of you share our sentiments.
So here is what we would do to give her back the love she spread.

Please try recipes from her website Experiments in Kailas Kitchen.
Take pictures of the dish you have replicated (without altering them).
Visit her page 'Kailas Kitchen' on facebook, post your picture there with the link to the original recipe.
You are welcome to try as many recipes as you can. If you have something to say about her (not the recipe), please feel free to add that too.
This is an appeal to all of whom who have known her, not restricting to a small group of food bloggers.
I am hoping that many of you will willingly do this to render our support to her family during these hard times and show her our love and appreciation.
I sign off wishing that I never do such a post again, for it has been painful to coin words; I hope everyone who reads outlive me.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pachchai milagai chutney

I think that I have repeated enough number of times that I hardly store pickles. On the other hand, I am very fond of chutneys, thogaiyals, thokkus etc. I keep small containers of such in my refrigerator.
Most times I keep the dry chutneys for fear of not consuming quickly; however, those like puli-inji, milagai gojju will stay so long as a fortnight.
I found this very interesting recipe written in amma's notebook. I did not recall that she ever made it for us though.
She had copied it as dictated to her by Semboli maami (Shenbagavalli, must have been the name, but I have always heard it the other way). This old lady was widowed quite young and in line with the tradition of the bygone era, she had shaven her head, given up jewellery and finer things; she made her living by undertaking cooking assignments for small functions and gatherings. She would go and assist anyone when there were guests and a huge menu was to be served or loads of bakshanams were to be made. Those were the days when you visit your grand parents during long vacations,and allow them to indulge you with food among other things.
She also helped out with chores like giving body massage and bath to the newborns and those who were delivered of those newborn babies. She lived about half a kilometre away from my maternal grandparents' home and used to walk the dark streets at dawn (three in the morning, is not dawn though) braving the street dogs that walk along side her.
My mother recalls her adhirasams, that used to be 9 inches in diameter and as thick as the pizzas of today, dripping ghee.
I had copied the recipe of this chutney sometime in May 2009 and never attempted to make it at home until very recently. Inviting guests for lunch during navrathri was the opportune time to try something fresh. I had the elumichchangai oorugai ready; so I opted to make this chutney.
What I did not expect was that my husband would find it lipsmacking good! That must say something: someone who has no inclination to try pickle type chutneys, fell for it!
This chutney keeps excellently well at room temperature for about 6 -8 weeks, is an added bonus.

Pachchai Milagai Chutney


20 numbers long variety fresh green chillis
1 medium lime size ball of tamarind
2 tablespoons powdered jaggery
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 tablespoon salt (adjust according to the spice level of the chillis)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds oil (or any cooking oil)

(amma's note book does not give exact measures or procedure. I had to work my way around and am detailing my method.)
Choose fresh green chillis. Wash them and pat them dry with a towel. Remove the crowns and slice the chillis.
Place a pan on the stove and dry roast the salt and asafoetida powder. Keep aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in the same pan. Toss the chillis in the oil until they have turned a bit soft.
Remove the chillis from the heat and drop the tamarind torn in bits in the pan. Toss this in the pan so the tamarind gets soft.

Add little water to the jaggery, dissolve the same and strain out the impurities.
Bring this solution to a boil and allow it to boil a few minutes. Switch the heat off.
Place the chillis, tamarind and salt- asafoetida mix in the jar of the blender. Grind to a coarse past. Add very little water as possible, just as much that the tamarind gets blended.
Remove from the blender, use the jaggery solution to clean the jar and recover the adhering paste. Add the turmeric powder to the mix.
Heat the rest of the oil in the pan. Drop the mustard seeds in the hot oil. When they crackle, add the fenugreek seeds. Toss them until the fenugreek seeds are brown but not charred.
Reduce the heat and transfer the blended mix to the pan. Cook this on low heat for about 8-10 minutes.
Higher heat and over cooking will caramelise the jaggery. So do this carefully.

Switch the heat off. Allow the chutney to come to room temperature and then store in clean jars.
This can be eaten as an accompaniment for dosais, adais, rice and even chappatis.
As the added water content is very little, the chutney keeps well. Storing in the refrigerator is recommended, though it keeps even in room temperature.
Jaggery can be added if you like the hot and sweet taste. The above tastes quite spiced and hot.
I am happy to have tried a good recipe that suits our tastes and my guests liked it very much too.
If the chutney gets too dry for your liking, take the serving portion in a bowl and add warm water to that just before serving.
With the above measured ingredients, the yield was just sufficient to fill a 100 ml jar. We finished the same within a week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Uraippu elumichchai oorugai - Indian Lime Pickle

I hardly eat my curd rice with pickles. Not that I do not like pickles, but the fact is, when you cook for just two people, you invariably have some vegetables or the gravy remaining for another helping. In order to avoid left overs, I tend to eat my kuzhambu/ sambhar/ rasam vandal or the vegetable with the curd rice. I have never seen my husband to try having rice with pickles. So I do not put in any effort to make them or store them.
Having said that, one must be wondering if I pickled these limes just for a post. I made these to entertain guests who were invited for lunch during the navrathri festival. I did not want to buy a bottle of 'ready - to - use' pickle just for few guests. The limes I found with the vendor were very good that I purchased them to make some juice concentrate. When I visited a friend, she offered me to partake some sweet lime pickle that she had made at home. That was reason enough for me to make pickle at home.
I made them with just six medium size limes and after the navrathri lunch party, I have very small portion left, which I hope to be able to finish all by myself!
The recipe is basically what my mother makes at home. The one variation I opted for was to keep the salted pieces of lime in the sunlight for a few days, curing them before adding the spices and oil. Also I have used olive oil.

6 medium to large Indian limes (choose those with a tender skin)
4 teaspoons red chilli powder (adjust according to the sourness of the limes and the heat required)
1 table spoon salt (again adjustable as with the sourness of the fruit)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup gingely oil ( I have used olive oil in this recipe)

Wash the limes well. Pat them dry with a towel.
Cut each of the fruit in eight portions. Remove the seeds as many as possible.
Take the cut wedges in a clean and dry jar.
Dry roast the salt for a few minutes. Add this salt to the wedges in the jar. Toss the pieces in the salt. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean cloth and leave the jar in a dry sunlit area.
Every morning just give the jar a shake to toss the limes within.
Though leaving in direct sunlight is desirable, owing to the dust and pollution, I opted to leave it on the window where the limes were getting good sunlight and thus heat.
In about five days, the limes would have cured well in the salt. The skin colour would have paled to a light brown and the pices will be soft to touch.
Add the chilli powder, turmeric powder and the asafoetida powder.
If using gingelly oil, heat the oil to almost smoking. Drop the mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Switch the heat off and add the fenugreek seeds.
Allow the oil to cool to room temperature and pour it well over the pickled limes in the jar.
mix well and store.
I have used olive oil for two reasons. The primary being that the gingelly oil i get in this country is not so good and flavoursome as I might get in India. Secondly, reading so much on the goodness of olive oil made me want to try the same. I did not heat the olive oil beyond just about hot, because I read somewhere olive oil is best had without heating.

The usual procedure that my mother will follow is to drop whole limes in warm water and allow it to boil for a few minutes. This softens the limes. She would allow this to come to room temperature and cut the slices before adding the salt and other ingredients.

Usually the pickle matures within a week and is ready to use soon after. The shelf life is easily few months to a year, provided it is stored well and handled carefully.
This pickle, had with curd rice makes a very comforting combination. I recall the many times that my mother would have packed our lunch boxes with thick home set curds mixed with rice and a piece or two of this pickle to carry to school!
Nowadays, though I hardly have pickles, I feel at ease to store a small jar of one pickle in my refrigerator, for there may be a day when I am just plain lazy to cook something up and will want to have curd rice with a small wedge of pickle to go with it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple cinnamon muffins

My last post was just the one of the recipes for the Free spirit bloggers' 'Cafe Casa' theme, that Deepti chose for us. She had wanted us to make a snack that you would love to go with the drink, that is usually on the menu too. Again it was Niki's choice and I had an outline recipe to work around the same. Also I wanted to work substituting eggs. With few trials using milk and yoghurt as substitutes for the eggs that had been added, I finally had a recipe that yielded soft, slightly sweet and flavoursome muffins.
I had read and re-read many muffin recipes that were free of eggs; thanks to many baking expert bloggers, I found some recipes that I can easily work with. Ever since,I have been making muffins and cupcakes grabbing every opportunity that arose.

This recipe makes 12 muffins.

1 cup All purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered quick cooking oats (replace with all purpose flour if desired or wheat flour)
100 grams sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup cored and chopped apple pieces
1/2 cup skimmed milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 & 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered cinnamon (I added 1/2 teaspoon more, as I love the flavour)

To sprinkle on top:
Mix 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Sieve together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Take the flours in a bowl and add the chopped apples to the same.
Toss the apples in the flour so that the flour coats the apples well. Add the powdered cinnamon.
Whisk together in another bowl, the sugar, condensed milk, milk and oil to blend well. Add the vanilla extract to the same.
Pre - heat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.
Line the muffin tray with the paper cups or slightly grease the moulds. (I greased them as I did not have the cups at that point)
Make a well in the centre of the flour mix. Pour the liquid mix into the well and gently fold the flour in. Use gentle strokes to mix. Even if the flour remains as such in small streaks, you may overlook that. It takes care of itself while baking.
Over mixing will result in the muffins turning out tough.
Pour the batter in the muffin tray to fill 2/3 rds level in each indention.
Bake the same for 25 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
Remove the tray from the oven. When the muffins are still warm, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.
Cool on wire racks and store.
Serve them slightly warmed with a favourite coffee drink. I paired these with my iced caramel machiatto.

Try the other delicious combos from my free spirit mates, Anu, Deepti, Dhivya, Madhuri, Mridhubashini, Nagalakshmi and Siri. You are assured of being treated royally to some coffee/ tea treats and eats to go with those!