Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gajar aur Badam ka Halwa

When you are kids it is no fun that your birthday falls during your school holidays. I do not recall ever taking the box of sweets to distribute to teachers and friends like other children did during my school years. In the later years our school tried to teach us to treat the birthday just as any other day. I must have chuckled and grinned widely then, possibly???
At home though the day of your birth star in the Hindu calender month of your birth was considered your  birthday and this might fall on different days each year. The tradition at home is that you will have to take oil bath, wear new set of clothes and there will be one extra dish in the lunch menu viz, a payasam. You had to take blessings from elders and that is all about your simply turned a year older.
Then while in college your friends demanded a treat and in return you got some small gift and a card. Even then for us, the new clothes tradition continued. And in all those years deepavali, pongal and the birthday were the only occasions that you were allowed to purchase new clothes and many times your choice might be vetoed for many reasons and you grudgingly wore what you were supposed to wear!
Now I buy clothes and sarees and wait for an occasion to wear them. So much has changed in life. However, I still hold dearly on to the tradition of the oil bath and the sweet.
Thus for my birthday earlier this month I made this carrot halwa and purely to add to the quantity, I added almonds along with the carrots. The halwa tasted rich and I decided I shall have to share it here. I had made gajar halwa using condensed milk sometime last year.. This time it was  the recipe I adapted from the S. Meenakshi ammal cookbook with the only variation of adding badam to the carrots.

250 grams carrots, peeled and grated finely ( yield was approximately 2 cups)
100 grams almonds, soaked for a minute in hot water, skinned and pulsed in the mixer to a very coarse powder ( 100 ml /8 tablespoons powder)
375 grams/400 ml/1 and 2/3 cups sugar
120 ml/ 1/2 cup milk
120 gram/ 135 ml/ 9 tablespoons ghee
Few strands of saffron
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg

For Garnish:
Few cashew nuts fried until golden in ghee.

Take the grated carrots and the coarse almond powder in a pan and pressure cook  adding the milk until the carrots are soft. Set aside.
Add 1/4 cup of water to the sugar and allow to boil down to one string consistency syrup.
While the sugar is being boiled, soak the saffron in a few teaspoons milk and mix well.
When the sugar has reached the desired syrup stage, add gently the cooked carrot almond mixture to it and on a low fire stir continuously and cook.
The mixture will blend well and begin to thicken. Add ghee in small quantities while cooking and when the mixture has blended well, add the powdered spices and the saffron. cook for just a few minutes more and switch the heat off.
The halwa will be of drop consistency while still warm. It will thicken a bit once cooled. Hence switch off the heat when the mixture can be dropped in a thick flowing mass while held in a spoon above the cooking mass. Should you allow it to cook until very thick, you will have a crumbling hardened mass well past the fudge stage.

 This halwa will be very rich thanks to the milk, almonds and the ghee. however, the quantity of ghee will be much lesser than the regular carrot halwa with the fat in the almonds contributing to the same.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Serving you Chaat for Black and White Wednesdays

I loved the mixed sweet, sour and spiced taste of the street chaat the very first time I had tasted bhel puri. During my working years in Coimbatore it was an affordable and nice evenings out with friends to have chaat in one busy street side shop, standing and balancing your paper plate and trying to not allow the juices to spill. Those were fancy street food and hard to find then, unlike today.
It was much later that I could make it at home. Making golgappas and bhel puri at home is easy. I also realised that you can play around with the basic ingredients and bring out very interesting combinations as you wish. Though I make them once in a few weeks, I still fancy to eat chaat in some chaat corners .

Sra is hosting the Week 34 of Susan's Black and White Wednesday, for which I wanted to share the chaatwala at Adyar Ananda Bhavan's outlet in one of the highway petrol stations, where the time I visited, I opted to eat chaat though it was lunch time. The pictures above and below are from that visit.

And the recipe today is something that we ( my husband and myself) enjoyed with tea on a cloudy grey evening. I had some puri's /gol gappe left over having made a large batch for friends. there was some cooked chick pea and with just those we decided that we will combine our own chaat and have for a snack.
Aloo Channa Dahi Chaat

Serves 2 people
8 - 10 golgappas
2 medium potatoes
1/4 cup chick peas  (soaked overnight  and pressure cooked until soft)
1 medium red onion
1/4 cup thick home set yoghurt
2 tablespoons mint leaves
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
1 pinch of carom seeds
1 green chili
1 teaspoon chaat masala powder
Salt as per taste

Boil the potatoes until the skin can be removed and cube them in small size cubes.
Grind the carom seeds, mint leaves coriander leaves and the green chill to a coarse paste and whisk this into the yoghurt.
Add the salt to the yoghurt and also add some to the chick peas.

Marinade the potatoes in this yoghurt mixture and leave aside for a few minutes.
Chop the onion finely.
If you would love to, add some chopped tomatoes and cucumber too.
While assembling the chaat, crush the golgappas in a bowl and drop the cooked chick peas and the potatoes. Mix well and allow the yoghurt to blend in the peas also. Add the chopped onion and mix once in a brisk mix.
Serve in small bowls topped with a garnish of chopped onions and fresh coriander leaves.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An exercise in food photography with Bangalore Chutney podi

A certain advantage with writing a blog is that one gets to learn new things however big or small. 

We had a particular assignment while in our second year in college to  learn to use a normal camera and also develop the film in our physics lab as part of optics. We were encouraged to take pictures in different light conditions and with just the adjustment of the shutter which also was done manually as then was not the time with automatic cameras and some thirty years ago, digital photography was unheard of where I schooled. We had fun shooting anything that caught our attention and were soon aware of how poorly we can perform, if not guided by the teachers, when we developed the prints. Yet we had so much fun with the camera and the printing!

Many years later with the progress in the field of photography, today I own a basic dslr camera, but still very novice with my picture capturing skills. I have always wondered what details one must pay attention to in order to make your pictures look good, especially the food that you capture and share in the post. I would look up some various sites that offer tips and such hoping to learn and improve upon. Some of my friends share pictures on their photo blogs where the necessary details are added to the picture and that would help me to try the same with my settings.

Recently, Aparna encouraged us to make an effort to work on our skills and I willingly joined the exercise. The first of this exercise is with the Aperture and Depth of Field. I have tried the experiment with a Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm kit lens
For this I chose to make Jayasri Ravi's Bangalore style chutney pudi.

Below are the two pictures taken with a 24 mm focal length and two different apertures viz, f/4 and f/8. The rest of the settings such as shutter speed and ISO remain the same. These have been taken partially hand held with the camera being supported on a strong cardboard box and a coaster to tilt it a bit. The day light from my patio door lights up the wall on the back. Both pictures have been shared as taken with no adjustments.

Aperture and Depth of Field

Bangalore Chutney Podi:
Source: Jayasri Ravi ( Read her post here)
I have made 1/5th of her shared recipe. I had intended to share the measures in volume as against her recipe in weight. However, I got disoriented with the above experiment and such that I have not worked on the volume. Hence I would love to share her recipe here.

175 grams channa dhal
115 grams urad dhal
375 grams copra (dry coconut shredded)
50 grams dry red chillis ( Guntur variety that is high in heat)
50 grams byadagi red chillis (for nicer red colur)
12 grams mustard seeds
40 grams tamarind
1/2 of one small cube jaggery ( about 1 heaped tablespoon jaggery powder)
5-6 sprigs curry leaves
2 grams of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Oil as required to roast the chillis (I have omitted that and dry roasted all the ingredients)

Her post elaborates with many tips to do this. I have just roasted each ingredient, save the jaggery, on a very low flame and separately until the dhals and copra are golden, the chillis are brittle and the tamarind also is dry enough. i use a non stick utensil so the tamarind did not stick to the pan, However, I usually roast the tamarind also in my regular hindalium pan and over a gentle heat it will roast well .
Cool the roasted ingredients. Pulse the dhals, chillis, curry leaves, salt and mustard seeds gently to a powder. Add the copra and the jaggery and pulse on the lowest speed of the blender inching short pulses lest the copra oozes oil and the powder becomes sticky.
Transfer to a flat dish from the jar of the blender and cool.  Store in airtight containers.
Serve as accompaniment with dosas and idlis.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Neither wasted nor saved for another day" for Black and White Wednesday

Walking down the Avenues of New York, I spotted this sign. The restaurant believes in a noble cause of feeding the homeless. The food that is cooked for guests, but is in excess on a particular day is distributed to the homeless around the city the same day.
Isn't it wonderful?

This picture is for Susan's Black and White Wednesday event hosted this Wednesday at Sara's Corner.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flavours for your drink - Black and White Wednesday

Waiting long hours inside the terminal to board your flight leaves you with plenty of time to kill. And to beat boredom coffee or tea or a drink and a book will help. additionally if you had a camera on hand, you might also be doing what I have been doing....shooting anything your eyes find fascinating.
I loved these bottles that hold many flavours to be added to the many coffees or cappuccinos that are served at Starbucks.

And the regular and most preferred toppings in these tiny bottles.

These pictures are for Susan's Black and White Wednesday event  featured in Siri's  Cooking with Siri this week.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Varuththa rasam podi and thakkali rasam

If I were asked what my idea of comfort food is, I would most certainly say rasam and rice with vendaikkai vadhakkal kari. Thus I always want to try different recipes for the rasam powder. Though many a times it will be the rasam powder listed in the naagaiyanallur rasam recipe, I have a few others that I make in rotation. one such powder is the varuththa rasam podi, adapted from S.Meenakshi Ammal book, modified slightly to add some more flavour and nutrition.

Rasam is staple in many households in Southern India . And there is so much variety in the recipe that we can go on for few days without having to repeat the same recipe. It can be had as a thin soup or mixed with steamed rice. Many a times we add so much more rasam than to mix with the rice that we eat the rice and then lift the plate and drink the rasam. That is why i said it is my idea of comfort food.

Since the ingredients are well roasted prior to being powdered, the rasam need not be boiled for long for the raw taste of the powder to subside. And I mainly use it in tomato rasam or the lemon rasam where the tamarind extract is used minimally or not used at all. Thus the rasam will be ready in just about 15 minutes.

Varuththa rasam podi:
2 cups dry red chillis
3/4 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup thuvar dhal
1 /2 cup black pepper corns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon horse gram lentils
4 tablespoons curry leaves
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons cooking oil

Heat the oil in a pan and toss the dry red chills until they are brittle.
Remove and keep aside in a large tray to cool.
Dry roast separately the rest of the ingredients on a medium flame without burning them.
As you remove from the pan transfer each into a plate other than the one you have the chillis in.
When all the ingredients have attained room temperature, they are ready to be powdered.
First transfer the chillis alone in mixer and powder to achieve an almost fine powder.
Then add the rest of the ingredients and powder further until the powder is well blended and nearly fine.
Allow to cool and store in airtight containers.

Thakkali Rasam:
3 large tomartoes
a very small piece of tamarind ( about the size of  a cherry fruit)
1/4 cup thuvar dhal 
2  teaspoons varuththa rasa podi (the above recipe)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste

1 teaspoon ghee for tempering
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
Few sprigs curry leaves
Fresh coriander leaves

Wash the dhal clean. Add sufficient water to the same and the turmeric powder.
In a bowl place the tomatoes and the tamarind. Place this bowl in the pressure cooker while the dhal is being pressure cooked. The dhal should be cooked until very soft so that we can mash the same very smooth.
When the pressure inside the cooker has subsided, remove the dhal and add more water to it. Mash the same and keep aside.
Peel the tomatoes and puree them along with the tamarind roughly  using your hand.
Add about 1/2 cup water to the tomato puree, the salt and the rasam powder.
Bring the same to a boil and allow to simmer for just about two to three minutes.
Add the mashed dhal to the simmering contents. Allow to boil for a few minutes and take off the heat.
In a pan heat ghee and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to crackle and then add the cumin seeds and just before taking off the heat add the asafoetida powder.
Transfer this to the rasam.
Garnish with fresh curry leaves and coriander leaves.

You may choose to retain a few cubes of tomato and add to the rasam while the pulp is being simmered.

Keep the rasam covered until ready for use to lock the flavours in.
Enjoy warm with steamed rice and vegetable of choice.