Sunday, September 30, 2012

Quinoa moar kanji

I usually pack the breakfast for my husband as he leaves early to work and he would send the driver to collect his lunch later. Few days that he would need the car at his disposal he would suggest that I pack his lunch too however light that may be, sometimes an extra helping of what was packed for breakfast goes into the box. Many of our dishes are quite filling and thus an extra quantity will suffice for the lunch too.
On such days I cook for myself some millet kanji and a bowl of vegetable or some salad. Recently having tried quinoa and liking it very much, my salads have become a complete meal with it. Yesterday there was an emergency at work and he had a call at 5 in the morning. I had just enough rawa dosai batter to make him two dosais before he left to inspect the accident in the port. I had to think of an option for my breakfast and was wondering if I might use the millet flour. Then I checked the pantry to find powdered quinoa and that I wanted to try.

For the Janmashtami having made the staple aval neivedhyam with the aval laddoo, I had made quinoa and badam payasam. I decided to try a salted version for the breakfast and made the kanji with buttermilk and quinoa. For extra flavour I used the fresh green chillis and aome caraway seeds. Tempering with mustard seeds and curry leaves made it perfect. I patted myself on the back and reserved some of the kanji for my husband to taste. He liked it too, but would have wanted less of the caraway flavour.
Kanji is a semi solid soup like dish which can be had either sweetened or with salt. It is almost the equivalent of porridge. Many grains can be used to make this. Most of the households make this as breakfast substitutes or when a heavy meal is not an option.

2 tablespoons powdered quinoa
1/2 cup butter milk (beaten yoghurt)
2 fresh green chillis chopped
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon ghee
1 sprig of curry leaves
Salt to taste

I used pre-washed quinoa. Hence I run it a few minutes in the small jar of my mixer and powdered it to a fine consistency.
To 2 tablespoons of thick yoghurt add 1/2 cup of water and whisk to a butter milk consistency.
Add water to the powdered quinoa and salt and mix to a lump free batter.
Heat the ghee in a pan; to this add the mustard and caraway seeds. When the mustard crackles, add the chillis and the curry leaves. Sauté for a few seconds and then add the quinoa batter to it.
Cook the quinoa on a low flame stirring constantly until it thickens. Add sufficient water to cook the quinoa.
Finally add the buttermilk and stir very well. Allow to thicken to desired consistency.
Remove from the heat. And transfer to serving bowls.

I drink it up in a tumbler, but also like to sip with a spoon and enjoy it.

Now you may wonder what is with the photographs that there is a full white theme. I am sending this post to New photography and styling challenge -All White Theme happening in  Junglefrog Cooking.

Both of us at home love quinoa in our dishes and I try to add it in many recipes. I am sure I will bring many more recipes with the grain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Adding life to your food photos - an exercise in food photography

Many times when I take pictures of the food, I am almost alone at home and never have a chance to request someone to be my 'live prop' for the picture. I have seen that many bloggers take some beautiful pictures holding the bowl or a slice of cake and so on. I had seen on Flickr someone share a photo of a cake they baked for the child's 2 nd birthday with two of the tot's fingers on the cake indicating her age. Similarly I loved the picture in Soma's guest post in Namitha's page. I wished that I cooked something that delicious and took a picture as good too.
I have, however tried my stunts with adding life, as Aparna suggests this month for the exercise many times before too. I made the sugar syrup and wanted to show the consistency by pulling a small portion of it between my fingers, filling up the golgappe and some more. However, I was shooting mostly on automatic settings then. Now that I am slightly more confident to venture further and shoot manual, I find it hard to hold the camera with one hand and use the other as a prop. Trying to have the camera set on a tripod or a base does not seem to help when you are alone. I just do not seem to fix exactly how near or further I need to move to be in good focus.Thanks to the vary angle monitor and a fixed focal length lens, I tried some pictures for this exercise. Even then not to my satisfaction.
My husband suggested making golgappe when I was reading out the ingredients off a Haldirams packet of aloo bujiya to try making it at home. Thus I had a nice photo situation for the exercise. The seasonal rains and the permanent cloud cover plays spoil sport, yet I hoped that we will have enough natural light to take pictures when my husband is home after office.
I had the puris and the sev and the required accompaniments made and ready and even before he would want to try, I had him do the filling and shoot the pictures, much testing a hungry man's patience. Nonetheless, I have photos to share here.

 Lens Nikkor 35mm f/.8 @ 1/13 seconds,  f/3.5,  ISO 400

 Lens 35mmf/1.8  @ 1/15 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 400

The aloo bujiya recipe will have to wait for another post, but you may find the golgappe here.

The other picture I would like to share is that of the ellu poornam filled kozhukkattai which I made for the Ganesh Chathurthi and did so with the camera supported on a few books on the work table. I used the close focusing prime lens so that I can stand close and check my picture settings on the monitor.

 In clockwise rotation the pictures in the collage below have been taken with these settings

 1/25 seconds  f/2.5  ISO 250                                                      
 1/15 seconds  f/3.2  ISO 250
 1/8   seconds  f/3.2  ISO 250


You may notice that while the powdered filling has a good focus on the hand holding the spoon too, the other picture with the outer dough cups the focus has shifted to the cups and the hand is off focus.

And this last one is that of the syrup consistency taken with automatic settings.


I find adding a human touch interesting if done using that well as I mentioned in the beginning. Those two pictures specially had me very inspiring as were the oft viewed picture in Tongue Ticklers, those of Harini's Avarakkai poduthuval and Carrots, leek and zucchini soup.
I am hoping to reach there sometime with perseverance. But for now, I shall be happy if you found mine good enough to have posted for the exercise.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Koththumalli Thokku

Some herbs I might always want to keep stock are ginger, mint and coriander leaves. There are months through which coriander becomes rare to find in the market and I miss them then. I had a lush growth of mints in my back yard in Bur Said and noticed that my Egyptian neighbours will dry them and store the dried mints to use in many dishes. I have also done so and now I have a small quantity of dry mint in my pantry through the year. It keeps well like the fenugreek leaves and comes handy when you want to use them in tea or marinades. But I am not in luck with coriander leaves that way. however, whenever, they are in season I make sambharapuli, the dry chutney or the thokku and store for a good few months.
The years I lived in Egypt, many Indian groceries were hard to find, that I used to carry bulk quantities from home. Whoever visited would bring groceries for us. My sister brought with regular supplies a few Grand Snacks thokkus and podis also to use when we were out of home for a period. Reading the ingredients labelled therein we attempted to recreate them at home and with much success. I have tried, the karuveppilai thokku, thakkali thokku and the koththumalli thokku and stored them well also for a few months.
Coriander has many nutritional benefits, rich in antioxidants and  is good in cholesterol control. It is a store house of potassium,calcium, iron and more. They are rich in vitamin A, B and K also. They possess anti arthritic and anti rheumatic properties.

Now I find ample supply of fresh coriander leaves and purchase them so much that I have an excess supply of these than I will use in my day to day cooking. I made this thokku and have stored it. It stores well for upto three months. I store this in the fridge as I cook with lesser oil than usual. If a good volume of oil is added to the cooking, this stores well off the fridge also.

2 cups fresh coriander leaves
3 tablespoons/ 30 grams tamarind
15 - 20 dry red chillis (depending on the heat they impart and required)
salt to taste
1/3 cup gingelly oil
1 1/2 teaspoon roasted and powdered mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon roasted and powdered fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Wash the coriander leaves clean. Remove the leaves from stems. It will be better to use the tender of the stems that will enhance the flavour.
Spread the cleaned leaves on a cloth and allow to dry in the air for a few hours.
Tear the tamarind in small pieces and break the dry chillis in small pieces.
Place a fairly heavy bottom pan on the stove and on medium heat dry roast the fenugreek seeds until they turn a tinge of reddish brown. Cool and powder them.
Similarly dry roast the mustard seeds and powder them.
Then dry roast the salt and keep aside.
In the same pan, heat one tablespoon oil and roast the chillis well. Likewise, roast the tamarind pieces.
Allow all of these to cool and blend them along with the coriander leaves to a paste adding as less water as possible.
Remove the paste from the blender and with little water clean the adhering paste also.
In the same pan, heat the rest of the oil. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to crackle. Add the asafoetida and the paste. Cook this on a very low flame for a while. The oil will mix well in the paste initially and cook until the oil separates.

At this point, the thokku will leave the walls of the pan with ease and come off in a mass.
Switch off the stove and allow the thokku to cool.
Store in clean jar and use as required.
I mix this with rice and make coriander rice or mix it in shavige to make koththumalli sevai like the thengai sevai or the elumichcham pazham sevai.
This thokku also makes a good side for arisi upma or aval upma.

Siri is hosting the Haalo's Weekend Herb Blogging event Week 352 this week. This thokku is off to this event.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Potato Bread

Our college hostel had this routine of sorts for the breakfast served and it included bread with kurma once in two weeks. The bread was baked in their own bakery, just behind the sports area and whenever you passed by, delightful aroma from the bakes gave you the heady sensation. I have dreamed of baking bread since. I would learn to bake bread many years later only!
My neighbour in Johor, Malaysia was a good cook and never have I seen her squander on stuff that she can manage to make herself buy buying it from outside. Having to send her girls and husband across the border everyday to Singapore where they schooled / worked early in the morning, she worked her lunch box ideas by the mid morning. thus she would bake and part cook stuff through the morning.We were close friends and she decided to initiate me to her baking skills.
The apartment came with fitted ovens that were big enough to bake a few cakes /  loaves of bread at one go. In order not to waste power, she would suggest that we both baked on the sme day so we can use one of our ovens and I would only be happy to join her.
She has many books and well used notes on her baking experiments, few of which I have copied and tried often. When we moved to other countries, my microwave in convention mode helps me bake my bread. Though my baking experiments have become infrequent, I do refrain from buying bread.
Recently I joined a group of food enthusiasts on face book who cook with fervor. They baked awesome pistachio cakes few days ago and then they all wanted to showcase bread; any bread would be fine! I wanted to join in and I did with baking this bread.

I had this recipe from my above mentioned friend, but had not baked this bread till date. The reason, I think might be the caution I had written in bold - the first line of the recipe that too. It was a tip which said not to add milk or butter while mashing the ridiculous as it may sound, I am sure that I was apprehensive to try the recipe for this. Now was the time I decided to give it a try and I am glad that I did, finally. The bread is so soft from the potatoes and the crust is good too that you can slice it well.
I am unable to credit the original source for I am not sure if I copied from one of her baking books or her notebook only. However, the recipe is given verbatim as I had in my notebook, only that I halved the recipe to bake just one bread.


                                             Makes two 23x13 cm/9"x 5" loaves
Active dry yeast 20ml/ 4 teaspoon
Lukewarm milk 250ml/8 fl oz/1 cup
Potatoes (boiled) 225 grams/ 8 oz
(Keep aside 250 ml of the water in which you have cooked the potatoes)
Oil 30 ml/ 2 tablespoons
Salt 20 ml/ 4 teaspoons
Plain Flour 850 grams - 900 grams /3&1/2 to 4 cups
Sugar 1 teaspoon (not in the recipe, but I add to proof the yeast)

Combine yeast, sugar and milk in a large bowl and leave to dissolve and grow for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile mash the potatoes well. (read the * Caution*)
When the yeast is ready, add the mashed potatoes, oil and salt to it and mix them well.
Stir in the reserved water from boiling the potatoes to this and the flour in six alternate batches, mixing them in a stiff dough.
Knead till a smooth dough has been formed. lightly grease the bowl and transfer the dough to ti. Cover and leave to rise for an hour and a half or until the dough has doubled in volume.
After the first rise, punch the dough down and transfer back to the bowl to rise again for 40 minutes.
Grease two 23x 13 cm loaf tins.
Roll the dough into 20 small balls and place ten balls in one tin in two rows of five  each.
Leave again until the dough rises to the rim of the tin.
Pre heat the oven to 200 Degrees Centigrade/ 400 Degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake the bread for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 190 degrees and bake for a further 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove and cool on wire racks.

Though I do not understand why the dough has to be rolled in balls and placed inside the loaf tin, I did like the shape of the bread which reminds you of the pav.

The sesame seeds on the top are my addition to the bread and are purely optional.
My loaf tin was smaller in dimensions and thus I had to fit the dough in and made eight balls only instead of ten. The flour measure may vary slightly but do not add beyond the 900 grams. I could do with 850 grams and small amount for dusting the board while punching the dough.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Aval Ladoo for Janmashtami

 Friendship has been beautifully dealt in our greatest epics. The examples are of  the bonding that were created by Sri Rama with the boatman Guha,  the monkey chieftain Sugreeva and even the sibling of the enemy whom he was battling with. The Mahabharatha points the friendship of  Karna with Duriyodhana. The former fought the battle on his friend's side even after having indicated that the opponents were his brothers, and knowing well that he was on the side of evil.
Likewise the Bhagavatham emphasizes Sri Krishna's love for His friends irrespective of  status. It is a well repeated story that Sudhama went to seek the King of Dwaraka's help for a living. He was so poor that his wife had pounded the last few handful of rice to aval/ poha/ beaten rice to offer. It is a norm that you do not go empty handed to visit God, saints and superiors. Thus Sudhama carried in his tattered upper cloth some aval to offer to his friend, and the All-knowing Krishna had granted him riches against each small portion that He consumed.
Every year for Sri Krishna Janmashtami it is a prctice to offer something prepared with beaten rice to the Lord in line with this.

I try to change the dish with the aval and prepare the rest of the goodies every time. This year I had a small quantity of the thick variety hand pounded aval from home. I intended to use that and made this for the neivedhyam. Though I celebrated the birth of Krihna last month, it happens to be celebrated tomorrow also as indicated in the calender. So I decided to share the aval ladoo that I made then.

The aval had some dust as it was almost getting over and hence I undertook a long drawn procedure of washing it and drying for hours and then roasting with some ghee before  pounding it. You may skip all of the cleaning process and just roast and pound if you do not want to labour with your aval. Usually, it is clean or tossing once or twice in a winnow will help clean it.


2 cups aval/ poha/ beaten rice (thick variety)
2 cups sugar
10-15 cardamoms (peeled and seeds pounded)
1/2  cup ghee
3 tablespoons ghee for roasting
2 tablespoons ghee roasted broken cashew nuts

Clean the aval as indicated. (by tossing it and removing the sand dust, scum, husk etc.)
It is best to roast the aval in small portions at a time to evenly roast it without charring.
Heat a small amount of ghee reserved for roasting and add a portion of aval to it. Roast evenly until the aval puffs slightly and has a tinge of red.
Transfer to a flat dish allowing it to cool.
Repeat until the entire quantity has been roasted.
Pulse the roasted aval in the mixer to a nearly fine powder, not very fine. The coarse powder gives a nice crunch to the ladoo.
Powder the sugar very fine. And have the cardamoms powdered.
Mix the sugar and cardamom to the aval powder well. Add the roasted cashew nuts,
Divide in four parts.
Take quarter the quantity of the measured ghee and heat it to slightly warm. Pour the ghee on one part of the aval mix. Stir briskly and make balls out of small portions.
To make strong and well rounded balls, cup your palm and place the mix. Gently press this with the fingers of the other hand all the while rotating the mass around. If you roll and press evenly the balls will hold good shape and will not crumble with light pressure.
Once done with one portion, heat some ghee for the next batch. Thus the entire ladoos can be done in batches.
It is important to do in batches as the mixture should be warm to roll the balls. Once cooled the mixture will not gather and will crumble.


If desired you may add some coconut also, but that has to be roasted also to remove moisture.
This quantity will make about 60 aval ladoos. I had made with 200ml aval and proportionate ingredients. I got 12 pieces.

The aval pulsed to fine semolina consistency will make the ladoo crunchy while not too dry to choke you.
This was my neivedhyam and we liked the taste and texture. Since I made such small quantity, we had it over four days (as there were other stuff too). 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Milagai gojju

When we were in school, we had rice three times a day. A typical morning would start with a glass of milk and just before leaving for school, since part of cooking would be ready, we ate rice with the vegetable and rasam and thayir (curds). Lunch was again a repeat of the breakfast with an additional vegetable dish and sambhar, rasam and curds if you came home during lunch hour. Else your lunch box would have been packed with the dishes you had for breakfast.
Tea time snacks were sometimes heavy that most nights we ate just rice with buttermilk.
It was much later during my college years that we had a 'tiffin' in the morning, and most likely carried the same for lunch. And the lunch box invariably was raided during the second hour of class by friends. Many days I have found an empty box in my desk and sometimes few friends were generous to buy us something from the canteen.
Holidays at our grand parents' place was a mandatory 'pazhaya sadham' and thayir with choice of sides. They would see to that there was rice left over when they cooked for the night. The choices of sides for the curd and rice were pickles galore and thenga podi, some thogaiyal etc. One of those were this milagai gojju, always cooked in the kachchatti and saved in the same. The gojju is a blend of flavours, the heat from the green chillis taking the prominance in the tamarind sauce with a hint of sweetness from some jaggery added to it.

It was not one of my favourites though, because I would opt for the thogaiyal or podi usually.
I was reminded of this gojju when I spotted nice and healthy looking green chillis at the vegetable shop, as it is  rare to find such fresh produce. Most days I may have to sift through the basket to pick passable as good chillis. I picked just about 50 grams of the chillis and made this gojju.
It tastes great as a side dish for dosais and adai or with arisi upma and such.


50 grams/ 15 in number fresh green chillis
30 grams / 1/4 cup (loosely packed) tamarind
15 grams/ 1 tablespoon powdered jaggery
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup sesame seeds oil
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2-3 sprigs curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon rice flour

Wash the green chillis and cut them in fairly long pieces.
Soak the tamarind in water and extract a thick pulp. I usually soak the tamarind and run it in the blender and strain it.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to splutter and then add the cut chillis and curry leaves. Sauté the chillis  for a few minutes and transfer to a dish. I think it is usually cooked in the tamarind during the whole process. That makes it very hot and spicy. So I kept the chillis in reserve to be added after reducing the tamarind pulp to a thick sauce - like consistency. If you can take the heat, try cooking the chillis along with the tamarind.
In the same pan, add a few more teaspoons of oil and pour the tamarind extract. Add the salt, turmeric powder and the asafoetida. Cook on a low heat until the tamarind cooks well and the pulp is thick. Add the rest of the oil in intervals so the sauce does not stick to the bottom and walls of the pan.
Add the powdered jaggery and cook further until the raw taste subsides.
Add the sauté-ed chillis and curry leaves.
To thicken the sauce, mix the rice flour with a little amount of water and add to the simmering pulp.
Allow them to come together and switch off the heat.
Transfer to a clean bowl.

This will stay at room temperature for four days and if refrigerated and handled carefully will stay good for over a week. Beyond that the taste will vary.

Serve this gojju with dosai, adai and upma. It tastes great with arisi upma kozhukkattai or with curd rice.