Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Flower tea for Black and White Wednesday

A friend gifted me a pack of Flower tea, bursting with flavours from the ingredients therein. Here's the picture of the tea being infused.

Cindystar currently hosting Susan's Black and White Wednesday event, hosts this 150th week special edition. This picture is being sent for the same.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Vanilla Flavoured Maida Burfi - Deepavali Bakshanam

Activity around any festival is by itself a thrill to experience. Deepavali being one of the widely celebrated festivals and one of the grand occasion, our homes are abuzz with preparations. Different kinds of sweet dishes and savoury crisp dishes are made on a week long process, in huge numbers. There is so much joy in cooking them and sharing with neighbours and friends.
Years ago, we used to get back from school in anticipation of seeing filled stainless steel and brass cylinders filled to the brim with bakshanams. As we only had the tradition of having the 'Ganga snaanam', namely the oil bath, wearing new clothes and cracking fireworks then, there were no special prayers. So we were allowed to taste and munch on all the dishes, as and when they were made, in my mother's kitchen.
These days, living in far away lands, I try to observe the tradition to the best of my ability. Though I hardly have someone to share with, I make a few dishes, in much lesser quantities. This year too, I had made a list of dishes to be made. It was an extra special deepavali, being the first for our daughter after her marriage, earlier this year.
My daughter wanted to try her hand, in her kitchen, making some of them. She wanted me to guide her with them. To be very sure and to pass on proper measures and procedures, I made them at home, ahead of her, took pictures and messaged her in detail. She followed the same and was very happy with her attempts. Over skype conversations and demonstrations, we discussed her list of dishes. She made thirattuppaal  taking instructions from my mother, and badam halwa from the blog.
One of the sweets I tried to make it easy for her was the vanilla flavoured maida burfi. There is already the rose flavoured maida cake in my list. She is not fond of rose flavour and opted for the vanilla flavoured one instead. I altered the procedure a little bit, making it easier. The recipe below is that I sent to her to try. She was happy to have made them and I ticked one sweet dish off in my list.

Vanilla Flavoured Maida Burfi


200 ml plain flour/ All purpose flour/ maida

200 ml ghee melted

450 ml sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

150 ml water to dissolve sugar

2 teaspoons ghee to grease the jelly pan


Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a heavy bottomed pan, add the flour and over a very low flame roast it for about  5-7 minutes.
Transfer to a flat large dish and allow it to cool. Once it has come to room temperature, add 100 ml of the ghee to it and mix well. Break tiny lumps that may form with the back of the ladle.
Take this mixture to the pan and cook over a low flame until the mixture is a bit frothy. This may take about 5 minutes. Transfer this to a bowl. Keep aside.
Rinse the pan and place the sugar and water in it. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat. Dissolve the sugar and continue boiling  to make a syrup.
The correct consistency of the syrup to be achieved can be tested by dropping a small quantity in a little water. If the syrup flattens and holds, but is not rolling to a soft ball while rolled, then the right consistency is achieved.
Now bring the heat to the lowest and add in the flour - ghee mixture into the syrup.
Stir constantly and cook the mixture. Add the rest of the ghee in small increments and incorporate it into the cooking mass. 
When the mixture is well cooked and almost done, it will have white foam around the edges and big bubbles appear towards the middle. It will leave the sides when stirred and very slowly get back.
At this point turn the heat off. 

Keep the pan on the stove and briskly stir the mix until it is thickened enough to pour from the pan to the greased jelly pan in a uniform smooth, but thick batter that is almost like a loose dough.
(Ideally we take the pan off the stove and keep stirring strongly until the mass collects in a soft ball dough. I kept it on the hot stove with the fire off and stirred.)
Once you have transferred the dough to the jelly pan, tilt the pan a little to level the mix. Grease the back of a ladle, or a banana leaf and smoothen the top. The ghee will bring the extra glaze needed to this top surface also.Allow the mix to cool a little bit and while still warm, make cuts with a knife.
Let it cool completely before removing the pieces from the jelly pan.

The above recipe makes 25 numbers of 11/2 inches squares that are about 1/2 an inch in thickness.
This is slightly on the sweeter side in taste, that is how we like them. If you do not want them as sweet, reduce the sugar about two table spoons, but not more.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rich Tomato Soup

I have lived in this country for the past nineteen months but I am yet to figure out the weather. It has been unpredictable and while the sun shines bright all day one day, we have overcast skies the next. It rained so heavily the other day that the weather was crisp. On such days one might just want to get cozy with a hot cup of tea and  a book. Cooking even the regular four or five dishes meal seems elaborate. I would love to settle for a hot soup and something very light to keep me filled.
After feasting on the neivedhyams - specially prepared and offered dishes through navarathri, we were taking it easy with lighter meals. Then Deepavali followed soon and it was again time for some rich sweets and savoury dishes.The crisp weather only called for a soup warm and nice, making up a light meal.
On my visit to the market one particular weekend, I found some fresh looking tomatoes, some ripe and some very green. I could not resist purchasing those. Thus, with a basket load of tomatoes, that was in excess of our regular consumption, I had to use them up, before they loose that freshness.
I have not added any butter or cream to call it rich, but it is rich in flavours and is Omega 3 rich. So I decided to add the adjective to the soup.

Rich Tomato Soup
Serves 2 fairly big servings

5-6 Fresh, ripe, medium sized tomatoes
3 shallots
1/2 of a carrot
1 tablespoon cubes of beetroot
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon flax seeds
2 walnuts
1/2" piece cinnamom
1/2 teaspoon shredded ginger
1 clove
1/2 a bay leaf
1 cardamom slightly crushed
Salt as required

Wash the tomatoes and place them in a large bowl with water to cover the tomatoes. Boil them for about 4 to 6 minutes.
Remove from the heat, drain the excess water and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the peel and coarsely chop them.
Toss the shallots in some oil on heat for a few minutes until they are softened and acquire a shine.
Steam the carrot and beetroot and when they are soft, add to the tomatoes. Blend them to a puree along with the shallots and strain the puree.
Dry roast the flax seeds and sunflower seeds lightly and crush coarsely along with the walnuts.
Place the ginger,clove. bay leaf, cinnamon, and cardamom in a muslin cloth and tie it up securely.
In a pan place the olive oil and add the powdered seeds mix. Toss them around for half of a minute, drop the muslin with the condiments inside. Pour the vegetable broth and add the salt.  Allow this to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes and remove the muslin out.
Add the blended tomato puree in. Adjust the liquid level by adding more broth or water, if required.
Let the soup simmer until desired consistency is reached.

Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
Serve hot.
No Croutons Required Event, co-hosted by Lisa and Jacqueline is now happening - October 2014 edition, at Tinned Tomatoes. This soup is to be packed for the same.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Varagarisi Badham Payasam - Kodo Millet and Almond Payasam

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

Kodo millet and almond payasam
Varagarisi Badham Payasam

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


¼ cup kodo millet/ varagu arisi

10-12 numbers almonds whole

½ cup powdered jaggery

1 cup first extract of coconut milk

Cardamom powder, nutmeg powder for flavouring

Almonds and cashews toasted in a little coconut oil for garnish


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

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

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

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

Serve warm or chilled. 

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pottukadalai Urundai

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

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

Little coconut oil/ ghee to grease your palms

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

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