Monday, September 29, 2014

Eggless Chocolaty Chocolate Cake

It was my son-in-law's birthday few days ago. My daughter had been planning to bake his cake for him.She looked up different recipes, on the internet, in books and kept talking about that whenever we spoke to her. She wanted to be confident about baking the cake while she also wanted it to be a decorated one. I was of no help and only pointed to more blogs that sported nice looking cakes. I bake cake once in a blue moon and even those are nothing to boast about.
The one cake we are both very confident about showing as a decent one is this eggless cake with condensed milk. Then finally, she decided that she would use this recipe as her basic cake recipe, and work small alterations and bake the cake. Again, I could only, keep my fingers crossed that the cake will not fail. My fears were unwarranted; she baked it fine and did her glazing too pretty good. She was very excited with her cake that though she was aware of the time difference, she kept posting the pictures for us to see through the telephone. The next day, when we called to wish for the birthday, she promised to take pictures and send them to me with the recipe, which she told, I might want to blog. She did so promptly and I have been otherwise caught up in the festivities of Navarathri that I could not devote time to write about it. I would let it until too late, if I did not push myself to write that now.
It is her interest to try new things that is impressive. Her cooking experiments are well received and she sounds very happy that she can put good food on the table even when they have guests. I am thankful for all the blogs that she takes help from.
I am sharing here the mail that my daughter sent to me and the pictures are hers.

Eggless Chocolaty Chocolate Cake
Basic recipe can be read here:

Eggless chocolate cake  

 Mukund’s Birthday cake baked by Niki

Here's the cake! It's the same recipe as our eggless cake with a few additions. I'm typing it out here, if you want to blog it.
Makes one 9" round cake
All purpose flour - 200 grams
Unsweetened cocoa - 50 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
Soda  pop - 200 millelitres
Butter - 100 grams
Condensed milk - 1 tin (approx. 14 oz)
Vanilla essence - 2 teaspoons
Preheat oven to 350F/180C
Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda - set aside
In a big mixing bowl, add butter, vanilla essence and condensed milk, and beat till well mixed.
Add to this mixture, soda pop and sifted dry mixture alternatively, beating well after each addition.
Pour into a greased 9" round baking tin and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes (till skewer comes out clean)
For the glaze: (this is a Martha Stewart recipe)
4 oz of semi dark chocolate, chopped/broken to shards) - I just used Dairy Milk Royal Dark chocolate
3 tbsp butter cut into small pieces
1 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp honey (instead of the originally given light corn syrup)
Put chocolate and butter in a bowl and heat over a pan of simmering water, mixing gently until it is melted.
Once melted, add milk and honey and mix well
Use immediately, to glaze the completely cooled cake.
Decorate with maraschino cherries.

Enjoy the extra chocolaty chocolate cake with your loved ones.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pagash Pizza - We Knead to Bake 21

Last month members of the We Knead to Bake group posted many interesting filled and decorated savoury breads. We were given a free hand to choose and work around the chosen recipe. This month again, Aparna was not able to work on a recipe, she chose that we bake Pizza. This is what she said:
"So here's what we are going to do for September. Let's bake some PIZZA!
I'm sure a lot of us bake them at home regularly, so let's do something different. Find a recipe (and adapt or create one) and bake a pizza (sweet or savoury is your choice) that's out of your comfort zone, or different from what you usually make.
Get creative with the base, or/ and the toppings."
Well, there was a time I did not know what pizza was nor did I realise that so many variety of cheese can be. But then, pizzerias were not around anywhere in India back then.The closest to cheese we had ever has was hung curd and curdled milk that was home made. Later also, it took me a long while to get myself to try a cheese laden pizza. I would load my salad plate and excuse myself from sharing the portions of pizza. There was again a time, when we walked into Pizza Hut, Bur Said, many evenings for their garden fresh pizza. Now, when holidaying in India we are comfortable ordering them with the variety of Indian flavour toppings. That is so much for the relationship I have with pizza. Thus, I was stumped, that I have to bake my own. I could not put up the Calzone again. I had made them earlier for the same group bread baking.
I read recipes and more through the first week and still had not zeroed in on a recipe to try. Meanwhile, that members were already showcasing their efforts on the group's page, added to my misgivings. Then out of the blue I searched 'Polish Pizza'!
I joked with my husband that I thought of  Polish pizza because one of his business associates who lives there reads my blog. He had been generous to buy and carry me stuff across the seas during his visits to here. Whatever my reasoning, I was happy that I found Pagach/ Pagash ( pronounced: pah- gosh).
Pagach originated in Eastern Europe, though it is not clear whether it was Poland, Slovakia or anywhere else. Pagach is a delicious dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available. Most pointers go towards Slovakia and Poland. Think of it as peirogi in pizza dough. It is a lenten recipe, thus meatless with a potato or cabbage filling.The layers of potato and simple cheese filling make this simple dish very delicious.
Pagach is also made as a covered pizza, more like a pie. 
In this recipe I have chosen not to make it covered. That would have been too much for just two of us. I read some suggestions that along with potatoes in the filling, onions and tomatoes could be added. An open pizza would be a good way to show those off. I kept my filling simple and less than what I had seen on many sites. I liked it that it could use any kind of cheese; I used hung curd cheese and just for the topping cream cheese spread, which were both good on this pizza. I put my potatoes in the oven to roast a bit and caramelised the onions, added some rosemary, thyme and paprika for the herbs.

Pagash or Pagach Pizza:
Adapted partially from Lenten Pagach - Mince +Dice and
Polish Vegetarian pizza Recipe @ About Food

Recipe for pizza crust from my notes hurriedly scribbled from some book or television show.

This recipe makes TWO  9" thick crust pizza
For Pizza crust:
200 grams/ 360 ml/ 1 and1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
11/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
Corn meal or semolina for dusting
Extra olive oil for applying on the bowl and the baking dish

For the topping:
2 numbers medium size bake variety potatoes

2 large tomatoes
1 large red onion
2/3 cup curd cheese ( by hanging 1 and 1/2 cup home set curd to remove the water)
Seasonings as per choice (I have used paprika, rosemary, thyme, and oregano)
1/3 cup cream cheese
Few basil leaves and pitted olives

Wash and scrub the potatoes clean. Make small, deep cuts and fill in some salt and seasoning into them.
Whisk a little curd and apply a marinade.
Keep for about half an hour. Place them in an aluminium foil wrap bake them in a pre heated 180 degrees C oven for about 20 minutes. place a bowl half filled with warm water under the tray to allow some steam to cook.

Remove and keep ready by slicing the potatoes in  thin, semi circular discs.
Slice the onions in big chunks and place them in a pan with little oil and some salt. Allow them to sauté and caramelize.

Slice the tomatoes in circles and keep aside.
Now make the crust for the pizza.
Add 2 teaspoons sugar to the yeast in a bowl and add warm water. cover and proof the yeast.
In the bowl of you mixer/ or any bowl if you choose to knead by hand, mix the flour and salt.
Add the yeast mixture and knead until a soft, elastic but sticky dough has been achieved. Add the oil and knead further until well incorporated. The dough will still be slightly sticky.
Roll it in a ball and place it in an oil coated bowl, turning the dough all over in the oil to coat it. Cover and allow the dough to double in volume, for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down gently. Divide in two equal portions.
Work with one portion while the other is kept well covered. 

Keep the pan ready by applying some oil on its surface and sprinkling with cornmeal or semolina all over it. There shall be enough of the dusting that the pizza will slide out of the pan and not stick to it.
Dust the working surface with flour. Press your palms on the flour to coat them just a bit.
Work the dough with your hands and fist turning it around all the while stretching it outwards.
If the dough gets sticky, place it on the dusted surface, dust your fist and palms and work again.
If this would be too much, you may roll the dough in a circle of  9 inches in diameter.
Place the rolled out dough on the prepared pan.
Whisk the curd cheese to make it spreadable. Spread it lightly over the base.
Place the bakes potato uniformly over it. Top it with the caramelized onions. Place the tomato slices over these.

Sprinkle seasoning as required and spread the cream cheese on top.
Pre heat the oven to a high 250 degrees C.
Bake the pizza for about 7- 9 minutes until the cheese on top browns ever so lightly.
Remove from the oven and serve hot.

I chose to bake an open pizza and thus there were two pizzas for me. If you bake a covered pagash, the second half will make the covering. This quantity of dough and all of the filling within makes a heavily laden pizza. We wanted to have a lighter one and opted to bake two. I reserved one portion of the dough for later use. I have made a ball of it, doused it in oil generously and put in in a zipper locked plastic bag in the freezer. This will stay well in the freezer for upto three months. 
The extra on the potatoes and the onions were used in other dishes.
This is a thick crust pizza that is soft and will suffice for a meal with all the toppings. Pair it with some nice salad to serve for a hearty meal.

Please check out what pizzas have been brought to you by going through the members' pages.

Pagach is a delicious Slovak dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available to the Slovak people who made the best with what they had. Pagach is a great dish to serve at a buffet as it can be sliced like a pizza. Pagach makes a very satisfying meal and the filling can be customized to suit your tastes.

Read more :
Pagach is a delicious Slovak dish that originated with the simple ingredients that were available to the Slovak people who made the best with what they had.

Read more :

Friday, September 19, 2014

Adai - A Basic Version and Kunukku with Left Over Batter

"You do not have a recipe for adai", my daughter told me over a skype chat. "I have, and here is the link", I said in my defense and sent her the link to paruppu adai. "Oh, but this is such a fancy one, I do not know most of those ingredients besides their name, isn't there a simple version, a normal adai?" Now, that was an eye-opener. I used to think it was not of much interest to read something so regular. But, did I even forget that the very idea of writing this blog initially, was to aid her to make her meals with ease and hassle free.
I make adai, as many of us do. I have thrown in ingredients on a whim, I have added every vegetable that would work in the mix and also specially ground extra batter to make the favourite snacks with left over batter. Recently, I even achieved making the ready to make powdered mix for my husband. Yet, I did not think, it was good enough to write a post. I think, now.
Adai is such a versatile dish that it can absorb any grain, millet and legumes you fancy and still turn out good. The simplest version is with rice and fewer legumes, spiced with chillis and if you like it, ginger and made in a thick crepe. Often a blob of butter and a spoon of powdered jaggery will suffice as accompaniments for this. Pair it with avial, you have eaten a heavy meal.
I like them thick and the batter patted by hand on the iron skillet, gingelly oil/ ghee smeared a little generously and cooked until golden on one side and just about turning golden on the other side after flipping. My husband likes his with the watered down batter made into crepes that are not so crisp. Thus the adai can be custom made to suit your preferences.


Makes 15 thick adais (or fewer adais and a left over batter for kunukku)
1&1/2 cup idli rice
1/3 cup urad dhal
1/3 cup thuvar dhal
1/3 cup channa dhal
5 dry red chillis
3 fresh green chillis
1 and 1/2 inches piece ginger (optional)
Salt as required
Oil for cooking the crepes

Wash and rise well the rice and lentils clean. Soak them together in some water for about four hours.
Grind the soaked mix along with the chillis to a coarse and slightly thick batter. Add the salt and mix well.
You may adjust the water to get the desired consistency. If you plan to keep the batter for kunukku later, it is advisable to have a thick batter that has a dropping consistency. Keep aside the required quantity for the kunukku and adjust water to the rest of the batter.
Adai can be made soon after not waiting for the batter to ferment though personally I prefer that a wait for a few hours gives soft adais.
When ready to cook, place a heavy griddle/ skillet on fire. When the skillet is hot, scoop out a handful of batter and drop it on the skillet, pat it out in a thick circular crepe with your hand or spread using a ladle.
Smear a generous amount of oil around the adai. Also make small perforations in few spots using the sharp edge of the flipper and add some oil there. Cook the adai on a medium flame until the bottom side is golden. Flip to the other side and cook for a few minutes.

Serve hot with jaggery and butter or with a vegetable stew like avial.

Kunukku with left over batter:

Serves 2 people sumptuously for an evening snack.

1 cup left over adai batter
2 tablespoons dry and coarsely ground rice (ground to semolina consistency)
Two sprigs curry leaves
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
1/3 cups chopped shallots or red onions (optional)
Oil for deep frying

To serve with:
Coriander and mint chutney/ coconut chutney
Tomato sauce

Add the rice powder to the adai batter and mix. Adjust the rice powder to make a dough that can be held with the hand and dropped in the oil.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the above.
Heat oil in a pan and when the oil is hot, take a chunk of batter, pinch out small portions and drop them gently in the oil.
Deep fry in small batches until they are fried until golden and done. Remove them from the oil with a slotted ladle, draining as much oil possible.
Transfer to a dish lined with kitchen tissues to drain anymore excess oil.
Repeat until entire batter is done.
Serve with any chutney and sauce.

Ideally for kunukku, a mix of raw rice and idli rice soaked and ground with the dhals in a 2:1 (rice:dhal) ratio works well.
I keep some stored Kunukku mix in my pantry to make kunukku for an occasional evening snack. Today's kunukku is a softer version of the earlier crisp snack.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vengaya Sambhar made with Koli Masala

There is more than just a few sessions of FOCUS FOOD BLOGGING, goodies that filled bag loads
(for which I paid excess fare to carry home), two days of fun, food and wonderment that the IFBMeet gave me. I got to connect with people whom I share common interest with. Some of them I had known, others not even on networking platforms; all of whom only through their respective blogs.
I had known Anjali through her blog Annaparabrahma,  and through friends who had her on their list of friends. We had not been introduced even virtually, until few messages that were on a group chat in connection with the Meet at Bangalore, and arrangements for our stay during the period. I met her at the serviced apartments with other friends. It was an immediate connect with her. Through the two days, I observed that she was very committed to her goal and took in all of the sessions with a seriousness of a student. The IFBM just whizzed by and we were saying our goodbyes; that is then she handed me a bulky packet of her home made masala that wafted an aroma through the packing. That was the koli masala that she makes and distributes through her e-shop.

This is a fine compound of 18 spices in certain specific proportions that are ground together; it has a heady aroma and adds such good flavour to curries. I believe it is a basic masala they add to fish curries and such, while Anjali being vegetarian has posted more vegetarian dishes using the masala. I had actually read up her recipes and recreate a dish, but then I was also raring to try giving my regular dishes an added twist. The outcome of such an idea is this vengaya sambhar.
I have never before used sambhar powder or any powder in my vengaya sambhar. I may add an extra spice, sometimes ginger, sometimes cloves, yet grind fresh for the sambhar and no compromise on that for the vengaya sambhar. Then there has to be a first for anything and I chose to try cooking my vengaya sambhar with the Koli masala. I am happy with the choice that we enjoyed the flavour packed, pungent with browning shallots and the subtle sweet from the coconut milk, that I had added to it.

Vengaya  Sambhar made with Koli masala and Coconut milk
Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup (120-125 ml) thuvar dhal/ split yellow lentils
1 tablespoon tamarind -tightly packed
200 grams shallots/ chinna vengayam/ sambhar onions/ Madras onions
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1&1/2 teaspoon Koli Masala
1/3 cup coconut milk, made slightly thin with addition of a little water
2 tablespoons sesame seeds oil/ gingelly oil (any cooking oil)
Salt to taste

For Tempering:
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves

Rub a few drops oil over the shallots to make it easy to peel them. Peel the shallots.
Soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup of water for a little while. Squeeze out the pulp; add some more water and extract most of the pulp. You may repeat this to achieve more from the tamarind.
Wash the thuvar dhal and pressure cook adding the turmeric powder and sufficient water until very soft and almost mash-able. Allow to cool and mash coarsely.
Take the gingelly oil in a pan and heat it. Add the shallots and sauté until they turn pale and shining. Allowing them to brown just so little will add to the taste, but do not overdo that.
Add some water to the sautéed onions and cook them till slightly soft.
Add the tamarind extract, salt, and the koli masala and allow to simmer over medium heat to let the raw taste subside.
Add the cooked dhal, adjust the water and cook for 7 to 10 minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk, reduce the heat and allow the sambhar to thicken to required consistency.
In a separate pan heat the oil for tempering and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the curry leaves and toss for a few seconds. Temper the sambhar with the same.

Serve the sambhar with hot steamed rice, idlis and dosais as desired.
The combination of vengaya sambhar and urulai kizhangu roast kari (shallow fried spicy potato dry curry) is an unbeatable pair. Try them, you will sure enjoy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vazhai Poo Vadai - Banana Blossom Fritters

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lone banana tree in the far end of the house showed signs of bearing fruits. We have been here for 18 months, and the tree was just there adorning the garden, nothing much. The gardener has never tended to the plant and I have also not been very caring, other than slicing off leaves whenever I needed.
The Heavens above have been kinder to these and the plant is being forgiving of my neglect. Soon as I spotted the tiny leaf that sprouted, which will eventually shield the blossom and later fruits, I took a little more care of the plant. With so much neglect, I am grateful that there will be about twenty fruits on final count. Meanwhile, the blossom had started to drop a few layers indicating that it is ready for use and these will not become fruits. I do not know what variety of banana this would be nor did I know if the blossom will be good enough to cook. I removed it from the tree and it was a fresh and nice one. So I acted upon it quickly chopping the blossom.

There were many layers within that I have had to reserve half of it for later use. With the fresh first half I made these vadais. I had read two different recipes in two cookery books I have; however, when I did cook them, I followed neither of them; this one is a recipe that I mixed and matched ingredients from the lists in both, added some others on a hunch, and the resultant vadais turned out quite nicely. They were more kebabs/ cutlets textured, slightly crisp on the outside and a softer inside.

Vazhai Poo Vadai:
The following recipe yields 12 vadais 

1 cup chopped banana blossom *(cleaning and chopping tips given below)
1/4 cup roasted gram (pottukadalai/ porikadalai)
2 tablespoons channa dhal

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/3 cup fresh and grated coconut
1 medium red onion chopped finely
1"piece ginger chopped
4 numbers fresh green chillis chopped finely
3 dry red chillis
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Preparing the banana blossom: *(Cleaning and chopping)
The pink violet banana blssom is actually not a flower by itself. It contains many layers of neat rows of small yellow flowers. Each row is protectively covered by petals that change in colour from a deep pink to tender yellow as it gets closer to the core. 
This vegetable tends to have an astringent taste inclining towards bitterness, yet very delicious when cooked.
You might apply oil on your fingers and the knife, use a paper to protect your board unless you are prepared to work hard removing the black and sticky stain that the vegetable will leave behind.
Keep a bowl with water that has some curd / yoghurt mixed to it to drop the chopped vegetable in. The yoghurt prevents discolouring of the cut mass.
Remove first three to four layers of petals and the mature flowers on the top and discard.

The following inner layers hold many tiny flowers. Remove them gently and give a gentle brush on the top to open them up. You will spot the stamen in there. Pull it out from each of the flower. These may cause your end product to become bitter if left within.

Once the stamen has been removed, chop the remaining flowers and drop them in the bowl of water.
As you work deeper into the flower, the colour turns pale and yellow, the stamen is not as hard, still present. Remove them as many as you can. leaving a few of these inner most are okay as they do not taste bitter.
Keep the chopped blossom well immersed in water - yoghurt solution. They oxidize pretty quickly when exposed.
Once done with the chopping, rinse them thoroughly,in few changes of water. Place them in a cooking bowl with little water and turmeric powder, Steam until the vegetable is just about done. Drain the water and keep aside.
Meanwhile wash the channa dhal well and soak in water for about 30 minutes.
Reserve half of the chopped onions and green chillis to add to the batter later.
Take the soaked dhal, red chillis and roasted gram in the jar of the mixer-grinder and pulse to a coarse paste. Add to this, the steamed vegetable, ginger, coconut, the other half of onions, and green chillis.
Grind all of them together just until combined. Use water only if absolutely necessary. The resultant batter shall be rather stiff than soggy.
Transfer from the grinder jar to a bowl. Mix the onions, green chillis that you reserved earlier, salt, asafoetida, fennel seeds, chopped curry leaves and, chopped coriander leaves. Mix well whisking with your hand. The batter now will be thick enough to hold by hand and roll in a soft ball that can be flattened. It is alright if cracks appear as you flatten. Gently press the batter around the cracks and smooth them out.
Keep the oil for frying on the stove.
When the oil is hot, bring the heat to medium high and slide two or three of the flattened vadais in the oil.
Deep fry tossing them around in the oil until well done all over. Remove from the oil using a slotted ladle onto kitchen tissues to drain residual oil.

Serve paired with sauce or any preferred chutney. Though they are best eaten hot, they taste good consumed few hours later also. The kebab texture is more recognised when eaten later.
I personally like the vegetable cooked as paruppu usli combined with lentils, but these were surely a very welcome change to be consumed warm on a dull and wet with rain day.