Dryfruit Milk / Masala Doodh

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It is that time of the year again when I need to bake a cake – the husband’s birthday. I just realised that he is travelling every other year on his birthday and so this is only the third cake I am baking. The first few years were easy. We stayed with my in-laws and didn’t have an oven. Then we moved to Bangalore and I bought an oven and started this blog. The husband then started his dialogue – ‘You have an oven and a blog yet you don’t bake a cake for my birthday.’ How to explain to him that I bought the oven to bake bread not cake. So this has kind of become an annual ritual except for when he travels.

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Now baking cake and baking bread are two completely different things. But few people get that. Whenever I meet someone new and mention my baking and blog, the first thing they ask me is if I can bake a cake for them / someone they know. This is very similar to people asking me to file their tax returns when they hear I am a Chartered Accountant. It is very hard in both cases to explain that while it might seem similar, the stuff I do is very different from what they think I do. So I end up not mentioning either my profession or passion and now people think I am good for nothing. Life is tough!

I know that there is no connection between this and the dish for today. But one of the reasons I started the blog is to be able to rant about stuff. So there. Today’s dish is a simple and satisfying masala doodh. My default method was to warm the milk and mix the ground dry fruits to it and wonder why it does not taste similar to what I get in restaurants. When I had to pick a protein rich dish for this marathon, I figured it was time to explore the mystery of the masala milk and discover the secret behind the difference. Well, the secret, just like for most things, is simply more time and patience. And more sugar, but we shall ignore that.

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Protein – Pistachios and Almonds

Serves 2

Recipe from here

WHAT WE NEED

Milk                                     3 cups

Saffron                                a generous pinch

Cardamom powder          1/4 tsp

Nutmeg powder                a pinch

Almonds                             8

Pistachios                           8

Sugar                                   2-3 tbsp

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Boil the milk in a deep pan / vessel
  • Once it comes to a boil, simmer it for 12-15 minutes and stir frequently till the milk reduces in quantity and becomes slightly thick
  • While the milk is simmering, blanch the almonds and pistachios and peel the skin
  • Grind the two nuts to a coarse powder
  • Add the saffron, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and sugar to the milk and mix well
  • Simmer for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the almonds and pistachios and mix well
  • Serve warm or cold
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the mega marathon under the theme, ‘Protein Rich Dishes’.
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Peas Paneer Paratha

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Today we celebrated Janmashtami / Lord Krishna’s birthday. I know the rest of the country was done with this last month. But we have our own strange calendar which always schedules Janmashtami when no one else does. When we were kids, my brother and I were told that since God had too many places to visit on a single day, he gave us a after appointment in order to be able to spend more time with us rather than a hurried visit. We felt rather special hearing it. Today I found myself giving a similar explanation to my daughter when she wondered why we chose a different day for the festival. Is this how traditions are started?

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My dish for today is green peas paratha with paneer. My daughter loves paratha of any kind. In other words, if it is round and topped with ghee it can easily be named paratha and she would eat it. So as any mother would, I manage to stuff all kinds of vegetables in the parathas and she gobbles it up. Peas is not one of her favourites. So parathas are the perfect way for her to get all the protein from the peas. As for me, I seem to have a ‘P’ fixation of some sort. I love Peas, Paneer, Paratha, Pizza, Pasta, Panagam, Pongal, etc. Maybe I will eat all salads if they were renamed as Psalads like Psmith. 

This is the first time I measured out ingredients for the paratha to write this post else I always work on estimation. I have not added green chilies to parathas since it is for my 4 year old. But you can add some to the filling to raise the spice quotient.

Protein – Green peas and Paneer (Cottage Cheese)

Makes 6 medium parathas

WHAT WE NEED

For the dough

Whole wheat flour                     400 gms

Oil                                                   2 tsp

Salt

Water


For the filling

Green peas (fresh or frozen)        1/2 cup

Paneer / Cottage cheese                 150 gms

Red chilly powder                           1/4 tsp

Garam masala                                  1/4 tsp

Fresh coriander                                Few sprigs

Salt

Water

Ghee / clarified butter


WHAT TO DO

  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, oil and salt
  • Add water to make a soft dough. Set aside for 20 minutes
  • Heat 2 cups of water in a vessel and add the green peas
  • Cook for 6-8 minutes till it is completely cooked
  • Drain the water and set aside the peas
  • Grate the paneer and transfer it to a bowl
  • Mash the peas nicely and transfer it to the same bowl. If you want you can pulse the peas in a mixer to form a coarse paste
  • Finely chop the fresh coriander and add it along with salt, chilly powder and garam masala to the bowl
  • Mix all the ingredients for the filling together
  • Heat a tava 
  • Divide the dough and the filling into 6 parts each
  • Roll out one portion of the dough with a rolling pin
  • Keep one portion of the filling inside and bring the ends of the rolled out doug together and close it
  • Roll it out again carefully to ensure that the dough does not tear and filling does not come out
  • Transfer it to the tava and cook on one side
  • After a minute, turn it over and let it cook on the other side 
  • Once both sides are cooked, take it off the tava and brush it with some ghee
  • Repeat the same process with the rest of the dough and filling
  • Serve warm with curds or pickle
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the theme, ‘Protein Rich Dishes’.
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Roasted Chana Dal

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Today is the final day of lentil and bean based protein dishes for this mega marathon. I have recipes for 8 different lentils and beans and varied dishes like a soup, breakfast and main course. Today’s recipe is a simple and quick snack – roasted chana dal / bengal gram. You can have it as is or mix it with some puffed rice and chutneys and eat it like a bhel puri. I have a super quick bhel puri recipe that you can check out. If you do not have the chutneys you can still fix yourself a ‘sookha bhel’ (dry bhel).

I don’t use chana dal very often. Its use is mostly restricted to being part of all mixed rice varieties I make or in the ‘dosa chilly podi’. So in my effort to use it more, I picked this crunchy recipe for this marathon.

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The seasoning for this roasted chana dal can be anything of your choice depending on your palate. I had some ‘desi tadka’ spice mix that I needed to use up and so I used that. You can use red chilly powder, chaat masala, etc.

Protein – Bengal gram / chana dal

Recipe adapted from here

Makes 1 cup

WHAT WE NEED

Bengal gram                                  1 cup

Oil                                                    2 tsp

Spice powder mix                        1 tsp

Salt

Water

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the chana dal in water for an hour
  • Drain it and place it in a vessel with enough water to fully cover the chana dal
  • Heat the vessel and bring to boil
  • Simmer for a minute and turn off the gas
  • The chana dal should be cooked but retain its bite and not become mushy
  • Spread it on an absorbent towel for around 15 minutes to dry
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Line a baking tray with 2 layers of aluminium foil
  • Toss the chana dal with the oil, spice mix and salt in a bowl
  • Place the chana dal on the baking tray in a single layer
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes
  • Remove the tray every 10-12 minutes and give it a shake
  • The chana dal will be crisp and will become crisper on cooling
  • Allow it to cool and store in an airtight container
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the theme, ‘Protein Dishes’.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 80

Hummus

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I did a Lebanese cuisine theme last month where I posted about pita bread, falafel and labneh. I was so tempted to replace labneh with Hummus but then I saved it for this month’s protein rich theme. Hummus is a tasty and healthy alternative to the not-so-low calorie cheese and butter. I can have it with practically anything, be it vegetables or bread or breadsticks. The main ingredient in hummus is chickpeas / garbanzo beans / kabuli chana. The beans with some tahini / sesame seed paste and olive oil brings a beautiful explosion of flavours in your mouth when you bite into a hummus dipped pita. Now it is easily available in supermarkets but making it for yourself is so simple that I would think it almost criminal to buy. Except when it is a mid morning craving, of course  – then all rules fly through the window.

There are many variations to the hummus. Beetroot hummus and red pepper hummus are quite popular. My dish, here, is the classic hummus without any additional flavour. So here goes –

Protein – Chickpeas / Kabuli Chana

Recipe adapted from here

Makes one large cup

WHAT WE NEED

Chickpeas                       1 cup

Extra virgin olive oil    2 tbsp

Tahini                              1 1/2 tbsp

Lemon juice                   1 tbsp

Garlic                               1 clove

Salt                                    1/2 tsp or to taste
WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the chickpeas in 3 cups of water for 6 hours or overnight. If you are using canned chickpeas then you can skip the soaking and cooking of the chickpeas
  • Drain the water and pressure cook the chickpeas with 2 cups of water for 3 whistles. Let it cool
  • If you have the time and patience, pinch the outer skin of the chickpeas to make a smoother hummus. If you sit with the chickpeas in front of the TV, it takes about the time for one episode of your favourite show. ( I am binge watching Suits these days).
  • Transfer the chickpeas to a blender.
  • Add all the other ingredients to the blender – extra virgin olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, garlic clove and salt
  • Blend for around a minute. Taste to see if you need little more of any ingredient. Personally I added few drops of oil and lemon juice
  • Scrape down the sides of the blender jar and blend again for a smooth paste
  • Transfer it to a bowl 
  • Enjoy with pita or vegetables or any other snack of your choice
  • It can be used for one week if stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container

This is my post for Day 4 of the Mega Marathon under ‘Protein Rich Dishes’.
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Pita Bread

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This is the second recipe in the Lebanese cuisine theme. It is the classic and most popular dish – the pita. The Pita is a leavened bread made with all purpose flour. It can either be cooked on the stove top or baked in the oven. Having tried both methods, I definitely recommend baking it. The pita puffs up beautifully in the oven and the layers are well formed. It easily gives way to making a pita pocket to put the stuffing in. The pita cooked on the stove top looks well done while the baked one would leave you in doubt as to its doneness. But do not worry, if it puffs up well, it is done well.

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When you make it on a stove top you have to ensure that the skillet is very hot to cook the pita but at the same time not too hot to spoil it. You have to be very careful and vigilant to turn it over at the right time and yet it is not a guarantee that the pita would puff largely instead of small little pockets like a regular roti. But when you bake it, all you need to do is set the temperature and watch while the magic is performed. I also loved the taste of the baked version as against the stovetop version.

You can use the pita with the classic falafel or for a vegetable sandwich. If you have any leftover pitas, simply toast them with butter and garlic and be amazed.

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Recipe from here

Makes 8 pitas

WHAT WE NEED

All purpose flour                       2 1/2 – 3 cups 

Active dry / Instant yeast         2 tsp

Warm water                               1 cup

Salt                                               2 tsp

Olive oil (optional)                    2 tsp
WHAT TO DO

  • Mix the water and yeast in a large bowl and set aside for 2-3 minutes
  • Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, salt and oil to the water and yeast
  • Mix all the ingredients together to form the dough
  • Dust the counter top with some flour and transfer the dough to the counter top
  • Knead the dough well for 7-8 minutes and add some flour if needed to make a smooth and pliable dough
  • Grease the bowl with some olive oil and transfer the dough to it
  • Turn it around in the bowl so that all sides of the dough are well oiled
  • Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or cling wrap and set aside till the dough doubles
  • It can take around 1-2 hours depending on the climate
  • If needed, the dough can be refrigerated at this point and used to make the pita at a later time
  • Once the dough is doubled, divide it into 8 parts and shape each of them into a ball

If cooking on the stovetop

  • Heat the skillet till it is very hot
  • Take each ball of dough and roll it into a 3″ thick circle
  • Transfer the rolled out dough to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds
  • Turn the pita over and cook for a minute or so till the pita puffs up well
  • Take it off the heat 
  • Repeat the same procedure till all 8 pitas are made
  • Enjoy with some falafel and salad!

If baking 

  • Preheat the oven to 230C
  • Roll out each dough ball to a 3″ thick circlular pita
  • Transfer the rolled out dough (as many as can be fitted comfortably) to the baking tray
  • Bake for 3-4 minutes till the pita puffs up
  • Take it out of the oven
  • Repeat the same procedure till all the pitas are baked
  • Enjoy it with some falafel and hummus

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 This is my post for the Blogging Marathon under the theme, Lebanese Cuisine’.

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Falafel

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My theme for this week is Lebanese cuisine. Of course, the first few dishes that come to mind are pita bread, hummus and falafel. I was wondering if it would be too cliche to make these dishes for this theme but then I figured it is unbelievable that I still don’t have these classic recipes on my blog. So I am posting recipes for three ingredients in a pita sandwich – falafel, pita bread and labneh. Get them together and it will be pure bliss. Even the husband, who does not experiment much with food, loved this. So you surely don’t need a bigger proof of the deliciousness of this awesome meal.

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Falafel is a nice balance between guilt and pleasure. It is a chickpea based dish and so good on the protein front but at the same time, it is deep fried and makes you a little guilty if you are trying to eat healthy / lose weight. You can bake them too but this is the first time I am making these and so I did not want to risk that with the family. I am researching on getting an equally delicious baked version and will update this post soon in that regard. My recipe, as usual, is more spicy and has curry powder instead of paprika and cayenne to make it more favorable to the husband and daughter. Now, on to the recipe –

Makes 20-25 falafels

Recipe adapted from here

WHAT WE NEED

Chickpeas                 1/2 cup

Onion, small            1

Garlic cloves            2

Coriander leaves    2-3 sprigs

Green chilly             1

Curry powder          1 tsp

Red chilly powder   1/2 tsp

Sesame seeds           2 tsp

Cumin seeds             1 tsp

Salt

Oil for deep frying

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water and set it aside for around 6 hours or overnight
  • Drain the water from the chickpeas
  • Take all the ingredients, except oil, in a food processor or blender and blend it to a thick paste
  • If you find it tough to blend then add few teaspoons of water but ensure that the thick paste is formed after blending
  • Heat the oil for deep frying
  • Transfer the paste to a bowl and pinch out some dough the size of a small lemon
  • Roll the piece of dough into a small ball and set it aside
  • Continue to form small balls with the rest of the dough
  • Once the oil is sufficiently heated, drop few balls of dough into it and reduce the flame to low
  • Fry till they turn golden brown
  • Repeat the same procedure to fry all the dough balls
  • Enjoy it with pita and hummus / labneh!

For a pita sandwich, divide a pita bread into two and open each half into a pocket. Apply some labneh or hummus inside the pita and fill it with falafel, tomato and cucumber slices.

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This is my post for the Blogging Marathon under the theme, Lebanese Cuisine.

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Minapa Kudumulu

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I made this delightfully easy breakfast dish as part of my Andhra Breakfast Thali. Ever since I have made it a few more times and I am loving it a little more each time I have it. The good news is that it needs only 3 ingredients including salt and the not so good news is that it needs a few hours of soaking the lentils and so cannot satiate an instant craving. Once you have the batter ready it takes only 15 minutes to reach your plate and your tummy. What more does one need anyways!

WHAT WE NEED

Urad dal / Split black gram                           1 cup

Water

Salt

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the urad dal overnight in 3 cups of water
  • Drain the remaining water
  • Grind it in a blender with salt and requisite water (between 1/4 and 1/2 cup) to form a thick smooth batter.
  • The batter needs to be thick, smooth and fluffy i.e. similar to idli batter
  • This can be steamed for 10 minutes in an idli mould but I would reccomend the traditional method of steaming.
  • Take 1 cup of water in a open mouth vessel and tie a cloth over it tightly
  • Pour a large laddle full of batter on the cloth and close the lid of the vessel tightly to ensure the steam does not escape
  • Steam for 5 minutes on high and then simmer for 8 minutes and turn off the gas
  • Insert a toothpick in the centre to ensure the kudumulu is fully cooked
  • Lift the cloth along with the kudumulu from the vessel and overturn it on a plate
  • Gently peel the cloth from the kudumulu
  • Cut it into wedges or squares and serve warm with kara podi and oil /ghee
  • Enjoy!

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Ugadi Pachadi

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My father had warned me years ago that if I watch movies at the rate I was watching, soon there would be no more movies for me to watch. I scoffed at him with all the disdain of a twenty something who knew better than her parents. But the thirties of your life teaches you how right your parents always are and so now I am actually in a situation where I have finished watching almost all Hindi and Tamil movies there are except of course the few I resolutely avoid. This happened sometime last year when I was still in Malaysia and discovered that I had watched every movie on TV. So I had two choices – either I switch to Chinese movies or Telugu movies (just to be be clear – not watching movies is not an option!). I chose the latter because they had subtitles, were comparatively easier to understand since there is a lot in common with Tamil and Hindi and the heroes look awesome. It was mostly the last reason but come on!

Since I started watching Telugu movies, I became interested in the Andhra cuisine too and started watching telugu cookery shows to improve my understanding of the language and discover the cuisine. I discovered the innumerable similarities and differences with Tamil cuisine.So this recipe today is a perfect example of similarities and differences of Andhra and Tamil cuisine. Ugadi Pachadi is made on the occasion of Ugadi which marks the beginning of the year for people in Andhra and Karnataka (two states in the south of India). This dish symbolizes life itself which is sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes bitter and sometimes spicy and so it has the mixture of ingredients of all the six tastes – sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, sour and pungent.

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The main ingredients of this dish are raw mango and jaggery. The Tamil way of making this dish is to cook the raw mango and heat the jaggery till it melts and mix the two. But I am so much in love with the much more simpler no cook Telugu version where all the ingredients are mixed and made into a slightly thick mixture.

Recipe source here.

Serves 5-6

WHAT WE NEED

Raw mango, large                     1

Jaggery, grated                           1 cup

Tamarind paste                         2 tsp

Red chilly powder                     1/2 tsp

Dried neem flowers                 1 tbsp

Salt

WHAT TO DO

  • Peeling the mango is optional. Deseed and cut the mango into small pieces which will amount to 1 cup.
  • In a large bowl, add the mango pieces, jaggery, tamarind paste, chilly powder, salt and dried neem flowers
  • Mix well to form a thick sauce like consistency. It will take some time for the mixture to come together
  • To speed it up, heat a tava till it is very hot and turn off the gas. Keep the vessel on top of a hot tava to aid the melting of the jaggery. Else keep the bowl in a large vessel of hot water for similar results
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the Blogging Marathon for the theme – Festival Recipes.

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Tava Pulao

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This dish is another one which has been on my to-do list forever now.  I saw this one on Venkatesh Bhat’s show and  it looked so simple and yum. 

It is a perfect example of an easy dish which is tasty as well as nutritious with all the veggies in it. Pair it with a simple raita and you are set for dinner. 

Serves 3

WHAT WE NEED

Basmati rice            1 cup

Onion, large            1

Carrot, medium     1

French beans           6-8

Capsicum                 1

Peas, boiled              1/4 cup

Unsalted butter      100 gms

Ginger garlic paste  1 tsp

Turmeric powder      A pinch

Green chillies            2

Pav bhaji masala       2-3 tsp

Salt

WHAT TO DO

  • Soak the basmati rice for 20 minutes in water
  • Drain and cook the rice in 2 cups water in a large pan till it is almost done
  • Strain the water and mix a tsp of oil to the rice and set aside
  • Chop the onion, carrot, beans and capsicum finely.
  • Heat the butter in a pan and add the onion and sauté for a minute on medium high
  • Add the ginger garlic paste and sauté till the raw smell goes
  • Add the chopped carrot, beans and capsicum and toss well
  • Add turmeric and peas and mix
  • Slit the green chillies vertically and add to the pan
  • Add the pav bhaji masala and salt and mix well
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes
  • Add the rice and mix well 
  • Turn off the heat and serve with any raita of your choice
  • Enjoy!

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This is my entry for the Blogging Marathon under the theme – Make a meal.

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Pongal

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One of the easiest, simplest and hearty breakfast is Pongal. It hardly needs you to be around while it hets ready. You can put it in the pressure cooker and disappear for a while and saunter in once its done and add a few finishing touches and voila! Healthy breakfast ready.

This is usually my choice of breakfast when I know we will be going out for lunch but the timing can be variable, like weddings or movies. Pongal keeps us feeling fuller for longer and thereby gives me some bandwidth to organise lunch for the daughter and husband.

This recipe from my mother in law who is a Pongal perfectionist and therefore I never make it while she is here. Why risk?

Serves 3

WHAT WE NEED

Rice                                            1 cup

Split skinless mooṅg dal     1/4 cup

Ginger                                       1″

Pepper                                      8-10

Cumin seeds                          1/2 tsp

Ghee                                        2 tbsp

Cashew nuts, broken         6-8

Water                                      3 1/2 cup

Salt


WHAT TO DO

  • Cook the rice and dal in 3 1/2 cups of water in the pressure cooker. The rhumb rule is to use 3/4 to 1 cup more water than what you normally use to cook rice.
  • Wait for 3 whistles and then simmer for 5-7 minutes and then turn off the gas.
  • Once you are able to open the cooker,(should take around 10-12 minutes) remove the rice and dal, mash well and set aside.
  • Heat the ghee in a small pan and add the pepper, cumin seeds and cashew nuts.
  • Once the cashew starts turning brown and the pepper and cumin seeds start to spurt, turn off the heat and pour them along with the ghee on to the rice mixture.
  • The cashews are optional and can be missed if you don’t like them.
  • Grate the ginger and add it to the rice
  • Add requisite salt and mix well.
  • If the rice is too sticky, heat another teaspoon of ghee and mix with the rice.
  • Serve with sambhar and / or chutney
  • Enjoy!

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