September 25, 2011

A Pink Shower!

A dear friend of mine is expecting her little princess soon! She literally waited for me to get back from my India vacation, so I could be part of her shower, which is so sweet. I made her this pink shower cake with strawberry filling, she loved it and I am glad the guests did too.

September 24, 2011

Mung dhal and pepper curry

This is one of the quick comfort foods I make. Goes great with flat breads and steamy rice with a dollop of ghee, yum! You may substitute the peppers with chayote squash (seeme badnekai) or potatoes. It tastes spicy with the peppers though. It is a great source of fiber and protein, give it a shot.

What you need: Serves 4
1 cup moong dal/hesar bele / split mung beans
1 cup colored pepper julienne / capsicum
1/2 cup tomatoes finely chopped
2 tsp fresh/dry coconut
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp dhanya/coriander powder
pinch of turmeric
pinch of sugar
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
A sprig of curry leaves
¼ tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of hing/asafoetida

Soak the dhal in ample water for 15 minutes. Cook it until soft. Set aside.

In a saucepan, add oil and heat it on medium-high. When it shimmers, add the curry leaves and mustard. When the splattering subsides, add in the grated ginger and colored peppers. 

Roast for a minute, add in the tomatoes and cook until soft. 

Add all the powders and let it boil for a few minutes. 

Toss in the dhal and cook covered on low heat for about 5-7 minutes until the curry starts to bubble and give out a sweet aroma of roasted peppers and beans. Sprinkle a little hing and serve hot with rice or chapathis. Enjoy!

September 22, 2011

Badam puri – Crisp almond fritters

Let me just admit it, I can never make them as well as my mom makes it, layers of thin crisp wafers dusted in almond and sugar, so crunchy, yet they melt in your mouth the instant you dig into them, the feeling is too good to be true. Mom made this very often during festivals, and remade them before I left India, my sons and I ate them to the last sugar dust. 
There are three forms to this sweet. First one – is frying the puris in hot oil/ghee and dipping them into thick sugar syrup, second one – is just deep fry and dust them with almond and sugar powder, and the third one – layering the fritters is almond paste, deep frying them and dusting them with almond powder.
Here is mom’s recipe – the second one is often the mildest form, low in calories, easiest, and quickest to make. 

What you need: Makes 30 – 40 fritters
3 cups regular all purpose flour / maida
1 cup chirottee rava / finest semolina
½ cup rice flour
A pinch salt
2 cups warm water to mix
2 to 3 cups of hot oil/ghee to deep fry
For the almond and sugar powder:
1 cup almond finely ground
1 cup sugar finely ground
2 green cardamoms

Pour oil into a thick bottom pan, let it heat up on medium.

In the meantime, add the flour and rava is a medium mixing bowl. Add the pinch of salt and 3 tsp of hot oil from the pan. When the oil is poured on the flour mixture, it should sizzle; it is the key to crisp fritters. 

Mix the mixture well, then add 2 cups or less warm water and knead it to soft and pliable dough. 

Divide it into make 6 parts.

Roll out each into a fairly thin flat bread, and keep them aside.

Mix rice flour with 4 tsp ghee into a smooth paste. If you want a richer feel, you may substitute rice flour for finely ground almond powder.
For the assembly, take the first bread,   paint on a spoon of rice flour paste, and top it with the next bread, Repeat the procedure until you create a lasagna cake. Gently roll out this mass with a rolling pin, to thin it down to half its thickness.

Cut them into 1 inch square pieces, press them down gently, and roll out each, one last time, to hold on to all the layers, deep fry them in the hot oil.

In the meantime, grind the almond, sugar and cardamom to a fine mixture; sieve it to get a fine powder, set aside.
Place them on a large plate, and as they are piping hot, dust them with a generous amount of almond and sugar powder. Let them cool completely before you sink your teeth into them. Enjoy! 

September 16, 2011

Mushroom and peas curry

What you need: Serves 4-5
3 cups mushroom, washed and cut into cubes
1 cup peas
½ cup of coconut milk (canned/fresh)
2 Bay leaves
½ tsp garam masala powder
1 large onion chopped
2 medium tomatoes chopped
3 tsp olive oil
Salt to taste
To grind:
8-10 small hot green chilies
¼ cup fresh cilantro
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cilantro seed powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste

In a thick bottom skillet, on medium-high heat, add 3 tsp olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the chopped onions and bay leaves. Fry to a golden brown, add in the tomatoes and cook until they are soft on medium heat.

Make a paste of all the grinding ingredients in a blender. Use a little water if needed.  Add the ground paste into the simmering mixture. Add in the mushroom cubes and peas, let the mixture simmer on low. That should take about 5-7 minutes. 

Once the mixture forms a uniform curry, the oil will start to separate. Pour the coconut milk, and cook it covered for another 5 minutes on low heat. It tastes so good with chapathi/tortilla, but can also be eaten with rice. Enjoy!

September 12, 2011

Rave unde/ laddu/Sweet semolina and coconut balls

This is an easy sweet Indians make during festivals. 

What you need: makes 12-15 medium sized laddus
1 cup chirotee rave / finest semolina
½ or ¾ cup finely grated desiccated coconut
1 and ½ cup sugar, powdered
2 Tbsp ghee
2 tsp raisins
2 tsp finely chopped almonds
½ to ¾  cup hot milk
2 Tbsp condensed milk for those who crave it richer 

In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, pour in the ghee. Roast the almonds and raisins, Take them out and set aside. 

Now add the rava to the remaining ghee in the pan. Roast on low for a good 10 minutes until the raw smell disappears, and it starts to give out a pleasant roasted aroma. 

Add the coconut and roast along with it for just a minute or two. Pour the mixture out into a large bowl. Toss in the sugar and roasted nuts and raisins. Mix them all well. 

Heat the milk well (you may add the condensed milk to the boiling milk, give it a whisk and turn it off) and use the hot milk to glue the ingredients together.

Create a well in the middle of the mixture, pour a little milk, mix it into the mixture, take a palm full of the combined mixture, and with two hands, or just one, mould it into a ball, watch your hands as they may burn.  

Repeat the procedure by adding a little milk at a time, until all the dry ingredients and molded into balls. Let them cool, before they are devoured, enjoy!

September 8, 2011

Praise to mom's cooking!

Thanks amma for taking us into your abode all summer long and bearing with my children. I had the best vacation ever, love you amma :-)

I am back to the grind, after a long lazy summer vacation. All I did was sat and ate mom’s yummy food. I came back a happy cow, or should I say a stuffed pig.  It was indeed a dream come true to be watching her cook and learn from her. My sons relished the steamy dishes, and I silently basked in their glory. Dad had his own little package for the kids, he had a few chickens, dogs and cows at the farm, and those were all the little brats needed, running behind them all day. Thanks to FB, I met a lot of my long lost friends, many from school and college. I enjoyed getting dressed with my sisters for weddings and parties. I witnessed three deaths, two of which were very unfortunate. One was a close uncle of mine, who suffered a long and painful health, the other was a na├»ve two year old infant, my nephew, who died in a freak car accident. The pain and agony of death brushing so close to home, was irreconcilable. 

Mom, sisters and I went on a vacation to Thailand, now that was a real vacation! The warm sun kissed beaches, the juicy tropical fruits, the chilling coconut juice, and huge guavas, the never-ending breakfast platters at the hotels, the fun we had communicating with the locals who dint understand a word of English, and not to miss, the shopping, just loved it all. The only thing that disappointed me was “pad-Thai” Everywhere I ate, I kept comparing it to the Thai food in the US, and it was very different. My precious camera was accidentally dipped into the waters of the gulf of Thailand, and that was the end of it, the canon center could not revive it back. That was the greatest reason I stopped blogging. Now I am on a hunt for a good camera that fits my budget and creates the same magic, so please bear with me :(

Mom was always on a roll; now and then she missed her yoga regime, but made up for it the next day. I tried to get up before her and stay active, but always failed. By the time I got up, she would be in the kitchen, whipping up something to eat. It would consist of a varied array, fresh veggies, sprouts, and fruits for my sister, Indian breakfast for dad, and a sweet treat for my kids, oatmeal and fresh pressed vegetable juice for herself. After all that said and done, she would get with the house chores, doing the dishes, sweeping and swabbing the floors, doing the laundry, watering the plants, and also cooking lunch. Did I mention, my kids were also bathed and fed? Amidst all this, she managed to attend her kitty parties, run errands, visit her dentist and get her root canals, look after my little pranksters while I was away, as I shamelessly enjoyed my new found freedom. Never did she once grumble or mutter to herself that she was overwhelmed. Now that is what I call a “Supermom”. Seeing her toil so much, my sister finally fixed up a house maid to help her. How can a mom do all of it, and never complain? There is so much I learned from her, the most being patience and sacrifice.

I am back to being a full time mom myself now, my son starts school, and I seem to be more excited than him. I just loved his school playground, his classroom is so colorful, and yet color coordinated, so organized and inspiring. Back home, missing mom already :(