Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pistachio Sandesh - Ring in the Festival of Lights

Sandesh is a confectionery from Bengal and a very popular one at that. It is made from fresh paneer and sugar and flavoured /coloured with essences and additional items like nuts ,dryfruits, coconut, saffron etc. There are several types available ranging from simple mixing of sugar and fresh paneer to elaborate ones. I have made a simple almost no cook sandesh flavoured with pistachio nuts. 

Fresh paneer /channa : prepared from 1 l of milk : almost 3/4 cup I got
Pistachio Powder: 2 tbsp alteast
Powdered Sugar: 4 tbsp or more as per taste
Pista extract: 1-2 drops (optional)
Pistachio Nuts:few lightly toasted and chopped for garnish

Lighly mash paneer with hands till it sort of feels light. Make sure you use dried paneer -it should not give out liquid on mashing. But incase it gives out liquid or becomes wet at any stage of cooking, then cook the paneer or the mix at that particular stage of cooking in a deep pan for a few minutes, making sure it does not change colour.
Once you mash the paneer and it is ready,mix in the pistachio powder and sugar and mix well together till you get a doughy texture. 

Pinch small balls from the dough and shape it into rounds or whatever shape you require. 

Serve garnished with toasted and optionally chopped pistachios.

This was a simple sandesh which did not require any cooking except for making channa or paneer. You can add your choice of flavouring or nuts or even cocoa  or dry fruits for making your own version. You can avoid the extract if you do not have any and optionally add green colouring for the green eyed festive look.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bademjan Boorani - Aubergine Starter from Afghanistan

Bademjan/Badenjan is Persian name for Eggplant/Aubergine. Boorani as far as I know was yoghurt. So the moment I saw this recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, I was thinking of an eggplant raitha or eggplant in curd.But on reading the recipe I dfound that these are simple yet sensational starters. Rounds of aubergines fried -can be grilled as well - topped with minty tomato sauce and dollops of yogurt make an excellent starter or a side as well.

Aubergine : 1 large sliced into rounds
Salt: a needed

Vegetable Oil: for deep frying

Minty Tomato Sauce:
Vegetable Oil: 2-3 tsp
Onion: about 4 tbsp finely chopped
Garlic: 1-2 cloves peeled and finely chopped/minced
Tomatoes: 2 big,blanched,peeled and chopped coarsely
Salt: as needed
Fresh Mint: 2-3 tbsp finely chopped + more for garnish

Cumin Powder: 1/2 tsp +
Coriander Powder: 1/ 4 tsp +
Cayenne Pepper: 1/4 tsp or as per taste
Black Pepper  :as per taste

Yogurt Sauce:
Yogurt : 1/2 cup +/- as needed

Slice the aubergine into medium thick rounds and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish or similar plate. Sprinkle salt on both sides and let it sit there for about 1 hour or atleast 30 minutes till it gives out the bitterness/juices.

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce.

Heat oil in a deep pan and add onion. Stirfry for 2-3 minutes till they start to brown and add in the garlic. Stirfry till it gives out a nice aroma and then add the tomatoes along with the juice,little  and the spice powders given in the sauce. Stir well, and cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or more until it thickens to a sauce consistency and all the items are cooked and the flavours mingle well. Keep aside.

Also for the yogurt sauce, lightly whip the yogurt with a fork and keep aside.

Once the aubergines are ready or at the time of serving, heat oil on med-high for deep frying. Take the slices,pat them dry with a kitchen paper, and deep fry them till they are lightly brown on both the sides. This takes about 5-6 minutes per side and you can add as much slices at a single time as well. Drain them on kitchen paper.

For serving, arrange the aubergine slices on the serving plates,top with 1-2 tbsp of tomato sauce. Top this with a dollop of yogurt and garnish with mint.

Serve immediately or warm.

 It is preferable to serve warm else it turns chewy and tough.May be it also depends on the ripeness of the aubergine as well. Make sure fresh ripe aubergines are used.The coolness of yogurt,refreshing mint,the tangy sweet tomato, the slight heat of spices and slightly crisp aubergine makes this a sensational starter. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Raita -Pumpkin Yogurt Salad

I always try pumpkin in gravies and rarely experiment with it. I have tried it in cookies,quick breads and also pasta. But in a salad never though soups were high in my wishlist. But the moment this salad was posted by Prathibha, it was in the top in my list,but ofcourse laziness took over. But this time when NCR:squash was announced, I did make it and enjoyed heartily. The original recipe is from Sukham Ayu by Jigyasa and Prathibha Giri.

Pumpkin: atleast 1/2 cup peeled and cubed
Onion: 1 small finely chopped
Green Chilly: 1 or more as per taste
Coriander Leaves: 1 tbsp finely chopped
Yoghurt: 2 tbsp or as needed

Ghee/Oil: 1 tsp
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Black Gram Dal (Urad dal) : 1/2 tsp
CurryLeaves: few
Asafoetida /hing: a pinch

Lightly peel and cube the pumpkin and steam it for few minutes. Let it cool to room temperature.Finely chop the onion and chop the chilli and coriander.

'Lal bhopla' or red pumpkin which is in season during winters is much preferred for this salad and it will be done in lesser time than the regular yellow ones. But I have used regular yellow pumpkin and it turned out just fine. 

Mix in the chopped onion,chilli and coriander with pumpkin pieces, salt and yogurt. Chill in  the fridge for atleast an hour for the flavours to blend.

At the time of serving, take out and prepare the seasoning. Heat the ghee/oil, add in mustrd and when t splutters add in urad dal and let it turn brown. Add in the curry leaves and hing and take it off heat. Pour the seasoning on top of the salad -saving little for garnish - and mix well.

Serve cold garnishing with remaining seasoning.

A simple healthy salad very South Indian Style.The pumpkin has a crunch ( lightly steamed and not cooked to a pulp or puree) and sweetness. The onion definitely add crunch and the yogurt sort of thickens the salad.   The curryleaves impart their own flavour as well and the coriander leaves with yogurt combo is refreshing. Simple,healthy and delicious the salad goes straight to NCR: squash at Tinned Tomatoes. Thanks Prathibha for introducing this unique tasty salad.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cracker Sticks with Tomato Hummus

I love baking especially breads. While kneading is definitely therapeutic, bread making takes much time. It is here that crackers come to help,especially the cracker sticks that I have adapted from Ammu with whom I am paired with for this weeks Blog Hop Wednesdays Week 7 ,by Radhika. Simple to make and good in taste and along with tomato hummus they are perfect snack.

Cracker Sticks:

All Purpose Flour: 1 cup
Brown Sugar/ Demerara Sugar: 2 tsp
Baking Powder: 2 tsp
Salt: 3/4-1 tsp

Milk: 1/2 cup

Melted Butter: 2 tbsp for brushing
Sesame Seeds: for garnish

Mix flour,sugar,baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add in milk in spoonfuls and knead to a smooth pliable dough. Roll it out into a thin rectangle and cut into sticks or any shape you prefer.

Brush the sticks with melted butter and embellish with sesame seeds. Bake in a preheated oven at 350f  for about 20 minutes or until the edges start browning.

Serve warm with tomato hummus.

Tomato Hummus:
This is adapted from Ina Gartens recipe. You cook/roast a tomato and then blend it with remaining items to get an authentic hummus with a tomato twist.

White chickpeas:1 cup pre soaked and cooked
Garlic cloves: 2 small
Tomatoes: 1 medium
Tahini paste: 3 tbsp or more as per taste.
Salt: as per taste
Red chilli flakes: as per taste and heat
Lemon juice: 1-2 tbsp

Cook the tomatoes in the microwave. You can even steam them or roast them and each techique imparts it own unique flavour to the dish.

Blend together all the igredients and serve with crackers or anything else as per choice.

Simple and easy snack and dip. Perfect with a cuppa. or even as a starter if you cut into appropriate shapes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moroccan Style Potato Stew

A variety of stews especially with potatoes can be found in almost every cuisine. The use of spices and other condiments gives it a regional touch. I love spuds and try out several cuisines as well. So was very happy that I found a simple Moroccan style potato stew from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It is easy to make and goes well with any choice of bread/rotis.

Onion: 1 small size finely chopped
Tomatoes: 1 big chopped into small pieces
Potato: 2 big peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces 

Turmeric: 1 small pinch
Cumin powder: 1/4 tsp
Paprika : 1/2 tsp +/- as per taste
Cayenne Pepper  : as per taste (optional)

Fresh Cilantro/Coriander leaves: 1-2 tbsp finely chopped

Salt: as per taste

Heat oil in a deep pan on med-high heat and when oil is hot, add the onions. Reduce the heat and saute till transparent. 

Add tomatoes,coriander leaves and potatoes along with spices and salt and stir well so that the spices are slightly toasted and get equally distributed. Add in enough water as needed for the potatoes to be cooked.

Cover with a lid and bring to boil. Then reduce to simmer and let it cook till the potatoes are tender and enough gravy is there. To make the a thicker sauce/gravy you can mash in few potato pieces as well. 

Serve hot with breads/rotis or even rice and optionally some green salad as recommended by the author. I served it with my batbout bread and the pairing was great.

A gentle stew which is easy to make and very hearty too.My pics are not that great but the stew surely was. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Batbout m'khamer - Moroccan Pita for World Bread Day

Batbout m'khamer or simply batbout or m'khamer also knwn as toghrift or matlou is Moroccan style Pita. Its chewy and thick ,a bit spongy and is used with grilled meats or for mopping up gravies. Like pita, it is a  simple yeasted flatbread which can be cooked stove top as well. I have adapted mine from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and it was perfect with Moroccan style Potato stew. 

Active Dry/Instant Yeast: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Warm Water: 2 tbsp + 1/2 cup or more as needed

All Purpose Flour: 1 cup
Semolina : 1 cup
Salt: 1.5 tsp

Combine yeast,sugar and 2 tbsp warm water and stir well so that the yeast is not clumped together but dissolves. Keep aside for about 5 minutes till it becomes frothy.

Meanwhile mix together the flour and fine semolina along with salt and make a well in it. Add in the yeast solution and another 1/2 cup of water and gather together to form a dough. Add the water accordingly and start with around 6 tbsp so that it does not become too wet.

Once the dough is formed,knead it well till smooth and elastic. Grease a platter/baking sheet with oil and keep near.Also oil your hands before handling the dough. Break the dough into small pieces and shape each piece into a small ball using greased hands and place in the baking sheet. Cover with a plastic wrap or tea towel and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes.

Grease a counter top or work space with oil - also if using your rolling pin as well. Take a ball, slightly flatten it within hands and then gently roll it out to a circle/disc with the greased rolling pin. Keep this on the baking sheet and continue the same proces with remaining balls as well. Keep the balls separately in the baking sheet and let them rest and increase for a hour atleast covered with a plastic wrap.

Keep a cast iron tava/frying pan over medium flame  and let it get very hot. Take a flatbread and place it on the tava. Cook it for about 1 minute and then flip to the other side till it starts browning with spots on top. Before removing the cooked bread from the pan,take it within hands and rotating it like a wheel, try to brown the edges as well. Repeat for all the discs and keep the cooked breads covered within a towel or foil so that they remain warm till serving time. 

Serve with your choice of sides - like meat or gravies or salad. I served it with a simple Moroccan style potato stew which I adapted from the same book. I will be posting the recipe later.

A chewy pita like bread which is very filling. I also halved it and served it sandwiched with a cheese slice. Simple and delicious. The bread is perfect for World Bread Day today on October 16th, an event by Zorra of Kochtopf which has been going on religiously for the past 5 years and is into 6th this year.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Almond Butter

I had never tried nut butters and could not find while in US. But still I had heard a lot about these and I wanted to see whether they could be made from scratch at home. After a lot of deliberations and also when I found out that I had loads of almonds to be used up, I finally googled for almond butter and based on the ones from Nourishing Cook and Rebecca Wood made mine. 

Almonds: atleast 1 cup roasted
Extra Virgin Olive Oil/ Coconut/ Vegetable Oil: 1/4 cup + as needed
Honey: 1 tbsp +
Sea Salt: 1/2 tsp

 Blend the almonds and salt to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Add oil and honey and continue processing till you get a smooth paste which is the 'butter'.

 It should have the consistency of a soft butter or slightly liquidy and will harden a bit when chilled.

I started with about 2 tbsp of oil and 2 tbsp of honey. But as the mix was still thick and bit grainy I kept on adding the honey and then added another 2 tbsp of oil.

Do go by instinct while making the honey and oil and I have added more honey, I wanted a sweeter butter which was just right -not too thick or grainy, but not too liquidy. It sort of solidified upon chilling though did not look as smooth as butter. I have found other recipes where you get a free flowing liquid nut butter, but the oil content is very high. 

Lets see what I could make with this nut butter else that too will languish in the fridge ;)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oats Almond Laddoos

If you love Indian food you would definitely have tried one laddu or another atleast once that too even if you are not a dessert/sweet meat person. Laddoos or Laddu -coming from the sanskrit word 'Ladduka' meaning small ball-are typical Indian sweets made using flour and sugar. Several types of laddoos/laddu  can be found throughout the diverse cuisines of India and each one is as delectable. Come festivals like Diwali or marriages or even promotions then its raining laddoos. Generally a flour -chickpea/semolina/wheat along with nuts,grains are cooked/mixed/warmed with ghee/clarified butter (which acts as a binder) and shaped into small balls. 

Most of us love laddus one variety or another and my daughter too. Another reason for her laddoo fancy is Chhota Bheem. She loves Chhota Bheem and Chhota Bheem loves Laddoos. Right now, while I am typing this she is engrossed in Chhotta Bheem and also consuming laddoos which I had adapted from Priya of Nowserving for BlogHop Wednesdays (week 6) by Radhika. 


Almonds :3/4 cup
Quick Oats: 1/2 cup
Brown Sugar/ Demerara Sugar/ Turbinado sugar: 1 cup
Cardamom: 1/2 -1 tsp powdered /crushed

Ghee/Clarified Butter: 3 tbsp +

Cashews: chopped handful
Raisins: handful 


Powder almonds,oats and sugar separately and mix together. The time required for powdering varies for each and hence separately powder them and mix these together with the powdered cardamom. I actually powdered together the sugar and cardamom so that cardamom will be equally distributed. 

Heat ghee in a deep pan and add chopped cashews and raisins. Saute till cashew is browned and the raisins plumps up. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside. In the same pan add the powder mix and saute for 2-4 minutes till a nice roasted aroma floats and the mix looks moist and sort of comes together.Add in the roasted cashews and raisins and mix well. All this take barely 5 minutes,so keep your eyes open while roasting the flours.

Remove from heat and allow to cool a little bit.Take out palmfuls of the powder and press together to form laddoos. If they crumble while handling/pressing together then you may have to add more ghee and try to bind again.  After forming the balls you can optionally chill them in the fridge so that they are more set and harden as well till consumptiom. You can serve as an anytime snack or dessert.

Healthy twist to the regular flours make it a nutritious treat. Rather than going the traditional way,the laddoos are made more healthy what with the oats and almonds. An  easy delectable treat to make indeed. ! And within minutes, it will be reduced to crumbles as well ...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Aztec Chocolate Cookies for Tita & Pedro

Last month, the bookclub had chosen Like Water for Chocolate. I had heard rave reviews and praises about it and was looking forward to read it. But may be I had too much expectations or was partly busy or the book was overhyped, I liked it but I won't miss it. If you ask me whether I liked the book,I would say yes,but if asked whether I didnot like it then also the answer would be yes. May be its my practical side that is doing the talking rather than the dreamer in me.What started as a  simple love story of Tita and Pedro later turned into a tragic ending - atleast lovers reuniting in death and in the fantasy lost world of Eden is something I can't digest- but gives wonderful  insight into Mexican traditions and unheard of dishes or recipes almost centuries back. I couldn't try any of the recipes because they sounded odd (atleast to me!) but had made simple aztec style chocolate cookies  for you to munch on while you go through the book. The recipe is adapted from Savour Fare and is a simple chocolate cookie spiced with Chipotle chili pepper.

All Purpose Flour: 1.5 cups + 1 tbsp
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: 1 tbsp
Powdered Ginger: 1 tsp
Powdered Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Powdered Dried Chipotle Chilli: 1/4 tsp +/-

Butter: 1/2 cup
Brown Sugar: 1/2 cup

Honey: 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract: 1 tsp

Baking Soda: 1 tsp
Water: 1.5 tsp (boiling)

Chocolate Chips: almost 1 cup +/- (I used a mix of white and semi sweet)

Granulated Sugar: 1/4 cup for dusting

In a small bowl,combine the flour,cocoa and the spices.

In a wider bowl, beat butter and sugar till fluffy. Add honey and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Beat in half of the flour mix to this.

Mix together baking soda and boiling water  and add it to the flour-butter-sugar mix. Then add in the remaining flour and the choco chips. You will get slightly sticky dough. First it looked like it was too dry,but as I started bringing it together,it turned out to be a bit sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for atleast 30 minutes. 

Take out the dough and pinch small balls from it. Shape the balls as needed -I went for regular round ones and slightly flattened them. Roll the balls/ shapes in granulated sugar on both sides and place in a lined baking sheet.

Bake the cookies in a preheat oven at 325 F/160C for about 18 minutes or until the edges/top start browning or crack little. Keep an eye from the 12th minute onwards.

Simple cookies that have surprise taste in them. You feel the coco,choco chips and regular spices when you bite into these. But the lingering taste will that be of dried chipotles. Also since brown sugar is used I felt the cookies were on the heavier side. But thats my feeling.Do enjoy the hearty cookies.

Lets see what the BookClub made for Tita. This month we did the Beach Cafe and next month we are looking forward to Major Pettigrew

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Feta Patties

What do you do when you are planning a vacation and life gives you Feta cheese? Especially if you r not sure about freezing what with the powercuts and the feta needs to be used within 24 hours and you are less than 10 hours away from a 5 day vacation? Ofcourse you may have several ideas but this one from about.com is the one that turned out to be my saviour.The recipe has nothing much to do and takes few minutes only atleast less than 15 minutes.Read on:

Feta cheese : 1/2 cup atleast
Panko/ Fresh bread crumbs: 1/4 cup + as needed
Pepper: as per taste
Olive oil: 1-2 tbsp

Take handful of feta -which is usually crumbled and try to shape into a patty within wet/damp hands. You can also do this using plastic wrap.But I prefer hand and it was okay. 

Mix bread crumbs and pepper in a flat dish and roll each patty into this mix until it gets coated on all the sides and the edges.

Place a tawa or skillet on medium heat and once hot add in 1-2 tbsp of oil and swirl to coat. Place the coated patties on the skillet and cook around 1-2 minutes per side or until it turn golden brown. You can add more oil in the skillet if necessary. 

Once done drain on paper towels  and serve warm stuffed within rolls/rotis/breads/buns or with other veggies as well.

 These patties actually can be refrigerated for about 1 week. or frozen for few months. So make these, freeze them and then when you are short of dishes especially snacks roll em up and snack on.

Those who have tried the feta knows its saltiness and these patties are salty as well. So rather than giving your tastebuds a saltshock use them along with something or in a gravy and then enjoy them. I stuffed them within hotdog rolls along with tomato sliced and served with sauce/dips etc.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cornish Style Sweet Pasties

Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond tells us the inspiring story of Evie Flynn who from being the black sheep of the family turns into a successful restauranteur and the envy on the entire family.It is an inspiring or 'feel- good' story that reaffirms your optimism and also brings out the romantic dreamer in you. Atleast that what I feel. It has got all the elements of a gripping story and I was gripped and would recommend it to others as well as an optimistic read. 

More than that it takes you to Cornwall seaside where we relax and leave aside all the worries and tensions for later and introduces us to the local cuisine especially the Cornish pasties which are the national dish of Cornwall.The traditional pastry is one that does not crack during cooking and cooling and has minced skirt steak and veggies like potato,turnip etc and has crimped edges and looks like the alpahabet 'D'. Several variations have originated and currently Shortcrust pastry is used with your choice of fillings.Shortcrust pastry is used a base for pies,tarts etc and  I have made a simple sweet shortcrust pastry -sweetcrust - using the regular method I follow and had made sweet jam and nut pasties. Not exactly Cornish ,but right snack/dessert after enjoying the book from cover to cover.

All Purpose Flour: 1.5 cups
Butter:1/3 cup
Castor Sugar: 1 tbsp
Chilled Water: 2-3 tbsp 

Walnuts: handful chopped
Jam: few tbsp:of your choice 

In a bowl, add in flour,and mix in cubed chilled butter and pinch and fluff to get coarse mix. Mix in sugar and adding enough water gently form a soft dough without overworking. Chill the dough for at least 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a round circle and using your largest cookie cutters cut into circles/shapes.I used a 3' cookie cutter and went for mini pasties.

Put around 1tsp of nut and a dash of jam in the centre of each circle. Slightly dampen the edges (optional) and bring the ends together and crimp them to get the 'D' shape. Ok, I could not do it properly,but as I said I am getting there.

Put the 'D' in an optionally lined baking sheet Bake in a preheated oven at 375F/190C for about 10-12 minutes or more (depends on the size and no:) until they start browning on the top. 

Serve warm as a sweet for tea or even as an after dinner dessert.

 The pastry is flaky and light and the pasty simply melts in your mouth if not for the crunchy nuts.

Lets see what other have cooked to celebrate the success of Evie at the BookClub

Thanks for visiting my Blog

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