Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oven Roasted Chickpeas with Sophie Kinsella

For March, the Bookclub (back after a short hiatus) had chosen The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. I expected another shopaholic kind of story, but it was much better and slightly different. Like the shopaholic, here also the main protagonist is  lady with her own ideas in her own world, but in a slightly different context. Unlike her counterpart shopaholic, she is a high flying no-time-for-anything-else lawyer Samantha Sweeting, who can't remember how her own vaccuum cleaner looks like. But she falls into a trap set by by a fellow lawyer and that shock brings her out into the real world where she is mistaken as a housekeeper!.

Just like any adventourous Kinsella heroine, she decides to go along with the flow and accepts the job which pays peanuts compared to here original $500-per-hour job. Now comes the best part. As a part of job interview with her slightly slow in the head employers she rattles of names like seared duck with apricot glaze,hummus and blah blah as being part of her cooking CV. Impressed, they tell her to start immediately and she is clueless in the kitchen. She just grabs chickpeas and dunks in oil and tosses in the oven going for a high temperature and thus starts the nightmare or nail biting read of the book. 

I will rank the book slightly higher than the shopaholic series. Ofcourse, I loved the shopaholic series and always look forward to the next sequel,but this is a bit more than that and your average chicklit though there might not be sequel. The book is whole in itself.

I loved reading through Samantha's life and the first time my eyes popped out was while reading the and imagining the chickpea part.And naturally I too roasted chickpeas in the oven for Samantha and Kinsella and also the BookClub. 

Chickpeas (Kabuli Chana): 1/2 cup

Salt,Spices and Seasonings :as per your taste

Soak the chickpeas in enough water overnight and cook till done in the pressure cooker or stove top adding little salt.Drain it and keep it aside.You can also use the canned chickpeas in which case rinse the chickpeas thouroughly to remove the additional salts/preservatives if any and then drain.

Even after draining, they will still be a bit wet and moist. So spread them within  thick sheets of paper towels and pat them dry. 

Toss the chickpeas with oil and again little salt then layer them on a baking sheet. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 400F/200C for about 30 minutes until you see them start getting brown. Start checking from 25 th minute onwards.

Take out, add seasonings or pepper or any other spice of your choice. Serve hot/warm/room temp as an anytime snack.

A simple healthy and easy snack. The beans are crispy especially ones with the skin on.You can even toss the roasted chickpeas with other salad ingredients to make all the more filling and healthy salad /light meal.Seasoned to perfection I can guarantee these will be your midnight snack as well. 

Now lets checkout what other members have cooked for Samantha and Kinsella at the BookClub.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Banana & Lentil Dessert - Kellya Ambat

Yesterday was Ugadi or Yugadi .A festival usually celebrated in few regions of India as the beginning of a new Year or Yuga(year) aadi(beginning).Normally festivals means lots of food and food and food... This was also not so different. You take oil bath,do the pooja as per your traditions and rituals and sit down for a very traditional lunch.

Traditionally on Ugadi day, Konkanis serve a variety of food and one most prominent combo is that of Hittu/Khotte and Kellya Ambat. The former is a breakfast dish while the later is a dessert or rather the dessert of the day.One of my aunts actually love ugadi because she loves the combo. Hittu/khotte is made with jackfruit leaves and if you cannot find them or cannot make the baskets(called khollis) with the leaves (like me) then you settle for normal idlis. Well, I am not an idli person and did not have khotte/baskets ,but still yesterday I tried my hand at the dessert and here is my version.

Ripe Firm Banana (preferably Kerala Nendran variety): 1.5 cup to 2 cups chopped 

ChickPea Lentils or Chana Dal: 1/2 cup cooked

Jaggery or Jaggery syrup: 4 + tbsp as per taste and sweetness of bananas

Coconut gratings: 1/2cup or 1-2 handfuls
Dried Red Chilly :1
Haldi/Turmeric Powder: 1/4 tsp

Oil/Ghee : 1tbsp
Mustard: 1/2 tsp
CurryLeaves: few fresh
Cumin Seeds: 1/4 tsp

Slice the peeled banana and chop each piece to get crescent shaped pieces. Cook chana dal in a pressure cooker or stove top till soft.Add the banana pieces to the dal and cook till tender,making sure they still hold the shape. 
Add jaggery grated or syrup and mix well and let it simmer for  few minutes. Meanwhile check for sweetness. If not as sweet as you want it ,add more jaggery or syrup.

Grind together coconut gratings,turmeric and red chilly to a fine paste and then add it to the simmering dessert. This gives it more colour and thickness and adds a kick to the sweetness. Continue simmering till the rawness of the coconut paste is gone and the flavours mingle well- all for a few more minutes.

Prepare the seasoning by heating oil in a kadai/pan. Add mustard and when it splutters add cumin and curryleaves. Allow it to splutter and add the seasoning to the dessert saving few seeds and leaves for garnishing.

A simple yet comforting and very festive dessert. It is also made during other festive occasions, but as I said the combo of Khotte/Idli with Ambat is supposed to be superb. There is even a prominent restaurant in Willingdon Island,Kochi that serves this combo on Ugadi day -ie apart from from regular Konkani hotels. You can get an idea about hittu from Ranji's post here.

I presume, the sweetness of bananas,with the spiciness of the red chilly and comfort of the lentils, indicate that it will be a mixed year and you should enjoy as you get it. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spiced Couscous with Roasted Carrots

Sometimes when I come across a recipe and plan to try it out, it feels incomplete. Means, either it requires something else with it as an accompaniment, or more ingredients etc... Like when I saw this recipe by Nigella Lawson in her Nigella Christmas cookook titled Party Poussins with Festive couscous, obviously I liked the couscous part, but to serve it with a suitable vegetarian accompaniment was the problem. Also I wanted something healthy and easy to make. So I sort of slept on the recipe and when I wandered across the roasted carrots, it was like everything fell into place.

The recipes are pretty easy to make and you can serve it as a light meal or even at teatime. That is if you consider couscous as an equivalent of semolina or rava and  then this obviously becomes an upma with a twist.! So suit yourselves.Anyway I have spiced it up a bit as per my preference and add even curry powder to it.

Couscous: 1 cup 
Water: 1 cup +/-
Veg Stock: few tbsp (optional)
Cumin Powder: 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder: 1/2 tsp
Paprika or even chilli powder : 1/2 tsp 
Curry Powder: as per taste I used Kitchen King Masala.
Salt:as per taste

Fresh Cilantro/Coriander : few tbsp chopped 

Pomegranate Seeds: for garnish

In a bowl, mix together couscous and spice powders and salt. Pour in 1 cup of boiling water,mix it in and cover and let it sit for atleast 5-10 minutes. You can actually follow the instructions given in the couscous box for this. I even added about 1/4 cup of veg stock also to this though only water is also fine. 

Fluff the couscous with a fork, mix in few tbsp of cilantro and garnish with remaining cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

Serve with roasted carrots.

Roasted Carrots:

The recipe is  adapted from Food Network and is by Ina Garten. You can find it here.

Carrots: 3-4 
Salt& Pepper:as per taste
Olive Oil: 1-2 tbsp 

Cilantro/Coriander : few tbsp

Peel and wash carrots and slice them into almost big sticks or pieces. Toss the carrots in a big bowl with oil,salt and pepper and then layer them onto a lined baking sheet. They actually shrink a bit during roasting so its better you slice them a bit thick. 

Bake in a preheated oven at 400f for about 20 minutes until they start browning. Take out toss it with chopped cilantro and serve hot/warm with couscous or even as a side to any mains.

A simple recipe and it paired well with the couscous and also could be eaten as a snack.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Aloo Matar ki Taharee .. Potato & Peas Rice

There are different types or styles of cooking rice in India. There are several types of cuisine and each cuisine has its own way of cooking. Tahari or Taharee or Tahiri or Tehri is supposed to be a type/style of Biryani and is popular in Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas which were courtyards of  Awadhi or Mughal cuisine . It is supposed to be a part of Pakisthani cuisine as well. One definition of Tahiri  is that it is the vegetarian or meat free version of the biryanis and pulaos in these cuisines. 

Anyways, I was thinking Mughal cuisines always used lots of spices and were rich in fat and subsequently heat. Such dishes are suitable during winter. But come summer, then I would prefer something quick to make, and not that heat producing.So while going through  Nita Mehta's Mughlaai Khaana cookbook, I was surprised to find the very simple Aloo Matar ki Taharee (atleast thats the name by the author) which had used just bay leaves and turmeric but was excellent in taste. Something simple yet hearty for a hot night.


Basmati Rice: 1 cup (soaked for an hour)

Ghee/ Butter: 2 tbsp
BayLeaves: 1big or 1 tsp
Ginger: 1/2 inch piece grated
Turmeric: 1/4 tsp

Onion: 1 medium finely chopped
Potato: 1 cubed or sliced
Peas: 1 cup
Water: 2 cups +/- as needed for cooking

Fresh Coriander/Cilantro: 1 tbsp+ more for garnish

Soak rice for an hour in water.

Heat a deep pan or wok at medium heat and saute the onion in the ghee or butter till it starts browning. Add the bay leaves ,ginger and turmeric. Cook for 1 minute till the raw smell goes. Then add the potatoes and peas and stir fry over low heat for about 2-3 minutes.

Add the drained rice and mix everything together so that each rice grain is coated with ghee/butter. Add chopped fresh cilantro/coriander and water. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and cook covered ,for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is done. 

Serve warm/hot with a cooling raita garnished with more coriander. 

A simple one pot meal with easily available potato and peas. The recipe mentions new potatoes or small potatoes sliced into rounds but I have used potato cubes and also increased the coriander while cooking.A life saver when you are short of time and too famished to out and gorge. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Figs& Banana Smoothie

This is a simple smoothie recipe that I had seen in Tarla Dalal Food magazine. My daughter loved it and hence I thought I would post it here. Its pretty simple and uses dry figs though fresh figs would also work fine. Fresh figs are more preferable to me than dry figs, but the former is very seasonal and expensive and the latter or the dry ones are avaialable anytime of the year. 

Dry figs: 8-10 soaked in water for about 30 minutes and then chopped

Banana: about 1 cup chopped
Medium thick yogurt: 1/2 cup
Milk: about 3 cups preferably chilled
Sweetener or sugar: 1 tbsp or as per taste

Garnish: cashew halves, chocolate gratings etc

Blend together all the ingredients into a smooth puree. Pour in glasses and serve chilled garnished with cashew halves or chocolate shavings,crumbled cookies  or even soaked halved figs etc. I always prefer chocolate :).

A simple and healthy drink, which is good for all the people. I can see it becoming almost regular fixture in my house. You can go for vegan substitutions in this as well such as soy milk and soy/cashew yogurts

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Printen Cookies

Aachener Printen  is a type of cookie originally from Aachen region in Germany. These are actually herbed honeyed cookies and traditionally they were sold by pharmacists. These days however there are many versions even without the honey and extra spices being added as well. I had tried a simple eggless version blogged by Aysha of SchmetterlingWords who is my partner this Blog Hop Wednesday by Radhika.

All Purpose Flour: 250gms  (2cups +)

Honey: 10 tbsp
Sugar: 4 tbsp
Butter: 8 tbsp soft

Orange Zest: 1 tsp
Baking powder:2 tsp
Salt: a pinch
Cardamom: 1/2 tsp

Almonds: for topping :1 cup +/-
Orange marmalade/Apricot preserves: for garnish


Cream together butter,sugar and honey till fluffy. Add in the salt,spice ,zest, baking powder to this along with the flour and knead to for a dough. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for atleast an hour, 

Take out the dough,roll it out to a big rectangle, cut cookies as square or rectangular pieces Place these pieces on a lightly greased/lined baking sheet atleast 1 inch apart from each other and brush with marmalade on top.Stick an almond at the centre as well.

Bake in a preheated oven at 175c /360F for about 10-12 minutes until they become golden brown at the edges  and puff up.

A simple yet delectable cookies. The orange cardamom combo rocks. You can use gingerbread spice also ,but this instead of caardamom.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dates & Sesame Poli

I rarely try out traditional festive dishes. I am not so confident in these. I might make these tasty. But always compare them to my mom's and feel inferior. But sometimes I feel I should make some of these atleast so that I might make these festivals memorable to my daughter. And almost all festivals have more food associated with them than rituals.
Last week was Holi  the festival of colours. People colour each others and obviously enjoy food and drinks like Thandaai. More than being a participant, I like to watch the celebrations. I somehow can't imagine myself drenched in colours. Puran poli is an excellent dish associated with this festival. Its a pan fried flatbread stuffed with a sweet lentil filling and you serve it as a dessert. You can learn more about it here

Ofcourse there are lots of other festive dishes but this is most loved by me especially when made by my mother. Every time we plan a holiday, my daughter also requests for this. Anyways, being a bit short of time to make the original,I  tried a slightly different poli (flatbread) stuffed with dates and sesame filling and adapted  from Tarla Dalal site.

Whole Wheat Flour: 1 cup
Milk: 4-6 tbsp 
Water: 1-2 tbsp as needed

Sesame: 2 tbsp toasted
Dates: finely chopped and slightly mashed : 1 cup loosely packed
Brown Sugar: 4 tbsp
Milk: 1-2 tbsp (optional)

Mix together flour and milk and knead to form a pliable dough adding more milk or water as needed.It should be like a roti dough -if you are familiar with rotis ie. Divide the dough into 3 medium pieces, shape each into a roud ball and keep aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing together toasted sesame,coarsely chopped and mashed dates and brown sugar or gur (jaggery) to form a stiff sticky yet mostly dry filling. Add milk if needed.You can use jaggery syrup or dates paste to make this and adjust accordingly. Divide the filling nto 3 small portions. The measurements for the filling gives you slightly more quantity than needed.

Take a rounded dough ball. Roll it out to a small disc, place a filling portion in the centre of the dough disc, bring together the edges of the disc towards the centre and seal tightly completely covering the filling.

Take this disc,dust it with little wheat flour and roll it out to a bigger disc,making sure the filling does not come out. Repeat with the other discs to get 3 stuffed flatbreads.

Cook each poli/bread disc on a non stick pan for a few seconds on each sides till brown.You can drizzle ghee/clarified butter during this or even while taking off the pan to make it more rich.

Serve warm as a dessert optionally garnished or cut into wedges ad serve to kids with milk as an healthy evening snack.

My polis were better than expected though I could have used more filling. I am somehow scared to roll out a stuffed poli and so went for a smaller amount of filling. But this being my first attempt at a stuffed poli  I am definitely happy. I would be repeating this again as it has definitely given me more confidence and its easy to make.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

This is a simple side that is well liked in my home and is easy to prepare. Everytime I prepare this, I forget to take pics and postpone it to next time. Well, somehow this time I made sure I clicked and hence I am posting this. Its very straight forward recipe which I sourced from Allrecipes.

Green Beans: about 1-1.5 cup or so halved or chopped into bite sized pieces
Water: just enough for blanching the beans

Butter: 1.5 tbsp
Fresh Basil Leaves: few
Garlic Salt: 1/4 tsp or 1-2 cloves crushed/minced garlic
Salt,Pepper :as per taste
Sugar: 1 tsp
Cherry Tomatoes: halved : 1/2 cup +

String and chop the green beans into slightly larger pieces. In a large vessel, boil water adding salt and blanch the beans. It would take just a few minutes, especially if the beans are young/tender. Drain and keep aside.

In a deep pan, melt butter and stir in the sugar, both the salts and pepper and basil. Stir well and then add in the cherry tomato halves.Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes till the tomatoes start to soften. Add this to  the blanched beans and mix well.

Serve warm as a side salad optionally garnished with cheese.

A simple dish which is buttery and herby -I love basil- and bring out the best in beans.Make sure you do not over cook the beans. Healthy and simple side or you call it as a salad.You can also add toasted pinenuts for more crunchier dish.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Smoky Beet Tomato Soup

It seems to be the last few days of winter here.The sun has started showing its fury and I have started keeping bottles of water in the fridge to chill and also double tray of ice cubes.Plans are on for the types of iced desserts to make and the air conditioner has already been turned on.Appetites are less and we prefer liquids or something light -light on stomach and something easy to cook to avoid the heat.

But sometimes the weather changes back to a lazy climate where you feel like not entering the kitchen and lounge on the sofa with your current read. 

Whatever the climate is this is a simple soup which is perfect for you.Serve it warm if its cold outside or chilled when hot. Not heavy on the tummy as well. I have adapted it from Food and Wine and changed as per time and taste.

Olive Oil: 3-4 tsp

Onion: about 6 tbsp chopped
Tomatoes: chopped almost 2 cups
Beets: grated almost 1.5 cups

Tomato Paste: 2 tsp
Roasted Cumin Powder : 1 tsp +/-

Veg Stock: 1/2 -1 cup
Water: 1-2 cups 

Salt and Pepper: as per taste

Sour Cream/Creme Fraiche/Thick Yogurt : for garnish (optional)
Fresh Herbs: Garnish

Heat olive oil in a deep pan and add the finely chopped onions. Saute till transparent and then add chopped tomatoes and grated beets.

Add little salt,pepper and about 1/2 tsp of cumin powder and let them cook for few minutes till they start to soften.

Add in the tomato paste,water and stock and bring to boil.You can adjust the amount of water and stock.

Reduce, cover and let it simmer till the veggies cook and the water is reduced to almost one fourth. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

Blend in a blender to a smooth puree and return to pan. 

Adjust the salt and seasonings -might need to add more cumin powder.Add more stock if too thick and heat through. 

Serve warm else chill in the fridge and serve in bowls garnished with any fresh herb, toasted cumin seeds and a layer of thick yogurt or sour cream.

An easy tangy red spicy and slightly sweet soup. The smokiness of the cumin seeps through the tongue.

If talking in a filmy context, the main hero (ine) is  beet who has acted very well,but the tanginess and the smokiness added by second heroes tomato and cumin powder respectively compliment the hero and film definitely needs character actors to upgrade the hero's performance. 

The soup is spicy enough to visit NCR:Spicy soups at Lisa's where she is planning a Spicy Birthday Party this entire month. And March is my daughter's Birthday month as well and she loved the soup; :)

' Pisceans can be a bit handful when it comes to food ! Gone are my days when I could entice her into eating  anything and everything on plate. Ha, the grievances of growing up ! OOPs, just my thoughts ... Enjoy the soup :D
And BTW, for the simple Birthday Party I menu would include Caramelized Onion,Rosemary and Tomato Flatizza as starter along with this soup obviously, Peanut Butter Pasta for mains and Tutti Frutti Bread with Strawberries and Cream as Dessert. Caution: This is planned with the kids in mind! Do feel free to choose from the wider menu (blog)!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Socca - Rustic French Chickpea flour Crepe

Chickpea is one flour that I do not love working with. I feel nauseated by the smell or aroma as some might call it. But I love all the pakoras and dhoklas where it is a main ingredient and even kadhis and other gravies where it is used as a thickener.

Everything except the pancakes or .My mom used to talk about hot besan pancakes that my grandma used to make. But the reluctance with which I tried them made sure they were a flop. So I had given up on such quick breakfasts when I chanced upon the socca recipe at David Lebovitz.

Socca is a thin crust rustic chickpea flour pancake/crepe from the south of France and is used as a starter or snack and is generally a street snack.The recipe is pretty simple and almost same as besan ka cheela with the difference that socca is made in the oven.

Chickpea Flour: 1 cup
Olive Oil: 1.5 tbsp + as needed for greasing and garnish
Water: 1 cup and 2 tbsp
Cumin Powder: a pinch or 1/8th tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp +/- as per taste
Pepper: generous grating

Mix together flour,salt, cumin and oil. I also added little pepper just for a kick. Let the batter rest for atleast 15 minutes at room temp covered.

Heat the broiler in the oven to the max temperature. Oil a suitable pan for making the pancake and keep in the preheating oven.

I first used a round pan and though the pancake came out nicely it stuck to the dish. So next time around, I lined a dish and then oiled it and followed the recipe to the 't'.Also I just warmed the dish in the oven rather than making it blazing hot.

Take out the warm dish, pour in enough batter that might cover the bottom after slight swirl and
then pop it back in the oven.

Bake until the socca is firm and the edges start to brown. This takes around 8 mnts  only.

Slid it onto the cutting board and serve sliced garnished with more oil, pepper etc.You can see excellent step by step pics in the original recipe.

Fuss free snack, perfect anytime especially evenings after a marathon outing etc. or with soup as a light meal.
Will I make this again,?definitely, as my daughter polished off one immediately after the pics and loved it. I too feel that  it is a first positive step in dealing with besan. :)

Thanks for visiting my Blog

/*TYNT script starts here */ /*TYNT ends */