Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kushka | Indian Rice Recipes

Ever in a thought of what to make to go with your spicy curries for lunch? When you are making a rich curry for your weekend lunch a simple white rice to go with it may sometimes be bleh.. Dress up your rice with this flavorful Kushka aka empty biryani. It is called empty briyani because it has all the flavours of the briyani without the meat or veggies in it.
I got a recipe request for this kushka from my friend through FB. I had wanted to make and post this sooner but things got in the way. Laptop issues being the primary one. Finally I got some time to sit and compose the post, pictures and all. Hope you like it N..
Basmati rice - 2 cups (see notes)
Ghee - 1 tsp + 1 tbsp
Cloves - 3
Cinnamon - 1" piece
Bay leaf - 1
Star anise - 2
Cashew nuts - 5
Shallots/Pearl onions - 10, peeled, sliced
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 2
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp 
Coconut milk - 1 cup (freshly made or from can, anything works)
Water - 2-1/2 cups
Mint - a fistful
Cilantro/Coriander leaves - a fistful
Salt - to taste

Wash and soak the rice for 15 mins. Drain the rice in sieve/colander with tiny holes. Heat a tsp of ghee and fry cashewnuts. Remove the nuts and add the drained rice, fry until dry. Spread on a plate to cool. Heat oil and the remaining ghee in a pressure cooker and add the whole spices. Add the green chillies, sliced onions and cook in medium heat until the onions are golden. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute or two. Add half of the mint and coriander leaves and mix. Add the coconut milk and water and allow it to boil. Add the rice and cook covered for 10-12 minutes or pressure cook for one whistle. When done, sprinkle the remaining mint and coriander and mix with a fork. Serve hot with a spicy curry. I made this egg curry to go with the kushka.
The best rice to use for any south Indian pulao/briyani is Jeera Samba (seeraga samba). I couldn't find this rice in the indian stores in the area I live so the closest alternative would be basmati.
Pearl onions are a best component for any briyani recipe since it yields a mild sweetness. Regular onions may be substituted per wish.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Kesar Pista Cookies (Eggless) | Christmas Cookies

Christmas went by pretty well. We had loads of fun with friends, went to a movie, not to forgot a bunch of cookies I baked along with the Christmas Rum Cake. I also tried something new with the condensed milk I had in my fridge leftover from making this Doodh Peda. These cookies are incredible easy to make and comes together in less than 20 minutes. Now, how easy it is for a homemade-from-scratch cookie.

Makes 18-24 cookies based on size
All purpose flour - 1 cup + 1 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Baking powder - 1-1/2 tsp
Pistachios, raw - 1/4 cup
Butter, room temperature - 1/2 cup
Condensed milk - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 2 Tbsp 
Warm milk - 2 tsp
Saffron strands - 4-5

Sprinkle the saffron strands in the warm milk and set aside to steep. 
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Chop the pistachios into tiny pieces. Sieve 1 cup flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk the butter, sugar and condensed milk until well mixed. Add the milk and the flour mix and knead to form a smooth dough. If the dough is sticky, sprinkle the remaining flour as needed to make it smooth. Pinch 1 inch balls of dough and roll. Place in a lined baking sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes. When done allow to cool in the baking pan. When almost cool transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gingerbread Pancakes | Holiday Breakfast Recipes

Waking up in the morning to the smell of freshly cooked meal wafting from the kitchen is a boon. That is not available because of two reasons if you live elsewhere from your mom's or grandma's home. First, in the fast paced world, breakfast is often a convenience food like cereal or oatmeal. Secondly, you have to be in the kitchen in the (early) morning to make the meal :). 
But holidays are an exception. Having a relaxed morning with your family gathered around the breakfast table makes you want to make something special with the flavor of the holidays, like this gingerbread pancakes.

All purpose flour/Maida - 1-1/2 cups (see notes)
Baking powder - 1 Tbsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Ginger powder - 3/4 tsp
Ground Cloves - a pinch
Brown Sugar - 2 Tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Milk - 1 cup + 2 Tbsp (add 2 Tbsp more for thinner pancakes)
Egg - 1
Butter, melted - 2 Tbsp
Maple Syrup - 1 Tbsp (see notes)
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices until there are no lumps.
Whisk the milk, egg, butter, syrup and vanilla in a separate cup. Add the liquid to the flour and mix with a whisk until combined. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes. The resting time is crucial to help the gluten relax and give a fluffier texture to the pancakes.
Heat a non-stick or seasoned cast iron pan in medium high heat. A little spray of water should sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and pour a quarter cup measure to the pan. Allow to spread on its own. No need to swirl the pan. When bubbles form and burst on the surface, it is time to flip the pancake. Flip and allow it to cook a half a minute or more. Serve hot topped with a dollop of salted butter, maple syrup and fresh fruits. You could also top it with powdered sugar.
Authentic gingerbread flavor has molasses in it. If you want to use molasses, skip the brown sugar and maple syrup and add 3 Tbsp of molasses. Reduce the milk by 2 Tbsp as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Fruit Cake / Old fashioned Rum Cake

Last year this time I had posted the Christmas fruit cake (no alcohol no soak) recipe. And I made a mental note to try the real version soon, the all out caramel-alcohol fruit soaked plum cake. And I did. Well, it wasn't easy. I scoured my cookbook collection, referred a few trusted sites and arrived at my recipe. I made a small test batch (1/4th of the below recipe) before a few months for recipe testing and was happy with it.
Here I am sharing the all famous Old fashioned Christmas Rum cake sold in bakeries across Indian during this season.
The color of the cake depends on the sugar used and the dry fruits you use. The more darker dry fruits you use, like raisins, dates the darker the cake will be. I used a good mix of dark and light colored dry fruits and hence the honey golden cake.

For the Fruit Soak:
Dry Fruits - 4 cups
(I used a mix of the following
Candied fruit and peels - 1 cup
Raisins - 1/2 cup
Golden raisins - 1/2 cup
Dried Cranberries - 1/2 cup
Dates - 1/2 cup
Dried Figs - 1/4 cup
Dried Apricots - 1/2 cup
Candied ginger - 1/4 cup)
You could use the dry fruits based on your liking to a total of 4 cups.
Dark Brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Orange juice - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Rum - 1/2 cup (Can substitute whisky)

For the cake:
All purpose Flour (Maida) - 2 cups + 1/2 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1-1/4 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Ginger - 1 tsp
Cloves - 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Butter - 1 cup (softened)
Dark brown sugar - 1 cup (see notes)
Eggs - 4 (room temperature)
Vanilla - 2 tsp
Nuts - 2 cups, roughly chopped (Use a mix of almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds)

Before a day of making the cake, make the caramel fruit soak. Heat the dark brown sugar in a saucepan stirring occasionally to let the sugar caramelize and become darker. Remove from heat and add water, orange juice. Add the 4 cups of dry fruits and allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and mix the rum. Allow it to cool completely and transfer to a non-reactive storage container (no plastic or aluminium or non-stick), glass or steel is a better option. It can be stored for 2 weeks to 2 months. Don't forget to give a nice mix with a clean, dry spoon every 2-3 days. This can be stored in room temperature and need not be refrigerated. The alcohol in the fruit mix acts as a preservative.
On the day of making the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease several ramekins with butter, this recipe makes 8, 2 cup size cakes. 
Drain the soaking liquid from the fruits and reserve separately. 
Sieve the dry ingredients, starting from flour (2 C) to nutmeg several times until well mixed. 
Add 1/2 cup of flour to the fruits to coat well. This makes sure the fruits are evenly suspended in the cake and does not sink to the bottom.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and the reserved liquid from the fruits alternatively to the butter mixture and mix lightly after each addition. You should mix just until no streaks of flour remain. Add the fruits and the chopped nuts and mix with a spoon. Divide equally into greased ramekins and bake for 40-45 minutes.
When the cakes come out of the oven brush a little rum over the top when it is still hot. This brushing with rum step is optional though.
Allow to cool the cakes in the pan. When cooled completely, remove from the pans. If you are gifting to friends and family, bake in a aluminium foil pan and pack it in for gift giving.
This cake can be made ahead and stored. It is like banana bread, the taste gets better the next day.
This cake recipe is not glaringly sweet. It is mildly sweet with the sweetness coming from the soaked fruits.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Doodh Peda in Ten minutes / Condensed Milk Doodh Peda

Ever wished you have all the patience and time to make an authentic sweet. I do. I wanted to make something sweet to celebrate a little occasion at home. Since we had just come back from India trip I couldn't do anything elaborate. I decided to make this simple sweet which comes together in 10 minutes and tastes divine.
I would like to post a disclaimer though. It is not quite like the authentic doodh peda made using process of slow cooking of milk and sugar but is close enough.

Makes 14-18 pedas
Recipe from here
Condensed milk - 200 g (I used half of a tin)
Nonfat Milk powder - 1 cup
Ghee - 2 tbsp + more for greasing
Milk - 2 tbsp
Saffron - a few strands
Sultanas/Pistachios - 20 (for Garnish)

Warm the milk in a pan or a microwave. Add the saffron strands and let it stand for a few minutes.
Mix the condensed milk and milk powder until there are no lumps. Heat ghee is a non stick pan in medium heat. Pour the milk mixture and the saffron milk and use a wooden spoon to stir and cook the milk. Stir continuously to enable even cooking and to prevent drying out. When the mixture comes to a single mass and doesn't look too wet and sticky, remove from heat. 
Apply ghee to both hands and pinch lime sized balls from the dough. Make smooth balls and flatten a little. Insert the sultanas or pistachios to the center of the flattened balls ever so slightly. 
Always keep the dough covered when making the balls.
If your milk powder is not fine and is granular, just pulse in blender to make a fine powder.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rice Kheer / Pressure Cooker Pal Payasam | Indian Festival Recipes

Payasam is an easy go-to sweet made for a small celebration, surprise guests, quick neivedyam and what-not. But is there a way to make it easier. Why, yes there is.. Pressure cooker to the rescue. Place everything in the cooker and cook for 3 whistles and you are done. I have tried making the simple paal payasam with rice. Soon I am planning to experiment with semiya and sago. I will keep this page updated as how it turns out.

Serves - 4-6
Whole Milk  - 2 cups + 1/2 cups
Rice - 1/4 cups
Sugar - 1/4 cups
Cardamom powder - a pinch
Ghee - 1 tsp
Cashews - 1 tsp
Sultanas/ Golden raisins - a few

Place the rice, sugar and 2 cups of milk in a pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles. Meanwhile fry the cashews and sultanas in ghee. When the pressure is released, add cardamom powder, fried cashews, mix and simmer with 1/2 cup of milk for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. 
Serve warm or chilled.
Notes: The amount of sugar here yields a moderately sweet payasam, if you like yours sweeter add 2 more tablespoons of sugar.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Zucchini Raitha

Nothing can beat raitha as a side for the ubiquitous briyani. Raitha (pronounced rye-tha and not raw-ee-tha) is a goto accompaniment for the briyani. The most common vegetables used in raitha are red onions, cucumber or carrot. This Zucchini variant is just an inspiration from a friend's salad recipe and I loved it. This is a great low-calorie dressing too for simple salad for lunch. A simple raitha to cool your body with a serving of veggie, how awesome is that! 

Inspired from here
Serves - 2-3
Yogurt, greek or Desi curds - 1 cup
Zucchini - 1
Lemon juice -  about 1 tsp
Mint leaves - a fistful
Salt - to taste
Pepper - to taste

Whisk the yogurt until smooth. Peel and grate the zucchini in a grater with the large teeth. Finely chop the mint leaves. Mix all three and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with any spicy rice dish, like the Mushroom Briyani.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mushroom Briyani (Easy version) | Rice Recipes

With this Fall season here (hot one day, warm the other and pretty chill the next day), the wind has been little chilly but not quite like fall. What better than some warm food to keep yourself cozy and ready for all the excitement the Fall season has to bring. This recipe here is a simple and flavorful briyani for a simple weekday lunch. Paired with Zucchini raitha (recipe follows) it is a satisfying meal.
Briyani generally means lot of preparations with fresh ground spices and layering of the rice and masala. But this recipe here is a simple one with garam masala powder. This garam masala powder (made by my friend's mom) is home-made with red chillies added to it. If you are using a garam masala powder that is store-bought or does not have chillies in it add red chilli powder to taste. 

Serves - 2-3
Basmati Rice (I used brown rice) - 1 cup (standard 240 ml cup)
Mushroom - 8 oz ~ 250 g
Onion, thinly sliced - 1 cup
Ginger Garlic paste, freshly ground - 1-1/2 tbsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp (see notes)
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (optional, see notes)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Mint leaves - a fistful
Bay leaf - 1

Wash and soak the rice for 30 mins (15 minutes for white rice). Clean and cut the mushrooms in thick slices. 
Heat a saucepan / pressure cooker and heat the oil. Add the bay leaf followed by the onions. Saute in medium-high heat until the onions take a shade of golden brown. Add the freshly ground ginger garlic paste and fry in medium heat for about 3 minutes. Now add the garam masala powder and chilli powder (if using) and fry for a minute. Add 1-1/2 cups of water (2 cups for white rice) with required amount of salt and torn mint leaves. Drain the water from the rice and add the rice to the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles (2 whistles for white rice). When the pressure is released, open and fluff with fork. Serve hot with Zucchini Raitha.
The Garam masala powder I used was pretty spicy with the red chillies ground along with it. So I did not add red chilli powder. If your garam masala powder is not spicy, add chilli powder to taste. 
If you feel the amount of mushrooms is a little too much you could always reduce to your preference. I prefer a meaty briyani.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cinnamon Palm Sugar Granola | Breakfast Recipes

Ever since my granola fever, I had been making batches of granola quite frequently. My major use of granola is a quick to reach item for the mid-afternoon (sweet) snack crave. I did not have an idea of doing a blog post on this particular variety, but when some of my friends asked for the pictures/recipe for this when I posted on FB, I couldn't help but click some pictures and do a write-up.
I have used palm sugar as the sweetener and have made my own palm sugar syrup. Since it is an unrefined sugar, you would have to filter the syrup for impurities before use. If you could not get palm sugar, the closest alternative would be molasses (1/2 cup) but honey/maple syrup/agave can also be used.

Makes 4 cups of granola
Rolled oats - 3 cups + 1 cup
Quinoa, uncooked - 1/2 cup
Pecans, raw, chopped - 1/2 cup
Palm sugar - 1/2 cup, tightly packed
Oil - 1/4 cup (any light tasting oil would work)
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 tbsp
Vanilla - 1 tsp (optional)
Pumpkin seeds - 1/4 cup

To make palm sugar syrup:
Take a heaping 1/2 cup of palm sugar with 2 tbsp of water and heat until warm. Filter through a fine mesh sieve and cool. This can be made in advance and stored in a closed glass jar in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 275 F/ 140 C. Pulse 1 cup of oats in blender for a couple of times. Mix rolled oats, ground oats, cinnamon, quinoa, nuts, oil, palm sugar syrup, vanilla, salt and pumpkin seeds. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread mixture and bake 25 minutes. Mix and bake again for 10 minutes. Repeat the mixing after 10 minutes. 
Turn the oven off and place the door ajar and allow the granola to cool inside the oven. After an hour, remove the granola pan and cool completely. Store in airtight container.
If using roasted nuts and/or pumpkin seeds add them at the final 10 minutes of baking.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chai Spiced Cookies | Cookie Recipes

Today is the first day of Autumn. It is time to dress up in layers and add some warm munchies to the evening snacks. Nothing defines Fall season than adding cozy aromatic spices in food. Ever since I tasted the Chai Spice / Tea Masala at home, I had been thinking of using it in a recipe other than Chai. I stumbled upon this chai spiced cookies recipe and tried it one fine day. I was planning to serve it to my friends who were visiting for tea.

Makes 20 cookies
Recipe from here
All purpose flour - 1 cup
Chai masala - 1 Tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Butter, softened - 1/2 cup
Powdered Sugar - 1/4 cup
Egg yolk - 1
Vanilla extract - 2 tsp
Spice Coating:
Powdered sugar - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1/4 tsp

Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the ingredients for the spice coating in a wide bowl.
Whisk the flour, chai masala and salt until well mixed. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the flour mixture, in 3 batches and beat to combine. When the dough comes together, scoop tablespoonfuls of dough and place in the baking sheet at least an inch apart. Bake for 13-15 minutes turning the pan once midway. When done, allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes. When the cookies are still warm, drench the cookies in the spiced sugar mixture and place in the cooling rack. When all the cookies are coated, repeat the spiced sugar coating for all the cookies and allow it to cool completely. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus

You don't have to be a vegan to love hummus. Yet, this vegan, chickpea based middle-eastern dish is great as a dip or a spread. Just dip with pita or tortilla chips for a filling snack. Spread some on a flatbread, fill with veggies and make a wrap. You have got yourself a quick lunch. My LO loves to eat this just by the spoonful. This recipe here can be made and stored in the fridge for several days.

Cooked Chickpeas - 2 cups (or use 1 can, washed and drained chickpeas)
Garlic - 1 clove
Salt - to taste
Extra virgin olive oil - 3 to 4 tbsp
Red pepper flakes - a pinch (optional)
Red bell pepper - 1 large
Tahini - 2 tbsp (see notes below)
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp

Roast the red bell pepper in the oven (refer link here for roasting in oven) or char on a flame. When charred all over place in a container with a tight fitting lid and allow it to sweat for 15 minutes. Remove skin and chop finely.
Place the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, red pepper flakes, salt and lemon juice in a blender. With the blender running, drizzle the olive oil and grind the hummus until coarse. Add the roasted red bell pepper (reserving some for garnish) and continue grinding until smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt/pepper flakes as needed. Serve with pita, tortilla, bread, celery, carrots or cucumber. 
Tahini is sesame butter. To make tahini at home, toast 2 tbsp of white sesame seeds, allow to cool and blend with 1/2 tsp of olive oil until smooth. Use as needed.
Bonus tip: For a super smooth hummus, try to peel the skin off the cooked chickpeas. For me, I love the skin and the texture it adds.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tofu Recipes - All in one page

Tofu Golden Triangles
Tofu Golden Triangles
Sweet & Spicy Baked Tofu
Sweet & Spicy Baked Tofu
Pad Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Pad Thai Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Sesame Crusted Tofu Salad

Thai Style Mushroom Tofu Soup

Hot and Sweet Basil Tofu

Tofu Bell Pepper Scramble

Szechwan style Tofu with Vegetables
Buddha's Delight

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How to make Applesauce at home

My experiment with making applesauce at home began very recently. Though I have heard about the good factors, it never occurred to me to try making it at home. My tryst with the farmer's market shopping made me buy a large bag of apples. I set out to make applesauce the very next day.
It is a very easy process and I froze the cooled pureed applesauce in 1/2 cup measures. I have been using it in place of oil/fat in baking. Remember I have been making muffins and quickbreads and freezing them in batches. It is a goto food when I or my little one want a quick snack.

Makes 2 cups of applesauce
Apples, Fuji variety - 1 kg (2 lb)
Water - 1/4 cup
Sugar - a pinch (optional)

Wash, peel and core the apples. Chop into 1" pieces. Place in a heavy bottomed pan with water and sugar. Cover and cook in medium heat for 30-40 minutes until the apples are soft. Allow to cool and puree in the blender until smooth.
This can be used right-away as a snack or as an oil substitute for baking.
Or you could measure 1/2 cup quantities and pour in a freezer safe ziploc bags and freeze flat in a plate. When frozen, place in another large ziptop bag and date it.
To make chunky applesauce:
Reserve half of the cut apples and add them at the 20 minute mark. Blend with an immersion blender or just pulse a few times in the blender.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Morning Glory Muffins (Low Calorie/Vegan) | Muffins and Quick Bread Recipes

My LO has taken a liking to muffins and quick-breads and I am making many varieties of muffin batches like this Very Berry Muffins and this recipe here. This muffin here uses less oil than the typical morning glory muffins and substitutes apple sauce instead. I have also used Agave syrup instead of regular sugar making it a teeny bit naturally sweetened. I store the batch in a freezer safe ziptop bag and pullout one whenever needed and microwave for half a minute. 
Adapted from here
Makes 12 muffins
Whole Wheat flour - 2 cups (can use a mix of both whole wheat and all-purpose flour)
Cinnamon powder - 2 tsp
Ginger powder - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Grated carrots - 2 cups (about 4 medium sized carrots)
Dried fruits - 1/2 cup (I used a mix of cranberries, raisins and figs)
Unsweetened Applesauce - 1 cup (recipe follows)
Oil -1/2 cup (Canola/vegetable)
Agave nectar - 1/2 cup (can substitute honey/maple syrup)
Vanilla extract - 1 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners or grease with oil. Sieve the dry ingredients (first 6) together. Mix the grated carrots, dried fruits, applesauce, oil, agave and vanilla in a separate bowl with a fork. Pour over the flour mixture and mix until no streaks of flour remain. Set aside for 10-15 minutes (You could also preheat the oven at this time). Fill in muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes. When done, transfer to a cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze in a ziptop bag for several weeks.
Note: Fan of nuts? Add 1/2 cup of chopped nuts in the batter before baking.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

One minute Orange Chocochip Mug Cake (Eggless) | Microwave Dessert Recipes

For all those who are wondering.. No I did not vanish from the face of the earth. Things had been pretty tiring with the family health side. What started as a common cold with my LO, came rounds with all of us and became worse bringing in its friends cough and sore throat. And yes it has been more than a month and we are still recovering.
As for today's post I keep it simple with a one minute microwave egg-less orange cake until I dust my drafts for more interesting recipes lying there.

Serves - 1
All purpose flour - 4 Tbsp
Baking powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - a dash
Confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) - 2 Tbsp
Oil - 1 Tbsp
Milk - 1 Tbsp
Orange juice - 1 Tbsp
Orange zest - from half a small orange
Chocolate chips - 1 tbsp
Sieve flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and set aside. In a microwave-proof mug, add wet ingredients with orange zest and mix well. Sprinkle dry ingredients over and mix until thick. Pop in the MW and cook for a minute.
Dig in with a spoon and enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chicken Tikka | Easy Indian Chicken Recipes

This is a simple chicken side dish/appetizer recipe which does not need too much effort. Just marinate/refrigerate/thread and grill. You could cut the chicken pieces to any size you want, I just kept it small to please my little one. I have not used any food coloring but you may do so if you like. Just a few drops/a pinch of red food coloring with the marinade will work. 

Serves - 1-2
Chicken - 150 g, cubed (I used boneless skinless chicken thighs)
Red bell pepper - 1
Green bell pepper - 1
Onion - 1 cup, cubed
Curd / Greek Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Ginger Garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

Mix the marinade ingredients well and check for seasoning. Add the chicken, bellpeppers cut to 1" cubes and onion. Mix well and store in the refrigerator until ready to grill. Minimum of 2 hours to maximum 24 hours. Mix once every 4 hours to enable even distribution of the marinade. 
Soak 2-3 bamboo skewers in water for about 30 minutes. Thread the chicken alternating with peppers and onions into the skewers.
Heat a cast-iron skillet with about 2 tbsp of oil. Place the skewers on the pan with medium heat. Turn over with a tongs every minute or so for even browning. Cooking in medium heat is recommended so that there is a beautiful char on the outside but still the insides are cooked through. Remove from heat and serve on the stick or a plate. Squeeze fresh lemon juice before serving.
If using just chicken you could use this marinade for 1/4 kg (1/2 lb) of chicken or double as needed.
Typically artificial red color is added to achieve the tikka color. It is purely personal preference again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

When you have a craving for Mac and Cheese, you have to make it right away. But I didn't want to go for the boxed varieties with too many processed ingredients, names of many I wouldn't even be able to pronounce. Again a craving can be something that isn't too indulging. Ok, you could stop reading right now and think "why would you want to eat mac and cheese if it is skinny/healthy". I say, why not?! The cheese sauce I used here for mac and cheese has cauliflower in it with cottage cheese. Doing something good for your body while eating something you crave.. Win-Win!
Psst.. It is a good way to sneak vegetables in to your kids..
Serves - 4
Macaroni pasta, dry - 1 cup
Cauliflower florets - 1-1/2 cups
Water/Vegetable Stock - 1-1/2 cups
Cottage cheese - 1 cup
Cheddar cheese - 2 oz (60 g)
Parmesan cheese - 2 tbsp
Ground nutmeg - 1/8 tsp
Salt & pepper - to taste
Bread crumbs - 1/2 cup
Melted Butter - 1 tbsp
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cook the macaroni pasta in salted boiling water for about 7 minutes (that was 2 minutes less than the required time). Drain and set aside, covered. 
Mix 1 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and butter in a bowl.
Boil cauliflower in salted water for 5-7 minutes until soft. Scoop out the florets and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Reserve water. Puree in a blender/food processor until smooth, using the boiled water to thin out if needed. Add the cottage cheese and puree again. Return the cauliflower-cheese puree to the saucepan and add half of the reserved water. Add the cheddar cheese and allow it to melt in medium heat. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Curdling at this stage is normal because of cottage cheese. Allow the sauce to cool a bit and pulse a couple of times in the food processor. Mix 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese. Mix the pasta to the cheese sauce and pour into a large oven proof baking tray/bowl. Evenly spread the bread crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes.
If the top is browning too fast around 15 minutes, cover with foil and continue baking.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Suyyam / Poornam Boorelu | Indian Festival Dishes

Ugadi wishes to all! Today I wanted to share a sweet recipe to make on this festival. Suyyam (aka Pooranam Boorelu in Telugu) is an easy to make sweet when you are pressed for time. The whole thing can be done in less than 30 minutes. How is that for an authentic traditional Indian sweet?
It involves a little bit of multitasking, when the dhal is cooking make the dipping batter ready. I have made this in paniyaram pan, but this can also be deep fried.

Makes 14 suyyams
Chana dhal/Kadala Paruppu - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp
Cardamom powder - a big pinch
Maida / All-purpose flour - 1/2 cup
Rice flour - 2 tbsp (optional)
Salt - a dash
Water - 1/2 cup or more as needed
Wash and place the dhal with 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Cook the dhal until it is soft but still hold its shape and not mushy. Drain the water and allow it to cool for about 5 mins. In a small jar of the mixie, blend the dhal, sugar and cardamom until the dhal is coarse. Make small balls of the dhal dough.  Set aside covered. This can be made earlier the same day and the dhal balls can be stored in the fridge.Mix the maida, rice flour (if using) and salt well. Add water little by little and make a thick batter, with the consistency of idli batter. Heat a paniyaram pan and add 1 tsp of oil each to the little kuzhis. When it is heated, dip one dhal ball in the batter and drop in the kuzhi. Repeat with the rest of the balls. Cook in medium-high heat for about a minute or two and flip it over. Cook until the batter is cooked through, flipping over until it takes a light brown shade. Serve warm as a snack.
This can also be made without a paniyaram pan. Just deep fry the batter dipped balls in a kadai with oil. 
The rice flour just gives a little crispy bite to the suyyam. If you like a chewy one, just skip the rice flour.
A tablespoon of fresh grated coconut can be added to the dhal filling before making balls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Minestrone Soup | Soup Recipes

This delicious soup is wholesome and sure to fill you up (and your fridge) for a weeknight dinner. Just pick up a loaf of bread from the supermarket (or bake one if you have time) to pair it up. Or skip the bread altogether, it is awesome by itself.
Now, filling up the fridge part, this recipe serves a great make-ahead meal and is a double amount of what my family has for dinner. So whenever I make this, it serves the next meal too. It can also be frozen.
Serves - 4-6
Olive oil - 3 tbsp
Onion, chopped - 1 cup
Garlic, minced - 4 cloves
Celery, chopped - 2 stalks
Carrot, medium sized, diced - 2
Green beans, chopped - 1 cups
Cauliflower florets - 1 cup
Broccoli florets - 1 cup
Bell peppers, julienned - 1 cup (I used mini peppers)
Dried Italian seasoning - 1 tbsp
Crushed tomatoes from can - 2 cups
Sugar - 1/4 tsp
Vegetable Stock / Chicken stock - 3 cups (Use low sodium variety)
Water - 3 cups (You could substitute stock for water)
Black beans, cooked - 1-1/2 cups (or use 1 can of black beans, rinsed)
Salt & pepper - to taste
Pasta, any small variety - 1/4 cup
Parmesan cheese - to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large stockpot and saute the onion, garlic and celery. When the onion takes a light shade of brown add the carrots and green beans and fry for 3 minutes. Now tip in the cauliflower and broccoli florets and saute for another 2 minutes. Now add the bell peppers and the italian seasoning. Add the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Now add the stock and water with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the soup to come to a boil. Add the black beans and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Add the pasta and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot in a bowl, topped with parmesan cheese.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kollu Rasam | Rasam Recipes

Kollu rasam is my go-to type of soup to make when a cold is going around in my home. It is warm and spicy and just what one needs when down with a bad cold. I know, there is nothing like a good cold :).
I have used the water from cooking the horse gram for making rasam. 

Reserved Water from cooking Kollu
Tamarind - Size of half a lime
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Horsegram / Kollu - 1 tsp
Dry Red chilli - 1
Ginger - 1/2 inch
Garlic - 2 cloves

Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water. Place the pepper corns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, horsegram in a mixie jar and process until fine. Add the ginger and garlic and pulse twice. Extract tamarind juice and add 2 more cups of water to dilute. Add salt, ground spice mix, turmeric powder. Allow it to boil for 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved water and heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve over rice or in a cup.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kollu Kadayal / Horsegram Chutney | South Indian Curries

Horse gram is a type of beans eaten widely in South India. It is a lesser known variety of lentils but has numerous health benefits. Horse gram rasam (soup) is good for treating cold and the beans itself is known for aiding weight loss. 
I have used sprouted horse gram in this recipe, but horse gram which is cleaned and soaked overnight (non-sprouted) can also be used. I have used the beans cooked water in another recipe kollu rasam which is my next post.

Sprouted horse gram - 1 cup
Water - 2-1/2 cups
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Garlic cloves - 2
Red onion, chopped (or) Pearl onions - 1/2 cup
Dry Red chillies - 2
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

Pressure cook the kollu with water, turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of salt for about 4-5 whistles. When done, drain and reserve the water for rasam. We are going to use this water in the kollu rasam recipe. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds. Add the red chillis, onion and garlic. Fry until the onions turn soft. Add the cooked dhal, salt to taste and mix. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Blend in a mixie jar until slightly coarse. Serve mixed with hot rice and gingelly oil. Heaven in a morsel!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Very Berry Muffins | Muffins and Quick Bread Recipes

The market is brimming with fresh berries and I couldn't resist picking up a pack of bright strawberries from my farmer's market trip on Sunday. The berries were super fresh and tasted just out of this world. Fruits definitely taste best in their peak season.
I made this mixed berry muffins a couple of weeks ago with a mix of leftover berries from the fridge. These days I find myself baking muffins very frequently. Whenever I do, I bake and freeze half of the batch. Whenever I or my LO crave a snack, I just pull one muffin out from the freezer and warm it in the microwave oven for 30-60 seconds.
Makes 10 standard sized muffins; 
Preparation time 15 mins; Baking time - 25 mins
All purpose flour / Maida - 2 cups
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Salt  - 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp
Oil - 1/4 cup
Eggs - 2 (room temperature)
Buttermilk - 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 2 tsp
lemon zest/orange zest - 2 tsp
Mixed Berries - 1-1/2 cups (I used a mix of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries)

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Line a muffin tin with liners or grease with oil. Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with sugar. Add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla and citrus zest and whisk again. Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix until no streaks of flour remain. Do not beat or mix more than needed. Fold in the berries with a spatula. Fill in the muffin tin until full. Pop in the oven for 5 mins and reduce the heat to 350 F/180 C and bake for another 17-20 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool it a little and serve warm. This muffins can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Note: Do not open the oven door after 5 minutes when you reduce the heat.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Dal Makhani | Indian Curry Recipes

Dal Makhani aka Maa di Dhal is a dish from the state of Punjab in India. Traditionally it is cooked slowly by simmering in low heat from which it gets its rich creamy texture. It was something which I never thought of making at home. But being a food blogger is to break open the boundaries and getting out of the comfort zone to try and cook with ingredients which is new to me. I wouldn't say the black urad dhal is new to south indian cooking. It is a main ingredient in azhagar koil dosai, a dosa recipe famous in the Madurai region of Tamil Nadu. I also remember my mom soaking this whole black urad dhal with skin in water for making idli batter, before the advent of skinned urad dhal. She would patiently rub the soaked dhal and remove the skin by washing. 

Serves - 4-6
Whole Urad dhal (with skin) - 1 cup (160 ml)
Kidney Beans / Rajma - 2 tbsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Onion, chopped - 1 cup
Tomato, ripe - 2
Green chilli - 1
Ginger, grated - 1 tsp
Garlic, grated - 1 tsp
Kashmiri Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Cream/ Half & Half / Evaporated milk - 120 ml (more or less per taste)
Water - 2-3 cups

Wash the beans together. In a pressure cooker place the dhal and beans with 4 cups of water, turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp of salt and pressure cook for 6 whistles. The dhals can be alternatively soaked for 6-8 hours. In that case cooking for 2 whistles should be good. When done, mash the dhals slightly and set aside. In a saucepan, heat oil and saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute or so. Add the finely chopped tomatoes with a pinch of salt and fry until it is well mashed. Add the chilli powder, garam masala powder and salt (to taste) and mix for a minute. Add the cooked dhal with 2 cups of water. If the dhal is too thick you may add another cup of water. Check for seasoning and bring it to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cream and mix. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot with some rotis/jeera rice.