Saturday, October 22, 2016

Vellai Poosanikai Halwa - Kasi Halwa - Ash Gourd Halwa - Diwali Recipe

This white pumpkin halwa is something I have wanted to make for a long time now. Kept postponing because of non-availability of white pumpkin. I have seen slices of white pumpkin in the Indian grocery stores but never a whole pumpkin. So what is one to do? Try growing it of course which I successfully did this summer. The plant grows big long vines and I had about 2 of the them which gave about 12 pumpkins in total. The dry hot summer and my lack of regular watering kept the number to a minimum or we would have had more than we could handle.

These white pumpkins are great for mor kuzhamu, thayir kuzhambu and sambhar of course but I would say they were meant for making halwa.
I also froze some of it for use later in the winter months. I am not sure if you can freeze raw pumpkins but par boil them with a pinch of turmeric and then drain the water and freeze for later use.

For making halwa you need fresh mature pumpkins. Young pumpkins release too much water but don't be deterred by it. You can hand grate the pumpkin or use a food processor. I tried both ways and I prefer the hand grating method better.

If you have about 6 cups of grated and liquid squeezed out pumpkin you will get about 3 cups of halwa.

Clean the pumpkin and mince it finely using a food processor or grate using a fine grater.
Use a cheese cloth to strain the water from the grated pumpkin.
Texture are slightly different when using a food processor and grater.
Add ghee to a thick bottomed pan and add in the grated pumpkin and saute. Heat about 1/2 of the water and bring it to a boil.
Add the water to the sauteed pumpkin and let it cook till the pumpkin is soft. Add teh sugar and let it come to a boil.
Let the pumpkin and sugar cook in medium heat till it thickens. Add the saffron and ghee.
Roast the cashews in a bit of ghee. The mixture will come together as it cooks. Add the cardamom powder and mix together.

Vellai Poosanikkai Halwa - Kasi Halwa - Ash Gourd Halwa
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
  1. 1/2 White Pumpkin peeled, seeds removed and grated and water squeezed out (about 6 cups)
  2. 3 cups of raw sugar
  3. 1 tsp of lemon juice (optional)
  4. few strands of saffron
  5. 1 tsp of cardamom + 1/2 tsp sugar powdered
  6. 2 tbsp of ghee (optional)
  7. 1/4 cup of raw cashews broken

  1. Grate or use a food processor to chop the pumpkin very fine. Use a fine cheese cloth and strain out as much of the water as possible from the grated pumpkin. Measure about 6 cups of the pumpkin. Do not discard the water.
  2. In a thick bottomed pot add 2 tsp of ghee and then add the squeezed pumpkin. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. In a sauce pan heat about half of the squeezed water and when it comes to a boil add to the sauteed pumpkin just enough to cover the pumpkin.
  4. Let the pumpkin cook it is becomes soft and fully cooked (takes about 8-10 minutes).
  5. Add in the sugar, reduce the heat to medium and let it come to a boil. Add the lemon juice on the side to avoid the sugar from getting crystallized.
  6. In a sauce pan add some ghee and roast the cashews and set aside.
  7. Keep stirring so the pumpkin sugar mixture does not stick to the bottom.
  8. After about 20 minutes or so the moisture should start evaporating and the mixture will come together. Add some ghee at this stage along with the saffron.
  9. Cook till the mixture stars to get shiny and thick, add the cardamom powder and the roasted cashews. Mix and turn off the heat. Remove the pan from the stove and set aside till it cools down and store in a glass or stainless steel container.
  10. Note:The halwa should stay well outside for a good 2 weeks and in the refrigerator for a month. It is a good sweet to freeze.
  11. The water squeezed from the pumpkin can be used for drinking.
  12. I used raw sugar so the halwa is dark orange in color.
  13. If you used food processor to mince the pumpkin, right after you add the sugar use a hand blender to break down the pumpkin further if it is still grainy.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kothamalli thokku - Coriander leaves pickle

I am not the first one to send a child to college and neither will I be the last. This ritual old though it may be is new for us. I kept postponing thinking about it and then it happened. When I left for college I only cared about the fact that I was leaving home. Didn't spend too much time worrying about how my parents were going to miss me (or in my case they probably were thinking good riddance ;). Now I realize that being on the other side is just as hard or even harder.

Like most mother and daughter pairs we talked a lot, fought a lot, shouted at each other a lot and the most important of all DH and I had come to rely on her for a lot of things. Even though still a teen she had the maturity to understand. Her relationship with DD2 on the other was very different. She regressed by a few years and she behaved like she was the same age as her little sister.

Now all of us miss her and find it hard on weekends. Food wise I miss her even more - when I pass by by the aisles that have the food items she enjoys. I feel a tinge of guilt when I cook something that she likes and she cannot enjoy it.

Care packages have you heard of that? You ship overnight food to your away from home child. Luxury! Have not tried it yet though.

That is what is going on but that is not the reason that posts have been sporadic. That story is for another day.

Now on to some food talk,
Thokkus and pickles the mainstay of the summer months. If I have an abundance of tomatoes I make some tomato thokku which get used morning, noon and night. After tasting home made tomato ketchup store bought ketchup just don't do the trick so I make a batch of that. I had grown coriander leaves this season which gave an opportunity to make some coriander leaves thokku which I have been wanting to for some time.

I am used to buying coriander leaves that look like coriander leaves but does not smell like coriander leaves and I start to doubt if they are really coriander leaves. What if they are parsley? With home grown you will have no such doubt. The aromatic smell of those leaves will leave you mesmerized.

Saute the blackgram and urad dal along with the mustard seeds and red chilies. Get the tamarind pulp ready.
Blend the coriander leaves with the dal and the tamarind pulp and salt and saute in oil till it is shiny.

Unlike other pickles coriander thokku does not require that much oil but you can be liberal with the oil if you want to preserve it for longer.

Coriander Thokku - Coriander leaves pickle
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  1. 3 cups of packed coriander leaves
  2. 1 tbsp bengal gram (kadalai paruppu)
  3. 7-8 red chilies
  4. 1/2 tbsp urad dal (ulutham paruppu)
  5. 1/4 + 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  6. tiny bit of asfoetida
  7. 1/4 cup of thick tamarind pulp from a small lemon sized ball of tamarind
  8. 1/2 tbsp jaggery
  9. salt to taste
  10. 2-3 tbsp of oil
  1. Wash and dry the coriander leaves completely. You can also sun dry it to make sure.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan, add a tsp of oil when hot saute the bengal gram, followed by the urad dal and remove when it is golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Saute the red chilies and mustard seeds and set aside.
  4. Add the coriander leaves, quickly mix it for a couple of seconds remove to a separate plate.

  5. Now add the tamarind pulp and heat it till it comes to a boil and then for a couple of minutes more and turn of the heat.

  6. Slightly powder the roasted dals first, add the coriander leaves,salt and the boiled tamarind pulp and blend to a thick paste along with the jaggery.

  7. Now heat the rest of the oil(I used 2 tbsp) and when hot add the mustard seeds and asfoetida. When the mustard seeds starts to pop, add the blended paste and saute it for about 5-10 minutes till it becomes shiny.

  8. Cool and store in glass containers. Stays good outside for 5-6 days but for a month or more in the fridge.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tandoori Paneer in a Tawa - Pan Roasted Tandoori Panner

Have not been able to post as regularly as I would like. This summer has been a time of many changes for us some inevitable but tough to handle just the same. There are lots of people for whom change is constant and they deal with it with grace. I on the other hand postpone thinking about change and live through it with trepidation and realize it is not that bad after all. Some changes are just plain hard like sending off your child to college.

With that said I am going to feel guilty every time I cook something she likes. DD and DD2 love paneer. Though I am a recent and reluctant paneer convert. I like the fact that any recipe made with it is hard to mess up.

A colleague of mine is on a diet or challenge of some sort. Any way, it was cottage cheese and fruits for breakfast one morning. She does not like cottage cheese so had this amazing pan roasted paneer(they are cottage cheese too right?) which need I say were fantastic. The recipes calls for only spice powders and ginger and garlic powder which makes the cooking that much faster. You can always use ginger garlic paste if you prefer. The cooking time will take a bit more.

Mix the marinade in oil and set aside. Cut the paneer into cubes or rectangles.
Toss the paneer cubes in the marinade. Heat a flat bottomed pan and lightly coat with oil.
Place the paneer pieces on the pan in a single layer. Let cook on one side, flip and cook on the other side till golden.
Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with onion slices and lemon wedges.

Pan Roasted Tandoori Paneer
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  1. 12 oz block of Paneer (I used store bought)
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  4. 2 tsp ginger powder
  5. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  6. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  7. 1/2 tbsp curry masala powder or tandoori masala (any kind of masala powder will work)
  8. salt to taste

  1. Cut the paneer into desired shapes. Thin rectangles is what works best.
  2. Mix the rest of the spices in the olive oil till smooth in a wide mouthed pan.
  3. Now toss the paneer with the spice mixture and set aside.
  4. Now heat a cast iron pan or any flat griddle spread with oil.
  5. Once the oil shimmers place the panner in one layer. Cook on one side for about 3-4 minutes or slightly longer till it become golden brown.
  6. Flip and cook on the other side til golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with lemon wedges and sliced onions.

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