Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amaranth Pudding - Rajgira Kheer - Payasam

While the leaves of the Amaranth plant are very popular in South India and used in a lot of dishes from stir fries to curries, the seeds of the Amaranth plant are not that popular. I may be wrong but I have never seen the seeds being used there. But in North India I learned Amaranth or Rajgira seeds are cooked during fasting and the flour is used for making breads, sweets and several other dishes.

When I first cooked Amaranth seeds at home everyone thought that I had made kesari, but instead it was just cooked Amaranth with its glassy sheen. Being the festive season and all I made some kheer with it. The texture and taste is definitely something to enjoy. If you like tapioca pearls you'd most surely enjoy this much better without the sliminess of the tapioca.

Also take a look at this awesome looking Amaranth Halwa. The ideas for cooking the Amaranth and generally what to do with it came from here.

Wishing you dear readers a very Happy Deepavali!

Soak and drain the Amaranth seeds. Bring water to boil in a pot and add the seeds to cook in gentle heat.
Soak the almonds in hot water and peel them.
In about 10 minutes the Amaranth seeds should be cooked. While the seeds are cooking blend the almonds with the milk to a smooth paste.
Add in the sugar and cardamom powder and cook for about 2 minuted. Add the almond milk and stir for a few minutes.
After simmering for another 5-8 minutes the pudding should thicken. Add roasted cashews and raisins mix and utrn off the heat.

Pudding is ready to be served. Tastes good warm or cold.

Amaranth Pudding - Rajgira Kheer - Payasam
Preparation Time:10 minutes + 4 -8 hours soaking
Cooking Time:20 minutes
    3/4 cup of Amaranth seeds soaked overnight or at least 2-3 hours
  1. 1/4 - 1/2 almonds soaked in warm water
  2. 1 1/2 cup of fat free or 1 percent milk or just water (use water for vegan)
  3. 1 cup of raw sugar
  4. 2 tsp of cardamom powder
  5. 1/2 cup of cashews (or any nuts you prefer) and raisins
  6. 1 tsp ghee

  1. Rinse a couple of times the soaked Amaranth seeds and strain in a fine sieve.
  2. Bring to boil 2 1/4 cups of water and when it comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the Amaranth seeds.
  3. Cook in gentle medium heat for about 10 minutes till the water is all absorbed and the seeds plump up.
  4. While the seeds are cooking, peel the almonds and with a 1/4 cup of the milk or water blend the almonds to a smooth paste.
  5. Add the sugar and cardamom powder and let cook for 2 minutes or so.
  6. When the amaranth seeds are fully cooked add the almond paste along with the milk and gently simmer for another 5-8 minutes.
  7. Roast the cashews and raisins add them to the pudding and turn off the heat.
  8. Note:How thin or thick you want the pudding to be can be controlled by adjusting the amount of milk or water that is added or simmering for a bit longer.
  9. Turn of the heat when it is still has some liquid else the pudding will get too thick.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cauliflower Dry Masala with onions and tomatoes

Have you had this happen to you? When one bad thing happens a lot of bad things follow. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday. I came home last evening looking forward to a quiet evening. Luckily I did not open the mail till later in the evening else there would have been no dinner. I opened the letter from the bank with the usual enthusiasm one reserves for opening a mail from the bank! Well anyway the adrenaline rush started the minute I saw it was an overdraft letter and of course a fee was tacked on. The overdraft was for a credit card payment. It did not have to get messier than that! The amount was more than the overdraft protection we had at the bank. I know I know we are spending way too much on credit!

The running and calling around started, I transferred enough money and paid the Credit bill first. Called the credit card company to ask for a waiver of the fee and the interest charges. They quickly obliged as we were long time card holders and we were usually on time blah blah. But just to let you know most credit card companies do waive those pesky fees when you have a history of paying the bill on time. Next I called the bank to ask them to waive the fee for the overdraft. After giving me a lecture that this was a one time thing and again because we were banking with them for a long time they too obliged.

While all this happening I noticed another blunder that was not going to be that easy to fix. Instead of sending payment for my property tax I had sent a payment to my home owner's association. I usually do this through my bank's e-payment. The property tax is split into 2 payments, one due in September and one in December. So the September payment went to the HOA. What a mess! I fixed the original mistake first by sending payment to the correct payee. I called the HOA next. They told me that they did not cash the check and had tried calling but the phone rang and rang. If only I had got that message. They are going to send me the check back. In the meantime I had to call the bank to credit my account from which the money had already been debited and put a stop payment on the e-payment. They gave me a spiel about how it will take 2-3 business days and 45 days before the issue is fully resolved. No kidding! This is how e-bill payment works. The bank contracts a third-party, they debit your bank account and then issue a paper check to the payee. So to refund a deducted amount the reverse has to happen.

No deed goes unpunished though. The county has already assessed interest and penalty for the unpaid amount. What a mess! The moral of the story, it is better to go back to the old simple check writing to save your sanity!! I have never in all these years written a check to the wrong payee.

Anyway now on to more pleasant and delicious things but we will keep it simple for today alright?

Cauliflower is a life saver. I always have them in the fridge, they are a fall or spring crop as they do not like too much heat. Planted usually late or mid summer for a fall harvest. Around now is when you get the best cauliflowers. Cauliflower and Potatoes make the best combination and this Sukhi Style Cauliflower potato curry is my favorite. Sometimes peas is also added into the mix. The recipe I have today is a very simple one but perfect for a quick meal.

Cauliflower Dry Masala with onions and tomatoes
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
  1. 1 cauliflower separated into florets (as big or small as you want)
  2. 1/4 cup of sliced onions
  3. 1/4 - 1/2 cup of tomatoes chopped (I used small grape tomatoes)
  4. 3-4 garlic cloves crushed
  5. 2 tsp of grated ginger (optional)
  6. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  7. 2 tsp of red chili powder
  8. a pinch of cumin powder
  9. salt to taste
  10. 2 tsp of oil
  11. seasonings: mustard seeds and cumin seeds

  1. Heat a pot of water and when hot add the cauliflower florets and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Drain. Do not overcook.
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, heat oil in a wide mouthed pan and add the seasonings and when the mustard starts to pop add the onions.
  3. Saute the onions till it gets nice and translucent. Now add the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes more.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili powder, cumin and salt and give a good mix.
  5. Add in the chopped tomatoes and let it cook till it becomes mushy.
  6. Add the cooked and drain cauliflower and mix it into the masala nicely. Saute gently for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve with rotis or a side to rice.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Palkova - Milk Fudge with riccotta cheese and Condensed Milk

Making Palkova or thickened sweetened milk is a long and arduous process. The thickened milk right before adding sugar is called khova (khoya)which is also the base for making gulab jamuns. Ammayee made these without fail every time we visited her. Those days (and these days maybe my uncle still has them) buffalo milk was used because it was thick and creamy and with fat content higher than that of cow's milk.

Well anyway I have tried the long and arduous process a few times for making the best palkova but when you want a sweet for an occasion and you do not have the luxury of time, this is a perfectly fine way to make some palkova.

Mix the ricotta cheese and condensed milk and heat the mixture in medium heat.
Stir the mixture and after 6 minutes add the milk powder and stir till it becomes smooth. Cook the mixture for another 10-15 minutes till the mixture thickens, add ghee on the side.
Grease a plate and transfer the contents to the plate and smooth it on top. Make marks on the fudge for the desired shape. Cool and cut into pieces.

You can use just ricotta cheese and condensed milk. For even more control over the sugar use just ricotta cheese and add sugar. If you want the process to finish even faster add some milk powder to the mix. The milk powder thickens the ricotta mixture much faster.

Quick Palkova - Milk Fudge
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:20 -25 minutes
  1. 15 oz Ricotta Cheese (scant 2 cups)
  2. 14 oz condensed milk
  3. 1 cup milk powder (optional)
  4. 2 tbsp of sugar (if adding milk powder)
  5. 2 tbsp roasted and crushed almonds
  6. 1/2 tbsp ghee

  1. In a wide mouthed pan (I used a non-stick) add the Ricotta cheese and condensed milk and let it come to a boil in medium heat.
  2. After about 6-8 minutes the mixture will start to thicken. Add the milk powder at this stage and mix it in so there are no lumps.
  3. Keep stirring for another 10 -15 minutes or so. Add the ghee on the side. The mixture will thicken and start coming away from the sides.
  4. Grease a plate and pour the contents on to the plate and smoothen it on the top with a spatula. Make marks on the fudge for the desired shape.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds on top after letting cool for a few hours and cutting them into pieces.

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