Friday, December 30, 2011

Cranberry Thokku (Relish)

I have been watching 'Prime Suspect' on NBC this season and it has become one of my favorites. Since it comes at a time that is a little too late I usually watch them online. It is based off the popular British one 'Prime Suspect' starring Helen Mirren. I have watched a few of the shows on PBS of course with fantastic acting by Helen Mirren. of course right? I wanted to buy the DVDs but a bit too pricey. So for now I will settle for the American version which is pretty good by the way. Any of you watch Prime Suspect?

As we are saying good bye to 2011 I will leave with you a recipe for cranberry thokku - a sweet,sour and spicy relish. I bought them for Thanksgiving to make the thokku during the holiday but never got to them. I made them on a weekday night when there was nothing else in the fridge and I am glad I did, a few more days the cranberries would have gone straight to the compost. The idea for this is from a friend who shared some of the thokku her friend made for her when she was visiting her.

Wishing you a Very Happy New Year!

Cranberry Thokku - Sweet, Sour and Spicy Relish
1. 2 pack of fresh cranberries (12 oz each)
2. 1/2 red onion chopped fine (optional)
3. 5 cloves of garlic (optional see note)
4. 10 red chilies split
5. 4 tsp red chili powder
6. 1 tsp of roasted fenugreek powder
7. 2 tbsp jaggery
8. salt to taste
9. 2-3 tbsp sesame oil (or any oil)
10. seasoning - mustard seeds and curry leaves

1. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil and add the mustard seeds, when they pop add the curry leaves.
2. Add the red chilies and onions and saute till the onions are translucent and starting to turn brown. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.
3. Add in the cranberries, turn the heat to just below medium and let the cranberries start to break and become soft - about 10 minutes.
4. Add in the red chili powder (if required), jaggery and salt and let it cook for another 4-5 minutes. Add more oil if required. Sprinkle the fenugreek powder just before turning off the heat.

Cool and store in bottles. Stays for a week outside and maybe longer and about a month in the fridge.

1. onion and garlic are optional. They reduce the shelf life.
2. More the oil, longer the shelf life.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Paratha

I am not all that fond of Indian cities. The crowds, traffic, pollution, heat all besides adding to the annoyance makes me want to run away to my ancestral village. Here in the US, it is the suburbs that get to me. The lack of people, the cemetery like quietness all make it seem like human beings were sucked out and the shells of their dwelling were left behind, even though the truth is there are a lot of people who live in suburbia. It is absolutely impossible to tell the unique character of a place but for the sameness that seems to permeate suburbia all over this country.

In contrast the US cities are the ones brimming with character and quirks. These are the qualities that make you want to go back to the city again and again or not. I have professed my love for DC. There is a lot to like about DC and I won't go there today.

The other city I keep falling in love over and over is New York city. Who doesn't you say? The crowds which seem to forget that niceties like letting someone pass, the honking cars, the exotic tongues all add to the charm. There is something happening all the time but of course the city never sleeps so no surprises there.

Christmas in New York was crowded, noisy and did I say crowded? Usually we stay with friends in New Jersey and drive through the city which is not the same as exploring by walking. This time we took a bus from DC to NY and stayed in the city. This meant we had to do a lot of walking and the cold and wind made it a bit difficult but walking we did. We were in the heart of Broadway after all so did catch a theater performance as well.

It took all of 10 minutes to realize that everyone keeps walking and fast so stepping aside to let someone pass is normally not done. Among all the walking the street carts provided the fastest and easiest way to get food. My favorite among the small eateries was Maoz Vegetarian Falafel sandwiches a chain. The falafels were crispy and flavorful. I also sampled falafel from the cart vendors, so I had something to compare against and I paid almost the same price for both but thought the Maoz was way better.

The contradictions the first and second paragraphs can be explained thus. It is probably the dullness of life in suburbia that makes me appreciate cities here in the US perhaps. Whereas in India the chaos of every day in the city makes for appreciating village life. Grass is greener on the other side always.

What is your favorite city?

Now on to the recipe,

It is not actually a recipe but a suggestion. Sweet potatoes parathas like sweet potato fries should be the new find. The super soft slightly sweet parathas were a kids delight as well. What brought the recipe about were some overcooked mushy sweet potatoes. To eat boiled sweet potatoes they have to be cooked just so when overcooked they taste just about inedible. Not to despair, just set them aside to be used in making parathas.

I did not add any other spices to it but a tiny bit of chili powder and grated ginger would be nice too.

Sweet potato parathas
1. 2 sweet potatoes
2. 2 - 2 1/2 cups of wheat flour (atta)
3. a pinch of salt
4. 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
5. 1/4 tsp of cumin powder (optional)
6. 1 tsp of grated fresh ginger (optional)

1. Peel and mash the sweet potatoes till smooth.
2. Add the wheat flour and salt (and the spices if doing so) and mix to form a smooth dough.
3. Let it sit for 30 minutes (this is a must).
4. Now make small lime sized balls and roll it evenly into a 4-6 inches in diameter.
5. Heat a tawa and cook the paratha first on one side and when it starts to get brown spots flip and cook on the other side.

Serve with pickles or just by itself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lamb meatballs in a spicy sauce (keema urundai kuzhambu)

In India poverty and hunger is right in our face. We learn to respect food at a very young age and wasting in a rich or poor household is just not done. Young or old no one is under any illusion that no one goes hungry. Contrast that to the US where poverty is hidden and should be surprising to hear that in this rich country there are a lot of people who are food insecure and a majority of those are kids.

This is the season of indulgence. Talk of food is everywhere amplified by TV and the media and not to forget food blogs(includes me) giving ideas for fancy dishes to serve to friends and family. While most of us are wondering how to keep those extra holiday pounds from piling on a small thought for those people for whom all this talk of food should be specially hard.

Apparently this food insecurity is affecting all kinds of people. The economic downturn has only aggravated the problem.

Sorry folks bear with me I am not trying to guilt anybody during the holiday season I am just saying please spare a thought. Food Pantries are a great way to contribute. I read that food pantries even in relatively rich areas like the DC suburbs are feeding a record number of people.

The problem with writing a food blog is I get these twinges of conscience every now and then.

Happy Holidays! everyone.

Now on to the recipe,
This is one of those recipes I have been planning to make for a long time. Whenever I buy kheema (minced meat) I end up making this recipe which is a quick and easy. These kheema balls on the other hand had to be planned.

The recipe is based Cilantro's recipe - Kola urundai kuzhambu/Meatball Curry

Lamb meatballs in a spicy sauce - Kheema Urundai Kuzhambu
1. 1 lb minced lamb/goat
2. 6-8 green chilies chopped fine
3. 1 tbsp grated ginger
4. 8 garlic cloves chopped

5. 1 big red onion minced
6. 2 juicy tomatoes chopped fine (about 1 cup)
7. roasted cinnamon cloves powder 2 tsp (roast cinnamon, cloves and powder)
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
10. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
11. 1 tsp cumin powder
12. 1/4 cup of grated coconut
13. 2 tsp fennel seeds
14. salt to taste
15. 1 tbsp oil

1. Mix 3 tbsp of chopped onions, half the chopped garlic, all of the chopped green chilies, a bit of turmeric powder, salt into the kheema and make lime sized balls.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil and pan fry the kheema balls on both sides and let the balls brown. Set aside.
3.Add the powdered garam masala powder to the oil followed by the rest of the onions and let them saute till the onions turn translucent.
4. Add in the grated ginger. Saute for about 3-4 minutes.
5. Now add the cumin, turmeric,chili and coriander powders and give a good mix.
6. Add in the chopped tomatoes and let it cook till the oil separates on the sides, about 5-8 minutes.
7. In the meantime blend the coconut with the fennel seeds to a smooth paste (I made it a bit coarse)
8. Add the blended mixture with 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Add salt.
9. Now add the kheema balls and let cook for another 7-8 minutes.

Turn off heat. Serve with rice or chapatis.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mixed Rice - Beets with peanuts and broccoli

I am not really sure how the holiday season has crept on us so quickly. I can blame it on the commute too. Okay I won't do that. I am sure all of you are just getting tired of this particular crib. I usually know for sure that the Holiday Season has arrived when DD2's school has their Holiday Party. This year the day before the the holiday party(was yesterday) I realize that I have not shopped for presents for the teacher.

I quickly ran to the store and bought gift cards. What do you all think of giving gift card to teachers? Photo frames, scarves, candy boxes and such which are safe gifts seemed boring. The other reason have no idea if the teachers find them useful or not. There is only so many photo frames that a teacher can keep around the house right? Anyway I feel the gift card gives the teacher flexibility to buy what they really want.

Any teachers or parents who have opinions on this one please chime in. I feel a bit guilty beacuse it might seem that I did not spend time finding the perfect gift. Folks what do you think?

On to the recipe,
The recipe presented is one for those weekday nights when there is no time but want something quick and filling. I always have beets in the fridge. They come in handy and stay for a long time. Beets cooked to almost roasted is when they taste best. This beet raita is something I grew up with and reminds me of home whenever I cook it. I modified it a bit and started mixing it with rice and it has become another go to one pot meal. Broccoli is normally not added but I decided to add some because there was a huge pack of broccoli lying around after DH decided to do some Costco shopping. Broccoli in the end seemed like a great idea (the only reason why I chose to make this post). It gave it a crunch that goes well with any rice dish. Do not overcook the broccoli that it would be a very bad idea.

Beets with peanuts and broccoli
1. 4-5 medium to small beets peeled and grated (see notes:)
2. 2 cups of broccoli florets
3. 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
4. 8-10 slit green chilies (or as per taste)
5. Cooked rice from 1 1/2 cups of rice (I used ponni parboiled rice)
6. 1/4 cup of roasted unsalted peanuts
7.seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, 1 tbsp channa dal, 2 tsp of urad dal and curry leaves
8. salt to taste
9. 2 tsp of oil

1. Cook the rice, fluff and set aside.
2. Heat a kadai with oil and when hot add the channa dal and urad dal. When brown add the cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
3. Add the green chilies, onion and saute till it starts to turn brown.
4. Add the grated beets with a 1/4 cup of water. Water is optional (see notes). Add salt.
5. In the meantime heat water in a sauce pan to boiling and parboil the broccoli florets for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
6. When the beets have cooked and there is no liquid add in the peanuts and broccoli and give a good mix and turn off the heat.
7. Add in the cooked rice and mix it in for a one pot meal.
1. I hand grate the beets but they can be chopped to tiny pieces using a food processor.
2.I add a 1/4 cup of water so I do not need to babysit the beets but no water is required but just that they have to be stirred every couple of minutes if no water is added. The taste is far better without the water.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mattar Paneer Masala (Peas and Cottage Cheese in a creamy gravy)

The US I came to a while ago was a lot different place than it is now. The proliferation of 'Made in China' and Walmart had not completely taken hold. I am talking about the retail landscape here. The list of once been stores are strewn around. Woodward and Lothrop, Montgomery Ward, Hecths, Zany Brainy,Borders and many others. Most of these might have been chain stores which caused the demise of mom and pop stores.

The one that bothered me most was the closing of Woodward and Lothrop a store that was headquartered in DC and had been around for a hundred years shuttered for good. The next was Hechts which also had its head quarters in the DC area. The ones that replaced these stores have made retail shopping experience in any of part of the US essentially the same. Every mall looks the same anchored by the very same department stores.

Anyway the reason for this retail talk is because the Indian government bowed to pressure and said no to Walmart and Tesco. Would it have been a good for the Indian consumer if the Indian government in all its corrupt glory had allowed these retailers into the Indian market.

The shopping experience in India is a lot different than the experience here. Shopping with shopping carts in not typical. We mostly shopped (this has changed now to a great deal with many stores which do provide shopping carts for shopping pleasure) at a single counter. You either pointed at what you wanted or told the shop keeper or his assistant what you wanted and they retrieved it from the back of the store.

I still remember the store I frequented when I was a wee elementary schooler. This tiny store had all the stuff that I dreamed off. Scented erasers, pencils and candies. The one I remember and liked the most was a mini egg shaped pastel colored oval candy with bright yellow inside made to resemble an inside of a boiled egg. Dean's store shopping experience on the way to and from school still lingers in my mind. I bet many of you have your own Dean's store experience. Walmart is most definitely not going to provide a personalized shopping experience that most of these mom and pop stores provide.

There are positive reasons stated for allowing FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into the Indian market. The ones that caught my attention are :
1. Cutting out middlemen and helping the farmer sell his produce at a far more profitable price.
2. Bring supply chain efficiencies to prevent the rotting of produce which apparently in India happens a lot.

But how about Walmart and it practices in the US? Is it going to leave them State side when it enters the Indian market? Walmart would surely not be leaving behind its cut throat prices and everything else be damned attitude. Once a Walmart enters a landscape it leaves retail carcasses in its wake. Has the entry of Pepsi and Coco-Cola really helped the Indian consumer?

That is enough retail talk for day I think. Now on to the recipe.
Paneer is not something that I am fond of and I rarely ever cook with it. But unlike me the DDs love paneer and the request for Mattar Paneer has been a long standing one.

Mattar Paneer Masala
1. 14 oz package of low fat paneer cut into cubes
2. 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen peas

3. 1 onion chopped roughly + 1/2 onion chopped very fine
4. 8 cloves of garlic
5. 2 inch piece of ginger
6. 2 juicy tomatoes chopped (I used canned crushed tomatoes)

7. 6 green chilies
8. 2 tsp of chili powder (see note)
9. 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
10. 2 tsp turmeric powder
11. 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon, few cloves roasted and powdered (garam masala)
12. 2 bay leaves + 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

13. a handful of chopped coriander leaves
14. 2 tbsp roasted cashews
15. salt to taste
16. 2 tsp oil + 2 tsp ghee

1. In a saute pan heat a bit of oil and saute the onions, garlic and ginger till the onions are browned. Take care not to let them get black. Cool and blend to a paste with maybe a tiny bit of water. To this add the chopped tomatoes and blend.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat the ghee and when hot place the panner cubes and brown them evenly on all both sides. Drain and set aside.
3. Add the oil to the pan and when hot season with cumin seeds and bay leaves. Add the green chilies and onions and saute till the onion turns translucent.
4. Add in the powdered garam masala followed by the turmeric powder and chili powders and give a good mix.
5. Add the blended paste with 1 1/2 cups of water and let it come to a boil.
6. Add in the green peas and salt and let it cook till the gravy thickens a bit (about 8-10 minutes)
7. Add in the paneer and mix it in gently.
8. Now make a paste of the cashews with a tbsp of water and add to the gravy.
9. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and let simmer for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.

This is absolutely a great accompaniment for any Indian flat bread.

Be careful when adding the red chili powder. This was a slightly on the spicy side.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Peas and Carrot Salad - Kids Lunch Box

American is a large country and the best way to truly see the country I hear and know is through a road trip. I know exactly what I want to do when I retire. Buy myself a RV and see the country at leisure. Sadly(not the age but the financial condition) that day is quite a ways off. But that should not stop me from thinking about it should it?

Another reason why RVs are on my mind is because I gave my first interview to a site that provides information on RV travel. This one might just come in handy when we do decide to take that long trip. Head on over there if you want to take a read.

Now the reason for this recipe,

Packing kids lunches in the mornings can sometimes get to be a bit like conjuring up magic. They have specific rules and regulations which makes it something of a challenge. Has to be finger foods like and also tasty and should include some sort of vegetables and the last one is my criteria not theirs. Some days I just don't have the mojo to be creative but I have frozen peas, carrots and frozen corn(but not this particular day). So this dish was born at 5:00 AM one day, not all that original but still. It turns out that this kiddy dish can be an adult meal as well because I saved some for my lunch box and it tasted pretty good at lunch time.

Green Peas and Carrots Salad
1. 1 Cup green peas (frozen or fresh)
2. 2 Carrots pealed and diced
3. 1 Cup of corn (I usually use frozen but did not use it this time)
4. 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
5. 1/2 tsp of pepper powder (more as per taste)
6. 1 tbsp or more of shredded Parmesan cheese (or any cheese)
7. 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
8. a pinch or two of salt

1. Parboil the peas, carrots and corn with salt, drain and set aside.
2. In a pan add the olive oil and the cooked vegetables.
3. Add in the pepper powder, ketchup and give a good stir.
4. Turn off heat and sprinkle the Parmesan on top.

Pack a couple of slice of butter toasted bread for a simple satisfying lunch box meal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marble Pound Cake

When my mom was getting ready to leave to India after the summer baby sitting duties holidays, I asked my college age cousin in India what she wanted from here. Some background here. She wanted to start a cake shop even before she was old enough to go to college. You all know how it is back home, of course her ambition was shot down. The place where she suggested for a cake shop has one now and doing very well apparently.

Nothing akka came the reply. I was wondering in my mind if a good baking book would be a good idea. I was planning to send it as a surprise. I found a used Williams and Sonoma book on Amazon for about $5. When it came home I could not find the heart to part with it. I feel guilty but planning to take it when I go home to visit. I am not a big baker so me and DD2 spend a lot of time just leafing through the book. We learned the difference between genoise and ganache recently.

During the thanksgiving holiday we visited another friend's house for a dinner. I promised to bring along a cake. Pound cake was just too plain but a marbled one sounded a bit more posh. So that is what we set out to do.

I used the recipe from the book I chose to keep selfishly for myself - Williams Sonoma - Essentials of Baking. I love this book with recipes that look like even I could tackle.

The recipe made 2 takes one round 8 1/2 inch cake and a loaf cake (the one pictured).

Marble Pound Cake
1. 2 1/4 unbleached all purpose flour
2. 1 stick of butter brought to room temperature
3. 4 eggs
4. 1/4 cup of milk (skip the milk and add one more egg)
5. 2 tsp baking powder
6. 1/4 tsp salt
7. 3 tbsp cocoa powder
8. 2 tsp vanilla extract
9. 1 cup of sugar (recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar)

1. Beat together sugar and butter till it is light and fluffy (I used an electric egg beater)
2. Add in one at a time beating well.
3. Add in the vanilla.
4. Sift together the dry ingredients except the cocoa powder.
5. Add the flour a bit by bit to the butter egg mixture. Mix with a spatula or use the beater to mix it in gently. (Over beating makes the cake tough says the book)
6. Butter a loaf pan or a round pan and set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to 400F.
8. Separate the batter into 2 parts. Mix in the cocoa powder into one batch.
9.Pour the non-cocoa batter into the pans first.
10. Pour in the cocoa batter on top. With the knife make a few strokes.
11. Bake for 50-60 minutes till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
12. Cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes or cool completely before cutting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quick Weekday Soup with Vegetables and Premade Dumplings

Here is another book suggestion for Middle or High School age kids and why not I liked the book a lot so adults go for it. If you are worried that your book worm is devouring too many fiction books here is your answer. It is a fast paced and as interesting as a crime fiction novel but it is a true story. Some of you might have heard of the name of the lady about whom the book is about. If you have not heard of her should still be thankful to her because without her cell research on diseases might not have been possible.

I heard of the book on a show on NPR where book recommendations for summer were given out. I put a hold on the book at the library for DD. I was 158th on the waiting list and it took almost a year for my turn. Once DD got hold of the book she could not put the book down. She was fascinated and told me it was as fast paced very interesting but a bit sad as well. I read the book in one sitting.

Without further adieu the book is 'The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks'.

For the recipe of the day, most of the ingredients are store bought. It is one for those cold windy days where the brain fails to work but the stomach does not understand and the scratchy throat (the entire household had) needed something hot and watery.

Soup with Vegetables and Premade Dumplings
1. 1 32oz carton of Chicken Stock
2. 1/2 onions sliced
3. 4 garlic cloves minced + 1tbsp ginger grated
4. 1 tbsp or more pepper powder
5. 1 pack of Knorr Sweet and Sour Soup Mix (optional, can skip this if you do not want it, see Note:)
6. 1 head of broccoli separated into florets
7. 3 carrots peeled and cut into strips
8. about 2 cups of mini wantons (Annie Chun's brand) optional substitute with cooked chicken or tofu
9. salt to taste
10. 2 tsp of oil

1. In a soup pot heat oil and saute the onions, garlic and ginger till onions start to turn slightly brown.
2. Add in the soup mix and saute for a minute. Add the carrots and saute for a couple of minutes.
3. Pour the chicken stock and let it come to a boil
4. Now add the wantons and let it boil for 3-4 more minutes.
5. Now add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes more and turn off the heat.
1. In place of the soup mix add a bit of red chili powder, chilli garlic sauce for some extra taste.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An American Apple and Peach Pie

Hello readers hope all of you had time to say thanks and have yourself a fabulous meal with family/friends. We did. Our host had prepared so many dishes that by the time the appetizers were done I was stuffed already. That did not stop me from enjoying the main meal if you are curious to know.

I am especially happy for the holiday. Long commutes can do that you I guess. My commute itself is not long necessarily, it is the sitting in traffic. But my long commute is not without its benefits. I have refound the pleasures of listening to NPR. Last week had one of those dreary days with rain during the rush hour commute. Rain means a snarled traffic and the dealys twice as longer than usual.

On this particular day what made me forget the traffic for a bit was the news about the arrival of the newest Bachaan into the world. To be discussing the birth of a child of two Indian cinema actors on NPR should be news on its own. What endeared me to the story was the tiny slip that the dad wanted a girl child. In movie crazy India what these actors do has cachet with their fans. Maybe the news will do a tiny bit to alleviate the gender gap. Link to the NPR story if you are inclined.

I had not until I saw Nupur's Cherry Pie Post called my host to offer to bring something to the Thanksgiving party. Once I saw the post I made a phone call and an offer to bring Apple Pie. I got slightly nervous after that. I eat pie but I am not particularly fond of pies which have a very thick and doughy crust. I love warm pies with Vanilla ice cream. That probably explains why I don't try to make them and we also have our trusted Dutch market which sells some amazing Amish home style pies.

I had watched a Jacques Pepin show a couple of weeks ago where he made caramel apple pie in a skillet. He explained the importance of the consistency of the filling and how long it should be cooked. How much the filling is cooked is important for the pie to stay intact and not fall apart with liquidy filling.

I wanted to make apple apricot pie but apricots tinned or otherwise was hard to find. I could have used soaked dried apricots but it did not occur to me at that time so I settled for tinned peach. I made the filling all at once but made the dough separately for two 8 1/2 inch pies.

By the way if you have extra filling there are delicious with some whipped cream or as a spread for toast or pancakes. The pie crust was just as like it crumbly and falling apart and not doughy. But this was an unexpected side effect not what I was looking for. I was expecting the dough to roll out nicely which did not happen. The dough crumbled a bit at the edges as I was rolling which is a good thing I later realized when I went to search for a reason. I did not add water to the dough because it came together nicely without it. I liked the end result and the texture of the baked pie though. A bit more flour would have made it ideal for rolling out the dough I am guessing. I might have had a tad bit more butter and fat.

Another recipe I consulted was from Williams Sonoma website.

Apple and Peach Pie
For the Pie Crust - for one 9.5 inch pan
1. 2 Cups of flour (I used 2 cups but 2 1/2 might have been ideal)
2. 1 stick of butter or 8 tbsp
3. 8 tbsp of Vegetable shortening (or substitute with butter)
4. 1 tsp salt
5. 2 tbsp of sugar

For the filling (for 2 9.5 inch pies)
1. 4 Granny smith apples (peeled and cored)
2. 1 15oz and 1 8oz cans of sliced peaches (about 2 cups in total)
3. 1 cup of raw sugar or brown sugar
4. 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used a tiny bit not being very fond of cinnamon in sweets, see Note:)
5. 1 tbsp of lemon juice
6. 4 tsp of corn starch
7. 1/4 tsp of salt
8. 1 tbsp of water

For the Filling
1. Peel core and quarter the apple and then slice the apples about 1/4 inch thick.
2. Drain the peach slices free of syrup. If using fresh slice the peaches
3. In a dutch over or thick bottomed pan add in the apples, sugar, corn starch, salt and cinnamon and mix them together.
4. Now add a tbsp of water so as to prevent the sugar from burning, cover and let cook for about 20 minutes. Open and let it cook for another 7-10 minutes till there is liquid flowing and the look is glossy and shiny.
5. Turn of the heat, add in the lemon juice and set aside for 30 minutes.

For the Crust
1. Sift together the flour, salt and sugar.
2. Add in the shortening, cut the butter into tiny piece and work into the dough. I used a flat stainless stell spatula to cut the butter into the dough.
3. Once most of the butter has been incorporated. If still very dry add a tbsp of ice water. Mine did not require any. Bring the dough together into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

Assembling the Pie
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Separate the dough into two equal portions. Dust the board with dry flour roll out the dough from the center out (do not roll over the center again)to about 9 1/2 inches in diameter (I used a 8 1/2 inch pan). Do this for the second portion also.
3.Now roll it over the rolling pin and spread it over the pie pan. Tap the pie crust on the sides and break off the he extra from the sides.
4. Now add the filling and cover with the second rolled out dough. And bring both the edges together.
5.Make a few slits in the center and on top.
6. Bake for 1 hour till the crust is golden brown and nice.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

1. I rarely use cinnamon powder in sweet dishes. That is a matter of preference. 1 tsp of cinnamon powder can be added to the filling for some good aroma and flavor.

The pie was much appreciated but the crumbly crust is a matter of preference. DDs, DH and me liked it a lot. Since we shared it with a lot of friends we each got just a slice. We are all set to make it again with a different filling.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simplicity - Tindora Stir Fry and Cabbage with Channa Dal

We took a trip yesterday to bolster some civic lessons for DD. Living as we do in the shadow of the nation's capital there are many opportunities for civic lessons but we don't take part in them as often as we'd like.

So on the day we visisted the encampents of the Occupy DC. They looked messy, smoky but had an energy and openness about them. There is a website which clearly lists the agenda for the day. A different group in support of Occupy DC was trying to occupy an abandoned building.

Numerous police cars with a fire truck came zooming by and the occupiers kept at it for over an hour. We had to leave because our time on the parking meter was running out. We could not not run after watching a parking attendant give out parking tickets(parking tickets over the weekend?).

There was also drama when the fire truck started moving and the occupiers lay in front of the truck to block it. At that moment a spectator yelled out to the occupiers calling them an embarassment and asking the anarchists to pack up and go home.

I am with the occupiers but it would make more sense to occupy Congress or the Supreme Court (their fantastic decision which made buisnesses same as people).

From civic lesson to recipes that come in handy for a quick meal.

Tindora is DD2s favorite vegetable. Unlike DD who is not very vocal about these things DD2 speaks her mind. So I am finding ways to cook up this vegetable which is suddenly a regular on my grocery list. I also made cabbage with channa dal which is delightful in its simplicity and thought I should share it.

Tindora can be chopped into slice across or cut into thin strip lengthwise. The first is easy to do but the second method is what makes this vegetable taste really good.

Tindora Stir fry
1. 1 lb of Tindora or kovakkai
2. 1/2 tbsp of sambhar powder
3. salt to taste
4. 3 tsp of oil

1. Wash and cut the end of the tindora and cut vertically into 4 slices per vegetable
2. In a flat bottomed pan heat the oil and add the cut tindora.
3. Saute them (about 20-25 minutes) till they start to turn brown and cripsy.
4. Add in the salt and the sambhar powder and toss them for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve them with rice and dal or mix the vegetable with steamed rice with some ghee or as a side for chapatis.

Cabbage with Channa Dal
1. 1 cabbage shredded into thin strips(about 2 cups)
2. 1/2 cup of channa dal ( bengal gram) - toor dal or moon dal can also be used
3. 1 tsp of turmeric powder
4. 1/4 cup of onions chopped
5. 7-10 green chilies slit
6. salt to taste
7. 1 tsp of oil
8. seasonings: 1/2 tsp of split urad dal, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
9. 1 tbsp of grated coconut (optional)

1. Wash and cook the channa dal with lots of water, turmerice powder and a tsp of sesame oil. I cooked in a sauce so the dal does not fall apart.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil add the seasonings one by one. Urad dal and when it starts to turn brown add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and the curry leaves.
3. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions turns slightly brown.
4. Now add the cabbage and let them cook completely, add in salt and the cooked channa dal drained of water completely. Mix and cook for 5-8 minutes till there is no moisture left.
5. If adding coconut sprinkle on top and turn off the heat.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Srilankan Milk Toffee

Remember the Rick Perry brain freeze the other day during one of those annoying (to me anyway) Republican debates? For those of you who are not tuned into American politics and the Presidential election and the endless debates let me explain.

Each party, there are only 2 here in the US namely Republican and Democrat- has its set of debates to help narrow down the field candidates to have a showdown with the chosen candidate from the other party. These debates are supposed to be eye openers for folks voting in the primaries. Only people registered to the particular party can vote in the primaries. Since President Obama can run again and he is the president there won't be any primary challenge for the Democrats.

Well anyway during one of those debates Rick Perry awkwardly forgot the name of the government agency he wanted to abolish. He wanted to abolish three but remembered only two and the pause was painful for anyone watching. It was me just listening to him on the radio. He is being laughed at and mocked at ever since. I am no closet Conservative nor a Rick Perry sympathizer. But I sure understand the moment and the awkwardness that followed.

It happened to me recently at a job interview. I hate job interviews but that is besides the point. During the interview I suddenly froze on the word that I am supposed to know because I had just waxed eloquent that I knew the topic. Luckily the word came out in the form of a question from the interviewer and I was able to salvage the situation. This incident being fresh in my memory I could identify with the awkwardness of Rick Perry's situation. But alas he had to suffer on national television.

So why is it such a big deal really? Doesn't it happen to most people? We freeze on the names of the people we meet often. We forget the name of the dish we loved as young children but just when we meet the aunt who used to cook the favorite dish the name escapes. Have any awkward brain freezes to share?

Now on to the recipe,
I tasted this sweet milk toffee at my friend's house. She packed quite a few for the kids but I ended up eating most of them. I must have mentioned oh only a few hundred that I have a sweet addiction. Back home when ammayee invariably sent these yummy gulab jamuns every few months I ate them right after I brushed my teeth in the morning. That addicted. So I could not wait to make this toffee what with a can of condensed milk sitting in the pantry. It took me 4 months to make it.

I used palm sugar and that is what gave it the dark brown color. A table spoon of cocoa powder will do the trick if you want the darker color. Using regular white sugar will give it a light caramel color.

Srilankan Milk Toffee
1. 12 oz sweetened condensed milk
2. 1 block of palm sugar (about 3 tbsp) powdered
3. 3/4 cups of sugar (I added raw sugar)
4. 6 tbsp of butter
6. 1/4 cup of coarsely powdered roasted cashews

1. In a sauce pan (I used a non-stick pan) melt the butter and add the condensed milk and sugar.
2. In a low flame stir the mixture till it comes together. When it comes together in a mass turn off the heat (25-30 minutes). The longer it is in the heat the chewy and harder it is going to get.
3. Towards the very end add in the cashews and pour the mixture in a buttered pan.
4. Make slices with a knife while still hot.
5. Let cool and break into individual pieces.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Khichadi - Mixed VegetableMasala Upma - Savory Cream of Wheat with vegetables

In the northern part of India Khichdi usually means a rice and lentils in a one pot rice dish. In my neck of the woods in TamilNadu the southern most state in India, khichadi is a savory dish made with cream of wheat, vegetables and seasoned with turmeric for the tell tale yellow color. Similar to upma but with added masala khichadi can be called a masala upma if you will. Khichidi- Kichadi similar sounding dishes but totally different.

This recipe was what I decided to make for a potluck at a friend's house. She had decided on theme for the event - chaats (snacks). For my contribution she helpfully suggested gol goppa, other than hearing the name a few times I wasn't sure what it was. She translated it to as pani puri which I have tasted and enjoyed a few times but making it was a different story all together. Doubtful about my pani puri making abilities I was debating on taking the easy route and buying the pani and the puri. Maybe that came through on the phone call. Anyway we finally decided on Upma in a second phone call when she felt that there were too many fried items on the menu. I am glad she did and saved me the embarrassment of a failed pani puri.

Khichadi has to be fluffy to be liked, soggy pasty khichadis is what made me run away from them for a long time. Khichadi was much appreciated and everyone wanted to know how it was fluffy and soft. People had to part with a valuable for me to giveaway that little secret. Kidding guys the answer is simple - the rava has to be roasted.

Khichadi - Mixed Vegetables Masala Upma
1. 2 Cups of cream of wheat (I use 1 : 2 1/4 ratio cream of wheat : water) (see Note)
2. 1 1/2 cups of mixed vegetables (I used carrots,beans and peas)
3. 6-8 green chilies slit
4. 1 tbsp of finely chopped mint + 1 tbsp of finely chopped coriander
5. 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped shallots or red onion
6. 1 tbsp grated ginger
7. 1 tomato chopped fine
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. 1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
10. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard, cumin
11. salt to taste
12. 4 1/2 cups of water
13. 2 tsp of oil
14. roasted broken cashews (optional)

1. Roast the cream of wheat till it turns a slightly brown color about (10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool. In the meantime put the required amount of water in a sauce pan to boil.
2. In a large sauce pan or kadai heat oil and add the seasonings cumin first, mustard and when it starts to pop the curry leaves.
3. Add the slit green chilies and onion and saute till the onions are starting to get translucent.
4. Add in the ginger and saute for a few more minutes.
5. Add in the turmeric powder and salt. Mix well.
6. Add the tomatoes and saute till it becomes mushy and soft.
7. Add the green beans and carrots and saute for a couple of minutes. Mix in the chili powder if using. Add a 1/2 cup of the boiling water and cover and let cook till the vegetables are soft.
8. Now add the remaining water and the peas (I used frozen peas hence added them here otherwise add them along with the other vegetables).
9. Let the water come to a rolling boil. Turn the flame all the way to low.
10. Now add in the cream of wheat, all the while stirring to avoid any lumps.
11. Place the lid and let it be in the heat (do not turn up the flame) for 4-5 minutes.
12. Turn of the heat, add the cashews and fluff with a spoon.

Serve with coconut chutney or a spicy onion chutney.
Note: I use the Quaker Cream of Wheat and not the Indian sooji and the proportion of water is for that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What do you think ...

of this picture?

Courtesy: The Washington Post

The picture was taken during the floods in Thailand. What is the first thing that strikes you when you see this picture?

Think a little deeper more in the angle of renunciation, possession.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Uzhundhu paniyaram (Vegetable Lentil Fritters) - Savory Dutch pancakes

I am not really sure what magic my mom has in her hands.Bear with me I'll explain. When she soaks urad dal for making idli batter, the measurement is the one I generally use.

The only difference being she soaks the urad dal for 20-30 minutes before grinding while I soaked it overnight. The batter which results is one and half times more than what I get usually. Now I follow her advice but still the end result is no where close to hers.

Well anyway when there is a lot more urad dal batter in proportion to the rice she saves some of it in the fridge for later use. The thing with urad batter is that it does not need to be fermented to make goodies. Mix and use is how it goes. Urad batter in the fridge meant some yummy goodies for the kids for after school snack and by extension us. I just soak a bit extra and keep it aside.

So when evening there were these tasty yummy urad vegetable fritters and they were delicious. Not deep fried, she had used the paniyaram pan or if you want to go Dutch use the aebleskiver pans to make them. No need for a dipping sauce. Tasted great all by itself.

If you want a quick but tasty and not the usual run of the mill paniyarams these are the way to go. I was listening to a program called Splendid table on NPR and I heard an interview with this person called Indiana Jones of Ginger. I learned a lot about the different varieties of ginger and decided the fritters to be made needed a good dose of them.

Black Lentil Vegetable dutch pancakes(Uzhundhu paniyaram)
1. 2 cups of urad batter (soak for 20 minutes about 1/4 cup of urad and blend to a smooth paste without adding too much water)
2. 1/2 cup of rice flour
3. 1/2 - 3/4 cup of besan flour
4. 2 cups of shredded vegetables (broccoli, carrots, green beans, cabbage) - see note
5. 4-5 green chilies shredded along with the vegetables
6. 1 tbsp of grated ginger
7. handful of coriander leaves chopped
8. salt to taste

1. Add the urad dal to the shredded vegetables and mix it in. Add in the rice flour and chick pea flour and mix without any lumps.
2. Add salt, ginger, coriander leaves and just enough water to form a that can be poured into the paniyaram pan.
3. Heat the paniyaram pan, spray oil pour the batter into the holes. Let cook on one side, turn and cook on the other side. Spray more oil if required.

Can be served with any chutney of choice (Coconut works best) or even ketchup.

1. If using broccoli shred the florets with a knife and for the stems just peel the outer skin
and shred them with the carrots and beans.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Channa dal with Bottle gourd curry (sorakkai - kadalai paruppu kuzhambu)

From literally zero commute to an hour commute even if the distance is a paltry 12 miles is what happened. I hereby once again join the woes of the DC metro residents who are unfortunate enough to get on any major highway in the area. It has been more than a decade (has it been that long?) since I did any serious commute. Just to warn that I shall crib and complain till I get used to sitting and stewing in traffic. New place, new faces, new idiosyncrasies all add to the wonder that is life! Kidding guys. It is a job after all.

Anyway now on to more tastier things in life. DD loves this cookbook (Taste of the East) I have. She flips through the pages admires each one of the pictures and inquiring when I'd cook them. I usually stay quiet for fear of being called on it, till I see something that can be quickly and easily accomplished.

This was actually 2 recipes in the book, one for the dal rice and other for the curry to go with it. I combined both to make one simply curry to eat with rice. Don't I deserve the MacArthur Genius award? I was just kidding again but I like the sound of it so why not!

Channa dal with bottle gourd curry
1. 1 cup channa dal
2. 1 bottle gourd peeled cut in 4s lengthwise and just cut across about 1/2 inch thick
3. 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
4. 2 tsp cumin powder
5. 2 tsp chili powder + 2 tsp turmeric powder
6. 2-3 garlic crushed and chopped
7. 2 tomatoes pureed
8. 1/4 cup of tamarind pulp from a small piece of tamarind or 2 tbsp lemon juice (the recipe called for kokum, I did not have any)
9. a handful of coriander leaves chopped (or fresh/ dried fenugreek leaves )
10. salt to taste

1.Cook the channa dal in plenty of water with a bit of turmeric and a tsp of oil. I cooked it on the stove top to avoid getting mushy.
2. In a saute pan heat oil and add the garlic. When soft add the chopped gourd and let it cook for a few minutes.
3. Add in the powders and give a good mix. Add in the tomato puree and cook till it comes to a boil.
4. Add the cooked dal along with the cooking water.
5. Let it cook till the gourd gets soft. Add in the tamarind and salt and let cook for another 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle the coriander leaves before turning off the heat.
6. Turn off heat when desired consistency is reached.

Serve with rice.