January 31, 2008

Madras Onion (Shallot) Pickle

I love pickles. The Indian kind and preferably home-made. Yes, I know they are not good for us - too much oil, spice, salt and therefore sodium, etc. Most Indians would however agree with me, I’m sure, that there’s nothing quite like pickles with parathas or curd rice (rice and yogurt). In India, the variety of pickles available is unbelievable as we make pickles out of just about every vegetable and some fruits, too. The most common pickles are those made of mangoes and lemons.
Palakkad Iyers make their pickles with sesame seed oil and do not use vinegar. The oil and salt ensure the pickles keep. This is not a traditional pickle (traditionally we do not eat onions) but is one of my favourites.


Ingredients:
½ kg Madras onions (shallots)
¼ cup sesame seed oil
a small marble sized ball of tamarind/ 1 tsp tamarind paste
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
4 tsps kashmiri chilli powder
¼ tsp asafetida powder
¼ tsp fenugreek powder (roast fenugreek seeds and powder)
2 tsps jaggery powder
salt to taste

Method:
Clean the onions. Take a quarter portion of the onions and crush well in the blender. Soak the tamarind in about half a cup of warm water. Don’t bother to do this if using the paste.
Pour the oil into a wok and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the onions, crushed onion paste, the curry leaves and a little salt (not all the salt, only as much as required to salt the onions). Stir, on medium heat, and allow the onions and paste to cook for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the chilli, asafetida, fenugreek, and jaggery powders and required amount of salt. Mix well. Add the tamarind liquid next. If using tamarind paste, also add a little less than half a cup of water. Allow to cook, on medium to high heat, stirring frequently till the water evaporates and oil floats up along the sides of the wok.
The pickle is ready. Cool and bottle. Refrigerate.
Serve as an accompaniment to any of these - thayir chadam (yogurt rice), pulav, dosa, adai, chapathi,parathas and even bread.
If you would like this pickle to be a little sweeter, add an extra tablespoon or so of powdered jaggery. The sweeter version is especially nice with pulavs, fried rice, biriyanis or parathas.

This is my entry for February's JFI: Onion being hosted at Radhi's Kitchen
Read full post.....

January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie - Daring Baker Challenge Jan. 2008 and My First One!

I finally did it!
I “dared” to ask Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and was invited to be a Daring Baker. So, as far as I am concerned, I have fulfilled the “Daring” part of the title. As for the “Baker” part of it, let me say I completed the challenge. So if baking makes me a baker, then I have qualified for the “Baker” bit of the title. So I am now a Daring Baker as of January, 2008!
D-day has arrived, or maybe I should say DB-Day.
The Daring Bakers is a community of over 400 enthusiastic bakers across the world. A challenge is announced every month, where all members bake following same one recipe and then post about it on the same day of the month. Some amongst us are experts, some are novices (like me) and others are somewhere in between. But what we all have in common is the enthusiasm with which we approach our monthly challenge.
Before you go any further, I will warn you that I am going to bore you all with this post, but I just have get all this down!!
I have been admiring the lovely results of the challenges posted by the Daring Bakers on their blogs. I have long wanted to bake like this some day. When I was sent this month’s challenge by Mary of Alpineberry, it would be an understatement to say I was thrilled.
Once the euphoria died down, however, I started to wonder what I had let myself in for. The only pie I had made before was an apple pie. While it wasn’t a disaster, it wasn’t all that great either. Now, I knew what lemon curd was and I had eaten meringues before and knew how they were made (in theory). Beyond this, I didn’t have a clue as to what a Lemon Meringue Pie looked like. Of course, the internet helped out with pictures and recipes, and also told me all the things that could go wrong and there were quite a few suggestions on how to bake the perfect pie.
By now, I was a Terrified Baker-to-be!!! But I was going to bake that pie.
The recipe we were to follow is given below the picture of my pie.


Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.
Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra ChallengeFree-Style Lemon Tartlets
Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:
To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.
To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF.
Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.
Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks. Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Additions:
You can make one pie or tartlets (in a tin or free-form)
You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like.
Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.
Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002Tartlet recipe courtesy of Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz, 2003

My Pie Making Experience:
The Crust:
I thought I would make a smaller pie, but decided to stick to the exact measurements on this challenge. I have a 9 inch pie dish so the extra pie dough was used to make two little tart bases (my daughter finished them off before I had a chance to do anything further with them).
Since keeping the butter cold was important I cut the butter into thin slices and then put it back in the fridge. I used salted butter so left out the salt.
I had a lot of difficulty transferring the dough circle onto the pie plate. When I tried getting it onto the rolling pin, the dough came apart in pieces! So I rolled out the dough once more on a plastic sheet, placed the pie dish face down on the centre, turned the whole thing right side up and peeled the plastic sheet off. This way I could centre the rolled out dough.
I was quite proud of my effort at fluting the edges.
The pie crust turned out well, crisp and flaky.



The Filling:
This turned out well. No problems here. I poured the lemon curd onto the pie crust while it was still hot.



The Meringue:
This turned out well too. I couldn’t find Cream of Tartar so I used white vinegar instead. The substitution ratio was 3 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for 1 tsp Cream of Tartar. This was advice generously offered by other Daring Bakers. It worked. I used 1 ½ tsp of vinegar.
I piled the meringue onto the hot filling working from the side of the pie to the middle, covering the side so the lemon filling was completely covered. I used the back of a spoon to get the “spiky” finish to the meringue and baked it for 15 minutes.

The Verdict:
The filling wept a little bit after it cooled down a bit. I just drained this off! The pie also wept very slightly every time I cut a piece out of it. Maybe it felt sad at being taken apart!!! The meringue did shrink away from the crust after a couple of hours after the pie came out of the oven. Otherwise, I was quite pleased with the way my pie turned out.
Thinking back, I feel that perhaps the lemon juice used to make the filling could be cut back to ½ cup. It might reduce the “weeping” as the consistency of my lemon filling changed after the addition of the lemon juice to the cornstarch mixture. And my filling might have set better.
While many of us had weepy pies, many turned out perfect ones. This makes me think that perhaps different varieties of lemons that we used would be having varying levels of acidity and this perhaps determined how well the lemon filling set.
The pie tasted nice, not too sweet, a bit too tart for us (we are not very partial to lemons) but quite ok. It was appreciated by all the others who had it. It kept well in the fridge (I chilled it, didn’t freeze it) quite well for about 4 days, no soggy crust. This is how long my pie lasted!


I have to say a big thanks to all the Daring Bakers who offered me their suggestions and support for my First Challenge and to Jen of The Canadian Baker for this month’s challenge as I would never have attempted a Lemon Meringue Pie otherwise.
Do check out the Lemon Meringue Pies that other Daring Bakers have made. They can be found on the Daring Bakers Blogroll.
Update (29th January):
I just found out that the Daring Baker community now has about 500 members. The thought of over 500 of us, in various parts of the world, all whisking away at lemon curd fillings and meringues for Lemon Meringue Pies throughout January is mind boggling to say the least! And then those LMPs that were made for non- Daring Baker reasons!!
Read full post.....

January 25, 2008

Moong Bean Cutlets (Patties)

Someone said “Necessity is the mother of invention”. This recipe is proof of this. Here the “necessity” was my daughter suddenly coming into the kitchen, quite sometime back, and insisting that she was hungry and wanted cutlets to eat! I was pressed for time and she wasn’t willing to wait too long either!!
I happened to have some cooked whole moong beans in the fridge (cooked a little extra that morning). So I made some cutlets with that and my daughter had them with tomato ketchup. These cutlets/ patties are easy to put together. Moong beans can be cooked in a pressure cooker and do not require soaking overnight before cooking. You can cook them, drain the water (use this to make soup, or for kneading dough for chapathis, or in place of stock) and freeze them in single use portions.



Ingredients:
2 cups cooked moong beans (whole moong).
1 cup wheat germ
1 large onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 ½ tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder ( increase according to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
salt to taste
½ cup breadcrumbs
some oil for shallow frying

Method:
Mash the moong beans well and add all the other ingredients, except the breadcrumbs and oil, and mix well into a dough. You could sauté the onions separately and then add that to the mashed moong beans, if you prefer. Divide into ten portions and shape each into a cutlet or patty about 2 inches in diameter. Coat with breadcrumbs and shallow fry, over low to medium heat, on both sides till brown. These patties are quite soft.
Serve warm with tomato ketchup. This recipe makes 10 cutlets/ patties.
This is the original version. I have since made these adding mashed potato, grated carrot, finely shredded cabbage and/ or cooked peas depending on what was available in my kitchen. If you do not have wheat germ, that's ok. Just add about 2 -3 tbsp of gram flour (besan) to the mashed moong beans (you can add this to the above list of ingredients, too). This helps in binding and makes the cutlets easy to shape and they will not fall apart!
I'm not much of a sports fan, even cricket. But I'm definitely interested if food is involved.
So Mansi, these are for your Game Night Party event.
Read full post.....

January 18, 2008

A Very Short Break

I am going to be away from blogging for week.
We will be travelling out of Kochi tomorrow, not for a holiday though. But it will be a very welcome break for the three of us. And I am going to enjoy myself meeting some of my friends after a long time, even though we will be busy with things.
So, see you all sometime late next week.
Read full post.....

January 17, 2008

Coffee, The News, and Me - CLICK : January 2008 Liquid

This month’s theme of Liquid for the Food Photography Event - Click, I think, is the most difficult of the themes so far. As a novice to photography, taking a good photograph of anything at all is difficult enough. A liquid has so many nuances to it that one has to be pretty good to capture this on film.
Then I had to figure out what liquid that I would want to photograph. My all time favourite drink is water. Soups are not really my thing. Tea is my poison though there are those occasional days when nothing but a cup of filter coffee will do.


I finally settled on my morning “cuppa” as my subject and me effort is what you see. I chose a black and white format this time. I know my picture could be better and perhaps it shall be some day! And yes, I do need those glasses to see better, not only to read the papers!!
This picture is being sent over to Jugalbandi for Click : January 2008 Liquid.
Read full post.....

January 15, 2008

Papaya Avial Kootan (Raw Papaya in a Coconut Gravy)

This is really nothing but an Avial made with papaya. The "Kootan" signifies that this dish has a gravy and is to be served as a main accompaniment along with rice.
An “Aviyal” is a popular preparation from Kerala where a medley of vegetables such as elavan (ashgourd), raw plantain, elephant yam, drumstick (not from chicken, but a vegetable), egg plant, etc. are cooked together with a spiced coconut paste and yogurt.
I don’t like raw plantain or elephant yam so I sometimes make an Aviyal using carrots, cabbage, french beans, potato, and green peas. I love my version but I guess no true Malayali (a person from Kerala) would recognize it as an Aviyal.:)
This is another version of the traditional Aviyal and unusual in that it is made only with papaya and no other vegetable. Avial is a dry vegetable preparation with no gravy. My version has been adapted to be made with a gravy and hence the “Kootan” after the Avial in the title.
The Avial Kootan (in traditional vegetable variation) is a staple in my mother-in-law’s kitchen.


Ingredients:
1 small raw (just beginning to ripen) papaya
1 cup slightly sour thick yogurt
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ a small coconut, grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies (or according to taste)
salt to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 sprigs curry leaves
Using a papaya that is in the very early stages of ripening gives an interesting taste to the Aviyal. A papaya at this stage would still be deep green on the outside but with very faint and small patches of whitish-yellowness. When cut the inside would have a faint pinkish tinge. I have a couple of papaya trees next door and could choose the one I wanted!
This can be made with raw papaya too.

Method:
Grind the coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies into a fine paste. Keep aside. Whisk the yogurt till smooth and keep aside.
Peel the papaya, remove seeds and cut into pieces about 1 ½ inches in length (like we cut potatoes for finger chips). Cook the papaya with turmeric powder and salt and half a cup water till soft but firm. I cook the papaya in the microwave (without turmeric powder or salt) at 100% for about 8 minutes. Then I put the papaya into a pan with ¾ cup of water, curry leaves, salt and turmeric powder. When this comes to a boil, add the coconut paste and mix well. Turn down the heat and add the yogurt. Mix well. When the mixture just starts to boil, take off the heat. Pour the coconut oil and stir. Cover.
Serve hot with rice, pappads and pickle. This recipe would very comfortably serve about 4-5 people.
If you wish, this can prepared without the gravy. In that case, do not add the ¾ cup of water but just a couple of tbsps. This is not a traditional Palakkad Iyer preparation in the true sense because of the papaya but I am including it as one.
This is being sent to Nags at For The Cook in Me for AFAM which is Papaya for the month of January.
Read full post.....

January 13, 2008

Nendrapazham Pulissery (Ripe Plantain in a Spiced Coconut and Yogurt Gravy)

A “pulissery” is a spiced coconut and yogurt based dish which is very popular in Kerala. This pulissery is made with Nendrapazham (ripe plantain). Plantains were earlier grown only in Kerala but now is available in many parts of India. The authentic and original pulissery is the Mambazha Pulissery, which is also made this way but with ripe mangoes instead of plantains. There is also a version made with pineapple.
So a pulissery gives you a lovely combination of sweetness (from the fruit), salt, spice and sourness (from the yogurt) which is just out of this world.



This is one of those recipes which have also found their way in to the Palakkad Iyer cuisine and is cooked often, especially in the mango season in Kerala ( late February to the end of May) every year. In our homes, this is also known as “morukootan” where “moru” is yogurt and “kootan” means gravy based accompaniment for rice.
This is how I make Nendrapazham Pulissery/ Morukootan.

Ingredients:
2 medium sized ripe plantains
1 tbsp oil
1 cup slightly sour yogurt
1 tbsp gram flour (besan)
4 tbsps fresh grated coconut
2-3 green chillies (according to desired spice levels)
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
For tempering/ seasoning:
2 tsps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1-2 red chillies (I use less spicy Kashmiri chillies)
1 sprig curry leaves

Method:
Peel the plantains and cut lengthwise into about 2 inch long pieces. Cut each piece into half lengthwise.
Grind the coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds into a fine paste adding a little water. Keep aside.
Whisk the yogurt and gram flour together till well blended.
Now heat 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the plantain pieces till they start becoming brown. Do not wait till the pieces are completely brown but just start browning in bits. Add a cup of water, salt and the turmeric powder to this. Stir and allow the plantain pieces to cook without becoming mushy. Some plantains tend to be hard even after they are cooked. These do not make a good pulissery. Now add the coconut paste. Mix well and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to minimum and add the whisked yogurt. Mix well and turn off the heat as soon as the yogurt mixture is just about to boil. If this boils the yogurt could split and the pulissery would not look or taste nice.
Heat the 2 tsps oil, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add the red chillies, the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Mix immediately and take off the heat or the chillies and fenugreek seeds would get burnt. Pour into the pulissery right away. This tempering is best done just before serving.
The Nendrapazam Pulissery is ready to be served. This recipe would comfortably serve about 4-5 people.
Pulissery is eaten mixed with rice along with dry vegetable preparations, like “thoran” or “mezhukkupuratti”,and fried pappads.
Pulissery keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of days and can be warmed, tempered, and served.
I am sending this across to Jyotsna at Currybazaar for RCI: Kerala

Updated on 15th January, 2008:
I was asked what the difference between a Pulissery and a Kaalan was. It seemed appropriate to include my answer in this post.
Both Pulissery and Kaalan are dishes where the cumin seeds, green chillies and grated coconut are ground to a paste and cooked with yogurt to form a gravy.
Pulissery is made using one of these vegetables, usually vellirika ( a sort of cucumber), elavan (ash gourd), raw mangoes and sometimes a combination of elavan and raw mango, or fruits like mango, plantains or pineapple. Pulissery is thinner in consistency compared to Kaalan.
Kaalan is usually made with vegetables like chena (elephant yam) or vazhakka (raw plantain) and sometimes with ripe mango. Kaalan is much thicker in consistency and also has black pepper added to it.
In the age before refrigeration, sour yogurt was usually boiled/ cooked with salt, turmeric powder and crushed black pepper till the water evaporated leaving behind a thick mass. This was called “Kurukku Kaalan”. This keeps for a very long time. Then whenever, Kaalan was to be made, the vegetables would be cooked in a little water and then the above mentioned coconut paste and some part of the Kurukku Kaalan would be added to make a Kaalan, which was then tempered with mustard and fenugreek seeds and curry leaves in coconut oil. If Kaalan is made with ripe mangoes, then the crushed pepper is not added.
In many communities in Kerala, Kaalan is an important part of festive fare, where it is served with rice before the sambhar is served.
If anyone has any other information about this I would be glad to hear from you.
Read full post.....

January 12, 2008

Appreciation From Fellow Bloggers

I am dedicating this page to all the various awards that fellow bloggers have passed on to my blog and to me. These awards mean a lot to me as they show that there are bloggers who follow what I write and feel that my little corner in blogosphere deserves some appreciation.
To all of you, a very big thank you from me.








Divya of Dil Se











RC of Red Chillies








Manuela of Baking History, Simran of Bombay Foodie and Ivy of Kopiaste






Jayasree of Experiments in Kailas Kitchen, Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore






Anamika of Anamika:Sugar-crafter, Rachel ofTangerine's Kitchen






Rachel of Tangerine's Kitchen






Sireesha of Mom's Recipes






Natashya of Living In The Kitchen With Puppies






Srimathi (Foody Guru) of Few Minute Wonders, Ivy of Kopiaste






Harini, the Sunshinemom of Tongue Ticklers






Bharathy of Spicy Chilli, Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Bharathy of Spicy Chilli






Bharathy of Spicy Chilli






Simran of Bombay Foodie and Curry Leay of Tasty Curry Leaf






Srimathi (Foody Guru) of Few Minute Wonders, Preeti of My Kitchen Stories






Uma of Veg Inspirations






CL of Curry Leaf, Padmajha of Seduce Your Tastebuds, Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen, Di_ani of Опитайте ...




Yasmeen of Health Nut, Divya of Divyazeasyrecipes, Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes, Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen, Vibaas of Delectable Vegetarian Recipes, Lata Raja of Flavours And Tastes, Priya Narasimhan of Priya's vegetarian recipes, Bergamot of Cooking Escapades, Lien of Notitie Van Lien.






Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Dibs of Chitra Amma's Kitchen






Yasmeen of Health Nut, Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore








Ivy of Kopiaste, Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore








Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore






Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore






Rosie of Baking Cakes Galore






Prathibha of The Chef And Her Kitchen, Suparna from Food Fascination, Parita of Parita's Kitchen, Ria of Ria's Collection
Di_ani of Опитайте ...
Read full post.....

January 11, 2008

Square Brown Microwaved Scones

These scones made in the microwave are something I have been making for a long time now. In fact, this recipe is among the first few I collected when I first bought my microwave. This came from a friend who herself had collected it from some old English magazine!

This has been in my drafts for a while and I was thinking of posting it sometime soon, when I saw Srivalli's Microwave event announcement that the theme for this month was Tiffin. This is not a Tiffin in the real meaning of the word but close enough as it can be had with butter or jam as part of breakfast or as an evening snack with coffee or tea.




Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup butter, cold
¼ cup brown sugar (white will also do)
¾ cup sultanas/ raisins
5 tbsp milk
4 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt (not needed if using salted butter)

Method:
Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt (if using). Rub the butter into this till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. I cut the butter into thin strips/ pieces with a knife and then rub it into the flour. This way, the butter doesn’t melt from the warmth of your hands. This is important.

Stir in the sultanas and sugar. Add the milk and mix into a soft dough. Do this with a fork, if possible. Do not knead the dough. The less the dough is handled the softer the scones. Place on a lightly floured surface and shape into a 1 inch (2 ½ cm) thick square. Cut into 9 squares and arrange in a circle on a paper towel placed on the microwave turntable.

Cook at 100% (full power) for 3 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Do not overcook. Leave in the microwave for 3 minutes and take out to cool a bit.Serve warm with butter, jam, cream or as you wish.
This is going across to Cooking 4 all Seasons be a part of MEC: Tiffin
Read full post.....

January 9, 2008

Make It At Home - Peanut Butter

M
y daughter and I love peanut butter. My husband just likes it.
I still remember all those times, while still at school, I used to get hungry for a snack and peanut butter (no jam/ jelly) on thick slices of soft, crusty bread was my favorite. To be honest, I don't even need the bread. I could eat peanut butter by the spoonful, the way some people like to eat Nutella!




I used to find it very difficult to find peanut butter in India for a long time. Now it is available in plenty on the supermarket shelves, in both imported and locally made versions. But the manufacturers seem to think that peanut butter is some exotic or gourmet food item given the prices at which they sell it out here! This is a bit of a joke considering that India grows peanuts (or groundnuts as we call them here) in plenty.
I personally dislike the waxy feel store bought peanut butter leaves on my tongue.





So I like making my own peanut butter at home. It doesn't take much time to pick a par of peanut butter off the shelves and bring it home, but I can think of a couple of reasons to make it at home besides the fact that it costs less to do so.

The most compelling reason is that home-made stuff wins hands down, almost every time. Then again, its takes so little time to make your own peanut butter. Apart from being able to control the amount of salt, fat and sugar in home-made peanut butter, it is also free of all the stuff like "fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, natural peanut butter flavour, caramel colour. corn syrup"to mention a few.





I don't always get shelled peanuts where I live right now, so I do it from scratch. This means making peanut butter sometimes becomes more involved, but its still worth the effort in my opinion. There's no more "All Natural" Peanut Butter than the one made at home!
Home-made Peanut Butter
 

Ingredients:

1/2 kg shelled and roasted peanuts
 
2 tsps sugar
 
3 tbsps oil
 
1 tsp salt approx. (or to taste; I prefer less salt)
 
 

Method:

Run the peanuts in the food processor till the peanuts are broken into small bits. If you like chunky peanut butter, remove about 1/2 a cup and keep aside before going further. I prefer a smoother peanut butter without large bits of peanuts to bite into.
 
Now add the sugar, salt and about 2 tbsps of the oil. Run the mixture in the food processor, adding the remaining 1 tbsp oil, until everything comes together in a buttery mass. Add the peanut bits which were kept aside and run the processor a couple of times till everything is uniformly mixed. Bottle and refrigerate.
 
You can make this in a mixer/ grinder jar, too.
Peanuts contain oil and the amount of oil in them differs depending on the peanut variety. So after the initial 2 tbsps of oil, adding the remaining 1 tbsp oil , ensures that you need to add only as much oil as necessary to get a spreading consistency. You may not need that last 1 tbsp oil at all!
Read full post.....

January 7, 2008

Easy White Bread


This is a bread I bake often. It is very easy to make and doesn’t require any special skills or technique. This was one of the first breads I attempted when I started trying to bake bread at home. Of course, my initial attempts were awful. I had to figure out that I needed to check the quality of my yeast.
Then, most cookbooks tell you to leave the dough to rise for about an hour or some such period. I found out the hard way that the time for the dough to rise depends on room temperature or where you place the dough. So, now I know that whatever time it takes the dough to roughly double in volume is the “time”.

I learnt many other things along the way and now am able to turn out a reasonably decent bread.
My daughter and husband call this my “unhealthy” bread. This is because I have a tendency to try and make most of my breads “healthier” by adding whole wheat flour, or bran, or wheat germ, etc.! I have to add that they seem to prefer this “unhealthy” version.





Ingredients:


3 cups all purpose flour + flour for dusting

3 tbsp oil

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt



Method:


Dissolve the sugar in 1 cup warm water and add the yeast. Keep for about 5 minutes till the yeast froths.
Mix the flour and salt together. Add the yeast mixture, oil and enough water to make a soft and pliable dough. I do this in the food processor and then do a final kneading by hand.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to double in volume.

Now punch back the risen dough and gently shape into a round. Cut a cross on the top using a sharp knife. (I do this using a pair of scissors.) Dust the top of the bread with flour. Allow to rise. Bake at 200C for about 30 minutes. If tapped on the top the bread will sound hollow, once it is done. Cool on a rack.





This is a nice crusty bread with a soft interior and goes wonderfully with hot soup.
Read full post.....

January 6, 2008

A Bit About Palakkad Iyers and Their Cuisine

I was going through my posts when I realized that while I had posted a few Palakkad Iyer recipes (we are Palakkad Iyers), I ought to introduce this style of cooking to all who are not familiar with it. I am sure that quite a few of you who are reading this are already familiar with all this. For all of you who are new to Palakkad Iyers as a community in India, here is a short introduction to our cuisine.

Palakkad is a district of Kerala state (which is at the southern end of India) and is located at the border of Kerala with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Palakkad Iyers are a community of Tamil speaking Brahmins, living in Kerala. Originally from Tamil Nadu, these Iyers migrated to Kerala about 400years or so back and settled down in the Palakkad area. Some of these migrants also settled down in Trissur and Trivandrum. Today, they are very much an integral part of the state.

This migration has resulted in a unique cuisine that is a combination of cooking styles that came with them from Tamil Nadu, those adopted/ adapted from Kerala and a cooking tradition that evolved distinctly from the two styles and is unique to Palakkad Iyer homes. A lot of our cooking has evolved from Brahmin ritualistic traditions and even today, many of us maintain a prescribed style of cooking for festivals and various religious rituals.

Palakkad Iyer cooking is purely vegetarian (and traditionally uses no garlic or onions), and uses a lot of lentils, dry beans, vegetables and coconut (which grows abundantly in Kerala). Coconut oil and gingelly (sesame seed) oil are used and rice is the main carbohydrate source. Palakkad Iyer food is very healthy as it uses minimal oil, and steam cooking is extensively used. There is no baking tradition.

Most of the dishes are prepared using indigenously available vegetables and spices, though many changes have crept in over the years. Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, tomatoes and even green chillies came to India as a result of foreign influence of the Dutch, British and Portuguese over the years and were not a part of the original cooking ingredients. Most of our breakfast dishes, snacks and desserts are made with rice. Jaggery is the preferred sweetening agent, though sugar is also used and coconut milk is used a lot. We use tamarind or yogurt to add a tang to some dishes.

Our breakfasts or “tiffin” is largely rice and lentil based. Some popular dishes are idlis, dosas and adais. Dinner could be a lighter regimen of rice and an accompaniment or a light “tiffin”.
A daily lunch usually consists of rice, a kootan (some vegetables in a gravy made of one or a combination of lentils, coconut or yogurt with spices), a rasam (a tangy watery soup-like dish), a curry ( such as “kootu”, “mezhukkupuratti”, “poduthuval”, etc.) served as an accompaniment or side-dish to the main meal (I use the word “curry” here to describe a dry or semi-dry vegetable/ combination of vegetables), and yogurt. Pappads or a variety of such fried items (these are unique to Iyers and some are “appalam”, “karuvadam” and “vethal”) and pickles (the Indian type) are also sometimes a part of this meal. All these have a prescribed order in which they are served.

Festive meals have a larger variety of many of these accompaniments and usually one or two “payasams” (usually milk or coconut milk based desserts) depending upon the occasion. I shall do separate posts on these at other times.

Of course, we eat with our right hands (no spoons or cutlery) and traditionally food is served and eaten from a banana/ plantain leaf. Very eco-friendly and fewer dishes to wash!
I hope I have been able to give some idea about our style of cooking and eating.

More information about Palakkad Iyers is available at www.keralaiyers.com/cuisine ,, http://www.keralaiyers.com/history and http://www.samooham.com/history.html if you are interested.
Read full post.....

January 5, 2008

My Achappam (Rose Cookies) Makes it to the Final Ten

I would like to thank everyone who sent me e-mails or left comments wishing me a Happy New Year. I really appreciate it. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

I just found out that my Achappam is one of the ten cookies selected by the judges at Christmas Cookies From Around The World at Food Blogga. One of these ten would be voted the winner by viewers in the next four days.

I am thrilled to have my entry picked out of 212 entries and think this is a lovely way to start off my new year. I just wanted to share this with everyone.
Read full post.....