May 30, 2008

Beans ‘n Lentils; CLICK May 2008 – The Colours in My Kitchen

This month’s CLICK, the food photography event at Jugalbandi, is centered on Beans ‘n Lentils. Beans and lentils are so central to an Indian kitchen, I wasn’t wanting for raw material. I just couldn’t come up with anything “different”. And when I finally got an idea, I had difficulty picking out one picture to send in as no particular picture was calling out to me. And my daughter's take on the whole thing was, "Amma, it's just an event and its not like you're getting a prize for it"! Well, that's certainly one way of looking at things.
As I was saying, I kept wondering and just the other day was going through some photographs in our album when I came across some taken during our stay in Portugal.
Our picture was taken at Cascais, a very prosperous fishing village and tourist destination not too far from the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. What is interesting in Cascais is their city square. The ground and walkways are paved with coloured stone forming a wavy mosaic pattern. Of course, you can find pavements with coloured stones in all parts of Portugal but none like this (that I’ve seen, anyway).
This gave me the idea for my submission for this month’s event. And this is it.

This picture could have been better, but I’m still figuring out how much light each room gets in our new place. From what I can see, the best place for taking pictures is the kitchen. But to get the optimum light I would have to stand outside my window, which isn’t exactly practical as we are on the 2nd floor!
Yes, I know that’s why we’re supposed to use props.
Here’s another not so good picture of my “idea”.

The pictures in our albums were taken before we acquired a digital camera and I don’t have a scanner at home. So I’m reproducing a picture (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.
This is the beautiful mosaic flooring in the city square at Cascais that "inspired" my photograph.
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May 28, 2008

An Opera Cake in Tones of Cardamom and Mango Buttercream: Daring Baker Challenge May 2008

We Daring Bakers are back again and we are all singing in the kitchen this time, though different tunes! No, we haven’t taken to singing choruses. Our hostesses for this month, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, and co-hosts Fran of Apple,Peaches, Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful decided to challenge us to bake an Opera cake.
An Opera cake is a French dessert cake with origins somewhere in the early 1900s. Some also know it as the Clichy cake and believe it was first made by Louis Clichy. An opera cake is traditionally made of 6 layers of joconde (almond sponge cake) moistened with a syrup and then sandwiched with buttercream, covered with a ganache and covered with a dark chocolate glaze. The cake is usually decorated with musical notes or the word “opera” piped in chocolate or edible gold leaf.

Our hosts are dedicating this month’s challenge to Barbara at Winos and Foodies. So all our cakes were to be made using only light flavours and pastel shades of colour rather that the dark and light coloured layers of the typical Opera cake.
Barbara is the moving force behind the food blog event called “A Taste of Yellow” in support of Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation.
Lance Armstrong has written a book called “It is Not About the Bike – My Journey Back to Life”which is worth reading if you already haven’t done so.

Back to the challenge.
We had to follow the provided recipe but were given a full freedom regarding the shape of our cakes, choice of flavouring for the cakes, buttercream and ganache and even the options to leave off the ganache/ mousse or the glaze if we wdid not want to make them.
So I made my cake using a mixture of powdered almonds and cashewnuts (instead of all almond), moistened with cardamom infused sugar syrup and sandwiched the layers with mango buttercream. I chose not to make the ganache/ mousse and glazed my cake with white chocolate tinted to a pale green.
Here’s are two pictures of my version. Quite cute, don’t you think?

Well, don’t be fooled by the picture because my cake looks a lot better here than it actually was. I’m beginning to think I’m a better photographer (and that’s not saying much) than a baker!

The recipe we were to use and a printable version of it can be found here.

My Experience With The Opera Cake:

Our hostesses were very kind to give us detailed instructions on making and assembling this cake. I decided that this cake should not be too difficult as the various parts could be made on different days and then assembled together. I also decide to halve the ingredients to make a smaller cake.

So I started off by making the sugar syrup. Very easy. I used vanilla extract as flavouring and added about 1 ½ tsp of powdered cardamom. The result was lovely cardamom flavoured syrup.

Making the buttercream:

This was where I first got a hint that things were going wrong and this whole Operatic business wasn’t as easy as I thought!
I made the buttercream according to instructions. I used the original recipe and not the revised version suggested. I added about 4 tbsps of mango puree at the end while beating the buttercream. It’s the mango season here in India and I just couldn’t resist using a mango buttercream here.
The result was a very tasty but soft mango buttercream. I also noticed a bit of curdling in my buttercream resulting in a slightly grainy texture. Beating it some more didn’t solve this problem. So I put it in the fridge and it stayed there for a couple of days before I could make the joconde. I beat the buttercream after taking it out of the fridge but this didn’t make any difference, either.
Some DBs suggested the curdling could have been because the hot sugar syrup wasn’t added slowly enough and could have cooked the eggs in the buttercream. I don’t think this was the reason with me, as I was careful to pour the syrup slowly.

Making the Joconde:

Making the joconde took a bit of adjustment on my part. I didn’t have jam/ jelly roll pans. I have never made jam/ jelly rolls before. So I decided to use 2 same sized round cake tins to make the cake. So far so good. That’s when I discovered I didn’t have enough almonds for the cake. My fault entirely. It suddenly struck me that I had used the almonds to make some Crunchy Granola and forgotten to restock.
But I did have some cashewnuts. So I used half and half of almonds and cashewnuts and powdered them as instructed. This worked perfectly.
I baked the first cake for about 12 minutes. When I was baking the second one, I realized the first cake hadn’t cooked and the middle had a consistency of raw marzipan. So I baked my second and third cakes for 20 minutes each and then baked the first one for a further 10 minutes. I have one of those newer small convection ovens and can bake only one cake at a time.
Now all the 3 cakes were cooked. But I had a tough time removing the parchment off the cakes. One cake almost came apart. This was when I started feeling that this challenge was perhaps not really working for me.

Assembling the Opera Cake:

I decided not to make the ganache/ mousse as I couldn’t find heavy cream here. What I had was a 25% fat cream. Some fellow DBs suggested alternatives and I wasn’t feeling courageous enough to experiment and find out if it would work. Not a very Daring Baker this time, eh?
I moistened my three cakes with the cardamom flavoured sugar syrup and then took out the mango buttercream. This is where the music in my Opera started to sound funny! The middle layer of my cake was now threatening to disintegrate. I managed to put it together when I discovered the buttercream layers in my cake were becoming soft. Before it could become “runny”, I stuck the cake back in the fridge.
By now I was feeling so miserable I couldn’t look at that cake anymore. So it was the next day before I could pluck up the courage to even think about glazing it. I melted the white chocolate, added the cream with 25% fat and a bit of green food colouring (I thought it would be a nice colour contrast to the yellow/ orange of the buttercream) and glazed the cake.
The glaze was fine but the buttercream started softening again and oozing down the cake! Now my cake no longer had neat sides and looked awful. So it went back into the fridge. When the mango buttercream ooze had solidified, I cut the round cake into a square so that my cake would have neat sides. Mission accomplished!!
Well, partially accomplished anyways because my cake wouldn’t win even a mention in any competition for “neat sides”. And now I had to decorate my cake. By now I was sure that there was no way I was going to be trying anything new in this direction. For one thing, with so many “cosmetic” adjustments, my cake had diminished considerably in size! For another, any cake decorating that took more than 5 minutes would require me to sit in the fridge with the cake. If I kept my cake out longer than that it would start oozing buttercream.
That’s when my daughter suggested I could cut my square (and small) cake in half and practice my decorating on one half. And if it didn’t work I could leave the other half plain and at least get a nice picture. This seemed a great idea.
So I melted and coloured (with yellow to match the buttercream) some white chocolate and tried decorating one half with some dots. It ended up as if my cake had broken out into a weird yellow rash!!
Not having the courage for any more disasters, I settled for piping some lines across the other half. I at least managed to get a decent picture. And if you can hear some very tragic singing (or howling) in the background, let me tell you it’s not me. :D
One thing I must make very clear though. This makes for a very tasty cake. We kept tasting the cake right throughout (Where else do you think all those trimmed scraps went?) and every time we kept saying, “But this tastes good”.


This cake wasn’t difficult to make. But I think I might to use a different buttercream next time, perhaps the buttercream recipe from the Perfect Party Cake because it worked for me. I was, however, attracted to this buttercream recipe because it uses a lot less of egg.
I think the reason for my buttercream softening so much and oozing out of the cake was the high temperature here at this time of the year. May is peak summer in southern India and it has been hotter than ever this year! So this is not a cake for the summertime.
While this particular cake making episode didn’t work out for me, we liked the cake. I particularly liked the nutty flavour of the joconde and I know I will make this cake at least once more (using stronger flavours and dark chocolate) to see if I cannot make a success of it.
Please bloghop across to my fellow Daring Bakers to see the astonishing variety of Opera cakes that they have made and decorated. I am yet to recover from the visual feast.
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Truly Tastes Like Home: Shortbread Coconut Cookies and Coconut Ice-cream

When Zlamushka recently announced “Tried and Tasted” at her Spicy Kitchen, I was interested to see what she had come up with. She was going to choose one food blogger every month and giving interested bloggers an opportunity to discover and explore the chosen blog.
This month, Zlamushka chose to showcase Cynthia’s Tastes Like Home.
I originally came across Cynthia’s blog from Forgive My Nonsense, another blog she writes at. I do enjoy her style of writing and the pictures on her food blog are great.
I knew I was going to cook up something from Cynthia’s recipe collection.

Cynthia loves coconut and for me it is a flavour that truly tastes like home. I had almost decided on her Shortbread Coconut Cookies when another picture on her blog just caught my eye and begged to be made – Coconut Ice-cream. It also happened to be perfect weather here, a very hot summer, for ice-cream. And I made both!

I wrote to her and she sent me the recipes. I am not reproducing the recipes here as Cynthia is writing a book and is required not to publish her recipes otherwise (she has just sent in her completed book to the publishers). So you will have to make do with pictures this time. Let me say that my pictures don’t do her recipes justice.


The Shortbread Coconut Cookies were nice. But for us, the Coconut Ice-cream won hands down! Imagine a really creamy ice-cream bursting with the subtle flavour of coconut in every mouthful.

Yesterday, we had some very welcome pre-monsoon showers accompanied by a mild thunderstorm (you can see the overcast skies and coconut trees outside our balcony) and celebrated the drop in temperature with some more Coconut Ice-cream. Ice-cream and rains probably don’t go together but for us here, anytime is ice-cream time.

We loved this ice-cream so much, that I've just made some more again!!

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May 27, 2008

Eggless Oatmeal Bread

Printable version here.

This is a recipe I had saved sometime back from somewhere (cannot remember and was long before my blog was born) and a bread I have made a few times. I like oats and this bread is healthy and easy to make. But the nicest part is that once the bread is made and sliced, you just cannot see the oats in it. This makes it great for people who do not like oats and also for those who want to avoid eggs.

When I realised last month’s Bread Baking Day was centered on making bread with oats, I felt a little sad that I had a recipe but couldn’t send in an entry to an event I enjoy baking for. Then Melissa announced “Breakfast Breads” as the theme for this month’s BBD, it seemed the perfect chance for me to send my recipe in. This oatmeal bread is perfect for breakfast. I don’t usually add raisins but you may add ½ a cup of raisins to the dough if you prefer.


1½ tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
1 cup oats (I used Quakers)
1 tbsp oil (I used rice bran + sunflower oils)
1 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour + ½ cup for kneading
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup wheat germ


Add the yeast and honey to 1 cup warm water, mix and allow to prove. In a bowl, mix the oats and oil and then add the yeast mixture. Stir and keep aside for about 5 minutes. Now add the flours, wheat germ and salt and knead into a soft mass. The dough will be a bit sticky so use some more flour while kneading. Cover and allow to double in size.
Now, punch down the dough and knead till smooth and shape into a loaf. Allow to rise till almost double.
Bake at 190C for about 40minutes. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes at least before slicing. This bread is slightly dense but soft and crumbly in texture.This is my entry for Breakfast Breads at BBD #10 being hosted at Baking A Sweet Life. If you would be interested in some more varieties of Oatmeal Breads, then do check out last month’s BBD #09 Round-up at Paulchen’s FoodBlog.
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May 25, 2008

Arabic Cardamom Shortbread Cookies (Ghorayebah)

Ghorayebah, also sometimes known as the “Queen’s Bracelets”, are fragile shortbread-like cardamom cookies. They derive their rather quaint name from their shape – each cookie is shaped from strand of dough, where the two ends are joined together and a blanched almond is pressed in at this joint. Thus the finished cookie looks like a bracelet with an almond “gem”. These cookies are sometimes served during Purim and thought to represent Queen Esther’s bracelets.

Ghorayebah is made through out the Middle East and there are many variations to the recipe. Some recipes use orange flower water or rose water, while some use pistachios instead of almonds. Some recipes call for use of almond extract and even suggest that the use of cardamom is optional.

While I have no idea which of these is the authentic recipe, I made some of these delicious cookies using the following recipe and as I had run out of almonds, I used chironji/ charoli (small nuts also known as cudpah nuts/ cudpah almonds). These nuts taste somewhat like almonds. I also shaped them into flat rounds rather than “bracelets”.


 1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup ghee (clarified butter)
½ cup powdered sugar (I used granulated here, but powdered sugar works better)
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp powdered cardamom
25gm blanched, halved almonds


In a pan, heat the ghee. Add the sugar and keep mixing till the sugar dissolves. Take this off the heat. When it has cooled, add the cardamom powder, salt, baking soda and flour and knead everything gently to a soft non-sticky dough. If the dough is sticky add a little flour. The dough may seem a bit crumbly but this is alright as long as the dough holds its shape when held.

Shape the dough into walnut sized (about an inch in diameter) balls. To do this take the dough and clench it in your palm as if squeezing the dough, couple of times. This will make the dough clump together and take the shape of a ball, roughly. Now lightly roll the dough into round balls. Flatten gently and press down an almond half in the centre of each cookie. As I mentioned earlier, I used chirongi instead of almonds. Place on a greased sheet, leaving a little space between cookies. These cookies don't spread but puff up a bit. Bake at 180C for about 20minutes.

When done the cookies would have lost their whitish colour and just start becoming faintly golden. It is very important that the cookies do not brown or they would burn on the inside and become hard.
Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. This recipe makes about 15 cookies which are 2" in diameter.
These cookies would be a bit flaky and fragile with a rich buttery, shortbread texture and taste, a lot like the “Nankhatai” we make in India.

I'm entering these shortbread cookies for Think Spice, Think Cardamom which is Sunitha's event idea and being hosted this month at Simple Indian Food.
This is also going across to be a part of A.W.E.D. : Middle eastern Cuisine started by DK of Culinary Bazaar and being hosted at Siri's Corner this month.
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May 24, 2008

More South Indian Mango Pickles! Maangakari (Easy/ Instant Mango Pickle) and Maangai Thokku (Sliced & Cooked Mango Pickle)

I've been making mango pickles this month and this is something I've got into a habit of doing almost every summer for the past few years. Here are two of the them and they are not difficult to make.

Mangakari (Easy/ Instant South Indian Mango Pickle)

This is probably the easiest Indian mango pickle to be made. The most difficult part is chopping the mangoes!
This is a pickle one would find all over south India during summer when mangoes are plentiful. Most versions in Kerala also have vinegar but this version is as it is made in Palakkad Iyer homes.

A non-spicy version of this pickle is “Uppu Mangai” (where Uppu means salt and Manga means mango. The mangoes are chopped finely and just before serving, salted to taste. This is to be made in small quantities at a time, enough to serve at one meal, as the salt draws out the moisture in the mango and loses its freshness in a couple of hours.

Mangakari (Easy/ Instant South Indian Mango Pickle)


3 medium sized mangoes

(finely chopped and measures about 3 cups)

3 heaped teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder

(adjust to preferred levels of spiciness)

2 -3 tsp sesame seed (til) oil

1/4 tsp asafetida

salt to taste

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves


Add the salt and chilli powder to the chopped mangoes, mix well and keep aside.

Now heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafetida and curry leaves, stir once and take off the flame.

Pour this mixture into the chopped mango mixture and mix well.
I usually add the mangoes to the pan with the tempering and mix everything in it. The residual heat of the pan softens the mangoes a wee bit.

Cool, bottle and refrigerate. Serve with curd rice (yogurt and rice) or according to preference.
This pickle will last about 5 days as it has very little oil.

Manga Thokku (Sliced & Cooked South Indian Mango Pickle)

This is another easy pickle to make and found in our homes during the summer and even later during the monsoon. This pickle lasts a little longer as it contains more oil, which acts as a preservative.

Manga Thokku (Sliced & Cooked South Indian Mango Pickle)


5 medium sized mangoes

1 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste (adjust according to sourness of mangoes)

2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder

(adjust to preferred levels of spiciness)

3/4 cup (til) sesame seed oil

1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek powder (roast seeds and powder)

1/2 tsp asafetida

2 tbsp powdered jaggery (or as required)

1 sprig curry leaves


Peel the mangoes and, with a sharp knife, slice slightly thick pieces (see picture) off the mango into a bowl. I just thought I should mention that the mango slices in my picture are not ripe. They are raw but that colour.

Heat the oil in a wok/ pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter add the asafetida, sliced mango, salt and curry leaves. Cook, on low heat, till the mango is soft.

Add the chilli powder and stir till the oil floats on the side of the wok/ pan. Now add the fenugreek powder and jaggery powder. The jaggery powder is added only to offset the sourness of the mangoes.

This is a spicy pickle and the jaggery should not impart any sweetness to it. Stir well till everything is well mixed. Take off the heat. Cool and bottle.
Though this pickle has a lot of oil, it would be a good idea to refrigerate it.
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May 22, 2008

Easy Potato Bread for Taste & Create

Printable version here.

Taste & Create is an event idea of Nicole’s at For the Love of Food. What one does (if you want to be a part of this) is to write in to Nicole and she then randomly pairs you up with a fellow blogger. Paired bloggers then go through each other’s blogs, find something they like to re-create and then write about it on their blogs.
I came across this event a couple of months back but didn’t have the time to be a part of it. I thought this was a nice way of discovering another food blog and cooking from that person’s recipe collection.
Well, I signed up to be a part of this month’s Taste & Create and my partner in this endeavour is Valli of More Than Burnt Toast. I had come across her blog earlier as a fellow Daring Baker.
May I introduce you to Valli? She lives in Canada, has a daughter in the 3rd year at University, and says she loves traveling and cooking. She also syas she has a family who very happily enjoy playing guinea pigs to all her experiments with food.
She has a lot of lovely looking food and recipes on her blog but not for me simply because I’m a vegetarian. That’s not to say I didn’t find anything I could cook. On the contrary, it took me a while to decide what I wanted to cook for this event. I enjoy Italian food (that’s vegetarian, of course).
I finally decide on her Mom and Dad’s Potato Bread. What first caught my eye was the lovely picture she says her dad painted. The next thing was that this bread uses baking powder instead of yeast and so doesn’t take very long to make. And I like to bake bread! I reduced the time further by mixing up everything in the food processor. :)

I am reproducing Valli’s recipe below. I made a small addition of some dried herbs and used processed cheese, otherwise this is her recipe.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup grated processed cheese (this was what I had)
2 cups cooked, mashed potatoes
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp mixed dried Italian herbs


Put the flour, salt, dried herbsmustard and baking powders into the bowl of the processor. Pulse a couple of times till mixed.
Keep aside about 2 tbsp of the cheese and add the remaining cheese and mashed potatoes to this. Pulse again till mixed. Now add the water and oil and process till everything comes together as a soft dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a round approximately 8” in diameter. Placed on a greased sheet/ tray. Mark the loaf into four without cutting through. I used a sharp knife for this. Sprinkle the 2 tbsp grated cheese over the loaf and bake at 220C for about 30minutes. Cool on a rack.

Valli suggests eating this bread as fresh as possible or toasting it. We ate it fresh!
The bread was very soft (as you can see in the picture) and really tasty. I think what I liked the most was that this bread was made so quickly. I shall definitely be making this again.
Thanks, Valli.
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May 21, 2008

Aam Ka Chundo/ Chunda (Sweet and Spicy Grated Mango Pickle)

he summer months of April and May (and June in the northern parts of India) are very hot and usually devoted to pickling and preserving. This is when mangoes are also aplenty and the varieties of mango available in India are mind boggling. Every region of the country that grows mangoes has its own unique varieties. Similarly each region has its own way of pickling mangoes and specific varieties are used for particular pickles!

Having been otherwise occupied this past month, I suddenly realized that the monsoon rains would be here in a couple of weeks. And that the mangoes would disappear from the market only to return next summer!

So when I went to the market last Sunday, I went a bit crazy buying mangoes (mangoes are quite expensive this year as unseasonal rains destroyed a large part of this year’s crop). Maybe the unusually hot summer had addled my brains a bit!! As you can see from the picture, I could probably set up my own mango stall.

Now, a little about this pickle. This is a sweet and spicy pickle comes from the Indian state of Gujarat which is usually served with spicy flatbreads like parathas. This pickle is usually made with the Rajapuri variety of mangoes but if you cannot find it, what you have will suffice. Just make sure your mangoes are not fibrous.

In my part of the country, a Rajapuri mango does not exist so my personal preference is to use the Thothapuri (Hindi)/ Kilimooku(Tamil)/ Kilichundan (Malayalam) variety of mango which takes its name in all three languages mentioned from the curved lower end of the mango which resembles the beak of a parrot! I choose those mangoes that are still raw and firm but on the verge of starting to ripen. This gives the mangoes an interesting taste of slightly sour with a hint of sweet.

In the traditional method of preparation, the peeled and grated mango and sugar are mixed together and put into a jar whose mouth is covered and tied with a clean piece of cloth. This jar is then kept in the hot sun and then shaken well and brought in at dusk. This ritual is observed religiously, everyday, for a month. At the end of this time the sun would have turned the sugar into a very thick syrup while cooking the mango at the same time. Then the other ingredients are added to the pickle and mixed. The pickle tastes wonderful.

But what do you do if you do not have a month to spare? Or the time to do all this and maybe not enough sun either?  You make it on the stove-top! You lose out on the taste that only the sun can provide but you still have a very nice pickle and that’s what counts when you have to make the best of things.
Aam Ka Chundo/ Chunda (Sweet and Spicy Grated Mango Pickle)


5 medium raw mangoes (approx  4 1.2 cups after grating)

4 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 slightly heaped tsp chilli powder (adjust to preference)

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp cumin powder

Traditionally, I understand, the grated mango: sugar ratio (by volume) is 1: 1 1/2. I have used a ratio of 1: 1 as I find this otherwise too sweet. Please increase the sugar if you feel you need to.


Peel and grate the raw mangoes.

Put the grated mangoes, turmeric powder, salt and sugar in a deep heavy bottomed vessel/ pan. Cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, till the sugar becomes syrupy (thick string stage, i.e. when the mixture falls off the spoon it forms thick strings) and the mixture is thick like a jam.

Add the chilli powder and stir, cooking for another couple of minutes. Add the cumin powder, stir and remove from heat. Stir the mixture well and allow to cool.
Store in sterilized bottles. Serve with spicy parathas, chapathis, puris or as preferred.

This pickle should be on the sweeter side, somewhat spicy with a mild hint of salt. The above measurements are not exact as the amounts of salt and chilli powder need to be adjusted depending on how sour the variety of mango used is.
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May 20, 2008

Susan's A to Z Pasta Salad

Printable version here.

The Monthly Blog Patrolling (MBP) is a theme based event started by Coffee at the Spice CafĂ© where a recipe from a fellow blogger is cooked and written about. A great way to discover new blogs and recipes. This month’s edition is being hosted by Raaga, The Singing Chef with a theme of “Soups and Salads”.
What I chose to re-create was the A to Z Pasta Salad I found at Susan V’s Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. The salad appealed to me because it had pasta (of course) and that one could use whatever vegetables are available in the kitchen.

Susan’s recipe is vegan so I changed it to vegetarian. She also invites us to use whatever combination of vegetables and Italian dressing we prefer. So I have tweaked her recipe only to adjust for those ingredients I didn’t have. But I would definitely advise that you go through her recipe. My version follows.


125 gm paneer
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce (mine was dark)
1 tbsp vinegar
1 ½ tbsp apple sauce
1 tbsp water
½ tsp garlic paste
80 gm uncooked penne (approx.)
1 medium sized green bell pepper, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
8 green bean, cut into ½” pieces
¼ cup frozen sweet corn

3 tbsp oil (olive oil preferred)
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil

Mix up all these to make a dressing.


Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, applesauce ( I used vinegar and applesauce in place of cider vinegar :D), water and garlic paste. Marinate the paneer in this mixture for at least an hour. Place the paneer on a greased tray and bake at 200C for about 12minutes or till the paneer cubes start to brown.
In the meanwhile, blanch the beans, carrots and sweet corn in salted water. In the same water cook the penne till just done. Drain.
Put the tofu, blanched vegetables, bell pepper, tomatoes and the penne in a bowl. Add the dressing and season with salt and pepper as required. Mix well so that the dressing coats everything.
I served this at room temperature. This recipe makes comfortable portions for 3 to 4 people. A very tasty salad and perfect for the summer (and any other time of the year).
This is going to The Singing Chef for May's MBP: Soups and Salads.

Revisiting my Capirotada:

I discovered and made the Capirotada (a Mexican Bread Pudding) originally for the Think Spice, Think Star Anise event. While bread puddings are not very popular in my home I have to say that the Capirotada is definitely the "Queen" in this category with a lovely blend of many flavours. It has become a favourite with us.
DK at Culinary Bazaar was kind enough to allow me to send in the Capirotada as an entry also to her event A.W. E.D. - Viva Mexicana. I totally forgot the last date for submission was the 15th of this month and the round-up was posted on the 16th. Yet she has been very accomodating to add my entry at this point.
So my Capirotada goes across to DK to join its fellow country foods.
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May 18, 2008

Easy Mango Yogurt Parfait With Home-made Crunchy Granola

I was watching Nigella Lawson on television the other day. She was cooking and feasting as she seems to do in most of the episodes and she was making Granola that particular day. She then made a parfait with some frozen raspberries (I think), topped it with the granola and served it up for breakfast.

I thought this was a great idea of a recipe with the contrast of creamy and crunchy and an extremely good way of starting the day with fruit and a calcium rich breakfast! Actually, I 'd be happy eating it at any time of the day, and would definitely welcome it as a light summertime dessert. 

I decided to use mangoes instead because mangoes are in season right now and I’m always ready to eat this fruit any which way. I also don’t get raspberries here.
It’s the mango season here in India and the perfect time to make this. I pureed fresh mango and froze it for this recipe. By the way, pureeing fresh mango and freezing it is a nice way to extend the mango season right into the monsoon!

In case you’re wondering why this Mango Parfait sounds more like a thick smoothie with the yogurt in it, a Parfait is different things in different countries. Traditionally, it’s a French frozen dessert made with sugar syrup, egg, alcohol and cream, and the name comes from the French word for “perfect”!
In the UK, it’s a meat dish (really)!! In the US and Canada, they’re usually layered desserts similar to sundaes and involve ice-cream or cream. Yogurt Parfaits are however made with yogurt, granola and fresh fruit.

The recipe for the Home-made Crunchy Granola is adapted from the Joy of Cooking and I have personalized it using ingredients that I usually have in stock in my kitchen.

Mango Yogurt Parfait With Home-made Crunchy Granola


For the Crunchy Granola:

4 1/2 cups oats

3/4 cup almonds*

3/4 cup halved cashewnuts or shelled peanuts

1 cup pumpkin seeds or melon seeds (magaz)

1/4 cup chironji/ charoli (small nuts also known as cudpah nuts/ cudpah almonds)

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup powdered jaggery/ brown sugar

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 cup raisins

 1 1/2 cups wheat flakes (I used Kelloggs)

For the Mango Yogurt Parfait:

1 ½ cups mango puree, frozen

1 ½ cups fresh thick yogurt, chilled

2 small bananas

1 tsp vanilla

crunchy granola (as required for topping)


For the Crunchy Granola:

Slice the almonds, each into two or three, before using. Mix the first 5 ingredients on the list in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the powdered jaggery, oil, honey, cinnamon and salt till blended. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix till everything is well coated. The mixture will be crumbly and not too wet.

Loosely spread the mixture (in not too thick layers) onto two greased trays and bake at 170C (325F) for about 40 minutes until it is a nice medium brown colour. Stir the mixture a couple of times while baking to ensure uniform browning. Do watch the granola to see it doesn’t burn. Mix in the raisins and the wheat flakes as soon as you take the granola out of the oven. Allow to cool.

When taken out of the oven, the granola will be a bit soft, but will become crunchy on cooling. Store in airtight containers.

We like our Granola a little less sweet, but if you would like it sweeter then you could increase the amount of brown sugar/ jaggery to suit your taste.

For the Mango Parfait:

Put the bananas, mango puree, yogurt and vanilla in the blender and blend till smooth. Layer the parfait and granola in parfait glasses and top with granola. Otherwise just pour the parfait into the glass and top with the granola and serve.
This recipe serves 4.

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May 16, 2008

Cucumber Kosmalli (Seasoned Cucumber and Lentil Salad

II’m sure you’ve all heard of the story of Rip Van Winkle, who after sleeping for 20 years woke up to find that the world had gone by!
Right now, I’m feeling a little like him. I’ve been away from my blog for just over a month and it seems like I’ve been away for ages. More than that, I seem to be in a situation where I feel I should be back at my blog but somehow am not able to get down to it!
I have quite a few “drafts” waiting to see the light of day as “posts”. So I have decided I should post some of them now and reduce the size of my drafts folder. This salad is the beginning. Hopefully, this exercise should also help me get out of my inertia and back to my former “bloggy self”.

This Cucumber Kosmalli is a great salad especially in summer. I understand it is served as a part of wedding lunches in certain parts of India. I find it a very nice accompaniment to a typical South Indian lunch or even just plain “thayir chadam” (yogurt rice).
Kosmalli can be made with grated carrots instead of cucumber. This is another tasty salad.


1 large or 2 small cucumbers

1/2 cup green gram (moong) dal

2 tbsp fresh grated coconut

2 tsp lemon juice

salt to taste

2 tsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

a pinch asafetida

1 or 2 green chillies, chopped

1 sprig curry leaves


Soak the dal in water for an hour. Drain and keep aside.
Peel and chop the cucumber into small pieces. Mix the cucumber, dal, coconut, green chillies, salt and lemon juice.

Heat the oil, splutter the mustard seeds and then add cumin seeds, asafetida and curry leaves. Add to the salad, mix well and serve.
Serves about 4.

The salad can be partially prepared in advance and chilled. Add the salt and the tempering just when you are ready to serve it.

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May 14, 2008

Easy Gherkin (Kovakkai/ Tindora) Pickle

Printable version here.

Gherkins are not popular with the three of us (though our families seem to love them), so this is one vegetable which is almost never makes it onto my shopping list. This pickle is the only way I will eat them but my husband will not have even this.

I accidentally discovered this pickle a few years back when we had gone to spend the holidays with my parents-in-law and my mother-in-law had made it. Now I love Indian pickles and am willing to give new varieties at least one try. Surprisingly, I liked her gherkin pickle and this is her recipe for it.

½ kg gherkins (sliced)
1 ½ tsp kashmiri chilli powder
3 tbsp sesame seed oil
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp asafetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves
salt to taste

Heat 2 tbsp of the sesame seed oil and stir fry the sliced gherkins, along with salt, until just cooked but crisp.
In another pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Then add curry leaves, asafetida, turmeric and chilli powders. Stir a couple of times and take off the heat. Add the stir-fried gherkins and stir till everything is well mixed.
Cool and bottle. Serve with rice and yogurt. This pickle does not keep for more than about 4 -5 days and must be refrigerated. So it would be advisable to make in smaller quantities, which is alright as this pickle doesn’t take much time to make.
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May 10, 2008

Onion Methi (Fenugreek) Rotis

Printable version here.

Methi (Fengreek) leaves are extremely healthy but many people I know do not like them because they can taste slightly bitter. My husband and I like methi but getting our daughter to eat this is not very easy. She does like these rotis very much, and I make them quite frequently. The addition of a mashed banana to the dough not only balances the bitterness of methi but lends a softness to the cooked roti.

These rotis are quite easy to make. I just put all the ingredients into the food processor and mix up the dough. The dough can be cling wrapped and stored in the fridge overnight for making rotis the following day. Just bring the dough to room temperature and knead a couple of times before rolling out into rotis.
This particular post has been in my drafts for sometime and when I noticed Srivalli’s announcement this seemed a good time for me to post it.


½ tsp oil
1 cup finely chopped methi (fenugreek leaves)
1 banana, mashed
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 ½ cups whole wheat (atta) flour
2 tbsp chick pea flour (besan)
¾ tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
salt to taste


In the ½ tsp oil, stir fry the methi leaves for about a minute or two till they are limp. Then add all the other ingredients and enough water to form a soft and pliable dough which is not sticky. Allow the dough to rest for about ½ an hour.
Then divide into small pieces and roll out into thin, flat circles (as for chapathis). Cook on a griddle/ non-stick tava on both sides over medium heat till done and brown spots appear. Smear lightly with oil.
Makes about 10 parathas.
Serve hot with a simple dal, raita or yogurt and pickles.

These rotis go across to join the Roti Mela at Srivalli's blog.
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May 7, 2008

Back From My Break With Some Pictures

I’m finally back after a rather long break. I didn’t mean to be away for so long but circumstances decided otherwise! As soon as we arrived in Goa, I started getting persistent pains in my upper abdomen and back. Turned out that I had a whole lot of stones in my gall bladder and needed immediate surgery! I am feeling much better, and almost back to my routine. On the positive side, I have no pain and am a few kilos lighter, though I wouldn’t recommend gall stone surgery as a form of weight loss. :D

Thanks a ton for all the comments and mail. It felt pretty good to see them all in my mail box.

I am just getting back to regular cooking. We haven’t been starving, but my cooking efforts have been largely in survival mode. A large part of our last month’s meals came from our friends’ kitchens, as our stuff hadn’t been unpacked. So this post is not about food, but some glimpses of our drive into Goa and some pictures of a nice weekend holiday after we got here.

We moved to Goa at the beginning of the month, driving down from Kochi (a distance of about 800km) over two days, with an overnight stay at Udupi which is a temple town well known for its vegetarian food.
Driving down this highway is a lovely experience (not in summer though as it gets quite hot) as the road runs along the Konkan coast and one can see lovely views of the Arabian Sea while driving along.

The road runs so close to the beach, you can feel the spray when the waves hit the rocks!
There is one stretch (beyond Mangalore) called Byndoor where the road runs very close to the sea. This has always been a favorite point of ours to take a break, drink some tender coconut water and watch the view.

Waiting for us to arrive. :)

Two weeks back we had an occasion to spend a weekend at a resort, here in Panaji (the capital of Goa and also called Panjim). My husband and his colleagues to have a working-cum-holiday weekend at a small resort in Dona Paula called The Prainha. Families were invited along to enjoy the weekend. It was a nice change and just what the doctor had ordered for me! So while my husband and his colleagues spent some part of their weekend working, the spouses and kids got to have lovely, lazy weekend. The Prainha is a nice and quiet place with a little stretch of beach and is not too far away from the centre of Panaji. These are some pictures I took while at the resort.

Our resort, The Prainha.

A bit of advice, just in case!!

Village boys from nearby and football on the beach.

Twilight at the poolside, and the sea beyond.

I promise you some food in my next post. I really have to get that kitchen of mine going!!!

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