November 30, 2009

Parippu Potta Kothavarakkai Kari (Cluster Beans With Lentils)



This recipe is more a way of cooking vegetables than a recipe in particular. I have seen my grandmother, mother, mother-in-law and many others in our community cook this particular dish with different vegetables. The vegetables that work well here are cluster beans which we call "kothavarakkai" in Tamil (in this post), snake gourd (podavalangai in Tamil), French beans, carrot or cabbage.

I really don't know the name of this preparation as we refer to it as "parippu potta kari" meaning a "kari" with parippu", where "kari" refers to a dry vegetable preparation and "parippu" means lentils. The name is a bit of a tongue twister to those unfamiliar with the langage, I know, but that is how its is referred to at home.




This a great recipe to resort to especially when you the particular vegetable you have on hand is just short of the quantity needed to reach every plate at your table. Split moong or yellow lentils (moong dal) is cooked along with the vegetable and this not only adds to the taste of the dish but also pushes up the protein content in a vegetarian meal.

Like many of the dishes that make up our traditional everyday meals, cooking this dish doesn't take too much time or effort. You may leave out the asafetida powder if you don't like it or cannot find it.
You may also cook this without the coconut and it tastes almost as good. I say "almost" because I personally like it with the touch of coconut in it.
Parippu Potta Kothavarakkai Kari (Cluster Beans With Lentils)
 

Ingredients:


1/4 kg French beans, chopped intp 1/4" pieces

3 tbsp split moong (yellow) lentils (moong dal)

1 tbsp fresh grated coconut (optional)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1 tsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

a pinch asafetida powder (optional)

2 to 3 dried red chillies



Method:


Soak the lentils in half a cup of water for half an hour. Then drain the water and keep the lentils ready for cooking.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the red chillies (each broken in half) and sauté a couple of times. Add the asafetida powder and stir a couple of times, making sure it doesn't burn.

Now add the chopped beans and the lentils and about 1/2 a cup of water. Add the salt and turmeric powder, stir well and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the beans and lentils cook till done but not mushy, and there is no water left in the pan.

Another way of cooking ( a faster method) this step of the procedure is to microwave the French beans and the soaked and drained lentils with a couple of tbsps of water till done. I do this at 100% for 8 to 10 minutes.
Add this to the pan after adding the asafetida powder and stir well.

Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut. Stir to mix well and serve warm with rice and a gravy-based "curry" like sambhar, rasam or pulissery.
This recipe should serve 3.

This is my contribution to HoTM, where the theme this month is "Retro".
The Heart of The Matter (HoTM) is an event very close to my heart (pun intended!). It is a monthly event which tries to create awareness about cooking and eating heart healthy food. If you are interested in being a part of the event you can find further details on the site.

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November 27, 2009

Can You Make Cannoli? Yes, I Can ! – In Rose-Cardamom-Pistachio, Coffee-Chocolate And Savoury Onion-Carrot-Masala Flavours! Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2009


When I saw we were making Cannoli this month for the DB challenge, I must say I was a bit relieved. Even though I have never seen a cannolo before, I have had more success with things Italian than French when it comes to these challenges.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.





Cannoli are popular Italian-American pastries, although they date back to Palermo in Sicily, where they were made during the Carnevale season.
The cannoli are fried, tube-shaped pastry shells (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy filling of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts.

Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, instead of ricotta (sometimes with ricotta) to make for a creamier filling. Cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc.

We had to make the crisp cannoli pastry shells using the given recipe but were free to choose the shapes of our cannoli, filling and presentation.



My Cannoli Experience:


To make the cannoli, one needs metal or wooden cannoli moulds around which the dough for the pastry is wrapped before deep frying it.
These moulds are not available here, so we made the moulds. We bought a 2 feet long 3/4" diameter) piece of steel curtain rod from the hardware store. My husband cut this into six pieces (4" long) to make perfect cannoli moulds.

I substituted the marsala with unsweetened apple juice while making the cannoli pastry dough. I left out the cinnamon as my daughter doesn't like cinnamon too much.

I also did not use the egg (given in the original recipe) for sealing the dough circles around the moulds before deep frying. I used a paste made with all purpose flour and a bit of water instead, which is what we usually use in India, for this purpose.

I had planned to do this challenge early in the month, but the flu paid us a very unwelcome and extended visit, so I ended up making my cannoli early this week. Ricotta is a cheese which is not available here, but Indian soft cheese called paneer is pretty much like ricotta and a very good substitute.
Not having much energy or time to make my own ricotta or mascarpone, I used Amul paneer which is really the best paneer available.
The complete recipe in printable format is available at the end of this post.

For the filling, I used the given recipe as a sort of guideline and made up my own fillings. I didn't really measure the quantities of the various ingredients but made up the filling according to our taste.
This isn't a problem as the main ingredient in the filling is the cheese and sugar which one adjusts to taste.

I made my cannolis with three different fillings, two sweet and one savoury. I made the fillings the previous day and refrigerated them. Take them out about half an hour before you need to fill the cannoli so the filling is soft enough to pipe into the shells.



Cardamom flavoured rose and pistachio filling:






Blend crumbled paneer, powdered sugar, a tbsp or so of rose syrup and a bit of cardamom in the blender till very smooth. Chop up pistachio nuts and fold into this. Refrigerate till required.
Go easy with the rose syrup or the flavour can get too strong and the filling too sweet. Also remember that a little less cardamom is always better, as it can make the sweetness of the filling stand out.


Coffee and chocolate filling:





Blend crumbled paneer, powdered sugar, about a tsp of instant coffee powder and vanilla extract in the blender till very smooth. You can add chocolate chips, but I chose to fold in chocolate curls into the creamed paneer. Refrigerate till required.


Savoury onion, carrot and fresh corainder filling:






Blend the crumbled paneer, a little salt, half a tsp of garlic paste, about a tsp of garam masala and some chilli flakes in the blender till smooth. Fold in some very finely chopped red onions, finely grated carrot and chopped coriander leaves. Refrigerate till required.



Some helpful tips to keep in mind while making cannolis:

- Do not wrap the dough circles too tightly around the moulds, or else they will be difficult to slide off the moulds once they have cooled after frying.

- The key to crisp and blistered (this is very desirable and a hallmark of cannoli, I'm told) cannoli shells is to roll out the dough as thin as you can. If the dough is not rolled out thin, you will end up with chewy and rather tasteless shells.

- The other important thing is to ensure your oil is the right temperature. I don't have a fryer or a kitchen thermometer, but I have a lot of experience (as most Indians would) with deep frying food.

- If your oil isn't hot enough, the shells will not cook properly and be very greasy. If the oil is too hot you will get burnt shells.



Verdict:


This challenge was an easy one for me to do, for a change. The fillings were easy to make as was the dough. Rolling out the dough, cutting the circles, shaping them and frying them was also easy enough and didn't take much time.

We liked the cannoli. What's not to like when something is deep-fried, crisp and filled with creamy, smooth and flavoured paneer? I personally like the contrast of crunch and creamy smoothness of the cannoli.

Would I make them again?
I think I definitely will. The savoury cannoli make great appetizers while the sweet ones make a very interesting dessert. I didn't particularly like the addition of the cocoa powder to the cannoli dough as I felt it didn't really do anything for the flavour of the cannoli, so I would leave that out next time.

Now you know what we though of the cannoli, do join me on the Cannoli tour in Daring Bakerdom.



Before you leave here, I would like to remind everyone that my blog is celebrating its second anniversary and I am giving away a copy of Petite Sweets: Bite-Size Dessets To Satisfy Every Sweet Tooth by Beatrice Ojakangas.

The giveaway is open till the 30th of this month, so please do be a part of this and celebrate with me.




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November 25, 2009

A Bunch Of Light Whole Wheat Grapes! (Bread, Actually)


Just the other day I came across a blogger (sorry, don't recollect who it was) saying that she was a "carbs" person. I really know what that means. My favourite food group is carbohydrates (think rice, wheat, pasta, bread….) and if I stay away from them for too long, I actually get severe "carb cravings"!
So you will understand that one of my favourite things is the aroma of bread baking in the oven and eating bread, warm from the oven, without any other accompaniment but a cup of hot tea! Of course, I am not likely to refuse an offer of bread with a dab of butter (no jam please!), or cheese or peanut butter.

I just realized that I hadn't made bread in a very long time and it was about time I did something about that. Now the easiest type of bread to make that I know of is No Knead Bread. You just mix everything together, refrigerate it overnight and bake it in the morning.

But what if you want to go beyond this, but would prefer to put in as little effort as possible yet make good bread? You could try Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis. I did!
There was a time about a year ago, when reviews about this book (referred to as ABin5 from now onwards) were all over the net. I couldn't get the book here so got my sister to bring it down when she came on vacation early this year.
I have made bread successfully, quite a few times from the book yet never got around to mentioning it here.

If you think you can make bread in 5 minutes, then you are fooling yourself. What this book does, however, is to ensure that you can make the dough with minimal effort. Rest the dough at room temperature for about 2 hours and then refrigerate the dough. This means that whenever you want fresh bread, you take the dough out and shape it (the 5 minutes in the title), let it rise and bake it.
You can find more about this on the ABin5 site.

This time I used the Light Whole Wheat Bread from ABin5. I am normally quite organized, but occasionally I have these "disorganized" days. So just as I started out to mix the dough for my bread I discovered I didn't have enough all purpose flour required by the recipe in the book.
So I increased (and made up the deficit) the amount of whole wheat flour quite a bit. This probably means that this bread no longer qualifies for "Light Whole Wheat"!
It, however, turned out to be an excellent bread with a crackly, crusty exterior and was soft on the inside with great texture. It wasn't dense at all as I was worried it might become.





Here is my adapted version of the recipe from ABin5. Please note that this is also a halved version and this amount of dough makes 2 medium sized loaves.
So for this bread, I used half of the dough I made. I also decided to shape the dough to look like a bunch of grapes, just for fun. I remember seeing a picture of bread like this somewhere and had always wanted to try that.



Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups warm water

3/4 tbsp dry active yeast

3/4 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

corn meal for dusting the pizza peel/ tray



Method:


Mix the yeast and salt with the warm water in a 3 L food container which has a lid. Mix in the remaining ingredients. You may use a food processor/ stand mixer with dough hooks but I did this by hand.
I initially mixed everything using a wooden spoon and incorporated the flour in two batches, using wet hands to mix the dough after the adding the second batch of flour.

Cover the food container with the lid loosely (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, till the dough rises and collapses on itself.
The dough can be used right away for making bread or be refrigerated (do not close the lid and make the container airtight) and used over the following 14 days.
When you are ready to bake bread, dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off about half the dough.

Pinch off small portions needed to shape the bunch of grapes. Dust each portion with more flour and quickly shape into small balls by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
Remember to have one portion a bit elongated for the stalk at the top of the bunch.
Place all the pieces on a baking tray (I don't have a pizza peel) to resemble a bunch of grapes, leaving a little space between the pieces. As the dough rises and bakes, the spaces will get filled.
Let the shaped bread rest, covered by a kitchen towel, for about 30 to 40 minutes. Brush the dough with some milk and bake at 230C for about 35 minutes till brown and firm.
Cool on a rack before eating.


This lovely bread is my contribution to BBD #24 where this month's edition is being hosted by Idania with the theme "Mixed Breads".

My bread is also being YeastSpotted!




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November 23, 2009

Stir-fried Yard Long beans And Chickpeas (Indian Style)


This stir-fry is one of my "original" recipes. Actually, it's less of a recipe and more of a "develop as you go along" set of directions! What I mean is that this is one of this dishes where you add what you think would go well with yard long beans and chickpeas to make it into a dish you would like to eat.

I haven't been keeping very well this past week or so thanks to a very persistent bout of flu, and frankly speaking, food and cooking were the last two things on my mind. However, if one has a stomach, it will grumble at periodic intervals and the grumbles have to be appeased.

One particular morning, having cooked the rice and some lentils in a gravy, I needed to make a dry side dish too to complete lunch. The only things in the vegetable bin in my fridge were some yard long beans (which we call "payar" or "achingya" in Kerala) and a couple of bunches of rather sad looking spring onions.

The only place for those spring onions was the bin and the beans weren't enough to cook as one dish. They needed to be supplemented with something else. Further investigation in the fridge revealed some chickpeas I had cooked and frozen a couple of days earlier.
So I put the two together, added a little of this and that and cooked up a stir-fried something which took me about 15 minutes in all to cook! I used coconut oil which lends to the taste of this preparation. If you do not like the taste of coconut oil, or cannot find it, please use whatever you have on hand.







I just thought that I would mention that we get a couple of varieties of yard long beans here. Right now it is the season for these beans. One variety is shorter (much longer than French beans), dark green in colour and on the thinner side. This is what I used in this dish.
The other variety is a little thicker, varies from pale to dark green in colour and seems to go on forever (I exaggerate but they are quite long) in length!



Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups yard long beans, cut into 1" long pieces

1 1/2 cups boiled and drained chickpeas

1 1/2 tsp coconut oil (or oil of choice)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

a pinch asafetida powder

a sprig of curry leaves (optional)

salt to taste



Method:


Heat the oil in a pan. Add the asafetida powder and the yard long beans and stir fry, over medium to high heat, till the beans are almost done. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
Now add the chickpeas, curry leaves, turmeric and chilli powders and the salt. Stir well, turn the heat down to medium, add a splash of water and allow to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes till no water remains.

Take the pan off the heat, and remove the stir-fried vegetable-chickpes to a serving bowl. Serve warm as a side alongside rice.
This recipe should serve 3 to 4 people.


This stir-fry is going to Susan's MLLA whose 17th edition is being hosted this month by Sra.




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November 21, 2009

Another Year, Some Sandbakkelser (Almond Cookies), And A Giveaway!


A first birthday is more of an event than a second one is, I agree, but a birthday is a birthday, I say. After all, it's not everyday that one gets to look back and see how far one has come while feeling good about the changes in oneself.
I thought someone, maybe one or two of you, would remember that I've been around here for a just a bit over two years and wish me a happy birthday. If we're getting down to the brass tacks, I am now two years and three weeks old. Yes, my second birthday celebrations are overdue by three weeks!!!
Then again, I guess I am expecting too much when even the lady who writes here seems to have forgotten all about it.

Last birthday, she made a lot of noise about my turning one, and had party with lots of sweet goodies. This year……………….
I'm sorry, the sadness of it all got to me and I couldn't go on. I did some investigating and discovered that all is not yet lost as far as my birthday goes. The lady who writes here hasn't forgotten my birthday, after all. True, I do remember her mentioning it on and off a couple of times, now I come to think of it.

Turns out she was planning a surprise and then before she could get down to it a vacation happened! Flimsy sounding excuse, if you ask me. She didn't forget her vacation, did she now?
Hey, the one and only chance I get to say what I feel here, and SHE's back and taken control! Oh well, I'll let her get on with what she has to say, not that I have a choice…..



Oh, Oh, I'd better get in on this act before it gets out of hand. That's my blog letting off a bit of steam and getting carried away!
True, this blog turned two a couple of weeks ago when I was away on vacation. I had planned to write this post as soon as I got back, but that didn't happen. The flu decided to pay a rather unwelcome visit and then over stayed its welcome (not!).
Now, I couldn't let a birthday here go without mentioning or celebrating it, even though a bit belatedly.

Two years, over 300 posts and more than 200, 000 visitors - these are just statistics. These numbers do not tell of the numerous mails I have received with good words and wishes for my blog. They do not tell of just how closer the world has come to me, with so many of us connecting over good food.

These statistics can never begin to describe the wonderful, helpful and supportive community that I am proud to be a part of. In the past two years, many in this community have become very good friends.
The funny thing is that I have never met most of them, though I hope I can and I will meet them (outside the virtual world) some day.

This blog has ensured that I explored the world of good food a whole lot more than I would ever have if I hadn't started blogging. I must say, it has also given me a voice that I didn't really know I had.
I can now bake a decent loaf of bread, bake and decorate a cake using basic skills. I have to confess that the "macaron" and "French bread" still has me stumped, though I'm sure I will conquer them both some day (I hope!).

Now, birthdays are no fun without food. There is this almost special connection between birthday celebrations and cake. For a change, let's get a bit adventurous and celebrate with some "Sandbakkelser"!





Sandbakkelser (also called Sand Tarts because of the ground almonds, I understand) are small Scandinavian almond cookies or tarts. These are crumbly, hollow almond cookies are baked in 2" fluted sandbakkel tins/ moulds. They are usually served as they are (as cookies) or can be filled with fillings like fruit, whipped cream, etc as for tarts. Whichever way you serve them, they are the perfect bite-sized dessert, though from what I have read about them, it seems these cookies are traditionally a Christmas time treat.

I had bought some small fluted tart tins/ moulds sometime back, thinking they would be got to make tartelettes for appetizers. It now turns out that they are perfect for sandbakkelser!
I also had quie a bit of ground almonds left over from making macarons and this seemed a great way to use that up too.
I used half this recipe from "Petite Sweets: Bite-Size Desserts to Satisfy Every Sweet Tooth" by Beatrice Ojakangas. Below is my halved version, from that recipe. My sandbakkelser are a little different from Ms. Ojakangas' recipe.

The original recipe requires 3/4 stick of butter for the halved recipe. Here I get 100gm slabs of butter so I used 3/4 of that which is a bit less. I didn't blanch my almonds and ground them skin and all so my sandbakkelser are specked with brown.
The original recipe suggests filling the sandbakkelser with berry preserves and whipped cream. My cookies didn't last long enough to be filled with anything!



Ingredients:


75gm butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup blanched almonds, pulverized or ground

1/2 tsp pure almond extract

1/2 a large egg, at room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour



Method:


In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until well blended and light. Blend in the almonds, almond extract, and egg. Stir in the flour to form a dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until it forms a smooth ball. Add a bit more flour if needed to make a stiff dough. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap, and chill for 30 minutes.

Lightly butter or coat with nonstick spray 2 dozen fluted sandbakkel tins or tart tins. Pinch off parts of the dough and, using your thumb, press into the tart pans to make a thick, even layer.

Place filled tins on a baking sheet for easier handling. Bake at 190C for 12-15 minutes or until the sandbakkelser are golden. Remove from oven and allow them to cool in the tins. To remove the tins, gently tap the tin until the tart comes out.

Serve unfilled (upside down on a serving plate to reveal the impression from the pan), or invert the tart shells so that the cavity is upright. Just before serving, spoon the chocolate mascarpone mousse into the tart shells.
This recipe makes 24 sandbakkelser.



Now to the next, final and perhaps most exciting part of this celebratory post.
Last year, I decided to have an event to celebrate a birthday here. This year, I thought I'd do something different from that.

Variety is always fun and an event means everyone would have to cook something, take pictures, post, link here, e-mail entries……….! And then I would have to go through everything, do a round-up. It seems to me that that's too much work all around.




So this time, I'm going to give away a copy of Petite Sweets: Bite-Size Desserts to Satisfy Every Sweet Tooth by Beatrice Ojakangas (from which the sandbakkelser were made).

That's right, no hard work at all but there's a catch (haven't you all realized that there's always a catch to everything somewhere?).
All you need to do is to leave a comment at this post telling me what you like about this blog. Only one comment per person, please.

I know, I know, it's a very sycophantic thing to do but tell me, honestly, who doesn't like to hear something nice about themselves (That's my blog talking, by the way!) and if this is the one way of doing it………..
Actually, criticism is welcome too, but rudeness shall not be tolerated. Tell me what you don't like about this blog or if there's something you would like to see that is different or improved and maybe I can do something about it, if it is within my scheme of things.
You have till the 30th of November (that's 10 days from today) to leave comments here, after which date I will randomly pick one lucky person who shall take home this lovely book.

All those silent readers who visit this blog, this is open to you too, whether you have a blog or not. So please do come out and have your say and who knows, Lady Luck may be on your side.
I will be happy to send this book anywhere in the world.
Please make sure to enter your email address in the appropriate field so that I can contact you should you win.





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November 18, 2009

The BloggerAid Cookbook: Helping To Change The Face Of Famine


Early this year, in March to be precise, I had written about BloggerAid Changing The Face Of Famine and their Cookbook Project.

"BloggerAid is a growing group of international food bloggers determined to make a difference in aid of world famine. The love of food and community that brings them together drives the compassion of its members to reach out to the world to help those less fortunate. Banded by a mission of helping to make a change in a world where starvation affects such a profound number of people, they will raise money and awareness for the hungry in communities both at home and abroad."

The first project was the BloggerAid Cookbook which was creating a cookbook to raise funds for the School Meals scheme of the United Nations World Food Programme. The idea was to invite food bloggers to contribute recipes to be published as a cookbook where 100% of the proceeds target children and education through the School Meals scheme.





I am very happy to tell you all that the BloggerAid Cookbook has been published and you can order your very own copy now.

This cookbook is a collection of recipes from the kitchens of food bloggers in over 60 countries and you can also find my "Savoury Cashewnut Masala Cookies" in the book.





So please lend us, and the children who need it, your active support by buying one (or more) copies of this book. We at BloggerAid would also very much appreciate your support if you could spread the word on your blogs.





And here's a visual preview of the recipes you could be cooking up once you get your copy of The BloggerAid Cookbook.



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November 13, 2009

Spiced Green Tomato Bundt Cake


Green tomatoes in a cake? That was I thought when I first saw Paula Deen's "Green Tomato Cake" on the Food Network. If you give this cake some serious thought, its isn't as surprising as at first glance. If one can make cake or bread using carrots, pumpkin or zucchini, why not with green tomatoes?
I didn't bookmark the recipe, but that cake was the first thing I thought of when I saw the first lot of this season's green tomatoes at the market!
If you follow this blog religiously, you'll know we love our green tomatoes. I have previously posted Green Tomato And Onion Curry, Green Tomato Pickle, Green Tomato Khorma, Green Tomato Relish and the journey is far from over yet. Right now it's thhe turn of green tomatoes in cake.

I trawled the net looking for a recipe that called to me and didn't really find one. Most recipes (including Paula Deen's) seemed to call for a lot of butter, sugar and eggs! So I just went along with my intuition and came up with one where the ingredients were okay for me.
I put together the ingredients for a smaller cake, for one thing. You may double these ingredients if you want a larger cake.





I reduced the butter and used just 1 egg (you can try leaving this out or substitute for it if you wish). I also used some light brown sugar but if you want your cake to have a whiter colour, please use all granulated white sugar.
Since green tomatoes are acidic, it seemed a better idea to use baking soda. I left out the walnuts as our daughter doesn't like them and instead of the usual nutmeg and cinnamom found in most recipes, I decided to use "chai/ tea masala".

My sister gave me this idea. Indian chai masala consists of a variety of spices which would be complementary to this type of cake.
I also chose not to add a frosting or glaze but duted the top with powdered sugar mixed with about 1/4 tsp of chai masala. Don't be tempted to go heavy on the masala or you could end up with a "spicy" cake instead of a "spiced" one.

When the cake is done, and you serve it, very few people will be able to tell you that what they just ate had green tomatoes in it! Surprisingly, unlike other cakes with vegetables or fruit in it, this cake is not at all dense. It is quite light, spongy and moist.


Ingredients:


1 cup chopped green tomatoes

1/4 cup Iranian green raisins (or golden)*

50gm salted butter (unsalted is also fine) soft and at room temperature

1/4 tsp salt (only if using unsalted butter)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp chai masala powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)



Method:


* Iranian green raisins are small with a greenish colour and delightfully sweet. The Indian green raisins are also pretty good. Otherwise use golden raisins or what you have on hand.
Do chop up the tomatoes rather small or you'll end getting a "crunchy" salad feel to your cake.

In a bowl, beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer, for a couple of minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Sift together 1 cup of the flour, baking soda, baking powder and chai masala powder.
Add this to the mixture in the bowl and beat, on medium speed, till well mixed.

Take another bowl and put the chopped tomatoes and raisins in it. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix, using a wooden spoon, till the flour has coated the tomatoes well. Add this mixture to the batter in the other bowl and fold in till well mixed using a wooden spoon. The mixture will be quite thick.

Scrape this mixture into a greased and floured bundt/ tube pan (mine is small - a 4 cup bundt pan) and smoothen the top. Bake at 180C for 40 to 50 minutes still a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool at room temperature for about 10 minuted and unmould the cake. Cool on a rack. Cover with glaze, dust with powdered sugar and leave plain as the cake has enough flavour to not want any further additons.
This cake serves about 4 to 5.

This delicious cake goes to Meeta for her Monthly Mingle: Brunch



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November 11, 2009

Persimmon Milkshake With Vanilla Ice-cream


Apparently the Greeks thought that the persimmon was a fruit of the Gods. I never even knew of this fruit till a couple of years back when I saw it at the market here. I assumed it was one of those imported types of fruit which are now available here and invariably sold at exorbitant prices.
Then last year, I bought a couple of persimmons (as I knew what they were now, thanks to blogging) to see what they tasted like. Let's just say that I regretted my decision to buy them!

In the meanwhile, I discovered that certain varieties of persimmons tend to be astringent and quite unpalatable until they're ripe and almost bursting. So when I saw persimmons at my market again, last month, I decided to buy a few and see if they tasted better when fully ripe. I also discovered that persimmons are native to and grown in India in the hilly regions of northern India. My fruit vendor told me the persimmons are called "Amarphal" and his lot of fruit came from Kashmir.





If the persimmon is a something new to you, as it was to us, here's some really useful information. It seems there are two commonly available varieties of persimmons, the Fuyu (looks somewhat like a slightly flattened tomato and not really very astringent/ tart; can be eaten when ripe but still firm) and Hachiya (looks more like an acorn and is very astringent/ tart; can be eaten only when very ripe and somewhat soft).

I didn't know what variety my persimmons were, but on closer inspection I came to the conclusion that two were Hachiya and the other two were Fuyu! It looks like both the varieties are sold together as one lot of fruit!
If you look at my persimmon picture, you can see the persimmon in front is sort of squat looking, while the two in the background are more elongated. The way they looked and tasted after ripening also bears out my conclusion!




Anyways, I waited until the persimmons were ripe and cut one up. After my family did a trial tasting with that, there were no takers for the remaining fruit!
Now this was just before we took a break, so I didn't have too much time to spend searching for a recipe and executing it, so I took the next best and easiest way to use up the persimmons. I did what I usually do with most fruit, and that was to make a milkshake.
I find this method very useful especially when it comes to making my daughter eat fruit she doesn't like. In this case though, I think the ice-cream in the milkshake helped a lot!



Ingredients:


3 persimmons (I used both Hachiya and Fuyu varieties)

500ml milk (2% fat)

3 to 4 tbsp honey

3/4 tsp garam masala

vanilla ice-cream to serve 4



Method:


Skin and deseed (if there are seeds) the persimmons. Put the persimmon pulp, milk, honey and garam masala in a blender and blend till smooth. Refrigerate till ready to serve.

To serve, put a scoop of the vanilla ice-cream in a tall glass. Top up with the milkshake (stir the refrigerated milkshake before pouring into glass). Garnish with chopped nuts or grated chocolate, if preferred.

You can also blend the ice-cream with the rest of the ingredients if you prefer. This recipe makes 4 milkshakes.



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November 8, 2009

Thengaipodi a.k.a Chammandhipodi (A Spicy Coconut Chutney Powder)


My two weeks away from home meant that I did no cooking at all. Now I am back, I still haven't got back into my routine like it used to be before the vacation happened. I cook, and we eat but I haven't been taking pictures to blog about it all.
There a lot of little things (nothing earth shaking, or a matter of life and death) that just need to be done first. I shall do my best to keep posting here regularly and answering mail, but it looks like it is going to take me a little bit longer to get back to visiting your blogs.

Now onto the matter of this post. As I have mentioned many times before, I come from coconut country. This definitely one way to describe my home state, considering one can see coconut trees almost everywhere one goes in Kerala. So naturally coconut tends to be omnipresent in our cooking.

Every Keralite (a person belonging to the south Indian state of Kerala) worth his salt, in those days, would have a few coconut trees (if not a whole grove) around his house and having to buy a coconut would probably be classified as one of the worst things that could happen to a person.
No, I am not joking. I remember my mother-in-law being quite upset that we (who lived in Mumbai first, and Goa later) had to buy coconuts from the market while they got theirs from the backyard!
My maternal grandfather was equally passionate about the coconut trees (and banana plants) in his back yard . He used to personally tend to the coconut trees ensuring excellent coconut yield, until he was in his mid-80s.

Now things have changed a bit, at least in the cities, with many people living in high-rise apartments here, growing one's own coconut trees is an impossibility. I mean, who can grow a coconut tree on the 3rd floor? If it ever does happen that this (growing coconuts on the 3rd floor!) becomes possible, I can bet you that it would be a Keralite who discovers how this could be done!
Even today, anyone in Kerala who has a little bit of soil within the walls of his compound is bound to have at least 2 coconut trees growing there!

One might then wonder what people did with all the coconuts they got from their trees, apart from cooking with them.
Well, some would be given as offerings in the temples, some given away to neighbours and friends or occasionally sold to anyone who came asking to buy coconuts, while many people used the more mature coconuts for extracting fresh and pure coconut oil.
And if you still had coconuts which had crossed the stage where you could cook with it but not quite dried out (yes, there are different stages of coconut maturity, each good for different dishes), you sometimes made thengaipodi/ chammandhipodi.

As an aside, when coconuts are harvested they are stored as they are and not de-husked. This ensures they keep longer. Even when they are de-husked, a small conical portion of the husk is left over the "eyes" of the coconut to ensure they don't go bad.





"Thengai" means coconut and "podi" means powder. Thengaipodi is another Palakkad Iyer preparation, this time borrowed from Kerala where it is known as "Chammandhipodi" (this means chutney powder). A lot of chammandhi podi recipes include shallots and some have garlic as well, but a typical thangaipodi will not have either.

You will find a variety of thengaipodi recipes in cookbooks and on the internet. This is how I make mine. As an improvisation, I sometimes add curry leaves (if I have them in excess, along with the red chillies) but this is not done traditionally.


Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut

3 tbsp split black gram lentils (urad dal)

4 to 5 dried red chillies (increase or decrease to suit taste)

small bit (about size of a grape) of tamarind

1/4 tsp asafetida powder

salt to taste

1 tsp oil



Method:


Put the coconut into a wok/ pan and toast over low to medium heat, stirring frequently, till the coconut is quite brown. Take care to see it doesn't burn.
Just before the coconut has browned and is ready to take off the fire, add the red chillies. Ensure the chillies don't darken or burn while sautéing. Keep aside.

In the same wok/ pan, heat the 1 tsp of oil. Add the lentils and sauté till golden brown in colour. Add the asafetida powder, stir a couple of times and take the pan off the heat. Cool to room temperature.

Put the toasted coconut, red chillies, browned lentils and asafetida powder, salt and tamarind into the jar of your mixer/ grinder/ blender and grind to a slightly coarse powder. When done, the coconut will become finer with a slightly gritty feel from the lentils.
Bottle and store at room temperature (will keep for a few days) but refrigerate if keeping for longer.

Serve with warm rice and ghee (mix a couple of spoons with rice and ghee) or with yogurt and rice (this is my absolute favourite way of eating this chutney powder). You can also serve it alongside idlis or dosas, mixed with a little oil, instead of milagaipodi.



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November 5, 2009

Monthly Mingle – High Tea Treats: The Round-up

Last month, it was my turn to host Meeta's Monthly Mingle and I decided to have a High Tea party. Let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised at how many of you decided to join us for tea with a whole lot of the most gorgeous variety of food. Even the Queen would have struggled to maintain her composure out of sheer delight at the spread on the tea table!





I was supposed to have done this round-up much earlier, but like I explained, I was away on a short vacation. Now I am back, its time for the round-up.

We had quite a few guests at tea (with a total of 80 submissions, you can imagine what a grand affair this gets to be) and if you scroll down you can see just what they all brought with them. The tea time treats have been presented with the savoury first followed by the sweet.






1. Veggie Puffs - Deepthi (U.S.)
2. Paneer Pakoda - Preethi (India)
3. Murukku - Renu (India)
4. Gougeres - Simran (India)
5. Baked Nipattu - Preethi (India)






9. Paneer Puffs - Lavanya (U.S.)
10. Chakli - Manisha (U.S.)
12. Canapes - Samahitha (India)






13. Broccoli Puff Pastry Wraps - Yasmeen (U.S.)
14. Tea Sandwiches with Egg - Vijitha (U.S.)
15. Sago Cutlets - Shubadha (India)
17. Four-Way Finger Sandwiches - Lassie (U.S.)






18. Savory Spiced Shortbread - Cham (U.S.)
20. Vanilla and Rosewater Madeleines - Arfi (New Zealand)
21. Lemonade & Wattleseed Scones - Anna ( Australia)
22. Cream Scones - Abhirami (U.S.)






23. Saffron Sablés - Adele (U.S.)
24. Cinnamon Cookies - Lavi (India)
25. Date Fall Cake - Bindiya (India)
26. Saffron, Lemon and Coconut Cupcakes - Anushruti (India)
27. Dates & Nuts Spice Cake - Asha (U.S.)
28. Home-made Calisson - Dhanggit (France)






29. Fruity Apple Spiral Swirls - Deeba (India)
31. Zebra Cake - Divya (U.S.)
33. Butterscotch Chip Scones - Aparna (India)






34. Sachertorte - Happy Cook (Belgium)
36. Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Jayasree (India)
37. Chilli Chocolate Muffins - Janaki (India)
38. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones - Joanna (U.S.)






39. Walnut and Quince Thumbprint Cookies - Johanna (Australia)
40. Eggless Fruit Cake - Lata (Ghana)
41. Apricot Prune Tea Cake - Madhuli (India)
42. Banana Oat Muffins - Mary (U.S.)
43. Elegant Apple Tart - Muneeba (U.S.)






45. Orange Cake - Lissie (India)
47. Red Current & Marzipan Squares - Meeta (Germany)






52. Peachy Keen Brown Butter Bars - Muneeba (U.S.)
53. Vi's Fruit Pastry - Nathan (Malaysia)
54. Dual Coloured Baby Cakes - Quinn (Australia)
55. Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake - Petra (Germany)
56. Pumpkin Tea Cake - Mark (Phillipines)






57. Chocolate and Walnut Cake - Nuria (Spain)
58. Double Decker Fudge - Priya (U.S.)
60. Cantuccini - Ramya (Germany)
61. Dry Fruit & Nuts Tea Cake - Priya (France)






63. Custard Biscuits - Sheba (India)
64. Swirly Chocolate Walnut Cake - Sandhya (U.K.)
65. Almond & Cranberry Scones - Soma (U.S.)
66. Orange Cream Tarts - Sudha (Malaysia)
67. Fluffy Scones - Simone (Netherlands)






68. Home-made Biscuits - Saraswathy (Singapore)
69. High Tea Cupcakes - Steph (U.S.)
70. Jammy Biscuits - Sweatha (India)
72. Classic Carrot Cake - Sonu (Australia)
73. Mixed Berry Scones - Shri (U.S.)






74. Blueberry Bundt Cake - Astra (U.S.)
75. Pistachio Cardamom Cake - Ann (U.S.)
76. Guava Tarte Tatin - Claudia (U.S.)
77. Lavender Madeleines - Cakelaw (Australia)
78. Vanilla Choco-Chip Pound Cake - Divya (India)
79. Kamut Biscuits with Rosemary - Graziana (Italy)






And finally a Scottish High Tea from Ozoz (Netherlands). I kept for the last to present separately because Ozoz really took to the spirit of High Tea and cooked up a spread worthy of the name. Her High Tea included Salted Chocolate Caramel Shortbread, Rhubarb and Yoghurt Pots, Raisin Scones with Lemon Thyme Curd and Cream and 'Blooming Tea'!

I have included here all the entries I received. If by some chance, I have left your entry or you find there has been some mix up, please leave a comment at this post and I will do the needful at the earliest.

I would also like to thank all of you who joined Meeta and me at this delightful mingle. Meeta is hosting the next Monthly Mingle on her blog so please join her for "Brunch".


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November 1, 2009

Parippu Thogayal (A Thick Spicy & Tangy Lentil And Coconut Chutney)

A
thogayal is a thick, coarsely ground chutney which is very typical of Palakkad Iyer cuisine. The equivalent of this in Kerala cuisine is the “chammandi”. Like the Chammandi, there are various types of Thogayal and what is common to tham all is that these are coconut chutneys which are ground into a thick and coarse paste.

This particular chutney, the Parippu Thogayal is made with coconut, pan roasted red gram lentils/ tuvar dal, dried red chillies and a bit of tamarind. Its usually on the spicier side as it is typically served as a side dish with Molagootal or Molagushyam, both of which are gravies that are on the blander side in taste.




This parippu/ lentil thogayal is just one of the many different kinds we make. In this particular thogayal, curry leaves are not usually added, but I do as we like the subtle flavour that it adds to the meal.
Parippu Thogayal
 
 

Ingredients:


4 tbsp freshly grated coconut

1/4 cup red gram lentil (tuvar dal)

2 tbsp black gram dal (urad dal)

2 or 3 dried red chillies

a small piece ( size of a grape) of tamarind

1/2 tsp asafetida powder

a sprig of curry leaves (optional)

1 tsp oil

salt to taste


Method:


Heat the oil and add the red gram and the black gram lentils. Sauté till the lentils turn golden. Add the chillies and the asafetida powder and sauté for about ½ a minute. Turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves and stir a couple of times.


 

Grind the sautéed mixture, grated coconut, tamarind and salt with very little water into a coarse paste.
 
Serve this thogayal with molagootal or mulagushyam and hot rice.
Thogayal also tastes good plain with hot rice and ghee, or with dosas.
 
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