Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here's to a New Year and a Fresh Start!

This year has definitely been one of ups and downs for me, as most of you know. The year started on a low note and proceeded to oscillate between ok times and bad times. Through it all, I feel I've grown stronger as a person. I've learned so much about life and myself through blogging. I was also able to re-connect with a lot of old friends who I haven't been able to talk to in a very long time.

I participated in the arusuvai chain in the US, won the first round of the open sesame contest (created by Dhivi and Siri), and enjoyed participating in many blog events. Along the way, I've discovered many new bloggers and am constantly inspired by all of you.

I introduced the blog to family members and have even gotten marks of approval on many of my recipes! What more validation could a blogger want, right? I'm glad that they are also able to share this side of me and look forward to creating more recipes from their input, too.

2008 was overall a trying, but inspiring year for me and I am looking forward to a much better 2009! I would like to thank all of you for sharing in the good and bad times I've had this year. I look forward to blogging more and learning more from each of your blogs.

I wish each and every one of the readers of Samaithu Paarkalaam a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year 2009!

And now, a small greeting from me to you...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crazy for Cookies!

So, I've been on a bit of a baking spree for the past few days... Blame it on the upcoming holidays and having to mail things out to people! Guess it's pretty obvious that I've baked a bunch of cookies and want to share the recipes here.

Benne Biscuit:

Benne Biscuit

This is one that my husband and sister-in-law were telling me about. Apparently, it's a butter biscuit that they used to love eating in Bangalore. So, I looked up a recipe and decided to try it. The results were delicious!! Original recipe can be found here. I didn't make any changes to the recipe and they came out awesome!

Eggless Chocolate Oat Cookies:

Choc Oat Edited

This one was a special recipe that I found to send to my cousin's kids. Her two little ones have eczema and can't have dairy or eggs. What to send? Well, I didn't have to look far for this one. Sailu's blog came to my rescue with this recipe. The cookies were slightly chewy when warm and turned crisp on cooling. They had a nice chocolatey flavor and the oats texture really shined through. Perfect treat for little ones! No changes to this recipe either. Sailu's instructions were perfect!

Gingersnaps:

Gingersnaps

These are the perfect all-American holiday cookie... A little spicy, a little sweet and crispy. They keep forever (if you can hold on to them for that long!) and are perfect for dunking in tea or hot apple cider. The following recipe is from my King Arthur Flour cookbook.

Ingredients:

All purpose flour - 1 1/3 cup
White whole wheat (or all purpose) - 1 cup
Dried ginger powder - 2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Cloves powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 2 tsp
Butter - 3/4 cup, softened
Sugar - 2/3 cup (1 cup for more sweet cookies)
Egg - 1 large
Molasses - 1/3 cup

Coarse sugar to roll cookies in - about 1/3 cup

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, spices, salt, and baking soda) in a small bowl. In another larger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy (like whipped cream). Now, beat in the molasses until well combined. At this point, add in the dry ingredients and stir together to form a soft dough.

3. Now, take 1-2 tsp of dough for each cookie, form into a ball and roll each ball into the coarse sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on the greased or lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 375 F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. They will appear soft when you remove them from the oven, but will harden on cooling. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Gingersnaps CloseUp

Enjoy with beverage of your choice!

In honor of the events going on in the blogosphere, the first 2 cookies are going to Sharmi's cookie event as well as JZ's Santa's Holiday Challenge.

Gingersnaps are headed to the monthly mingle at Meeta's blog!

And with that, my friends, am going on vacation and will be back in 10 days or so. Hope everyone has a great rest of the year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baby Turns One!

My baby (I mean, my blog) is one year old already! I really cannot believe that it's been a whole year since I started my blog. Time really flies. I remember not having any idea of how to start and what to post... I started visiting blogs that I'd seen from before starting my own blog. Slowly, ideas began coming to me. I've learned so much through blogging!

I've found that I have grown tremendously as a person in this past year. I have found an outlet for something that I truly love. I am able to express myself in a completely unique way via blogging. I love cooking, baking and sharing. This blog has been a perfect vehicle for all of those things. In addition, I've learned a little bit about recipe writing and photography (OK, very little).

I am also thankful for all of the amazing souls I have "met" virtually through blogging. Dear friends who didn't know I existed a year ago have been so kind, sweet, encouraging, and supportive in good times and during rough patches. I am truly grateful for each and every interaction we've had and look forward to deepening friendships and new friendships in the coming year.

As always, I am open to any comments/suggestions as to how you think this blog could be improved or for any specific post requests. Once again, thank you all and let's get the party started!

Apple Cake 1

I thought it would be best to celebrate with the fruits of the season. So, I made an apple cake to share with you all. This cake (adapted from my King Arthur Flour baking book) is perfect for snacking or can easily be dressed up for a simple, elegant dessert. Sweet apples are complemented by raisins, dried cranberries, and spices. The result is sheer bliss without much effort on your part!

Apple Cake (yields 16 pieces):

Ingredients:

Whole wheat flour - 1/2 cup
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp
Sugar - 1/4 cup (for mildly sweet; can increase to 1/3 cup for sweeter)
Brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - 3/8 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Allspice - 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/4 tsp
Softened butter - 4 tbsp
Crystallized ginger or fresh ginger (optional) - 1 1/2 tbsp, minced finely
Apples - 2 cups, peeled and chopped
Raisins - 1/4 cup
Dried cranberries - 1/4 cup
Egg - 1

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with greased parchment paper or grease and flour the pan.

2. Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, salt, sugars, baking soda, and spices) together. Cut the butter into pieces and add it along with the apples, ginger, raisins, cranberries, and the egg. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Note: The batter may seem a bit thick, but it's ok!

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top and bake at 325 F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, slice, and serve!

apple cake 2


We had ours plain (mine with whipped cream) with tea or coffee. So moist and flavorful with spices. Juicy bursts of raisins and cranberries throughout made it the perfect cake for the season! I think that a cream cheese frosting would be delicious on it, too. This is one that I will definitely be making again. Hope you enjoyed my celebration and here's to another wonderful year of blogging!

Update: I'm sending this in to JZ's Santa's Holiday Challenge event.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not sure how many of you have seen Sesame Street (the kids show). Well, cookie monster is a character on the show who is obsessed with cookies. Every time he sees a cookie, he becomes a little crazy and proceeds to devour it with such enthusiasm, it's hilarious! No idea what I'm talking about? To see Cookie Monster in action, click here.

So, what does Cookie Monster have to do with this post? Well, these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies could very easily turn you into a cookie monster who wants to devour them all in one sitting!!


I have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe that I've used for years. I don't know about you, but I am a die hard fan of the soft and chewy type of chocolate chip cookie. Just the thought of them makes me drool!! One fine day (many years ago), I decided to see what would happen to my favorite cookie recipe by adding a bit of peanut butter. Well, after some experimentation, I think I got to the right level of peanutty goodness to compliment the chocolate chips. And, viola! A new cookie favorite was born!

The recipe I've used is based on a recipe from my Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking book.

Ingredients:

All purpose flour - 4 1/4 cups
Baking soda - 2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Butter - 1 1/2 cups, softened
Brown Sugar - 1 1/2 cups, firmly packed
White Sugar - 3/4 cup (increase to 1 cup for more sweet)
Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp
Eggs - 3
Peanut Butter - 1 cup (I used creamy)
Chocolate chips - 1 (12oz) bag of semisweet or bittersweet chips

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. It will look sort of like lemon colored whipped cream at this stage.

3. Add vanilla extract, eggs, and peanut butter. Blend well to combine.

4. Now, mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Once everything is well mixed, toss the chocolate chips in and stir to combine.

5. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Note: I find this easiest to do with a tablespoon sized scoop.

6. Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes until barely light golden brown. They will feel soft and mushy if you try to touch them, but will firm up on cooling! If you continue to bake them until they appear firm, they will not be chewy after you've cooled them.

7. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy with a glass of cold milk. :)


Seeing as how chocolate chip cookies are the quintessential American cookie, I'm sending these delectable morsels to Dhivi at Culinary Bazaar for AWED American. Hope all my friends in the US had a wonderful Thanksgiving! :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One long acceptance speech!!

Well, as part of getting back into the swing of things (sort of!), I realized that I had received so many awards during my break that I never posted about. So, please bear with me as I thank everyone who has been so kind as to pass me awards!

1. The Blogging with a Purpose Award

This award was passed to me by Cham, JZ, and Veda. Thank you all so much! I am truly honored and will wear this on my blog with pride.

I'd like to pass this on to Indosungod, Uma, Sig, and Maheshwari. Enjoy, ladies!

2. The Yummy Blog Award and Yum-Yum Blog Award:

This award was passed to me of Sailaja of Sailaja's Recipes. Thank you!

Yum-yum blog was passed to me by Amrutha of The Chef in Me. I am so flattered!! Thanks!

I'm passing both the yummy blog award and the yum-yum blog award to Lavi, Dhivi, Cham, and Uma. Congratulations, ladies!

3. Rockin Girl Blogger

This one was awarded to me of Maheshwari and is definitely an honor to receive this from a blogger that I've admired since long before starting my own blog. Thank you so much!! I think that most of you have received this already, so I pass it on to all of you dear girls who rock!

4. Chocoholic Award:


I'm not sure how Anu knew it, but I am a chocoholic of the worst kind. When I start craving chocolate, do not stand in my way!! I adore dark chocolate and really don't understand why white chocolate exists (sorry!). Brownies are my ultimate chocoholic indulgence! Thank you, Anu for this one!

5. Inspirational Award, Butterfly Award, Hard Working Food Blogger and Good Job:


The inspirational blog award was given to me by dear Pravs of Simply Spicy. To receive this award from her means so much to me. She has one of the most inspirational blogs I've ever had the pleasure to visit! I adore her pics and recipes. Thanks so much, Pravs!

The butterfly award was passed to me by Anu of Chandrabhaga and Raji of Rak's Kitchen. Thank you for thinking my blog is cool!



Both of the above awards were passed to me by Anu. Thank you for these, too!

I'm passing all of these awards to Pravs, Valli, Sia, Sailu, Raaga, Sagari, and Cham.

6. Giant Bear Hug, Friendship Award, and Perfect Blend of Friendship

This bear hug was given to me by Cham and Sailaja.

This symbol of friendship was given to me by Sowmya of Creative Saga.

This perfect blend of friendship was given to me by Anu.

I'd like to pass all of these awards on to Cham, Lavi, Dhivi, Sailu, and Revathi.

I am so, so, so thankful and flattered to have received all of these awards. If I inadvertently missed anyone who has passed me awards, please just give me a swift kick in the pants and I will surely acknowledge them! Thanks again!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jammin' with Jamuns!

I have to say once again that I am so thankful for all of your kind wishes, thoughts, and prayers. Every comment that everyone has left on my last couple of posts have really helped to pick up my spirits. Each comment has made me smile and has touched my heart. I cannot thank you all enough for all of your support. I'm really lucky to have found so many kind souls in this world!

Ok, I should stop being so ultra sentimental before I start getting tears in my eyes! So, let's get to the subject of today's post, shall we?

This actually goes back to Deepavali. Somehow, I wasn't able to get my act together and take pictures to post right after Deepavali. Well, better late than never, right? :) I made these gulab jamuns for Deepavali along with carrot halwa (long gone before I could get the camera out), murukku (chakli), and thattai. I was truly lazy about taking pictures and this was the only one that I managed to click some photos of.

I have to say that the gulab jamuns were so much easier to make this time since I had Amma's help! I learned that the dough for the jamuns should be fairly stiff (sort of like poori dough). Also, the jamuns should be fried at medium temp.

If they're fried at too high a temperature, they will brown on the outside before getting cooked on the inside. On the other hand, if they are fried at a very low temperature, they will break apart in the oil! Just great, I thought! The key is to heat the oil at medium to medium low heat and keep the heat at a constant temperature. If you're not sure if the jamuns are cooked, just poke a cooked one with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, they're done!

I've read many, many recipes that say to drop the hot fried jamuns directly into warm syrup. I have to say that every time I've tried it that way, my jamuns wind up blowing up like over inflated balloons and collapse in the syrup. So, I did it Amma's way. I allowed the jamuns to cool until slightly warm before dropping them into warm syrup. I also let the flavors marry in the fridge for a day. The end result was perfectly soft, spongy jamuns!!! All it took was a little patience. Well, that's asking a lot of me (patience is not my forte!), but I finally managed to do it!

Ingredients:

Jamuns:
Nonfat milk powder - 1 cup
All purpose flour (maida) - 1/2 cup
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Melted butter - 2 tbsp
Salt - pinch
Milk - enough to make a medium stiff dough

Syrup: (make earlier and keep warm)
Sugar - 1 1/2 cups
Water - 1 cup
Cardamom - crushed seeds of 2 pods

Oil to fry

Method:

1. Combine the sugar and water in a pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, add crushed cardamom and remove from heat. (The syrup should be slightly warm when adding jamuns.) If you like more syrup, just make 1.5 to 2 times the amount stated in the recipe.

2. Heat oil on medium heat. As the oil heats, combine flour, milk powder, baking soda, salt, and butter. Slowly add milk to make a medium stiff dough. Take small pieces of the dough (about nutmeg sized) and roll into balls. (Note: Keep in mind that the dough will expand and enlarge on hitting the oil, so make the balls smaller than you want the end size to be!) Keep the dough balls aside, covered with a slightly damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.

3. Slowly, slip the balls into the warm oil. You may need to fry them in 2 batches, depending on the size of your pan. Gently and slowly, shake the balls around in the oil to cook them evenly. When they are golden brown and rise to the top of the oil, remove them and allow them to cool until just slightly warm.

4. Add the cooled balls to the warm syrup. Allow the flavors to develop in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving, for best results. Warm jamuns before eating and enjoy every luscious bite!

Temptation in a spoon!

I know that many of you have passed awards to me in the recent past. I'll post them soon, so please forgive me. I am so grateful for each one! :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Back with Blueberry Scones!

First of all, I just want to say it feels really good to be doing something productive again! I also want to thank each and every one of you sweet girls who have been so supportive with your emails, comments and positive energy for me in what's been a difficult time. Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that I've been dealing with major health issues for a very long time and things were getting to be too much to handle in the past few months. My mind was just not able to function and somehow even blogging didn't seem like a release! I'm still going through a lot of procedures, tests, etc., but will definitely be blogging when time and energy permit.

So many of your comments touched me and goodness knows I've missed you all dearly! I love the unique connection that blogging allows all of us. To think that so many lovely women whom I've never had the pleasure of meeting are so encouraging and truly care about my well being has touched me in ways that I never imagined. You gals are the best!

Tired of my self-purging? Ok, ok, ok. Thanks for bearing with me! I'm getting to the recipe now. With the weather here getting colder and this awesome scone recipe in my drafts, I figured I'd give one last throwback to summer before kissing it goodbye (sigh).

I absolutely adore blueberries! I always have since childhood. So, all summer, I tend to be on the lookout for more recipes to use these gorgeous berries. This summer, I wandered onto the King Arthur Flour recipe website and found a recipe for blueberry scones that sounded awesome! (The link is here.)



These scones are almost more along the lines of drop biscuits. They're pretty easy in the sense that you just scoop the resulting dough out using a measuring cup or ice cream scoop. There's no requirement for kneading or shaping. So, you can bet I made these more than once!

They just melt in your mouth and the juicy, sweet blueberries provide a pop of flavor that is just amazing! Talk about a symphony of flavors!! Enough buildup, you say? Well, let's get to the recipe! I pretty much followed the recipe on the website, except to substitute 1/2 whole wheat flour for 1/2 of the all purpose flour.

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 large eggs, beaten

1/4 cup plain, lowfat yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top

Recipe:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients using your fingers until the butter crumbles so that some of it is like coarse crumbs and others are like peas. Mix the blueberries into this dry mix. Be careful that you don't break the blueberries while tossing!

3. Stir together the wet ingredients (eggs, yogurt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest) in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir very gently, just until combined. The dough will be pretty moist at this point. Don't worry! It's supposed to be moister than biscuit dough! :)

4. Use a muffin scoop or 1/4-cup measure to scoop and drop the dough onto the prepared sheet, leaving about 2" between the scones. Brush each ball of dough with a bit of milk or cream, and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

5. Bake the scones at 375 F for 20 to 24 minutes, or until lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into a scone comes out dry. Remove from the oven, remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with butter or jam and enjoy with tea!

Makes 12 scones.


Note: These scones reheat well, too! That is, if you have any leftovers... Just pop them in a 350 F degree preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes loosely wrapped in foil! :)

P.S. Best of luck to all those running the recipe marathon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Deepavali!

Wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy and prosperous Deepavali 2008. I am in a bit of a better state at the present time. Will be back to blogging soon. Hope you are all enjoying the celebrations with your families!




உங்கள் அனைவருக்கும் என் இனிய தீபாவளி நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்!

Happy Deepavali!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why the Silence?

First off, I'd like to apologize for the long, unexplained silence. As I mentioned before, I was a bit preoccupied with sending my parents off to India for a short trip. They just left this past weekend. I also have been dealing with a lot of personal issues that have me really emotionally and physically drained. I haven't had the energy or motivation to post lately. For the same reason, I haven't been able to visit your blogs and comment regularly. I will probably continue to be irregular with posting and events for the next month or so. Thanks so much to each and every one of you who have sent me concerned comments and emails. It feels so great to know that you care about me! I also want to thank all of you who sent me treasured awards in the recent past. I promise to post about them and pass them on just as soon as I'm able. I will be visiting when time permits and hope to be back to posting soon. Thanks so much for understanding!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mango Chicken

My husband had a bout of enthusiasm on going to the Indian store one day and brought a crate of mangoes home. After giving some away, I still had a bunch to deal with. Mind you, this was one problem I didn't mind dealing with in the least! After eating a good number of them out of hand, I thought about making something for dinner one day and decided on making a savory dish using mangoes.

The inspiration for creating this mango chicken was actually from a dish I had at a restaurant that served Thai and Malaysian food. The dish we ordered there had shrimp, but I substituted chicken as I didn't have any shrimp at home to make this with. Sweet mangoes marry with spicy green chillies, salty soy sauce, and crunchy bell peppers to produce a symphony of flavors in one's mouth. Add some hot rice to that and what more could you want??

I think that this would be even more delicious with shrimp. If you don't do meat, then by all means try it with tofu. I'm sure the results would be fabulous!!



Ingredients:

Boneless chicken breast - 1, diced into bite sized pieces
Red onion - 2 small, coarsely chopped
Red bell pepper - 1 medium, chopped into large dice
Green bell pepper - 1 medium, chopped into large dice
Mango (ripe) - 1 medium, chopped
Garlic - 3 cloves, grated
Ginger - 2 inch piece, grated
Green chillies - 6-8, or to taste, chopped
Soy sauce - to taste
Rice vinegar - 2 tsp or to taste
Cornstarch - 1 tsp
Scallions - 2 stalks, chopped for garnish

Method:

1. Marinate the chicken with soy sauce to taste, cornstarch, and half of the grated garlic and ginger for 15 - 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the marinated chicken and fry on high heat for 1-2 minutes until the chicken becomes slightly golden, but is still not cooked through. Remove from the pan.

3. Now, add the bell peppers and onions to the same pan. Saute until the veggies start to become slightly tender yet crisp.

4. Add the green chillies along with the remaining ginger and garlic. Fry until the raw smell disappears, about 2-3 minutes.

5. At this point, the sauteed chicken gets added back to the pan along with soy sauce to taste, rice vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes for the flavors to infuse. If the sauce seems to thick to you, add some more water. Alternatively, if you want it thicker, add another 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp of water and simmer for 2 minutes for it to thicken up.

6. Now, add in the chopped mangoes and stir for another 30 seconds or so. Turn off the heat. Garnish with scallions and serve with hot rice. Enjoy!!

We loved this dish and so I'm sending it off to Meeta for this month's monthly mingle with the theme of Mango Mania!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Arachuvitta Meen Kuzhambu (Fish with Ground Masala)

Voting for Open Sesame 2 has started today. If you liked my baklava buns, please vote for me by clicking here and logging in. Thanks in advance for your support!

I've probably mentioned before that fish addiction runs in my family. Let me give you an example... My grandfather would go fishing late at night at a lake in our village. I'm told that he would tell my grandmother to grind the masala and keep everything ready for when he got back. As soon as he returned with the live fish, she would quickly prepare the fish gravy. He HAD to eat it before he'd be able to get some peaceful sleep.

My mother and amayee (my maternal grandmother) both start drooling the second they set their eyes on fish. I wasn't a huge fan of fish as a child, but I think the fish bug has bit me too! I often find myself in a fix getting a really strong fish craving only to run to the fish market, buy some really good fish, make some fish kuzhambu and proceed to devour it!

This recipe is one that always hits the spot! It's inspired by a recipe that I saw on the internet long before I started this blog. I quickly scribbled down some of the points and didn't record the website. So, I apologize for not being able to give that person credit.

The awesome thing about this recipe is that you grind all of the required masala. Seasoning is done with onions and garlic. The fish is then cooked in the ground masala and tamarind. It's really delicious without the addition of any coconut (if you're concerned about that)!

Also, if you have any reservations about your fish (i.e. you're not sure it's the best), this is the recipe to go with! The combo of the fennel flavor with black pepper, green chillies, and garlic is really special and will help to overcome any possible fishy aroma you may be concerned about. Without any further ado, let me get to the recipe!



Ingredients:

Fish - approx 2 lbs, cleaned, cut into thin slices
Tamarind - small key lime size, soaked in water, and juice extracted
Shallots - 2 medium, sliced finely
Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped finely

To grind into paste:

Shallots - 1 medium
Tomato - 1 medium
Black peppercorns - 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 3-4, or to taste
Curry leaves - 6-8 (optional)
Chilli powder - 2 tsp, or to taste
Coriander powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

For seasoning:

Oil (recommended: sesame oil)
Methi seeds/vendheyam - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 10

Method:

1. Wash the fish in water with turmeric powder and keep aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the seasoning ingredients. Once the methi seeds have browned and spluttered a little, add the sliced shallots.

3. Fry the shallots until softened. Then, add the chopped garlic and fry until fragrant.

4. Pour in the ground masala, tamarind extract, and required salt. Allow to boil until thickened to desired consistency. Note: Make this a little thicker than your ideal gravy consistency as the fish will cause the gravy to loosen once it's added!

5. Now, gently place the fish pieces in the gravy. Do not mix with a spoon at this stage. Just pick up the pot by the handles and gently swirl the gravy over and around the fish. Allow to simmer until the fish is cooked, about 5-6 minutes. Turn off and enjoy with hot steaming rice!

This delicious bowl of meen kuzhambu is on its way to dear Sig who is hosting JFI tamarind this month. Hope she enjoys it as much as we did!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Baklava Buns

When Dhivi and Siri announced the start of Open Sesame II, I was only more than happy to participate in this round as well. This time, I selected box 4 and received the following riddle:

I am a flower but adorn a bouquet, I do not
I have an inbuilt perfume in my being
So strong and so intense that my oil will make your insides 'hot'
My medical impact all over the world seen.

My 'Yorubas' infusion is the 'savior' of star wars
I have been used as a barter by the fellow 'sadiqi's' during trades
One does not have to fight tooth or 'nail' for me
I am usually pink but mostly available browned in shades

I may be dry , I may overpower your tongue
But add a little for that midas touch
Come now, start thinking of that spice
Whose bite make your 'teeth' say Ouch!

After an initial incorrect guess, I got it right with 1 hint. The answer is CLOVES! Yes, the fragrant spice that can add the right pizazz to a given dish.

I tend to use cloves in either non-veg dishes, pulao/biryani, or tea for the most part. So, I sat around for days waiting for inspiration to strike. Well, days turned into weeks and suddenly it came to me... I thought why not combine the flavors of baklava with the concept of a cinnamon roll and see what happens. The result was sheer bliss! :)



For this recipe, I took a basic cinnamon roll dough recipe that I've used in the past. The dough recipe is originally from FoodNetwork.com and can be found here. I then took the flavors of baklava (nuts, cinnamon, cloves, sugar) and formed these into a filling. For the icing, I used honey and cream cheese.

Making this took a bit of time, but wasn't too hard if you're not too scared of yeast. Even if you are scared, it's still not going to be too hard! :) The great thing about this recipe is that the second rise of the dough is done in the fridge so that you can break it up into 2 steps. This way, you can have these for breakfast and not break much of a sweat! :)

Ingredients:

Dough:

4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 whole egg, room temperature
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Butter - 6 tbsp, melted
Buttermilk - 3/4 cup, room temperature
All purpose flour - 3 3/4- 4 cups (optional : use 1/2 wheat or white whole wheat)
Yeast - 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp)
Salt - 3/4 tsp

Filling:

Dark brown sugar - 1/2 cup, packed
White sugar - 1/4 cup (or use light brown sugar)
Ground cinnamon - 2 tsp
Ground cloves - 1 tsp (use 1/2 tsp for a mild clove flavor)
Walnuts - 2/3 cup, toasted for 10 minutes in 350 F oven, chopped, and cooled
pinch salt
Softened butter - 1 1/2 tbsp

Icing:

Cream cheese - 3 ounces, softened
Honey - 1/4 cup (adjust per taste)

Method:

1. Fit a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add 2 cups of flour, yeast, and salt and whisk until moistened. Now, switch to the dough hook attachment. At this point, add all but 1 1/4 cup of flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the dough now and see if it's sticky. If so, add flour 1/4 cup at a time and allow to combine. Knead on low speed until the dough clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 more minutes. (Note: I needed 3 3/4 cup of flour to make the dough) Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to double in volume in a warm place. This step takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Note: The dough will rise well even though the liquids have not been warmed. Just make sure everything is at room temp!

Unrisen dough

2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining the sugars, cinnamon, clove, salt and nuts in a bowl. Keep aside.

3. Once the dough has risen sufficiently:

Ooh... Poofy!

Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle. Now, roll this into a rectangle that measures 18 inches by 12 inches. (Note: I made half of the amount, so my rectangle looks half the size!) Brush the rectangle with the softened butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border on the top and bottom edges. Sprinkle with the sugar/nut mixture made in step 2.


4. Once you've done this, start rolling the dough into a cylinder. Start with the end closest to you (bottom edge of the pic) and roll towards the far end (top edge of the pic). Since I made half of the amount, my rectangle was 9 x 12. You'd have the 18 inch edge at the bottom of the pic and would be rolling the same way. Now, make sure you've press the edge of the roll to seal it and place the roll seam side down on your surface:

5. Using a serrated knife, cut the cylinder into rolls about 1 1/2 inch thick. This will yield 12 rolls. Butter a 9x13 pan and arrange rolls in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight (up to 16 hours).


6. The next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in a warm place for 30 minutes- 1 hour. You want the rolls to reach room temp and to become somewhat puffy. Sorry, I forgot to take a pic of this!

7. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Then, place the baking pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until slightly browned and an instant read thermometer reads 190 F when inserted into the bun.

8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Whisk the honey and cream cheese together until smooth and creamy. Spread over the rolls and serve warm.
So, do you like yours iced or not? The rolls were so delightful! They really had a delicate crumb and delicious texture... The filling was so fragrant and the toasted nuts just took it over the top. It was not as gooey as a cinnamon roll that you might buy at the mall, but was actually a bit lighter and the crumb melts in your mouth. Honey with the cream cheese icing was just wonderful!! Overall, this was a refreshing change from the usual cinnamon roll and makes for a decadent treat!

My dear Dhivi and Siri, I hope you guys like this as well. It's on its way to Open Sesame II at Dining Hall. Impressed with this dish? Well, then, please remember that voting starts on July 1! Thanks and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rava-Coconut Ladoos

I know I've been pretty irregular with my posts lately, but I've had a lot of random stuff going on these days. My parents will be leaving for India in a few weeks and have been a bit occupied with last minute prep to send them off. Plus, other family stuff has had me a bit preoccupied, too.

You might have wanted to see the rava ladoo that I mentioned I sent to my SIL in my last post. I love making this rava ladoo because it's so easy to throw together and fast. Add to that that it's one of my SIL's favorite sweets and mails well and I had a perfect item to send her. :)

Nothing really new about this rava ladoo. I like my sweets to be moderately sweet, so I've used 1 cup of sugar. If you like very sweet sweets, you can increase the sugar as per your taste. These wind up being sweet, firm, melt in your mouth ladoos flavored with cardamom and the mild sweetness of coconut. Add to this raisins and cashews and you've got a delicious treat!



Ingredients:

Rava - 2 cups, roasted until golden brown in 3 tbsp of ghee and cooled
Ghee - 1/3 - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1 cup, or as per taste
Grated coconut or dessicated coconut- 1 cup
Milk - 1/4 cup
Cardamom - 3, powdered or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
Cashews - 2 tbsp, roasted in ghee and kept aside
Golden raisins - 2 tbsp, roasted in ghee and kept aside

Method:

1. Grind roasted and cooled rava in a mixie with sugar until it's fairly finely powdered. Remove from mixie.

2. If using fresh coconut, microwave for 1 minute to dry it out. Cool it, then grind in mixie until powdered. If using dessicated coconut, just powder it until finely powdered. Add to the rava/sugar mix along with cardamom powder.

3. Now, add milk along with fried raisins and cashews to this and mix to combine. Slowly add ghee until you have a slightly loose, but not extremely loose mix.

4. Form the mix into balls of the size you like. I got about 15 ladoos with this recipe. Place the balls on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and allow to firm up. This takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy rava ladoo with a cup of cardamom tea or mail them to your loved ones!

Given the addition of coconut in these delicious treats, I'm sending these to Suganya for AFAM coconut!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Click for Bri and Couscous

The dynamic duo at Jugalbandi has asked us for our support in this month's special edition of Click. This month's photography competition has been combined with a fundraiser for Bri's treatment. Who is Bri, you ask? Bri is Brianna Brownlow of the blog, "Figs with Bri." Currently, Bri is in a situation where she has explored many treatment options for her breast cancer, yet the cancer has reccurred. The cancer has metastasized to many areas of her body. As many of us probably know from the media, health insurance will not cover many treatments that can be potentially helpful. So, bloggers are uniting to help raise money for Bri to help out in her toughest fight to date. Please check out the full details at Jugalbandi's site by clicking here. You can find out more info on how to donate money, more details about Bri's health situation and what prizes are potentially in store for you!



I thought that this dish of saffron couscous would be quite fitting with the theme of yellow for this month's click. It just seems so sunny and happy to look at, I thought.

We had this for dinner last night and it was fantastic. Yellow from the addition of saffron, combined with sweet bites of raisins, and crunch from the almonds and scallions. It tasted great on its own and makes a perfect foil for any Middle Eastern type of curry.

Ingredients:

Couscous - 1 cup
Water or stock - 1 cup
Raisins - 2 tbsp
Scallions - 2 stems, chopped
Sliced almonds or pine nuts, toasted - 2 tbsp
Saffron - pinch
Salt to taste

Method:

Bring saffron and stock/water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the raisins, salt and couscous. Cover, turn the heat off and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add scallions, almonds, toss and serve. Enjoy!

Seeing as how this is also a Middle Eastern dish, I am sending this in to AWED at Siri's Corner! AWED was started by Dhivi of Culinary Bazaar.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beetroot Halwa, Ramblings and a Prize

Like many people, my feeds haven't always gotten updated on taste of India, so please use the subscribe button on the right side bar to get regular updates of my blog.

It's been a very strange few weeks, I feel. I was sick for several days. Then, I seemed to be doing a bit better. We heard that one of my cousins will be getting married soon which was great news! They grow up so fast, don't they?

But, after that came the news that my Amayee (grandmother) was sick. I mean really sick. I think about the active, lively person she used to be and to see and hear of her state now just makes me so sad. The day we heard about this, none of us were in a very good mood at all. Thank goodness it turned out to be severe dehydration (which was caused by intense diarrhea) and she's doing a lot better now.

So, my mood has been pretty lousy lately due to all of these things. Add to that the killer heat we're having here and I think some of my brain cells have gotten fried in the process. I haven't felt like doing much of anything for a while...

I just got the news that I won the Open Sesame contest at Dining Hall. That totally made my day!! Funny enough, I learned about it when I read some of the comments on my blog. Thanks so much to each and every one of you sweet souls that voted for me. Thanks also to Dhivi and Siri for coming up with such a fun idea!! Let's see how round 2 goes, eh?

Given this happy news, it seems fitting to share some sweets with you all. Plus, yesterday was my SIL (husband's sister) and her husband's anniversary. Can't believe time has flown by! I sent them a care package with rava ladoos (for her) and beetroot halwa (for him) in honor of the occasion. This is the recipe for the halwa that I sent. Revathi, this is the same recipe for the halwa I sent you as part of arusuvai. :)

I'm not going to lie and tell you that the entire taste of the beetroot is covered up in this sweet. So, if you are someone that detests beetroot, you may or may not like this one. It has all the creamy decadence of a halwa recipe and is a really nice way to get the nutrients of beetroot into your system, though! As per my husband and me, it gets 2 thumbs up!

Beetroot Halwa:

Ingredients:

Beetroot, grated - 3 cups
Milk or half and half - 1 1/2 cups (I used 2% milk)
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Cashew nuts - 10-15, broken
Raisins - 10-15
Cardamom - seeds of 3 pods crushed or 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Salt - pinch

Method:

1. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan over medium high heat. Add the grated beetroot and fry until the raw smell goes away.

2. Now, add the milk, salt and sugar. Lower the heat to medium and allow it to cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally. This may take 15-20 minutes, so be patient. As the mixture thickens, add 1 tbsp of ghee (or more if you wish).

3. Turn the heat off of the pan. In another pan, heat 1 tbsp ghee and fry the raisins and cashews until the cashews are golden and the raisins plump up. Add to the halwa with cardamom powder. Stir well and serve hot!

Enjoy the halwa and thanks for listening to my ramblings! :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rotis and an Award!


I just received another award!! It's the good chat award from Cham of Spice Club. Thank you so much for thinking of me, dear! Our friendship started in the early days of our blogs. Cham, I still have some of the masala powder you sent me for arusuvai. I think of you every time I use it!

One other topic is about the Open Sesame event at Dining Hall. As you probably know, voting has started. If you liked my okra corn cakes, please log into Dining Hall and vote for me. To vote, click here. Thanks to all in advance!!

Coming to the food part of this post, I'm going to write about 2 rotis. One has been in my drafts for a while and the other is newer. They are dill-vegetable roti and spinach-corn roti.

Dill-Vegetable Roti:

This one came about when I was thinking about akki rotis I've had in the past. I don't know if it was the person who was making it or what, but I haven't been a fan of the texture of akki rotis that I've had to date. No offense to anyone! However, I love the flavor components involved and decided to change things around to my taste.

The result is a soft roti that is loaded with the goodness of vegetables and perfumed with the fragrance of fresh dill. It explodes with flavor and is a meal in and of itself!

Ingredients:

Whole wheat flour/atta - 2 cups
Fresh dill, chopped - 1/4 cup
Zucchini - 1 small, grated
Carrot - 1 medium, grated
Onion - 1 small, finely chopped
Green chillies - 4-5, or to taste, finely chopped
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil - 2 tsp
Warm water to mix dough

Method:

Mix the flour with oil and salt. Add all of the other ingredients with warm water to make a slightly stiff dough. It should be a little stiffer than normal chappathi dough. Allow the dough to rest for 15-30 minutes. Then, roll out using flour as required. The thickness will be a little thicker than chappathis. Fry on hot tava/griddle adding a few drops of oil until brown spots appear on both sides.

Tastes great hot, but reheats well. Enjoy on its own or with pickle/curds/side dish!


Spinach Corn Roti:


This one came out of a bit of randomness. I think I was still in a corny mood after making my okra corn cakes (excuse the pun!) and decided to try corn flour in a roti. I had some frozen spinach on hand and was able to throw these together. The taste was awesome, but these should definitely be eaten hot. They won't reheat well, so just keep that in mind.

Ingredients:

Corn flour - 1 cup
Whole wheat flour/atta - 1 cup
Frozen spinach - 1/2 cup (I didn't squeeze it dry)
Green chillies - 4-5 or to taste, chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, grated
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece, grated
Chilli powder - 1 tsp, or to taste
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Amchur (dried mango) powder - a pinch, optional
Salt to taste
Oil - 2 tsp to mix into the dough
Warm water

Method:

Mix the oil and salt into the flours. Now, add the remaining ingredients except water. Toss to combine and add enough warm water to make a slightly stiff dough. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes. At this point, I wasn't able to roll the rotis out, so I just took balls of dough and patted them out with my hand as thin as possible. Then, place them on a heated tava/griddle and drizzle a few drops of oil. Cook until you get brown spots on both sides and serve hot.

These came out pretty thick, so the texture was a bit different, but still tasted great! They were good on their own, but even better with a little bit of South Indian style mixed veg pickle!

Needless to say, these are both off to Srivalli for her roti mela. I'm also sending the following previously posted rotis:

Garlic-Avocado Rotis

Methi Rotis

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Southwest Hash

Ever feel like being in the shoes of an old time cowboy? I mean like back in the days of Clint Eastwood. What on earth am I talking about, you ask? As usual, I'm being a little random, but with some relevance. I always have a vision of cowboys sitting around a campfire with a pot of beans and eating hearty food. So, what would be a fitting cowboy breakfast? Well, hash and eggs, of course!

Ok, enough of my flashback to cowboy days. Hash is a very easy dish to whip up. It combines the heartiness of potatoes with the flavors of onions and bell peppers. From there, it's really up to you whether you want to use mushrooms or not and how you want to flavor it up.



For this one, I went with my basic hash recipe which uses potatoes, bell peppers, and onions. It's flavored simply with garlic, black pepper and green chillies. Throw yourself an egg (any style you please) on top and you've got yourself a hearty and delicious breakfast. For a real treat, make some of my whole wheat biscuits to have on the side!

Ingredients:

Baby potatoes - 5-6, cut into bite sized chunks
Red onion - 1, chopped into large chunks
Bell pepper - 1/2 green, 1/2 red chopped into chunks
Green chillies - 5-6, or to taste, chopped
Garlic - 3 cloves, finely chopped
Black pepper - 1 tsp, or as desired
Pepper jack cheese, grated - 1/3-1/2 cup, optional (depending on your preference)
Eggs - 4, cooked any style
Oil
Salt to taste

Method:

Heat oil in a pan. Add potatoes to the pan, cover, and cook on medium heat until the potatoes are mostly cooked. Toss in the onions, bell peppers, green chillies, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high until the veggies are a bit caramelized and are crisp-tender. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, if desired and cover to melt. Meanwhile, heat another skillet and cook the eggs any style you like. To serve, place a bit of the hash on your plate and top with the cooked egg. Serve with salsa, if desired. Enjoy!


This plate is off to Pooja for her VOW/JFI event themed bell peppers!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Rockin' with Mango Scones and Okra Corn Cakes!

Are you someone who likes a sweet breakfast? Something light, flaky, and warm that doesn't take up lots of time to make? If so, you'd probably like this recipe. I was in my kitchen the other day and had a ripe mango that needed to be used up badly. After a bit of deliberation and perusal through some baking books, I settled on making scones using mango and coconut.


Let me tell you that these scones are definitely a treat for the taste buds. Be sure to use the ripest, most flavorful mangoes you can find. The flavor of mango is accented by bits of sweetened shredded coconut and perfumed with the ethereal fragrance of cardamom. Need I say more? If you don't want them for breakfast, they'd make a fabulous snack with tea!

Ingredients:

Mangoes, diced - 1 cup
Shredded sweetened coconut - 1/2 cup
All purpose flour - 1 cup
White whole wheat flour - 1 cup (you can use AP flour instead if you want)
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Baking powder - 3 tsp
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp
Yogurt - 1/3 cup
Eggs - 2, beaten
Cold butter - 6 tbsp, cut into pieces

For the top:

Melted butter - 2 tbsp
Granulated sugar - 1-2 tbsp

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt, cardamom, and baking powder together. Whisk lightly or sift. Add the butter pieces and break them up using a fork or your fingertips. You want to get to a consistency where you have some pieces of butter that are the size of peas and some that are like grains of sand. Don't overwork it or else your scones won't be light and flaky.

3. Mix the eggs and yogurt together in another bowl. Add to the dry ingredients along with the mangoes and coconut. Stir until it's just barely mixed together. The dough will be very sticky, but that's ok. The end result will be worth it!

4. Turn out the dough onto a very well floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour and knead it 2-3 times to just pull the dough together. Pat it out into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into triangles using a sharp knife. I was able to get about 12 triangles out of this batch.

5. Place the cut scones on a baking sheet/cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops of the scones with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

6. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden on top. Enjoy warm from the oven with tea!

Off these go to Arundati of Escapades who's hosting this month's WBB with the theme of mango madness. Hope she likes them as much as we did!

Not in the mood for something sweet, you say? How about something savory?

Dhivi and Siri had started dining hall and I was intrigued by their International Food League event. So, I cracked open my account to receive the following riddle:

I have a crown yet I am not the king
You cut my crown and feet off with a fling

I carry lots of eggs, yet I nothing but a veggie
Even with all that I am thin and long not pudgy

I am green and I am gooey
If u don't pay attention, I will make your dish go mushy and chewy

I do good to your health and to you brain
Which is what your elders told you without refrain
Now its up to you to think and guess
To who I am ...Cos I am good too and no less

Luckily, I managed to guess okra correctly on the first guess! My next task was to come up with a dish using okra. What have I cooked up this time, you ask with bated breath? Yes, that was my idea of a lame joke. Haa haa.

The dish is Okra Corn Cakes. I was browsing recipes on the net and saw a lot of Southern style recipes using okra, mostly fried. Eventually, I saw a few that were more along the lines of corn cakes using okra. After a lot of serious Indianization and modifications, this is what I came up with:

Without any further ado, let me get to the recipe... :)

Ingredients:

Okra - 1 cup, sliced finely
Onion, chopped - 1 small
Green chillies - 6-8, chopped, or to taste
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 2 tsp, or to taste
Salt - to taste
Egg - 1, slightly beaten
Water - as needed
Cornmeal - 1/2 cup
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup
Salt - to taste
Baking powder - 1 tsp

Method:

1. Heat oil in a pan for shallow frying on medium-high heat.

2. In a large bowl, mix okra, onion, chillies, salt, chilli powder, cumin powder, and egg. Add the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder. Stir together. Now, slowly add water and mix until you get the consistency of a pancake batter to bhaji batter thickness.

3. Drop the batter by spoonfuls (I used a small ice cream scoop) into the hot oil and shallow fry until golden brown. It takes about 2 minutes per side or so. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with ketchup, chutney, or a sauce of your choice. Enjoy!

These delicious bites of brain food are on their way to Open Sesame at International Food League.

I'm also sending them in to Mansi who's hosting this month's monthly mingle themed appetizers. Monthly mingle was started by Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey?


Just to make my day perfect, Madhavi of Vegetarian Medley passed on the rocking girl blogger award to me! Thank you so so so so much, Madhavi!!! I am totally thrilled and ecstatic to have received this from you, dear! I know that a lot of you have already received this award, but would like to extend it to Cham, Uma, Sagari, Pravs, Namratha, Dhivi,and Siri. Congrats and enjoy it! :)

Have a wonderful weekend, all!