Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spaghetti with nutty avocado mint pesto

This space of mine has been quite for quite sometime now. If this virtual kitchen has been quite then it hasn't been the same in my real kitchen. I have been cooking like crazy since the past few days. I even got to capture a few of them. But somehow the uploading and editing part took a back seat. It was only since the past week that I started uploading and editing the photographs. I hope to post regularly from now on.

I think my love for avocados is not a secret anymore. I just love avocados. Be it in smoothies, in sandwiches, in desserts or with tortilla chips. I simply love them.

Did you know that Avocado is an extremely unique fruit. This is because, unlike other fruits, it has more good fats than carbohydrates. Avocados are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folates, potassium, Vitamin B5 and B6. This antioxidant rich fruit are said to extremely beneficial for arthritis, and said to improve vision. It is said, that avocados are said to prevent certain kinds of cancer. It is even said that avocado extract helps to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Now, what's not to love about this wonder fruit.

The rich creamy texture of this fruit makes it easy it to incorporate in many dishes. I have myself included this fruit in sweet as well as savory dishes alike and each time they turned out delicious. This fleshy fruit can be a great substitute for cream, cheese and mayonnaise.

As mentioned earlier I have used avocados in a number of dishes. But somehow I had not tried combining it with Pasta. So I decided to make a pesto with the avocado along with some mint and the little cashew meal that was waiting to be used up. The result was simply phenomenal. The creamy pesto was filled with strong flavors of mint and there was also the zing from the lemon juice. The cashew meal added a mild sweet taste to the pesto. This dish is super simple to make and without a doubt, add a healthy boost to your plate.

Spaghetti with nutty avocado mint pesto recipe:
Preparation time: 25min
cooking time: 10min
Serves- 3-4

Spaghetti- 200gms
Salt- 1/2 tsp+1tsp
Olive oil- 1tsp+3tbsp
Onion- 1med, chopped fine
Garlic- 2 pods, peeled and finely chopped
Avocado- 1 large, halved, stoned and flesh scooped out
Juice of half a lemon
Mint leaves- a hand full
Freshly ground black pepper powder- 1/2tsp
Powdered cashewnuts- 1-1/2tbsp
Chili flakes- 1/2tsp (optional)

Pepitas- 1 tbsp, toasted and cooled.

  • Cook the spaghetti along with 1/2tsp of salt and a tsp of olive oil in enough water. Drain and reserve half cup of the stock and set aside.
  • To make the pesto, heat olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté till they turn brown and tender and keep aside.
  • Combine the avocado flesh along with the lemon juice, mint leaves, cashew meal, pepper powder, salt and the sautéed onion and garlic in blender jar or a mortar and pestle and grind till smooth.
  • Pour the prepared pesto over the cooked spaghetti and toss well. Add the chili flakes and pasta water only if required and mix well.
  • Garnish with toasted pepitas and serve immediately.
  • To make the cashew meal, toast about 8-10 cashew nuts in pan. Cool completely and grind in a blender to a slightly coarse powder. Store in airtight container till further use.
  • My preparation time was slightly longer because I ground the pesto in a mortar and pestle. It will not take you more than 10mins if you make the pesto in a blender.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


It's been a while since I posted a recipe for a curry/side dish. This recipe has been in my drafts for a long time. I have been procrastinating posting this recipe because I have not been able to capture this dish well. It took me five attempts to finally capture this dish.

The Kalan is a yogurt based side dish that is a staple of all festivities in Kerala. I was told that Kalan is a must during the Onam feast. This side dish is almost always prepared with either raw bananas or elephant yam. Since I had neither, I just decided to go ahead and make it with the Kohlarabi that was waiting to be used up. I must say that the dish turned out pretty good. 

Kohlrabi or noolkol as we call it is a turnip like vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. Most of the times, I use this vegetable in Sambars. But my decision to use this vegetable in this yogurt based curry paid off. The kohlrabi is quite bland in taste. So the sour flavor of the yogurt and the spicy pepper compliments the bland vegetable beautifully making this curry quite irresistible. 

This recipe for the Kaalan was given to me by a friend from Dar. She had made this dish for our send off party before we left Dar. At first I thought she had served Majjige huli. But after tasting it, I realized it was a different dish altogether.  I took to this slightly sour and peppery dish immediately and before I knew it, I was asking for a second helping. So if you are looking for a satvik side dish to be prepared during this festive season, then look no further. As this Kaalan will definitely fit the bill.

Kaalan recipe
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time: 15min
Serves- 4

Kohlrabi- 2med, peeled and cut into cubes
Freshly ground black pepper powder- 1/2tsp
Turmeric- 1/4tsp
Salt- to taste
Slightly sour yogurt- 250ml, Whisked
Rice flour corn starch- 1tbsp mixed with 2tbsp of water
For the ground paste:
Coconut- 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds- 1tsp
Green chili- 1-2
For the seasoning
Coconut oil- 2tsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2  tsp
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Asafetida- a large pinch
Red chili- 1, deseeded and torn into pieces
Fenugreek seeds- A pinch, dry roasted and powdered

  • Combine the chopped Kohlrabi along with salt, turmeric and pepper powder. Add one cup of water and cook till the Kohlrabi is cooked through and fork tender.
  • Grind the coconut, cumin seeds and green chilies along with some water to a fine paste add add the paste to the cooked kohlrabi.Mix well and allow the mixture to simmer for five minutes.
  • Stir in the whisked yogurt and the rice flour mixture, mix well and allow the mixture to simmer for five more minutes. Add the fenugreek powder at this stage and take off the heat.
  • For the seasoning, Heat the coconut oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the curry leaves and the red chili pieces and fry till crisp. 
  • Add the asafetida, take of the heat and add the seasoning to the prepared Kaalan and serve hot with rice.

  • The rice flour is usually not added to this curry. I chose to include rice flour because, I wanted the curry with a thick gravy like consistency. You can omit the rice flour if you want the curry to be slightly watery.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Avalakki laddu- Beaten rice and coconut laddu

I am back with another sweet treat. This is another one of those recipes that has been there in my drafts for more than month now. I had made these beaten rice and coconut laddus for Janmashtami. As it is customary to make dishes using beaten rice for Janamshtami, I chose to make these laddus instead of the Avalakki payasa that I make every year. I am glad I chose to make something different this  year because these sweetened balls turned out absolutely delicious.

I made these laddus using the same recipe that I use to make the rava laddus. The only difference is, I substituted the semolina with the beaten rice. Taste wise, these laddus were not much different from the rava laddus. They tasted just as delicious. But texture wise, I felt they were slightly coarser than the Rava laddus.

If you are looking for sweet treat, that can be made in minutes, then these laddus are just for you. These sweetened balls can be made within minutes and still taste delicious. Apart from that, I feel that the rava and the beaten rice laddus are slightly healthier than the deep fried sweets. So those who are planning their Dassehra or Diwali menu, I suggest you consider adding these laddus. It is sure to delight your guests.

Beaten rice and coconut laddu recipe:
Preparation time: 15mins
Cooking time- 10min
Makes- 15-20 laddus
Shelf life- 4-5 days

Ghee- 1/4 cup
Poha or beaten rice- 250gms
chopped Cashewnuts- 3tbsp
Raisins- 2tbsp
Finely grated dry coconut- 1/2 cup
Sugar- 1 cup
Powdered cardamom powder- 3/4tsp
Warm Milk- 1/4 cup or as required

  • Heat a teaspoon of ghee in a wok and dry roast the beaten rice till golden brown in color. Take off the heat and let it cool completely. Grind the cooled beaten rice to a fine powder and keep aside.
  • Heat another teaspoon of ghee in the same wok and fry the chopped cashew nuts till light brown in color. Add the raisins and fry till they balloon up. Remove the fried nuts and raisins from the heat and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining ghee in the same wok. Add the powdered beaten rice, dried coconut and  sugar and mix well. 
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the fried cashew nuts and raisins and the powdered cardamom.
  • Sprinkle the warm milk all over the beaten rice mixture and mix well. Shape the mixture into ping pong sized balls whilst the it is still warm.
  • Store in air tight containers and consume within four to five days

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mango kesar pista Kulfi

Right now I am suffering from a condition called the "writer's block". I have been trying to post this recipe for almost a week now and all I have been doing is typing a few sentences only to hit the delete button. For the past few days, my mind seems to have gone blank. I am not sure if it is just me or it has got to do something with the ever-changing weather in Nairobi. 

The month of September marks the season of the short rains in Nairobi. Usually, by this time of the year, despite all the short rains, the mercury starts to rise and you can feel the summer around the corner. But this year, the "short rains" turned into a down pour and turned the Nairobi skies into depressing grey. It was like that for the following days to come. The mercury dropped drastically and the town was enveloped in fog. I felt like my energy had just disappeared along with the sun. I had never felt so low in my entire life. All I could do was just curl up in a blanket.

The only good thing that seemed to happen during that time was this Kulfi. Summer and the sun may be on the way out, but making Kulfi isn't. Since the weather was so depressing, I wanted something comforting and something that would divert my mind from the cold. There were these "not so sweet" mangos, a can of condensed milk and some cream that was waiting to be used up. So I decided to put all of these together and make this Kulfi. 

Kulfi or the "Indian ice cream" was a favorite during my growing years. My baby sister and I would often indulge on these Kulfis on our way back from school. I remember the Kulfis used to cost a Rupee but the flavor and the taste was unmatched. 
Traditionally, the Kulfi is made by boiling the milk till it is reduced to half the volume. Cream, sweeteners and other flavors are then added to the already calorie rich milk and then frozen immediately. There is no churning required when making kulfi.

The beauty of this dessert is that, it can be made in a hundred different ways and it can still end up delicious. If mangos are not available, try substituting it with strawberry or lychees. But if you are craving for a kulfi with fall flavors then try making this with carrot puree. I hear that it tastes delicious.

As I mentioned earlier, Kulfi is made my evaporating milk on a low heat till reduced to half. But if you are pressed for time, or you just want to make this dessert  quickly, then just substitute the milk with with a can of evaporated milk. I chose to make this dessert the hard way because I desperately needed that distraction. All the hard work and toil finally paid off when both the husband and the daughter completely loved this frozen treat. The delighted expression on Purvi's face was testimonial enough that this dessert was a great success. To me, just looking at that delighted face was heart warming and truly blissful!! 

Mango kesar pista Kulfi recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 1hr+ freezing time
Serves- 8-10 people

Full fat Milk- 1-1/4ltrs
Cream- 150ml
Condensed milk- 1 can
Rice flour- 1tbsp+3tbsp milk to dissolve
Almond meal- 3tbsp
Sugar- 4tbsp
Pulp of three medium sized mangos- approximately 2-2/12 cups
Saffron- 1/2 tsp saffron soaked in 2tsps of milk.
Green cardamom- 6-8 crushed to a fine powder
Chopped pistachios- 2tbsp

  • Mix the rice flour with 3tbsp of milk and set aside. 
  • Dissolve the saffron in 2tsps of warm milk and keep aside.
  • Take the milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and allow the milk to simmer on a low flame, stirring from time to time till the milk is reduced to half the original quantity (approximately 600ml)
  • Stir in the rice flour mixture and cook till the mixture thickens. 
  • Turn off the heat and add the condensed milk, cream, almond meal, sugar, saffron mixture, cardamom powder and mango pulp and mix well to combine.
  • Stir in the chopped pistachios, mix well and pour the kulfi mixture into the moulds and freeze overnight or till it sets.
  • To unmould, allow the kulfi to thaw outside the refrigerator for a few mins, then insert a skewer or a fork into the center of kulfi to pull it out.
  • Serve it as is or along with some slivered almonds on the top.
  • I had to use sugar because the mangos were not very sweet. If the mangos that you are using is sweet enough, then the quantity of the sugar can be reduced or omitted altogether.
  • The milk can be substituted with evaporated milk to assemble the kulfi quickly.
  • The rice flour can be substituted with equal quantity of corn starch.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Akkitari upittu or Kadubu- steamed cream of rice dumplings

I happend to compose this post during the last week of July. But before I could complete it, I got so involved with the festival preparations, Purvi's school and other things, that hitting the "publish" button took a back seat. I was so consumed with other non-food related activities, that I did not realize the month of August pass by. As I am typing this post, I feel that September is in a hurry to whizz away well.

Now coming to where I had left off, The Akkitari Kadubu is a classic Kannada dish  that is almost like Upma. Only, it is twice cooked. First, the cream of rice is cooked with the tempering till it reaches the Upma consistency and then it is shaped in small balls and steam cooked for the second time.

The akki tari Upma and Kadubu tastes best if made with Avarekaalu or Hyacinth beans. If hyacinth beans are not available, then it can be substituted with equal amount of peas, pigeon peas or vegetables like carrot and french beans. 

This delicious mildly sweet and mildly spicy dish almost always takes me back to the village that I had visited as a little girl. I must have been eight or nine years old when we visited this quaint little village called EG halli (halli means village in Kannada). The purpose of our trip to this village was to see my paternal grand father's elder brother. I remember he was 90 plus years old and he was living in a rustic old mansion like house. Apart from that, I remember there were these teenage girls who used  travel to a town nearby to attend school. To me, that was an astonishing fact. Because, Prior to that, I had never heard of kids traveling to a different place just to attend school. Apart from this, one memory that has really stuck in my mind is the memory of the Akki tari kadubu that the lady of the house had made for us. The aroma of the avarekaalu (hyacinth bean) and clarified butter had sent my senses spinning. I think that was the moment when a upma hater like me turned into a Upma lover. Even after all these years, the scene of the Upittu being cooked on a rustic chulha (the brick and mortar stove) is still vivid in my mind. 

It's funny how you connect food with a particular time and place. Chances are, If it wasn't for this Akki tari KAdubu, I wouldn't have remembered this village or the rustic mansion or the grand old man who lived there. Do you have a food memory? IS there a dish from your childhood that takes you back to that time and place? Let me know in the comment section.

Akkitari upittu or Kadubu recipe:
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time: 20min
Serves- 4

Akki tari or Cream of rice- 120gm or 1 cup
Togari kaalu or pigeon peas- 1 cup, par boiled
Oil or ghee- 2tbsp
Mustrard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp, coarsely crushed
Bengal gram or chana dal- 1tsp
Black gram or Urad dal- 1tsp
Asafetida- a large pinch
Curry leaves- 8-10
Green chili- 1, finale chopped
Water- 2-1/2 cups
Freshly ground black pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste
Freshly grated Coconut- 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves- 3-4 tbsp

  • Dry roast the cream of rice till fragrant (don not let it turn brown) and set aside to cool.
  • Heat oil or ghee in thick bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds.
  • Once it sputters add the crushed cumin seeds, channa dal, urad dal and fry till the lentils are brown.
  • Add the asafetida, curry leaves and green chilies and fry till the curry leaves are crisp.
  • Add two and a half cups of water and allow the water to bring to a gentle boil. At this point, stir in the par boiled pigeon peas, coconut and the roasted cream of rice. Mix well and cook covered on low heat for 5-10mins or till the liquid is completely absorbed.
  • Add the coriander leaves and take off the heat.
  • Wet your hands in cold water and scoop out ping pong sized balls of the upittu and shape them into balls.
  • Arrange the balls in a greased pan and steam bake the upittu for 5-10 in a pressure cooker.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the dumplings to cool for five mins. Serve hot with ghee and chutney of your choice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gajar ka halwa

The past few days have been extremely hectic. With Purvi's holidays in full swing, I seem to be on my toes for some reason or the other. It has been extremely difficult to concentrate on the blog with my hyperactive toddler around. I have been so busy that I almost missed the important date. It was only a few minutes back that I realized that, today, is my blog's birthday!!! 

Oh yes!! It is my Blog Anniversary!!!!

I was about four years back that I started sharing my recipes and experiences on this virtual kitchen of mine. From that moment, to now, a lot has changed. Apart from the remarkable improvement in my cooking and baking skills, I am now able to explore the world of food with an open mind. What started off as a hobby to pass the time, is now a passion and a platform to express my thoughts. This journey wouldn't be possible if it weren't for my S's and my family's encouragement. And of course you lovely people who help me keep this blog running with your motivating words.

Every anniversary or birthday calls for a Sweet treat and what could be better than carrot halwa to celebrate the occasion. To be honest, I didn't make this for my blog's birthday. I had invited S's uncles and aunts for dinner a couple of days back, and I had served this halwa for dessert. Thankfully, I had managed to take some quick shots before serving. It is a lucky coincidence that I am getting to post this on this special occasion.

The gajar ka halwa was one of the first desserts that I learnt to make, post marriage. Like so many other dishes, S taught me the correct way to perfect the dessert. This method might seem tedious and time consuming. But one bite of this dessert and it will all seem worth it. Caramelized carrots that is laced with the aroma of ghee and spices is way too hard to resist. Isn't it?

Gajar ka halwa or carrot pudding recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Cooking time:1to1-1/2hrs
Serves- 4-6

Carrots- 1kg or about 10-12, peeled and grated
Clarified butter or ghee- 8tbsp+2tbsp
Milk- 500ml, boiled
Sugar- 200gms
Almond meal- 2tbsp (optional)
Cardamom- 6, deseeded and crushed to a fine powder
Freshly grated nutmeg- a pinch
Chopped cashew nuts- 1tbsp
Chopped almonds- 1tbsp
Pistachios- 1tbsp
Raisins- 1-1/2 tbsp

  • Heat a table spoon of ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the grated carrots and fry for 15 to 20mins or till the moisture from the carrots is completely evaporated.
  • Add the boiled milk to the carrot and cook on low heat stirring from time to time, till the carrots are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the sugar and the almond meal and mix till dissolved.
  • Stir in the ghee and increase the heat to medium and mix continuously for 20-30mins till the ghee separates and the carrots turn dark orange in color and glisten.
  • Stir in the cardamom and nutmeg at this point, mix well and take off the heat
  • Heat another tablespoon of ghee in another pan and add the chopped cashews and almonds, fry till they turn brown. Add the raisins and fry till they balloon up. 
  • Take off the heat and add the fried nuts and raisins and the pistachios to the prepared halwa, mix well and serve warm

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gyros- Greek style sandwich

Ohhhh these wraps are good!!! By good, I mean they are finger licking good. This recipe for the vegetarian version of the Greek gyros is adapted from the book called exciting vegetarian cuisine around the world by Asha Khatau. Although the recipe seemed great, I could not help but make a few changes to the recipe to suit my plate and my pantry requirements. 

Traditionally the gyro is made with meat that is cooked in a vertical spit. The cooked meat is then sandwiched between lettuce and vegetables and then topped with tzatziki. The salad and the meat are then placed in  pita bread. But in this vegetarian version, the meat is replaced with Paneer or cottage cheese which is marinated in a mixture of olive oil, garlic and Greek seasoning blend. Since I couldn't find Pita bread nearby, I decided to wrap them in whole wheat rotis. This gave a healthy twist to the Gyros.

The end result was just fantastic. The cottage cheese was soft and juicy with the marinated seasoning and then there were these crunchy vegetables from the salad. The tzatziki complimented the flavors beautifully. What's more?? I would definitely make this version of Gyros again and again. Do give this a try and let me know what you think.
Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Gyros recipe:
Preparation time: 30min+marination time.
Cooking time- 10min
Makes- 4 wraps

Whole wheat tortillas or rotis- 4 large
Lettuce leaves- 4-6
Onion- 1 med, thinly sliced
Shredded Purple or white cabbage- 3tbsp
Tomato- 1 large, chopped fine
Cucumber- 1med, thinly sliced
Tzatziki- 1 cup
Cottage cheese- 200gms, cubed
Greek style seasoning- 3/4tsp (recipe follows)
Garlic- 2 cloves, crushed
Vinegar- 1tsp
Olive oil- 1tbsp
Salt and pepper to taste

For the seasoning blend:
Paprika powder- 3/4tbsp
Cinnamon powder- a pinch
Nutmeg powder- a pinch
Onion powder- 1/2tbsp
Cumin powder- 1/4tsp
Mixed herbs- 1/2tsp
Salt- 1/2tsp
Freshly ground black Pepper- 1tsp

  • Combine all the ingredients and blend them in a blender or spice grinder to a fine powder and store in an air tight container.
  • Place the cottage cheese in a bowl, and sprinkle half a table spoon of the seasoning mix, crushed garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Mix well set aside for an hour.
  • Cook the mixture over medium heat till a little dry. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble the gyros:
  • Heat the tortillas or rotis slightly on a hot girdle and place it on a work surface. Place a lettuce leaf in the center of the tortillas and place 3-4 slices of cucumber on the lettuce.
  • Put some sliced onions, cabbage, chopped tomatoes and sprinkle some slat and pepper.
  • Spoon a table spoon of cottage cheese mixture over the sale and top it with tzatziki.
  • Roll up the tortilla into a cone and secure it with a tooth pick.
  • Serve immediately with tzatziki on the side

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