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

Monday, July 14, 2014

Apple and strawberry crumble with condensed milk

I sometimes feel that both S and I have impulse control issues when it comes to buying fruits and seasonal vegetables. There are times when we both end up buying the same kind of fruits and vegetables. If there are times when we have excess of fruits in the pantry then they end up in custard or fruit salad. But this one time, we ended up having two boxes of strawberries in the refrigerator.  But this time I was tempted to do something different. Since it was a weekend, I decided to try this warm dessert for the Saturday night dinner.

This crumble is absolutely divine. The combination of the sweet apples with the tart strawberries is just heavenly. The hint of lemon mellows the sweetness, and the cinnamon adds a warm flavor.  Now coming to the almond topping, all I can say is that, it just increases the flavor of the dessert by many folds. It gives a nutty and biscuit-like texture to the dessert.

Traditionally, condensed milk is not used in making crumble. But this twist adds a delicious caramel flavor, that goes extremely well with apples and strawberries. Yes. It does make the dessert look unattractive and messy. But taste wise, it was so delicious, that the dessert disappeared in 30min flat. That's how good it was.

Apple and strawberry crumble with condensed milk recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Baking time: 35-40min
Serves- 4

Apples- 3, peeled, cored and cubed
Strawberries- 200gms, washed hulls and quartered.
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Cinnamon powder- 1/2tsp+1/2tsp
Condensed milk- 200gms
Cold Butter- 5tbsp+1tbsp
Almond meal- 1/2 cup
Old fashioned oats- 2tbsp
All purpose flour- 1/4 cup
Icing sugar- 1tbsp
Slivered almonds for garnish- 1tbsp (optional)

  • Mix the Cubed apples, strawberries and lemon juice an oven proof dish and mix all to combine. 
  • Mix together 1tbsp of butter with the condensed milk in a non stick pan and heat the mixture on a low flame for two to three mins. Remove from heat and stir in half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and allow the mixture to cool completely. 
  • Pour the condensed milk mixture over the apples and strawberry mixture and spread it evenly.
  • In a bowl, mix the almond meal, oats, all purpose flour, sugar and the other half tea spoon of cinnamon powder and mix well.
  • Rub the cold butter into the almond-flour mixture and mix till the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  • Sprinkle the almond-flour mixture generously over the apple strawberry mixture, so as to cover completely.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven at 180C for 35-40min or till the crumble topping turns golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hesaru bele Payasa- Moong dal kheer

Since the past two weeks, my other half has been under the weather. My poor husband has contracted some kind of throat infection that simply refuses to go away. He has been coughing incessantly, and no amount antibiotics, and home remedies seem to be working on him.  Things got from bad to worse when the throat infection led to a fever. And all of that on his birthday. What should have been a grand celebration, turned out to be a quite birthday dinner at home.

When I asked him what he wanted me to make for his birthday, his response was, "make bisi bele bhat and payasa (kheer)", he said.  Since the Birthday boy wanted Payasa, then it had to be payasa. Payasa happens to be one of S's all time favorite desserts. He goes ga ga over any kind of kheer. After a lot of thought I decided to make moong dal kheer because, it is simple to make yet it is extremely nutritious. Apart from that it tastes absolutely Divine. What's not to like about this dessert?

Moong dal kheer is a warm dessert that is just perfect for the cold seasons. It is one of those dishes that is sure to warm you up from the first sip. This dessert is all about simple ingredients like Split yellow lentils, coconut milk, milk, jaggery and nuts and a hint of fragrant spices like cardamom and nutmeg. 

The great thing about this dessert is that it does not have any hard and fast rules. Just follow your taste buds and vary the recipe as you like. You can make this dish as rich or as fat free as you like. 

This method of making moong dal kheer may appear a little time consuming to you. But one spoonful of this pudding will make all the effort worthwhile. This Payasa is one of the desserts that doesn't make you feel guilty even after you have had a cup too many. It leaves you feeling of warm contentment. Just the way, food should make you feel.

Moong dal kheer recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 20min
Serves- 4-6

Moong dal or split yellow lentils- 120gms
Coconut milk- 400ml
Water- 1/2 cup
Milk- 400ml
Jaggery- 160gms
Salt- a tiny pinch
Milk powder- 2tbsps (optional)
Freshly grated coconut- 3 tbsps
Freshly grated nutmeg- a pinch
Cardamom powder- 1/2 tsp
Mixed nuts like cashews, almonds and pistachios- 2tbsp, toasted and powdered (optional)

  • Dry roast the lentils in a wok till brown and fragrant. Take off the heat, wash well and drain.
  • Combine the toasted Moong dal along with the coconut milk and water in a thick bottomed vessel and allow the lentils to cook on medium high flame for 20-25min or till the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are cooked.
  • Add the milk, salt and allow the mixture to simmer for 15mins. Stir in the jaggery, milk powder and the grated coconut and mix till the jaggery melts and the mixture thickens.
  • Stir in the powdered nuts, Nutmeg and cardamom, mix well and serve immediately.
  • For a vegan version, you can substitute the milk with coconut milk.
  • You can omit the powdered nuts and use chopped cashews and raisins that are fried in ghee as garnish.
  • The addition of milk powder is optional. But I felt that the addition gave the kheer an extra rich flavor.
  • Edible camphor can also be used to flavor this payasa.
  • The kheer might seem a little runny to you in the beginning, but it will thicken once it cools.
This warm dessert of mine will be a part of My legume love affair# 73 which was started by Susan and now run by Lisa and hosted by Radhika of foodfor7stagesoflife

This dessert will also be a part of hearth and soul blog hop that is hosted by April harris of 21stcenturyhoueswife.com

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


A few days back, S brought a large pack of reek yo hurt instead of the normal yogurt. He said he wanted to have that thick yogurt with rice. But unfortunately for S, the yogurt was way too thick for rice. After a look of at the yogurt, my naive husband, promptly asked me to serve the home made yogurt to go with rice. Since the extremely thick, creamy yogurt couldn't go with rice, I began to think of other ways to use up the yogurt. Some of it was used to spread on toasts. Some of it was used in smoothies and the rest was used up in making this dip.

Tzatziki is perhaps one of the best and easiest condiments to have in the fridge. All you require is some greek yogurt or hung curd. Some chopped cucumber and some herbs of your choice, some oil and garlic and ta-dah, the delicious herb is ready!! To me this is a great alternative to mayonnaise.

This dip is more like a blank canvas as there are perhaps a hundred variations to make this dip. There are recipes that call for herbs like thyme and marjoram to flavor this dip. There are others that do not use any herbs except mint. But I personally prefer the flavors of both mint and dill in this dip. Traditional Tzatziki recipes even use a dash of lemon juice. But I omitted it because the yogurt was already a little sour.

I feel that tzaziki tastes even better a day after it is made. Since the flavors of the garlic and the herbs are better infused in the yogurt, it makes the dip absolutely irresistible. 

Tzatziki is a good dip to have around as it tastes great with just about everything, from salads to burgers to sandwiches.  

Tzatziki recipe:
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time- nil
Makes- 1-1/2 cups

Greek yogurt- 1 cup or 250ml, whisked
Cucumber- 1large, grated
Dill leaves- 1tbsp
Mint leaves- 1tbsp
Olive oil- 1tbsp
Garlic- 1 small clove, crushed
Salt- 1/2 tsp+ a pinch
Pepper- 1/4tsp or to taste

  • Add a pinch of salt to the grated cucumber and set aside for 10min. Squeeze out the water from the cucumber and seer aside.
  • Add the crushed garlic and the chopped herbs to the cucumber, add the yogurt and mix well. 
  • Pour the olive oil while mixing continuously. Add the salt and pepper and chill.
  • Serve tzatziki with crisp pita bread or use it as a filling in sandwiches and rolls.
  • If you do not have greek yogurt on hand, then you can make your own by draining full fat yogurt in a metal strainer lined with cheese cloth, for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
  • You can add a dash of lemon juice or vinegar if you like sour taste in the dip.
  • A tea spoon of parsley leaves can be used to garnish the tzatziki.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pav bhaji

Pav bhaji is nothing but a mish mash of vegetables that is simmered in onion and tomato sauce and spiked with a wide variety of spices. To me, the Pav bhaji is much much more than just a snack or a fast food. It is a quick meal that can be made in a hurry or that can be grabbed on the go. It is that perfect combo meal of butter toasted rolls and a vegetable gravy which again has oodles of butter? Still with me?? Good!!

This dish almost always takes me back to my growing years in Bellary. My sister and I would frequent this fast food joint. This joint was actually a small push cart with "Himalaya Paani-Puriwala" written in bold letters. To us girls, he made the best street food in the world. Even to this day, I cannot think of anyone else who makes a better kachori chaat than he does. Apart from his Kachori chaat, one thing that we really enjoyed was his Pav bhaji. 

The memory of "bhaiyya" (that's what we called him) making the bhaji and toasting the rolls on a huge skillet is still fresh in my memory. First he would place this skillet which was at least a foot and a half in diameter on a kerosene stove and add a very large dollop of butter. Then went the vegetables and then went this pre made sauce. We would watch in awe as bhaiyya mashed the vegetables and the curry changed color right before our eyes. Then he would tear a packet of rolls, slit them and slather them with butter. And these rolls would be roasted on the same skillet along side the bhaji. To me, it was nothing short of magic. All my senses would come alive and by the time the pav bhaji would be served, we would be salivating.

As I said earlier, to me Pav bhaji is a full meal. I normally make Pav bhaji for dinner and round it off with a huge glass of lassi. If you think the quantity of the bhaji is a little too much, then do not fret. Because they taste even more delicious the next day. With enhanced flavors, they can be eaten either with rotis or sandwiched between two slices of bread. The recipe that I share today was given to me by a friend in Dar. I have made quite a few changes to her recipe. I have made this quite a few times and it has always been a hit with my family and friends. I really do hope you like it!!

Pav bhaji recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 25min
Serves- 4

Ingredients for the bhaji:
Butter- 3tbsp
Onion- 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger- garlic paste- 1tsp
Potatoes- 2 large, peeled and cubed
Carrot- 1, large, peeled and cubed
French beans- 10, chopped
Cauliflower- about 12-15 florets
Peas- 1/2 cup
Bell pepper- 1 small, finely chopped
Tomato- 3, 1 finely chopped and two pureed
Salt- to taste
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric- 1/4tsp
Paprika powder- 1tsp
Pav bhaji masala- 1tbsp
Black salt- 1/2tsp
coriander leaves to garnish

For the Pav:
8-10 ladi pavs
Butter to toast the pavs
Pav bhaji masala - optional

To serve:
One large onion- finely chopped
Coriander leaves to garnish- 1tbsp
Lemons- 2 chopped into wedges

For the bhaji-

  • Heat butter in a thick bottomed pan and add the chopped onion. Once it turns transcluscent, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry till the raw smell goes.
  • Add the potatoes, carrots, beans and peas and fry till they are tender.
  • Stir in the Cauliflower florets, chopped bell pepper, salt, sugar, turmeric and paprika powder and sauté for 3-4mins more.
  • Add the chopped tomato and tomato puree, mix well, add two and a half cups of water and cook covered till the vegetables are completely cooked.
  • Mash the mixture with potato masher. Add the pac bhaji masala and black salt and mash some more.
  • Allow the bhaji to simmer for five more mins. If you feel the mixture is thick then add half cup of water and allow the mixture to cook for two mins more.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with toasted PAv
For the Pav:
  • Slit the Pavs vertically and spread butter generously on the insides of the bread.
  • Place the pac buttered side down on a pre heated skillet and toast till brown and crisp.
  • Turn the pac and toast on the other side as well. Use more butter if required.

To serve:
  • Place a cup of bhaji, two toasted Pavs, chopped onions and lemon wedges on a plate.
  • Top the bhaji with extra butter and pav bhaji masala if required and garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chunky Minestrone Soup

It's winter in my part of the world. The days are shrouded in fog and mist and the nights are chilly and dry. These days, you can find me drinking piping hot rasam Rather than eating it with rice. Evenings are spent curling up on my favorite couch and sipping on coffee or tea. Apart from all these, I am constant looking out for recipes that will warm up my cockles. This soup was a result of one of those searches.

The minestrone soup which literally means "big soup" is one of those classic winter soups that will instantly warm you up to the bones. A tomato based soup, that can be made without any set recipe. Yes!! It's true. Just throw in a lot of veggies and beans and some pasta into the tomato broth and soup is done. Isn't that simple? I think with this soup, you can't really go wrong. The only thing you have to pay attention to, is not let the vegetables get mushy. They have to be tender but never over cooked.

The best part about this soup is that, you can vary the vegetables that go into it. Don't be afraid to include left over greens or beans into it. This soup is a great way to empty the vegetable bin in the refrigerator.

Since this soup is filled with vegetables, cheese, beans, and pasta, it can make a complete meal all by itself. Just pair this with some sliders or any crusty bread and I assure you. You will the most hearty and a nourishing meal ever.

Chunky Minestrone Soup recipe:
Preparation time: 20 min
Cooking time: 15mins
Serves- 4

Macaroni or fussili pasta- 2tbsps, cooked and drained
Olive oil- 2tbsps
Bay leaf- 1
Onion- 1 med, finely chopped
Garlic- 2 cloves, crushed
Tomato- 1 med, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Black Pepper powder- 1/4 tsp
Paprika powder- 1/2tsp
Tomato puree- 1/2 cup
Carrot- 1 small, cut into cubes
French beans- 3-4, cut into cubes
Finely chopped Cabbage- 2tbsp
Red Kidney beans- 3tbsp, cooked and drained
Sweet corn kernels- 2tbsps
Red, yellow or green bell peppers- 2 tbsp, diced
Dried mixed herbs- 1/4tsp
Parmesan cheese to garnish

  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the bay leaf and the chopped onions and fry till the onion turns pink.
  • Add the crushed garlic and fry till the raw smell goes. Stir in the chopped tomato and fry for a min till it turns soft.
  • Add the salt, pepper, Paprika powder and the chopped vegetables and fry for two mins more. Add half a cup of water and allow the vegetables to cook till tender.
  • Stir in the red kidney beans, sweet corn kernels and the tomato puree and allow the mixture to cook for 3-4min more.
  • Add the cooked pasta and cook for a minute more and take off the heat.
  • Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
  • If you feel that the soup is a little too thick, then add more water or stock till you get the desired consistency.
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