Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy Microwave Kalakand

Remember the incredible 3-ingredient dessert I posted sometime back? An easy version of Mishti Doi which is still one of my favourite desserts to make and eat, specially considering a prep time of under 5 minutes.
So here's one more. Just two major ingredients that come together in under 20 minutes to create a delicious sweet that unmistakably reminds you of your local sweet shop back in India. A couple more added ingredients for flavour and appeal and you are dun duna dun done.

I first came across this recipe on Sandeepa's blog when I was blog-hopping about 3 years back, and marvelled at how easy things could be, if you wanted them to. My husband loves Kalakand and he was the one who introduced it to me, soon after we got married. There was a sweet shop close to our place in Malleswaram, and whenever we would visit someone in B'lore we would drive a mile down the road, I would hop into this store and order a pound or two of Kalakand to go. So when I saw the recipe, trying it out sounded like fun. No kids or worries then, and I had nothing much to do anyway.

So I went to the nearest Safeway and got some ricotta cheese, without having any idea what it was. Turned out to be our very own paneer with a creamy consistency packaged in a cool container. Really?? And all this while I thought 'cottage cheese' was paneer. (Cottage cheese doesn't taste anything like paneer, btw). I guess you could substitute crumbled paneer if ricotta isn't available, but I haven't tried.

The experiment turned out fine and luckily for me, my microwave is on a table and not above the stove like you see in most kitchens here, so I did not have to stretch while stirring. If your microwave is on top, be careful while stirring or just use your oven-mitts to bring the vessel to the counter-top to mix it each time.

Recently a friend of mine, Keerthi, made this sweet using low-fat condensed milk and part-skim ricotta cheese (plus some milk powder) so if you want to feel less guilty, that works as well.

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
About 2 tbsp chopped almonds / pistachios

In a large bowl empty out the can of condensed milk. Add ricotta cheese little by little and mix well with a whisk.
Lightly grease a large microwave safe dish [preferably rectagular] with ghee. Pour the mixture into this.

Microwave (uncovered) as per below :

Microwave for 5 minutes. Stir well.
Microwave 5 more minutes. Stir well.
Microwave 2 more minutes. Stir well.
Microwave 2 more minutes. Stir well.
Microwave 1 more minute. Stir well.
Microwave 1 more minute. Stir well.
Microwave an additional 1 or 2 minutes, stirring after every minute.

[So totally, microwave for 17 to 18 minutes. The time may vary depending on your microwave and the type of container you use].

The reason you keep stirring in between is that the sides can get burnt  because of uneven heating in the microwave. Specially towards the end, stir every minute. The mixture should appear dry, but still have some moisture.

After removing from the microwave, sprinkle cardamom powder, mix well and spread the mixture across the dish. With the back of a spatula, press it down. Allow to cool for atleast half an hour. Cut into squares / rectangles/ diamonds [do not remove yet]. Leave aside for another 30 to 50 mts, till it sets well. Remove, transfer to a container and refrigerate.

Before serving, sprinkle chopped nuts on top. Tastes great without nuts  too!

Easy to make, easy to transport, a great solution if you have to return someone's container (exactly the reason why I made it this time) - with Diwali not too far away, this sweet deserves a shot, what say!?

This goes to bookmarked recipes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Egg Biryani

Biryani is one of my most favourite meals. I absolutely drool over chicken biryani and love eating it while watching any favourite show on tv! Today I made egg biryani for my husband's potluck party in his office.
A few years back a friend had given me a basic recipe for biryani. Over the years I tweaked it and tried to bring in new flavours. Star anise, for example, lends a great flavour to your rice, so try to get your hand on it.  Also, fried onions add a distinct taste to the biryani, so if you can forget about counting calories for a meal, go for it. However, the ingredient that lends the most flavour is ghee. Go a little liberal on ghee and your biryani will smell and taste great!
This recipe is almost a one-pot meal - the rice is not cooked separately. I actually prefer this method since I feel it captures the flavours better and brings all the elements together. The eggs are, ofcourse, boiled separately.
Before you start making biryani, or any other flavoured rice for that matter, soak the rice completely in water for 20 to 30 mts. This way the rice will not break when you mix it and the grains will look longer.

Ingredients :
5 boiled eggs, shelled and halved
2 cups basmati rice (uncooked)
2 bay leaves
1" piece cinnamon
4 cardamom
4 cloves
1 small star anise
2 large onions
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
3/4 cup corainder leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves (pudina)
3 to 4 green chillies, roughly chopped
1/4 cup yogurt
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala powder

Method :
Soak basmati rice in water for atleast 30 minutes. [At this point you can start chopping your onions etc and start cooking so by the time you get to the point where you have to add rice, it will be atleast 30 mts].
In a large deep-bottomed pan, heat oil + ghee. Add bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Add chopped onions and ginger garlic paste and sauté until onion turns brownish.
Meanwhile grind corainder leaves, mint leaves, green chillies and yogurt into a paste (without water). Add this paste to the onions and roast for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add chopped tomatoes and sauté till tomatoes are completely cooked.
Sprinkle turmeric powder, garam masala powder and chilli powder (adjust according your spice level) and mix well.
Drain the water out of the rice completely and add. Roast the rice for half a minute. Now add 3 1/4 cup hot water. [If you did not pre-soak the rice, add 4 cups water].
Add salt and mix [it has to be slighlty salty to accommodate the rice].
Cover, turn the flame to medium and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. The rice should be about 95% cooked. [Check after 9 to 10 minutes, if you feel the bottom is likely to burn, add a few tablespoons of water. If you are not comfortable cooking this way, you can use a rice cooker or pressure cooker].
Turn the gas off, mix gently, cover and leave untouched for another 10 minutes till the rice is completely cooked.

At this point you can add the boiled eggs and serve. Or you can spice up the eggs a little bit.

To do that, in a bowl mix 1 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala powder and 1 pinch turmeric powder. Add 1 tsp ginger garlic paste, 2 tbsp yogurt and salt to taste and mix well.
Heat oil in a wide skillet. Dip eggs in the above mixture and roast for few minutes on both sides.

Serving suggestion :
Take a large microwave-safe bowl. Spread some rice at the bottom. Layer with a few egg halves. Layer with rest of the rice. Place the remaining eggs on top. Garnish with 1/2 cup of fried onions and 2 tbsp coriander leaves. You can also drizzle some saffron water on top.

This goes to Bookmarked Recipes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nankhatai / Narayan Katar / Eggless Cookies

My first memories of nankhatais are of the store-bought ones which used to be hard to bite into and that's how I thought nankhatais should be. Then my aunt started making them. Melt-in-the-mouth goodies with a subtle tinge of  golden brown on the otherwise off-white outsides which would assure you that they are baked just a minute longer - exactly the way I love them. During my last India trip my aunt packed some nankhatais for me to take to my in-laws' place. Guess who ended up eating most of them - ME!

My aunt gave me the recipe of these lovelies in grams for about 7 dozen of them! I did some rough conversions, scaled down the proportions and came up with the following cup measures. Luckily they came pretty close to how my aunt makes them but still need some tweaking.

Ingredients :
1 1/4 cup maida (all purpose flour)
3 tbsp besan (gram flour. If not available, replace with maida)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (packed) powdered sugar
6 to 7 tbsp (little less than 1/2 cup) fairly hot ghee
1/2 tsp cardamom  powder

Method :
Combine maida, besan and baking soda. Use a large sieve to sift them.
To the above, add powdered sugar and cardomom powder and mix well. Add ghee little by little and knead into a dough.  If it is difficult to knead, just push the dough to the side of the vessel, press with your palm and knead.

[The ghee should be hot but shouldn't burn your fingers. Do not pour ghee all at once. Add about a tablespoon at a time and knead into a dough. If the dough turns out too sticky you can refrigerate it for half an hour.]

Keep aside for about an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Make equal sized balls of the dough [ I used a table spoon measure to make the balls, that way you can make them equal sized].
Place on the parchment paper atleast 2 inches apart. Flatten a little [flatter ones have a better texture compared to round ones].
Bake for 19 to 20 minutes. Makes about 18 cookies.

Next time I meet Nandini Pachi, I'm going to get the exact cup measures of these beauties. Until then, enjoy these!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Baby / Toddler Food - Khichdi

Two years back at this time when I introduced my son to vegetables, I was indeed fortunate that he took to them easily. Now that he has grown up a little bit and has experienced tastier food in life (read chocolates, chips and cheese), it can sometimes be a challenge to make the vegetables look good. However, he seems to like khichdi and eats it with (usually) no fuss. Is it the ghee, I wonder. No complaints there. Ghee is good, say the elders and don't hesitate to drizzle a generous amount on baby food. I have to admit ghee adds a great flavour to this dish, which otherwise can be pretty bland with just rice, dal and some veggies thrown in.  After my son was comfortable with spices in his food, I started adding some of them. I sometimes add roasted whole jeera, powdered ajwain etc.You may want to avoid the spices if your baby is too small. Also, If your baby is not able to bite properly, mash well before feeding.

Ingredients :
[This quantity usually lasts him for two meals.]

1/4 cup rice (uncooked)
2 tbsp moong dal
1/2 cup chopped carrots / beans / frozen (cooked) green peas, thawed or a combination of veggies of your choice
2 tsp ghee
1 pinch turmeric (optional)
1/4 tsp jeera powder (optional)
1 pinch chilli powder (optional)
[Adjust the spices according to your child's preference]

Method :
Combine all the ingredients and add 2 cups water. Cook in a pressure cooker for 3 to 4 whistles or until completely cooked.

Drizzle some more ghee on top if desired.


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