Monday, January 30, 2012

Hearts for Your Valentine / How to Sprinkle "Love" on Your Cakes

Valentine's day is just around the corner and you would like to make a pretty heart-shaped cake for your sweetheart. But you don't have a heart-shaped pan. No worries, just sprinkle some powdered sugar, sugar sprinkles or cocoa powder on your cake and there, love is all around!!

This is how you sprinkle "love":
If you are decorating a cake with icing, make sure the icing has set properly.
Take a parchment paper and cut out a heart-shaped design on it.

[Parchment paper  should be used because it sticks easily to the icing and can be peeled off easily too. If the cake does not have icing then you may have to grease the parchment cut-outs with a little oil or butter so that they stick easily to the cake].

Place either the heart design or the outline on the cake. In a small strainer, pour a little powdered sugar / coloured sugar crystles / cocoa powder (contrasting the colour of the cake / icing). Sprinkle on the cake.
[I circle the back of a spoon or fork in the strainer so that it doesn't fall all over. If you are using thicker sugar sprinkles that don't pass through a sieve, sprinkle them directly. Also, if you are sprinkling powdered sugar then do so just before you serve. If you refrigerate it, the powdered sugar will melt and disappear!!]

Remove the design and ta-da!!

You can decorate  a large cake with little hearts all over. You can even decorate your plates or cake-boards with designs of your choice. Go ahead, impress your Valentine!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homemade Ghee / How to make Ghee

This post is for those of you who (like me) have never made butter at home but would like to try your hand at making ghee. The ghee here is made with store-bought butter which comes in slabs or "sticks" as they call it here. Each stick is 1/2 a cup so I have totally used 2 cups (453g). You can easily reduce or increase the portions and the cooking time will vary accordingly. 
Also, the store-bought butter (ateast the ones we get here) don't leave behind as much residue as the homemade ones and it is easier to clean the pan once done. If you are using home-made butter you may want to use a kadai as opposed to the regular vessel I have used. Don't use high heat to quicken the process, the butter could burn and stubbornly stick to your pan.

2 cups (4 sticks, 453g) unsalted butter [I used Kirkland]

Method :
In a deep bottomed pan, melt butter on medium or medium low heat.

Once the butter melts completely you will see froth forming on top and you will hear hissing and crackling sound which will go on for a few minutes. Stir once in a while.

The milk solids will now start separating and the foam will start clearing. Stir every minute. Simmer. Watch carefully. After a few minutes, you will start getting a nice aroma and you will notice light to medium brown residue on the sides and bottom of the pan. [Scoop out some ghee from the bottom of the pan to check]. This means the ghee is done. Remove from flame when you see [and only after you see] this residue. Otherwise they will get darker and the ghee will also get darker and have a burnt smell.

Sometimes people add turmeric leaves for a nicer aroma and a pinch of salt towards the end so that the particles don't stick to the pan. 

Allow to cool a bit. Using a strainer transfer the ghee into a glass or steel container. [You may want to avoid plastic container if the ghee hasn't cooled completely. You can always transfer it once the ghee cools down]. Strain again if required.

The ghee will solidify in a few hours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kori Ghashi / Kori Rotti / Mangalore Chicken Curry

There are certain words which make a Mangalorean's ears perk up. "Gheeroast" and "Kori Rotti" are a couple of them. Ask any non-vegetarian Mangalorean what his favourite food is and kori rotti will probably feature in his top 5. 
Kori rotti essentially means chicken curry on rice rotis. The "Rottis" are thin crispy sheets made of rice which soak up the curry and turn deliciously soggy. Half the fun of having this curry is with the rottis - they are definitely a great accompaniment.
Previously I used to get rottis from India but I was elated to find them in an Indian store here in Sunnyvale. This is what rottis look like -

For the chicken curry recipe, I resorted to the internet and saw it featured on several websites. I read through the recipes and adjusted the spices as I was cooking. 

1 large onion
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1” cinnamon
4 to 5  cloves
3 to 4 cardamom
12 to 15 mild red chillies (byadgi / kumte mirsang)
2 tsp chopped ginger
4 to 5 chopped garlic
2 tbsp grated coconut
1/4 tsp haldi powder
1 marble-sized tamarind
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
Approx 1 kg chicken, skinned and chopped
Salt to taste
6 to 8 curry leaves

[ I used coconut milk from a can which is very thick. If you are using homemade coconut milk you may have to adjust it accordingly]

In a large deep bottomed pan, heat oil and sauté onions till they turn brownish. Remove half of the roasted onions and transfer to a blender. Keep the large pan aside.

In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Roast coriander seeds, jeera, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, red chillies, ginger, garlic and coconut on a low flame till they are lightly roasted and you get a nice aroma. Transfer this to the blender and grind along with the previously roasted 1/2 onion, haldi powder, tamarind, 1/4 cup coconut milk. Add about a cup of water little by little as you blend into a smooth paste - make sure the paste is smooth.

In the large pan (which already has 1/2 the roasted onions), pour this paste. Add chicken pieces and salt and mix well. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water and cook covered for about 40 minutes or till chicken is completely cooked. Add more water if required, adjust salt and cook for a few more minutes.

Season with curry leaves.

To serve, place the rottis on a plate, pour curry all over it, wait for a few seconds till the rottis get soggy and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gobi Masala

Today was one of those days when I had no idea what to cook for dinner till an hour before dinner. I'm sure a lot of you experience this. I opened the fridge half hoping to find a box of yummy Chinese food miraculously appearing out of nowehere but that wasn't to be. Instead I saw a cauliflower looking straight into my eyes, as if to remind me that it needs to be given attention to too. I first thought of doing the usually upkari with it, then thought of trying out gobi gheeroast  but was sure hubby and kiddo would find it too spicy. So I cut down the chillies, added some onions, garlic etc and made this simple gobi masala. It was already time for dinner by the time I finished, so I had less than a minute to click some decent pictures. I'm so not excited about clicking pictures of food at night. So these pics were taken half heartedly, with just a few seconds of work on it. Hopefully I'll be able to replace them with better pictures some day.

1 medium cauliflower
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
4 to 5 mild red chillies (I used byadgi / kumte mirsang)
6 to 8 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp tamarind
2 medium onions
1 tsp chopped garlic
5 to 6 garlic cloves
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato ketchup

Method :

Heat 1 tsp oil and roast jeera, coriander seeds and red chillies. Switch the gas off, add 2 to 3 curry leaves and haldi powder and mix. Allow to cool. Grind with tamarind and about 1/2 cup water to get a smooth paste. Add more water if needed.
Sprinkle about 1/2 cup water on the cauliflower florets and microwave for 3 minutes (mix once in between). Drain all the water.

In a large pan, heat oil + ghee. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger till onions turn brownish. Add green chillies and remaining curry leaves and roast. To this add the cauliflower florets and roast for a minute. Add the ground paste and salt to taste and mix well. Drizzle tomato ketchup and mix. Add more ketchup if the dish turns out too spicy. Cook for a couple of minutes. [Do not overcook, or else the cauliflower will lose it's crunchiness]. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve with chapati and curds.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sungta Ghashi ( Humman ) / Shrimps ( Prawns ) in Spicy Coconut Gravy

Being born and brought up in Mangalore, I've been an avid sea-food lover. I enjoy eating fish when it is cooked in typical "amchi" style and this particular dish is my all-time favourite. My mom makes sure a plate of hot steaming sungta ghashi is ready for me whenever I land in M'lore.
The hing (aesofotida) adds a punch to the prawns which are cooked in a spicy coconut gravy with a hint of tangy tamarind. A day old dish is always preferred since the prawns would have soaked in all the spices.

Approx 2 cups shrimps (45 to 50 medium sized), shelled and de-veined
1 ¼ cup grated coconut
10 to 15 red chillies, lightly roasted in oil (I added 14)
1 gooseberry-sized tamarind
2 tsp oil
1 tsp hing powder 

Grind coconut, chillies and tamarind with enough water (about 1 cup) and some salt to get a smooth paste. [Adjust the chillies according to your spice level]. The paste has to be spicy to accommodate the bland prawns.

In a deep-bottomed vessel, pour this paste and mix the prawns in it. Add more water and salt to taste and cook covered for 10 to 15 minutes. The shrimps will curl up and appear pink in colour. Switch the gas off.
Add oil and hing powder and mix well. Adjust salt according to your taste. I like this dish slightly spicy and very slightly salty as it will be an ideal combination with rice.

And by rice I mean "boiled" rice or "ukde sheeth". Seen in this picture is "kuthari brown rice" which I bought from an Indian store in Sunnyvale. Now all this plate needs is a piece of fried fish :)!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chocolate Balls / Cocoa Ladoos

Here's an easy-peasy chocolate ladoo recipe from Rekha Vishwanath Nayak, who posted it on a social networking site.

50 g butter (I used 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tin (400g) milkmaid [or any other condensed milk]
3/4 cup powdered sugar (add more for more sweetness)
Dry fruits (optional, I did not add)

In a deep bottomed pan, melt butter on medium heat. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Cook for 5 to 7  minutes on medium flame. Keep stirring as you cook, specially the last couple of minutes.

Switch the gas off and allow to cool completely.
Shape into balls.

Note: If you cook the mixture too long it can get dry after cooling so if you are not able to roll them into balls, you can make burfis out of them.
If you cook the mixture for a shorter time, after cooling it may be too soft to roll into balls. Try and roll them into balls anyway and refrigerate them, they will harden in a few hours.

These ladoos taste better after they have set properly so it will be a good idea to make them a few hours or a day in advance.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pindi Chana / Chole

I just love the colour of pindi chana. The deep dark colour that disguises the otherwise off-white garbanzo beans makes the dish even more appealing. An aunt suggested adding a tea bag while cooking the garbanzo beans for the darker colour. It indeed makes a difference. I went about with the rest of the dish just like I prepare chole, except that I did not add too much water for the gravy.

I used MDH chana masala powder for this dish. It contains dry mango and pomogrante seeds powder which give a nice tangy taste. If chana masala powder is not available you could replace with pomogranate seeds powder and  dry mango powder. If either of the two are not available I guess you could add some tamarind paste.

1 ½ cups chickpeas/ garbanzo beans / kabuli chana
1 or 2 tea bags*
2 bayleaves
1” stick cinnamon
3 to 4 cloves
2 large onions
2 tsp chopped ginger
1 or 2 green chillies, finely chopped
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½  to 1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp jeera powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp chana masala powder
1 large tomato
Corainder leaves for garnish

[*Be careful if you are using tea bags with staples]


Soak garbanzo beans completely in water for 6 to 8 hours (overnight).
Place tea bags on the chana and cook with enough water in a pressure cooker till completely cooked. Mix well.

Meanwhile, in a deep bottomed pan, heat oil. Add cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaves. Sauté onions till brownish. Add chopped ginger and green chillies and sauté. To this add the powders, some salt and roast well for a couple of minutes. Add tomato and roast till completely cooked.

Now add the cooked garbanzo beans along with the water used for cooking. Mix well and cook covered on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring in between. Add more water if required. Add salt and mix.
Garnish with coriander leaves.

Relish with puris, batura or chapatis.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eggless Almond Coconut Cookies

2011 has indeed been an eventful year for me. I did a few things I'd never dreamt of doing - wrote the 100th post in my blog, drove hundreds of miles on the freeway, ran a half marathon, learnt (a bit) of swimming, indulged in some water activities. If you ask me whether I want to live 2011 all over again, I'd say, hell yeah! But 2012 is already here bringing with it some new promises, a few challenges and lots of aspirations.

One more development that happened the previous year was I got a very good camera (thanks to my husband), so my pictures are getting better. I have started liking photography and love taking pictures of food. Previously, clicking pictures at night proved to be a challenge since taking close-up pictures meant having to tackle unnecessary shadows.

Coming to the cookies, these are a crispy crunchy lot with a delicate tinge of almond and a subtle flavour of coconut. These were actually supposed to be almond nankhatais. I was experimenting by adding almonds and coconut, with a few changes and substitutions (butter for ghee, sugar for powdered sugar). But the top did not crack like a good nankhatai's should, so I prefer calling them eggless cookies :).

1 cup almonds
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup grated coconut (not sweetened)
1 cup all purpose flour or maida
1/2 tsp baking soda

Grind the almonds (without water) for 15 to 20 seconds till they are powdered. [I did not soak them or skin them, so these are almonds with the skin].

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar with a fork or spoon. You can very well use your hands. The butter should be soft (need not be completely melted) so that you can mix it easily with the sugar. Add almond powder and coconut and mix well.
To this add the flour and baking soda and knead very well with your hands till you get a soft dough. Leave aside for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Scoop out tablespoon measures of the dough. Roll into a ball, flatten and place on the baking tray a couple of inches apart. Using a tablespoon each time will give you cookies of the same size.

Bake for about 16 minutes or till the edges turn brownish. The center will be soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes. The cookies will harden once they cool completely. This recipe yields 30 to 32 cookies.

More eggless cookies-
Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies
Eggless Oats Dates Cookies
Jeera Biscuits


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