Aug 6, 2009

Currant mystery

"A currant is a different variety of a raisin, right?" I would have answered in positive to the question. That is until Ezekiel J. Emanual wrote about them in the Atlantic, "I was told that we ignoramuses ... often confuse currants with Zante grape raisins. However, grapes are fruit that come from vines. Currants are berries that come from shrubs. Currants are only found in the Northern Hemisphere."

More about them at Wikipedia.

Jul 2, 2009

Ukadiche Modak

While I eat everything sweet, nothing compares to the pleasures of Ukadiche Modak! And nothing compares to those that my mom makes, weather in taste or aesthetics. Unfortunately, a busy schedule meant that they were made only on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. And we (mostly my dad and me) made sure we made the most of it! My Modak eating capabilities always amazed my mom, who worried about my everyday food intake. But that is a different story.

For now here is my mom's perfected recipe.

  • 1 cup fine rice flour
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups grated coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups grated jaggery
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1-2 finely grounded cardamom pods
Ukad: According to my mom, making a perfect ukad is in getting the timing right. So make sure to have a clock nearby. Add salt and cooking oil to 1 1/4 cups water and bring it to boil . When it starts boiling add the rice flour and poke it so that water seeps up through those holes. Let it boil well for 3 minutes. Then turn off the heat and place a lid on the vessel. Let it stay for around 4 minutes. Then stir it well, so that all the water and flour are mixed well. Close the lid again and let it cool. When it has cooled enough to touch, knead the ukad so that there are no lumps. Use water (just enough to wet your hand) if necessary. Set aside the ukad. Letting the ukad sit for a couple of hours makes the modaks softer.

Saran: Heat ghee in a skillet and add cardamom to it. Then add the grated coconut and stir for a few minutes. Mix in the jaggery and raisins, and stir so as to make it dry. Make sure to stir the mixture so that it does not stick to the bottom of the skillet. The saran should not be very dry as it will tear the covering. A standard measure would be to let it dry till the spoon can stand straight in it.

Modak: Oil your palms slightly. Take a small ball of the ukad and flatten it out gently and evenly. For beginners it is not necessary to flatten it out real thin, as handling a thinner papadi takes practice and precision. The intent here is to make small bowls with petal-like pattern. For this pinch the sides of the flattened out ukad. Add a spoonful (or as per size) of saran to this and gently close the petals while retaining their shape, so that the resulting shape is like a whole garlic. (See picture above.) Keep the modak wrapped in a soft moist cloth. Repeat for the remainder of the ukad.

Now take a pressure cooker or steamer vessel and line it with a soft moist cloth (a handkerchief works well.) Place the modaks in such vessel and cover them with remainder of the cloth. Now take sufficient water in the cooker or steamer and place the vessel in it. Steam it covered (without the whistle) for 10 minutes to the clock.

Serve hot modaks with ghee and enjoy a meal worthy of Gods.

May 18, 2009

Veggie patties

Anyone who has had a veggie/garden burger in the US would agree that they come as bland as bland could be. Infact the french fries are tastier than the burger. And so my mind wanders to the burgers mom made at home, or even the ones you get at Pune's Burger King. I have tried various versions of the veggie patties and some time back even had them as burgers with Whole Wheat English Muffins, some onions and tomatoes. And they packed more flavor than any of those you have to settle for at restaurants. You can even serve them as appetizers or snack with tea on a rainy day.

  • 2 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup grated beetroot
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped cabbage
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-3 finely chopped chilies (more if you like it really hot!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped Coriander/cilantro
  • 1 tsp garam masala (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Some Rava/soji to dip the pattie in
Pressure cook the potatoes. Also microwave the green peas for around 3-4 minutes so that they are soft. In a mixing bowl mix the grated carrots, beetroot, onion, cabbage and peas. (You can easily add or subtract any vegetables you prefer. I sometimes make these to finish off those small portions of leftover vegetables, and it works just as well.) Now add garlic, chilies, garam masal, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix it well. Then mash in the cooked potatoes and knead the mixture. If you intend to use these as patties for burgers, you might want to add more of all the spices, so that the flavors come through the bread just as well. Since I do not like things too hot, these proportions work perfectly for me even in a burger.

Now make medium sized flat balls of the dough and roll them in the rava/soji. In a pan sprinkle some oil, and pan fry the patties on medium heat until they are golden brown on each side. Since the veggies are mostly uncooked, frying them on medium heat will cook the veggies well at the same time not burning them. Another way to cook the patties (particularly if you are making them for more than four people) is to place them on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with some oil and bake them at 300 degrees for around 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve with some hot and spicy tomato ketchup and a cup of hot tea!

May 1, 2009

Fig n' Raisin muffin

As a kid I remember enjoying cupcakes (vati-cake) from the corner bakery. But over the years the quality reduced and it became a rarity in our house. However, the fascination for those soft and spongy no-fuss cupcakes continued. With continental changes, vocabulary changed and now those cupcakes have becomes muffins. So as I baked my first batch of muffins, childhood memories of that quick walk to the bakery with my dad, the excitement of finding a cupcake in the tiffin... came rushing back. And the fact that I was making them for a little girl made them even more special.

The recipe has been adapted from 'Food Network' to work with ingredients I already had, and the blueberries have been substituted with figs and raisins. This recipe makes eight muffins.

  • 3/4 of a stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup fig puree or jam
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 8 muffin liners

Soak 1/4 cup raisins in water. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar so that it is light and fluffy. If you are using fig jam you could reduce the amount of sugar to suit your taste. Now add one egg at a time and mix well. Then continue to mix in the sour cream and milk. After that sieve the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients. Make sure to mix it well so that no lumps remain. Now fold in the fig jam/puree. Also drain the raisins and fold them into the mixture gently. (You may choose to use other nuts or fresh fruits instead of the figs and raisins. They all taste equally amazing.)

Fill the muffin liners to the brink with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Enjoy your delicious warm muffin with milk or coffee.

Apr 20, 2009

Mango Cheesecake

I believe if you are a summer baby away from home (India) during mango season, a mango delicacy on your birthday surpasses any other lavish celebration you could have. And so the mango cheesecake, decadent as decadent could ever be, was my husband's b'day gift this year. I adapted the recipe from the 'New York Times Dessert Cookbook by Nigella Lawson', and it was the best cake I ever baked.

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 pounds cream cheese
  • 1 cups mango puree or 2 mangoes
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 1 tbps lime juice
  • 1 9 inch crust (I used the pre-made crust available in stores, but you could make it at home)
  • Icing and whipped cream for decorative purposes.

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Cut, peel and puree mangoes in a mixer or food processor. If mangoes are not readily, use canned puree. Since I am very picky about mangoes, I used the canned Alphonso mango puree you find in Indian grocery stores in the US. The flavor of the Alphonso makes the cake extra special. But you may choose to use any other type of mango.

Add the cream cheese to the puree and blend until smooth. I usually mix cake batter by hand, but it is necessary to use a mixer or food processor for this one due to the cream cheese that cannot be blended as well by hand. Once the cream cheese is smooth add the sugar and lime juice and blend further. Then add the eggs one at a time and mix it to a fine batter. The batter would not be as thick as regular cake batter, since we do not use any flour for this cake.

Pour the mixture in the crust and fill it up to the brim. This cake does not rise like a regular cake would, and sinks as it cools. Do not remove the aluminum foil around the crust since it is to be placed in a deep baking pan filled with hot water to about half way to the crust. Bake for about 50-55 minutes. Remove the cake from its water bath and let it cool completely. The cake will sink along the way. Once cooled, refrigerate it overnight or around 9-10 hours. The aluminum foil is easier to remove when the cake has been refrigerated.

You may use icing for decoration. I prefer not to. For well defined slices dip the knife in cold water before cutting. Serve the cake with some whipped cream on top and experience bliss.

Mar 5, 2009

Navratna Kurma

It can be difficult to come up with something new each time for frequent guests. I don't feel good repeating dishes, and it also gives me an reason to try out something new. So this time I decided to make one of my favorites, Navaratna Kurma. Kurma is generally believed to mean a slowly cooked curry. In the West it is used to mean a mild curry made with cream and dry fruits, but in southern India one can find examples of spicy kurmas. It has a rich creamy taste leaning slightly to the sweeter side, yet nothing you cannot make up for with a raita or dal. Also with the amount of vegetables that go into it, it is rather healthy.

This particular recipe is my version of the dish, and you can find many variations of it elsewhere online.

  • 3 medium tomatoes (pureed)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 capsicum (green, red, yellow - whichever you like)
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower
  • 1/3 cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup of (kasuri) meethi
  • 1/2 cut paneer
  • 1/4 cup of cashews + almonds + raisins
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2-3 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli powder (more if you like it spicy)
  • t tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp garlic
  • 1-2 tsp ginger
  • 2-3 cloves
  • A pinch of cardamom
  • 2-3 small pieces of Cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • Some coriander
  • Salt

Boil tomatoes till their skin is tender. Peal of skin to make puree. Add a quarter of the onion and some cashews into the mixer while making the puree. Heat oil in a skillet and add the cloves, cardamom, Cinnamon, bay leaf and dry fruits to it. Because the curry is slightly sweet, this mixture gives it the sweet n' spicy flavor without the sweetness. Then add ginger, garlic, coriander powder and turmeric. Fry the remainder of the onions till they are golden brown. Now add the puree and let it cook covered for a couple of minutes.

In another pan shallow fry cubes of paneer and set them aside. Once the puree starts to boil add the milk and let it come to a boil. You can also add some cream to make the curry richer. At this time add the garam masala and red chilli powder. Then add the vegetables. If necessary add some water or milk to help the vegetables cook. You can steam you vegetables in advance, but I like to cook them in the puree so that they take in all the spices and flavors.Once the vegetables are tender and the curry has thickened, add the fried panner and let it cook for another couple of minutes. Add salt to taste. And a pinch of sugar to balance it all.

Sprinkle coriander on the Navaratna Kurma and serve hot with poli, puri or naan.