Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nosh on Nan Khatai - Indian Eggless Cookies

Can you hear me?.......I am whispering in a low pitched voice since the kids are napping. I want them to continue to nap for another hour as I have gathered the ingredients to bake this melt in the mouth Indian cookie - nan khatai. It is a quite Sunday afternoon in my house since the kids have gone down for a nap. Oh guess what? their dad nodded off while patting them to sleep. The ingredients on the kitchen counter are ready to take a leap into the mixing bowl, rest in the refrigerator and bake up in the oven. Oh boy, I should admit I enjoy occasional solitude when I can measure and mix with composure.

I was introduced to this cookie by my friend whom we meet regularly for play dates. I saw my little girl gorge quite a few cookies in her house that evening. With so much excitement being shown towards this sweet treat by my little girl I obtained the recipe from my friend, but never attempted to bake it until today. I prefer to stay away from the oven when my little darlings are around knowing them for their mischievous moves. Today I am baking nan khatai for the first time with a few tweaks of my own. The Sunday evening tea will be accompanied with mouth watering nan khatai and jubilant faces. I cannot wait for my little girl to taste these cookies and say "Um mm Um mm Um mm deeeeeelishun".

Nan khatai is a popular tea time snack originally from Surat, Gujarat. It is an egg less cookie using ghee (clarified butter) instead of butter to give a rich texture and flavor. It gets a big thumbs up from lacto vegetarians since they consume diary products but refrain from eggs. This cookie is very versatile as it accommodates any nuts and toppings. In this recipe I have used cocoa powder to make chocolate nan khatai and it is taking an entry into Kitchen Corners December cook off - Giving Cookie. A few of these cookies are boxed for a sweet friend while the rest are to be relished by my family.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour/maida
  • 1/2 cup fine sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

  • Sieve all purpose flour/maida, baking power, baking soda and salt into the mixing bowl.
  • Add sugar and milk.
  • While adding the ghee little at a time, start kneading the ingredients into a smooth pliable dough without any cracks.
  • Remove 1/4 portion of the dough and knead in cocoa powder.
  • Cover both the doughs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degree F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Divide both the doughs into 10 equal portions.
  • Roll each portion into tubes with 1:3 proportion (chocolate to unflavored) of same lengths.The chocolate tube will be thinner than the unflavored tube.
  • Roughly braid the tubes and roll the dough in your hands until the doughs swirl. Flatten them between palms, the center being slightly thicker than the edges.
  • Bake them in the preheated oven for about 13 to 15 minutes.
  • When they are out of the oven, arrange them on a cooling rack to bring it to room temperature.
  • Store it in an air tight container for several days.

As soon as the kids and their dad woke up, the aroma of freshly baked cookies brought them straight to the kitchen. We all devoured the cookies right from the cooling rack. Just a few leftover cookies to box for a weekday evening snack while the already boxed ones are reaching my friend in a day or two.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Atte Mane Avalakki(Poha) Bisi Bele Bath

Marriages are made in heaven!!!

A wedding anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of now, the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow. 

It was the summer of 2001, when a phone call on a quite Sunday afternoon brought this wedding proposal my way. This is the scenario of an arranged marriage, where the wedding alliance is brought forward by the elders of the house. It is customary for the elders to introduce their son or daughter to a potential spouse. Since the families are new to each other, they meet with the bride and groom present. From there on, it is up to the future bride and groom to exchange their views to give consent for future relationship.  Similarly the groom's family visited us over evening tea with the photo of the groom since he lived overseas. After about a month I made my first conversation with the future groom over the phone. His voice was exquisite and full toned. He added humor to every topic of discussion keeping the conversation enchanting. This man whom I had not met made me feel jubilant in the first talk. The phone call swept me off my feet and I knew this is the man I wanted to spend rest of  my life.

The summer had passed by, with exchange of emails and phone calls with this person. On a casual September day there came a magnificent proposal from the groom with a bouquet of flowers and  lovely words asking me to marry him. With my heart pounding, a little anxiety but lots of joy I received the package. Was there a chance of rejection from my side?......No way. I had long decided he was the one for me, the man who was convivial and companionable in our first talk.  We agreed to tie the nuptial knot two months later when my fiance would fly down for the ceremony. I often visited his parents and at the very first visit my mother-in-law made this ambrosial bisi bele bath with avalakki(Poha).  Since it is a tradition for the bride not to eat rice before the wedding in her in-laws house she used avalakki(Poha) instead of rice. Atte Mane in my regional language means mother-in-laws house, from which this dish gets its name in my blog. It was so delectable, I still reminisce the bisi bele bath and the time spent with my in-laws. I put together this gratifying dish in my kitchen on our anniversary to educe the memories from my past.

This is a wholesome one pot meal. It has protein from the lentils, carbohydrates from the avalakki(Poha), vitamins and minerals from the vegetables. It will grace the taste buds to the last spoonful.

1 cup thick avalakki(poha) available at Indian supermarkets
1/2 cup Toovar dal available at Indian supermarkets
Small lemon size tamarind
3 cups mixed vegetables cut lengthwise(carrots, beans, potato, peas, lima beans)

4 tablespoons bisi bele bath powder (Recipe follows)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water to boil vegetables

For Bisi Bele Bath Powder:
The powder can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container.
The powder is also readily available at Indian supermarkets by popular brand names like MTR.

2 tablespoons urad dal
2 tablespoons chana dal
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup dried red chillies
1/2 teaspoon methi(fenugreek) seeds
1/4 teaspoon hing(asafetodia)
1 inch piece cinnamon
2 cloves
2 cardamoms
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup dry coconut powder
1 teaspoon oil

Fry all the above ingredients in oil except coconut powder. When the dals are golden brown turn off the stove and add dry coconut powder. Mix well and allow it to cool completely and powder in a mixer or spice mill.

For Seasoning:
1 tablespoon ghee(clarified butter)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon hing(asafetodia)
2 tablespoons peanuts
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 sprig curry leaves

Pressure cook toovar dal in 1 1/2 cups of water with a pinch of turmeric..
Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup water for 15 minutes. Squeeze out the juice and set aside. If using ready tamarind paste measure 1/2 tablespoon.
Soak thick avalakki(poha) for about 15 minutes in water. Water should just cover the avalakki(poha). Drain the water and set it aside.
In a pan bring 2 cups of water to boil and add the mixed vegetables with a pinch of salt.
Cover the lid and cook until they are 3/4th done. Add cooked toovar dal and squeezed tamarind juice or ready tamarind paste.
Mix the bisi bele bath powder in little water and pour it into the vegetable dal mixture. This will avoid lumps of the powder in the hot mixture.
Let it simmer for about 5 minutes with the lid open. If there is excess water let it simmer for a few more minutes.
Add avalakki(poha) and mix it together. The avalakki(poha) will be done in about 8 minutes.
Stir in frequent intervals to make sure the vegetable, dal and avalakki(poha) are not stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add salt to taste.
In a small kadai heat ghee(clarified butter).
Add mustard seeds and hing. When they splutter add cashew nuts, peanuts and curry leaves.
When the cashew nuts are golden brown and peanuts open up, pour the seasoning over the bisi bele bath.
Remove it off the heat and keep it covered for 5 minutes. Let the flavors blend into each other.
Now have a ball serving a ladle of bisi bele

A toast to our coming together and living together with love and joy. Today, with two adorable kids, who are the apple of our eyes "Marriages are made in heaven" has given a true meaning to our lives.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Noble Napoleon

Happy Birthday to a fine man
I am lucky you are my man!!!

It is the dawn of another beautiful day. As I opened my eyes to the rays of the morning sun peeking through my bedroom window, the warm and tender sunlight felt surreal and filled my heart with joy. "Good morning" to a day packed with celebrations. I softly whispered in his ears "happy birthday dear" . With his eyes still shut but a smile on his lips as radiant as the sun, he whispered back "thank you and happy deepavali to you". A lot of boiling, baking, steaming and simmering to be done yet the morning feels mystical.

After a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I am taking a plunge to put together a delectable deepavali meal. Along with an authentic festive menu I am whipping up a dessert exclusively for my hubby's birthday. I am taking him on a quick dash to the french land for dessert. No, he does not have to beat the traffic to get to the airport nor experience jet lag. He will savor the classic french dessert "Mille feuille" from the comfort of our dinning room. I am making caramelized pear and walnut Napoleon. A noble dessert for my noble man.

Mille-feuille is the french name for a Napoleon dessert meaning "a thousand leaves" accurately describing the layers of puff pastry sheets. Traditionally, a Mille-feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry, alternating with two layers of cream patisserie or whipped cream. The top is glazed with icing in alternating white and brown stripes and combed. But it is also made with a lot of variations to suit the palate. It can have a fruit filling, jam, preserves, whipped cream or custard mixed with nuts.

Puff pastry:
1 puff pastry sheet thawed(I used Pepperidge Farm)

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface.
Cut the puff pastry sheet into 3 strips along the folded marks. Cut each strip into 2 rectangles.
Lay them on a baking sheet and pierce the sheet with a fork at one inch intervals to keep the dough from puffing too much.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Chop the walnuts to the consistency of rough crumbs.
Place them in a bowl.
Melt butter on low heat and pour over the walnuts.
Sprinkle both sugar and cinnamon over the walnuts.
Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 400 degrees F for 5 to 7 minutes, until darkened and lightly caramelized.
Set aside to cool.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds Bosc pears, cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 6 large or 8 small)
Melt the butter with both the sugars in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced pears.
Cook until pears are just tender and juices thicken to a syrup consistency, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the whipping bowl and beater in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill.
Begin whipping the heavy cream in the chilled bowl using the electric hand mixer on a slow speed.
Add sugar, vanilla extract and gradually increase the speed to medium.
When soft peaks have formed stop whipping.
Over whipping will turn the cream into butter.
A wire whisk can be used instead of the electric mixer to get the same results.
Place a puff pastry rectangle in the center of a serving plate.
Top with a few pears, whipped cream and walnut pieces.
On top of the filling place another pastry rectangle.
Top with pears, whipped cream and walnut pieces.
End the assembly with a pastry rectangle.
Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and chocolate shavings.
After devouring this Napoleon it was hard for us to distinguish which was the best part of the dessert. The flaky puff pastry, the sweet caramelized pear, the crunchy walnuts and the light and fluffy whipped cream all worked together for our taste buds to feel ecstatic.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tempting Tomato Rice

A few weeks ago I saw bones, skulls, cob webs everywhere, but the onset of November has brought colorful lights, glittering ornaments and sweet scented candles to sight. The holiday season has set in and so has the cold weather. I have sent all my Capri's, tanks and flip flops for hibernation and the warm jackets, sweaters and boots that were in aestivation are brimming my wardrobe.

The skies have been gray with a heavy downpour. The cold weather gives me cuddle time with my little ones on my couch, watching their favorite shows "Handy Manny" and "Jungle Junction", which makes me fall in love with this weather.  I would ideally have them run and play outdoors but mother nature does not permit this year round. I guess it is her plan to give this mother more time for couch cuddling.  So I let their brains play with some educational cartoons during this time. The tools in Handy Manny ate all their vegetables and with my inquiry for their dinner choice, pop came the answer "Tomato". I browsed through my brain to search for recipes with tomato for dinner.  As my taste buds were also craving for something spicy and tangy "Tomato Rice" was the search result of brain browsing. 
The source of this recipe is Mallika Badrinath's "100 Rice Delights",  however I make it with my own tweaks.

1 cup basmati rice
1 cup chopped onions
3 cups tomatoes 
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 green bell pepper sliced
1/2 red bell pepper sliced
Salt to taste

For Seasoning:
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon urad Dal
1/2 teaspoon chana Dal
1 tablespoon broken cashew nuts 

For Grinding: 
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 teaspoon turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 inch cinnamon piece 
2 cardamoms
2 cloves
3 green chilies

Pressure cook 1 cup basmati rice with 1 1/2 cups of water.
Allow it to cool completely.
In a large pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil.
Add mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal and cashew nut pieces.
When the mustard seeds have spluttered, the dals and cashew nut pieces have turned golden add finely chopped onions.
Sauté the onions until transparent, then add finely chopped tomatoes. Close the lid and allow the tomatoes to become soft and pulpy.
Load the blender with grated coconut, onions, turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon piece, cardamoms, cloves and green chillies.
Add very little water and turn the blender on. Keep adding water as necessary to make a smooth paste.
Now add the ground paste to the pulpy tomatoes and keep the lid open. 
The water evaporates and the mixture reduces to a thick consistency.

When the ground masala is added

After about 30 minutes

It takes about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in between to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan.
When all the water has evaporated, add cooked and cooled basmati rice.
Add salt to taste.  
Garnish with bell peppers and tomatoes.
This rice has so many flavors in itself, I serve it with plain non fat yogurt.

I cook, serve and savor this rice with mirth every time. The tanginess from the tomatoes and the flavor from the spices do linger for long on the taste buds. This is a satisfying main course for the winter months.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Piquant Pudina(Mint) Pulav

The Breeze is cool
The flowers are still in bloom
The leaves are yellow and red
Almost ready to shed

Fall is that time of the year when nature puts on a brilliant show of  colors.  It is the transition time from long summer days to cold winter nights. It is the way nature acquaints us to store and save for the winter.

Today, the kids are having a blast soaking themselves in water, playing in their water table, as I am soaking myself in the fall season. I am invigorated  with the melody of the chirping birds heading home, the sweet scent of the flowers in my garden, the vibrant colors of the leaves and the cool evening breeze caressing me. With this beautiful picture painted in my mind, I am heading towards my kitchen to make a meal as kaleidoscopic as the fall season. I am making pudina(mint) pulav.  It is served with raita, a yogurt side dish. The pulav is topped with caramelized onions to add a hint of sweetness in every bite. 

Ingredients for Pulav:
Basmati Rice                           1 cup
Water                                       2  cups
Oil                                            2 tablespoons
Mustard seeds                         1 teaspoon
Bay leaves                               4
Turmeric                                  1 teaspoon
Onions chopped                      1/2 cup
(Carrots, Beans, Potatoes
and Peas)                                 2 cups
Garlic                                        2 cloves
Ginger                                      1 inch piece
Pudina(mint) chopped              1/4 cup
Chopped cilantro                      1/4 cup
Green chillies                            3
Grated coconut                        1/2 cup
Garam Masala                          2 teaspoons
Salt                                           2 teaspoons

Pressure cooker:
In a pressure cooker, steam one cup basmati rice with two cups of water up to 3 whistles.
Allow it to cool completely.

Put garlic, ginger, pudina(mint), cilantro, green chillies and grated coconut into the blender.
With minimum water start grinding it to a paste. Add water as necessary to make it a smooth paste.

Chop carrots, beans and potatoes lengthwise.
In a large pan heat oil and add mustard seeds.
Allow it to splutter. Add bay leaves and turmeric.
Add chopped onions and saute until transparent.
Now add the vegetables and saute for a minute or two.
Sprinkle some salt and cover the lid.
The vegetables will soften from the steam.
Stir frequently to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
If it is sticking sprinkle water and close the lid.
When the vegetables are 3/4 cooked, add the ground paste and keep the lid open.
The water has to evaporate and the masala needs to stick to the vegetables.       
Once all the water is evaporated add prepared basmati rice. 
Gently mix the rice and vegetables to coat with masala.
Add salt and garam masala. 
By now the kitchen is filled with the flavorful aroma and your taste buds cannot wait to relish it.
Do it a favor by tasting the pulav for salt and adjust the taste.

Ingredients for Raita:
Yogurt                    1 cup
Water                     1/4 cup
Onion                      2 tablespoons
Tomato                   1/4 cup
Green chillies          2
Cilantro                   1 tablespoon
Salt                         1 teaspoon

Whisk the yogurt in a bowl with water.
Add fine chopped onions, tomatoes and slit green chillies to the yogurt.
Season with salt and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Ingredients for garnish:
Olive Oil                  2 tablespoons
Sliced onions          1 cup
Onion ring               1
Cucumber               3 pieces
Pudina(mint)           3-4 leaves

Heat oil in a wide bottomed pan for maximum contact of the onions with heat.
Add sliced onions and saute for a minute.
Turn the heat to medium and let the onions caramelize.
Onions are naturally sweet, the process of caramelizing pulls out the intense flavor and sweetness from it.
Stir the onions around every 3-4 minutes to give every slice a chance to brown.
It takes about 12-15 minutes.

 Serving suggestion:
Lightly brush a ramekin or any small bowl  with oil.
Fill it with pulav till top and level it.
Invert the ramekin or bowl on to the serving plate.
The oil with help the pulav slide easily onto the plate holding the shape.
Place an onion ring on it and fill the ring with caramelized onions and pudina(mint).
Serve with raita and cucumber slices.  

This  pulav is flavorful, aromatic, colorful and a blithe to the eyes and taste buds. While the pudina(mint) endows to the freshness of the pulav, the garlic and cilantro contribute the sweet aroma. The ginger adds zest and heat along with the chillies.

Linking This Post to Vegetarian Foodie Fridays #29

Cook's Nook

"Its the cook's nook"  october carnival at The Keybunch. What a great opportunity to spectacle my kitchen, the niche where all the delectable dishes make way to my blog. This is my entry to "Its the cook's nook" by
Kitchen is the heart of every household. This nook of the house nourishes us and helps us grow.  Traditionally, we humans have five senses - they're smell, hearing, vision, touch and taste. But only two of these senses are based on chemicals - smell and taste. Smell and taste let us sample the chemicals around us for information. But smell is different from all the other senses in a very special way. The aroma from the food could unleash a flood of memories from our distant past, that are so intense and striking that they seem real. It creates memories and feelings that we treasure our entire lives. Here are a few pictures of this nook in my house:

Complete look of the nook

Another view of the nook
Chopping and dicing nook

Nourishing nook

Cleansing nook

Monday, October 18, 2010

Green Goddess Salad Dressing on Tomatoes

 "Cook better to look better" was the theme of the show  on "Healthy Appetite". This is one of my favorite shows on cooking channel with Ellie Krieger as the show host. Ellie is a renowned registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications.  I am delighted by the way she explains her ingredients and its nutrition. It makes me eat healthy all day. This show airs at 8:30 AM and makes it hard for me to watch with my busy morning schedule. This morning was unusually peaceful with my daughter off to preschool and my son still in bed(yes, we are a family of night owls, very rarely are we early birds) I treated myself with some TV time.  The green goddess dressing was an elation to the eye and I wanted my taste buds to feel the same. I decided to make this refreshing salad for dinner.

The smooth creamy texture of the dressing is educed  by the avocado and buttermilk. Avocado is a lush fruit with more than 25 essential nutrients. Even though it is high in fat it has a number of health benefits. Did you know it can be used as a beauty aid?. Mashed avocado when applied on dry skin moisturizes it with a healthy glow. Why not eat it and enhance the beauty from inside out?

The recipe uses tarragon as flavoring for the dressing. The flavor of tarragon is like a middle child, sandwiched between the assertive winter herb rosemary and basil, the darling of summer.  Tarragon is called the "King of Herbs" by the French, as it is the main flavoring in many of the sauces that form the foundation of classic French cuisine. It is found in the produce section of the supermarket perched with other fresh herbs.

Ingredients for the dressing:
Ripe Avocado
cored and peeled                  1/2    
 Low fat buttermilk                 3/4 cup
White wine vinegar                3 Table spoons
Fresh tarragon leaves            2 Table spoons
(Green and white parts)        1 Sprig
Salt                                        1/2 Tea spoon
Ground black pepper             1/4 Tea spoon

Ingredients for the Salad:
Tomato        5 numbers

For the Dressing:
       Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Leftover dressing can remain in the refrigerator for 2-3 days in air tight container.

For the Salad:
     Dice tomatoes into bite size pieces and put them in a large bowl. Pour dressing over the tomatoes. Toss them together and serve.

      The rich creamy texture from the dressing and the sweetness from the tomatoes is a feast in the mouth. While the little taste buds relished a few licks of the dressing at the dinner table, older taste buds enjoyed the refreshing salad.