Vishu and Paal payasam

Vishu is celebrated in Kerala to welcome the Malayalam New Year. It is celebrated wearing new clothes, a humongous feast and fireworks. Vishu normally falls on April 14 but this year it is celebrated on 15th as the equinox occurs late on 14th. Vishu starts with a Vishukkani, a display of fruits, vegetables, rice, mirror, coins, a piece of new cloth, jewels and bunches of a special yellow flower known as ‘Konna’. This is placed with the statue of Lord Krishna and all members of the house should have a first look at this display when they wake up in the morning. It is supposed to bring prosperity and a bounty to the farming community.

1 vishuThis is my last year’s Vishukkani  as I will set up this year’s Kani tonight for tomorrow morning’s first sight. It is normally the mother who blindfolds her children with her hands and guides them to see the Kani, after she lights the oil lamp in front of the deity. On the day of Vishu, elder family members give a gift of coins known as Vishu kaineetam to young children. Money and new clothes are given to all workers in the household as gift. Then, during midday there is a grand lunch called Sadhya, a feast with multiple curries. There is a particular way in which different curries are to be served on the banana leaf. The last item of the feast is a sweet dessert called Payasam. Milk payasam, a liquid pudding made with rice and milk is a special treat for the day.

At night there will be a colouful display of fireworks from every house. There are also community celebration with cultural entertainments in Hindu temples.

1 sadhyaIn the feast served on banana leaf, there will be bitter, salty, sour and sweet dishes to symbolically represent what life would give forth.

1 paysm Paal payasam
Any Sadhya is not complete without a payasam, the classic Kerala dessert. Milk payasam is a ‘Naivedyam’ in most Krishna temples like Guruvayoor and Ambalapuzha. I have a very easy Paal payasam made in a pressure cooker to celebrate this festival. This payasam is done with simple ingredients and it is simmered to perfection when one is busy making all the other items of the feast.
Ingredients
• 2 cups milk
• 2 tbsp raw rice
• ½ cup sugar
• A pinch of salt
• 1 cardamom

1. Wash rice, drain and pulse it in a mixer to break it coarsely.
2. In a pressure cooker, add milk, broken rice, sugar, salt and cardamom.
3. Mix well and put it on a stove and let it steam.
4. Put the weight on the pressure cooker.
5. After 1 whistle, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
6. When it cools, open the lid and serve.

1 pal paisamYou may garnish it with cashew or raisins but it tastes fabulous even without it. Enjoy this creamy payasam in individual cups.

1 palHave a Happy Vishu!

 

Posted in Dessert, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Photography Styling Challenge

I was fascinated by this challenge and joined this month.

My pictures are here.

Please feel free to comment, as that will help me to improve my observation and look at the world with better eyes.

 

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Methi Poori/Fenugreek leaves poori

Methi Poori for a special kick!

Poori is a fried flat bread. Poori is slowly disappearing from our family food chart as it is deep fried and poses unwanted health questions. I am strictly prohibited from eating them by family law and I have restraining orders from frying them too. But, I totally adore them. It is a culinary delight to watch them puffing up in hot oil.

Normally, Poori is made with whole wheat flour, salt and water and fried in vegetable oil. This recipe is a gentle twist on common Poori in an effort to make it a wee bit guilt-free. If adding some greens is a good excuse to call them healthy, then fall in line with me. Breaking a family rules is not a big deal to gobble these plumped up beauties. Oil does help us to grease those hardworking joints…right! And, I used multigrain, whole wheat flour…phew! So let’s go and fry!

1pooriIngredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (multigrain)
  • ¼ cup dried methi leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • water to knead
  • vegetable oil to fry
  1. Coarsely powder dry methi leaves in a blender.
  2. In a mixing bowl add flour, salt, baking powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, crushed methi leaves and knead using water to make a stiff dough.
  3. Make small plum sized balls of dough and roll it into circles.
  4. Use oil instead of flour while rolling.
  5. Heat oil to a smoking point and carefully immerse a rolled poori.
  6. With a slotted spoon pour oil on the upper side until it puffs up.
  7. Turn to the other side and fry till it is slightly browned.
  8. Lift it out of the oil and hold it above the oil to drain.
  9. Put it on a paper towel to drain completely.
  10. Serve it hot with potato masala.

1pAs I mention in my previous post, Poori with potato masala (recipe here) is the right food combination. A side dish of chick pea curry or vegetable korma is an accepted alternative too.

1 pp

My son has his ingenious way of eating hot Poori. He pokes a hole in the puffed Poori and adds sugar into it and sweetens its interior by shaking and spreading. Then he rolls it up to take sweet bites from it. It tastes biscuit-like with the sugar on fried wheat flour.

Posted in Breakfast, Fried, Main dish, Not just for kids, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Potato masala/ Poori masala

Yellow potato curry!

I am going back to some basics in Indian cooking. When mashed potatoes decide to have a good time with onion and some simple spices, this potato masala is born. It is the best curry to escort Poori to its glory. They seem like a couple made for each other.  Well, I have had this combination since I laid my little hands on the first Poori in my life. Many more Poories later, including the huge ones in restaurants, I am not yet tired of this partnership. Mostly all over the country when Poories are fried, potato masala is a steady companion. Poori is a flat bread that puffs up when fried in hot oil (obviously…my next post!).

This is a humble curry so cheerful, reminding me of Indian summers and when I make such bright curries my tongue tastes a piece of my home town. Turmeric is the secret behind the flashy display. There is a freshness and earthy feel to this curry…maybe because all main ingredients onion, potato, ginger and turmeric grow underground. (I am patting my shoulder for that great discovery…hehe).

1 pmsl

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (any vegetable oil)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp urad dhal (split and husked, black lentil)
  • 1tsp fennel seeds
  • 1tbsp channa dhal (split and husked chickpeas)
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • salt as needed
  • coriander leaves to garnish
  1. Boil washed potatoes with skin and cook till soft. (To check, pierce a potato with a knife and it should pass without resistance if cooked.)
  2. After they cool, peel the skin.
  3. Heat oil in a pan and when it is very hot add mustard seeds to crackle.
  4. Add urad dhal, channa dhal, fennel seeds and saute till they are fried.
  5. Next add curry leaves, slit green chillies, chopped ginger, sliced onions and fry till onions are transparent.
  6. Mash cooked potatoes roughly so there are some lumps.
  7. Add this to the ingredients in the pan.
  8. Mix everything pouring a cup of water and boil well.
  9. Add salt and turmeric powder as needed.
  10. Garnish with coriander leaves

IMG_7392 IMG_7399When very little water is added a drier masala is got. This mixture is used as a filling in potato bonda and in masala dosa.

potatoSometimes as a variation, I add grated carrots or peas while sauteing onions. Addition of chopped tomatoes when the curry is boiling makes it tastier.

 

Posted in Curry, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pepper chicken/Chicken masala

Hot hot chicken!

This is a Kerala recipe and a special guest post. The preparation was entirely by my husband who has the right to declare himself as the meat chef at home. He inherited some culinary skills and has the urge to put them to use at least once in a week. Good for me! After a week’s busy schedules, he enjoys cooking on weekends as it is relaxing for him and therapeutic for me. If there are guests, he would cook all non-vegetarian dishes to make my work bearable. Thanks, hun!

Chicken has lost its spell on him because he was brainwashed by my daughter, who degrades it as a factory meat. But he eats chicken occasionally…when there is no other alternatives. My husband is not reluctant to eat anything that runs for its life! I was mortified to watch him eat game meat from the restaurant rightly named ‘Carnivore’, in Nairobi. I have sat there helplessly herbivorous, eating salad and potatoes when the others savoured fine cuts of meat from Gazelle, Warthog, Zebra or Crocodile, barbequed to an irresistible glaze.

A menu from Carnivore.

Above is a menu in Carnivore (from Google). Hartebeest and Eland are huge deers and they have to procure a hunting license to bring game meat to the table. Don’t miss the vegetarian column being almost blank…but they offer something for basic survival. On a table in this picture, do you notice a food label, ‘Crocodile in the sky’? What the heck is that!

Okay, back to chicken, basically it is very popular as a versatile, white meat that makes cooking easy and speedy. It has the goodness of protein and minerals and can be a healthy choice if it is a road runner aka county chicken.

This pepper chicken is a great recipe with the combination of common ingredients that my husband whipped up with his paternal info and some research. A little gravy makes it perfect for chappati. When fried dry, it can complement rice and curry for a scrumptious dinner.

1 chi

Ingredients

• 1 large chicken (1½ kilo) cut into medium size pieces

Marinade
• 1 tsp coarsely crushed pepper powder
• 1 tbsp lemon juice
• Salt

marinated chicken

Marinate chicken with pepper, lemon juice and salt.

Clean chicken and marinate it with pepper, lemon juice and salt. Set it aside for 1/2 an hour to add flavour as the marinade penetrates and tenderises.

Spicy masala

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions sliced
  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 3 green chillies slit
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel
  • 1½ tbsp chicken masala/garam masala
  • Curry leaves
  • Salt

 

  1. Heat coconut oil in a heavy bottom pan and add sliced onion and brown it. (This adds colour.)
  2. Add few curry leaves and ginger garlic paste and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Stir well and add pepper powder, turmeric powder, crushed fennel and chicken masala.
  4. Mix well and add marinated chicken pieces.
  5. Cook chicken in its own juice on medium heat.
  6. Cover the pan with a lid.
  7. Check in between and stir it to cook well.
  8. Allow all water to evaporate or to the right consistency.
  9. Let it rest a while and serve it hot.

1 boil

1 chickThis spicy chicken is a fuss-free recipe, easy to prepare and has a heady flavour of pepper. If recovering from a cold and flu, pepper chicken will trigger and wake up the senses of taste and smell. From the look and smell of it, I assume, it is terrific! It was approved by the maker!

 

Posted in Curry, Non-vegetarian, Side dish, Stir fry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Muffin/Carrot cranberry oatmeal muffin

Rise and shine muffins!

1 titleI was introduced to muffins in Canada, especially after becoming a Tim Hortons’ customer.  They keep adding new varieties and get everyone hooked to muffins. I like their Blueberry muffins with berry goodness, fluffy texture and humongous size.

On long distance drives, I normally buy muffins as they are gentle on my stomach and avoids me from emergency stops. They are very handy as travel food, individually wrapped and convenient. I can use it as a filler snack or an all day breakfast (when others in my company grab their meaty bites). When I realised it was quite easy to make, I started travelling with home made muffins. Makes eating delightful!

1 four This is a modified version of ‘Canadian Living’ recipe as I have added oatmeal and adjusted some ingredients like reducing flour and increasing sugar(oh yeah, makes it tastier).

Ingredients

  • 1-cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1-½ cups carrots, shredded
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  1.  In a large mixing bowl, add all purpose flour, wheat flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  2. Mix them with a wire whisk.
  3. In another bowl beat eggs and add milk, yogurt and oil.
  4. Pour this into the dry ingredients and add dried cranberries, shredded carrots and mix everything gently.
  5. Take a muffin pan and insert paper liners. (It is easier to remove muffins from pan if liners are used.)
  6. Spoon muffin mixture into cups filling 3/4 of each cup.
  7. Preheat oven to 375° F
  8. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-25 minutes until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

1mu

1 mufThese ingredients yield 12 large muffins. I approve it as a wonderful balanced breakfast. Store them for a week in the refrigerator if they last that long! 1 Indulging in a spongy, nutritious muffins is a part of my travel routine! On a cold day trip, muffin with coffee is all I need for a smiley face!

Posted in Baked, Breakfast, Dessert, Not just for kids, Pack-and-go lunch, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Mushroom Samosas/Vegetable Samosa

Snack time!

I was feeling bored! Bored like there was nothing to do…uninterested in everything and was stuck in a vacuum. I was just drifting through life..merely existing rather than living! If you live far North, you will know what this long terrible Winter will do to your body, spirit and emotions.

Spring has started officially but it is still snowing…Ah, this weather is too tiring! Hope nature is listening to all our sighs and will puts forth some colours into our ashen cold days!

So I made Samosas…to add a little crunch to a dull day.

1 sSamosas remind me of my aunt and our private outings. I was around 8 years when my aunt used to take me to watch movies almost every weekend. My mother doesn’t like watching movies (I still wonder why!) but her sister, my aunt was a jolly good woman. She would leave her nagging kids with my mother to get her dose of fiction and fantasy. As she needs a side kick, she would take me. We had to walk (saving bus fare!) a good 2 km to Central Theater to watch Malayalam movies playing as morning show.

After half the show there is always an interval for 15 minutes and vendors bring in trays of hot samosas. They were stuffed with an assortment of vegetables cooked in a blend of  spices. She would invariably treat me with one, for being glued to the screen and not disturbing her with questions. The taste of those samosas still linger in my mouth. It would be oily, cooked in some crappy little tea shop, but it tasted fantastic!

The last part of the movie would turn into serious twists and I completely concentrate on the crispy, spicy delight for a long time and wouldn’t get affected by the climax or heart wrenching tragedy being enacted. I have totally forgotten most of the movies but the aroma of those Samosas still float in my memory. I love how food tastefully reconnects us to many past events.

It was back in the good old days where everything was a bit better, when we recall. Honestly, I have not eaten such tasty Samosas again in my life. I have tried Samosas at various other places in vain…nothing could match it! I think they have disappeared with things that were a lot more genuine and close to heart.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • a pinch soda bicarb (baking soda)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil for frying and rolling
  • flour for dusting
  1. Mix baking soda and salt with flour.
  2. Knead flour with lemon juice and enough water to make a stiff dough.
  3. Set it aside for a few minutes covered with a moist tea towel.
  4. To make the samosa wrapper, make small balls out of the dough.
  5. Flatten them into almost similar circular discs.
  6. Spread oil on one and dust flour on it.
  7. Stick the other disc on it and stretch to make it match with the other.
  8. Dust flour and roll it into a larger round. (This helps thinning the wrapper.)
  9. Keep it moist in a closed container and make more wrappers with the dough.
  10. Heat a griddle and warm the rolled double wrappers.
  11. Separate them gently when still warm.Samosa1
  12. Stack two wrappers and using a knife cut in the center and trim off the edges to get almost rectangular pieces.
  13. Take one piece and fold it extending above for closing the pocket.
  14. Fold the other side to the center to create a ‘V’ shape.
  15. Flip to the other side and check to see if there are pieces extending that can close the pocket. (I realized that making the fold on the shorter side leaves a better edge to seal.)

Samosa pocketMushroom stuffing

  • 2 medium onion
  • 4 cups chopped mushroom
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt
  1. Heat a pan and heat oil.
  2. Add fennel seeds and sliced onion.
  3. Fry until golden brown and add ginger garlic paste and saute.
  4. Add chopped mushroom and saute till it is soft.
  5. Chop tomatoes into tiny pieces and add to it.
  6. Add salt and garam masala.
  7. Saute until all water evaporates and get a dry mixture and cool it.

IMG_6864Frying Samosas

  1. Fill the stuffing in each pocket and stick all the free edges using water and set aside for them to stick well.
  2. Heat oil in a wok and put many samosas into it.
  3. When blisters appear and they crisp up slightly remove them from the oil and put them in a colander to drain excess oil.
  4. Do this with all the samosas. (This stops them from getting extra puffy.)
  5. Heat oil to a smoking point and re-fry small batches of samosas.
  6. Drain oil on a paper towel and serve them hot.  1 ssOne cup flour make about 28 Samosas that are very crunchy. Fry the chopped off pieces in oil for some crispy fries.

1ssaIf storing them, do it after the first quick frying. Drain excess oil and arrange them on a tray and freeze. Then put the frozen Samosas in a zip lock bag and store it in freezer to be fried later when you need them.

Posted in Fried, Not just for kids, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Cauliflower and peas curry

Spicy vegetable curry

1 cauliflowerWhen everyday cooking takes a toll on my imagination, I go blank very often and look for some inspiration in my cook books. I wrote down this recipe from a woman’s magazine many years back. It is a rich, creamy curry with cauliflower and peas that has made repeated appearance in my kitchen. The infamous stinky cauliflower transforms into an aromatic delicacy when fried in ghee. That changes this dish into something incredible making any cauliflower hater fall head over heels, when the smell wafts in the air. It is my ‘go to’ recipe when I have guests because it is a suitable curry to go with any flat bread.

1 cuIngredients

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 8-10 cashew nuts
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 piece cinnamon
  • 2 green cardamons
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • coriander leaves to garnish
  1. Wash and cut cauliflower into small florets.
  2. Grind poppy seeds and cashew nuts to a paste adding water.
  3. Powder cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
  4. Fry onion till golden brown.
  5. Add curd to fried onion and grind to a fine paste.
  6. Fry cauliflower florets in ghee till light brown in colour.
  7. In a heavy bottom pan add 1 tbsp oil and splutter cumin seeds in hot oil.
  8. Add ginger, red chilli powder, spice powder and stir well.
  9. Immediately add fried cauliflower and peas to the pan.
  10. Mix well adding onion paste and cook for 5 minutes covered.
  11. Add poppy & cashew nut paste.
  12. Wait for all the spices to blend into a thick gravy.
  13. Simmer the curry for 5 minutes adding enough water.
  14. Turn off heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

1 cauliflower peas

Cook cauliflower and peas until they are soft but still retaining their shape.

Posted in Curry, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Home & Garden Show

It was inspiring to walk through this year’s International Home and Garden show at Toronto Convention Center. I was able to learn a few things and got a lot of ideas. If you are interested in home improvement you would like these.

chesscompetitiongarden show1broom livinglandscape

outdoor

Outdoor seating

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Swiss roll/ sponge cake/ Japanese cake

Chocolate rolls

When I was young, my dad used to come home for tea and bring a variety of cakes from a bakery near our house. He brings jam rolls often and I have marveled at its softness that melts in my mouth. I cannot count how many times I have smacked my lips and licked my fingers enjoying a swiss roll. (That is how my dentist grew rich, fixing my tooth cavities but allowing me to keep my sweet tooth intact.)

1cho

I never tried making sponge cakes before, fearing there is a higher difficulty level to obtain that texture. I imagined the result cannot be achieved in my little kitchen and it may need some industrial baking tools. I had a wish to try it though!

When I saw beautiful patterns on jam rolls, making it more appealing, my urge to make it  increased. I have been sleeping on this idea for quite some time and suddenly thought, I should give it a shot! What is life if we don’t throw in a little challenge now and then? My interest was renewed when I watched a beautiful video on swiss rolls.

I adapted the sponge cake recipe from japanese roll cake/swiss roll, thanking her for the clear, elegant presentation. The result was exactly the way it should be and I was spell bound by the spongy texture. I had to convert all the ingredients into my comfortable cup measurements. And only 2 eggs!…I couldn’t believe it as I have seen recipes with four and six eggs to make sponge cakes. Encouraged by this simple recipe with just 4 ingredients, I set sailing.

The design on the underside of the cake was an extra detail I added, being a little crafty! Instead of jam, store bought chocolate frosting is used, so I renamed it as chocolate roll. I am a chocoholic, no doubt!

Cake batter for drawing a pattern

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 drops of green food colour

IMG_5918

  1. Draw a patter on a paper and place it in a baking tray. (I used a square tray.)
  2. Lay parchment paper inside the tray and cut the corner to fit it in.
  3. Mix butter, sugar, egg white and flour in a bowl.
  4. Take a small part of it and add green colour or any fancy colour.
  5. Add cocoa powder to the remaining  larger part.
  6. Fill two piping bags with the colours and pipe pattern slowly on the parchment paper. (I removed the paper to a flat surface so it is easier to move around and trace the design with the coloured cake batter.)
  7. Put this in the baking tray and allow it to set in a refrigerator so it will not spread when sponge cake batter is added.

1 pattenSkipping this part is no big crime! The cake tastes great with or without it!

Ingredients for sponge cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sifted sugar powder (icing sugar is fine)
  • 1/4 cup cake flour (I used all purpose flour)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  1. 1 swiss rollBeat the eggs and powdered sugar with a wire whisk.
  2. Place it on hot water and whisk to dissolve the sugar and warm it slightly. (Remember we don’t want sweet scrambled eggs.)
  3. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer for 5 minutes on high speed for it to turn fluffy.
  4. Then beat for 2 minutes on low speed to foam.
  5. Add sifted cake flour and fold in gently about 10 times with a spatula.
  6. Fold for about 50 times after adding milk.
  7. Remove baking tray from refrigerator and pour the batter into it.
  8. Spread it by tilting the tray to fill the corners.
  9. Drop tray gently on counter top to release any air bubbles trapped under.
  10. Bake it in a preheated oven at 350° F for 12 minutes.
  11. When baked, remove from oven and drop it gently on counter top to prevent shrinking.
  12. Remove cake holding the parchment paper and cool on a rack.
  13. When it is warm to touch, invert the cake on another piece of parchment paper.
  14. Gently pull out parchment paper to reveal the pattern on top.
  15. Turn the cake to the other side and spread chocolate frosting.
  16. Roll it and cover it with parchment paper tightly and place it in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  17. Take the roll out and slice it into smaller pieces.

swiss roll2

1 c rollThis roll cracked when rolled as I let it to cool longer, I guess. Have it with a cup of black tea without sugar to balance the taste. That is exactly what I did!

1 tea

Posted in Cake, Cake decoration, Dessert, Not just for kids, Snack | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments