December 19, 2015

Christmas Fruit Cake

Christmas is fast approaching and I am so excited. It is vacation time, a wedding in the family and a lovely festive get together. It is the best time of the year in so many ways this year and I have begun my countdown! 5 days to go for Christmas and 5 days for me to shop, pack and catch the flight. 

It is another wonderful season and like I said in my previous blog entry, I hope you are enjoying the season to the full. If not here are some perfect movies to watch this week - 

  • Santa Claus trilogy, a perfect family entertainer to watch with your family.
  • 12 gifts for Christmas, reminds you that festive season is the time for your loved ones.
  • Deck the halls - a comedy that keeps up the spirit of Christmas.

Have you put up your tree yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Hurry, put up your tree and star. hang your stockings, adorn your door with wreath, finish your Christmas shopping, let the baking begin and let the carol bells chime all the day through - because it is the best time of the year again.

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I finally baked my own Christmas fruit cake this year :)
No more buying cakes for Christmas because I have already baked 4!


Here is the recipe for you - 

Ingredients 

For soaking - 

  1. Cashewnuts
  2. Almonds
  3. Prunes
  4. Raisins
  5. Apricot
  6. Candied fruits/tutti frutti
  7. Cherry
  8. Dates
  9. Red wine - 500 ml
I have not specified the specific quantity since you could use any number as you like. One cake would require 1 cup of dried fruits.

For the Cake - 
  1. All purpose flour - 2 cups + 1/4 cup for the soaked fruits
  2. Baking powder - 2 tsp
  3. Nutmeg powder - 1/2 tsp
  4. Cinnamon powder - 3/4 tsp
  5. Clove powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Sugar - 1 and 3/4 cups + 1/4 cup for caramel
  7. Water - 1/8 cup
  8. Butter - 400 gms unsalted
  9. Strawberry Jam - 5 tbsp
  10. Egg - 4 no.s
  11. Vanilla essence - 2 tsp
Method
  1. Soaking fruits for cake is a tradition at most places and experts say that the longer you soak the fruits the better the cake tastes. Now that we do not have months to soak it, overnight would just be fine. Chop the nuts and fruits roughly and soak it in wine and keep it closed in an air tight container. If you have longer time to soak, make sure to shake the bottle every other day. Pour just enough wine to cover the fruits that you have chopped. Also make sure that you do not layer the fruits till the top of the jar as the fruits tend to swell up and would require space.
  2. Grease a round baking tray(8'') and keep aside. Pre - heat your oven for 15 minutes at 180 degree. 
  3. Meanwhile sift together the dry ingredients - the flour, baking powder, nutmeg powder, cinnamon powder and clove powder.
  4. Prepare the caramel syrup by heating the sugar in a hot pan with constant stirring till it begins to form bubbles. Switch off the flame and add water to this constantly stirring. Switch on the flame again and bring this syrup to a boil still stirring and let it cool.
  5. Removed the soaked fruits from the jar and let the excess wine drain. Toss these fruits in the flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Sieve this and set aside to remove the excess flour.
  6. Break open the eggs, separating the whites and yolk. Whisk the whites till it forms peaks.
  7. Add the softened butter and sugar in a bowl and fold them together. To this add the egg yolk and vanilla essence. Fold them together using a whisk or a spatula. 
  8. Add the sifted dry ingredients and once this is combined well, add the whisked egg whites. Avoid stirring too much once the egg whites are added. 
  9. Add the caramel syrup that renders the color to the cake and fold it again.
  10. Add the jam scoops, fold in once again and finally add the flour tossed dry fruits and just give a stir with the spatula.
  11. Transfer this to the greased baking pan. Bake it at 200 degrees for first 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 170 degree till it is almost done and then increase the temperature again for the last 10 minutes.
  12. Transfer it to a cooling rack and brush it with the wine used for soaking fruits. Keep it covered  with a cling film and keep brushing it with wine for 2- 3 days to get the most delicious fruit cake.
My Christmas Cake is ready!
Merry Christmas to all around.

kitchenspells.blogspot.com










December 8, 2015

Peanut Butter Sandwich with fried banana and honey


Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
fa la la la la, la la la la
Tis the season to be jolly,
fa la la la la, la la la la

Christmas is here and so is the holiday season. While we  prep up our lunch and dinner menus, lets not forget the breakfast! Quick and simple recipe which the young and the old will love alike - peanut butter sandwich with honey and fried banana.

This time round we made the sandwich with homemade peanut butter!That is quick and easy too, if you have not yet tried.

Before I move onto the recipe, let me remind you to make the festive season fun filled and all the more christmasy, do not forget to watch some Christmas movies. We have already begun ours with The Holiday and Polar Express! Just so Perfect!

So here is the recipe - 

Ingredients
  1. Bread slices - 3
  2. Banana  - 1
  3. Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
  4. Butter - 5 tbsp
  5. Peanut butter
  6. Honey
Method

Heat a pan and add butter to this. Once the butter melts, place the banana that has been sliced lengthwise onto the pan. Sprinkle cinnamon powder over this. Turn over the slices when it begins to change color. Once done, place it aside.

Slather peanut butter generously onto a toasted bread slice. Then layer the slice with the fried bananas. Pour a spoonful of honey over the slices. Repeat the same on another slice of bread and place it over the first one. Finally, place the last slice on the top, cut it diagonally and serve with a hot cup of coffee.

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November 28, 2015

Cinnamon Rolls

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Just the right season for baking and celebrating.  Latest addition to the baking list - Cinnamon roll!
I am not sure how the idea of baking a cinnamon roll crossed my mind, but I enjoyed every moment of this baking session. Seeing the dough rise to folding it over and over again, it was amazing. The roll looks complicated, however the baking process is not as complicated as the roll itself.

kitchenspells.blogspot.com

So here is another recipe to celebrate Christmas this year.

Ingredients

For the dough
  1. All purpose Flour - 2 cups + 3 tbsp
  2. Yeast - 3 tsp
  3. Water as required
  4. Salt - 1 pinch
  5. Sugar - 2 tbsp
For the filling
  1. Cinnamon powder - 1/8 cup
  2. Sugar - 1/4 cup
  3. Raisins - a handful
  4. Butter - 2-3 tbsp

Method

Soak the yeast and 2 tbsp sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water and keep it covered for half an hour till it turns frothy.

Take sifted flour into a big vessel, add salt to this and mix well. Tip it onto the kitchen slab and create a well in between and slowly pour in the yeast water. Now using your hands, fold in the dough. Slowly add water as required and bring in the remaining flour and keep mixing. Pour water as required till well combined. Knead the dough for ten minutes to make it airy. Keep it covered in a vessel using a cling film. Let it rest for half an hour and the dough slowly rises.

Punch in the dough and knead it again for another 10 minutes. Place it back in the vessel and keep it covered for another half an hour. 

Meanwhile bring together the cinnamon powder and sugar and set aside.

Take the dough and make 3 or 4 smaller balls. Flatten out the dough, sprinkle a little of the flour and roll into an approximate rectangle shape. Apply a little butter on the dough and sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture as needed on this. Spread raisins over. Carefully roll this tightly and seal the ends with a little water.

Cut into approximately 8 cm  length pieces and place it in a baking tray lined with butter paper.
Place the rolls with a little space in between to give space for it to rise. Cover and set it aside for half an hour before placing in the oven which has been pre- heated for 20 minutes at 220 degree. Let the roll bake at 180 degree for 45-50 minutes. 

Brush it lightly with butter for a glaze and let it cool. Cut into rolls and serve.

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You may also note - 
  • Sprinkle enough flour while rolling out the dough, lest it stick to the bottom.
  • You may choose to add other dry fruits.
  • Make sure you seal the end of the rolls well else the on baking it may open up.




November 22, 2015

Tavas - Cypriotic Lamb Stew

There is lot in common between Shibin and I.We love to travel and we love to try out new cuisines. The traditional gastronomy of the places enthuse us and we make sure we study it before we head out there. Our travel to Cyprus was no less. We came across an exciting array of cuisines primarily comprising of meat and potato.

If you go to Cyprus and you are not sure what to eat,head into a traditional Taverna and order the Meze. The Meze like the Kashmiri Wazwan consists of several small dishes starting with the salad and course by course servings of pita bread and Tahina, Pastitsio, Souvla, Sheftalia, Kleftiko, Aflia, Tavas and may be even grilled Halloumi cheese. If you are baffled by the number of dishes in Meze, you will be even more baffled by the huge portions they serve.

I definitely had to try out one of the dishes and I chose Tavas. The original recipe is from Mr.Xenios' wife-the owner of the cottage where we were staying. She had prepared this for us on our last night in Cyprus and it was simply adorable.

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Tavas is more like a cypriotic version of the Indian curry with cumin seeds and pepper as the spices slow cooked in the oven.  The traditional preparation uses Oregano, however I have not used it here. To give it an Indian touch , I have added 1 tbsp of chilly powder.

Ingredients
  1. Lamb - 1 kg
  2. Baby Potato - 1 kg
  3. Tomato - 1/2 kg
  4. Onion - 2 big
  5. Parsley - 1 bunch
  6. Cumin seeds - 4 tsp
  7. Pepper powder - 4 tsp
  8. Herbs - 2 tsp(optional)
  9. Olive oil - 2 tbsp
  10. Chilly powder - 1 tbsp
  11. Water - 1 cup
  12. Salt

Method

In a deep baking dish, bring together the lamb, potatoes and onions. All of these need to be chopped in big chunks. To this, add crushed cumin seeds, pepper powder, chilly powder, herbs and salt. Drizzle olive oil and toss it well.

Pour in 1 cup water into this (add more water if you need more gravy).Then, layer the dish with chopped parsley and  top it with tomatoes cut in rounds. Pre-heat the oven for 20 minutes and cover this cooked at 200 degrees for 2 hours .Uncover it after two hour, stir it and cover uncooked for another 1 hour at 180 degrees.

Once done, let it rest for a while covered. Then serve it with Pita bread/ Roti or bread.

Enjoy every bite as you dig into the succulent lamb and potatoes.

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November 17, 2015

Marble Cake

It is the best time of the year again. I may be a little too early.  Nevertheless,the weather is too tempting and the carols playing are just so joyful that I cannot let it go unnoticed. That is how I came to bake today after a long day at work. The aroma from the hot oven is tickling palates around here.

Shibin ( that is my husband) and I love Christmas. Perhaps that is what drew us close - our love for Christmas. I remember how endlessly we could chat about Christmas and the holiday season earnestly before we were married. This is our second Christmas together and we vow to make this Christmas even more beautiful than our first one together. Carols to wake us up in the morning and Christmas movies that make our evenings! I would be doing a grave injustice, if I forget to mention CBN radio - an American radio station that plays carols round the year. That is what is playing right now, giving me the Christmas spirit. For those who love Christmas as much as I do, google up CBN radio soon and enjoy the season.

kitchenspells.blogspot.com

Marble Cake on my blog to kick start the Christmas celebrations. Probably one of the easiest cake recipes for all beginners. I got this recipe on our recent visit to Cyprus, from the Mr. Xenios' wife who was the owner of the Cottage where we stayed. 

So here it is - 

Ingredients
  1. Egg - 2 no.s
  2. Flour - 2 and 1/4 cup
  3. Oil - 1 cup
  4. Sugar - 1 cup
  5. Baking powder - 2 tsp
  6. Lime juice - 1/2 lime
  7. Cocoa powder - 2 tbsp
  8. Milk - 3/4 cup
Method

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Separate the egg whites and yolk. Whisk the egg whites till it is completely frothy.

In a bowl bring together the oil, sugar, egg yolk and 1/2 a cup of milk. Fold in together and slowly add in parts of the sifted flour combining it well.

Add the whisked egg white and lime juice. Fold the mixture together till they are combined. Avoid overdoing as you may end up with air bubbles.

In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder in 1/4 cup of warm milk and dilute the powder. Add 5-6 tbsp of the cake batter to this and mix it well. This mixture gives the marble designs on the cake.

Grease a baking dish and layer the batter alternatively with the two batter. Add the white batter first and pour tablespoon full of chocolate batter randomly over. Keep repeating this until done.

Pre-heat the oven for about 20 minutes. Place the dish in the oven initially at high temperature of 220 degree and lower it to 160 after 10 minutes. The cake may need about 50 minutes to bake.

Once done, move this to a cooling rack. Slice and serve it.
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You may also note
  • Make sure to keep the consistency of both the batter the same, else both  may separate and may not bake at the same time.
  • The batter should be a little thick . Making it runny would result in both the batters mixing.


November 7, 2015

Coconut Barfee

That was a pretty huge break from blogging. After a wonderful trip to Cyprus - (details on a travellogue soon) and also a bout of sickness, I am back in the kitchen. Now that Diwali is right around the corner, why not a sweet dish?

Diwali is probably a festival that brings together the entire country. From lighting the lamps to bursting the crackers, everyone irrespective of age and religion join in. The energy can be felt in every lane in India and the hustle bustle in every household. The earliest memories of Diwali for me is the kids in our colony gathering for Diwali celebration at a neighbors house. We joyously lined the walls with candles and lit them, took part in the pooja, burst crackers and finally gobbled down really sumptuous food. This was a day, we the kids of Vidyanagar colony looked forward to. Crackers were not my favorite but I loved lighting the lamps and loved going on a drive to see the beautifully lit houses.

This is my first Diwali away from India and discussions in office are on what to do for Diwali? That is when I felt that this was the moment to try out some sweet dishes. Barfee is what came to my mind first. Coconut Barfee, I recall my mother making it often. No time wasted, I immediately asked for her recipe and here it is. The only change from her recipe is that I used rose water instead of water.

kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Ingredients

  1. Coconut - 1 cup grated
  2. Sugar -3/4 cup
  3. Rose water - 1/4 cup
  4. Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
  5. Ghee - 2 tbsp
  6. Cashewnuts
Method

Fry the cashew nut in ghee and keep aside.
In a pan, add water and sugar. Stir on low flame and add the grated coconut. When bubbles start forming on the edges add ghee, fried cashew nut and cardamom powder.Stir until the mixture starts separating from the pan.
Move this mixture to a greased pan. Set it using a spoon or fork and cut it into desired shape while still warm.Allow it to cool down and and serve making this Diwali special.

September 25, 2015

Chocolate Coffee Cake

Chocolate Coffee Cake was one of the first cakes that I baked for my husband. We loved to share a piece of cake over a cup of coffee on the evenings after a busy day at work.

Baking is all the more fun when you do it together with your family. And, we did it together. Responsibility divided between the three of us - my husband , my cousin and myself.  My cousin made his debut at baking a cake, me the actor and my husband the director. The cake definitely fared well at the box office:)
kitchenspells.blogspot.com

Here is my recipe -

Ingredients

  1. All purpose flour - 2 cups
  2. Sugar - 1 and 1/2 cup
  3. Cocoa Powder - 3/4 cup
  4. Baking Powder - 1 tsp
  5. Salt - 1 pinch
  6. Milk - 1/2 cup
  7. Oil - 1/2 cup
  8. Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
  9. Coffee powder - 1 and 1/2 tbsp
  10. Eggs - 4
  11. Hot water - 1 cup
Method

Prepare coffee decoction in a cup of hot water and let it cool.

Sieve the all purpose flour, cocoa powder,salt and baking powder to avoid lumps.

Separate the egg yolk and the egg whites. Beat the white until fluffy. Beat the egg yolk along with vanilla essence. Add in the sugar and oil and mix it well. Add the coffee decoction and milk to this.

Pour this into the sieved flour and fold in the batter . Finally add the egg whites and fold in well until combined. Mixing it any further may cause air bubbles in the batter.

Pre heat the oven at 180 degree for 15 minutes. Grease a cake tin and pour the batter into it. Place this inside the oven for 30-40 minutes until an inserted pin comes out clean.

Remove from baked cake from the oven and shift it onto a cooling rack.

Serve it hot with ice cream and chocolate sauce.
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September 13, 2015

Onion Garlic Fried Rice

Every alternate Wednesday was reserved for our dinner outings to our favorite restaurant. I had two reasons to wait for this day - I did not have to study that day and I could have my favorite Fried Rice. I have tried to make Fried Rice several times but never quite liked it as much as this recipe.

Easy to make with easily available ingredients and hence a must try for everyone. As always its a family favorite because it is easy to make.

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Ingredients
  1. Basmati Rice - 2 cups
  2. Cardamom - 2
  3. Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
  4. Bay Leaves - 2
  5. Cloves - 2
  6. Onion - 3 sliced thinly
  7. Garlic - 4-5 cloves chopped
  8. Cashewnut - a handful
  9. Raisins - a handful
  10. Soya sauce - 2 tsp
  11. Pepper powder
  12. Sugar - 1 tbsp
  13. Spring Onions 
  14. Oil
  15. Salt
Method

Boil water along with salt and ingredients listed from 2 to 5.
Add washed Basmati rice to this and cook. Make sure you do not overcook it. Drain off excess water and remove the whole garam masala added. 

In a skillet, heat oil and fry the cashewnuts and raisins. Keep this aside.
Toss the sliced onion and garlic into this oil. Saute it till cooked, add salt, pepper powder and sugar. Saute it for another two minutes and add soya sauce.

Add Basmati rice into this and mix well. Keep it covered for another 5 minutes on low heat.

Garnish with spring onions and serve hot with your favorite curry.

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September 4, 2015

Kundapura Chicken Curry/ Kundapura Koli Saaru

Kundapura Chicken Curry is a traditional chicken preparation popular along the coastal belt of Mangalore - Udupi - Kundapura region. It is an excellent accompaniment for kori rotti, sanna , neeru dosa and rice as well.
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So that is another jog down the memory lane.
Takes me back to Brahmavar and the tastes of Brahmavar which I grew up to love. It's not just the food but also the special people in my life who cooked this for me. My two akkas Geetha akka and Sabitha akka who took care of me and my sister just like their kids. I am sure Geetha akka is still waiting for me to get home to prepare her special dishes.

Here I have the recipe of Kundapura Chicken for you -

Ingredients

  1. Onions - 2 chopped
  2. Tomato - 1 chopped
  3. Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
  4. Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  5. Coconut milk - 1 cup
  6. Chicken - 1/2 kg
  7. Oil
  8. salt to taste


For the paste -

  1. Ginger - 1 tsp chopped
  2. Garlic - 1 tsp chopped
  3. Cinnamon sticks - 1 inch stick
  4. Cloves - 5 to 6
  5. Whole pepper - 1 tsp
  6. Coriander seeds -  2 tsp
  7. Red Chilly - 4 to 5
  8. Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Preparation 

Dry roast the ingredients 1 to 7 under for the paste for 2 minutes. Add the grated coconut and dry roast till the coconut becomes dry. Let this cool for a while and wet grind this to a paste.

In a separate pan, heat oil, Toss in cumin seeds, curry leaves and fry for a minute. Add the chopped onions and tomato. Saute till the onions turn slightly brown. Now add the chicken and the paste. Pour sufficient water, bring it to a boil and reduce the flame. Keep it covered and let it cook.  Once the chicken is cooked, add coconut milk bring it boil and switch off the flame.

Whats special about Kundapura koli saaru is that it goes along well with almost anything. Be it rice , dosa, idli or even chapati.
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You may also note - 
  • Do not over roast the dry ingredients. 
  • Add coconut milk, only if you need more gravy.
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August 26, 2015

Mathenga Vanpayar Erissery

Just done with Onam shopping. The crowd at Lulu, here in Dubai was beyond compare. Brands - Nirapara, Eastern, Brahmins, Double Horse setting up their own counters with special Onam discounts and goodies. Phew!! That was one hell of a time wading through alleys with the pushcart avoiding getting hit and making sure you don't hit anyone. I guess that is the joy of this festival. 

Onam is that festival that brings together malayalees irrespective of religion. Onakkodi, Pookalam, Payasam, Sadya and all malayalees together whether in India or outside - that is Onam.

Today's post is my mother - in  - laws recipe. A dish that I really love - Erissery made with mathenga and vanpayar.

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Here is the recipe - 

Ingredients
  1. Onion - 1 small sliced
  2. Garlic - 2 pods sliced lengthwise
  3. Green Chilly - 2-3
  4. Coconut - 1 cup grated
  5. Jeera/ Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  6. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  7. Mathenga/ Pumpkin - 1/4 kg diced
  8. Vanpayar - a handful
  9. salt to taste
For tempering 
  1. Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  2. Shallots - 2 sliced
  3. Grated coconut - 2 tsp
  4. Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
  5. Curry Leaf - 1 sprig
Method

Pressure cook vanpayar with a little salt and keep it aside.

Toss in mathenga, onion, garlic and green chilly into a heavy bottomed pan. Add sufficient amount of water and bring it to boil on high flame. Reduce the flame and let it simmer till the mathenga is cooked. Mash this with a spoon to form a paste.

Wet grind the grated coconut, cumin seeds and turmeric powder and add this to the mashed gravy. Pour in water if necessary and let it cook for another 10 minutes.
Add vanpayar and season it with sufficient salt.

In a skillet heat coconut oil - toss in the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add shallots and grated coconut and fry till the color changes to brown. Add the chilly powder and curry leaves and pour over the erissery.

Serve over rice with a dash of ghee for Onam.

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August 24, 2015

Vendekka Mezhukkupuratti/ Lady's Finger Stir Fry/ Okra Stir Fry

Vendekka or Lady's finger has never been my favorite vegetable. I found it quite slimy and difficult to eat. Marriage makes you do things that you never thought you would.
Yes, I do cook Vendekka now and eat it as well because my husband loves it. What my mother could not do in years my husband managed in months! That's what marriage can do to you:)
No regrets!

Here is a very simple recipe for you this Onam straight from the USA. Safeera is a college mate of mine who sent across this recipe and managed to click some impressive pictures as well using yam leaf plucked from her backyard instead of banana leaf for a change.

There you go -

Ingredients

Vendekka/ Okra/ Lady's Finger - 1/2 kg
Tomato - 1 chopped
Onion - 1 chopped
Green Chilly - 1 to 2 slit
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coconut Oil
Salt to taste

Method

Slit the vendekka and cut into 2 inch long pieces.

Pour the oil into a skillet, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter add curry leaves and green chilly. Saute it and toss in the vendekka, tomato, onion and salt.

Cook it covered for about 10 minutes.

There it is your Lady's Finger Stir Fry.


You may also note -

  • Wash and pat dry the vendekka before you slice.


August 23, 2015

Ishtu - potato paalu curry

When I was on the lookout for Onam recipes, it was Vineetha who suggested Ishtu. I had no idea that this was an Onam dish that is pretty popular in the Thrissur region. It is quite fascinating to  note that same dish is called by different names with very slight variations in the recipes. Had I not begun a quest of Onam recipes may be I would not have known either.

Oh I forgot to introduce Vineetha - she is my TALL friend - yes I mean it literally. One thing I hate doing with her is posing with her for a photograph - so my height is left to your imagination. She is miles across in Brisbane and is currently busy shopping for Onam. This is a recipe from her kitchen.
I miss you Vineetha and there goes your recipe -

Ingredients:

Potatoes - 2 medium diced
Onions - 2 medium sliced
Ginger - 1 inch piece finely chopped
Green Chilly - 2 slit
Coconut Milk - 1 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Coconut Oil
Salt to taste

Method:

Add the potatoes, onions, ginger and green chilly to a pressure cooker with water and required salt. Pressure cook it to 2 whistles.
Once the pressure is released, you can mash a few pieces of potato and put it back into the gravy.This thickens the curry.
Next add the coconut milk and bring it to a boil.Cook it on a low flame for a few more minutes till it becomes thick.
Finally add the curry leaves and drizzle some coconut oil.

Simple is it not? So why not make this a part of Onam Sadhya this year.

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August 22, 2015

Sambhar

Sambhar is a traditional South Indian dish. I am not sure which state it belongs to - Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu seems to have adapted it as per their flavors and taste. It adorns the banana leaf for the festivities in each of the states. Sambhar is a popular dish for Onam as well and again the taste differs from the north to the south of Kerala. Here is an easy recipe for Sambhar, if you are hunting for one. 

The recipe was sent by Vinitha, my cousin. She is a wonderful cook, probably inherited our grandmother's cooking traits. We have had our fair share of cooking experiments together during the summer vacations at school.

Here is the recipe she has for you - 

Ingredients

Toor Dal - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Kaayam/Hing/Asafoetida - 1 small piece
Onion - 1 sliced lengthwise
Lady's Finger - 4 sliced
Potato - 2 medium sized sliced
Brinjal - 1 medium size sliced
Carrot - 1 sliced
Green Chilly - 2 slit
Tomato - 1 medium sized sliced
Tamarind - 1 lemon sized ball
Sambhar powder - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste


For Tempering 

Mustard seeds -1/4 tsp
Red Chilly - 2
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Shallots/Sambhar Ulli - 2 tsp chopped
Method
Pressure cook the dal with salt and turmeric powder.Soak tamarind in warm water for about 15 minutes and strain the water. Keep this aside.In a skillet, heat oil and saute the kayam for a minute and then add the onions. Once the onions are slightly cooked, add all the vegetables except tomato . Saute it for few minutes and pour the excess water from cooking the dal into the vegetables and let it boil on low flame covered. Add a little bit of salt and turmeric powder to the vegetables. While it begins to boil, add sliced tomato, cooked dal and the tamarind water. Let it boil. Add the sambhar powder, mix well and let it boil. Once the potato is cooked, switch off the flame. In another pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and let it splutter, add shallots, saute it well till translucent. Then add the red chilly and curry leaves. Pour it onto the hot sambhar and mix it well.Yummy yummy sambhar ready!

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You may also note - 
  • Add any veggies as per your choice. Each veggie may have a different cooking time, so you may add the vegetables one after the other. I also love using drumsticks and cucumber in my sambhar.
  • It is a great way to have lot of veggies at one go.
  • Avoid pressure cooking the veggies, it may get overcooked.


August 18, 2015

Kootu Curry

I had Kootu Curry just once before for a Onam Sadya at a friend's place. Somehow, I did not quite think of trying it out myself until this Onam season. And I am inclined to believe that I just got the perfect recipe for it. Thanks to Sreelakshmi or should I say her Mom?

Sreelakshmi is a good buddy of mine and we have had some really wonderful times together. Hoping to catch up soon:)

Thank You Sreelakshmi for this amazing recipe. We just loved it!

With no further ado, let us get to the recipe.
kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Ingredients

Raw Banana - 2
Yam/ Chena - 1/4 kg
Brown Kadala/ Black Channa - 1/2 cup (soaked overnight)
Jaggery - 100 gms grated
Coconut - 1/2 cup grated + 2 tbsp
Green Chilly - 2-3 
Jeera - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dried red chilly - 4-5
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Chilly powder - 3/4 tsp
Coconut Oil
Curry Leaves
Salt to taste

Method
Soak the kadala overnight. Pressure cook with chilly powder and turmeric powder. Slice Raw Banana & Yam into small cubes and add this to the kadala. Let it cook for about 20 minutes on medium flame. 
Grind the grated coconut with jeera, green chilly and a pinch of turmeric powder. Add this mixture to the cooked vegetables and kadala. Add the grated jaggery to it and mix well (without mashing your veggies) Heat oil in a skillet, add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add dried red chilly and 2 tbsp coconut. Fry till coconut turns brown and add the curry leaves.
Toss this to the curry. Tada! Its done.
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You may also note -
  1. Do not over cook the kadala or the veggies.
  2. This is a dry curry, ensure to add just enough water.
  3. Be careful while stirring, do not mash the vegetables.


August 15, 2015

Ela Appam/ Ela Ada - with banana

How many of you knew that ela ada or ela appam is a popular Onam breakfast recipe?

Well, I did not, until quite recently. For me, Onam was all about an elaborate afternoon Onam sadya.

So why not have a breakfast dish as well to spice up the Onam celebration on the blog:)

I have never made ela appam before and I do not remember it being my favorite when my mom made it for us in the evenings after school. It's been so many years now and I definitely wanted to make this.
Banana leaf used to wrap the appam gives the ela appam a distinct flavor and aroma that will tickle your taste buds. I tried the ela appam infusing a little of banana as well. We enjoyed the final product!



Ingredients

  1. Roasted Rice Flour - 2 cups
  2. Boiled Water - 1.5 cup
  3. Jaggery - 250 gms grated
  4. Coconut - 1 cup grated
  5. Banana - 1 ripened
  6. Banana leaf
  7. Salt to taste
Method

Mix the jaggery with coconut and keep aside.

Boil water , add salt and the rice flour in parts, continuously folding it together with a fork. Once the entire flour has been folded in, let it rest for a while. Let the mixture cool, meanwhile mash the banana. 

Add the mashed banana into the mixture and fold it well with your hands. Make balls out of the mixture.

Take a banana leaf, wash it, pat dry and run it over the flame. This prevents breakage when you later make the appam.

Place a rice ball on the leaf. Wet your hands and gently press it creating round shape as you go along.
Place a generous amount of filling over one half of the pressed dough. Fold it into half along with the leaf.  Gently press the edges to hold it together.Fold the edges of the banana leaf and place it in a steamer on medium flame for about 10 - 15 minutes.

Ela appam ready. Bite gently into the appam - you can enjoy the flavour of  banana and the banana leaf:)



You may also note - 
  • You may replace jaggery with sugar.
  • You can add cardamom powder to enhance the flavor.
  • You an choose to have thin appam or a little thicker ones but make sure you are generous with the filling that you place inside.


August 10, 2015

Parippu Payasam

When it is Payasam, it is kadala parippu payasam that I enjoy the most. Not just me, my sister as well. When everyone devours it hot, we love freezing it and having spoonfuls directly from the fridge:)

Our dear akka, back home never misses an opportunity to make her special payasam. She ensures that she makes a huge quantity of it when my sister and I are back home. Only once do we eat it hot and the rest is frozen payasam. If it is payasam at home, our mom is sure to find a lot of used tablespoons lying around in her kitchen from our occasional sneaks into the kitchen for the payasam.
Uhh!! Getting a little too nostalgic, am I!



So here is your recipe -

Ingredients

Kadala parippu/ Bengal gram dal - 50 gm
Raw Rice - 50 gm soaked in water
Jaggery - 250 gm
Sago seeds/chowwary/ Sabudana - 50 gm
Coconut - 2 cups (take the milk) + 2 tbsp
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Ghee


Soak the rice in water for half an hour and wet grind it along with 2 tbsp of coconut.

Fry the sago seeds in ghee till it splutters and soak in water for 15 minutes.

Soak the jaggery in a cup of water.

Cook the dal in the cooker. Do not overcook it , it should still be a little hard. Add the soaked jaggery along with the water. Once it boils, add the sago seeds and let it cook.

When the sago seeds are transparent, add the ground rice and coconut. Keep stirring and ensure that the flame is low.

Add the coconut milk and once it boils, add the cardamom powder.

You can add cashew nuts and raisins fried in ghee though I prefer to have them without either.

So that is the third recipe on the leaf. Hope you all enjoy this:)



You may also note -
  • Keep stirring the payasam once you add the rice and coconut lest it stick to the vessel and burns.







August 5, 2015

Pineapple Pachadi (Mathura Curry)

The recipe of pineapple pachadi sent by my friend - Vani, who has also been a guinea pig for my cooking experiments before marriage:) The bubbly and talkative girl shares my love for cooking as well.
Here goes her recipe and what she has to say about it -
Pachadi is a traditional kerala dish usually served as a side dish for meals. Pineapple pachadi is quick to make and delicious to eat. Alternatively, beetroot, cucumber and carrots are also used to make pachadi. This dish is a awesome combo of flavours.If you love the combination of sweet and sourness, you should definitely give this recipe a shot.
Ingredients
  1. Pineapple chopped-1 cup
  2. Green chilly-2-3 (You can alter the spice quotient by going easy on the chillies)
  3. Turmeric-1/4 tbsp
  4. Curd-1/4 cup +(2-3)tsp
  5. Salt -As required
To grind:
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green Chilly - 2 to 3
For Seasoning:
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds - 3/4 tsp
Red Chilly - 2 tsp
Curry Leaves
Method
Skin the pineapple and chop into small pieces. Cook the pineapple adding slit chilly, turmeric ,salt and water in a covered vessel(add very less water as water tends to ooze out from the pineapple). Cook until the pineapple becomes soft.
Grind together coconut,cumin seeds,green chilly and 1 to 2 tsp of cooked pineapple into a fine paste. Add the ground coconut paste and cook till the raw smell of the coconut goes and the water evaporates. Add the whisked curd and mix well and switch off the flame.
Do not boil after adding curd. Let mustard seeds splutter in hot coconut oil. When it splutters, add red chilly and curry leaves and pour it over the pachadi.
Serve it along with rice.


August 1, 2015

Ginger/Inji Curry

Onam is hardly a month away. Till date, I have not made a full fledged Onam Sadhya. This year I intend to, as it falls on a weekend.

And thus, I started my lookout for sadhya vibhavangal.  The inspiration for my onam recipe hunt is a batch of freshers who joined my company I previously worked with. During one of our interactions last year they said that they got together for Onam (malayalees and non-malayalees) and made 28 dishes.

28!!

My mouth fell open, I could not even recollect 28 dishes for sadhya, let alone make it.

This year, a month ahead of Onam I have decided to hunt down recipes from my family and friends. The purpose - definitely is to practice cooking all these recipes before onam and also help similar people like me out there who are hunting for recipes.

kitchenspells.blogspot.comOnam or not, Inji curry has been my favorite - its tangy, hot and sweet all in one. I just love it. Apart from pineapple pachadi and payasam, this is my hot favorite. This recipe is from my mother's kitchen.


Ingredients

  1. Ginger - 100 gm finely chopped
  2. Kashmiri Chilly - 2
  3. Green Chilly - 2 finely chopped
  4. Tamarind - 1 lemon sized ball
  5. Red chilly powder - 1/2 tbsp
  6. Jaggery Shavings - 2 tbsp
  7. Water - 1 and 1/2 cup
  8. Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  9. Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
  10. Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
  11. Coconut - small pieces fried or grated coconut fried
  12. Curry Leaf
  13. Salt to taste
  14. Oil
Method

Soak the tamarind in water and extract the juice. Boil it for 2 minutes and set aside.

Pour oil in a skillet, add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Next, add the fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves. 

Once the fenugreek seeds lightly change colour, add the red chilly and finely chopped green chilly.
To this, add the chopped ginger and saute it till the ginger is lightly crisp.

Add the turmeric powder and red chilly powder. Saute till the masala gets cooked. Pour in the tamarind water and add jaggery. Boil for around 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Fry small pieces of coconut or grated coconut and add into the sauce.

Inji curry ready!

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You may also note - 
  1. Grind half the fried ginger mix into a paste before adding the masala to give a thicker consistency.
  2. The consistency of the inji curry will become thicker once it cools down , so do not worry if your inji curry seems a little watery than the usual consistency when cooked.
  3. You may substitute jaggery with sugar as well.
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July 29, 2015

Kashmir Diaries

If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
These are the words inscribed in Persian on the black pavilion in the top terrace of Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir by famous Persian poet, Amir Khusrau.

I can't agree better. Kashmir it is - the most beautiful place I have seen.


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When we set out on our Kashmir adventure from our home in bangalore – our first ever adventure together, we had two things on our must-do list - 

1. See SNOW

2. Enjoy KASHMIRI cuisines

Our first destination was the army camp where we stayed  with a cousin who was serving the armed forces in Srinagar. When we set foot in Srinagar at 12:30 in the afternoon, it seemed a little windy with slight drizzle. We were picked up from the airport by our guide, Farook. On the way, he gave us a glimpse of the next few days to come, and promised us a holiday which we will cherish. We began enjoying the climate, and within a matter of hours the temperature shoveled down accompanied by heavy rains. We refused to get out from under the blankets. 

We knew it was going to be cold but never knew this definition of cold we were facing!!

Both our little nephews seemed amused, they offered us their gloves and tried to keep us warm by lighting up kerosene heaters. Once the rains had stopped, we were eager to step out and explore the military camp set on the foothills of a mountain. We were impressed by the soldiers, and the responsibility they shouldered, dawned on us. The view during sunset was just perfect. The sun’s rays making its way through the misty raindrops and resting on the green foothills. The evening was just so perfect and beautiful much more than what we had hoped for. 


With the warm welcome the climate in Srinagar gave us, we were dying to explore more. Our wish of experiencing snow would come true very soon. Next day, we set forth to Gulmarg. En route, Farook, our guide cum driver asked us our lunch preferences, and whether we fancied hotels like Taj and such. We replied with a big NO!. We wanted local restaurants and authentic Kashmiri delicacies. He was happy, and we started telling him about the food we wanted to have, like Goshtaba, rogan ghosh, rishta, kahwa….. (we had done a food research before setting out on the trip). He was amazed that we knew these names of the dishes!! Two hours from Srinagar and we began the climb towards our destination. Of course when I say climb, we did not do that on foot , our vehicle chauffeured by our bubbly, ever so Kashmiri guide did it for us!

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Gorging on Kashmiri Roti and Kahwa

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Seekh Kebab and Mirchi Kurma
Briefly we stopped at Tanmarg for mid morning snack(it was already 12 noon then). We stopped at a small restaurant, and Farook introduced us to the folks there. They welcomed us warmly and seated us at the best location they had. We gorged on Kashmiri Rotis, buttered bread toast and kahwa. Kahwa is a aromatic traditional drink made by boiling green tea leaves ith saffron strands, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods and occasionally Kashmiri roses to add a great aroma. Generally, it is served with sugar or honey and crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts.(courtesy:wiki) A walk around Tanmarg followed with Farook running all around with our camera, trying to click pics in all angles possible. Then we decided to have lunch before resuming our ascent to Gulmarg. This was about an hour after our snack earlier. We were under the impression that the Kashmiris liked to have roti with their curries. Farook informed us it wasn’t so, and that they preferred rice. So for lunch we had rice, roti, seekh kebabs and mirchi kurma. That was lip-smacking and we were stuffed!!

We resumed our journey to Gulmarg. Round and round we climbed with occasional glimpses of snow. The first glimpses of snow let us down. It looked muddy and dirty. That was definitely not what we wanted to see. We were expecting a perfect view of snow surrounding us just like on television. Could snow be brown and black in colour? We went on with our hopes still high, and the sights and snow getting better, and when the road opened into town of Gulmarg, our mouths were open. Snow all around, acres and acres of white snow. We stepped out and had our first feel of snow. We held snow like something out of the world. Finally, some snow!! Woohooo!
Our opening view of the town of Gulmarg

We checked in to our hotel and set out to explore. Farook then 'guided' us to the GONDOLA - the cable car that takes us atop the snow covered peak. We opted to go till Phase I as we were warned that Phase II could be dangerous in case of an unexpected snowstorm. Ever more freaked out on hearing the story of a German lady who went missing in the snowstorm in January and the body being recovered three months later. Phase I seemed a safe bet.


The Gondola ride
On top of the mountain, we were spell bound by the view. All we could see was snow. We didn’t believe until then that India had such a view. Kids and grandparents alike enjoying the breathtaking sight .  Few trying their skating skills alone, few with a instructor on their heels to hold them on as they fall. We tried our hands at skating too. If you actually make it till the top of mountain at Gulmarg why not give it a shot – after all this is the place known for winter sports in India. So, we had two instructors. The instructor( my husband had) was coaching him hard so as to make my husband join the next winter Olympics! All I could see was my poor hubby down on his back a number of times. Skating wasn't all easy and definitely not fun when you keep falling and bumping into every person you can possibly find. Once you have a knack of it – you’ll enjoy it. If you happen to ever try out skating make sure you talk to the instructor and fix the fees. The talks are all in thousands. Or was it ten thousand?? Remember Kashmir is a tourist destination and these people could really empty your purse before you know it! For the journey down the mountain we decided to try out the sledge. Not exactly a Santa Sledge driven by reindeers!! 

You have a person maneuvering it down the slope, and you sit behind him and if you do not want to fall off make sure you hug the person tight. The journey down the mountain was worth every single penny we paid for it. The Gondola ride gave us a view from the top and the sledge ride gave a real time feel of the snow. We were lucky enough to even witness slight snowfall. We were not done yet, after reaching the base, it was snack-time! We had bakhirkhani, onion pakoras and nun-chai (a tea with butter and salt - didn’t fancy that much, though). Kashmiris are avid tea-drinkers and they fancy nun-chai and kahwa. We rushed off for the snow fight and make our own dear snowman. Farook joined in too, and it was so much fun.Night was on and it was getting cold, our fingers were numb and breathing was heavy, yet we refused to let go of this amazing time - an experience of a lifetime.After feasting on tomato/sweetcorn soup, Kashmiri chicken, aloo mutter, dal, roti, pulao, we called it a day.

The morning glory
The picture tells it all

The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast of aloo paratha, bread and omelette and coffee, we set out to Pahalgam.

The climate spared no efforts in welcoming us here too and in joined the luscious greens and flowing water by the roadside. It was a beautiful evening and the winds grew stronger by the time. By dusk we were freezing and as per the folks in the place where we stayed, the temperature was close to 3 degree!(Oh My God! and they give electric blankets only if the temperature hits a minus)

The next morning we set out to the snow covered peaks of Chandanwari. Heavy snowfall had blocked the road and we had to be satisfied reaching the peaks half way through. We rented snow boots to climb up the snow covered terrains. Panting and out of breath we reached half way through and turned back. Climbing down was not going to be easy. So we decided to go sliding down the snow.  The sun shining brightly on one side and the snow and breeze sending chills all over us on the other side. With great reluctance, we left behind the snow and moved to our next adventure. On the way we had glimpse of Betaab valley named after the Sunny Deol starrer Betaab being filmed in the valley.

enroute Pahalgam
The next adventure was horse riding We were given two horses or rather ponies - the experienced 8 year old Deewana (serious, and interested in eating, drinking and pooping)for my husband and the 4 year old Mastana( naughty and playful) for me. Along with a guide, we began our ride to various points across the valley. Horse riding seemed fun and easy until my dear mastana approached a stream. Like in movies, my horse decided to take a leap and up it went and I was left clinging at the reins for my life.

Mini Switzerland
That moment I realised this was not going to be a cakewalk. We went along streams, waterfalls, pine trees to reach the top of the valley. The view left us speechless. Lot of tall snow covered peaks reaching the clouds with pine trees dotting the slopes.. After a hearty view, we started our descent. The experienced Deewana knew its way around. The immature Mastana followed its Deewana and sometimes ended up at places where it could not cross. Years of climbing up and down the mountain had trained Deewana to navigate impending threats like loose ground and slippery areas. Despite this -Deewana did manage to topple down once, throwing my husband on to the soft snow. Luckily he escaped unscathed, thanks to the snow.  The descent took its toll on us when we reached a really steep area. I was convinced that my horse would slip and both of us would go rolling down the mountain. We saw many of the tourists get down and walk down the slope. Our guide refused to let us do that. He insisted that we remain on the horse and the horse gently made its way down. With heart in my 
mouth, I held on. My husband was quite anxious as I stopped speaking and for his dear life he could not get off the horse and check on me. It was not until we reached level ground that I could breathe properly again.. 
PS:If you visit Pahalgam - don't forget to try your hands at horse riding. Always inquire and find a good guide, else there is a good chance to get cheated and take you to the easier terrains and you stand to lose out on the amazing views. And don’t forget to bargain bargain….and bargain..
I don’t think I’ll want to go on that horse-riding again and I definitely do not regret doing it once. It was amazing, yet scary. 
The journey was not over yet, we made our way to Aru Kashmir. The roads were a little treacherous. This area is known for river rafting and unfortunately we had arrived at the wrong season and there wasn't enough water to go rafting. We started on our long way back to Srinagar, stopping on the way for some minor shopping. We saw some fantastic carpets and art work from papier mache. We halted at Lal Chowk for lunch. That is when our guide suggested Wazwan.

Wazwan

 It is a multicourse Kashmiri “thaali”, consisting of the mutton dishes methi maaz, seek kabab, rista, tabak maaz, gushtaba and rogan josh, with rice. All the dishes we wanted to taste, all in one go! We had a lifetime worth of mutton, and decided not to have any more mutton for the next few months.

We reached Srinagar later and retired for the night in a beautiful palatial houseboat in Dal Lake. If you plan to go to Srinagar, I suggest that you stay in a houseboat than a hotel for the week for two reasons - 
The floating house

1. houseboats seemed cheaper than hotels 
2. The hosts are very hospitable and they give you amazing home made food.

The houseboat we stayed in had a wonderful host and it was well maintained. We were in for a shock when we were told that it was built more than 30 years  ago and has been in the family ever since. Once in, you’ll feel you’re in a palace, rather than a houseboat. Built from Walnut wood, and lots of intricate wood carvings. Now, when I say houseboat, do not be under the impression that the boat takes you around just like in the Kerala backwaters. The house boat is docked on the lake side. Well lets us just say it is fixed and not expected to move! We had a wonderful home made dinner, and retired for the night, as we were tired. The bed was so cozy with layers of blanket to take in the cold.
Spectacular view of the interiors of the houseboat

The morning bliss was to sit on the deck, sipping hot coffee and watch beautiful Dal lake come to life, with the misty mountain peaks setting the background. . Colourful shikaras going by, folks transporting goods, tourists to the shore. It was their livelihood. We had a wonderful breakfast of poha and “jam”. It was only later we realized the strawberry and apple jam was for the bread toast which our host brought in later. But poha and jam was weirdly yummy, and we still have that combination at home.

The serene Dal Lake
Shikhara ride followed. We went through intricate waterways, watching the floating restaurants and shops, taking in the bright sunny weather, and the serene lake. We had many vendors in their shikaras alongside us, trying their best to sell us jewelry and trinkets. 


There is more to Srinagar like the hot air balloon ride by the Dal Lake, colorful tulip gardens, Shalimar Bagh, Parimahal, Chashmeshahi, Shankaracharya temple to name a few. Take time to gorge on all these sights and make it to Srinagar at the right season. Tourism is usually high during the months starting from April to July owing to the perfect weather.I personally feel the right season to hit out there is April/May when the harsh winter is over and before the onset of the rains. And remember being a tourist destination nothing comes cheap. So be ready to shelve out some money and it is going to be worth it.
Tulip Gardens


We then spent the rest of our day with my cousin and nephews and had a wonderful family time. On the final day, Farook dropped us back to the airport, buying us ice cream on our way, as his token of gratitude. He was like a brother, taking good care of us throughout our stay. As we entered the airport, we looked back and could still see our bubbly Farook standing there and waving us good-bye. He stood by his promise.


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