June 24, 2017

Mango Mint Lemonade

Mangoes always brings fond memories of summer vacations. After breakfast, we gather around in the backyard of my mother's house where grandmother had ready for us the mangoes. We called the bigger slices mettha (malayalam for mattress) and the smaller slices talayana (malayalam for pillow). Back home in Udupi, summers began with us racing out to drive away the monkeys from taste testing the mangoes on our tree! The monkeys are ever present around the house during summers jumping from roof to tree and the dogs run under the tree hoping to catch hold of one monkey ( if only one would fall) . The monkeys are very choosy, hard to please group! They taste test several mangoes and drop them to the ground with just a single bite. Obviously that renders the mango ill suited for consumption and leaves a broken hearted mom and two children staring at the useless mangoes underneath the tree. If not consuming the mango as is the other popular use of mango were the milkshakes we made in the evening! Summers also saw us making jar full of lemonade - I remember telling my Dad years back that I am going to start a lemonade business - he laughed it off!

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This summer in Dubai is killing. Despite being indoors most of the time, the heat seems to be getting the better of us. For the first time since moving here, we have started drinking refrigerated water. So it is invariable that we try out some cold drinks. So this time I combined the mango with lemonade and there we have the Mango mint lemonade.

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Ingredients
  1. Mango - 2 medium sized sliced
  2. Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
  3. Mint Leaves - a handful
  4. Ice cubes
  5. Sugar - 2 tbsp
Method
  • Blend together the sliced mango along with mint leaves, lemon juice and sugar. (add or reduce sugar as per the sweetness of the mango)
  • Pour into glass and serve chilled with ice cubes.
Check out other summer thirst quenchers on the blog - 


June 20, 2017

Kozhi Nirachathu / Stuffed Chicken with gravy

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We first ordered Kozhi Nirachathu at a popular restaurant in the UAE. We ended up with a butterflied chicken in a spicy masala along with a side of egg roast which absolutely did not complement each other that too at an exorbitant price! After almost a year we got to taste this dish again at another restaurant. This time the egg roast stuffed inside the chicken and the chicken was deep fried - it tasted heavenly.  I was skeptical of getting a whole chicken deep fried until I read up a few recipes and saw a couple of videos. Yes, you can actually cook a whole chicken on stove top without deep frying it! It is not all that time consuming either.

Kozhi Nirachathu or stuffed chicken with gravy is a dish from Kerala that involves cooking a whole chicken with gravy and egg roast stuffed in the cavity.  Egg roast is made separately and stuffed into the marinated whole chicken before cooking the chicken in the gravy. When you want a whole chicken on table and you do not have an oven to rely on this could be your go to recipe! 

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Ingredients
  1. Whole chicken - 900 gm
  2. Egg - 2 no.s
  3. Onion  - 4 big ones finely chopped
  4. Tomato - 2 finely chopped
  5. Green Chilly - 2 finely chopped
  6. Ginger garlic paste  - 2 tsp
  7. Chilly powder - 1 tbsp + ½ tsp +¼ tsp
  8. Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
  9. Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
  10. Fennel powder - 1 tsp
  11. Garam Masala - 1 tsp
  12. Curry Leaves - 3 sprigs
  13. Water - ¼ cup
  14. Coconut Oil
To Marinate
  1. Chilly powder - 1 tbsp
  2. Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
  3. Lime juice - 2 tbsp
  4. Salt
Method
  • Hard boil the eggs, shell and keep aside. Create cuts on the egg and roll it in ¼ tsp of chilly powder until well coated. Fry this for 2 minutes in a teaspoon of oil rotating until done on all sides
  • Remove the skin, clean and pat dry whole chicken. Create deep gashes on the chicken. Make a marinade by mixing together the chilly powder, turmeric powder, salt and lime juice.  Rub this well onto the chicken and the cavity too. Let it rest on counter top for about an hour.
  • Heat oil in a deep pan ( use extra oil than you would use for normal chicken curry). Add onions into the pan and saute till transparent.
  • Add ginger garlic paste, curry leaves and green chilly. Let it cook down.
  • At this point,separate 4 tbsp masala into another pan. Add ½ tsp of chilly powder to this and cook well.  Add 2 tbsp of chopped tomato and let it melt.  Add the fried eggs and coat the masala. Let it cook for another minute. Turn off the flame and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, add the remaining chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, fennel powder and garam masala into the main pan. Let the masala cook before adding tomato. Mix well and keep it covered until the tomato melts.
  • Add salt and water to this bring it to boil and turn off.
  • Stuff the egg masala into the cavity and using a twine tie together the legs of the chicken to close the cavity so that the masala stuffed in does not seep out. Tie together the wings as well. 
  • Place this in the deep bottomed pan. Spoon masala over the chicken and let it cook on high for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame and let the chicken cook. Flip over the chicken once a while ensuring that the chicken is always well coated in the masala. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour for the chicken to cook completely. Uncover and cook the chicken for the last ten minutes. The masala reduces and begins to change color to brownish red.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and serve it with choice of bread or rice.
You may also note - 
  • Turning over a whole chicken may be difficult, use two spatulas to support while turning it over.
  • Keep pouring spoonful of the gravy onto the chicken top and let the flavor seep in.
  • There are chances that the chicken may stick to the vessel and burn. So make sure to turn it over frequently!

June 15, 2017

Koshari - a popular dish from Egypt

With the MENA cooking club giving a free reign to cook something traditional to any of the MENA countries, the ball was completely in our court this month! I kept mulling on it for a few days and then my husband decided to ask one of his Egyptian friend from office - he gave us a list of popular items that included Kousa mahshi, Cabbage mahshi, Koshari and Hamam Mahshi which were popular during Ramadan. The same friend had once suggested a restaurant to try out the Egyptian cuisine. We had feasted on Koshari, Fattayer and kebabs that day. So when this came about, we only thought it was fitting to try out Koshari - an Egyptian dish; as traditional as it can get!

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Koshari is a popular Egyptian folk food and a look at the dish will definitely reveal the way it has come. Koshari comprises of lentils, rice, pasta, chickpea, crispy fried onions and a tomato based sauce. The influence of rice and lentils is believed to be from Indian cuisine. The pasta and the sauce reflect Italian influence as well.It was a popular food cart dish before it made its way into the restaurants. The dish is usually vegetarian but sometimes comes topped with chicken. This dish although comprises of various components is easy to make and assembled only while serving.

Here we go -

Ingredients
  1. Brown lentils - 1/2 cup
  2. Basmati rice - 1 cup
  3. Macaroni - 1 cup ( you could use any type of pasta)
  4. Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
  5. Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
  6. Chickpea - 1 cup boiled
  7. Onions - 2 thinly sliced
  8. Vegetable oil
  9. Salt to taste
For the sauce
  1. Garlic - 1 tbsp chopped
  2. Tomato sauce - 1 cup
  3. Onions - 2 tbsp fried
  4. Vinegar - 1 tsp
  5. Cumin powder - 1 tsp
  6. Sugar - 1/2 tsp
  7. Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
  8. Paprika - 1/2 tsp
Method
  • Soak the lentils in water for 2 hours and the rice for about 1/2 an hour. Rinse and clean until water runs clean.
  • Take oil in a pan and once hot, add the finely sliced onions. Fry them until brown and crisp. Set aside on kitchen towel to drain excess oil.
  •  Into the same pan add the cinnamon and cumin powder. Add the rice along with lentils and let the rice crackle. Pour in 3 cups of hot water to this, add salt and let the rice cook covered.
  • Cook the pasta separately until al-dente. Take off heat, drain the hot water and run it through cold water. Sprinkle salt , 1 tsp of oil and give it a good mix.
  • For the sauce: Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook until the raw smell disappears. Add the onions, cumin powder, pepper powder and paprika, Stir for a minute before adding the tomato sauce along with vinegar. Finally add the sugar and bring it to a boil before turning it off.
  • Serving - Layer the bottom of the plate with the rice and lentil mix. Top that with pasta. Drizzle the sauce over this. Top it with chickpea and finally the fried onions goes on top. End it with a cup of hot black tea!
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You may also note - 
  • Make sure not to overcook the rice. Once the rice is done, transfer to an open plate and fluff using a fork help it release the heat, making sure that the heat does not cook it further,
  • Coat the onions with a 1/2 a tsp of corn flour to help it get real crisp.


June 12, 2017

Irachi Petti - Malabar Iftar recipe

I always knew of Ramadan but it is only after moving to UAE, I realised how religiously it is observed and what iftar and suhoor mean! The world of blogging introduced me to a lot of Malabar snacks mostly fried but really mouth watering. I tend to stay away from deep fried stuff, primarily because I have pimples popping on my face as soon as I relish on anything fried. Since it is shorter office timings during Ramadan, my husband one day happened to come home with some snacks that he picked up from the local Kerala cafeteria for our evening tea together (that is a rarity too - happens only during Ramadan). It was all deep fried stuff and I could not resist it - pakoda, samosa, irachi petti, chatti pathiri, mulagu bajji, ulli vada. It was all there. I waited for two days after we had this - Yay! No pimples and that made my resolution to prepare a fried malabar snack stronger.

That is how I ended up making irachi petti with the minced meat I had in the fridge. Irachi means meat and petti means box. So basically this dish has meat filling that is sealed in a box made of crepe!
So here is a recipe to try this Ramadan!

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Ingredients

For the filling

  1. Minced meat - 400 gms (beef, mutton or chicken)
  2. Onion - 3 medium finely chopped
  3. Ginger - 2 tbsp
  4. Garlic - 2 tsp
  5. Green Chilli - 3 finely chopped
  6. Pepper powder - 1 tsp
  7. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  8. Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
  9. Garam masala - 1 tsp
  10. Lime juice - 1 tbsp
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Oil
For the crepe
  1. All purpose flour - 1 cup
  2. Egg - 1 beaten
  3. Salt to taste
  4. Water as needed
For coating
  1. Egg - 1 beaten
  2. Bread crumbs
  3. Oil
Method
  • Heat oil in a pan. Fry the onions until it softens and add the ginger, garlic and green chilly. Saute till the raw smell disappears.
  • Add the turmeric powder, corriander powder and pepper powder. Cook the masala and add the minced meat. Mix it well to coat.
  • Add salt and keep it covered until it is cooked. Adjust salt if need be and add lime juice. Turn off the flame.
  • Prepare the crepe batter by mixing together the flour, egg, water and salt in a bowl. Add water as needed to form a runny batter.
  • Heat a tawa and pour a laddle full of batter onto the hot tawa. Ensure that the flame is on medium and prepare the round crepe by running the laddle in a circular pattern on the batter.
  • Flip over once and cooked gently. Do not let it get crisp as it might break open while placing the filling.
  • This batter makes around 8 crepes.
How to fill the crepe and fry
  • Take one of the crepe and place two spoonful of filling on the center of the round crepe. Using the same spoon adjust the filling to form either a square shape or a rectangle shape. This is done just to make the irachi petti hold the shape.
  • In order to cover the filling, first fold over one side towards the top of the filling, such that the bend in the fold is at the point where the filling ends.Repeat the same with the opposite side.
  •  Now fold the other two ends one at a time thereby sealing the filling in ( may form a square or a rectangle shape). It is always better to have larger crepes made so that the folding is easy and it stays. Smaller folded flaps tend to open up while cooking.
  • Place this on a plate with the folded flaps facing down. Repeat the same with other crepes.
  • Heat oil in a pan,  Dip each of the petti in the beaten egg and coat it with bread crumbs. Then place the petti in the pan with the flap side facing down. Cook till it browns well on one side and then flip over.
  • Serve hot !!
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You may also note
  • You may add corriander leaves to the meat filling.
  • Once the crepe has been folded always place it with the flap facing downward so that the weight tends to hold the flap in place.
  • I prefer shallow frying but you may also deep fry it.


June 4, 2017

Kerala style beef ellu curry / Kerala style beef (with bones) curry

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India is in the middle of a beef debate and this post is in no way a protest against the ban. I just happened to make beef curry exactly on the day beef ban was declared in India. Yet, if the government of my country decides to ban beef I am liable to obey it, if it were only for the right reasons! Doesn't my country have so many other pressing issues that need attention? Hinduism reveres cows, but doesn't Hinduism and every other religion hold human beings in high value? Aren't Goddess' also worshiped? Then why on earth aren't women in our society held in high regard? Sexual harassment cases are on an unprecedented high and the culprits walk free or are meted with special treatment in jail. But it is ok to take law in hands when someone decides to transport cow? Even if it was not for slaughter? Don't we women deserve a bit more respect in the society and severe actions taken against those who wrong us? Despite all this, fear of punishment will hold us back from eating beef in India. I dream of a day when fear of punishment will stop people from committing atrocities against women. I envision a day when women in the society can walk as free as the cows do now! This is the least the government can do for our country! If the men who go out of their way to find out who is slaughtering cow and punish them could take a little of their time to ensure that country is a safe place for women, India would have been a much better place. Do we not deserve even so much? These are purely my thoughts and am not on for a debate on the ban:)

Having placed my thoughts on the beef ban, let me move to the recipe. This is from my family kitchen - when I say family, I have seen my mom and aunt make it and mostly served with puttu/steam cake. So that is what I did too - so here is the recipe for beef ellu curry.

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Ingredients
  1. Beef with bones - 1 kg
  2. Potato - 1/2 kg diced
  3. Tomato - 2 medium sliced
  4. Onion - 3 medium sliced a little thick
  5. Green Chilli - 5- 6 slit
  6. Ginger - 1 tbsp grated
  7. Garlic - 1 tbsp grated
  8. Garam masala - 1 tbsp
  9. Coriander powder - 2 tbsp
  10. Chilli powder - 1 tbsp
  11. Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  12. Coconut milk - 1/2 cup thick
  13. Coconut milk - 1 and 1/2 cup thin
  14. Cinnamon - 1 inch
  15. Green cardamom - 2
  16. Cloves - 3
  17. Curry leaves
  18. Shallots - 2 tbsp
  19. Peppercorns - 1 tbsp
  20. Salt to taste
  21. Oil
Method
  • Heat oil in pressure cooker and add the whole spices - cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Saute till fragrant.
  • Add the onions and saute till transparent. Tip in the ginger, garlic and green chilli. Cook until done.
  • Add the masala powders - turmeric, corriander, chilly and garam masala one at a time, Stirring it well to combine and cook.
  • Add the beef, potato and the tomato. Stir well to combine the masala. Pour in the thin milk of coconut and pressure cook until the beef is done. The cooking time may vary according to the beef used.
  • Release the pressure of the cooker. Add salt and the thick milk of coconut. Let it simmer for 2 minutes and then turn off  the flame.
  • In a mortar and pestle, crush the chopped shallots ( alternatively onions) and pepper corn coarsely.
  • Heat oil in a separate pan , add the crushed pepper and shallots. Fry till the color of the shallots begin to darken and add curry leaves.
  • Garnish the beef ellu curry with this and serve hot with puttu.
You may also note
  • Do not boil the gravy once you add the thick milk of coconut.
  • You may make this with boneless beef as well but with the bones it gets more flavorful.

May 29, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Pudding

There are days when my mind wanders to my home country and my desire to go back there gets stronger. I am sure these thoughts resonate with atleast a few of the expats. Sometimes I busy myself with some work to shut away these thoughts and other days I whine and whine. After some whining, I turn to my laptop to cheer me up. The one show that makes all the worry lines cease to exist is FRIENDS. I just can't have enough of it. I have watched season by season and now go on to youtube to catch some scenes from it. All the characters have become so etched in me that I feel they live around me. Like any other Friends fan, I would love to see that Reunion happening till then I can continue to watch it in a loop. 

Cooking does cheer me up but imagine cooking and watching Friends at the same time :P I do it often these days.( I hate it when I have to turn on the blender, the noise is such a distraction:P) From Monica's jam to Ross' Fajita , Rachel's English Truffle to Joey's sandwich, Phoebe's chocolate chip cookies to Chandler's cheesecake - food becomes an integral part of Friends. Those who have watched Friends can sure co-relate.  Cooking these days is more fun that it used to be ( Hope my Dad doesn't read this - he was very particular that we do one task at a time and not multi task but I can't just help it!)
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Over to my recipe, a rarity on my blog - a dessert. I have adapted the recipe from Spinneys magazine - when I read this recipe two months back I knew I simply had to do it. I went hunting for cherries and came back empty handed - Cherries were available nowhere. The recipe lay forgotten until few days back when I saw cherries at a local supermarket - then I knew I had to make this desert. And I am quite pleased with the result:)

There you are - 

Ingredients
  1. Butter - 150 gm
  2. Semi sweet chocolate - 200 gm
  3. Powdered sugar - ½ cup
  4. All purpose flour - ¼ cup
  5. Cherry - 150 to 200 gm
  6. Egg - 2 no.s
Method
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degree centigrade.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl placed on top of simmering water. Mix using a spatula and combine well. Let it cool.
  • Beat the egg and fold in the powdered sugar and flour.
  • Add the chocolate mix to this along with pitted cherries.
  • Transfer the mixture into a baking tray and let it bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Serve it warm along with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
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May 25, 2017

Italy-cised

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Walk across the Tiber
I am not sure when the idea of travel blogging became a part of our vacation planning but now, it has become so embedded in us that everything we do and see needs to get immortalized ( too grand a word right!!) here. Visiting Italy was something we had on our minds since 2015 - somehow things never fell in place - it was either that it coincided with our India trip plans or finances never fell in place or our visa was getting renewed - something always ensured that our plans went down the drain. Everything did fit into the puzzle last month and our long awaited Italy trip was planned, executed and we are now reveling the glory. Oh, we are finally ‘Italy-cised’, that is our way of expressing our happiness in ultimately touring Italy. Well, it doesn’t mean that we toured the whole of Italy, we were able to fit in as much we could without rushing, and giving time to take in the fragrance of the blossoms.

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Italy is adorned by beautiful historic churches and other monuments

Our trip was just for a week but we could go on about our experiences - a single write up would be gross injustice to the trip and hence we have decided to break it up into parts and take you on a photo journey that could well describe our travel episodes.

Segment 1 - Italy-cised :We attempt to illustrate our planning, itinerary, provide tips, general        occurrences and insights into some amazing food.

Segment 2 - Roaming the Rome and Walking the Vatican : Our experiences on roaming Rome by   foot and the tour through Vatican

Segment 3 - Escapade to the countryside - Tuscany and Umbria : We take you a photo journey through the beautiful country side

Segment 4 - Trek the terre - Cinque Terre(pronounced ‘Cheenqui’ Terre, which means 5 lands): Recounting our trekking experiences in Cinque Terre along with glimpses of our stop at Pisa and Milan

For a country like Italy with a long Mediterranean coastline, bountiful countryside and renaissance masterpieces, no research proved worthy enough. Nevertheless, our main resort were the beautifully written travel blogs that virtually guided us through the Italian streets onto the beautiful piazzas that helped shape our itinerary including all that we wanted into an 8 day plan. The tips provided by the bloggers were in reality quite helpful. A simple example would be the repeated requests by many bloggers to join the queue at the Palantine hills and Roma Forum to see the Colosseum than join the never ending queue at Colosseum which will in turn take you to Roma Forum and Palantine Hill. If it wasn't for this piece of advice we would have ended up at the long queue at Colosseum whereas the queue at Roma Forum was quite short that enabled us a quick entry.

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Piazza Venezia

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The ruins

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A fountain welcomes you at every piazza
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Every Piazza has a church too!
Accommodation

Once you have decided on your places of visit, lay down your itinerary, get your travel reservations done, book your accommodation and apply for the visa. We chose airbnb and agriturismo websites for our stay bookings. Once you zero in on the location you want to stay, airbnb gives you a range of options to choose from - whether you want a shared room, a private room or an independent house along with the price ranges and photos of the stay. These stays are cheaper than the hotel stays and also you get to interact with the locals at a personal level.  If you are not sure of your place of stay and want to have the flexibility of cancelling it later - choose the accommodation that has flexible cancellation policy. Moderate and strict cancellation policy accommodation levy some amount as airbnb service fee on cancellation (Make sure you read and understand the cancellation policy). Yeah, we failed to read it well and did lose a couple of Dirhams :(  Agriturismo offers great farm stays in the beautiful Italian country side. If you want to stay away from the hush and rush of city life then head over to agriturismo to survey your options.  If public transport is your means of commute, always look for places where public transportation is easily accessible. Interact with your host even before your travel and establish a good bond that way you would get to live the life of a true local.


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An upmarket area at the Spanish steps

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Glimpse of St Peters Basilica


Things to carry

Make sure you check the weather forecast so you know what clothes to carry along with you. We did commit a huge blunder in that assessment of ours. Italy was colder than we thought it to be. Italian weather on average hits 12 to 15 degree centigrade through the month of April. We had situations where the temperature dipped to 7 degrees and I refused to step out of the car as my teeth kept chattering the moment I got out. My clothes were a little too thin for the weather, I learnt my lesson and I sure am going to take more of winter clothes the next time we plan to travel in the cold season. Travel as light as you possibly can, you may have to lug the luggage across streets, cobbled paths and may be even hill tops. So be prepared for the eventuality. Ensure that you have all your travel documents securely kept. If you are not comfortable carrying it around, have photocopies of it and the originals safe at your accommodation.

Our Itinerary

After several additions, cancellations and re-additions our itinerary looked as below -

Day 1 - Reach Rome and check into our accommodation.
Day 2 - Tour Rome
Day 3 - Roam Vatican
Day 4 - Take a train to Florence. Rent a car and drive to our stay in Tuscany
Day 5 - Explore Tuscany
Day 6 - Travel to Umbria and take cooking class
Day 7 - Train to La Spezia. Stop by Pisa.
Day 8 - Trek the Cinque Terre
Day 9 - Explore Milan in 4 hours. Take the return flight

Initially, we also wanted to spend a couple of days in Milan visiting Lake Como, Bellagio, Varenna and also wanted to take  the Bernina Express a.k.a the Little Red Train from Tirano (near Milan) to Chur (in Switzerland) which will take you through the breathtaking Swiss Alps, but due to time constraints, decided to save it for another time. That’s how we ended up returning from Milan, in case you were wondering.

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Along the Trastevere

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Drive through the countryside
Advance Bookings

We also did advance booking for the Colosseum entry here and also booked a guided tour of the Vatican through Viator. We regretted not having booked a guided tour for the Colosseum. Even if you are not into architecture, ruins or paintings, Rome is a city which will make you fall in love with it. Just like we did. We were never into architecture and our only idea for visiting Rome was just to see the so called famous ruins and buildings. In fact we were less excited about the Rome part of the trip. But today without doubt we can tell you that was the best part of our trip. We loved our walk through the ruins and the churches and we just fell in love with history. We would definitely recommend booking a guided tour of both the Colosseum and Vatican.

Getting around Italy

Rome definitely was not built in a day but surely can be conquered on foot that is if you are willing to walk! So forget renting a car in Rome - parking and driving can get a little messy. We saw vehicles moving in both directions on a single lane. We saw red lights being skipped and vehicles stopping for green lights and God alone knows how the owners managed to move the parked cars which seemed to be neatly wedged in between two cars without even an ounce of space in between. However, they were always patient for the crossing pedestrians.

ItalyDownload a metro map of Rome and it can get you almost anywhere. If not there are buses, the tickets for which can be brought from a Newspaper kiosk which is around every corner or you can also find them in the shops selling Tobacco ( always has T sign easy to recognize). It costs 1.50 euros a person and valid for 100 minutes from the time it is first punched. To move from one city to another there are trains available at frequent intervals. You could save a dime or may be two by pre booking on certain trains like the frecciarossa or frecciabianca (fast trains). Advance booking can also be done for inter city trains, however you do not have reserved seats, but that is okay as there are plenty of seats available. Intercity and regional train tickets need to be punched/validated at the slots on the platforms before entering the train. However the speed trains do not require punching and the ticket collectors would check it once you are in the train. At the platform, you have ticket kiosks that help you book - I found it interesting that you need not tender the exact amount while booking - the machine gives you back the exact change ( I loved the 'clunk clunk' noise of the change dropping). So book your tickets, search for your platform number on the digital display boards and head over to the right platform.

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Our companion touring the countryside - rental car
If you plan to explore the country side, renting a car is highly recommended. We highly endorse renting a car to explore the countryside as the scenery is spectacular. We researched, chose Hertz through Autoeurope and did the pre-booking. We compared the fares between autoeurope.com(which takes you to the US website) with autoeurope.eu. Autoeurope.eu got us a better fare. Always go with renowned rental agencies like Hertz, Europcar as they are spread out across multiple locations. Do not go with the cheaper options out there, as reviews aren’t as good. Booking through Hertz was a breeze.


Beware of pickpockets

You will have warning signs displayed almost everywhere. We made sure we had each other’s back. We carried backpacks and had our wallets and mobiles safely tucked in the interior pockets and ensured that we never left the bags unattended even the suitcases. One incident, which I assumed was an attempt at pick pocketing was at one of stations when a woman came over to us incessantly spoke in Italian asking us something pointing to her ticket. Even when we spoke English, she did not step away. At that moment, I felt a group of people gather around us and felt a tug at my bag, I swirled around, removed my bag and hugged it. One in the group, spoke in Italian seemingly helping the woman with the ticket and they eventually moved away from us. For all I know, I could be wrong, it would have been a genuine case but I learnt my lesson of possible ways a person distracts you and someone using the distraction to pick something out of your bag. Dad and Mom had given incidents about pick pockets that happened during their group tour, so we were always on the lookout!

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Learning Italian

Learning a few Italian words can go a long way. Despite being a tourist country most of the folks knew very little English, so it gets quite hard to communicate. We often had to end up using sign language to communicate. At Perugia, a very sweet old man desperately wanted to help us when we wanted help with directions, all we knew was English and all he knew was Italian. He tried his best explaining in Italian and Shibin happily nodded away not understanding a word of it for almost 10 minutes, not wanting to let him down.

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Get a SIM card! 

Our biggest saving grace was an Italian SIM card that we bought on the first day which gave us gave us internet access, so google was always a click away. The telecom companies do have special SIM cards for tourists that are activated on purchase, one of the cheapest service provider is TIM which we purchased for 20 Euros which had a data package of 10 GB and around 1000 mins of local calls.
 (cheaper plans could be out there) Absolutely never buy the SIM from the airport, they charge you a hefty price!! 120 euros was the cost they demanded at the airport for the SIM!

Drinking Water

Carry water bottles with you. In Rome there are plenty of springs available where you can refill water, rather than having to pay for mineral water bottles which definitely does not come any cheaper. Pizza, pasta, gelato, bread, Panini - you have heard it all but this is where you get to try the Originals. The ones available across the globe have often been revamped to suit the regional flavors. The true Italian pizza has just a combination of 2 to 3 flavors maximum topped with cheese but definitely not a humongous amount of it. The crust is much lighter and often browned at the sides rather than the whole white bases that is available elsewhere.

Food

Most of the places provide a basket of bread to go with the wine. This is not accompanied by olive oil or balsamic vinegar which apparently isn't Italian tradition but more of an updated version of the Italian food. The bread often comes with a hard crust - yeah yeah! Apparently that is the authentic bread, not the soft ones that we have from the bakers here. It can scar the roof of your mouth! Ouch!  Do not forget to try the ricotta cheese and the pecorino. I am in love with ricotta! Certain aged cheese could be too strong for your senses.
Pecorino goes absolutely well with honey!!

Focaccia is a must try in Cinque Terre - the freshly baked ones just out of the oven forms a lovely breakfast - have the ones topped with pesto; simply fabulous.  Pasta, ravioli, spaghetti - we dug our hands into all what we possibly could.

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Every corner you turn to, you are sure to find a gelato place - try their amazing flavors. Gelato usually comes in two kinds - the fruit based ones and the milk based ones in either cone or cup and in different sizes. We always went in for two flavors in our cup or cone - I cannot pin point a single flavor and say it was good. All the 10 flavors we had were good and I cannot possibly single out one.
(we did try 10 flavors!) You could pick your food and have it on the go instead of having it in a restaurant and every piazza has a fountain and some steps too were you can rest your legs and enjoy your food. This way you do not lose time for exploring and you get to eat too.  If you see an amount charged on your restaurant bill as Coperto - do not be in for a shock it is nothing you ate. It is simply the tip they charge, saves you time having to think about how much to tip.

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The beauty of Cinque Terre

With these tidbits, we are signing off on Italy-cised till we meet again Roaming the Rome and Walking the Vatican.

Please feel free to leave in your experiences during your travel in the comments below.

-Ria & Shibin

May 15, 2017

Jordanian Coffee - ||MENA Cooking Club||

This is my first month in the MENA Cooking Club  with Jordan being the chosen country of the month. I am not familiar with Jordanian cuisine except that my last birthday dinner was at a Jordanian restaurant where I relished on Jordanian Mansaf and Mint Tea. Oh and I loved the tea! With Famidha from My life in Yanbu suggesting that I join the MENA club, I decided to put on my boots and get going with the club. I have never been a part of any such food blogging venture before - so it is my first and if laziness does not get the better of me, I intend to keep going:)

I chose the Jordanian coffee for my kitchen to kick start. I am not a great fan of black coffee, so when 2 years ago I ordered a cup of coffee at Cyprus and I was given a small shot glass with dark coffee inside and that smelled so strong, I was bewildered. With great difficulty I gulped it down. I have no idea what made me go back to the same place the next day and order the same coffee. And I did it for another two days at row! So well, the coffee got the better of me. I wanted to pick up a packet of Cypriot coffee powder before I left Cyprus, but my husband was not very sure whether we would love this coffee being a part of our daily routine. So when Jordanian coffee was put in as an option - I thought this was my chance to try an Arabic coffee again ( oh by the way Cyprus is a amalgamation of Arabic food and European - so I am sure their coffee is part Arabic too) Unlike our Starbucks, Costa, CCD, Jordanian coffee is served in smaller cups just enough for a gulp or two and you could always go in for refills. It is usually served with dates or other similar condiments. Traditionally the first cup is given to the host who sips and decides if it fit to be served to the guests. The coffee powder is not sieved out, instead let to sediment before pouring it out. It is usually black coffee but sometimes a little evaporated milk ( modern version I presume) is added which I have chosen to add into my recipe.

kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Ingredients
  1. Coffee powder ( dark roast) - 2 tbsp
  2. Water - 2 cups
  3. Sugar - 1 tbsp
  4. Cardamom powder - 1 tsp
  5. Clove - 1
  6. Saffron - 1 pinch
  7. Evaporated milk - 1 to 2 tbsp
Method

Heat water in a saucepan. Stir in sugar and let it dissolve.Add the coffee powder when the water just begins to form bubbles and bring it to rolling boil. Take it off the flame and set aside for 30 seconds before you bring it on to the flame and boil it again. Repeat this once more. Switch off the flame. Add in the clove, cardamom powder, saffron and evaporated milk. Leave it covered for 2 minutes to let the coffee powder sediment. Pour into small cups without disturbing the sediments at the bottom.




May 9, 2017

Sweet Stuffed Naan

With mothers day around the corner it is only apt that I write about my mom today. If my dad happens to read this write up about mom, he is going to be upset that I did not mention him and he says they come as a package. There is no mom or dad individually but dad and mom together. So I do not have a choice but write about the whole package:) My sister can wait!

I do not wish to pen down the whole story here but few things which I feel every parent should do that I learnt from my parents. Like every parent, they struggled to ensure that we have a good life. We are two - me and my sis both of us are away from home, there is always an empty nest feeling but they don't let that become a hindrance in life. They do go out for dinner just like we did when we were together as a family. They have their occasional trip to beaches and drives to Mangalore as well. It is ok to have your life revolving around your kids but have a life of your own too when life allows you that.

Grades do not determine your child's future, so do not scold or spank them for getting low grades. The child will never learn anything from that. Despite being professors themselves my parents have never reprimanded us even once for low grades in school. As mom always tells - Its fine to get low grades because I know you did try. But if ever I see you walking around not studying and then come to me with a low grades then this is not the mom you are going to see.

I participated in elocution competition from grade 1 to grade 10 and never once won a prize. I almost quit in standard 8 but my dad kept me going - he wrote me speeches and I went and presented. The first time I ever won was a third place when I was in Class 12. I have never looked back since then - I went on to win many more prizes in college only because my dad never let me quit despite not winning - he saw in me what I probably never realised. He always encouraged and praised me even if my performance wasn't great which was a great motivator. And my mom went on to be my critic - she was realistic said good when it was good and bad when it was bad. So a combination of the motivator and the critic is the reason for many of my small success stories in my career.

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My recipe for today is Sweet stuffed naan, a combination of two flavors - Sweetness rendered by the condensed milk and the spice quotient from the chilli. Just like the sweet me :P and the two important people in my life who made me ME!

Recipe adapted from the Friday Magazine

Ingredients
  1. All purpose flour - 1½ cup
  2. Instant Yeast - 1 tsp
  3. Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
  4. Black sesame seeds - 1 tbsp (optional)
  5. Yogurt - 1/4 cup
  6. Sweetened condensed milk - 50 ml
  7. Egg - 1
  8. Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp
  9. salt
Filling
  1. Onion - 2 medium finely chopped
  2. Dessicated coconut - 1 cup
  3. Green Chilly - 2 finely chopped
  4. Sweetened condensed milk - 2 tbsp
  5. Salt
Method
  • Combine the dry ingredients - flour, instant yeast, salt, sesame seeds and baking powder.
  • Bring together the wet ingredients in a bowl - yogurt, condensed milk and egg. Whisk them until well combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly add the yogurt mix into this in batches mixing with a spatula on the go until they are well combined.
  • Tip it over on your work table and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes into a firm ball.
  • Smear a bowl with oil and place your dough into the bowl. Apply oil over the dough as well. Keep it covered with a cling film for 1 to 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile prepare the filling by mixing the chopped onions, dessicated coconut, finely chopped green chilly, sweetened condensed milk and salt. The condensed milk is to just bind the ingredients together.
  • After the dough has risen make smaller balls out of this ( approximately 6 with the above mentioned quantity)
  • Flatten the dough with your hand and scoop out a spoonful of the filling and place it at the center of the flattened dough. Bring together the edges of the flattened dough just like you would wrap a bundle and press it together. Use a little of water to hold this together. Roll it into a ball careful not to spill out the filling.
  • Dust this with a little flour and roll it out using a rolling pin into an oblong shape or you could do it with your hands as well. Just press it with your fingers to attain the desired shape.
  • Move it to a griller and let it grill on both the sides for a minute each or till the color begins to change and dark spots begin to appear.
  • Take it off the griller and brush with ghee on both the sides. 
  • The Naan is sweet and can be eaten on its own as it has a hint of spiciness too in every bite rendered by the green chilli.
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April 21, 2017

Quick Rava Laddu/ Semolina Laddu/ Rava Unda

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Glass jar full of colorful sweets, cookies and biscuits are common in local grocery stores in India. Rava/Semolina laddu was a popular sweet that adorned one of these glass jar during my childhood days. I remember making this dish  several times at home with my mom and very often instead of rolling it up into balls we just leveled into a steel plate and cut it out as barfi. I always had a penchant for these laddus. It was recently that Famidha from My Life in Yanbu expressed her love for semolina and desire to even create a semolina recipes only blog! That is when I got all pumped up to make this laddu again. It is easy with minimal ingredients and done in under 15 minutes. 

So if you have guests popping in at short notice this is a recipe for you , after all semolina is an ingredient readily available in our household.


kitchenspells.blogspot.com

Ingredients
  1. Roasted Rava/Semolina - 1 cup
  2. Dessicated coconut -  1/2 cup
  3. Sweet condensed milk - 1/2 cup
  4. Warm milk - 3 tbsp
  5. Ghee - 2 tbsp
  6. Nuts/ raisins
Method
  • Heat ghee in a deep bottomed pan. Add the rava and roast it for two minutes on low flame.
  • Add the dessicated coconut and stir for another minute.
  • Add the condensed milk, warm milk and mix this well. Turn off the flame.
  • Grease your hands with ghee and while the mixture is still warm scoop out spoonfuls and make balls of equal size.
  • Addition of nuts and raisins is purely your choice. In case, you want to add roast it along with the rava.
You may also note - 
  • Can be stored in airtight container up to a week.



April 16, 2017

Pineapple Chiffon Cake with Spiced Pineapples

Happy Easter !!

I did want this post to be done a couple of days early but Easter seems a good enough reason for this cake recipe to go through. I completed two years of blogging this month and if someone told me two years back that this would happen, I would never believe it! Now that I am here, I would just love to say THANK YOU to everyone. 

While I try out my mamma's recipes, she tries some of mine too! My Pappa  religiously clicks away pictures of recipes from newspapers and magazines for me and my sister believes that my blog will make it big some day! My cousins - Vinitha and Neenu - one who diligently gives me ideas and other who meticulously reads them and  questions. My mother in law is the first one to share my recipes on facebook and my bro - in- law and co sister who always read my write ups and provide their comments. My love to all my friends, fellow bloggers and friends who are the reason why I am still in this blogging space and enjoy being here. And to Shibin, well this is our blog so technically it is Thank you from both of us to all of you!

On to my recipe - I wanted to make a pineapple cake and some research led me to this pineapple chiffon cake. So, the next question - what exactly is a chiffon cake? Chiffon cake is simply made with vegetable oil and fluffed up by beating the egg white to form peaks - sort of a cross between a sponge cake and oil cake. With a little bit of tweaking and addition of spiced pineapples - I had my pineapple chiffon cake with spiced pineapples.

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Ingredients

For the cake -
  1. All purpose flour - 2 cups
  2. Egg - 4 
  3. Sugar - 1 cup + 4 tbsp
  4. Vegetable oil - 1/2 cup
  5. Canned pineapple slices with syrup - 450 gms ( about 10 pineapple slices)
  6. Vanilla essence - 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp
  7. Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
  8. Star anise - 2
  9. Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
  10. Whipping cream - 2 cups
  11. Powdered sugar - 3 tbsp
  12. Water - 4 tbsp
  13. Ghee/ Clarified butter - 1 tbsp
  14. Salt - 1 pinch
Method

Spiced caramelised pineapples
  • Heat a frying pan and add 4 tbsp of sugar to it. Let it melt, brown and caramelise. Add 4 tbsp of water to it - initially it would form lumps but let it boil and it would form a thick syrup. 
  • Reduce the flame and add sliced pineapple to this along with the star anise and cinnamon powder.  Let it caramelise into a beautiful golden yellow. Flip and move around so that it caramelises uniformly on medium flame. Once done, add a tablespoon of ghee and let it caramelise for another 2 minutes. Switch off and let it cool.
Chiffon cake
  • Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Beat the egg white stiff.
  • Sieve together the flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.
  • Bring together the wet ingredients - vegetable oil, egg yolks, 1/2 a cup of pineapple syrup from the canned pineapples and vanilla essence. Add the sugar and using a spatula combine them well.
  • Add the flour in batches incorporating them well into the wet ingredients.
  • Finally, add the beaten egg whites and fold them in together.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degree centigrade and bake the cake for 35 to 45 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a cooling tray and let it cool.
Whipping Cream
  • Keep a bowl and whisk in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  • Add the whipping cream, 1/4 tsp essence and vanilla essence into the bowl and whisk on high speed for 6 to 8 minutes till it forms peak stiffs.
  • Refrigerate it until it is time to use.
Combining and decorating
  • Slice the cake into two layers. Level the cake by slicing off any uneven surface. 
  • Prick the cake randomly with a pin and drizzle 1/2 a cup of pineapple syrup for making the layers moist.
  • For the two layer cake, use the layer sliced off from the top as the bottom layer while frosting and keep the bottom of the cake inverted at the top for the top layer. This is done to get a level surface on top.
  • Keep one layer on a rotating cake stand. Slather a generous amount of whipped cream on this layer. Chop five of the spiced pineapple slices and spread this on the whipped cream. Spread a little bit more of whipping cream to hold it together.
  • Keep the bottom of the cake inverted on the top of this. Press it gently.
  • Slather whipping cream on the top of the cake and also on the sides. Decorate the top of the cake with spiced pineapples. Pipe designs on the top for the final touch!
Things to note - 
  1. Let the cake cool before starting the frosting.
  2.  If you are not into decorating - you could simply have the layers slathered with whipping cream and topped with pineapple leaving the edges bare and no piping as well.
  3. If you are using whipping cream for the first time - do not panic! You will find that it has the consistency of nothing but cream first and as you beat it it thickens up and forms peaks. Over beating may result in curdling up.

April 10, 2017

Potato Bhaji

You know, there are some growing up memories that just never fade away and the happiest ones are invariably around the dinner table. Our family had a few ground rules - did I ever mention that my parents are professors? (No wonder we had rules!:P) Rules need not always be bad and are not always meant to be broken. There are some rules that shape your habits and looking back you would never regret having followed them. Our rules were simple -

  1. Always have every meal together - be it breakfast, lunch or dinner! We still follow it.
  2. Never skip a meal. Mamma says,' if you skip a meal it is I who go hungry not you', so I make sure she never goes hungry:)
  3. No TV while eating! Gosh, I wish I could follow that one. That is one rule we had to coax Pappa into relenting at times when our favorite TV programs were running.
  4. It was always the same meal for everyone, no specials! You like it, eat it or eat whatever you like that is on the table but special food for one individual was hardly ever made. Mamma alternated between everyone's favorite.
Small things in life but ones which shapes certain routines in your life.  Sometimes the most important decisions in life are taken around dinner table and the most precious moments are created there. Food is not just about living - food is love - food is sharing happiness - food brings family together! One of my favorite food in my school days were chapatti and potato bhaji. We called it the yellow potato curry:) This has always been my go to recipe for lazy evenings. It is quick - pairs well with chapati and poori and it can well beat the bhaji served at restaurants. 

kitchenspells.blogspot.com

Ingredients

  1. Potato - 2 large chopped into cubes
  2. Onion - 1 medium sliced
  3. Green Chilli - 2-3 slit ( increase or decrease as per your spice quotient)
  4. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  5. Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
  6. Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
  7. Oil - 1 tbsp
  8. Water
  9. Salt to taste
Method
  • Cook the potato along with onion, green chilli, turmeric powder, water and salt. You may use a pressure cooker with water just enough to cover the potatoes and let it cook up to two whistles. Alternatively, use a cooking pot but add more water and let it cook covered.
  • Once the potato is cooked. Mash it using a laddle until the potato is coarsely mashed and the gravy thickens. In case you have excess water, run on high flame for a while to get rid of the excess water.
  • In a separate pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. Once it splutters add curry leaves to this.
  • Add the tempering to your gravy and keep it covered until served. There you are - potato bhaji is all ready!
kitchenspells.blogspot.com

March 28, 2017

Karahi Gosht/ Mutton Karahi

A perfect thriller makes my day and night too! A good book in hand and the literature within the levels of my understanding, then I have the potential of forgetting just about every thing around me - you will see me in the company of the book in the kitchen too. I may burn a chapatti or two in the go. I spent a major chunk of my single days immersed in such books and I had a perfect roommate for company. Our love for thrillers and mystery extended to television shows as well - Savdhaan India on Life Ok and Crime Patrol on Sony TV were hot favorites.  Both these shows end with the charming hosts signing off  saying - Be Cautious!! Our cautiousness extended to a level were both of us doubted everything we saw and heard. So negative was the impact that we decided to stop watching these series and stick to books which were more of fictitious work than reality.

My married days are no better - both of us love the same kind of book and we had membership in the same chain of library - Just Books in Bangalore. Post marriage we cancelled my membership and upgrading his and the reason for cancelling mine on the form was - 'Got Married'! Archies Library in Karama is our favorite haunt for books. A good thriller could see us through a bad day and once you have reached the last few pages of the book - you have those moments when you somehow wanna get hold of the book and find out the culprit. I am now an expert at guessing the culprit too - yeah atleast 70% of the times I do - so beware if you wanna watch a thriller with me - I may spoil the fun!

If you are wondering why I am rambling on about thrillers - I have a book in hand now that I started reading yesterday and can't wait to get back to it !

So let me go and have my hot cup of chai with my book while you guys take a look at this recipe. It is simple - because you cook most of the ingredients together and you have your time to grab a book if you need between cooking!

kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Ingredients
  1. Mutton/Lamb - 1 kg
  2. Ginger garlic paste - 3 tsp
  3. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  4. Butter - 50 grams
  5. Onions - 4 medium sliced
  6. Tomato - 2 medium sliced
  7. Kalonji/Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
  8. Jeera powder/cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
  9. Coriander powder - 3 tsp
  10. Kashmiri chilli powder - 2 tsp
  11. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  12. Coriander leaf - 1 cup tightly packed
  13. Kasoori methi - 4 tbsp
  14. Water - 1 cup
  15. Yogurt - 1/4 cup
  16. Salt
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Method
  • Marinate the mutton pieces in turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste for 30 minutes.
  • Heat butter in a deep bottomed pan, Add the marinated mutton slices to this and let it fry until the mutton pieces just begin to change color.
  • Add the onions, tomatoes,kalonji,cumin powder, coriander powder, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric powder along with salt. Coat the meat in the masala and let the meat cook covered on medium low. This may take 45 minutes to an hour depending on the mutton you use.
  • Crush the kasoori methi between your palms and add it to the gravy. Sprinkle the coriander leaves.
  • Finally add the yogurt and adjust salt.
  • Serve hot!

March 22, 2017

Crispy Sweet Corn

kitchenspells.blogspot.com

I keep saying that every dish has a story behind it and Shibin says every photograph should tell a story. So we definitely have a 'Once upon a time' in this dish and a 'happily ever after' too.

Most of us have heard of Barbeque Nation and have atleast been there once to satiate our barbeque cravings.What you probably did not know was this restaurant chain is owned by Indore based Sayyaji Hotel. I was fortunate enough to spend two days here and that is where my love affair with crispy fried sweet corn started. I have tried making this snack couple of times - but never achieved success till about two weeks back. This definitely does not meet BBQ Nation standards but still we loved it this way.
Last week, we had a family over for dinner and we spent most of the time playing carroms. The need for a quick snack at the carroms table was what reminded me of this recipe. It turned out crispy as I wanted it to and that led me to making it again the very next day for the blog. That is when Shibin suggested that we make it a snack for our evening trip to the beach and photograph it there. For him, this seemed an ideal picnic snack and where better than a trip to the beach. We had some fun time creating those cones too - super fun to see Shibin trying to create cones and ending up with huge ones that would hold almost  a 1 kg of the kernels:P Some childish crafting at work:) Blogging is fun!

kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Here is the recipe -

Ingredients

  1. Sweet Corn kernels - 1 cup
  2. All Purpose Flour - 3 tbsp
  3. Corn Flour - 3 tbsp
  4. Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  5. Onion - 1 finely sliced
  6. Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp finely chopped
  7. Water - 2 tbsp
  8. Salt to taste
  9. Oil
Method
  • Mix together all purpose flour, corn flour, chilli powder and salt.
  • In a bowl, use your hands to mix together the dry ingredients with the sweet corn kernels.
  • Sprinkle 2 tbsp water on this and give a firm mix so that the batter holds on to the kernels.
  • Heat oil in a deep pan and test by dropping one kernel into it. It has to crackle and rise to the top.
  • Keep the flame on medium throughout and once the oil is ready, drop a handful of kernel into it. Let it fry and rise to the top.
  • Drain excess oil on tissue paper.
  • Transfer to a bowl, add chopped onions and coriander leaves. Sprinkle a little chilli powder and give it a good toss.
  • An easy snack for those lazy evenings.

You may also note - 
  • Fry as soon as you make the mix, do not let it rest for too long as it tends to get a little soggy and will end up holding kernels as a bunch and not as individual ones.

March 16, 2017

Herbed Focaccia with caramelised shallots

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I am relatively a beginner in bread baking and this is probably the only bread I have baked more than the fingers on my hand! I tasted focaccia only when I came to Dubai and that was the first time I even heard of it. Back in India, I knew 4 types of bread - white bread, brown bread, multigrain bread and fruit bread - that was my extent of bread knowledge.  I would not label bread baking as difficult - it is only time consuming - so if you have the time in hand - Foccacia is definitely worth a try.

Focaccia is an Italian bread with a generous amount of olive oil - topped with herbs, olives, onions, sun-dried tomatoes or any other vegetables that goes along. Focaccia, I realised recntly makes a good sandwich bread too! I have tried topping with olives , tomato and onions but the best for me was the shallots. It is easier to chop them into cute little rounds - it caramelizes well and the looks quite pretty on the bread too. I read an article today by Nandita Iyer from the Saffron Trail in the Hindu where she outlines the need to eat with your senses and we did just that with focaccia!

kitchenspells.blogspot.com


Ingredients

  1. All Purpose Flour - 1½ cup + extra for dusting
  2. Water - ½ cup warm
  3. Instant yeast - 11 gm sachet
  4. Olive oil - ½ cup (¼ +¼ divided)
  5. Shallots - ¼ cup
  6. Sugar - 3 tbsp
  7. Garlic and Herb seasoning - 1½ tsp
  8. Semolina - 2 tsp
Method
  • Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  • Sieve together the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well at the center of the bowl and slowly add the warm water mixing it together using a fork.
  • Now add olive oil - ¼ cup in small batches till the dough holds itself together. The dough is going to be sticky at this point.
  • Dust your work surface with a little flour and tip the dough over. Knead for roughly 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should not be very hard to knead, it should be smooth and easy to stretch.
  • Grease a bowl with a little olive oil - cover with a cling film and let it rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place to double itself.
  • Meanwhile, chop the shallots into rounds and add a tsp of olive oil to this and give it a good mix.
  • Take a baking tray and sprinkle semolina at the base of the tray. 
  • The dough in one hour would double itself and would have a very smooth texture. Punch it down and tip it over into the tray and firmly press down with your hand to attain the shape of the tray uniformly. Poke into the dough using your finger tips to create random patterns as you can see on the bread .( Trust me it is superb fun to do that!!)
  • Sprinkle the seasoning and spread the shallots over the surface. Give it a light press so that it holds itself to the dough but doesn't insert itself.
  • Sprinkle a little bit of salt all over and be generous with you olive oil on the surface.
  • Cover it with a cling film and let it stand for 45 minutes.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree centigrade  and place in the tray. Bake for 30 minutes till the top of the bread begins to brown.
  • Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before you dig in you knife:)
  • Focaccia is a breakfast or snack in itself that goes well along with your coffee or tea. The herbs and the olive oil gets infused into the bread and the caramelized shallots give the focaccia a lovely aroma.
  • You could also try this with a chilli chutney which I thought was a lovely combo!
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You may also note -
  • It is necessary to knead the dough well and leave it for proofing. Ensure that the dough has risen - approximately an hour should do but colder areas may require more time.
  • Usual recipes call for 20 minutes bake time - I got mine done in 30 minutes so keep checking yours to ensure the lovely brown color on top.
  • Avoid opening the oven too many times to check - check at the 20 minute mark first.
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