Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sinless cravings - eggless maple cake

Dear foodies,
Yes, I went off again, and this time I was not planning on doing that. I don't know what came over, I was checking my blog everyday looking for comments that were surely not there. I was coming by all the other blogs to0, but I hardly delurk. I don't know why. Just din't feel like it, I was still cooking and taking photos now n then, but somehow I lost interest. Suddenly nothing I cook pleases me and I've been getting home soup from Panera bread and calling it a day. Much more comforting that cooking something, disliking it from spoon two and then having to find ways to get rid of it! I guess its one of those phases, atleast I hope so :(
So well, a few weekends back I suddenly felt like eating something sweet and baked. A yummy cake if possible, I wish we got pastries here like we did in India. But I was not going to get any of the eggy, butter laden stuff from the store. I went into the kitchen and randomly put together ingredients to come up with this little coffee cake and was surprised by how it turned out given the lack of any butter or oil or eggs or sugar for that matter! I present to you a eggless coffee cake flavored by maple syrup. Pardon the quantities though, I was baking just for myself and so the tiny portion :)
  • 1 cup - whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp - Baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp - Baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp - Apple sauce
  • 1 tsp - ground flax seed + 2 Tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tsp - Vanilla essense
  • 11/2 Tbsp - Maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp - orange blossom honey (or use more maple syrup)
  • 6-8 - Blackberries ( or any berry you like)
  • Slivered almonds for the topping
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F and grease a cake pan, (mine was a 1 1/2" deep 6" dia bowl, seen in the first pic)
  2. Combine ground flax seeds and soy milk in a bowl and heat for 30 secs in the microwave, remove and mix rigorously with a fork, heat it for another 30 secs and mix again. Set aside to cool.
  3. In another bowl sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to it and combine lightly. I like it less sweet so taste and add more maple syrup if you want.
  4. Add the berries and fold them into the batter, if using frozen (like I did) add them directly into the batter so they thaw in the oven while cooking.
  5. Smooth the surface and top with the slivered almonds. Bake for about 15-18mins. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center, it will come out clean when ready.
This was a more like a expt while baking, I kept a note of what I was adding just so I know if its gonna work or not. I am glad it did! No eggs or butter or oil or sugar and still you get to eat a cake, now thats really nice :) Its not cloyingly sweet and so is a perfect coffee/tea time cake, it was good for breakfast too. I'm going to try other flavor combos retaining the method, I got a few more cans of the applesauce too, the brownie trial is paying off more than I expected :)

And hey, this is perfect for Vaishali's Sweet Vegan event featuring what else but mouthwatering Vegan desserts! Her blog is filled with yummy recipes from all over the world but with her own spin on them. She makes them sound so simple & delicious you won't even realize they are all vegan, hop on to her blog for details.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Undrallu/Steamed Rice cakes

Dear foodies,
Steamed rice cakes
This year on Vinakaya chavithi all of you got together and schemed against me by talking about the festivites and your delicious offerings to the elephant Lord. I had not planned on making anything special, a quick sugar candy/dry fruits neivedyam in the morning and I was out of the house. I changed my status message on the messenger, wished everyone I could find online, put a nice blog post wishing all of you, and then started going around ...that was the mistake. Each one of you had a solid plan chalked out on how you were making the day special, hmph! 
And all the foodie photos got me hungry for some authentic festive food too :( I am not a sweet lover, I think I've mentioned that enough in this space, no mood for frying things up either. As I was composing that post I tried looking for a post of undrallu on my blog, I had made them the last two years for Ganesh chathurthi and was so sure I had blogged about them, atleast I thought so. Not finding the post though confirmed by dinner plans :) Undrallu it was, with the condiment made specially for it, a yet another awesome traditional combo, puli-inji/allam-chinthapandu pachadi. Here's my version...
  • 3/4 cup - Rice
  •  * Use 1 1/2 cup idli rava if you want to save time
  • 1/4 cup - Moong/chana/toor dal 
  •  * I used a combo of the later two, while the first is the traditional choice
  • 3/4 tsp - whole Peppercorns  
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp - Cumin seeds/jeera
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Ghee/oil
  • 5-6 - Curry leaves
  • 1 - dried Red chilli
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp - grated/bite sized coconut for added flavor (thanks anon!)
    The upma stage
  1. Soak the rice in water for about 30-40 mins. Drain and spread them on kitchen towels to dry. Once most of the moisture is lost, blend them to a coarse powder along with the dal,  pepper and 1/2 tsp jeera. I got approximately 2 cups of the coarse powder/rava from this.
  2. Microwave 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat ghee in a sauce pan, add the 1/4tsp of the jeera, next add the curry leaves and broken red chilli. Once they splutter, carefully add all the water to the pan with salt. 
  3. Stirring continuously, add the rice-dal rava (and coconut) , try to avoid any lumps. Cover and place on medium-low heat for a 5-8mins. Since the rice was soaked and then ground, it does not take long to cook. Turn off heat when done, but keep covered for a few more minutes. Drizzle a little more ghee if you want now.
  4. The idli stage
  5. In the meantime, place a pressure cooker with a few inches of water to heat. lightly grease a pan that fits inside the cooker. When the rice-dal upma is cool enough to handle, form into into oval shape balls, moisten your hands if needed, so the mixture does not stick to them. Arrange them on the greased pan, close with the lid and steam them for 8-10mins, or until you get a steady stream of steam coming out of the cooker for about 5 mins. Serve hot with some puli-inji or kara podi/idli podi or sambar
Undrallu/Steamed rice cakes
I got about 8 of these, I steamed 4 in the cooker and 4 in the microwave. The batch in the microwave was slightly yellowish and not steamed through as well as the cooker batch. But I am sure you can use the microwave in a pinch. 
I'll add the recipe to the puli-inji and karapodi in the next few posts :) Until then, if you are looking to add sweet potatoes to your meal but are bored of the baked potato like I am, but still want to enjoy them,  try these two wonderful recipes: Baked fries and Thai stew.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dum aloo, family style

Update: Photos found and added, yayy!
Dear foodies,

I know, you must be wondering, ' Is this a joke!! Where are all those big sized, high resolution photos that she has been throwing on us lately? Right? right! Sigh....I could not find any more photos of this dish :( I am sure I took some really lovely photos of this dish, they had come out really well :( But now I cannot find them :(( They are not on my laptop or on the external hard drive, I might have deleted them by mistake, but I cannot see how :(( Has this happened to any of you ?

For those who noticed, this photo has been sitting on the sidebar for more than a month having the 'coming soon' tag on it. I am sure if it could really move, it would jump out of that sidebar and shout out at me. Sonu, a reader with a very keen eye noticed this and sent me an email asking me if I ever intended to post the recipe :D So without any further delay, pictures or not, this dish deserves a post and so here it is.
I will not claim this to be authentic, but its dum aloo to me, our family's style! Its one of my favorite ways of eating potatoes and my mother makes it the best. It has a nice khata/tangy flavor mixed with the spiciness of the dish. Baby potatoes work the best in this recipe.

  • 10 nos - small baby Potatoes
  • 1 nos - medium Onion, cubed
  • 3 nos - vine-ripe Tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 tsp - Tamarind extract (adjust to taste)
  • 1 nos - clove of Garlic
  • 1" dia ginger piece
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil + for roasting potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp -Turmeric
  • 1 tsp - Jeera/cumin sides
  • 1 tsp - Garam masala
  • 11/2 tsp - Red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp - Dhaniya powder
  • 1 tsp - Amchur powder
  • Salt to taste
  1. Scrub the potatoes clean and boil them in salted water until cooked through. They should still hold their shape though, and not turn into a mush.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Drain the potatoes, peel them when cool enough to handle. Pat dry with a cloth and spread them on a baking sheet, spray a little oil and roast them in the oven to crispen the edges. Bake for 10 mins then place on broil for the last few minutes. Adjust times based on your oven temperature and cooking times. You can also do this on the stove-top by heating 1-2Tbsp of oil and roasting them on all sides.
  3. In the meantime, boil the tomatoes and onions in 1 -1 1/2 cups of water, until the onions turn translucent and the tomatoes squish easily. Cool them and grind to a paste along with the ginger and garlic. Based on the tanginess of the tomatoes add the tamarind extract.
  4. Heat oil in a kadai and splutter the jeera, then add the turmeric and ground paste. Simmer it for 7-8 mins until the raw smell goes away, add the spice powders (garam masala, red chilli, dhaniya powder and amchur), salt and cook for a few more minutes until the oil separates out of the gravy.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of water (or less), the roasted potatoes and simmer on low heat for 10 mins, allowing time for the masala to get soaked by the potatoes. This gravy needs to be clinging to the potatoes so you get a the tanginess with each bite of the potato.
I could have a bowl of it just by itself, you can do that too :D But if not, serve it with some chapati's or jeera rice (or pulao), we had it with both :) If you cannot find baby potatoes, then use the medium sized potatoes like yukon gold or red potatoes, cut them in half and boil, prick them with a fork to get them to cook evenly. Don't forget the salt :) Enjoy!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

lights on...Action!

Dear foodies,

I usually cook in the evenings and more often that not the main problem I face while taking photographs is with the lighting. I've always disliked the yellow tint of the bulbs and the first thing I did after moving in was to replace all the lights in my apartment to energy saving white light bulbs. My kitchen counter opens into the hall and dining area of the apartment and so I have to turn on all their lights while clicking to get decent light on the food. Inspite of all these, there is always a tone adjustments made in the post-processing stage. Now with winter fast approaching even the slight day light I see when I get back from office is fast diminishing, and that got me worried. 

I did not know if I should invest on a couple of high intensity lamps,  or buy a product specific for photography. I read high praise about the Lowel ego lights successfully used by food bloggers, but it is expensive. It was definitely way out of my budget, at this point of time I would rather choose to invest on more lenses than a lighting system. So in the midst of all this confusion Jai's DIY idea for a tabletop lighting system was just perfect for me. I always have enjoy doing such projects, you get to have hands on fun and fiddle with stuff you usually stay away from, and did I mention that I love using tools! Assembling the coffee table, book shelves, bed stands etc are things I thoroughly enjoy. Even in engg I would look forward to our 'workshop sessions', It was like the 'games periods'  in school.

over crowded ?
But I must say, I was totally out of my element when I went shopping for this one. I cannot recollect the last time I shopped for anything electrical, if you ingore the bulbs :) I roamed through the electrical wiring and lighting shelves countless times today unable to make up my mind. I think it took me 2hrs shopping for the teeny list Jai put up. 

What did I use ? The only particle boards the store had were the ones used for shelving,  I dropped the idea to use them as that would have involved sawing to get the right size, and I was going to skip the saw (don't have one).  I asked them for the smallest and cheapest piece of wood they had and was pointed towards the 2x2 birch wood sheets, perfecto! Then I don't know what I was looking for but saw a few sheets of plastic that resembled the cross stitch board Jai mentioned, it was called a lighting panel. After that name I could not waste any more time, 2 of them were in my shopping cart. I still don't know what they are used for! :D

Next I bought the dowel rods, screws....hmm I could not recollect what it was used for and after about 15mins of browsing thru the whole collection they had, I walked away with none :D After these I headed toowards the electrical section, one I was avoiding until now. Luckily after another 15-20mins I found a helpful store assisstant who helped me pick the best combo that fit my requirement. I bought 4ft of lamp wire, 2 each of 3-way sockets, plug and cord switches. She asked me to buy electric tape which I did in my ignorance and never used in the project. I spent 30-35$ on the whole. I bought sockets and switches that would support the use of 3-way bulbs, so that if I choose so, I can vary the intensity of light.

I had 40W bulbs (energy saving kind), screw drivers, a borrowed power drill and adhesive tape at home. I skipped the saw, staplers and extra screws and the translucent paper too. The last one only because the store din't have it and I was too hungry to go spend time in another store.

lights on....action
The room was not as dark as it looks but definitely underlit, the only other light was on the far end of the living room.
So after all this, I spent a good 3 hrs setting it up, I took my own sweet time figuring out how to wire the sockets and plugs :)) The rest was breeze, and again a looooot of fun. Thank you soo much Jai for your a brainwave of a idea and clear instructions :) I had no trouble piecing it together, and was as excited as Edison when the bulb glowed :)) 

Anyone looking for a productive weekend plan, this one if just for you :)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A full serving of vegetables

Dear foodies,

Vegetable soup
There are evenings when I get back from office and am in no mood to cook anything and I blankly stare at the pantry shelves and the refrigerator trying to look for inspiration. Most days its a pasta tossed with a lots of veggies. I am really conscious about the quantity of vegetables I use on a daily basis. Since I cook only one dish per meal unlike my mom, I try and add as many as possible. I've noticed that there always has to be a red and green component; carrots, tomatoes, roasted red-peppers, sun-dried tomatoes help with the red, while peas, lima beans, edamame, capsicum, zuchini, green leafy vegetables take care of the green. Corn, chickpeas/canned beans, cauliflower and cabbage then join the party to form the final dish. I always have one from each group in my kitchen, and am trying to spread out a little since this assortment is getting a little boring now!

One such evening I did not want to eat any pasta or rice and decided on a soup. I had a couple of yellow and orange carrots and tomatoes in the fridge and a lone can of vegetable juice and capers in the pantry, so I set out making this delicious and hearty soup that tasted great even the next day with some chunky bread. My friend had bought a bunch of the vegetable juice cans and left before this lone guys turn came up, I just cannot bring myself to drink a can of vegetable juice! and hence its role in the soup.

Vegetable soup
  • 1 cup - diced Carrots
  • 1 cup - chopped tomatoes (~2-3 vine ripe tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup - Edamame
  • 1 nos - medium Onion, diced
  • 1 nos - large clove of Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp - Capers
  • 1 5.5oz can - Vegetable juice
  • 1/2 Tbsp -Olive oil
  • 1 tsp - roasted Cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp - Cayenne powder/red chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup - small pasta (optional) eg: orzo, elbow macaroni, orecchiette, pin wheels
  • 1/3 cup - Lentils (optional) eg: yellow/green lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans (from Rads comment)
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium setting, add the garlic and let it soften for a minute, don't allow it to brown though. Next add the onions, some salt and let them cook, about 2-3mins.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook until they soften up. 
  3. Now add the vegetable juice, carrots, edamame (I added frozen ones and let them thaw directly in the soup), cumin powder and cayenne pepper. Check for seasonings and simmer until the carrots cook through. Add water only if its too thick as there is no thickening agent in this recipe.If using pasta, you can add them at this stage along with a little additional water.
  4. Toss in the capers a few minutes before switching off the heat.
  5. Serve warm with crusty bread or a light salad.
This soup was surprisingly warm and delicious. There is a slight heat from the cumin powder, capers and the celery in the vegetable juice which is very comforting and yet not 'spicy'. The soup is a little chunky and the edamame holds a little bite even after being cooked. I did not add pasta to it the first time I made it, but a bowl of soup was filling enough for dinner. The excuse for using up that can of juice turned out to be such a delicious one, I am definitely holding onto this idea. You can go ahead and add any combo of veggies you have at home, this recipe is perfect for the day you decide to clean up that crisper full of odd numbered veggies.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Vinayaka Chavithi Shubhakankshalu

Dear foodies,
Happy Vinayaka Chavithi to all! 

These are the rava ladoo's my mother made when she was here, infact she made them more than a couple of times for my brother since it's his fav sweet. Yes, I enjoyed them too, but he owns the sweet tooth :D 
The recipe is similar to the one I posted here. Adjust the sugar according to your taste, start with a 1: 1/2 ratio of rava and sugar and then increase the amount of sugar from there. If you are familiar with the sweetness of the sugar you use, then this should be an easy guess without the need for tasting. Another variation of this recipe would be to replace a portion of the rava with roasted urad dal flour or roasted moong dal flour. Just as I have been telling in all my Indian sweet recipes, don't skimp on the ghee! 
Traditionally, Kozhakattai or modak are made on this day along with savory rice dumplings called undrallu. Its basically a upma made from rice rava, which is moulded into oval/round balls and steam cooked like idlies. Its served with puli-inji, a tamarind-ginger based gojju. I thought I had posted a recipe for it and dug out my archives only to realize they weren't there, so it'll be coming soon.Enjoy the festival in whatever measure you plan to celebrate and spread that smile on your face to everyone around you :)
I found this photo in my archives today, could be from a couple of years back. This is at my home in Hyd.

and here is one from this year's Varalakshmi Vratam

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