Saturday, May 17, 2014

Plans, Excuses and Recipes

I won't say life has become busier, it is just the same as it always has been, thesis to finish, projects to chase down, kids to teach, cakes to bake, dishes to try etc... etc... I have somehow given away to daydreaming and watching more crime shows on TV rather than hunker down and getting everything done.  6 pm to 9 pm time is wasted on arguing, shopping and TV. 9 to 10 is dinner and 10 - 11.30 I work. Sometimes. 

 But, yet again, no more.  I have resumed my NTC workouts (3 days) and I already feel less lethargic despite the heat. I have kept up with interesting bakes and cakes though and learnt to not fool around with crowd pleasers like my Garlic Rasam, Vatral Kuzhambu, Arachivitta Sambhar, Paniyaram, Cocoa Brownies etc....

One of my favourite bakes of late is breakfast muffins with grapes, sattu mava and whole wheat flour instead of blueberries and APF.  It tasted awesome! The trick is to whip the eggs until it is triple atleast in volume and able to hold shape.  Results, in a much more tender crumb and airy muffin even when I skip the APF.

I tried Debbies one bowl Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp bar with Jackfruit Mango and Grapes instead of Strawberry and Rhubarb. The Jackfruit fragrance dominated but the mangoes and grapes tasted really delicious, crisp outside juicy inside and a little carmelized.  I forgot to save some of the flour mix to strew over the fruits, resulting in a more carmelized fruit flavour. No pic unfortunately.  The bars were over as soon as they were out of the oven.

I made an excellent sour cream poppy seed mango cake.  I used the indian version, white in colour called Khus Khus locally.  Nothing beats well roasted poppy seed flavour in cakes and adding coconut to it is just gilding the lily.  Khus Khus is supposed to be extremely cooling for the body.  The mango pieces were superfluous though.  They didnt add anything to the fruit flavour, remaining just a sudden change in texture, not altogether pleasant, when you eat the cake.

I discovered the best way to get my son to enjoy my very healthy pasta with a ton of vegetables is to simply disguise the vegetables, either as a salad on the side or roast all the vegetables and blend it into the sauce :)

I discovered I have done such a good job teaching my children to enjoy the flavours and not the sugar high, I found that they enjoyed today's Orange-Chocolate breakfast cake while I felt it needed a lil more sweet!

Come June I will have to pack 2 breakfasts and 4 lunches by 8.30 am! My plans for the coming school year includes. well, planning better so that I can cook and pack in 60 - 90 minutes :)

Indian Dabbas are spectacular.  I never understand why they don't share bento's popularity.  Perhaps because it is completely adapted to our cuisine?  The daal-roti/ sambhar-rice and veggies + curds ilk?  I have to pack 2 each for my kids, a small one for the morning break and one for the lunch break.

I want to try breakfast in a mug/jar 1 or 2 days a week - layer granola, fruits and yogurt in a single cup for breakfast on the go.  Granola / Muesli will of course be home made.  I would do muffins, pumpkin pies, fruit custard, dates nuts granola, cold sundals etc...

Lunch will have to include curd rice because it is my lil one's must have for lunch, . He firmly belongs to the above mentioned ilk, other box(es) could have the usual suspects, roti subji, vegetable pulao, pasta, sandwich, crepes, pancakes, idlis etc...

I have a list of things I need to try in the lunch box:

This lentil salad from Heidi.  Also her Fig leaf rice, though I will go with jasmine/hibiscus/lemon, all unsprayed in My Garden.  Her braised spring vegetables (I only roast mine)

Debbies egg sandwiches, sans eggs/meat (school has a vegetarian meals policy).  Her 3-bean chili. Her warm-lentil potato salad.  Her cheese blintz.   So many more.... What can I say?  If I were living in NYC, she might have to get out a no-stalking warrant against me.

I have decided to start a trial run next week, Mon-Fri.  Pics, Recipes and Reviews to follow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vegetarian Sandwich with Hummus

My sister sent me a ton of hummus - a 500g Ragu bottle worth to be precise and I accepted with trepidation.  I have made hummus in the past and found it simply boring until I hit upon the idea of adding fresh home made panneer to it.  My sis batch was even more bland than mine if possible.

This time I am trying another trick:  Pickling vegetables a la Debbie of Smitten Kitchen.  I had to change the recipe of course.  I am getting the stuff ready close to midnight.  No to matchstick cutting, certainly yes to mandolin grating.  Gau had used the last of my distilled white vinegar to try and make a bouncy ball out of Raw Egg and I had completely forgotten to replenish my pantry.  Make do with Apple Cider.

I  mandolined carrots, beetroots and chopped onion and capsicum.  I put carrot in the bottom, then onions, beetroot and finally capsicum.  I heated 1 cup apple cider vinegar with an equal volume of water and about 1 teaspoon of sugar and salt, until they dissolved.  I cooled and poured it over the vegetables; Some of the vinegar ooze out when I put the lid  on.  The top layer is definitely not steeped in vinegar.  Thank God it was only capsicum, tastes awesome even raw.
Professional Looking Ain't it?

Beetroot took over the colour and I lost all signs of my pretty orange - white - red - green layering :(

I had picked up some random greens at Ottanchatiram in Adyar, hoping it had some magical goodnesss about it. This time my pick turned out to be mudakathan keerai.  I had no clue how it could taste.  I simply washed it clean, chopped it fine and sauteed it with shallots and green chillies.  I made patties with this keerai, potatoes, some grated cheese and some cooked lentils. 

Packed and ready to go

scary redness
The rest was easy.  Three slices of bread toasted, buttered on one side, then hummus and patties on one half, hummus and pickled vegetables on the other.   I could have jazzed it up further with a bit of pesto/mint chutney, but I didnt gave either on hand.  The lunch box was a super hit.

This is not so much a recipe as how I get my kid to eat different greens without standing by him with a stern face while he eats :D
One surefire successful way is sandwiches such as these, a little potato and cheese to perk up the flavours and jazzier presentation as compared to our traditional keerai masiyal and paruppu satham. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lemon Yogurt Cake with a secret ingredient

Urad Daal, Vigno Mungo has superhuman (should I say superplant?) properties attributed to it - Good for bones, Good for diabetes, Anti inflammatory, Improves digestion, strength and vigour etc...  It is one of the two daals allowed during Shraddam.  Unsurprising, since it originated here in the Indian subcontinent.  (I am so proud that mango is Magnifera Indica, sounds like magnificent Indian ;)

Idli, Dosa, Adai and every tadka here in the south uses Urad daal, but in the dehusked and sometimes split form.  Medhu Vadai is the epitome of urad daal cooking, deep fried, donut shaped savoury snack.  I suck at making it.

The batter itself is an art, urad daal soaked for optimal time and ground to an airy paste with salt added just at the right time so that it doesn't release too much water before we start frying. The shape is even more complicated, I never get the donut shape and I simply abandon it in favour of the north Indian dahi-vada shape - an ellipsoid.  I also have a tough time ensuring it cooks through AND doesn't soak up too much oil.

My co-sister makes huge batches of these perfectly every time we visit my MIL.  My MIL points out my lack-of-skill, always adding I should do this more often, very good for the kids.  Mutinously, I make the other vadai, a mix of all daals.

 My chief conundrum in making this vadai is, for our family of light eaters, grinding the minimum daal quantity, 1 cup in the grinder, is too much.  The batter does not do well if refrigerated.  Grinding it in the blender DOES NOT result impart that whipped egg white texture to the batter and consequently poor vadai.  But, on Saraswathi Pooja day, I made perfect vadais, mainly because I made the batter and my cousin fried it all up.  We were 8 of us, including 4 kids and we could, between us and our neighbours finish all the vadai in 1 sitting.

The route I usually take with urad daal, the black version, is make grandiose plans for making Dal Makhani, Rajma Daal etc... and relegate the packet to the recess of my pantry after the first attempt.  This daal IS mucilaginous.  The word sounds a lot nicer than the texture.  Imagine cooking Okra in a pot of water?  The awful gooey-ness?  That is what this daal does if you are not very very careful.

The only way to use this daal is to fry it until it is as crisp as a potato chip (dry fry, not deep fry so orders of magnitude healthier).
This time I added it to my favourite yogurt cake :)  I would prepare a separate sauce since the daal does dominate a tad.  I might add a scant 1/4 cup more sugar next time.  Gau whines of course.  He prefers his cakes unhealthy.

  1. 1 cup atta
  2. 3/4 cup split black urad roasted until crisp and munchy, ground to a fine powder
  3. 1/4 cup maida - more of a good luck charm in case the urad does strange things to the cake
  4. 1 cup sugar
  5. 1 cup yogurt
  6. 1/3 cup oil
  7. 1 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  9. 1 tsp lemon zest
  10. 1 lemon juiced
  11. 2 eggs
  12. 1 cup finely chopped apricots 
  13. 50 g shelled pistachios coarsely powdered
Heat oven to 175 deg C
Butter 2 loaf pans.
Mix the sugar, yogurt, oil in a bowl.
Add eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated
Mix the flours, baking soda and baking powder in another bowl.
Mix the flours with the wet ingredients until just incorporated.
Add the lime zest and lime juice.
Fold in the apricots.
Divide the batter between the two pans
Top with pistachios, pressing gently into the batter.
Bake 30 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out with just crumbs.

Top encrusted with coarsely broken pistachios

Nice soft cake though a tad crumbly;
The cake had lovely dark spots and the apricot didnt look so neon-ic

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