Thursday, 24 December 2009

Rum Cake with Fruits & Nuts

When I came across this wonderful Fruit & Nut cake in Sunita's beautiful blog, I knew I had to try making it. So inspite of not blogging for a while .... oh ... am not away from the kitchen though ... just don't feel like making the beautiful dishes always a subject and train the camera on them till they fall flat or go cold with disappointment.
With a little cold here finally, hot dishes & soups are being enjoyed real hot .... from the stove or oven to the plates and famished tummies. :-)

A small disappointment did rile me for a while ... our travel plans were cancelled .... no, postponed ... for hubby's work. :-(

And my very original Instant Moong Dal Halwa , which has been made and loved by a lot of readers .... both bloggers and non bloggers equally .... showering me with mails and comments .... which has made me very proud of my recipe and happy too ... is unhappy.
A blogger who has appreciated it here has gone and used another blogger's comment space to call it yuck (without trying to make it). :-(
I really don't know what to make of it.

But such little things are not going to put me down.
The first issue is solved ... I have been promised a trip soon .... so am happy. :-)
And I am deluged with visiting friends and family now that the hols have started .... best friend D is here from Dubai ... my KG friend is visiting next with wife .... hubby found a long lost friend from college ... so the days are rushing by in a blur.

I was very excited at the thought of baking a rum cake. Back from a Book Fair, with two huge bundles of books in my arms, I was a spectacle ... well ... the guys in the shop looked real amused ... when buying rum from a shop ( hubby's presence did not help much ). ;-)
I went through Sunita's recipe and for a change did not want to experiment or deviate too much.
Just made a few changes more out of necessity than anything else ...

* I used maida / APF instead of atta / whole wheat flour.
* I reduced the amount of eggs to three.
* I used plain white sugar.
* I added a little vanilla essence lest my veggie ( ok ... eggitarian ) hubby gets a 'smell'.
* I had no nutmeg ... so could not add it.
* Ground a few cloves ( that I put in the sugar jar ) with the sugar.
* And since I tend to keep my cake batters a little too liquid, I added some Cranberry juice ( that was the only juice I had at home then) to make it more liquid.

I have stuck to my usual measurements of a cake ... still the batter was voluminous ... I made two cakes and six cupcakes out of these measurements.

Visit Sunita's World for the original recipe and some great snaps.

Need :
2 cups maida / apf ,
3 eggs,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
2 tbsp baking powder,
1 and 1/2 cup sugar,
a few drops of vanilla essence ( do not use too much ...
... or you can skip it too if you are used to eggs ) ,
a few cloves and cinnamon,
dark rum,
8 tbsp cooking oil,
zest of one orange and juice of one orange ( I used the same orange ),
dates, walnuts, cashews, black raisins.
Any fruit juice ( if needed ) ... I used a little Cranberry juice.

How to :

Chop or break the fruits and nuts and soak them in a cupful of water and rum in 1:1 ratio ( I used a small soupbowl and soaked them for half an hour).

Then pour them into a pan and cook on low heat till they are almost dry. Cool.
Add the orange zest ( added the juice and pulp too ) and keep aside.

Grind the sugar finely with the cloves and cinnamon.
Mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

Whisk the eggs + oil + sugar + a drop of vanilla essence + 4 tbsp rum with an electric beater or in a mixie.
Add the flour in and mix well.

Pre heat oven at 150 degrees ( I am used to baking cakes at this temperature .... refer Sunita's recipe for her version).

Mix in the dry fruits to the batter.

Grease a cake mould and dust it with a little flour.
Pour in the batter and put to bake.
Do not forget to keep checking ... I often switch off the oven in between for even baking.
Bake till an inserted toothpick or skewer or knife comes out clean.

Sunita advises to cover the mould after a while of baking .... listen to her. :-)
I did not ... and the top got browned very quickly.

But all was not lost ... I decreased the temp. immediately and let it bake in a very low temperature.

Later I tried to pry off the top layer ... it was very thin and came away like an obedient child .... and there was nothing noticable at all.

This turned out to be the most wonderful cake I have ever baked .... too soft .... I pressed a piece with a finger and it slowly rose up again!

And when I bit into it, I was taken back to my childhood .... when Bapi ( Dad ) would get a Fruit cake everytime he went to Calcutta on a bussiness trip. I used to pick out the raisins then .... I still do from other cakes .... but this time I savoured every bit.

I just closed my eyes and was back home in the chilling winters .... holidays ..... school chapel .... a singing choir ... the nativity scene .... friends yelling out "Haaaaaappy Holidays!" .... Sisters smiling indulgently when we asked for an extra piece of chocolate cake from the Convent .... and asking us to be good in the holidays and not to trouble our parents .....

Oh! I can go on and on and on .....

Instead .... here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful and Happy New Year 2010 !!

Stay well ... stay warm ... stay happy ... and savour the love and happiness of your dear ones around you!! :-)

Good cheer to all of you .... c'ya all soon!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Eggless Apple & Walnut Cake

When I went through my blog recently, I saw that I have baked quite a few eggless fruit cakes. And by fruit cakes I mean I have used fresh fruits.

Baking has been a challenge for me ... always. It goes against my experimentive nature. I love to play with stuff ... go beyond rigidity. So going by exact measures, exact proportions, exact temperatures .... nah ... is not for me. And to make things worse ... I hate reading or following cook books. I just don't have the patience.

Besides, I do not like anybody telling me what to do ... even if it is a cookbook. :-)

But then ... I love to eat cakes. And to bake them too. So I started baking them. Perfected my Coffee Cake .... the family's favourite now.

Mustered the courage and baked Eggless Coffee Cake too. Successfully.

And then started with fruits. The Eggless Pineapple cake was a huge first time success. So was the Eggless Mango Cake. I baked an Eggless Banana cake too.

I was on a roll. No complex recipes ... as with all my other recipes. I loved the smell of the fruit in the cakes ... which is why I never tried to use eggs in them ... and consequently did not need any vanilla essence. Loved every one of them.

This time there were a few apples in the fridge. This was the first time I tried making an Eggless Apple Cake. Had some walnuts at hand ... so chopped them up and added to the batter. And purposely kept the apple's age old partner ... the cinnamon ... away.

If you want the complete recipe, just go to the other fruit cakes that I have mentioned here ... and substitute the used fruit with pureed apple. And use Apple juice in place of the used liquid.

But there were some minor accidents while making it ... so the results were slightly different from the usual other cakes.
No ... do not get me wrong. It tasted heavenly. But I am writing down the mistakes more for myself than for the log of the recipe.

Firstly .... I eyeballed ... as usual. But overconfidence does not always work.

Then, the cup of vegetable oil I was using slipped from my hands .... resulting in too much of oil for too little flour. So the cake turned out a little too moist.

Next, I measured the sugar only after grinding it. Baaaaaad idea .... where was my mind? The cake turned out to be toooo sweet. But a plus .... the crust was very crisp. You win some, you lose some.

And used a tablespoon for measuring the baking powder. Result .... a cracked cake. I know ... I should be the one who should be called that. :-p

And last, but not the least ... I added vanilla essence.
So what? So this.
Every bite tasted awesome! But only till you asked "Guess the flavour?".
It was somewhere between mango / chocolate ( I guess the crispy crust ) / what not ... anything but apple or vanilla.

So there folks ... am convinced that am going bonkers. So decided to give myself a break. The cake was just as awesome as the snaps are ... believe me. But I guess I was just plain lucky.

But if I try anything new again, am positive I'll ruin something far more important than the cake. ;-)

So am taking a break. I promise to return with some great but simple recipes again .... soon. Maybe by Christmas .... or early next year.

Till then ... I'll have some fun, family, friends and of course food time for myself !! :-)
Even if it is not a 'Summer holiday' .... I still feel like singing " no more cooking for a week or two ...". :-)

Take care all !! :-)

Thursday, 26 November 2009

... for our bravehearts.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Stir Fried Vegetables

"Trim?" The lady smiles and asks.
"Cut." I smile and answer.
And know exactly what is coming.
She tries to hide the smirk on her face. Tries to keep a straight face and asks "Around half or one inch?".
I smile again and indicate somewhere on my upper arm. And wait, knowing what will come next.

But this lady is patient. Maybe she guesses I don't know even how much an inch is after all.
So she holds the ends of my tresses between her fingers to around an inch and holds them up in front of my nose.
"This much?" I can get that tone in her voice.
"No." I smile back. "This much". I point to my upper arm ... again.

And did not have to wait for long. She gasped. " This much?!!!".
I nod ... still smiling.
She looks horrified. "But how can you cut such long hair?! Girls would happily die to have such long hair!".
I did not have the inclination to tell her that beautiful tresses won't be of much use if you are already dead.

So I hold my tongue. And assure her they grow back very fast. She had nothing to worry ... I'll be back to meet her in three months again.
She still looked unsure. And I prayed.

I prayed that someday this ordeal will come to an end. Both for me and for those nice souls who feel so guilty everytime they have to chop off my long hair.

But that is the story. I have tried visiting different places where I might find people who would happily chop of my hair without feeling scandalised or as if I am asking them to cut my head instead of my hair.

I have even tried to befriend the Chinese lady D in our society ... invited her and her dog over to tea ... ok ... I invited her and she got the dog.

Hasn't helped. Only made her more caring after that.

And I so miss our childhood no nonsense barber who used to come over to our house. After Dadu ( grandad ) and all my uncles would get their job done, it was the turn of a long line of squirming, giggling and jostling grandchildren ... most of them girls.

Moina, the barber, would bring out his special big sized scissors that he kept for us, babu ghoro chua ( children of the big house ). He couldn't tackle the straight & adamant thick tresses of us kids otherwise. After snipping the scissors menacingly in the air a couple of times, he would reach out to grab one child after the other by the scruff and snip off in no time.

Which made me ask the other half sometime back " Will you take me to your barber the next time you go for a haircut?".
And have recently noticed that he has been getting his haircut on his way back from the office. Sigh! :-(

My recipe today is a simple stir fry of vegetables. I do not like to eat cold salads for a few reasons. The first being I do not like to eat anything cold. Food has to be piping hot for me when served.

Secondly, I do not like boiled vegetables ... so steaming or boiling and then munching on flavourless stuff is not for me.

And to make them tasty I have go overboard and dunk in bottled dressings that is best not eaten regularly.

So I stir fry. Just throw in the veggies of my choice in a little oil and toss them around. And use whatever flavour of seasoning fancies me. And love to much on the steaming hot yet crunchy veggies. :-)

This stir fry has no special seasoning except freshly ground black pepper. And instead of lemon juice or vinegar, I have thrown in some fresh tomatoes ... they gave whatever little tang was needed.

So dear Rush, here's your stir fry. :-)

Need : Vegetables of your choice cut into smallish cubes .... just make sure they are of the same size for uniform cooking,
finely chopped garlic, onion cut into big cubes ( check out the snaps for the exact sizes ),
freshly ground black pepper,
a little cooking oil ( olive or vegetable oil ) , salt and sugar to taste.

You can use butter if you want to ... it makes the dish wonderfully flavourful.

How to : Heat a little oil in a non stick or heavy bottomed pan. On low heat add the garlic. Wait for a while ... do not fry for long.

Increase heat and add the onions and the rest of the vegetables. Keep tossing and stirring on high heat.

Add salt and sugar and keep tossing ... they will cook in their own juices.

If you want to you can cover it for a while .... just make sure you lower the heat .... and the veggies don't turn soggy or burn.

Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

This makes a great meal as is. Or you can combine it with some bread and soup too.

I served it with some fried chicken meatballs on the side ( I made them for the next recipe coming up ).

Enjoy all !! :-)

Other Stir Fries

Stir Fried Macaroni with Roasted Vegetables & Chicken

Stir Fried Chicken with Vegetables

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Lal Shaak diye Moong Dal / Red Spinach cooked with lentils

This is a very simple dish that I tossed up with some Red spinach leaves or Amaranth leaves lying about in my kitchen for a while now. I often make these leaves or Lal shaak, as it is known as in Bengali, the usual way ... cook it in a little mustard oil with crushed garlic and whole dry red chillies. And love it with rice.

But just after soaking the leaves in water this time, I realised I haven't cooked rice. It was not even on the menu for the day. I can't eat certain things with rotis ... and leafy veggies are one of them.

Then I saw the moong dal I had soaked earlier ... for a different thing altogether. Used that with the leaves and came up with this wonderful dryish dish . :-)

Without too many ingredients , it was quick to cook and was great as a side dish.

Need : Red spinach leaves ... cleaned and chopped, yellow moong dal / dehusked moong or mung lentils , sliced onions, sliced garlic, jeera / cumin seeds, haldi / turmeric powder, a little red chilli powder, lemon juice, salt to taste, cooking oil.

How to : Soak the moong dal ... the longer, the better. Ok ... say for around 2 - 3 hours.

Heat a little oil in a pan / kadahi / wok. Add the jeera and then the sliced onion and garlic together. Fry for a while ... do not brown.

Add the chopped leaves. Add a little salt .... very little ... just so the leaves leave water and cook well. Fry well till the leaves are well cooked and there's no raw smell.

Drain the dal from the water and add it to the cooked leaves. Add haldi, chilli powder, salt and stir well.
( Remember you have already added a little salt earlier ) .

Add a little water .... just so it skims the surface of the dal, cover and cook for a while.

Remember to remove cover and check that it does not burn. If needed add a little water from time to time.

Cook till dal is well done. It should not be mushy ... yet will break easily when held between the fingers.

Turn off heat and add some lemon juice.

Serve hot ... goes great with both rice and rotis or parathas. Do give this try folks !

Am signing off on a wistful note ... I so wish the lurkers would delurk. How much does it take to leave a line after all?

Take care all !! :-)

More recipes with the Moong Dal

Moong Dal Kachori

Moong Dal Halwa

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Spicy Soya Chunks / Nuggets Curry

As I write this, the weather outside is a far cry from these sunny snaps I took this weekend. It has been raining non stop for the last 32 or more hours ... a steady downpour that shows no signs of weakening.

It started with a cloud build up that sent the city's humidity levels soaring. As we are on a higher floor and there is a lot of greenery around, we are used to feeling the clouds and the dampness of very fine droplets if we are on our balcony when they pass right through.
{ This is not fog or rain ... it's a cloud covering. }

And then the rains started. All through the days and nights. And it is raining still.

It has been declared as cyclonic weather. I looked out to confirm. The branches were moving ... say at the most at a 35 degrees ... ok maybe 45 degrees ... angle. Bah. :-

Anybody who has grown up in Orissa or West Bengal ... or for that matter on any coast knows very well what a cyclone is. Here there is not even a normal wild, windy wind.

Still ... I can see the rain pelting down. And take heart. My knitting will not go get burried yet again ... unused. ;-)

It is real cold now and it has already been 3 hot cuppas for me. I so wanted to bake some Onion Crackers ... but there has been frequent power failures ... and my oven does not run on UPS.

So right now am balancing preferences between a quilt+ a book or knitting. Maybe some spicy hot Beguni later. :-)

Coming to my recipe today, anybody who is a frequent here knows how little masalas or onion+ginger+garlic paste I use for my dishes. But once in a while I do make that paste ... and come up with some spicy stuff ... usually chicken or fish.

This time I wanted to make Soya chunks / nuggets. Many people do not like soya chunks ... pure vegetarians for that spongy meat like texture and some non vegetarians for that distinct smell a soya nugget usually has.

The other half falls in both categories. But I had decided not to give up converting him just yet. So this time I tried to add some of my own ideas while cooking these nuggets.
And the curry came out so well.

If you are one of those who hesitate to try out the soya nugget dishes, try this version of mine.

The procedure may look very long ... but it does not take too much time to make this. :-)

Need : Soya Chunks or nuggets ( I used Nutrela's) , chopped garlic,
whole or unbroken garam masalas ( some laung /cloves, some choti elaichi / green cardamom, 1 or 2 tej patta / bay leaves ) , kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves, sliced onions,
onion paste, ginger paste, garlic paste ... in the ratio of 2:1:1 ,
haldi / turmeric powder, tomato puree,
red chilli powder, garam masala powder, enough water, a little juice of lemon,
a little ghee / clarified butter, a little cooking oil, salt and sugar to taste.

How to : Soak the Soya chunks in enough water for around 5 hours. If you plan to make this for dinner then soak them in the morning.

Squeeze out the water well from the chunks ... use your hands ... they are the best tools.

Take enough water in a big deep pan. Add the soya chunks, the whole garam masalas, the chopped garlic and salt. Cover and boil for a round half an hour ... or till the soya chunks are very well cooked.
I made up this step as it ensures the soya chunks get rid of their distinct smell.

Alternatively you can do this in a pressure cooker ... it will be faster and the chunks cook really well.

Drain the chunks in a soup strainer ... that way you get to retain the garam masalas and garlic.
Cool and again squeeze out the water well.

Shred the chunks with your hands ... they should break into little pieces. I did this step so that they soak up the gravy well. And lose that chewy feel in a bite.

Heat a little ghee in a heavy wok or a non stick vessel.
Add the shredded soya chunks and fry them well for sometime. Remove and keep aside.

In the same pan, heat some cooking oil. Add the sliced onions and fry well till they lose the raw smell.

Now add the onion paste and fry for some time. Then add the ginger and garlic pastes and keep frying till they lose the raw smell.

Crush the kasuri methi and add now.
Add tumeric, red chilli powder and keep stirring on high heat for around a minute.

Add the tomato puree and keep stirring till it is cooked and mixes well.

Lower heat, add the soya chunks and mix well.
Add enough water to cover the chunks ( remember ... the chunks will soak up water ... so add according to your desired amount of gravy ).

Adjust salt and sugar ( just a little for taste ).
Cover the pan and let it simmer for sometime on low heat ... or till you get the desired amount of gravy.

After a while remove cover , sprinkle some powdered garam masala and lemon juice. Keep it covered till serving time.

The chunks were very soft in the end ... did not have that chewy texture at all. :-)
Serve hot. Goes great with hot rotis or parathas (Indian flat breads).

Enjoy all !!

PS : Btw .. I had some spicy Jhaal muri / Masala muri with hot ginger tea for ... hold your breath ... dinner ... last night.
What? Didn't I tell you about the weather just ?! ;-)

Other recipes with onion+ginger+garlic paste masala :
Masala Chicken
Crispy Chole / Crispy Fried Chickpeas
Kosha Dim
Easy Paneer Butter Masala

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Stir Fried Chicken with Vegetables

( Vegetarians & Vegans can use Paneer / Tofu / Cauliflower and continue with the rest of the recipe including the marination).

Too much of anything is bad ... very bad. And right now there's too much of everything in my life ... and I am not liking it one bit.

Too much of cooking ... thanks to man of the house who has to eat homemade food ... my time in the kitchen has increased to ... say ... forever.
And as a consolation prize I sometimes get to order a burger and fries from Makdu ... ok ok ... McD .... if I want to eat out. Sigh. :-(

Too much work ... thanks to the pending stuff from the past two and a half months.

Too many books to finish reading ( my Puja Shonkhya ( annual Bengali literature dose ) collection is waiting patiently.

A knitting that's crawling towards halfway ... with the fervent hope that we will see at least a little cold this winter.

And at times ... too much of everything.

My mind, body, heart and soul have been crying out for a break. The man has been promising a vacation ... for a longish time now.
Knowing him ... and the dedicated procrastinator that he is ... I see no light or no immediate end.

So am back to my blogging. At least the good souls who visit here listen to my woes without complaining.

Coming to my recipe ....

Right now there has been an overdose of chicken in my life .... but it is better than having just vegetables.

And this time, after I've finished all the good portions (with bones ), I was left with the fleshy parts of the chicken breasts and thighs. I do not like the much fleshy and fibrous parts too much ... so had put them into the freezer for emergency times ... like when I have to make do with only vegetables ... I turn to them.

This recipe is real fast ... like my almost all other recipes. And healthy too. You need not even have to keep the chicken marinated for long ... all the time that is needed is to cut and get everything ready. And this dish is done in minutes.

You can use boneless cubes of chicken too. I have just sliced up the biggish pieces.

Need :
For the chicken : Boneless chicken pieces ( around 10 - 12 pieces ), 3 tbsp white vinegar , 4 garlic pods grated, 3 tbsp maida / APF, 2 tbsp cornflour, salt and sugar, a little cooking oil.

For the vegetables : Vegetables cut lengthwise ( I had only carrots and beans ... you can use any veggie you want to ),
onions thickly sliced ( I used chopped ones as I realised I had run out of onions after chopping up last one for another dish),
chopped green chillies, chopped garlic, dried herbs ( I used thyme ), salt to taste, cooking oil.

How to :
For the chicken : Mix everything together ... also add a little cooking oil to it. Keep aside for around half an hour.

Heat a little oil in a pan. Wait till it is hot enough ... and then add the chicken pieces one by one. Keep on high heat and toss well ( you will need a cover to shield yourself ... it splutters real bad).
Here I got a wonderful aroma and knew I was on the right track. :-)

Lower heat and cover and cook for around two minutes. Do not overcook ... the chicken will turn rubbery and hard.
Remove and keep aside.

Of course ... you can stop at this point and start chomping on them ... they are perfect chicken pakodas ... without the deep frying. :-)

In another pan or wok heat a little oil. Add the onions and garlic and green chillies and fry well.

Then add the vegetables on high heat and keep tossing.
Add salt and the herbs and keep tossing. The vegetables should stay crunchy.

Remove to a serving plate. Arrange the chicken pieces with it and serve hot.

You can also mix the two in a pan and toss them together.

This is great as a dish by itself. Or you can have it with fresh bread or warm rice too.

Enjoy folks!! I hope to be more regular here. Till then ... take care all! :-)

Other Stir Fries on Kichu Khon :
Stir Fried Macaroni with Roasted Vegetables & Chicken
Lau Khosa Bhaja / Stir Fried strips of Bottle Gourd Peels

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

How to make Virgin Coconut Oil at home

Deepti Khemani-Bhatia wrote to me saying she 'read somewhere' that I make my own coconut oil, came over and searched my blog and could not find a post on it.

Coincidentally I had picked a few dried coconuts just a few days back before that mail and was waiting for the hectic festive season to get over ... so that I could make some oil. So set about making my coconut oil. This is not for the faint hearted ... or those who easily tire.
It takes loads of patience. :-)

My Thamma ( paternal grandmom ) used to make this at home. Of course she had a whole army of assistants to help her. I used to sit and watch. Later she would add many things like herbs etc. to it and store it for herself and the ladies in the family ... including us grandchildren. She had black, lustrous long hair all her life ... till a ripe old age.
Of course she never had to buy coconut ... we had a huge 'godam ghor' / store room full of them .... they used to come from the villages where we had our fields and farms.
Later I tried making it at home. Of course ... it is fun when you have nothing else to do ... and get everything ready at just an order.
So enjoyed the adventure everytime.

But now it is a different story. Making coconut oil by myself is a huge task .... here time management plays a very important role. Not to mention the daunting task of standing for hours attending to it. And the result is so little one can easily get demoralised.

( I started to make this at 1:30 in the afternoon and the final drop of oil made its way into the bottle at around 5:30 in the evening. )

Nobody from my generation ... none of my cousins have treaded this path. And have often laughed at me for my whimsical attempts. But I do what I like to. Especially challenging things. :-)

So here's my recipe on homemade coconut oil.

Need : Dry coconuts ( they have a very high oil content .... check for a darkish line on the border of a broken piece when viewed sideways ) , a little warm water.

How to : Take the dry coconuts and cut them in to small pieces .... this step is in sympathy for your mixer / grinder.

Run it in a grinder using warm water to make a thickish paste. The first time it won't be too moist ... do not worry.

Use a seive / soup strainer to strain .... this will be for the first time/step. It won't work for the next time as the paste will be more moist.

Collect the strained liquid in a heavy and thick bottomed kadahi / wok ... in which you will do the boiling part subsequently.

After all the coconut paste has been strained, take a little and taste it. If it tastes sweet, grind it again with more warm water.

Strain again into the same wok / kadahi. Use a cheesecloth or your hand to strain now.

Repeat this process for three or four times. By the fourth time, the coconut will taste less sweet and more bland. You can stop grinding and the straining part now.

Put it on to boil.

After around one hour and a half it will start to thicken ... notice the oil leaving the sides.
Do not start to collect just yet ... there is still a lot of moisture in it.

Slowly the residue will start to solidify. You can start collecting the oil now. If needed tilt the wok a little to collect drop by precious drop.

Do not collect into a plastic or glass bottle directly ... it might crack due to the temperature difference. Collect in a steel container ... and transfer only when it is completely cooled.
And use a strainer to filter the solid stuff.

I got this much oil from this many coconuts ....

If you are doubtful about the moisture content, then you can sun the oil for a few days.

The residue tastes heavenly too. I love it on warm rice. But it is great when rolled into a roti or on a bread. You have to taste it to know. :-)

So here's the sweetest tasting and the purest coconut oil .... straight from my kitchen.
It is perfect and safe for consumption ... for cooking purposes .... and the very good for your skin and hair.

I know I have been a little irregular here ... and also in visiting all your wonderful blogs and recipes out there .... but I promise to get back on track soon.
Take care folks !! :-)
( Updated : Deepti read it here ... thanks Bharti for the info and Deepti for confirming. :-) )

Monday, 12 October 2009

Whole Wheat Eggless Banana Cookies

( Vegans can use soy milk or plain lukewarm water.)

Am into cookie baking big time these days. Both sweet and savory.
Mostly sweet since the man of the house is starting normal routine these days.
That means going out ... mostly to office. That means carrying homemade stuff ... no outside food.
That means home made snacks.
It took me some time and brain wracking as to what snack could be taken from home that is packed in the morning and will stay good enough till evening.

And then decided biscuits are the best option. So am baking cookies / biscuits these days.

These cookies are healthy .... using whole wheat flour and very little cooking oil. They turned out perfect and are great to carry along with.

I threw in a handful of dry raisins too. But while baking they puffed up like small balloons ... and I realised my mistake. The cookies were too dainty to hold their weight. Next time will run them in a blender / chopper first and then mix into the dough.

I was so fascinated with the sugar not melting in the oven heat when I made these cookies the last time that I went overboard and threw in a lot of sugar this time. Loved the crunch in every bite. :-)

Need : 1 and a half cup of whole wheat flour, 1 pureed ripe banana,
a little cooking oil ... around 1 tbsp ( only a little for the dough to stay moist), 1 tsp baking powder,
a few tbsp sugar ... around 3 tbsp ... (I did not want them to be too sweet), some more sugar to spread on the cookies, milk ... around half a medium cup ( use just enough to knead the dough ).

I forgot to add vanilla essence ... and it turned out to be a boon. The mild flavour of the banana would not have been evident otherwise.

How to : Knead everything together to make a dough like we make for rotis.

Take a medium sized ball of dough and roll out a thickish circle ... like a big roti. You can use flour to dust when rolling.

Prick with a fork all over ( this way the cookies won't puff up ).

Sprinkle some sugar all over and pat it down.

Cut with a cookie cutter ... or any small sized bottle cap will do.

Oil a baking tray or use a baking sheet. Arrange the cookies on it.

Pre heat oven at 160 degrees C and bake in the same temperature for around 20 minutes.


See you all after Diwali friends. Have a great time this festival of lights !!

Happy Diwali !! :-)

Friday, 9 October 2009

Shukto / Traditional Bengali dish of mixed vegetables

The days are pure mayhem. After the fast flying days of Durga Puja ... the hangover still exists ... come the preparations for Diwali. The rain gods have played spoilsports successfully ... it has been just one day that they have finally ... hopefully ... abated.

The air is crisp and the sky very blue. And finally got the "pujo pujo" smell ... that fragrance in the air that we usually feel just before Durga Puja ( there I go again).

Got to come back down to mother earth. Since cooking is minimal these days .... always a stew with lots of veggies and lentils ... with different temperings or herbs .... and I whip up an egg for myself .... so almost nothing to post.

But I have been getting so many recipe requests that it would be unfair if I did not post them. My readers have been waiting patiently ... and I had promised them that once Puja is over I'll start posting.

So here I am with one such request from Vaishnavi for the Shukto.

This Bengali dish is made of vegetables cooked in a light milk & mustard based gravy. There are different versions of Shukto when I looked up the web. But the one my Jethima makes is my favourite .... for obvious reasons.

As is the story with almost anybody, when growing up nobody is too fond of this dish. For one ... it is full of vegetables. Secondly ... it has Karela or the Bitter Gourd. So even after being served, it is steered clear of and remains in the plate even after the meal is over ... the vegetables lying all lonely and forlon and rejected.

But you grow up ... you move away from home .... you miss home made food .... and then you start to miss Shukto. You call home ... you call long forgotten aunts and relatives ... just to get hold of that recipe that will make your shukto just like your Ma / Mashi / Jethima / Kakima made.

My Jethima says that a Shukto is not one until it has Radhuni in it. I do not know what Radhuni is called in English (can anybody help me out here please ?) ... but it does look like the jeera / cumin seeds.

So here is my recipe for the Shukto.

Remember ...
* The karela / bitter gourd is compulsory. You can add almost any vegetable you want to. I used whatever I had at hand.

* No tomatoes in this dish.

* You can add bori / vadi / bodi too ... if you have them. Check out my two posts on how to make bodi / vadi / bori ... in an oven ... and the traditional way.

* Traditionally, all the vegetables are deep fried seperately ... the karela being the last to be fried.
If you don't want to go into that step ... then just fry the karelas seperately .... that way they lose a little of their bitterness and the whole dish does not get too bitter.

* Always dilute and strain the mustard paste ... that way it won't taste bitter ... especially if you are using the bigger seeds.
If you still unsure, add a little posto / poppy seeds to it when soaking and grind them together. That will take out the sharpness of the mustard.

Need : Vegetables - Raw banana (raw plaintain),
Potato, Drumsticks, Paanch phoron,
Karela / bitter gourd, Lauki / Lau/ bottle gourd,
Turai / Jhinge / Ridge gourd, Brinjal / eggplant, etc. etc. ,
Mustard paste ( soak mustard seeds overnight, grind into a paste, add some water and strain it ),

a little milk, a few pieces of bori / bodi / vadi ( I have used my oven made boris here ),
ginger paste,
jeera / cumin paste ( if you have powdered jeera then soak in in some water ... do not use the roasted jeera),
salt and sugar to taste, a little cooking oil and a little ghee.
If you have Radhuni - make a paste and use it instead of the jeera paste
And some Radhuni seeds in the phoron/ tempering

How to : Cut the vegetables into medium sized pieces lengthwise.

Heat a little oil and fry the boris / bodi / vadis (if using) till brown. Remove , half crush them and keep aside.

Add a little more oil to it and fry the karela with a little salt till well done. Remove and keep aside.

In a different kadahi or wok, heat a little oil. Add a little paanch phoron. Add all the cut vegetables and toss well.
Add a little salt ... just enough for the vegetables.

Add the ginger and jeera pastes and fry well for a while. Add a little water if necessary and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove cover and add the diluted mustard paste with enough water to make a gravy. Adjust salt and add sugar .... this dish is not supposed to be too salty.

Cover and cook till the vegetables are well done.

Remove cover and add the fried karela and the boris. The bori / bodi / vadi tends to soak up water ... so add more if necessary. Bring to a boil till gravy reaches desired consistency.

Add a little milk ( for the above amount of veggies I used around a quarter of a medium sized cup ) and remove from flame.
If you keep on boiling after this the milk might curdle.

Add a spoonful of ghee, stir a little and keep it covered for some time before serving.

Serve hot with steamed rice.
Enjoy !!

( The first photograph has been recently added ... when I finally made the Shukto with Radhuni.
   Absolutely loved the authentic, traditional taste. )

There are a few more request recipes lined up. I promise them soon ... very soon. Till then ... take care all. :-)