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. :-)