Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Squares

Being a relatively new blogger and having a zero competitive drive, I've never participated in any food contest before. But I do like watching other people sweat it out ;)

Anyways, just for fun, I'm gonna enter the Peanut Butter Celebration Contest by The Peanut Butter Boy.

So here's a shocker. I've never had peanut butter before now. Ever. There were all these uber costly foreign brands that I wouldn't touch and only this year, we have two local brands that have come out with it. When I saw it on the shelves, I was quite happy. Tasty stuff :)

This is a peanut butter version of an Indian fudge like dessert that we make at home using almonds. Seriously, its irresistible and should never be made by anyone trying to watch their weight! But it uses only four ingredients and is so easy to put together, I'm going with it. Onwards, good people....

Peanut Butter Squares

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter, do not substitute with butter!)

In a non stick pan, place the peanut butter and sugar, mix it up well and stir for 5 mins on a low flame. Increase the heat, add the milk and keep stirring for five minutes. Now add the ghee and stir constantly till the ghee separates and the mass doesn't stick to the vessel. This should take 5 to 6 minutes. Remove and transfer it to a small deep plate. You don't have to grease the plate, there's plenty of ghee for that in the squares. Allow it to cool. The ghee will be soaked up. Cut into rough squares.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wheat Gluten Stir-Fry

Yesterday, I opened my inbox and had a pleasant surprise-- an email from myself! You see, last year about this time, I came across a cool site; FutureMe, which allows you to send yourself an email to be received at any point in the future. I thought it wouldn't work, that I'd remember what I wrote or the date or something but I didn't- after more than a year, I remembered nothing at all. And in the mail, I told myself to trust my instincts, because "it is difficult for you to recognize what you want because you want everything so much". And that actually helped me now about something that was bothering me a bit :)

It feels good- there's something special about listening to yourself from the past :D Try it. And don't just send yourself a corny joke, ok?!

Wheat Gluten was one of the first things I learnt to make when I started cooking and Delicious Asian Food is the beautiful blog that taught me. I use wheat flour whereas she uses all purpose flour, but the method is the same. This stir-fry is simple and very flavorful.

Wheat Gluten Stir-Fry

Wheat gluten balls- 15
1 inch ginger
1 large carrot
One half of a Bell pepper of each color
1 large red onion
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tbsp chilli vinegar
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
10 to 15 mint leaves
1 cm piece of veg stock cube
salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil

Press and chop the bit of ginger into small pieces. Slice the onion, bell peppers and carrot into large slices.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the ginger, stir and add the onions. Cook till the onions become translucent. Add the chopped bell peppers and carrot and stir for 2 minutes. Add the gluten balls. Pour in the tomato puree, chilli vinegar, soy sauce, veg stock cube and mint leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Stir on medium flame till the veggies are just cooked through.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grapefruit Basil Sorbet

Now this sorbet is good, and you don't have to take just my word for it. When Kutti came over today, she licked half a teaspoon of melted sorbet clean! She also had a few good things to say about the Sapodilla fruit I recently posted about. So there! A connoisseur has verified my recipes. What more do you want?! :D

Coming to this, its a regular sorbet, but its special to me because both the ingredients are home grown :) Nothing different otherwise, except that I made it with the pulp and 'infused' the flavor of basil into it. It's intense and perfect, though the grapefruit might be a bit too intense for some :)

Grapefruit Basil Sorbet

1 medium to large grapefruit
6 fresh basil leaves
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
1 pinch salt

Peel and remove the fresh of the grapefruit. Put it in a blender with 1/4 cup of water and blend. This came to 1.5 cups grapefruit juice. You can use a juicer/extractor if you want only the juice, but I wanted the pulp as well. Pour into the vessel you plan to freeze the sorbet in.

Cut the basil leaves lengthwise into three or four strips. Add it to the water with the pinch of salt and place it on the stove in a pan. Stir occasionally. As it begins to boil, add the sugar and stir till it dissolves. Reduce heat and stir for a couple of minutes. Pour it into the grapefruit juice and allow it to cool completely.

Put it in the freezer. After an hour, remove it and blend it along with the yogurt. The basil leaves will become dark specs after blending- not really noticeable. After 4 to 5 more hours in the freezer, whisk and serve.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shakshuka, fast and furious

One of the many admirable things about us humans is the way we combine our imagination with that cheeky sense of fun. Imagine a non vegetarian dish that is so delicious, it breaks through the stoic self-control of austere vegetarian monks- could it possibly be called anything but "Buddha Jumps over the Wall"?! Of course not!

:D Gotta love us.

Did a little research after I came across that one. Priest Stranglers, Toad in the hole, Pea Wiggles,.....lots of such names, some of it quite suggestive as well ;) Some sound funny only because they're from a different language. The first time I heard of Shakshuka, I thought it sounded like a martial arts move. Picture it- you leap through the air, legs splayed, right arm raised in a sharp upper cut and scream "Shakshukaaaaaaaaa"! Right? No? Come on, it totally fits.

Anyways, this isn't authentic coz I added too many extra things in it, left out some and it's a quick recipe. But hey, my Shakshuka can beat your Shakshuka any day. Shakshukaaaaaaaaaaaa....


1 small red onion, chopped
2 tbsp chopped bell pepper
4 to 5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup veg broth
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup corn
2 eggs
1/2 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
coriander/cilantro leaves
Vegetable oil

Actually, it'd be better if you boil the tomatoes and then peel and chop them. But I forgot....heck, ok, I was too lazy.

In a pan, heat a tbsp of vegetable oil. Add the chopped onions and bell pepper and saute for a few minutes. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and veg broth. Add the peas and corn as well. Season with salt and chilli powder. Simmer and allow to cook till the corn and peas are cooked and there's some liquid left. Break the eggs into the base. Break the yolks with a spoon, cover and simmer. If you like your eggs runny, remove it well under a minute. I don't, so i let it cook for 2 minutes till it firmed up. Add chopped cilantro and serve with bread.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sapodilla Lemon Juice

If I could travel to any point in time, I would not go to the future. I would go back, to the ancient past. To the age when humans made the truest discoveries- of their own sentience, their place in life, on earth. When everything was NEW, and everything had to be discovered.

What was it like, back then? How did they experiment to survive? It boggles the mind, and excites me no end just thinking about it. Especially the fact that humans were so few in number that they could live with the earth.....and isn't it amazing that after all these centuries, after the rise and fall of countless civilizations, we still carry with us some of the knowledge of the early days? Not all, not even most, but some.

How does my uneducated grandma know which leaves heal bones faster? Which bark yields healing smoke. Which flower can cool the body, or coagulate blood....coming to the subject of this post, how does my mom know that the sapodilla fruit is good for the tummy, that it can placate an upset stomach? We talk about folklore and old wives tales and things that have been passed down for generations, but really, it is almost magical to me, this knowledge. It is not a thing of science, but of experience. It is....heavy and deep, the years and minds that it has seen and survived.....and it is to be cherished.

I did not know that sapodilla and lemon would taste so good together, but they do. After my watermelon-muskmelon combo, this is a good home-made juice combination.

Sapodilla* Lemon Juice

1.2 cups loosely packed fresh sapodilla flesh- peeled, deseeded
1 cup water
4 to 6 tsp sugar
1 small lemon or 1/2 big lemon- juice
2 tbsp yoghurt

Blend all the ingredients together. If its too thick, add a bit more water. Serve in glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar.

*Sapodilla is chikku in North India, and sapota in Tamil. To remove flesh, wash the fruit well, split it in half, take out the seeds and gently scoop out the flesh using a teaspoon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lusikkaleivät- Finnish Teaspoon Cookies

These cookies introduced to me 'brown butter' which, though close, isn't quite ghee. I found the recipe here. I don't think the writer is blogging at present but check out her instructions for brown butter.

You can, of course, use any jam or marmalade, but please, please use blackcurrant jam on at least one! Its heavenly!!

Lusikkaleivät- Finnish Teaspoon Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup flour
Fine sugar, for dusting

Brown the butter
. Cool and it add the sugar and vanilla essence. Mix well. Sift in flour and baking soda. Mix to form the dough, which resembles wet sand. (I added a tbsp of melted butter at this stage coz my dough was too dry to hold shape)
Press the dough into a teaspoon. Use a spoon with a fairly deep indentation. The dough is quite crumbly so, handle gently. Use a knife to shave of the excess and make it flat. Gently press one end for the cookie to slip out of the spoon. Place it flat side down on the baking tray. Continue with the rest of the dough. Bake for 15 mins at 175C.

Apply jam on the flat side of one cookie and press another cookie onto it. Sandwich all the cookies in this fashion and dust with sugar.

Note: Requires patience! The dough is quite crumbly so you'll need to handle it gently when slipping it out of the spoon and placing it on the tray :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sogan Dolma

Stuffed Onions. The moment I imagined how this would taste and smell, my mouth started watering. I love using onions in any dish- its part of the Indian holy trinity of cooking, of course. Isn't it simply ingenious, using the layers of an onion as casings?

I admit- I get confused when searching for recipes online. I don't know if its because I'm a perfectionist or because I've got some form of OCD..... there are so many variations of the same recipe and I want the most authentic one! Just when I zero in on one recipe, I'll find something else equally jaw dropping. Then I'll try to combine the two, or three, or ten thousand. Slowly, a fog descends around my head... and my mind starts questioning it all- should I add this? Or that? What if I don't? Will it still be this if I add that? What is life? Am I me?.......

But for this recipe, I found very few listed in English, .....anyways, the whole key to making this juicy dish is the meat, which I don't eat. So to make it as tasty as possible, I went ahead and Indianized the dish- slathering it with a mix of varied spices and coconut. Its amazing!

Sogan Dolma

Place a pan of water on the stove and add a tbsp of vingear to it. Cut of a small bit of the bottom end of the onion and a larger bit off the top. Peel, wash and place the onions in the pan. There should be enough water to immerse the onions completely. Cook until tender- for me, this took 15 minutes on medium heat.

Fish out the onions and drop them immediately in a bowl of cold water. Allow it to cool.

Press your thumb into the bottom end of the onion and slowly but firmly coax out shell after shell. There might be a little tear, that's ok.

Prepare the filling-
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup crumbled firm cottage cheese/ cooked minced meat for non-veggies
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 tbsp boiled peas, carrots (optional)
chopped coriander leaves, chilli powder, oregano, coriander powder and salt to taste.
Mix all of these together.

Gently stuff these into the onion shells and place on a plate.

Prepare the spicy rich base-

4 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 cardamom pod
1 bay leaf
1/2 a star anise
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 chopped onion

5 tomatoes
2 tbsp grated coconut

In a pan, add a dash of oil. Add all the spices listed up to the cumin seeds.When it begins to splutter, add the onions and cook till they start turning brown. Remove and cool. Blend these ingredients to a coarse paste and keep it aside. Blend the tomatoes and coconut together with a cup of water. Keep aside. In a vessel, add both the pastes. Add salt and chilli powder to taste. Place the filled onion shells in the base, cover and cook on low for 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve on a bed of yogurt or curd rice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Back....from the farm

There's nothing like a day trip to our village farm to help a person relax. I'm back :)

There's plenty of love in nature,....


...and magic.

We have lots of good stuff...


and stuff the villagers have never seen before out here...


and plenty of four-legged friends...

Clockwise from top left- Johnny, the irrepressible, New Calf-1, Ramu- the singing sensation, Lucky- abandoned by someone and adopted by us, newborn calf-2 with beautiful forehead mark, Yin Yang kitties- resident mice killers.

The fairies abandoned ship when they saw humans approaching.

The village markets...they sell everything!


Thursday, July 9, 2009


These are my beautiful rain lilies, finally blooming after one whole year of anticipation......things need time to bloom, don't they, even perfect flowers.....
....I'm tired, and everything seems so difficult. Feels like it'll never end sometimes, this feeling. I'm going to do some things for myself for awhile. Just rest. Maybe a week or two. I think I won't cook/bake, just rest.

The Kiss

There's nothing quite like music to move the soul, is there? I listen to so many songs but at any one time, I'll have just one song in my head leading the pack, that I go back to again and again. This week its "This Kiss" by Faith Hill. It makes me grin like an utter's one of those songs that gives a hopeless romantic hope. (nice play of words, eh ;)

I don't usually cook something inspired by a song but I spent my free time a few days ago wondering what delicacy would match the feeling that wells up when I listen to this song. But my mind is too polluted with easy commonplace food-emotion equations-> romance= strawberries, passion= chocolate and so forth...

Moving past all that, let's see. For me. It must have lemon, for that burst of pleasure. It must have pineapple, for that beautiful tingly sweetness. It must have a crust, for the play of textures. An element of cold, to shock the senses. A bit of chocolate, for dark smoothness. A hint of herb, for that elusive something. A hint of spice as well, for that subtle undercurrent. A presence of flowers, for the admiring eye. A simple coming together of these elements, to be natural.

Is this it? A mouthful of kiss? Hmmm, who can say for sure. Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe, down the line, I'll find something that matches the idea better for me......heck, maybe I just need more of the right kind of inspiration :p ;D

The Kiss

Cardamom Crust
Pineapple Filling
Lemon Ice Cream
Garnish- Chocolate Kiss, Sugar coated flowers, mint leaves, toasted coconut

Cardamom Crust
(for 1 deep shell, this is a very soft dough and crust, handle with care)
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered biscuits
1 tbsp sugar
30 g butter
1 pinch cardamom powder
2 tbsp cold water

Combine all the ingredients and crumble with your fingers till it resembles coarse meal. Gather into a dough ball, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the dough so that its large enough to line the shell. Press down gently, and bake at 180º C for 10 minutes.

Pineapple filling

3/4 cup cubed fresh pineapple
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp flour

Mix all three together and spoon into the cardamom crust. Bake for 15 to 20 mins at 160º C.

Lemon Ice Cream (by hand, very intense- reduce lemon juice for a more subtle taste)

3/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1.25 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1.5 cups cream
2 eggs
4 egg yolks

Add the zest to the sugar and grind to a powder. Place this in a bowl and add the lemon juice, eggs and egg yolks. Whisk well. Pour this into a saucepan and heat through on low heat till it begins to thicken. In a bowl, mix the milk and cream. Add the contents of the saucepan to the bowl. Whisk to incorporate completely and return the mixture to the saucepan. Heat on low for a few minutes but do not allow it to boil. Remove and strain the mixture through a sieve into a flat bottomed vessel and allow to cool to room temperature. Place it the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, place the vessel in the freezer. Every half hour, for four hours, remove and whisk vigorously. Allow to harden for a couple of more hours.

Scoop out and top over pineapple.

Sugar Coated Flowers

Butterfly pea and Rose petals (use only edible flowers!)
Cold water
Egg white
Superfine Sugar

Wash the petals gently so that they are clean and dip them briefly in cold water. Remove to paper towels and allow to dry completely. Using a paint brush, coat the petals with the egg white thoroughly and sprinkle the sugar onto them. Place on a paper dusted with sugar and allow to dry for 2 to 4 hours.

Toasted Coconut

In a dry pan, stir some fresh grated or finely chopped coconut for a few minutes till it just starts turning color.


This Kiss
Faith Hill

I don't want another heartbreak
I don't need another turn to cry
I don't want to learn the hard way
Baby, hello, oh no, goodbye
But you got me like a rocket
Shooting straight across the sky

It's the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss

It's that pivotal moment
It's ah, impossible
This kiss, this kiss, Unstoppable
This kiss, this kiss

Cinderella said to Snow White
How does love get so off course
All I wanted was a white knight
With a good heart, soft touch, fast horse

Ride me off into the sunset
Baby, I'm forever yours

It's the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss

It's that pivotal moment
It's ah, unthinkable
This kiss, this kiss, Unsinkable
This kiss, this kiss

You can kiss me in the moonlight
On the rooftop under the sky
You can kiss me with the windows open
While the rain comes pouring inside
Kiss me in sweet slow motion
Let's let every thing slide
You got me floating, you got me flying

It's the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss

It's that pivotal moment
It's ah, subliminal
This kiss, this kiss, It's Criminal
This kiss, this kiss
Its the way you love me baby Its the way you love me darlin, yeah

Monday, July 6, 2009

Easy Garbanzo/Channa Curry

This is a pretty easy and quite delicious curry. Wonderful with rice or any flatbread.

Channa Curry/ Garbanzo Curry

2 medium onions, chopped
10 tomatoes, chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
2 green chillies, cut in half
vegetable oil

Heat some oil in a pan. Add the onions and stir till they become translucent. Add the tomatoes, garlic cloves and green chillies and cook for 5 minutes. Cool and blend to a very smooth paste.

1 small onions
1 cup garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 dried red chilly
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt, to taste
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 pinch turmeric powder
1 tsp methi leaves/dried fenugreek leaves
2 cups water
curry leaves vegetable oil

Cook the garbanzo beans in a pressure cooker or boiling water till they're just cooked. In a pan, heat some oil, add the cumin seeds, ginger and red chilly. Once it starts turning brown, add the onions and fry lightly. Add the paste, the garbanzo beans, coriander powder, turmeric powder, methi, salt and water. Cook for about 10 minutes. Garnish with curry leaves.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tomato Egg-drop soup with Loomi

I was born and brought up in Kuwait and except for regular visits to India to keep in touch with my roots, Kuwait was always home to me. It's been a decade since I left and I don't know if I've really let go. I do tend to put the happiest times of my life up on a pedestal......

It's when I sometimes yearn to live in the past or for better things that one of my favorite quotes comes to mind- "No one lives on the top of the mountain. It’s fine to go there occasionally: for inspiration, for new perspectives. But you have to come down. Life is lived in the valleys. That’s where the farms and gardens and orchards are, and where the plowing and the work is done. That’s where you apply the visions you may have glimpsed from the peaks."

:) I try, I try. Anyways, the food in Kuwait makes up about half of my memories and I greatly cherish them, as a symbol of the wonderful standard of living that I was blessed with as I grew up. One of the most unique ingredients that I came across in Kuwait is the Loomi or Limon Aswaad. This is a concentrated intense packet of earthy tangy flavor, no doubts about it.

If you are a non-vegetarian and if you get your hands on some loomi, ignore this post and recipe, get up and go make 'Chicken Kapsa' (an amazing flavored rice, many recipes online). I was an enthusiastic non-vegetarian till I was about 12 and I'm telling you, go now... Shoo...... I don't love you anymore, you hear?...go...GO....go.......

For the rest of us vegetarians, believe me, this soup is as good as it gets! Intense.

Tomato Egg-drop soup with Loomi

1 cup, assorted vegetables like onions, carrots, beans, peas, potatoes, cabbage (optional)
2 cups vegetable broth, or water
1 cup tomato paste
green chillies, salt and red chilli powder, to season
1 loomi
1 egg

The soup, like any other, is not rocket science. Just throw it all together and let it boil down. But, the loomi must be pierced multiple times with a knife or fork to get the flavor out. Beat the egg in a bowl and pour it in a few seconds before removing the soup off the stove.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Soy Chunk Stir-fry with Mango Pulp

The mango season is slowly coming to an end here in India and yet again, I find myself with that nagging disquieting feeling- I did not take full advantage of it, did I? Whenever some fruit season comes along, I'm usually pretty satisfied at the end. That warm glow that comes with the conviction- Yup, I did my share, I contributed to the consumption of luscious fruit X. But it's not like that with mangoes. Maybe its because of the sheer bulk, the myriad varieties, the utter deliciousness of the fruit? I don't know, but I solemnly promise (again), I'll make a mark next year (what ambition eh?)

So today's yummy lip smacking dish is a soy chunk stir fry with plenty of green pepper, onions and mango pulp....mmmmm. Quite simple, easy to put together.

Soy Chunk Stir-fry with Mango Pulp

1 handful Soy chunks
1 large green pepper/capsicum
1 large red onion
4 green chillies
1/2 cup fresh mango pulp
1/4 cup tomato puree
salt to taste
spring onions, curry leaves for garnish

Drop the soy chunks into a pan of boiling water and cook for a few minutes till its soft to the core. Remove, wash with tap water and drain. In a small bowl, place the mango pulp, tomato puree and slit green chillies and mix well. Add a 1/4 tsp of salt. Squeeze out the water from the soy chunks and add it to the bowl. Mix well and allow to marinate for an hour or so.

Slice the green pepper and onion into long thin strips. Heat some oil and add the onions and peppers. Add a pinch of salt and stir fry for a few minutes till the onions become translucent. Add the marinated soy chunks along with the sauces. Season with salt, mix well and simmer and cook until almost dry. Raise the heat and stir constantly for a few minutes. Sprinkle chopped curry leaves and spring onions just before removing off the stove.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

I'm not stingy, but I literally counted out the pumpkin seeds for garnishing this spite of the bagful of pumpkin seeds I had next to me. But then, they're not really mine to use freely, you see....this requires a bit of history.

In Feb this year, my dad rescued three baby squirrels from our farm. He brought them home when they were fur-less little babies and we brought them up for about two months. A glorious fun time when I went around looking like I lived in a cactus patch. They loved climbing humans, those three. Anyways, after a brief acclimatization, we released them in our terrace garden. They took off quickly enough, except for the smallest runt, the one we called 'Kutti', meaning 'little one'.

Kutti decided to make our terrace her home base. Soon, she found her way back into the house for short visits- she'd play, eat, sleep a bit and then take off. Nowadays, she comes mainly to eat. And everyday, invariably, she wants pumpkin seeds. Since we only cook pumpkins once in a while, we have to supplement our hoard. We do this in many ways, but mostly by stealth- every visit to any grocery shop, I scrape out the seeds from the cut pumpkins and slip them away. Kutti puts me up to it, I swear.

She has a lot of influence in this household. Since she runs away if startled, every time she shows up, we all become rigid and freeze. Necessary movement is carried out in ultra slow motion, Matrix style. People who want to enter the room hover near the door or behind the sofa till she's had her fill. But no one minds. The general attitude is that its a privilege to have her back for those few short minutes. Seriously, Kutti is like some visiting royal personage in our home.

Me: "Kutti came today."
Family: Oh! (Father chuckles, mom smiles, there are grins and nods all around)
Me: Yes, yes, she even climbed onto my hand.
Family: (Chorus of exclamations and sounds of delight)
Me: She drank water from her little pot too!
Family: Awww! Heh heh.

And this happens everyday. Every. Single. Day. I'm amazed animals haven't taken over the world. They're too cute and furry for us pathetic humans to resist. Those beady eyes, little button noses....It reminds me of that frame in Shrek 1 where Puss makes his eyes go all round, pupils at maximum dilation, the guards go all awwww and then thwack. I loved that scene because it was so real :D that sums up the story, and the reason the pumpkin seeds are not mine :)

The soup is a simple one- roast peeled pumpkin pieces and cloves of garlic in the oven for 30 to 40 mins. Puree, season with salt, pepper and top with toasted pumpkin seeds. I added a bit of buttermilk to my soup coz I like it better that way.