Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Grandma's Coconut Chutney

My grandma's elder sister simple refuses to budge from our village. If we somehow spirit her away to our home here, she never lasts more than two days. Though she cannot articulate it, I understand. There are too many walls in the city, too many broken vistas, short steps, grey things. To a soul raised in green fields, under blue skies, the city can never be home.

She's the last of her kind. You see, she's never worn a blouse. Just that loosely flung sari that she wraps around herself in that unique village style. She told me about it. About how the 'blouse rage' spread through the land, how her sisters and friends took to it immediately. They tried with her too, but as she so charmingly and vehemently says "I couldn't wear it, no, no. I threw it off." Whenever she tells me this, I always imagine her running across the fields with a gaggle of people chasing after her, waving blouses in the air.

Anyways, big grandma makes the tastiest chutneys, the only way she knows how- on the grinding stone. Ask anyone in India and they'll tell you it tastes way better than what you blend in a processor. Its true.

She's a hardy soul, who worked in the fields all her life, even gave birth in them! You should hear the stories.....Oh, and big grandma's real name- "Chinna Ponnu"- which means exactly- "Little Girl". So true! :)

Big Grandma's Coconut Chutney
(adapted for making with a blender*)

1 cup packed Freshly Grated Coconut
1/2 lemon sized ball of Tamarind, soaked in water OR 2 tsp tamarind paste
2 large dried Red Chillies
1/2 tsp Rock Salt
1/4 cup water

Put it all together and let 'er rip. Add as little water as possible if it is too thick to blend properly. This is a very tangy chutney and it is best eaten mixed up with rice and a spicy fried side dish.

*These measurements are approximate. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. Start with a little amount of each ingredient and pause as you blend to taste and add more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

White Chocolate Cheese Tarts with Caramelized Beet Dots

This is one of my of those recipes that come to you when you sit and stare off into space. I love white chocolate and combining it with fresh homemade cheese in a beautiful tart....mmmmm.....

White Chocolate Cheese Tarts with Caramelized Beet Dots
Makes 7 small tarts

2 quantities basic tart dough*
1.75 cups (packed) fresh firm cheese**
4 tbsp melted white chocolate
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp cold water

2 one mm thin slices of red beet
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp ground almonds
Fresh pineapple strips

Preheat oven. Roll out or press the tart dough and line the tart shells with them. Trim ends neatly and place in the oven. Blind bake for 5 minutes. The remove the beans/weights and bake for 40 mins at 180° C.

In a blender, place the firm cheese, the powdered sugar and water. Blend for a minute till smooth. Remove to the bowl with melted white chocolate and mix well with a metal spoon. After using it to fill the tarts, place in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a small pan with 1/2 tsp of sugar. Place the beet slices on it and sprinkle with another 1/2 tsp of sugar. On a very low flame, cook the beets, flipping over often. When the beets become floppy, remove from the stove. Use a pen cap to press down on the beets slices and make dots. Place aside.

After the tart shells have been baked, remove them from the oven and allow to cool completely. Fill the shells with the cheese mixture and smooth down the top with a spoon. Refrigerate. In a dry pan, lightly toast the ground almonds and sprinkle onto the tart filling. Decorate with beet dots and pineapple strips.

*Basic Tart Dough

1.25 cups all purpose flour
80 g butter
2.5 tbsp cold water
1 pinch salt

Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl and use your finger tips to break the butter in. Add the water and gather the dough together into a ball. Do not mix too much. Cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

**Fresh Cheese

1 liter milk
Juice from 2 small lemons

Allow the milk to come to a boil. Just when it does, remove of the stove and pour in the lemon juice. The milk will separate into solids and whey. Place a muslin cloth in a bowl and pour the contents of the milk into it. Lift the cloth and tie it up, allowing the whey to collect in the bowl below. Untie after half an hour and use immediately or refrigerate until use.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Austrian Coffee it said...

It's been a busy week. Satisfyingly busy. Cute little things have happened- the top news being- Kutti now has a boyfriend!'s easier for squirrels, isn't it? She hasn't asked me for my approval, but I think he's a handsome dude. A little shifty, the way he peers at me from around corners, but 'hey', says Kutti, as she munched on some millet, 'its tough finding a good man.' Oh, really?

I think this is the first time I've tried a recipe 'as is' from a recipe book. Though I did re-read it a couple of times- no butter, no oil, no baking powder....Will it rise on egg power alone? Yeah, it rose beautifully and then fell, spectacularly. Jesus, after that it was a matter of desperate salvaging. Even the taste wasn't worth it. With a cream crisis, this doomed recipe (I did everything by the book) and the crappy photography, the kitchen walls resounded with curses. I'm putting it up here, just as it is in that book, because.....because....well, I'm feeling contrary at the moment. Aargh. Sniff.

Austrian Coffee Cake
From Quick and Easy Desserts (may a thousand curses collectively burn it)

Oven Temperature: 180° C, 350° F, Gas 4

4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup/ 60g/ 2 oz caster sugar
45g/1.5 oz ground almonds
3 tsps instant coffee powder dissolved in 4 tsps boiling water, cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup/ 30g/ 1 oz flour
chocolate dots, grated chocolate

Coffee Cream-
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 2 tsps boiling water, cooled
2 tbsps coffee-flavored liqueur
1 cup/250 ml/ 8 fl oz double cream, whipped

Place egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat until thick and creamy. Beat in almonds, coffee mixture and vanilla essence.

Place egg whites in a bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Sift flour over egg yolk mixture and fold in with egg white mixture. Spoon batter into a greased and lined 20cm/8 in springform tin and bake for 20-25 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand in tin for 10 minutes, before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

To make Coffee cream, mix sugar, coffee mixture and liqueur into cream. Split cold cake horizontally and use a little of the coffee cream to sandwich halves together. Spread remaining coffee cream over top and sides and cake. Decorate top of cake with chocolate dots and grated chocolates. Chill and serve cut into slices.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Finger Millet or Ragi, two ways

Finger Millet, or Ragi is a nutritious cereal grain. It is, or rather, was a staple in Indian diet. Though ragi flour is still in good use in some parts of India to make quick pancakes, I find that people here have moved on to ingredients that don't require as much work.

At one time, in the not so recent past, ragi and other millets were consumed everyday- rice was a rarity. My grandparents grew up on such nutritious fare, which (as they used to say) is why they were solid healthy people who lived long lives. But even people in the villages don't use it much anymore. What a shame.

So this recipe is an age old method of preparation- in honor of the past :)

Ragi Kali

This is a flour based preparation that yields a jelly/stiff porridge like cooked dough called Kali in Tamil. It is a wonderful healthy base to be had with any curry- Indian curries, American gravy, Thai curries....whatever you like.

1 cup Ragi or Finger millet flour
3.75 cups water
3/4 tsp salt

Wash your hands well. Place the ragi flour in a bowl. Add 1.25 cups water to it. With one hand, mix the flour in, breaking and smoothing out the lumps that form until you get a smooth batter. (You can do this first step 12 to 24 hrs before and cover with a cloth. Slight fermentation yields a tastier end result. Its optional.)

Place another vessel on the stove. Pour in the remaining water (2.50 cups). As the water heats up well (do not allow the water to boil), pour in the flour mixture. Immediately, on a high flame, use a broad metal spoon and start mixing vigorously- churning would be a better word. Scrape the sides of the vessel as you churn.

Within three of four minutes, the mixture will have thickened. Lower the flame- lumps will not form after this point. If any lumps have formed, break them up against the sides of the vessel with the spoon. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Stir twice in between. Keep it closed after you remove from heat for another 15 minutes. Serve with curry.

Ragi Drink/ Kool

Another way to serve Ragi kali is to make a simple refreshing and nutritious drink with it. This is called 'Kool' and was (sometimes is) a popular summer street food drink as well as a temple charity offering.

1 cup Kali/cooked Ragi dough (from recipe above)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup water
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 green chilly, finely chopped
salt, to taste
A handful of cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped

Place the Kali along with the yogurt and water in a blender and blend thoroughly. Remove to a pouring jug. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Chill before serving in tall glasses. You can serve some spicy pickles alongside for extra bite.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rose Flavored Soybean Milk

I've never had soy milk. I have this 'thing' about packaged processed milk. It's my mom's fault, this prejudice. She put it in my head and it refuses to budge. Mothers! (cue to shake head) So, in spite of the amazing nutritional benefits of soy milk, I've never tried it. Which is why I was quite happy to find out how to make it. This version makes ordinary soy milk and the sweetness and flavoring is added to it by preparing a syrup.

Rose Flavored Soybean Milk

500g soy beans
8 cups water
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp rosewater
red food color (optional)

Soak the soybeans in plenty of water overnight. Drain and process in a blender with the water. You might have to do this in batches. Pour it into a cotton cloth held over a wide bowl. The milk will collect in the bowl. Discard the contents left in the cloth. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat on medium flame till it boils. Stir often. Simmer for a few minutes, then remove. You can strain it through a sieve if you wish.

For the syrup, place the water in a saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to boil. Simmer for a few minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and rosewater. Add the food color if you want to. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

To serve, stir a spoonful or two of the rosewater syrup into a glass of soy milk.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rainbow Sponge Cake with Passion Fruit Icing

I don't care, I don't care if every Tom, Dick and Harry (or their female counterparts) in the foodie blogosphere is making a rainbow cake. I have to make one too. So there.

Ahem. I took a trip to Bangalore last week and visited my brother and sister-in-law. The trip was real fun- the best part being the pastry supplies that I hoarded. The other best part was the electric mixer that the generous duo got for me. I was going to buy one, but it turned up as my gift! :)

I used to beat batter and make dough by hand.....let me tell you, people, if I ever cross over to the dark side and practice evil, that would be my trademark torture device- a spoon or whisk, a bowl of eggs and sugar. With my midnight cape flying, the dungeon walls glowing as the light from the bonfires play across it, I'd command "Beat it! Ah hah ha ha ha hah." And the chains would rattle as the poor suffering souls beat and beat and beat...

But thankfully, I'm a good person, angelic actually...what?... anyways, the point is- I have my brand new mixer and I commemorated it with this multicolor sponge cake.

My passion fruit icing didn't quite make it onto the cake because of a teensy mistake, heh heh, so I patched it up and converted it to ice cream, but I must say- passion fruit icing is the best flavor ever! Next time, I'll make it right and put it in a moist layered cake.

This cake is for my brother and sis-in-law. Don't worry, you two, you'll actually get to eat it soon enough ;)

Rainbow Sponge Cake with Passion Fruit Icing

4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup flour, sifted
1 cup superfine sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 liquid food colors (or more)

In a bowl, beat the egg white till firm peaks form. Add the vanilla essence and baking powder and beat till stiff. Add the yolks slowly and continue beating. Spoon in the sugar as you beat. Gently fold in the flour.

Divide the cake batter evenly into five (or more) bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring to each and mix gently. Grease and flour the cake tin and add the first colored batter in the center. As it slowly spreads, add the second one in the center of the first. Continue this slowly with the remaining colors as well. Place in a preheated oven for 20 mins at 175 C.

Passion Fruit Icing-

2 ripe passion fruits
1/2 of one lemon
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp butter, at room temerature

Place the pulp of the passion fruit in a sieve. Using a spoon, press down on the pulp and collect the juice in a bowl underneath. Juice the lemon as well. To this, add the icing sugar and butter and beat till well mixed. Chill in the freezer for a few minutes before spreading onto cake.

Note: I bet this frosting is better with cream cheese, so I'd recommend reworking the recipe with it added in.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I know you don't have to be a genius to come up with a sandwich filling, but I really do love finding different 'established' recipes. I don't just spontaneously use soy sauce or something out of my experience when I'm making my own, so the variety is welcome. And if its a vegetarian recipe that I don't have to 'adapt', I'm truly grateful.

But the last place I expected to find one was in an episode of Star Trek! Hasperat is a Bajoran snack, Bajorans being an alien species, of course. Oh God, my inner Trekkie is rolling around in ecstasy.....I SO want to live on a space ship in a fictional universe!

This one has been in my recipe file for awhile and the reason its been put off so long is because I have to make my own tortillas....and my own hummus...which means I have to make my own Tahini too.....I have to move somewhere else soon, people. Really. But its worth it, I love hummus! And this alien snack too!

Oh and by the way, it is described officially as "...set one's tongue on fire and bring tears to the eyes". But its toned down here so as to not bore a hole through the human tongue ;)

altered from Vegan Yum Yum, I found two other versions with cream cheese instead of hummus - here and here.

2 10″ Wheat Tortillas
1 Cup Hummus
1 Small Cucumber, sliced very thin (about 1/2 cup)
1 Carrot, shredded (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp Chilli Vinegar
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
Hot Chili Sauce/Tabasco

Slice the cucumber very thinly and place in a large bowl. Add the carrot. Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and toss. Let marinate 30 mins.

Spread the tortillas with hummus, making sure you cover the entire surface. This will help the sandwich stick together. Arrange the cucumber slices in one layer, slightly overlapping. Add carrot, and sprinkle the fresh coriander leaves on top. Drizzle lightly with Tabasco sauce.

Roll up the wrap, tucking in the ends, and place on a hot grill pan to slightly warm and create pretty grill marks. You can do this in a regular pan if you don’t have a grill pan. Slice and eat immediately.