Sunday, November 25, 2012

Begun chirer pulao - a side dish using brinjal and poha

Isn't the name begun chirer pulao, catchy? However, it is slightly misleading because it is not a pulao per se. It does not make a meal by itself but it does make a spicy, lip smackingly good side dish. The recipe is from Bong mom's cookbook. I have made changes to suit our palate.

What you need:
Brinjal/eggplant - 1 large, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
Poha/flattened rice/aval - 1 cup
Thick curd - 1/2 cup
Turmeric  powder - 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 2 or 3, slit lengthwise
Oil - 2 tsp + some more for drizzling over the brinjal and poha

Wash the sliced brinjals well. Sprinkle some turmeric powder and salt over the slices and let it rest in a colander for 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess water, drizzle some oil over the slices and then bake in a preheated oven at 175 degree centigrade for about 10-12 minutes, turning over once halfway through, until the slices start to shrivel up slightly on the edges. Time will vary depending on your oven. I have an option called Crisp in my microwave, which is what I used and it took me about 12 minutes.
While the brinjals are in the oven, getting cooked, mix the turmeric powder, chilli powder and a little bit of salt to the curd. Mix well and set aside.
Drizzle some oil over the poha and heat this in the microwave for about 2 minutes until the poha turns crisp.
Heat 2 tsp of oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add  a generous few pinches of asafoetida and the slit green chillies. Saute for a minute. Now reduce the heat to low and add the curd mixture. Stir well and heat until you see oil separating from the mixture. Add half a cup of water and the baked brinjal slices. Mix well and let it come to a boil. When the mixture starts thickening and 3/4th of the water content has evaporated, stir in the crisp poha and the garam masala. Mix well and switch off the heat.
Serve immediately with rice/roti.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dum aloo

There are some combinations that you just cannot go wrong with - Luchi and Dum aloo is one of those. The puffed white puris and the potatoes cooked in an aromatic mix of spices is a pairing that is meant to be.
When I decided that I was going to make luchis for this blogging marathon themed on Bengali cuisine, I knew that I had to pair it with Dum Aloo. I immediately remembered the Dum Aloo that my friend D had cooked and brought to work one day and promptly sent a mail to her asking her if she could send me the recipe. Despite being bogged down by work, she did so within 10 minutes of getting my mail and I've followed her recipe to the T. Thank you D for a keeper recipe.

What you need:
Potatoes - 1/2 kg, boiled, peeled and cut into small pieces
(The original recipe calls for baby potatoes, but I had none on hand)
Tomato - 4 large, finely chopped
Oil - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Ginger - 1 inch piece, julienned and some more crushed to get about 2 tsp of ginger juice
Separately dry roast and powder the following:
Corriander seed/dhania - 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds/jeera - 2 tsp
Red chillies - 5 or 6
Black pepper corns - 5 or 6

Heat oil in a pan. Add the julienned ginger, followed by the chopped tomato, salt and half of the powder. Cook on low heat until the tomatoes soften. Stir in the potatoes, the rest of the spice powder and about half a cup of water. Stir well and boil for a while until the spice mix coats the potatoes well. Add the ginger juice, a tsp of ghee and mix well. Remove from heat and serve hot with luchis.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.

Luchi - deep fried delight

It's time for another Blogging Marathon and this time, the theme I have chosen is Bengali cuisine. Nothing is as quintessentially Bengali as the puffed white puris made of maida - known as luchi.

What you need:
Maida/All purpose flour - 2 cups
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Water - enough to knead into a soft, pliable dough
Oil - for deep frying the luchis

Take the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil to it and mix well. Now add salt and then water, little by little, and knead well until the dough becomes soft and pliable.
Keep covered for at least 30 minutes.
Pinch out small balls of the dough. Take a few teaspoons of oil in a shallow plate. Roll the balls of dough in this oil and then roll out into thick, small circles.
Deep fry in hot oil, pressing down with a slotted spoon, to ensure that it puffs up well. Turn over once.
Drain off excess oil and remove on to your serving bowl.
Serve hot with any curry of your choice.
I served this with aloo dum, which is the subject of tomorrow's post.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Minestrone soup

I have often stated on this blog that my all time favourite soup is the minestrone and that Olive Garden, in my opinion, makes the best minestrone. For the past several years, I have ordered minestrone at many other restaurants, hoping that it will match up to the taste of that from Olive Garden but sadly, that has not happened yet.
So, I did the next best thing - and that is to make minestrone at home, recalling ingredients from memory, and I must say that I am quite happy with the result - a filling soup that you will keep coming back for more of.

What you need:
Chickpeas/ garbanzo beans/ kabuli chana - 1/4 cup
Red kidney beans/rajma - 1/4 cup
Dried green peas - 1/4 cup
Onion - finely minced - 1/2 cup
Carrot - chopped - 1/2 cup
Celery - 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Shell macaroni - 1/4 cup
Butter - 3-4 tbsp
Soya sauce - 1 tsp
Italian soup seasoning - to taste (I recommend using this generously)
Salt - to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

Soak the chickpeas, red kidney beans and green peas in plenty of water for 8-10 hours.
Heat butter in a thick, heavy bottomed pan. I used the pressure cooker to do this. Saute the chopped onion, carrot and celery on low heat until brown. Add the soaked beans, salt, soya sauce, 4 cups of water and shell macaroni. Cover and cook till one whistle. Then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Once the steam escapes completely, open the lid, stir well and add Italian soup seasoning. At this stage, if you feel the soup is too watery, boil for a while more to reach the required consistency and if you feel it is too thick, add some water and heat through.
Just before serving, add freshly ground black pepper and grate some parmesan cheese over the soup.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chana/chickpeas dosa

I had grand plans for the second day of the blogging marathon under the theme cooking with chickpeas. I had decided even before I started this marathon that each day I would post something I had not tried making before. So, today's post was supposed to be something from another cuisine for which I needed white kabula chana/garbanzo beans. However, fate had other plans. Yesterday in the afternoon  Bal Thackeray passed away. Within 30 minutes, the always busy city, came to a grinding halt. All shops were shut down, autos and taxis went off the road and the roads themselves wore a deserted look. This, to me, meant - no way of procuring kabuli chana. I had to make do with what I had on hand - black chickpeas- and thus, resorted to making something that is all too familiar in our household - the humble dosa, this time, using chickpeas.
What you need:
Kala chana/black chickpeas - 1 cup
Parboiled rice - 1 cup
Red chillies - 3 or 4
Ginger - 1 large piece
Onion - 1
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - for grinding

Soak chickpeas and rice in plenty of water for 6-8 hours.
In a blender, take all the other ingredients and grind coarsely. Add the soaked chicpeas, rice and enough water to grind into a batter of pourable consistency.
Heat a dosa tawa/griddle. Pour a ladleful of the batter and spread into a thin circle.
Drizzle with oil on top. When the bottom starts to brown, flip over and cook for a minute.
Serve hot with chutney/sambar.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.
This goes to Kalpana who is guest hosting Priya's event - Fast & Quick Healthy dishes.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chickpeas stuffed braided bread

A few years back, bread to me, meant a packet of Modern or Britannia white bread picked up from the neighbouring store. That was before blogging happened. Now, I know that bread isn't just bread - there is whole wheat bread, there is multi grain bread, focaccia, no-knead bread - the variety is endless. The simple, short term bread encompasses a whole world within it.
I am amazed that I am able to bake good bread at home and that I have become more and more adventurous by trying out my hand at different kinds of bread. I am participating in the Blogging Marathon this month, and the theme I have chosen for this week is Cooking with chickpeas. I was certain that I did not want to take the well travelled path and make chole or kadala curry. I racked my brain to see how I could come up with something 'different' and that's when the idea of this stuffed bread was born. The basic bread recipe I have used is the same as the one I have used in my Iyengar bakery style stuffed buns.

What you need:
For the bread :
Maida/All purpose flour - 2 cups (heaped)
Vanaspati / vegetable shortening - 3 tbsp
Yogurt - 1 tbsp
Milk - 2/3 cups
Salt - 1 tsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp (Use 1 tsp from this for proofing the yeast)
Yeast - 1 tbsp

Dissolve 1 tsp of sugar in 1/4 cup of lukewarm milk. Add the yeast to this. Cover and set aside for about 10 minute until the yeast mixture becomes frothy.
Take the maida, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, milk, yogurt and vegetable shortening. Knead to a soft, pliable dough. Cover and keep aside in a warm place to rise until double in volume. This take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Once it rises, punch the dough down and keep aside for a second rise (roughly 45 minutes)

For the stuffing:
Chickpeas/chana/konda kadalai - 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight
Medium potato - 1, cooked, peeled and mashed
Onion - 1, sliced thin and long
Tomato - 1
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp, heaped
Salt - to taste
Oil - 5 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp

Pressure cook the chickpeas until one whistle and then reduce the heat and cook for a further 20 minutes. The chickpeas should be cooked until soft and you should be able to easily mash it. Lightly mash the cooked chickpeas and keep aside.
Heat oil in a kadai.Add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to sputter, add the sliced onions and a quarter tsp of sugar. Saute until brown. Add in the tomato and cook till soft. Now add the mashed potato, chickpeas, turmeric powder, garam masala and salt. Mix well and heat until all moisture evaporates.
Keep aside to cool.

To make the stuffed bread :
Transfer the dough to a generously floured kitchen counter. Roll it into a thin, long rectangle/oval shape.
Spread the stuffing in the middle of the rectangle.
On both sides of the stuffing, cut the dough into parallel strips.
Criss-cross the strips over the stuffing to make braids. Apply a mik wash over the dough. This will give an even brown colour while baking.

Preheat oven to to 175 degrees. Bake for 22-25 minutes until golden brown.
Wait until it cools a little and then, cut into thick slices and dig in.

 Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other marathoners doing BM#22.
This bread goes to Let's Party - Eggless Bakes and Treats - an event started by Surabhi and guest hosted by Nivedhanams Sowmya.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Bankster - A book review

The Bankster is the first book of Ravi Subramanian's that I have read. Despite the fact that I had not read the author before, I was quite thrilled to receive an autographed copy of the book.
The excerpt on blogadda sounded interesting and so, I decided to sign up to do a review. However, once I got the book, I somehow lost interest and didn't touch it for a few days. For some reason, I felt that it would not be interesting....and honestly, I am never a person to judge a book without reading at least a few pages first. Having signed up to do the review, I couldn't put the book away for too long.....and once I started reading, I realized just how wrong I had been about it. The fact that I finished reading the entire book in a night should tell you something about it.

Ravi Subramanian has been described by The Wall Street Journal as the John Grisham of banking, and the cover of the book does look quite Grisham-esque and maybe that's what made me postpone reading the book. Talk about judging a book by its cover!
The story starts in Angola and then moves on to Kerala, Mumbai and Vienna. In the beginning, it looks as if there are different stories being played out in the book, but towards the end, the author manages to bring it all together beautifully The characters are well etched.and the plot, interesting and taut.

Money laundering is a reality and something that we've all read about in the news papers for the last few years. The author, through this story, shows us how even innocent sounding NGOs and top bankers could fall prey to the desire to make a quick buck.

Indrani - the CEO of the bank, Vikram the ruthless go-getter who is constantly looking for new ways to make money, Raymond - the brainy but lonely chap from the Fraud department, Harshita - a hardworking sales person whose importance in the organization diminishes when a sexy siren who is not afraid of using her assets to her best advantage are characters that you will find echoes of in the people around you.

I liked the parts that happen in the Corporate office in Mumbai the best and the ones that happen in Kerala the least - because what happens in Mumbai is fast paced and keeps you wanting to read more. In fact, I impatiently turned over the pages to find the next chapter that told me more of the happenings in the Corporate office.

I guessed who the "villain" was - a few chapter down the line.....don't ask me how....I just did. The end is a little too dramatic and just a tad filmy - with all the figuring out happening in the board room. However, with the leaps and bounds in technology, it is not entirely unbelievable. There is huge Bollywood element though, in the way in which the "villain" is finally found. Can't help saying that and I hope I haven't given too much away and spoiled the punchline for other readers.
All in all, The Bankster is a good read - interesting and fast paced. It is published by Rupa Publications and retails for Rs 250.
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at
Participate now to get free books!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


For the last few years, I have been toying with the idea of making badusha for Diwali, but have been a little scared of venturing into trying my hand at such a traditional sweet since I think that the making of all traditional Indian sweets requires quite a bit of practice and patience. This year, armed with Mallika Badrinath's "200 traditional sweets", I set about making badushas. The first few that I fried crumbled and melted into the oil, turning the clear oil into an opaque white liquid.....and strengthening my belief that sweets like this one should be made only by experts at sweet shops like Adayar Ananda Bhavan or Grand Sweets. Luckily, the thought of all the effort that had gone into kneading the dough and the cost of ingredients involved made me persist. Some quick fixes later, I fried the next batch of badushas, which turned out quite well.....nice and brown on the outside, flaky and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside.

What you need:
Vanaspati/dalda - 5 tbsp(level)
Cooking soda - 2 pinches
Maida - 1.5 cups
Oil - for deep frying

For the sugar syrup
Sugar - 1 cup, heaped
Water - 1/2 cup
Heat sugar and water together until it reaches one string consistency. Switch off heat and keep aside.
One string consistency - The syrup reaches this consistency a few minutes after all the sugar has dissolved. To test if it has reached this stage, take a drop of the syrup on your index finger. Touch it with your thumb and slowly move the two fingers apart. If you a see a single string stretching between the two fingers, it is time for you to switch off the heat. If not, you need to heat the syrup some more.
To make badusha:

Take the vanaspati in a broad vessel. Add the soda to it and rub with your palm until it becomes white and frothy. This takes 10-15 minutes. A better alternative is to use an electric beater. This is what I did, and it took close to 5 minutes of beating on low speed.
Now mix in the maida with your fingers until the dough becomes crumbly. Sprinkle a little bit of water and knead into a soft, pliable dough. Keep this covered under a wet cloth for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into lemon sized balls, flatten it slightly between your palms, make a depression in the center and deep fry in hot oil until well browned on both sides. The entire cooking process must be done on a low-medium flame as we need to ensure that the inside is well cooked. If the flame is high, the outside will brown, but the inside will remain uncooked. Turn over once or twice to ensure even browning.
Drain excess oil and put the fried badushas into the sugar syrup. Keep it immersed in the sugar syrup until the next few badushas you fry are ready to be put into the syrup. Remove onto a flat plate. Decorate with chopped nuts/cherries.
This keeps well for upto a week.

Lessons learned:
While this is not exactly an easy sweet to make, it is not very difficult either, if you have the measurements right. The first mistake I made is adding too much dalda. I added 5 heaped tablespoons, plus some more, where the recipe called for only 5 levelled tbsps.
Excess dalda is what made my badushas dissolve in the oil. I had to add quite a bit more of maida to it to ensure that my badushas did not crumble as soon as they came into contact with hot oil. I have not measured how much more maida I added, but in case you make the same mistake, keep adding maida until the dough does not leave your hand feeling sticky and oily.
I also learned that oil, whether it is clear or opaque, serves the purpose equally well. I fried the rest of the badushas in the oil into which the first few had crumbled and dissolved, and it did not take anything away from the end product.

Updated this year (2012) with new pictures. The collage shows the step-by-step pictures of the process of making badushas. This year, I have decorated the badushas with cherries and colourful sprinkles. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Seven cup cake - An easy Diwali sweet

 Seven cup cake is one of the sweets that my mother whips up with ease whenever there are guests or even when there aren't. Despite the name, this sweet is neither a cake nor a cup cake. It is in fact, more like a burfi - a very soft and addictive one at that. 

I have always been am scared to try my hand at making Indian sweets - in this case, because, turning out a perfect barfi that will hold its shape, and be not too soft(that will make it a halwa) or too hard (that will ensure that the dentist has a very happy Diwali) requires knowing the precise moment at which the heat is to be switched off.
With this recipe, chances of going wrong are very less(note that I didn't say nil) because it doesn't involve complicated steps like letting the sugar syrup reach a certain consistency or  hours and hours of stirring to get a glossy sheen. On the face of it, the recipe is pretty simple - you mix all the ingredients together, and stir them. The only catch is that you need to know when to take it off the stove. It is all very easy to say when the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan......but without practice, you won't know when the sides are just boiling and bubbling and when they start to sort of curl in to indicate that you can switch off the heat.
This is the first sweet that I have made for this Diwali and I can't help but gloat over the fact that I was able to slice it neatly into pieces and it just melts in the mouth.

What you need:
Besan/Gram flour - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Grated coconut - 1 cup
Sugar - 3 cups

Take all the ingredients in a large, thick bottomed kadai. Mix well.

Cook on medium heat. I have pictorially tried to show you the various stages that the mixture will pass through.

When the mixture starts thickening and leaving the sides of the pan, pour on to a greased plate.

When warm, score with a sharp knife into square or diamond shapes.

Once cool, cut into pieces and store in an airtight container.