Monday, September 29, 2008


I saw these great frittatas in Stephanie's Kitchen, and I wanted to reach in and grab one! It all sounded so simple, and I made a veggie version for breakfast this morning. They are delicious and simple and fun for kids too.

Mini Frittatas

4 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Cheese of your choice
2 tbsp Milk
2 tbsp Mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Beat the eggs well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.

Pour into greased mini muffin pans. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 180 deg C.

Thanks, Stephanie, for a great recipe!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mirchi Ka Salan

Mirchi Ka Salan is a thick curry made with green banana peppers, peanuts and tamarind. Banana Peppers are large green chillies that are less spicy than the regular small ones. They are also used to make Chilli Bhajjis or Chilli Fritters.

This is a delicious curry that originates from Hyderabad, which tastes great with rice or rotis.

Mirchi Ka Salan

10 Banana Peppers, sliced
4 tbsp Tamarind Paste, dissolved in warm water
1/2 cup Yogurt, beaten
2 tbsp Lemon Juice

For the Paste:
2 Red Chillies
2 medium Onions, sliced
4 tbsp Coconut, grated
1/2 cup roasted Peanuts
1/2 tbsp minced Ginger
1/2 tbsp minced Garlic
1 tsp Garam Masala
4 tbsp Sesame Seeds, roasted
1 tbsp Brown Sugar

For Garnish:
1 tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
salt, to taste

Roast onions in a skillet until they turn a golden brown. Keep aside.

Heat oil in the skillet and fry the chillies until golden brown. Remove and keep aside. Reserve the oil.

Grind together all the ingredients for the paste. Reheat the oil in the skillet. Add the ground ingredients and let it cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Add the yogurt, tamarind and salt. Mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add the fried chillies, cook until the gravy starts to thicken and is the consistency of a sauce.

Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro and lemon juice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Having Fun With Whole Wheat Pasta

It's so much fun to make pasta and the flavor is so much better than store-bought plus you can control what goes into it.

This time my daughter wanted to help me. I used 100% whole wheat and made the dough, adding a little olive oil (2 tablespoons of oil for 1 cup of whole wheat flour), since whole wheat has a tendency to be dry. We also added about a tablespoon of dried basil into the dough.

My daughter helped rolling it out, and then we cut up the pasta into her favorite shapes using Play-Doh cutters (nope, I don't have cookie cutters at home - but you can use whatever you have on hand). We made moons and bears and butterflies...

Just drop into heavily salted, boiling water and cook till done (about 5-7 minutes). Drain and toss with your favorite pasta sauce or just cheese, butter and herbs. It was an easy and delicious dinner.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Savory Kozhakattai

Usually made on special festival days, Kozhakattai or Indian spiced rice flour balls, are wonderfully steamed and spicy. The dough is traditionally used to make a sweet version stuffed with jaggery. This spicy kind was made with the leftover dough. I personally prefer the savory version! (Sometimes, you've got to be glad there are leftovers - often they make a better dish than the original!).

Savory Indian Rice Flour Balls (Kozhakattai)
(Inspired by Laavanya's post on Cookery Corner)

1 cup Raw Rice, soaked for 3-4 hours
1 tsp Urad Dal
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Chilli Powder
a pinch of Salt
a pinch of Asafetida
1 tbsp Grated Coconut

2 tbsp Dosa Milagai Podi (Here's a link to make it at home - it can also be found in most Indian stores - look for the MTR brand)
1 tbsp Crushed Red Pepper

2 tbsp Oil + 1 tbsp for mixing
2-3 Curry Leaves

Grind the soaked raw rice with lots of water into a very watery consistency.

Heat 2 tbsp oil on a pan and pour in the batter. Keep stirring until the batter starts to come together and becomes thicker, almost like a dough. Remove from heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil and the milagai podi or crushed red pepper. Combine into the dough and knead for about five minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into tiny balls (the size of small marbles). Steam for about 5-7 minutes. The balls will acquire a lovely shine. Keep aside.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the urad dal and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the curry leaves and coconut. Stir fry for a minute.

Add the steamed rice balls, salt and chilli powder to the pan and combine the ingredients. Remove from heat after 4-5 minutes when the balls get slightly browned.

This is a perfect tea-time snack.

Related Links:
A lovely recipe with great photographs for the sweet version of Kozhakattai from Delectable Victuals.
Here's another savory version that is more commonly made, from Saffron Hut.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tomato Yogurt Curry

This more kozhambu or yogurt curry is a crowd pleaser. The rich color gets lots of compliments as does the delicate flavors. More means buttermilk in Tamil, and Kozhambu is a kind of watery curry. Its usually served with rice, or idiyappam, or sevai (a thin rice noodle).

Tomato More Kozhambu

6 Tomatoes, diced
3 cups Yogurt, beaten to a smooth consistency with 1 tbsp water
1/4 cup grated Coconut
6 Green Chillies, slit
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 pinch Turmeric powder

1 pinch Mustard seeds
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2-3 Curry Leaves

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes. Toss for a minute and then add the green chillies, cumin, turmeric and coconut. Let it cook together for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and let it cool slightly until cool enough to pour into your blender. Grind until smooth. Add the yogurt and pulse again until combined.

Transfer the mixture back onto the stove and heat on low until the mixture is warmed.

Tempering: Heat a pan with a little bit of oil. Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to splutter, add the rest of the ingredients for the tempering and stir for about a minute or two. Pour the tempering into the yogurt curry and stir to mix.

Remove from heat. Serve warm.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Whole Wheat Bread with Za'atar

This was the first time I was working with 100% whole grains, so I wanted to keep it simple. I opted for regular 100% whole wheat flour and made a bread loaf. To spice it up a little, I added Za'atar (and, on second thought, maybe I should have added more).

There are lots of recipes that I bookmark, and lots that I try and lots that I like. But only a small percentage make it to the often made category. I'm not sure why but even when I really enjoy the recipe and it's simple, I don't get around to making it again.

This is one such recipe I know for certain that I'll make several times. It's easy and delicious and adaptable.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup warm Water
1/3 cup Milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/4 cup Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
2-3 tbsp Za'atar or any other herb you'd like to use

In a large bowl, pour in the water and add the milk, oil, maple syrup, salt, za'atar and yeast. Mix to combine.

Add the flour a little bit at a time and stir well to combine. When all the flour has been added, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning around to coat all sides. Cover with a thin cloth and allow to rise and double in size, approximately an hour.

Shape the dough roughly into a loaf (I made them into two loaves because my loaf pan was too small to put all the dough in).

Remember to preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Place the dough inside the loaf pan and cover again with a thin cloth. Allow to rise to double its size, about 30 to 60 minutes.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

I loved the nutty flavor of the za'atar in the bread combined with the sweet maple syrup.

This is for Suganya @ Tasty Palettes who is hosting October's JFI: Whole Grains.

And to Aparna at the Diverse Kitchen for September's WBB: Whole Grains. WBB was first started by Nandita.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pear Clafouti

And finally, to round off a lovely and simple French meal, we simply have to make a clafouti.

Clafouti is a kind of baked fruit crepe that is a huge favorite in France. While sitting at a cafe in Paris, I repeatedly overheard people ordering the clafouti - and though it doesn't look as attractive as the other amazing desserts available - it's certainly one of the most delicious. Seriously, you'll be licking your spoon clean!

The beauty of the dish is that you can use any fruit you have available - as long as its fresh. So any seasonal fruit will work well. I used pears, which I brought back from a recent vacation. I actually picked it off the trees!

The recipe is originally from Chef Eric Ripert's site, Avec Eric, which features the Chef cooking in a tiny toaster oven (which is what I use to bake at home too). His recipes are simple and delicious and the videos are super educational (I would watch it just to hear him say "rrrasperrrrry" :))

Pear Clafouti
(check Avec Eric for the original recipe)

1 cup Pears, chopped
3 tbsp All-purpose Flour
1/4 cup Caster Sugar + more for dusting
3 tbsp Whole Milk + 3 tbsp Fresh Cream
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 Egg, beaten until frothy
Butter for the baking dish

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Butter the baking dish and sprinkle with sugar. Arrange the fruit in a single layer in the baking dish.

Add the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla to the beaten egg and mix to combine. Add the flour, a bit at a time, and mix very well. Pour the mixture over the fruit.

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

This is off to dear DK at Culinary Bazaar for AWED: France.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tarte Dijonnaise

Now that we're done with the appetizer for our quick French meal, here's the entree.

One of the most gorgeous savory tarts is a Tarte Dijonnaise. Its a simple flavorful tart that will leave you craving for more.

Tarte Dijonnaise, erm...originated in Dijon, France. Its a blend of tomatoes and onions on a mustard base, all filled into a pie crust and baked with loads of cheese. Sound good? Here's the recipe. And this is my own recipe from the flavors that I tasted.

Tarte Dijonnaise

250 g puff pastry (I made my own, but you can use prepared pastry dough). Roll into 1/4" thickness
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Onions, sliced thin
2 large Tomatoes, sliced thin
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp mixed Herbs (I recommend using mild herbs, not ones like mint where the flavor is very strong)
1 cup French cheese, grated (I used a mixture of Cantal and Parmesan)

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the tomatoes and onions and saute until soft. Remove from heat and mix in the herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Press the rolled pastry dough into a pie tin or shallow baking dish. Now spread a layer of mustard on the base of the dough.

Top with the sauteed onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with grated cheese.

Bake at 180 deg C for one hour or until the cheese has melted and browned slightly. Enjoy!

This is for Ivy's Food Event - Savory Pies. And to DK at Culinary Bazaar for AWED: France.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Eggplant Caviar

I've never really been exposed to French food growing up. I assumed it was fancy-schmancy and too difficult to make at home. When a French restaurant opened in Chennai, I loved the food, but they did have Asian Vegetables; Coconut Curry; Basmati Rice on their menu, which led me to believe it couldn't possibly be authentic. And then I visited Paris and I loved it. I wanted to make some of the food at home. And share it with you.

I'm going to do just 3 dishes - an appetizer, entree and dessert (all vegetarian), just to see that it is indeed do-able at home and it's amazing. Let me start with the appetizer spread (look for the entree and dessert in upcoming posts).

For those vegetarians out there, this is a lovely faux-caviar-type spread.

Most cafes in Paris have this on their menu, with varied tastes, of course. Each has their "signature" ingredients. Some add onions and tomatoes, others use olives, and some red pepper. But the basic connecting thread is that its delicious!

If you're Indian, you might say this is like Baingan Bharta, since the eggplants are roasted, mashed and then combined with spices. But it doesn't taste anything like Bharta. And its served cold, on hot toast.

Eggplant Caviar

1 large Eggplant
1 Onion, minced
1 Red Pepper, diced fine
1 Tomato, blanched, skinned and seeded
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh or dried basil

Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic and saute until onion is soft but not browned, about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, roast the eggplant. I put the entire eggplant on a pan on medium heat and kept turning it until the skin was charred and papery-crisp all over. Remove from heat, let cool. Chop off the green cap, remove the skin and chop the insides into tiny bits.

Mix the eggplant with the onion mixture. Add the lemon juice, tomato, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill in the refrigerator. Let the caviar rest outside for atleast 20 minutes before serving.

Serve on slices of toasted baguettes.

This is off to dear DK at Culinary Bazaar for AWED: France.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The No-Knead Bread

This article by Mark Bittman first introduced Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery and his No-Knead Bread. The technique took the world by storm. Everyone was trying it and it might really be the one recipe that has been tried and tested by amateur and professional bakers alike.

I've seen the recipe on several blogs, but hadn't tried it until today. It was simple and easy and as Jim Lahey says, even a 6 year old can do it. You can watch his video here, and the recipe as published in the New York Times here.

Thank you Bharti for your post and photographs and for finally inspiring me to try this. I loved the crust and crumb. The only thing I'd change is to add more salt next time. I might reduce the yeast too, since the Indian summer is really hot and the dough needed a longer rising time. I loved it though and will definitely make it often.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups All-purpose Flour
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1 1/2 cups Water + 2 tbsp
1/2 cup Semolina or Cornmeal

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Add the water and bring it together loosely. It will look like a shaggy mess but as long as its holding together, you're fine. Cover and let it rise for about 12 hours. The dough's risen enough when tiny bubbles cover the surface.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and very gently fold it over itself a couple of times. Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a loose ball. Place on a rough towel (but not a terry towel) sprinkled generously with semolina. Sprinkle semolina on top of the dough as well (be generous - this keeps the dough from getting too sticky).

Cover with another towel and let rise for about 2 hours. About a half-hour before the dough has fully risen, preheat the oven to 220 deg C. Make sure you heat the baking pan (use a 6-8 quart heavy pan - I used a Corningware bowl with glass lid) with the oven, so that its really hot when you finally put the dough in it.

When the dough has doubled in volume, quickly transfer it into the hot pan and cover with a lid or aluminium foil. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on and then a further 20-30 minutes uncovered.

Remove from oven and let it cool for about 10-15 minutes.

The crust actually crackled! And there were lovely big holes in the crumb. It was, in short, gorgeous!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Victoria Sponge Cake

I've read about the Victoria sponge in lots of books, but never got a chance to eat it. I was glad that Sweet and Simple Bakes chose the sponge as its challenge for us novice bakers this month. I loved it and so did the family. It was soft, moist and delicious.

Victoria Sponge Cake (recipe from Sweet and Simple Bakes)

For the Sponge:
6 oz Butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups Caster Sugar
3 Eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour + 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt

For the Buttercream:
3 oz Butter
6 oz Icing Sugar
2 drops Vanilla Essence

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Cream together 6 oz butter at room temperature and 1 1/4 cups caster sugar. The texture should be smooth and creamy.
Add the beaten eggs a little bit at a time and mix very well after each addition.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into another bowl.
Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture, folding it in carefully, to keep the mixture light and fluffy.

Pour into a large round cake tin or two smaller cake tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cake is golden.

If you made one large cake, cut it into half. I found the easiest way to do this is with a piece of string slid through the cake - knives just don't work since the cake will begin to crumble. Either way, let the cake completely cool before cutting.

Combine all the ingredients together and blend very well to make the buttercream. Spread one side of the cake with jam and the other with buttercream.

I spread half the cake with homemade plantain jam and the other half with blackberry preserve, and topped the jams with buttercream. Sandwich the two halves together. Mmm. Delicious.

Thanks, Rosie and Maria for another winner recipe!