July 31, 2012

The Avant Garde Cookies- An Epicurean Voyage Every Month

Well these days hold a lot of luxury for me. With amma around, i feel as though a world of weight has been dislodged from my shoulders. She literally takes care of everything including me.And then the shopping spree. When amma and i go shopping, its always with a grin as wide as the umpire declares on the cricket field, that i return. Not to forget the armload of shopping bags. This time too amma indulged me.Tell me just what s new in that. After all mothers are for indulging and i m going to miss her terribly once she leaves. So with all the extra time, what do i do? Play games on my lappy, watch hours and hours of TV and then some more reruns of Masterchef. And then some reruns of Nigella shows. No cleaning, no dusting. What bliss it is to have a mother around!
    Playing games. Bad idea. Watching reruns. Cant have got a worse bug. And no cleaning no dusting. The world is seeing the worst of me. That is the reason why i ve been blogging less and less. But now that i know i m not going to live from a suitcase for the next few months, i m a little relieved. Believe me, living from a suitcase is a dog of a habit and is very difficult to kick. I just wanted to be back with a bang. Yeah. I know.I know. That expression is so corny but then cant think of one more fitting. I m back and i m back as a part of a wonderful wonderful clique. We call ourselves The Avant Garde Cookies

    So, whats all this avan gar thingy about?? Well, its definitely not a french group if you are familiar with french. And its not about fashion too. If you think i ve caught the stitch bug, then you are so mistaken.Its certainly not some cookie baking association too. But believe me its cool. Because we dont stitch or teach french or make dresses. Because we do something much more important. We make food. Delicious delicious food. All kinds,all colors, all shapes and from everywhere. Who are these smart cookies who are Avant Garde? Well we are seven . There s me, the reckless one of course.After all, every group has to have one. And then there s ... let me think,

This cute lil lass from Mumbai. The youngest cookie amongst us and the coolest one too. The one with the baking itch. The adventurous Kavitha who also mutli tasks so efficiently. Imagine studying CA, MBA and managing to cook.

We have Veena who is the enterprising one. She has a beautiful daughter who inspires her to cook and her daughter is a lucky gal for when Veena cooks, you definitely start drooling!

There s Jayanthy who takes the world by storm with her cakes. She doesnt stop there and goes on to awe everyone with her amazing pictures and some unique recipes.

Priya Sreeram who has been cooking for 10 years now and is still amazed at puffing up phulkas. That s how modest and lovely she is. She s also the one with the creative edge amongst us. Thanks a million to her for that name.

Roshni who walks a million extra miles and cooks everything there is to cook. When i read her posts, i m always reminded of the quote " Cook everything atleast once."

And finally Radhika. The versatile one who makes every recipe seem such a piece of cake. My best friend and my partner in crime when it comes to the central idea of The Avant Garde Cookies. And also the person who gave the wonderful by line.

So when are we beginning? What do we do? Look forward to a recipe each from all of us spanning a three weeks in a month. We are doing themes, secret ingredients and cuisines.
We will be more than happy to welcome more cookies into our group. So in case you are interested, please drop a line to me at anusapraj@gmail.com. Stay Tuned!

July 30, 2012

Baby Corn Paneer Jalfrezi

Have you heard my diatribe on corn before?? If not please, i insist you read my post on corn katti rolls. I am not that gal who goes all oohing and aahing over a bowl of corn kernels. I m not even that person who is visited by sudden gung ho when i pass through fields where corn taller than me has grown. I admit they are beautiful but only grudgingly though. No kind of corn appeals to me a great deal and baby corn is no exception. But the combinations of a meal platter that is possible with baby corn will leave anyone more than amazed. I have a list as long as the Hanuman s tail. What s the list about?? Oh its got baby corn recipes. I find the light yellow of the baby corn light on the eye and boy! am i addict to those crispy baby corn fritters. Probably a recipe that i ll write up soon. In the meanwhile, here s baby corn paneer jalfrezi.

July 25, 2012

Phulkas- The Everyday Flatbread Step By Step

The first thing that flashes across my memory when someone talks about phulkas is that of a dear friend who is almost like a sister. I came to know her when i used to live in a hostel which served flying discs chapathis. Oh yeah, they could even be turned into a boomerang sometimes. Depending on the shape.While we killed a year s dinner with these monstrous chapathis and some cardboard like gravy, we also became as thick as thieves. Then the inevitable happened. One of us had to vacate and that one was she. She got herself a house and i was there at her place every weekend. Oh my, what weekends they were. Shall i equal them to unadulterated bliss? Bliss derived from playing cards at ungodly hours and hooting at the snoring neighbour. But the real joy to me was watching my friend effortlessly make phulkas. She would go about the entire process just like an accomplished surgeon who knows what he is doing. She used to knead the dough, roll them out and cook them on the girdle in 30 minutes flat. And how many did she cook? A whole 30. Yes, you heard me right. She made 30 in 30 mins. All the same size and not too thick or too thin.

Watching her that way made me jealous because i knew even back then, that no matter how much i labor, i can never be her and i m not. But then, 2 whole years of watching her work her phulkas has inspired me to make my own. Ok, i make like 12 in 30 mins. But 12 aint that bad?? Ok i cant make all in one size but does size matter? Anyway, this is not something that one needs a Cordon Bleu degree to accomplish and yet, you wont be eating much dinner or lunch without knowing the right technique too. So, i thought why not tell y'all?? So here i am telling y'all how to go about a phulka. Phulka- The Flatbread That Can Never Be Boring.( Of course, in my opinion that is!Timing matters in making phulkas immensely. Too long at the stove, you will get burnt flat discs which were how mine used to look before i practised.Sigh! Took me 2 years to get here.)

Prep Time: Under 15 mins
Cook Time: Under 30 mins for a batch of 12
Yields 12 medium size phulkas
For yummy recipes to dip your phulkas in check out curries and gravies

( A lot in a phulka recipe depends on the wheat flour that you use and the water that you add. You must add only the right amount of water. Too much water, you will get a sticky dough and you will soon be dusting your dough too much and you will get dry phulkas. Too little water and you will land up with brittle discs. So we dont want both. And a lil oil does a lot of magic. So, either oil or ghee but then either is a must.Never use a dosa girdle to make phulkas or you will never be able to make good dosas again for the next few days. Smarten up and listen to a woebegone dosa maker who s been at it once time too many. For best results, use a non stick girdle.You will need a mesh to cook the phulkas on flame or if you are confident enough, cook it on direct flame but make sure you have a tong handy. Or better yet, once you have cooked your phulkas on each side and brown spots begin appearing, close them and cook them for another 30 to 45 secs on medium flame and that should give you fluffed up phulkas! In case, you take more time to roll out the dough, then make sure you ve rolled out all the small balls into thin rounds. Place them on a newspaper side by side and then begin cooking them.)

What You Need?

Whole wheat flour 1.5 cups plus more for dusting
Water 3/4 cup approx
Olive oil 2 tbsp or melted ghee 2 tbsp
Ghee for brushing (optional)

How To Make It?

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour. Make a well in the middle and add the oil.
Now, start adding water gradually and knead the dough until you get a smooth pliable ball of dough.
Grease with a little oil and let it rest for 5 to 10 mins.
Now, make 12 equal portions of the dough.
Roll them up into small balls.
Begin with one small ball.

Flatten it a little and dust with a little flour.
Then roll it out into thin rounds working at a 45 degree angle to make sure that the dough is evenly spread.

Heat a non stick tawa.
In another burner, place the mesh and light up the stove. Bring the flame down to the lowest when not using.
Now, place one phulka on the tawa and cook on each side for 30 secs until small brown spots appear and it just starts to bubble up.

Immediately place the phulka on the wire mesh and cook until puffed up. Make sure you turn up the flame while you do this.
Once puffed up on one side, flip the phulka using a tong to the other side and cook for 20 tp 30 secs.

Once done, brush with clarified butter on both sides lightly and place in a tin foil lined plate or vessel.

Serve hot with any curry of your choice.

Sending this to lets cook breads.
Let's Cook - Breads

Black And White Wednesdays Week#42

Sometimes all you need in life is a good photo or if you are me, then a spoon of spice.

Sending this photo to Black And White Wednesdays Week 42 hosted by Roma this week. BWW is a weekly monochromatic photography event and is the brainchild of Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

July 22, 2012

Arisi Kadala Paruppu Payasam- Rice& Chana Dal Pudding

August is the month of festivals. It starts off with the red letter amavasya and newly wed brides amidst the madhwas perform gouri pooja for five weeks on tuesdays. In that sense, every week brings in a festive day and the lunch menu almost always is a huge spread. The usual lunch accompanied by a koshimbir, kheer and lentil fritters, when the lunch is over, our tummies are begging us to let go and leave a little for the others to eat. Let not forget the tables that groan under the weight of all the food served.

   We madhwas have a few restrictions on what to make on a festival day and along those lines, moong dal, yams, greens and such stuff are not to be cooked. And every festival has a predetermined menu. So what was the menu for the amavasya this thursday? Eggplant mor kuzhambu, fried okra, apple rasam, koshimbir, lentil fritters and then this relish pudding.
       I love this payasam for so many reasons but mainly because it uses jaggery and is loaded with proteins. A health package and a dessert too. Can it get healthier than that? Oh boy. Yes it can. Cos you can almost make this with as little ghee as possible. Of course, i wont deny that the taste element goes upto another level when there s oodles of ghee. But for the conscious, you know what i m talking about, dont you?? This recipe also doesnt require a gourmet chef in action. It s an easy sail and no one can get it wrong.

Prep Time: Under 10 mins
Cook Time: Under 30 mins
Serves 4 to 6

(The chana dal must be firm and cooked and not mushy. You can avoid the condensed milk and add more jaggery if you desire. Freshly pressed coconut milk takes this pudding to completely another level. The first pressed milk tastes best. In case of freshly pressed milk, use about 3/4 cup. In case of using packed coconut milk, dilute it with about 1/4 cup of water. You can also add bits of coconut to the pudding in the end. I used amul mithai mate for my condensed milk but you can use any brand you desire.)

What You Need?

Raw rice 1/2 cup
Channa dal 1/2 cup
Jaggery grated 1 cup
Condensed milk 1/2 cup
Coconut Milk 1/2 cup diluted
Green cardamom crushed about 3 pods
Cashews broken 15
Raisins a handful
Ghee 3 tbsp

How To Make It?

Wash the channa dal and rice and pressure cook for 3 whistles until the rice is cooked and the dal is cooked but firm.
Once done, add the jaggery to the rice dal mixture and mix well until the rice is mashed well and the mixture is well combined.
Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan.
Add the crushed cardamom pods and the rice mixture.
Saute on medium flame for about 2 mins.
Now, add the coconut milk and the condensed milk and combine well.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 4 to 5 mins on medium flame.
Now, heat the remaining ghee in another pan.
Add the cashews. After about 30 secs, add the raisins.
Wait till the cashews become light brown and the raisins fluff up.
Add to the pudding.
Mix well.

Serve warm as dessert after a huge lunch.
Sending this to My Legume Love Affair hosted by Simona of Briciole 

July 21, 2012

Simple Cabbage Saute Recipe| Side Dish for Flatbread

In my vegetable likes list, there are ranges from frenzy to hatred. If you know, what i m talking about, then you also have a similar list. Coming to the list itself, while there are some veggies that can give me a heady feeling of euphoria, ( almost like the fragrance of petrol or even some varnish) there are some which i think are probably God s way of punishing the once excessively naughty and troublesome me. Well, you guessed it right and one such veggie is the Cabbage. The ubiquitous cabbage. The smelly cabbage. The cabbage in red. The cabbage in green. The cabbage in yellow. The cabbage that tastes bitter. The cabbage with the thick and lumpy leaves. Oh, i could go on and on.

July 17, 2012

Black And White Wednesday Week 41

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Beau--ootiful Soo--oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo--oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful soup!
- Lewis Carrol, Eating

I visited this small place called The Soup Bowl while i was in Bangalore recently and i totally fell in love with their soup bowls and menu. They feature some delicious soups like Adhrak ka shorba, broccoli soup and the classics like mushroom and minestrone. The next time, you are in Bangalore, pay them a visit at their outlet in Mantri Mall, Malleswaram. I found the rates reasonable too. This photo goes to this week Black And White Wednesday Event Week 41 started by Susan. This weeks gallery is being hosted by Lynne of Cafe Lynnlulu

P.S. Its two posts today because i simply couldnt wait writing both. I hope you all bear with the eager beaver in me. :)

Bitter Gourd Chips

Let me be honest here. I m not a fan of bitter gourd. Mr.P eats it though but not with much fervor. But then, when i amble along the farmer s market and my eyes chance upon them, i do feel that sudden upsurge of guilt in me. Amma s voice admonishing in the back of my head for not eating my veggies right. And then, i ll go all in a frenzy and buy half a kilo of them. Only to regret the decision later and give away the gourds to the maid. That s my love hate relationship with bitter gourds.
 There s one exception to the vegetable though. Bitter gourd chips are my favorite.Maybe because i can munch on them guilt free. Whatever the reason, i ve been in love with these chips since the time i got to taste them at Adyar Anand Bhavan some years back. The chips were forgotten for a while until i saw them at the store on my last trip home. From then on, i wanted to make them at home and finally here they are. I m sure you will enjoy them. Even the bitter gourd haters out there.

(This recipe requires an enormous amount of patience. Dont drop the coated bitter gourds in a cluster. Make sure each one of them is separate. I wanted to add sesame seeds to the batter but then forgot at the last minute. In case you experiment, let me know. Dont remove  the chips from the oil until the hissing sound subsides. Or you ll land up with soggy chips. More like bitter gourd bajji. Get my point? In case you want to make a large batch, then after you fry them completely at 200 C for about 10 mins. And dont add more liquid than mentioned in the recipe. The amount of liquid is the key factor in getting the chips crunchy munchy.)
Prep Time: Under 15 mins
Cook Time: Under 20 mins
Yields about 2 cups

What You Need?

Bitter Gourds 3 sliced thinly but not deseeded
Corn Flour 1/8 cup
Chickpea flour 1/8 cup
Rice flour 1/8 cup
Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder 3/4 tsp
Red chili powder 2 tsp
Fennel powder 1/8 tsp ( optional)
Curd 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying 

How To Make It?

In a large mixing bowl, place the bitter gourds and all the other ingredients except the curd and the oil.
Combine well.
Now, add the curd and mix well ensuring that the batter coats the gourd slices evenly and generously.
Heat oil in a pan.
Wait until it reaches the right heat. Make sure the oil is hot enough but not smoking.
Now, drop the bitter gourd slices one by one.
Reduce the flame to a low medium and fry till golden brown and the hissing sound from the oil subsides.
The whole quantity will get done in 2 to 3 batches but a lot of patience is required.
Once golden brown, transfer the chips onto kitchen towels and store in an airtight container.

Snack on them while you enjoy a cup of hot coffee or a mug of chocolate.

July 13, 2012

Snake Gourd Lentil Stew Version 2 for Blog Hop Wednesdays

Between all the people visiting me like crazy and my visiting spree during which i ve made making my parents  life full of torments and tumults the dictate of my existence, cooking has been put on the back burner. Well, one can only do so much. Isnt it?? But in the little time that i cooked, i managed to whip up some delicious stews and sides. The stews basically laden with lentils of all sorts and sides as usual bursting with veggies. That s just the dieter part of me worrying about our dose of proteins. And yes i do diet! (emphasises again)  So when Radhi paired me up with Sangee, i was, let me think. I was euphoric. Sangee, who is also one of the gourmets on Gourmet Seven, is a fabulous cook who has walked more than an extra mile when it comes to conjuring delicious pots of food. Her space is a delight to any vegetarian and non vegetarian though she s primarily veggie. I had too many recipes that i wanted to try but too lil time. But the thought of this lentil stew with chunks of snake gourd appealed to me more than anything. Lets just say when she posted this recipe, i couldnt wait to lay my hands on these gourds! Needless to say, that sunday when i got back from the farmer s market, i had an armload of veggies which included these gorgeously green gourds. The recipe s quite a breeze to prep up and make. And its definitely comfort on a sunday when all you want to do is lie down on that couch and watch old movies with your belly full of food that will make you feel all cozy and fuzzy inside. Get my idea?I ve one more version of this stew and that s without the onions and tomatoes.Try both. After all, will i lead you astray?

Prep Time: Under 20 mins
Cook Time: Under 30 mins
Serves 2 to 3
Pair This Up With Vatral Kuzhambu, steamed rice and some poppadums

( I tweaked Sangee s recipe a little bit. I used channa dal or bengal gram mostly with little moong dal. You can make it the other way too. Also, i did not pressure cook the onions but sauteed them before adding the cooked dal and the ground paste.)

What You Need?

Snake gourds 2 medium chopped into roundels
Channa dal or bengal gram 1/4 cup
Moong dal 2 tbsp
Onion 1 medium finely chopped
Tomatoes 2 small finely chopped
Turmeric powder a large pinch
Oil 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

For The Paste:

Coconut grated 1/4 cup
Green chilies 4
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp

To Temper:

Oil 1 tsp
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Curry leaves a sprig
Hing a large pinch
Dry red chili 1

How To Make It?

Grind together coconut, green chilies and cumin to form a smooth paste.Add water as necessary. Set aside.
In a flat bottomed vessel, place the dal, snake gourd and tomatoes in that order in a layered fashion. Add water and turmeric and pressure cook for 3 whistles until the dals are cooked but make sure not to cook them till mushy.
Now, in a pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Add onions and saute till pink.
Now, add the ground mixture and cook on low flame for about 1 min.
Next add the gourd and the cooked dal and saute for about 2 mins on medium flame. Combine well but gently making sure you dont make the mixture mushy in the process. We are looking forward to eating those tender bengal gram bits.

At this stage, add the salt and stir well.
Simmer for about 2 to 3 mins on medium flame.
Now, in a tempering pan, heat oil.
Add mustard seeds and once they crackle, add the rest of the ingredients.
Add this to the lentil mixture and gently combine.
And thats it! Our stew is ready to be devoured alongside hot rice and ghee. Some poppadoms wont hurt either. Just dont think about that growing waist line! 
This goes off to Blog Hop Wednesdays Week 19 and My Legume Love Affair hosted by Simona for Susan this month.

July 12, 2012

BWW Week 40 Gallery

Hello Folks!! I know i m terribly terribly late in putting up this week s gallery. Thanks to travel plans that popped out of the blue and many more thanks to the Indian Railways for me being unable to put up your lovely photos for the world to see. Susan has been abundantly sweet to let me host this week. And its been a wonderful week just because it was in monochrome.Thanks a million Susan! I must say i got some sprightly clicks this week. So without much further ado, come join me to view some ethereal photos. Simple yet breath taking.

Siri of Cooking With Siri sends us some ebullient and cheerful clicks of her star cookies.The recipe is up on her blog as well!

Visakha of Sublime Palate reminds us all that company is relished best with a glass of wine with her " Wine And Company"

 Shri of Tiffin Carrier Antic/ques sends us along the Flavors of California through her lens. 

 Shri doesnt stop there. She also tells us about the earthy flavors of Roasted Garlic in her "Flavors of California~ Garlic

Hilda from The Filipino Food Store captures Mountain Wild Rice from The Phillipines

Rosa Of Rosa s Yummy Yums clicks away a "Plentiful" of fava beans

 Lynee of Photography by Lulu captured her Fig Preserve Cake and she takes us to another level with her click of Fig Leaves and Figs. Exotic Pics i must say!

 Finla of My Kitchen Treasures sends us Cheese And Wine

Simonne of Briciole shares with us her Risi-e-Bisi.. That is Rice And Peas

Shree of Shreez Experiments sends us her lovely click in Monochrome.

15022012 016.jpg

Roshni of Arusuvai Kurippu sent me this lovely picture of Moong Dal Or Yellow Lentils.

Shruthi of Food And Clicks shares with us her photo of Chickpes

And from Susan herself we have this alluring click of Tick Tock in New Jersey

And finally, to finish up this stunning gallery s my humble contribution. A Bowl Full Of Cereal

Thank you everyone for the marvelous captures that you ve sent along my way. Lynn of Cafe Lynnlulu is hosting this week s Black And White Wednesday. Send her your exquisite pictures and let the world see some more of your photographic magnificence.