Friday, December 30, 2011

Kesri chaval

Like every year end, I am struck how quickly this year also has come to an end! I just said hello to you all and now, now it is time to say bye for this year! 
 Are you all prepared for the new year? What resolutions have you made? I think I have given  up making resolutions, well, at least one, I won't even mention it here, it is no use, I am firmly convinced! The very fact that, 'that' resolution and a food blog do not pair well... I'm sure all you intelligent readers have guessed it! After all, samajhne wale ko ishara kaafi hai! hai na?! ~wink~

This year was a bit slow on the blog front, but at least I managed to get about 2 posts a month on an average...  This year also saw my little one going to school and take his first independent steps outside home, manage on his own for a few hours a day and he did a brilliant job! I am SO proud of my little man! I can say that now, however, earlier in the year when he went to school for the first time and cried, I cried, I sat in my car for 3 hours worrying and biting my nails to bits and gathering my shattered heart and waiting for school day to end so I could scoop up my baby in my arms and hug him tight, real tight! 
I still wait for school to end so I can see him run up to me with a big smile and hug him! the crying has stopped! hehehe! 

The move from IL to TX was strenuous and to own the truth, though I cribbed a lot, and I mean a lot, about Peoria, but after I settled in and found friends, I quiet liked it there. The pace was slow, the traffic was slow (which suited a scaredy-cat driver like me) and I was happy there as well.  
I am now in a big city where the pace suits me fine, eating out is a pleasure but the traffic scares me and all roads look the same! Well, they always have, you know- I am born without 'the sense of direction' gene. Did I tell you all about that, ever? Well, that is one story I shall tell you in the new year! 

2012 will be a new beginning for my little man as he starts a new school/Montessori in Dallas. An education system different from the pre-k he attended in IL. I am looking forward to his progress in this new school !

So here is my sweet offering for ringing out the old and ringing in the new! To newer and sweeter beginnings !

You need:
2/3 cup Basmati Rice
1/2 tsp. Green Cardamom , seeded
1/4 tsp Saffron / Kesar
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1/2 cup Almonds, blanched and sliced length wise
2 Tbsp. Pistachios, blanched and sliced lengthwise
4 Tbsp. Ghee /Clarified butter
2 Cloves

Wash and soak rice in plenty of water for 30 mins.

Drain and cook in boiling water till done

Pound cardamom and saffron to a powder ( I used a mortar and pestle)

Mix sugar and water in a pan and cook on low heat to a 2 string consistency

Turn off the heat and add 3/4 of (both) the cut almonds and pistachios

Add powdered cardamom-saffron mix and cooked rice to the sugar syrup

Mix and leave it covered for 2 hours. Stir occasionally

Heat 4 Tbsp ghee for about 30 secs, add cloves 

When they change color, add them to the rice mixture.Stir  gently

Garnish with remaining nuts.

Serve warm or cold

In the New Year, may your hand always be 

stretched out  in friendship, never in want. 

Happy New Year To all readers of A Cook @ Heart! 
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sheera Poli / Sanjori (a thank you for sacrifices made, small and big)

My childhood was spent in a colony (corporate apartment community), surrounded by people, thousands of people. Really... 48 apartments to one building and about 30 such buildings formed the entire community. There were plenty of friends and homes to visit. One never was at a loss of what to do or felt neglected. I never felt any lack of attention at home or outside. 
We had a T.V at home. So? Big deal! Yes, it was in those days. Even though it was a black and white T.V set.  We lived in Quarters and many homes did not have a telly. 
Now back in those days, there was one channel, DoorDarshan - DD1 and they would telecast news and movies, Hindi and Marathi movies over the weekend. That, was the highlight of the week for the entire neighborhood. 
Promptly in the evening people wold pour into our living room and make themselves comfortable, anywhere. Early birds would get the sofa and chairs, stragglers would  sit criss-cross on a 'satranji' ( rug) and wait expectantly.
This did not go down well with me. I could not digest this lack of attention.  A house full  of people and all paying rapt attention to the T.V! Nobody played with me, in fact they would  ask my dad if  he would hold me  or  get me to sit quietly on his knee! Well! I was having none of that!  I waited my chance, once the movie had started ( after the long list of titles) I slipped off my Dad's lap or emerged from wherever I was hiding, stand in front of the T.V, arms akimbo and glare at the crowd who was buzzing with annoyance already and  command, " T.V. BANDH" (bandh, meaning shut / close/ switch off). Nobody knew what to do, a three foot nothing was not an imposing figure but as the host's daughter and a general darling of the crowd ( except at movie time) , they could not toss me like a bag of potatoes in the corner and get on with the program.... My parents would share slightly alarmed, highly embarrassed looks and give me pointed looks, which I promptly chose to ignore and continue my rant. Finally my Mother had a brainwave, she ran into the bedroom, grabbed her purse and slipped her feet into sandals and scooped me up in her arms and bore me out of the house, without a word to anyone but sending my Dad a silent message that she would return when the movie was over. 
She took me to Shivaji Park to the kids area and shoved a plastic toy pail and shovel in my hand and  sat me in the sand pit to watch me dredge myself in sand and dirt and a beatific smile on my face. This continued for a long time, for years my Mom and sometimes my Dad sacrificed their evening entertainment for me, when in those days evening entertainment on the TV was the only one to be had with small children at home  I see that now, with a 3.5 year old- we do not have a baby sitter- going out  for a movie or just  a dinner date  is a wild  fantasy for M and I! We do not have access to  TV unless it is PBS Kids or cartoon network (I might as well add, that CN, today, is possibly the worst $h!? I have seen).
This post is for my parents, who are selfless people and sweet as can be! A tiny thank you for all the sacrifices, big and small they made for years  and still do. 

For me, Sheera Poli is associated with picnics or food on the go. The mild sweetness of sheera enveloped in soft roti dough and griddle fried with a dash of ghee makes it an easy to carry packet when out or even for lunch boxes. 

For the SHEERA:
1 Cup Rava / Sooji ( I used fine rava to get a smooth and extremely soft filling)
4 Tbsp Ghee
1 1/4 Cup Sugar ( more if you like sweet- sweet! add 1 1/2 cup total) 
3 Cups water
3-4 green Cardamoms, peel, remove seeds and pound to a fine powder.
Few strands Saffron- optional, If using, add to cardamom seeds when making a powder

For the Cover
2 Cups Roti Flour ( Atta/ wheat flour -sold in Indian stores) 
Water as required to make a soft and pliable dough
2 tsp oil- optional 
Pinch salt

To make the Sheera: 

Add 3 cups water and sugar to a sauce pan and heat ( on medium heat) and heat till the sugar dissolves, remove before the mixture boils, we do not want sticky syrup! 

In the mean time, heat a wok over medium heat, add ghee and roast the rava until golden and fragrant.

Lower the heat and add the syrup and mix well and ensure there are no lumps. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Remove lid and add some ghee to the sides  and then mix well. This is an additional tsp of ghee I use, those who are shocked, please leave this additional tsp. !  Cook uncovered for a couple of minutes till the sheera has a cooked look. 

Remove from the stove and add the cardamom- saffron powder, mix well to incorporate the spices.

Leave the sheera to cool.

While the sheera cools, make  the dough. 

In a wide bowl/ mixing bowl or your food processor, add the flour and salt ( oil , if using) and mix. Slowly add water and mix well to form a soft and pliable dough. Cover and keep for 10 minutes ( or more, if you are doing something else)

When ready to make Sheera Poli,  Heat the griddle on medium.

Pinch off a small portion of the dough, roll it in your palm to make a ball, dip it in dry wheat flour/  atta and place it on the rolling board and flatten it with your rolling pin to form a disc ( about 4 inches)

Place a ping pong sized ball of sheera on the disc, bring up the sides  and close them over the sheera, seal gently, but firmly and flatten, once again, dust with additional flour  and gently roll the dough into a roti. Do not add pressure as the filling may seep out. 

Deftly ( be gentle, as well) transfer the rolled sheera poli on the hot griddle. 

Turn the poli over in about 30 seconds, it will have light brown blister marks, apply/ brush with ghee ( ~huh!! who gasped???~!!!!~) and turn. Brush the  other side with ghee (~who fainted???!~) and cook till done.

Repeat for the rest for the dough. 

If you have left over dough, store it in the fridge for the next day to make plain roti/ fulkas. If you have left over sheera, take a small bowl, fill it with sheera, grab a spoon and  enjoy it as a  reward for making sheera poli! 

Wishing all the dear readers and well wishers of  A Cook @ Heart a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ullipaya Pachchadi (Onion Chutney)

All my life, well, until I started blogging, of course, chutney was the one made in a typical Marathi household and the other was one we ate in a restaurant, rightfully termed as 'hotel chi chutney' ( back in those days, we called restaurant as hotel..) To my mind, the hotel chi chutney was a complicated blend ( bear with me, as a child I had fantastic ideas about anything and everything). So, the chutney made at home as green and the one in a restaurant was white-ish. and any other color ( ex: red = lasoon chutney or Bijapur chuney ) was dry , strictly that.
When I started blogging, I came across different varieties that boggled the mind. It reinforced the fact that Indians make chutneys out of everything!
( I am still of the opinion that a brinjal/ eggplant chutney is going a bit too far, but then, it takes all kinds to make the world!)

When I received my copy of Cooking with Pedatha I hungrily thumbed thru it and  fell in love with  all her recipes ( even the eggplant ones- for the husband - strictly) and  I kept going back to the Pachchadi section.
the cookbook showcases 13 pachchadis all with stunning pictures and in many recipes, there is a small note on the side which gives you a slight variation that can be made  to change the taste a bit, giving it a new avatar.  One pachchadi 2 ways! 
Out of  all the different varieties I chose to go with the Onion pachchadi first. I have seen variations of onion chutney across blogs but though interested, I was not willing to try them. I was a bit apprehensive about  the strong smell and I have somehow associated  that with a slightly bitter and unpalatable taste.

As I read the recipe, I realized this was different, at least from the ones I had read. There seemed to a harmonious blend of spices which would mellow the strong tones of the onion. Nor had I erred. try this recipe to see what I mean.
It goes very well with idli, dosa and plain rice. 

You need:

3 Onions ( roughly chopped) - I used Red onions
2 inch piece Fresh Ginger grated
2 Tbsp. thick Tamarind pulp
1 Tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

1 Tbsp Split black gram , huskd/ urad daal
2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. Fenugreek seeds
8- 10 Red chilies nicked at tail, stalks retained
3-4 Green chilies 
1/2 cup Cilantro, roughly torn, chopped
6-8 Curry leaves with  stem
1 tsp Asafetida powder

In a  wok, heat oil for tempering.

Add the urad daal, as it turns golden add mustard seeds and then fenugreek seeds

Lower the heat with the browning of the fenugreek seeds, add the red chilies. as they turn bright red stir in the remaining ingredients for tempering.

Add the onion and ginger. roast for  4-5 minutes  until the raw smell of the onion disappears

Grind along with tamarind pulp and salt into a coarse paste. Do not add water when grinding.

Serve with Idlis, Dosa  or mix into plain white rice with a dollop of ghee.


Add a medium sized tomato, chopped and roasted in oil along with the onions for a tasty  variation.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Methi parathas

How is your part of the world? Mine is all topsy-turvy!  In a flash I am busy and then, all of a sudden I find myself doing nothing. One minute I am thinking of a dozen things and then nothing, blank!  Am I going crazy? Or is this just a phase? Hopefully, it is a phase and I shall soon be as normal (or as close as I was to it) as before. 
Moving and in a hurry does that to one, I suppose. At least I'd like to blame it on that and get on ~wink~! 

I had packed all odds and ends ( last second finds when vacating the apartment) in one bag. Flinging it in in the depths of the SUV, I left it at that, not giving it another thought. After all, there was so much more to worry about. After settling in the new apartment and  one fine day 'discovering' the bag in which I had rolled and put an elastic band to secure a bunch of papers covered in my handwriting and photocopies, mostly recipes! My joy was probably a jot short of someone discovering a pirate's chest full of treasure.

I had anticipated my mover to get everything in about 10 days.... silly, naive girl that I was! Of course it took a long time and a lot of stress, calls made, endless follow ups and name calling ( in my mind) I was left to using many shortcuts when cooking. With limited utensils, I could do no more.

But the tummy rules and demands and hence the offering! There are a million ( okay, so I am exaggerating.. a lot, I know) Indian stores in my neighborhood and I like taking turns to go to each and buying what I fancy. I always come back with fresh bunches of Fenugreek leaves (at an unbelievable price of 50c a bunch!~does the absurd 'Dharmendra style' dance here~  ) and think of all the wonderful things I want to make. Well, wonderful things need my cook books / notes etc. and of course my favorite blogs and pots and pans to cook serve and photograph in. I had the blogs  and notes but not many pots, pans  to cook and none to take pictures in. the notes / photocopies proved useful, I found a copy for Methi Paratha and it was different from my earlier version  and I had to try it!
I am glad I did.
This recipe is a keeper, the parathas are good on their own, making them great choices for lunch boxes and  picnic food. If eating at home, a side of some  stir fried veges, pickle, yogurt make suitable accompaniments.  

You need:

3 Cups  Whole Wheat Flour / Atta

1 1/2 cup Fresh Fenugreek leaves ( wash and finely chop)

1/2 cup Finely chopped Onion

1 Tbsp Finely chopped or grated Ginger

1 Tbsp Finely chopped or grated Garlic

1 tsp Finely chopped Green chilies

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

2 Tbsp Finely chopped Cilantro leaves 

2 Tbs Ghee

Salt to taste ( around 3/4 - 1 tsp)

1 tsp Red chili powder

Water as required to make dough

Oil, preferably Ghee to fry the Parathas

Mix together all the ingredients listed above from the Flour to  Red chili powder

Add water, slowly, and knead well to form a soft and pliable dough

To make Parathas, heat the skillet on med heat.

Pinch off a ping pong size ball of the dough, using  dry flour, roll the ball into 4 inch diameter disc and smear the center with a dab o ghee and fold in half, dab another drop pf ghee on the semi- circle and fold in half to now form a triangle and roll into a triangle do not roll out uniformly thin, leave it  slightly thick) 

Transfer the rolled paratha onto the hot skillet

Soon you will see small bumps appear on the surface, turn the paratha over ( you will see brown spots on the semi-cooked side) smear with ghee, turn and smear the other side with a dash of ghee.

Turn to cook both sides  until light golden brown spots appear.

Similarly make parathas of the remaining dough.

Serve right off the skillet with an accompaniment of your choice. Enjoy! 

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011


As a little girl I never would eat milk desserts outside of my home. Never. In fact, I resisted even milk, tea, coffee or yogurt when I was visiting  friends or distant relatives. Not because I disliked these ( though I do not care for plain milk, at all) but I used and still do, shudder at the 'malai' (cream) in any thing. 
Much to my horror, people would serve tea with specks of 'malai' floating here and there like lost souls. If it was not  specks, HALP! there is a floating island in my tea! ~brrr
Ditto for yogurt, I'd  scoop a spoonful and find a 'tail' hanging off it.....I'd drop the spoon right back where I found it and bury the remains from whence they emerged.

I could fuss at home and get away with all the  'strain the milk.... strain the milk', I could not do anything outside, I was helpless. I decided the smartest thing to do, was to say 'no' as a rule and stick to, " Oh, I do not drink tea, thank you" and refuse a helping of yogurt-rice on the pretext, " I'm full, couldn't eat another bite, thanks". 

My biggest fear was Basundi. I loved the taste of basundi - which was strained to remove all the malai , but how could I say so as a guest? I'd sit mutely with the dessert in my plate and at the end of the meal, pass it to my Mom or Dad, whoever was next to me at a relatives home. 
Making Basundi at home is my dad's job, he likes it. I strain my portion and enjoy it, like everybody else. 

Making Basundi at home has its benefits, you can make a large batch, strain it to your hearts content and enjoy it without being judged as a loony who chucks the malai/ rabdi without a second thought. 

We have a contraption like this (shown below) that helps in making a large batch of basundi. It is called the 'basundi plate'.

My friend Dipti, had one of these and let me borrow it for the Diwali get together we had. This 'basundi plate' is a simple 'whirlpool' plate  which needs to be placed at the bottom of the heavy sauce pan that you want to use and add the milk and let it simmer. It ensures that the milk does not boil over. Helpful little thing, that!  Specially as basundi takes a long time to reduce and thicken.
Here is how I made it.

1 Gallon Whole milk ( you can use 2% and add  milk powder, I prefer the hassle free method)
1 Can Sweetened Condensed milk
2 cans Evaporated Milk
~ 6 Green Cardamoms ( peel, use the seeds only , crush to a fine powder using a mortar-pestle)
~1 tsp Nutmeg powder ( I use whole nutmeg and powder it in the mortar-pestle)
Nuts (almonds, pistachios, slivered) to garnish- Optional

Take a heavy bottomed wide sauce pan Place the 'basundi plate' ( if you have it- if not, get ready to spend time stirring the pot frequently).
Pour in the milk and evaporated milk and set the heat at med- low.

Wait, patiently, this can take a couple of hours, so do what you normally do, read ( if you are like me), work out ( if you are not like me), do the laundry, sort it, iron clothes, vacuum, throw a glance at the basundi, resume what you were doing.....

I cannot recollect when, but somewhere in between the milk + evaporated milk and the reading I added the can of condensed milk, gave it a good stir and resumed my reading.

After about 1 1/2 hour, the color of the milk started changing ( I had the stove set on 4- low and slow) and the milk had reduced, but not enough.
I gave it another 45mins -1 hour  or so to get a nice dusty pink ( for the lack of a better named shade) and thickened ( reduced by half).

Let the basundi cool down completely.

Now the straining part, this is the 'hard work' part, where I am concerned. I strained all the basundi, carefully and then added the cardamom and nutmeg powder, stir it in well and chill before serving.

If you like the rabdi, add in the  cardamom nutmeg powder, stir, chill and serve.

* Points to note: 

Cooking time can vary if you have gas/ stove ( electric flat top or  coil), so please, keep an eye on the milk.

Adjust the amount of sweetness, I found 1 can of condensed milk more than enough to suit my taste buds. Add more, if you like sweet basundi or less, if you wish

Basundi plate or not, there is bound to be a layer stuck on the bottom of the pan, elbow grease time ahead! Remember, the dessert is worth the hard work.

Basundi is heavy on digestion, enjoy moderately

Add saffron if you like. this is optional, just like nuts.

Straining is optional, but the end result of straining is a silky smooth basundi, which is pleasing not just to the eye, but also to your taste buds  and guests who may be fussy like me!

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