Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Puranpoli and a fight against plagiarism, come join us..

She would stand and roll these to perfection, year after year. She stood alone and I mean, as a person as well as, when making puranpoli. 
Aaji, my dear Aaji. Her small, gentle hands  had surprising strength, she would knead the puranpoli dough, no food processor. It was hard work, making dough for 50-60 puranpolis. 
Every Ganpati, we would go to Aaji's. The night before and help my Mama (maternal uncle) put up the decoration for the next day.
Then late into the night, with a zero watt bulb glowing softly, we would lie down on mattresses on the floor and listen to old film songs, Hindi and sometimes Marathi. we would hum along with Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar, sometimes Suman Kalyanpur would sing in her melodious voice  and sometimes it was Pt. Bhimsen Joshi who mesmerized us with his classical singing!
The next day, we would wake up very early, get ready and wait at the door, for the priest, "Aaji, aga guruji ale" we would yell, announcing his arrival and rush into the kitchen to see what Aaji was doing and  eat sabudana khichadi, the objective was, keep us out of the way, so Mama and the priest could go ahead with the puja! Once the  puja was underway, Aaji assisted by her daughters and daughter in law would start lunch preparation. The menu was mostly fixed, Varan-bhat, batata bhaji, katachi amti, koshimbir, chutney, ukdiche modak and the star, puranpoli! 
We would watch her  make the dough, we called it chewing gum dough, it was that elastic. We would  wash our hands (naivedyachi ahe puranpoli, mulinno, hath dhuvun ghya, Aaji would warn us, but never restricted us) and touch the dough, pulling it and stretching it and giggling.
We could hardly wait for  lunch. 
Sometimes we  would grumble... the priest would eat before we did and we would watch with fascinated horror at how  they devoured puranpolis and worried if there were any left for us! 
Aaji would just smile gently and reassure us, there were plenty, don't worry.

Perhaps, her perfect puranpolis were the reason why none of her (3) daughters or daughter-in-law ever tried making puranpolis, ever

The only person who comes close to her level of expertise or perfection is my Mother in Law. 
When my in laws visited us, I took lessons from her. It is not easy to learn in two lessons, but she is a good teacher and I was a very willing student.

Over the last 3 years I have made puranpolis sparingly, just on M's birthday or  Diwali. It is time consuming.
I had some old pictures I had taken when my in laws were visiting and never got to posting about these.
A week or two ago, I made puranpoli, no reason, I just felt like it.And for the first time, my puranpolis were, great! 
I was so excited!  for one moment, as I stood in my kitchen, I felt like my late Aaji was standing behind me, smiling, proud of me.

I had some old pictures, step wise, detailing the process. 

Here is what you need to make the puranpolis:

For the outer cover:
2 Cups Atta / wheat flour
1/4 cup oil ( yes you need it!)
Water to bind the dough
Pinch of salt

For the puran (filling):

2/3 cup Chana daal
2/3 Cup Jaggery ( I use soft jaggery)
4 Cardamoms, powdered
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg powder (Jaiphal powder)

Prepare the Puran (filling). This can be made ahead of time.
Wash the  Chana Daal in changes of water. Till the water runs clear.

Traditionally, the daal is cooked n stove top with plenty of water (which is later used in making 'katachi amti') But I use my pressure cooker to save time and energy.
Place the chana daal  (with double amount of water)and pressure cook it for 3 whistles.
After the pressure subsides, transfer the daal to a non-stick pan, add the jaggery and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
While the filling is still semi solid, use an immersion blender and blend the puran to a smooth pasty consistency.
Alternately or traditionally, the puran is cooked and run thru a food mill to get a smooth, lumpfree filling. If you have a food mill (also called puran yantra), you can use it later, to mill the filling.

You need to cook the filling till it is dry, have patience, it takes a while. The filling has to come together into a stiff ball. Place a spoon ( with a long handle)  directly into the puran, if the spoon stands straight, as you inserted it, the puran is ready. if the spoon slides sideways, keep cooking and drying it out.
Cool and add the powdered cardamom and nutmeg powder, mix and keep aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour and make sprinkle the salt and stir to incorporate it in, make a well in the center. slowly add half the oil and mix, add water very carefully and mix into a smooth and soft dough.
You need to be careful with the liquids and add them carefully and gradually to make a smooth and pliable dough. Once done, cover and let it rest for a while. After about 10 minutes, sprinkle some water and a tsp of oil over the dough and knead it in. Repeat after another 10-15 mins and cover and let the dough rest. If you pull out a bit of the dough, it should be soft and elastic.
Once you are ready to make the puranpolis, Keep everything handy, the dough, the filling and heat the skillet on medium high.
Traditionally, rice flour is used for dusting. You can use regular wheat flour too.

Pinch off a small ball of dough and  flatten it in your palm, make a well and stuff a good portion of the filling in it. Look at the picture above (R2, C1), it has to be a generous amount of filling, you don't want doughy puranpolis, they have to be sweet!

Slowly pull the edges over and seal to form a ball. Pinch off the excess dough and pat it into a... patty .

Dust with flour (rice flour or atta) and roll out. Be gentle, use pressure evenly but do not press hard on the patty.
The rice flour will help the patty slide about in a way that makes it easy to roll it out.

Roll the poli thin and gently lift and lay on the hot skillet. Let it cook and brown , keep an eye but do not flip, this will cause it to break in the middle and all the filling will spill out.

Turn and cook on the other side, fold in half and remove from the skillet and place it on a tissue.
Repeat with the rest of the filling and dough.

When serving, smear a generous amount of toop / ghee. Do NOT skip the toop/ghee part, it helps with digesting the puran/ filling of chana daal. ( No ghee= tooting, mind it! ;) )

Puranpoli can also be served with ghee smeared inside ( mandatory) and some milk with a bit of kesar/ saffron infused to give it an extra oomph! for dipping the poli in.

- Some people make these with 100% All Purpose Flour
- You can mix 50% APF and 50% Atta, if you wish. I always prefer  100 wheat flour.
-Do not skimp on the oil. You will make these once in  while, go all the way :)
- These store well and freeze well.
-If you wish to freeze  the puranpolis, layer the polis ( I cook them and then freeze) between sheets of waxed paper and store in a freezer safe ziplock or container.
- Do NOT omit the ghee.

Now picture this, I slaved in my kitchen, hours at a time to make a 'special something' for my family. I rush to take pictures in failing light and a hungry family waiting.
I fuss with angles, and click my tongue in exasperation. Settle for less than fab pictures and  run to the table to sit down for my meal.
Later, on a full tummy and resembling and feeling like a python after a full meal, I waddle off to clean up and then after all the work is done, my son tucked up for the night, I sit down to write a post.
It takes time, energy and effort to put it all down on the  blog. It is love and labor.
It cuts like a knife when someone copies the recipe and the pictures and passes them off as their 'own recipe'. It happens all the time. It's sad, heartbreaking even.
It happened recently to Anjali.
It happened to me too, on a Face book page,' chavdaar ani chatakdaar' where this was picture stolen.
Complaints, arguments, frustration over how brazen some people are to thieve, like it comes naturally to them.
Raise your hands if you are against such people.

Thank you.

Lets all come together to try and stop this outright thievery. Preeti is doing just that and invites us all to join in. She also has a giveaway, the 'assal Marathi' cook book 'Ruchira', a book that many mothers and daughters have relied on.

I am participating and I hope you will too. Spread the word for the fight against plagiarism.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winners of the Giveaway!

Thank you, all of you who have participated and supported me in this event and giveaway.
While I have to choose 2 lucky winners, to me all of you have sent winning entries and with recipes which I want to try myself!

The sponsors have requested that I delete their name and links and hence I have edited this post.

*Disclaimer: I have not received any financial  compensation for hosting this event and giveaway.*

Here are the entries (in no particular order):

Santosh Bangar takes inspiration from a similar dessert on Master Chef (a TV program) and  tempts us with a heavenly combination of not one, but 3 of our favorite Indian desserts, Gajar ka halwa, Pumpking Halwa and Kala Jamun put together in a No Bake Cake.

Usha takes inspiration from Mallika Badrinath's recipe for making a simple and satisfying Plantain Curry , which she makes with small changes. Paired with some plain rice and Rasam, it makes a wonderful meal! 

Sharmi made this wonderful baghare baingan, a recipe inspired by chef Sanjeev Kapoor and also has a great tip to share with us on how to cook the eggplants perfectly. 

Deepa reminisces about Holi, the festival of color and fondly recollects the gaiety and of course food! Her favorite being Kulfi which she has made after a long spell and in such cute molds!  

Lubna uses fresh, crisp winter carrots and while playing with her daughter, Li'll M, makes one of India's favorite desserts, Gajar Ka Halwa in the Microwave

Sangeeta has tried many recipes and admits some have not been successful, until she found Sunita Bhuyan's recipe for a spicy fish bake. Making sight changes, Sangeeta makes this version which is a keeper.

If there is one thing that grabs my attention and makes me drool is a good cake, one that uses white chocolate and raspberries! Shilpa makes this beautiful White Chocolate Pattycake, which she claims is an easy  to make cake (easy for you to say Shilpa!), taking inspiration from a TV show.

Lakshmi saw a post on 'Sharmis Passion' a few days ago and was inspired to try an intimidating dessert,Godhumai Halwa on her blog Chettinad Kitchen and on her other blog, Kitchen Chronicles she shares the recipe, with beautiful pictures for Badushah and the ever popular kaju Katli .

Sowmya of Nivedhanam has a large collection of wonderful recipes and has shared some of those or the contest and giveaway. She bakes a wonderful Pull-Apart Bread, Badam Katli, and Masala Buns, inspired by Raks Kitchen
Taking inspiration Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen, Sowmya makes Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Bread, From 'Sharmis Pssions' she made Eggless oat-almond cookies and healthy Granola Bars, taking inspiration from 4th. Sense Cooking.

Fabida who blogs at Shocks and Shoes sends us Nigella Lawson inspired, Devils Food Cupcakes, which look so, so good!

Neelam has made Vegetarian Wings, yes, you read it right, Vegetarian wings- Cauliflower Wings taking inspiration from the original Chicken Wings which originated in 'Anchor Bar', NY. Spicy, hot and vegetarian! Meatless Mondays  ( for non-vegetarians) just got better! 

Chaklis can go any way, either crisp, and crunchy which you just cannot stop eating, or soft, which you want to feed a toothless person or hard, saved for your non-friends, to make them chip a tooth! Yes, those tricky spicy, spirals we (try to) make every year, come Diwali and fuss over them, make frantic calls to our Mom/ MIL  for help...Well, Ashwini of Indulge Ash Corner has made this lovely batch of  Bhajani chi Chakli and  also shared with us a link for making Bhajani ( and here's hoping she will soon share her Mom's cherished recipe)! 

Ujwal makes a tempting Herb and Cheese Pull Apart Bread and what a wonderful bread she has baked! She was nervous, she claims, about making bread, well, Ujwal, I would never have guessed that! The bread ( Inspired by Aparna) looks perfect!  

Vaishali has a vast repertoire of Vegan Recipes, she cooks, bakes and is a kind and loving person and also an animal lover, her blog has so much to offer! She  has baked this perfect Whole Wheat Foccacia that is a treat to look at and I can only imagine tasting it! Oh!  I am making this! 

Hari Chandana of Indian cuisine takes us on a sweet  journey, she has made this Cardamom infused Panna-Cotta and she handmade the cute little heart on the side!  My favorite part is , no gelatin! 

Manisha's IFR, is a treasure of wonderful recipes, witty anecdotes and stunning pictures. Manisha also writes a column for Whole Foods, have you read all her write ups?
She shares with us a detailed recipe for making Kelfulachi (banana blossoms) bhaji, a rather intimidating process, now made easier!  

Thank you so much, all of you, for your wonderful contribution to this event and giveaway.

Now, the drawing is a random drawing, but it would  be no fun if a pair of little hands did not interfere! 

My 4 1/2 year old had a grand time drawing out a lucky name and here is the Winner for the drawing from India (Flipkart voucher) - LAKSHMI. V!

The winner for the Amazon Gift Card ( for the USA) is VAISHALI HONAWAR

Congratulations, Lakshmi and Vaishali!  You will soon receive your Gift Cards! 
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Monday, February 11, 2013

It's a Sweet Life! Kid Approved : Cheesecake Burritos.

I am hosting an event and a giveaway (for bloggers in the USA and in India) and it is open till February 14th. Have you sent in your entry? e-mail me your entry at pallavykulkarni [at]yahoo[dot] com. I will post the round up in the following week( so if your entry is a bit late, it is okay) and announce the winners. 

Now on to today's post. If you are a 70's something child born in India, what I have to narrate will have you nodding in agreement. More so, if you are from Maharashtra ( not that if you come from any other part of the country or world it is very different. Just with slight variations).

Raise your hand if you have smeared your fulka/ poli/ chapati with ghee and sprinkled sugar or crumbled jaggery  on top, rolled it and enjoyed  the treat! 
My parents worked. My Mom would  make lunch by 10:00 a m and we would all eat and go to office or school. On several occasions, I'd turn up my nose at what was made ( read, the usual fare of poli-bhaji, amti-bhaat)  and demand something 'different'. 
Mom had to finish everything around the house, clean up, pack lunch boxes and catch her local train to reach office in time, in all that, she had to make something 'different'.
I now wonder how she did it all. I am a stay at home Mom and still complain ( bitterly) about how tired I get. 
On those days, when I turned up my nose at what was made, she would substitute  the vegetables with ghee and jaggery, roll it up in the fulka and I'd eat up, no fuss! Gul-tup-poli was  the solution as was tup-sakhar-poli. 
Peanut butter and jelly was unknown. Bread with a smear of butter (Amul Butter) and Jam was common, but when there was fresh, off the  skillet fulka, why eat bread? 
This was also a mid-day snack or a lunch box and the easiest thing to make when I came home from school, hungry as a hunter. 
I still remember those days, I would come home, throw my backpack, shake off the shoes and I'd rush to the kitchen, rinse my hands at the sink and grab anything I could. When I  wanted to eat the fulka with jaggery, I'd climb on the chair  and reach for the 'gualcha dabba' and climb down and proceed to crumble a very generous amount of jaggery on a fulka smeared with equally generous amount of ghee. 
My son likes 'gull-roti' too, just like I do, with lots of ghee and not so much jaggery and occasionally 'sugar-roti'. 

As time passes, our options increase, knowledge of new ingredients and of course curiosity to try something new fuels experiments in the kitchen.
To add to all the above, a plethora of recipes ranging from simple to complex to exotic and some with  about 50 ingredients that leave you fogged as to what the ultimate concoction might be.
And then the websites, blogs and then there is Pinterest, to bring it all together! sigh!

When I first got on the Pinterest bandwagon, I was totally obsessed with it. I loved it and spent a good deal of time exploring and pinning. Gradually, the fever subsided and I got realistic, there were just too many beautiful things to look and try out, but  I have my limitations to come to terms with. I am not a crafty person, neither am I one to try out something totally 'different'. I like to play safe, with ingredients that I know and some I do not. Something reasonable and doable is my motto.
And so I chanced on this recipe and I loved the idea.  I made it with minor changes. 
The little one approved! 

I guesstimated the ingredients, which is not too difficult, considering that there is a limited amount of cream cheese. I also had some tortillas left over from the time I made this Mexican Pizza

You need:
Flour Tortillas  (I used the small sized, 6 inch Tortillas)
Cream Cheese  ( Smallest tub, reduced fat)
Strawberries and Blueberries
5+ Tbsp sugar ( more, to suit your taste) divided
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Oil to shallow fry
Toothpicks to secure the edges
2 Tbsp Powdered sugar, to dust
Chocolate syrup, to drizzle

Wash and cut the *strawberries (I planned on making just 3-4 burritos, so I used about 6-7 strawberries). Add about 2  heaping table spoons of sugar and keep aside.

Divide the cream cheese into two parts. To one half,add some finely chopped strawberries,  1 heaping Tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix well and set aside.

To the remaining cream cheese, add the blue berries, sugar and vanilla extract and set aside

Taste the cream cheese to see if it is sweet enough for you, if not add sugar to suit your level.

Line a plate with tissues and set aside

When you are all set, set a deep fry pan on medium heat and pour oil into it. I used just enough to cover the bottom of an 8 inch fry pan.

While the oil is heating, microwave the tortillas for about 10-12 seconds to make them soft and pliable

Take a tortilla, spoon  some cream cheese mix in the middle and roll it like a burrito. Secure the seams with a toothpick.
Repeat the process with the remaining tortillas and cream cheese.

Gently place one burrito toothpick side down in the hot oil and shallow fry till golden brown , carefully  turn it on the other side and let it  turn golden brown, gently lift and place it on the tissue paper lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Repeat with the remaining burritos.

To serve, remove the toothpick,  place one burrito on a plate, dust with powdered sugar and place the *strawberries ( macerated earlier) on top. Drizzle with chocolate syrup and serve.

The little one liked both strawberry and blueberry burrito, my preference was more towards the blueberry cream cheese filling.
Next time, I will drizzle / pipe the burrito with Nutella! uuummmm!

When I last shared the picture of the flowers I made at my cake decoration class, I also mentioned I'd be using them as a cake topper for a special friend. Here is the cake I made.

Clearly, my frosting skills are pathetic and I do need a lot of practice, but I am wary of too much icing. It is way too sweet for my liking and as it is I do not eat it, having to wade thru a thick layer of butter cream icing full of sugar to get to the cake is a waste, so I am miserly when spread it on. though it seemed like a good idea then, the pictures speak differently. Point noted!  Also, pictures taken in the evening are not a true depiction of the real thing.

For those interested, I have used butter cream icing. The flowers are made of gum paste, these are supposedly edible, but I have never tried them.
The flowers on the sides are fondant cut outs  and the little balls  used for border are also made out of fondant, tinted with edible food color.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Date and Nut snack- Clean eating

Making a move towards clean eating or healthy sounds idealistic, but in reality, sometimes the going is tough. 
I admire people who have it in them to give up carbs ( except for  an occasional indulgence, maybe once a month! ) and  never to eat any sugar or sweet. 
I get on that bandwagon only to get off after a short while. I cannot give up  carbs, I try to increase other crucial components, but I crave those comfort foods I grew up eating.
Maybe it just needs a lot of willpower and perseverance and patience. 

I am taking baby steps. I have cut down my sweet intake and make something occasionally. I do not deep fry, unless it is Diwali or a birthday. We do not bring any biscuits ( or cookies, as they are called here), this was a sacrifice for me as I do like something to dip in my tea. My son gets to eat some of course. 

What I find difficult to give up is bread. I love bread and how handy it is to have a loaf at hand. 
And rice. Nothing is as comforting or satisfying as soft, fluffy, steam-rising out of it rice. 

And what I have difficulty accepting is tofu. I sigh every time I think of all these things.

Snacking is inevitable. I do it unknowingly, I walk past the pantry, spy something on the shelf and pop it in my mouth, continue doing what I was doing. 

 Sonali made this snack and shared it with me. Her son is very fond of it and she makes it very often.
One bite convinced me that I had to make it! 
Dates, nuts and some dessicated coconut, of course you want to make it and eat it! And it is healthy too. Dates are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, rich in iron an tasty to boot. 

This was something I used to eat during Diwali as a child. Does anyone remember those dates stuffed with nuts and wrapped in  bright yellow /red/ blue crinkly plastic wrap? The ones we used to get in Diwali Hampers with  other nuts and dry fruit and Pista biscuits? This is a somewhat elaborate (if you can call it that) method of making the same thing.

This is a very forgiving recipe and can be molded to suit your taste. Making it is easy and quick.

I used a tub of pitted Mejdool dates, the 2 lb. one most commonly found in stores.

You need:
1 tub Dates
1/2 cup mixed nuts ( Almonds, Walnuts and Pistachios - all or any combination, do try not to skip the Almonds though)
1 Tbsp Ghee
2-3 pinches Cardamom powder 
Dessicated coconut - as required
Saran Wrap

Place the dates in the food processor ( with the chopping blade) and give it a whirl, the date should be chopped in small pieces. Remove and set aside.

Place the nuts on a baking tray and toast the nuts in the oven at 250 deg. F for 10 mins. They should be warm and toasty, not brown. Be careful.
Alternatively you can toast them on a skillet on low heat over the stove.
Cool the nuts and pulse them in the food processor. Do not powder, leave the nuts chunky (ignore the fact that I blitzed the nuts a bit too much in my food processor)
Toasting the nuts is optional, according to a friend of mine. She recommends using slivered almonds available in most stores. 

Heat ghee, on medium, in a deep skillet or a kadhai. Add the dates and the nuts and mix well to incorporate the nuts as evenly as possible. Switch off the heat and add the cardamom powder, mix well again. Let the mixture cool down.

Cut a large square piece of Saran Wrap and place it on the counter-top and spread a layer of the dessicated coconut. Take a third of the dates mixture in your hand and while the mixture is slightly warm, make a log of it and place it on the coconut and roll it to coat evenly. Now, cover the roll with saran wrap and make a log and twist the ends . 
Make similar 'logs' of the remaining mixture.
Place all the logs in the fridge for about 2-3 hours to firm up.
Remove from the fridge, and carefully peel off the wrap.
Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the 'log' in to even pieces.
Store in a container and eat as and when you want.

You won't be able to stop at one piece, I bet!


Have you read about the contest and exciting giveaway I am hosting? The contest is open to all bloggers in the USA and India and there are gift cards to be won ( Amazon and Flipkart). Moreover, it is also another excuse for us foodies to test something in our kitchens and share it with  our family and (virtual) friends! 

The contest is open until Feb-14 Midnight PST to share some culinary gems with me and other bloggers and readers. 
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Friday, February 01, 2013

'I Must Make That' and an exciting giveaway!

I loved birthdays, wait let me correct that, I loved going to Monginis and ordering my birthday cake. I would love to look at the various designs and decide which one I liked best.
I always wondered how did they make that?

Then one day I walked into Michaels, and I was fascinated and could not get enough. I loved the pictures and my mind latched on to the cake pictures! 
Every time after that, for nearly 5 years, I walked into Michaels, I would look at the cake decorating kits and think, " I must make this cake with that decoration". I talked to Ashwini (Indulge Ashcorner) and she helped me save a lot! She taught me how to use coupons and warned me 'not to step into Michaels or any other craft store, without a coupon'  and oh boy! did that help or what!! I used the 40% or 50% Off coupons to buy my kits and material.
I waited long enough to take the course and finally things fell into place and I got the course done and here is the final effort ! 

I made these flowers last week, for my final class and I was happy that I managed to complete the course. This week I will use the decoration for a birthday cake for a special friend. I do hope she likes it! 

Now around the time Ash told me of using coupons for my cake decorating hobby, I also started noticing that there were many deals around me, just that I had never taken any interest in those or just never understood how to use any (duh! I know). Needless to say, I am learning and benefiting. I am specially interested in coupons for kitchen supplies. I often dream of having a rack full of props for my blog. Stacks of beautiful plates, rows of bowls of different shapes and sizes, fabric, spoons.. Ah! 
Do you also feel that way? Do you look at a picture of say an appetizer or a dessert or anything and feel, " Wow! I must make that" ? What inspires you? 

 [there was a sponsor for the giveaway, who has requested that I remove their name and link, this post is edited to exclude that information now]

What do you have to do?

From now until Feb. 14th., post a recipe on your blog, the theme is 'I Must Make That'. Take inspiration from cook books, food pictures, fellow bloggers, magazines, TV shows, you get the point.
Think of something that made you want to replicate a recipe in your kitchen.

I will do the round up in the week following 2/14/2013 and announce the winners.

Good Luck and  Thank you, in advance to all dear readers for your love and support!  I  am looking forward to your fantastic entries! 
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