Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Black Bean Burger

It was my birthday and I had also secured my admission in B School or was it my first job? I don't remember... 
It was something to celebrate about. My mother was with me and we went to MacDonalds, in Bandra, they had just opened that branch. Mumbai had been introduced to this chain very recently and it was very crowded, but we wanted to taste the 'famous burger'.
For the first time that I tasted the Veggie burger, I liked it. It was different. Different from the 'masala' cutlets that were used in local fast food joints. 
To my mind, however, a burger patty was made up of potato and some veggies. It was only later, that I was introduced to variations.
Pinterest is a great resource for recipes. I was interested in a recipe which was my kind of vegetarian, which meant without egg. 
 I found this recipe and modified it to suit our taste.This made 6 patties.

To make the patties:

1 cup Black beans soaked in plenty of water (left overnight). 
Cook the black beans. I used my Electric Pressure Cooker (beans setting)
Drain the liquid after the beans are cooked and mash the beans using a fork or potato masher. 

Black Beans mashed
1 Boiled Potato, mashed 
approx. 3/4 cup Corn (I used frozen)
2 slices of bread crumbled, alternatively, soak the bread in water and squeeze the liquid out and use
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
4 fat cloves of Garlic
3-4 squirts of Tomato Ketchup ( I eyeballed this)
3-4 tbsp Soy Sauce ( I eyeballed this)
4 Tbsp Sriracha Sauce ( Reduce it if you cannot tolerate the heat)
Salt to taste (be careful, the ketchup and sauces contain salt, taste and add)
2 heaped tsp. Roasted Cumin seed powder
A small fistful Cilantro with tender stalks, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Black Pepper powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne powder

Onion slices
Tomato slices
Lettuce leaves (I skipped these)
Cheese Slices
Sauce of your choice for the buns ( I used 1000 Island, other choices are: Ranch, Mayo,Sriracha, any sauce of your preference)
Burger buns

Heat a small fry pan and add 2 T oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped Onions and saute till they turn brown at the edges. Add the chopped garlic and cook till, both the onion and garlic are well cooked. Cool.

Thaw the Corn. I used the microwave.

In a mixing bowl, add the mashed beans, the onion and garlic, mashed potato, corn and all the spices and condiments. Add the bread crumbs and mix the whole thing well. Taste and check the flavors.
Adjust if needed.

At this point, I placed the mixture in the fridge.

While the mixture cools, slice the onion and tomato into rings. 

To make the burgers, heat a griddle. place a patty on the griddle and drizzle some oil around the sides and cook on both sides till golden brown.

Butter the burger buns on the inner side and toast till golden brown (on one side only).

To assemble and serve, smear the sauce of your choice on the bottom bun. Place the patty on the bun, top with a cheese slice, onion rings, tomato slices, lettuce leaves and place the bun on top.


Adjust the spices to your taste in the burger mix. I like mine well seasoned ( a tad spicy, in fact) and make sure I can taste the patty through the bread, cheese, tomato etc.

These Patties freeze well.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Volcano Cake (how did I forget this!?)

I am getting old and forgetful.
I am.
OR how else can I possibly have forgotten to post about this cake?
I made this cake for my son's 8th. Birthday, last year.
We planned and discussed it in great detail.
We kept it under wraps, a surprise for our guests!

Last year S wanted a Volcano Cake. The idea had a firm grip on our minds and we could not think beyond it.
He wanted a chocolate overload.
I agreed.
The cake was chocolate, with chocolate filling and ganache frosting. If that isn't an overload, I don't know what is!

There are tutorials on YouTube for making volcano cake. I looked at all those and finally made mine.
For the Ganache, here are some links for you to follow
Ganache 101 (Martha Stewart)
Natasha's Kitchen
Milk Chocolate Ganache ( I am Baker)
White Chocolate Ganache

For the cake, I made
1 x 10 inch cake as the base
4 x 6 inch cakes for the mountain
Milk chocolate ganache to use as a filling and Dark chocolate ganache to frost the cake.
White chocolate ganache to make the 'lava'.

You will also need:

  • A cake board
  • Decorations ( trees and mini dinosaurs etc.)
  • One small plastic/ glass cup to fit into the mouth of the mountain (I used a tea light holder)
  • Dry Ice (Handling and Storing Dry Ice)
  • Tongs 
  • Water
  • Sharp serrated knife ( to trim the cake)
  • [OPTIONAL] Cookie Cutter: round ( to make the 'mouth' of the volcano, size similar to the cup you plan on using). If you don't have a cookie cutter, use the knife.
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup white butter cream or whipped cream frosting (colored green to make grass at the mountain base)

To begin : Prepare the ganache. This can be made a few days in advance and stored in airtight containers in the fridge.

To prep the cake:
Chill the prepared cakes in the fridge
If you like, you can fill the large cake with frosting, slice the cake in to 2, horizontally and spread ganache between the layers and chill in the fridge.
You can also do the same with the smaller cakes.

The frosting between the layers can be different. Some options are:

  • Nutella
  • Ganache
  • Whipped cream (you can use store brought Cool Whip )
  • Butter cream frosting (vanilla or chocolate)

While the cakes are chilling, prepare the 'lava' using white chocolate ganache and color it. Set aside.

To begin, put a dab of frosting on the cake board and place the 10 inch cake on it.

Frost it using the prepared Ganache

On a baking sheet or tray, layer the 6 inch cakes one on top of the other gluing each cake with the help of ganache to the other.

Cut a small circle using the cookie cutter or knife on 2 of the top layer cake. the circle should be the size of  the cup you will place inside it to hold the dry ice. Frost around the circle so the crumbs do not go everywhere.

Trim them using a sharp serrated knife to make a mountain shape. Keep it a bit rough, like a mountain is, you do not need to be perfect.

Crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of ganache to seal in all the crumbs and chill for about 30 mins.

Now apply a generous layer of ganache on the mountain and spread it as evenly as possible on the surface to cover every inch. Smooth the cake gently, since there are a few uneven surfaces, be careful, you want to preserve the 'rocky' look.

Spoon some 'red lava' ganache in tot he circle that you have cut out and then drizzle some over the sides to mimic lava pouring out.

Gently place the plastic cup/ tea light holder into the cavity and press it down very gently so that it is snug and does not show up on top.

Fill a  frosting bag with the green icing and fit it with a Wilton tip 233 (Grass tip).
Pipe grass all around the base (on the 10 inch cake) and then use any accessories you want. Pipe some grass around the accessories to hide the flat base.

If you plan to use any figurines ( action figures or mini dinosaurs, dab a spot of ganache to the bottom of the figures, on their feet and stick them on the cake board or on the cake).

From left to right : Tea light holder to place dry ice, dry ice in the cup,  pour water gently on the dry ice to make it smoke

Before you cut the cake:

Chill the cake in the fridge. If it's an outdoor party, the cake will come to room temperature by the time you cut it.

To make the volcano erupt, using a pair of tongs, carefully place a couple of pieces of dry ice in the plastic/tea light holder in the mountain.

Make sure that you do not touch the dry ice. It is also a good idea to make sure that there are no kids around you at this time. Curiosity can be a terrible thing in this case. you don't want any child getting burns and upsetting the entire party.

To make the volcano smoke, pour water gently on the dry ice and it will immediately start 'erupting'! 
It is just so much fun to watch the children and adults enjoying this volcanic eruption! 

My son loved the attention his cake got and he made sure that everyone understood that the cake idea was his and he told me exactly what he wanted! 

Enjoy the applause and the cake! 

We are now working on this years cake! Stay tuned.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Pickle, Granny Smith Apple Pickle!

Isn't it beautiful outside? It's green everywhere, well, almost.
There are days when it's cold with the occasional snow, making me huddle indoors and turn on the heater. And there are days when I wear a jacket and step out only to cast it aside. 
As I pull warm throw around me and look out, I see these beautiful blooms and I feel cheerful. 

I was talking to my Mother and she told me that Mumbai is reeling under warm temperatures. While it is tortuous to go out, the fruit vendors have piles of raw mango as well as ripe mangoes to sell. 
She and my father miss me in summer, I am a big huge fan of mangoes (raw and ripe) and love me some pickle and aamras (ripe mango pulp). 
When my Mother gets talking of pickles, I yearn for some. I absolutely love pickles!
Unfortunately, every time I pick up a raw mango, it just looks like it's raw, but inside the fruit is sweet.
While I enjoy the sweet fruit, it still does not serve the purpose of making a pickle. 
And then, I saw this post and knew I had to make it. 

I am however a big fan of shortcuts and like instant results.
My version of this pickle is another shortcut on the one I have linked above.

To make Green ( Granny Smith) Apple Pickle you need:

2 Granny Smith Apples
Instant Mango Pickle mix ( easily available in any Indian store, I used K-Pra brand)
1 tsp Mustard Seeds 

Wash a jar (which is airtight) with hot water and dish soap and dry it completely. Any moisture will only mean fungus on the pickle. 
Wash the apples and dry them ( make sure the apples are totally dry). 
Chop the apple into pieces. I used this chopper with the small dice blade. 

Put the chopped pieces in the jar, add salt , 2 heaped Tbsp. Pickle masala and mix thoroughly.
Add Oil (pour enough to cove the apple pieces).

In a small sauce pan, heat about 3 tbsp oil, once hot, add mustard seeds and let them pop. switch off the heat and let the 'tadka' cool down completely.
Once cool, pour it over the pickle and mix.

Your pickle is ready. Serve it immediately or let it sit for a day and the flavors combine. 


  • This pickle needs to be refrigerated
  • I have added only 2 tbsp of the pickle masala, keeping it a tad mild, hoping my son will start liking pickles. You can add a bit more.
  • The left over oil can be reserved for making 'achari' vegetables / pooris.
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Friday, April 07, 2017

Fuss free Pav Bhaji in the Electric Pressure Cooker / IP

On my last India trip, my son and I had a blast. I formally introduced him to the glorious street food. We loved the dabeli, the pani puri, the vada paav/ samosa, but the jewel in the crown was pav-bhaji.
We went to Achija and he fell in love with it. It was a first for li'll S and it was so satisfying to see my 8 year old eat with great concentration and enjoyment. 
To date, he talks of Achija and his eyes glaze over and the smile says it all.

S also has high expectations.
There are days when I fret..."So, what should I make for dinner?" 
"Oh, just make Pav Bhaji", he says causally. 
I stare, sometimes I exclaim, " Veda ahes ka?", I mean pav bhaji on demand, come on! 
All this changed a few weeks ago. 
Now, If I have the necessary ingredients on hand, I just nod my head and finish the task at hand. 
No hurry.

When I spoke to my friend Sonali, she told me how much she loves her EPC and how useful it is for cooking almost everything.
She told me she was making pav bhaji for dinner and it was such a breeze! 
I loved the idea. Pav bhaji in a jiffy, on demand.
Instant pot pavbhaji

I like how fuss free and no babysitting required this recipe is.

I like to prep just one thing before hand. I soak dry red chilies in warm water for a few hours, this gives the bhaji it's nice color.

To make pav bhaji in the EPC , you need

4-5 Dry red chilies ( preferably Kashmiri or Byadgi) soaked in warm water
6-8  large cloves of Garlic
1 inch ginger scraped and grated
1 small Onion, Finely chopped
1 small or 1/2 of a large sized Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 can diced Tomatoes 
2 cups Cauliflower florets
3 Potatoes ( I used Russet), peel and make large cubes
1/2 cup Green Peas ( I used frozen) 
Salt to Taste
3 heaped spoons ( I used a plastic disposable spoon) Pav Bhaji Masala (I use Everest)
3-4 tbsp. Oil
Butter, big pats! 
Chopped Cilantro, to garnish
chopped Onion, to serve with bhaji
Lemon wedges, if required.

To begin, drain the water from the soaked red chilies. Place the chilies and 4 cloves of garlic in a chopper / blender jar and pulse to make a rough paste.

Start the EPC on Sear / saute mode and add Oil and one tbsp Butter to the inner steel pot.
As the oil heats and the butter melts, add the red chilies paste, cook this well. IF the chilies are under cooked, they will make the bhaji bitter.
Once the raw smell of the chilies and garlic is gone, add the chopped onions and saute them well. 
When the onions turn brown at the edges add the reserved chopped garlic and grated ginger and saute till the raw smell is cooked out.
Add the chopped bell pepper.  As the bell pepper softens add the remaining ingredients.
Just pile them in the cooker pot and mix.
Cancel the Sear mode. Close the lid and set the 'whistle' to 'Seal' mode and select the Manual Mode and set the timing for 20 minutes. I might have set it to 25, but 20 is fine.

In the meantime, finish a load of laundry or read a book, drop your child off to an activity or pick him/her up, watch TV. Do what you want!

Let the pressure subside naturally (NPR).
Open the lid and use a potato masher to mash the vegetables well.
Serve bhaji with a big pat of butter, chopped cilantro and soft buttery, lightly toasted pav. YUM!

- If you do not wish to use the soaked red chilies paste, you can also use Kashmiri Mirch powder instead. It does not need to be sauteed in the beginning. Add it after the bell pepper is cooked.

- Garlic is what will give it the enticing aroma and do not skimp on this. I used large cloves and so 8 were sufficient. If you have medium or small sized cloves, increase the quantity.

- Leftover pavbhaji can be stored int he fridge.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

(Cornflakes) Chivda for colleagues

As we walked the aisles of the Indian store, I reminded M that he wanted to pick some snacks for his office colleagues. They were interested in trying some popular snacks. 

I was thrilled that M's colleagues wanted to try something and I could not let this opportunity pass without making some home made snacks.We picked out some popular snacks and I also decided to make some chivda and send it with him. 

In the olden days, packets of chivda and ladoo were given at functions. They still are. These were primarily given to those who had traveled distances to attend the function (marriage / thread ceremony etc.) and dry snacks were travel food during the return journey. 

To me, chivda is an 'essential' snack. My favorite Diwali snack is this Indian take on a trail mix. 

This time I wanted to try Corn Flakes Chivda. Though the traditional way is buying 'corn poha' which is deep fried and then seasoned, the easier version is using boxed cereal. Buy the plain one.

I had seen this version first on The Cooker's blog and liked the idea very much. I just played with the proportions to suit our taste.


The recipe is simplicity itself.

You need:

4-5 cups of Corn Flakes (plain / original) 
4-5 Tbsp Oil
1 tsp EACH, Mustard seeds and Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Asafetida (Hing)
1 scant tsp. Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. Kashmiri red chilies powder (optional, just to add some depth to the color)
1 tsp. Roasted Fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 fresh Green chilies, chopped
Few curry leaves
2 heaped Tbsp EACH, Cashew nuts, Peanuts, Raisins, roasted Gram Daal (dalia)
Salt to taste
1 small pinch Citric acid granules
Sugar to taste

Heat oil in a wide wok / kadhai.
Add in the mustard seeds and as they pop, add the cumin. 
Once the cumin sizzles, add the asafetida and then the cut green chilies and curry leaves.
Be very careful as the moment the chilies and curry leaves touch the hot oil, they sputter and hot oil drops are likely to fly here and there. If you have a spatter guard, use it, if not, just step away from the stove.
Once the chilies and curry leaves turn crisp, add the nuts, raisins and dalia and stir them until they are golden brown and the raisins swell up.
Next add the turmeric powder, red chilies powder (if using), fennel seeds and stir briskly. Be careful that the spices do not burn.
Next add the salt and citric acid granules and mix.
Add the cereal  and mix well, but gently, coating the corn flakes with the spice mix.
Switch off the heat and let the mix cool down a bit.
While it is still just warm, add the sugar and mix well.
Cool and store in an airtight container.
Serve as a tea time snack.

Corn Flakes Chivda, Indian trail mix

  • The measures for a chivda can be approximates, the recipe is very forgiving, except for the citric acid granules, use only a small pinch, no more.
  • Corn flakes can be substituted for plain Cheerios or plain (unsweetened) rice krispies
  • To change the taste a bit, you can also add 1 tsp of lightly crushed coriander seeds (sabut dhania).
  • Adjust the amount of chopped fresh green chilies to suit your level of tolerance. 
  • You can omit the green chilies and just use dry red chilies powder ( use 1/2 tsp, regular chilies powder for a mild taste)
  • Since we are adding Citric acid granules, do add the sugar to balance the sour, spicy and sweet taste.

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