November 30, 2009

Beetroot Rocket Salad with Brie

The other weekend, I uncharacteristically went and bought a bunch of stuff I usually wouldn't. It all started with this amazing salad I had at an Italian restaurant and I was craving it ever since! If I crave for a salad, then you can rest assured it was actually that good. I was almost successful in bringing the same taste at home the very next day!

Let's start with the Brie right here. Except for a couple of times I've had this with crackers at some fancy buffet, I've never bought Brie. That's totally changed now. I am a convert, to say the least.

Hello there, you creamy, evil mound of cheesy goodness.

Next we have Balsamic Vinegar. Again, its something I've had while eating out, I've come across it in other blogs but this is the first time I have ever owned a bottle of this. And while I was at it, I went and bought the best available bottle of balsamic vinegar in Singapore whose price shall not be discussed. Ever.

You are good, you know you're good.

This is what I ended up with. Like I said, it was pretty darn close in taste to the original thing I had in the restaurant. Here's how:

Beetroot Rocket Salad with Brie
Serves 2

What I Used:

4 cups lightly packed rocket lettuce leaves
1 small beetroot, cubed and steamed until cooked yet firm
Brie cheese cut into small pieces
Toasted sunflower seeds (the original recipe used pine nuts)

For the dressing:

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt

Toss the salad leaves and other ingredients together. Mix the ingredients for the dressing well and combine just before serving.
There's something about rocket lettuce that makes me want to eat it all day. I am not much of a salad person but this salad totally makes me want to take that back.

The dressing used here is slightly sweet and very mild so it doesn't overpower the taste of the greens or vegetables. The brie gives a nice creamy feel to your bite and the sunflower seeds add a much needed crunch. Perfect!

What's more, its so photogenic! ;)

November 25, 2009

Easy Gobi Manchurian Recipe | Gobi Manchurian Dry Recipe

Making Gobi Manchurian at home is easy if you have some patience and some good soya and chilli sauce in hand. Learn how to make my version of Gobi Machurian at home following this easy and tasty recipe. 
You are away from home for an extended period of time. You have tasted most of what the local cuisine has to offer you. Your mind wanders back to the dosa and sambar, chaat, dal chaawal, rasmalai, aloo paratha.. all those things you took so much for granted back home.

Me? I crave Gobi Manchurian. One evening, I drove TH nuts saying I want gobi manchurian and I want it now. Its easy to find Indian food in Singapore, especially North Indian, but Indo-Chinese, not so much unless you are ready to go the extra mile to Little India, literally.

That evening we went, and I was happy only after I polished off an entire plate of gobi manchurian all by myself. The next day, I made it at home. Yes, the very next day, why do you ask?

I really wish I had step by step pictures for making Gobi Manchurian, especially to show the batter consistency, but I have measured out the ingredients quite accurately so this should come out well for you.

Easy Gobi Manchurian Recipe | Gobi Manchurian Dry Recipe

November 23, 2009

Poriyal Podi & Sweet Potato Poriyal Recipe

I have been keeping a secret for a while. Yep, I have. And that is, my love for sweet potatoes. There you go, now you all know me inside out. That's all there is to me - I love sweet potatoes, chocolate, brinjal and step by step recipe pictures. I am a very simple person.

Back to sweet potatoes. What does that have to do with this poriyal podi recipe you ask? Well, I usually have sweet potatoes just boiled and very lightly salted. It makes my troubles go away like nothing else can.

But the other day, I was going through Chandra Padmanabhan's Southern Spice, for the umpteenth time, and saw this recipe called chakkaravalli kizhangu poriyal recipe. I had no clue chakkaravalli kizhangu is sweet potato. All this time I thought sweet ptoato is cheeni kizhangu in tamil although I have no clue how I came to that conclusion.

I tried it and let me just tell you this much - it beats slightly salted sweet potatoes to the door and back, any day!

To make this poriyal, you need poriyal podi. It can be made in a jiffy so don't let that intimidate you. You can make a bit of this and store it for future use too.
Poriyal Masala Podi Recipe
Source: Southern Spice by Chandra Padmanabhan

What I Used:

1 cup coriander seeds/kothamalli
1/2 cup urad dal/uluntham paruppu/husked black gram
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 generous pinches of hing/asafoetida/perungaayam
10 dried red chillies
2 tsp oil

How I Made It:

1. Dry roast the coriander seeds in a skillet/kadai until the seeds turn a darker shade of brown (about 4-5 mins). Set aside.

2. In the same pan, dry roast the dal until golden brown, taking care not to burn it. Set aside.

3. In the same pan, dry roast the coconut until just short of burnt. I made mine turn a dark brown taking care not to burn. Set aside.

4. Add the oil to the pan, let it heat through and throw in the red chillies. Fry them until they are short of burning, throw in the hing, stir through for 10 seconds and remove from fire.

5. Cool, combine and grind the ingredients to a powder.
The smell of this freshly made poriyal podi is a-m-a-z-i-n-g and I am not even exaggerating this time. So let's quickly go make this sweet potato poriyal, shall we? Store the leftover poriyal podi in an air tight container.

Chakkaravalli Kizhangu / Sweet Potato Poriyal Recipe
Source: Southern Spice by Chandra Padmanabhan
Serves: 2

What I Used:

2 cups sweet potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 green chillies
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp poriyal masala podi

For tempering:

2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
1 red chilli, halved
A pinch of hing (optional)
A few curry leaves

How I Made It:

1. Heat oil for tempering in a pan and add all the ingredients. When the mustard seeds beging to pop, add the turmeric, green chillies and sweet potatoes with some salt and 1/3 cup water. Mix well.

2. Cook closed for 10-12 mins until the sweet potatoes are soft and cooked. If there is extra water, leave the pan open and let it evaporate. Once the mixture is dry, add the poriyal podi and stir well.

3. Serve hot with steamed rice.

November 18, 2009

Chakkakuru Aviyal / Jackfruit Seeds Avial Kerala-Style Recipe

I love chakkakkuru! As I had mentioned earlier in my Jackfruit seeds in Lentils recipe, it's not easy to get it here in Singapore. But the story is entirely different in Kerala. My mom usually has an entire ripe jackfruit sent to her by friends of the family and it will be waiting, ripe and fragrant in the kitchen corner, ready to be attacked. Fresh slices are eaten then and there and the leftovers stored away to make chakka varatti and kumbil appam and what not.

The seeds are, of course, collected and sun dried before it goes into dishes like aviyal and mezhukkupuratti. Chakkakkuru aviyal is my absolute favourite and this time when I went to Kottayam, amma made it for me. This is her recipe and the picture was taken in Kottayam in amma's rustic old steel bowl. Also check out chakkakuru mezhukkupuratti recipe which is a dry stir-fry with jack fruit seeds. Check out all onam sadya menu recipes here. 

Chakkakkuru Aviyal Recipe
Serves: 4 as a side dish

20 Jackfruit seeds/Chakkakkuru
1 drumstick, cut into 3" pieces
1 cup grated coconut
8-10 small onions/shallots sliced long
2 cloves crushed garlic
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp jeera/cumin powder

To temper:

2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves

How Its Made:

1. Soak thejackfruit seeds in water for at least 2 hours and scrape the brown skin off. Chop each into four.

2. Place the jackfruit seeds, drumsticks, half the sliced shallots, turmeric powder, chilli powder and jeera powder in a pan with 1 cup water. Cook on medium heat until the drumsticks and jackfruit seeds turn soft (not mushy). This will take about 10-12 mins depending on the seeds you are using. Add water if the mixture gets too dry.

3. Once this gets cooked, add the coconut and garlic and cook on low heat for another 5 mins until well combined. Add salt. At this time, the aviyal will be quite dry.

4. Heat oil in a pan and add the ingredients for tempering. Once the mustard seeds pop, add to the aviyal, mix well and serve.
Serve with warm rice and curry of your choice. My mom's version of the aviyal is more dry and that's the way I like it. When she makes the more popular chakkakkuru maanga aviyal / jackfruit seeds and tender mango aviyal, it is more watery and the colour/flavour is significantly different.

November 16, 2009

Banana Bread Step-by-Step Recipe

An easy banana bread recipe with macadamia nuts.

What's all the fuss about banana bread, you ask? Well, you have to try it to know why. I still don't know why this is called banana 'bread' instead of cake but I do know that its actually somewhere in between and tastes awesome toasted.

easy banana bread recipe with macadamia nuts

This is also a fool-proof banana bread recipe. Really. Just throw some things together in a bowl, whisk it and bake it to get this awesome loaf full of a yummy banana flavour.

We rarely buy more than 4 bananas at at a time so mine is a one banana banana bread recipe. Is that too many bananas in one sentence yet? ;)

You may also like this banana chocolate cake, gluten free almond cake, and chocolate cookie cake.

Here are the step by step pictures for baking banana bread.

Here's some of the star cast. A banana (because this is a one banana banana bread recipe, remember? Ok, I'll stop!), 2 eggs, nuts - walnuts being the most popular but I added what I had in hand, a handful of hazelnuts and a couple of macadamia nuts which somehow made their way into my pantry and I have no idea from where.

Step one - mash the banana up. I used a potato masher because something about getting squishy banana pieces on my fingers turns me off.

Next, whisk together 1/2 cup butter at room temperature (ignore that I melted it, I always do that because I forget to put the butter out but please don't be like me) and 3/4 cup sugar. I used brown sugar but white is ideal.

Once the sugar has completed blended in with the butter, thrown in 2 eggs. You don't have to beat anything to death or make things fluffy, just combining well will do. So combine the eggs well. Now throw in the mashed banana. Since that's not a very pretty picture, I am going to quickly move on.

Before you add the flour, thrown in 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. I spent a bomb on my vanilla extract, the more authentic (and so more expensive) stuff actually tastes infinitely better, so you should go crazy and do the same.

Now, add 1 cup plain flour and a pinch of salt. Some recipes call for baking powder. I didn't add any and it still came out nice and fluffy so stay with me here, ok? Combine the flour well into the mixture. Again, no excessive beating please.

The final addition - about 3/4 cup of roughly chopped nuts. I gave them a couple of twists in my mixer so they are all of different sizes but that's ok. Its banana bread, anything goes. By the way, nuts are optional.

Combine well.

Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake in a 350F/180C pre-heated oven for about 40-50 mins, until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Let it sit in the loaf pan and cool completely. Then transfer to a plate/cake board and cut into 1"thick slices. Why 1"? Because I say so!

One banana banana breads are very photogenic so go ahead and take some nice shots. Actually, any banana bread should be photogenic so don't get discouraged by the one-banana theory.

Thanks for enduring my craziness. Now, here's the recipe all in one place.

One Banana Banana Bread Recipe
Makes one medium-sized loaf
Source - took bits and pieces from countless banana bread recipes

1 ripe banana
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar, I may add slightly less next time
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/2-3/4 cup nuts of your choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

How to make Banana Bread with One Banana

1. Mash the banana well and set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and the sugar has blended well. Add the eggs and beat more until well combined.

3. Add the mashed banana and mix well. Then add the vanilla extract and mix again.

4. Next, add the flour and a pinch of salt. Combine without beating, to form the dough without any lumps.

5. Transfer to a greased loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F/180C for 40-50 mins until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

6. Cool completely before cutting into slices.

You can freeze banana bread for up to a month. Just leave it in the fridge overnight to defrost before serving. Also tastes great toasted, with a pat of butter.

November 12, 2009

Palak Khichdi Recipe | Spinach Khichdi Recipe

This is another recipe from Geeta Perima of the instant sambar powder recipe fame. A lot of you wrote in saying you tried it and loved it for its simplicity. This is another nice dish that she had made us for dinner on the night we landed. Paired with some mildly sweet Gujarati Khadi and potato chips, this made for an amazing dinner.

You'll need some good quality halved green gram and normal rice that you use every day. I bought this green dal from Bombay and it was so fresh and shiny and dirt-free!

November 9, 2009

Spiral Cookies or Pinwheel Cookies Recipe, step by step

Spiral cookies or pinwheel cookies - I have been eyeing this recipe for spiral cookies for a while now. They are so pretty and look so homely and nice right? That's what actually got me started on this quite messy yet great decision to try them myself.

Disclaimer: I am not very artistic. I believe artistic people can make food look nicer and this is especially true for desserts and some bakes.
That really didn't discourage me though. I have step-by-step pictures and although my cookies didn't turn out as smooth and spirally as SJ's, they still wow-ed a lot of a people and tasted great.

Other cookie recipes you may like - chocolate melting moments, microwave chocolate chip cookie, banana oatmeal cookies.

We need to prepare 2 batches of dough and since each require 1/2 an egg yolk, let's get that out of the way.

Step by step pictures:

Lightly beat an egg yolk and set aside. We will later halve this.

Melt (or bring to room temperature) 1/2 cup unsalted butter and add 1/2 cup sugar to that. Beat until well combined.

Add 4 drops of vanilla essence to this along with a pinch of salt. Mix well. Now add half the beaten egg yolk and 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour.

Mix well to form a soft dough like so. Don't knead, just incorporate with fingers and bring together.

For the chocolate dough, do the same with the butter and sugar, but omit the vanilla and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix well.

To this, add 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour. If you find the dough too soft, you can add a couple of spoons of flour. I didn't have to add extra though.

Again, combine well with fingers to form a soft dough. No need to knead. Heh.

Now, refrigerate both doughs for 30 mins. Take out your book and read while you wait. If you are impatient like me, go take a nap and you won't feel the time pass.

After 30 mins, take out the chilled dough, transfer to a floured surface and roll out as above. This is not going to be the easiest thing to do. I later heard that if you do the rolling between plastic sheets or butter paper, it makes things very easy. Do try that because in this method, there were a lot of broken pieces that I had to patch in later.
Gently transfer the chocolate layer and place it over the vanilla layer. I used a spatula - say hi to my fave steel spatula.

I know this doesn't look perfect. That's ok. Trust me on this and let's carry on.

Now, roll the flour from the short end, gently, covering up as many split areas as you can. Its ok even if the layers are not ultra-smooth and imperfect. Like I said, wait for the end-result and you'll see.

SJ mentions refrigerating at this point but I was super-charged after my nap so I ignored that.

Cut gently into 1/2" discs. Look at that!

Are they pretty or what?! I didn't use a sharp enough knife which is why the biscuit sides are not as smooth as I'd have liked them to be. Anyway, lesson learned.

Here's another look. I couldn't get over how pretty they looked. It was almost like when I saw the Taj Mahal for the first time. Almost.

Note the huge hole on the top of my dough log? It doesn't matter if you get a similar one. Keep cutting and ignore that. Everything will turn out fine.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F/180C for 15 mins until the white part of the cookies turn a light golden brown.

Now that you ask, I have no clue how'd I find out if this cookie is done if it were all chocolate. I guess I'd go by the smell and time on original recipe as I did for my chocolate melting moments.

Here's the recipe again, all in one place.

Recipe for Spiral CookiesMakes: 28 cookies (approx.)

For the Vanilla Dough:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 egg yolk, beaten
4 drops of vanilla essence
A pinch of salt
For the Chocolate Dough:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions:< 1. Start with the vanilla dough. Beat the until and sugar until well incorporated. Add the egg yolk, salt and vanilla essence to this. Mix again. 2. Add the flour next and mix well to form a soft dough. 3. For the chocolate dough, beat butter and sugar, add the cocoa powder and mix well without any lumps. Then add the egg yolk and mix well. Finally, add the flour and mix well to form a soft dough. 4. Refrigerate both doughs for 30 mins. 5. After 30 mins, roll out gently into flat squares (as square as you can make it). Place the chocolate layer over the vanilla layer. Roll out from the short end gently. 6. Cut into discs of 1/2" thickness and bake and transfer to a greased or lined cookie sheet. 7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F/180C for 15 mins until the vanilla part turns a light golden brown. Keep an eye on the cookies starting from 10 mins, just to be on the safer side.

These spiral cookies, my friends, will wow yourfriends. Guaranteed!

November 4, 2009

Mullangi Sambar | Indian Radish Sambar Recipe

Easy south Indian radish sambar recipe using fresh radish or mullangi, and lentils.

A trip to Little India is always much looked forward to, especially because of the fresh and cheap 'Indian' vegetables that are available in every nook and corner of the place. A typical trip to Little India will comprise of a 1-hour long elbowing through the grocery section of Mustafa, a good Indian dinner at Murugan Idli Kadai, Anjappar or one of those super-crowded Indian restaurants in Little India.

You may also like this Kerala vegetable sambar recipe.

easy indian radish sambar recipe
The last time we went, I saw some freshly dug up radishes in the Indian vegetable store (this pic was taken 3 days after the shopping day so the shoots have wilted) and I had to buy them. I was thinking mooli paratha when I bought some, but the moment TH saw them, he said "ahh, we can have some nice mullangi sambar tomorrow!"

So mullangi sambar it was! Check out the lovely patterns on the radish pieces, they are so pretty!

Sambar is a very popular South Indian dish that is primarily toor dal and tamarind pulp and sambar powder (a blend of spices, sambar powder recipe). Depending on what vegetable(s) you add to it, the flavour changes. In Kerala, there is only one kind of sambar because we believe in using mixed vegetables in it and this joins the other curries and theeyals that we keep rotating through the week.

In Tamil Nadu, the story is entirely different since sambar is often made on a daily basis and the vegetables rotated for some variation. Arachuvitta sambar is one of those variations that also has coconut added for a kick. I served this radish sambar with instant oats idli once and it was an instant hit!

This is the first time I am making and tasting mullangi sambar and let's just say the radish added a lovely flavour to the versatile sambar!

Mullangi Sambar / Radish Sambar Recipe
Preparation time: 30-40 mins
Serves: 4

1/2 cup toor dal
1/2 cup white radishes, cut into 1" thick discs
8-10 shallots / pearl onions (or 1 red onion cut into chunks)
1 lime-sized ball of tamarind
1 tbsp sambar powder
1 generous pinch of hing / asafoetida / perungaayam
1 pinch of turmeric powder
1/4 tsp sugar or 1/2 tsp grated jaggery
For tempering:
1 tbsp oil or ghee
A few curry leaves
2 shallots/pearl onions cut into long slivers
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp jeera / jeerakam / cumin seeds

How to Make Radish Sambar

1. Pressure cook the toor dal with 2 cups water, the radish pieces and pearl onions for 3 whistles. Make sure that you regulate the cooking time depending on your cooker because otherwise the radish will get mushy and mix with the dal. Mine's an old cooker so no risk of that ;)
2. Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water for 10 mins and extract the juice, discarding the pulp.
3. Once the pressure leaves the cooker, open and add the tamarind juice, turmeric, hing and sambar powder. Bring to boil on a medium flame, stirring gently just to mix the ingredients. If the sambar seems too thick at this point, add some water.
4. Let the sambar boil for about 7 - 10 mins until it all comes together and switch off fire.
5. Heat the oil/ghee for tempering and add all other ingredients. Once the mustard pops and the shallots turn a light brown, remove from fire and add to the sambar. Mix well.
6. Optionally, you can garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves. This changes the flavour of the sambar and takes it in a different direction :)

easy indian radish sambar recipe
Serve radish sambar hot with steamed rice and appalam / vadaam.