April 20, 2012

Apple Milkshake with Almonds-Easy Milkshake Recipe

This is not so much a recipe post as it is my need to take some pictures of a drink. I don't have many drinks recipes in here because I hardly ever make anything at home. Or when I do, it's something ridiculously simple like this.

Apple Milkshake with Almonds | Recipe

But I was in the mood to play with my camera a bit and what better way to do it than make some super simple and spend a lot more time on taking pics? It was pretty grey day so the pics are all dark toned. Also, special thanks to Sindhu for helping with the pretty text on the first picture. There are more coming guys, so stay tuned!

Apple Milkshake with Almonds

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 0 minutes
Makes 2 tall glasses

Ingredients:
2 apples peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
5 almonds soaked and skinned (or 1 tbsp almond meal)
500ml of chilled milk
1-2 tbsp of sugar (adjust according to your preference)

How I Made It:

1. Transfer the chopped apples, milk, and sugar to a blender. Blend until the apple pieces break down a bit.
Apple Milkshake with Almonds | Recipe

2. Add the soaked almonds or the almond meal and blend to a smooth consistency.
Apple Milkshake with Almonds | Recipe

Serve immediately with a garnish of apple pieces or ice cubes.

Apple Milkshake with Almonds | Recipe

Notes:

- the milkshake will be quite thick due to the almonds. Reduce amount of almonds, increase amount of milk, or just avoid it if you want a lighter, thinner milkshake. You can get away with using low fat milk because the almonds will give the milkshake the required thickness.

- I wanted to try adding some crushed cardamom to the apple milkshake but forgot to do it in the last minute. If any f you are willing, do try and let me know how that turned out. I think it will be apple milkshake meets badam milk if you do that. Maybe also throw in some saffron!

April 18, 2012

Celebrating 5 Years, 8 Million Hits, & Some Other Important Things

It's been 5 years since I entered the crazy world of food blogging. Only, back then I didn't know it was a world out there, or that it was crazy. I saw this nice little blog with recipes and pictures (it's invite-only now) and decided my sister should do the same (and she did). She is a wonderful cook and I knew she would do full justice to it. But I loved the whole idea of it so much that I started my own blog a couple weeks later although I was barely cooking back then and knew all of 3 dishes to make without checking on a recipe online or in a book or through a phone call to my mom.

And so, this little blog was born. Although there were four blog-birthdays (or anniversaries, or whatever you want to call it) before this, I never celebrated them. I just took it as another day and trudged on, I have no idea why.
The first food picture taken for this blog - April 2007
But, it has been a whirlwind ride for sure and I want to share some of the highlights with you at least this year of completing 5 years. That's half a decade. That's how long it takes for a baby to be born, topple over, sit up, start talking, start walking, go to play school, start kindergarten, and learn ABCs (or start teaching in a college, I don't know, I am told babies are extremely bright these days). That's how long it takes for someone to become a doctor. That's one whole year more than I have been married!

So yeah, it's a pretty important milestone and I am glad I stuck with it and found the passion from within to continue on this journey. This is a LONG post so bear with me.

Some Stats
There are 646 posts in here of which ~600 are recipes
18,000 comments were posted, excluding mine
The site has been viewed over 8 Million times in 5 years with a current average of 16,000 page views per day.

That's a lot of views. I am overwhelmed every single day that people are enticed enough to click in and collectively view the pages in here 16,000 times a day. It makes me constantly worry that my pictures are not good enough, that I don't ever proof read my posts and I have hilarious typos in here, and that some recipe may not work for some people for whatever reason. Then I just tell myself to stop obsessing and go back to my day job, the one that pays the rent and for the shoes and bags I love to hoard, you know.

The picture that won me 200 USD in a contest. The camera I used cost less than that.
Talking about money, I monetized the site around a year after I started it, I think. Money flowed in very slowly (read: about a dollar a month) but steadily. Today, I make an average of USD 700 per month through this site. I know it's probably like shouting out my own salary from the top of the roof but I figured at least some of you may want to know, just in case you want to monetize your site and the going is slow and you are discouraged. Don't be. It takes time but it will happen if you just concentrate on the content.

BUT.

More than this, more than any of this, the true magic moments of blogging for me are defined by the people. Don't believe me? Read on.

Embarrassing Moments
I am seen as "the food blogger person" at work. A lot of my colleagues and friends from work check out the blog regularly, cook from it, and talk to me about food all the time. One instance went beyond that though. Edible Garden and I was mentioned in a Google Analytics event in Malaysia by the country head. There were 500 people in the audience (I was there to speak too) and I had no clue he was going to do this! Video here.

True Story 1
One random day I came across this food blog and started going through it because I liked what I saw. In the most bizarre of coincidences, I found that the owner of that blog was leaving comments on mine at the same time! We started talking through comments. We clicked, literally and otherwise. I emailed her, she emailed me back. We added each other on gtalk. After our second online conversation, she invited me to her home in Los Angeles. I didn't even know where that was on a map but I said yes, sure. Almost a year later, I went to Mountain View, California on work and she told me LA is in California and I should go see her. I agreed, made plans to visit her for 3 days, and booked flights. So there I was, one chilly spring morning outside the LA airport, waiting with my 2 huge suitcases for this person I have never met in my entire life, half across the globe from my home and family and life. If she (or he, who knew) turned out to be a serial killer or a rapist or a no-show, I was doomed. I would've redefined the word stupid. But she did turn up and did turn out to be a she (thank God!). I had the best time of my life without even going to any of the tourist attractions in LA, not even one. Anu - high five!

The meal Anu made for me the day I landed in LA
True Story 2
During the above-mentioned trip to Mountain View, I met Sakshi in real life for the first time but I felt like I'd known her much longer. She is a crazy energy-ball and insisted on driving me to every shoe shop in the Bay Area and also trudge along the ups and downs of San Francisco on a particularly bad-weather day. She waited endless hours outside fitting rooms as I shopped for clothes, steered me away from the gorgeous but oh-so-expensive goodies in Anthropologie and fully supported my interest and addiction to Lush Products, obligingly becoming a convert herself. Sakshi, you rock.

The Incident that was Mentioned in this Video 
During that trip (again, ahem), I was in one of the cafes at the Google MV campus with another colleague-friend when this Googler walked by. He looked at me, looked at my friend, and then came towards us. And, AND, he went "are you Nags?". While I contemplated if I should admit to being said person, he gushed a bit and said "my wife and I are huge fans of your blog. We learnt a lot of dishes from there." I died, went to heaven, sent them heavenly blessings and wished them eternal happiness. Then I came back to earth and thanked him with words. I think I did, I don't remember really.

Random Fact
I bought a camera and a whole bunch of lens solely with the money earned from this blog. It was a very proud moment. It also funded our Egypt trip, one of TH's dream destinations.

TH and I in Egypt

Meeting People
We had 3 Singapore food blogger meets where I met some great ladies with similar minds. I am especially close to two of them and we meet regularly to gossip about our in-laws people in general! Jey and Raks, when is the next meet up and most importantly, what are you bringing me to eat?

True Story 3
A girl adds me on Facebook. I add her back. I land in Mountain View this year for trip number 2 and she emails me saying we should meet. I feel shy but I agree. She brings along a friend. We have so much fun that we meet again and again during the span of one week and I come back to Singapore and feel pissed with TH because he is not them and I want them. Sindhu and Kavya, I am coming back soon!

Meeting More People
Deepti, CL, Mittu, RV and I meet in New York. RV (her mom, rather) feeds us a hot South Indian breakfast and I go into a pongal-induced-coma after that. Also, I express a desire to show TH around New Jersey and Deepti immediately offers to drive us around. For almost an entire day she did just that and we saw places we'd have never seen without a local person and a car.

Steaming hot breakfast at RV's place in New Jersey

Exploiting Friendship
Sia made a header for this blog. All I had to do was email her and ask for it.

- Around 4 years back, during a trip to Gurgaon, I called Deeba to have a chat. It was our first time talking on the phone and since I was roaming and had a prepaid connection, my money ran out after about 30 mins. Before I could even think about getting a recharge card, Deeba had done it. Just like that. That's probably the most generous thing anyone has ever done for me.

- Kannan made a tool that makes posting recipes a breeze if you use Flickr as the back-end. I use it for all my posts now.

Meeting Even More People
Sharmi and I met in Coimbatore. She brought gifts and a daughter. I brought one sister and some ramekins. We bonded over pizza and a greasy food court table. Fun was had.

- I also met Siri, the mysterious DK, Sridevi and Sakshi in Mountain View last year. We had good Indian food, very strong-tasting lavendar kulfi and a major gossip session and we spoke about all of you behind your backs. Ok, kidding, but we did talk about some of you.

Getting Free Things
Sala was giving away an autographed book by Paula Deen and although I have lousy luck with these things, I won! She sent me a big package and I have some of those cupcakes liners still, not because they are bad but because they are so good that I don't want to ever run out of them.

And since I was on a winning spree, I won a beautiful clutch purse from Shaheen who has also put up with a lot of random emails from me. We've had good conversations, she and I.

Talking about conversations, Sig and I clicked at some point too. She is my muse or at least a favourite one and I want to be her when I grow up. Oh wait...

Did I mention that Jey cooked an entire meal for me the day I landed after a 19-hour flight ravenous and totally jet lagged. Yeah, that happend. Magic moment, see?

The meal Jeyashri cooked up for me that made me believe in humanity and the healing powers of vatha kozhambu
I get love letters all the time. More than I ever did as a teen and looked the best I ever will in my life for a whole of 3 weeks somewhere in there. It humbles me like you wouldn't believe. It also wants to me to drop my work, run into my kitchen, and cook dish after dish and take photo after photo so I can blog about it that instant.

Although I have typed out a ginormous post that took me 3 evenings to finish, I am sure I have missed out something or someone in here. Apologies for that. You all rock my life and this site is now an integral part of me that I can't severe. It took me 5 years to say this but yeah, I LOVE being a food blogger and I take total pride in the fact that I make hungry people wait while I photograph their food.

Here's to the next five years. *Clink*

April 14, 2012

Vishu & Tamil New Year Recipes 2012

I wanted to do a round up post with some Vishu recipes (or Tamil New Year Recipes depending on what festival you were celebrating) but it completely slipped my mind.



Here's a quick list of recipes, although slightly late.
Sweet Mango Pickle
Vendakka Thayir Pachadi
Beetroot Pachadi
Mullangi (Radish) SambarKaalan
Olan
Erissery
Aviyal
Ethakka Thoran
Semiya Payasam
Cherupayar Payasam

Wishing all readers of Edible Garden a wonderful Vishu and a Happy New Year :)

April 11, 2012

Mysore Bonda | Mysore Bajji | Ulundu Bonda Recipe

I didn't even realise that something called Mysore Bonda existed until I was complaining to my MIL that I can never master the shape of ulundu vadai and end up making them into round blobs each time.

Mysore Bonda / Mysore Bajji / Ulundu Bonda Recipe

She suggested I just alter the recipe slightly and call them Mysore Bondas instead. Genius! So while I master getting the shape of ulundu vadai right, here's something I am going to use in the mean time.

Make no mistake, ulundu vadai (or medhu vadai) and Mysore bonda have the same basic ingredients but they do have some differences. For instance, we add fresh coconut pieces (thenga kothu) in Mysore Bonda that gives it a lovely texture. Also, our version uses no ginger.

April 9, 2012

Paal Poli - Pooris Soaked in Thickened Milk

Divya, my friend of the Corn Malai Subzi fame also happens to be good with traditional sweets. She came home for dinner one night with dessert in hand - paal poori to be exact. I had never heard of it before and I was not happy about that.

Paal Poori - Pooris Soaked in Sweetened Milk

Here's why: Paal Poori is a delicious dessert which, true to its name, is pooris soaked in sweetened, thickened milk and then garnished with roasted cashew nuts and almonds. Yum much?

Paal Poli Recipe


Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves 6-8
Recipe source: Divya

Ingredients:
1.5 litres of milk
1 can (400gm) of evaporated milk
1 can (400gm) of condensed milk

Powder together:
2-3 tbsp of sugar (adjust to your preference)
6-8 pods of green cardamom

For the Pooris:
1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of oil
Salt to taste
Oil of for deep frying

To Garnish:
10-12 of cashew nuts, slivered
A few of almonds, slivered (optional)

How It's Made:

1. Mix the flour, salt, and oil with enough water to make a stiff dough. Let it stand for about 15 minutes.

2. Roll out palm-sized pooris from the dough, and deep fry in the oil.

3. Drain the pooris and lay out on a flat dish lined with kitchen napkins.

4. Boil together the milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk along with the sugar-cardamom powder mixture on medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes to a thick-ish pouring consistency (neither too runny nor too thick).

5. Pour the milk mixture over the pooris and let it stand for a couple of hours, until the pooris soak about half of the milk mixture.

6. Garnish with roasted unsalted almonds and cashew nuts.

Paal Poori can be served warm or chilled in the refrigerator.

Paal Poori - Pooris Soaked in Sweetened Milk

Note: If you are unable to source evaporated milk, just measure out one can of milk instead and add to the mixture instead of evaporated milk.

Update: Since many of you wrote to me saying this is in fact called Paal Poli and not Paal Poori, I have edited the title to reflect that :)

April 5, 2012

Tiramisu Recipe - How to Make Tiramisu - The Classic Italian Dessert

There are some dishes that I roll around in my head, itching to make but never do. It's a weird thing, I know. Tiramisu was one of them. For the longest time, I told myself I'd make them if I could get good ladyfingers in Singapore. The truth is, I never went out and tried to get them. Turns out they are quite easily available in Cold Storage.

Classic Tiramisu Recipe

Also turns out that I didn't need to make the tiramisu myself. I have this friend, Darshini. She made bread upma for me eons ago when we both lived in Hyderabad. Then she moved cities, I moved cities, and after a few years of just staying in touch over pings and emails, the stars aligned magically and she landed in Singapore.

Classic Tiramisu Recipe

She also happened to turn up for dinner with the most delicious tiramisu ever! I saved some for the next day just for pics before TH and I attacked it.

Classic tiramisu is not that hard to make at all. In fact, Darsh managed to whip this up with very basic kitchen tools and it still turned out fab so this is really not a fussy recipe at all.

Note: Classic tiramisu contains raw eggs so try to get the freshest egg you can lay your hands on. If you are not comfortable with this or you are pregnant, then this recipe is not for you. Please don't ask me for a substitute! Mascarpone cheese is another essential ingredient and I am really not sure if a substitute will work for that either.

For other easy dessert recipes, check out my eggless Oreo cheesecake recipe, this homemade chocolate ice-cream recipe, and my 5-minute mug cake recipe.

Classic Tiramisu Recipe

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 tsp of instant coffee powder
1/2 cup of hot water
2 tbsp of icing sugar or powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2-3 tbsp of cocoa powder
250gm of mascarpone cheese
About 15 ladyfinger biscuits

How to Assemble the Tiramisu:

1. Mix the instant coffee powder with the hot water and beat lightly for a minute with a spoon. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Add the icing sugar (or powdered sugar) to the egg yolks and beat well with a fork. Add the cheese and beat well again. If you have an electric beater, use that.

3. Whip egg white until stiff. You can use your electric beater (use a clean dry one) or just your fork or whip which will take much longer. Fold this gently into the cheese-yolk mixture.

4. Dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and layer them at the bottom of a square cake tin. Sprinkle cocoa powder over this generously.

5. Layer half the egg-cheese mixture over the biscuit layer. You can add some berries at this time if you wish. On top of the mixture, layer biscuits (dipped in coffee) once more and top off with some more cocoa powder and the rest of the cheese-yolk mixture.

6. Freeze overnight or at least 8 hours. Once it has set, sprinkle more cocoa powder or powdered sugar on top and serve chilled.

Notes:

- the ladyfingers get soft very quickly so dip in coffee and layer immediately, don't linger.
- you can spike the coffee with rum or cognac, or (and I want to try this myself) use Kahlua to dip the biscuits
- it may be a good idea to move the tiramisu to the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving but getting clean pieces will be tougher

April 4, 2012

Pure Komachi Knives Review

This post is long over due. I have wanted to share more about these amazing knives I use every day in my kitchen - the Pure Komachi knives.

Pure Komachi Knives Review

They were first recommended by Anu when I was visiting her in LA. We came across the larger pink chef knife at TJ Maxx and she grabbed one and put them in my shopping cart before I could even protest. I am so grateful for her insistence because otherwise I'd have totally missed this awesomeness in my life.

Ok, so why are Pure Komachi Knives great?

Pure Komachi Knives Review

A few reasons why I love Pure Komachi Knives:

- They are super light and very sharp. The weightlessness particularly appeals to me because I don't always use a chopping board. And well, I am guessing we all like our knives sharp. I've been using the pink one for over a year now and the green one for about 6 months now and both are as good as new.

- They are colourful and pretty. Yes, that matters. But beyond the visual appeal, they make it colourful so that you can easily tell them apart especially if you use specific knives for specific items like meat or garlic or fruits or whatever.

- The paring knife (smaller green one) is perfect for peeling garlic and shallots and chopping herbs fine. I do these three things heavily for my cooking and it's perfect for the job.

- They don't cost a bomb. In fact, compared to other options I have seen out there, these knives are cheap!

Pure Komachi Knives Review

Since I like to balance my reviews a bit, a couple of negatives I can think of:

- The lighter colours tend to stain if you don't wash them immediately after use. I used the pink knife to chop up vazhakka a few times and if I don't wash and scrub them immediately, the brown stains don't go for a long time. As you can see, they do go off eventually but it takes away from the beauty of the knife for a while. That said, my ergo knife got stained the same way but it was impossible to wash out so it's permanently scarred now.

- They are not easily available unless you live in the US. I have seen a set of Pure Komachi knives in Takashimaya in Singapore but they are way too expensive.

I bought the green paring knife and this purple slicing knife from Amazon when I was in New York last year. I have been using the paring knife as my primary one since then with excellent results. The slicing knife is a tad too long for me for every day use and it's still in its box for now. I have too many knives out in the kitchen anyway.

As you can see, I can't stop gushing about them because they are brilliant and you must ask your friends/family/whoever-offers, to bring them back for you from the US.

Buying them off of Amazon is the easiest and best method I can think of. I would love to get my hands on the Pure Komachi 2 Series Hollow-Ground Santoku Knife too. I mean, look at that colour!



Disclaimer: This is not a paid review. I bought the knives, used them, and absolutely loved them. However, if you follow the links above and purchase these from Amazon, I will get enough money for half of a Starbucks coffee. Or maybe not even that, I am not sure.

April 2, 2012

Pav Bread Recipe - The Indian Burger Bun for Pav Bhaji

I think any self-respecting cook would harbour the desire to bake her or his own pav (the soft white dinner rolls-type-thing that goes with bhaji to create the delicious combo of pav bhaji).

I did too, for a really long time. Then I went and did something about it.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

I had bookmarked DK's recipe from Chef in You ages ago and kept going back to it hoping to recreate it soon. Then one rainy day I decided it has to happen today!

It could be the humidity or the yeast or the kind of flour I used but her measurements did not work for me. I had to add a lot more flour and still ended up with a super sticky dough. I improvised, gulped a few times expecting all that flour and other ingredients to go into the bin, but magically, it turned out great! You may also like this pizza base recipe and melon pan bread, a popular Japanese bread.

I am sharing the proportions I used with a heavy disclaimer that you may need to adjust the ingredients and their quantities as you go. Ready?

Indian Pav Bread Recipe

Preparation time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Makes 10-12 rolls
Loosely adapted from Chefinyou

Ingredients:
3 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of atta / chapati flour
2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast (one sachet)
1 cup of milk
1 of egg
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
3 tbsp of butter
2 tsp of melted butter (for brushing on pav before baking)
1/4 cup of warm water

How to Make Pav Bread

1 Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and set aside until it turns bubbly and froths up - about 15 mins or so. If your yeast mixture doesn't froth up like below and smell awful, you need to buy new stock.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

2. Warm the milk and add the butter and egg to it. Beat until combined. Add salt and the yeast mixture to this.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

3. Add the flour a little at a time to this mixture and mix gently.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

Once all the flour has been added, knead gently until the mixture comes together. I used my stand mixer for this but you can also do this by hand. Flex those muscles, that's the best part of bread-making, I am told!

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

4. I got a pretty sticky dough at the end of this. If you notice DK's pics, her dough is very smooth. Either ways, it's going to turn out fine so don't worry. Transfer this dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth or cling wrap and set aside to rise.
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

After about 2 hours, my dough looked like this. Gorgeous, eh?
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

5. Punch it down gently...
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

... and pinch off large tennis-ball-sized balls and place on a greased baking dish, barely touching each other. Leave some space for the rolls to rise, but not too much.
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

6. Set side until doubled in size - about 30 mins to an hour. Brush with melted butter.
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

7. Bake in an oven pre-heated at 350F/180C for ~ 25 mins. The top should turn a nice golden brown. My oven has temperature variations inside so that's why one side is slightly overdone than the other. Rotating the pan while baking will help minimize the effect of this. I am just lazy to do that, don't be like me.
Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

You can brush some more butter on top when it's fresh out of the oven.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

Super soft rolls are ready to be devoured along with your favourite bhaji (pav bhaji) recipe.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

I want to leave you with some stuff I learned while baking pav so the pics below are your reference on what not to do while baking pav. I had laid out most of the rolls in a square baking tray. However, I left too much space between the rolls. After rising, they spread out too much resulting in flat (although delicious) pav. Don't make that mistake, ok? Leave not more than 1" max between the rolls before you let them rise before baking.

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe
Too much space between the rolls before baking

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe

Pav - The Indian Burger Bun - Recipe
Too flat
Don't you love it when you can learn from others' mistakes and not have to go through the same yourself? Yeah, me too.