Sunday, August 04, 2013

Vegetarian momos

I never thought the day would come when I would make momos at home. I am very fond of momos - the soft, moist exterior and the juicy filling inside. The perfectly cooked and shiny looking momo is a complete meal in itself. However, I don't think I would have got around to making it if not for Blogging Marathon #31. The basic recipe that I have used is from Raks Kitchen and it came out so well that between the husband and me, we managed to polish off almost the entire batch of momos I made.

What you need: (Recipe source : Raks Kitchen)
For the outer cover :
All purpose flour/maida - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Water - enough to knead into a smooth, pliable dough
Oil - 2 tsp

For the filling:
Cabbage - 1 cup, grated fine
Carrot - 1 large, grated
Onion - 1 large, thinly sliced
Garlic - 8 cloves, chopped fine
Ginger - 1 inch piece, julienned
Salt - to taste
Soya sauce - 1 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

To make the outer cover :
Take maida and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add water to it little by little and knead until you have a smooth, pliable, non-stickly dough. Add the oil and mix well. Cover and keep aside.

To make the filling:
Heat oil in a pan. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir fry on a high flame for a minute. Add in the chopped onion and saute until translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute on high flame for 2-3 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent burning. Add salt and soya sauce. Mix well and saute until the moisture evaporates.

To make the momos:
Divide the dough into ping-pong ball sized balls. On an oiled surface, roll each ball of dough into a thin circle. Place a tbsp of filling and shape into a semi-circle or a dumpling. Place the momos in a steamer or an idli pan and steam cook for 8-10 minutes. When the momos are done, the outer cover will look shiny and translucent.

Serve hot with a spicy and tangy sauce.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Seven years of blogging and savoury muffins

This blog completed seven years of existence on June 30th. I remembered, but just didn't have the enthusiasm to sit down and type out a blog post to commemorate this milestone. Every now and then, I go through a stage where though I have a lot to say on the blog, I just don't feel like sitting and typing it all out. How I wish there was a software that would create a blog post just by listening to me speak. Now that would be truly something, wouldn't it?
I am hoping to shake off the inertia by participating in Blogging Marathon #31. The theme I have chosen is Non-Indian breakfasts and that is what you will see on the blog for the next three days. 
Breakfast, to me, has to be something filling and nutritious. No Chocos or Corn flakes for me - I cannot stand eating something sweet in the morning. These savoury muffins are nice to look at, soft and moist in texture, and taste really good. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to deciding what goes into this muffin. Here's a look at all that went into my muffins.

What you need:
All purpose flour/maida - 1.5 cups
Grated vegetables - 2 cups (I used cabbage, carrot and onion)
Curd - 3/4 cup
Olive oil - 1/3 cup
Salt - to taste
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (or to taste)
Oregano - 1/2 tsp
Egg - 1
Baking powder - 3 tsp
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp

Take the flour, baking powder and grated vegetables in a large bowl. To this, add cumin powder, red chilli powder, oregano and salt
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, curd and oil. Add this mixture to the flour mixture. Mix well. Add baking soda and mix gently but thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 175 degrees centigrade. Grease a muffin pan and spoon in some of the mixture into each depression. Sprinkle some sesame seeds or rolled oats on top of the batter and bake for 15-18 minutes.
These can be baked beforehand, refrigerated and then warmed up the next day for breakfast.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#31

Thursday, June 13, 2013

School lunch box - Day 7

I am trying to use mangoes as much as possible before the end of the season. Truth be told, the reason mangoes make an appearance so often in the school lunch box and on our dining table has more to do with the fact that I bought a boxful of mangoes from a wholesale market and less to do with our love for the fruit.
Today, for her breakfast break, the little girl took Sabudana kichdi, for the lunch break - Curd rice and for her snack break, a chopped mango.

Ammini kozhukkattai - savoury steamed rice flour dumplings

Kozhukkattai is a traditional stuffed dumpling that is made during Ganesh Chaturthi. Grated coconut and jaggery, cooked over low heat with a hint of cardamom thrown in, is stuffed into an outer layer of rice flour dough that is shaped by deft hands into a dumpling. This is then steamed, offered to Ganesha whose favourite sweet it is, and then relished by the family.
Ammini kozhukkattai - the bite sized, savoury version - is almost always made on days when the regular sweet kozhukkattai is made. It probably is a dish that was invented when some resourceful woman decided that she would put the left over rice flour dough to good use.
Having grown up in a household where kozhukattais were(and still are) made at the drop of a hat and not just for Ganesh Chathurti, it is little wonder that this bite sized, savoury version is something that I have fond memories of eating.
The only time when dough is made exclusively for ammini kozhukattai, and not as an after thought to the sweeter modak cousins, is during Navaratri when this is made as Neivedyam/prasadam - an offering to the deity.
What you need:
Rice flour - 1 cup
Water - 2 cups
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp (preferably coconut oil)
Fresh grated coconut - 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Broken red chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs

Mix rice flour with one cup of water to a thick, smooth paste. Heat the remaining cup of water along with salt in a heavy bottomed, large pan. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat and add the rice flour paste. Cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture forms a thick ball. Switch off heat. When the dough is warm to the touch, remove it on to a plate, add a teaspoon of coconut oil and knead well. Apply oil on your hands, pinch out small bits of the dough and roll into marble sized balls. Steam these balls in an idli plate/steamer for 8-10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes after switching off the heat.
In a pan, heat a teaspoon of coconut oil. Add urad dal, chana dal and broken red chillies. When the dals start to brown, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add in the curry leaves and the grated coconut. Saute on low heat till the coconut turns reddish brown. Add the cooked kozhukkattais to this. Mix well and heat for 2-3 minutes.
Enjoy as an evening snack or a light tiffin.

Variations : Omit grated coconut. Knead in some red chilli powder to the dough and then proceed with the recipe.
For the recipe of the sweet version of kozhukattai, click here.
This is my second recipe for Blogging Marathon #29, showcasing Kerala Iyer snacks.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vella dosai - whole wheat and jaggery pancakes

Kerala Iyers are Tamil brahmins who migrated out of Tamilnadu some time in the early 13th century and settled down in different parts of Kerala. Kerala Iyer cuisine is an amalgamation of the cuisine of both states and so is the language. The Tamil spoken by Kerala Iyers is so heavily interspersed with Malayalam that it is often jokingly referred to as Talayalam.
There are quite a few dishes that are unique to Kerala Iyer cuisine. In our fast paced world where traditional snacks are being replaced by two minute noodles and out-of-a-packet and into-your-mouth pasta, many of our indigenous snacks are forgotten about. Over the next three days, I will be sharing the recipes of three such evening snacks that used to be (and probably still are in some households) made in Kerala Iyer households. This is a part of Blogging Marathon #29 where the theme I have chosen is Course wise meals from a State - the course here being evening snack/tiffin and the state being Kerala - more specifically, Kerala Iyer cuisine.
Vella dosai is something that can be made in almost no time at all, as long as you have wheat flour and jaggery in hand. It does take a little practice to be able to flip the dosa over without tearing it, but even if it does tear, it tastes really good. Rich and iron and protein, this makes for a filling and nutritious after school snack for children.

What you need:
Jagggery - 3/4 cup
Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
Water - 3/4 cup
Cardamom powder - a pinch (optional)

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the jaggery and water on high power for 30 seconds. Remove, stir well and keep aside for 5-10 minutes. Stir again until jaggery dissolves completely in the water. Add the wheat flour and mix to get a smooth batter. The batter should be of pouring consistency. Add some more water/flour if needed to get the consistency right. Mix in the cardamom powder.
Grease a skillet with ghee and heat it. Pour a ladleful of the batter on the hot skillet and spread into a thick circle. Cook on a medium flame until the bottom turns brown. Flip over and cook the other side until brown spots start to appear on it.
Serve hot with a blob of butter.

Note :
Jaggery tends to burn fast. So take care and ensure that you cook on a low flame.
Jaggery tends to be sticky. You might find it difficult to turn the dosa over and might find it sticking to the pan or the spatula you are using to turn it over. A good quality non-stick pan will take care of this. If not, grease your pan really well and flip the dosa over only when the under side is well browned.
If you want your dosa to be really sweet, add 1 cup of jaggery.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

School Lunch box - Day 6

Day 6 saw the little girl taking the following in her lunch box :
Breakfast break - Bite sized ghee-toasted bread
Lunch break - Vegetable fried rice
Snack break - Pomegranate

The bread is a special favourite of hers and quite easy to make. All that you have to do is cut the slices of bread into nine little squares. Heat ghee in a pan. On low heat, toast the bread in this ghee until crisp and brown. Don't stint on the ghee. That is what makes it delicious and crunchy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

School Lunch Box - Day 5

Today's lunch box was made up of :
Breakfast break - Mixed vegetable paniyaram
Lunch break - Chapati and tri-colour curry
Snack break - Choco chip cherry muffins

To make the tri-colour curry, chop finely 1 onion, two tomatoes and 1 green bell pepper/capsicum. Heat a tsp of oil. Add some cumin seeds to it. Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent. Add in the capsicum and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and salt. At this point, depending on what flavours your child likes, you could add in a tsp of sambar powder or garam masala or even a spoonful of ketchup. Cover and cook on low heat until soft.
The muffins were made with fresh cherries and eaten with much relish. Recipe coming up soon.

Friday, June 07, 2013

School lunch box - Day 4 and my recipe for hummus

Today, the little girl wanted to have food from the school canteen for one of her breaks. The canteen serves healthy, fresh, unprocessed food in keeping with the school's idea of promoting healthy eating habits in children. So, today's lunch box has only what she took for her 1st and 3rd breaks.

Breakfast break - Rava idli
Snack break - Carrot sticks with hummus

Hummus is a delectable, creamy spread which is the Middle East's gift to the rest of the world. I am in love with this spread and so is the little girl. She loves to eat it with carrot sticks. Rich in protein and with a subtle and delicate flavour, this is likely to be a hit with most kids. Needless to say, it is easy to make, generous to a fault and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.
To make hummus, you need:
Chick peas/kabuli chana - 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight.
Garlic - 3 or 4 pods
White sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Thick yogurt - 1/4 cup
Sesame oil - 2 tsp
Olive oil
Salt - to taste
Juice of one lemon

Cook the chick peas until very soft and tender. Drain off excess water and let it cool. Do not throw away the excess water. You can use it to grind the hummus.
In a dry blender jar, blend the sesame seeds and sesame oil to a paste. Add in the thick yogurt and blend again. Add the cooked chick peas, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Blend, adding the reserved water, if necessary, until you get a thick, creamy, smooth paste of spreadable consistency. Remove onto your serving bowl. Add a generous glug of olive oil. Mix well and serve as a dip with vegetable sticks or as a spread for different breads.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

School lunch box - Day 3

Day 3 saw the little girl taking this in her lunch box :

Breakfast break - Poha/Aval upma/Rice flakes upma
Lunch break - 2 rotis with grated carrot stir-fry
Snack break - 1 chopped mango

To make poha/aval upma/rice flakes upma, here's what you need:
Poha - 1 cup (*See notes)
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Tomato - 1, chopped fine
Ginger - a small piece, julienned
Green chilli - 1 or 2(keeping in mind your child's spice tolerance)
Juice of one lemon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Corriander/cilantro leaves - some, chopped, for garnishing
Oil - 1 tbsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few

Note : * If you are using thick poha, soak it in water for 10 minutes. Drain all the water and then squeeze out any excess moisture from the soaked poha.
If you are using thin poha, take it in a colander. Wet it under running water. Let any excess water drain out of the colander and then squeeze out remaining moisture.
Heat oil in a pan. Add the urad and chana dal, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds pop, add ginger and green chillies. Saute for a while and then add chopped onions. Cook until the onions turn translucent. Add in the tomatoes and fry for a minute or two. Reduce the heat and add the poha, turmeric powder and salt. Stir well and heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of a lemon and chopped cilantro. Switch off heat and stir well to mix.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

School lunch box - Day 2

This is what went into the daughter's lunch box today:
Breakfast break - 1 apple, chopped and sprinkled with a little bit of salt to prevent browning
Lunch break - Rice mixed with drumstick sambar and thair pachadi
Snack break - Biscuits
Along with her glass of milk in the morning, she also had a boiled egg.
Here's the recipe for the vendakka(ladies finger/okra) thair(curd) pachadi that I made for her.
Ladies finger/okra - 7 or 8, washed wiped dry and cut into one inch long pieces
Coconut - grated, 1/4 cup
Curd/Yogurt - 3/4 cup
Green chilli - 2 or 3
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Heat oil. Add urad dal and mustard seeds. Once the seeds pop, add the chopped okra and stir fry on low heat until it starts to turn brown and crisp. Switch off heat.
Grind the coconut, chilli and curd to a smooth paste. Add this to the cooked okra and heat until it just starts to froth. Remove from heat and serve with sambar rice.
This is my third post for the Blogging Marathon #29 under the theme Cooking with colours. The colour for today is white.
Check out the"Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29


Monday, June 03, 2013

Strawberry ice cream - Step by step recipe and instructions

This post has been in my drafts ever since we came back from our trip to Mahabaleshwar. To say that Mahabaleshwar is a strawberry lover's idea of heaven would be an understatement. Nowhere else have I tasted such luscious and juicy strawberries. One of the things I made with the whole lot of strawberries I brought back with me is this ice cream. The basic method and recipe used are the same as the one for my mango ice cream

What you need:
Stawberries – hulled and chopped – 2 cups, heaped
Sugar – 1 cup
Milk – 1 litre
Cream – 200 ml (I used one pack of Amul cream)
Maida – 2 tbsp

Step-by-step instructions for making strawberry ice cream:

  • Chop the strawberries into large chunks. 
  • In a large bowl, sprinkle sugar over the chopped strawberries and then leave covered for two hours, allowing the strawberries to macerate. 
  • At the end of two hours, you will see that a lot of juice has oozed out of the strawberries and that most of the sugar has dissolved in the liquid. 
  • Stir once again and then mash the strawberries to a coarse puree with a wooden masher. Set aside.

  • Dissolve the maida/all purpose flour in 1/2 cup of milk and mix to get a smooth, lump-free paste.
  • In a large, heavy bottomed pan, bring the remaining milk and cream to a boil. Reduce the flame and allow the mixture to simmer until it is reduced to half the quantity. 
  • Add in the flour mix, taking care to stir continuously to avoid the formation of lumps.
  •  Let this cool completely and then add the mashed strawberries. 
  • Blend well using your blender/mixie.
  • Freeze for 5-6 hours and then blend again. Repeat this freezing and blending process two more times to get a delicious, creamy texture.
Strawberries give the ice cream a lovely, natural light pink hue, which in my opinion is more pleasing than the colour of store bought strawberry ice cream.
This is my post for the second day of Blogging Marathon #29, under the theme Cooking with Colours. My colour for the day is Red.
Check out the">Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

School lunch box - Day 1

Another school year has begun, and with it, the everyday ritual of breaking my head about what to send in the little girl's lunch box. I have only one criteria in mind when deciding what goes in - It must come back finished. To this end, I have told her that on weekends, she can sit and plan out the entire lunch box menu for the coming week. This way, with her involved in the process, there is less chance of the lunch box coming back home just the way it was packed and sent. She has three breaks in school - a breakfast break, lunch break and an afternoon snack break.
From today, for the rest of this month, I will be posting on the blog, what the little girl's lunch box is comprised of.
Here's today's lunch box menu :

Breakfast break - 2 Cheese rolls.
These are really simple to make. Trim the crust from a slice of bread. Place a strip of cheese in the middle of the bread. Microwave for 10-15 seconds until the cheese just begins to melt. Shape into a roll while the bread is still warm.
Lunch break - 2 rotis and ladies finger(okra/vendakka/bhindi) stir fry. (Check out my recipe for ladies finger stir fry here)
Snack break - 1 pomegranate.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Mambazha pulisseri

Ever since I can remember, the rains have always made an appearance on the first day of school. During my school days, the skies would open up exactly on the day our school reopened. This always made me happy as it meant that I didn't have to wear closed shoes for at least 2 months. I could go to school wearing open toed sandals, feeling the rain water with my toes, armed with a colourful new umbrella.
History seems to have repeated itself because today, my daughter went to school in open toed sandals, wanting to stop and jump in all the puddles along the way. There's something very positive and beautiful about seeing smiling young faces all set to be welcomed into a new school year.
Rain also means that the mango season will end in a few weeks' time. So I have decided to use mangoes in as many ways as I can before they disappear from the market. Today's recipe is for a quintessential dish from Kerala - mambazha pulissery - a tangy and sweet blend of mangoes cooked in spiced, sour curd. I am of the opinion that this dish must have had its beginnings when an innovative cook decided that she wouldn't throw away over-ripe mangoes that the kids didn't seem to want to eat.

What you need:
Ripe mangoes - 5 or 6 (*See note)
Sour curd - 1 cup
Green chilli - 3
Coconut - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Jaggery(optional - use only if the mangoes are not sweet by themselves)
For tempering:
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 2
Methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - a few sprigs

Chop the mangoes(with skin) into large chunks. In a large pan, add the chopped mango, the mango seed, and just enough water to cover the mangoes. Add turmeric powder and let it boil until the mangoes are cooked and tender to touch. Let it cool and then using your hands, squeeze out all the pulp from the skin and the seeeds and then discard the skin and seeds.(#See note) Take the mango pulp and any water that is left over from boiling the mangoes in a large kadai. Grind coconut, green chillies and curd to a smooth paste. Add this paste to the mango pulp along with salt. Let it come to a boil. At  this point, if you feel that the mixture is too thick, add about 1/4 cups of beaten curd. Once you add the curd, do not let the mixture boil. Switch off heat once it starts frothing.
Heat all the tempering ingredients in a pan. Once the mustards seeds pop, pour the tempering over the pulisseri and serve warm with rice.

Note : * Typically, a small variety of mango called the kootan mambazham/nattumambazham is used. These are small and can easily fit into the fist of an adult. If you cannot find these, use any fleshy variety, but reduce the quantity of mango used. I was lucky enough to find something similar to the kootan mambazham we get in Kerala when we had gone to Murud(read travelogue here).
# You can choose to let the mango, with skin and seeds to remain in the pulisseri and that is how a lot of people enjoy this curry. However, in my household, the mango pieces are carefully set aside and later thrown away untouched. So I used this method to ensure that the fruit is not wasted.
This is my entry for Blogging Marathon #29 under the theme Cooking with colours. The colour I have chosen for the first day is Yellow.
Check out the">Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#29

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai - Book Review

A few weeks back, I had an email from Rishi Vohra, the author of Once upon the tracks of Mumbai, asking if I would be willing to review his debut novel Once upon the tracks of Mumbai. After checking out his website and reading the blurbs in it, I agreed.
The book has a well though out, robust plot. The story revolves around the protagonist - Balwant Srivastav aka Babloo. "They" said that [Babloo] had psychiatric porblems. That [he] was autistic. "They" said that [he] was schizophrenic and psychotic. That [he] had split personality disorder. "They" stand for every one in Babloo's world - his parents, his brother, his doctor, his neighbours. Every one, that is, except Vandana - the love of Babloo's life. Vandana is a modern day woman who yearns for the typical fairy tale romance. She waits for the Prince Charming who will take her away from her dreary life at the railway colony.
Into this simple love story, enters Railway Man - a real life hero whose mission in life seems to be the prevention of crimes along the railway tracks of Mumbai.
Will Vandana find her Prince Charming or will she, like millions of her country women, settle for a person of her parents' choice?
What about Babloo's love for her? Will it succeed?
Who is Railway Man?
To find out, pick up a copy of the book today.
What I liked about the novel:
The crisp narrative and the robust plot.
The way in which the characters have been sketched. Every character is well thought out and readers will be able to identify with the characters and the situations that the characters find themselves in. The girl with dreams in her eyes, the middle class parents who worry about what their neighbours will say, the hurry to get their daughter married off before she becomes "too old", the rich road side Romeo and his side kicks, the parents who make no attempt to understand their autistic child - these are people that exist outside the realms of this book, in the world around you and me.
The unusual choice of protagonist. I have rarely come across an Indian author who chooses as his protagonist, a person with a mental illness. I laughed and cried with Babloo, feeling sad that he existed only at the periphery of his family's everyday life and felt happy that he felt strong enough to ignore what everybody said about him.
Overall, Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai is a wonderful, breezy read and at a price of Rs 175, definitely value for money - a purchase that you will not regret.
For more information on the book/author, please visit 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Murud - a travelogue

If you like the kind of vacation that is packed choc-a-bloc with things-to-do and sights to see, if you carry lists where you tick off what you've done and what you are yet to do, stop reading right now. This post is not for you. This is for the relaxed traveller - the one who lets a holiday play out as it will, the one who is not in a tearing hurry to get to the next tourist destination that is marked out in the guide, the one who is willing to live in and savour in its entirety, every moment that presents itself.
If you are still reading this, despite that rather lengthy warning, allow me to tell you about this beautiful slice of paradise right here on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Located in the Raigadh district of Maharashtra, Murud is roughly 160 km from Mumbai.
Getting there:
We drove down from Navi Mumbai and took the Panvel-Karnala-Pen-Alibaug-Revdanda-Kashid-Murud route. The Alibaug-Kashid-Murud stretch offers stunning views of the coast and you will be tempted to stop at quite a few place just to take in the beauty of the sea. Trust me, give in to that temptation and stop as many times as you want to. You will not regret it. It took us close to 5 hours to reach Murud, mostly because there was road work going on in several stretches along the route and traffic moved very slowly at these places.
One of the things that can make or break a good holiday is the place that you choose to stay in. The Golden Swan Beach Resort which we stayed in at Murud made our vacation absolutely delightful. One of the major plus points of this resort is that it is located right on the beach. There is a little gate that opens out from the property on to the vast expanse of water. At high tide, the water comes right up to the steps that lead down from this gate, leaving behind a beautiful expanse of patterned sand and shells of various hues at low tide.
Our private gateway to paradise

The resort offers water sports in the form of jet skiing and a banana boat. There is also a horse and buggy ride available during the low tide.
 AC and non-Ac rooms as well as small cottages are available at the resort for a reasonable price. For the three of us, with all three meals included, it cost a little over 6000 Rs inclusive of taxes, for a stay of 2 days and 1 night.

Food was decent, though not exceptional. It would have helped if the fare had offered more variety. Also, the rooms were a tad small for my liking. Considering that we live in space starved Mumbai, we like to have a little more space to move around in when we go out on a vacation. That said, the resort has made effective use of the space it had by providing a loft bed in the room which the little girl enjoyed immensely. Service is impeccable and the staff were very helpful and cordial.

What to see:
Disclaimer : We didn't see any of the 'sights' listed below. The beach was so beautiful and so close and so tempting, that we spent all our time being total beach bums.

The beach itself - Unlike the crowded, touristy beaches of Kashid and Alibaug which are close by, this one, especially the part of the beach you enter from the resort, has very few people in it. The beaches of Kashid look cleaner because of the white sand, but once you decide to look past the colour of the sand, you will realize that the Murud beach is beautiful. It is not very deep in most places, the water is clear and the sea is calm enough for you to sit/stand/jump around in it for as long as you please.The little girl has a decent collection of shells now, including a small, perfectly shaped conch shell.

The main beach is about a kilometre by walk from the private entrance that our resort offered, but it is not as clean. So, other than taking a walk to the main beach early in the morning, we decided to stick to our private expanse of the water for the duration of our stay. Fishing boats can be seen in the distance, as can the silhouette of the invincible Padmadurg fort. We were told that at present, people are not being allowed into the Padmadurg fort as parts of it had broken off and it wasn't safe.
The Padmadurg fort can be seen in the distance in this pic
Idgah - About 2.5 kms from the resort, this is the highest point in Murud and offers a spectacular view of the entire town.

Janjira fort - The name Murud is closely associated with the Janjira fort which can be reached from the Rajpuri jetty which is about 5 kms from Murud. Very often the town itslef is called Murud-Janjira. We were told that old fashioned sail boats take you to the once-invincible fort.

The return journey took less time as the traffic was much better. We stopped at a store selling Konkani foods and bought coconut chikki, mango wadis, different kinds of papads, kokum agal, some konkani spice powders which I need to google to find out the uses of  and lots of farm fresh mangoes.
If at all you plan to visit Murud, I would highly recommend staying at the Golden Swan beach Resort. This is not a paid promotion or advertisement, but a highly satisfied customer opinion.
This goes to Patricia's Weekly story - Week #15 at her beautiful blog Colours Dekor.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Torcettini - Yeasted cookies

The fourth bake chosen by Aparna for We Knead to bake is a yeasted cookie called Torcettini. Before reading the recipe that she sent out to the group, I had no idea that a cookie made using yeast as one of the ingredients even existed. This cookie, from the town of Saint Vincent in Valle d'Aosta, a small mountainous region in Italy, is quite easy to make and tastes crisp on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside. It is not overly sweet and makes for a wonderful tea-time snack.

What you need: (Original recipe adapted by Aparna from A Baker's Tour by Nick Malgieri)  

All purpose flour/Maida - 1.5 cups
Warm water - 1/2 cup
Active dry yeast - 1 1/4 tsp
Unsalted butter - a little less than 2 level tbsp, cold and cut into small pieces
Lemon zest - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Sugar - 1/3 cup

Dissolved the yeast in warm water and keep aside, covered for about 10 minutes until frothy.
Mix the maida, salt and butter together in a large mixing bowl, until crumbly. Add the lemon zest and yeast mixture. Knead to a smooth, pliable dough. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, turning over so that the dough is well coated with oil. Cover and keep aside until the dough rises. This dough doesn't really double, but looks puffy, and when you pinch out a small bit, the inside looks like a honeycomb. Punch down the dough, transfer it to an airtight container or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or for upto 24 hours. Mine was in the fridge for close to three hours.

Shaping the cookies
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out into an approximately 6 inch square. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into four strips of roughly equal width. Cut each strip further into six pieces, making 24 pieces in all.
Roll each piece into an approx. 5 inch rope. Sprinkle a little sugar on your counter top and roll the rope on the sugar, taking care to coat the dough on all sides uniformly. Make a loop with the rope, crossing it over before the ends.
Place the torcettini on an ungreased baking pan, leaving an inch between them. Keep aside for 15-20 minutes until they rise a little.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees centigrade for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely and store in an air tight container at room temperature.

Note: The original recipe asks that you bake the cookies in a pan lined with parchment paper. However, after reading comments from others in the group about how the caramelised sugar from the bottom of the cookies made them stick to the parchment, making it difficult to remove, I decided to bake them directly in the pan. The cookies could be removed easily from the pan once they had cooled.
These are crisp on the outside the day they are baked, but become softer from the next day. I actually liked them better the day after they were baked.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gooseberries steeped in spiced curd - Mor nellikkai

Indian gooseberries(amla/awla in Hindi, nellikka in Malayalam, nellikkai in Tamil) are power packed with  anti-oxidants and Vitamin C. Believed by many to help in slowing down the aging process, this fruit is used extensively in the Indian sub continent for hair and skin care.
The fruit, aside from its appealingly fresh and soothing green colour, is sharply acidic and slightly bitter to taste. When it is marinated in curd and a select blend of spices, its sourness is toned down by the salt and the chilli powder and it turns into a flavourful treat for the palate. The characteristic aroma of fenugreek and mustard tease the taste buds as soon as you open the jar of this pickle, making you want to dig in.

What you need:
(Recipe source : Chitra amma's kitchen)
Gooseberry - 500 gms (for me, 17 large gooseberries weighed 500 gms)
Thick curd/yoghurt - 3 cups, whipped until smooth (Use fresh curd that is not sour)
Oil - 2 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a generous sprinkling

Powder together : 2 tbsp of mustard and 2 tbsp of fenugreek seeds (both raw)

Wash and wipe the gooseberries dry. Make incisions on the berries across the segments, without cutting through completely.
Heat oil. Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add asafoetida, immediately followed by the gooseberries and salt. Mix well, cover and cook on low heat, stirring every now and then, until the gooseberries appear to be almost done. Add the red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Heat for a minute or two more until the raw smell of the chilli powder is gone. Leave it in the pan to cool completely.  When cooled, add the whipped curd and the powdered spices. Mix well. At this point, taste for salt and add more if needed. Allow the mixture to marinate for 24 hours. I didn't want the pickle to end up too sour. So I transferred it to a clean, dry jar and let it marinate in the refrigerator for a day. This can be stored, refrigerated, for up to a month(I had eaten my way through mine by then).
This tastes great with some cooked rice and a dollop of ghee/sesame oil, with dosas and idlis and also with rotis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Onion tomato corriander thokku/chutney

The days are getting hotter and hotter. Summer, technically at least, is still a month away but the temperature where I live is already in the 40s. This means that spending time in the kitchen is something that I progressively avoid. These days I have taken to cooking late in the evening so that the sun doesn't glare at me blindingly through the kitchen window. The next day's lunch is usually made,packed and refrigerated during these relatively cooler hours. This onion-tomato-corriander thokku is something that I put together last night. It started out as the tomato thokku that I regularly make as an accompaniment for methi theplas, but then I thought why not add in some onion and corriander, both ingredients which make for awesome thokku by themselves. And as they say, the rest is history and this recipe was born.

What you need:
Onion - 2, medium sized, cut into large chunks
Tomato - 9, medium sized, cut into large pieces
Coriander - 1/3 cup, chopped
Garlic - 6 cloves
Green/red chilli - 2 (adjust to taste - I made mine only mildly spicy)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Split urad dal - 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal - 1 tsp

Grind to a smooth paste onions, tomato, corriander, garlic and chilli. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, urad and bengal gram dal. When the mustard seeds pop, reduce the heat and add the ground mixture to the pan. Add turmeric powder and salt. Mix well, cover and let it cook, stirring every now and then to avoid burning, until all the moisture evaporates and the mixture becomes thick.
Serve with methi theplas/roti/puri/idli/dosa.....well, it goes well with just about anything. Makes for a flavourful sandwich spread too.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Vanilla cupcake

My luggage, when I was going back to hostel after vacations, used to be mostly comprised of several large steel dabbas filled with ribbon pakoda, murukku and sweets. I am sure I must have been quite a strange sight on the bus that I took from home to hostel. Where most people would expect a college student to travel with books and clothes, here I was with no books, a small bag of clothes and a large number of steel containers. Despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of sweets, my mother would make maida cake, seven cup cake, rava laddoo and rava kesari so that  I could take it back for my friends who had not one, but many sweet teeth.
This vanilla cupcake, which I tried from Joyofbaking is easy to make and will definitely enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

What you need:(Recipe source : Joyofbaking)
All purpose flour/maida - 1.5 cups

Butter - 1/2 cup (softened, at room temperature)
Sugar - 2/3 cups
Eggs - 3
Baking powder - 1.5 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Milk - 1/4 cup
Vanilla essence - 1.5 tsp

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Add the flour mixture and the milk to the wet ingredients, alternately and in three additions, beating well each time.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees centigrade. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan/muffin liners until 3/4th full and bake for 15-18 minutes or until done.
I have topped the cupcake with whipped cream frosting and some multi-coloured sprinkles.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#26
This goes to Kamalika who is hosting Kids' Delight, brain child of Srivalli, themed on Back to Hostel Food.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Crisp murukku

The hostel I stayed has this rule wherein all students stay in a common room for the first few months. Common rooms are allotted based on the batch, year and course of study. So the 7 girls who joined the course I enrolled for got to share a room. Kerala is notorious for its power cuts. Even before the rest of the country woke up to the reality of power cuts, we were used to having no power twice a day for half an hour each. Joining a new course, sharing a room with no fans(or was there one fan?) with seven other girls, trying to read a book in the dim glow of the yellow bulb in low voltage - all this might not seem very appealing, but believe me, when I think back, I hardly remember the lack of creature comforts. What I remember is making 2 minute Maggi for an hour in a kettle that took forever to boil water because of the low voltage, using an iron box to roast papads(trust works.....though I would recommend cleaning the iron really well before using it on your clothes again), eating your friend's dates pickle with bread at midnight because you just felt like it, staying out well past midnight on days there was a fest in the university and days when there weren't any, eating at thattukadas(roadside eateries on wheels) and drinking tea at all times of the day. Though our hostel food was nothing to write home about, all seven of us piled our plates high with rice, helped ourselves to the watery brown thing that passed off for sambar, the vegetable that was usually decent and then, we added our secret ingredient which we hoarded and ate a little of every day - something that was packed with love from home. It could be dates pickle one day, beetroot pickle the next, Vathal kozhambu mix, paruppu podi or curry leaves powder another day - and it is these little parcels of food from home that ensured that our taste buds didn't die a slow death brought on by the sourest yoghurt that mankind ever saw. I got into the habit of eating murukku or ribbon pakoda with rice during my years in the hostel. There were days when bread, jam and murukku translated into a tasty breakfast. This murukku that I am sharing with you today is tasty, crisp and keeps well for a long time if stored in an air tight box.

What you need: (Recipe source : 100 murukkus and mixtures - Mallika Badrinath)
Rice flour - 1 cup
Bengal gram flour/besan - 1 cup
Roasted gram flour/pottukadala maavu - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Red chilli powder - to taste
Sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
Vegetable shortening/vanaspati - 1.5 tbsp
Oil - for deep frying(I used Fortune Rice Bran Health oil which I have reviewed here)

Take all the flours in a large mixing bowl.  Add the vegetable shortening and blend well with your finger tips until the flour is crumbly.

 A test to know if you have added enough shortening is to shape the flour into a ball after mixing the shortening well. If it holds its shape you have added enough fat.
Add sesame seeds, salt and red chilli powder. Mix well.

Now add water little by little and knead to thick dough.
Using the three star shaped disc, prepare small murukkus on a polythene sheet.

Once you have four or five, deep fry them in hot oil.

Drain off excess oil and once completely cool, store in an airtight container.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#26
This post is a part of Healthy & Tasty Recipe Contest with Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil & 
This goes to Kamalika who is hosting Kids' Delight, brain child of Srivalli, themed on Back to Hostel Food.

Onion capsicum pakoda

There was an era when "I will send you off to a hostel" was used by parents as a threat to make unruly children toe the line. Anybody who has lived in a hostel, though, will laugh and tell you that it is a totally baseless threat. The two years that I lived in a hostel are the years that I look back on with fond memories and a smile on my face. The independence that comes with living away from your folks is something that I feel every person must experience. One of the things that me and my hostel mates loved is the day that we would all come back to the hostel after a vacation. Each one of us carried back to the hostel something special from home - pickles, sweets, snacks, podis and chutneys - food in quantities that would last months in a small household would vanish within days in our room.
There are a lot of things that amma would pack for me and my friends in the two years that I lived away from home and I will catalog some of them in this Blogging Marathon where the theme I have chosen is Kids' Delight - Back to Hostel food.
These crisp, hot pakodas which are made without adding any water to the batter last for 2-3 days at room temperature. However, if you do pack them off to your kids' hostel, I guarantee that the kids will finish it off long before tea-time.

What you need:
Onion - 1, chopped very fine
Capsicum - a small one, sliced very thin and small
Besan/gram flour - 3/4 cup
Rice flour - 3/4 cup(Use 1 cup if you want the pakodas to be very crisp)
Red chilli powder - 1.5 tsp
Hot oil/vegetable shortening/vanaspati/ghee - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - for deep frying( I used Fortune Rice Bran Health oil which I have reviewed here)

Take the chopped onion and capsicum in a bowl. Add 1/2 tsp of salt to it and rub well with your fingers. Cover and keep this aside for ten minutes. Rubbing salt on to the chopped veggies helps them release water.
Add the flours, red chilli powder and more salt if needed. Mix well. Add the hot oil and mix again.

 At this stage if the mixture still seems a little dry to you, it is fine. Let it rest covered for at least 30 minutes. 
You will see that sufficient moisture has been released by the vegetables and that you will be able to knead the flour to a thick dough.
 Pinch out small marble sized portions of this dough and deep fry in hot oil until it is crisp and well browned. Drain out excess oil.

When it is completely cool, pack in an air tight container and send it to your kids' hostel where it will become a huge hit and you will get requests for it the next time your child is back home.

Note: This can be made with onion alone or by adding any vegetable of your choice to the onion. Cabbage, ladies finger and cashew nut are some of the ingredients that can be added. 

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#26
This post is a part of Healthy & Tasty Recipe Contest with Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil & 
This goes to Kamalika who is hosting Kids' Delight, brain child of Srivalli, themed on Back to Hostel Food.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil - A product review

Rice Bran oil is the new buzzword in Indian markets and advertisements touting its healthy value are in plenty. When blogadda sent me an email asking if I would like to review Fortune's Rice Bran Health oil, I decided to jump on the bandwagon too and see for myself what the benefits of using this oil were.
I am reviewing this healthy heart oil as a part of the BlogAdda's Product Review Program for Indian Bloggers.'

A 2 litre can of the oil arrived, neatly packed in a recycled box and I have been using it for my regular cooking since then. Here's a look at the use that Fortune's Rice Bran Health oil has been put to in my kitchen.
It has been used to make a simple stir fry with methi leaves (recipe coming up soon)

Mixed vegetable kuzhi paniyaram for an evening snack (recipe here)
to fry up some perfectly delicious puris and pappadams

and to make the best and easiest murukku ever (recipe here).

Now, after doing all this, I sat wondering how I was going to "review" this oil? I couldn't just say that I made all this and that the oil worked just fine, could I? So, I've compared this oil, on certain parameters, to the two oils that I use regularly in my kitchen - refined oil and coconut oil.
Odour - While coconut oil has a distinct odour that I absolutely love, though not everybody shares that love, Fortune's rice bran oil is almost odourless. I say almost because there is a very, very light sweetish odour which you can discern if you sniff hard enough :-)
Colour - While the refined oil I use and coconut oil are colourless, the rice bran oil has a light yellowish shade, which, however does not detract from its uses.
Viscocity - Found almost no difference on this count, except that it seems to be a runnier  and hence lighter oil when compared to olive oil.
Fortune also claims that Rice Bran oil has the following health benefits:
  • Heart friendly as it a cholesterol lowering oil
  • One of the key ingredients in this oil is Oryzanol which is said to improve HDL/LDL ratios.
  • The balance of Poly unsaturated Fatty acids and Mono unsaturated fatty acids in this oil is stated to be ideal for cleaner blood vessels.
  • The presence of Tocotrienols and phytosterols gives it anti-cancer properties.
  • Squalene - an ingredient in the oil helps improve skin tone and delays wrinkle formation.
  • Vitamin E helps maintain balance of nervous system.
  • Natural antioxidants protect against various diseases.
  • Ferulic acid stimulates hormonal secretion and rejuvenates health.
When I used this oil for deep frying, one of the things that I really liked is that the food did not seem to "drink" oil. The oil absorption was quite low. All in all, I would say that at an MRP of Rs 115 per litre, which is only slightly higher than most refined oils, this is something you should try out at least once.