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.