Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year



I meant to post this yesterday but was busy cooking from 11 in the morning, as I had friends coming home for dinner. It was a very white christmas in Denver and looked pretty. Few pics from the dinner.


Clockwise from top: Tomato-mint raita, Curd rice, Vegetable kurma, Egg masala, Chicken fry, Vegetable biriyani, Chicken biriyani, Gobi 65

For desert it was Black Forest cake that I make every year for Christmas. I will try to post the recipe as soon as possible.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Diamond cuts and Ribbon Pakoda

Having to stay indoors because of the snow, I decided to make more Christmas goodies today. Diamond cuts are a tradition back home and my mom would make kilos of these to distribute to our neighbors. Since I had taken out some oil to fry the diamond cuts, I decided to use the remaining oil to make ribbon pakoda. I had to call my aunt back home to get the recipe as I've never made these before. Both the treats came out well and I've already started distributing these to my friends. I will be baking my special black forest cake on Sunday and will try to post the recipe as soon as possible.
Diamond cuts
Ingredients:

Wheat flour - 2 cups (all purpose flour can also be used or half of each can be used)
Salt - 1 tsp
Water - enough to make a dough
Sugar (powdered) - enough to coat the fried diamond cuts
Oil - for deep frying

Method:

Add the flour, salt and enough water to make a soft dough. Make small balls and roll out each ball into thin circles. Cut diamond shape by diagonally making lines with a sharp knife. Deep fry the cut diamonds till they turn golden brown and crunchy. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle powdered sugar on top while they are still hot. Let it cool and store in an air tight container. They will stay good for about 2 weeks. They are easy to make if you have an additional hand to sprinkle the powdered sugar, on top of the hot diamond cuts removed from the oil. This is an important step as the coating of oil sticking onto the diamond cuts will absorb the sugar and help in providing an even coating of sugar.

Ribbon pakoda:

Ingredient:

Gram flour - 1.5 cup
Rice flour - 1.5 cup
Salt - as needed
Chilli powder - as needed
Asafoetida - 1/2 tsp
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Oil - for deep frying

Method:

Heat oil in a pan. In a mixing bowl sieve together gram flour, rice flour, baking soda and salt. Add 2 tsp hot oil and enough water and mix to form a soft dough. Fill either a cookie press or muruku press fitted with the flat thin ribbon pakoda disc, with enough dough and squeeze on top of the hot oil. Fry till they turn golden brown. Remove from heat, let cool and then store in air tight container. Because of the gram flour the dough becomes hard easily, so you need to mix a little water every time you are refilling the cookie press or the muruku maker.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Snow, Snow and more Snow: Solution? - A Moist Christmas Fruit cake

I've been in the US for about 6yrs now and have never seen so much snow. It started early yesterday morning and continued for more than a day. Everything is now covered with snow here, in Colorado. My car got stuck in the driveway yesterday and leaving it out was a big mistake. This morning I woke up to find my car completely buried in snow. It took about 4hrs of shoveling and finally my fiance and I managed to pull the car out and clear part of the driveway. As a result of the drifting snow we saw about 3 to 4 feet of snow in some places and it was very difficult clearing it. The amount of snow that most of Colorado received was about 25 inches and in some places, upto 50 inches. That is a lot of snow for one day. The Denver International Airport closed yesterday and will remain closed till about noon tomorrow. There are about 5000 people stuck at the airport and are waiting to reach their destination in time for Christmas. All news channels have been covering this and have also named it "THE HOLIDAY BLIZZARD" but honestly it doesn't feel very holiday at all. Here are a few pictures from this morning.


First look from my garage

A neighbor having a fun ride in his snowmobile

The lump in the middle and the black spot are the only indications of my car.


Finally my car breathes fresh air again

The roads in our community have still not been cleared which simply means, if you don't have a truck you have to stay indoors for a day or two. Staying inside means, I get to finish most of Christmas treats now. Nothing cheers me up better than a freshly baked sweet treat, so decided to make a fruit cake. I baked about 2 big cakes and cut each into halves and packed them to be given as gifts for Christmas to a few friends. This is a simple fruit cake recipe that my mom makes every yr and I've made this for the past couple of yrs. It does not have a dark color to it, as it uses normal sugar instead of brown sugar (which I've never seen in Indian shops). I did make a few changes to the cake but for the most part its the exact same recipe as my mom's. I soaked the dry fruits in brandy for about 3 days and added a cup of orange juice, 3hrs before baking. This ensures that the fruits become very moist. Also the liquid can be used for brushing the cake after baking.



Ingredients:

Flour (maida) - 250gm
Sugar - 250gm
Butter - 250gm
Eggs - 5 (I used 6 eggs to compensate for the high altitude baking)
Vanilla essence - 2 tbsp
Baking powder - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Butter - 1 tbsp (for coating the baking pan)
Maida - 2 tbsp (for coating the baking pan and sprinkling on the fruits)
Candied fruits/peels, Chopped dates, raisins & dried plums - 2 cups
Fruit flavored liquor or brandy or orange juice - 1 cup

Method:

Soak the chopped fruits in liquor or rum or orange juice for two to three days. Drain the fruits and sprinkle a tbsp of flour on top, as this stops the fruits from sinking to bottom of the cake while baking. Save the drained liquid for latter use. Beat together, room temperature butter and sugar till creamy (about 15min). I use powdered sugar as it mixes fast with the butter. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating till all the eggs are incorporated and the mixture is creamy (about 10min). Add the vanilla essence and mix. Sieve together flour, baking powder and salt. This helps to prevent lumps. Fold in the flour mix to the wet creamy mixture in small batches. Finally fold in the fruits and bake in a 350F oven. Baking time depends on the size of your baking pan (about 20-30min usually). Bake till the top surface of the cake turns light brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Finally after the cake cools down, you can brush it with the saved drained liquor. This adds moisture to the cake. You can continue brushing the cake with the liquor for a couple more days and that helps it stay fresh longer.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Coffee cake - Getting into the Christmas mood

Lately I've been very busy as I am going to India for 5 weeks in Jan and so have to finish up a lot of stuff at work. I still try to visit all my favorite blogs and keep myself updated but don't have the time to comment. Will try to be more proactive. I am getting married to the love of my life in Jan, so am very excited about this India trip and that also means there might be a big blogging break. I am trying to write up some additional entries so that I can post those in Jan but don't know if I will have the extra time to do that amidst my crazy shopping and wedding preparation schedule.

Christmas is a time when I get the most home sick and miss my family a lot. No matter how much I decorate the house with trees & stars or cook, it is not the same as celebrating it with my family back home. Its my 6th Christmas away from family. I always play some Christmas music in the house in Dec, start baking from the middle of Dec, start wrapping gifts early and invite friends for a Christmas dinner. This helps forget missing family a bit. So this year I started with a Streusel Coffee cake, that I wanted to take to work. Went home early yesterday and it took about 30min preparation time and 35min to bake. I brought it to work today and shared it with my colleagues and everyone seemed to like it. The recipe is from the net with a few changes to suit my taste.



Ingredients:

For the topping:
Maida (or All-purpose flour) - 1 cup
Brown sugar (tightly packed) - 1 cup
Butter (at room temperature) - 1/2 cup
Walnuts or Pecans (chopped) - 1/2 cup

For the Cake:
Butter (at room temperature) - 1 cup
Brown sugar (tightly packed) - 3/4 cup
Granulated white sugar - 1/2 cup
Eggs - 2
Vanilla essence - 2 tsp
Maida (or All-purpose flour) - 2 cups
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Milk - 1/3 cup

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the topping just combine all the topping ingredients together with hand to get the consistency of moist sand. For the cake, in a large missing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. It took me about 15min. Always remember to use room temperature butter for making cakes. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating. Add vanilla essence and mix well. Sieve together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this dry mixture to the moist ingredients a little bit at a time. Add milk as and when necessary and mix well. Pour the batter into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been buttered and dusted with a light coating of flour. Sprinkle the topping over the batter and cover the batter completely. I used maida and light brown sugar for this cake. Bake cake for 35 minutes or until the edges just begin to turn light brown. Insert a fork in the middle and pull out to see if the cake is cooked. Cool and slice and serve. This cake is not too sweet and is a good early morning coffee cake. A tsp of cinnamon can be added to the topping to give it a more festive flavor.



A few pictures of my Christmas tree. I just love to decorate it as it really brings in the Christmas mood.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Moong Dal Vada

Ive been trying to experiment with differnt types of dal and so bought whole moong dal (the green colored dal with skin on). My first attempt with this dal was vada which came out pretty well.

Ingredients:

Moongdal(soaked for 2 hrs) - 1 cup
Channa dalia (powdered) - 1/2 cup
Ginger - 1/2 inch
Green chillies - 2
Onion (finely chopped) - 1/2
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Curry leaves - 1 tbsp
Salt - as needed
Oil - for frying

Method:

Gring the moondal with ginger and green chillies and without adding any water. If you are using an Indian mixer this should grind fine, else you need to sprinkle little water to grind this into a coarse paste. Add chopped onions, coriander leaves, curry leaves and enough channa dalia powder to get the consistency of a stiff dough. Make lemon sized balls out of this, pat it into flat patties in your palm and deep fry it till golden brown. Serve as an evening snack or appetizer with chutney or sambar of your choice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mutton suka varuaval (mutton dry fry)

Mutton used to be my favorite in India and also readily available. Here in Colorado, I have to drive 1hr one way to get goat meat, so its becoming an exotic dish lately. Also because of this I end up buying it in bulk and hence will be relishing on mutton for a whole week. So this week I will be posting a few goat meat recipes. This is a very dry dish which is a bit spicy but can be served with rice or just as an appetizer.

Ingredients:

Mutton (1 inch cubes) - 200gms
Onion (finely chopped) - 1
Green chillies (slit) - 2
Curry leaves - a sprig
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1 tsp
Saunf (fennel seeds) - 1 tsp
Pepper powder - 1 tbsp
Jeera (cumin) powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Turmeric - a pinch
Oil - 3 tbsp
Salt - as needed

Method:

Pressure cook the mutton with jeera, saunf and a pinch of turmeric with just enough water to cover the meat, for about 8 whistles. Heat oil in a pan and add chopped onions. Once the onions turn translucent add green chillies, curry leaves, ginger garlic paste, pepper powder, jeera powder, coriander powder, garam masala, salt and the cooked mutton. Fry in low heat till all the raw smell disappears from the powders and the mutton gets coated and roasted evenly. Serve hot with rice and sambar.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Beetroot-Jaggery halwa

Honestly I was not happy with the JFI-jaggery announcement by Kay of Towards a Better Tomorrow, as I use jaggery only for chakara pongal (sweet rice) and dont experiment with it at all. But after days of thinking I decided to make beetroot halwa with jaggery. Ive only made carrot halwa in the past so decided to try something new as suggested by kay. I was sure that the method was almost the same, but decided to replace sugar with jaggery. The end result was very tasty and different.

Some more useful information about the goodness of jaggery that I obtained from the net. Jaggery is often used for ayurvedic medicinal purposes.It is very useful for dry cough, cough with sputum, indigestion and constipation. Jaggery has potassium, which conserves the acid balance in cells and combats acids and acetone. It is also rich in iron, and especially recommended for expectant and lac­tating mothers.

I am thinking that from now on I will be using more of jaggery in my dishes, thanks Kay.

Ingredients:

Beetroot (grated) - 2 cups
Jaggery (powdered coarsely) - 1 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Half and Half - 1 cup
Cardomom powder - 1 tsp
Cashews (broken) - 20 pieces
Raisins - 20
Ghee - 3 tbsp
Water - 1 cup

Mehtod:

Boil water in a pan and add the jaggery powder and let it melt (This can be done in the microwave too). Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel and roast the cashews and raisins to a golden color. Remove and keep aside. In the same pan add the remaining tbsp ghee and fry the shredded beetroot for a few minutes. If your'e kitchen is well lit you will notice a change in color. Add the milk and half and half and cook in medium heat till most of the liquid evaporates. Add the jaggery water and cardomom powder and continue stirring till the halwa reached desired consistency.I like mine a little semisolid. Add the roasted cashews and raisins and remove from heat and serve it warm. Remember that the beetroot shrinks so not matter how much quantity you start with the end product is always less. But definitely a small portion of this halwa goes a long way.