Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mixed grain savory biscuits.

You know your transition from US to India is complete when you start calling 'cookies' biscuits. There is no major story behind this post, except we baked these for N's dad. He is a connoisseur of baked goodies. But more importantly, he has diabetes but he doesn't behave like he has it. Fresh pineapple cake from Sweet Chariot, gulab jaamuns made by N's mother, butter cookies from Cakewaala, some of our muffins (that makes us accomplices in crime) are just the tip of the icesugarberg.

So we decided to be responsible (read ran out of sugar but promised to bake something for him) children and took these savory biscuits instead. This is pretty easy and quick to make. Probably takes about an hour to hour and a half from sifting the ingredients to getting about 30 biscuits out of the oven. Here's how we did it.

Ingredients (we made 29 cookies so we'll round it off to 30. You do a better job of cutting them OK?)

1/2 c maida/all purpose flour
1/2 c oats
1/4 cup ground flax meal
2 tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp aata
1/2 c melted (and cooled) butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp salt
a pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/3 c roasted and chopped nuts (we used a mixture of almonds, cashew and pistachios)
1/2 c milk (if you're using already boiled milk in the fridge, make sure to add the malai/cream. Good way to use it :) )

1. Sift the dry ingredients together, twice. Add the chopped nuts and toss.

2. Add the wet ingredients and mix them until they come together. We use a hand beater for this. Knead a couple of times to bring everything together. Do not over-mix.

3. Shape this into an 8-9 inch disc and put it in a bowl. Cover it. Let it sit in the freezer for 20-30 mins. (It could sit there for 4-5 days but you'll have to thaw it a bit before step 4 & 5).

4. In the meantime, preheat oven to 180 C with a rack placed in the middle.

5. Remove the dough, roll it further and shape into a rectangle (or whatever shape), about 1/2" thick. Cut into rectangular pieces with a knife.

6. Line a cookie tray with aluminum foil sprinkled with some cornmeal. Place the cookies, leaving a 1/2" gap between two pieces. Bake for about 12-14 mins. Baking time varies from oven to oven and how thick the biscuits are, but for the last 2-3 mins of baking, turn both the top and bottom heaters on to make them nice and golden throughout.

7. Remove the biscuits and put them on a wire rack for cooling.

8. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

Pack them when they're lukewarm for your friends/family or just have some with chai. This recipe is quite versatile. You could use kasuri methi, cumin seeds, nigella seeds and even carom seeds/ajwain or pretty much anything to suit your taste. Go ahead, give them a shot!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shakshouka, Mexican style!

I love one-pot meals. And I love brunch-ey meals. I wait for weekends for 2 things. More sleep and slightly- more-elaborate-than-cereal brunch or breakfast. Shubha, one our partners in crime when it comes to food and eating out kept mentioning Shakshouka to A and me every time we spoke of food. Which is everytime we meet :) She went to Turkey on a holiday and came back with more Shakshouka stories. I kept thinking that we should make it and postponed it quite a bit until I found a stunning recipe (In fact, the pictures were so inspiring. Go to her blog and see why ;)) at the Sassy Earl Grey blog.  That. Was. It. 

It's been raining gloriously in Bangalore this month. Rain makes me really, really happy. I love eating traditional, warm, spicy food during winters and the rain. And this recipe seemed to fit into our lives at the right time - a cloudy morning in July. Some of my best memories of my relationship with A have been around food. Sitting with him after a round of elaborate cooking and digging into hot food together.

A and I've totally lost the interest in setting up props and taking pictures and processing them and then posting them on the blog. We've been bitten by the Instagram and Twitter bug. We take pictures on our phones and post it on these social networks and get done with it. A lot of the times, we have people asking us for those recipes (I know, so celebrity-like :D) and we keep promising to write back. You know how that goes, don't you? So, we are making a conscious attempt to get back to everyone who's asked us for recipes. This happened via email for the last couple of weeks, and then I thought I should put it down here going forward. All over again, yes.

So, here it goes :)

Apart from what she asked, we had some cooked white beans that we added. I personally didn't like that too much. It interfered with everything else, I thought. But A seemed to be okay with it. We also didn't have tomato juice or Worcestershire sauce, so subbed it with home-made Marinara sauce. Worked beautifully! To make it heartier, maybe, I could add some greens or mushrooms to this mix. But I'm most keen on making this with Labneh. While I like Ricotta, it isn't easily available in India and I don't believe in buying imported cheeses all the time (+ not going to take the trouble to make it!) I've also realised that I love smooth, creamy cheeses as opposed to something slightly grainy like the Ricotta. As I write this, it strikes me that creamy Feta might be a good substitute too.

The dish looked SO beautiful that I didn't want to break those sunny eggs and ruin the look. I'm a huge fan of anything with tomatoes. Also a huge egg lover. This works well at so many levels. We didn't have bread to eat it with, but it works quite well without!  I also took it to lunch a day later and I think it tasted way better. The tomatoes' sourness had mellowed down, the corn got sweeter and the Chipotle really kicked in.

Next experiment with the Shakshouka: use Mediterranean flavours. I'm sure a little Zatar here, a little Sumac there and lots of creamy Labneh will keep me and Shubha happy :) I think that's what makes this dish a winner - you can adapt, it's a one pot meal with one pot to wash and tastes better the next day! And can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The other big thing next time I make it is going to have friends around. People we love, lots of bread and a pot of Shakshouka to dig into. Nothing else spells comfort better than that for A and me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Eggplant Boats with Millet.

Typically, large eggplants are synonymous with Baingan Bharta or Baba Ghanouj for us. Both of which essentially require smoking the eggplant over flame. Recently, we have taken a strong liking to Begun Bhaja, which comes out great with circular slices of these large eggplants. With liberal use of mustard oil, of course :) One day, we found a large eggplant that was left unattended in the refrigerator for quite sometime. One half was going south. I decided to cut it out to see if the other half could be salvaged but it was futile. During this process, I ended up scooping out the entire eggplant and that is when it struck me that this could be a good way to use large eggplant. One could simply scoop out the flesh and stuff it with various things like grains, vegetables, even cheese. Hence, this whole exercising in trying to recover an eggplant gave us the idea for this dish. We went with millet since it was there in the house.

So here it goes...

P.S: These are approximate measurements. You could alter the recipe as per your taste.


2 large eggplants
1/2 c foxtail millet (makes about 1 1/4 - 1/1/2 c cooked millet)
Diced vegetables - we used bell peppers, frozen corn, onions, peas and carrots)
dried apricots, about 8-10 pieces, sliced and stewed in hot water for 10-15 mins.
2 tbsp dried cranberries - we used craisins
2 tbsp Toasted and chopped almonds
salt to taste
dried rosemary
Red chili flakes (optional)
cilantro for garnishing
1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Use the option where both top and bottom coils are on.
2 . Cut the eggplants vertically right down the middle so you have 4 large pieces. Scoop the flesh out with a knife and spoon. I used the 'avocado technique for guacamole'. Essentially, make vertical cuts using a knofe, taking care not to pierce the entire eggplant. Then make horizontal cuts so you have a checkered pattern which will give you small, joined pieces which could be scooped out with a spoon. This would be your boat. Make sure to leave a 1 cm border on all sides or else the boats will be too flimsy after baking.
3. Generously slather the interior and exterior of the four boats with olive oil and pepper mixture.
4. Place these on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 mins or until the eggplant is well cooked. Turn off the top heater but leave the oven on.
5. In the meantime, cook the foxtail millet by adding 1/2 to 1 1/2 c boiling water and then cooking it until almost cooked. Drain, mix with some salt, pepper, olive oil and set aside. Olive oil will prevent it from forming unsightly lumps. 
6. Fry the diced vegetables in olive oil with the herbs and seasonings until slightly al dente.
7. Slice the stewed apricots into small chunks and add it to the vegetables. Add the cranberries.
8. Add the cooked millet, some more olive oil and cook it for about a minute to absorb the flavors. Add lemon juice and turn the stove off.
9. Once the baked boats are cooled down so they can be handled with bare hands, stuff them with the millet and vegetable mixture.
10. Bake for about 5 mins. Make sure the millet doesn't become too dry. This is evident from a dry crusty layer on the top. 
11. Garnish with nuts and cilantro or parsley.
12. Enjoy hot with some yogurt or any other dip of your choice.

This is a pretty flexible recipe. You could even throw some mozzarella or parmesan on top. You could stuff it with barley, couscous, just vegetables and cheese. 

Also, one shouldn't forget the flesh that we scooped out :) Sautee it with some onions, ghee, garlic and tomatoes with some garam masala and you have some quick 'faux' bharta on the side. Or just sautee it with some gingelly oil and add it on top of yogurt and then splutter some mustard seeds and curry leaves and you have some thayir pachadi.

Go ahead, let your imagination loose with this one ;)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Egg Fry Gravy and some nostalgia.

One of my batchmates from college, who is currently in the US, asked me if I could meet him as he was town. He also told me that one of our seniors wanted to join as well. I was excited to learn that my senior had moved to Bangalore. We used to talk quite a bit during college days because we pursued our BE in the same discipline. But after college, life takes you in different directions as you are swept by the proverbial tide of time. But when you're in college, you might not even explore your department entirely during your four year stay but there is one place where you went every single day. The boiling cauldron of emotions that was fueled by the denizens.

The canteen.

The college canteen was THE place for hooking up, talking to people, freeloading samosas off others and engaging in some harmless ragging/hazing and umm...getting a glimpse of the opposite gender. We're all (typically) under 21 and if you don't do these things in college, you might not get to engage in some of these life-enriching activities ever in your life. And trust me, while this might sound superficial, they do impact (often) on the way you think and look at people.It was the place where people had a bite before attending a job interview, with Baby, Sridhar (caretakers) wishing them all the best. Folks who made it came running back and were mobbed by not only their close friends, but folks who had never met them, for everyone knew a treat was in order. Tea was the official 'spirit' of celebration. For those who didn't get a job on that day, the canteen was a place of refuge and encouragement. A place to sit back and dissolve all their worries into a plate of Mysore masala dosa with piping hot sambar or another favorite. Egg fry gravy. Back in our days, mundane treats such as dosa, samosas etc. cost Rs. 6. The two delicacies I've mentioned, however, cost us Rs. 10. Those who purchased this on a regular basis were considered posh. Golden era, I tell you.

Well, if I go down this memory lane, I might end up meandering endlessly so I'll cut to the chase. The egg fry gravy served at our canteen was an extremely popular dish. It has "corrputed" many "pure vegetarians". It used to consist of a fried egg (half or full fried) with some tomato-onion gravy and some green chilies.

After talking to my old college mates, I had an instinctive urge to make some. However, we put a spin on it by incorporating some Bengali flavors. So here it goes:

Disclaimer: these are approximate measurements. You could easily add more masala and chilies to suit this dish to your taste.

Ingredients (serves 2-3 ppl)

5 large tomatoes, medium diced.
4 eggs
3 tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp pepper powder
1 medium onion, medium diced.
Panch phoran masala
          1 pinch Nigella seeds
          1 pinch fenugreek seeds
          1 pinch radhuni (wild celery)
          1 pinch cumin seeds
          1 pinch fennel seeds
Coriander seeds 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
4 Green chillies, slit lengthwise
Salt to taste
2 tsp mustard paste (Kasundhi)
1 large bay leaf
Salt to taste
Mustard oil and regular cooking oil.
Chopped coriander leaves for garnishing

1.   Dry roast the ingredients for panch phoran masala and the coriander seeds. Grind into a powder with some salt using a pestle and mortar.

2.   In a pan, heat some oil and mustard oil. When the oil is hot, add the bay leaf and turmeric powder. Once the turmeric sizzles, add the onions and green chilies.

3.   Add some salt to the onion and let it cook for 4-5 mins.

4.   Add the tomatoes and panch phoran masala. Add some more oil and mustard oil. Cook on medium flame for 5 mins.

5.   In the meantime, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and red chili powder. Make thick omelets in a pan. Cut them into large pieces and keep them separately. You could also fry individual eggs and serve it “rancheros” style by pouring some gravy on top.

6.   When the tomatoes are almost cooked (the skin should look shriveled and start to peel off), add 1 cup of water and kasundhi. Stir well. Adjust salt. Add the fried egg pieces and let it cook for another 2-3 mins.

7.   Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

8.   Serve hot with rice, roti or bread (the way it was done in canteen during my days).

Fairly quick and easy, this could be one of those dishes which could come in handy when you open your refrigerator only to see empty shelves devoid of vegetables staring right back at you. And quite perfect for that cosy, spicy, 'chatpata' meal that N always craves for :) 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pesto Pinwheels....and oh, were're back :)

Wow it’s been 14 months since the last post. It’s interesting how the pursuit of resources (read earning for  your living) to pursue your passion (read cooking/baking) often engulfs you and you don't actually pursue your passion!

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been cooking. If there is one thing that keeps us sane among the vagaries of life, it is food. The medium of sharing our culinary experiments and adventures, however, has expanded beyond this blog, namely Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I have just about become more active on social media. Well, after a lot of initial hesitation like anything else I do.

However, the blog is special for many reasons. A lot of recipes are associated with events and when we think about them, it takes us back to all the excitement, goof-ups, road trips, events…basically all the little things that make our lives fun.

So we have decided (again) to consciously revive this food blog. Last weekend, we made some pesto pinwheels. In one sense, it feels full circle as attempts to bake bread when we were in the US really spurred us to post more on the blog then. Now that we’re in India, the smell of bread  has pretty much had the same effect on us. So here’s to a new and hopefully more sustained inning J


1 ¼ c maida (all purpose flour)
1 c aata (whole wheat flour)
½ c + ½ c and another tbsp. water*
3 tsp vital wheat gluten**
¾-1 c pesto sauce (we used homemade but store bought is just as good)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp melted butter.
* the amount of water depends on the extent of kneading and if you’re using machine versus hands to knead. The idea is to use as less water as possible to make nice, smooth dough that doesn’t stick to your hands after kneading.
** we’ve realized that maida and aata, particularly aata  in India have less gluten content than most all purpose flours available in the US so it is good to add some gluten for some spongy, porous bread.

  1. Take ½ c lukewarm water and add sugar to it. Then add the yeast granules. Cover and let it rest for 10 mins. The water should be frothy, which means the yeast has ‘woken up’. If it isn’t, stop immediately and get a fresh batch of yeast and repeat.
  2. In a stand mixer (hands are just as good) with the dough hook attachment, add the flours, salt, gluten, olive oil and mix it dry for a few seconds. Then add the yeast water and knead for some time.
  3. Add the next ½ c water and knead some more. You’ll have to scrap the sides with a spatula and knead again a couple of times.
  4. Keep kneading (5-6 mins.) until you have a nice, smooth dough without any dry spots. The dough shouldn’t stick to the hook and when you press it against your fingers, it should (more or less), come off cleanly without sticking. Add the remaining 1 tbsp water only if the dough is too dry. If the dough is too wet and sticky, try kneading for some more time. If it continues to be sticky, add some flour.
  5. Remove the dough from the mixer, shape it into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover it with a wet kitchen towel and let it sit for 2 hrs or until double in volume.
  6. Remove the dough and release the air gently. On a floured surface, roll it into a rectangle (about 15” x 8”). Basically, the rectangular sheet should be at least ¼ inches thick.
  7. Spread the pesto uniformly on the sheet, leaving an inch gap on all sides.
  8. Now roll the dough into a cylinder and cut pinwheels with a knife.
  9. Place the pinwheels into the final baking dish. Make sure they’re separated by at least an inch.
  10. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let it rise for another 1.5-2 hrs or until (nearly) double in volume.
  11. Preheat oven to 200C. Place a rack in the lower third.
  12. Remove the kitchen towel and apply melted butter wash to the dough.
  13. Place the baking dish into the oven and bake for 12 mins. Then lower oven temperature to 180C and place the dish in the middle rack and bake for another 10-15 mins. You could even broil it for a minute from the top.
  14. Remove from the oven.
  15. Dig in! These are had best when they’re hot.

The pinwheels came out pretty well. Thanks to the gluten, they were soft and quite porous. Overall, quite soft, pillowy and delicious. Give it a try. Nothing beats baking bread and sharing it with your loved ones. I think we’ll be doing it more often.

And posting here more often too, hopefully!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tomato Saar

Raji's death has left me a little more than shaken and I wanted to come back and blog more and keep at it on working on my promises. I wanted to get to know all of you a little better, so here I am with a different recipe today. Something that is homely and something that you need to eat with your hands and lick your fingers for. Something soul-satisfying. Food does cure. After the previous post, I haven't made Brinji yet, but I made some South Indian food. The food I grew up on. Remembered my grandmother who fed us for over 50 years continuously and who I tremendously missed in the last one month.

January has been a hectic month for us and our families. 2 weddings aren't easy to organize or even just attend. Clothes co-ordination, inviting people, socializing, arranging for a million little things, travelling, guests - all this and more can drive one crazy. However, I think we managed it with aplomb!

One of my cousins got married in Chandigarh and we were guests to an absolutely amazing spread of Punjabi food. I don't think any restaurant- five star or not can equal the kind of food served at this wedding. The Dum Aloo was to die for and I could kill for a meal like that. I hardly ate though. The tension of the wedding, running around and everyone falling sick around me made me gobble food just so I could eat something. A, of course, did full justice to the food and can possibly write another Ph.D thesis on the food at this wedding. Brilliant, brilliant food. That said, the next wedding was down South. My sister's, to be precise. I think it was just right because after an overdose of paneer and Rotis up North, we were more than ready to settle down  to 'elai saapadu.' (elai = plaintain leaf, saapadu = meals)

My sister got married to a Konkan guy. So, I'm trying to master some Mangalorean/Konkan recipes. Not. It doesn't really matter for A and me which region good food belongs to :D We are both on a regional food spree and loving it! So, we tried this Tomato Saar from Arch's blog The Yum Factor. I've tried several recipes in my non blogging days from her blog. I love her simple style of writing and that she posts a modern take on authentic Konkan recipes.

Photobucket Tamilians are known for their Rasam. And Tamilians like us, settled in Karnataka make the #worldfamous Mysore Rasam on most days. I grew up on one type of Rasam and ended up hating it for most part of my life. I saw it just as spiced water. I think it was because the same Rasam was made every single day. Of course, my mum tried to change it up once in a while with her fantastic Lemon Rasam and Pepper Rasam. Now when I cook on an everyday basis, I love Rasam and I love trying out different types of Rasam. We don't cook South Indian food enough thanks to sheer laziness. But there are weekends and some weekday nights that I crave for Rasam Saadam and Thair Saadam (curd/yogurt rice).

The South Indian that I am, nothing equals slurping your Rasam Saadam with Rasam dripping down your arms. And Thair Saadam or curd rice? That dish belongs to the heavens, I'm telling you. Also, I firmly belong to the category that says eating rice is satisfying to one's soul.

It was one such day when we were in Atlanta when we tried this Tomato Saar. I was bowled by the flavours in this Saar. I'm not  a fan of coconut and was rather sceptical about coconut in Rasam. Isn't Rasam supposed to be light and all that? But this totally changed the way I looked at Rasam. Now this is a regular. I love, love, love the addition of jaggery in this Rasam. Karnataka cooking is known for adding jaggery and it lends that caramelly sweetness to our cooking. Most people ridicule this and call our Sambar sweet. I say, so be it. There has to be some regional variation, no? This is ours. We like it like this. A little sweet from the jaggery and the coconut, sourness from those tomatoes and the thickness of this Rasam could qualify for a soup too. No need to call it Mulligawtany anymore ;)


I made this recently, after a long time and remembered that I should post this in honour of my new brother-in-law who smiles for everything :) This Saar should make anyone smile. Do try it as an alternative to your everyday Rasam. You will love the change in flavour that it brings to your mundane, everyday Rasam.

Thanks Arch for a wonderful recipe. One of those recipes that have stuck with me irrespective of the minor variations.

Here is the recipe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thank you.

A lot of bloggers have written about Miri of Peppermill or Raji. I didn't know her, and didn't make an effort particularly to know her. My loss. 

I first saw her name as a very 'composed and grounded' commenter on Anita's blog. Soon, on Manisha's too. I have to admit that I didn't go to her blog to check it out even when she was reading all my favourite blogs, all my friends' blogs. You know how it is. Way too many of us and way too much food to talk about in a day. And her blog was postponed to check for another day. 

I visited Manisha in June 2011. It was visit long due and we knew we wanted to meet after all those email conversations. We thought similarly about a lot of things and I really wanted to meet Medha. That girl fascinated me. I ate well, keeping true to the belief that grad students don't leave food when they see it. One night, I think it was Medha's birthday night, we decided to cook something special. She suggested Brinji - something that she'd eaten when she'd visited Anita's home in Delhi where she met Raji. She thought I'd know about it since I was a South Indian. Frankly, I have no clue about ingredients or food or the Science behind cooking. I had no clue if this was part of my heritage as a South Indian. The mixed rices in my home were very conventional. Brinji was something I'd never heard of. She made Brinji that night. We had some guests too, Medha's friend and her family who came to visit. It was a table full of food and a house full of people eating that Brinji. I wasn't sure how it'd be. You see, I'm not a huge fan of anything coconutty. I've only lately (shamefully enough, after eating Thai food) come to appreciate the nutty sweetness of coconut. I took a small serving in the name of 'oh, I can't eat much, been eating all day' and didn't want to stop eating. Only, I wasn't in my house to put my feet up and stuff my face.

I have this stupid rule that I wouldn't eat much in front of guests. Why? Not because I want to tell them I eat less, but because I'm worried it's not going to be enough. That night, I wanted to sit down and polish that Brinji off because I LOVED it. I guess Miri was like that. She seemed very unassuming, someone who didn't really write about her illness or her struggle with it. Or, how she had to change her career because of this illness and the pains she went through being a modern woman (the pressure on us to have both- home and career is unimaginable - again my narrow focus). But all this made her the wonderful person she seemed to be. It's a pity I didn't take the time to write to her to tell her how much I enjoyed that Brinji of hers. 

I came back from the US a couple of weeks after, and at my first coming back party, I made Brinji. I made it consecutively for 3 parties after that. Once at my parents', then at my friends' and twice at my place. I should've written to her and let her know how much this dish had taught me - my own food heritage that I had no clue about, cooking rice on the stovetop without a cooker, falling in love with coconut and just my own happiness and satisfaction of coming back home. 

As I write this post, I realise that every single time I've eaten Brinji, I've been insanely happy. Happiness because of achievements, because of events, because of the people around me. Manisha's family and friends, my own family that I came back to, that quiet night when A and I snuggled and ate this Brinji at 12.30 AM when we had one of those conversations, with my friends who went ballistic over Brinji. I was going to make Brinji in memory of this woman who I never knew. There was this sense of shame and guilt that I crib way too much about my life, my weight (without working on it), my career, people around me, trends in food blogging, and there was this one person who just did what she wanted because she loved it and lived what, in my eyes, was a pretty full life. I was stunned when I read the news on Facebook and it shook me enough to stop thinking of my own problems. I have none. I kept making Brinji, remember? 

I kept back all the ingredients for Brinji the night Raji passed away. It's okay. I'm going to make it again this weekend. For me and A to sit down and make a pact that we wouldn't crib. About anything. I'm going to draw strength from that Brinji. That thought itself makes me feel so much lighter. 

This post is possibly more about me and Brinji, but then I didn't know her to talk about her. And this is the legacy that I think Raji left for people like me - good food and a strong sense of spirit, to appreciate my own life and people around me more. So, thank you, Raji.