Basale Soppu Kodhel – Malabar Spinach Sambhar

With the end of summer, and advent of monsoons we start spotting the Basale or Malabar Spinach in the market. Mom’s dal-based coconut curry is my favourite preparation. Steaming hot rice, fish-fry and this curry is one of the staples at home. We have not been able to get fresh fish these days due to the lockdown as the fish market needs a rickshaw ride and is best avoided. The second best option we settled down was nungel meen or dry fish. The stock of dried shrimp and other dried fishes surface up especially during such ‘crisis’. Oorpel ari da nuppu or red boiled rice and some appala/papad is what brings it all together.

The super long vine of Basale I got from our nearby market

Here are the recipes for my moms basale soppu kodhel and Yetti Podi Chutney (Dry Shrimp Chutney) that I have enjoyed preparing and relishing.

For Basale Kodhel

1 bunch Malabar Spinach Leaves
Stems of Malabar Spinach (Boiled Seperately)
1 cup cooked toor dal

Masala paste
1/2 grated coconut
6 Byadki Chillies
1/2 Lime-size of Tamarind
1/2 tsp haldi

Tadka
6-8 garlic pods, chopped
1 tsp Rai
1 chopped onion

Method:
Grind the masala paste ingredients to a smooth paste
Heat some coconut oil. Add in the rai and let it splutter.
Now add in the garlic and onion and let it soften.
Stir in the masala paste, cooked dal and boiled stems of the Malabar Spinach.
Add a little water and salt. Let it come to a boil.
Lastly put in the all the leaves and let it cook for 2 minutes before turning off the flame

For the Yeti Podi Chutney

Ingredients:
1 cup cleaned and roasted dry shimp (Nugel Yetti)

Masala Paste
1/2 a Grated Coconut
5-6 Byadki Dried Red Chillies
1/2 Onion
2-3 pods of Garlic
Lime-size ball of Tamarind
1/2 tsp Haldi

Tadka
1 tsp rai
1/2 onion

Method:
– Clean the shrimp in water.Pat dry. Roast on medium flame till completely dry again.
– Grind the masala paste ingredients to a coarse paste
– Heat coconut oil. Add the rai and let it splutter.
– Now add onions and let it brown.
– Stir in the masala paste and the shrimp.
– Saute for a few minutes. Done.

Ragi-Choco Cake

It was my workplace’s third anniversary on June 1st. And like most people around the world we are working from home and decided to celebrate over a Zoom video call. I wanted to bake a cake and cut with the team to celebrate this special day. Since we would end up eating the cake at home, I decided to stick to a healthy recipe. This Finger Millet (Ragi) cake is made of ingredients such as Wheat flour, Jaggery and Ghee which are all good for you. The chocolate flavour stands out and is a very satisfying dessert for tea-time.

Ingredients
1 cup Ragi Flour
1/4th cup Wheat Flour
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Instant Coffee Powder
1/4th cup ghee
1 egg
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
1 tbsp Baking Powder
1/4th tsp Baking Soda
Salt

Method:
– Melt the jaggery with 1/2 cup of water. Strain. Cool completely.
– Beat the egg and cooled jaggery mixture
– Add ghee and the vanilla essence and further whisk till combined.
– Sieve in all the dry ingredients. Ragi and Wheat flour, Cocoa,Instant Coffee Powder,Baking Powder and Baking Soda.
– Cut and fold into till combined.
– Pour this into a lined and greased cake tin. bake at 180 degrees C for 45 mins. Cool on a wire rack completely before slicing it.

Ladi Pav – Mumbai’s Favourite Bread

The quest for this bread started in my few years of living outside India. I have tasted some of the yummiest loaves and rolls abroad, but there were those times when I wanted the soft Ladi pavs that the andawalla would get home for pav bhajis, omlette pav and of course the vada pav!

The bakeries there wouldn’t make this variety of bread. Over the years there, I started baking them at home till I came back to India. This lockdown phase meant more time to re-visit those baking bread days.

Here is the recipe for the perfect Ladi Pav:

Ingredients:

500 gms Bread Flour or All-purpose Flour
150 ml + 3 tbsp milk
1 heaped tbsp sugar
7 gms dry yeast
40 gms Salted Butter
Salt – just a pinch or two

Method:
– Warm the 1 cup of milk and dissolve the sugar.
– Add in the yeast. Mix well. Let it stay undisturbed for 15 minutes
– Now add the flour, 3 tbsp of milk and a little salt and bring it all together with a wooden spoon.
– Flour your clean kitchen platform, and start kneading, stretching the dough to activate the gluten well. This is what will make them soft.
– After kneading for 5 minutes add the butter and continue kneading for 10 more minutes.
– Now smoothen it out tucking the edges into to form a nice round dough ball. Coat it, as well as a big bowl with some oil and let it rest for 1 – 2 hours depending on how warm the weather is.
– Once double in size, punch out the gases and knead again for 3-5 mins
– Cut into equal sizes, tuck the edges into small round dough balls and lay it next to each other in a greased and lined baking tray. Brush the tops with milk.
– Cover and let it rise again for 30 minutes.
– Now bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 25 mins. My oven experiments resulted better pavs at 200 degree C. So first understand your oven temperatures very well before baking larger batches.
– As soon as they are out of the oven, brush with some butter and cover it with a damp cloth for 20 minutes to soften up further.
– Serve warm with your favourite accompaniment.

Eid special Saffron-Infused Bread & Butter Pudding

Eid Mubarak to everyone who is celebrating this special day. My neighbour friend Maria and I became closer in the last two years with common stories surrounding our lives. Like most festivals Eid is all about the amazing feasts shared with loved ones. She sends over delicious Biryanis, Saalans and Sheer Kurma every year. This year I baked her a saffron-infused Bread and Butter pudding. This British classic becomes a festive special with all the aromatics that go into the custard base.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
10 Bread slices (preferably a day old)
Butter – to butter the slices and grease the pan
350 ml single cream
250 ml milk
60gms + 30gms Sugar
4 medium eggs + one yolk
1 tsp each of cinnamon and cardamom powders
Rose Essence
Lemon zest
Saffron Strands
Raisins, Sultanas, Dried Cranberries, Pistachios

Method:

For the Saffron custard:
– Heat the cream and milk on a low temperature with saffron strands and the cardamom and cinnamon powders.
– Beat the eggs with castor sugar till pale. If you are using the regular Indian sugar add it to the milk as it doesn’t dissolve well with the eggs.
– Now add the heated cream and milk mix to the beaten eggs while continuously whisking the eggs.
– To this custard, add lemon zest and rose essence.

For the pudding:
– Grease the baking dish generously with butter
– Cut the sides of the bread slices and butter both sides. Cut into two halfs
– Arrange them on the baking dish
– Now pour the above saffron custard into the dish and let it sit for around 20 mins so that the bread soaks up some of the liquid.
– Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.
– Top the pudding with raisins,sultanas and dried cranberries. Sprinkle some sugar and bake for 40 mins.
– After 40 mins shift the baking dish into the top rack, crank up the oven temperature to the highest and grill the top to further brown it for just 2-3 minutes.
– Take it out infuse it with a simple saffron syrup. For the syrup boil 30gms sugar + 30ml water. Add some saffron strands and continue cooking till one-string consistency. Switch off the flame and add some lemon zest and rose essence to this as well.
– Decorate with pistachios and rose petals for the Eid look. Serve warm.

Chicken Ghee Roast Baos

This lockdown has finally given me the opportunity to revive my food photography and blogging love. I have created a recipe section for this website so I can post both my photography and blogging stories in one place.

Yesterday was a highlight as I created a fusion of two of my favourite foods into one delicious combination. Dad is a guinea pig for my experiments these days. He is a big foodie like me and gives me an honest critique. He loves Eggplant Baos from Fatty Bao. One bite and he said, this is even better!

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So now to the recipe.

There are two stages to this recipe. Making the Baos. Preparing the Ghee Roast

For the Baos:

Ingredients:
350 gms All-Purpose Flour
200ml warm water
3 tbsp Oil
2 tbsp Milk Powder (or milk)
1 heap Tbsp Sugar
7 gms  Yeast
1 tsp Baking Powder
Salt

For the Chicken Ghee Roast

Ingredients
500 gms Boneless Chicken (marinated in yogurt, turmeric and salt for minimum 30 mins)
1/4 cup Ghee (more if you want a richer Ghee Roast)
Curry Leaves
1-2 tbsp Jaggery
Masala Paste:
10-12 Kashmiri Red Chillies
2 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp Fennel seeds
4-5 Cloves
6 Garlic pods (3 large)
1 tbsp tamarind (whole/paste)

Method:

For the Ghee Roast:

Chicken Ghee Roast
– Heat the ghee and put in the chicken and cook till 60% done. Strain out the chicken pieces and keep aside leaving the cooking liquids behind in the pan.
– While the chicken cooks, dry roast all the masala paste ingredients except the garlic and tamarind.
– Grind the spices along with garlic and tamarind with a little water to a smooth paste.
– Add this masala, salt and jaggery to the liquid remaining in the pan after removing the chicken pieces. Let it cook well and thicken up.
– Now add the semi-cooked chicken pieces, curry leaves and roast away till the chicken is fully cooked. Ghee roast is ready!

For the Baos:

Baos
– Activate the yeast in the warm water mixed with sugar for 15 minutes
– Now add in all the remaining ingredients and knead well to form a soft, stretchy dough for 10-15 minutes.
– Coat the dough with oil and let it rest for 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
– Once risen, punch out the gases and knead again.
– Roll out the dough to a 1 cm thickness. Take a cookie cutter and cut out cirlces.
– Place each Bao circle on a small parchment paper. Brush some oil on the top side. This is very crucial for Baos to open.
– Fold in half. Smooth out with a rolling pin. And let them rest again for 30 minutes.
– Take a bamboo steamer or a regular one and steam for 12 mins on high heat and let it rest for 5 minutes before opening the lid.

Assemble Baos

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– While still warm, separate the baos gently and fill in the spicy ghee roast.
– Add some fresh salad of your choice as Baos need some crunch to complete the experience.
– Serve immediately.

Notes:
– Both the Baos and the Ghee roast can be made a day in advance.
– Baos can be steamed for 5 minutes, and ghee roast heated up in a pan.
– Use parchment paper or banana leaves to avoid the baos sticking to the steamer
– Milk powder is better than using milk. This batch was made with milk and came out perfectly though.

5 Super-Quick Summer Dessert Recipes for Kids

Want to put together a filling sweet treat for your little one but have no time or patience to bake a cake? I have five no-fuss dessert recipes to satisfy those unstoppable cravings.

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Satisfying your kid’s sweet tooth can be a challenge at times. Especially when you are famished after a long work-week or decluttering the home. Instead of reaching out for the chocolate bar or candy, try some of these easy recipes that you can whip up in a jiffy. With a little bit of pre-planning, you will be able to put these together in a few minutes. Most of the recipes are nutrient-rich for guilt-free indulgence.

Fresh Mango Sorbet
A quick recipe, especially for the upcoming mango season. Avoid adding sugar by selecting the sweetest variety of mango available in your local market.

Ingredients
3 cups chopped mango
½ cup pineapple juice
½ cup milk
1 tbsp sugar or honey (optional)

Method
Freeze mango chunks overnight in the freezer. Place the frozen mango pieces and pineapple juice into the blender. If the mango pieces aren’t sweet enough, add a bit of sugar or honey. Halfway through the blending add milk. You can use almond milk instead of regular milk. Scoop into your children’s favourite ice-cream bowls. Top up with freshly chopped mango.

Lemon Strawberry Chia Pudding
Surprise your kids with this bright coloured dessert after a long day at school. Packed with nutrients from chia seeds and dates, this is a delicious pudding for both you and children to enjoy together.

Ingredients
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup milk
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 dates
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Method
Blend the strawberries, milk, and dates until smooth. You can replace dates with sugar or honey. You can substitute the regular milk with yoghurt, almond or coconut milk. Whisk in the chia seeds, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour into individual serving cups and refrigerate overnight or at least for six hours before serving. If your kids do not prefer the texture of chia seeds, blend the seeds along with the strawberries in the first step.

Instant Choco Mousse
This recipe is especially for your impatient chocolate-loving munchkins. It can be whipped up in minutes and served at room temperature.

Ingredients
1 cup marshmallows
1 ½ cups dark chocolate
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp hot water
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
In a double boiler put the marshmallows and let them melt. Add the butter, dark chocolate and water. After the chocolate and butter liquify, stir everything together. Keep aside to cool. Whip the chilled cream and vanilla extract together, till the mixture forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the cream and set in individual glasses. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Crunchy banana-chocolate pops
Who doesn’t love banana? Prepare these pops as a healthy birthday party treat or to fuel the kids up after a swim or dance class.

Ingredients
2 bananas
4 ice-candy sticks
2 tbsp chopped nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews)
½ cup dark chocolate

Method
Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or double boiler and pour it into a tall glass. Dry roast and spread the chopped nuts on a plate. If your child is allergic to nuts, replace it with sprinkles or granola. Cut the banana into two halves. Insert the popsicle sticks to the wider end. Dip the banana into the chocolate mixture and shake off the excess. Roll the chocolate covered banana around the nuts. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes till the chocolate hardens and serve.

Apple Coconut Barfi
Make barfis healthier by using fruits, fresh coconut, and homemade ghee. It can be packed into your kid’s lunch box or given as a snack with her glass of milk.

Ingredients
3 cups grated apple
1½ cup grated coconut
1 cup milk powder
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp chopped nuts
A pinch of cardamom powder
A pinch of salt

Method
Grease a baking tray or plate with ghee and keep aside Dry roast the grated coconut on low flame till it gives out a nutty aroma. Heat ghee in another pan and cook the grated apple till most of the moisture evaporates. Toss in the coconut, milk powder, sugar, cardamom powder, and salt. Mix well. Stir the mixture continuously for around 10 minutes till ghee starts oozing out from the sides, and the mix comes together to form a fudgy mass. Set this mix in the greased tray and smoothen it out with a spoon. Sprinkle the chopped nuts and let it come down to room temperature. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Check out my post on Parent Circle.com
https://www.parentcircle.com/article/5-superquick-summer-dessert-recipes-for-kids/

Christmas Pudding

While we enjoy gorging on plum and fruit cakes during Christmas, the steamed pudding has its own charm. Served with some custard, it becomes a wonderful dessert after a hearty Christmas lunch. Here is an eggless and non-alcoholic version for everyone to enjoy. Check out my Christmas specials feature on Parent Circle.com https://www.parentcircle.com/article/supereasy-christmas-dessert-recipes/

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Ingredients

All-purpose flour- ⅓ cup
Breadcrumbs – ¼ cup
Muscovado / Dark Brown sugar- ⅓ cup
Curd – 2 tbsp
Unsalted Butter- ⅓ cup
Baking Powder – 1 tsp
Grape Juice – ½ cup
Black Raisins – ½ cup
Chopped Dates – ½ cup
Chopped Dried Prunes- ½ cup
Tutti-Frutti- ½ cup
Cinnamon powder- two pinches
Clove powder – one pinch
Grated Apple –  ½
Zest of one orange
Zest of one Lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
Honey – 1 tsp
Salt – a pinch

Method:

  • Soak the raisins, dates and prunes in grape juice for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Grease and line a pudding mould or a deep bowl with parchment paper.
  • Powder the muscovado or dark brown sugar in the blender.
  • Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the curd and mix well.
  • Now incorporate the steeped dried fruits with the grape juice, tutti-frutti, cinnamon powder, clove powder, grated apple, honey, sugar, lemon juice, orange and lemon zest into the mix. Stir in breadcrumbs.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the wet mixture. Mix well.
  • Press it into the mould and steam it for three hours on low-medium heat.
  • On Christmas day, steam again for an hour. De-mould it and serve with some custard.

Holiday Biscotti

Biscottis are perfect make-ahead Christmas treats. Make a large batch for a festive tea or coffee-time accompaniment over the holiday season. Check out my Christmas specials feature on Parent Circle.com https://www.parentcircle.com/article/supereasy-christmas-dessert-recipes/

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Ingredients
All-purpose flour- 2½ cups
Sugar – 1 cup
Eggs – 2
Unsalted Butter- 6 tbsp
Dried Cranberries – 1 cup
Chopped Pistachios – 1 cup
Tutti-Frutti – 1 cup
Whole Fennel seeds – 1 tbsp
Vanilla Extract – 1 tbsp
Zest of one orange
Baking Powder – 1 ½ tsp
Salt – a pinch

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a large baking tray.
  • Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat again.
  • Mix in orange zest, vanilla, and fennel seeds.
  • Sift flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Throw in the cranberries, pistachio and tutti-frutti and mix well.
  • Transfer the sticky dough to a well-floured work surface.
  • Gather it together and form two logs and place them on the tray next to each other keeping enough space to let them flatten out while baking
  • Bake them for 30 minutes. Let them cool for around 8-10 minutes.
  • Now take a sharp knife and cut diagonally into ½ inch slices and re-bake them for 15 minutes.
  • Place the biscottis on a cooling rack. Store in airtight containers.

Puffed Rice Reindeers

Involve your kids while making these cuties. Adding marshmallows keeps the treats chewable, yet crunchy. You can replace puffed rice ( charmuri, murmura or pori) with Rice Krispie cereal for even more crunch. Once you prepare the base of this recipe you can create a lot of fun shapes and decorate it your way. Best way to keep your kids engaged is to let them get creative with the shapes. This is a fun recipe. Make sure having lots of fun is your main focus. Don’t worry about perfect shapes or patterns 🙂 

Check out my Christmas specials feature on Parent Circle.com https://www.parentcircle.com/article/supereasy-christmas-dessert-recipes/

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Ingredients
Puffed rice or Rice Krispie cereal – 2 cups
Marshmallows – 2 cups
Unsalted butter- 2 tbsp
Vanilla Essence – 1 tsp
Candy Eyes
Cadbury Gems
Milk Chocolate – ½ cup
White chocolate – small piece
Lollipop sticks

Method

  • Grease a square-shaped baking tray or dish.
  • Melt the butter on low flame. Add marshmallows and let them melt completely.
  • Turn off the flame and add puffed rice or Rice Krispie cereal into it and mix well
  • Immediately transfer the mixture to the square tray and press well using a greased spoon.
  • Use a sharp knife and cut into squares.
  • Melt milk chocolate carefully in the microwave or double boiler and put into a small plastic piping bag. Follow the same process with the white chocolate. Snip a small hole at the end of both the bags.
  • Put a little white chocolate on the end of the lollipop stick carefully push it into a puffed rice square while still a little warm. Similarly, prepare the other squares.
  • Using the white chocolate as glue, stick on the candy eyes and gems making sure you have a few red nosed ones to indicate they are Rudolph – Santa’s favourite reindeer.
  • Pipe on the antlers using melted milk chocolate.
  • Let the chocolate harden completely before packing it away in airtight containers.

Assorted Chocolate Kulkuls

Kulkuls are part of the traditional Indian Christmas platter that is distributed to family and friends. The traditional recipe is given a little twist by dunking them into melted chocolate.

Check out my Christmas specials feature on Parent Circle.com https://www.parentcircle.com/article/supereasy-christmas-dessert-recipes/

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Ingredients

All-purpose flour – 1 cup
Powdered Sugar – ½  cup
Melted Butter – 2 tbsp
Salt – a pinch
Oil – to deep fry

For the sugar glaze:
Sugar – 1 cup
Water – ⅓ cup

For the Chocolate cover:
White Chocolate – ½ cup
Milk Chocolate –  ½ cup

Method:

  • Sift the flour, salt and powdered sugar into a bowl. Melt the butter and it to the flour. Rub the butter and flour between your fingers to form a crumbly mix.
  • Add very little water and knead the mix into a firm dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • Take a small cherry-sized ball of the dough and flatten it out on the spikes of an unused comb or fork. And roll it into curls pressing the edges.
  • Deep fry in batches until golden brown
  • Make a glaze of boiling sugar and water till one-string consistency.
  • Throw in the fried kulkuls and glaze well. Cool completely. At this point traditional kulkuls are ready.
  • To make chocolate kulkuls, line a tray with parchment paper.
  • Melt white chocolate on top of a double boiler. Dip one end of the kulkul into the melted chocolate and shake off excess. Place on the parchment paper.
  • Repeat with milk chocolate. Decorate for making it more festive.

Santa Hat Cupcakes

Santa Hat cupcakes are one of the easiest Christmas-themed cupcake frostings. Use good quality gel-based food colour.  Don’t fret about the frosting not being red enough. Gel colours deepen over time. Also, this is an eggless recipe 🙂 

Check out my Christmas specials feature on Parent Circle.com https://www.parentcircle.com/article/supereasy-christmas-dessert-recipes/

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For the eggless red velvet cupcake:

Ingredients:
All-purpose flour – 2 cups
Buttermilk – 1 cup
Vegetable oil – ⅓ cup
Powdered Sugar – 1 cup
Cocoa powder – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 1 tbsp
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
Red Gel Colour – 4 drops
Baking soda – ¾ tsp
Salt – a pinch                                                                                                           

For the red buttercream frosting:

Ingredients
Powdered sugar – 3 cups
Unsalted butter – ⅓ cup
Vanilla – 1½ tsp
Milk – 2 tbsp
Red Gel Food Colour – 4-5 drops

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cupcake moulds/liners of your choice
  • Whisk the buttermilk, vinegar, oil, vanilla and food colour. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Mix well.
  • Scoop the batter into the cupcake moulds. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the moulds.
  • While the cupcakes cool down, prepare the frosting by whisking together the butter and powdered sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla and milk. Whisk again.
  • Take ¼th of the icing and put it in a piping bag with a star tip, or a tip of your choice.This will be used for the white parts of the hat.
  • Add the red food colour to the remaining of the frosting and put it all into a large piping bag. You do not need a decorative tip for this.
  • Let the red frosting sit in the refrigerator for a while for the red colour to deepen.
  • Snip the end of the red piping bag and swirl around the cooled cupcakes to form a hat.
  • Take the white frosting and add a blob on the tip of the cupcake and the edges.
  • Let them set in the refrigerator for a bit before serving.