Mung Puli Pitha: Yellow lentils and coconut cake; Gluten free

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IMG_4065Sankranti is the transmigration of Sun from one rashi ( zodiac sign ) to another. The most auspicious among all Snakrantis, the Makar Snakranti marks the migration of the Sun to the Capricorn sign. This marks the end of winter, days get longer, new harvest is ushered, and the glories of Sun, the all powerful  and most important of all cosmic bodies is celebrated.

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Rice is the staple food among a  large majority of people in India. The grain that satiates hunger has a special place among it’s people. The first harvest is given a haloed place. Prayers are offered to the all powerful  sun god, who sustains this world.

Food takes the centre stage in any celebration. Rice from the freshly harvested paddy and Date palm jaggery are used to make this delicious ‘Pitha” or cake.

Give it a try friends. This can also be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Recipe : made 35 pieces

Ingredients;

Mung dal ( yellow lentils )                         2 cups

Grated coconut                                      1 1/2 cups

Heavy cream                                          1 cup

Date palm jaggery                                  11/2 cup

Rice flour                                               3/4 cup

Ghee                                                   2 tbsps

Canola oil for frying.

Method;

Dry roast the mung dal on a  medium high flame, stirring all the time. As soon as the colour start to change put the gas off, rinse the dal. Cook in water with a pinch of salt till soft. Use the back of a ladle to mash it smooth. Add rice flour one table spoon at a time and mix well. Set aside.

Take a non stick pan with ghee on medium heat. Add the jaggery, once it melts, add the grated coconut. Mix well. Throw in the cream, keep stirring now and then until the water evaporates and it forms a dough. Put the gas off.

Take a tablespoon of the dal mixture form into a ball, flatten into a flat disc. Seat one teaspoon of the coconut mixture in the middle of the disc. Close the flaps carefully. Dip fry on high heat using canola oil.

Collect on kitchen towel. Enjoy. Some prefer making a sugar syrup and dipping these in it.

Wish you all a happy and prosperous Makar Sankranti!

 

Hot Chocolate with winter spices

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IMG_3852I am not going to talk about how the year went. I am thinking. about what we learnt and what to plan for in the new year.

Appreciating simple things, staying together as a family, lot of patience, taking up a hobby ( preferably outdoors ) is what I have come to love more this year. Who knows I might even take ski lessons! I will keep you posted.

In the mean time thank you so so much for sticking around, wish you have a wonderful new year.

IMG_3830Recipe; Serves 2.

Whole milk                                                     Half litre

Cocoa powder                                               11/2 tbsp

Brown sugar                                                  2 Tbsp

Salt                                                              a pinch

Ginger powder                                              1/2 tsp

Nutmeg powder                                            1/4 tsp

Cinnamon sticks                                            2

Dark chocolate (70%) chopped                     1/3 cup

Parle G biscuits ( or Graham cracker )           4

Whipped cream                                          to garnish

Chocolate chips                                         1 Tbsp

Method,

Take the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, run it in the microwave for 30 seconds, check to see if melted, if not try another 30 seconds. Set aside.

Take 4 Parle G biscuit in a ziplock bag, use a rolling pin to make a coarse powder. Collect it in a wide mouthed bowl.

Take the milk in a saucepan on high heat, add the cocoa powder, cinnamon sticks, sugar and salt. Let it come to a boil. Keep whisking so that it becomes silky smooth. Crank the heat down to low medium, add the ginger powder, nutmeg powder and the chopped dark chocolate. Put the gas off. The heat will melt the chocolate. Discard the cinnamon sticks.

Take a mug, invert it on a bowl with water, such that only 1 cm of the rim dips in it. Now dip the inverted mug in the Parle G biscuit crumbs, such that you have a nice coating around the rim.

Pour the hot chocolate, tweak it to your taste. Add some whipped cream, garnish with the melted chocolate and the cacao nibs coated with chocolate.

Decorate with candy cane, gingerbread cookies  and enjoy!!

Til gud ke gajak : Sesame seed and nut bark for Geeta jayanti: GF

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Geeta jayanti is celebrated on the 25 th of December.  It is on this day about 5000 years back, Geeta was ‘Given out’ to Arjun by Lord Krishna himself.

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Arjun was a Hindu prince who had to face his own relatives in a battle. The dusty plains of Kurukshetra, India was the battlefield. His charioteer, Lord Krishna himself in a dialogue discusses the three important threads, namely, the nature of divine, Yog ( to connect ) or the various ways of making the connection with the divine, and the eternal conflict between renunciation and action.

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The western world has been fascinated by, ” The songs of God “, as Geeta is also. known. as.take for example Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem, “Brahma”, to T.S Elliots’s Four Quartets, John Adam’s Doctor Atomic. Henry David Thoreau described ‘Geeta” as a “stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy in comparison with which our modern world and literature seem puny and trivial”.

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In the 11th chapter Krishna gives a mystic vision to Arjun to realize god’s true self, for it is impossible for the normal eye to see that. It is glorious and ghastly at the same time. Robert Oppenheimer the lead scientist with the nuclear bomb quoted Krishna to describe the fierceness and power of the detonation.

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Sesame seeds are rich in fibre, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, support healthy bones. Both these and jaggery help keep the body warm in winter months. It is a common  combination for many snacks or desserts in the winter months.

Recipe; About 30-35 pieces depending on the size.

Ingredients;

Sesame seeds                                     1 cup

Jaggery pieces                                      1 cup

Ghee                                                     2 Tbsps

Milk powder                                          1 Tbsp

Cardamom powder                                1/2 tsp

Almonds                                                1/3 c

Pistachio slivers                                     1 Tbsp

Goji berries                                            1 tbsp

Method;

Dry roast the almonds, cut them in large pieces.

Dry roast the sesame seeds till they pop, very slight change in colour, a few minutes. Let it cool completely. Add the milk powder. Coarse grind the mixture, add the cardamom powder and set aside.

On the counter top, set a silicone baking sheet or Silpat, grease a pizza cutter and a parchment paper.

In a non stick pan take the ghee on high heat, let it melt. Add the jaggery pieces with one table spoon of water. Crank the heat down cook until all the jaggery melts, bubbling all through. Take a small bowl of water, pour a small spoon full of the melted jaggery in it. It should set hard and break in pieces, when tried with fingers.

Put the gas off. Pour the sesame seed mixture and the almond pieces. Mix carefully and completely. Transfer this mixture to the Silpat. Cover this with the greased parchment paper, roll with a rolling pin till about a 1/4 inch thickness. garnish with the dried berries and slivered pistachios. Use the pizza cutter or a knife to cut pieces to your choice.

These store well in an air tight container for about three weeks.

 

 

Brown sugar and Cardamom Shortbread cookies

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Just as vanilla is the preferred flavour in western snacks or desserts, Cardamom is by far the most popular flavour in Indian sweets. When this  flavour that I have grown up with, finds its way to a western dessert or snack, it definitely catches my attention.

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Shortbread cookies are much sought after any time of year, come Christmas time this definitely takes a centre stage. With a modest ingredient list and no serious proficiency needed these cookies are a ‘ must do ” for novice bakers like me.

Give this unique flavour a try. Let me know how it turned out.

Here is the recipe.

Recipe; Makes 15-18 depending on the size. Recipe was adapted from “Nordic ware”.

Ingredients;

Salted butter at room temperature                                     1 cup

All purpose flour                                                                 21/4 cup

Dark brown sugar                                                              1/2 cup

Ground cardamom                                                             1/2 tsp

 

Cardamom sugar mixture;

Granulated sugar                                                                   1/4 cup

Ground cardamom                                                                 1/2 tsp

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the granulated sugar and cardamom powder to form a uniform mixture and set aside.

In a stand mixture cream together brown sugar and butter for a couple minutes.

In another bowl mix the cardamom powder and flour. Slowly. incorporate flour mixture into the dough. As soon as this mixture comes together, collect the dough in a bowl, divide into two halves, shape into discs, cover with cling film and refrigerate for an hour.

When ready take about two tablespoon of the dough and form balls. Roll this in the cardamom sugar mixture and flatten them into discs. you can use any cookie cutter of your choice to give them your desired form. If using a rubber stamp like I have done here, lightly dust the stamp with icing sugar, press the stamp down on the disc, to release the stamp rock it gently sideways.

Place the stamped cookies on a Sil pat lined baking tray 2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes or til the edges turn golden. Allow them to cool

Notes;

If the dough feels too dry use a couple tea spoons of milk to get a play dough consistency. A little bit of flour can be added if the dough is too sticky.

Amygdalota : Greek Almond cookies : GF : Egg free option

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Amygdalota. What lota? I know what you are thinking. I can explain…

Did you know “Amygdala” is an almond shaped area in the human brain that is involved with emotion and decision making.

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Amygdalota are Greek almond cookies. Almond trees are present everywhere in Greece. Almond signifies happiness and prosperity and hence these are integral in important events in Greek lives like weddings or baptisms.

If we try and add the above two, it is clear that these cookies and happiness are inseparable. The truth can only be verified once you try these beauties. For the time being take my word. Thank me later.

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Mildly crispy, sweet with a flavour of fresh orange zest , all you need is a cup of espresso by the side.

Recipe ; Made 3 dozen. Recipe based from “Flavor the moments “: with some changes.

Ingredients.

Almond flour                        3 cups

Granulated sugar                 3/4 cup

Orange zest                         1 tbsp

Salt                                     1/4 tsp

Egg whites                           From 3 eggs (  If skipping egg, Aquqfaba 1/4 cup )

Vanilla extract                     1 tsp

Almond slices                      1 cup

Method;

Put the oven on at 350 F

Mix the almond flour, salt, orange zest in a bowl. Keep aside.

In a stand mixer take the egg whites or Aquafaba if using, add the sugar and vanilla. Mix in high speed till soft peaks form. Add the flour mixture in instalments. Use a spatula to let them all come together. Take a tablespoon measure of this mixture, form a ball between the palm of your hand. Press to form a disc, roll it in the almond slices.

Put these on a parchment paper lined baking tray.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or till the edges turn slightly brown.

Take them out of the oven, put these on a wire rack to cool completely.

Try them with a cup of strong hot cup of coffee.

Notes:

Aquafaba is the liquid from the chick pea can.

Anise seed sugar cookies

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“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’.

It may have been a  2020, lock down was the new norm, travel was virtual, gift exchanges kerbside, but, oh well, it is that time of the year. Time to slow down, watch the old favourite Christmas movies even after you know the dialogues by heart, light the fire place and enjoy the snow clad landscape outside while getting some baking done.

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Being a novice baker I stick to a variety of cookie recipes. Anise seed is quite common ingredient in Indian cuisine. It can be used as a mouth freshener or even a home remedy to counter nausea.

No wonder I was drawn to this recipe from “The Beach house kitchen”. The cookies turned out crisp, not overly sweet and the coarsely ground anise seeds sometimes lingered in the mouth for a last bite releasing that oh so wonderful liquorice taste.

Recipe; Adapted from ” The beach house kitchen “

Ingredients; Made 42  pieces, including the large and small ones.

 All purpose flour                                                       23/4 cup

Crushed anise seed                                                    1 Tbsp

Baking powder                                                            2 tsp

Unsalted butter                                                           1 cup

Granulated sugar                                                         1 cup

Vanilla extract                                                               1 tsp

Egg ( Fake egg, see notes below )                                  1 large

Sanding and icing sugar                                             As needed to decorate.

Method

Turn the oven at 350 degrees F

Take the flour. Mix the baking powder and coarsely ground anise seeds.

In a stand mixer, take the butter at room temperature and add the sugar. Mix till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on high. Add the egg and vanilla extract, mix for another minute.

Turn the speed low and add the flour mixture in a couple instalments. Turn the mixer off as soon as the dough comes together.

Take it out on a work surface, divide in two halves, cover with cling film until ready to use. Take the first half on a floured surface, cover the dough with a wax paper and roll out to one fourth inch thickness. Use a three inch fluted cookie cutter for the outer circle and a one and half inch cutter for the inner circle. Carefully lift them up to a Sil pat lined baking sheet. Decorate with sanding sugar, I have used green and red.

Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, till the sides just start to brown.

Collect them on a wire rack. Sprinkle some extra icing sugar on top

Enjoy.

Note:

One fake egg :                    Mix together  2 Tbsp water, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp canola or any vegetable oil.

 

Amritsari wadiyan aloo subzi ; Potatoes with dried lentil dumplings curry

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Lentils are a very important source of proteins for the vegetarians. They can be cooked in a myriad of ways starting from appetizers , main course, side dish, or desserts. Each part of the country has their own style of preparing them.

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“Wadis” are ground lentils, that are spiced, made into balls and sun dried. They are then stored in air tight containers for a long period of time. The time of the year when the vegetables are scarce, or a day when the grocery is yet to be done, these come as saviours. The town of Amritsar in Punjab is associated with making these Wadis, hence the name.

Onion and garlic are an integral part of the recipe. I have modified it to a no onion garlic recipe, using only ginger and tomatoes.

Here is the recipe.

Recipe; Serves four as main or six as side dish.

Ingredients;

Wadis ( Store bought )                                8-10

Potatoes cut in wedges                              2 cups

Heeng ( asafoetida )                                   1/4 tsp

Jeera ( Cumin seeds )                                1 tsp

Canola oil                                                  4 Tbsp

Ginger puree                                             2 tbsps

Tomato puree                                            4 Tbsps

Turmeric powder                                        1/2 tsp

Paprika                                                     1 tsp

Red chilli powder                                      1/2 tsp

Jeera powder                                            1 tsp

Salt                                                            to taste

Cilantro  ( chopped )                                    1 Tbsp

Method;

Take 2 tbsp of canola oil in a non stick pan on medium high heat. Add the wadis. Fry, changing sides till they get a reddish colour. Collect them on kitchen towel and keep aside.

Take the rest of the oil in the pan on medium heat, add the heeng and jeera seeds, saute for half a minute or till the seeds change to slightly darker colour.

Add the potatoes, turmeric powder, salt. Cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done. Add the ginger paste, saute for a couple minutes, add the chilli powder, paprika, jeera powder and some water. Cook, stirring often so that the spices do not catch the bottom of the pan. When you see the oil leaving the spices add the tomato puree, the wadis and two cups of water. Let it all come together, the wadis absorb lot of water, so depending upon how much gravy you desire, add water. Using the spatula break the wadis into smaller pieces which is easy to do now. Check to see if the potatoes are done, adjust salt if needed. Garnish with cilantro.

Serve it with a side of either rice or roti.

Enjoy.