Chocolate Black Forest Ice Cream

How to make Black Forest Ice Cream | Easy Chocolate Black Forest Ice Cream Recipe
I am clueless how months have flown by since my last post here. Let me put excuses aside and so that you know, let's get started with first things first. While many guessed, for the ones who remained uninformed, I made a big move from India to the US about 6 months ago. That was way back in the mid of March when the snow caps here in Connecticut were on the verge of melting and the spring sat on its edges awaiting to set in. From the summer heat of Bangalore to the ceasing winters of New England, I moved in with 2 huge suitcases packing all that meant the world to me.


It took me a while to settle down to the demands of not-so-new-anymore place, work and routine. And believe me, while it wasn't hard at all, I did not have it all easy either. It was life at work that was most consuming. Caught up in a new place, with new folks, new skills to learn and new team to work with, I was jostling myself with an identity crisis. I worked on many weekends and put aside blogging for a while for the sheer busyness and lack of motivation. And when we had time off, we hit the road and traveled places to make most of the summer.

We also have my parents over here right now. That's a big joy and great support knowing that our little girl has just started school and will be back home in the noon to house full of folks she loves and is pampered by the most. They will be around till the mid of November to witness the glorious fall season. That tells you our kitchen has been the busiest place at home where most of the action is seen. You can hear whistles of pressure cooker go by at regular intervals. You can smell pots of steaming rice and sambhar bubbling away. We just got done with guLiappams and chutney for breakfast this morning. Right now, potatoes are being boiled for Aloo Parathas tonight, the husband's all time favorite. And there's this Chocolate Black Forest Ice Cream sitting in the freezer to be devoured for dessert at will.

Pitted Cherries


I made a repeat of these brownies last weekend. I also had a can of condensed milk, a box of fresh cherries and some leftover cocoa powder awaiting to be consumed. So it turned out that this Chocolate Black Forest Ice Cream was a well timed recipe to make use all that I had been wanting to consume. The cherries I used here were fresh sweet ones. You can make do with frozen ones too. Roasted walnuts are quite optional, but give a lovely crunch to this ice cream and pair really well with the brownies. If you aren't a fan of chocolate ice cream, but love brownies, try skipping the cocoa powder while making ice cream and leave it plain old vanilla. Don't forget to stir in the cherries and brownies, because that's what makes them Black Forest :). For a more decadent, richer, adult version, I highly recommend using rum soaked cherries in place of fresh cherries. Drizzle some hot chocolate sauce before you serve this to your chocolate loving guests and I would probably call that death by chocolate!

Ice cream Prep


Chocolate Black Forest Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS

400 ml heavy cream, cold
200 grams condensed milk, preferably cold
2 tbsp. good cocoa powder
1 tbsp. vanilla essence
1/4 cup chopped roasted walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh cherries
1/2 cup crumbled / bite sized chocolate brownie chunks

DIRECTIONS

To prepare the chocolate ice cream, whip the heavy cream till it doubles and holds soft peaks. Then add the condensed milk, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Continue to whip until the mixture is smooth and fluffy and holds soft peaks, about 1 minute.

Transfer half the prepared ice cream to a loaf tin or your ice cream container of your choice. Top it with half of the brownie chunks, cherries and walnut. Using a fork, gently swirl so that the nuts, brownies and cherries mix into the ice cream.

Top this with another layer of prepared ice cream, followed by topping of the remaining half of the brownie chunks, cherries and walnut. Swirl again gently.

Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow the ice cream to set in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours. To serve, remove from freezer and place the ice cream in fridge for 10 minutes to soften. Using a warm ice cream scooper, spoon out the ice cream and serve.

Chocolate Black Forest Ice cream Prep


This post has been long over due. Though this may look simple and straight forward, I can't emphasize how many months have gone over writing this post. And then it went into a hiding. Further to my post on baking essentials in my kitchen posted couple of years ago, I sat down to put another post on the tools and gadgets that I am obsessed with. When I began jotting down this post, I had no clue where to start from. There was so much to put down here that I wondered if I could do all on this post. Here is a humble attempt to share the most of what I thought was essential. This is not an endorsement for a product or brand, but I believe this will give you an insight of what I use in my kitchen and where I bought them from, with a sincere attempt to help all.


Baking Pans: Baking pans are available in various sizes, shapes, heights and makes. Sizes can vary from 3 inches and go up to 9 inches for home use. The pan to be used will depend on the quantity of cake batter you have. For most cakes, the batter should not exceed 3/4th the height of the cake pan, allowing sufficient space for cake rise.

Silicon make, non-stick or aluminium tins are most commonly available in Indian markets today. I commonly use either non-stick or aluminium tins for my bakes. While my aluminium tins require proper greasing and dusting of flour to prevent the bakes from sticking to the pan, the silicons and non-stick ones can be used directly. If you do not have an oven and are using microwave method, use silicon moulds. Most silicon moulds work well in microwave mode, however I suggest you check with your manufacturer.

Ovenproof Glass Bowls: I picked mine from couple of places and these are readily available in most supermarkets in Bangalore these days. Supermarkets like Hypercity Mall, Spar, Total Mall, Hometown, @Home, Jamaals, etc. in Bangalore sell good ovenproof glass bowls, pans in various sizes and heights. You have round, square and oval ones to choose from. I use glass bakeware extensively for baking savory goods. They are great for pastas, lasagnas and au gratins, where you can bake and present in the same dish. These are perfect for puddings, pies and cakes too, the ones that do not require to be transferred to another dish. Ovenproof Glassware generally require longer baking time, hence baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Disposable Aluminum Pans: These are easily available in most Bangalore supermarkets. Infact I have seen many small vendor shops selling them too. So fetching them shouldn't be an issue. They come with aluminium foil base and cardboard paper cover. They are commonly used to pack n' parcel food and help in easy take-along while traveling. Bake your goodies and take them along your travel in the same casing. Mess free and easy peasy! And if you are not a regular baker and do not see the need to invest in bakewares these are cheaper, clutter-free options. I have baked brownies in them and taken them to parties and picnics with much ease.

Springform Pan: A springform tin has a bottom that is separable from the side. A clamp holds the pan together and opens to allow the side to easily be pulled away from the baked dessert. When I first ventured to baking, I almost considered this pan was a must for making cheesecakes and other desserts that are tricky to remove from their pans. Yeah it does help, but buy one if you really intend to bake such complex desserts. They aren't good for baking regular cakes otherwise as the batter may seep out from the pan base edges.

I love my springform pan from a brand called Prestige that I got from Bahrain. It's is a heavy gauze metallic one and extremely sturdy against any wear and tear. Another one I own is from a brand called Nordicware that I got from US, though its delicate and have never really used. Honestly, I craved for my springform pan when I did not own one. However since the past 2 years, I have barely used them apart from baking in them for Christmas. Do you really think you will bake a cheesecake that often???


Loose base Tin: A fabulous replacement for springform pans in Indian markets. I picked mine from Nilgiris supermarket in Mangalore. Grab one if you manage to get your hands on them. Most springform pans in India are imported and expensive. Loose base tin does the same job well. Ofcourse if you have a runny batter, I recommend you against using it.

Tart Pan: Tart pans come with shallow depth and fluted edges. They come in many different sizes and the ones with removable bottom makes it easy to neatly transfer a tart to a serving plate. The ones with deeper depth are used for quiche and shallower pans are used for delicate dessert tarts. Honestly, I am not a tart person and for the one that I own, I have never used it till date, except to bake this Apple Raisin cake once. I love its fluted edges though!

Pie Tins/Pans: Generally, pies are baked in a relatively deep pan with sloped sides that can hold a large amount of filling. Pie plates come in varieties, ranging from ovenproof glass, ceramic, heavy foil, aluminum, stainless steel and nonstick. I use a Tramontina brand pan that I bought from Jamaals, Forum Value Mall, Whitefield. I also bought a couple of mini pie pans that I bought randomly at some sale shops.

Muffin Pans & cases: Available in 24-, 12-and 6-cup pans, the standard muffin cup holds a scant 1/2 cup batter. Muffin pans are available in various sizes and come in capacities holding about 1/2 cup to 2 tablespoons batter.


I bake muffins and cupcakes quite a lot and hence these pans are definitely one of my most used items in my bakeware list. Muffin pans are very easily available in Bangalore, especially in most malls and supermarkets. I use a silicon mould with 6-cup pan, but you can go for aluminium, silicon or individual moulds. I often love using my jelly moulds to bake my muffins. I get my muffin pan and cupcake papers from Jamaals. I am not biased towards Jamaals here, but then I do buy a lot from them since they sell quality stuffs, hence recommend them for your purchase too.

Loaf Pan: Aluminum loaf pans can turn out tender cakes, while dark, nonstick or glass pans will produce a crunchy-chewy crust. Mine is a legacy aluminium loaf tin I borrowed from my mother and I love it. Apart from that I have a smaller sized loaf tin, again in aluminium for smaller bakes. Either ways, I use them a lot.


Bundt/Tube Pan: Also known as an angel food cake pan, this deep pan has a hollow tube in the center that promotes even baking. Mine is a standard aluminium bundt pan. Demoulding a bundt pan can get quite tricky, especially if you are impatient with it. Be sure you grease your pan really well and dust liberally with flour before baking. If you want to avoid this hassle of demoulding with butterflies in your stomach, opt for a non stick bakeware.

Ramekin: Ramekins are usually made of porcelain or earthenware and can be used for both sweet and savory dishes - either baked or chilled. I use ramekins from Clay Craft brand that I bought for a reasonable price of Rs. 70 per piece. It works like a charm in making individual 2 min cakes, warming butter in microwave or baking creme caramel.

Aluminum Sheets: Aluminium baking sheets are great for barbecues and grills as they are good heat conductors and will produce evenly baked and browned goods. I use them often to line my oven and keep it clean. They are great for packing food, especially parathas, tortillas and rotis.

Parchment Paper: These sheets are great substitutes for non-stick pans and are used as disposable non-stick surface. It eliminates the need to grease and re-grease pans for repetitive batches of baking like cookies or cakes. Do not confuse this to the wax paper, also commonly called as the butter paper that's commonly used in crafts and tracing. Wax papers are not great for baking as they can cause smoke in oven. I have personally tried this and can vouch for that! However you are good to use them in microwave cooking since the paper is mostly unaffected by microwaves, hence safe.

Kitchen Gadgets


Electric Stand Mixer: I get several requests from my readers on this one. Understandably, stand mixers are not so common in India and not of great help in our traditional Indian cooking. Often I am asked if it's worth that investment. I can vouch that it's not an essential for a home baker, especially if you have a hand blender at hand and you are not a professional baker. Yet, my Hamilton Beach Stand Mixer has been a fabulous companion in most of my bakes. It helps me whip up cream, make homemade marshmallows and knead my bread dough effortlessly. It's stand mixer with detachable blender option makes it space effective and an investment worth the dollars spent. I bought mine from the US. You can get one locally too, however, I am not sure how well they perform.

Kitchen Blender: I swear by my Hamilton Beach blender for most of my bakes. I pull it out for almost every cake, bake, whip or dessert I make. It's handy and makes my job easy. I certainly recommend this one.

Mixer Grinder: A must in my kitchen, especially in Indian cooking. Prior to owning a blender/stand mixer, I've used my Morphy Richard mixer grinder to whip creams too. That apart, it does an excellent job in mincing and grinding both wet and dry ingredients. I use it to grind the toughest of ingredients including cinnamon bark and nutmeg effortlessly. My life wouldn't be the same without my favorite mixer grinder. That's how much I adore it.

Tortilla Maker: I bought my Jaipan Roti/Tortilla Maker a few years ago when I was staying alone. It did help me avoid the hassles of rolling the dough thin or the need of separate tava to roast them. But I admit, nothing beats the art of making rotis the traditional way. Yet, if you are the one who avoids making rotis and tortillas because you hate rolling them thin and round, then this one will help you for sure. They make excellent papads and khakras .

Miscellaneous and et al.


Pastry Brush: I have spent minutes wasted over brushing glaze on bakes with spoon, fork, blunt knife, fingers and what not! My thumbs up for this one. Certainly helpful to brush milk, butter and egg whites on baked goodies.

Pastry Wheel: This rolling-bladed tool works well to cut pizzas, pies, pastry sheets. Not a must, but will be of great help! I use them in cutting shankarpalis.

Citrus Zester: If you are a lot into zesty bakes with citrus fruits, then this one is a must have. The zester peels away only the zest part of the fruit avoiding the bitter pith portion. Add the zest in your bakes and you'll totally love it's refreshing citrus punch.

Cookie Cutter: If a fancy shape is not what you crave, go ahead and use the rear of a glass bottle cap or the rim of a small steel glass. Cookie cutters are available in aluminum and plastic in various shapes, sizes and designs.

Rolling Pin: You would never find an Indian kitchen sans a rolling pin! Though this kitchen tool is used mainly to roll out dough, it's also handy for a number of other culinary tasks including crushing ice, crackers, flattening bread and shaping cookies. Rolling pins can be made of almost any material including brass, ceramic, copper, glass, marble, plastic and porcelain. The favored material, however, is good quality hardwood. The heavier pins deliver the best results because their weight and balance produce smoother doughs with less effort.


Grater: I own a couple of them and am huge fan of good graters. I have from micro to mini to noodle sized ones and use them extensively for cheese, chocolate shavings, ginger, nutmeg, coconut flesh, vegetable noodles, and butter. A must have in my kitchen.

Whisk: Whisks have been one of the most essential tools I use for whipping ingredients such as eggs and cream to incorporate air into them. The more wires a whisk contains, the more effectively it will incorporate air into a mixture.

Wooden Spoons: These are essential for my non-stick pans. Apart from this it's easier to mix batter because it does not cut into the batter, but rather, stirs or mixes it. I keep a variety of wooden spoons specifically for my baking projects. Always wash and dry wooden spoons after use. Allow them to air dry to avoid molds on them.

Measuring Cup and Spoons: are indispensable tools for the accurate measurement of dry and liquid ingredients. I highly recommend a good set of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons that will last long and are safe for prolonged use. Plastics ones are cheaper good alternatives if you are a beginner at baking.

Skimmer/Strainer: I spent several years not owning a strainer assuming that I would barely use it as I disliked sweating over pot of hot oil and frying batches of fried food. I sincerely wish I hadn't waited so long. Having a good strainer at hands eases out all your frying frills. It drains away excess oil and saves your energy from flimsy frying. Additionally, its a great skimmer for soups and stocks. It not just drains away water, but acts as a ladle for noodles and pasta. Occasionally, I use mine to drain away excess water from washed greens too.

The above list is quite extensive and I have jotted down common items I use regularly in my kitchen for baking purpose. I have probably not covered some basics like kitchen scales, rice cooker, pressure cooker (my lifeline), sandwich maker, steamer, chopper, knives, microwave, OTG and their brands I use, because I assume the list can go on and on and this holds true for most homes where you accumulate a lot over years. My gadgets and tools are not limited to the above, though this can sound quite an exhaustive list in itself. Over years I have collated enough and more than I desired to and it would put me to shame if I put them all here in a single post. Some of these have been my most trusted, beloved tools - a wise purchase, while some were just impulsive purchases. I do hope this serves as a guide for you and not a rule book in any sense. What works best for me may not work for you and vice versa. So, happy owning and happy baking!

Paneer Makhani

How to make Paneer Makhani| Easy Restaurant Style Paneer Makhani
Back in the 80’s and 90’s, the only kind of restaurants we went out to as kids were the ones that served good North Indian cuisine. A good ambiance and décor was just one factor. A commendable restaurant however, was measured by the North Indian fare it served on its menu. A simple, hot Dal Tadka that had a great smoky flavor; the rich Palak Paneer in its deepest green hues - deeper the green, better the dish - that meant, it was stir fried better, hence it tasted better; Baingan ka Bharta dotted with cooked fresh peas and shreds of ginger juliennes, topped with fresh cream or melting butter, Choles and Rajamas that were spiced liberally and had a good layer of fat floating atop, the ladle going deep to stir it up gently before being served by the waiter; all of this usually formed an integral part of an Indian restaurant menu. This was either served with an assortment of Indian flatbreads like naans and kulchas or flavored rice like Biryanis and Pulaos.

No Indian restaurant menu though was complete without the quintessential assortment of gravies made from either the fragrant butter and cream based tomato sauce, or the white cream and nut sauce. Dal Makhani, Paneer Makhani, Malai Kofta, Veg Makhani, Paneer Butter Masala, Phool Makhani, Navratna Korma, Shahi Paneer and such alike formed the elite part of the menu. They weren’t the usual dishes most moms would cook at homes, hence relishing them at restaurants was indeed a treat we looked forward to. I loosely remember how our palms smelt of makhani masalas after several hours of being back home from savoring the heavy North Indian meal at those restaurants.

Paneer CubedMakhani Masala 2


Though, that was a thing of past. We no longer gauge a restaurant by the standards of Indian food served. There are plenty of global cuisines to explore from, so usually an Indian fare takes the least preference. We love settling to home cooked Indian meals most of the times, replicating restaurant styled dishes at home in the comfort of my kitchen. On a Valentine's Day, when the restaurants are brimming with crowd, here's a better way to cozy up your evening - with good home cooked food and music to make your day memorable with your loved ones.

I have a fantastic recipe for Paneer Makhani for you. It's a keeper for years to come and you may want to thank me for that. The heart of a good Paneer Makhani dish lies in its base, the rich and flavorsome tomato cream sauce that can be made ahead and stored for a couple of weeks in the freezer. Inspired by Soma's post here, I have loosely adapted her recipe for Makhani Masala, tweaked it a bit to get a beautiful recipe that makes an array of dishes with just one basic gravy. This is where you start and can further adapt it to make many more popular recipes that are usually found in Indian restaurants.

So this Valentine's Day, if you are running out of place to dine out or if you've made no fancy plans to spend the evening as you had wished to, whip up this restaurant styled recipe in your kitchen, lay your table, light your candles and surprise them with this dish in the warmth of your own home. And don't forget to tell them how much you love them. Ofcourse, if you don't, this Paneer Makhani will do that for you!

Paneer Makhani 1


Paneer Makhani Restaurant Style

INGREDIENTS

For Makhani Masala

3 tbsp. butter / ghee / oil (more you use, better the flavor, hence do not reduce it)
2 green cardamoms, lightly crushed
1/2 cinnamon stick, broken
1/2 tsp. fenugreek powder (fenugreek seeds will also do)
1 green chilli, slit to half lenghtwise
1 tsp. fresh garlic paste (skip this for satvik version)
1 inch ginger, freshly grated
5 large ripe, red tomatoes, pureed to paste
1 tsp red chilli powder*
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. kasuri methi, gently crushed
Salt to taste

For Paneer Makhani

1 block / 200 grams paneer, cut into cubes
1/4 cup cream (adjust to your taste)
Fresh coriander, cream for garnish

DIRECTIONS

To prepare the Makhani Masala:

Heat the butter / ghee / oil & add the green cardamoms, cinnamon stick. Fry for 20 seconds. Add the fenugreek powder / seeds and fry for another 10 seconds. Never let the fenugreek burn, else they will turn the dish bitter. Add the grated ginger, the garlic paste and fry them till the raw smell is gone. Next add the tomato paste and cook till it reduces and oil bubbles up from the sides of the pan. Add the red chilli powder, slit green chilli, garam masala, and salt to taste. Finally crush kasuri methi gently between palms and add it to the simmering gravy. At this point you can either turn off the flame, allow the gravy to cool and store the prepared Makhani Masala in air tight container and freeze it for future, or proceed ahead to prepare the Restaurant Styled Paneer Makhani.

To prepare the Paneer Makhani:

To the above simmering gravy, add 1/2 cup of water and cubed paneer and bring it to a boil. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. Finally add the cream and simmer for 2 minutes. Transfer the Paneer Makhani to a serving bowl and garnish with cream, ginger juliannes and coriander leaves. Serve hot with rotis, naans or kulchas. Pairs well with Jeera rice too.

Paneer Makhani 2


Notes:

- The above quantity of Makhani Masala will suffice for this Paneer Makhani recipe. Should you make in larger quantities, you can easily double up the recipe and store them in the freezer.

- This is a rich dish and is supposed to be made with butter or ghee. If you want it to be healthier use oil instead of butter or ghee. However, you are compromising on the taste.

- The color of the gravy depends on the amount of cream and the red chilli powder being used. If you want a richer red color, use Kashmiri chilli powder. More the cream, lighter the color.

- Kasuri methi leaves are dry fenugreek greens. Its a MUST in this recipe and renders a lovely flavor. However, don't use a lot of it. It can be overpowering. You can also add only half the quantity of Kasuri Methi to the recipe, transfer and store. The other half tsp. can be added as you prepare the final dish.

How to make Sabudana Vada | Easy Sabudana Vada Recipe
I spent a fairly large part of December living out of my suitcase traveling to Pune for work. Being my first visit ever to Pune as an adult I was looking forward to it. I’m told this is not my first time there. We lived for many years in Maharashtra and had crossed Pune en route on multiple occasions. The last time I was there, I don’t even remember. That must have been moons ago when I was a kid, most of which I can barely recall. And even if I did, it would do no good. Over decades, Pune is known to have seen oceanic wave of change the way Bangalore did. Nevertheless, it was a trip I lived and loved like I owned it.

I am taking you on a short walk to Pune through my eyes. Bear with me, these photos do no justice as I was without my real camera. All these captures were shot on my cell phone.


Vivacious and live. Modern, yet heirloom. It’s a city where warriors whisper their manifestation through their wadas in every nook. Where the stony edifices call out in solitude and their empty staircases in splashes of grey monotones make you weep. They take you back to school, to those history classes of 6th standard, leaving you in terrible guilt by reminding you how much you dreaded mugging Shivaji and Bajirao’s valor. Why I ask? Instead why didn’t our schools profess visiting these iconic citadels with their near-collapsing rustic wooden panes and ornate windows, that speak of their crumbling legacy and history entangled in this contemporary city. Echoes of bygones are heard in these architectural splendors. You wonder what lives have lived behind those warped doors. Their ruins and textures speak to you peeking from their pasts - from those granite slabs at the entrance of Shaniwar wada that etch their account, from their colossal wooden doors that weathered the centuries gone by; they once stood as epitome to the bygone Peshwa and Maratha reigns. You hear them whisper through cracks as they frail.

Pune is a sprawling city where urbanization is vastly seen in every spectacle that your eyes go. There are pockets of lanes and by-lanes that speak of their heritage caving their ways into modernization. There are wadas, forts and caves in the heart of city. Women draped in nauvaris haul carts heaped with fruits, weighing their daily sales. Men with kind eyes line the pavements, ride bicycles, and crowd the bazaars in their faded dhotis and topis, heavily dusty and pale from whites to browns. There are beautiful images of the daily Pune life that can't escape your eyes. Like markets crammed with fruit and vegetable vendors calling out to you. Kirana stores dotting the city all over. Wada-pav and sabudana wada bringing bliss to the common man’s appetite. Chitalebandhu and Kayani lending soul to early evenings. Marathi interspersed in sweet high tones; chalā chalā, puḍhē jā, kai jhālē. Sounds and smells of Marathi culture in everything, everywhere. It draws you into their culture, ties you with theirs.


Yet, if you tour the city as a tourist you’ll see a wave of urbanization. Buildings over buildings, like matchboxes stacked over each other, glued together. From a bird’s eye view, they look like cardboard cutouts in varying heights placed randomly. That’s how cities look like, right? Like blueprints in real time? Construction in every area. Flyovers at every stretch. Tall, wide ad banners in every sight, at every turn. You read in Hindi, it sounds like Marathi. A melodious rhythm that leaves you thinking their meanings. There are buildings called IT factories shaped in form of an egg, globe, geometrical structures of triangles, hexagons and pentagons, some lopsided and shapeless too, that seem like the architects’ messed up work. There’s keenness everywhere to cover them with tinted glass panes to hide the lives behind. They see you, you don’t. Instead, they reflect the bustling streets, the women behind carts, the men in faded dhotis, the bike riders, the car goers, the kirana dukaan, the traffic signals, the floating clouds, and the flying sparrows, like holding mirrors to the city. Its visible there for you to see. Like a slap you can’t turn your face away to. People and cultures merge, dissolving like water colors on paper blotched over each other. Some pockets murky, some clear, some overlapping into one another, each color varying in their depth and degrees. Overall it’s a beautiful blend of tradition and modernity, a beautiful picture you can’t ignore.

Pune, you are beautiful, no doubt. But I long to go back in time. To time when it spun back into history. Where the wadas came alive in their full splendor and their now dark staircases were filled with giggles and laughter from women of those times. Where modernity did not nudge the traditions and replace with this blend so quickly. Where the frail walls that stood strong to weather and time, spoke of valor. Where the cracks in cultures merged, the history disentangled itself and the heavens called for legacy to rule again.


In my ode to Pune, I bring this delicious Sabudana Vada from my kitchen to yours; a classical, traditional Maharastrian dish that I have loved for several years now. I made this in the fond yearning of the time spent there savoring local delicacies, sabudana khichdi, misal pav, vada pav and this sabudana vada. Its flavors sing to you in simplicity, bursting from the golden crisp pops of sago pearls, punctuated with potatoes, peanuts and chillies in each bite, each subtle and well blended. It's a thing you should try, incase you haven't.


Sabudana Vada

INGREDIENTS

1 cup sabudana / sago pearls
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies, chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

Wash the sago and soak it in just enough water to cover the pearls. Soak it for 4-5 hours or preferably overnight. In the morning, the pearls will be plump and doubled in size. For 1 cup of soaked sago, I used 1/3 cup of raw sago, washed and then soaked them in 1/2 cup of water for nearly 5 hours.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pinch a lemon sized portion out of the prepared vada mixture and shape it into ball. Gently flatten it with fingers. Prepare all the vadas to fry and keep them aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a thick bottom vessel and deep-fry the vadas on a medium flame till they are golden brown in color on either sides. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot with green chutney or tomato sauce.

Tawa Pulao 1

How to make Tawa Pulao | Easy Vegetable Tawa Pulao Recipe
Last month, when everyone was busy counting down days for Christmas and gearing up for year end celebrations, I was out in Pune, spending a fair share of December in a city familiarly unfamiliar to me. Familiar, because any Bangalorean can best draw similarities to this city. Its traffic, roads, breadth of the city, the weather, all so similar. Unfamiliar, because this was my first time here. Its language, people and directions, so unfamiliar. I spent weekdays at my desk, busying myself between colleagues, emails and phone calls, and sightseeing the city on weekends. I will give you a glimpse of Pune through my eyes in my next post, and I promise on that; but for today, I have something more to share. Its a bit of what I had been procrastinating for a while because of my wrung out busy life.

Sometime around the first week of December, in an afternoon by the pool side of JW Marriott, sipping some refreshing rose mocktails and exchanging greetings with a couple of bloggers and press folks, a handful of us came together to be a part of Canola Cook-off event hosted by Chef Jolly Surjan Singh. We flocked around the Chef that noon as he spoke about his love for Canola oil and spun his magic around the table, cooking some versatile Indian dishes at the first Canola cook-off sponsored by Canolainfo.org. Mind you, its not a brand they endorse, but an awareness they are trying to create towards understanding Canola oil and creating its identity in Indian cooking. The rest of the evening was spent in chatters, sipping tea as we savored the Khada Desi Palak, Tandoori Broccoli, and many other delicacies that Chef had created to display the versatility of this little known oil.


This isn't my first time with Canola. The first time I saw it, it read C-A-N-O-L-A, and I had assumed it was a brand name. I stared at it for a long time trying to identify where it came from. Coconut? Olive? Groundnut? Sunflower? What breed did it belong to? It glared back at me, its words 'Canola Oil' in its bold black font and that left me worrying its identity. In a new country, a new home, a new kitchen, it sat on the kitchen counter-top in a gleaming plastic bottle, radiating its thin golden liquid, feigning like a silly hypothetical thing. We did not grow up knowing each other. It was as alien as non-veg is to a vegetarian being. I had never heard of it till I traveled out of my country. Neither do I remember reading them on food blogs. That's now a thing of past. I read up on it later and soon we were friends shaking hands with every meal I made till the time I was there.

So what's canola oil and why are we Indians not so aware of it? A little known to most of us, it comes from the seeds of the rapeseed plant that is extracted and processed to remove some unfavorable substances. It's a heart friendly oil with less than half the saturated fat of olive (now, do you believe that?) or soybean oil, that gives you more excuses to fry your samosas, bake muffins or use them in tadkas intrepidly. Grown commonly in the West, mainly Canada and US and widely used there, this oil is slowly walking baby footsteps in Indian markets. Having lived in the US and used it in every meal of the day, I know how popular canola oil is back there. Rediscovering canola through this event was like meeting a long lost friend, someone whom you had known a while ago but had faded out of your memory. They appear unexpectedly and brush the rust off the oblivion. A bottle of canola now sits on our kitchen counter, in a prominent spot where the vegetable oil had once conquered that space. We've fried jamoons, roasted chivda, used them in salads, stir fries and pulaos with the same ease as with our regular cooking oil with no change in flavor and additional boast to health. I'm excited to share with you my recipe for Tawa Pulao, made with this golden goodness; a street side food often found on carts and road side eateries in Mumbai. Its quick, delicious and healthy one pot meal made from steamed rice, vegetables and pav bhaji masala. For me, this serves the best way to use up left over rice from the previous meal.

Tawa Pulao_2


Tawa Pulao

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh peas
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup each of chopped vegetables like carrots, beans, capsicum, broccoli
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp pav bhaji masala
3 cups cooked rice
Salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon, squeezed
Finely chopped coriander or fried green chilli, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and fry cumin seeds till they brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and fry for a few seconds. Then add the onion and sauté till its brown. Add the fresh peas, tomatoes and turmeric powder. Cook till the tomatoes are soft. Next, tip in the chopped carrots, beans, broccoli and capsicum and fry till they are nearly cooked. Add the rice and mix well with the vegetables. Add the salt, red chilli powder with pav bhaji masala. Toss well and cook on high flame for a 2 minutes, till all the masalas coat the rice well. Switch off the flame. Squeeze the lemon juice and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with yogurt / raita and fried green chilli, if desired.


Tawa Pulao Plated

Clementine Scented Almond Biscotti 1

How to make Clementine Scented Almond Biscotti | Easy Orange Almond Biscotti Recipe
The mornings since a week have turned wonderfully chill. Its been cooler than any other month I have known in Bangalore the past year. It’s been a while since we’ve been going to bed tucking the quilt snugly till our necks, windows partly open to let the cold air in, and without the usual sounds of whirling fans putting us to sleep. I scuffle in hunt for my home slippers which I don’t else care for. I love walking barefoot at home. The sounds of bare feet slapping against the floor, thap thap thap. It has a thing to it. Like adding music to the silent mornings. A melodious slap. Have you ever thought so?

The nip in the air has taken over the water too. They seem to be flowing from the refrigerators above and I can barely rinse after brushing, the mint flavor in the toothpaste adding to the effect of its chillness making my mouth go nearly numb. I stepped out this morning to put my sandals on; within minutes though, I rushed back in and led myself into the closet that stores many long forgotten things. Under the hiding of my ill-fitting jeans and handful of old salwar kameez, I pulled off my good ol’ maroon winter scarf (which had its ornate prints faded out in its seclusion, I yet love it), wrapped it around my neck, crossed my hands to chest and walked my way to work. The homeless dogs had gone into hiding, probably looking for warmer shelters under the extended roofing of kirana stores. There they sat warming up against the heap of ugly gunny rugs, rolling over lazily, snugging deeper into them. Above, the leaves wavered, their sway hushed, like the pendulum of a wall clock in a slow motion. The strollers on sidewalks had many like me who tucked their arms firmly across their chest, others burrowing their fingers deep into the slots of their jeans, their shoulders stooped; while women held to their scarfs covering the faces with their eyes stealing glimpse to the world passing by, as they rode pillion on the bikes.

Biscotti First Bake Almond Biscotti First Bake SlicedClementine Scented Almond Biscotti 2


Behind the pads of clouds I see sun poking out. By 8 am or so, the sun is out in its full glory. It’s the kind of weather I love. Cool, bright and sunny; the gentle warmth from sun seeping tenderly into my skin. It promises me that the day will turn good. There are no resolutions this year. Only optimism. An eagerness to see what future holds for us. No matter what, hope is mightier than all. Hope for positivity and accomplishment of many unspoken promises. That brings me to craving a good cup of masala chai and these Clementine Scented Almond Biscottis I baked in the mid of last year while in US when the weather turned this way. When the skies brightened and the cold air made us snug, we dunked biscottis and drank tea. Decembers and January of Bangalore ought to be like this. The season of winters. Season when oranges appear in plenty. Season to warm up. Season to eat almonds. Season to bake. Season for a reason to bake.

So I craved these biscottis and baked them again. The original recipe calls for clementine oranges. It said mandarins or other fruit zest will work too. I tried these again replacing clementines for Indian oranges and they were zesty and flavorsome. Although these photographs come from the time I baked them with clementines, let your imagination drift away to try other flavors. During that vacation, I spent many evenings flipping pages of cookbooks I had borrowed from the nearby State library. The flipping, the photographs, the intros and side notes for the recipe had often inspired me to get on my toes and rush to bake. This recipe comes from one among them. I wish though I had noted down where it came from. I promise, the moment I figure out, I shall credit it duly. For now, I hope this biscotti brightens up your day irrespective of the weather in your country.

Clementine Scented Almond Biscotti


CLEMENTINE-SCENTED ALMOND BISCOTTI

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup / 70g caster sugar
1 large egg
Grated zest of 1 clementine / mandarin / Indian orange
2 cups / 150 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
50g raw, whole almonds, skin on

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the eggs, sugar and zest in a large bowl, and beat it in a food processor or with an electric beaters until its pale and creamy. Fold in the flour, baking powder and almonds. It should be quite a wet and sticky dough at this point. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently to bring it together. Shape the dough into a long log.

Place the dough log on the baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes. The dough should be fully cooked through before removing the logs from the oven. Allow to cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes.

Using a sharp serrated knife, slice into 0.5 cm thin slices. Place the slices on the baking tray and bake on each side, till the edges begin to brown. It took approximately 10 minutes on each side. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a baking rack. They will continue to crisp up as they cool down. Once completely cool, enjoy them dunk in milk, tea or coffee of your choice. Else, store these biscuits in an air tight container.

NOTES

- You can replace the clementines for mandarins too. Clementines and mandarins belong to family of oranges. Indian oranges will be a great substitution.
- You can try replacing oranges to lemon zest for a lemony flavor.
- You can replace the almonds for nuts of your choice. I haven't tried dry fruits yet, but I am sure they would be wonderful too.


Pecan, Cranberry, Coconut Granola_1

How to make Pecan, Cranberry and Coconut Granola | Easy Granola Recipe
Another year has arrived and in less than an hour 2015 will be gone. All gone, like vapors transpiring into thin air till there’s none you can see. I see and feel those last few minutes transpire as I sit down to put this post together. The calendar ticked away without notice. Days rolled into nights, snapped to weeks, cascaded till they sprinted into all 12 months. And finally, in a few hours from now we will gallop into the finishing line, calling it a year. A year that will be gone forever. For me, this was faster than anything I have known. Faster than the blink of an eye. Faster than the speed of lightening. Faster than the fastest I know.

Granola prebake Granola


My jaws dropped at the crack of this dawn in a sudden realization that something worthy is going away forever. A year made up of 365 well-meaning days. Either you’ve made the best of it or wasted it. There are days that made you laugh hard or the ones that had your faces dug into pillows and weep into nights. If you are like me, you would assume you've hung in extremes. The year came and passed by with good measure of mighty highs and lows, in a sweet sour concoction, like biting into a digestive candy that gives you a balanced taste in bits of everything - sweet, salt, spicy and tangy. Though I am unable to concur what it has been sort of, it sure has been a mixed bag of emotions. It makes you think. It worries you. It brings you hope, dreams and aspirations plenty that paves way into welcoming the new year with wide arms. While 2015 has been generous and giving, etching many memorable moments that evoke nostalgia, I’m also thankful for it giving the greater positivity & strength to face the welcoming of the new year.

Pecan, Cranberry, Coconut Granola Served


So let this year come on us. I wish it brings large measures of health, happiness, and prosperity for all. I pray it brings peace on earth. Peace in minds, at heart, in relations, with neighbors, friends, nations and across the globe. Irrespective of what race we belong to, let it be unbiased by color, united by humanity and progressive by nature. I wish your moments are filled with joy, laughter, trust and immense love. Happy New Year to each one of you for a fantastic 2016 and wishing you have greater prosperity & fortunes to the extent that it increases in great leaps and bounds for this new leap year!!

As I bid adieu to the year gone by and welcome the new year, I share with you a recipe for this Pecan, Cranberry and Coconut Granola that is just the perfect way start the first day of the year with. With the festivities and the week long celebrations gone by, lets make new beginnings with a fulfilling breakfast to treat our families to. Here's a recipe promising ease and health together with home made joy at breakfast table for your family.

Pecan, Cranberry, Coconut Granola Plated


Pecan, Cranberry and Coconut Granola

INGREDIENTS

2 cups instant oats (old fashioned oats preferred)
1/2 cup shredded dry coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup broken pecans
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS

In a clean bowl, combine oats along with dry coconut, cranberries and pecan nuts. Drizzle the vegetable oil and maple syrup and toss well. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at 180 deg C till the oats begin to turn golden brown, tossing them once in every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking. Remove and allow to cool completely before storing them in a clean dry container. Serve with warm or cold milk.

Pecan, Cranberry, Coconut Granola