Saturday, September 23, 2017

Suji Phirni/Dessert Made of Semolina


With the festive season already here, it's time for some milk-based desserts and phirni made with semolina is quick and so easy. This is what I made yesterday. I have been saving my home-grown rose petals and put them to good use. There's a bit left in the little jar and I'll be finishing them off the moment I get back from my trip.
I am going on a short trip to Europe, and this is going to be my first time. This will be more of a culinary trip with like-minded ladies and we are all looking forward to being in places like Paris, Rome and Brussels.
Phirni is a popular North-Indian dessert made with rice flour, milk, and garnished with nuts. This variation with semolina is also equally delicious.

Suji Phirni (serves 4)

1 litre milk
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of cardamom powder
Sugar as per taste
1 heaped tbs suji
1 tbs vegetable oil
Sliced pistachoos
Some dried fragrant rose petals

Place a heavy-bottomed pan on the flame and add a bit of water to it. Then pour the milk into it. This ensures that the bottom does not catch easily.
On a medium flame let the milk get reduced to half. Stir from time to time.
Take about a tablespoon of the hot milk in a bowl and add the saffron to it. Crush with the back of a spoon and put the contents back to the milk pan.
Add the pinch of cardamom as well.
In another pan, pour the oil and toast the suji till it turns golden and the raw smell disappears.
By this time the milk will have reduced to half. Pour the toasted suji in the milk and continue to stir. Gradually the mixture will start to thicken.
Cook till it is thick enough but still of pouring consistency.
Remove from the flame and let it cool.
Before serving in individual bowls, scatter the rose petals and the sliced pistachios.
Enjoy!
P.S. I could have used ghee for toasting the suji but some people do not like ghee hence the oil. Personally, I prefer ghee.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Patishapta With Rabdi Filling

Patishapta with rabdi filling & a scattering of pistachios and rose petals
Sometimes to rectify one dish another needs to be created. This was what happened to me. I made rabdi yesterday but it turned out to be a little too sweet. Instead of using a spoon. I poured the sugar from the packet and more than what was intended went into the thickened milk. Sigh! And patishapta seemed to be the answer. I could use the sweet filling without a sweetened batter!

Patishapta, is a term in Bengali for crepes made of a mix of all-purpose flour and semolina. The filling is usually of sweetened coconut or rice pudding. A delightful dish which is widely consumed during the winter months. In this case, I added rice flour too as I had some left over and I wanted to finish it off. The only ingredient I didn't use was sugar to the batter as I needed to balance out the sweetness of the filling.
I made the rabdi with 1 litre of milk. This was left on a low flame and stirred from time to time so that the milk would not catch at the bottom of the pan. Towards the end I added sugar and a pinch of saffron. You could add cardamom but I left it out.
Ingredients:
For the crepes.....
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tsps semolina
3 tsps rice flour
Milk as needed
Oil/butter/ghee to fry the crepes
Rabdi made from a litre of milk
Generally the flours are mixed together to a smooth paste with milk. But since I had the larger granules of semolina, I decided to soak it in milk. I also added the rice flour and mixed it well before placing the bowl in the fridge. I added the all-purpose flour the next morning before making the crepes.
Mix all the flours to a smooth paste by adding some more milk. The batter should be thick but spread-able.
Heat a non-stick pan and drizzle it with oil.
With a round ladle, scoop up the batter and pour it in the pan.
Swirl the pan around so that the batter spreads and takes the shape of the pan.
Let it cook for a few minutes. Add the filling in the middle. I used three tsps of rabdi for each crepe.
Fold on both sides and let it remain for a couple of minutes before you remove it to a platter.
Repeat till the batter is used up. In my case the outcome was four crepes with a bit of the filling left over. This I slathered on the crepes before eating. 
Before serving, scatter the sliced pistachios and rose petals on the patishapta.

Our breakfasts are never this festive. But it's September and we are looking forward to the cooler months and this seemed like a good start.:)) And the balance of sweetness with this combination was just right! The rose petals I used here are home grown.
Happy September!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cream Cheese Muffins


The frequency of baking cakes has come down to a certain degree in my kitchen. But since my older son loves muffins, I do bake them once in a while. And sometimes pack them off for his colleagues at his office. He's a content writer in a medical company. I'm happy he's based here as of now. The future might be a different story.
Recently, I went to Haflong to visit my mother. She's 75 years old and even with bad knees but plenty of physiotherapy, she has started working on her vegetable garden. There's always something to pick, eat and even wonder at the things that grow.:)
One portion of the garden where beans & gourds grow
And when I am at my mother's, I can never resist taking food shots in the backyard. There are coconut and betel nut trees, guava, banana, jackfruit and so many more. The sight of the blue hills is always such a joy to behold. 

Here's an early morning shot of freshly-made musk melon juice taken in my mother's backyard.
Ingredients:
200 grams cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
11/2 cups flour (I used half and half of all-purpose and whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter
Fresh from the oven

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180 C . Sieve the flour with the baking powder and set aside.
In a blender, mix the wet ingredients.
Pour in the dry ingredients and mix till homogeneous.
If you feel that the mixture is a bit too dry, add about a tablespoon of milk.
With the help of a spoon, transfer the batter to lined muffin moulds.
Bake for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.
Remove and cool on a wire rack.
And the dried rose petals came from this rose that I plucked yesterday.
These muffins are wonderfully soft and so fragrant. I doubt whether they will see the light of day!!:)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Guava Curry


Most acidic fruits like elephant apples, Indian jujube, green mangoes, Indian olives and star fruits, to name a few, are cooked in a sweet/sour kind of chutney but we have always had guavas without cooking. Guava curry is more popular in the western and drier regions of our country.
Guava is one of the most common fruits of summer and they are nutritious. It is said that one guava contains four times the amount of vitamin C as an orange. Tropical fruits always remind me of my childhood as we had so many trees and summer afternoons were spent amid those trees and the fruits they bore. Some trees bear fruits during winter too but winter harvests are never as bounteous as the one in summer.

Yesterday's harvest. I left out the semi-ripe ones from this photo. The brown patches look a little unsightly but does nothing to the taste!:) My yard has three trees. The first one came from my parents' garden. I had dug up a sapling that grew next to a guava tree of the pink variety. I was so sure that it would produce pink fruits too. Three or four years later, I can't remember exactly, I was disappointed to see that the pulp was creamy white. But the taste was so sweet that I didn't really keep on thinking about pink...

Coming to the recipe, it's from an old magazine that used the pink variety.

Ingredients:
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
10 -12 curry leaves
2-3 green chillies, scored lengthwise
A pinch of hing/asafoetida
1/2 cup curd, beaten
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 semi-ripe guavas, deseeded and diced
3 tsp, grated jaggery
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Chopped herbs of your choice (I used serrated coriander)
2 tbs mustard oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. When it's hot enough, add the fennel, cumin and mustard seeds.
Once they sputter, add the curry leaves, green chillies and hing.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they turn mushy. This will take about 10 minutes.
Stir in the beaten curd and give the mix a good stir.
Add about 1/2 cup warm water and the diced guavas. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so till the guavas turn soft.
Add the jaggery, garam masala, lemon juice and salt. Check and make adjustments, if needed.
Take it off the heat and garnish with the chopped herbs,
This goes with either rice or with puris.
Pink guavas from my mother's garden
I loved it. Although my boys weren't keen on it, I'm glad I tried this dish. Particularly with home-grown produce.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fritters Made Of Water Lily Stalks

The wide plains of our state is rich in aquatic plants. And during this season, water spinach and water lilies with their extra long stalks are widely sold. Our regular vendor who comes each morning in his bicycle with baskets laden with banana flowers, lemons, chillies, and various leafy greens had plenty of water lilies yesterday. Now with flowers that look like these, who can resist them?
I usually ask the vendors how they like to eat/cook the vegetables they sell. In this case, he said that they taste really good when you stir-fry the stems with some garlic. But I had done that before and quite liked it. These stalks are mild in taste and need very little cooking time.
A basket of water lilies
 The pretty flowers were drowsy in the hot sun and I simply couldn't take my eyes off them.


Water lily stalk fritters:
Recipe adapted from here.
Ingredients:
Water lily stems
Chick pea flour
Rice flour
Chilli powder
Nigella seeds
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A dash of sugar
A pinch of baking soda
Oil to fry

Method:
Remove the flowers and wash the stalks. Peel the skin. It comes off easily in long strips. The action is the same as stringing beans or removing the skin from colocasia stems. You could cut the stalks into four or five parts to make it easier. Cut into even-sized pieces.
Wash and drain in a colander.
Take a toothpick and skewer the cut stalks like a small raft. I used 6 pieces for each 'raft'.
Keep doing so till all the prepared stalks are used up. 
In a bowl, mix the flours. No measurements are given here as with fritters we usually go by eye. The proportion is that there should be two parts chick pea flour and one part rice flour.
Add the seasonings and the nigella seeds. Mix well. Add water and make a thick batter.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Dip each 'raft' in the batter and fry in the hot oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
The toothpicks can be removed but I left them on.

Instead of making regular chutney. I made a tzatziki dip with...
1 cup of strained yoghurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and grated and the water squeezed out
Salt to taste
2 cloves of garlic peeled, crushed and chopped to bits
Freshly grated black pepper, as per taste
A drizzle of extra virgin olive olive oil
Mint leaves as a garnish
Combine all the ingredients except the last two, till homogeneous. Drizzle the olive oil on top and garnish with a few mint leaves/sprigs.

The reddish colour comes from the use of chilli powder. I loved the fritters. With the rest of the stalks, I'll be trying out another recipe soon.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pineapple Pies Again!


Hello everyone! I haven't been very active here this month but I have been pretty busy on my Facebook page.:) I realized this was the last day of July and I couldn't possibly sail on to the next month without a new post. Well, it's a pie I had made before. With all the pineapples that my husband brought from his latest trip to the old hometown, I have come down to the last two. A few were given away and the rest went into making salads and juice.
My husband retired this year in January. Since then he's been travelling to Haflong, our hometown where our house is being constructed. It's almost completed now. On every trip he brings a lot of fresh produce which we share with relatives and sometimes with his former colleagues. The other day, in return for pumpkins and pineapples, one gentleman sent us return gifts. Fifteen fresh eggs from the ducks he rears at home! What a treat that was!

Coming to the post, the recipe has been adapted from Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook.

Ingredients:
1 small pineapple
100 grams sugar
2 tsp butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
The Cream Cheese Pastry
150 grams soft butter
150 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
200 grams all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine sugar
A pinch of salt

To make the pastry, mix the butter, cream cheese, salt and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the flour and bring the dough together. Tip the content on your work top and shape into a disc. Wrap in clingfilm and keep in the fridge for about an hour.

Cut off the ends of the pineapple. Peel off the skin with a sharp knife and remove eyes. Cut out 8 discs. The pastry dough is enough for 8. I used a bottle cap to take out the hard core from every disc.
Heat a frying pan. Place the sugar on a plate and press the pineapple slices on both sides so that the slices get coated.
Add the pineapple slices to the hot pan. Let them cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Add the butter to the pan and give the pan a little shake. The fruit slices will caramelize beautifully. Remove on to a paper-lined plate and set aside to cool.

Take out the pastry dough and start rolling. Roll out one disc, brush edges with egg wash. Then place one caramelized pineapple in the centre. Roll out another circle and place it on top of the pineapple. Trim the edges and secure by pressing a fork all along the border. Prick some holes with the same fork on the surface for steam to escape. Keep the prepared pie on a baking paper-lined tray. Repeat till all the pineapple discs and dough is used up. Place each prepared pie in the fridge as you keep working...
Mine were about 4" in diametre. 

I kept my pies simple. Cream cheese pastry is delicious but a little hard for me to handle. So unlike Rachel, I couldn't go ahead with the pretty floral designs that she created.
Brush the pies with egg wash and bake in a preheated 220 C oven for about 20 minutes. I had to bake it a little longer as the pies didn't turn golden in 20 minutes.
Once they are out of the oven, you could use a sugar/cinnamon syrup to brush the surface.

Place 50 grams sugar, 1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon and 50 ml water in a small pan. Let it come to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
The pies can be served warm with ice cream or strained yoghurt. I used the latter with a drizzle of honey and a few fennel leaves.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jackfruit Seed Pulao

Jackfruit seed pulao
Jackfruit seed pulao
When it comes to jackfruits, it's the raw form or the seeds that we consume, more than the ripe ones. I was happy to get this wonderful supply of seeds from my childhood garden. My mother had been drying and storing the seeds for me and my siblings. Luckily, four of us live in the same city so if anything is sent, dividing the same becomes much easier.
I used the seeds in a pulao dish today. Many like to chop up the seeds and add to fried rice as well. For those of us who love the seeds, any recipe is welcome.:)

Ingredients:
Serves 4
2 cups Basmati rice
About 35-40 jackfruit seeds
2 sticks of cinnamon
6-7 cloves
2 tejpatta
3 bruised green cardamom
1 badi elaichi/black cardamom
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced fine
A small piece of ginger, ground
3 cloves of garlic, ground (along with)
2 green chillies
Some leaves of coriander
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of ground cardamom
Vegetable oil as needed
About 50 grams of butter
Salt to taste

The seeds, boiled ones in the bowl...and in the pan...being fried

Method:
~ Remove the outer papery skin of the jackfruit seeds and set aside.
~ Wash the rice and soak with enough water for an hour. 
~ After an hour, drain the rice in a colander. It's best if the rice is almost dry.
~Meanwhile. boil the jackfruit seeds in very little water to which a bit of salt is added till they are half done.
~ Drain in a colander.
~ Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry one sliced onion till golden brown.
~ This can be used to scatter over the rice before serving.
~ Remove the fried onions with a slotted spoon and set aside.
~ Heat 4 cups of water. Take about one tablespoon of water in a small bowl and add a pinch of saffron to it. Crush the strands with the back of a spoon.
~ In the same oil, throw in the aromatics. Then add the rest of the onions.
~ Cook till they turn translucent, then add the ginger and garlic/chilli pastes.
~ Add the jackfruit seeds and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the drained rice and stir gently taking care not to break the grains while doing so.
~ Fry for about 5-6 minutes, then add the water. Season with salt and add the saffron water. Stir well but be gentle.
For 1 cup of rice, I add nearly two cups of water.
~ Cover with a well-fitting lid till the liquid almost dries up.
~ Take off the lid and stir/fluff with a fork then add the butter, in knobs all across the surface.
~ Cover again and let it remain on a low flame for another 8-10 minutes.
~ Switch off the flame and let the pan soak up all the residual heat till you are ready to eat!
Before serving, scatter the fried onions on top of the rice. You can also use the coriander leaves for garnishing.


To accompany the pulao, I rustled up a minty raita. A bunch of mint leaves were ground up with two green chillies. A bowl of creamy curd was whisked with the addition of a dash of rock salt, a drizzle of honey and a bit of toasted/ground cumin seeds. I finished it off with a sprinkling of pomegranate.
The other was a simple salad of cucumber with chillies and coriander leaves.