31 December 2009

WIPGYOR series: Orange is for yummy carrot soup!

Vancity is pretty chilly these days. Of course, its not half as bad as last year...we had to brave knee-deep snow around this time last year..and though its not that bad this winter, its still quite cold. Most of the days its cold cold rain all day and on a few days, frosty roads make us slip and slosh all the way to work! So what better than than a yummy, healthy carrot soup to add some warmth on days like these?

After a little search on the Internet for a good carrot soup recipe, I settled on this one I found on Alanna's blog called 'Laura's carrot soup recipe'. Click here for the original recipe. I followed it quite closely but made a few changes in the spices to adjust the heat to our liking.

Here are the measures I used:
1 big clove garlic, chopped
1/2 medium sized onion, chopped roughly
1/2 rib celery, chopped
1 tsp butter
3 big carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small potato with the skin
3 cups hot water
1/2 maggi instant bouillon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper +1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt (adjust as per taste)
1/2 cup milk

- Saute garlic, onion and celery in butter until tender in a thick bottomed vessel.
- Add all the remaining ingredients except milk and 1/4 tsp black pepper powder. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots are tender, it was about 25 mins for me. Cool the mixture.
- Puree in a blender and return mixture to the cooking pan. Add milk, 1/4 tsp black pepper powder, heat and serve immediately.

I also made some fresh croutons to go with the soup using bread I had at home by pan searing a couple slices with a little butter.

The soup is a hearty, delicious one and something I will definitely be making more often. Alanna has also posted the nutrient content if anyone is interested. As for me, the taste won me over, the fact that its light in calories is the icing on the cake :)

Come back tomorrow for the last (but not the least) recipe in the series- its going to be a fiery red seafood dish!


29 December 2009

WIPGYOR series: Yellow is for Khaman Dhokla

I used to enjoy dhokla once in a while in India. Especially when it came with the typical Gujarathi chutneys made from papaya and green chillies..yum!

Ever since we came to Canada, I have tried out several recipes to make a soft, spongy dhokla but all have been utter failures. Results have ranged from hard-as-a-rock dhoklas to started-as-spongy-but-lost-the-way-midway dhoklas. In fact, I had given up on the idea of ever making good dhokla at home. That is, until I came across Chefinyou's recipe. The recipe is a really simple one and with Chefinyou's detailed instructions and pictures, you just cant go wrong. Click here for the original recipe. I am not reiterating the recipe here as I followed it pretty much word for word and Chefinyou's instructions are really superb!

Here are some pictures of the dhokla as I made it:

Step 1: Mix besan (chickpea flour), yogurt, water and baking soda to form a smooth batter. I let it rest for about 45 mins.

Step 2: Add some lime juice, oil, salt, sugar, green chili paste and turmeric powder to the batter. Mix well.

Step 3: Heat water in a pressure pan. Once the water begins to boil, add eno to the batter and immediately set in to steam in the pan (without the whistle). after about 10 mins, my dhokla looked liked this.

Step 4: Make the tadka (tempering) using mustard seeds, green chillies, curry leaves, oil and water.

Step 5: Pour the tadka on the dhokla. Let it cool.

Step 6: Cut into bite-sized pieces, admire the sponginess for a moment and then EAT UP!!

See how spongy it turned out? I was so delighted!!

Will be back tomorrow with the orange recipe.

Take care,


28 December 2009

WIPGYOR series: Green is for Paneer tikka masala

Isn't green a beautiful colour? Say the word green and the first thing that comes to my mind is lush green meadows, serenity and beauty! Anyone ever wondered why people turn green with envy? :)

For my rainbow series, I decided to make some paneer tikka masala. This recipe is loosely adapted from a cookbook I got from the library called 'curry lover's cookbook' by Mridula Baljekar. It is a fairly simple recipe, so you could make the marinade ahead of time if you wish and simply bake the tikkas when its time to serve!

For the marinade:
400 g paneer (thats the standard Nanak paneer pack we get here in Vancity), cut into bite-sized cubes
1 cup cilantro/coriander leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup thick curd
1 green chilli
2 cloves garlic
1/2 inch ginger
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1 tbsp lime/lemon juice

Combine all ingredients except the paneer in a blender until well blended. Marinate the paneer and let it sit it in refrigerator for atleast 20 mins.

When its time to make the tikkas:
-thread the paneer on to wooden kebab skewers. Meanwhile, preheat the grill.
-Brush the paneer pieces with oil and grill for about 5-7 mins. Occasionally turn and brush the paneer with more marinade.

For the tikka sauce:
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp almonds
1 cup water
1 tbsp oil/butter

-Heat the oil/butter in a pan and fry the onion for about 5 mins until brown.
-Add the remaining tikka marindate and fry for 2 mins
-Add the tomato paste, almonds and water and simmer for 15 mins
-Cool the mixture. When cooled, put it into a blender and blend until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan.
-Remove the paneer from the skewers and add it to the pan. Simmer gently for 5 more minutes
-Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and yogurt. Serve with warm chapatis or naan.


WIPGYOR series: Pink is for Strawberry smoothie

Remember about my earlier post on N and my breakfast banter? My search for quick, tasty and healthy breakfast ideas led me to this strawberry smoothie recipe! Here's one powerhouse of a smoothie recipe that sure kicks off your day with a punch!

1/2 cup fresh/frozen strawberries
3 tbsp vanilla yogurt
1 tsp sugar (skip or add more as per your taste)
1 cup milk

Simply blend everything together till you get a creamy, deliciously pink smoothie. I occasionally add bananas or blueberries to this smoothie and it tastes equally lovely. Goes superbly well with a fresh morning paper!

Thats my 'pink' recipe for the series. Wow, cant believe its three days already! The marathon is shaping up beautifully, don't you think? To read some more marathon recipes, click here to go to Nupur's website.

Will be back tomorrow with a green one. Promise it will be savoury!


27 December 2009

WIPGYOR series: Indigo is for Blueberry Sheera

Pre-Canada, if you told me about blueberry sheera, I would have said: Whats this blueberry man? and why is it in my sheera? And why is my sheera INDIGO??? I would perhaps even have given you a dirty look.

Post-Canada though, I have fallen in love with this berry. It’s a beautiful, healthy and very versatile berry! You could use it in anything from breakfast cereals, muffins and pancakes to the more decadent desserts like the pies or cheesecakes.

For those of you who don't know about 'sheera', this is a lovely Indian sweet dish (of the pudding family) made from rawa (semolina/cream of wheat) and depending on how you add your butter and nuts and fruit, can range from a mild, moderate to quite rich a dish. From where I come from, we like to make it quite mild in sweetness, with some nuts and mostly eat it for breakfast. Also adding blueberries to sheera is not common in India. Pretty natural as blueberries in India are not common. Which explains my dirty look pre-canada.

I first tasted blueberry sheera when N & I went to our nearby ISKON temple for Janmasthami celebrations...both N and I love this temple, especially the Radha-Krishna idols and make it a point to go there every year on the occasion of Janmasthami...lots of devotees turn up to celebrate baby Krishna's birthday and in turn he treats them with some lovely vegan treats...and this was exactly where N & I first had the blueberry sheera!

To tell the truth, we were both alarmed when we first saw the bluish-indigoish coloured sheera..but then we had the first bite and that was it!...the sweetness of the regular sheera is beautifully complemented by the tartness of the berries...both N and I like our sweets quite mild so this one won us over. We go back each year to the temple not only to say 'Happy bday' to little Krishna but also to get a bite of that wonderful sheera he makes for us!

Here's my recipe:
3-4 tbps butter (depending on how rich you want your pudding)
1 cup rawa (semolina, also called cream of wheat)
1/4 cup blueberries (frozen ones work well)
1/2 cup sugar (add more if you like it sweeter)
1 tbsp nuts (I used almonds)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 cups water

-Melt the butter in a thick-bottom vessel and roast the rawa in the butter on low heat. Stir constantly until the rawa changes colour to a rich light brown colour and gives out a lovely aroma. The step should take about 5-7 mins
-Heat water and let it come to a boil. Add the blueberries, sugar and nuts to the water. Have the water ready and hot by the time your rawa is roasted.
-Once the rawa is roasted, add the hot water to the rawa (be careful!), the cardamom powder and mix everything thoroughly.
-Cover, lower the heat to minimum and let the rawa cook for about a couple minutes. Stir well and switch off the heat. Let it stand covered for another 2-3 minutes for all the flavours to come together.
-Serve hot for breakfast or cold for dessert.

Once done, your blueberry sheera should look like this:

N and I simply love this one and I hope you will too..Come back tomorrow for the pink platter! See you then!


P.S. Sorry for the late post today, but we have come to Seattle today and I am writing this one using the 'on-now-off-now' Internet connection at the hotel :)

25 December 2009

WIPGYOR series: White is for Ghaavne

Both N and I come from the coastal part of West India -'Konkan’ as it is fondly called….anywhere you go in this region, you will find scenic beaches, rows of coconut palms, verdant farms and the signature red soil!....add to this list historic temples, freshest-possible fish and nicest-possible people, and you know that you are in heaven!

Here are some pics from our trip last year:

The food in Konkan is based primarily on three staples: rice, fish and coconuts….superb staples, I say! Go to any Konkani house for a meal and you are sure to find atleast one of these ingredients in the meal- be it breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner or dessert. Today I am going to kick-off my 7-day recipe marathon with a breakfast recipe that combines two of these staples- rice and coconut.

For anyone who might not know, ghaavne are healthy, light, rice flour crepes. Traditional ghaavne-making involved buying good quality rice (or else the crepes won’t come out nice), washing it thoroughly, drying it in the beautiful courtyard outside the house in the sun, powdering the sun-dried rice and then making a batter out of it. Whew!!! In today’s short-cut zamaana, ready-made rice flour available in the market works quite well. Of course its no competition to grandma’s crepes, but for the amount of effort it saves, it does quite well.

The crepes are pretty versatile and can go with a wide variety of accompaniments. Depending on the meal, you could pair it with plain coriander-coconut chutney (breakfast) or a spicy Goan fish curry *slurp*for lunch/dinner.

Here’s my recipe for morning-fresh ghaavne-chutney:
1/2 cup good quality rice flour (I used the Gagan brand available here in Vancouver)
about 3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to your taste)

-Sift the rice flour so that its nice and light
-In a bowl, add water to the sifted rice flour little at a time until you get a milk-like batter.
-Add salt to this batter and if you have time, let it rest for 5-10 mins
-heat a non-stck tava/girdle and ladle out 1/4 cup batter at a time such that you get a thin crepe.
You know you have got your ghaavna right when you see the jaali (holes) in the crepe like this:

-add some oil on the sides and let the crepe cook
-you know its done when the crepe looks crispy and the sides of the crepe leave the girdle.
-Serve hot

Coriander-coconut chutney:
1/2 cup fresh coconut
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
1-2 green chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
1 small clove of garlic
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Simply combine all ingredients in a blender and grind until everything is well blended.

Now isn't that a lovely, easy recipe? N and I both love these crepes and enjoy having them for breakfast. At first I was wondering how easy this Grandma's recipe is but then I remembered that they didnt really use my store-bought rice flour shortcut :)

Come back tomorrow for my Indigo coloured recipe...see you tomorrow!


24 December 2009

Kicking off 7-day recipe marathon with WIPGYOR series

Remember I announced in my last post that I will be participating in Nupur's 7-day recipe marathon? So starting tomorrow, until 31st Dec, I will be posting 7 food recipes and that too with a theme.

When I first read Nupur's announcement, I knew right away this would be fun...but to make it even funn-er, I decided to add a theme of own. So here it is, each of my recipes for the next 7 days will be based on the 7 colours of the rainbow!!....with a slight twist, of course! Instead of VIBGYOR, I am going to with WIPGYOR....White comes in instead of Violet and Pink instead of Blue (racked my brain and books for recipes which would be violet or blue but just could not find any!)

Pretty cool, dont you agree? :) If you do, come back tomorrow and the 6 more days after that! To make it easy for my readers, I have now added an email subcription box at top right on the blog...do check it out.

I leave you with the warmest wishes for Christmas...here's a song thats sets the holiday mood!!

Season's greetings,

21 December 2009

The delicate business called 'Marriage'

The business of marriage is a delicate one. Especially for the guy. Being married for four years now I think I can say this with some authority.

Take Doug and Carrie for instance....this is a husband-wife duo in a popular sitcom called 'King of Queens' which is a regular feature on North American cable.

A picture of Doug and Carrie from 'King of Queens' (picture taken from here)

In one episode, Carrie asks Doug if he thinks she comes across as scary and strong (which she is- a strong personality, that is)..and the question itself scares Doug, who gets all uncomfortable and asks uncertainly 'Is this a trick question? Like the other time when you asked me if you had a moustache and that I should tell the truth and then when I told you the truth you got all mad at me????' Hilarious!!

And then N and I were having our coffee yesterday morning when we came across Ray and Debra (from 'Everybody Loves Raymond', another comedy sitcom on cable here).

Ray and Debra in 'Everybody Loves Raymond' (picture taken from here)

At the beginning of the episode, Deb and Ray, who have been married for a few years, decide to experiment with 'trying to be nice to each other'....something which gets difficult when Ray has to eat Deb's turkey sandwich (Deb's a not-so-good-cook)....so once all niceties evaporate, they come to a truce---he gets to throw her sandwich in the garbage and she gets to call her 'idiot'...good one, I say!

So I turn to N and tell him how much I pity his breed...in all fairness, these poor chaps have a tough job.....every time we ask them a trick question, they have to come up with an answer that is truthful, yet un-hurtful, yet un-patronising!!..or like N quipped, an answer that is 'nice....and to know what 'nice' is , all you need to do is be married long enough and you will know (most probably by bitter experience i.e. answering wrong to the trick question..doing this just once is enough to learn the lesson!).

Coming to trick questions, the mother of all trick questions is that involving a mother-in-law!!Take Ruchi in this video for instance..its not really a trick question for the husband and its a classic case of what is called in Bombaiyya language as 'kaadi karna-cum- kulhaadi pe paaon' ..check out this video!

Fortunately for N, me and N's ma, we have neither the kaadis nor the fire!..N's ma and I get along superbly (touchwood!!!)...while on we are on this topic, here's what N's parents sent us for our fourth wedding anniversary last week....a super, duper surprise---a basket full of love and goodies!!!

An announcement: starting on Friday, 25 Dec until 31st Dec, I will be posting 7 food recipes!!.I am taking part in Nupur's (of One Hot Stove) 7-day recipe marathon!

I have an interesting theme in mind on which the recipes will be based...to find out more, come back next Friday.


P.S. When I told N about my plan to enter into the recipe marathon, he was first a bit worried about how much time I was going spend on this over the holidays...but when I told him that he would get to taste 7 yummy(?) treats each day, he was so much more supportive...hmmm, the business of blogging is quite delicate too, wont you agree?? :)

06 December 2009

The tale of I, me and potluck samosas

Scene: Last Thursday [day before the office department potluck], evening setting, I am in the bus on my way back home around 6 pm:

I: What to make?what to make?
Wiser ME: How about a ready-made salad platter?
I: No, no thats too 'ready made'...I toh want to make something baba..that too something that says Indian and that too something that everyone will like and that too something that is easy
Wiser ME: Hmmmm
I: Dont forget all the hype about my blog...people have been fooled by the 'dikhawa'..they think I am a good cook!
Wiser ME: Oye shucks!..what to make?what to make?
I: Shut up...thats my line....(dimaag ki batti suddenly lighting up...tinggg) hey how about samosas?
Wiser ME: Nooooo.....you have made them just once before and that one time was big-time disaster...dont you remember?
I (miffed): hmmmff...(I dont want to remember my bombed experiment about 4 years back...the samosas came out fine when hot but wilted like sunflowers in 10 mins!!..and I served them to my poor guests at a party..no one wanted to eat the soggy'mosas)
Wiser Me: Isnt it a safer idea just to just buy some samosas?
I: No, no thats too 'ready made'...i toh want to make something baba
Wiser Me(irritated): Then make the samosas...but I dont have a good feeling on this one!

So I get off the bus, go to the market, buy the potatoes and peas, brave the cold (Wiser Me seemed really wise at this point) and come back home!

I make the stuffing first:
1 lb (1/2 kg) boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes
1 cup peas (boiled)
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and let set aside! (yup, its that simple)

Then I search the blogosphere for a dependable-looking dough recipe...and I find Monisha's Coconut Chutney blog!!
Here's a pastry recipe that seems to just what I am looking for (even Wiser Me seems hopeful, after looking at Monisha's pics):
1/5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina (rawa)
1/2 cup baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter
Sift all the dry ingredients together, add the butter and knead with as little amount of cold water as possible. The dough should be firm but flexible. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside.

Dinner break...N pops his head into the kitchen and declares 'readymade samosas seem to be a better option' (N-the-wise has always been a supporter of Wiser Me...hmppf)!

Cut to post-dinner (which means I have let the dough rest for about an hour), I start making the samosas:
Make small sized dough balls, roll each into a small circle, cut into two semi circles, line the edges with flour paste, make into a cone, fill with a tsp of the stuffing and finally seal the samosa!(for better samosa-making instructions, check out Manjula's video here)

About 30 mins later, by the time I reach samosa #25, I am dead tired (Wiser Me is almost dancing with 'I-told-you-so' song!!)

I put all the samosas into a box, put them in the refrigerator..will fry them tomorrow morning.

Scene: Friday morning (day of potluck)..i start frying frying the samosas around 7 am in the morning (start seeing WiserMe's point...could have got extra half an hour's sleep...but its too late now..sigh!)......am done by 7:30! I save a few for N for the evening.

Scene: Office..lunch time..my samosas are served...not only have they stayed crispy, they are fabulous!!!everyone loves them...it is a hit!!!!!!(smirk, smirk, Wiser Me:D)

Samosas- served with two chutneys: the green coriander-mint chutney and the red (readymade) tomato-chilli-garlic sauce

Scene: Evening...I fry the remaining four for N...he loves them tooo!!!!!!And hey, he tells me its his lab potluck next week...may be I can recreate the samosa magic??
I: Oye shucks...what to make?what to make?
Kahani abhi khatam nahi hui, mere dost :)


04 December 2009

Weekday meal idea: prawn pakoras, sprouts usal and curd rice

Cooking is therapeutic for me. It really is!

Most people I know cook more on weekends than on weekdays (a few go as far as making advance meals for the week on the weekend and stashing away portions in the freezer for the week)...pretty smart use of time and energy? I agree....but that's not how I do things. For some unknown reason, I like to cook on weekdays...dinner happens to be N's and my most important meal of the day and I like to make sure its fresh and warm...which is why I guess, even after I am exhausted from working all day, I cant believe how much I enjoy making fresh meals each weekday. Does this make me weird, I wonder?

Here's what I made yesterday night:

Prawn pakoras (completely my experiment, but they came out really good!), Sprouts usal/stir-fry (easy breezy and healthy), curd rice (since I some leftover cooked rice from the day before) and chapatis (Indian flatbreads) Here are the recipes for the pakoras and the usal:

Prawn pakoras (fritters)

For the marinade:
10-12 Prawns (good sized, cleaned, de-veined and salted)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder (substitute with garlic paste if you don't have the powder)

For the fritter batter:
3/4 cup besan flour
a pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp hot oil (makes the fritters light and crispy)
salt to taste

-Marinate cleaned and salted prawns with the powders and set it aside for atleast 30 mins
-After 30 mins, heat oil for deep frying.
-Meanwhile, make the batter using water as needed (the consistency should be quite thick, such that the batter coats the prawns easily)
-Deep fry each prawn till golden brown
Tada...prawn pakoras are ready! they go really well with ketchup!

Sprouts usal recipe:
2 cups sprouts (I used matki/moth beans)-pressure cooked till cooked but firm
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
5-6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 onion
1 tsp chili powder
salt to taste
coriander leaves to garnish

-Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafoetida, curry leaves, turmeric powder and saute for a few seconds
-Add the onions and cook until transparent
-Next, add the cooked sprouts, salt and chilli powder and mix well. Cook on a low flame for about 5 mins until all flavours combine well.
-Turn off the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

N-the-seafood-freak loved the prawn pakoras experiment so that one was a success (will be making them again for sure).

Ooh la la..that definitely was a nice weekday meal!!...So whats on your menu? Would love to hear some easy, healthy weekday dinner ideas!