May 31, 2011

Paneer Pakoda

Cooking up an appetizer this time for my girl pals at Free Spirit Bloggers! 

Nags picked the theme this month and wanted us to prepare a savory appetizer that can be made in advance if needed but should be a recipe that can easily be made for upto 50 people. And this came to my mind immediately. I infact also made it for a party at home for 25 people. But, unfortunately, we all got so engrossed in the party that I totally forgot to take pictures of the final huge plate of about 75 -80 paneer pakodas. Thankfully, I had just a few leftover and was able to click the pictures the next day of the finished product. So, please excuse me for not having great pictures this time. I do love the recipe and have already made it a few times now - so its still worth publishing this. 

Two thin layers of paneer are sandwiched with a thin layer of spicy green chutney in the center and is then dipped in batter and deep fried. That's pretty much the recipe. And yes, it is totally devoured after that. 

To make the green chutney filling, here's what we need -

Coriander Seeds - 2 tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 tbsp
Ginger - chopped into small bits (about 1-2 tbsp)
Green Chilli - 2-3 roughly chopped
Red chilli - 1-2 (optional)
Onions - about 1/2  cup
Fresh Mint - 1 1/2 big bunch
Fresh Cilantro - 1 big bunch

Fry all the spices together in a tsp of oil until for a couple of mins. This includes coriander seeds, cumin seeds, green chillies, red chillies and ginger.

Then, add the onions and fry till translucent.

Add the fresh washed mint leaves - these are leaves just plucked from my garden. As fresh as they get. From plant to pot in 30 secs. Fry for a min till the mint leaves wilt.

Wash a bunch of cilantro - leave tender stems as is - its going to get ground up anyways. Add the cilantro leaves to the pan as well and fry for a min.

Cool down everything and then grind to a coarse paste by adding just a few drops of water (if needed). This will be the filling in between the paneer pieces.

I used fresh homemade paneer - that's why its a little crumbly but it also was supersoft. Cut even sized thin slices of the paneer and set aside. 

Pick two pieces and stuff 1/2 tsp of filling in the middle and press together well. Do this until you have used up all the paneer and set aside. You can cover this with a moist cloth just to preserve the moisture if needed. This can also be covered and stored in the refrigerator for upto 2 days before the party.

There's my one set of paneer pieces ready to be dunked and fried. 

Now for the batter. Here's what goes in here -

Besan - 1 cup
Rice Flour - 2 tbsps
Salt - to taste
Red Chilli powder - about 1 tsp
Hing - a pinch

Mix all ingredients together and make a semi thick paste. The batter should be just thin enough to form a perfect coating over the paneer.

Dip each set into the batter and fry in hot oil until they turn golden.


Again, I'm so sorry that I don't have the final picture of the 75 pakodas! I really wish at least one of us had clicked the picture that day. We were all so busy chatting and partying -and the food just flew into everyone's mouth - no time for pictures!

Anyways - I have at least a couple of pictures to show you guys.

Cut them up and you see the little green tenderness in the middle. If you want to be more creative, you can also add another colorful layer of maybe a tomato based chutney - then we'll have all the colors of the Indian flag in here!

Enjoy some perfect pick me up paneer pakodas!

Check out all the other awesome posts from my gal pals at FSB. Nags, Dhivya, Siri, Lata, Deepthi, Mads, Mridhu,

Can't wait to cook next month with you gals!

Enjoy. Peace out!

May 24, 2011

Boiled Masala Peanuts

When I think back on college memories (ok..its been long but not too long ago), one of my favorite memories is us girls buying a whole lot of packets of the street side boiled peanuts mixed with a lot of stuff including maybe some dust and pollution as well. We pick that up, cross the street and would go sit on the historic Egmore museum steps for hours and indulge in total kadala potufying (transalation.. check out anything that remotely resembles a guy and rate them from 1 to 10). And yes, when I moved out of Egmore and continued on to my post grad, the tradition still continued but unfortunately the location of my kadala-wala was not very conducive to look at guys. It was at the end of a railway track – the only view from there was the dirty tracks and a few crazies running them across. So, it was more of a togo from that place.

Traditions die hard. Especially if it involves devouring a hot plate of boiled peanuts. I wish there were kadalawalas standing in every corner here in the US serving the ever green snack. What do these hot dog selling guys know what they are missing. Anyways, my sad story apart, I was totally craving for this after having a big long discussion with my friend over the phone about our kadala days. So, I decided to just go ahead and make it.

You can soak the regular store bought plain shelled peanuts and then pressure cook them to match the inshell boiled peanuts. I also use this type of peanuts to make a garlicky spicy vetha kuzhambu – famously called mallatta kuzhambu by my Cuddalore friends. Apparently, peanuts are called mallatta in the Cuddalore – Pondicherry area. I learnt this the first time my Cuddalore friend told me she was going to get mallatta cake – and I was expecting something like a black forest or chocolate cake and she hands me over some chikki. Sometimes life’s lessons are learnt the hard way.

What you mix with the peanuts is entirely up to you. Eat them plain or eat them overly dressed up – they never disappoint.

Wash and soak about 2 cups of raw peanuts overnight. (With or without the cover is fine)

The next day, wash the peanuts again and pressure cook with lots of water. Add about 2 -3 tsps of salt to the water before cooking so that the peanuts pull in the salt from the water.

Cool until the peanuts turn tender but not mushy. A little bite to it is also preferred.

You’re almost done. You can taste a whole cup of just the plain stuff. No one is watching.

Chop up some green chillies, onions. tomatoes and cucumbers into small pieces. One classic ingredient I did not have at home was raw mango. If you can get it on time to make this, chop up into fine pieces like the cucumbers too. And btw – this kind of a peanut masala dish is also called ‘Monkey Nuts’ in many places. Sure, I’d go monkey over this any day.

Add all the ingredients to the boiled peanuts. Sprinkle some red chilli powder on top for a little spice. Taste and add salt only if you need to. Top off with some fresh cilantro and mix well. You can squeeze juice of half a lemon if you like the flavor. I don’t go there.

Mix up well and serve fresh.

Traditionally in India, this is served wrapped in old newspapers. Maybe those toxins do add to the flavor. But, all that gave us immunity – what do you say? Anyways, LA Times does bleed when I touch the paper with wet hands so I know the ink is pretty fresh on there. So, I do a double wrap – first wrap with plastic foil and then cover with the newspaper for the traditional look. I know – I never cared for all this before but I’m a mom now and this stuff freaks me now.

Now that my peanuts are ready, all I need is some girlfriends and some gossip – because at my stage in life we all realize no matter how high you rate guys – they are all the same - their clothes never hit the laundry basket right and the toilet seat does not come down to the correct position. Ever.

Enjoy. Peace out.

Click here for a Printable Recipe

May 17, 2011

Rava Idli and Pudina Chutney

Some days when I get home from work, I wish a hot dinner was magically ready on my table and all I have to do is sit down, relax and enjoy it. Well, there's no harm in wishing. 

On some days though, I do have the energy and the inclination to cook and photograph and later blog about it. I want to say that this is often but you and I know the truth there and I won't go any further on that. 

On this day however, I reached home from work very hungry. And was playing various ways to cook up the ingredients at home to make a quick meal. And then it happened. I checked my google reader for a quick min and found this. Nags's Rava Idli post. The minute I saw that picture of her three idlis on the banana leaf plate, I wanted to eat it. So much, that I got up from my computer almost immediately (that never happens btw) and started checking for ingredients and getting my things ready to prepare this. And I thought I did not have Eno and decided to use some baking soda instead - yea..nothing could stop me. But then miraculously, I opened one of my cabinets and this brand new bottle of Eno was sitting right there still wrapped in package unopened! That's it - me and my Rava idli night were just meant to be. Thank You Nags for making me move my lazy butt and cook this up. 

Check out the recipe from Nags blog too. I doubled the quantity so I get a few idlis for lunch the next day too. But, I forgot to double the Eno though - maybe that's why the idlis were a little flat - but they were totally and perfectly cooked and I loved that about them - so flat is not bad at all for idlis!

Here's the proportion I cooked with -

2 cups rava (Sooji/ Semolina)
4.5 cups yogurt
1/2 cup water
Salt - to taste
ENO - 2 tsps.

To mix in the batter -
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Channa Daal - 1tsp
Fresh curry leaves - a few
Cashewnuts - a few

Fry all the above in 1 tsp of oil. First, heat the oil, let the mustard seeds splutter and then add the rest of the ingredients.

When the channa daal and cashews start turning golden, add the rava and roast in low - medium flame for a few mins until a nice flavor starts floating up and the rava starts to get golden.

Remove from heat and move to a mixing bowl. Add salt to taste.

Next, add half of the yogurt and whisk in well with the rava. Let that sit for about 10 - 15 mins. Get your chutney and sambar ready meanwhile!

Then, mix the rest of the yogurt with the batter and let sit for a few mins.

Add some fresh chopped cilantro in there for a little color and a lot of flavor.

And here comes the trick - ENO. I mistakenly added only 1 tsp. If you are cooking as much quantity as I am here, go ahead and add at least another 1/2 to 1 tsp extra.

As soon as you add the ENO, you'll see the brisk bubbling on the batter - this basically aerates the batter and helps the idli rise up and steam well. If you don't have ENO, baking soda will be a good substitution but not as much - maybe half the quantity unless you want to belch all through your meal. Don't blame me then.

Pour in greased idli moulds and steam for about 12-15 mins.

While that was steaming, I got ready with my mint chutney. Somehow mint chutney goes best with Idlis. If you    don't believe me, listen to what Arjun says in the movie Mudhalvan. Poo pola idli yum pudina chutney yum amma kaiyala saapta - adhukku sugame thani. Meaning, when mom feeds you soft idlis and pudina chutney, there is no other pleasure like that in this world. And I agree with him on that.

This is a quick and easy Pudina chutney recipe. And I make this quite often so I use up my fresh mint in the backyard.

In a pan, add about 1 tsp oil. Add 1 tbsp channa daal to the oil.

Then, add 1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger to the channa daal.

Add about 2 small green chillies chopped to the oil.

Then, add a bunch of fresh mint leaves washed well and drained to the oil.

The mint will wilt in a matter of few seconds.

Once the mint wilts, add fresh or frozen shredded coconut - about 1/2 cup to the pan. Saute for a min and switch off and remove from heat.

Ground everything together with a little salt in the mixie.

And lo and behold, pudina chutney is ready. Add a tadka of mustard seeds and some curry leaves on top.

And my Idlis are out of the idli cooker too. And do they look good or what. Agreed, they are little thin - but these were perfectly done and I loved my meal. I also made some onion-tomato sambar to go with the idlis.

Serve hot. And enjoy. And remember, if you don't feel like cooking somedays, just go online and look at pretty food. You'll find yourself cooking up a storm in no time. Thanks Nags for this revelation in my life!

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Click here for a Printable recipe.

May 9, 2011

Chocolate - Chocolate Chip Brownies

Brownies are the perfect food to bite into when you are feeling blue. Brownies make some people blush pink or even red. I know coz it sometimes happens to me. Brownies can also be considered a green food because they are never really thrown in the trash or not consumed. No matter what color brownies remind you of, they are one of the perfect snacks around. I’m yet to see or meet or hear about someone who has not liked a brownie after they've eaten it.

There is also a certain way to make any brownie a perfect brownie. Just heat it up for about 15 seconds in the microwave and get the center warm and gooey. And then there’s no stopping the goodness. To make it more sinful, one can top it off with a scoop of their favorite flavor of ice cream and further drizzle with some chocolate goodness.  And when that happens, sparks fly and there is a love affair between the brownie and its devourer. 

And if you’re there already, go ahead add that cherry on top and make it all worthwhile. 

And when is not a good reason to bake brownies? Never. This time around, my reason to bake these babies was the teacher appreciation week at school. And of course, I had to bake something for Sweet Punch team as well. So, it was double whammy this time.

This is an easy recipe and from the Bon Appetite Dessert book. The original recipe calls to add raisins and almonds to the batter. I skipped the raisins but added the almonds and some chocolate chips - both milk and white chocolate chips. This is a recipe that will be great with any kind of nuts - almonds, walnuts, peanuts.

The recipe goes like this -

2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/3 cup semi sweet or milk chocolate morsels
1/3 cup white chocolate morsels 

Mix the flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt and mix together and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or you can use a small pan with water and just place a mixing bowl with the chocolate on top.

Melt the chocolate and while its melting, you can just stand there admiring the soft gooeyness of the chocolate.

Cool down the chocolate a little bit and add two eggs and whisk together well.

Once the eggs are whisked well, add 1 tsp vanilla extract to the chocolate-egg mixture.

In a mixing bowl, add the room temperature butter and 1 cup of sugar. I do have to tell you that if you like really sweet brownies, add a little more sugar. These brownies were not too sweet and they were just the right amount of sweetness. In fact, I could taste the bitterness of the baking chocolate every now and then - this is the perfect kind of brownie that would go great with a cup of strong hot coffee.

Mix together until the butter and sugar together are fluffy together.

Add the chocolate egg mixture to the butter sugar mixture and mix well together.

Now does the batter not look delicious?

Slowly add the dry flour mix in a little at at time and keep mixing in low - medium speed.

When the batter is done, add a handful or about 1/3 cup of chopped almonds.

Add 1/3 cup of milk chocolate chips. Save a few to press down at the top.

Press down another 1/3 cup of white chocolate chips.

Bake in a pre heated oven at 350F for about 20-25 mins or until the toothpick test passes.

Slice them up warm and don't wait for other to taste. Sometimes selfishness is good.

There is only one thing greater in life than having one hot brownie from the oven. And what is that? Well, eating two of the hot brownies from the oven.

So I packed up a few for the teachers..I do appreciate teachers a lot. I respect the profession and I know that I cannot ever do that in a million years. So, here's to all the wonderful and patient teachers all over the world!

So, brownie up today and enjoy the experience.

Oh brownie -  how I love thee.

Enjoy. Peace Out!