Thursday, 31 July 2014

Date and Tamarind Chutney

This is a chutney you would love to keep ready at all times in the fridge. Sweet, tangy, and spicy, it is a wonderful balance of flavors which can leave any Indian pallate to keep longing for more. Enjoy it with your chats and fritters and take the dish to the next level. I enjoyed this chutney with these wonderfully crispy baked Peas Kachori as well as with some healthy Spinach and Chickpea Cutlets!

1/3 cup tamarind pulp from seedless tamarind soaked in water for 30 minutes-1 hour
1 cup dates pitted and soaked in water for 30 minutes-1 hour
5-6 aam papad soaked in water for 30 minutes-1 hour (optional)
1/4 cup jaggery (I used Date Palm jaggery or Nolen Gur)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 whole red chillies
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 tsp freshly roasted and ground cumin powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil

With your hands, mash the tamarind in the soaked water till the tamarind is all fibrous. Strain this liquid by pressing down with a spoon till you only have the fibrous remains in the sieve. Discard the skin and keep the pulp aside. 
Now in a blender, blend the dates and soaked aam papad without the soaked water to a paste. Keep aside. Do not discard the soaked water.
Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds and whole red chillies. Add the tamarind pulp and the date and mango pulp and mix well till combined. Add the spices and stir. Next add the jaggery and continue stirring on a medium flame till it melts. Add the reserved soaked water from the dates and aam papad, about 1/2 cup, and cover and cook till the mixture thickens a bit. Check for seasoning and adjust as per your taste. Continue stirring till the chutney reaches your desired consistency. Remove from flame and let it cool completely before putting the lid on after transferring to air tight jar. 

Baked Wholewheat Peas Kachori (Baked Motorshuti Kochuri)

I am in love with my diet these days. Not only am I eating healthy, but tasty too not to mention the interesting twist I give to each recipe which makes it even more appealing and as delicious as their not-so-healthy counterpart. Today's recipe was a baked trial for my most favorite of all sinful savory snacks, Peas Kachori or as we call it in Bengali, Motorshuti Kochuri. The thought of all the oil that goes into the making of these kachoris is so repelling that I never really gave a thought of making them at home even though I loved them. However, I do not have to resist my temptations anymore as I have an answer for my cravings. The Kachoris are perfectly baked to get the same crispy crunch as you would get in a regular fried kachori and stuffed with sufficient filling to get a mouthful of peas in every bite. The icing on the cake was the Date and Tamarind Chutney which I prepared for serving this along with the Mint and Coriander chutney. And the festher in the cap was the Panchratna daal which was leftover from yesterday and perfectly complemented the meal. All in all, a super satisfying and healthy meal!

For the dough
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ghee (you may substitute with olive oil)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ajwain
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Water to knead (room temperature)

For the filling
2 cups frozen or fresh peas boiled and mashed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp heeng
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp amchur powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp olive oil

For Date and Tamarind Chutney, click here

Take the flour in a bowl and mix all the dry ingredients. Now add the ghee and oil and mix with your hands till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Then slowly add water and start kneading the dough. It should be a smooth but stiff dough. Take the dough out on a clean work surface and knead for 5 minutes till the dough is completely smooth and does not look dry. Take care not to over moisten the dough as well as not to overdry it. The dough should be firm to touch but smooth. Lightly oil your hands and rub it on the dough on all sides. This will help the dough from drying out. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover and keep aside for 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing.  Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin seeds. Add the heeng and as the aroma arises, quickly put in the boiled and mashed peas. Add all the spices and mix well. Continue stirring till all the moisture has evaporated and you have a fairly dry mixture in the pan. Remove from heat and let it cool.
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius for 20 minutes with top rod only. Keep a baking tray ready lined with aluminium foil.
Now, get back to the dough. Roll the dough with your hands into a hot dog shape and pinch out equal sized balls out of it. You should be able to get 7-8 balls with this measure of flour. Roll out each ball as thin as possible into a uniform circle. This will help you achieve a crisp crust once baked. Make sure each circle is of uniform thickness, else some kachoris might remain uncooked in the oven. Roll out all the balls and keep the circles arranged on a plate or on the counter. Now put generous spoonfulls of the peas mixture into each circle. Gently pinch in the edges together of each circle and roll it back into a ball between your palms. Make sure the edges are properly sealed so that the mixture cannot ooze out. Smoothen out the ball as best as you can by gently rolling between your palms. Repeat for the rest of the circles. We won't be rolling out the balls back to disc shape as we won't be frying them and so it is important that we put it in a generous amount of stuffing in each circle so that there are no empty bites while eating the baked kachoris. Also, try and pinch the edges as neatly as possible so that you are not left with a big chunk of chewy empty dough in the kachori. 
Now, oil your hands lightly and rub it on each stuffed ball and arrange on the prepared baking dish, pinched side up since that will take longest to cook. Repeat for the rest of the balls. 
Bake in the pre heated oven for 20 minutes with top rod only till slightly golden on top and feels firm to touch. Once one side is done, take the tray out and flip the sides and sprinkle a little water on each ball. This will ensure that the balls do not dry up and the thinner upper crust is crispily baked. However, take care not to drench the balls in water. Bake again for 15 minutes till slightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Please note that the kachoris might not become brown even if they look cooked. In that case, slightly increase the temperature to 200 degrees for an additional 5 minutes. The browning continues even after removing from oven and so in the final minutes keep a very close eye or you might burn the kachoris.
Remove the kachoris from the oven and immediately apply a dash of ghee on each ball and keep covered with a kitchen towel for 10 minutes. This step is highly advisable and not recommended to be skipped. This way you achieve that beautiful brown tan as well as a flaky crispy crust! Serve hot with chutney and some Panchratna daal or a light potato curry.

Baked Cottage Cheese Quesadillas (Baked Paneer Parathas)

A lot of Western food can be seen to be derived from Indian kitchens. These Quesadillas are one such which is quite close to its Indian counterpart, the much loved Paneer Paratha. The Quesadillas however have an added advantage of being baked or toasted on the stove top without the oil which makes them super healthy and nutritious. While the filling for the Quesadillas is entirely upto your taste and liking, you cannot miss the crunchy crust which almost reminds you of a thin crust Calzone! It is a must try in your kitchen and especially if you are watching your calories and still want to enjoy something interestingly delicious!
2-3 cookedtortillas/leftover chapati (I used store bought wholemeal chapatis. It is best to use left over chapatis which are a day old. You may not get the crunchy crust with a freshly prepared chapati. Also, I recommend rolling the chapati a little bigger and thinner than the usual one so that the filling can be adequately placed)
1 cup paneer roughly crumbled with your hands
1 medium onion chopped
1 small tomato chopped
1/2 cup mixed bell peppers chopped
1 sprig coriander leaves chopped
1 green chilli chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp freshly crushed black pepper powder
Salt to taste
Grated cheddar cheese (quantity depends on how cheesy you like it. I used about 1 tbsp per quesadilla)
1 tsp olive oil

Prepare the filling first. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till translucent. Add the chillies and tomato and fry till soft. Now add the bell peppers and cook till just done. Add the fresh coriander and the spices and salt and mix well. Switch off the flame and add the crumbled paneer or cottage cheese. We do not want to cook the paneer. Let the mixture remain in the hot pan with the flame off. This heat is sufficient to soften the paneer. Let it cool on its own.
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius in the broiler mode or top rod only. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Take one tortilla or chapati and brush it with room temperature water on both sides. Now put the filling on one half of the tortilla/chapati. Do not put a heaped filling. It should be in a single layer so that the other half closes in comfortably. Leave a little space on the sides. Now sprinkle the grated cheese on top and fold in the tortilla/chapati covering the filling.
Place this on the prepared baking dish. Repeat for the rest of the tortillas/chapatis. 
Bake in the pre heated oven for 10-15 minutes till crispy on the outer side and slightly browned. Flip the side and bake for another 5-10 minutes till crispy and browned on both sides. You can adjust the oven timings and temperature as per your oven settings. 
Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve hot with your favorite dip. 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Spinach and Chickpea Cheesy Cutlets

Sometimes cooking only for yourself can be quite satisfying and rewarding too. You can cook what "you" want to eat and how. My husband is not fond of cheese and so I need to avoid it for most of my dishes. However, I was having this craving for cheese stuffed croquettes or cutlets since quite some time but was not really getting a chance until last evening when husband told me that he has a dinner meeting and won't be home for dinner. I was happy that finally I get to eat something my way and immediately looked into my fridge to see what I have for making some cutlets. I had some boiled chickpeas and frozen spinach and corn. The perfect healthy cheese stuffed cutlets were now just a step away!
1 cup boiled chickpeas
1 cup spinach, blanched and drained
1/3 cup corn kernels, lightly boiled
1" piece ginger grated
1 green chilli
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder 
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp wheat germ for binding and coating (bread crumbs can also be used)
Cheddar cheese for the stuffing
Oil for frying

Take the boiled chickpeas and grind it in a blender till smooth. To this, add the blanched spinach and ginger and pulse a few more times till a nice green color is reached. Now take the mixture out onto a bowl and add the corn, spices, and wheatgerm/bread crumbs and mix well. Take small plum sized mixture in your hands and put a tsp of grated cheese or a small chopped chunk of cheese in the center and close it from all sides. Now coat this in a layer of bread crumbs or wheat germ kept in a separate plate and keep aside. Continue the same process for the rest of the mixture.
Now heat oil in a shallow frying pan or grill plate and start frying the breaded cutlets till golden on both sides. Serve hot with condiments of your choice.


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Wholewheat Date and Coffee Loaf

Every sunday, I try and bake something which lasts me through the entire week for my on-the-run breakfast. Since it is the first meal of the day, it is really necessary that I make it as healthy as possible with maximum nutrient value. The bake also comes quite handy for my evening cup of Honey Lemon Tea as well as for my anytime hunger pangs. All in all, I am finding it quite helpful in keeping my weight in check and have also succeeded in losing a few grams per week with having these breakfast bakes and coupled with salads/soups/grills for lunch and dinner. Now I can safely indulge on my weekends and control throughout the week!
1 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1 egg
1 cup dates pitted and chopped
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup freshly brewed strong hot coffee (without milk)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup almonds/walnuts/pecans chopped
1 tsp vanila essence
2 tbsp butter

In a bowl, put the dates and sprinkle baking powder on top. Now pour the hot coffee and keep it aside till room temperature.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar till smooth. Add the egg and vanila essence and beat further. Now add the flour and salt and mix till no lumps remain. Now add the coffee date mixture and mix further till smooth. Lastly, fold in the nuts.
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth out the edges. Bake in the pre heated oven for 30-35 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the top starts over browning and the inside is not yet cooked, tent the top with an aluminium foil. Once done, remove from oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Chickpea Quinoa Summer Salad

I am not at all a salad person and would always skip those veggies even if I am paying for it in a restaurant. I love my chicken kababs and grills and my desserts more than anything else. However, when you are trying to trim down your waistline and are seeking ways to tame the weighing machine, you need to embrace few things which you aren't too fond of. Having said that, there are always ways to keep your food interesting and so is this salad today. Extremely easy to assemble, this is a perfect summer salad for all those who want to eat light and healthy without remaining hungry.
This post is my entry to my blogger friend, Sarika's online Event for Summer Salads.
1/2 cup chickpeas soaked overnight
1 small potato, boiled
1/4 cup quinoa (cook 1/4 cup quinoa in 1/2 cup boiling water until it is transparent and soaks up all the water; keep it on medium to low flame while stirring intermittently)
1 small onion chopped
1 tomato chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries (you can use raisins or any fruit of your choice)
1/3 cup cucumber chopped (I did not have in stock, but good option to add)
1/2 tsp ginger juliennes (optional)
2 tbsp honey mixed with 2 tbsp lemon juice (adjust the taste as per your liking)
1 tsp chat masala
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
Salt to taste

Wash and drain the soaked chickpeas and pressure cook till just done. Do not overcook. Let it cool. 
In a bowl, mix all other ingredients except the quinoa. Add the chickpeas and stir. Finally add the quinoa and mix. Check for seasoning. Garnish with a fistful of coriander leaves and leave it to chill in the refrigerator. Serve cold!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Coconut Egg Curry

A long weekend and with the husband again travelling, it becomes imperative for the wife, that is me, to search for ways to keep herself busy. Luckily, there is one more friend whose husband is also travelling at the same time and so we have decided to do a sleepover at her place and have some fun time together. Tonight as husband leaves for a hurried India trip, we had a humble homely meal for lunch with whatever ingredients I had at hand. Initially, I wanted to make some Aaloo Parathas but the sweltering heat here made me change my mind. So here it is, a yummy and equally simple Egg Curry with a Coconut Base.

3 boiled eggs (or as per your requirement)
1/4 cup grated coconut
1 big onion
1 big tomato
1 big potato cut into quarters and boiled (A Bong cannot imagine his egg curry without the potato :))
3-4 garlic cloves
1" piece ginger
1/4 cup coconut milk (in case you do not have, increase the quantity of grated coconut to 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp sambar powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp deggi mirch powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2 whole red chillies
Few curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing
Oil as required

Put the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, and 1 whole red chilli in the grinder and make a smooth paste. To this add the grated coconut and pulse again till the coconut is smooth as well. 
Heat oil in a pan and fry the boiled potatoes till golden and keep aside. In the same oil, make slits on the boiled eggs with a knife and fry till golden. You can add a pinch of turmeric to get a beautiful golden color on the eggs.
In another or in the same pan, add additional oil if required and splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the remaining whole red chilli and fry for 2 minutes. Now add the ground paste and fry till oil starts coming out from the sides. Add the spices including salt and sugar and continue frying on a medium flame till a lovely aroma arises and the masalas fried well. Now add the coconut milk on a low flame and stir. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Add the fried eggs and potato and keep covered for 5 minutes on a medium flame. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot with steamed rice, neer dosa, or chapati.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Chunky Low Fat Cream of Mushroom Soup

My husband was out on a week long tour to Germany and even before he landed, he texted me that he wants to go on a diet whole of this week. While I was already observing a low calorie diet during his absence, his request did not sound too daunting to me. On one day, I served him black pea salad with Quinoa, and on the other, garlic pinwheels made with wheatgerm and served with a carrot soup. Today, I served him this yummy chunky thick Cream of Mushroom soup with some juicy Chicken Escalopes. The twist in the story however is that the cream of mushroom soup is actually without any cream. Here is the recipe and find out how!
2 cups button mushroom, finely chopped
1 big onion chopped
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
3 cups milk (you can use either full cream or skimmed)
2 tsp plain flour
1 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Dry roast the plain flour till aromatic in a small pan and keep it aside. Take care not to burn the flour. Let it cool.
In another deep bottomed vessel, heat the butter and add the garlic. When it starts browning, add the onions and fry till translucent. Now add the mushrooms and stir. Keep it covered on a medium flame till the mushroom changes color and is cooked through. Now remove the cover and dry up the moisture from the mushrooms. Add a few drops of milk to the roasted flour and make a smooth lumpfree paste. Add this paste to the mushrooms and stir well ensuring no lumps remain. Now add the milk and bring it to a boil while stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper and continue cooking on a medium flame till slightly reduced. Now take it off the flame and let it cool. When just warm, using a hand blender, pulse a few times to blend a few mushroom chunks for the creamy texture. Make sure you do not overdo it and still have a chunky consistency. We do not want a pasty smooth soup.  The mushroom chunks are what makes this soup special.
Put the soup back on flame and adjust the seasoning. Bring it to a boil and bring it off the flame. Serve hot!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Chicken Escalopes in Lemon Butter Sauce

Liking some celebrity chef's page comes handy in a long way. First, you get to hear names of some dishes you have never heard of or eaten and second, when you google out the recipes or they provide it to you, you are simply amazed at how simple it is to make. Same is the case with this recipe. The name "Escalope" sounds so heavy and difficult that any newbie home chef would escape from making it. However, it is nothing but a close cousin of our very own chicken nuggets, with a few changes here and there. So never judge anything by its name and keep enjoying what you like to do best!
2 chicken breast pieces, washed and cleaned, skin removed
10-15 sage leaves finely chopped (in the absence of sage you can substitute with any fresh herb)
1 tbsp freshly ground coarse black pepper
5-6 tbsp plain flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
6-7 tbsp breadcrumbs or as required (I used wheatgerm as the healthier option and it has the same texture as breadcrumbs)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp butter
1/2 a lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil for shallow frying or as required

Place the chicken breasts, one piece at a time, sandwiches between two pieces of aluminium foil and beat it flat with a rolling pin till widened and thinned a little. However, take care not to beat it so hard as to mash it. It should be flattened to form a disc like shape but thick enough to hold its shape. This is called an Escalope, and hence the name!
Season the escalopes with the herbs, salt, and black pepper and let it sit for 5-10 minutes while you get the rest of the things ready. Tip the flour onto a plate, beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl, and keep the breadcrumbs or wheatgerm ready in another plate.
Now heat oil in a pan. Dredge the escalopes, one at a time, in the flour. Shake off the excess and then dip in the egg bowl and finally roll in the crumbs generously and fry in the pan on medium  flame till golden on both sides and chicken cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Chicken breasts tend to dry out quickly and hence take care while cooking. Do not overcook. Repeat for the rest of the pieces and arrange on a plate.
Now heat the butter in a smaller pan and let it brown. Squeeze the lemon juice and add it to the butter and remove from heat. Drizzle this sauce over the chicken and serve hot!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sesame Red Chilli Garlic Pickle

Few days back, I went for a family dinner while my husband was away and in between the chit chats rose the topic of pickles and how everyone loved my recently made chilli pickles. That was when one of my cousin's Mom-in-Law shared a chilli pickle recipe with sesame and garlic which she had prepared for her daughter, an avid chilli eater. With husband away for a whole week and not much cooking to do, the pickle was the first thing I wanted to do. So this it, a very Assamese fiery hot Red Chilli Pickle with bits of Garlic and soaked in sesame, vinegar, and oil. If you love chillies and homemade at that, you must try this extremely easy classic recipe!
250 gms red chillies
6 tbsp black sesame seeds, powdered
3 tbsp rock salt
6 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
15-20 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (you can add or reduce as per your liking)
Mustard oil, just enough to cover the chillies till the brim

Wash the chillies thoroughly and air dry them completely on a kitchen towel. Now, remove the stems and diagonally slit the chillies. 
Take the sesame seeds and grind them to a coarse powder. I did not dry roast them as I used store bought ground sesame. You can dry roast if you would like to.
In a air tight jar, add the chillies, garlic, sesame powder, salt, sugar, and vinegar and mix well. You can also close the jar lid and vigorously shake it till everything is properly mixed. 

Put the jar in the sun for 2 days, lid on. On the third day, heat the mustard oil to smoky hot and then let it cool. Add the cooled oil to the chilli jar and mix well. Keep it at room temperature for 2 more days before serving.

Delicious Gulab Jamun with Instant Mawa

I pinched myself blue when I took the first bite of these amazing melt-in-the-mouth golden beauties. It was unbelievably true!! I am having Gulab Jamuns after a gap of almost 3 years. All these years I have had diligently controlled my cravings considering the calories associated with it. Also, the recipes available would always yield so many gulab jamuns which wasn't good for my inches. However, I finally got over all those hurdles by doing a bit of Mathematics and with the help of a magic Instant Mawa recipe shared by a very experienced Home Chef and Blogger Radha S Natarajan. With this instant mawa ready in your freezer, you do not even have to put in the effort of going to the market to fetch a readymade pack. Also, this is a no paneer recipe and hence no effort of either making it at home or getting it from the market. All in all, it took me just under 1 hour to make these beauties and I am so glad the way they turned out! Oh! How I love them and how I missed them!! 
Ingredients (Makes 10 pieces)
1/2 cup mawa (recipe given below)
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour/maida
A pinch of baking soda (If doubling the recipe, use 1/8 tsp)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 cardamoms
Few strands of saffron (optional)
Few drops of rose essence
Few pistachios for garnishing
Water for kneading
2 tbsp ghee+2 tbsp oil for frying

For the Instant Mawa
1 1/2 cup milk powder 
2 tbsp ghee
1/4 cup milk

For the Mawa
Boil the milk with ghee and cool it slightly. Now take the milk powder and add the warm/lukewarm milk and ghee mixture and make a dough. The dough need not be smooth but should just come together. A few crumbles here and there is okay as long as all the contents are mixed well. Transfer this to an air tight bowl and keep it in the freezer for future use. Remember to bring the mixture to room temperature every time you use to avoid any ice crystals.
For the Gulab Jamuns
Take 1/2 cup of the instant mawa at room temperature and crumble it with your hands. The crumbled mixture should measure 1/2 cup and any excess can be put back to its container. To this, add maida and soda and mix everything well till no lumps are there. Now add room temperature water 1 tsp at a time to knead a smooth dough. If you put in a bit more water by mistake, sprinkle some mawa to balance. It is however better to avoid a wet dough and so be extremely careful while adding water. Keep it aside for 5 minutes.
Now pinch out small balls of equal size (about 10 mini balls), and make sure they are smooth and do not have any open or cracked edges. 
While you have been doing this, make the sugar syrup ready by mixing the water, sugar, cardamoms, rose essence, and saffron. Bring it to a boil till the sugar dissolves and then keep it on medium flame till slightly reduced. We do not need a very thick syrup for this. Reduce the heat to minimum and let it simmer till the time you start frying the balls. The syrup needs to be warm and not hot for dipping the balls. Remove from heat and let it cool. Ensure that you prepare the syrup parallely while preparing the dough so that you have both the syrup and the balls ready to fry at the same time. 
Heat the oil and ghee together on high. Now lower the flame to medium low and start frying the balls till golden on both sides. The oil temperature is very important here. Too hot and the balls will get burnt without getting cooked. Not hot enough and the balls would not brown and oil will seep inside and leave an unpleasant taste. So keep a close watch on the flame temperature. Reduce and increase as and when required.
Drain the excess oil on paper towels and let the fried balls rest for 5 minutes before transferring to the warm sugar syrup. 

Preferably, do not use a spoon to immerse the balls in the syrup and swirl the vessel with the help of its handle. This will avoid breakage.
Once all the balls are in the syrup, swirl gently till all of it is coated evenly. You can transfer the gulab jamuns to a serving bowl when the syrup has cooled down to just being lukewarm. Take extreme care in doing this. First fish out the balls with the help of a spoon and then pour the syrup. 
 Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve warm. Reheat for any subsequent servings in the microwave. This keeps fresh for almost a week if stored covered in the refrigerator.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Wholewheat Fruit and Coconut Bread -- No Butter No Oil

This one is probably the most healthy bread I have made in a long time now. It is like a Pandora's Box filled with all the healthy goodies. Wholewheat, loaded with fruits and without the overpowering guilt of those unwanted calories. While I did add some light sour cream with 18% fat (regular butter is 80-84%), you can even skip that and make some changes as per the suggestions given at the end of this post. The best part that I like about this bread is the fresh fruit pieces which you dig into in every bite. There is Mango, Apricots, Raisins, coconut, and the list can go on as per your choice and liking. But wait, I hope you are not confusing this recipe with that of a regular yeast bread. This "cakey" bread is actually more closer to being a cake except that it is more dense, crumblier, and makes you full with a single slice and is in fact a complete meal in itself. You can also do small muffins instead of the loaf, which will make it easier for you to carry to office or elsewhere. 
2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cup light sour cream (18% fat; regular cream can also be used or homemade malai/cream is also a good option)
1/4 cup milk (either skimmed or full cream)
1 cup brown sugar (can be replaced with 1/3 cup honey and 2/3 cup artificial sweetener like Stevia) 
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanila essence
1 cup dried or fresh mango pieces chopped (I prefer the dried ones as the fresh ones will easily dissolve in the heat)
1 cup dried apricots chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut (in its absence, dessicated coconut can also be used)
Any nuts of your choice for topping. Can be added in the batter too (walnuts, almonds, pistachios are a good option)

Beat the sugar, cream, milk, vanila essence, and eggs till light and creamy. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Fold this into the egg mixture little at a time till all mixed well and no lumps remain. Add the fruits one at a time and mix. 
Pre heat the oven at 180 degree celsius and grease or line a loaf tin or line the muffin tray with paper liners. Pour the batter onto the prepared pan. The batter will be thick and so you will need to spread it out evenly with the help of a spatula. Tap the bottom a couple of times to prevent any air bubbles. Garnish the top with chopped nuts and let it sit for 5-10 minutes till your oven pre heats. 
Bake in the pre heated oven for 40-50 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do check in between as the oven temperatures may vary. If the top gets over browned and the bread still not done, as it happened with me, tent the top loosely with an aluminium foil to prevent burning. Once done, remove from  oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 min before transferring to a wire rack for cooling completely. Slice when cooled and store in air tight container. This bread also tastes wonderful if lightly toasted.

Healthier Optional Ingredients
Instead of the cream and milk, use buttermilk of the same quantity. That is 3/4 cup. Also, if you are vegetarian and do not eat eggs, replace it with another 1/3cup buttermilk. If the batter appears too thick (should be of drop consistency, add a little milk, 1 tbsp at a time). 
If you are not calorie conscious and want to enjoy this bread in its full glory, add 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup vegetable oil instead of the buttermilk/sour cream option. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Gluten Free Flourless Delicious Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

Quinoa is ruling my mind and my kitchen these days. I am loving every bit of it and thoroughly enjoying my experiments with this wonder grain. After a very Indian Breakfast staple dish, Upma, and a western Veggie Bake, it's time for something sweet. What better than a cup cake to enjoy your tea/coffee with and in fact, as a dessert too with some ice cream! As I write this post, my cupcakes are already over and I am looking forward to making them soon again. 
Ingredients (Makes 8 Cupcakes)
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 tbsp butter softened (you can reduce it to 2 1/2)
2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar (add more if you like it more sweet; I like it a bit bitter sweet)
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanila essence
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (skip if using salted butter)

Cook 3/4 cup quinoa in 1 1/2 cup boiling water on a medium flame till all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is transparent with a whitish tail. Cool the quinoa. Measure out 1 cup and keep aside. You can keep leftover quinoa in the refrigerator, covered, for later use. 
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, softened butter, and oil till smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and beat further. Now add the cooked and cooled quinoa and mix. Add the essence, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt (if using) and beat further. 
Pre heat the oven at 180 degree celsius. Now line a muffin tray with 8 paper liners and spoon out the batter upto 3/4 level of each cup. Bake in the pre heated oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cupcakes look set. Cool on wire rack and store in air tight container, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Spinach and Quinoa Bake

So here I am with yet another Quinoa recipe as promised. The grain is truly a wonder and can fill your tummy with just a few spoonfuls! So be aware while choosing your portions. My today's portion went a little overboard and now I have a full big dish to finish by tomorrow. It was incredibly yummy and the best part is again the nutrition value it carries along with the other veggies in the dish. Here I have used Spinach, mushroom, and corn, but you can use any combination you want. 

3/4 cup quinoa
1 medium onion chopped
1 cup spinach chopped (I used frozen)
2 tbsp corn kernels
1/4 cup button mushroom sliced
1 tbsp garlic chopped
1 tsp mixed dried herbs (I used thyme and rosemary)
3 eggs
1/2 cup cottage cheese/paneer grated (I prepared it at home with 0.1% fat skimmed milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (I skipped as I was using storebought spicy breadcrumbs)
Cheese as you like it (I skipped)
3-4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil for greasing and 1 tbsp for sautéing

Boil 350 ml water and add the quinoa. Keep stirring frequently until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through (transparent with a small white tag). Remove from heat and let it cool. 
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the onions till translucent. Now add the chopped garlic and fry till slightly browned. Next tip in the mushrooms and fry till they change color. Add in all other veggies now and season with the dry herbs, salt and pepper. You can directly add the chopped spinach here or blanch it first and then add. Once the veggies are tender enough, remove from heat and let it cool.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then add the grated cottage cheese or paneer. Mix well till it is smooth. Now add the cooled veggie mixture and the cooled Quinoa. Add the quinoa little at a time. The quinoa expands after being cooked. So add as per your judgement. The mixture should not be too thick nor thin. It should be moist enough without any excess liquid. Season with a little more salt if required. Taste the veggie mix before adding into the eggs and you will know just how much to add. You can also add some cheese of your choice to the mixture to make it more rich. 
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. Grease a oven safe baking dish, big enough to hold the mixture, with 1 tsp oil. Now spread the breadcrumbs evenly on the bottom of the greased baking dish. Next add the mixture and spread it out evenly. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes until set and the edges brown and start coming off the sides. 
Remove from oven and serve hot or warm.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Quinoa Upma--Gluten Free Diet

The first time I tasted this grain, I did not know what it was and was too shy to ask the hosts. I then assumed it was couscous and went ahead and bought a big pack. I liked couscous but somehow it did not appeal me much. I still could not figure out that which I had and liked so much. Now I know! Quinoa it was! I loved everything about it. The crunchy yet soft texture and the subtle taste. The best part is however its nutrition value and the easy and simple way to make your everyday meal full of health yet so yummy and delicious. So until I finish the pack, stay tuned for more interesting recipes using this wonder grain starting with this oh-so-simple our very own Upma!
Ingredients (Serves 2)
1 cup quinoa
1 medium onion chopped
1/2" piece ginger chopped
1 cup mixed vegetables finely chopped (I used carrot, frozen peas, bell pepper)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
1-2 green chillies chopped
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Let it crackle. Now fry the onions till translucent. Add the ginger and the veggies and fry till just cooked. You can add a little salt and cover and cook on a medium flame to speed up the process. Now add the quinoa and fry for 2-3 minutes till mixed well. Add 2 cups of hot water and mix. Cover and cook on a medium flame until the quinoa is cooked (becomes transparent with a small white tail/tag) and the water is absorbed. Check for seasoning and garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Leftover Delight--Rich and Creamy No-Cook Rice Pudding

Tea time gossips sometimes end up being very constructive. Few days back, I was having some chit-chat over some tea and snacks with my cousin from India  who was visiting us and she mentioned the Anniversary celebration of one of our close relative back in India. The menu and the food was totally awesome and the most worth mentioning was the dessert. It turned out that the dessert was a super easy no cook Rice Pudding which was the showstopper. My cousin did not have the recipe with her but vaguely told me what could have been the ingredients and since then it was stuck in my mind. Today when I saw that big bowl of leftover rice from lunch, I immediately got into action and prepared this delightfully easy pudding purely based on my instincts. I haven't tasted the one which was served at that party but I am sure, it would have been as yummy as this.
2 cups leftover cooked rice
100 ml cream 
300 ml evaporated milk (if you do not have access to this, you can just boil 600 ml full cream milk and reduce it to half)
100 ml condensed milk (or as per taste)
1 tsp vanila essence
Fistful of raisins and cashews each

Evaporated milk is readily available here and so my pudding is a purely no cook version. However, I am including a stove top version too for those who do not have evaporated milk available in their nearby supermarkets.
No Cook Version
Whiz the cooked rice in your food processor until smooth. Now add the evaporated milk, cream, vanila essence, and condensed milk and pulse further until mixed well and reaches a smoothie texture. Fold in the raisins with a spatula. The mixture should be thick and grainy, with no traces of individual rice grains. It should be of drop consistency and not pouring. Transfer the pudding to a serving dish and garnish with chopped cashews. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
Stove top Version
Boil 600 ml full cream milk and add the condensed milk. Reduce the flame and keep stirring at regular interval till the mixture reduces to half. Now add the cream and stir for 5-10 minutes more and remove from heat. Let it cool. Now add the pureed rice to this cooled milk and mix well. Fold in the essence and raisins. Garnish with chopped cashews and refrigerate until served.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Panchratna Daal

It was in 2012 when I first tasted this daal and was completely blown away. The taste of five super nutritious lentils mixed together makes this daal the most delicious of all and will make you keep coming back for more. A sure hit with your family and friends.


1 cup mixed daal (I used storebought mix; in case you don't have, use equal quantity of split bengal gram, split green gram, split black gram, split pigeon pea, and split red lentil)
1 big onion chopped
1 medium tomato chopped
1" piece ginger finely chopped
2 green chillies chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 + 1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

For tempering
1/2 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 whole red chilli
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp coriander leaves chopped
2-3 lime leaves or 1 tsp lime juice (i prefer using lime leaves as the flavor is superb and remains intact)

Wash and soak the daals for 1 hour. Now, in a pressure cooker add the washed and soaked daals, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, and salt and water till about 1" above the daals. Cook for 4-5 whistles. Remove from heat and let the pressure release on its own. 
In a pan, heat the oil and fry the onions till  translucent. Now add the chopped ginger and tomatoes and cook till soft. Add the dry spices and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the boiled daal and stir. Check for seasoning and transfer to a serving bowl. 
In another small pan, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Let them splutter and then add the whole red chilli. Once it puffs up, add the chopped garlic, coriander leaves and lime leaves. If using lime juice, add it just before removing from heat. Once the garlic starts browning, pour the tempering on the daal and cover immediately. Keep covered until served. Serve hot with plain rice or roti.