Sunday, 30 November 2014

Wholewheat Chocolate Yogurt Cake

My baby was unwell, hubby was out for work, and I was sleep deprived for two consecutive nights. You can imagine the stress and exhaustion I was in over the last few days. I really wished I could fly away to an undisclosed location or rub Alladin's lamp or do something which could bring me some joy and relief. Solution? Well, neither could I fly nor could I get hold of the genie but I did de-stress by baking this wonderfully simple and healthy chocolate beauty. Baking is therapeutic indeed and I can vouch for that. As for the cake, it was yum all the way and I enjoyed it to my heart's content without worrying much about the calories. 

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup yogurt (I used flavored ones as I had too many in stock)
2 tbsp extra light olive oil (you can use refined oil too)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
Handful of chocochips (optional)

Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius and grease a medium bundt pan or your regular bakeware and keep aside. 
Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder and keep aside. 
Beat the eggs and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add the yogurt, oil, and vanila extract and beat further. 
Fold in the flour and mix in a single direction till no lumps remain and all the flour has been incorporated. Add the choco chips now if using and gently mix. 
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and tap on the counter for a couple of times to release any air bubbles. 
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
Remove from oven and cool in the pan for ten minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing and storing in air tight container. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Carrot Beetroot Soup

Singapore weather is very pleasant these days for adults but very unhealthy for kids. The sudden drops in temperature during the day acts like a trigger for flu, cough, and cold. On top of it, the public transport such as the buses and trains are so chilling inside that any healthy person is bound to fall sick. How can these poor kids escape? My baby is also a prey to these viruses floating in the air and as such not been eating well. As a mother, it is a super testing time when you have to really work with patience and ensure that the baby has eaten at least enough to be able to drink up those meds for the cure. This bright and vibrant red soup that I made today saved the day for me and she ate satisfactorily (although, I would have been overjoyed if she would have gone for a second helping) simply because it looked exciting enough. Phew! One meal taken care of at least! :)
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
1 big beetroot (approx 300 gms)
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
500 ml chicken/veg stock

Peel the beetroot and carrots. Wash and cut into chunks. Add them to a pressure cooker along with the chopped onion and chopped garlic and little water, just enough to cover them. Close the lid and cook till completely done, about 4-5 whistles. Remove from flame and keep aside to cool. 
Once cooled completely, using a hand blender, puree the boiled beetroot mixture to a fine consistency. Now either transfer the contents to another deep bottomed vessel for ease of stirring or keep it in the cooker and put it back on flame. Add the stock (you can add as per your requirement for the number of servings without thinning the soup too much) and salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil and serve hot with some cream, if you like, and bread sticks. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Smoked Chicken Curry

School holidays have started and so have my woes. The constant hunt for excitement, new toys and old forgotten ones too, finger foods every half hour, play doh, and so on and on. Gosh! I really wish I could vanish away to some place for a few hours in the day. I do not even want to glance upon my messy dirty home which does not even look clean no matter how many times I try to clear it up during the day! To top it all, I have to think of a new menu each day for my Father-in-Law who is visiting us these days. I do not mind his visit otherwise but having to cook something proper each day is quite a task, especially with school holidays. Anyway, it's just a matter of one more week and even though things will only get tougher after he leaves, the cooking can be neglected on most days! Here is what I prepared for him today.
1 kg chicken washed and cut
2 big potatoes halved
1 big onion sliced finely
1 medium tomato chopped
2-3 fat cloves of garlic chopped
1" piece ginger grated
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Fresh coriander for garnishing
Salt to taste
1/2 tbsp of dry roasted and crushed kasuri methi

For the marination
1/3 cup thick yogurt
1 big onion finely sliced
1" piece ginger grated
2-3 fat cloves of garlic minced
1-2 tsp salt
2 tbsp mustard oil (you can use any other oil as well)

For the masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 black cardamom
3 green cardamom
3 cloves
1" piece cinnamon
1 star anise
2-3 dry red chilli (I skipped as I was serving it to my baby too)

For the smoke
1-2 pieces of charcoal
1 tsp ghee
Aluminium foil made into a bowl (it is advisable to keep it ready before starting to smoke)

Take the washed and cut chicken pieces in a bowl and ensure that the water is properly drained out. Now add all the ingredients listed under marination and mix and coat well on the chicken pieces. Cover and leave it for at least 2-3 hours. Overnight marination is highly recommended and that is what I did. 
The next morning, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before starting to cook. 
Dry roast all the ingredients listed under masala and grind to a fine powder. Keep aside. 
Now in the same grinder, add the chopped tomato, garlic, and ginger and make a fine puree. Keep aside. 

Fry the potato halves in little oil till golden and keep aside. 

Now heat a deep bottomed big wok and take the chicken out onto it along with the marinade. Keep the flame high and keep stirring at regular interval to avoid sticking. We are doing this step to seal the juices and to dry up the excess liquid of the marinade as well as to bring out the fat from the yogurt and the chicken since we have not added any additional oil. Within 10-12 minutes, the water will start drying up and the chicken will start getting golden. 

Add the sliced onion and fry till translucent. Now add the tomato puree and fry till the raw smell disappears and oil starts leaving the sides of the pan. Add the ground masala and turmeric powder and stir well. Tip in the potatoes and 1 cup warm water. Mix well and cover and cook on a medium flame till the chicken and the potatoes are cooked through and tender and the gravy reduces to your desired consistency. You can either have it dry or with gravy depending on your requirement. Now add the crushed kasuri methi and fresh coriander. Check for seasoning and remove from heat. Transfer to the serving dish with a proper tight lid (without any gap or hole). Take the prepared aluminium bowl and place it securely in the center of the chicken ensuring that there are no open edges on the sides through which liquid may seep in or out. 

Take the charcoal pieces in a small bowl or tadka/tempering wok and let it heat up to red hot. Add a tsp of ghee now and as the ghee melts and smoke starts coming out, pour it into the prepared aluminium bowl.

 Cover the dish instantly and tightly close it so that no smoke can escape. Let it remain that way for about half hour till the charcoal cools down. Discard the aluminium foil and the charcoal (if completely charred) and serve hot with roti/rice.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Daal Palak Shorba (Spinach and Lentils Soup)

Adding to the series of healthy recipes posted recently on the blog is this Daal Palak Shorba or Spinach and Lentils Soup. It is a healthy blend of nutritious fresh spinach and protein-laden lentils with a bunch of spices to make it a yummy meal for the weight watchers as well as for a chilly wintery evening when you do not want to get out of that blanket. 
250 gms spinach washed and chopped (stems included)
1/4 cup toor/arhar daal
1/4 cup moong daal
1 medium tomato chopped
1 medium onion chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 sprig of coriander chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and soak the daals for half an hour. Now take a pressure cooker and cook the daals along with onion, tomato, and garlic and water and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles till done. The daal should be more mushy than usual. 
Now transfer the daal to a big soup pot or deep bottomed vessel and add the chopped spinach. Add about 1/2 cup of water if required and cook till the spinach is done. Let it cool for half an hour and then with a hand blender, blend the soup to a smooth puree. Put the soup back on flame and add salt and pepper. You can now either heat some ghee in a separate pan and splutter some cumin seeds, chopped coriander, and crushed red chilli and add it to the soup while serving or serve it without the tempering but with a tsp of fresh cream or just have it straight from the pot (if you are a weight watcher like me). The choice is yours but equally yummy for all three options!!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Spicy Tangy Tom Yum Soup

Mondays mean the start of another week of healthy eating and restrain. While my Father-in-Law was happily gorging on some Fish Head curry with rice and daal, I made myself this super quick and super nutritious Thai Tom Yum soup for my dinner. In fact, this soup is currently under study as a dish for boosting your immunity and to help you recover from cold and flu. I have made a semi-vegetarian version but you can make endless variations once you get the basic ingredients ready. With winters approaching and the weather changing, a spicy tangy Thai Tom Yum Soup is all you need to keep your body warm inside out! Have it as an appetizer or as a complete nutritious meal in itself!

750 ml chicken/veg stock (a good tasting stock makes all the difference)
2 stalks lemongrass minced
1 thumb sized galangal (Thai ginger) or regular ginger (if you do not have galangal) cut into juliennes
4-5 kaffir lime leaves
2 shallots roughly chopped
1 tbsp lime juice (juice of 1 lime approximately)
1/2 cup broccoli florets (you can use bell peppers, carrots, bok choy, spinach leaves or any veggie that you have at hand)
3-4 big cloves of garlic minced
1 cup sliced mushroom
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes halved (I used quartered regular tomatoes)
Tofu cubes (optional; I did not add any)
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used thin one)
3-4 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (increase to 3-4 tbsp if not using fish sauce)
1 tsp brown sugar
3-4 fresh green/red chilli cut diagonally
Salt to taste (remember the sauce and the store bought stock, if using, will already have salt)
Few coriander and basil leaves for garnishing and flavor

Put the stock in a soup pot and add the minced lemongrass, julienned galangal, lime leaves, garlic, chillies, and shallots and bring it to a boil for 3-5 minutes till a wonderful aroma arises. Now simmer and add the mushrooms. Cover and cook till tender. Now add the tomatoes and broccoli (or any other veggie) and cook till the broccoli is still a bit crunchy but done. Now remove from heat and add the coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar and put it back on flame. Keep it on a low flame and stir until well combined. Check the seasoning and adjust accirdingly for a spicy tangy flavor. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander and basil and serve hot!! 

Cranberry-Orange Wholewheat Oatmeal and Wheat Germ Muffins

Just as weekend means indulgence, the week means restriction at my household. Restriction not in terms of food or taste but in terms of bad calories and unhealthy food. While you can manage to restrict your diet during the three main meals, the mid-mornings and tea-times are the hardest to resist and that is where the trick to healthy eating lies. I bake a healthy munch on every week to help me get rid of my cravings as well as keep a watch on the calorie intake and nutrition level. When on a restricted diet, you are most likely prone to miss out on essential nutrients (especially for a non-fruit eater like me), and bakes such as these help me fill up the gap. Try these muffins if you like to bite into a little something with your cuppa and enjoy it guilt-free. 

1/2 cup raw wheat germ
1/2 cup oatmeal, lightly roasted and ground
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 tsp mixed spice (you can use a mix of ground cinnamon and nutmeg; I used storebought mixed spice)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice (I used canned)
1/4 cup extra light olive oil (you can use canola oil as well)
1 tsp grated orange rind (I used  yellow lemon rind as I did not have fresh oranges at hand)

Mix the flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and mixed spice and keep aside. 
In another bowl, whip the sugar, oil, orange juice, eggs, and lemon/orange rind till smooth. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined. The batter will not be runny but slightly lumpy. 
Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper liners and drop a spoon full of the batter till about 3/4th of the cup. Even out the top and continue for the rest of the batter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the top is nicely golden. If the top browns faster than the muffin being baked, lower the temperature to 160 degrees to avoid burning. Remove from oven when done and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing it in air tight containers. Re-heat the muffins for 10 secs in the microwave before serving for best results. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Mutton Dum Biryani

I have recently started cooking something special on weekends, especially on Sundays, and this has started mainly because of my strict diet during the week. Even the body needs some motivation to continue with the healthy diet and lifestyle and a weekend indulgent meal fits the bill perfectly. So here is my this week's weekend indulgence, a sinful delicious melt-in-the-mouth Mutton Dum Biryani and served with some chilled Boondi Raita! 
Ingredients (Serves 4)
For the Biryani Masala 
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2-3 pieces of green cardamom
1 black cardamom
4-5 cloves 
2 small sticks cinnamon
1/2 piece nutmeg (javitri)
2 pieces mace
5-6 dry red chillies (as per taste)

Other Ingredients
3 cups basmati rice, washed and dried in a colander
500 gms mutton, washed and cut (I used 300 gms boneless and 200 gms with bones)
1 cup yogurt, whipped
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 sprig mint leaves, finely chopped
1 sprig coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 each of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and star anise
5 medium onions, finely sliced and deep fried until crisp and golden brown (drain on paper towels to remove excess oil)
2-3 tbsp ghee (this is to be used while layering the rice and mutton; use as per requirement)
2 medium potatoes, halved and fried till golden brown
1 big potato, thinly sliced (for layering at the bottom of the vessel to prevent burning)
3 boiled eggs halved
A pinch of saffron, soaked in 2 tbsp cold milk (optional)
1+1 tbsp salt
2 tsp meat tenderizer (you can also 2 tbsp grated raw papaya)
1 tsp red food color
1 tsp yellow food color (you may skip to use the food colors and prepare with single colored rice. I just wanted to experiment)
2 tsp kewra essence
Aata dough for lining the lid of the vessel

Marinate the mutton pieces with 1 tbsp salt and keep aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pan, dry roast all the ingredients given under Biryani masala and let it cool. Then grind to a fine powder and keep aside.
Wash the marinated mutton pieces with water and drain any excess liquid. Now add the yogurt, biryani masala, ginger, garlic, 1 tbsp salt, meat tenderizer/raw papaya, and half of the fried onions. Mix everything well and cover with a cling wrap. This has to be marinated for a minimum of 2 hours. For best results, marinate overnight and keep it in the refrigerator. I marinated it overnight. 

In the morning (if marinated overnight) take the meat out and keep it on the kitchen counter and bring it to room temperature. Now start to prepare the rice. 

If you are using food color, soak a fistful of rice in one bowl with the red color and another fistful in a bowl with yellow color. Soak the rest of the rice in another bowl for 30 minutes. Start with the red rice and cook till just 60% done. Drain and spread it out on a plate. Now prepare the yellow rice and again cook for 60% doneness and spread it out in the same plate as the red rice. Now cook the rest of the rice. 
While making the rice, add the cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise for extra flavor. You can also add 1 tsp of ghee. Within 5-7 minutes of putting the rice on stove top (about 30% done), remove 1/4th of the rice. Drain and keep in a separate plate. This rice forms the base of your biryani. Now cook the rest of the rice till just 60% done. Once the rice is done, drain the excess liquid completely and spread out the rice on the same plate as the colored rice. Mix well and keep aside. 
Meanwhile, fry the potato halves and keep them ready as well as the other ingredients for the assembly. 
Now its time to prepare for the assembling. Heat a heavy iron griddle/tawa. Take the vessel where you will be putting the biryani on dum. Grease the base and the sides of the vessel with a little ghee on your palm. Now line the botttom of the vessel with the sliced potatoes evenly ensuring minimum gaps. If your vessel is too big, you can use extra potato pieces. Use as per requirement. This is a crucial step as this will ensure that the biryani does not stick to the bottom. I always do this step but for today I miscalculated and was short of potatoes. So I greased the bottom with some extra ghee and that served the purpose as well. 
Now, put the first layer of rice that you had kept separately and sprinkle some mint and coriander leaves. 
Now cover the rice with the marinated mutton and sprinkle some more chopped coriander and mint leaves followed by half of the remaining fried onions, fried potato halves, boiled egg halves, and about 1 tbsp of ghee and 1 tsp kewra essence.

Now cover up the meat with the mix of colored and plain rice followed by a last round of coriander, mint, remaining fried onions, 1 tsp kewra essence and ghee. 

Now sprinkle the kesar/saffron milk (if using) on top and tightly seal the vessel with the atta dough that you had prepared and close the lid. 

Ensure that there are no gaps in the lid through which the steam can escape. Keep the vessel on the hot tawa/griddle and keep the flame at the minimum. 

Cook the biryani on dum for about 1- 1.5 hours. You will know that the biryani and most importantly, the meat is cooked when you start getting a lovely aroma from the mini gaps of the lid that will start opening up towards the end. 

Continue cooking on the tawa with the flame off until the tawa is warm enough to touch. Serve hot with raita and enjoy this delicious treat with your friends and family.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Long Beans Chorchori (Borboti Chorchori)

Veggies and me do not go a long way, really. On any regular day, you will hardly find any veggies in my pantry unless I have some dish in mind. However, these days with my Father-in-Law visiting us, my pantry is loaded with veggies and being done with all the simple quick stir fries, I need to now think of something more detailed yet easy to keep the menu rolling. Today's recipe can be done with a variety of veggies which you have been cooking otherwise in the same old stir-fry way. Apart from the beans, you can use spinach , pumpkin , raw papaya, raw banana, brinjal, squash, flaf beans, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, etc., etc.. The possibilities are endless. :)

1 bundle long beans and/or any veggie as suggested above
1 big potato
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 tsp onion seeds or kalonji
1 tbsp mustard seeds soaked for 1/2 hour
1" piece ginger
2-3 green chillies
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1// tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 tsp mustard oil
Fresh coriander for garnish

Wash and cut the beans in 2" pieces. Keep aside. Cut the potato into long strips just like french fries. Keep aside. 
Make a paste with the mustard seeds , ginger and green chillies and s dash of water. Keep aside. 
Heat oil in a pan and crackle the onion seeds. Add the chopped onions and fry till slightly golden. Now add the beans and potato and stir. Add the dry spices along with sugar and salt. Mix and cook on a low flame till almost done and beans and potato are slightly golden. Now add the paste and 1/3 cup water and stir well. Cover and cook on a low flame for 5-10 minutes till the gravy sticks on to the veggies but not burnt or sticking to the pan. There should not be any liquid gravy. If there is, dry it out. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with steamed rice. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Simple Kheer (Rice Pudding)

Singapore, today, saw the start of the rainy season and with dark clouds hovering all over and thunder storms raging the skies, I suddenly had this craving for some kheer. I hadn't tasted it since quite some time now and quickly checked my pantry for all the ingredients. All that I did not have were a handful of raisins and that wasn't too big a miss. I was also aching to try my new terracota pots which my Father-in-Law got for me from India and what better start than a kheer in an earthen pot. Imagine the subtle earthy flavor in that rich and creamy chilled kheer loaded with dry fruits!!! Heaven!!!

1/4 cup small grain aromatic rice (I used Assam special Joha rice)
750 ml milk (I used 450 ml evaporated milk and 300 ml low fat milk)
75-100 ml condensed milk (I used the low fat condensed milk; you can increase or decrease the quantity as per your taste)
Few pods of cardamom
A bay leaf
Dry fruits of your choice

Wash and soak the rice in some water for 1/2 hour. 
Mix the milk and condensed milk together in a pot and put it on the gas stove. Keep stirring and bring it to a boil. Add the bay leaf and the cardamom pod and reduce the flame to minimum. Keep stirring the milk every 5-7 minutes till the milk thickens and reduces to 2/3. Check the sweetness now and if required add more condensed milk. However, remember that as the milk thickens further, the sweetness will increase further too. So adjust accordingly. 
Meanwhile, drain the soaked rice and with the help of a mortar pestle or the back of a heavy spoon, pound the raw rice roughly. This step ensures a creamy kheer with not too big chunks of rice. Add this to the reduced milk and stir. Keep the flame on the lowest and let the rice cook. Do not forget to stir in between and keep breaking the film that will form on top of the milk. When the milk reduces to almost 1/3 and rice is cooked through, add the dry fruits. Be careful not to reduce the kheer to a very thick consistency else when it cools down it will turn into a lump of rice. The consistency should be the same as hot custard when just done. 
Pour the kheer to your serving ware or earthen pot if using and garnish with some more dry fruits if desired. Bring it to room temperature and then chill completely before serving!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Grilled Chicken Avocado Sandwich

You really need to exercise your mind, apart from your body, to think of new and innovative ways to feed your family healthy food. We all love chicken sandwiches, don't we? Especially, when it is laden with a yummy creamy spread which leaves you licking your fingers!! Well, when on a controlled diet, you are ought to forget the creamy part. But not anymore! This sandwich spread is sure to delight you and fill in for all your creamy cravings with the very healthy and nutritious Avocados. Try this sandwich for your friends and family and give them the taste of good health. 

4-5 brown bread slices (or as per your choice and qty of bread)
300 gms chicken mince (I made some extra filling for later use)
1 medium onion sliced
1 medium tomato chopped
2-3 pods garlic chopped
2 avocados
2-3 sprigs of fresh coriander
2-3 green chillies (or as per taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Start with boiling the mince. Wash and drain the chicken mince in a colander and put it in a pressure cooker. Add the onions, tomatoes, and garlic. Do not add any additional water as the chicken will release its own juices. Also, no salt. Pressure cook the mince for 2-3 whistles or until done.  Let it cool completely.
Next, prepare the avocado base. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it in the blender. Add the coriander, green chillies, and salt and pepper and whiz to a smooth paste. Adjust the seasoning accordingly. Remember not to add too much salt as this is just a part of the sandwich spread. Transfer to an air tight jar and keep aside. 

Now,  the chicken mince is cooled completely. Check if there is an excess of water floating in the cooker. If so, with a slotted spoon, spoon out the chicken and other ingredients and reserve the liquid to be used for some other curries in your kitchen. With the help of a hand blender, whiz the chicken mince a few times to get a smooth paste. Keep aside. I made of mistake of not separating the chicken from the water and so had to use a colander later to drain the excess liquid. I have not yet added any salt to the chicken as I wanted to keep it as a base for some patties or tikkis later on. 
Now, time to make the sandwich spread. 
Take equal amounts of the chicken mix and the avocado dip and mix well. Add salt and pepper and any other herb or seasoning as per your choice. I added some finely chopped capsicum. 
Now take the bread slices and spread some tomato ketchup on each slice. You can choose to put butter too. Take scoops of the chicken avocado mix and spread it out evenly. 

Cover it up with the other slice and grill. Serve hot!! Enjoy :)