Monday, April 9, 2018

Spiced Mango Jam

Every time we visit my daughter and son-in-law, she packs with us something for my parents. When we visited in Portland, strawberries were in season and she sent strawberry jam, then. This year, they waited for us, to go and buy a full crate of mangoes that their local Indian store had stocked.

We had bought a book of jams and preserves, from which we adapted the recipe. The original was a mango cardamom jam, which used jamming sugar. Since we don't get that here in the US, we opted to use pectin along with granulated sugar. We also added to the cardamom, some nutmeg and saffron, along with chilli flakes to enhance the flavour.

Spiced Mango Jam

Yield - 3x8oz jars 


1 kg mangoes (peeled and stone removed weight)
450 grams granulated sugar
1 tbsp. whole fruit pectin
6 pods green cardamoms
1/3 of a whole nutmeg
a generous pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp chilli flakes


Put a ceramic plate into the freezer, ready for testing.
Set a deep pan of water to simmer on the stove, ready to sterilize and process the jam jars.
Pulp the peeled and stoned mangoes coarsely.
Put it into a heavy bottom dutch oven, along with the rest of the ingredients, expect for the pectin.

On a medium heat, cook till the sugar dissolves and bring to a boil. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or so, till the fruit softens.
Once the mangoes have cooked down, add the pectin, and stir it in.
Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes, till the jam begins to thicken.
As it gets up to a jam like consistency, put a little dollop of jam on the plate that you put in the freezer. If it is set, the jam shouldn't run.
By now, the jam jars in the water should be ready to fill.

Once you fill the bottles, seal them while the jam is still hot.
Once you open a bottle, put the jam in the fridge, and use a dry spoon to serve.
Enjoy with hot toast, or straight out of the jar!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal

Few days ago I picked up a big bunch of shallots, yes you heard it right, bunch - because the vendors gather them with lot of their dried stem roots still attached to the bulb and make a bunch. That is how they are sold in the local markets here. The shallots made a very colourful subject to photograph. I had just then got a wood carving man to make me a small container of sorts with a piece of broken tree branch. They both made a vibrant combination in the picture.

I shared the same on my Instagram feed and many suggestions were there to use them in delicious dishes. I cooked them in a few and was left with a rather large batch that I cannot finish before leaving for my holiday. I ended up making this pulikaichchal that is more preserve like and would stay fresh for days if refrigerated. It was reminded of this by my sister, who does not like and will not have onions and garlic; she would smell it however much we mask the taste.
My father's clients would bring produce from their farms and crops like groundnuts, tapioca and shallots used to be brought soon as they have been harvested. They will still be wet and soil soaked and fresh. My mother would then simply spread them on a newspaper in the corner of a room and use them in batches. She cleaned them as and when she was cooking them. She would often make this dish because it works well as a side for dosais, idlies, pongal and also rice. Painful as it may seem to peel and cut those fresh pungent shallots, the taste of the dish makes it all worth the effort.
When we did not have a refrigerator also, this dish used to keep good for days together, provided we are not careless in the use of utensils and serving spoons. Cooking it in some stoneware utensil will add to the flavour and one might simply store in the same too. I have, with me here, a very heavy bottomed stainless steel pan that is ideal to cook on even heat and slow cooking happens easily.

Chinna Vengayam Pulikaichchal 

Makes 300 ml of pulikaichchal

200 grams of shallots/ Madras onions/chinna vengayam
2&1/2 tablespoons tightly packed tamarind bits
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder (or a 1/2 centimeter square of asafoetida dissolved in little water)
1 heaped tablespoon coarse crystal salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) (adjust to taste)

1/4 cup gingelly oil (divided - to saute the onions and for cooking)

For the spice powder:
7-8 dry red chillis (adjusting to the level of heat tolerance and the heat of chillis)
(+3 Kashmiri chillis for the colour, because my red chillis are very brown)
3 &1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (white or black, cleaned)

For the tempering: 
1 teaspoon gingelly oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon channa dhal
1 teaspoon urad dhal
2 dry red chillis broken in small bits
15 curry leaves washed clean

Soak the tamarind in water for about 20 minutes and extract the pulp. I repeat the process to extract all the pulp and the last batch of water does not even get the colour.
Dry roast the ingredients given for the spice powder, each separately and on low heat so they are evenly done. Cool them and make a coarse powder. Keep aside.
Peel the shallots and cut them in small pieces.
Heat a few spoons of the gingelly oil and add the onions. Saute them until they are translucent, not very brown.
Add the tamarind extract, turmeric powder and salt. Top up the water just a little more and cook on low heat, to remove the raw taste of tamarind.

When this is simmering, heat the oil for tempering in another pan and add the ingredients listed under there. Once the mustard seeds have crackled and the dhals are golden, transfer this to the simmering mix.
Add the rest of the oil and the spice powder.
Cook for some more minutes blending them well.
Allow it to simmer and the oil will separate forming a layer over the pulikaichchal.
Remove from the stove and let it cool.

Transfer to clean glass bottles or bowls with lids for storing.
Serve as a side dish with dosais, idlis, pidi kozukkattais and arisi upma. You can mix with steamed hot rice and eat as a dish by itself too.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kalasida Avalakki

In general it would be easy for our friends to assume that I might have picked up traditional dishes from Managalore - Udupi cuisine having been married to a Mangalorean for 30+ years. Even more so because I have spent a good few years living with his parents. Sadly, that is not to be. On the contrary, they had adapted to living in Coimbatore and other than an occasional neer dosa and shavige, on special weekends, I had not known traditional fare in that household.
We were at our friends' place one evening when she had made this for tea and while serving mentioned that it may not be new to us and both my husband and myself would have had it many times. I did not even recognize the name of the dish, even when they gave other names by which people call it. Mangalore masala avalakki, avalakki oggarane, and so on....nope none of which I had heard of. My husband went on to discuss how it used to be a teatime snack in his office in Mangalore and I still drew a blank. However, it was one very tasty snack and I loved the crunch with so little oil added in the snack. My friend showed me how thin is paper avalakki and told me to find them in Bangalore where most stores stock them.
I bought some red paper poha online and brought it here. I messaged her to share the recipe. In a few minutes my phone notified me with her message and that very evening, as luck would have it, having all the ingredients I tried the recipe. We enjoyed it and I promised myself that I need to post the recipe here, for my repository.


I looked up for more information on this dish and found that in the Udupi region it is called Bajil and mostly paired with sajjige as a filling breakfast during weddings and ceremonies. When I read out bajil, my husband said that he vaguely remembered that his father would mention it but he had never tasted the combination.
It is a quick and easy recipe to make. The sweet and spice flavours mingle so well that one cannot resist picking just about a spoon more and more. Keeping the recipe basic, one can find ideas to serve this dish.

Kalasida Avalakki
Recipe by my friend Ms. Lalitha Burde

For 4 to 5 servings
2 cups Paper thin poha/ aval /beaten rice flakes
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
 4-5 dry red chillis that are low - medium in spice level (Byadagi or Kashmiri chillis)
Salt to taste
Jaggery powder to taste
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 &1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dhal
Few curry leaves
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut

Dry roast the coriander seeds, two of the dry red chillis, few of the curry leaves until aromatic. Crush coarsely and reserve.
heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, allow them to crackle.
Add the peanuts and toss around so they are roasted to a crunch.
Add to these the urad dhal and allow it to brown until they are golden.
Quickly add the rest of the red chillis (broken in small bits), curry leaves, turmeric, asafoetida and salt.
Add the crushed coriander mix.
Toss them for a couple of minutes more and switch off the heat.
Transfer this to a serving bowl and add the coconut and jaggery powder. Mix with your hand slightly crushing them so the flavours combine.
Put in the paper avalakki and sprinkle some water. Bring them all together so the spices coat the avalakki while not crushing hard. Adjust the water, salt and jaggery according to taste.
Serve this with hot tea.

This dish stays fresh for another day also at room temperature. If you find it too dry by then, Sprinkle some water and heat just a bit in a microwave.
A very delicious snack to go with tea is ready with just about ingredients from your pantry.
You may sprinkle mint chutney  and top with some sev or pretty much serve like bhel.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

Do you think that it is easier to cook a meal than it is to plan? I do, especially a light meal for those 'not so hungry, but I need to have something' days (and nights). Not again the regular fare of upma or noodles, shouts an inner voice and then I have to push myself to think something more appetizing. soups are my to go dish to put on the table.
We started this exercise of having soup one night a week for some months now. That is, I made it an exercise to disguise all those 'resistance meeting' vegetables and make them a welcome dish. Pumpkins might be somewhere in the top of I listed those vegetables, while I like them in some good curry, not always. The other day in the market, I saw that my vendor had some nice looking tender and small in size pumpkins. I just picked one ignoring a pair of rolling eyes.
Back from the market, I thought it out a bit hard and came up with this idea of adding tomatoes and nutritional yeast to the pumpkin and serve a soup. Then it struck me that I could make it vegan friendly and make a cream to top the soup. I happened to have in stock cashews and pumpkin nuts too. Little more thinking and a very flavoursome soup was ready.
I had just joined a group of food photography enthusiasts who are doing weekly themed food photography. It was a coincidence that the theme of that week was soup and I was glad that I had a picture to share.

Tomato Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4 hefty servings

For the soup:
6 medium tomatoes (ripe and red)
1 cup of diced pumpkin (skin, inner strands and seeds removed)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon peepramul powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Water as required

For the cashew pumpkin cream:
2 tablespoons broken bits of cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Warm water to soak and grind

Basil leaves

For the cashew pumpkin cream:

Soak the nuts and seeds in warm water for about 30 minute. Drain and grind to a fine paste adding water as required.
Transfer to a bowl and adjust the water to desired consistency. Add the sugar and refrigerate for use later.

For the soup:
Heat one and half tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and toss the pumpkin in the oil.

Cook the pumpkin just about soft not mushy.
Boil some water in a pan and drop the tomatoes. Boil them just enough to remove the peel.
Keep the water simmering while you clean the tomatoes. Put them back in the water and add the pumpkin to it. Cook further until both the vegetables are done.
Allow to cool and blend in a blender to a smooth puree.
Add some water and put the puree back on fire. Mix the nutritional yeast and the peepramul powder in water and pour into the soup. Add salt and pepper adjusting to taste.
Simmer the soup for another 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Top it with the rest of the olive oil.
Take the soup in individual serving bowls and add the prepared cream. Garnish with basil leaves.

Serve hot and enjoy a warm bowl for yourself.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Narthangai Gojju

At home, along with other pickles we had a stock of salt soaked and sun dried citron pickle, always in store. This was because, the fruit is said to have among many health benefits, high vitamin C content. Citrons are used to treat sickness, nausea and many more minor ailments. A small piece of the dry pickle is given with directions to chew and suck the juice in. This pickled citron pieces were dark brown in colour and leather like in texture. They preserved well as they were dry. So keeping stock of them was easy.

We were home in December when all my paternal uncles and aunts were also with us for ceremonies held at home. One aunty from the extended family had sent a few pickles and preserves for my mother sometime ago. Some powdered curry leaves that were added to other spices and rolled, Indian sarasaparilla root pickle and narthangai gojju/ citron preserve were all in bottles on the table handy. With every meal, I watched my aunts enjoying generous servings of the narthangai gojju. My curiosity was piqued and I tasted a small spoon of it. The blend of tangy tamarind, the slight bitterness from the citron rind, heat from the chillis and the sweet from the jaggery were all quite favourable.

My aunts were asking my sister to fetch the recipe as she was visiting the person who sent it. She relayed the recipe to all of us and I had a mental note of it.
When I returned to Accra, where you can pick citrons from every street vendor, I bought just one, medium fruit to try this recipe. I have used only part of the fruit in this recipe because we rarely consume pickles. I have used mostly the zest and rind having removed most of the pulp and all of the seeds.

Gojju is a dish in which certain vegetables like ladies finger/ okra, capsicum, onions, tomatoes and even green chillis. When I picked up loads of green chillis from my home garden I made the milagai gojju.
Gojju is a sweet-sour and spice blend dish with any of these vegetables and few others too in it. It is often had as a side dish and goes well with kozukkattais, adai, dosais and also steamed hot rice with a generous spoonful of ghee or gingelly oil.

Narthangai Gojju 

Makes 1 and 1/2 cups gojju

1 cup finely chopped citron
7-11 dry red chillis (depending on the heat and level of spice required)
3 green chillis
1 tablespoon tightly packed tamarind
4-5 teaspoons of powdered jaggery
1 &1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (I use Himalayan salt. You may use table salt also.)(adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
5 tablespoons gingelly oil

For tempering:
1 teaspoon gingelly oil reserved from the above
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10-12 fresh curry leaves

Wash the citron fruit well and pat it dry. Cut and squeeze out the juice which can be used in other cooking or making a drink. Remove seeds and some of the juice sacs. Chop the rest of the fruit finely to get 1 cup full of zest and rind.
Reserve one teaspoon of gingelly oil for tempering later.
Place a heavy bottomed utensil on heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, drop the citron pieces and cook them, tossing them at regular intervals until they are soft and you are able to crush a piece to almost a pulp between fingers. Add the tturmeric powder and asafoetida powder.
While the narthangai is getting cooked, pulse the tamarind, salt, dry red chillis and the green chillis to a fine powder in a spice blender.When the narthangai is soft, the oil might separate. At this point add the powdered spices blend and top up with another tablespoon of oil. Cook this for a further 7 - 10 minutes in the oil. Then add half a cup of water and cook on low heat allowing it to simmer. The raw taste of the spices should go.

Meanwhile, dissolve the jaggery in little water and strain out the impurities.
Add this jaggery water to the cooking narthangai.
If required, add some more water, just so not to burn the mass.
When the gojju has thickened, add the rest of the oil and cook until oil separates and floats on the top.
Remove from the heat.
In another bowl, heat the reserved one spoon of oil. Add the mustard seeds and when they crack, add the curry leaves. Toss them a bit and transfer this tempering to the gojju.
Allow the gojju to cool down and transfer to a clean storing bottle or bowl.

This gojju stays well outside of refrigeration for a fortnight to 20 days and inside the fridge for longer.
Enjoy this hot, sour and sweet gojju just as you would any chutney or pickle.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dry Fruits Laddoo for Bhogi

First, let me wish all of you a happy and prosperous new year 2018. Days are quickly passing by and we are almost closing the first month of this year.
We celebrated Thai Pongal after missing celebrations for three years in a row. In these recent years, our celebrations are quite low key; to make ado for just two of us seems pointless. Nonetheless, to not celebrate, will never be my option. I love all the festivals and connected rituals and would not wish to skip.
Nostalgia sets in when between our sisters and cousins we reminisce the elaborate festive arrangements that used to take place in our childhood.
The other day, we were talking about the long hours we spent drawing the kolams for three nights in a row; the back breaking competition like effort we put in to show off our skills. One thing lead to another and we remembered helping arrange the flowers for the kaappu kattu on the Bhogi day and so on. Naturally we were asking each other about their choice of sweets and such.
I decided to move away from my comfort and go to Tirunrlveli halwa that I repeatedly made over years. I wanted to try doing something more healthy and less-on-effort sweet. I zeroed in on this easy and very quick, almost no cooking involved, laddoo with dry fruits. Last year for Ugadi, my friend had made it for us and we spoke about the recipe which goes by eyeball measures. However, I decided to measure in volume so I can keep a staple basic recipe and play around if I fancied. I have been keeping stock of nuts, seeds and dry fruits to snack on. So, it was quick to pull out a few and combine them in a delicious mix. I have used a small list of these. One can always put any nut, seed and dry fruit in any number of combinations. You can make it vegan by using coconut oil in the place of ghee.

Dry Fruits Laddoo

Makes 20 laddoos , small in size - about 1'' in diameter

2 cups roughly chopped fleshy dates ( packed somewhat tight )
1/3 cup almonds in skin
1/3 cups cashews broken in big pieces
1/3 cups unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder
4-5 strands of saffron
1 tablespoon ghee / clarified butter (divided)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

Put a heavy and wide pan on heat. Dry roast the almonds until they are nicely warm, not browning quickly.
Add the pistachios and pumpkin seeds to the same pan and toss them around on low heat.
Add half of the ghee into this and drop the cashew nuts. Roast them until the cashews are golden in colour.
Add the saffron and the sesame seeds. Allow the sesame seeds to pop and remove the pan from the heat.
Allow the roasted nuts and seeds to cool down. Transfer them to a blending jar and pulse to a coarse powder that still has bits of the cashews and almonds that are not processed fully.
Transfer this nut mix to a wide bowl.
In the same blender jar pulp the dates roughly. Add to it the rest of the ghee and pulse further until it comes together in a mass. Few chucks of dates also left out in the process add a bite to the sweet.
Transfer the pulp to the nuts mixture, add the cardamom and the nutmeg powders.
Grease your palms, very lightly with ghee or coconut oil and gather the mixture in a slightly stiff dough like mass.
Pinch out small portions and roll them in laddoos/ balls.
Place the desiccated coconut in a flat dish and roll the laddoos in it to coat evenly on them.

Store in containers until need to use.
These have long shelf life. We have only just finished consuming all of them, ten days later.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Battenberg Cake - No Eggs In the Cake

 I seem to have fallen into a pattern of neglecting this space and giving excuses for that. However, my husband and daughter do not agree and push me hard enough to post here once in a few months or so. They try hard to coax me to make an attempt to keep this going.
 My daughter, especially, goes that extra step to persuade me by sharing her cooking and baking. This is one such post that was 100% hers. She baked this cake a few days ago for their weekend snack and shared her photographs. They were so eye catching that I asked her to make a blog to be put up here.
 She said that when they moved to the new city and she was still getting her home in some order, she wanted to do something enough to break the boredom. While she was looking through recipes to bake, the Battenberg cake caught her fancy. Since they both like chocolate and the flavour of coffee, she alternated for the traditional bright colour layer with the brown checkers.
 Known by many names, like church or chapel window cake, chequerboard cake and domino cake, the Battenberg cake is said to have been named in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria, grand daughter of Queen Victoria to prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. However, there are some early examples of this that go by a variety of names. The Neapolitan roll, a similar cake contains more squares than four.
 The American version of the battenberg cake is the checkerboard cake that gets the name because while sliced it resembles the board of the game. a typical one alternates vanilla sponge and a chocolate cake and is covered with rich chocolate buttercream icing.
 My daughter made the cake as well as the marzipan without eggs. For the cake, she followed this recipe posted here sometime ago. she used the recipe for one cake but divided it in two half cakes to make the layers. She had used parchment to separate the cake batters and baked them in one cake tin. She said she was not able to take pictures of the process.
I found Traditional Battenberg in Mandi Mortimer's Blog very descriptive, with pictures of how to bake, layer and roll in the marzipan, the post is very helpful.

Battenberg Cake - No Eggs Recipe

The following is my daughter's mail that I have copied verbatim

This recipe is a twist on the traditional Battenberg cake, which is usually made with an almond white cake, and the pairing sponge is a pink one made with a couple of drops of red food color in the white cake batter. I didn't want to be using artificial food coloring, hence the dark chocolate cake. 
You can use any cake recipe you'd like - as long as you can get the size of the cakes right.

For the cakes:
All purpose flour - 200 grams.
Cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons. heaped
Sweetened condensed milk - 1 tin (13.6 oz)
Butter - 100 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
Baking soda - 1 teaspoon
Aerated soda - 150 ml (reserve an extra splash to slacken the chocolate batter if needed)
Almond extract - 1/2 teaspoon

For the marzipan:
Almond flour/meal - 2 cups
Granulated sugar - 1 cup
Icing sugar - 1 cup 
Splash of milk (approx. 1/8 cup) to bind

To assemble:
A jam of your preferred flavor 

- To start, make the marzipan. Sift into a big bowl, the almond flour and icing sugar, to get rid of lumps. 
- Add the granulated sugar and mix well 
- Add the milk and knead till the dough comes together
(The marzipan may be quite sticky - if so, add a little more almond flour as you knead) 
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to use

Making the cakes: 
- Preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8in square tin. Fold a long piece of parchment paper in half along its width, and form a pleat the same height as your tin, to partition your square tin into two equal rectangles. You will be able to bake both cakes side by side.
- In a big mixing bowl, beat together the condensed milk and the butter. 
- Add the almond extract 
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and the baking soda 
- Add the flour mixture and soda alternatively to the beaten butter and condensed milk, beating well after each addition 
- Separate the mixture into two equal parts - use a weighing scale to do this accurately, so that your cakes are even when baked 
- Fill one half of your prepared tin with the white cake mix 
- To the remaining half, fold in the cocoa powder. If your mixture feels a bit stiff, add a little splash of the remaining soda to slacken (you could also add a tbsp. or two of espresso instead, if you'd like - dissolve instant coffee in hot water and add it once it is cool)
- Fill the second half of your tin with the chocolate mixture 
- Bake the cakes for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean 
- Cool the cake slightly in the tin, and transfer on to a wire rack to cool completely 

To assemble the Battenberg:

- Trim the cakes, and stack them one on top of the other. 
- Using a serrated knife, slice the cakes along their lengths into batons. Depending on the size of your tin, each cake can be sliced into 2 or 3 pieces 
- Line up the batons, alternating the colors to form a checkerboard, and stick them together with a slathering of the jam 
- To roll out the marzipan, sprinkle your work surface generously with icing sugar, and roll into an approximate rectangle. It needs to be wide enough to cover the length of the cake, and long enough to wrap completely around. 
- To ensure the outside of the marzipan is clean and free of icing sugar, once rolled, I flipped it over so the sugar dusted side is on the inside of the cake 
- Place the cake in the center, and slather on more jam, to help the marzipan to stick 
- Bring the marzipan up from both ends, to meet at the top of the cake, and join the ends. 
- Trim off any overhangs, and flip the cake so that the seam is at the bottom. 
- And you have a beautiful checkered cake with a mildly sweet marzipan icing.
- The cake is best stored in the fridge, and will keep well for about a week in an airtight container.

Enjoy the cake with your favourite cup of tea.