Butter Croissants and Coffee

One of the most best aromas on a beautiful morning

Samosa Chaat

Snack a little

Seekh Kabab

Try something different!

Decadent Chocolate

Do not forget to indulge once in a while

Steamed goodness

Various cooking methods bring variety in your palette

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Toasted almonds

Just wanted to add a quick post on how to easily toast almonds.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almond slivers on a baking sheet, spreading evenly so they don't overlap. Toast them in the oven for 8 minutes.
Use them as topping in salads or anything you like.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple Upside Down is one of my favorite cakes, if not my favorite!
I believe I first saw this cake when I was probably 10 or 11 years old on TV, being made by Sanjeev Kapoor. That used to be a time before the internet, and I would sit in front of the TV with pen and paper writing down the ingredients and procedure. Who does that anymore?
I took the recipe to my mom and we made it together. And our family loved it!! I eventually lost that recipe. But now we have the internet, and I found a good recipe of Epicurious.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake begins with melting butter with brown sugar until it starts to caramelize. This mixture is then poured into a cake pan and fresh pineapple slices (or you can use canned pineapple slices) are placed on top. If you like you can also garnish the top with maraschino cherries or candied red cherries (as shown in picture). A buttery cake batter is then poured over the pineapple slices and the cake is baked until golden brown. Once the cake cools, it is inverted onto a cake platter so the top of the cake features the pineapple slices that have become wonderfully soft and sweet from absorbing all that delicious caramelized sugar.

This is also one of the first cakes I baked after moving to the US, and my husband devoured it!
The second time I made it was a complete disaster, I'm guessing because I got a 'stick' of butter wrong and used 2, thinking I had half sticks. I didn't make it for a long time after that.
This spring, I came across a huge line of fresh pineapples at our local farm. I decided to buy one, as they come in really handy for snacking at the office. My husband however wanted the cake, so I decided to bake him one again. It turned out pretty close to the first time I tried it.
The recipe on Epicurious uses a cup of sugar, but I reduced it to 3/4 cup because I read many reviews suggesting it, and also I don't have a big sweet tooth. That was perfect for us. But if you like it sweet, go with 1 cup. Also, many reviews said that 3 tsp of cardamom powder was too much, or too overpowering. I used all 3 tsp since we love the flavor (we're Indians, duh!) and I thought it compliments the pineapple. If you don't like cardamom, then reduce it to 1.5 or 2 tsp, and you will get a more subtle flavor.
Also the recipe suggests you make this in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. I did not have one, but I highly recommend using it if you have. It will help get the pineapples nice and caramelized.
I used a 9 inch springform, which I regret because the caramel was oozing out the sides. I remedied it in time by wrapping the pan with aluminum foil. But next time I would use a regular cake pan, or hopefully a cast iron skillet.

For topping:
1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 to 1 cup packed light brown sugar
5 or 6 maraschino cherries (optional)

For batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake (Black Seal or Myers would work great!)

Special equipment:
a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the cake pan.

Make topping:
Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Continue cooking, without stirring, for a few more minutes or until bubbles just start to appear around the outside edges of the mixture (the sugar starts to caramelize). Then remove from heat, and pour into your prepared cake pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly. You can also cut the pineapple into semi-circles and arrange them like in the photo below (taken when I made it the first time). I also arranged a few halved maraschino cherries upside down, for added color coz I had them lying around. But this is purely optional.
A traditional method is to have the whole pineapple rings arranged in a circle with a marschino cherry in the center of each ring. I find this pretty but there's a lot of wasted space and you may not get enough pineapple with every bite.
Note: The original recipe asked for 3/4 cup brown sugar. I used 3/4 cup initially but found there was still a lot of butter, so I added another 1/4 cup of brown sugar. What you're looking for is a sticky caramel sauce.

Make batter:
Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)
Tip: If you dont have a sifter for the dry ingredients, just combine them all in a bowl using a wire whisk.

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.
Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

This cake may be made a day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Kappa Vevichathu / Kappa puzhukku - Mashed Yuca with Coconut & Spices

Yuca or tapioca root - 2 lbs. (1/2 kg)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Pearl onions - 2
Green chillies - 4
Garlic - 1 clove
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Water as needed

First remove the skin off the yuca root and chop it into bite size pieces. Put them into a saucepan. Add a pinch of turmeric, salt and enough water to cover the yuca pieces. Boil the yuca till the water evaporates, and the yuca is soft.

Grind grated coconut, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, pearl onions, garlic, green chillies and 1/2 a sprig of curry leaves into a coarse paste.

In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add mustard seeds and let them crackle. Add the remaining curry leaves. Then add the coconut mixture. Stir and fry it for 3 minutes.

Add the mashed yuca. Combine and cook for about 5 minutes. Add some water if you want to adjust the consistency to your liking. I added about half a cup of water since the yuca was dry.

Serve warm with some Kottayam fish curry or beef curry. Yum!

Honey Poppy seed vinaigrette - Salad dressing

Apple cider vinegar - 3 tbsp
Honey - 1/4 cup
Dry mustard powder - 1 tsp.
Fresh lemon juice - 3 tsp
Poppy seeds - 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper
Oil - 1/2 cup (I used grapeseed oil)


Put the vinegar, honey, dry mustard, lemon juice, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper into a mason jar. Put the lid on and give it a good shake to start dissolving the honey. Or use a small whisk and whisk well. Now add the oil slowly and continue whisking. Taste to make sure that the balance is right. Sometimes I need to add a little more vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
This can be refrigerated for upto 3 weeks.

Make a salad with mixed greens (or baby spinach), halved raspberries (or strawberries), crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries and toasted almonds.

Quinoa Cauliflower Biryani

I got introduced to quinoa sometime last year, as a great substitute to rice. Its gluten-free, high in fiber and is a complete protein that provides all nine essential amino acids for good health. Its not technically a grain but still counts as a 'whole grain' food. After learning all its benefits, the only question was how best to use it in recipes. Biryani is my favorite dish in the world, but I always make a meat-based biryani. So this time I tried a vegetarian biryani using cauliflower and peas, and substituted the rice for quinoa. Turns out its pretty good! Has all the flavors of a good biryani, and you won't die of guilt.

For quinoa:
Rainbow Quinoa - 1 and 1/2 cup
Green Cardamom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black cardamom - 1
Cloves - 3-5 pcs
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch piece
Bay leaf - 1
Water - 2 and 1/4 cups
Salt to taste

For cauliflower:
Cauliflower florets - 2 cups (from one head)
Green peas (fresh or frozen) - 1/2 cup
Ghee/oil - 1 tbsp.
Onion - 1 large, thinly sliced
Green chilli - 3 or 4, thinly sliced
Ginger - 2 tbsp, minced fine
Garlic - 3-4 cloves, minced fine
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green Cardamom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 3-5 pcs
Cinnamon stick - 1 inch piece
Bay leaf - 1
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Yogurt - 1 and 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Cilantro and mint leaves - a handful each, chopped coarsely

For garnish:
Cashews, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries, thinly sliced onion - a handful or as per your liking
Ghee - 2 tbsp
Milk - 1/2 cup
Safrron strands - a good pinch
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Cilantro and mint leaves

First fry all the ingredients for garnish, one at a time in some ghee. First the almonds, then the cashews, then raisins, then cranberries and finally finely sliced onions. Collect them all in a bowl and mix.

For the Quinoa:

Wash the quinoa thoroughly and drain. In a large saucepan, add a teaspoon of oil or ghee. Add cardamom seeds, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. When you get a good aroma, add the washed quinoa and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add some salt (about a teaspoon) and water. Cover and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed. Then turn the heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork.

For the Cauliflower:
In a dutch oven, add oil or ghee and heat on medium. Add cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. When you get a good aroma, add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Saute on medium heat until onion turns golden. Add coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric and garam masala. Fry for a few minutes until the raw smell dissipates. Add about half a cup of water, salt and mix. Add cauliflower and peas. Also add the cilantro and mint (save some for final garnish). Give it a good mix. Cover and cook until cauliflower turns tender but still has a slight crunch, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low, and add the yogurt and gently stir it in. Keep stirring so the yogurt doesn't split, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Final assembly:
Heat the milk in a bowl and add turmeric powder and saffron strands.
In a deep pan or dutch oven, first add a layer of quinoa. Sprinkle some saffron turmeric milk and garam masala. Then add a layer of the cauliflower gravy. Sprinkle with the nut mixture. Repeat the process until you have a final layer of quinoa. Add the last of the saffron turmeric milk and nuts. Finally garnish with mint and cilantro. Cover tightly with a lid. You can bake this at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle some lemon juice on top for added flavor, but its optional.
Serve hot with raita, pickle and pappadums!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Okra Stirfry (Ladies Finger/Bhindi Stirfry)

I got this very simple and delicious recipe from my mother-in-law.


Okra/Bhindi - 250 gms
Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Urad Dal - 1/2 tsp
Asofoetida - a pinch
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste


Wash and clean the okra. Chop off the ends and slice them in medium thickness.
Heat oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add urad dal, asofoetida, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Add the sliced okra to this and stirfry so that the oil and powders coat all over. Sprinkle salt and continue stir frying for about 10 mins. Okra will start to shrink in size and get a cooked green colour. Serve as a side dish with rice.

Shrimp curry in coconut milk

This simple shrimp curry is my go-to recipe when I want something comforting, quick and easy. There's hardly any prep involved if you buy peeled and deveined frozen shrimp. It uses very few ingredients, so I usually make this when I'm short on fresh produce.

Shrimp - 1 pound, peeled and deveined
Onion - 1 large
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 2 to 3 large cloves
Fresh chillies - 3 or 4 (green or red)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Tomato - 1 large
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Cardamom seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 4 or 5
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste


Wash and clean the shrimp. In a bowl, add the shrimp, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt. Mix and keep aside to marinate.
Meanwhile dice the onions, ginger, garlic and tomato. Slit the chillies in half.
In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of oil.
Add whole spices - cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and fennel seeds.
Then add the onions, ginger, garlic, chillies and curry leaves. Add some salt. Fry until onions turn translucent.
Now add a teaspoon of red chilli powder, one tablespoon of coriander powder and a pinch of turmeric powder.
Once the spices have fried in the oil, add the chopped tomato. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes till the tomato turns soft.
Then add a cup of water to the mixture and 1/2 a cup of coconut milk. Gently stir on med-low heat so the coconut milk doesn't split, but we want to heat it through.
Now add the shrimp and the remaining coconut milk. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Do not let the curry boil or it could split the coconut milk.
Serve hot with some steamed white rice.