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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Zero-oil Tomato Sambar

I've made this sambar a few times now. Its a one pot meal that requires no effort except for prepping the veggies. When in a hurry, I only use tomatoes and make a tomato sambar. You can add additional veggies to this recipe.
Veggies that go well in this sambar are spinach, carrots, beans,  snake gourd (padavalanga), drumsticks, ivy gourd (tindora/kovakka),sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro (cheppankezhangu/chembu/arbi), bell pepper, green peas.

Lentils – 1 cup (use toor dal/masoor dal/moong dal/ or a mixture of these)
Tomatoes – 3, chopped
Onions – 1, chopped
Green chillies – 3, chopped fine
Ginger – 1″ thick, minced
Garlic – 4 cloves, minced
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Sambar powder – 3 tbsp.
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 tsp
Water – 2 cups
Additional veggies are optional – eg. spinach, carrots, beans, snake gourd (padavalanga), drumsticks, ivy gourd (tindora/kovakka), sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro (cheppankezhangu/chembu/arbi), bell pepper, green peas.
Salt to taste
Cilantro – a handful, chopped


Add all ingredients into a pressure cooker and cook for 2 to 3 whistles. After it’s cooked, sprinkle the cilantro over the top – do not forget this step because it lends the tomato sambar that signature flavor. It’s that simple!

You can have it with brown rice, and a side of other veggie dishes. Or on its own like soup.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Stuffed Karelas in makhani gravy

Adapted from Tarladalal.com

For stuffed karelas:
Karelas - 8 small nos. or 4 large
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Moong dal - 1/2 cup
Green chilli - 1, sliced thin
Ginger - 1" piece
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Cilantro (coriander leaves) - a small bunch, minced fine

For makhani gravy
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Ginger - 1"inch piece
Garlic - 6 cloves
Tomatoes - 3
Cashews - small handful
Cinnamon - 2 sticks (about 2 inches)
Cloves - 6 nos.
Red bell pepper (capsicum) - 1 chopped or Red pumpkin - 1 cup chopped
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Tomato ketchup - 1 tsp (optional)
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - a pinch
Low fat milk - 1/2 cup
Cornflour - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Cilantro - for garnish


Stuffed karelas
Wash the karelas and Peel the bitter gourd and keep the peel aside for use in another recipe (Karela Theplas).
Slit each one lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, scoop out the insides carefully creating a hollow in the centre. Apply a little salt to the inside and outside of the bitter gourd and keep aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the soaked moong dal (1/2 cup), 1 green chilli, ginger, turmeric powder and salt and mix well.
Add ½ cup of water, cover and allow the dal to cook on a slow flame till it is soft and sticky.
Add the coriander leaves and mix well. Cool a little.
Fill this mixture into the bitter gourd and steam them for 10 to 15 minutes till they are cooked (I baked them at 350 degrees for 15 mins, then turned them and continued to bake for 10 mins. turned the other side and baked further 10 mins and then changed heat to broil for 5 mins). Cut each karela into 2 and keep aside - my karelas were small so I did not do this.

Makhani gravy
Make ginger garlic paste.
In a saucepan - 3 tomatoes, 1 medium onion, small handful of cashews, 2 cinnamon sticks, 6 cloves, red capsicum (original recipe uses pumpkin) with just enough water and cook over medium heat till tomatoes are soft. Allow to cool completely. then strain (save the water) and puree it.
In the saucepan (i washed it again), heat 2 tsp oil and add cumin seeds. Then fry the ginger garlic paste till raw smell goes away. Then add the puree. Add the strained water. Simmer for 7 minutes or so. Add a teaspoon of tomato ketchup, add kashmiri red chilli powder (2 tsp), salt and sprinkle some kasoori methi. Take half cup of low fat milk and mix 1/2 tsp cornflour to it. pour this into the gravy. Adjust salt. It will thicken soon.
Add the cooked stuffed karelas and submerge it. sprinkle some cilantro over it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Date & Nut Rugelach

How can Christmas be complete without baking cookies! I was debating if I should bake a cake or cookies. I knew they had to have dates in them, because it reminds of my chidlhood and Christmas with my family in Saudi Arabia, where dates are always in the house.
I was searching for recipes on Epicurious and came across this recipe for a Rugelach. This seemed intriguing to me because they looked like mini croissants with a date filing in them. The recipe wasn't too complicated so I decided to give it a try. I also referred Ina Garten's rugelach recipe (video available in link) for the dough.
Initially I found it messy and difficult, but I played around with a few batches and got the hang of it. Refer my notes for pointers. They all tasted really good, so no problems there!
This brings an end to year 2013's series of Christmas recipes. Hope you enjoyed them, and try them any time of the year!

For the dough:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 9 tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

Confectioners' sugar for rolling out dough
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

For the filling:
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fig preserves

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Do not overwork it or the dough will become tough. (I combined the flour with my hands) Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, finely chop dates and walnuts and in a bowl with your hands toss together dates, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla until combined well.

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons fig preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.

Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges—cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.

Notes: Chilling the dough is key. It will make it more manageable.
The first time, I rolled out the dough without any extra flour. It stuck to everything and rolling it with the filling was a nightmare. It did not shape very well and was all mangled. I thought it was going to be a disaster. I even cursed Ina Garten for ruining Christmas for me. But I decided to bake the messy globs anyway. The finished product was really tasty and I forgot all my frustrations.
The glob (first batch - Christmas dessert)
The next batch, I placed the chilled dough between two sheets of cling film. I then rolled it out. The dough rolled out much better this way. I removed the top film and dusted a little flour on the dough. Turned it over, and removed the other sheet. Spread the fig jam and sprinkled the filling, cut it into triangular sections and rolled them perfectly.
The last one, I did the same procedure while rolling it (between cling films). But then I stuck it in the freezer to chill, to avoid dusting flour on it. It turned out to be brittle, so rolling them into crescents were a bit difficult. I think the second option works best.
You can also use confectioner's sugar for dusting instead of flour - in hindsight, I wish I'd done that. Oh well, next time. :)

Chicken Malai Kabab

Last year, I had an American couple come over for Christmas dinner. As they were very sensitive to spices, I had to be careful about choosing milder recipes. I used a recipe for chicken malai kabab and omitted the green chillies. They turned out to be a hit, and my guests even took the leftovers home. This was one of the sides to the main course - rack of lamb.
This year, I made this again with the green chillies on the day after Christmas, as it was just the two of us. Looks like this is going to be a regular recipe for the holidays.

Four pieces chicken breast

1st marination:
Ginger chopped - 1 tsp.
Garlic chopped - 1 tsp.
Malt vinegar - 1 tbsp.
Salt to taste

2nd marination:
Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Cream cheese - 1/2 cup
Heavy cream - 1tbsp.
Egg - 1 no.
Coriander sticks - 2 tbsp., chopped
Green chillies - 1 tbsp., chopped
Green cardomom powder - 1/2 tsp.
White pepper powder - 1/2 tsp.
Cheddar cheese grated - 2 tbsp.
Chat masala - 1 tsp.
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp.

Olive oil for basting

Cut chicken breast in thin slices 2”x 2”x1/2
Marinate chicken breast in salt, ginger, garlic and malt vinegar. (If you don't have malt vinegar, that's ok - use a little lemon juice)
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In a bowl add yogurt, cream cheese, and egg. Mix gently and add coriander, green chilies, cardamom powder and white pepper. Place marination to the side.

Remove the chicken and mix gently with the saved marination and add the cheddar cheese. Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or leave it overnight.

Place chicken on a tray in the oven for 350 degrees for 15 minutes and turn over while cooking.
Remove and place on a plate. Sprinkle with chat masala and lemon juice.
Serve with favorite greens and mint chutney.

Note: You can also grill them. Skewer the chicken and grill for 6 minutes. Baste with olive oil and cook until the chicken is crispy.

You can also serve this with jeera rice. I also like to wrap this up in a pita with some chopped cucumber, parsley, hummus and mint chutney.

Herb marinated Rack of Lamb

This was the main course for last year's Christmas. I served one rack of lamb among 4 people. We had several other dishes too. It was my first time grilling a rack of lamb, and yes I was nervous about serving it to guests. So I timed it exactly as mentioned in the recipe and it turned out medium (light pink center). I wasn't really able to enjoy the dinner because I was hosting too. So I decided to try it again this Christmas. Maybe this one's going to become a traditional Christmas meal for us? Time will tell..

1 lamb rack (about 8 to 9 ribs)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
6 parsley sprigs, chopped
2 (4-inch) rosemary sprigs, crushed
6 thyme sprigs, crushed
4 rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse Sea salt

Clean the rib bones well by scraping off meat and sinew with a small sharp knife. Cut the racks in 1/2 so that each has four ribs. Mix together the olive oil, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, crushed rosemary and thyme sprigs in a large bowl. Add the lamb and coat well. Grind some coarse black pepper over all. Wrap well and marinate the racks overnight. (I used a ziplock bag for this. Dump all the ingredients, close and shake it to coat well. Leave it in the fridge overnight.)

The next day remove the lamb from the marinade and scrape off as many herbs as possible. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the lamb well with salt; no additional pepper should be necessary, and sear fat side down until golden, about 7 minutes.

Turn over so that the fat side is up and roast in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let the rack rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

To serve, cut each lamb rack into 4 equal pieces, 2 bones per chop and serve on individual plates or a platter with the accompaniments of your choice.

1. Rack of lamb is simple to prepare and quite elegant for a proper dinner party. Racks have become so popular and expensive in the U.S. that chefs have turned to overseas sources to supply their restaurants at a much cheaper price. There are many New Zealand producers selling lamb with no added hormones or antibiotics. I buy a rack that's produced in Australia. The herb marinade for the rack really perfumes the meat if it is done a day or two ahead of time. The same marinade can be used for many other cuts as well. It is best to remove as many of the herbs and garlic before roasting as they will burn and create off flavors.
2. This year I added another 3 minutes to the oven time so the center wasn't pink (almost well done, but still juicy).
3. This maybe gross for some people. While searing the meat on the saute pan, you will notice some blood oozing out of the bones. I usually take a clean paper towel and press against those areas to absorb and remove the blood. I did this again when I got it out of the oven. Here's a comparison of the bloody and not so bloody rack:

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Another recipe I made last Christmas and again this year. This was served as a side to my main course of herb marinated lamb rack.

4 cups cubed Yukon Gold potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp pepper
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Place the cubed potatoes into a baking dish. (The cubes of potatoes should be about 3/4 of an inch on all sides) You can spray the baking dish with a baking spray too to eliminate anything possibly sticking
Pile on the olive oil, garlic salt, salt, paprika, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Using your fingers, or a spoon if you feel inclined, get in to the potatoes and carefully mix everything around until the seasonings coat each potato.
Transfer the baking dish into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the potatoes with a pair of tongs. Put the baking dish back into the oven and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove the baking sheet and give them another toss and place them back in the oven and roast until they are golden and crispy.
Season with an little dusting of sea salt and extra parmesan cheese and serve.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I love making a soup as one of my Christmas dinner courses. Last year I made a delicious pea soup. I did not have the time to take photos and note the recipe down, since I had guests coming over and I was in a mad rush to get everything done on time. I think I'll make it again before the winter ends.

This year, I decided to use a vegetable I've never cooked or even tasted before. I was looking at the all the fresh seasonal vegetables at a local farm here, called Donaldson Farms. They have amazing chocolate milk there! I saw different types of squash on display, and they all looked beautiful! I've rarely eaten anything from the squash family (except for pumpkins) so decided to give butternut squash a try.

I made this in advance on Christmas Eve and served it as my second course on Christmas with Gougères.

I referred a few videos on how to cut this up. I must say, it was a lot of work and requires more strength than I had thought. Especially making the first cut in half.

I mostly followed the recipe on Food.com This recipe called for fresh parsley, which was then pureed along with the other ingredients. I feel pureeing parsley ruined the taste of the soup. It gave that raw green grass sort of taste, which made me feel like a cow eating grass! It also ruined the beautiful orange color of the soup and gave it a sickly green hue. So I would avoid this next time, and probably follow another video.
If I had watched this video first, it would have made my life much easier!

1 small butternut squash, peeled, diced (about 5 cups)
1 medium onion, large dice (1 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 apple, skinned, large dice (1 cup)
48 ounces chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons parsley, fresh, chopped - my recommendation, do not use!!
1 tablespoon thyme, fresh, chopped
crouton (optional)
sour cream (optional)


1 Roasting: Preheat oven to 450. Peel and dice squash into 1/2 inch pieces (see tip at end). Dice onion into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss squash and onion with olive oil and spread pieces onto a large flat baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes - add diced apple - and continue roasting another 10-20 minutes (30-40 total roasting time).
I would rather roast the squash halves next time, and then puree it with sauteed onions, apple and herbs.
2 Tip: while you are roasting, make some "cheese toasts". Put some shredded cheese on top of bread rounds (we like gruyere or parmesan). Bake 10-15 minutes until crispy. These cheese toasts are fantastic soup toppers! I made Gougères.
3 Place roasted mixture into blender with about half the chicken broth; puree (keep hand on lid because hot liquids can cause the top to "explode" off with built up steam). Add remaining chicken broth, half-and-half, and herbs; puree.
4 Transfer mixture to saucepan; reheat gently.
5 Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of paprika.
Tip: to prepare squash, first cut squash in half horizontally. Place flat end onto cutting board to stabilize squash and use a peeler to remove skin. Remove seeds. Then cut into lengths, and then into diced pieces.
Note: if you have leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving, add about 1/2 cup, which will thicken the soup and add a nice smoothness.
My notes: Other recipes used carrots, bay leaf and sage too. Worth trying next time instead of parsley.