Thursday, March 19, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

Since I'm on a diet, I wanted a simple to make, hearty, low-fat vegetable soup for lunch or dinner. The idea was to use butternut squash as base. Butternut squash is sweet by itself (I'd say it tastes the same but is a bit sweeter than the pumpkin) and the recipe I wanted to make had honey added into it. Knowing I wouldn't be able to tolerate a sweetish soup I decided to add some vegetables and a dash of my favorite instant kicker-upper, a habanero chilli. The half a habanero is quite enough to spice up the soup, if you want a kick you could add more though I cant say I will be responsible for the effects. My principle with the habanero is to err on the side of caution. Coming back to the soup, I made a huge batch to freeze, I would say this would generate about 7-8 or more servings. The soup was really tasty -a tad sweetish, more savoury- I'm sure I'll be making this recipe again.

Butternut Squash Soup

4 lb butternut squash, chopped into 1" cubes
5 stalks celery , chopped into 1" pieces
1 big leek, slice the light-green and white parts
half small head napa cabbage, chopped
5-6 pieces garlic, minced
half a habanero chilli, minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 and a half tsp cumin powder
pinch nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
32 oz vegetable broth

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and leeks and fry till they become soft.

Add the rest of the vegetables + spice powders + broth. If the vegetables aren't covered with the broth, add water until they are covered.

Let boil, then simmer for 15-20 mins until the squash becomes soft. Add salt and about half a tsp of black pepper, adjust to taste. Puree to a smooth paste.

Serve hot w. a dollop of non-fat yogurt/sour cream/croutons/chopped cilantro/chopped parsley.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It is baking time :-) - A Simple Chocolate Walnut Cake...

An Old recipe re-published ;-)
This cake/ brownie is a one stop solution for following situations

- You are craving to eat a cake but there is no bakery nearby
- Your fren is giving a treat and you want give him/her something different & special
- You want to surprise somebody special but have no culinary skills as such
- You want make your day special for yourself, pamper yourself....
- You have just remembered that its your best friend’s b’day as he/ she calls u, you don’t have time to buy a gift….
- You have hurt somebody & want to patch up sweetly
- Somebody has hurt you, you can suggest him/ her to do this for you ;-)

It can make your day special and It will also make the day special for someone else :-) as you have toiled for it and something which is home made always manages to touch us....

BUT before I start away with the finer details, few things which you need to do before starting baking
- Put up a smile on your face, it affects the sweetness in the cake :-)
- Start imagining some special day of your add on to the excitement
- Wear a lovely dress before u start the process of making & baking (but wear an apron on it otherwise you’ll be cursing me)

Now let's work on the Creating the Magic

:::: Go Get these ::::

~~ Microwave or Oven

~~ A baking dish(Choose a shape as per your mood if you are baking it for your loved one then choose a heart shaped dish... capacity would be 1-1.5 liters)

~~ Brown Sugar (Powdered)1 1/2 cup...if you are not able to find the brown sugar, use normal sugar. The amount of sugar can be increased suiting the sweetness you need

~~ 4 Eggs

~~ 1 Cup Butter / Refined oil

~~ 1 Cup Maida (Flour)

~~ 200 Gms of cooking chocolate (Chocolate bar) Easily available in any bakery, use the bitter chocolate. DO NOT USE EATING CHOCOLATE AS AN EXCUSE, IT AFFECTS THE TASTE

~~ Chocolate/ Vanilla Essence

~~ 100 Gms of Walnut, grounded but not finely

~~ Black cherries

~~ Baking Powder 2 tbsp.

While buying these, buy some flowers, it will freshen your mood :-)(BTW Cup is a normal sized cup usually used for drinking tea/ coffee)

:::: Time for Some Action ::::

Stop!!!!!! Play some nice music in the background and do a jig, it will put you in a good mood and the brownie will come out lovely...BUT don’t fall while doing the jig ;-)

~~ Sift the flour & baking powder. Use a thin channi and sift it 8-9 times, this ensures there will be no lumps in the cake.

~~ Melt the chocolate in the microwave & let it cool down.

~~ Separate the egg yellow and beat the egg white, after it is beaten to death ;-) add the yellow part in it and beat it.

~~ Now add the powdered sugar and oil/ butter in it and beat it.

~~ Once that is done add the flour and fold it. DO NOT beat it just mix it slowly -slowly avoiding making lumps.

~~ Once that is done add 1 tbsp of essence. Take the melted chocolate and mix it in the above batter.

~~ Add the Vanilla & chocolate essence...just few drops

~~ Also add the walnuts in it along with the cherry.

~~ Spread some oil evenly in the baking dish and then pour the batter in it...sprinkle some cherries & walnuts in the batter

.:::: Oh La La!!! Its Baking Time ::::

~~ Pre-Heat the microwave in convection mode for 2 minutes.
~~ Put the lower grill of the micro wave and put the baking dish in. Temperature & Time. In case its convection mode – 180 degree C, initially set the timer for 37 Minutes. After the times is up take out the dish, take a knife put it in the center of the cake if it comes out clean then its ok otherwise put a further timer of 5 minutes. After that let the dish be, in the microwave for 10 minutes. Then take it out and let it cool down (though hot cake too sounds yummy!!!)

In case it’s a Microwave- Temperature would be 540 Degree C. And time would 8-10 minutes and rest all process remains the same.

If you have a choice bake in convection mode, since it's slow cooking the result is 100 times better, the brownies is softer and anything which is softer is better ;-)

Few things to be kept handy

- Gloves to handle the microwave
- Hanky to wipe the drool :)
- If you have kids keep them with you poora time, they might come in between sometimes but the memory of home made cake, the aroma & the whole process will be etched in their mind forever.
Give them the eggs to beat...they will love doing it, trust me. Am saying this from experience....cake baking used to be an occasion at our home and I still love reliving those moments....

Few things you are sure to feel while the batter gets pregnant and delivered...

- A sense of achievement when you see the cake swelling up
- A sense of achievement for doing something yourself for your loved one
- An excitement to get it out quickly
- When the aroma will flow across there will be tingling of your taste bud & of your padosi’s too ;-)
- AND please keep smiling poora time...there is nothing sweeter than a smile and even the cake will start smiling seeing your smile and would come out better.

You know na, Smile is infectious ;-)

Total time spent in getting this ready would be one hour and you’ll gain so much after this one in weight, happiness & love....

And you’ll also spread...weight ;-), love, sweetness & happiness...

So happy caking & baking....

And yes, am not fond of sweets but can’t keep my hands off this one ;-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009


One of the best things about winters setting in here is the early morning calls made by saag vendors. One look at the carts can make you feel healthy. It is loaded with fresh tender green stalks of Sarson leaves, fresh tender and green baathu(, fresh tender and green Palak and juicy white and fresh radishes with green leaves. So much goodness that goes so cheap. You come away with armloads of this stuff for much less than a hundred.

Check the sarson leaves for freshness, tenderness and unspotted leaves. Ditto for Palak. Dont forget to get a couple of radishes with leaves. Of course the radishes in Chandigarh are huge, one can weigh a kilo. You need a Sarson-saag n Palak ratio of 2:1 (my favorite ratio - though you can even go 3:1). Palak can be substituted with Baathu - though my favorite is palak, it makes the saag softer. Or you can add the palak and baathu half-half. If you have bought the mooli with leaves and they look fresh, you can add the mooli leaves to the saag too.

Take a break - listen to this song while you read this ...

Wash all the leaves liberally with fresh water, so there are no vestiges of mitti. These days the saag is well washed by the vendor, so little needs to be done. People in US will probably get everything in packs anyhow. OK, so post washing chop the sarson leaves WITH THE STALKS (the tender part, do away with any hoary ones) in about half a cm bits. I love the scent of mustard when you are cutting up the leaves. Cut up the palak similarly, and/or baathu n mooli leaves. Put it all in a pressure cooker and turn the heat to low. Usually the saag here is so juicy that it sheds water immediately, if your saag looks kinda dry put in some water, enough to cover the saag. Put in half an inch of ginger and a few pods of garlic, some salt (be a little stingy with salt as the saag is kinda naturally salty, you can add later when it is done)

Let the cooker sing for at least 30 mins on low flame and inhale the aroma of saag. Switch the heat off n let the cooker cool off to warm. Traditionally one lady holds the cooker steady with a towel and another uses some kinetic energy to stir the saag into a fine paste with a ghotna, a thick wooden stick with a flat bottom. But these days, alas, we just dump the almost cool paste into a mixie and whir it into a paste - dont mix too much, as a very fine paste does not taste too good.

In a saucepan, heat some desi ghee (tadka size) n put in a pinch of heeng n some red n green chillies, if you neglected to put in ginger and garlic with the boiling saag, now is the chance. Throw the tadka over the saag n stir, n heat on low flame for a bit till it looks all mixed up. Sarson da saag keeps for a long time, so the trick is to re-tadka it whenever you serve it again. A cousin of mine had this killer tadka of diced spring onions and tomatoes with a lot of green chillies and red chillies... yummy !

Makki ki roti is a bit more complex, because the atta is very roughly ground and does not bind too well. Some people like to add a lot of wheat flour to it to make it bind well and roll like a chappati, I dont like that. Mix makki ka atta with wheat atta in the ratio of 4:1. One cup will make about two rotis, so figure that out. Dont forget to throw in a pinch of salt in the makki atta. Use slightly hot water to bind the atta. Add little water at a time and mix well, the atta should be quite soft and lumpy, not as hard as the wheat atta mix.

Sigh ! My aunts used to scoop up big balls (tennis ball size) of makki ki roti and pat out a roti with their hands, flipping it expertly on to a hot tawa. Luckily, i learnt the plastic sheet trick. Make a ball n a peda with the atta and throw a sprinkle of water on a plastic sheet laid out on a chakla. set the peda down on the pastic sheet in pat a roti into shape with your hands, keep your hands wet with the warm water. Start out with small pedas - about the same size as the wheat ones, till you get the trick. Flip the roti on your hand by turning the plastic sheet and slap it on the tawa. Cook it like a parantha. Serve the thali of makki di roti te sarson da saag with a bit of mooli, spring onions and nimbu ka achar.

Makki di roti tastes yummy with kadi as well. I love makki-methi di roti and makki-mooli di roti. To make that you have to grate some mooli (or chopped/cleaned methi leaves) and mix with makki ka atta before you bind it. Put in a bit of chopped dhania and hari mirch too. On no account forget to salt the makki ka atta before you bind it, it tastes quite bland without it. Initially you can make makki di roti slightly bigger than a tikki till you learn how to handle the ductile atta.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sweet Corn Recipes

When we were young, the sibling and me were totally predictable. At any Chinese restaurant, the first thing we would order was Sweet Corn Soup. My parents tried very hard to get us to taste other items "Arent you bored yet?" Nope, we wanted our bowls of soup - 1 by 2. Once I moved to the US and those cravings hit me .... you can see where this is going right? It snowed last night and I figured it was the perfect time to make a delicious bowl of hot, comforting, delicious Sweet Corn Chicken Soup. The recipe below is so quick and easy and the taste beats the Knorr soup packets hollow!

The second recipe is for a sweet corn dip, served canape style. You know, those finicky little appetizer things where rows of fried bread are laid out on a tray, topped with the dip and then decorated with some herbs. Totally delicious, too much work! The dip has always been a huge hit at parties so I take the easy way out and serve it with crackers or salted biscuits and let my guests assemble their own portions.

For both the recipes I use cans of cream-style corn (or creamed corn) available in the grocery stores. You see now why I invariably stock this item in my pantry. Love the stuff!! Try these recipes and you'll love it too ....

Sweet Corn (Chicken) Soup

1 can cream-style corn
garlic, finely chopped
ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, chopped, separate the white and green parts
french beans, thinly sliced
carrots, grated
celery, thinly sliced (optional)
chicken, boiled and shredded (optional)
1 can chicken stock/ vegetable stock/ water + couple of cups of water
1 tbsp. corn starch (optional)
2 green chillies, chopped fine
soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Add the chopped green chillies to a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pot. Immediately add the ginger and garlic. Fry, dont let them burn.

Add the whites of the spring onions and fry till they become soft. Add the rest of the veggies and let them cook till semi-soft.

Add the cream-style corn, stir well. Then add chicken, stock+water, salt, pepper, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes. The vegetables should finish cooking now. If you want, you can thicken the consistency of the soup by adding in the corn flour mixed with water.

Remove from heat and stir in the greens of the spring onions.

Serve with soy sauce and the chillies in vinegar for garnishing.

Sweet Corn Dip

1 can cream-style corn
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 spring onion, chopped, separate the white and green parts
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a pan. Add the garlic and chillies and fry for some time. The cream-style corn is sweet so add more green chillies if your taste buds can handle them.

Add the whites of the spring onions. After they become soft, stir in the can of corn. Test the dip for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat, stir in the greens of the spring onions.

Serving suggestions: Cut a slice of bread into 4 (or 6) pieces, deep fry. Arrange the fried bread on a plate. Top with the dip, then top with either a mix of onion+tomato+chopped coriander leaves or just finely chopped coriander leaves.

Alternatively, serve alongside your favorite crackers/ biscuits.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ragi Dosa

Evening tiffin is a much anitcipated mandatory weekend routine in my parents' home. It was a challenging task though, for my mom. But she had the able guidance of my granny, who had bequeathed her with myriad recipes. Ragi Dosa was one of them

Sweet Ragi Dosa:
The good news is you don't need sugar for this!
Ingredients :
Ragi Flour (millet) - 1 cup
Rice Flour - 1 Tablespoon
Jaggery - 1 cup
Cardamom - 4/5 pods
Desiccated coconut - 1/2 cup
Ghee - 1 teaspoon

Method :-
Heat some water in a pan and dissolve the jaggery in it. It would be advisable to distil it after the jaggery is fully dissolved to do away with impurities if any. Add ragi and rice flour to it. Add powdered cardamom as well. Coconut and ghee are optional and I always avoid them in this dish, as sans that ragi dosa is a healthy tiffin.

Heat a pan, and rub an oiled cloth on it. You can make dosas by just rubbing the cloth after each dosa, i/o sprinkling oil. With the iron content in jaggery and the energy that you could gain from ragi, this really becomes a good tiffin. Can be had without any side dish for either b/f or dinner... or a nice evening tiffin like how I used to relish during my childhood days!

Spicy Ragi Dosa :-
Ragi Flour - 1 cup
Rice Flour - 1 tablespoon
salt- as per taste (about a spoon would do)
Onion - 1 finely chopped
Cumin seeds - 1 spoon
Corriander leaves - 1/2 a bunch, finely chopped
Grated ginger, asafoetida

Mix all the above and add water little by little to make batter with such a consistency that if you pour one ladle of it on the sides of the pan and gently move the pan, it should spread to form a fine dosa.