Sunday, April 1, 2012

Black & White

OK...wanna play a game?

I'm gonna throw some words at you and you're gonna guess what it means...ready?
- nutella - chocolate - vanilla - peanut butter - cake - cups -

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, what do you get?


Not just any kind of cupcake...vanilla cupcakes with nutella and chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter. I got the inspiration from this recipe on my latest addiction (Pinterest). I tried out the standard recipe and then got inspired to try out the chocolate and peanut butter version. They are super easy and came out awesome. The best part was that I made them around evening'ish which meant that the light was perfect to click some beautiful pics. I cannot believe how gorgeous they look!

Self rising four - 1 and 3/4 cups
Cocoa powder (dark) - 3 tbsp
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Oil - 1/4 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup
Applesauce (egg substitute) - 3/4 cup [ or 3 eggs ]
Peanut butter - 5 to 6 tsp

1. Preheat the oven at 325F and set paper liners on a 12 count muffin pan.
2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and set aside.
3. Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce and mix until well blended.
4. Then add the flour mixture 1/3 of it at a time and combine together. It will be a litter thicker than normal cupcake batter.
5. Spoon out the batter equally among the 12 muffin liners.
6. Whisk the peanut butter until a little softer. You can add a few drops of milk if needed.
7. Add 1/2 tsp of peanut butter on top of each cupcake and using a knife swirl it around the top.
8. Bake in the over for 25 - 30 mins or until a skewer comes clean. Cool completely before eating.

Self rising four - 1 and 3/4 cups
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Oil - 1/4 cup
Butter - 1/4 cup
Applesauce (egg substitute) - 3/4 cup [ or 3 eggs ]
Nutella - 5 to 6 tsp

1. Preheat the oven at 325F and set paper liners on a 12 count muffin pan.
2. Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light and fluffy. Add the applesauce and mix until well blended.
3. Then add the flour 1/3 of it at a time and combine together. It will be a litter thicker than normal cupcake batter.
4. Spoon out the batter equally among the 12 muffin liners.
5. Whisk the nutella until a little softer. You can add a few drops of milk if needed.
6. Add 1/2 tsp of nutella on top of each cupcake and using a knife swirl it around the top.
7. Bake in the over for 25 - 30 mins or until a skewer comes clean. Cool completely before eating.

1. I used self rising flour and hence did not add any more leaveners in the batter.
2. I also skipped the vanilla and chocolate essence since I personally do not like flavoring unless it's natural like say a real vanilla bean or whatever.

Adapted from here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Butter Gobhi - cauliflower curry in a buttery gravy

Found this recipe of Kulsum on Pintrest and was drooling over it ever since. I found some gobi on sale that day and stocked up with a single minded mission to try it out. My sister and I love gobhi and are always up for trying different versions of it. I was particularly drawn to this one because of how both the gobhi and the masala are cooked separately in masalas and then combined together for a slow cooked end.

But the biggest surprise out of this curry was the fact that VJ ate gobhi. Yes, VJ. The guy who swore off gobhi as a stinky, smelly vegetable that tastes like mulch. And now, he asked me to make the same curry again and wants to eat the whole batch with my mutter pulao.

I tell you, this curry has the miraculous power to cure. I witnessed it myself. It cured VJ.

Anyways, without boring you further I'll get down to the recipe itself. I followed her recipe truthfully with a few exceptions:
1) I skipped the black cardamom and tomato paste since I had none.
2) I also substituted the kala jeera with normal jeera. 
3) I had no cream at home and used a extra 1 tbsp of butter in 2 tbsp of 2% milk, microwaved together for about 30 seconds (3 turns of 10 seconds each)
4) The chilli powder I use is kashmiri and hence it didn't pack the punch. So I chopped one green chilli and added it to the curry at the last stage.
5) I also made the gravy first and set it cool while frying the gobhi. 

Onion - 1 large
Tomatoes - 2 large
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Cashew nuts (crushed) - 1 tbsp
Butter - 3 tbsp
Bay leaf - 1
Green cardomom - 1 (crushed)
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 inch piece
Cloves - 2
Salt - to taste
Water - 1 cup

Cauliflower - 1 head
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1tbsp

To finish:
Green chilli - 1, chopped
Half and half - 2 tbsp
Kasoori methi - 1 tsp

1. Chop the onions and tomatoes finely and set aside.
2. Heat the butter in a thick bottomed pan and add the bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, cumin and cinnamon. Fry for about 10 secs until you can smell the aroma of the spices.
3. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry until golden. Then add the ginger garlic paste and fry until well blended and the raw smell fades.
4. Now add all the masalas (turmeric, red chilli, coriander, garam masala and crushed cashews) and mix well. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook until it forms a well blended, mushy paste. 
5. Now add 1/2 a cup water and let it boil for about 10 mins. Transfer to a wide bowl and set it to cool completely.

In the meantime, we will fry the gobhi.

1. Peel off the leaves and break/cut the cauliflower in big pieces. Wash in a colander under hot running water for about 2 mins.
2. Drain and transfer to a big bowl and add the ginger garlic paste. Mix into the florets uniformly. Now add the red chilli, garam masala and salt and mix well until well blended.
3. Using the same pan, heat the butter and add the florets to it. Fry until lightly browned. 
4. Add the half cup water to it and cook with the lid on for about 7 mins. Take care not to overcook and make the florets mushy. It has to just cook through.

To finish:
1. Remove the bay leaf from the cooled gravy and blend into a fine paste.
2. Add this to the cauliflower along with 1/2 cup water and the chopped chillies. Check for salt and cook for about 10 mins or so with the lid.
3. Finally add in the cream and kasoori methi. Serve with rice and/or roti, nan etc.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Pav Bhaaji - Indian Street Food

Before VJ came to the US, he attended a bunch of cooking classes with a lady whom he fondly calls as "Usha Aunty". And he came armed with a notebook full of quick recipes from her that, for all obvious reasons, had one for pav bhaaji. It's one of VJ's favorite foods right next to a good ol' grilled veggie sandwich - from South Bombay :)

VJ has made this recipe many times over and it has come out in absolute perfection each time. It's one of the recipes for which we actually went out of our student-budget-ways to stock up a secret ingredient. This secret ingredient makes this recipe what it is. I haven't personally met Usha Aunty, but she is the rightful owner of this recipe and I owe countless happy meals to her. We always buy the squarish dinner rolls from the supermarket and just toast them with butter on a pan for the pav.

To start off with a little background on Pav Bhaaji, it's a typical Indian street food and has 2 main components: the bhaaji, which is the potato based almost-liquidy curry and the pav, which is baked bread similar to dinner rolls. But what makes the pav bhaaji a real treat is the garnishing; it's always served with freshly chopped red onions, generous sprinkling of lemon juice and loads of butter. This dish is one of those rare occasions where I turn a blind eye to the amount of butter used and just give in to the pleasure of devouring it like a child with no health concerns. And let me tell you this, it is sooooo worth it!

To read more on pav bhaaji, see here.

For the bhaaji:
Potatoes - 3 medium
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Green pepper - 1/2 of one
Tomatoes - 6 medium (roma) or 4 medium (hot house/vine)
Onion - 1 large (preferably red)
Garlic - 6 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Green chilli - 1
Butter - 3 tbsp + 2 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

Red chilli powder - 2 tsp
Coriander powder + Jeera powder - 1/2 tsp
Pav bhaaji masala - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Black salt - 1 tsp
Cilantro - 2 tbsp, chopped
Salt - optional, to taste 

For the pav:
Dinner rolls - pack of 12
Butter - 2 tbsp

1. Boil the potatoes (peeled), peas and capsicum (chopped) in enough water until well cooked. It's ok to be a little overcooked. Cool and mash well using a potato masher. Set aside.
2. Make a paste of the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli. Set aside.
3. Puree the tomatoes. Set aside.
4. Heat the oil and butter in a thick bottomed pan and fry the onion paste until the oil separates. 
5. Add the tomato puree and cover with lid and cook once again until the oil separates. This is an important step as it brings out all the tanginess in the tomatoes. But it has to cook well. Also, it's a little messy. So it's good to cover it with a lid and let it cook.
6. Now add all the masalas, black salt, the secret inredient and the coriander leaves (you can save some as garnish). Cook for 5 - 10 mins.
7. To this, add the mashed veggies and mix well. You can add water at this stage to get a almost liquidy consistency. But if you do add water, adjust the masalas and salt accordingly.
8. Garnish with a few drizzles of lemon juice and a side of freshly chopped onions.

For the pav, slice the dinner rolls like a biscuit and butter both sides. Toast on an open pan until the sides are slightly browned. Make them on the spot for guests. The bhaaji can be refrigerated for upto 2 days.

Usha Aunty :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Baked Rotini with Roasted Tomato-Garlic Sauce

Remember how I told you about the fact that I like to work out to de-stress? The next top choice of course is cooking. And not just making my usual safe dishes, but trying out weird variations of (my) standard recipes. And the best part is that I am super-motivated while trying out variations, thus taking real cool pictures and then discussing the pros and cons of the recipe with VJ and my sis.

So tonight, after a particularly stressful week that was unfortunately further marred by snowstorms and closed airports, I decided to re-visit my arrabbiata sauce. I roasted the tomatoes and garlic in the oven and fried the onions to a burnt brown in the pan. And then I used my standard trick of tomato soup to finish it off. Finally, layered it all and baked it to a perfect finish :)

Garden Rotini pasta - 2 cups (uncooked)
Roma tomatoes - 2
Garlic - 4 cloves
Onion - 1 medium
Tomato soup (plain) - 1 can
Oil - 1 tsp
Butter - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder/flakes - 1 tsp (reduce to 1/2 for a milder sauce)
Italian seasoning - 1.5 tsp
Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Italian cheese mix - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Water - to boil the pasta
Baking dish - 9" x 9"

1. Bring the water to full boil in a wide vessel and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise and set on the baking dish. Drizzle with the oil and add the garlic pods (with skin) and set in the pre-heated oven at 450 F for 20 mins. After it's done, set aside to cool.
3. In the meantime, slice the onion into thin strips and fry with the butter and a little sprinkling of salt until well browned and just before almost burnt. Set aside to cool.
4. Pulse the cooled tomatoes and the garlic (after peeling) to a chunky paste and set aside.
5. Similarly, pulse the cooled onions to a chunky paste and set aside.
6. Using the same pan as the fried onions, fry the tomato paste for 30 secs. Add the red chilli powder, italian seasoning and the pepper powder and fry for another 30 secs.
7. Then add the pulsed onions and fry for 1 minute. Finally add the can of tomato soup and salt. Check the seasoning and let it cook for about 5 to 8 mins.

To assemble:
1. Layer the pasta on the dish.
2. Pour the sauce over the pasta.
3. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
4. Cover with foil and bake at 375 F for 15 mins.

None to cite. Just followed a basic arrabbiata recipe with minor variations. Although, the idea for roasting the tomatoes came from here :)

Chocolate Chip Muffins - my first baking post

So…after all this while, I finally have a ‘baking’ post. It’s kinda weird given that I started baking really young while helping out mom when she made our birthday cakes and loads of other versions of basic sponge cake. The most famous one that gets made most is the coffee cake which my dad absolutely loves.

What’s even weird is that I bake ALL.THE.TIME. Yet, I never took pics and hence the post never materialized. This time around, I was adamant and made VJ click pics even as he started munching on the muffins.

So why chocolate chip muffins? I remember seeing this episode of Nigella Lawson on TLC oh-so-long-ago and was dying to try it out. The problem with baking for VJ is that since he doesn’t eat eggs, I have to use substitutes. And although I have a couple of good tricks up my sleeve, I always hesitate wondering if it would turn out right? Or just collapse on me? Or not rise at all? Or harden completely? I decided to put all of those thoughts to hell and went ahead and just baked a batch. Now VJ wants then literally every week. I baked this batch before I flew out of town for some work and VJ finished them in 2 days straight. It was originally intended to last him 4 days.
But I will tell you this, it’s a fool-proof recipe and anyone can bake them with their eyes closed. Literally.

Self rising flour – 1 and ¾ cups
Sugar – ¾ cup ( I use brown)
Chocolate chips – ¾ cup
Oil – 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons ( don’t ask me why)
Unsweetened apple sauce (egg substitute) – ¼ cup (thumb rule: 1 egg = ¼ cup sauce)
Milk - ½ cup

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease them using non-stick cake grease.
2. Measure out all the dry ingredients and set aside in separate bowls.
3. Measure out the wet ingredients and add them to a big mixing bowl. Mix together by hand until well blended and lightly frothy.
4. Now add the sugar and mix again until well blended.
5. Add the flour to this mixture in 3 batches, mixing it well after each time.
6. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
7. Spoon out into muffin cases (2/3 full) and bake for 20 mins or until a skewer comes clean.

1. I did not use any baking powder or baking soda as I use self-rising flour and have never had to add extra leaveners.
2. The original recipe calls for 1 cup milk, but in the video I remember seeing the batter being too runny. I did NOT want that and used just ½ cup milk. The muffins turned out fine.
3. I skipped the cocoa powder as VJ likes plain vanilla muffins with chocolate chips. For some reason, he hates double chocolate chip muffins.
4. Oh, I also skipped the vanilla essence as I’m kinda picky about artificial flavoring and the store bought essences are way too strong for my taste. Once I get done being a penny pinching student, I’ll buy vanilla bean pods and add them to my sugar container for natural flavoring. Ha!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guacamole & Baked Crackers

Guac is my favorite to-go snack on Saturdays. No idea why. When the clock creeps towards 5 pm and I start craving my coffee or tea; I need to munch on guac and crackers. Totally love it. IMHO, its better with tea than coffee :)

I usually buy any kind of multi-grain chips at the store. But I wanted to try the baked cracker chips from Pepperidge for a long time and picked up a pack at Target the other day. Loved it! Now I am busy hunting coupons for those crackers whenever I can find them.

So here goes!

Avocado (ripe & soft) - 3 nos.
Red onion - 1/2 of a small one
Tomato - 1/4 to 1/2 depending on the size
Green chillies - 1
Coriander leaves - a few
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Cumin - a pinch
Salt - to taste

1. Cut, pit and scoop out the avocado in a good size mixing bowl. Mash using a fork or large spoon. You can also use a pototo masher. I like to keep my guac a little chunky, so I just use a fork.
2. Dribble the lemon juice over the avocado to keep it from getting dark.
3. Quickly chop the onion and tomato into small, fine pieces. Slit and then chop the green chilly into tiny pieces (use with seeds). Also cut the coriander leaves.
4. Add salt and cumin to the avocado and give it a quick mix. Finally add in the onion, tomato, chilly and coriander.
5. Adjust for salt and other seasoning (cayenne, pepper etc.)

Some good soul in Mexico eons ago :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chole & Poori

Long pending post and can't believe I'm finally getting this done. Chole is one of my favorite, to-go currys ever. It's easy and super tasty; not to mention the fact that garbanzo beans are protein-packed. That's another reason why I love channa chat salad; its the best dinner or snack while on a diet.

But the unfortunate aspect about making chole is that it makes you crave for poori :( And this totally defeats the whole healthy and easy gig that I just played out. But, whatever. You gotta do what you gotta do :)

One thing to mention before I start with the recipe is about the chole masala that I use. It's home-made by my sister who got the recipe from a friend of hers. The main secret ingredient is the black cardomom; it gives the chole that darker color and the aroma. The next secret ingredient is black peppercorns that lends the sharp and strong heat to the whole curry. I do not unfortunately have the exact list of ingredients or the proportions. I will post it soon another time once my sister and I can actually figure out a way to get the recipe. And we better do it fast 'cause we're almost out of the spice. In the meantime, I'm gonna use regular chole masala off-the-shelf. I personally recommend MDH. Please do NOT buy Everest.

I made this in the middle of the week and had no time to take nice pics. All I managed to do was a click one on VJ's phone cam. I guess something is better than nothing. Also, my pooris fell flat as soon as I made them cause I didn't add enough sooji and sugar. But the recipe is still good if you follow the proportions right.

Garbanzo beans/chickpeas - 2 cups (uncooked)
Water - 4 cups + more, as needed, for the gravy
Onion - 1 large
Tomato - 1 large
Green chillies - 4, spicy hot
Ginger - 3 inch piece
Garlic - 2 cloves
Chole masala - 2 to 3 teaspoons
Oil - 2 tbsp
Jeera - 2 tsp
Bay leaf - 1 small
Black peppercorns (whole) - few
Coriander leaves (optional) - fistful, chopped
Salt - to taste

1. Wash and soak the chickpeas overnight in warm water. Rinse and throw away the soaked water the next day. Cook with 4 cups water in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles and then on LOW for 10 mins.
2. Cut the ginger into strips, save 1/3 of it for later. Also cut the garlic into strip and slit the green chillies.
3. Finely chop the onions and puree the tomato.
4. Add oil in a big kadai and splutter the jeera once it's hot. Add the bay leaf and black peppercorns, stir for 30 secs. Then add the 2/3 of ginger, all the garlic and green chillies. Fry until lightly browned.
5. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp of salt. Fry the onions until lightly browned.
6. Then add the chole masala and quickly stir for 30 secs. Be careful not to burn the masala.
7. Add the tomato puree and cook, with a lid, until oil separates. Add 1 cup water and cook the masalas once more for 15 mins until the gravy is well blended.
8. Finally add the cooked chickpeas, water and salt to taste. Cover and cook on low for 30 mins. Stir in the saved ginger strips, mix and serve with hot pooris :)

None to cite. If you have an issue, please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Capsicum Poriyal - Andhra Style

First things first, capsicum is green bell peppers for all my American friends.

I found them on sale at Food Lion and grabbed as many as I possible could. This is my biggst gripe in shopping for fresh green vegetables here. Unless I go to a farmer's market or shop organic by paying insanely high prices, there is no way that I can actually buy fresh green vegetables. And it's just not easy on a student budget.

So anyways, I guess I was lucky and last weekend with two hungry souls to feed and less than an hour's time to cook before both of them became super-grumpy, I came up with this recipe. I made it up as I went and the inspiration came from a buffet at The Woodlands where we stopped to re-fuel in Orlando, FL before we started our roadtrip back home to Columbia, SC. That version had a lot of vegetable and I tried to do the same with just the green peppers and in the end threw in a potato just to be on the safer side. It was run by people from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The irony behind all of this however was the fact that both the grumpy souls loved the dish and have been bugging me to make more. After this uber-long rant, lets finally get to the recipe, shall we?

Green bell peppers - 4
Potato - 1 medium size
Onion - 1 medium size
Tomato - 1 medium size
Curry powder - 3 tsp
Oil - 3 to 4 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Bay leaf - 1 small
Channa dal & Urad dal (whole) - 1 tsp

Coconut (shredded) - 2 tbsp
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Red chillies (dried) - 8 (Rule of thumb: 2 per green pepper)
Roasted peanuts - 4 tbsp (Rule of thumb: 1 tsp per green pepper)
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 4 cloves (Rule of thumb: 1 per green pepper)

1. Grind all the ingredients for the masala into a smooth paste with as much water as needed. Set aside.
2. Cut the green bell peppers into big one inch piece cubes. Chop onions and tomatoes finely. Peel and cut the potato into big cubes.
3. Add oil in a big dutch oven and splutter the mustard seeds in it. Add the curry leaves, bay leaf and then the onions. Fry until browned on the edges. Then add the tomatoes and fry until cooked to a pulp. Continue frying until the oil separates. Add the curry powder and stir it in.
4. Finally add the green peppers and cook until half done. Then add the potatoes and cook until well done. Add water if needed at this stage.
5. To finish off, add the ground paste and cook on low for about 15 minutes, covered with a lid.

Goes well with plain rotis or paratha or plain steamed rice.

No source to cite here as I made this up as I went. Please leave a comment if you have a concern.