Jan 12, 2013

Tomato Chutney Without Coconut

A Tamilian friend of mine makes the most amazing idlis in the world. I havent eaten better idlis in restaurants or even at home (hope the mother and the in-law dont see this). Dinner in her house is anything but rice and usually it would be what I would consider breakfast. With idli being a staple there, many of our casual visits in the evening would progress into an offer to feast on them. With the matter of what-will-they-think having been let go of, it would be promptly agreed to. The hubby is a die-hard idli fanatic. The idlis from her kitchen are always accompanied by chutney and sambhar. On one such an occasion I chanced upon a chutney which would go on to become a mainstay in my kitchen. The tomato and onion chutney is one of the healthiest chutneys that you could make. And the taste is pure bliss but what else can one expect with tomatoes and onions in it. Plus it has the advantages of minimal oil and no coconut! The only drawback I see with it is that it does require some time to cool before grind as you will read later. But that's only because the blades of the blender would spoil if blending hot stuff. If you can manage those 10-15 minutes of time then you have a winner.
I love this chutney and can eat it with anything. Try it and you will not regret!

Tomato Chutney without Cococnut

Serving: 3/4 cup
Prep Time: 10 mins  Cook Time: 30 mins (which includes 15 minutes for cooling)


2 Tomatoes (medium sized)
1 Onion (medium sized)
3 tsp Coriander seeds
2 Green chillies
2 tsp Oil

For Seasoning

2 tsp Oil
5-6 Curry leaves
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp Urad Dal


  1. Chop the onions and tomatoes rough since they would be ground later. No need to cut the chillies. 
  2. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a heavy bottommed pan on medium-high heat. 
  3. Add onions, green chillies and coriander seeds and saute till the onion turns transluscent.
  4. Now add in the tomatoes and saute till they are tender but not fully cooked.
  5. Allow the mix to cool completely before grinding it. 
  6. In the same heavy bottomed pan heat 1 tsp of oil on medium-high heat and add the mustard seeds.
  7. Once the seeds splutter, add in the urad dal and curry leaves and let fry for 10 seconds. 
  8. Add the ground mix into the pan and sautee for another 6-8 minutes.
  9. Serve with idlis, dosas, chapathi or any kind of Rotti. Rice mixed with this chutney and eaten is also yummy. 

Herbed Pastry Twists

Puff pastry sheet is my new favourite go to solution for any situation. My friend introduced me to this wonder a year ago when we moved to Kansas and I havent looked back since. Be it bakery style puffs or spinach and cheese rolls or twists, they are super delicious. And they do a lot to boost the visual delight of a party spread. With the puff pastry preparations, the more the merrier. Well, people as well as the food. You cannot go wrong with it.
For one get-together at home I had wanted to make cheese twists as the starter course but a lot of things happened that day including the bedroom window coming crash down with glass strewn all over the place. Some of my friends do know the humour that generated at my expense.Things got a little out of hand with getting it replaced and cleaning up the whole area so I had to skip this delectable treat. But since I had thawed it by placing it in the fridge some hours earlier, I decided to make them the next day. I used a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese, dried basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to get these wonderful delights.
You can find the instructions here but right now I will treat you to what I made.

Eggless Banana Walnut Muffin

Whats easier than making muffins? Apparently not many things as I discovered. I always enjoyed eating cakes and so did the better half. But cakes made in the 8 inch round pan in my house can last a lifetime given the absence of memory in me and sweet tooth in the hubby. How then could we still get to eat delicious stuff without the literally "extra" baggage? Lo, there entered into our lives muffins and it has occupied a place of pride on our palattes as well on my repertoire. Bake 6 of them at a time and polish it off in a day!
The banana walnut muffin is what I call les ordinairè yet is so extravagant in flavours and fills the senses in a way that satisfies every comfort sweet craving. I have made this with oil and butter and it turns out amazing on both counts. And it is eggless to boot. So try it and have fun!

Eggless Banana Walnut Muffin

Servings: Makes 12-14 muffins
Prep Time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 30 minutes


2 Bananas (preferably over ripe)
3/4 cup Whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup Walnuts
1/2 cup Sugar (1/4 cup if you want to reduce sweetness)
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil (I used Canola) or same amount of Unsalted Butter
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Vanilla essence
1/3 cup Chocolate Chip (optional)
1 tbsp Milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Toast the walnuts by either baking them for a couple of minutes in the oven or using a frying pan on medium heat and stirring continously for 4 minutes. Chop the toasted walnuts into small pieces. 
  3. Line a muffin or cupcake tray with paper liners. Alternately grease the cups and you could pour in the batter directly but its always a lot more cleanup without the liners. 
  4. In a bowl mash up the banana with a fork. You could even give it a small spin in the blender.
  5. Add in the oil and the essence to this and mix well.
  6. In another bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder.
  7. Make a hole in the center of the bowl with the flour and stuff. Pour the wet mix into this hole. 
  8. Whisk it all together always making sure not to over mix. 
  9. If the mix is too tight pour in a little milk so that you get a nice smooth consistency but not liquidy. 
  10. In the end fold in the chopped toasted walnuts and chocolate chips and mix once.
  11. Scoop up sufficient dollops of the dough and plop into the paper cup liners. 3/4 full is good.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted comes clean. Be watchful after around 20 minutes because ovens differ. 
  13. Remove from oven and let cool for another 15 minutes. 
  14. Devour.

Jan 11, 2013

6 cups Barfi (7 cups Barfi modified) or the Golden Jubilee

One of the few things I have been unable to conquer in the kitchen apart from yeast is the irresistable Indian Mithai or Barfi. This sweet square piece of heaven has eluded me for some years now to the point that I had stopped  considering making it for any occasion. I have tried unsuccessfully to make mithai with groundnuts and jaggery, milk and sugar. I grew up in a house where sweets were made first and the occasions would follow after. Am an incurable addict of all the indian sweets whether in solid, liquid or semi-solid form. To my consternation, I got married into a house where sweets are abhorred. Here, the very thought of mutilating one's taste buds with a sweet something is enough to trigger a huge craving for spicy food. So here I was with a book full of sweet recipes and no consumers. Not having much chance to practice is a problem especially while learning to make something like a mithai because its like a visual memory. You have to know the exact moment when it is ready to turn into a solid from the gooey mass. And that can only come from practice.
A couple of months ago, we invited some of our friends over for lunch and it blossomed into a perfect occasion to give mithai making a try since I already had the comfort of having another dessert dish ready. I wanted to start afresh with the simplest kind. I chose the 7-cups barfi for this reason and also because I felt somewhat confident that having a flour among the list of ingredients might help. In my house this is called the Golden Jubilee. But I dont think any of us have any idea as to what 50th year celebrations led to the creation of this mouth watering thing. The recipe for this barfi is also easy to remember since everything that goes in is measured as a cup and the cup could be of any size. Also I dint want to make it extra sweet because I wanted to give the hubby a chance to eat it without mangling his taste buds. So I reduced the quantity of sugar by 1 cup, thus making it a 6 cup barfi recipe. I realise now while writing about it, how easy it would have been to explain the process with pictures instead of words. I will update the post the next time I make it again.
Making a mithai is a test of one's patience so enjoy the process and the results!

7 cups Barfi / 6 cups Barfi / Golden Jubilee

Servings: 25 pieces
Prep Time: 10 minutes  Cook Time: 2 hours


1 cup Chick pea flour (Besan)
1 cup Ghee (Clarified Butter)
1 cup Freshly grated Coconut (I used Frozen Coconut, thawed)
1 cup Milk (I used 2%)
2 cup Sugar
1 tsp powdered Cardamom (Elaichi)


  1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed deep pan (kadai) on low-medium heat (gas stove on sim). It is important to remember that the amount of heat should be the same through the whole process and low-medium is best since it would not burn the dough during the process. 
  2. Add the flour to the ghee and sautee for a minute till it blends with the ghee and gives out an aroma. Around 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the milk, sugar and coconut at this point.
  4. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon continously from the beginning to the end so that the dough does not stick to the pan and get burned. 
  5. Add in the cardamom powder. An easy way  to powder cardamom is to mix pods with some sugar and grinding.
  6. Usually around 45 minutes into this, the dough should start to pull together. A few minutes later there should start forming a white slightly foamy trail when you scrape the dough off the sides of the pan with the spoon.
  7. I was making this on an electric stove and it took 1.5 hrs before I got to the previous point. 
  8. Once you start seeing the white slightly foamy trail, continue stirring for another few minutes till the dough starts to harden and becomes drier.
  9. Grease a steel or brass plate with ghee on the bottom and sides. Size appropriate to the dough quantity which in turn is dependant on the cup measure used. 
  10. Now you have reached the point where it is purely visual discretion. 
  11. At the point where it becomes dry and hardens and you feel you cannot spread it onto a plate without patting  quite a bit - remove the pan from the heat.
  12. Continue stirring it for another couple of minutes and then pour it on the greased plate. 
  13. Using a a flat surface like the back of a steel cup or flat ladle pat the dough evenly around the plate.
  14. Let it set for a few minutes and then using a knife or any sharp instrument draw out the vertical and horizontal lines on the dough. This would help in breaking into pieces later on. 
  15. Leave it to set for around 8-10 hours. It would harden as well. 
  16. On a clean surface (I used clean large paper) invert the plate and pat all around. 
  17. The hardened dough would pop out cleanly as a whole onto the clean surface. 
  18. With very slight pressure break the dough into pieces along the lines marked earlier.
  19. Store the mithai pieces in an air tight container for upto 2 weeks.

Update on 8-Mar-2013 : This recipe won the second prize in a recipe contest hosted by Gayathri!

Whole wheat Spaghetti with Kale-Walnut Pesto

I have a confession. It is only over the past year that I have had to cook full time. In order to satiate the lazy person in me, I have gotten habituated to cooking all meals of  the day in the morning. It does require quite a bit of time management and also involves a lot of dashing around in my teeny-tiny kitchen. The hubby does not dare get in my way during the whole ordeal. Over the past couple of weeks however, with the beginning of the new year, old habits are being broken and being replaced by late rising in the mornings. This however gives rise to grumpy realisations at 7 in the evening that the family needs to be fed and the vessels are empty. So I have been unleashing a myriad of easy to make, yummy to eat food. On one such night where I had a fridge stocked with a lot of greens I decided to give a try to making a pesto. 
A pesto simply put is a puree of greens, nuts, garlic, salt, pepper and oil. The classic combination would have spinach and pine nuts in it.  
A wholesome simple meal, easy to make and easy to eat. Enjoy!

Whole wheat Spaghetti with Kale and Walnut Pesto

Servings: Makes enough for 2 adults
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 15 mins


1/2 bunch Kale (I used Baby Kale)
1/2 Big Onion or 1 medium one (I used the yellow kind)
1 Tomato
1/2 cup walnuts
6 pods of Garlic
6 tsp Olive Oil
Some water
Salt to taste
1 tsp (or more) Black Pepper


  1. Thoroughly wash Kale leaves, remove all the hard stem and coarse chop the leaves . Boil for around 5-6 minutes till tender. I boiled it to make it tender but probably coud be omitted. 
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and toast the walnuts stirring it constantly. Should be done in about a couple of minutes.
  3. Grind the cooled kale leaves with the walnuts, garlic pods, salt and pepper to a paste. Add 3 tsp of Olive oil and give it another churn in the blender
  4. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on its pack till al dentè in water with a pinch of salt.(Al dentè: cooked but firm to the touch, not mushy). 
  5. Chop the onions and tomatoes into 1 inch pieces.
  6. Heat a hard bottomed vessel on medium high heat and add 3 tsp of Olive oil. Add onions to the heated oil and fry till translucent. Then add the tomatoes and sautee till it gets cooked. To this add the pesto and stir for a minute. 
  7. Switch off the stove and add the cooked spaghetti and mix well
  8. Serve warm

Eggless Banana Oat Cookies - A sugar free munchy

I cant be quite wrong if I call myself oven-obsessed right now. Caseroles, lasagne, calzones, pizzas, buns, breads, muffins, cookies, anything that needs baking, I love to serve. This obsession coupled with a need to not use up tons of butter and sugar has led to a few experimentations in the kitchen. Not always perfect, but always satisfying my creative meanderings of the chef in me. T has come to accept my penchant to cook up stuff which is unheard of in our menu régulier. While V sniffs out and refuses anything she would not like to eat, my husband is not given much choice in the matter!
It has been a stressful week and the mood screamed for munches that would aid in winding down into the weekend. Throw in a healthy thought and out popped Oats. I also had on hand a couple of overtly over ripe bananas. There is something with us and bananas these days. They just dont sell. So I decided to use those and oats and make some cookies. While these cookies are not the regular comforting chocolate chip types, they help us completely avoid the twang of guilt when wolfing them down. They are chewier and make you feel fuller sooner.
Go ahead enjoy baking and eating these lovelies with no sugar, butter or flour added!

Eggless Banana Oat cookies with no sugar and no butter

Servings: Makes about 20 cookies (1.5 in diameter)
Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook time : 15-30 minutes


2 Bananas preferably over ripe
1 tsp Vanilla essence
4 tsp Vegetable Oil (I used Canola)
1.5 cups Oats (I used organic old fashioned)
1/3 cup Almonds
1/3 cup Raisins
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Shredded Coconut (I used unsweetened organic but sweetened should give it a nice sweet flavour)
1 tsp Baking powder (I don't think this made much of a difference)
1/3 cup Coconut milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Keep a cookie tray ready lined with parchment paper. 
  3. In a bowl mash the bananas using a fork to a nice mushy pulp. Add the vanilla essence and oil to it and whisk. 
  4. Grind the oats to a coarse powder (this could be finer if you need a smoother texture for the cookies)
  5. Gring the almonds to a coarse powder
  6. In a second bowl mix the powdered oats, powdered almonds, cinnamon, shredded coconut, salt and raisins. 
  7. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk well.
  8. Take a dollop of the dough and drop it onto the cookie sheet and pat on it to flatten a bit. 
  9. Place the cookies an inch apart on the sheet. 
  10. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes or till the bottom of the cookies start to brown. Here I must say mine took nearly 30 mins and it would definitely differ between ovens. So keep a watch out after 15 minutes. 

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