Feb 26, 2013

Nan Khatai (Cardamom and Saffron flavoured Shortbread)

In the five odd snow showers we got this year so far, two of them have been winter storms, The latest one, Rocky, is still going strong as I type this post. Its been a total white out today and it might have been depressing for some. Not for us. We loved the landscape, the surreal white light outside. We spent the day taking pictures, going for a walk in the snow, sipping hot chai/coffee while discussing about the beauy around  and generally pepped up about it. V was super excited about the walk and we coudnt contain her giggles. So far so good. But there are a few cumbersome tasks associated with such heavy snow and one of them is to get it cleared out from around your car, driveway etc. We did not equip ourselves with shovels during the first storm Q last week and continued the same trend this week. Borrowing from our neighbours, T managed to get our car cleared from snow. But what was amazing was that the couple next door cleaned up the drive in front of our building, helped others shovel snow around their cars. They did it last week and they did it today. For all their kindness, the least I could do as a "Thank you" was to bake them some cookies. And I decided to go Indian on them. I baked a batch each of Nan Khatai and Benne Biscuits for them.
I had tried Nan Khatai more than a year ago and the bad quality of Besan not withstanding, it was a disaster. It got burned unevenly and somehow tasted like mud. I had always wanted to try it again and today provided me with the perfect opportunity. What better reason to make these, in a sweet-disliking (T and V) and calorie conscious (me) house like ours than as a gift.


Servings: 15-16 cookies
Prep Time: 40 minutes  Cook Time: 20 mins


1/2 cup Ghee 
1/2 cup Sugar (I used baker's sugar)
1/2 cup Besan + a little extra if required
1/4 cup Maida 
1/8 cup Fine Semolina
1/4 tsp Cardamom powder
1 pinch of Saffron strands
1 tbsp Almond slices
Salt - 1/4 tsp


  1. Mix the besan, all purpose flour, semolina, salt and sieve.
  2. Cut Almonds lengthwise using a pair of scissors to get the slices or use readymade.
  3. Gently crush the saffron strands (I used a stone) to release its flavour.
  4. Whisk together Ghee and sugar till creamy (around 5-6 mins by hand).
  5. To the ghee, sugar mixture add the cardamom and saffron. 
  6. Fold in the sieved flour mix a little at a time till the dough starts to come together. At this point if the dough is too soggy consider adding a little besan. But be careful not to overdo it. 
  7. Keep the dough in a covered container and refrigerate for around 15-20 mins.
  8. Work with the cooled dough to make small balls. Flatten them lightly and place on a cookie sheet. I line the sheet with parchment to make it easy for cleanup. Ensure you place the cookies atleast 1.5 inches away from another giving them ample space to spread out without sticking to one another. 
  9. Once you have all the cookies on the sheet, refrigerate till the oven is preheated at 300°F. (Around 15 mins)
  10. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 18-20 mins till the base is lightly browned. The cookie would remain yellow and not change colour. 
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. (I had to let it cool longer since mine was extra crumbly. To prevent burning, I picked up the cookies along with the parchment paper and kept it on the counter for around 15 minutes)
  12. Let it cool completely on the wire rack. (I did discover that 40 minutes of cooling while we took a walk was beneficial. It would have got devoured crumbs and all had we been at home!). The cookie went from extremely crumbly to can-hold-by-hand consistency upon cooling. 
*My mom taught me a trick on how to have cardamom powder always handy to use in dishes. Take a handful of pods of cardamom (skin included) and 1/4 cup of sugar. Dry grind it to a fine powder using a mixie and store in an air tight container.

Feb 15, 2013

Uddin Vada

Craving. Drive. Closure.

 That would really define our Friday breakfast. For the whole day yesterday conversation around our house was centered around the Uddin Vada. Over the past year there has been a conscious decision on our part to cut down on the number of times we eat out. Also abetting this decision is the fact that the frozen, reheated stuff on offer in Indian restaurants here is below average. And there is only so much of pizza that one can eat. Moreover one doesn't trust Thai and Mexican food to be completely vegetarian. For T's birthday we decided to go dine at Cheesecake Factory to get that authentic American culinary experience. But I was left very disappointed by the size and rubbery feel of the patty inside the fall apart burgers. In a first of sorts we could not finish up the fries served on the side. I am very convinced that home cooked meals with twists once in a while is best even on the most exhausting days. Unlike the conventional idli, dosa as the time-saver meals in most south Indian houses, in ours there is always pasta to fall back on!

On all our visits to Indian restaurants, the mouth watering Uddin Vada had evaded us in a very big way. I think the last time I ate it was in St.Louis, more than a year ago, but it was so hard in the middle that it felt like eating cardboard.

Yesterday I found this video blog on making this crowd pleaser and geared up to give it a try. The recipe I tried came from here

Uddin Vada

Servings: 18-20 small sized ones (nearly 1/3 the size you get in Udupi Hotels in India)
Prep Time: 8 hrs (including overnight soak)  Cook Time: 1 hr


1 cup Urad Dal
1/2 cup Water
5-6 Peppercorn whole (optional, I forgot to put it in)
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Asafoetida
1 tsp grated Ginger
Salt to taste


  1. Wash (3-4 times under running water) and soak the urad dal overnight or atleast for 6 hours.
  2. Gring the urad dal into as fine a paste as possible using as little water as possible. I used less than half a cup of water to grind the soaked dal. Scrape down the sides of the mixie/blender jar multiple times while grinding. Patience is the key here.
  3. Add salt, ginger, pepper, asafoetida to the ground paste and mix with a spoon. Mix the batter with the spoon atleast 10-15 times to ensure the vada comes out light and airy and not hard. 
  4. Heat oil for frying in a heavy bottomed kadai.
  5. Dip your fingers into water and shake off excess from it. Now scoop a spoon of batter on the wet fingers. Flatten and Shape it using the wet thumb. Slowly spread your middle and ring finger and insert the thumb into the gap to make a hole in the center of the flattened batter. 
  6. Very carefully turn the hand upside down and drop the batter off into the hot oil. (If you had wet your hands, it should slide off easily. Take care not to have drops of water into the boiling oil!)
  7. Deep fry till golden brown. I kept the heat at a little less than Medium-High throughout. 
  8. Remove and pat excess oil down on a paper towel.
  9. Serve with coconut chutney. 
  10. Drinking hot filtered coffee to wash it all down is like using fork to eat pasta :)

Gori Kayi Curry- North Karnataka style

I happened to taste from my friend's lunch box what was lip smackingly delicious curry and requested him to bring me the recipe for it from his wife! I tried it out this Sunday and it did turn out delicious. It's a very simple dish to make.
Gori (pronounced as gory) Kayi (pronounced as kaayee) is the kannada name given to Cluster beans (pic shown below).

What you need to make Gori Kayi Curry
  • Cluster Beans - 1/4 Kilo
  • Carrots - 4

    The next ingredient turned out to be a toughie in terms of even naming it. I found five different variations of its name and I dont knw which is the right one. I will write below what we call it at home and anyone who knows is welcome to enlighten me for the better! This is an aromatic green leafy vegetable and contributes a unique taste to the dish its in.
  • Sapsige Soppu/ Dill (in english) - 4/5 strands
  • Thur Dal (type of lentil) - 1 cup (cup you would use for serving in a thali)
  • Mustard seeds - 2 tsp (spoon you would use to eat a piece of cake)
  • Cumin seeds - 2 tsp
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
  • Red chillies - 2
  • Oil - 4 tsp (or maybe 6 if u like)
  • Salt
Preparation for making Gori Kayi Curry
  • Cut the Dill leaves and keep aside.
  • Cut the cluster beans and carrots into small pieces
  • Wash the Thur dal
  • Put the thur dal in one container.
  • Put the cluster beans and carrots into another container.
  • Pressure cook these
  • Remove from cooker and drain out all the excess water from both the vegetables and dal and keep aside the contents.
    Mash the dal a little more
Method to make Gori Kayi Curry
  • Take a heavy bottomed vessel and place it on stove.
  • Keeping the flame low add the oil into it. Wait till it becomes more than warm.
  • Add the mustard, cumin seeds, turmeric and asafoetida. Wait till mustard splutters.
  • Add the red chillies to this and allow it to fry in the mixture.
  • Put in the Dill leaves and sautee for a minute.
  • Add some water and allow it to cook on simmer till the dill leaves get cooked properly.
  • Add in the cooked vegetables into this.
  • Add in the mashed dal.
  • Add salt.
  • Allow everything to cook together for a while.

My fundas
  • I did not manage to get Dill leaves on a Sunday morning in the local market. I made this curry without it and it still comes out well. But it would be great with it.
  • This curry can be eaten with chapati/ roti/ bread. I ate it with rice+rasam and it was awesome!

Feb 14, 2013

Oil-free and Healthy Spinach, Almond Pesto

Today was one of those days where inspite of working from home I hadnt cooked anything through the day. Surviving on cereal for breakfast and Einstein Bros Bagels for lunch we reached dinner point around 8 PM. That time of the day with a hungry kid is not the time to make a staple rice rasam meal. It had to be a quick fix one pot kind of meal. And so I went through the refridgerator and decided on making a simple pasta. Pasta though quick to make takes a good toll on prep time especially if you want to combine it with healthy vegetables. All the cutting and sauteing and cooking can get to you sometimes. I spotted a bunch of spinach bought and forgotten at the far end of my fridge and decided to do a pesto.

T decided to lend a hand but changed his mind and undertook the making of a salad accompaniment. While the spaghetti boiled towards al-dente, the pesto was ground to a paste and 20 minutes later a two course meal was ready.

Avocado which I seem to have readily available these days is an excellent and nutritious replacement for grease in some recipes. The creamy texture it lends to any dip or condiment never lets you miss the oil which might have otherwise been in it.

Oil-free and Healthy Spinach, Almond Pesto

Servings: Makes enough for 2 adults
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook time: 4 minutes (not included pasta cooking time)


1/2 bunch Spinach1/4 cup almonds
4 pods of Garlic1 Avocado1 tsp (or more) Black Pepper
1/2 small lemon

Some waterSalt to taste


  1. Wash the spinach leaves and microwave on high for a minute till soft. Alternately cook on the stove for around 5 minutes with a 1/4 cup of water. Cook spinach to tender.
  2. Grind together cooked spinach, garlic, almonds and avocado flesh scooped out. To this add salt to taste, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add tiny amounts of water as required to make a paste.
  3. Scoop dollops of the ground pesto onto the cooked pasta and serve warm.

Eggless Chocolate cupcake - so light you will bite

Valentine's day has never been this exciting for us. My dotzy has been having week long celebrations at her pre-school and has been gloating about the fact that she got to be the Valentine Queen too. I have had my share of education getting to know what a "valentine" is that kids give each other. It isnt such a anxious subject as it used to be in college.
The dotzy had a party at school and when I saw that most of the party supplies had a parent signed up for already, I decided to put in my name in the "Others" section and chose to bring them cupcakes.

I must admit that I am not really sure when it comes to children and sweets to know what they like. The reason for this has to do with the pallette my dotzy acquired from her dad which ensures she doesnt have a sweet tooth. I chose cupcakes for the simple reason that I find them the easiest to make. I have made a few varieties of muffins already but never a cupcake really. The biggest difference I found in this cupcake in comparison to a banana walnut muffin was in how dense the latter was and how light the former was. I made them eggless and also used oil instead of butter. For serving at the party I did use a readymade whipped frosting since I ran out of Vanilla. And since I did not have an electric beater, I did not want to slave at getting the frosting to the right pointyness.
Once V knew that I had signed up for cupcakes, she started me on a lecture (week-long) of how the cupcakes had to look. White on white said my darling but I was on the last few tiny drops of vanilla extract so in the last minute she heaved a huge sigh and said it was ok for light brown cupcakes. Ofcourse after baking them she was a little taken aback by the dark brown colour but she had licked the cupcake mix before it went into the oven and therefore knew they would taste good! She was also enthused to assist me on this task. She is more a supervisor than a helper I tell you.

To all her friends with love

And I assume they all love it with frosting (going by pure hearsay on how they devoured frosted cupcakes that were served by one boy's parents for his birthday)

Eggless Butter-less Chocolate cupcake

Serving : 15-17 medium sized cupcakes or 30 mini cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 mins Cook Time: 10-20 mins (depending on size of cupcake)


1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Cocoa powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 cup Sugar (I used fine grandulated. If using confectioner's sugar you could add another 1/4 cup)
1 cup Milk (I used 2%)
1 tbsp Vinegar
1/2 cup Vegetable oil
1 tsp Vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder. Sieve it all together and set aside
  3. In another bowl combine the milk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes. The milk will curdle.
  4. Then to this add the sugar and oil and mix till the sugar dissolves. Could take upto 5 minutes. 
  5. Mix in the vanilla extract. 
  6. Now add the dry ingredient mix into the wet ingredient mix and whisk till well combined. And some more. 
  7. Pour the mix using a spoon into the cupcake liners till 2/3 full. 
  8. Bake for around 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes. Mine was done exactly on the 10th minute.Or Bake for around 18-20 minutes for the medium sized cupcakes. Mine was done at the 17th minute. 
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to cool for 2 minutes. Remove the cupcakes (along with the liners) on to a wire cooling rack and allow it to cool completely. 
  10. Serve it plain or frosted. 

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