Onam Festival & Avial

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Avial: An inseparable part of Onasadya

Onam, the biggest festival of Malayalis, falls tomorrow. For me, the day is all about food, family, friends and a lot of fun. Onasadhya, the Onam lunch, is the most delicious part about this festival of Kerala. It’s a feast, if enjoyed once, will be relished forever!

Legend goes that Onam is celebrated to invite the spirit of King Mahabali, a former king of Kerala in whose reign there was no unhappy person. Meals are strictly vegetarian on Onam and there are essentially 13 food items served on a banana leaf. There are pickles of various kinds, banana chips for crunch, fruits, chutneys, curries, side-dishes, buttermilk and two or three types of payasam (kheer/pudding). Rice is the main component of this elaborate meal.

We Malayalis don’t need a reason to celebrate Kerala cuisine but we look forward to Onam to enjoy a combination of deliciousness on this day. Here, I am sharing the recipe of Avial, a mixed vegetable side dish, without which any Onasadya is incomplete.

Kerala’s Avial 

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Packed with veggies, this Onam special Avial can be relished all round the year

Ingredients:

The following vegetables, peeled and sliced:
Elephant Foot Yam (Suran in Hindi) – 1 cup
Raw Plantain – 1 cup
Winter melon/Ash gourd – one cup
Snake gourd (padavalanga in Malayalam)
Carrot – 1
Beans – 1/2 cup
Drumstick – 1
Raw Mangoes (if available), half a piece

To be ground together:
Coconut, grated – 1 cup
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Garlic – 3-4 small cloves
Green chillies – 3

For seasoning:
Salt
Turmeric, a pinch
Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves, a handful
Curd (to be substituted for raw mangoes)

Method: 

In a deep pan, cook together yam and plantain with a little salt and turmeric. Once half done, add winter melon and other vegetables with some more salt and cook till soft but not mushy. Use very less water to cook but make sure it does not get overcooked. Each vegetable should hold its individual identity and taste.

Add the ground paste and cook for a few minutes. Add curd and remove switch off the flame.  Add coconut oil and curry leaves. Serve with rice and rasam.

 

Khajoor Milkshake

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Khajoor (dates) are one of the most nutritious fruits that can be eaten during fasts

It’s that time of the year in this part of the country, where many give up eating non-vegetarian food for a month. Shravan is the holiest month in a traditional Hindu calendar, when most abstain from eating non-vegetarian food as well as some vegetarian food items. Some fast for the entire month, consuming just fruits and fruit juices, while others observe one-meal-a-day fasts. Some observe partial fasts, where they eat normal vegetarian food in one meal and consume faraal food (food that is allowed during fasting) at other times.

I observed my first Shravan month fast last year and I felt really proud of myself, managing with just one meal in a day. The Shravan month began in Gujarat on August 3rd this year and I was so thrilled about fasting that I started it two days in advance 😀

Here is one of my recipes for a healthy breakfast/dinner during Shravan. The easiest milkshake!

Khajoor (dates) Milkshake IMG_9301

Ingredients for 1 cup milkshake:

Dates, chopped: 3 or 4 pieces
Milk: 3/4th cup
Chopped dry fruits like walnut, pista, almond, cashew (optional)
A pinch of cardamom powder (optional and only if you like it. I avoid it)

Method:

In a blender, mix the two ingredients till milk turns frothy. Garnish with chopped dry fruits and cardamom powder. You can add ice if you like it chilled. Enjoy it cold/chilled.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Image-1Who eats ice cream during cold, rainy days? Well, someone who has just baked a fresh batch of gooey, hot chocolate fudge brownies!

Usually when it pours, I crave for deep-fried, spicy and crunchy food. But this time while it poured, I was looking at celebrating one of the biggest achievements of my life! And the fact that this news has renewed my bond with all of my loved ones, long lost friends and people who mean a lot to me!

Rain or shine, I love fudge brownies with ice cream. Most recipes I know call for a lot of separate mixing of ingredients but since it was raining and I had to eat almost immediately, I decided to mix all the ingredients in one large bowl.

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
3/4th cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp refined vegetable oil
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

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Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°. Grease a 9″ × 13″ baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in the order that they are written in. Beat them till they are no lumps. Spoon in the mixture in the baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check if they are done by inserting a fork or toothpick in the brownies. If it comes out clean, the brownies are done.

Let them cool completely before cutting them into squares. Enjoy the moist, sticky fudge and ditch the ice cream, if you please!

Until next year, sweetness!

The summer’s about to end in this part of India and many are trying to make the most of mangoes before the rains take away their favourite fruit.

I see neighbours hurriedly peeling raw mangoes to pickle them, colleagues rushing to the nearby cafe to taste mango cheesecakes and mango shakes and kids being coaxed (and sometimes playfully threatened) to finish their plate of mangoes before it rains on the lovely mango trees, thus rendering the mangoes tasteless. Sometimes I feel that mangoes are like a one-time leading actress in a Hindi movie who makes a “comeback”, rather keeps making comebacks after few intervals. I know people who rigidly refuse to touch a mango after it rains. Celebrated when at the peak and sidelined at the slightest hint of pour,  I wonder what poor little mangoes have to say about this.

There were some showers in my city last Sunday. And since then, the “mango talk” has come down drastically in my circle.  But all of a sudden, two days ago, a colleague mentioned that she had a tall glass of mango milkshake for breakfast and reminded me of how delicious a mango milkshake tastes! My way of giving a decent farewell to this delicious, golden fruit until next year!

Here is my super simple recipe of a Mango Milkshake! Enjoy!

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Mango Milkshake

Ingredients:
Two mangoes, peeled, cubed and frozen for 20 mins
Milk: 1 cup if you want a thick shake and 1.5 cups if thin
Sugar: 2 teaspoons
Ice (optional)

Blend all the ingredients. Serve in a tall glass. Enjoy whatever is left of the summers! 🙂

 

Wish you a Mangolicious summer!

Summer’s in full swing and it’s not the favourite season of most Indians. Among the very few good things about an Indian summer are the lovely mangoes that start flooding the market around March. When the temperatures soar to over 40 degrees outside, there is nothing more exciting than a juicy mango before a meal, with a meal and after a meal! 😀

For those delicious, naturally ripe ones, it is advisable to wait till the beginning of May. It’s not for nothing that this tropical fruit is considered to be the ‘King of Fruits’ here in this country. Raw or ripe, made into a chutney, shrikhand or smoothie, used in salads, curries and desserts, Mango season is full of possibilities in an optimistic foodie’s world.

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Brined raw mangoes with chaat masala

Mangoes are grown in many states across India and each state has its own, specific recipe for raw and ripe mango. So even if it is a common Mango recipe, say a pickle, even then the taste of a mango pickle from each state is unique. While Gujaratis love mango juice (keri no ras) with their roti and puri, they also make it a point to make a fresh batch of chhundo (pickled raw mango) every year. The North Indians make a variety of mean raw mango chutneys and we Keralites love both raw and sometimes, ripe mangoes, in our curries. Some of my Bengali friends like to make sandesh or kalakand (sweet) with mangoes and the Marathis love their Aamba dal. While my favourite mango recipe from Goa is Prawns Ambotik, the Assamese Aampitha served with sweetened cold milk in summers is something else. 

Recently, I made this traditional Maambazha pulissery, a Mango-yogurt-coconut recipe from Kerala. It’s my most looked forward to dish during summers as it goes with all sorts of side dishes when served with steamed, hot red rice. What makes this recipe a must try for mango and yogurt lovers is its simplicity.

Maambazha pulissery 

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Ingredients:

Ripe mangoes – 3 nos, any variety would do
Yogurt/Thick buttermilk, lump free – 1 cup
Grated/Shredded coconut – 1/2 cup
Green chillies – 2, if hot, otherwise 3
Turmeric – a pinch
Red chilli powder for some colour – a pinch
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Water – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste

For tempering:
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds- 1 tsp
Whole red chillies – 2 large ones
Curry leaves – as many as you like

Method:

In a clay pot, boil mangoes with salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and water. In a mixer, make a paste of coconut, green chillies and cumin with a little water. When the mangoes are cooked, add this paste. Then add the yogurt or buttermilk and stir. Switch off the flame before the first boil. Add tempering and serve hot with rice. So simple, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See food, eat food!

colourfulA friend of mine is on a ‘see food’ diet. She sees food and eats it.

This friend is tall and definitely not overweight. But she loves to go on silly fad diets and then when they don’t work out, she gets frustrated and goes on her ‘see food’ diet.
So, when she called to say that she’ll be over for dinner, I knew most conversations would ultimately end with her complaining about her imaginary weight gain.  I dragged myself to the kitchen, checked my refrigerator for a quick recipe and found some frozen prawns. Yes! Sea food!
Made a quick prawn cocktail and some broccoli soup to go with it. The recipe can be made in a healthy and an unhealthy way, depending on the dressing. I chose the cheese sauce dressing instead of the vinaigrette. Serves my friend right for fussing over food so much! 😉
Prawn Cocktail
300 gm Prawns (fresh or frozen) de-veined
Lemon Juice from a small lemon
Salt
Olive Oil
Half Cup Water
Pepper
Fresh Spinach Leaves
Bell Peppers, one red & yellow each
Mushrooms halved
Cheese sauce, according to taste
To soften the frozen prawns, I added half a cup of water with salt and brought it to a boil. Once the water dried up, I removed it from heat and drizzled olive oil, pepper and lemon juice over it.
To make the prawn cocktail, I sauteed the vegetables in a teaspoon of olive oil. I did not add salt as the cheese sauce has enough salt. Added the prawns and the cheese sauce and done!

Celebrating love

February 14, 2016. Valentine’s Day.jam

Sure it was Valentine’s Day. But for me, it was a day to celebrate more than one occasion. It was a day that brought great news and I couldn’t feel more happy that it came on one of my favourite days of the year.

jamTo celebrate this Valentine’s and to express my love for food, I decided to make strawberry jam with a fresh batch of organic strawberries. The idea of the jam was totally inspired by Monica Gellar (needs no introduction), who is just as lovable as she is neurotic 😀 I was recently watching that episode where Monica breaks up with the droolworthy Richard and makes a ‘jam plan’. But it was when I was watching the jam-eating Joey (needs no introduction, again) that I began craving for jam.

And what better day than Valentine’s to make jam! The lovely red strawberries matched well with the beautiful red roses I got in the morning and the overall festive mood. strawberry

It’s a super quick recipe with just three ingredients—ripe strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. The night before you decide to make jam, just pour sugar over strawberries and leave them out of the fridge overnight. This helps the sugar dissolve better and also retain the bright red colour of the berries. I used brown sugar. The next morning, all I did was add a very small teaspoon of lemon juice, mash the berries a little and put it on stove to reduce. Stirred occasionally for 10 minutes and once the berries and sugar had dissolved and I saw a thick consistency, I took it off heat, let it cool and filled it up in a little bottle.

 

Muthia with beetroot and beet leaves

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I love beetroots. While these taproots are packed with nutrition, what I love most about them is their ability to turn almost everything into  a shocking red. Recently, I ended up with a basket full of organic beets  with glossy purple-green leaves and usually when I buy beets or the leaves, they invariably end up in a Kerala recipe like a thoran, pachadi or an avial.

This time, however, I wanted to make something different from the beetroot and its leaves. For the last one week, I had been craving for a Gujarati recipe called muthia (spiced, seasoned and steamed dumplings). These are made with gram flour and/or wheat flour, to which usually one of the vegetables like bottlegourd, cabbage, carrot,  spinach or fenugreek leaves, is added. While steamed muthias are generally eaten as a snack, fried ones are mostly added to shaak (vegetable curry) like undhiyu.

I decided to substitute with the beet leaves and some shredded beetroot. Muthias remind me of my former colleagues at The Times of India, where between 4 and 5 pm every day, we would open our snack boxes and share each others’ food with the office chai. There would be so much variety, a little gossip and in the end, a lot of complaining about the weight gain because of these meetings. I believe that it was those chai and snack meetings that brought us close together and have kept me connected with some of them even after my taking up another job. Well, they say friendship comes in many unexpected ways. For me, it has come through food 🙂 Happy eating!

Muthia with beetroot and beet leaves beet2

Ingredients:
Beet root, shredded-1 small
Beet leaves-a handful, washed, cleaned and chopped
Wheat flour (aata) – 2 tbsp
Gram flour (besan) – 4 tbsp
Semolina (sooji/rava) – 1 tbsp
Ginger-green chilli paste – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1 pinch
Oil – 2 tsp
Soda bicarb – 2 pinches
Hing (asafoetida) – 1 pinch
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Sugar – 2 tsp
Salt to taste

Method: 

In a vessel, combine the leaves, the shredded beet, the flours, semolina, ginger-green chilli paste, cumin seeds, soda bi-carb, sugar, salt, 1 tsp oil and knead into a very soft dough. Apply a little oil onto your palms and divide the dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a cylindrical roll approx. 150 mm. (6″) length and 25 mm. (1″) in diameter. Grease a plate and steam the rolls for about 15 minutes in a steamer, on a low flame. To check whether it is done, insert a fork or a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Remove, cool slightly and cut into 12 mm. slices and keep aside.
For tempering, heat the remaining oil in a deep pan, add mustard seeds and sesame seeds. When they crackle, add hing and sauté. Add the muthias and cook for five minutes till they are browned. If you like them crispy, then keep them on a low flame for about 10-12 more minutes.
Serve with green chutney or garlic chutney.

 

 

 

 

Eggless and Butterless Moist Chocolate Cake

thenotsocreativecook

A moist chocolate cake without the use of eggs and butter – amazingly delicious.

thenotsocreativecook-Eggless&ButterlessChocCakeAt the beginning of 2015, I challenged myself to bake something without eggs and butter. Don’t think that I am losing my love for eggs and butter, because that would not happen. 😀 The reason behind that is I wanted to minimize my cost monthly.

Most of the time, like 99.9%, I always buy 60 pieces of eggs (for cooking and baking) and that should be my maximum limit. But there are times that I buy more than that. Can you tell me now how I really adore eggs? I sometimes eat eggs five times in a day, especially when I stress-eat, which I know a crazy thing to do. However, there are times that I don’t eat eggs in three days or even more than that… but when I do start eating eggs again, that…

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