Friday, February 29, 2008

Kolhapuri Flower-Batata Rassa

When looking for recipes to use the masala that Nupur sent, my stack of Saptahik Sakal came through in a big way. Though I found several recipes for Kolhapuri food there, most of them were either for non-vegeterian food or they didn't involve using any pre-made masala.

Finally I settled on making a rassa. Any vegetable preparation with gravy is categorised as a rassa (ras/ rus = juice). The usual suspects in a rassa are caulifower, potatoes, and green peas. Sometimes a tomato puts in an appearance.

One common thread I noticed in the recipes for the non-vegeterian dishes was that the masala was added to sauteed onions and then ground to a paste (kalwan). This paste was the main seasoning.
If the masala was aromatic to begin with, the kalwan was even more so.
Taste wise it packed a major punch. None of those delicate, subtle or barely-there flavours.
The masala that was stuck to the sides of the mixer bowl was carefully collected, spread over a slice of bread and one squirt of lemon later I was in sandwich heaven.

Kolhapuri Flower-Batata Rassa

2 cups cauliflower florets
1 medium sized potato, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp Kolhapuri masala
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste

Heat 1 tbsp oil and saute 3/4th of the onions till brown.
Add the masala and cook slightly (just under a minute). Do not add any water.
Grind the onion-masala mixture (kalwan).
Heat the remaining oil and saute the onions that were set aside.
Add the kalwan and cook for about 1-2 minutes, stiring constantly. If the kalwan sticks to the pan, add a bit of water. The colour reduces a bit on cooking.
Add about a cup of warm water, salt, and the vegetables.
Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes (or less if you like the vegetables to retain a crunch).
Adjust the salt.
Enjoy with bhaat (rice), bhakri, or ghadi-chi poli.

Adding links to the chain
Being a part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain (US edition) has been a lot of fun. The most satisfying aspect of blogging is getting to know like minded food bloggers (snobs and all).
I'd like to pass on Aurusuvai mystery packages to the following bloggers who continue to inspire with their fresh take on food, their writing, and their breathtaking photographs:
Food For Thought and Evolving Tastes.

When the Bay Area Indian food bloggers get together was announced, I heard from several non-bloggers who were interested in meeting the people behind the blogs. As it was a strictly bloggers-only event, I had to turn down these requests. But if they'd like to receive an Arusuvai package from me, please send me an email (

Monday, February 25, 2008

One Hot Package

It is not often that I receive a package in the mail. So when I saw the packet sent by Nupur in the mailbox, I literally ripped it open in a childlike fashion. Fortunately for me, I was by myself at that time. The package that I'm talking about is part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain. It is all about sharing the bounty of your kitchen with your foodie friends via surprise packages. The ladies behind the Yumblog initiated this effort in India. Latha brought it closer to home.

Inside my package was a packet of fiery red masala, a bag of nutty crunchy toffee and, a wonderful handmade card. From the card dangled a certified sho-shweet little Kolhapuri chappal. The candy is wicked addicting stuff.

The masala is incredibly bold and spicy. It obviously had red mirchi, garlic, coconut, and onions. It was my hunch that what I held in my hands was kolhapuri masala. And that exactly what it was, as Nupur confirmed.

Stay tuned for some earthy Kolhapuri fare.

Meanwhile the Amish Friendship bread starter that Bee sent aeons ago is being fed and is getting smellier by the day. Something good should come out of it pretty soon.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Meet & Eat

I don't remember the last time I was under so much pressure. Is the place clean enough; tidy enough? Will I run out of the punch? Should I have gone with the (alcoholic) sangria instead of this fruity version.
Is the hummus any good....I must've tasted it a dozen times. What if the tarlets turn soggy?
And the biggest one: what if there are long periods of silence where one doesn't think of anything to say. Shudder.

Playing host to a group of confirmed foodies (whom one is meeting for the very first time) is not something that ones takes lightly.
Even an impending visit from the in-law-types wasn't ever so stressful.

My fears and worries vanished soon after TasteTinkerer walked in followed by Mythreyee and got the party going.
Each new arrival was then put through a guess-test. Who needs ice-breakers?
I didn't do quite as well as the others in matching the person in front of us with their blog identities. The only person I guessed correctly was Ashwini.

What followed then was one of the best afternoons in a really long time.
And no, there wasn't even one nano second of silence; the decibel level was quite high in fact. So high I didn't even realise when the husband escorted the kids away from the madness.

On to the food: we started off with a fruity punch (rasberry-cranberry, orange, and lemon juice with apple cubes; left to mingle overnight in the fridge), hummus & crackers and savoury tartlets inspired by Nabeela.

Sreelu brought along another appetiser but I'll let her tell us about it.
Hop over to her blog find out.
Shankari ,who initiated this meet and greet eat, wasn't able to join us. What a shame after all the effort she put into organising this event.

Meanwhile about that hummus:
In the food processor bowl, mix a couple of cups of garbanzo beans, 1 tbsp chopped garlic, 2 tbsp tahini sauce, 2-3 tbsp olive oil, juice from a medium size lemon, salt to taste. Pulse till well blended.
Adjust the salt and lemon juice levels.

I used a combination of garbanzo beans and white cannelini beans. As these beans are similar in texture, colour, and to some extent the taste, you couldn't tell that there were two kinds of beans in the hummus.

For the savoury tarlets: Thaw the pastry sheets. Cut each rectangle (each pack has 6 rectangles) into four pieces. Roll each piece slightly and line the moulds of a mini-muffin pan. Stuff with a mixture of roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, and jalapeno jack cheese. bake at 350F for about 10-12 minutes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lapping up the Lapsi

Most weekday dinners are poli (or phulkas), a bhaaji (vegetables) and a simple daal.
There are times (a particularly hectic day, an aced test, or just a very good day) one craves a sweet something to go along. On such days, a welcome addition to the meal is a bowl of kheer or sheera (suji halwa).
Child development experts frown on using food as rewards etc., but sometimes a bowl of warm kheer does so much more for the soul than the body; especially if fat free milk and conservative amounts of sugar are used! So I don't mind; we are like that only.

The kheer of choice is ravyachi kheer (suji, cream of wheat) but I'm always on the lookout for alternatives.
Making the lapsi from Tarla Dalal's The Complete Gujarati Cookbook
has been on my to-make list ever since I bought this book last year.
It seemed too rich (6 tbsps of ghee) and too sweet (1 cup of sugar) for my tastes. Using greatly reduced quantities of these ingredients, I went ahead and made the lapsi anyway.
We loved it! But then I already knew I was going to like it.
What ever little was left over tasted even better the next day. The nutiness of the cracked wheat, made better by roasting it in ghee is totally delicious.

So here is a low-fat version of the Fada Lapsi:

1 cup cracked wheat (dalia)
1 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup and it was sweet enough for us)
6 tbsp ghee (I used 2 tbsp)
3 cups hot water (see Notes below)
a pinch of powdered elaichi
10-15 almonds, coarsely crushed (optional)

Over medium-low heat, roast the dalia in the melted ghee.
Slowly add the water to the dalia.
Add the sugar and elaichi and mix well.
Cook this mixture stirring often and breaking any lumps that form.
Let this mixture cook for about 8-10 minutes or till you see ghee on the sides of the pan. If you use less ghee, it won't be visible right away. In that case cook till the wheat is cooked.
Add the nuts, if using.

Lapsi is made with either milk or water. This time I used just water, but next time I'll definitely be using milk. Since I've greatly reduced the quantity of ghee, milk (even fat-free) will add some richness.

This lapsi is my entry to RCI:Gujarat, hosted by Mythili. Regional Cuisines of India (RCI) is a brainchild of Lakshmi.

Quinoa Kheer

Though we like the savoury Desi version of quinoa, quinoa kheer is good too.
To make this kheer, wash cooked quinoa in several changes of water to remove much of the bitter taste. In savoury dishes this bitterness is welcome; not so much in sweets.
Add milk, sugar, a pinch of elaichi, and a strand (or two) of keshar and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
The quantity of milk and sugar depends on how thick you like your kheer and the preferred sweetness levels, respectively.
I've also made a vegan version of this kheer using soymilk. My cousin, who is a vegan, loved it...I'll take his word for it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


My days usually begin and end with a cup of tea. Orange pekoe, lightly brewed, with a little milk, no sugar.
No matter how much my tastes and preferences have changed over the years, my cup of tea has remained the same. Another thing that has not changed is the need to dunk something in the tea. For tea, the dunkers of choice are the good old Britannia Marie or Parle G biscuits.

But when it comes to coffee, the dunkers are either day old poli or biscotti.
If you think poli dunked in coffee is weird, you just have to try it at least once.
The next best thing to dunk in coffee is biscotti.
Chocolate-hazelnut biscotti dunked in the coffee of choice. La dolce vita!

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
3 cups all purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar (or more if you like sweeter biscotti)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped.
½ cup hazelnuts (or walnuts, pecans, almonds) chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Mix the rest of the ingredients.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well (don't over handle the dough).
The dough will be sticky. Divide the dough into two. Shape each portion into a log, either by using plastic wrap or using your hands (lightly floured).
Arrange the logs on the baking sheet making sure they are not too close to each other.
Once the logs are placed on the baking sheet, flatten the logs a bit.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Let the logs cool a little (10 minutes) before slicing them.
Lay the slices on the baking sheet and bake them once again. This time for about 7-8 minutes, or till they start browning.
Turn them over and bake for 8-9 more minutes.
The biscotti will harden when cool.
Dunk on!
The yield depends on how thinly you slice the biscotti.
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