Monday, December 28, 2015

Sweet potato roast (varuval)

Just like the popular potato fry (urulai kilangu varuval) of Tamilnadu, we can make a roast with sweet potato too. I make this varuval whenever I get some surplus sweet potato.  I am sure you all will love this too.

More sweet potato recipes:
Sweet potato laddu
sweet potato boli
Sweet potato fries (baked)

Sweet potatoes hold a special place during Thanksgiving day and comes in sale during that time.($0.49- $0.79 / lb)

Sweet Potato - 1 (200 gm)
coconut / sesame oil - 2 tbspfennel - 1 tsp
red chilly powder - 1 tsp
garam masala powder - 1 tsp
salt - to taste

Peel and cut the sweet potato into small cubes. (I use a vegetable chopper to do this).
Heat oil in a thick bottom wok and add fennel.
After it starts becoming mild red, add the sweet potato and fry for 2 minutes.
Reduce the heat, add salt and cook covered.
After it is cooked and starts turning little crispy , add the chilly powder and masala powder. Again stir till raw smell vanishes (1 minute).
Switch off.
Sweet potato fry is ready!

Serving suggestion:
Serve hot with sambar rice, curd rice, lemon rice

Cooker sambar (quick version)

Brinjal, drumstick, tomato is one of the best mix of vegetables to make a typical Tamilnadu sambar.  I have seen this combo as my mom's extremely regular version. But I never get bored of this sambar ever.  Raw mango also can be added upon availability. In USA, I buy mango for sambar only when I see a smaller green mango at a reasonable price (it costs anywhere around $1.49 - 2.99 per lb) always .
 Coming back to the quick sambar, this is a recipe I heard from a friend.   I usually cook dal separately, then cook the vegetables and then the tadka. My version would take more time to get the masalas blend well and to let off the raw smell. I thought this would be useful for anyone who is new to cooking or to whomever needs homemade foods with lesser effort. The best part is this sambar would taste like a restaurant sambar ☺ and it will take less than 30 minutes totally.

Try this recipe and I am sure you will be in love with this forever.
Pressure cooker sambar

Brinjal, tomato, drumstick is best vegetable combo for sambar.

This is the only way I was taught to cut the vegetables for sambar....bigger pieces.

Mixed vegetable sambar
1. To pressure cook first:
Toor dal (Thuvaram paruppu) - 3/4 cup
sesame oil - 1 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
hing - 1/8 tsp
small garlic - peeled handful (optional)

2. To pressure cook next:
drumstick - 1 
Thai eggplant (round white or green with seeds) - 3
tomato - 2
Tamarind - small gooseberry size
raw mango - 1/2 cup sliced
salt - to taste
sambar powder - sakthi or achi brand or homemade (dissolved in 1/2 cup water or tamarind juice)

To temper:
Shallot -2 
curry leaf - few
ghee - 1 tbsp
mustard - 1 tsp
cumin - 1 tsp
fenugreek (methi seeds) - 1/2 tsp
dry red chilly -2

To garnish:
Jaggery / brown sugar - 1 tsp
cilantro - few

First pressure cook the items given under part 1 to 5 whistles. Oil is added for uniform cooking of dal. I suggest adding garlic in every food we cook, but it is optional only.
In the meantime, prepare the vegetables and cut them.
Extract juice from tamarind.
Soak the cut vegetables in tamarind juice and keep aside.
After the dal is cooked and the pressure subsides, open the cooker lid.
Using a spatula, mash the dal.
Mix the sambar powder with 1/4 cup water and add to dal in cooker.

Add the items mentioned under part 2 (vegetables and tamarind).
If needed clean the cooker lid .
Close the cooker.
Bring to one whistle and switch off. By this way the raw smell of tamarind goes off easily.
In the meantime prepare the tadka (tempering). Heat ghee in a small wok.
Add mustard, cumin, methi seeds and wait till mustard crackles.
Then add the slit shallots, curry leaf, torn dry red chilies. Saute till shallot gets mild red.
After the pressure is released, open the cooker.
Pour the tempering. Bring to a boil.
Add the items given for garnishing.
Switch off.

Quick cooker sambar is ready

Serving suggestions:
Serve with rice, idli , dosai, pongal.

If we are using tomatoes only (not adding mango or tamarind ) along with other vegetables, then we can pressure cook everything together in one step itself. After pressure is released, add tadka and garnish with cilantro.
This tamarind-less sambar can be prepared in just 15 minutes. 
But if we add tamarind, then follow my 2 stage method (to ensure soft cooked dal).

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas recipes

Hi friends,
I am sure everyone has great plans for Christmas. Along with the Christmas decorations, Church schedules,  and shopping comes the cooking plan. We all wonder and think of many many recipes, but still the family's vote goes for our usual successful recipes That too native recipes stay in our menu forever. As we both are from Tirunelveli, our town's recipes comes to our minds first. Every year Xavier gives me a long wish list Here is that list ! Enjoy !

Merry Christmas !

Christmas plum cake (Indian style)

Plain vanilla cake
 Butter biscuit (Sooji berry biscuit / benne biscuit) :

Gingerbread cookies:

Orange butter cookies:


 Munthiri kothu
Porikadalai laddu:

Pineapple Kesari

Spicy snacks:
Butter Murukku

Coconut milk murukku
Oma podi (sev)

Kara sev:

Ulunthu vadai
Paruppu vadai

Aappam (rice pancake)

Turkey biriyani

whole fried chicken

Dindigul chicken biriyani (in cooker)

Tirunelveli mutton varuval

Egg kuruma (Tirunelveli style)
Stuffed egg (keeru muttai)

Dessert :

Merry Christmas !

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas fruit cake (large size)

In Tamilnadu and Kerala (almost entire South India) Christmas is like everybody's festival.  During Christmas, the bakeries there would get more busy preparing this Christmas plum cake (fruit cake) for two months. It is a tradition there to buy and gift these cakes to one another during Christmas and New year.
I have been following only one  'Christmas fruit cake recipe' (for 8x8 pan)  for the past 7 years, as this seems much reliable for me. This recipe does not contain alcohol, but still tastes exactly like the store bought Christmas fruit cake.  At first I learned this from Cham's fruit cake recipe and I started baking it every year and felt much happy that I learned it. Thank you Cham, every year I will be thanking you while joyfully baking this cake :) Eventually my fruit cake baking tradition started growing more and more that nowadays instead of baking in small portions (1 kg pan ), I have to bake in 9 x 13 inch pans (2 kg). So I thought this is the best time I repost my earlier plum cake recipe for a large scale recipe. I am sure this is the handy recipe for a festival time.
Click to see my youtube video. Kindly Subscribe and share. Thanks !

Christmas fruit cake (plum cake)

Follow each and every step and you will find the results amazing.  Happy cooking !
Sift the AP flour, baking soda, baking powder twice or thrice together.

Mix 2 tbsp AP flour with dry fruits and chopped nuts and keep aside. We can do this earlier to save time.

Bring everything to room temperature, by leaving them in counter top overnight.

First item to mix is butter and sugar.

Coat the baking tray with 1tbsp butter and coat with 2 tbsp AP flour. Preheat the oven to 350 F for 10 minutes before starting to bake.

Cream butter and sugar together.  (1 minute in speed 2)

Add vanilla essence, orange peel powder, All spice powder, egg, salt, soaked fruit mixture with juie and beat until frothy. (30 seconds in speed 2)

add dry ingredients and mix well (at speed 6 for 1 minute).

Pour in prepared cake tin and bake in preheated oven at 350 F for 40 - 50 min.

Let the cake cool inside tray for 20 minutes

Transfer it to wire racks and cool completely.

Cut the cake in desired portions. Wrap in wax paper and save in air tight containers.

Merry Christmas !

The plum cake (fruit cake) tastes better 1 or 2 days after baking.

I.For caramelizing
sugar-1/2 cup
water - 2tbsp + 1 cup
Add sugar and 2 tbsp water keep in stove at low to medium heat. When the sugar starts to turn brown , stir slowly .The sugar will start to change color from light brown to dark. In between , keep in microwave the water for 2 min and warm it. When the sugar starts to turn brown , pour slowly the warm water. Be cautious, as it may splutter (wear a hand gloves always for this step).

dry ingredients:
All purpose flour (maida)- 2 1/2 cup
baking powder - 2 tsp
baking soda - 3/4 tsp
Nuts and fruits:
dried fruits-(dates, raisins, tooti frooti)- 2 cup
dried nuts-(almonds, cashews and walnuts) - 1 cup
grape juice - 1/4 cup + orange juice- 1 cup + apple juice - 1/4 cup
(or) orange juice - 1 1/2 cup
wet ingredients: (others)
sugar -  1 1/2 cup
butter- 2 sticks (16 tbsp butter = 1 cup oil)
(use butter for perfect flavor)
egg - 6
salt -  1 tsp
vanilla extract -2 tsp
To powder:
lemon and orange peels - 2 tbsp
(I use peels of a large naval orange)
All spice powder (see below for recipe)- 2 tsp

Take half of the amount of dry fruits. (reserve the rest  for direct baking later). Except raisin chop others.

Soak 1 cup of dry fruits in grape + apple + orange juice for a few hours.
( I puree apple , grapes at home and use store bought orange juice).
Without any other juices,  orange juice will also do the same job.
I soaked it in orange juice for 3 days inside fridge.
Bring the butter, egg and everything to room temperature by keeping them out of fridge for few hours -  overnight.
Dry roast the almond, cashew and other nuts. Then chop them into small pieces.

Before baking:
Preheat the oven at 350 F.
Grease a 9 x 13 x 2 inch cake pan ( 1/4 sheet cake pan) generously with butter.
Sprinkle 2 tbsp all purpose flour and spread  it all over by shaking.

Wet ingredients: 
 In a blender (Indian mixie) add orange peel and crush it. To it add butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla essence, salt and beat again till fluffy.
Pour this to a large mixing bowl along with caramelized sugar.
Dry ingredients:
Sift together all purpose flour, baking soda , baking powder. I sift this over a large newspaper and will sift twice to ensure a fluffy cake. Sifting is  a MUST.
Add this dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix well with a large spoon. (or electric mixer).
Add the soaked fruits along with juice. it was soaking.
Take 2 tbsp of AP flour and mix it with the broken nuts and remaining unsoaked dry fruits.
Pour the cake batter to the cake pan .
Now spread the flour coated nuts and nuts over the cake batter . Shake gently and let the nuts sink a little. Don't stir them.
Bake in middle of the rack for 40 to 50 minutes in 350 deg F. If not cooked increase 10 min each time. The cake will be done in 45 minutes. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean.

Take out and cool for at least 10 - 20  minutes before transferring to cooling racks.
Cool the cake completely over cooling rack for 4 - 5 hours and slice as per need.
Store in airtight containers.
The cake tastes more delicious after 1 day - 3 days.

Makes one large 9 x 13 cake. or four 6 inch round cakes.
The above recipe gives 2 kg  ( approx 4.5 lb ) of fruit cake ( little more than that , depending upon the nuts and fruits we add).
Always use a good quality aluminum baking pan (eg Wilton cake pans) for evenly baking.
If using glass bakeware (eg Pyrex) , bake at 325 F . Don't exceed the recommended temperature.
Using some kitchen appliances will make cake baking an easy job. Here are some of my tips for using various mixers for making fruit cake.

For kitchenaid mixer:
Using a whisk attachment beat the egg to fluffy (1 min - 2 min). (whites first then add yellow).
Melt the butter . Add butter and sugar together for 1 minute in speed 2.
Remove the whisk attachment and fix the flat beater.
Add all the wet ingredients and beat for 30 seconds at speed 2.
Then add dry ingredients and beat at speed 6 for 1 minute.
DO NOT over-beat the cake mixture.

For Indian mixie:
Beat the eggs together.
Then add all the wet ingredients.
Pour this to a mixing bowl.
Using a spatula or hand held electric mixer, blend together for 1 minute.

For Hand mixer (electric):
Cream sugar and butter together for 1 minute in low speed.
Then goes the wet ingredients for 1 minute in medium speed.
Add dry ingredients gradually and whisk at lowest speed till they get folded.
Then increase speed and mix for 1 minute.
This is the all spice powder I use in my fruit cakes, pumpkin cake, ginger bread cookies etc. I think this flavor is fresh and better than the much expensive store bought varieties.

All spice powder:
cinnamon - 2 long rolls
cardamom - 1 tbsp seeds only
cloves - 1 tbsp
nutmeg - 1/4 of one
mace - 1
cumin - 1 tbsp
black pepper - 1 tbsp
dry ginger powder - 1/2 cup

Dry roast everything except ginger powder. Finely powder them all together and mix with ginger powder. (While powdering , I add ginger powder). Keep in a zip lock pouch or air tight container and keep in freezer for an year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Khubani ka meetha

khubani / Qubani - apricot. Meetha - dessert.
Khubani ka meeta is another fusion dessert of India. Mughal chefs at that time, who enjoyed cooking with fresh apricots in their native, brought India these dried apricots. Then these trees were cultivated around  Himalayas and they thrive there till now.
 Now to our dessert...Qubani ka meeta is a simple jam (preserve) like dish. It is popular among Hyderabad cuisine.
I came to know of this from a nearby restaurant. Then I got an idea of this recipe by the vahchef's video. Thanks to the vahchef, I learned this easy and delicious dessert.
Then I had a dilemma, if I should buy some dried apricots , which are too expensive at Indian grocery stores, while I can get fresh apricots from my nearby farmer's market. But then I thought of sticking to the original recipe, as this is  new to me. Anyway , I will try with fresh US grown apricots soon and will let you know how it came out .Till then enjoy this Turkish Qubani ka meetha  !

Qubani ka meeta

dried apricots from Indian grocery stores
soaked apricots
Seeded apricot, soaking water, seeds of apricot

Removing the shell of apricot seeds

Apricot nuts
Boiling apricot fruits

Apricot dessert ....qubani ka meeta

Yummm...enjoy qubani ka meetha with kulfi ice cream

Dried apricots - 25
sugar - 1/2 cup
cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp

Rinse the dry apricots.
Soak the dried apricots in cold water overnight (inside fridge) or at room temperature for 6 hours.
Squeeze and remove the seeds.
Save the soaked water and seeds.
Gently crush the seeds (just to halve them) and take out the nuts.
The apricot nuts would look like almonds but with more flavor.
Now put the fruit in a wok along with soaked water.
Cook for  15-20 minutes or until the fruit gets a jam like consistency.
Add required sugar and stir well for 5 minutes.
Add cardamom powder and chopped apricot nuts.
Stir well and switch off.
Qubani ka meetha is ready!

Serving suggestion :
Serve  warm as dessert along with whipped cream or ice cream.
Happy Birthday Nissi

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