Category Archives: Festivals

A Happy New Year!

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A very, very Happy New Year to all of you from The Odd Hour Kitchen 🙂

It has been so very long since my last post that I forgot my password 😦 Silly me!

I have missed logging on & reading all my friends’ blogs, interacting & connecting with folks I’ve never met but yet who are like kindred spirits bonding over our love & passion for food. I have really missed that!

And I’ve missed writing.

So one of my New Year Resolutions, one which I do not intend on breaking, is to be more regular on my blog (at least more than once in 4 months!)… and to remember my passwords!! Fingers Crossed!!

Well one of the main reasons why I haven’t been blogging is that I have been baking… like a lot! I haven’t felt as centered, at one with myself or simply delighted than when I’m in my Kitchen, mixing, whisking, tasting away! I think I may have found my calling.

I took the plunge & decided to take my passion for food a step further… The Odd Hour Kitchen is now a small home bakery 🙂 So with the apron, I now have on a little entrepreneurial hat. And it is such fun! I get to bake all the time, in my Kitchen with my music and spread love & joy through what I bake! All this without the extra calories (& the guilt that goes with it!) from the earlier days, when I just had to bake & whatever came out of the oven went straight to my hips! To be fair, I did share with the husband (who complained about the increasing inches round his waist!), my parents (who honestly don’t need the extra sugar!) & of course eager friends & family. But now with this new “venture,” my food is helping me connect & reach out to so many more!

It started with the Raksha Bandhan festival in August, the day which, according to Indian tradition, celebrates the bond & love between brothers & sisters. The sister ties an ornamental thread or Raakhi on the wrist of her brother who promises to protect her all their life while she in turn pledges to pray for his well being. The brother has to then gift her something pretty, while the sister gets him something sweet… of course, what would an Indian festival be without any mithai (sweetmeat)! There are loads & loads of Indian Sweets… kaju katlis (diamond shaped bites of heaven made with cashewnuts), laddoos (ball-shaped sweets made with different ingredients like chickpea flour, semolina, coconut & of course sugar & clarified butter), I could go on, & on…

But it’s not uncommon to go with chocolates, cupcakes, cookies either. In fact some of my first experiments in baking were nearly charred brownies for my brothers on Raakhi day!

Now, since I don’t burn my brownies anymore, & I have added a few more goodies to my repertoire, it seemed like a great time to open up my Kitchen to more people on Rakshabandhan! So I updated my Facebook page, sent out emails, Whatsapp messages to friends & family & put out 3 products on my menu… bite-sized versions to go with the Indian mithai theme.

And I got a surprisingly decent response & with that the exhilaration of baking to meet orders & deadlines… very exciting! All charged up then, I participated in a Bake Sale & then opened up for Diwali, the Hindu New Year. So far, I’ve been working from festival to festival & with a fairly fluid menu. Of course if somebody calls me & asks me to bake something for them off the menu, any day of the week… I never pass up the opportunity 😀

I’m hoping to crystallize the menu, get more organized & get myself out there a little better in terms of visibility this new year… & lets see where this goes 🙂 Meanwhile I’m happy to be experimenting, trying out new recipes & baking on request!

So, if you live in Mumbai (or have friends & family that do), & want to indulge your sweet tooth you could call, mail or check out my little online store for comforting goodies.

Here are some of things that I’ve been baking over the past few months.

These CHOCOLATE STREUSEL Cupcakes are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee… not too sweet, with a delicious crunchy chocolate chip topping.

DEVIL’S FOOD CUPCAKES… Rich, Dark, Moist & Mysterious… with a surprise filling in each… Eggless too! For a friend’s dessert night

Light, Melt in Your Mouth… I made these ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIES the first time for a friend’s baby shower

This one’s a Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free CHOCOLATE FUDGE cake… The husband’s childhood buddy & his brother dropped by for dinner & stayed till 5 am! The brother had all these diet restrictions… so this is what I served!

I call these BROOKIES… A Brownie & Cookie Hybrid 🙂 I made these the first time as an experiment on my unsuspecting brothers… it worked! I do them with home made Salted Maple Caramel Sauce & Almonds / Peanut Butter & Snicker Bars / Orange Marmalade

So that in a nutshell is what I have been up to over the past 4 months… with of course a trip or 2 to Jaipur to teach at the school & a visit to Singapore to  see my adorable little babus, my nephews. I do hope to cook more, share more recipes & be around a lot more!

To sign off… Magic, Dreams, Love, the Time to enjoy a good Book, favourite Music or a Quiet Moment alone, the Spirit to give wing to your Creativity, loads of exciting Adventures (inside the kitchen & out!) & of course Joy, Peace & Health…. That’s what I wish for you all this New Year!

Chicken Khichda / Haleem

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It is Eid today… the day that marks the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. For the past 29 – 30 days, devout Muslims the world over do not eat anything from dawn to sunset. However when the sun goes down everyday, at Iftar, the fast is broken.

If you walk through streets around the Bombay Central Station, Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Mahim – There’s such an atmosphere of festivity! The streets are lit up with fairy lights, groups of people milling about, all dressed up & the roads lined with stalls selling everything from bright clothes to jewellery & shoes to… of course… Food! Oh! It’s such a treat! It’s been a while, but I remember for a couple years, going down to Mohammed Ali Road with my friends at least once during Ramzan during Iftar, to, well put it politely, stuff ourselves silly!

You wouldn’t know where to start! Of course, if you were fasting, you would with dates & some fruit from the dried fruit & juice stalls & then move on to the real stuff. But that never applied to us! We went straight for the meat & chicken Kebabs, Tikkas (marinated chunks of Chicken or Lamb grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection over charcoal), Naans (flat bread), Baida Rotis (thin, soft flatbread stuffed with meat, coated with eggs & deep fried), Biryaani (saffron & spice laced rice layered with a flavourful meat or chicken gravy), my favourite Khichda / Haleem! You can’t end the feast without anything sweet… so there are Malpuas (crisp little pancakes deep fried in clarified butter) served with Rabdi (sweet, creamy, thickened milk) or Phirni (a delicate rice pudding flavoured with cardamom) in little clay pots… The feast is surely not for the faint hearted!

For the past 8 – 9 years (maybe more!), we’ve been invited to be part of the Iftar & Eid celebrations at the Khan residence… & that is another experience altogether! Pure gastronomical heaven! The everyday food out there is out of this world… so you can imagine what these special dinners would be like! Nalli, Biryaani, Kebabs, Mutton cooked the Moghlai way, Khichda.. & of course Auntie’s special Sheer Khurma (a special vermicelli pudding)! How our dear friend turned vegetarian & more importantly, remained one, growing up in this household, is something that always baffles me!

Gosh I’m salivating as I write this, & feeling rather sorry for myself as I’m going to miss the festivities, being with my friends (who are more like family) & of course the food at the Eid dinner at the Khans’, for the second year in a row! I’m in my home away from home, Jaipur, working (for a change!) for 2 weeks 😦

I knew I was going to be missing out so, a few days before I left Bombay, I made my favourite Khichda / Haleem for my family! Khichda is a one-dish meal, comfort in a bowl… I love it! And this is my first attempt at making it!

I used these websites as a reference for the recipe – Khana Pakana & Kulsum Mehmood, & followed the tips & suggestions given to me by the lovely elderly Bohri Kaka (uncle) who sold me the ingredients at Crawford Market  (the one stop wholesale bazaar in Bombay for everything!) 🙂

So here it is the recipe for a meal that satisfies the soul, with a special Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Ingredients

Polished Whole Wheat

Mixed Lentils

  • 250 gm Polished Whole Wheat Grains
  • 150 gm Mixed Daals (red, white & yellow lentil & Bengal gram)
  • 450 gm Boneless Chicken Pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Red Chilli Powder (to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Dhania – Jeera / Cumin & Coriander Seed Powder
  • Special Haleem Spice (recommended by the sweet Kaka at the shop)

Spices

  • 2 stick Cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 Cardamom
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Mace
  • a pinch Nutmeg Powder
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter – Lots of it!

To Serve:

  • 3 large Onions (finely sliced & deep fried)
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Special Haleem Spice
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter

Method

  • Soak the wheat overnight (at least 8 – 10 hours) in a large vessel filled with water. Pour in 1-2 teaspoons oil & some salt. (Kaka’s tip: Do not wash the wheat or disturb it while soaking. It affects the cooking process)
  • Soak the lentils for about 2 hours.

Marinated Chicken

  • Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace & cardamom & grind to a fine powder.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, the spice powder from Step 3, nutmeg powder, 2 teaspoon Haleem spice, cumin & coriander powder & mint leaves. Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In a large heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of ghee, add the onions & sauté till the onions turn golden.
  • Add the marinated chicken & stir fry for about 10 minutes. Add more ghee if you need to, don’t be shy!
  • Drain the soaked wheat & lentils & add to the chicken.

Soaked Wheat Grains, Lentils & Marinated Chcken

  • Add enough water to cover the chicken & grains, plus some more & simmer on a low flame.
  • Now this is where patience kicks in! Allow the chicken & grains to cook for 6 – 7 hours, stirring regularly. (I kid you not! That’s how long it took! You could pressure cook the whole thing. But Kaka said the true taste emerges when the Khichda is slowly cooked over a long time. I believe him! It’s totally worth it.)
  • Add more water if it gets too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Once the wheat has softened (around 6 hours later), take the vessel off the flame, remove the chicken pieces & keep aside. Using a hand blender make the wheat & lentil mixture as smooth as possible. Add the chicken back to this thick, porridge-like mixture & place the vessel on a very low flame.

The Khichda Cooking Slowly

  • Add another 2 teaspoons of the Haleem spice & check the seasoning. (I find it easier to taste my way through a dish like this, so at this point if you feel you need to add more salt, chilli or spices, go right ahead!)
  • If possible, leave the vessel on the flame till you are ready to serve.

To Serve

The Condiments – Melted Ghee, Haleem Spice Powder, Mint Leaves, Deep Fried Onions, Lemon Wedges

Ladle the Khichda into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of ghee over it, sprinkle a bit of the Haleem spice, some mint leaves & serve with a wedge of lemon. Then sit back & watch the expressions of your family as they dig into it!

This recipe serves 6

An Early Mother’s Day Lunch

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Ma came over for lunch on Friday…

Oh yes that is a big deal! Don’t get me wrong. I am a good daughter. I do see my Mother about twice a week at least. Since it’s more convenient, I end up doing most of the visiting. We tease her that she visits my sister, who is in a different country all together, more often in a year, than she comes over to ours! And we are in the same city! Yes the Bombay traffic is awful & with an hour & half journey one way, we might as well live in different towns… but she could do better than drop by once in 6 months!

Anyway, Ma decided to come over for lunch Friday (Yay!). Since it had been a while & with Mother’s Day right round the corner, I wanted it to be special. It is unbelievably hot in the City, so she requested something light & simple.

So here it is, a light, simple yet special menu for Ma on her special day 🙂

Pear & Nut Salad

Eggplant Boats

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Quiche

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie

Pear Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 firm Pear (cored & sliced)
  • Mixed Nuts & Raisins
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Iceberg Lettuce

Method

  1. Arrange the pear slices on a bed of lettuce.
  2. Sprinkle the nuts & raisins over it.
  3. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together & drizzle over the salad just before serving.
  4. Serve it chilled.

Eggplant Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 Spring Onions (finely chopped)
  • zest & juice of 1/2 Orange
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ajwain / Marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon Jeera / Cumin
  • Chilli Powder
  • 5-7 Black Olives (chopped)
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Cheese
  • Bottled Tomato Pizza / Pasta Sauce

Method

  1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 2 halves. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving the exterior intact. Place the eggplant halves face down in salt water & chop up the scooped out eggplant.
  2.  Heat oil in a wok & add the jeera & ajwain. When the spices start sizzling, add the garlic & onions. Saute till brown.
  3. Toss in the eggplant, tomatoes, olives, orange zest & juice & stir fry till cooked.
  4. Season with salt & chilli powder. Keep aside.
  5. Pat dry the eggplant boats & lightly rub the skin with olive oil. Place on an un-greased baking tray.
  6. Fill each boat with the cooked eggplant & tomato mixture.
  7. Sprinkle the boats with bread crumbs & cheese.
  8. Cover the boats with aluminium foil & bake in the oven at 180 C for 25 minutes. Uncover & bake some more for about 15 minutes.
  9. Warm the pizza/pasta sauce & pour over the eggplant boats before serving.

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Quiche

The Quiche was inspired by 2 chefs Rachel Allen Jamie Oliver. I am an avid watcher of Food Shows on TV. If I don’t have the time, I record them & then watch them back to back! During a couple of these marathon TV watching sessions, I saw that with a few simple additions, the 2 chefs transformed the quiche to something else!

Jamie Oliver added Parmesan Cheese & Rosemary to the pie crust & Rachel Allen added a layer of boiled Potatoes & Goat’s Cheese to the Quiche before adding the Spinach Filling. I wanted to try it out ever since.

Mother’s Day Lunch is the day!

The above dishes were perfect for a loving mother-daughter duo! With a chilled glass of Pomegranate juice to start & warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies to end, with loads of bonding girl talk & gossip, it was a lovely lunch indeed!

Happy Mother’s Day Ma & to all the Moms out there 🙂

“Holi” Fruit ‘n’ Oat Muffins

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A Belated Happy Holi everyone!

It was Holi on Wednesday… the Hindu festival of colors, the day we welcome Spring & with it blooming flowers, new crops, a newness in the air. Of course in Bombay we skip directly to the searing Summer heat, but still it is one of the City’s favourite festivals.

Image Courtesy bloggermoms.com

The festival of Holi started Tuesday night, with Holika Dahan,with large bonfires lit in every neighborhood & lane in the City. People circle the fire pouring water around it & place coconuts into it. The roasted coconut fresh out of the embers with a little bit of sugar is one of my favourites!

The fire is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Each year while growing up, Mom would tell us the story of Prahlad,  who was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. His father, the Demon King Hiranyakashyapu, had been granted a boon that he could not be destroyed by day or night, neither indoors nor out, not on earth or in the sky, by neither man nor beast or any weapon. This made him arrogant & he demanded that all should worship him, & him alone. None were to worship the Gods in Heaven. Prahlad refused to bow down to his father’s will. In a final attempt to stop him from praying to Vishnu, Hiranyakashyapu, ordered  Prahlad to be lit alive on a pyre, seated on the King’s sister Holika’s lap. Holika had been given a boon that fire would not harm her. But as he sat on the pyre chanting Vishnu’s name, Holika  was consumed by the flames, while Prahlad was untouched. This burning of evil & salvation of good is celebrated as Holi.

Image Courtesy magicalmumbai.com

The next morning Spring is welcomed with the vibrant festival of colours. People throw colored powder, gulal, & colored water on each other. Traditionally the colors were made by crushing dried flowers like marigold & gulmohar. In fact in parts of North India Holi is still played with fresh  flowers. Playing Holi, breaks down or at least lowers all barriers of religion, gender, age as families, friends, neighbours all get together & celebrate.

As kids we would spend the better part of the morning becoming a right royal colorful mess with our friends & neighbours in the apartment complex we lived in. Of course Dad & Dadaji (Grandfather) would be totally paranoid that we would ruin the walls or furniture. We didn’t care 🙂 I loved the colours, even though it was a pain getting it off your skin & hair. We could tell which kid in school had the best time during Holi by the bright red ears or blue finger nails & green peeping through the hair!

Food is, as with all festivals, a very integral part of Holi. At home Mom would make these little dumplings with steamed purple yam (kand) & raisins, with thick sweetened yogurt (shrikhandh or matha). Gujjiyas too are a staple in the North. These are crescent shaped dumplings made with wheat flour & stuffed with grated, roasted coconut & dried fruit. My husband’s family, which is from Maharashtra, make Puran Polis, thin, flat roti-bread stuffed with jaggery & lentils.

Over time, I have stopped getting all colored up at Holi, though I make sure, no matter where I am, to be there for the fire ceremony. For some reason I feel most at peace when I walk around the flames… like I am letting go of all the negativity, the chaos of the year gone by & breathing in the newness of spring, with all its hope & tranquility.

This Holi, I woke up wanting to make something special. But I’m on a diet! All the traditional goodies are banned 😦 So maybe I could make something colorful, symbolic of the festival, yet which fits in with what I’m “supposed’ to eat!

Among other things, I’m “allowed” 2 tablespoons of oats a day with more egg whites than I care to eat, low fat yogurt, olive oil, nuts & fruit…hmmm… well what am I waiting for? Muffins it is!

Since flowers are the basis for all  the color, & hence significant to the festival. I got my little flower shaped muffin tins out with the pretty colored paper cases. The red plums & figs on top make the muffins more vibrant… I hope! In any case you could do this with Whatever’s in the Fridge!

I’m making these for breakfast. The proportions here are keeping in mind my daily allowance of ingredients. So it is  a true experiment.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons / 1 cup Oats
  • 1 Egg + 1 Egg White
  • 4 tablets Sugar Free / Sweet ‘n’ Low
  • 2 tablespoons Low Fat Yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • 12 Almonds
  • Zest & Juice of 1/2 an Orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 pinches Cinnamon Sugar (my cheat ingredient!)
  • a pinch Salt
  • slices of Figs, Plums, or any other fruit

Method

  1. Grind the oats with the cinnamon, almonds & Sugar Free tablets till it’s a coarse powder.
  2. Add salt, baking powder & baking soda to the oats.
  3. Whisk the eggs & vanilla till frothy.
  4. Stir in the yogurt, oil, orange juice & zest & whisk well.
  5. Gently fold in the oats. Do not over mix.
  6. Pour the batter into the greased & lined moulds.
  7. Arrange the fruit on top & sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on each muffin.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes or till the cake tester comes out clean & the top is golden.

Note

My allowance of the ingredients in the recipe, per day is: 2 tablespoons of Oats, 5 egg whites, 1 cup low fat yogurt, 4 teaspoons olive oil, 6 almonds & 1 fruit.

The muffins aren’t too sweet, so if you like, you could add some honey to the batter.

So this well within what’s  okay for me if I have 1 Muffin a day… Yay!

This recipe makes 4 muffins.