Category Archives: Vegetarian

In a Jam!

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Our¬†home was raided by monkeys! It’s a true story!!

We live in a pretty, green part of the City & every couple of months in the year our terrace & the ones of neighbouring homes are “vacation resorts” for roaming hoards of our primate cousins. A few years ago our terrace was a nursing / maternity home for a monkey family. We would wake up with the noise of them jumping up & down on the roof. “Daddy” Monkey once even managed to stare down my otherwise intimidating husband, when the latter yelled at the baby monkey swinging on the cable! While the babies are absolutely adorable, & it’s lovely to observe them through the window grills… It’s a bit scary when you walk into the room to see tiny, dusty almost human paw prints on the chest or TV & notice missing apples!! And you know you have been raided! One morning we woke up to the sound of my sister-in-law running round with a broom, trying to coax a tiny, frightened baby monkey out of the house. The poor creature must have snuck in through an open window & forgotten how to get out ūüė¶ We somehow managed to get him out the front door.

Since then, they pretty much stopped visiting. Until this afternoon…

Bombay’s actually got a winter happening this week. So of course I make the most of the crisp, cool weather by keeping all the windows wide open! And I definitely wasn’t expecting any visitors of this kind! I had lunch, checked on the dinner that was made for tonight. The food was still too warm to pop it in the fridge, so I made sure the bowls were covered & went to my room to watch The Truth About Cats & Dogs (sucker for romcoms!) & get a little shut eye before I started on my baking adventure of the day. I came down to the kitchen about 2 hours later & saw a pack of biscuits & another of chips strewn open on the window pane. The steel box of¬†chapatis¬†(whole wheat flatbread) was lying open with at 4 missing & one lying on the table! The bowl of spiced potatoes with peanuts was uncovered with nearly half the contents gone, with bits of food all over the table! And of course the creepy telltale paw prints. I freaked out! A quick look around the house… I was alone! Thank heavens! And thank the stars for making me lazy today… else¬†the monkeys would’ve been in for a treat! I usually place things to cool by the window… well never again!

The recipe I’m going to share today has nothing to do with primates! The only thing that’s relevant here is that the key ingredient is from an area¬†known for its notorious monkeys! My parents brought in the New Year with friends¬†at a hill station called Panchgani, about 280 km from Bombay. And when they returned they brought back 4 kg of strawberries!! Now we are a family of strawberry lovers & I love using them when I cook, like here¬†or here. But still 4 kgs?! Well anyway, after distributing (some), indulging in strawberries & cream (a lot!), we still had quite a bit leftover. So Ma said, “Let’s make Jam! (To be translated as, “YOU make Jam!”)

I looked up a recipe¬†or two¬†online that didn’t require pectin, jam sugar or any preservatives.¬†From ones I liked, one used cornflour / corn starch & the other was made in the microwave. So I merged the 2, added my twist & here it is…

Homemade Strawberry Jam!

Ingredients

  • 250 gm fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Juice of 1 small Lemon
  • A lot of patience!

Method

  1. Wash, hull &¬†cut the Strawberries. I left the smaller ones as they were, as it’s nice to bite into a whole strawberry, once in a while!
  2. Mix in the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, & leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes in a sauce pan.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till the sugar dissolves.
  4. Bring to the boil & then reduce the heat to low.
  5. Now patience needs to kick in as you stir occasionally & wait for the jam to thicken. This could take up to 30 to 40 minutes.

And there you have it!

Note

Ma is a bit of a purist, so I made 2 batches of jam. One was¬†with the above recipe & the other had “my twist”! I cut down the amount of lemon juice & added some orange juice along with mint & spices. I think it worked ūüôā

This recipe yields about 250 gm of Jam & was absolutely delicious with:

  1. Candied Orange Peel & Rosemary Pancakes made with fresh cream as I ran out of milk and buttermilk! Can you believe that! 
  2. Raisin Scones I followed the recipe from my super talented friend Lidia’s blog. They were light, crumbly & yum!
  3. Peanut Butter & Jam Cookie Cups the baking adventure of the day when the monkeys attacked!
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Moong Dal Pudlas (Split Green Gram Pancakes)

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I’m back home!

After a month of TLC¬†at my parents’ following a brief illness & ban from the kitchen, I’m up & about & ready to take on the world! I did start making up for the 3 weeks away from my favourite space by making¬†this, &¬†this¬†& of course¬†this¬†over¬†at my parents’!

And now…I’m back in my Odd Hour Kitchen, planning menus, packing lunches for the husband… fun stuff!

Here’s my first dish back ūüôā

Pudlas (Gujarati), Uttapams, Appams & Dosas (South Indian), or Chillas (North India) are various Indian Pancakes or Crepes. The South Indian ones are made with a fermented Rice Flour batter or with Semolina (Rawa). The Gujarati & North Indian ones are made with various Lentils (Dal) or non-fermented Rice Flour batter & even Semolina.

This recipe that I’m going to share with you, is my maternal grandmother’s. She would use Whole Green Gram Beans or Moong,¬†which she soaked overnight. But I didn’t have any ¬†yesterday & I wanted to keep the batter ready in the fridge for this morning’s breakfast, so I want ahead & used the Split Green Gram or¬†Moong Dal.

Moong Dal

These Pancakes are very easy to make & perfect for a heavy breakfast or a light-ish dinner. They use a little oil, but are Carb & Gluten Free… so they aren’t bad for you either! In fact they are high in Vitamins A, B, C & E & Minerals like Calcium, Potassium & Iron. The¬†Dal¬†is rich in Protein & Fibre & a perfect food to help you in your weight-loss regime ūüôā

Ingredients

Soaked Moong Dal

  • 3/4 cup Moong Dal /¬†Split Green Gram (soaked for 4-5 hours)
  • 2 small Onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Green Chillies¬†(finely chopped)
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic¬†(finely chopped)
  • 2 Tomatoes¬†(finely chopped)
  • Coriander¬†(finely chopped)
  • Cumin Seeds /¬†Jeera
  • Salt
  • Oil

Method

The Batter

  1. Grind the Dal in a food procession with the ginger, garlic, green chillies & 1/4 of the onions. Do not add any extra water.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the remaining onions, cumin & salt.
  3. The batter is supposed to be a bit thick, like porridge. But, if you feel it is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Heat a flat non-sitck pan or skillet & grease it with a little oil. Drop a ladle-full of the batter as you would normally for pancakes. Sprinkle some tomatoes & coriander. Once you see the edges come away from the pan, drizzle a little oil around the pancake.Carefully flip the pancake to cook the other side.
  5. Serve hot with a Sweet Chilli Sauce or Mint Chutney or Yogurt.

This Recipe makes about 16 Pancakes.

The batter can be stored in the fridge & used over the next 2 days.

A Left-Over Lasagna

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The¬†Mango¬†Season is on it’s way out in the City, but that never stops us at the Vakil household! Each year Ma gets dozens of¬†Pairee¬†Mangoes … sweet with just the right amount of tartness & the pulp not too thick… perfect for the juice & squeezes out batches of¬†Aam Ras¬†(Mango Juice), packs it small boxes & freezes it… to be defrosted & eaten when the craving hits you after the fresh fruit is gone! This¬†Ras, in our Gujju household is eaten as a meal accompanied with either¬†Pooris (small, round, deep fried whole wheat flatbread),¬†Poli¬†(thin, layered whole wheat¬†Roti¬†or flat-bread) or our family favourite¬†Safed / Chokha ni Rotli¬†(cottony soft white flat bread made with rice flour).

Safed / Chokhani Rotli

These Rice Flour “Tortillas” are soft, melt-in-your-mouth, & surprisingly light. You could go through a half dozen of these without even realizing it! And they take on the flavour of Mangoes beautifully.

To make these Rotlis, you basically mix equal parts of rice flour & boiling water to which salt & oil are added, & knead out a soft, firm dough. Then you roll out small, thin rounds & roast them on the tawa¬†or griddle.¬†I’ve never tried making them myself… the process always seemed a little complicated for me! And besides I have to admit, with great embarrassment, that I cannot roll out a perfect round Roti / Rotli / Chapati¬†to save my life!

Yes… this Good Gujarati girl married into a Mighty Maratha family cannot make the traditional, staple, Indian flat-bread ūüė¶

But what I can do is make good use of these beautiful Rotlis on the rare occasion that we have a small batch leftover!

And that’s just what I did… Made a perfect light dinner in this gorgeous cloudy weather, after a long walk through my favourite streets in the City, Hot Chocolate & Contemporary India Art… a lovely evening out & about with my oldest, closest pal! Because guess what? I’m not under¬†house arrest¬†any more!

I made my version of a wholesome, flavourful Lasgna using these beauties!

Note: You could use Whole Wheat or Corn Tortillas instead of the Rice Flour ones.

Ingredients

  • 6 – 9¬†Safed Rotlis
  • 100 gm Cheese (grated)
  • Salted Cracker Crumbs
  • Olive Oil

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Filling

  • 200 gm Cottage Cheese (crumbled)
  • 100 gm Sweet Corn (boiled)
  • 1 Green Capsicum (finely chopped)
  • 1 small Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

 

Sauce

  • 8 – 9 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 2 Onions (finely chopped)
  • 8 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 dried Red Chillies (torn to bits)
  • 1 teaspoon¬†Kallonji¬†(Onion or Nigella Seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon¬†Jeera¬†(Cumin Seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†Ajwain¬†(Carom Seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon¬†Kasoori Methi¬†(dried Fenugreek Leaves)
  • Red Chilli Powder / Chilli Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Haldi¬†/ Turmeric Powder
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Mixed Herbs
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Ketchup or Puree
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine

Method

Filling

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl & keep aside.

Sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan & add the cumin, carom & onion seeds.
  2. When they start to crackle, toss in the dried red chillies, onion & garlic. Saute till the latter are a light gold.
  3. Add tomatoes & salt. Cook till the tomatoes are soft & then add the chilli powder, turmeric, herbs & fenugreek leaves.
  4. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water or stock & the ketchup .Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Pour in the red wine & simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the flame, allow to cool & then coarsely process the tomato mixture to make a chunky sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting it Together

  1. Grease a deep baking dish and arrange a layer of the Rotlis.
  2. Pour some of the tomato sauce over it & then spoon in the filling.
  3. Cover with the tomato sauce, followed by another layer of the Rotlis, sauce & filling & continue doing so till you run out.
  4. Top up with a layer of the tomato sauce. Cover with grated cheese, cracker crumbs, chilli flakes & herbs.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over generously & bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of hung yogurt whisked together with some chilli flavoured cheese spread.

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This Recipe Serves 4

Kaanda Bhajjias & the Pouring Rain

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The Monsoon has hit the City & the view from my parents’ bedroom is this…

Or a variation of this… Sometimes Darker, Stormier, Rainier & Prettier!

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It’s my favourite time of the year! The incessant rain, thunder, the cool breeze or insane winds, the strange sepia-grey light in the morning, … flooded streets, cancelled meetings, rain holidays, stalled trains, traffic jams not withstanding!

These are the days you want to ditch your umbrella (it wouldn’t stand a chance anyway with the crazy wind!), get into your flipflops, splash into puddles on the promenade by Marine Drive, bite into hot, spicy corn-on-the-cob, roasting slowly & deliciously on charcoal while you get drenched to the bones! Sigh… been a while since I’ve done that!

Right now though, ¬†I’m glad I’m under house arrest & enjoying the rains from the indoors. It has a bit of romance of it’s own… hot cups of coffee or chocolate, music to go with the mood, a good book, a blanket to cuddle into & a Bombay rain staple… Bhajjias!¬†

Bhajjias or Pakoras as they are called up North, are little deep fried crispy pieces of goodness that are perfect with a hot cup of tea in the gorgeous rainy weather! You have Batata / Aloo (Potato), Mirchi (large green chillies), Daal (Lentil), Paneer (Cottage Cheese) & even Bread Pakoras!

But our family favourite… actually the Bombay street favourite… are¬†Kaanda Bhajjias… light, crisp batter-fried Onion Fritters!

With everyone at home on a rainy, rainy Saturday evening, & a rained out India vs Pakistan Cricket Match on TV the weather & mood were perfect for these. And guess what… I could make these as¬†my ban from the kitchen¬†has been lifted!

Ingredients

  • 8 large Onions (finely sliced)
  • 4 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 inch piece of Ginger (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons Jeera /¬†Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Haldi /¬†Turmeric Powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
  • Coriander Leaves (finely chopped)
  • 5-6 tablespoons¬†Besan /¬†Chickpea Flour
  • Salt

Note:¬†You could increase / decrease the quantity of Green & Red Chillies depending on how spicy you’d like the¬†Bhajjias¬†to be. These were moderately hot.

Method

                                              

  1. Mix together the onion slices, green chillies, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander leaves & red chilli powder in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle enough Besan / Chickpea Flour to coat the onion slices. Make sure that there is enough to coat & hold the onions together without making it thick & batter-y.
  3. Season with salt & mix well.
  4. Take handful of the onion mixture, squeeze together to make sure it holds its shape & drop into a deep wok of hot oil.
  5. Fry till a deep gold brown & serve hot with Mint Chutney or Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Note:¬†It is very important to season with salt at the very end, just before frying, that way the onions do not lose water into the batter. It’s necessary to keep any moisture away from the batter so that the¬†Bhajjias¬†get all crispy & crunchy ūüôā

This recipe serves 4

Lemon Rice

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It’s too hot to cook! It’s too hot to think! It’s too hot to want to do anything…¬†period!

At times like these, you need a quick fix, light meal that isn’t any trouble at all!

Tangy, flavourful & super comforting, Lemon Rice, is it! This is a South Indian dish that is lightly spiced, with the lentils & peanuts adding a lovely crunch to it. You could have it by itself, with a bowl of yogurt on the side or serve it like a salad for brunch.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups steamed Basmati Rice
  • 2 Lemons (juice)
  • 5-6 Curry Leaves
  • 1 tablespoon white¬†Urad Daal /¬†White Lentil
  • 1 teaspoon¬†Jeera /¬†Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†Rai /¬†Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†Haldi /¬†Turmeric Powder
  • 1 teaspoon¬†Dhania-Jeera Powder¬†/¬†Ground Coriander & Cumin Seeds
  • Chilli Powder
  • Salt
  • Fresh Coriander Leaves
  • Roasted Peanuts (coarsely ground)
  • 2 tablespoons¬†Ghee /¬†Clarified Butter

Note:

Fresh Green Chillies & Grated Ginger would work wonders too! Didn’t have them at hand, so used Red Chilli Powder. If you use these, add them at Step 2.

Fresh Coconut (grated) would also make a great garnish to this dish, highlighting its “South Indian-ness”

Method

  1. Heat the ghee in a wok & add the curry leaves urad daal, jeera, & rai.
  2. When the spices start to sizzle & the lentils turn a light gold, add the haldi, dhania-jeera & chilli powders & stir fry for 2-3 minutes till you get a beautiful aroma & the flavours all merge together.
  3. Add the cooked rice, lemon juice & salt & mix well so that each grain is coated with the spices.
  4. Garnish with coriander leaves, coconut & peanuts.
  5. Serve hot.

This recipe serves 4

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā