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lemon juice

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Middle Eastern

Baklava / Baklawa

Change is good if it offers you ample time to adapt to it. Sudden change is hard to digest. It’s been one and half years, I have been working on this project at work, the project which I truly believed in. It forced me to break out of my comfort zone to learn something new every day where change was a constant phenomenon. And now suddenly it’s dead. I don’t know what I am going to work on next, I am hoping something as exciting as it was earlier. This vacuum is disturbing yet relaxing on some front. No more sprints, no more deadlines and no checking emails from home, at least for some more days! And yes, I am back on MyHomeMantra after a big gap of more than two months.

I am looking at this change as my opportunity for renewal and growth. I’m looking forward to celebrating spring in its true spirit. We recently visited Skagit Valley in Washington. It’s absolutely magical to witness the natural wonders, the vivid colors spread over acres of land with a beautiful backdrop of green mountains.

Tulips festival in Seattle

The longer days and budding tulips have been very inspiring for me to refresh my life, my cooking experiments, and my yoga practice.

Speaking of cooking experiments, there are many to talk about but the one clearly strikes out in my mind is Baklawa! It was three years back when I first had a piece of Baklava at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. It absolutely tasted heavens! The nuts baked in lots of butter had a texture similar to ghee which I’m obsessed with! It paired perfectly with the crunchy pastry soaked in sugar syrup with a slight aftertaste of Indian spices left me with an urge to have more!

Baklava

Baklawa

If you are hosting a big party or a potluck, this is a great choice!  Make it in advance, it tastes better on day 2.  The efforts are totally worth the praise and love you will receive in turn.

Last year, we had our friends come over for Thanksgiving party at our place. We chose Middle Eastern theme to try something new at home.  The menu featured tabbouleh salad, pita sandwiches with falafel, tomato, cucumber and tahini sauce, french lentil soup and of course the yummy goodness … Baklava.Middle eastern menu

Baklava

Baklava

Delicious phyllo pastry dessert popular in middle eastern countries

Recipe source: www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/baklava/

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Thaw the phyllo sheets as per manufacturer's instructions. This could mean keeping them in the refrigerator overnight and outside for 2-3 hours before you can use them. Always make sure to keep them moist by covering them with a wet paper towel.

  1. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set the oven to 350°F.
  2. Process the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.Baklava nut filling
  3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
  4. Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 6 more times until it is 4 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.Baklava painting sheets with butter
  5. Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 4 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Do not worry if the sheets crinkle up a bit, it will just add more texture.Baklawa layer
  6. Cut into 24 equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown and edges appear slightly crisp.Baklawa with sugar syrup
  7. While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
  8. Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Garnish with some finely crushed pistachios of desired.

Notes

  • The original recipe asked for 1 cup of butter and more phyllo sheets for top and bottom layer. I used only 4 sheets for these layers and also needed only half a cup of butter which is one stick melted butter.
  • I did not use honey while making sugar syrup as it's not good to boil honey. Boiling destroys its molecular structure. I used less sugar syrup because I had reduced the number of phyllo sheets used in making the layers.
  • For nuts, I prefer to use 1/2 cup of almonds and rest walnuts and pistachios in equal proportions.
  • The spices added with the nuts were the best part of this recipe.
Breakfast/ Maharashtrian/ Quick n Healthy

फोडणीची पोळी / Phodnichi Poli – Leftover Rotis Makeover

Tadka,  Phodani,  bhagar,  vaghar, chaunk or tempering or seasoning, we may call it by different names but we all agree that it’s one of the greatest inventions of Indian Cooking! A method that’s widely used in Indian Cooking and the only ubiquitous ingredient in many of our traditional dishes from North to South and East to West.

A simple method in which whole or ground spices – such as  mustard seeds, cumin and coriander with some hing and turmeric are added to hot oil or ghee. The heated oil or ghee has amazing qualities of extracting and retaining vital nutrients from the added ingredients, the same technique being used since ages for making Ayurvedic oils and medicated ghees.

The hot oil or ghee infused with the aromas of whole spices is so magical that it can elevate any basic ingredient, including as humble as a leftover roti or poli in Marathi. And what you get is a popular Maharashtrian dish; extremely tasty, super easy and a perfect healthy breakfast item that pairs nicely with a cup of chai or bowlful of fresh yogurt.

leftover-roti-makeover

It tastes best with leftover rotis as they tend to absorb oil more easily due to their extra dryness. A simple tadka with standard ingredients and curry leaves with some characteristic Maharashtrian ingredients such as peanuts and dry coconut flakes and sesame seeds, the dish provides enough oil to digest the dry rotis with extra yum factor! The peanuts can be substituted by fresh green peas, they add a hint of sweetness and a beautiful green color. But I prefer the nuttiness of roasted peanuts.

Phodnichi_poli1

 

Phodnichi Poli

Phodnichi Poli

A magical makeover for leftover rotis - takes no more than 15 minutes. Quick, tasty, easy and healthy - perfect for breakfast!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Grind all rotis coarsely. It's best done with your hands.
  2. In a medium pan, prepare tadka by adding all ingredients listed under tadka in the given order.
  3. Add finely chopped onion and fry it until it becomes translucent.
  4. Add roasted peanuts or green peas and let them fry for a minute.
  5. Add red chili powder, cumin-corainder powder (optional) dry coconut flakes, and salt. Mix well.
  6. Now add roti flakes, mix everything together and let it steam for 2 minutes.
  7. Add sugar and lemon juice and again steam it for another 2 minutes.
  8. Serve hot! Garnish with fine shev or chopped coriander leaves.
Gujarati/ Quick n Healthy/ Upvasache Padarth/ Winter Special

Sweet Potato Muthiya

Healthy yummy fasting snack, which is quite a rare combination!

Sweet Potatoes or रताळे (Ratale in Marathi) are in season and I absolutely adore this root vegetable. I am so glad that it’s allowed during fasting. Steamed  sweet potato with a pinch of salt and sunth (dried ginger) was my favorite after school snack.

Unfortunately my husband is not a great fan of sweet potato so I don’t make it that often but this time I experimented with a basic muthiya recipe and turned it into muthiya that can work during fasting. I used sweet potato with chestnut flour (शिंगाडा पीठ) and rajgira flour, added fresh ginger, lime juice and some cumin powder. The result was yummy healthy snack which I am extremely proud of!

Sweet Potato Muthiya

 

They taste sweetish, tangy, hot with lost of gingery flavor. Singoda and rajgira flavors are very subtle. The seasoning is a must, it takes the dish to a whole new level.

Sweet Potato Muthiya

Sweet Potato Muthiya

Healthy yummy fasting snack, which is quite a rare combination 🙂

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Start by washing, peeling and grating sweet potatoes.
  2. Add salt, lemon juice, freshly grated ginger, cumin-coriander powder and a bit of jaggery or sugar to grated sweet potatoes and mix well. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Now start adding both the flours 1/3 cup at a time. Mix well to form a dough. You won't need any water as sweet potatoes will leave out all the moisture. Add flour as needed to make not-so-thick dough.
  4. Add green chilies and mix well. Taste it.
  5. Prepare a steamer pan.
  6. Make muthiya - by pressing the dough in your palms to give it a cylindrical shape. Place these in the steamer and let them steam for about 15 minutes. Check with a sharp knife.
  7. Let them cool down a bit, before you slice them.
  8. If you are using these for fast, prepare seasoning with ghee and cumin seeds, else you can add mustard seeds, curry leaves and sesame seeds. Add sliced muthiya and shallow fry them on both side.
  9. Serve hot with your favorite chutney or sauce.
Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Qubani Ka Meetha / Apricot Dessert

Qubani is an Urdu word for Apricots. And this dessert – Qubani Ka Meetha which itself translates to stewed Apricot dessert is a specialty of Hyderabad. It was the challenge posed by Roha from Hyderabadi Cuisine as part of  SNC ( South Vs North Challenge), which as you might know is a brainchild of Divya from YouTooCanCook, you can read about it more here.

When I first saw this in my inbox I was almost jumping with joy. Apricots are one of my favorite fruits. What I like about apricot is its distinct aromatic flavor. Currently farmer’s markets in the US are boasting California’s “spring gold” – the fresh Apricots. Its velvety golden skin, sweet-tart taste and the fragrance makes it unique.

Thanks to Roha, we now have an unbelievably quick recipe to enjoy apricots. No wonder the dessert is very common in  Hyderabadi weddings. It’s really really simple yet elegant. They generally use dried apricots as fresh apricots are seasonal and they are not native to India. It’s served with cream or custard or ice-cream on top which is completely missing from my plate this time but I have promised myself to do a complete justice to this delicious dessert next time!Stewed Apricot Dessert

Qubani Ka meetha

Qubani Ka meetha

Simplest Apricot dessert you have ever known!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a deep bowl, add washed apricots and cover them with water. Soak them overnight. (up to 4-5 hours)
  2. Apricots will become softer and will absorb the water. Take out the apricots and  keep the soaking liquid aside, it contains the apricot flavor.
  3. Now remove the seeds carefully and crack them open to get the apricot kernel, these will be used as garnish.Apricot Almonds
  4. In a non-stick saucepan, add soaking liquid, the apricots and some sugar. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes until it turns golden brown. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice.Apricot Dessert in making 1
  5. Taste and add more sugar if you like, while it's still cooking. I also added some Apricot kernels so that they also cook little bit.
  6. You can also blanch the Apricot kernels and remove their skin. I skipped this step.
  7. Feel free to add some water or milk if the mixture looks very dry. It should be pulpy and mushy.
  8. When almost done, add few strands of saffron and cardamom powder.Apricot Dessert in making 2
  9. Let it cool down,

Serve it cold with your favorite ice cream scoop or fresh cream, topped with pistachios slices.

Appetizers/ Breakfast/ Gujarati/ Quick n Healthy/ Snacks

દુધી ના મુઠીયા / Dudhi na Muthiya / Steamed Bottle Gourd Fist Cakes

A Diet Friendly Recipe

Moist and fluffy inside; golden crispy outside; the Muthiya make a perfect pairing with a cup of tea! ‘Muthi’ means fist in Gujarati and it’s called Muthiya because the dough is turned into cylindrical shape using fist.

Spinach Dudhi Muthiya

Made with whole wheat flour and grated dudhi with very little oil, since the dough is steamed and then sauted in a typical Indian tempering, this dish is perfect for those who are on a “diet”.

I love Spinach and Cilantro in my Muthiya, it adds moisture and flavor and color. So I actually made Dudhi Palak (Spinach) Muthiya but Spinach is completely optional.

Dudhi Na Muthiya

Dudhi Na Muthiya

A Diet Friendly Recipe

Ingredients:

Instructions:

It might look like a big list of ingredients but almost everything is straight from your pantry so it does not much time to prepare it.

  1. Wash and peel bottle gourd and grate it. Squeeze out excess water in a separate bowl. We can use it if needed.Shredded Dudhi
  2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together and knead to make soft dough by adding water if required. You can also use the juice we just squeezed from the grated dudhi. Also add 1 tsp of oil and knead again.
  3. Now divide it in 3-4 parts. Apply some oil to your palms and using your fists shape it in cylindrical rolls.Dudhi Muthiya in progress 1
  4. Place these rolls in a steamer and let it steam for 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Once done, remove from the steamer, let it cool slightly. Then cut it into equal sized small pieces.Dudhi Muthiya with tadka
  6. If you want to make tempering, in a frying pan, heat some oil.
  7. Add mustard seeds and sesame seeds. Add the pieces and saute on a medium flame for a few minutes.
  8. Serve hot!

 

 

Appetizers/ Entertaining/ Mediterranean/ Snacks

Baked Falafel with Cucumber Dip

Healthy can be Yummy!

There was a time when I had Falafel wrap from Dish N Dash at least once a week. I really miss this place. Falafel was on my list for a long time but “deep-fried” and “cleaning-after-deep-frying” were the main reasons to put it off. This weekend I decided to give it a shot and instead of frying I baked flattened falafel balls and here is the result –

It takes much less time and it’s a no-mess recipe. Definitely a keeper. I served these falafel with cool cucumber dip.

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

Easy, Healthy and Delicious!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. I did not use canned Garbanzo beans, hence I soaked them overnight in water. Next day I cooked them in a steamer until you can smash them with a fork. Don't overcook else it will form a paster when you grind them. If you are using canned beans, skip this step and instead just drain the water and follow along.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  3. In a food processor (DO NOT use grinder / blender), add chana (garbanzo beans) and roughly chopped cilantro and pulse it few times until you get roughly chopped mixture. Be careful not to over blend it.
  4. Now take the mixture in a medium mixing bowl and add all other ingredients which include finely chopped onion, finely chopped garlic and olive oil and other spices and salt to taste. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper with few drops of oil. Alternatively, you can use the cooking spray but it's not needed.
  6. Drop one table spoon of mixture on the sheet leaving enough space to spread the mixture.
  7. With your fingers, slightly flatten the balls on the baking sheet. 
  8. Since these are baked and not fried, only the flatten sides with become crispy so if you want go ahead and make them thinner.
  9. Bake these for 15-17 minutes until their bottom becomes golden brown. Once done, they slide out easily. 
  10. Take them out and turn each falafel and bake the other side for another 10 minutes.
  11. Serve hot with tahini, hummus or cucumber dip. 

Linking it to Foodomania’s Christmas Cook-Off Contest

Breakfast/ Maharashtrian/ Snacks

पोहे / Pohe / Poha

No Marathi food blog can be complete without “Pohe” (flattened rice flakes). It’s not just a comfort food but also an intrinsic part of our culture. When a prospective groom and bride families meet together for the first time, the girl serves pohe and tea. Hence “kanda-pohe-meeting” (poha with onion) does bear a special meaning in Maharashtrian culture.

It goes without saying that it’s a very easy recipe and probably that’s why making it delicious is an art. Warm, comforting, great for breakfast and as a tea-time snack.

Batate Pohe

Batate Pohe

Maharashtrian Comfort Food

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1. In a sieve, gently rinse Poha with running water for 1 minute or so.
2. Drain excess water and sprinkle Salt and Lemon Juice and sugar. Gently mix with hand and leave aside.
3. Dice two small potatoes and microwave them for 2 minutes. So that they cook faster.
4. Heat Oil in a medium pan / kadhai on medium heat.
5. Add Mustard Seeds and let them pop.
6. Add Cumin seeds, Hing, Turmeric powder. Then add peanuts and fry them for a minute. Now add curry leaves and green chilis.
7. Add onions and let them cook for 1-2 minutes. I don't like onions in pohe so I skip this step.
8. Add potatoes, mix well. Cover and let them cook for 1-2 minutes. They should be tender but not mushy.
9. Fluff up Pohe with a fork and add it to the pan.
10. Mix well. Sprinkle with a little water if Pohe have dried out too much.
11. Garnish with chopped cilantro and freshly grated coconut. Fine shev also goes well with Pohe. Serve hot.

Tips

1. You can add some chopped cilantro while making tadka. It adds nice flavor.
2. Add just enough sugar to balance salt and lemon juice.
3. Chopped mint leaves also add nice flavor to this dish.

Poha is made from rice paddy. Once they clean paddy, they soak it in hot water for about 45 minutes. They they roast wet paddy in large iron skillets to make poha or flattened rice flakes. And that’s why it contains more iron than rice.

Breakfast/ Maharashtrian/ South Indian

उपमा / उप्पीट / Upma

Upma doesn’t really need any introduction. It’s as famous in Maharashtra as in South India. We also have a slight modified version of Upma + Turmeric powder which we call “सांजा  / Sanja”.  Very simple, yet wholesome healthy dish  great for breakfast. Upma with a bowl of soup has become our favorite choice for dinner.

Upma

It’s actually quite versatile recipe and can be made with semolina which is made of wheat, idly rava (made with rice),  vermicilli and even oats or couscous. Also you can add veggies if you like. I am giving our traditional home recipe.

 

Maharashtrian/ Spring - Summer Special/ Subji / Curry

मटारची उसळ / Mattarchi Usal – Greenpeas in Green Curry

Luscious green curry sure to seduce your taste buds!

We had a small get-together at our place and my mom had made “Mattarchi Usal”. I still relish those moments, the taste is still alive in my memories. After a long time I tried to recreate it with slightly different ingredients. It’s very easy to make and doesn’t require any special ingredients. I am sure you will enjoy it as much I did.

 

Matarchi Usal

Matarchi Usal

Yet another traditional Maharashtrian recipe!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Make a fine paste with coconut, cilantro, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, ginger and garlic. Add some water if required.
  2. In a cooking pot, heat oil.
  3. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and hing.
  4. Add turmeric powder if you like. Add curry leaves and red chillies cut into halves. Fry for another minute.
  5. Now add the green paste and let it cook until the paste starts leaving oil.
  6. Add salt as per taste.
  7. Add green peas and enough water to maintain the desired consistency for the curry.
  8. I like to add 1 or 2 star anise while the curry is boiling, but make sure you take them out once done.
  9. Let the peas cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and sugar.

Serve with hot bread slices or rotis.

Side Note

Traditionally the green paste is made using heavy stone grinder and it’s called “Watan वाटण” in Marathi. Needless to mention, it tastes wonderful and also makes the dish very aromatic.

http://www.fotopedia.com/items/everlasting-rXz8uvQVpnU

Sending this to ‘Flavors of Maharashtra‘ event hosted by SeduceYourTasteBuds and Simply.Food

 

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