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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.
Desserts/ Festival Special/ Maharashtrian/ Smoothie/ South Indian

Moogachi Kheer / Parippu Kanji – A Festive Lentil and Jaggery Porridge

A healthy festive drink!

Last Monday we celebrated Akshay Trutiya, a religious occasion which calls for a sweet treat. “Akshay” means the never diminishing in Sanskrit and this day falls on the third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of the Indian month of Vaishakha and one of the 3 and 1/2 “the most auspicious days” or also known as “Sade-Teen Muhurt” considered by Hindus. It’s believed that Akshay Trutiya was the day when Lord Ganesha started writing epic Mahabharata to Ved Vyasa’s dictation. It’s considered auspicious to start a new venture or a new job, buy new property and jewelry too.

Every year my aajji used to celebrate Akshay trutiya by buying a gold coin and visiting the Vishnu temple. And I used to wait for her to come back so that I could get the prasad – the sweets! She tried making new sweets every time and this Moong Kheer (Porridge) was one of those innumerable treats I have had from her. Parippu Kanji

Traditionally it’s served warm but I like it chilled too. A very simple lentil kheer with just over 3 ingredients. Easy to make yet rates quite high on healthy spectrum which is quite unusual for an Indian sweet.Here is what you need.

Moogachi Kheer

Moogachi Kheer

A festive healthy drink!  the two words fit in one sentence quite rarely!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Lightly toast the moong dal with some ghee in a heavy bottom pan on medium heat. Do not let them turn brown. You should be able smell their nutty aroma.Toasted Moong Dal
  2. Add one cup of water to moong dal and pressure cook it for 2 whistels. They should be well cooked with very little water left in your cooking pot. It will have soft and smushy texture.
  3. Meanwhile, add jaggery in 1/2 cup water an dlet it dissolve completely. Strain the mixture in order to separate any impurities. Keep it aside.
  4. Using a potato masher or churner, mash the lentils so they become creamy but still have some bits in it.
  5. Put these cooked lentils and the jaggery solution in a pan and let it come to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn.
  6. Add the milk and stir till mixed well, and turn up the heat a bit. Bring it to a boil, and let it cook for another minute.
  7. Take it off the heat and then add the powdered ginger and the cardamom. Stir well.

Let it cool a bit before you pour it in glasses. Serve it warm. This recipe serves 4 to 6 depending on size of serving.

Tips:

  1. Toasting helps to bring out the nuttiness which makes the kheer more flavorful. But be careful not to turn them brown or it would overpower the taste.
  2. Before adding milk, stir frequently as it doen't contain lot of liquid and it may stick to the bottom and burn.
  3. Add basil leaves and a pinch of saffron before serving. Adds another dimension to the simple flavors.

Paruppu KanjiI recently came to know that this is also known as Parippu Kanji or Paruppu Kanji where “parippu” is lentils and “kanji” is  porridge in Tamil and it’s almost synonymous to Shivratri in some communities.  I think it completely makes sense. The kheer made of moong dal, a rich source of protein yet easy on digestion system and jaggery which is unrefined sugar, high in energy,  added with milk, sounds like a perfect recipe which is light but nutritious for a fasting day. Enjoy your healthy treat!

Breakfast/ Events/ Punjabi/ Roti Paratha Dosa & More/ Winter Special

मुळ्याचे पराठे / Muli Paratha and WTML April 2013 Event Announcement with a Giveaway!!

मुळा / Muli or White Radish and शेपू / Savaa or Dill, the two vegetables I hated from my core white I was little. I gave my mom hard time since she either had to convince me for eating it or make something else . Convincing me was a harder task than preparing something else. She tried many ways to hide these vegetables in other dishes. the characteristic smell the two vegetables have turned out to be my biggest advantage.

It was quite rare to have my mom open the door for me as I return from school since her office timings never coincided with my school hours. It was one of those lucky days during Ganapati Festival. The rains were unstoppable and my mom decided to come home early. When I saw her at the door, I could not stop smiling. She then served me a ‘garama-garam’ (hot from the pan) paratha with mango pickle which is her ultimate speciality I have yet to conquer and some yogurt. It was so yummy and so satisfying. You can imagine, the slight coldness in the air with continuous pouring rains, the background Ganapati music which does not stop until power is completely disrupted (including generators)  and these soft, hot yummy parathas. I gave my mom a tight hug and said thank you for such delicious “aloo parathas”. Her smile only became bigger at that point. She replied, “Sure only if aloo was a new name for muli in my dictionary” Duh! Well since then muli paratha has been a permanent entry in our house menu and my favorite dishes.

Muli Paratha

 

Muli Paratha

Muli Paratha

Healthy and hearty Indian flat bread with white radish stuffing!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Method:

  1. Prepare chapati dough by adding chapato flour, salt, red chili powder, turmeric, oil and warm water. 
  2. Add a tsp of hot oil and knead well.
  3. To prepare stuffing, in a medium bowl add grated white radish and boiled and smashed potatoes.
  4. Now add other spices and finely chopped coriander and mix well.
  5. The actual paratha is similar to any other parathas. For detailed instructions follow this procedure.
  6. Serve it hot with pickle and raita.

Tips:

White Radish sometimes has very strong smell. You can squeeze out the water from grated radish by adding some salt to it. By adding fennel seeds and ajwain seeds  help to reduce the strong smell.  Be careful with the salt if you add it to the grated radish, the stuffing and the dough.

 

muli parathaAnd now the Event Announcement! Last year I came across this wonderful event called WTML – Walking Through Memory Lane”. The event is a brainchild of Gayathri, a lovely lady and super innovative cook who writes about her culinary creations at Gayathri’s Cook Spot. As the name suggests, the event is all about recreating your childhood favorite dishes prepared by your mom, gradma, aunt or anyone special in your life. This is our chance to pay a small tribute to their cooking. I was instantly drawn to this idea and I submitted my “Rava Cake” recipe to her event and luckily I was the winner for that month’s giveaway. I received the wonderful book – Chocolate Cookbook by Tarla Dalal from Gayathri.

Long story short, Thanks to Gayathri, I am hosting this month’s WTML event at MyHomeMantra. Here are some simple rules.

  • Make your favorite dish which makes you cherish your childhood moments and also tell us a small story about the dish. Not just the recipe!
  • No restrictions on the number of story telling entries.
  • Only vegetarians dishes please.
  • You can link your old entries if they are reposted with the below links and the logo.
  • Link your post to my announcement page and Gayathri’s  WTML event page. That’s mandatory.
  • Add this logo to your posts, it helps spread the word.
  • Non bloggers can send me your recipes at myhomemantra [at] gmail [dot] com
  • The event is open from April 1 to April 30th

And the Big Giveaway – Gayathri will select an entry through random selection and give away the book for the selected entry.

Note that the books Gayathri gives are not sponsored and it is her own contribution to the event. You get a whole year’s subscription of Tarla Dalal’s Cooking and More as the giveaway. I am not eligible for the give away.

On the first of May, Gayathri will select a lucky winner and send a mail. After receiving her mail,you can give an address to which she has to ship the book. She will ship the book within India so if you reside abroad, please give an address in India for her to ship.

Let’s cherish our childhood memories with this wonderful event!


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!

 

 

Breakfast/ Maharashtrian/ Quick n Healthy/ Superfoods

भाजणीचे थालीपीठ / Bhajaniche Thalipeeth

 Comfort, redefined!

There are times when we eat to find a feeling beyond fullness. We eat looking for a feeling of joy, a momentary salve for sore spirits, a feeling of goodness. At times like these, we usually turn to what we call “comfort food”. वरण भात (Varan Bhaat), rice and dal in its simplest cooked form rates high on my list of “comfort foods”. Then comes the khichadi and my all time favorite –  थालीपीठ (Thalipeeth) with metkut and yogurt!

Bhajaniche ThalipeethIt’s a very common and very typical Maharashtrian recipe and it’s speciality is that it’s a perfect menu for morning, noon or night. It’s made with a flour mixture which is called भाजणी or Bhajani. It’s actually a grounded mixture of whole grains like whole wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, urad dal, chana dal and cumin and coriander seeds. “Bhajane” in Marathi translates to dry roast in English. The whole grains are first dry roasted in a pan and hence the name – “bhajani” and then are ground together to form fine flour which can be stored for months. You can think of it as an instant mix.

thalipeethachi bhajaniIt takes less than 10 minutes to make actual thalipeeth if you have the mix ready.

Thalipeeth-1

 

Bhajaniche Thalipeeth

Bhajaniche Thalipeeth

Hearty pancakes, super quick and super healthy, loaded with healthy carbs and fibre!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

If your bhajani mix contains salt and red chili powder, feel free to adjust the amounts accordingly. Ajwain seeds, fennel seeds and sesame seeds are totally optional but they do add more flavor to every bite. Cilantro and onion help make thalipeeth moist but they are optional too. And same is the case with ginger-galric-chili paste., it's for added flavor. If your bhajani doesn't contain cumin and coriander seeds, you can add 1 table spoon of cumin-coriander powder.

Now the more interesting part - It's just 4 step process - mix everything, put it on a pan, cook and eat with butter! I am getting too excited, I know!

  1. Finely chop your onion and cilantro.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix everything together except for oil and water.
  3. Mix in water gradually to form a firm dough. Taste it and adjust salt to your taste.
  4. Use a little bit oil to knead the dough and mix it together. No real kneading is needed.
  5. Heat a tawa / flat skillet on a medium heat.
  6. Take handful of dough and press it down with your fingers to to roll it out like a pancake, around 1/2 inch thick. Be careful with your hand if the skillet is hot.
  7. If it feels sticky, use some water.
  8. Make three to four holes in it and add few drops of oil in each hole. Also add a few drop surrounding the thalipeeth.
  9. Cover it with a lid and let it cook for 5-6 minutes until you hear crackling sound.
  10. Turn it over and let it cook again for 3-4 minutes.
  11. Wipe the skillet with a wet towel before making the next one.

Serve it hot with yogurt and pickle or chutney. By the way, homemade butter is a must!

I like it with metkut mixed with yogurt and topped with talnachi mirchi! Yum!

This is my entry to Jagruti’s Pancake Day celebration.

Gujarati/ Maharashtrian/ Rice & Dal/ Soup

कढी / Kadhi

I was introduced to ‘Kadhi-Khichadi’ combination by S. I completely admit that it’s a marriage made in heaven; not very common among Maharashtrians but adored by Gujaratis.

It goes without saying that there are couple of variations found through out India – Maharashtrian kadhi, Gujarati kadhi, Punjabi kadhi and sindhi kadhi to name a few. The basic idea is to mix besan and buttermilk with some spices to make spiced, flavorful watery accompaniment to other dishes. You will find more sugar in Gujarati kadhi than any other version, punjabi kadhi has more spices and also pakoras while sindhis like to have vegetables in their kadhi.

Here is the basic kadhi, the version I grew up with – kadhi

Desserts/ Festival Special/ Maharashtrian

रव्याचे लाडू / रवा नारळाचे लाडू / Rava Coconut Laddoo

Nothing makes me miss home more than not being there for Diwali… Waking up early in the morning, getting an oil massage from mom, then a bath with ‘santoor-sandle’ soap bought specially for Diwali, helping her to make rangoli, wearing new clothes, then unlimited firecrackers followed by scrumptious faral with family… Happy Days!

Here’s wishing all my readers a very happy diwali.

May the auspicious festival of lights
illuminate your life in the year ahead with 
Happiness, Health and Prosperity !

To cherish those happy moments from my childhood, I decided to make grandma’s speciality – rava laddoo.

These laddoos are so soft that they melt in your mouth instantly. The fresh coconut adds an extra texture. They are simply out of these world.

Rava Coconut Laddoo

Rava Coconut Laddoo

The best thing I have ever had!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a kadhai, add ghee and keep the flame to low-to-medium.
  2. Once the ghee melts, add fine rava and roast it until you can smell it from outside your kitchen. That's when the rava is nicely roasted.
  3. Once it's done, add freshly grated coconut and roast for some more time and then switch off the gas.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan mix water and the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  5. Boil it for 3-4 minutes and switch it off. This is called 'ektari paak' / sugar syrup.
  6. Add this sugar syrup, to the rava-coconut mixture and mix well. Make sure there are lumps. 
  7. Add cardamom powder and mix again.
  8. Let the mixture cool down for couple hours. Then you can form laddoos.  

This is my gift to Preeti’s Diwali Fest hosted at Preeti’s Kitchen as announced by Surbhi, also to Nupur

Desserts/ Quick n Healthy/ South Indian

Ulunthan Kali

This was my first time participating in Indian Cooking Challenge and I was very excited about it. Srivalli had asked us to prepare a traditional sweet from Tamilnadu. I had never heard the name before and surprisingly none of my Tamil friends were familiar with its name – “Ulunthan Kali”. As Srivalli explained, its known by various other names such as  Kummayam or Adi Kummayam or more popularly Thiruvadhirai Kali. The recipe was given by Padma.

The most impressive thing about this dish is its ingredients.; urad dal, rice, jaggery and sesame oil; all combined together to make a deliciously healthy dessert. The jaggery I used was quite pale in color, next time I plan to use darker jaggery to get a nice golden brown color.

ulunthan kali

Ulunthan kali

Ulunthan kali

A traditional dessert from Tamilnadu.

Note - Sesame oil can be substituted by ghee.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Dry roast urad daal and rice separately on a medium flame. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Grind daal and rice to make a fine powder (consistency of fine rava)
  3. Heat a few table spoons of water in a pan and dissolve the jaggery.  Once it dissolves completely, switch off the heat, strain the water and keep it aside.
  4. In the same pan, take 2 cups of water, add the jaggery syrup to it and bring it to boil.
  5. Add the daal and rice powder to the boiling water, and mix well. Add cashews if you like.
  6. Let it cool for 4-5 minutes, until it reaches halwa like consistency. 
  7. Add sesame oil or ghee and mix well. Let it cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  8. Finally add some cardamom powder and keep the lid closed and take it off the heat.
  9. You might want to add a pinch of salt to balance out sweetness.

When I told my colleague that I was going to try Kali recipe, he got very excited. He started explaining me the recipe and he referred Sesame oil as “Nalla Ennai”. Sesame oil is so good for health that they refer to it as “Good Oil” in colloquial Tamil. I must admit, I really liked the flavor.

Urad daal helps improve our immune system and jaggery is rich in calcium and iron. This sweet is so nutritious that it’s given to girls especially at the time of puberty to strengthen their spinal cord and back bones. I really liked it.

Maharashtrian/ Smoothie/ Upvasache Padarth

ताक / Chaas / Buttermilk

A pure, simple summer refresher

Buttermilk has always been an integral part of traditional Maharashtrian meal. Imagine coming home from scorching heat and sipping on a glass of cold, lightly spiced homemade buttermilk. There is no better thirst quencher!

 

It’s very simple, just takes 5 minutes to mix everything together.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk

Churned yogurt wil a pinch of cooling spices and herbs. A natural summer refresher!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Beat the yogurt nicely and mix with water
  2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  3. Serve cold. (You may also add ice)

If you like you can also add finely chopped cilantro and mint leaves. In South India, it's served with curry leaves.

Surprisingly not everyone knows about buttermilk. One of my colleagues thought it was made by adding milk to butter. It actually referes to the liquid left over after extracting the butter from churned yogurt. The churning process causes some of the lactose – milk sugar, to be converted into lactic acid by the bacteria, which gives the buttermilk a slightly sour taste and makes it easier to digest by lactose-intolerant people. In USA this is called “traditional buttermilk” and of course this is how we make it at home.

The buttermilk we get in supermarkets is called “Cultured Buttermilk”. t is prepared from pasteurized skim or low-fat milk by fermentation with bacteria that produces lactic acid.

source – http://www.webexhibits.org/butter/buttermilk.html

Off to Radhika’s Chilled Delights, Tomato Blues Summer Spirits, Preeti’s Jump n Jive, Surabhi’s EP SEries – Mint n Coriander started by Erivum Puliyum.

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