30 July 2008

Experimenting with avacado

Avacados being put to many uses...
I followed her recipe for avacado parathas. They were super soft, buttery rotis. Yum!

Guacamole, ofcourse!

A lime-avacado drink - refreshing and tangy.
Avacado milkshake - when I've run out of ideas and forgotten to take pictures.

24 July 2008

Summer fruits: Dates

UAE summers are extremely hot. Well, that is an understatement. A short walk outside and you are searing, tired and completely dehydrated. But there is a beautiful side to the scorching summer – dates! Ever street, park, beach area is lined with date palms laden with plump, ripe fruit, waiting to be plucked. The young yellow dates turn a deep red as they ripen and black when they dry.
A 100 gram portion of fresh dates is an excellent source of vitamin A, B and C, carbohydrates, protein, iron and other minerals and amino acids. 100 grams of dates supplies 230 kcal of energy. Dry or soft dates are eaten as such or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, candied orange, lemon peel, marzipan or cream cheese. It is very popular to gift chocolate covered dates on festive occasions. Dates are also used in a variety of desserts.

Date syrup or date honey, commonly available at supermarkets, is consumed with milk as an energy provider. It can also be used as a topping for icecream, pancakes, yoghurt, waffles or Danish pastries. Or even on kulfi.

For a power packed energy drink, blend together 5 dates, 10 figs and 15 raisins with a glass of milk - drives away fatigue instantly.

Read more about the nutritional benefits of dates here, here and here. Did you know that dates could be the oldest food producing plant? Read this.

20 July 2008


I've seen many vendors in my part of the world selling dried little blossoms called karkade and wondered how popular it was with the Arab women - aren't they a fashionable lot? Someone suggested using karkade as a natural hair conditioner and colouring agent, I bought a bunch and used it regularly along with henna, but I didn't see it having any effect on my hair colour! I had no idea what karkade was, only after seeing this post did I learn it was the good, old and very common hibiscus!

The outer leaves of the hibiscus flower called the hibiscus calyx/ rosella/ natal sorrel/ karkadé is commonly used in many parts of the world to make hot and cold infusions. Nutritionally, it contains vitamin C, flavinoids, amino acids and other antioxidants, and its extract has been used in medicine to improve metabolism, liver and pancreas function, reduce fevers, clear a blocked nose, regulate appetite, improve digestion, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, improve resistance and reduce eye fatigue. Karkade is Egyptian hibiscus tea believed to be the preferred drink of the Pharoahs. In Egypt and Sudan, wedding celebrations are traditionally toasted with a glass of hibiscus tea. In other parts of Africa, roselle is used to make wine, in the Caribbean as tea with ginger and other spices, in Guatemala to cure a hangover. Hot or cold, it is a delicious drink having a ruby-red wine hue and tastes tart like a pomegranate or cranberry juice. Read more about karkade here, here and here.

For the hibiscus tea, you'll need:

1 cup water
a handful of karkade petals
sugar or honey as per taste

Boil the water along with the karkade petals and simmer for five minutes. Add sugar/honey and cover for a few minutes till it infuses. Serve hot like tea.

I made the hibiscus cordial from Happy Cook's blog but cut down the quantity.

For the hibiscus cordial you'll need:

2 cups karkade
2 cups sugar
3 cups water

Heat the sugar and water till the sugar dissolves completely. Add the karkade and bring it to a boil. Reduce the flame and simmer till the volume reduces and you get a deep red syrup. Remove from flame, strain and cool. Bottle the syrup in sterilised bottles - keeps well in the fridge.

To serve add one part syrup to nine parts water and mix well. Top with some ice cubes and a dash of lime.

This goes for MBP to Nupur of One Hot Stove who says Less is More.

This also goes to JFI-Edile FLowers hosted at Soul Food and Summer Splash hosted at Nalabhagham.

17 July 2008

Cherry Icecream with Chocolate Chips

With a whole lot of fruits picked from the market, summer has been a fruity fiesta for us! We generally eat up the fruits as such but with a watermelon, cherries, apricots, plums, rambutans and honeydew melon, there was an imminent threat of spoilage. The rambutans were eaten up first, then the huge water melon juiced and before the cheery cherries shriveled with age, I had to find a recipe to use them. And this luscious cherry icecream was born.

I stuck to my method of making a basic icecream and adding the cherry flavour later as it works well for me. The icecream is creamy and does not form ice crystals when frozen. I also don't prefer adding eggs to the icecream. The recipe given here is heavily inspired by Mike's Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Stracciatella. I totally loved the pairing of cherry with chocolate. His method of adding stracciatella towards the end of the churning process seemed a bit cumbersome for me since I do not use an icecream maker. I did add chocolate chips instead - I used Hersheys semi-sweet chocolate chips - though I do think the stracciatella would have tasted far better. Adding the lime juice gave the icecream a slight tang which was refreshing.

You'll need:

1 recipe basic icecream

250 gms cherries

2 - 3 tbsp sugar

Juice of one lime

A handful of chocolate chips

Make the basic icecream as given here.

For the cherry flavour/jam:

Cut the cherries in half and pit them. Put the cherries in a saucepan, add the sugar and cook them on a low flame till the cherries release their juices and the sugar dissolves. Cook till the cherries soften, it took me around 15 minutes. Take off from flame and let it cool. Puree the cherries till smooth, unless you prefer chunks in your icecream. A lip-smacking cherry jam is ready. It can also be used as a topping for the icecream.

When the basic icecream has set, cut it into pieces, add the lime juice and churn for 5 minutes. Then add the cherry jam/puree and churn again for 2 minutes. Now add the chocolate chips and mix lightly. Transfer to an air-tight container and freeze till set. Serve topped with cherry jam/fresh cherries/ chocolate chips.

Verdict: It was a refreshing fruity, tangy, creamy, chocolaty sensation that we licked our bowls clean. Highly recommended if you find fresh cherries in your region.

Other drool-worthy icecreams at Currybazaar:

Strawberry Icecream

Watermelon Icecream

Kesar Malai Kulfi

Sending this off to Paajaka Recipes for Sweet Series: Cool Desserts , WYF - Juices and Icecreams, WBB - Summer Feast at Monsoon Spice.

14 July 2008

Gobi Manchurian: from Chinatown

Did you know Manchurian sauce does not belong to Chinese cuisine? It is, infact a creation of a group of Chinese immigrants who settled in the back-alleys of Kolkatta and aptly called the district Chinatown. To cater to their vegetarian clientele, they used the local vegetables, spiced up with the condiments they brought along with them to create the Manchurian sauce which has been a phenomenal success!

And that is why this dish is Indo-Chinese, spiced up suitably for the Indian palette and very different from the real, authentic Chinese cuisine. Gobi manchurian is deep fried cauliflower florets in manchurian sauce. It is the best way to use up a huge cauliflower you are stuck with. Or broccoli for that matter. Both work well. Depending on whether you want to serve it as an appetizer or gravy, adjust the quantity of stock used. I have not used MSG/ajinomoto in the recipe given below. You may change the measurements of the spices to suit your taste.

You'll need:

2 cups cauliflower florets
2 tbsp flour
2-3 tbsp cornflour
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
Mix the flour and cornflour with little water to form a thin batter. Add salt and pepper to it. Dip the cauliflower florets in it and deep fry till golden. Remove to paper towels and cool.

For the sauce:
1 tbsp garlic chopped
1/2 tbsp ginger chopped
3-4 green chillies slit
1 1/2 - 2 cups vegetable stock/water
1 tsp vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp cornflour mixed in water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chopped coriander leaves
Spring onions/scallions for garnish

In a wok, heat oil/butter and stir-fry garlic, green chillies and ginger for a minute. Add the stock/water, salt, pepper, soy sauce, vinegar and mix well. Bring the sauce to a boil and add the cornflour paste. Cook for a minute or two till it thickens. Add the fried cauliflower florets just before serving and garnish with spring onions and coriander leaves.

Note: To serve gobi manchurian as gravy, increase the quantity of stock.

Other Indo-Chinese dishes on this blog:
This goes to AWED - Chinese hosted at Culinary Bazaar.

6 July 2008

A few of my favourite things: Sambar

What memories does a tamarind evoke? Of putting a tiny bit into the mouth and instantly shutting the eyes tightly and twisting the lips into a strange pout as the sharp tangy and sour flavours explode into the senses leaving a subtle sweetness at the same time....

Or of the tamarind tree in school, the meeting point which protected us from the sun and rain, waiting for friends after school before walking back home....

Or the lone tamarind tree, at the far corner of the house at my native village, which provides the entire family across three generations their annual supply of the fruit....

Or the delicious sambar exuding an enticing aroma of curry leaves, spices and tamarind?

Sambar conjures the image of a very satisfying, homely meal with rice, a thoran(stir-fry) and pappadam or a lavish sadya(feast) where one asks for endless servings of sambar to accompany every other item on the menu. Every South Indian household has its own version of sambar. The recipe given here is for sambar with freshly ground masala. A large variety of vegetables like pumkin, ashgourd, bottlegourd, carrots, taro, capsicum, small green/purple brinjals/eggplants, large onions or small pearl onions, drumstick, okra etc. Pearl onions are very popular with sambar lovers though I personally don't care much for them. Tempering the sambar with ghee makes it aromatic and tastier. Serve sambar with idlis, dosas or plain, steamed rice.

You'll need:
1/2 to 3/4 cup toor dal
1 1/2 cups of diced vegetables of your choice - red pumkin, ashgourd, bottlegourd, carrots, taro, capsicum, small green/purple brinjals/eggplants
a handful of pearl onions/shallots
1-2 drumsticks cut into 2 inch pieces
3-4 okra cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large tomato chopped into large chunks
A small lime-sized ball of tamarind - if using old, dark tamarind, a marble sized ball will do
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
a handful of coriander leaves for garnishing

For the sambar masala:
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp methi seeds
2-3 dry red chillies (the spicy variety)
a few curry leaves
1 tbsp oil/ghee for roasting

For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies
a pinch of hing/asafoetida
a few curry leaves

Wash and soak the toor dal so that it cooks fast. Place the toor dal with water, a pinch of turmeric and salt in a pressure cooker separator and the chopped pearl onions and vegetables except the tomatoes, okra and drumsticks, in another separator above the dal and pressure cook till the dal and vegetables are done. Cook the drumsticks in a vessel with sufficient water, some turmeric and salt till tender. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water and extract the pulp, discarding the seeds. Then add the tamarind extract to the drumsticks and let it boil for a few more minutes.

Dry roast the coconut in a heavy bottomed pan till golden-brown and remove. In the same pan heat 1 tbsp of oil/ghee and roast the remaining spices for the masala till aromatic. Remove from flame and cool. Grind the spices and coconut with very little water to a fine paste.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil/ghee and add mustard and other items for the tempering. Add the chopped okra and fry till soft. Add the tomato, ground masala paste, drumsticks, tamarind extract and cooked vegetables and allow it to simmer till the tomatoes are soft. Add the cooked dal and adjust consistency. The sambar should neither be too thick nor too thin. Check salt and seasoning. Bring the sambar to a gentle boil and switch off the gas. Mix in the coriander leaves and serve hot sambar with rice, idlis or dosas.

1 July 2008

Balle, balle....it's Dahi Bhalle with Date-Tamarind Chutney

Dahi bhalle or dahi wadas are always the best item on any menu. Soft lentil dumplings covered with creamy yoghurt and sprinkled with spices, these beauties are served with lunch or dinner or even for brunch! The wadas freeze well, so one can make large batches and freeze them in airtight containers or ziploc bags. They also form a good base for chaats like Delhi chaat or Jaipuri chaat.

You'll need:

1 cup urad dal
1/2 inch piece ginger
2 green chillies
Oil for frying
Salt/sugar to taste
Whipped yoghurt

Jeera powder
Red chilli powder
Coriander leaves for garnish

Soak the urad dal for 2-3 hours in plenty of water. Drain and grind with ginger and chillies to a fine batter using very little water. Add salt and whip with hands till fluffy. Heat oil in a pan and drop small lemon sized balls of the batter. Fry on medium flame till golden brown. Remove on to paper towels and cool. Freeze till needed.

Variation: you can add 1/4 cup channa dal to the soaked urad dal for softer wadas.

Before serving, soak the wadas in hot water for 10 minutes to make them soft and moist. This also removes the excess oil from the wadas. Squeeze the wadas slightly (you may flatten them if you like) and place them on the serving bowl. Beat the yoghurt with salt/sugar and pour over the wadas. Sprinkle red chilli powder, jeera powder and coriander leaves over it. Chill the wadas for 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and date-tamarind chutney.

For date-tamarind chutney:

250 gms dates
250gms jaggery
100gms tamarind
2 tbsp jeera powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
a pinch of garam masala powder
1 heaped tsp black salt
salt to taste

Pressure cook the tamarind, dates and jaggery for 2 whistles. Cool, grind and seive the mixture. Add the seasonings, adjust consistency and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes stirring continuously. Cool completely and refridgerate in sterilized glass jars.

This recipe makes chutney on a large scale - the chutney keep well refridgerated. You can cut down the measurements to make a small quantity.
Dahi-bhalle with date-tamarind chutney is my entry to Siri's Frozen Yoghurt event and Sig's JFI-Tamarind - just made it!!