October 19, 2018

Malai chamcham, the long way by accident

Malai chamcham

Shubho bijoya everyone. Here the temperatures dropped right before the pujo, so it has been a lot colder this year.

But that doesn't dampen the festival spirits, right? Even though the work week is busy and regular stuff and pujo is over the weekend, it's fun to make something special during the week.

Growing up, Durga pujo was more about meeting friends, fun, and eating out more than the religion part, and I am hoping that kids get some of those moments too. Even if it means carrying the Pokemon tins, chess boards and coordinating with friends.

It turned out to be fun, they sat around and played chess and games while we caught up on our end.

During the week, I made malai chamcham. I didn't intend to make it the long way, but it turned out to be so. I forgot to follow the advice I give out here and put sugar in the heavy cream in the beginning. So I started over again for malai, this time with whole milk. The result of it all - delicious malai chamchams, that reminded us of sweet goodness during the busy work week.

Here is how I made it:

(makes about 8-10 medium chamchams)
For chamchams:
1/2 gallon whole milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 cups sugar
3 cups water
3-4 cardamoms
dash of rose syrup

For malai:
2 cups whole milk
pinch of saffron strands soaks in milk
1/4 cup sugar

Making chana/paneer:
Bring the mil to a boil and when it starts to boil, add the lemon juice till all the milk curdles. Wash it under water, tie it in a cheese cloth and let the extra whey drip.

Making chamchams:
I prefer to do it with plain chana, without the semolina or maida/all-purpose flour. Get ready for some hand exercise. Start kneading the chana/paneer with your hands till it becomes soft with a dough texture.

Then take a little in your palm and roll it with both hands in a circle, then elongate it to make a cylinder shape.

Keep them on a plate as they are done.

Boil the sugar with the water and cardamom in a pressure cooker till it disappears and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

Once the syrups is ready, add the chamchams in the pressure cooker gently, taking care that it doesn't disintegrate. Now steam the rasgulla balls in the sugar syrup on medium heat for two whistles. Take it off the heat and let it cool.

Making malai:
Take the milk and boil it over low medium heat over 30-45 minutes till it thickens. This is the long way, the easier one would be to take some condensed milk, or heavy cream and thicken that. It will be much faster.

Once the consistency is thick, add in the saffron and the sugar and cook for another 5-10 minutes till they mix well.

Malai chamcham

Serve the malai over the chamchams.   Enjoy!

September 25, 2018

Squash bounty

Summer squash with paprika

It's that time in the farmer's market when every vendor is eager to get rid of their zucchinis and summer squashes.

They are plentiful, there are everywhere and they are cheap. And pretty much every time I go, I pick up some. You can get a nice long one for a dollar or a mix for a couple of bucks.

I planted a few zucchini plants this summer, but I didn't get any zucchinis. I got a lot of flowers, but no zucchinis, but with farmer market I have nothing to worry about.

This is the new favorite - zucchins and squashes strifried with some curry leaves and paprika. It turned out really good, and we munched on some as an appetizer while we waited for the rice and dal to be done.

(serves 3-4)
2 medium zucchinis
1 medium summer squash
8-12 curry leaves
1 red chili
1/2 tspoon paprika powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
2-3 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Wash and cut the zucchini in equal sized round pieces.

In a shallow pan, heat the oil. Then add in the turmeric powder, the red chili and the curry leaves.

Add int he zucchini and summer squash pieces till they are coated in the turmeric.

Stir-fry them for 2-3 minutes. Then add int he paprika, cumin seed powder and salt.

Cover the pan with a cover and let it cook for 5 minutes on low-medium heat. I didn't add any water, the zucchini and the summer squash will let you water that will help them cook.

Take the lid off, mix it all together and check if they are done. If not, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Summer squash with paprika

Serve hot with some dal, and rice. It even makes nice appetizer. Enjoy.

September 18, 2018

Lemon rice or lime rice? It's still delicious

Lemon rice

I am finding it's hard to come back to regular blogging after taking a break. The time is taken up by other things - taking kids to their appointments, work, laundry, you name it.

But that doesn't mean that I am not cooking, or am not as excited when I try a new recipe. Slowly, but surely I am making my way back here.

For Ganesh chaturthi this year, we had some friends over to make for modaks and idlis. There was lemon rice, coconut rice, sambar, bhaji, chutney, fried stuffed anaheim peppers and vermicelli payasam to go with it.

My MIL makes the best lemon rice. She makes it whenever she is visiting and this time I made it using her recipe. I didn't have lemons so I substituted lime. It turned out great.

It is a staple around festivals so I am noting it here. I haven't added any nuts, but some peanuts or cashews also taste great in it.

2 cups rice
Juice from 21/2 lemons/limes

For tempering:
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1 tspoon mustard seeds
1/4 tspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
1 tbspoon chana dal
1 tbspoon urad dal
handful of curry leaves
salt to taste
2 tbspoon oil

Lemon rice  
Cook rice till it is just done. I just cook it on stovetop and check till it is done. Drain and spread the on a plate or tray to dry and cool.

In a separate bowl,  mix the lemon juice with some salt and 1/4 tspoon of turmeric powder. Then slowly add it to the rice and mix it.

Then heat the oil in a wok or karai. The wok helps mix the rice with the rest of the ingredients. Once the oil it hot, add in the asafoetida, then the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the chana and urad dal.

Then add the red and green chilis, the rest of the turmeric powder, salt and last the curry leaves.

Now time to add in the rice slowly, a little at a time and mixing it with the rest of the ingredients.

Once it's all mixed in take it off the heat.

Lemon rice It's ready to serve.

July 20, 2018

Cucumber, herbs and onion salad for summer

Cucumber, herb and onion salad

If you follow my Instagram, you know that I just harvested a couple of cucumbers from the garden. I planted cucumbers for the first time last year and liked getting cucumbers for a quick salad from the garden when they were ready.

This year, the cucumber plants have sort of taken over the garden. There are two pepper plants growing next to them, but are now completely hidden by these massive cucumber plants.

I am wondering if I should move the pepper plants. Do you think it will survive the move?

I took both the cucumbers and used it for dinner last night. I cut some cucumber for the kids and for us, I made a quick cucumber salad. For this sudden inspiration, I just used what was available at home, and like most of the recipes here can be customized to your ingredients and taste.

I used basil and parsley - herbs growing in the front porch. But cilantro and mint would taste good too. I used aged cheddar cheese but feta would also be a good option. The onions give a kick so I would recommend it.

Add a slice of crusty bread and it can make a good lunch option too.

Here is how I did it.

(serves 2)

1 1/2 medium cucumbers
handful of basil - chopped
handful of parsley - chopped
1/4 cup chopped cheddar cheese
1/4 onion - thin slices and separated

For dressing
1/2 tspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tspon lemon juice
salt to taste
some fresh ground black pepper

Peel and cut the cucumbers to cubes. Add in the herbs, onions and cheese.
Whisk the dressing in a separate bowl and pour it over the salad.

Cucumber, herb and onion salad

Mix and serve.

July 16, 2018

Vietnamese summer rolls

Vietnamese summer rolls

It's been a while since Nicole and I did a cooking play date. We were finally able to find a time to cook together and we decided on making some Korean bibin bap.

It turned out great, except, we forgot to take pictures. We were so busy talking and having fun that it totally slipped our minds to take pictures. I promise to come back with the recipe and step by step picture.

But I do have some summer rolls to share with you. This is what you need to survive the hot summer -- with some crunch, fresh herbs and a tangy dip.

Your need a rice paper, some fresh vegetables, maybe some protein and some fresh herbs. The rolling is the key and once you do a couple the rest will get easy. The only trick is to do it quick, before the paper gets too sticky.

Here is how we did it.

(serves 4)

 6-8, 9" round rice papers
1 cucumber peeled and cut in long strips
1 pepper cut in thin, long strips
small bunch of lettuce leaves - separated
fresh basil leaves

For dipping sauce
1/2 lemon juice
dash of sesame oil
2 1/2 tbspoon soy sauce
1/4 tspoon sugar
some sesame seeds

Vietnamese summer rolls

Get all the ingredients for summer rolls chopped and ready. I kept it simple, but you could add some fish (shrimps are popular), or chicken or even tofu and make it a meal.

Mix the pepper and cucumber with some lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. Set it aside for 10 minutes.

Once you are ready to make the rolls, get a couple of pepper and a couple of cucumber sticks and put them inside a lettuce leaves. This way you won't be putting it all separately.

Now the rice paper has to be soaked in water to get the summer rolls ready. Some recipes I saw called for luke warm water. I just used room temperature and it worked nicely.

Once you are ready to assemble, take a big bowl of water and soak the rice paper in it for about 30 seconds.

Take the rice paper out and lay it on a board. Put 3-4 basil leaves in the middle of the paper. Then add the lettuce packet on top. and roll the paper from both sides to make a roll. Then cut in through the middle. Assemble them till they are all ready.

Vietnamese summer rolls
To serve, cut the rolls in diagonal to serve. Mix all the ingredients of the dipping sauce it's ready to serve.

May 26, 2018

Lime and sour cream bundt cake

Lime and sour cream cake

I stumbled upon this recipe while making a cake for a colleague's baby shower. I had a whole bunch of limes and while I came across lemon and sour cream cake recipes, I didn't find any for lime. But one can hardly go wrong, right?

So I substituted and made some small changes and the lime and sour cream recipe is ready. If you are entertaining or going for a get together on memorial day, this is a great and easy cake for the occasion.

The tartness of the lime glaze on top really adds freshness to the cake. 

21/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tspoon baking powder
1/2 tspoon baking soda
1/4 tspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tspoon lime zest
2 tbspoon lime juice
1 tspoon vanilla extract

For glazing:
2 tbspoon lime juice
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbspoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degF. Butter and flour the bundt pan and set it aside.

I like to strain my dry ingredients together. It takes out any lumps etc. Strain flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Keep it aside.

Beat oil and sugar together for a couple of minutes. Then add in the sour cream and zest and mix till the mixture is smooth.

Add in the eggs, one at a time and mix until combined. Then add in the lime juice and vanilla extract.

Next, it time to mix the flour. Add in the flour in three batches, mixing it in low speed until everything is combined and smooth.

Add the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 55-60 minutes till the toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cake before glazing.
Lime and sour cream cake

Combine the lime juice, powdered sugar and water together to make a glaze. Pour it over the cake and let it dry.

May 16, 2018

Enchorer Kalia

Enchorer Kalia

Summers in India meant mangoes and jackfruits. Growing up, we would visit my thankuma's bari (paternal grandmom) every summer and it was a feast of the summer fruits - jamrul, aam, kathal to name a few.

There are mango trees in the yard and a huge jackfruit tree in the front which would be laden with giant jack fruits. We would eat aam (mangoes) and kathal or enchor as it is called in bengali almost with every meal. 

The ripe jackfruit has a sweet smell and is eaten as a fruit. The unripe one (enchor) is sticky and is generally cooked as a vegetable. 

It has been a while since I had some. So when I found some frozen one in the Indian store, I picked it up. I cooked it very much like a fish or a chicken kalia with onions and ginger garlic. I didn't add any potatoes or shrimp although both of them are popular choices and go very well with enchor or jackfruit. 

Here is how I cooked it:

1 pack frozen jackfruit
1 medium onion - chopped thinly
2- garlic cloves - grated
1"  ginger - grated
1 big tomato - grated
2-3 bay leaves
2-3 cardamoms
1 stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
1 tbspoon yogurt
1 tspoon cumin powder
1 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon chilli powder 
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon garam masala powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1 tspoon raisins

1 tspoon ghee
2 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Thaw the jackfruits and toss them in salt, 1/2 of turmeric powder and 1/2 of the red chill powder and set them aside. 

Heat half of the oil in a thick bottomed pan and lightly fry the jackfruit pieces.

Enchorer Kalia
Heat the rest of the oil and temper it with bay leaves,  cumin seeds and the whole cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves.

Enchorer Kalia

Then add the grated garlic and onions and saute for 5-6 minutes. 
Enchorer Kalia

Add the grated tomato, ginger and the rest of the masala. Saute for another couple of minutes till is all come together nicely. 
Enchorer Kalia

Add in the enchor pieces, raisins and the yogurt along with a cup and a half of water and let it cook for 8-10 minutes on medium low flame and close lid till the curry starts to thicken and the jack fruit is cooked. 

Enchorer Kalia

Add in the garam masala powder and the ghee and take it off the heat. 

Let it sit for a few minutes. Serve hot with rice.



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