29 March 2016

Mirch-Cauliflower Kolhapuri

A famous dish from the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, the Veg Kolhapuri is made with a unique spice mix and vegetables cooked in an equally spicy gravy. Here's a slightly cut-down version using the 'Bajji' green chilies and Cauliflower.
Veg Kolhapuri
Kolhapuri Masala : Cinnamon 1" stick
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Fennel seed(saunf) powder 1/2 tsp
Star Anise (Chakri phool) 1
Bay leaves 2
Black Cardamoms 2
Black peppercorns 7-8
Other Ingredients :
Ginger -garlic paste - 1 tsp
Mixed boiled vegetables - 1.5 cups
Oil 4 tbsps 1/2
Dry coconut (khopra) grated
Cloves 8
Black peppercorns 8
Poppy seeds (khuskhus/posto) 1 tsp
Coriander seeds 1 tsp
Whole dry red chillies 6
Onions chopped 2 large
Tomatoes chopped 2 large
Red chilli powder 1 1/2 tsps
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves chopped

1. Grind all the ingredients of the Kolhapuri garam masala to an almost fine powder and keep aside.
2. Heat two tbsps oil in a kadai. Add grated kopra, cloves, peppercorns, khus-khus, coriander seeds, red chillies and lightly fry.
3. Keep aside 1/4th of the chopped onions aside and add remaining to the pan. Cook till it turns slightly brown. Cool & grind these ingredients to a paste with a little water.
4. Heat remaining 2 tbsps oil in another pan. Add the remaining chopped onions and sauté till brown. Add the ginger-garlic paste and continue to sauté.
5. Now add chopped tomatoes, haldi, red chilli powder, ground masala paste, half cup water and cook for two minutes.
6. Add the boiled vegetables, simmer for four to five minutes. Add the Kolhapuri masala powder, check for salt and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.

28 March 2016

Coriander Pulao

         If you are running out of ideas and time for cooking rice but looking to make something spicy, this Pulao is for you!! 
Long grain Basmati rice - 1 cup (washed)
Mixed vegetables, chopped into long pieces - 1.5 cups
Fresh coriander (dhaniya) leaves, chopped - 1/2 cup
Green Chili - 1 medium
Cloves - 3-4
Bay leaf - 1 medium
Cumin (Jeera) seeds - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Ghee-roasted Peanuts or Cashews (optional)

1. Grind together the coriander leaves and green chili to a paste. Keep aside.
2. Heat ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds, cloves and bay leaf. Saute a bit. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and the coriander paste and mix well. Let cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add to a pressure pan/cooker along with the washed rice and 1.5 cups water and pressure cook up to 2-3 whistles. Reduce heat and let it be for about 7-8 minutes more. Remove from flame and let the pressure release naturally.
4. Give the pulao a stir and check for salt. Garnish with the ghee-roasted nuts if desired. Serve hot with raita and papads.

21 March 2016

Strawberry Thandai Lassi

           Indian food is amazingly well-designed and balanced to suit the changing seasons, and seasonal availability of vegetables as well. With the Spring equinox, when days become longer and warmer (hotter, even!) the focus shifts to foods that provide the body much needed energy and keep it cool at the same time. Thandai is one such power drink. Inspired by my co-bloggers who came up with wonderful Thandai-based recipes for the 31st Bloghop (that I missed!!), I tried my own fusion. (Thandai recipe courtesy :Alka Jena. Link mentioned below)
Ingredients :
Fresh Curds - 2 cups
Diced Strawberries - 1 cup
Powdered sugar - 1/ 2 cup
Thandai masala powder - 2 tbsps (recipe here)
Whole medium-sized strawberries  - a few
Method :
1. Add the curds, diced strawberries and sugar in a mixer jar and blend well. Alternately, use a hand blender if you do not want the strawberries too finely ground.
2. Add the thandai masala and blend again. Check for taste and add more if you need it spicier.
3. Transfer to a bowl and carefully pour into serving glasses. Cut small wedges into the whole strawberries and garnish the glass rims with it.
Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Mixed Vegetable Tikka

              For a nation that takes its food and colours very seriously...Holi is one such festival; where there is a perfect combination of both, colours and colourful food!! Here's a spicy 'Holi'day snack idea that you can relish with your family and friends after all the fun. 
Ingredients :
Vegetables of choice (diced into large pieces) - Cauliflower, Red, Green and Yellow bell peppers, Broccoli, Onion, Zucchini
Paneer (large cubes) 
Tofu (optional) - cut into large cubes
Marination :
Curd (as drained as possible)- 1/2 cup (Increase quantity according to amount of vegetables you will marinate in one batch)
Roasted gram flour (Besan) - 1 tbsp
Garam masala powder - 1.5 tsps
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tsp
Red chili powder - 1 tsp
Fresh coriander leaves - 1 few

Method :
1. Blanch cauliflower and broccoli florets in boiled water along with turmeric. Drain and wash with cold water. Keep aside. 
2. Blend together ginger-garlic, 1 tbsp curd, gram flour and coriander leaves. Add half the remaining curds, salt to taste, chili powder, turmeric powder and whisk well.  Divide this mixture into 2 bowls - one for the vegetables and one for paneer/tofu. 
3. Drop in the veggies and gently mix to coat them evenly with the marination. Leave aside for 20-30 mins. Do the same with the paneer/tofu cubes.
4. Heat a grill pan and pour a little oil. Using long skewer sticks, pierce and arrange the vegetables and paneer/tofu pieces alternately as desired. Place gently on the grill pan and let cook on medium flame till golden brown on all sides. 
Another option is to arrange them on a baking tray, brush with oil & grill at 180 deg C till done.
5. Remove and drain excess oil. Using a fork, carefully transfer the tikka on to the serving plate, or serve with the skewers intact too! 
Serve sizzling hot Tikka with green chutney and ketchup with some sliced onion on the side.

19 March 2016

Cozy Den @Jerry's Den

              Some people have dreams, and some dreamers have visions. Sometimes in one magical moment, dreams and visions are met by opportunity, and then everything starts falling into place!! That's precisely what happened with Neelima Sriram that resulted in Jerry's Den. This MasterChef India Season4 contestant, who has spent many years abroad, finally found her calling and roots in Chennai. After conducting many successful cooking sessions in the city, and also braving the rains of 2015, Neelima had her patience and perseverance rewarded in the form of this swanky, cozy café on Eldams Road. Like they say, When it's right-it's right...
              The dream child of Neelima Sriram and Kala Pillai, and proudly supported by their equal halves, Jerry's Den is located strategically on the arterial Eldams road, that connects the ever bustling T.T.K Road with Anna Salai, the Salon-cum-Café is pretty hard to miss. If you still need help, ask anyone for Toni and Guy Essensuals or better, the salon/Café that a famous South Indian actor inaugurated (:)) and you'll be happily guided to it.
               We entered the café and were greeted by an excited and ever-cheerful Neelima. It was so great to meet her for the first time in person; with some people you just tend to make that connect!! She guided us upstairs where the café is housed, above the salon....the primary concept being - offering clients a quick and healthy bite while, before or after getting their salon treatments done. Oh, and did I mention that Jerry's Den is 100% Vegetarian??
               One look at the menu, and you know you are going to be spoilt for choice, in a healthy way though. The offerings are sorted between : Sandwiches, Pasta, Coolers, Tea and Dessert. After having drooled at the menu pages the time came to make my choice :) I chose the Broccoli and Cheese Grilled Panini, Pasta di Pomodoro and the Laal Maat Alfredo Fettucine for me and my parents. In the interim I couldn't help sneak a peak into the chef's kitchen and was not at all surprised to see a proud and excited Chef Neelima at work :) She works with a small team that matches her zeal.
               I began with a bite into the soft Panini. With just the right amount of veggies, cooked just right and cheese the way I like it (lots!!), I was in DND mode already!! It was served with a warm Garden salad that again, you would want to wolf down without waiting for courtesies!! 
           Once done, it was time to attack the Penne. Both the pasta dishes were a delight. There was a bite to them, literally 'Al dente' and were generously doused in rich sauces. The Laal maat Alfredo Fettucine was quite a revelation. Using the humble and healthy Amaranth/Rajgira leaves in the Alfredo sauce lent it a lovely colour. Being a pasta lover myself, this is one idea I am going to use as much as I can. 
Thanks for the inspiration Neelima :)
               The sauces for both the dishes were mildly spiced and I could actually relish the flavours of the individual ingredients. One humble suggestion here...though it's more a fine dining requirement, I love having bread on the side with my pasta, plus it helps clean up the leftover sauce! It would be criminal to have such lovely sauce wasted, so it might be an idea to serve some warm bread on the side.
               Main course wiped off, it was time for dessert. I requested Neelima to help me out here and she right away suggested the much in demand Lemon Tea cake with Lemon flavoured Crémeux and Honey-comb. 
               The cake & crémeux were absolutely melt-in-the-mouth, warm, mildly flavoured; this is another dish you would want to clean off on your own. They also have exotic teas and coolers on the menu. Wish I could have tasted the other dishes on offer as well, I was so tempted, but sadly was already so well-fed that I mentally shelved that desire for my next visit! 
Jerry's Den, you are here to stay and I am already looking forward to its expansion in the city :) When it's right..it's right!!
Address : New No.107, Old No.47, Eldams Road, Teynampet, Chennai (Near actor SSR's home, yep, that's another good to know landmark!!)

Quick fix Sambhar

          Sambhar, the perfect accompaniment for Idlis and dosas. But if you are in a rush and need to put together a sambhar for your family or guests, give this quick recipe a go!! 
Ingredients :
Split Pigeon peas (Arahar dal) or Masoor Dal - 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Tomatoes - 2 (medium)
Sambhar Onion - 2
Coriander seeds = 1 tsp
Dry Red Chili - 1 medium or Readymade Sambhar powder
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander leaves
Curry leaves
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida (Hing) powder - 1/4 tsp, optional

1. Grind tomatoes, onions, dry red chili (avoid if using sambhar powder) and coriander seeds to a paste using sufficient water.
2. Pressure cook arahar dal with turmeric powder till done. 
3. Add 1 cup water to a saucepan along with the ground paste (and sambhar powder if using it) and salt to taste. Let simmer on medium heat till it leaves the raw aroma.
4. Mash the cooked dal with a little water and add it to the simmering mix with coriander and curry leaves.
5. Prepare tempering by heating sesame oil, add mustard seeds, let splutter. Add the methi seeds taking care not to let it become too brown. Use a pinch hing powder as well if you need some extra aroma. Add to the sambhar and check for salt. Remove and serve hot.

6 March 2016

Eggless Choco-Chip Cupcakes (Micro)

            Microwave Baking is a blessing for many in many ways..in terms of time, mainly. If you are a person who likes to use their Micro for more than just re-heating then I am sure you have invested in a variety that offers combination controls. Though it can never replace the conventional oven, those pressed for time will still swear by the wonders they can get their microwave ovens to do :)
           Our theme for the 30th Bloghop was anything Microwave, so that would be cooking, baking, grilling, et al. I chose a simple, yet delectable Choco Chip Cupcake. Ready in minutes, this will rarely survive beyond one tea-time session :)

Ingredients :
Refined or wheat Flour - 2 ½ cups
Baking Powder - 1 ½ tsps
Soda Bicarbonate - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Cocoa powder - 2 tbsps
Powdered Sugar - 2 cups
Softened Butter - ¾ cup (170 gm), 
Fresh curds (as drained as possible) - 1 cup at room temp
Warm Milk - ½ cup
Vanilla Essence - ½ tsp
Chocolate Chips - 1/4 cup

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder & salt into a ckean bowl. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, curds and milk till well blended. 

3. Add in the sifted flour mix and gently cut and fold. Finally add the vanilla essence and chocolate chips and give it a final folding.

4. Pour into cupcake moulds and bake in the microwave at 200 deg C for 7 minutes (Used a combination oven and Micro+Convection mode) followed by 4 more minutes at 170 deg C. Check with a toothpick or clean knife if done. 

5. Remove from the oven, let cool a bit before unmoulding. Your yummy cupcakes are ready :) 

Biryani & Beyond at Paradise

           A name that's synonymous with Biryani, Paradise has come a long way since its humble inception as a annexe to a movie theatre in Secunderabad, in 1953, and continues to flourish..As per their website, the Paradise outlet at Indiranagar, Bangalore is their first outing beyond Hyderabad! From there, the chain hasn't looked back and recently opened its 5th outlet at JP Nagar.
            Located right at the junction of 24th Main Road, opposite the Durga Parmeshwari grounds and near RV Dental College, it's practically difficult to miss :) Add to that, its iconic facade, right down to the signature lattice work; anyone familiar with the brand would spot the place from miles away!!
                 I had the opportunity to sample the world-famous Paradise biryani as part of the 23rd FBAB (Food Bloggers Association of Bangalore) meet The team ushered us to the 2nd floor for our tasting session (seating is available at 2 levels and according to the staff, this place can seat up to 240 people). 
             The decor is simple, tasteful, and their spice-jar arrangments, which I call the "Masala bars"(Can I trademark this :) ) are quite eye-catching. 
                    We settled down and soon the goodies on a platter started arriving. Starting with the starters... 
                     The Veg Kebab platter was as colourful and appealing as it gets. It consisted of Veg and peanuts Kebab, Hariyali Paneer Tikka, and Tandoori Paneer Tikka with a little salad on the side. The paneer in both its variations was quite succulent and well-marinated. The Hariyali version gets my double vote though as the other one was comparatively bit bland, could have been spicier.
                     The 'Subz and Moongphali' kebabs were soft and just the right amount of spicy. However, I personally was not in favour of the generous use of peanuts, as it over-powered the flavour and impact of the rest of the stuffing.
                     The other starters served - Spicy Veg manchurian, Chili Paneer & Salt and Pepper Potatoes were good too (Clockwise - top, bottom left and bottom right)...Chinese offerings in a Hyderabadi menu, quite interesting. It does add to the Veg Starter number and would definitely appeal to the spice-loving foodies. The fried potatoes however did not appeal to me much as I found it akin to a regular fried potato curry. It may not be on my repeat list sadly.
                  Moving on to the highlight of the evening, Biryani! We were served both the Non-veg and Veg varieties. Much has been and will be said about the Non-veg offerings, but I shall write here for my co-vegetarians and/or non-meat eaters :) 
                 The long-grain rice formed the top-layer in the serving handi with the vegetable masala found in its depths. After a gentle stir, serve, the first morsel tasted, the spices, soft-cooked vegetables and the aroma of the rice (which was cooked just about right, i.e, neither rubbery nor too soft, which was awesome) was a treat to the senses. While others preferred an additional gravy accompaniment, I was happy to finish off my portion as is.                        And I must mention their special raita, which was thankfully not the usual fare of whipped curd and sliced onions. It had a nice and spicy flavour to it, one of those raitas that we would like to finish off on its own and not just to help finish off the rice !! So my veggie friends, rest assured that you need not feel left-out in this Biryani Paradise as there's enough to spoil you.
                They did bring in Rotis and gravies, but then, reviewing Paradise, Biryani takes precedence!! Though I sincerely wished to sample it too, I wanted to leave some space for the much spoken about desserts!!
                 And arrive they did!! Like moths to the flame, we couldn't help but feast our eyes on the sweet offerings before the camera lenses took over!! This section I shall talk about in detail, as desserts are close to my heart. :)
1. Falooda - Strawberry flavoured, generously layered with the soft Basil /Sabja seeds, topped off with Strawberry ice-cream and mildly sweet. If a Falooda could blush, this would be it!!
2. Gulab Jamun - The eternal and ubiquitous favourite, soft (could be softer), generously shaped and served with just the right amount of syrup as the latter tends to get wasted anyway. 
3. Gajar Halwa - Now comes the heavier stuff! The Gajar halwa was simply melt-in-the-mouth quality. Drenched in khoya, juicy to the core, the carrot was cooked to perfection and the sweetness factor was sufficient, at least to my palate. Any sweeter and it would have been difficult to finish. (Bottom right)
4. Double ka meetha - This was the much talked about and recommended dessert. A spoonful of it and I understood why! A delectable and traditional dessert made of bread and flavoured with cardamom, saffron and garnished with nuts. I had a tough time deciding which one I wanted to devour first, this or its Carrot counterpart :) (Top left)
5. Khubani ka Meetha - Another traditional dish, juicy and stewed apricots floating in Vanilla ice cream,this one gets a big thumbs-up from me! (Bottom left)
Verdict - Enjoy the starters, satisfy your biryani craving but leave enough space for the dessert, it would be criminal to finish your meal here without that. 
               Paradise at JP Nagar have everything going positive for them, the 'cannot miss' location, valet parking, sufficient seating and great food. A tip re getting a place here though, best to arrive early; as while leaving I noticed quite a crowd waiting to be seated. That alone would speak for the brand and place's popularity! 
              This outlet still being in its nascent stages, the initial gathering would quite ideally be for the brand. What will eventually draw people back to it or attract new fans will be word-of-mouth praise, sustaining the quality of food and service, and where possible, close-to-the-roots innovations to tempt its clientele to try new offerings. I personally will be quite pleased to see all of the above & more, and wish the brand and its outlets a great success.