Saturday, November 20, 2010

Olan made with pumpkin | the Kerala Olan suited to our taste | pumpkin curry with coconut milk

I love all the curries and stews made with coconut milk. Period.

On the other hand I love yellow fleshed pumpkin, so whenever I used to see those olan recipes on some blogs, it was like a visual treat always. When I tried the ingredients together and even though i did not follow any particular recipe i was tempted to look at this one .

Pumpkin olan recipe

I used coconut milk from a tetra pack and I am sure freshly squeezed coconut milk can make a lot of difference to the dish. But I think as the recipe is so easy to put together, any beginner in the kitchen would feel elated to concoct a beautiful looking curry with ease, especially if canned coconut milk is used.

Fresh coconut milk should not become an issue with this recipe at least. So go ahead and make it with canned coconut milk.

Pumpkin olan recipe

(2 servings)
coconut milk 1/2 cup
pumpkin cubed 2 cups
water 4 cups
spring onions 2-3 nos.( only the lower halves )
curry patta 3-4 springs ( i refrained myself from using a lot of these and saved the olan )
green chillies slit length wise 2-3 nos.
green coriander leaves with stems , chopped finely 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
coconut oil or vegetable oil 1 tsp
salt to taste


Boil the pumpkin with water and salt to taste till the pumpkin is mushy.

Heat oil in a pan and throw in the cumin seeds, wait till they splutter and add the green chillies and curry patta. Stir for a while as the green chillies and curry patta start twisting and getting aromatic.

Add the roughly chopped spring onions and coriander leaves. Both these ingredients are my own addition to this curry and I found them really good in the curry. You may wish to exclude them and the curry will be great that way too. The spring onions have to be cooked just till they get shiny and soft, not pink or brown.

Pour this mixture of stir fried ingredients to the boiling pumpkin and stir to mix.

Add the coconut milk and allow another boil before turning the heat off.

Such a simple curry for a side dish. I am getting new ideas with these flavors and you will see me coming up with some more on this. We had the olan with our regular dal roti meal. Here you see a maah chhole palak daal (urad chana daal cooked with spinach), muli ka ssag and the olan with chapatis.

Pumpkin olan recipe

I was apprehensive if my mom would like it as she does not like any watery curries. She is always suspicious of my curries tasting 'healthy', that kind of mother :-)

But she just loved it when I served the leftover olan with a matar paneer, raita and bhujia kind of lunch.

One very impressive aspect of this recipe is that the pumpkin is cooked in water first, just like making a soup and then a tempering is thrown in to make it very flavorful.

As healthy as it can be, this technique is not followed in any of the curries in the North, as much as I know. Not for vegetables at least, lentils are always boiled first and then the masala tempering is added and cooked again.

Pumpkin olan recipe

I have never tasted an authentic olan so the recipe may result in a different flavor than the southern homes but I loved the curry with these flavors to start with and may be in future when I come across a purist recipe I might give that a try.

Do you have a link of a purists olan ?? I will be more than happy to get a few links of yummy olan made with just the pumpkin. Come on share it with me here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

parwal ki mithai

Diwali was great .... I did not celebrate the festival as such, but as the pooja had to be done , a homemade mithai had to be prepared too .... i made this parval ki mithai with my instant homemade khoya and the cooking experience was part of the Diwali fun this year.

One of the traditional Banaras ki mithai , this is one of the mithais i would choose out of a platter of assorted mithais any day but lately this mithai has disappointed me again and again . I am talking about the mithai shop kind . While the outer casing of parval is perfect always , the inner stuffing of khoya and nuts is really crap . Most of the times i have tasted this mithai , the stuffing was like a mish mash of all the leftover mithais . I have spotted bits of boondi laddu n other things, almost a repelling kind of experience .... reason enough to make this mithai at home , with fantastic results .

I started making this mithai a few years back when a tribal subziwala ( a vegetable vendor ) used to knock my door whenever he could not sell his tokra full of vegetables . Parvals , lauki and green papaya was always there in his basket and as i could never refuse him , i always ended up buying 2-3 kilos of each of these vegetables ... to top it all , he used to get treated with this mithai too. My friends in Dhanbad tell me that he still remembers me ... not for this mithai but for buying all his stuff ...

Normally a whole parval is slit from one side , innards emptied , cooked in syrup and a khoya filling is stuffed inside . The filling is not visible and the parval looks just green on the outside , the slit covered with a silver foil . I never use silver foil in my cooking for obvious reasons and i find making boat shaped mithai with the fillings visible as a topping more attractive and practical . The portion size is halved and it looks better too. 


parval 500 gm ( choose equal sized ones , i used 7 parvals to make 14 mithais )
powdered sugar for syrup 1 cup ( if making it my way )
salt a pinch

for filling ...
homemade khoya 1 cup ( about 150 gm )
dry coconut finely grated 2 tbsp
finely chopped cashew nuts 3-4 tbsp
green cardamom powder 1/4 tsp
powdered sugar to taste ( i used 2 tbsp )
slivered almonds to garnish


Peel the parvals . I just scrape them with a paring knife but you can peel it using a potato peeler if you don't like a firm parval casing .... the parval casing becomes thinner if peeled and i like the parval layer more so i peel it just like this....

Halve the parvals and empty the contents to make boat shaped casing ....

Boil enough water ( to submerge all the parvals )in a wide pan with a pinch of salt . Dunk the parvals in boiling water and cook till done . It took 12 minutes on medium flame for this quantity. Strain in a colander . Drain well.

Now arrange all the parval boats , empty side up , into a plate and sprinkle powdered sugar over them liberally . Filling the parval boats almost half way with the sugar .

This is my twaeked method to avoid making a syrup . Traditionally , all these parvals are boiled in think sugar syrup after boiling them in plain water . The parvals should become like a murabba after this syrup cooking but there is one problem with using syrup . You get a lot of leftover sugar syrup which goes wasted . To avoid this wastage and to make the process convenient , i have devised this microwave step in the making of this mithai......... 

The sugar gets melted as the parval releases water within minutes .....

Now arrange all the parvals on top of each other like this in a deep microwave proof bowl....

Rinse the plate with 2 tbsp of water and add the water to this bowl . Cover and cook in microwave for 2 minutes first . After breaks of 30 seconds or so repeat cooking the sugared parvals in the microwave till they become shiny and translucent like a murabba . For me it took 5 repeats of two minutes each.

 Some of the sugar syrup will be left into the cooking bowl , spoon little quantities of the syrup into each parval boat will help to stick the filling better inside. Take care not to overdo it ( there should be just a spoonful of syrup left ) .

I had prepared the parval shells during the day time while cooking our lunch and made the filling just before the Dhanteras pooja ( this was to be the prasad ) in the late evening .

Prepare khoya as per instructions here  and add all the other ingredients to it.

 Mix well to make a granular but homogeneous mixture....

Stuff the mixture into the boats , as much as you like and press firmly so that it stays inside ........ pressing the mixture first in your fist to make a tight roll and then placing it in the parval boat , smoothing the surface . Repeat till all of them are done....

Place a sliver of almond or any other nuts on top of each mithai to garnish ....It appears a bit loose and soft when it is freshly made but the syrup makes the contents settle down the next day and the mithai looks firm , tastes better too . As i have not peeled the skin of parval , there was a little hint of a waxy covering in every bite when freshly made , but the next day it was all smooth and plump coating .... take a bite...

This filling mixture can include a few more nuts and flavors like saffron if you like . I like it this way as i have tried many fillings , this one being the perfect . Crumbly , nutty and a bit chewy with a subtle hint of elaichi .

I uploaded pictures of every step so that the procedure is clear for a beginner but the process is not very complicated . The end product is sensational ......... especially if you love this mithai ..... a forgotten gem of the Indian sweetmeats .......

cheers ....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

lemon pound cake served with a quick butterscotch sauce...

I baked a lemon cake for Arvind's birthday after spotting a few plump lemons in my garden . The lemon tree is laden with green lemons but they are not yet ready to be juiced or zested . I spotted a few of them just fragrant enough for a nice lemon cake .

But the flavors were not a bit close to the lemon cake i used to bake some years ago when i had a gondhoraj lebu ( a variety of large lemons with a think and very fragrant rind ) tree in my garden . That gondhoraj lebu was so good for making cakes and lemon tarts , i am looking for a seedling of that variety just for the lemon cakes and tarts we so used to enjoy.

Baking a lemon cake is anyways a great thing as the home is filled with a nice lemony fresh aroma and anybody entering the house is tempted to snoop into the kitchen . Lemon pound cake has been a long time favorite with both of us and whoever has been visiting when the cake was baked.

And the quick butterscotch sauce is as aromatic while being cooked , it sizzles on the flame and makes me drool with a chocolaty caramel aroma well complemented with lemon cake . I made the butterscotch sauce thin so that the cake is soaked well , thick butterscotch sauce is suited for ice creams and trifles .

The cake is a normal pound cake where the cup measurements are so convenient even a child can whisk and bake them..

ingredients for the cake ...
maida ( APF ) 2 cups
butter 1 cup
sugar 3/4 cup ( 1 cup can be used when the cake is not topped with butterscotch sauce )
eggs 4 nos
lemon juice 1 tbsp
lemon zest 1 tsp
salt a pinch
soda bicarb 1/2 tsp
baking powder 1.5 tsp


Sift the maida , soda bi carb and baking powder together to mix them well and keep aside.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl . Whisk the butter and sugar in another larger bowl till light and creamy . Add the whisked eggs slowly and keep whisking till a creamy frothy consistency is achieved . Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk to mix .

Add the flour and fold the batter to make a homogeneous batter. Pour in a greased tin and bake for about 25 minutes at 200 degree C . Insert a skewer to check if the cake is cooked .

It is a lightly sweetened cake and great with a cup of tea any time of the day...

As a dessert it is complemented very well with this runny butterscotch sauce ...

ingredients for the butterscotch sauce...
sugar 1 cup
salt 1/2 tsp ( or 1/4 tsp if you don't like the hint of salt )
heavy cream 1 cup
milk 1/2 cup or more if you want it more runny
cocoa powder 3 tbsp
vanilla essence 1 tsp ( i used butterscotch essence which my sister had gifted me )

Pour sugar in a pan and heat to caramelize , as soon as it starts melting and getting golden colored add the cream and let the mixture boil . Mix cocoa powder with the milk and pour into the boiling mixture . Let it boil vigorously once again . Add  salt and take off heat. Use hot or cold as required.

A runny sauce is very well soaked into the cake and it was great this way . For ice cream topping it is better to keep the sauce thick so do not add any milk in that case.

You may like a thicker butterscotch sauce sandwiched between the slices of cake .... chocolate and lemon are the hottest of flavors and eat the way you like it.....