Wednesday, October 31, 2012

atte ka halwa | the UP counterpart to cakes...



Halwa is a traditional UP dish that is sweet but not necessarily a desert. It can be a breakfast for some, yes in the older days it was a quick dish to make on stove tops and was almost equivalent to the cakes we bake today in fancy ovens. I say cakes because of the ghee that goes into  traditionally made Halwa that is only comparable to a cake and not a cereal breakfast. If the content of ghee is lesser, a halwa can be a cereal breakfast in it's composition.

Halwa is definitely not a breakfast dish anymore in our adult lives, with our butts stuck to the chairs all day, but in the childhood days halwa and jalebi was a happy note to start the day on most weekends. Going by what my mother in law tells me, she used to pack halwa and poori in Arvind's lunch box often. I know where his love for halwa and all things sweet comes from. I have to make some halwa every now and then, making just one serving is my solution as I don't like it much and can eat only 2-3 tea spoonfuls at a time.

ingredients...
(1-2 servings)
atta (whole wheat flour) 1/4 cup
ghee 1/4 cup
sugar 2 tbsp or more if you like it sweeter
water 1/4 cup
chopped nuts as per taste
powdered green cardamom or nutmeg if you wish
procedure..

Heat the ghee in a deep pan and tip in the flour into it. Keep stirring on low heat till the flour starts getting aromatic and changes color to pinkish brown. This takes about 5-8 minutes for this quantity.

If making a larger quantity, halwa can be a work for 40 odd minutes, I have made halwa for family get togethers and the aroma of roasting flour makes everyone hungry while the halwa takes it's own sweet time to get made. Once ready it pleases everyone.

Ad the sugar once the flour becomes nicely browned, and let the sugar crystals become caramalised a bit. It will start getting sticky after a couple of minutes. If making large quantity, it may take another 10 minutes. So as soon as the sugar crystals start getting sticky, add the water in a gentle stream. and mixing the halwa mixture steadily, using a spatula with the other hand. The halwa comes together and becomes like a shining dough, keep stirring it till it starts getting a bit crumbly by further dehydrating.

Add chopped nuts, roasted or fried if you wish, mix well and serve hot.

Halwa is never served cold unless it is a carrot or pumpkin halwa. It can be a nice quick snack if you have a sweet tooth.



This kind of dryish crumbly halwa is great with hot milk for breakfast as well. Some people like it a little wet, you would have to not dehydrate it while cooking after adding water in that case.

Making a small amount of halwa is not very tricky and you can always make some for your kids instead of those store bought muffins or biscuits. It is a high calorie and high carb dish but healthier than many of the ready packed food that we hand out to our kids mindlessly.

I have posted an instant besan ka halwa made in microwave and a kadhai made besan ka halwa too. Go have a look if you want besan ka halwa. A step by step mung ka halwa recipe is also posted if you have some time to indulge. Now you know how much loved is halwa at my place.

You know what, I started getting that aroma of halwa being made while typing this. I don't like halwa much but that aroma is one of the favorite food aromas for me. Tell me when are you going to make some halwa for your loved ones?

Cheers...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Event coverage | Philips foodathon...


Bloggers are now attracting the attention of marketing giants like never before. Brands want them to come and see their products, write about them and give feedback. I see a good trend emerging as this could be a useful link between the consumer and the brand. The bloggers themselves are consumers, they use products and do some reviews and general expression of opinions on most products they use. Like I use a certain brand of organic cooking oils and like it so I mention it now and then in my blog posts. But when we are invited for an event where a brand showcases their product we have to be careful in what we see and tell our readers. Or make an opinion for ourselves. After all, the brands make it look like a grand product when they have control over the showcase.

More and more brands are becoming aware of the blogs power of influencing their readers. There are numerous fitness blogs motivating people to get fitter, Fashion blogs with apt advice, beauty and make up blogs, lifestyle blogs and all of them are influencing, motivating and inspiring a lot of their readers. For marketers, there is a lot to tap in this connect of blogs and it's readers.

For us bloggers too, there certainly are a lot of products we would like to know about, as we keep getting queries regarding kitchen gadgets and their working, myself being a food blogger. So I take interest in whatever the brands have to say about their product. after all we all keep looking for better and better kitchen gadgets to work with. Be it a spatula or a microwave oven.


This is the reason I got curious about this event by Philips called Foodathon and my interest grew when I got to know that Chef at Large is a consulting partner. Reached dot on time and found Sid Khullar in a chirpy mood. Was happy to know that he would be addressing us bloggers at the event. Very soon I saw that Hemant Sud, the ace photographer arrived as well. I had heard him talking photography earlier, so that was another plus point for me. Met Ipshita Chakladar of Ipshita's cakes mama bakes and Anamitra Chakladar and had a lovely chat with them.

The event was actually planned very well. The bloggers were scheduled to learn a lot from the masters.  Sid Khullar spoke about blogs and how we connect and learn through blogs and earn through them too. His opinion is always valuable for a blogger. Hemant Sud was again a store house of information for a food photographer and Chef Darren Conole spoke about plating the food, it's elements and colors etc. The aesthetics in food presentation. The things planned in this even were really a blogger's delight.

I wish I could enjoy all this learning in a good way as the Cafe V, the venue partners were plain simple apathetic to the event. The cafe is small and there were more invitees than it could hold.

I wish the beautifully planned event was executed well so we bloggers could take home some good moments.

If the bloggers are invited at a place for four hours and the basics in hospitality are not taken care of, it becomes really difficult to engage in a stimulating discussion that was going on. What I felt, there should have been comfortable seating for everyone so we could listen to things being discussed. I would expect a bottle of water at every table so one doesn't have to depend on apathetic servers (as V Cafe unfortunately had) for basics like water. We were handed out a nice file with itinerary and some loose sheets with pen, a place to sit and note down the tidbits that we learned could have been better.

For example, only about a dozen people could hear what Chef Darren was speaking. Everyone else could not be accommodated around the small dais he was speaking from.

The star of the event was the Air fryer by Philips. Demonstrations were done, some chicken tikka, potato fries and aloo tikki was air fried in front of us and the results were nice. One would like to have this gadget at home to enjoy nice crisp fries without frying. The pleasant surprise that we got there was that Deeba participated in a food plating contest and won herself a Air fryer for herself. I got to know this fryer bakes some nice cupcakes as well. May be Deeba bakes something in this air fryer and we see her posts soon..

A good experience overall but I would expect such events to be organised in a better way. Especially when the organisers are putting in a lot of creative energy in bringing such good things together. I would repeatedly want to attend such events that discuss about blogger's interests apart from displaying products, but would be glad if the venue is a bit conducive of such good ideas.

Anyways, such events are also an opportunity for us bloggers to catch up with each other. That we did and came back home with some food for thought...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amaranth seeds or Ramdana for fasting | three ways with Ramdaana...



Amaranth grains are very small like yellow mustard seeds but the similarity ends there. They pop up when roasted dry and get nice and smooth when boiled with water or milk. The Flour made from Amaranth seeds makes nice flat breads and pancakes. It is a grain most of us UPites grew up eating. My memories are of the Ramdane ka laddoo we always had at our grandparent's place during our summer vacations. The same Ramdaana ka laddoo is available even now, at least in Delhi, but somehow I never get the same taste. Is it the childhood charm of memories? Nostalgia is always sweeter when it is food related. Yes it is.

The laddoo are very light and melt in the mouth texture. Very lightly sweetened with jaggery and can be eaten as a snack or as a breakfast porridge. When you put them in hot milk they just seem to melt in it and a nice smooth and light porridge is ready.

It is a very nice baby food also.



The second way to make a breakfast porridge is to boil the raw Amaranth grains with water, either in a pan or in pressure cooker. In a pan it takes about 25 minutes to get soft and cooked. In pressure cooker just one whistle is all you need. Water required for cooking the grains is double the volume of grains.

Add milk once the grains are boiled. You might like to add fresh cream as well. Sweeten it with sugar or honey, or even jaggery if you wish and have warm.




I developed a few Vrat ka khana recipes for Leonardo Olive oils. Those recipes are cooked in pure olive oil or seasoned or dressed with extra virgin olive oil. One Amaranth seeds savory porridge or risotto made using coconut milk is one of my favorite recipe among them.


You can see the recipe of this savory porridge here at Leonardo facebook page. The perfect way to eat rejuvenating food during the sattvic time of Navratri.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fresh water chestnuts for fasting food | Kachhe singhade ki katli...


Fresh water chestnuts are in the market for quite some time now. We have already enjoyed them boiled, stir fried and even raw just after peeling the tough skin. The husband loves these Singhada a lot in all it's forms. Keeping in mind his love for desserts, I make this kachhe Singhade ka halwa every season. This time I decided to make this kacche singhadeki katli and it is something I will be repeating many times. Even for visiting guests who love mithais.

Let me tell you a secret before the recipe. The husband is so besotted by fresh (kaccha) singhada that he is ready to peel them on the weekends so he can get to eat them at least 3-4 times a week in season. So I stir fry the peeled singhada for him either in ghee and salt n pepper or with sprouts and sweet corn like this one.

This singhade ki katli is a new entrant, the kachhe singhade ka halwa was already a favorite. A Katli or halwa made using the dry singhade ka atta (water chestnut flour) is also among his favorites. These are a few things we have been eating since childhood. Simple foods that succeed in making us feel the warmth of home.

This Kacche singhade ki katli is a 15 minute dessert believe me. Healthy and quick. Yummy you would know when you try this.


ingredients...

about 500 gm of raw fresh water chestnuts peeled and cleaned
2 tbsp ghee
2-3 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp mixed nuts chopped

procedure..

Make a smooth paste of the raw water chestnuts in your food processor or mixie jar. Should make about scant two cups without adding any water.

Heat the ghee in a wide pan (kadhai) and pour the water chestnut paste in it and start stirring with a spatula.

See the picture in series. The paste changes it's consistency and color and starts becoming more glutinous, if I can use the word. No gluten content in it alright.


Just when the cooking mixture becomes almost translucent and fragrant too, a very characteristic nutty aroma that I love, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Pour into a greased square tin or container and spread chopped nuts over it and press the nuts so the embed properly.The container should be appropriately sized to get you thin or thick katlis (squares like fudge or brownie), so keep that in mind.

Cut in squares when cool and remove from the container. Serve fresh and see if you can save some leftovers.

Keep in a lidded container in fridge for about three to four days. I would recommend to serve it on room temperature as chilled katli tastes a bit blander than the room temperature version.


This makes the best of Vrat ka khana recipes as it can be served to guests who are fasting. Happens a lot of times during Navratri. Many of my guests are already in awe of the sugar free or naturally sweetened mithai substitutes I serve. This Water chestnut flour, gluten free Panforte is one that brings me copious complements.

This kachhe singhade ki katli is one more addition to such unusual, awe inspiring snack treats.

Cheers for fasting days ahead...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rose cafe : a review | pretty pinks don't make good people, or good food for that matter..



We entered a nice cheerful looking place called Rose cafe last Sunday, the autumn sun was not very pleasant at that time of the day and the interiors felt really impressive and cool. Very English-French design elements that disconnects you from what is happening on the mundane road outside.

We were a cheerful lot ready to have a good time. We the blogger friends of Delhi were invited for a review of this cafe.We had decided to visit this place because Ruchira had enjoyed her pizzas and mezze platter here sometime back when she had been there for tasting . The Cafe was not open for public then apparently.

The pink and turquoise interiors won me over almost instantly. We were the first patrons to arrive in the morning and it looked like a well lit place with large glass windows with lace curtains nicely tied with twiggy roses. I was so impressed by the detailing that was evident in the hand painted doilies , the lampshades, the fairy lights here and there, an open counter and fake patina furniture. The tables inlaid with turquoise tiles look neat, the florals used all over paint a pretty picture. Pretty. Later we found out how deceptive.

The place got a bit congested later after most of the tables were occupied as there was no walking space left when chairs were drawn out..

We all arrived one after the other and we settled down to start our brunch. We ordered our drinks and a confused, lousy service couldn't dampen the lovely lemonades and iced teas. We are a nice lot and ignore a few lousy faces of people serving food to us if the food is making us happy. A salad pizza came and then a sour cream and bacon pizza, we liked. The drinks were being haphazardly plonked onto our tables, and a few orders were forgotten , some others delivered twice. We were still very patient, Ruchira's face getting tensed as the food was not the same as she had tasted last time. She was expecting better this time for an invited audience, feeling embarrassed for the lousy service herself, the nice girl she is, thinking it was on her recommendation the group of bloggers had gotten there. In between there was a Shepherd's pie that arrived very late but saved the grace for a while as everyone liked it. A baked bean served inside a hollowed bun was nice, a double cheese chicken was disappointing. Panko fish fry was just average. Those iced teas and lemonades were good company but lemonades don't make food.

Did I tell you we share or plates many a times? Yes we do. That's why we were so patient even after late deliveries of our orders as we kept sharing whatever reached the table.

And the brunch experience started getting worse, a few of us were never delivered what we ordered, some starters getting on the table after mains and one Jacket potato being served in the middle of desserts. The Aubergine parmesan was yuck. All the desserts, including the coconut macaroons, the lemon cake and the strawberry layered cake were frozen and cold, I fail to understand why. You can't imagine how a cake is dead when frozen and a coconut macaroon tastes like plastic if hard, if you haven't eaten a frozen cake or macaroon in your life. We just experienced.

Only the Espresso streusel was good. Actually very good.

We did hint them about the misplaced, delayed, repeated orders and the hair in the glass of water and were met with sleepy response by the servers. An owner who forgot she had invited a large group and a very rude consultant Chef could not keep the pink and turquoise pleasant anymore. Very sad.

We left disappointed and sour about a wasted Sunday. Would I recommend the place?

Yes if you are alone and want a quick refreshing iced tea or a dating couple and wont mind the late service or the taste of food.

A big NO if you want to have a good time with friends and family expecting some good food served efficiently.

Sid Khullar, Deeba Rajpal, Rekha Kakkar, Ruchira Hoon Philip, Charis Alfred Bhagianathan, Sushmita Sarkar, Rituparna Mukerji and Himanshu Taneja were the other bloggers who got together for this cafe brunch. Thank God we have had some good times together :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kachalu ka achaar | instant Yam pickle...


 This yam is a tough elongated tuber root that looks like it will be very easy to cook just like potatoes. Just peel the skin, cut it in desired shape and cook it like any other potato based curry. Precisely that is the reason why I rarely buy this vegetable. I don't like potatoes much other than mashed potatoes and this one doesn't mash up like potatoes. Way too slimy for that.

In Banras it is called Banda, some people call it Kanda in Bihar and Jharkhand and some other call it Kachalu in the Hindi heartland. Taro root is a vernacular name, it is a yam family vegetable, call it by other name. I find it really too slimy and hard to soak any flavors...


And then I happened to eat at the Shyam Sweets at Chawri bazar last weekend and loved the green and red pickled Kachalu they served with the Bedmi aloo for breakfast. You must know this place is a hot spot for kachori/poori breakfast lovers. These places make their own instant pickles everyday to be served with the deep fried pooris or bhatooras. You might have noticed how the bhaturey chhole come with a freshly made carrot-green chilly and sometimes cauliflower pickle, part from the usual slices of onion etc..


This pickled Kachalu was quite hot with chillies, green and red in this case but that did not stop me from licking the pickle plate off. This is when I don't even like pickles much. With instant pickles it is a different story now. I decided to make the twin pickles at home.

So this Yam was peeled and cubed, then boiled into pressure cooker till done. Took me 5 minutes after the first whistle. Cooled and kept aside till I made my two different pickling mixtures.

The red pickle....

peeled and boiled kachalu cubes 300 gm
tamarind soaked in hot water for sometime and the thin pulp extracted 1 cup
kashmiri mirch powder 1 heaped tablespoon
hing or asafotida 2 pinches
salt to taste

Mix everything up and soak the boiled and drained Kachalu pieces in the pickling liquid. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. The pickle is ready within 3-4 hours.


The green pickle...

I found this green raw Tamarind legumes being sold in the old Delhi streets and bought it for this very pickle.


A green paste was made using these green tamarind pods, green chillies and Rai seeds (the smaller variety of mustard) with salt to taste...

peeled and boiled kachalu cubes 300 gm
green tamarind pods 30 gm
green chillies 20 gm or more 
Rai seeds 2 tsp
salt to taste

The paste is used as a pickling mixture. This pickle would keep well at room temperature and will keep getting piquant owing to the properties of the Rai seeds. The boiled and drained kachalu is added to this mixture as well.

I love this Kachalu pickle over plain boiled chickpeas too.


Served as a side dish or condiment, this pickle is a good way to perk up simpler meals.

I am loving it. Tell me if you want a bottle of this :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Zanotta, the fine dining Italian Restaurant at Leela kempinski Gurgaon | a review..

All of us Delhi foodies at CAL bloggers table were invited for a review of the fine dining Italian restaurant Zanotta at Leela Kempinski Gurgaon last week. The hotel is  prime property joined to the Ambiance mall and when you travel from Delhi to that part of Gurgaon you are always unsure of how much time it will take. We were lucky this time, the day being  a Saturday and the traffic just right to reach there within half an hour.


 I reached on time and within about 15 minutes Deeba also arrived. We were welcomed into the Italian restaurant at the sixth floor, with an open kitchen and a private retro lounge overlooking the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway.


Just look at the view of the toll plaza from the restaurant.This was a particularly pleasant sight that time of the day, otherwise there is a clogging of the red tail lights at the toll plaza and a disturbing feeling for someone who drives through this stretch, as told by Shisheer Manohar, the F&B Head of Leela. A witty fellow, all smiles :-)

We were greeted by Vinay Narang , the Head of PR and communications, with a welcome drink at the retro lounge. Two sides of glass walls overlooking the expressway and pictures of Tiger eyes on the remaining walls, an interesting vibe this place has..


Wine cellars make the other dividing walls of this restaurant , the decor is very chic modern and stylish. The people manning the restaurant are great to be with, very attentive and very efficient in what they do.

In the retro lounge we were joined by Roger Wright and General Manager and Emanuel Guemonl , the Executive Chef along with Shisheer Manohar. Later the celebrity Chef Kunal Kapoor walked in and joined the discussions.

We are a talkative lot and we met a talkative lot there as well. Happy.


The people make a place special and this was no exception.

The food and wines started coming in as we settled in our chairs, Starting with Pan seared Scallops with grilled Zucchini salsa and the wine (Craggy Range, Chardonnay, New Zealand). Good textures of vegetables and Scallops, I wish it was seasoned well too or may be the dressing settles down in a narrow base of a serving bowl like that. I liked it nonetheless.

Next was the Sizillia seafood soup. This one I loved with a Mussel that was perfect on top and some shrimps, cubed fish and calamari rings into that smooth tomatoes and olives soup. This was paired with Albert Bichot Cote de Rhone, Chardonnay, France.


Next was main course, a mushroom Ravioli which was shaped like Tortellini instead but I loved what was inside. The mushrooms and the soft supple glutinous pasta is my weakness and it was done very nicely.A silky herbed tomato soup and the right amount of cheese. Perfect.
It was paired with Valpolicella 'Classico' Allegrini, Corvina Italy.

There was  little commotion after this, the servers started coming with a huge drop shaped light bulb on plates..Some gasping followed admiring looks when the Igloo like structures, lit from inside, arrived...


It was a palate cleanser, snugly perched on a seat inside this ice Igloo.

A berry sorbet, chilled and refreshing.

Spectacular till it lasted. ...


I am jealous that Deeba's Igloo had a window too. Mine had only a door :-(

Here is how we all keep chattering on the table. Chef Kunal kapoor ended up asking how long we have known each other. This is called finding the likewise vibes, not measuring friendships by the time.


The table is lively and buzzing. The Igloos glowing ..

The next main was a Zanotta special Salmon with Arugula pesto. This I was looking forward to. The fish was  lovely the pesto deficient. I wished there was a small bowl of pesto on the side. The fish remained under seasoned though it was cooked to perfection with great texture. I loved the greens that came in with it. This course was paired with Penfolds Rawson's Retreat, Cabernet Shiraz, Australia.


The dessert was a bitter chocolate semifreddo. Nice and goo. Pretty. Loved what it came with. A blueberry coulis, some candied apricots and a tiny piece of mango panacotta with candied orange peel. Bursting with flavors, just the way I like.


Fruit on a dessert plate always makes me happy, not much a chocolate person, but all these flavorful fruits complemented the biter chocolate semifreddo very well.

The pleasant interiors of this award winning restaurant Zanotta were cheerful for a large group like ours. The few other patrons were seen enjoying the food and hospitality too, a bit amused by a chattering group on a long table on the side.We spent around four hours without realising the time. Exchanged some garden produce in the end as we do many times, us bloggers, and headed back home without a pig tummy. I love such food.

Other Delhi bloggers who came together were...

Deeba of Passionate About Baking,
Rekha of My Tasty Curry,
Ruchira of The Great Cookaroo,
Parul of The Shirazine,
Charis of The Culinary Storm,
Antara of Antipasti,
Sid Khullar of Chef at Large,
Himanshu of The White Ramekin 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ragi ki roti step by step procedure | how to make ragi ki roti



How to make ragi ki roti easily is the question everyone asks when I suggest them to try it. Ragi is the Finger millet that is highly recommended as a healthy alternative grain. Making flat breads or ragi ki roti with it is a challenge for many and I used to get a few requests now and then. It is actually quite easy if you use your microwave in the dough making process. You can easily make the ragi roti dough by heating the ragi flour slurry in microwave and then kneading it like any other dough.

Ragi is also known as Nachni, Mandua or finger millet in different languages.

I had clicked these pictures long back when someone was not able to make millet flour rotis, I had sent her all these step wise pictures in mailbox but forgot to post on the blog. Here it comes for all my friends and readers.


We love rotis made with mixed flours and individual millet flours as well, this Ragi roti is enjoyed most with a chokha or a mash like Hummus or Baba ghanoush. It actually behaves like a cracker if you cook it for a couple of minutes on the flame. If you cook quickly it stays soft as a normal whole wheat roti should be, just a little fibrous in mouth feel when the roti gets cold.

The procedure to make the dough is a little tricky if you are doing it for the first time. The flour is mixed with water to make a slurry and then cooked either on stove top or in microwave so the slurry cooks and makes a glutinous dough. Ragi flour turns glutinous when cooked like this.

If you do it in microwave, the process becomes really easy though.

Let's see how the dough is made...

A cup of flour and 1.5 cup of hot water...


Mixed together to make a slurry like this...


The slurry is cooked in microwave for two minutes, the slurry looks set around the margins...


Look at this picture how the slurry gets set...


Take a spoon and mix it vigorously, the slurry is hot so be careful, the mixture become glutinous like this picture...


Microwave once more for a couple of minutes. The mixtures gets a bit dehydrated and stiffer but yet doesn't look like a dough...


Now add some more dry flour and knead using a sturdy spoon as the  mixture is hot. Adding the flour will lower down the temperature and you would be able to handle it with your fingers in a few minutes...


The dough looks like this..


Pinch off a ball, smoothen it to make it round...


And roll out a roti as you would do for a whole wheat roti, using some flour for dusting..


It behaves well under the rolling pin. No sticking on the surface and no cracking.....


Flip it on a hot tawa...


Flip to the other side in 30 seconds...


Wait for another 30 seconds and then fluff it up on open flame.


The Ragi ki roti is ready. You see this way of making the dough takes about 5-6 minutes if you are using a little more than a cup of Ragi flour and your Ragi rotis come out nice and soft. Most importantly they don't crack and stick to the rolling surface.

Recently I clicked pictures of a quicker method that I worked out to make ragi ki roti and other millet flour rotis and bhakhris. I make a thick slurry or a very loose dough of the flour and microwave it for a minute (for one cup flour and 1 cup and a little more water). Then mash the sticky cooked dough with a sturdy fork or potato masher before kneading it with hand for a few seconds. See these pictures for more details.


The kneaded dough is rolled and cut into smaller portions to roll out rotis like above..


A nice meal with ragi roti is something to look forward to.


I hope this post will be helpful to many who are trying to include gluten free grains or other whole grains in their diet. Ragi has multiple health benefits and I have posted a Ragi dosa, a Ragi uttapam and Ragi Idli in the past. More ways to include this wonderful grain in your daily meals..

Please let me know if this post is helpful to you...