Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Summer Special | Banana Gulkand Milkshake

With the temperature soaring, I have given up on my evening cup of tea. It becomes impossible to enjoy anything hot even in the evening. So my cuppa chai is replaced by milkshakes now. Since bananas are a staple in my fruit basket and since they taste great in milkshakes, i find myself making banana milkshakes oh-so-often. The latest twist to the milkshake is from the addition of gulkand to it and it tastes out of the world.

The milkshake utilizes just two main ingredients other than milk- sliced bananas and gulkand.
banana gulkand milkshake ingredients

I don't add ice cubes to the milkshake. I normally set aside 2-3 glasses of boiled milk in the fridge these days specifically for milk shakes. I don't like the milkshake too thick, so I water it down sometimes too, since the bananas already add a lot of body and thickness to the milkshake.

Gulkand is a welcome addition since it adds a whole new taste to the milkshake and prevents the need to add extra sugar. Gulkand is made from rose petals and sugar and is an ayurvedic remedy to cool down the body during summer. It regulates the body temperature, alleviates constipation and acidity and soothes any kind of inflammation in your digestive tract. What more do you need to cool yourself down this summer?! Onto the recipe now.

Preparation Time - 3 Minutes
Cooking Time - Nil
Serves - 2

Ingredients for Banana Gulkand Milkshake  

1 Banana sliced ( I use the large robusta variety, use 2 if using yelakki) 
1 and 1/2 tsp Gulkand 
1 glass chilled Milk 
1/2 glass water (skip if you like a thick shake)

Method to prepare Banana Gulkand Milkshake 

Simply add the banana and gulkand in a blender with a little bit of milk. Whizz for a minute to make a smooth paste. Add the milk and the water to this and mix well. Serve immediately. You can pair it with you breakfast or like me use it for an energy boost in the evening. 

banana gulkand milkshake

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Summer Special | Beetroot Raita

The summer is upon us and for once I am not really craving for anything hot and spicy or fried to eat in the evenings. A few slices of cucumber or a bowl of watermelon gives me way too much more happiness than what a plate of pakoras can give. I know it is only for the time being and when the Mumbai monsoon unleashes its wrath, I will be back to making hot and spicy food items to satiate the food cravings while watching the rain. For now, am making light food items on a daily basis - things that are packed with cooling vegetables, with lots of fiber and water. As I drew up this week's menu, I figured that I might as well start off a series of the summer recipes that I am making these days to keep the body cool meal after meal. Kickstarting the series is a favorite - beet root raita. I normally make it with leftover beet root poriyal. This time, I made it from scratch I added fresh beets mixed with leftover onion-red chili chutney. It so happens that there is always 2-3 spoons of chutney that remains after breakfast, which certainly is not enough for another meal. So I always add leftover chutney into a raita rather than adding ground or grated coconut. It takes ten minutes to make this velvety pink raita and tastes out of the world.
beetroot raita

Preparation Time: 10 Mins
Cooking Time: 10 Mins

Ingredients to make the Beetroot Raita

1 large beetroot or two small ones, finely chopped/ grated
1 red chili
1 cup beaten curd
1/2 onion finely chopped
salt and sugar to taste
fresh coriander leaves for garnish
Grated coconut - i used leftover chutney
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp urad dal
a pinch of hing

Method to make the Beetroot Raita

Wash and clean the beets. Peel them and run them in a food processor with a red chili or finely grate them.

chopped beetroot

In a pan, heat the oil and add mustard and wait until it splutters. Now top with the urad dal, hing and red chili ( if not added into beetroot) and roast for a minute. Add the beets to this and fry well. Sprinkle some water onto this and let it cook. It takes about five minutes tops.

frying beetroot

While this is frying, beat the curd and add the chopped raw onions to it.
curd with onions

Season the curd with some salt and sugar. Add salt to the beetroot as well.
You need to add lots of fresh coriander into this or any raita to add a lot of freshness and flavor into the dish.
fresh coriander

Now if you are using fresh coconut, you could grate it or whizz it in the mixie with the red chilli and add it to the raita. I had my leftover onion chutney which had onion, coconut, tamarind and red chillies.
red chutney
Now all i did was to let the beets cool. I mixed the beets with the curd, added in the chutney to it, adjusted the salt and garnished it with the coriander leaves!

beetroot raita

You can serve the raita with both rice and roti. You could eliminate the onions if you don't like the smell of raw onions , but trust me, that's what adds the extra taste to it! It is simple to make and really cool on the stomach. What's more, in ten minutes, you have an extra dish on the table! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Cutlet

Sweet Potatoes are in abundance this season and in keeping with the year's resolution to eat what is in season, I picked up radish leaves for sarson ka saag and sweet potatoes to make something sweet.The Sarson ka saag and the way we ate it for three days is another story I will reserve for later. The sweet potatoes however lay forgotten among the potatoes. I found them looking almost forlorn when I was skimming the vegetable basket to see what to make as a quick snack for the evening hunger pang. I decided to quickly boil them, season with some chat masala and make a snack. When I shut the cooker, I realized that I had another 10 minutes to kill until they were cooked. So that's when the boiled sweet potato idea turned into sweet potato cutlet idea.
sweet potato cutlet

If you have the ingredients at hand, it is super easy to make. I had a cabbage and I added about a quarter of it to increase the bulk and also since cabbages tend to get this really crunchy texture when roasted. Since all the ingredients are cooked, I did not shallow fry the cutlets but roasted them on a thick bottomed tava with very little oil. It takes some patience to fry it this way. If you want, you can add a little more oil and shallow fry it. While it was getting done, I snacked on a little bit of the cutlet dough topped with curd, bhujia and green chutney. Let me show you how I made the Sweet Potato Cutlet.

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes (for sweet potatoes) + 15 Minutes
Makes 6 cutlets

Ingredients for the Sweet Potato Cutlet

Oil - 4 tbsp
1/2 tsp ajwain or carom seeds
A pinch of hing
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 small onion chopped
1/4 cabbage chopped
A few sprigs of coriander chopped
1 green chilli chopped
2 pods of garlic crushed
1 inch ginger crushed
salt to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp chilli, coriander, cumin powder each
1/2 tsp chat masala
1 tsp rava or semolina
1/2 tsp gram flour

Recipe for the Sweet Potato Cutlet

Peel and roughly chop the sweet potatoes and pressure cook them until soft. While it is getting done, chop up your cabbage, onion and coriander. In a mortar, crush the ginger, garlic and green chillis.
sweet potato cutler ingredients
In a pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the carom seeds and hing to it. Then add the onions and fry. When it starts browning, add the crushed masala from the mortar. To this add the cabbage and fry nicely till all the aromas rise up. Now add the dry spice powders - turmeric, chilli, coriander and cumin.
sweet potato cutlet masala
Sprinkle some water and fry until the vegetables are done. While they are getting done, mash the boiled sweet potatoes. Add the onion-cabbage mixture to the sweet potatoes. Allow it to cool for a few minutes. Top with some chaat masala and coriander and mix well. The chat masala already has some black salt in it. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt.
sweet potato cutlet mix

Mix well so that all the spices get uniformly mixed and you have a dough like ball at the end.
sweet potato dough
Divide this into 6 small balls and flatten them. Place your griddle on the flame on medium heat. Grease it well with 1/2 tbsp of oil. Mix the semolina and the gram flour on a plate. They will be used to coat the cutlet. Normally, only rava or bread crumbs are used. Gram flour helps it bind and that is why I added a bit of it. Run the cutlet on both sides on the rava-gram flour mixture.
cutlet sweet potato coating

Dust off the excess coating. Now place them on the heated griddle and patiently let them roast.
sweet potato cutlet frying
Brush some oil on both sides and roast them on the tava. Let them brown on both sides. Once they are done, serve hot with some green chutney or tomato ketchup.
sweet potato cutlets

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Lemon Ginger Rasam

There are days when you  have a heavy evening snack and don't really feel like cooking or eating anything heavy for the night. On such days, we do not just settle for good old thayir sadam ( rice and curds), but also have this light and refreshing lemon ginger rasam alongside. The fresh flavors from both the lemon and ginger make it really appetizing even during times when you are feeling under the weather. Instead of garnishing the rasam with coriander leaves, I add the coriander stalks from the "hybrid dhania" that we get here.
hybrid coriander

The stalks are not tender enough to use in curries or gravies. But it can be used in this rasam since it will be crushed in the mortar. The lemon ginger rasam is really light on the stomach and the juices of lemon, coriander and ginger will help you digest your food much better. What's more, it is so easy to rustle up that it figures on my menu at least once in a week!
lemon ginger rasam

To make the rasam, I do not use too much of toor dal. Instead, I use more of the toor dal water. So what I do is that I pressure cook a cup of toor dal with a pinch of turmeric. Then pour 1 and half cups of water into the dal container and give it a swish. Then remove the water separately, along with two tsp of the cooked toor dal. I reserve the rest of the toor dal to make dal the same day. Or it keeps well in the fridge for a week, you can use it on any day you are making a dal or sambar. Once you have this dal water mixture, it takes just five minutes to put together this rasam. Lets see how. 

Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 15 Minutes

Ingredients of Lemon Ginger Rasam 

1 and 1/2 cups toor dal water 
2 tsp of cooked toor dal 
1 green chilli, slit lengthwise
1 inch ginger grated or chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon 
2 tsp of chopped coriander stalk
salt and sugar to taste
oil for tempering
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard 
1/2 tsp cumin seeds or jeera
a pinch of asafetida

Method to prepare Lemon Ginger Rasam

Cook about a cup of toor dal and add a cup and half of water to it. Now gently swish the water with a ladle and separate it out from the dal. Take two tsp of the cooked dal and mash it well. Add it to the dal water and set it aside.
toor dal water

In a mortar, crush the ginger and coriander stalk together coarsely.
ginger coriander lemon

Now bring one cup of water to a boil on medium flame. Slit a green chilli and add it to the water, along with the coriander-ginger paste.
boiling rasam

Once it comes to a rolling boil, add the toor dal and water mixture. Add to it salt and sugar to taste. This is a sweet-sour rasam, hence the need for the sugar. Also, sugar enhances the flavor of ginger.
rasam with lemon and ginger

Prepare the tempering by heating oil, add to it the asafetida and mustard. Once the mustard starts crackling, add the curry leaves and jeera. If you like your rasam spicy, you can add some coarsely powdered pepper to the tempering. 
Now pour the tempering on the rasam. Turn off the heat. Adjust the salt and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon into it. 
lemon ginger rasam

That is about it! Enjoy it with steaming hot rice or drink as is as a soup. It is refreshing and light on the stomach. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mango Phirni Recipe

I really love the fact that I have super helpful neighbors. When I had to cut short a function in the apartment complex due to unexpected visitors and was at a loss for what to make in a hurry, a neighbor walked back along with me and gave me a big bowl of paddu/paniyaram batter. I had to return her vessel and again I was left wondering what to make. Normally, when giving back the vessel, you put something sweet into it and do not return it empty. While I was thinking of what is the simplest sweet dish that I can make, my eyes fell upon the mangoes in the fruit basket and the easiest sweet I could think of making with it was Mango Phirni - totally my kind of dish- takes less than half an hour to make.
mango phirni

The phirni is an Indian Rice pudding that is normally served in earthenware and is topped with chopped nuts. It is made from a base of milk and ground rice. Rose water or Kewra Water is normally used to add flavor to the phirni.  It is not overtly heavy on the stomach and you can eat a whole cupful without too much guilt. Mine is not the traditional dish. First of all, it has mangoes in it. These days, the mango phirni that is served in the restaurants has mango puree in it. I could not be bothered with making puree, so I just added chopped mangoes into it. It is nice to bite into chunky pieces of mango while eating the phirni. Garnish can be done with the nuts of your choice. I added blanched almonds just before serving the mango phirni.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes ( excluding soaking time)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Serves 4

Ingredients for Mango Phirni

3 cups milk 
3 tbsp Basmati Rice
5-6 cashewnuts (optional)
8 tsp sugar 
1 mango chopped 
A large pinch of cardamom powder
Nuts for garnish 

Method to make Mango Phirni

Soak the Basmati Rice in water for about an hour and half. 
rice phirni

Once done, start boiling the milk. While the milk is boiling, grind the rice to a fine paste in the mixer. Make sure there are no grains. You could add a few soaked cashewnuts too to this while grinding. 

rice paste phirni

When the milk almost comes to a boil, add to it the sugar and the rice paste. Now start mixing everything together and keep stirring constantly. It is best to do it with a whisk. Add the cardamom powder into it too. As you are stirring it together, you will be able to feel the resistance building up.

Whisk it on low flame for about fifteen minutes. By now it would have considerably thickened. Turn off the heat. At this point, I transferred it to individual containers for the two of us and the rest into her bowl.

Allow it to cool for about half an hour. Now chop up the mangoes into small cubes. These go into the chilled phirni.

mango pieces

Top the phirni with a spoonful of mango cubes.

mango phirni

Mix the mango cubes well into the phirni. Garnish it with the chopped nuts and refrigerate again for at least half an hour. Upon refrigeration, it gets set and you can cut it from the kulhad with a spoon and enjoy a simple yet fulfilling dessert.

mango phirni

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bengali moong dal | Bhaja Muger Dal

Ever since the Bengali Cholar Dal from Dassana's blog was declared a hit at the dinner table, I have been on the lookout for other similar Bengali dishes to break the monotony of the regular tried and tested dals. That's when I chanced upon the Bhaja Muger Dal. This Bengali Moong Dal recipe makes use of fried moong dal. Bhaja in Bengali means "fried". Moong dal is much easier to digest in the night, compared to the channa dal in Cholar Dal, making it a winning combination with roti for dinner. So if you are bored of the regular dal fry or dal tadka and want to try something new, then Bhaja Muger Dal is an excellent option.
After trawling a few bengali cooking websites, I found that the tempering was similar to the cholar dal. So I decided to follow Dassana's recipe itself. It's just got a handful of ingredients going into it. What's more, it is really simple to make and has its distinct taste that comes from the roasting and the tempering.
Bengali Moong Dal

So how does one make the Bhaja Muger Dal ? Here's how.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients for the Bhaja Muger Dal

1 cup of Moong Dal
2 tbsp ghee / clarified butter
1 bay leaf
1 pod cardamom
2 dry red chillies ( I used the byadgi variety)
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1/2 tsp jeera / cumin seeds
A large pinch of turmeric powder
A large pinch of asafetida (optional)
1 inch ginger grated
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

How to make Bhaja Muger Dal

In a wide pan, add a tbsp of ghee and roast the moong dal in it, till it imparts a nice aroma. This will take about ten minutes. Do not let the dal burn or brown. So that means, giving ten minutes of your undivided attention to the dal, since once this is done, you are pretty much set with your dal. 
Now pressure cook the dal with enough water in a pressure cooker. I cook for two whistles on low flame and then a third on high. It takes about ten minutes to cook a cup of dal.
bhaja muger dal tempering

While the pressure in the cooker subsides, you can get started with the tempering. Heat the remaining ghee in a pan and throw in the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf into it. Once their fragrance starts wafting out, add in the rest of the dry spices - jeera, chillies, turmeric and hing. Fry for a minute.
bhaja muger dal tadka

Now top this with the cooked dal. Season with salt and a little bit of sugar. Grate in about an inch of ginger into it. Of late, I have started adding the ginger towards the end of the cooking rather than the beginning. That way, the ginger does not get stuck to the bottom of the pan and its fresh taste is more prominent in the dish.
bhaja muger dal

Simmer for five minutes. Given the presence of spices like cardamom and cinnamon, this dal tends to be a little on the sweeter side. You can up the hotness of the dal by increasing the number of chillies going into it. 
Once all the flavors come together, turn off the gas and serve it hot with phulkas or rice. I served it with methi rotis and a carrot-ridge gourd sabzi on the side. 
bhaja muger dal dinner

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I recharged my Hair and fell in love with myself

If you have great hair and flaunt a good hairstyle, it is half the battle won when you are beginning your day. Battle, did I say? Yes, of course. For us women, each day is a battle with our hair. There are days when they look dull, days when they look all oily and chipku and times when you want to pull all of them out they do not get tamed at all!

I have had my fair share of bad hair days, so much that they lasted all through the year. The tresses were long but lacked volume, not allowing me to style them as I pleased. They lacked the bounce and natural shine. I was sentimental about chopping off the length and ended up with a plait every single day. It was convenient, hid my hair issues, was the best solution when in a hurry. I ride a two wheeler, so loose hair under the helmet means working overtime on your hair to ensure it looks right. So the easiest way to deal with my hair was to braid the hair and walk out. After a point, I stopped caring about my hair and because of it my overall style quotient took a nosedive every single day. 

Add to that all the noise I was hearing about parabens and the scare about the effect on my health from all the accumulated parabens in my body wash, body lotion, sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner. I swore off  all the cosmetics that had parabens and started looking for natural alternatives. The natural alternatives meant an inconvenient half hour of hair washing and yet the hair oil would show no signs of going off. Hair washing, which is supposed to be a happy and rejuvenating experience turned out to be something I was not really looking forward to, since I knew very well that one wash was not going to be sufficient with the hair wash powder. It was also leaving my hair brittle and dry. Not just me, the husband also became a victim of my paraben-free product obsession. He'd dutifully scrub his hair with the hair wash powder but I could tell that he was not really happy about it. It got me praying for some new product that was filled with the goodness of nature that would come to my rescue and be life altering. 

So here I was, stuck with hair that was dull and lifeless, an excuse in the name of a hairstyle, pictures from trips that did not radiate the same happiness that I was feeling from travelling and a grumpy faced husband on his hair wash days. Adding insult to injury, imagine my horror when a neighborhood kid referred to me as "Aunty"!! That was the last straw! I wanted to bury myself somewhere deep and never be visible again. 

Enter my neighbor who is also an owner of a salon. She took a look at me at the corridor one day and said, "That's a nice dress you are wearing, but you should do something about your hair. It certainly doesn't go well with the clothes you are wearing, you need more volume on your head and need to trim those split ends. Your hair looks dull and needs more nourishment ma". I knew that in her mind she had written me off as a lazy person who did not care one bit about my hair. She asked me to pay her a visit at the salon one of the days.  
I thought about it and said to myself that I could give her suggestion a try and go in for a haircut. It will grow back anyway, if I did not like it. And I paid her a visit. She asked me how far I was willing to go with regards to how much hair she could chop off. I showed her and submitted myself to her able hands. Chop chop she went and lo and behold, transformed me in half an hour from someone who was called "Aunty" to a younger looking and a more buoyant me. My hair suddenly started looking fuller and bouncy. I did a small twirl in front of the mirror and could not stop feeling smug!

The lady then understood my problem with hair products and told me about many paraben-free shampoos available in the market, the newest among them being Sunsilk Natural Recharge, which comes with the Ginseng Root Extract that helps control hairfall and naturally recharges your hair. She told me that I could stop worrying about hair going awry or getting clumped a day after washing it. That this one product with its conditioner would be enough to take care of all my hair needs. That I did not have to spend hours together anymore trying to get oil off my hair. And after shampooing, I can just stop worrying about my hair and go ahead and do what I want with my hair.

I can now happily go and lather up my hair without worrying about parabens in the shampoo and also tell the  husband that he can go back to using shampoo. And I can let my hair frame my face and fall on my shoulders cause they look healthy and look like they are being taken care of. Hair care has become so much more easy. It is not hair washing anymore but is shampooing. My hair feels much more stronger and shinier.

Not just my hair, I myself have regained the bounce in my step. I am now more confident and feel much better when I dress up, cause a change in the hairdo has totally changed the way I look. This is what I had needed for the longest time. A different hair cut and some tender loving care for the hair and its a new ME altogether. I did not know that such a small change would make me so happy. My pictures now look so much better. I look younger than my years. I smile more when I look at myself in the mirror, cause I like what I see. That smile stems from the confidence that you are looking really good.  And isn't that what all of us want at the end of the day - Another reason to be happy? I now know that all it took to recharge my life was to recharge my hair!

This post is written for the Recharge your Hair contest conducted by Indiblogger in association with Sunsilk