K for Kheema (mince) on crackers

My family has always been crackers over Cream Crackers and we treat them like toast, slathered with strange and various toppings. The origins of this version go way back to the 1930s when my grand-aunt, Ini, was a young child.

Apparently, there was this one time when the large and extended family had all gone on a day long picnic. In those days, restaurants didn’t quite exist and food was either taken along or cooked on the spot. The custom in my grandaunt’s family was to take the family cook or ‘khansama’ along so that they could all enjoy some hot food, alfresco.

Fresh air and the outdoors bring on the hunger pangs rather quickly – after all, the whole point of a picnic is the food! Now, the cook didn’t relish being checked on every half an hour by a gang of hungry kids. So he served them mince on crackers to keep the little mouths busy and the tummies full enough to stop them from annoying him while lunch was cooking.

I remember eating this while we were waiting for many a late Sunday lunch to be brought to the table. Clearly, my grandaunt had learnt the secret to calming rumbling bellies while lunch was still on the hob.

The days of cooking a picnic alfresco may have long passed, but kheema on mince is here to stay, at least in our family.

Do you have fond memories of a favourite childhood snack?

K for Kheema on crackers

K for Kheema on crackers

Ingredients:

500 grams chicken mince

1 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

3 cloves of garlic, finely grated

1.5 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons paprika or chilli powder

1.5 teaspoons PP sambhar powder or garam masala

salt to taste

1 tablespoon yoghurt

2-3 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 large green chilli, finely chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine + 1/2 cup fried onions

1 large tomato plus 4 tablespoons tomato passata

1 cup peas

1 tablespoon mint

2 tablespoons coriander

 

Method:

  1. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric, paprika, PP sambhar powder (or garam masala powder) to the mince. Add yoghurt and mix well. Keep aside for about 30 minutes.
  2. In the meanwhile, heat the oil or ghee. When it is hot, add the chilli and let it splutter.
  3. Add the onions and fry well. When they start to brown, add the tomatoes. Cook this well until you have a thick mixture. Add the peas and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Now add the marinaded mince along with the tomato paste. Mix well and add salt to taste. Add water, cover and cook till mince is done.
  5. Uncover and add the mint and coriander. Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes till the water evaporates. When it is done, take the mince off the heat and let it cool.
  6. Lay out your crackers on a serving platter and spoon some mince onto them.
  7. Serve warm.

Notes:

I have used chicken mince but you can use lamb mince, if you prefer.

Posted in A-Z 2016, Fish and Meat, Meat and Poultry, Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

J for Jeere-Mire (Cumin- Black pepper) Prawns

This is my version of the original ‘jeere- mire chicken’. I found this rather unusual dish in Nana’s recipe book but it was more ‘a notes to myself’ page than a recipe. I’ve substituted prawns for the chicken, but used all the other ingredients described. I made up the measurements as I went along as these were conspicuously absent in the original notes.

I don’t have anything to compare it with, but I quite liked the kick of the pepper along with the heat of the red chillies. I have added some curry leaves which aren’t in the original notes.

The spice mix is quite similar to some of the other Goan recipes that call for ginger-garlic and chillies to be ground together with cumin and a splash of malt vinegar. It’s quite a heady aroma, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to sniff it while you’re grinding the masala. It can set off a proper sneezing fit.

It is quite a fiery dish and I would highly recommend balancing it with some milder accompaniments. I imagine that Nana might have served this with some coconut rice but we will never know.

As for me, I like the idea of serving this with some Prosecco. 🙂

J for Jeere-Mire Prawns

J for Jeere-Mire Prawns

Ingredients:

300 grams prawns, shelled and deveined

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 small tomato (or 2 tablespoons tomato passata)

3-4 curry leaves

4 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons chopped coriander

For the spice paste:

1 inch piece of ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1-2 dry red chillies, seeds and all

8-10 peppercorns

salt to taste

1-2 teaspoons malt vinegar

Method:

  1. Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste with a 2 tablespoons water. You need a smooth paste.
  2. Marinade the prawns with the paste and add some salt. Keep aside.
  3. Heat the oil. Add the curry leaves and the onions. When the onions are caramelised add the tomato paste or chopped tomato. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy and the onions and tomatoes have come together.
  4. Add the prawns along with all the spice paste they were marinaded in. Add 1/4 cup of water and cook on high till prawns are done and the water has evaporated.
  5. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Note:

  1. To serve this as a curry simply add more water when cooking the prawns.
Posted in A-Z 2016, Fish, Goan cuisine, Gravy dishes, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I for Idli stuffed with chutney (aka Vafole)

The puritans may argue that idli and vafole are not interchangeable. However, for all practical purposes, I think that idli batter does the job beautifully.

In the days of yore, when everything was made from scratch, I would watch in fascination as the ingredients, were soaked, pounded and left to ferment. The coconut chutney was hand ground on a special stone called ‘paata-varvanta’ till it was the texture of fine velvet. Aji didn’t think that mixer-grinders could do the job as well and that the heat from the appliance would ruin the taste of the chutney, which had to be just so. Sadly, for us creatures of the modern conveniences era, a food processor/ mixer-grinder will have to do, although I am still envious of those who enjoy the luxury of being able to do this the old fashioned way.

Whichever way you choose to make these vafole or stuffed idlis, no one can argue that they make a perfect snack. Hot, stuffed with a spicy filling (chutney, potatoes, mince – the choices are many) and a smooth texture that allows your taste buds to lull you senses into a general feeling of ‘all’s well with the world’. Add a cup of steaming coffee and I’m in food heaven.

Stuffed Idlis or Vafole - Work in progress

Stuffed Idlis or Vafole – Work in progress

Ingredients:

1 kg of idli batter

1 cup of green chutney

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil for greasing the moulds

ghee (for topping the vafole – optional)

I for Idlis (or vafole), stuffed with chutney

I for Idlis (or vafole), stuffed with chutney

Method:

  1. You can choose to use a traditional idli stand or you can use metal muffin trays that can withstand the steaming process.
  2. Grease the moulds lightly with the oil.
  3. Fill the moulds with the batter to the half way mark. Add a table spoon of the chutney (or potatoes/mince). Top with batter so that you mould is full but still has a little breathing space for the mixture to rise.
  4. Place the moulds in a steamer. (I use a rice cooker.)
  5. Steam for about 10-12 minutes until the vafole are cooked through and fluffy.
  6. Run a blunt knife around the base of the vafoles to release them from the moulds.
  7. Top with some ghee (optional) and serve hot.

 

Notes:

  1. I have chosen to make the vegetarian option today. You can use a variety of fillings like leftover potatoes. Mince is a popular choice at home, but naturally. 🙂
  2. Try and use up the vafole on the same day. They don’t heat very well and the microwave destroys the chutney, in this case.
Posted in A-Z 2016, Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

H is for Kelyacha Halwa (Banana Halwa)

Kelyacha halwa or halwa made from very ripe plantains is my Aji’s specialty. She made it a few times during the Indian monsoons, when the long red plantains (known as rajeli keli) are in season. We ate it as fudge, and Aji sometimes stuffed a version of it into flatbreads to make kelyachi poli. It made going back to school after the long summer holidays much more bearable.

The month of Shravan was a special one with many different reasons to celebrate. It featured a veritable smorgasbord of seasonal ingredients and festive food and this halwa featured often.

Kelyacha halwa is a labour of love, but the final product is worth the time and patience it soaks up. If I were to make a top 5 list of the recipes that I treasure as my culinary inheritance, this would be the jewel in that list.

Ingredients:

3 very ripe bananas

180 grams sugar

2 tablespoons ghee + 1/2 a teaspoon for greasing the plate

Kelyacha halwa

Kelyacha halwa

Method:

  1. Mash the bananas with a fork, until you have a smooth and lump free mash.
  2. Mix the sugar and the ghee in.
  3. Heat a thick bottomed pan.
  4. Add the banana mixture and stir frequently so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom.
  5. Keep stirring for about 8-10 minutes which is when it should start becoming thick and sticky. Scrape down the sides and mix the bits in.
  6. When it turns a deep golden brown and it is difficult to stir the spoon through the mixture, take it off the heat. The consistency should be that of a sticky toffee or dense fudge.
  7. Grease a deep plate with 1 teaspoon (approx.) ghee.
  8. Spoon the halwa into this plate. Smooth out the ridges and furrows with the back of a spoon and let cool for a couple of hours.
  9. Cut the halwa into pieces and serve.

Note:

  1. I have used regular Caribbean plantains for this recipe. If you are using sweeter plantains or bananas, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar you use.
  2. Some versions of this halwa also call for cardamom powder to be added to it while cooking. I have stayed true to the version my Aji makes and have left this out.
Posted in A-Z 2016, Desserts, Festive food, Seasonal food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Ganpati special – Green Peas or Vataanyachi bhaaji

I wrote about the Ganpati celebrations at my grandparents’ home and the festivities that followed. If you’ve read about it here, you will have noticed the rather unusual menu for that day.

There is a simple explanation to it. The Ganpati set up used to be an elaborate and laborious one. Since the idol was made at home by my granduncle it had to be perfect, as did the decorations. This meant that the idol would only be ready to be installed that evening, unlike most homes where the idol is installed and the puja done in the morning. This evening schedule meant that the first proper meal of the day could only be had after offering it to Ganpati. Lunch was therefore a bit of a compromise, and could not include grains of any sort. Salads being an alien concept back then, the next best thing was this dish of spicy peas washed down with some cool lemonade.

There was always something special in the air that day that made this rather frugal meal simply delicious.

It’s fabulous on its own but now I sometimes serve it with steamed rice and plain lentils as a quick weekday dinner.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and continue to do.

Ganpati chi bhaaji (Vataane)

Ganpati chi bhaaji (Vataane)

Ingredients:

400 grams green peas, shelled

2 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon each turmeric, chilli powder and sambhar powder*

salt to taste

1 onion, finely chopped (optional)

a pinch of asafoetida

Green Peas

Green Peas

Method:

  1. In a large saute pan, heat the oil. Add asafoetida and cumin seeds.

  2. Once the cumin seeds splutter, add in the spices. Take the pan off the heat and swirl the oil so that the spices are well mixed. Add in the onions and put the pan back on the heat.

  3. Cook till the onion is transparent and add the peas. Add salt.

  4. Cover and cook on low-medium heat till the onions are mushy and the peas are done.

  5. Serve hot.

 

Notes:

  1. The onions are cooked till they are mushy and almost invisible to the eye.

  2. It’s the peas that are the stars of this dish so use the best of the season. If you are using petit pois you may not need to cook them for as long.

  3. This also makes a great filling for hand pies/samosas.

  4. The sambhar masala is a garam masala unique to the Pathare Prabhu community. You can omit it altogether or use a pinch of regular garam masala in its place.

 

Posted in A-Z 2016, Festive food, Seasonal food, Seasonal Veggies, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fasting and Feasting in true Maharashtrian style

Fasting and Feasting may seem contradictory, but not to a true blue Pathare Prabhu. The logic is simple – you can abstain from food groups but you don’t have to eat boring. Can’t argue with that, can you?

There is a Marathi saying which goes ‘Ekaadashi, duppat khaashi’. Loosely translated, it means that on the Ekadashi day (which is traditionally a day of fasting) you end up eating twice as much.

So what is it that gets us all excited about denying ourselves?

Try these for a start. These are made on the days when you are required to abstain from grains.

First up is Varyacha rava (also called Bhagar), made from sawa millet (seeds of a wild grass).

Fasting food : Variche tandul or bhagar

Fasting food : Variche tandul or bhagar

Ingredients:

1/2 cup variche tandul (aka samo seeds or sawa millet)

1 tablespoon ghee

1 small potato, peeled and cubed

1 small green chilli

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons peanuts, roasted and crushed

salt to taste

1 tablespoon grated coconut (optional)

Method:

  1. Wash the variche tandul and keep aside.
  2. In a pan, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds and the chopped green chilli. When they crackle, add the tandul and the potatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup water and salt. Stir, cover and cook till done. This can take about 5-7 minutes for this quantity.
  4. Top with peanuts and coconut.
  5. Serve hot.

Note: This is usually served with a small bowl of lightly sweetened yoghurt.

 

Here are some other fasting foods that we feast on.

Sabudana vade

Konefal ani chatni (Purple yam with green coconut chutney)

 

Duppat khashi, indeed. It’s quite apt considering the variety of delicious foods to choose from.

 

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Potatoes, Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

E for Eggs on crackers

Now this certainly does not qualify as an heirloom recipe by any stretch of imagination. And no, it didn’t come from my grandmum’s recipe books, though it does come from my mum’s repertoire. That’s excuse enough – because with a theme like Befores and Afters, I can’t not include this one here.

This was one Before that mostly used to be an afterthought. It was put together in haste when we had unexpected friends drop in unannounced for a drink and a chinwag. Yes, they did do that in the good old days. But I digress.

You can use what you have to hand to assemble these – crackers, Monaco, Ritz biscuits, saltines – whatever you call them in your part of the world.

I do think the ketchup on top was just to prove that some effort had gone into it. I remember being served these for an afternoon snack in a hurry. As a child, there was nothing I wouldn’t eat if it was topped with ketchup. Some things never change!

 

Eggs on Monaco crackers

Eggs on Monaco crackers

Ingredients:

Hard boiled eggs, one per person

A pack of crackers

A few tablespoons of ketchup

IMG_8115

Method:

  1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice them.
  2. Spread the crackers on a platter. Top with the slices of hard boiled eggs.
  3. Top with a dollop of ketchup

Enjoy your very fancy Oeufs aux Monaco. 😉

 

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

D for Dhapate

Dhapate, in Marathi, usually means a sharp slap on the back. These pancakes, similarly, derive their name from being slapped onto the griddle. They are a close cousin of ‘Thalipeeth’ – a fiery, tear inducing version of the same and also served with some ghee and pickles.

Dhapate are traditionally made from jowar (millets or sorghum) flour while Thalipeeth is made from a mixture of wheat, gram and other flours. As with most gluten free flours, this one lacks elasticity and is difficult to roll out, so you use your wet palms to pat them into shape and ‘slap’ them onto a hot griddle.

There’s something very satisfying with kneading the dough, shaping it and hearing the dhapate sizzle in the heat.

I have made mini ones that can be dipped into a sauce or used as a scoop for dips.

Be sure to serve them hot and watch them disappear. The only thing you will be smacking is your lips.

 

D for Dhapate

D for Dhapate

Ingredients:

3 cups jowar/millet flour

1 cup grated onions

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 green chilli, chopped fine

1 tablespoon lightly toasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon peanuts, toasted and crushed

4-5 tablespoons chopped coriander

1/2 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder

salt to taste

oil to knead the dough

3 tablespoons melted ghee

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, sift the flour and the salt. Add the onions, garlic, chilli, sesame seeds, peanuts, paprika. Add about 3-4 tablespoons oil and knead the dough using water sparingly. You need a firm but pliable dough.

  2. Heat the griddle and brush it with the melted ghee.

  3. Divide the dough into 12-15 balls, about the size of golf balls.

  4. Wet your palms and flatten each ball into a disc, pressing down to make sure you have an even thickness all over.

  5. Slap these discs down on the griddle. Brush them with some more melted ghee, drizzling some around the circumference too.

  6. Turn them over after 3-4 minutes, ensuring they are golden brown on both sides.

  7. Place them on paper towels to get rid of any excess ghee.

  8. Serve hot with ketchup or a yoghurt dip.

 

 

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

C for Chicken Cafreal

I can truly say, hand on heart, that I have never eaten chicken Cafreal in my childhood. This dish often featured in stories about Marianne, reportedly an outstanding cook, and also the housekeeper of the ancestral home in Goa. My dad would tell us about how she would cook the most exotic food, over a roaring wood fire in her very basic kitchen. Marianne would delight in feeding him and his cousins when they visited Goa in the holidays, turning out culinary masterpieces for every meal.

My Nana (dad’s mum) was too old to cook, as far as I can remember. Her passion was making pickles. So it’s no surprise that this dish eventually fell off the menu.

I finally got to taste the famous Cafreal at Souza Lobo’s in Goa. It was every bit as delicious as the stories I had heard.

I’ve had fun recreating it from Nana’s notes and felt like I was in the Potion’s classroom in Hogwarts, conjuring up some magic. 🙂

I think it is so good that it deserves the singular attention that one can lavish on an appetiser – without the distraction of other competing food on the plate.

I’d love to know what you think.

C for Chicken cafreal

C for Chicken cafreal

Ingredients:

350 grams chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces

10-12 peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon poppyseeds (khuskhus)

3 cloves of garlic

1 inch piece of ginger

2 green chillies

25 grams coriander leaves

1 inch piece cinnamon

2 cloves

1 small ball of tamarind (a little smaller than a walnut in size)

1 small onion, chopped fine or 1/2 a cup fried onions

salt to taste

2 tablespoons oil or ghee

Chicken cafreal wraps

Chicken cafreal wraps

 

Method:

  1. Soak the tamarind in some warm water. When it has soaked for about 20 minutes and has turned soft extract the juice, squeezing the tamarind pods with your fingers. Keep this juice aside.
  2. Grind into a fine paste the cumin, poppy seeds, ginger-garlic, chillies, coriander, cloves and cinnamon. Use the tamarind water to grind the spices. Use just enough water to allow you to grind these to a fine paste. Add salt.
  3. Marinade the chicken in this paste and keep aside for an hour or two.
  4. Heat the oil or ghee and fry the onions till golden brown.
  5. Now add the chicken and fry on medium heat, turning the pieces until they are cooked through.

Serve hot.

This version makes 2-3 servings.

 

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Chicken, Goan cuisine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

B for Batatewade

These golden balls are a very popular street snack in India. The one rule of eating out in India is that if it’s fried, hot, and spicy, you’re probably good to go. Oh, and always follow the crowds. That won’t be too difficult where these batate wade or potato dumplings are concerned. It’s one of Mumbai’s signature dishes and you will find yourself following your nose and a stream of people in search of your next fix.

My mum and grandmum used to try and wean us off eating street food by making these at home, accompanied by generous lashings of garlic chutney that’s an integral part of this dish.

As much as I enjoy these when I am in the mother city, I need to have my quick fix when I’m homesick and the cravings hit hard. So, here’s my version of a classic. I hope I can do it justice.

Batatewade - classic Mumbai street food

Batatewade – classic Mumbai street food

Ingredients:

For the mash:-

4 large potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed

1/2 a teaspoon mustard seeds

8-10 curry leaves

2 small cloves of garlic, chopped fine

1-2 green chillies, chopped fine

a pinch of turmeric

salt to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the batter:-

1/2 cup gramflour (besan)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder / paprika

salt to taste

water

Oil to fry the wade

Method:

  1. Heat the oil until it is really hot. Add the mustard seeds, garlic, chillies and curry leaves. When they crackle and splutter, take this off the heat. Add the turmeric and swirl it around in the oil.
  2. Pour this fragrant oil into the potato mash while it is still warm. Add the salt.
  3. Mix well until it is well incorporated.
  4. Now make the batter. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, salt to the besan. Mix well.
  5. Now add enough water to make a thick batter. Thin enough to run off the spoon but thick enough to leave a trail in the batter. (The batter needs to coat the wade and hold on to them.)
  6. Now grease your palms and divide the mash into evenly round balls.
  7. Heat your frying pan and add enough oil to deep fry the batate wade. The balls need to be submerged in the oil.
  8. Dip each ball of the mash into the batter and add them to the frying pan.
  9. Each wada needs its own space in the pan so add fewer than you think can fit into it.
  10. When they turn golden and crunchy, take them out onto paper towels that can soak up excess oil.
  11. Serve hot with generous portions of chutney. Green chutney is fine but the fiery garlic one is what will establish your credentials of being a true blue Mumbaikar.

 

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Batate (Many ways to cook potatoes), Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A for Appe

The Befores and Afters theme kicks off with a slightly unusual and not very frequently made recipe. This dish also has the ability to switch forms from a ‘Before’ to an ‘After’: depending on whether you choose to make the sweet or the savoury version. The sweet tooth won this round, but of course!

Appe (pronounced ‘Up-pay’) are small, sweet and very moreish. They resemble doughnut balls or the Danish pancakes aebleskivers (they are also known as paniyaram in southern India.) and taste like dense pancakes.

Traditionally made for a range of festivals in most Pathare Prabhu homes, ours traded these for milk based desserts that are sweeter and far richer than appe. But, given that they were my childhood favourites and not made as often as I would have liked, I thought I owed them a mention here to let them enjoy their spot in the A-Z hall of fame.

These appe get their distinctive look from being cooked in a cast iron pan that has 6-12 hemispherical compartments, depending on the size of the pan.

Appe : a sweet semolina version, in the appe pan

Appe : a sweet semolina version, in the appe pan

 

Ingredients:

250 grams semolina

150 grams sugar

a pinch of finely ground cardamoms

a tiny pinch of ground nutmeg

a handful of raisins

2 tablespoons ghee

chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)

Equipment: An ‘appe’ patra (pan) or aebleskiver pan

Method:

  1. Heat a cup of water till it is warm.
  2. In a large bowl, add all the semolina and pour the warm water over it till the mixture is the consistency of thick porridge. Cover and leave this to soak for about 2-3 hours.
  3. To this mixture, now add the sugar, cardamom and nutmeg powders and raisins. Give it a nice stir.
  4. Heat the appe pan as you would a normal frying pan. Add a few drops of ghee into each compartment. Spoon in the batter and fry till cooked, flipping each of the appe over and until you have a golden crust.
  5. Serve hot.

 

Notes:

  1. Sprinkle some chopped nuts over the batter just before the appe are completely done.

  2. You can also make a banana version. Mash in a banana into the semolina mix and cut down on the sugar. This is a taste and proceed process and depends on how gooey you want the insides to be. You will also need to use more ghee to cook this version.

3. I chose to make a healthy option with very little ghee. You can choose to deep fry these too.

  1. This version uses semolina which makes them denser and a perfect accompaniment for an after dinner coffee. I also chose to not to add a raising agent which explain the hemispherical shape you see here. If you don’t mind the taste, add a pinch of baking soda and they will puff up like little balloons.
Appe with caramelised raisins and pistachios

Appe with caramelised raisins and pistachios

This post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge and I’m blogging all through April on the theme ‘Befores and Afters’. #AtoZchallenge

Posted in A-Z 2016, Desserts, Festive food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

A-Z 2016 Theme Reveal : Befores and Afters

A-Z 2016 Theme Reveal

A-Z 2016 Theme Reveal

In April, this blog will feature an eclectic collection of ‘Befores and Afters’ – appetisers and desserts, inspired by my Pathare Prabhu and Goan heritage.

I hold onto precious memories in the form of handwritten recipes and cookbooks that I have inherited from my grandmothers. Some recipes still play a starring role at the dining table but others now live only in the nostalgia tinged stories my dad often recounts.

April will give me a chance to showcase some of these on the blog.

But in the meanwhile, wish me luck in trying to decipher age old handwriting, make sense of weights and measures from a previous era and in trying to decide which of my personal favourites to include here and how much to tweak the original recipes. Aji will be thrilled and I’m sure Nana wouldn’t mind.

I am doing a happy dance and nervous jig at the same time!

Deciphering the recipes: Yes, that's the condition of the book and No, I'm not using that one.

Deciphering the recipes: Yes, that’s the condition of the book and No, I’m not using that one.

 

Posted in A-Z 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Konefal (Purple Yam)

If you are looking for a healthy and delicious, bright purple snack, look no further. Yes, you read that right. If your new year resolutions include discovering the new and interesting, give purple purple yam a twirl. Of course, to many Indians, this cousin to the sweet potato is a familiar delicacy. (Konefal – pronounced ‘cone’ + fal as rhyming with ‘dull’)

Making it is so simple, I am kind of ashamed to even write this post. But I absolutely love this bright tuber in its healthy as well as decadent forms so I will plough on.

This serves 2 as a light snack or a side.

Steamed konefal with coconut chutney

Steamed konefal with coconut chutney

Ingredients:

200 grams purple yam

Method:

  1. Wash throughly. Peel off the skin as you would for a potato.
  2. Steam for about 10-15 minutes depending on the size.
  3. Slice and sprinkle salt.
  4. Slather on some coconut chutney.
  5. Enjoy with a steaming cup of cardamom coffee.

If you are in a slightly more indulgent mood, here’s An equally delicious option.

Wash, peel and slice the yam. Marinate the slices in a mix of salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Pan fry them until golden on the edges. Drain on paper towels.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the slices and serve hot.

Posted in Festive food, Savoury snacks, Teatime snacks or Brunch ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s go fly a kite..and celebrate Sankranti

I’m sure you’ve hummed that along as you watched Mary Poppins, but have you ever flown a  proper Indian kite? Sankranti, which is celebrated mid January, heralds the arrival of Spring in the Indian subcontinent and is a harvest celebration. You can read more here.

It is also celebrated as the Kite festival in India. The sky is a flurry of colour and kite flying gets intensely competitive. The string is strengthened with a specially prepared mix of glue and powdered glass. The intention is to keep your kite flying for as long as you can while you try and cut and conquer the kites of your fellow kite flyers. The origins of kite flying in India are not terribly clear, but the excitement is a treat to observe even if you prefer to keep your own palms unblemished.

No Indian festival is complete without sweets and Til Laddoos lay their claim to this harvest festival. The combination of Til (sesame seeds) and jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) is a warming one and perfect for the weather – the cusp of winter and spring. As with everything else, every family has their favourite version – from rock hard jaw breakers to crunchy and lightly sweetened laddoos.

So if you are ready, read on. I’ve made two versions – the traditional jaw breakers and a softer version for the tender milk teeth of our four year old.

Enjoy and as we say ‘ Tilgul ghya ani gode gode bola’ (literally – Eat sweet, talk sweet!)

Til gul ghya ani gode gode bola

Til gul ghya ani gode gode bola

Ingredients:

200 grams til (sesame seeds)

225 grams jaggery

1/3 spoon cardamom seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon ghee

Method:

  1. Toast the sesame seeds until a light golden colour. Cool and keep aside. This can be done a few days in advance,
  2. Grease a plate (ideally, one with a high rim) with the ghee. Reserve 1 teaspoon for later.
  3. Heat a thick bottomed pan and melt the jaggery until it melts to a soft ball stage. (A drop of jaggery, at this stage, added to water, should form a soft ball.)
  4. Stir in the crushed cardamom. Add the sesame seeds and mix with the jaggery until completey coated. This needs to be done quickly as the jaggery turns to cool down and turn hard.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the greased plate. Grease your palms with the reserved ghee.
  6. Working quickly, roll small portions of the mixture into balls and place them on the high rimmed plate. (The ghee protects your palms from the heat.) Traditionally, the balls are about an inch in diameter.
  7. Once the balls start to harden they may start to flatten. This is when you can pick up the plate with the high rim and roll the balls around, en masse. This rolling motion helps them regain their shape and retain it,as they harden.
  8. Not much remains, except to pop one into your mouth and be deprived of conversation for a few delicious minutes.

If you’d like to try another, softer option here’s some Kurmure chikki (puffed rice and jaggery treats) favoured by my dad. Equally yummy and much kinder on the jaws.

Notes:

  1. You can also melt the jaggery in the microwave. I do this in 30 second intervals until the melted jaggery is frothy and takes on a rich amber colour. Mix in the cardamom and the sesame and voila, the mixture is ready in minutes.
Posted in Desserts, Festive food, Seasonal food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Besan ladoo

Despite the many variations of besan ladoos I have tasted, nothing brings back Diwali for me as these do. The aromas of besan roasting in ghee till it was brown and fragrant, the ping of the mortar and pestle as it pounded cardamom pods and nutmeg to a fine powder and vast quantities of nuts and raisins being chopped into tiny slivers – hard work, but we were willing participants for all the tasting we could do under the guise of helping.  It all contributed to the exciting buzz that surrounds the preparation for Diwali. It still does!

There’s something very energising and yet calming about rolling little warm mounds of the mixture into bite sized ladoos. I made a fresh batch over the weekend, and woke up the next morning, feeling very accomplished and charged up for the next task on my Diwali prep list – Rangoli. (Can you spot my cheat’s version in the picture at the end of this post?) 🙂

Besan laadoos

Besan laadoos

Ingredients:

330 grams besan (chickpea flour)

250 grams ghee

1/3 cup milk

250 grams sugar (ground to a fine powder)

3-4 pods of cardamom

a pinch of nutmeg

a few strands of saffron

Prep for besan laadoos

Prep for besan laadoos

Method:

  1. Whisk the besan to get rid of any lumps.
  2. In a sturdy pan, heat the ghee until it is just melted. Add the besan and stir well until it is well mixed. Keep stirring until the besan turns golden brown and gives off a wonderful nutty aroma.
  3. Add the milk at this stage. Once you add the milk, the whole mixture is likely to froth and erupt like a volcano gone mad. (You may wonder if you’ve curdled the mixture and whether you should throw it away and start afresh. Don’t. Just keep the faith and keep stirring. It will soon calm down.) Keep stirring and the mixture will come together in a few minutes.  At this stage, it should look like wet sand. Stir for a few more minutes so that the besan does not stick to the pan and burn.
  4. Turn off the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes.
  5. When the mixture has cooled, add the sugar, the powdered cardamom and nutmeg and the saffron. Add the milk at this stage. Knead sugar and spices into the mixture.
  6. Add the chopped nuts and raisins. Knead into balls.
  7. The besan ladoos are ready to serve but before you do, pop one into your own mouth and you’ll know how good they are.
My cheat's version of a Rangoli in the porch

My cheat’s version of a Rangoli in the porch

Posted in Desserts, Festive food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment