Home Made Plantain (Vazhakkai) Chips.

IMG_1435 Vazhakkai Chips have always been a delicacy at our home , growing up. When we were in school, there was almost no buying snacks from the stores. Processed food was not something we have been used to. Many days whenever my grandmother found fresh green plantains at the local market at Ranganathan Street, she would buy a couple to make these delicious chips. The only gadget that all homes had for this purpose was the Anjali slicer which apparently was the best. I would peel and slice the vazhakkai and spread them on a newspaper next to the stove and my grandmother would pop them in to the hot oil right away. When the fried chips were set to drain on to the colander, I would sprinkle the spice powder over the hot chips, all the time, resisting temptation to eat a few. The Chips Aisle in the grocery supermarket is crowded with so many different brands and a myriad variety of flavors – Sour Cream and Onion, Barbecue, Black Pepper and Sea Salt, Maui Onion, Garden Vegetable etc. There are so many varieties of chips in the market – kettle cooked, popped, baked, toasted etc, but nothing comes even close to the bursting flavours of the simple home made version. 

INGREDIENTS:

3 Fresh Raw Green Plantain.

Oil to Fry.

1/2 Tsp Salt.

1/3 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

1/4 Tsp Hing.

PREPARATION:

  • Pour enough oil in to a heavy bottomed kadai and set  stove on medium flame allowing time for prep work.
  • Mix the dry powders and set aside.
  • Its`s important to have a sharp good quality mandoline and I have been wanting the MicroPlane Adjustable Slicer with Julienne Blade  or the Swissmar Borner Mandoline which is heavily rated and reviewed on Amazon but couldn’t actually get round to looking at one. So I settled with the OXO Adjustable Slicer which is pretty awesome too!
  • Peel the green plantain one at a time and quickly slice the plantain on to a dry paper towel . When the oil is hot enough, slowly pop them in to the hot oil and deep fry them until they get light and crispy and a golden brown.
  • Drain them on to a colander and sprinkle the spice mix on to the chips and toss lightly.
  • Transfer to an air tight container.

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Mumbai Street Food – Paav Bhaaji. (Spicy tangy gravy with mashed vegetables and seasonings served with soft toasted paav buns)

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Street Food they say sometimes tastes way better than the food available at world class restaurants because it has that simplicity built with robust taste that cannot be beaten. This is really true of Mumbai and its street food, as people of all classes love and enjoy eating roadside food. Some of the most famous street food available there are Vada Paav, Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Paav Bhaji, Ragada Pattice, Sev Puri, Dahi Puri etc. This time my India trip also had afew days at Mumbai and I went to the Chowpatty Beach and tasted their amazing chaat varieties. We polished them off with the Khala Khatta Ice Gola availabke there – almost felt like a fushion of thickened  coke, sugar, kala namak and chat masala. I should try that sometime!!!  My daughter simply loved all the chat items and had been wanting me to try the Paav Bhaji at home. My recipe is inspired by a number of recipes online as well as by watching the paav bhaji wales make them first hand!  They had these monstrous sized tavas whuch were perennially over a gas flame, shared by a couple men concocting different items. Simply YUM!

INGREDIENTS:

1 Capsicum diced fine.

1 large ripe tomato or two small tomatoes diced small.

2 boiled potatoes mashed.

1/2 cup peas thawed/ cooked and mashed.

1 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

1 Tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste.

A pinch of turmeric.

1 Tbsp Butter.

1 Tbsp Paav Bhaji Masala.

Chopped Cilantro.

Salt.

Ingredients for Saute Seasoning:

1 Tbsp Butter.

3/4 Cup Onion Diced Fine.

1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

1 Tsp Paav Bhaji Masala.

1 Tbsp Kasuri Methi.

Chopped Cilantro.

1/2 Lemon`s Juice.

PREPARATION:

  • Take a wide mouthed kadai and place on the stove. Immediately add the chopped capsicum, chopped tomatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, ginger garlic paste, turmeric and red chilli powder.
  • Give it a quick mix and add about 1/2 cup water to the kadai and allow the veggies to cook well until tender.
  • Add 1 Tbsp butter and mash the vegetables with  a masher slowly until all the veggies get  mushy.
  • Add a little more water if needed and keep mashing and mixing until the oil seperates.
  • Now add the 1 tbsp of paav bhaji masala. chopped cilantro, and salt. Mix it in again and let it simmer.
  • In another kadai, we make another saute of seasonings and add it to the bhaaji. It`s hard to think ,with all the aromas wafting around, but stay with me and we`ll wrap this up soon.
  • To the second kadai, add a  spoon of butter.
  • When melted, add onions, ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, paav bhaji masala, hing, kasoori methi, chopped cilantro, lemon juice and saute it until it all comes together. The onions need to get slightly pinkish brown.
  • It`s optional to add a pinch of red colouring but I try to avoid artificial food colours as much as possible.
  • Add all of the seasoning to  to the bhaaji kadai and boil until blended.
  • Garnish with more chopped cilantro.

ASSEMBLING THE PAAV BHAAJI:

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  • Add a spoon of butter and when it begins to melt, add a dash of paav bhaji masala, red chilli powder ( if you want to kick it up a little), and chopped cilantro.
  • The seasonings simmer and bubble in to the melted butter.
  • Smear this all over the tava and toast all the paav buns on both sides with the awesomeness on the tava. Just a couple minutes more so hang on there….
  • Serve as shown with a side of bhaaji, toasted paav buns, chopped onions, a small wedge of lemon, a dollop of butter and of course more chopped cilantro.

HINTS:

As I see this dish, its pretty much built on the seasonings, the large amounts of chopped cilantro and of course the salted butter. Don`t go easy on the butter as it spoils the creaminess of the dish itself.

ENJOY!

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Vegan Double Chocolate Mocha Ice Cream.

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This post has been too long in the making and I really had to sit up and look for it in my drafts. I had actually tried making ice cream last summer and I sorely missed not having the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.   Every time I go to the store and buy an ice cream tub, even the smallest one lasts for quite some time and we get too bored of it. Not to mention the fact that many brands of ice cream come with gaur gum, xanthum gum, artificial vanilla sweetener and high fructose corn syrup, to mention just a few. I am not too fond of ice cream with the egg base and did not want to sacrifice creaminess – the one requisite for a great tasting ice cream. I instantly knew avocados were the answer. I had already made Eggless Fudgy Avocado Brownies, so figuring this out was not too difficult. I did take help from this website and was very pleased with the results.

Delicious? – Yes.

Eggless?     – Yes.

Vegan?       – Yes.

Creamy?    - Double Yes.

Need an Ice Cream Maker? – NO!!!!

The avocado and the coconut milk take the creaminess to a whole new level. Making ice cream is definitely one that comes out of understanding a few things about the ingredients, ice, temperature, and the level of fat required to make the ice cream, additions to the ice cream and when to add them. There is also always a set off between the amount of fat and the creaminess of the resulting ice cream. There are many websites that give you loads of information,on how to make home made ice creams and I wanted to share this one with you. Finally its always better to freeze the ice creams in a flat container thats not too tall that helps in uniform freezing. How do they sell all those ice creams in tall tubs?

INGREDIENTS:

1 Large Avocado mashed roughly.

1/2 Cup Light Coconut Milk.

1/4 Cup Honey/ Maple Syrup.

1/4  Cup Turbinado Sugar.

3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder.

3 Tbsp Mini Choco Chips.

2 Tbsp Percolated Coffee.

1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence.

A dash of salt.

PREPARATION:

  • In a blender pop in the mashed avocado, and all the ingredients excepting the chocolate chips.
  • Blend in to a smooth shiny creamy consistency.
  • If you don`t want it to be diary free, you could substitute with heavy cream, half and half or whole milk.
  • Leave out the percolated coffee if you are making this for the little ones.
  • Do not use 2% as the fat gets to be really low.
  • Add the choco chips and transfer to a flat container that’s convenient for freezing and scooping.
  • Freeze for about 6 hours.
  • Remove from the freezer and allow a few minutes  before serving. This is just to facilitate easy scooping.
  • Top with nuts, hot fudge, chocolate sauce, fruit anything.

 

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Restaurant Style Paneer Butter Masala ( Paneer/ Tofu cooked in silky rich tomato sauce).

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Paneer Butter Masala is an all time favourite for all kids and adults alike and they never miss an opportunity to order it when they go to an Indian restaurant. Another favourite for my older daughter these days is the creamy Mughlai Malai Koftas!  These days we hardly ever go to Indian restaurants here in Dallas, as the dinner portions are really too much for us to handle. I still love the Panner Butter Masala at the Taj Chat House here in Plano. Whenever we feel we want to eat out at indian restaurant, but cant handle the heavy portions and the grease, I always go here . This version is of course my own, but liberally influenced by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

INGREDIENTS:

Paneer Cubes or Extra Firm Organic Tofu.

1 Large or 3 Small Sized  Red Onions.

2 Large Tomatoes.

1 1/2 Tsp Freshly grated ginger garlic zest/ paste.

1 Ripe Avocado.

6-8 Cashew Nuts.

1/3 Cup Milk + 1/3 Cup Milk.

2 Tsp Kasoori Methi.

1 1/2 Tsp Dhania Powder/ Coriander Powder.

1 1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.

1/4 Tsp Sugar.

A pinch of turmeric.

Salt to taste.

Chopped Cilantro to garnish.

Seasoning:

2 Tsp Butter.

2 Cloves.

1 Inch Cinnamon.

A pinch of  Ground Elaichi.

3-4 Whole Black Pepper.

2 Dried Red Chillies.

PREPARATION:

  • Heat a kadai with a spoon of butter and saute the onions until they turn a dull golden color. Grind the fried onions along with the tomatoes and one avocado to a smooth paste. You need not add water as the tomatoes help in providing the water content. Set aside.
  • Soak the cashews in a little warm milk. Add a few saffron strands if necessary and the sugar and grind to a smooth paste.
  • In case you are using frozen paneer, thaw and add it to hot water so it gets soft and spongy. If using extra firm tofu, drain from water and allow to dry for a couple minutes. If you have fresh panner, that you have made at home , use as is.
  • As I don’t prefer to eat tofu soft, I normally slice them in to loaves, smear lemon juice, red chilli powder and salt, and allow it to roast/ grill on a tava for a couple minutes, until there is a good sear. Remove and slice in to 1 inch pieces. Set aside.
  • Once again, heat up the wok, add a little oil/ butter and the whole masalas – cloves, cinnamon,cardamom powder, red chillies and couple whole black peppers. When its slightly roasted, add the ground onion tomato avoacado paste. (You could completely omit the avocados – they dont add any flavour only silly smooth texture and of course good fats! Avocados, due to their mono and polyunsaturated fat content, are a great substitution for foods  rich in saturated fat.)
  • Add the ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, dhania powder, salt and turmeric and mix in well.
  • Allow the ground paste to cook until the raw smell is gone, and a little of the butter leaves the sides. This should take about ten mins or so.
  • Add the ground cashew paste and stir in well until the mixture loosens up a little.
  • If you need the gravy to be a little more runny, adjust by adding warm milk/ heavy cream/ Half & Half.
  • Crush the kasuri methi between your fingers and add it to the gravy.
  • Add the chopped panner/ tofu pieces to the gravy and mix it in.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve HOT with Jeera Pulav or Peas Pulav.

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Eggless Princess Cookies with Rose bits and Jam hearts!

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These Eggless Princess Cookies with Hearts of Strawberry Jam are really easy and an awesome addition to a valentine party at your kids school or a birthday party! These are easily flexible and can be turned around to create any cookie. WIth a dash of dried cranberries it gets a tart taste and looks so pretty. Add bits of orange zest and essence and some orange vegetable food colour to make a cookie for Halloween! Add bits of chocolate chips, peppermint barks, heath toffee bits and pllay around with it. Today I added rose essence and bits of rose petals for a refreshing change from the regular Eggless Choco Chip that I normally make for the kids. With some leftover dough I baked hearts and dunked half of each cookie in to melted chocolate. One dough – two cookies…Smart arent I??

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour.

2 Sticks of Butter at room temperature.

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar.

1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar or White Sugar.

1/2 Tsp Baking Powder.

1 Tsp Vanilla Essence.

2 Tsp of Strawberry Jam.

1/4 Tsp Rose Essence. (Optional).

A pinch of salt.

Rose petals fresh/ dried crushed to little bits. (Optional)

PREPARATION:

  • Cream the sugar and the butter on medium speed on a stand mixer using the whip attachment. Once its incorporated add vanilla essence , rose essence and rose bits. You can add a few drops of Vegetable based food coloring. 
  • In a dry container add the flour, baking powder and salt and give it a quick mix with your spoon.
  • Slowly add the flour in to the mixing bowl and beat it in on low speed. Continue and finish all the flour. Loved the little specks of red in the dough!!
  • Remove from the mixing bowl and using your fingers, knead lightly to form a smooth flat disc. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 mins.

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  • Now there are loads of arguments on chilling cookie dough and whether it really adds to the flavour, texture and buttery taste. But I rarely plan ahead for a cookie.
  • When I decide to make a batch of cookies, I just go ahead and make it.  I did have some errands to run before rolling out the dough , so I thought hey why not?
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and If you find that its too hard, allow it to rest for a couple minutes until you get your stuff ready.
  • Spread the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and using a rolling pin, roll it in to 1 – 1 1/2 inch thickness.

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  • Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out perfect heart cookies and place them 1 inch apart on a lined cookie pan.
  • Take out remaining dough, shape them in to a ball, flatten them out again and re cut more heart shaped cookies. Continue until you exhaust most of the cookie dough. Feel free to sample the remaining dough!!
  • Using the back of a wooden spatula make a small little indentation in the centre of the heart cookie and fill with a small scoop of strawberry jam.
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F and place the cookies in the top rack.
  • Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until the cookies are cooked . Whats that? How to check if they are done?
  • Well, it varies with each type of cookies, but for this one, when you see that the cookie is firm and the ends and the bottom has a beautiful golden colour, its good to go!

CHOCOLATE BETTER HALF COOKIES!!

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  • I had some of the cookies which I did not fill with Strawberry Jam Heart, so I simply dunked half of the baked cookie into  a bowl of melted chocolate and sprinkled them with red coloured sugar sprinkles….Chocolate Better Half Cookies were soft, crumbly, decadent and extremely delicious!!!

Fresh Spring Roll with Marinated Tofu & Veggies served with Peanut Dipping Sauce.

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Fried Spring Rolls and Vegetable Cutlets were an all time favourite appetiser for all of us growing up. Every time we would go to a restaurant, it would be most definitely Vegetable Cutlets with a side of tomato ketchup. As more and more indo chinese restaurants opened up, Fried Spring Rolls would be the instant choice. More recently it has been steaming hot Vegetable Dumplings with a side of sweet spicy tomato dip. I have never actually tried a Fresh Spring Roll until recently and I must say there is no looking back. My husband`s profession takes him to various cities all over the United States where he gets to sample diverse cuisines and try out different dishes. On one such trip he brought back these from a tiny Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Dang, in Winooski Vermont. The spring rolls had rice sticks (vermicelli) cooked to perfection, on a bed of crisp lettuce, and long marinated and grilled tofu, mango all rolled in to one awesome roll. The dip was a peanut soy based served with a garnish of finely chopped peanuts. YUM! I have been playing it on my mind for quite some time now and after seeing many blog posts, and of course based on my own interpretation of the dish, sampled from the restaurants, I decided to make it at home for dinner and I must say it was very wholesome and delicious.

Ingredients for Tofu Marinade:

1 Pack Extra Firm Organic Tofu.

1/4 Cup Dark Soy Sauce.

1 Tsp Sugar.

1/2 Tsp Sriracha or Red Chilli Powder.

1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder.

1/4 Tsp Salt.

Ingredients for Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce:

2 Tbsp Oil.

1 Tsp Minced Garlic.

1/3 – 1/2 Cup Water.

1 – 11/2  Tbsp Heaped Sugar.

4 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce.

4 Tbsp Creamy Peanut Butter.

2 Tsp Sriracha or Chilli Garlic Sauce.

Crushed Peanuts to garnish.

INGREDIENTS FOR FRESH SPRING ROLL:

10 Rice Paper Sheets.

1 Package of Rice Vermicelli.

10 large lettuce leaves.

Fresh Mango sliced in to thin long strips.

Fresh Cucumber peeled and sliced long.

Long Marinated Tofu slices. (Extra Firm Tofu)

20 – 25 Mint Leaves.

20 Stems of Cilantro.

PREPARATION:

  • First remove the tofu from the cover and drain all the water. Pat dry and allow to rest on a piece of tissue paper.
  • When completely dry, cut in to long, 1  inch wide strips.
  • Whisk all the ingredients for the marinade until they all come together and transfer to a shallow dish.
  • Place the tofu in the marinade and allow to sit for about 40 mins to 1 hour.

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  • Use a cast iron skillet or a grill or a tava, grease it a little and pan fry the tofu until its evenly cooked on all sides.
  • Slice the mango in to long pieces.
  • Cook the vermicelli / rice sticks as per instructions. Once done. drain and grease with a little oil. Place on a shallow bowl.
  • Keep your assembly line ready – Rice Paper, Vermicelli, Lettuce Leaves, Grilled Tofu, Sliced Mango, Sliced Cucumber, torn mint leaves and roughly chopped cilantro.
  • Take a large bowl filled with lukewarm water and keep ready.
  • Take a clean dry flat plate. Dip the rice paper in to the water to moisten and place on the plate. It will soften as you assemble the filling.
  • Place the lettuce on the rice paper base, add a little vermicelli over the lettuce, and arrange the mango, tofu, cilantro and mint over the vermicelli.
  • Moisten your hands, and start rolling tightly, tucking in the sides and rolling up until you get a sealed spring roll.
  • Arrange on a clean plate in a way that they don’t stick to each other.
  • Serve with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce.

PEANUT HOISIN DIPPING SAUCE:

  • In a wok add about 2 tsp of oil and when its hot, add the grated/ minced garlic. When the garlic is sauteed well, add the water, sugar, hoisin sauce, creamy peanut butter ( I made my own from here), and Sriracha. Give it a couple quick whisks and remove from the stove.
  • Add a little more water/ soy sauce to adjust the consistency depending on your preference.
  • Garnish with finely chopped peanuts.

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HINTS:

  1. Take care not to serve the fresh spring rolls too close to each other as they may stick to each other and tear.
  2. Any left over marinade sauce can be added to the dipping sauce for additional flavour.
  3. It`s best to be assembled right before serving as it retains its freshness and crunch.
  4. Do not refrigerate as the vermicelli and the rice paper would become chewy.

Hyderabadi Vegetable Dum Biriyani – and not a drop of oil/ghee!!!

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I have always loved the flavour of Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani which is slow cooked in the dum with the flavours of various layers of rice and marinated vegetables, intermingled with the aroma of cilantro, mint and spices. My neighbour in Bangalore Gayathri always used to make Hyderabadi Vegetable Biriyani and share it with me. On one occasion, when her mom was visiting her, she offered to teach me to make it the elaborate way, with loads of ghee and oil, marinated vegetables etc and the end result was an extremely delicate taste of the biriyani which would explode in to a hundred flavours in the mouth. This is a version made WITHOUT A DROP OF OIL, on requests from many of my readers. Please feel free to add ghee if needed and if you feel that its very dry.

INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Basmati Rice.

4 Cups Water.

1 Onion diced small.

1 Onion diced in to long slices.

2 Medium Carrots diced.

20 Florets of Cauliflower.

1 Cup French Beans diced.

3/4 Cup Green Peas.

6-8 Green Cardamom Pods.

2 Large Black Cardamom.

15 Cloves.

1 Bay Leaf.

1 1/2 Inch Cinnamon Stick.

1 Tsp Caraway/ Shahi Jeera.

2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger Garlic Paste.

1 Tsp Turmeric Powder.

1 Tbsp Red Chilli Powder.

1 Tbsp Dhania Powder.

1/2 Cup Yoghurt.

1/2 Tsp Rose Water.

1 Cup Tomato Puree.

A few strands of saffron.

1 Tsp Garam Masala.

1/4 Cup Chopped Corriander.

1/4 Cup Chopped Mint.

PREPARATION:

  • Wash the basmati rice a couple times and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Move the rice to a rice cooker and add 3 green cardamom,  one black cardamom, 5 cloves and a 1/2 inch of cinnamon. Cook until 3/4`ths done and set aside. Drain excess water and allow to cool for some time.
  • In a non stick pan add the remaining green cardamoms, black cardamom, clove, cinnamon, caraway seeds and bay leaf. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the onions, carrots, cauliflower, french beans and green peas.
  • Add a little salt and the ginger garlic paste and mix well. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and dhania powder.
  • Around the same time, heat a cast iron skillet and spread the long slices of onions on the tava. Keep the flame on medium low and allow to grill/ carmelise.
  • Whisk yoghurt with rose water and saffron. If the consistency is too thick feel free to add a little milk to make it creamy. Set aside.
  • At this time, pour in the tomato puree in to the pan along with 1/2 tsp Garam Masala and mix well.Simmer for about two minutes.
  • Take a large glass bowl or simply use the rice container in the rice cooker.
  • Arrange a layer of rice at the bottom. Over that, arrange half of the cooked vegetables  followed by another layer of rice. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/2 Tsp garam masala powder, half the coriander leaves, half the mint leaves and half the yogurt mixture. Sprinkle a little of the carmelized onions.
  • Arrange the remaining vegetables followed by the remaining rice.
  • Sprinkle remaining yogurt mixture, mint leaves, corriander leaves and the grilled onions. Cover with a silicon lid and cook in the microwave oven for four to five minutes on HIGH (100%). Else finish up the cooking in the rice cooker for about 7 minutes or so. Please keep checking to make sure that the rice is cooked well enough to be served.
  • Let it stand for five minutes, garnish with more finely chopped cilantro  and then serve.
  • Scoop out vertically down so you can get the rice and the vegetables in one scoop.
  • Hot Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani without a drop of oil is ready to be served with cold Carrot Raita.

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