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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kesar Lassi

I love desserts and if I am at a restaurant enjoying a buffet meal, I make sure to leave some room for the desserts. If ordering by menu, my meal would end with rasmalai or a cold beverage. As I am doing a restaurant menu based theme this week, I thought of choosing a beverage of Indian origin as my other courses of meal are Indian. Among the list on Puranmal menucard, they had special kesar lassi and I chose to go with it. 
Lassis are yogurt based drinks, prepared adding sugar / salt and sometimes along with crushed cumin. There are fruit based sweet variations as well. These refreshing drinks provide a respite during the scorching summer weather and they are commonly prepared in Punjab and other North Indian states. Wiki mentions that this kesar lassi is popular in Pakistan's 'Sindh' Province and in the state of Rajasthan in India. 
When preparing lassi go with the freshly prepared dahi / yogurt and chill it for few hours for that 'cold' effect. If it is not chilled, try adding some crushed ice but limit to one or two ice cubes per glass as the lassi would end up on a diluted side. I added some almonds and pistachios since the name of the recipe was Special Kesar Lassi. You can blend them along with the yogurt or add some as garnish. Or if you are looking for that 'malai maarke' kind, add some malai / cream and enjoy.

Ingredients: (2 servings)
A pinch of saffron
1 cup thick, fresh yogurt (Chilled would be best.)
1/4 cup chilled milk
Icing sugar to taste
2 pinches of cardamom powder
Nuts to garnish (optional)
2 -3 tbsp crushed ice (optional)

Method:
* Soak saffron strands in a Tbsp. of warm water or warm milk for about 15 minutes.
* Blend well yogurt, milk, sugar, saffron mixture and cardamom until frothy using a blender or the traditional wooden churner. If desired, nuts can be added as well while blending.
* Add some crushed ice if using to the glass and pour lassi over it. Garnish with a few saffron strands and nuts if desired and serve immediately.

Check what other marathoners are cooking during this marathon.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pudina Paratha

For this week's blogging marathon, I am going with the theme 'One menu card - 3 different courses' and I picked Puranmal menu card from the given choices. I am going with 'Pudina Parathas' on Day 1.
These parathas can impress anyone with their looks alone. The flecks of emerald 'mint' and the prominent layers are absolutely appealing. These are made 'lachha paratha' style, resulting in flaky, flavorful parathas. They make a great meal with minimal efforts since they don't need any side dishes as such. We enjoyed them with just plain yogurt and a pickle. 

Ingredients: (Yields 5 parathas)
1 cup atta / wheat flour + extra for dusting
Salt to taste
1 cup tightly packed mint/pudina leaves or 1/2 cup packed mint leaves + about 1 tbsp. mint powder
1/2 tsp chaat masala
2 tbsp. butter
Oil to make parathas

Method:
* Wash and finely chop about 1/2 cup of pudina leaves. 
* Combine flour, salt and chopped pudina leaves in a mixing bowl. Add sufficient water to make a firm, pliable dough. Cover and let the dough rest for about an hour or so.
* In the mean while, wash and pat dry the remaining 1/2 cup mint leaves. Toast them on low flame until they turn crispy. Cool and grind them fine. Ignore this step if using mint powder.
* Mix mint powder and chaat masala in a bowl and keep aside.
* Divide the dough into 5 portions and roll them into balls. Work with one dough ball each time and keep the rest covered.
* Roll one ball into thin circle of about 6 inches, dusting with flour if necessary. Smear with butter and sprinkle some chaat masala - mint powder mixture all over it.
* Now comes the pleating part. Start from the upper end of the disc. Fold the disc into pleats using your hands, as shown below.
* Just pinch at the edges after folding the disc like a fan, if it is not done so already while pleating .
* Then twist the pleated disc into a tight roll.
* Again roll it into a thin circle of about 6 inches diameter. Dust it with flour if necessary.
* Heat a tawa / shallow frying pan. Fry one roti at a time on medium heat. Place the rolled disc onto the hot griddle. Toast for about a minute. Small bubbles start to appear on the surface. Then flip it to the other side using a spatula. Add 1/2 tsp oil around the edges and spread around 1/4 tsp oil on the surface. Toast the other side too. Keep moving around and pressing the roti a little with the spatula for uniform toasting including the edges. Flip the roti one more time if required. Properly toasted roti / parathas have small brown spots all over it. Remove the roti and keep it covered. Repeat the steps with the remaining dough balls.
* Serve them with a spicy curry or some pickle and yogurt.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

8th Blog Anniversary & Belagavi Kunda / Belgaum Kunda

My entry into the blogging world happened this week, eight years ago. As my husband points out often, I am the kind who looses interest in things when the initial bubble of excitement fades away. Surprisingly, blogging did not make it into that list and my love for cooking has sustained my enthusiasm in food blogging over these years. Thanks to my friends and readers (even silent ones :)) who  have been a part of this wonderful journey. 
  
Now to blogging. I am going with "North Karnataka' cuisine today and decided to go with a dessert since I am in a celebration mood. Though I lived in southern Karnataka, I have tasted some authentic food from the northern region. Thanks to one of our Dharwad friends, I first got to taste their bhakris, jhunka, authentic pedas, their special chivda and much more when I was a tiny kid. And my best friend is married to a North Karnataka guy and during my visits to India, she keeps feeding me some of their signature dishes. My choice would have been Dharwad peda for today if I had known the secret of creating the magic.

North Karnataka obviously covers the northern parts of Karnataka and is mostly semi arid with a hot climate. It includes the districts of Belgaum, Bidar, Bijapur, Bagalkote, Bellary, Dharwad, Gadag, Gulbarga, Haveri, Koppala, Raichur, Uttara Kannada, and Yadagiri. North Karnataka's history and culture date back to prehistoric times. One of the prominent dynasties that ruled the area was Vijayanagara empire, (that is considered to be the greatest medieval Hindu empire) with it's capital city as Vijayanagara, the present day Bellary. Belagavi / Belgaum is the headquarters of the present day North Karnataka.
 
Now to kunda. Kunda is a yummy sweet prepared with milk and sugar and is a specialty of the Belagavi region. I read somewhere that kunda was born accidentally. A mithaiwala who was boiling milk forgot to turn off the stove when he left the store. By the time he came back, he noticed the solidified milk and decided to add some khoya as well. He cooked it further, liked it and named it kunda. I got this recipe from a regional television show and most of the recipes I found online are similar to it and do not include khoya. The recipe is quite simple and easy, especially if you plan to prepare it when  you are taking care of some thing else in the kitchen. It involves stirring now and then and you would not notice the time if you are involved in something task. :) 

There are three steps in making kunda.
1. Curdling the milk
2. Caramelizing the sugar
3. Cooking the milk-sugar mixture to a thick consistency like halwa (The last step takes about 20 minutes but there is no need to hover around the stove.) 

Ingredients:
1 - 2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp. semolina / rava
2 cups milk
1 - 2 tbsp. yogurt
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (elaichi powder)
Slivered nuts to garnish

Method:
1. Melt ghee in a sauce pan, preferably a non-stick one. Add semolina and roast it until it starts to turn golden brown.
  2. Add milk to the same pan and bring it to a boil.
 

* Then add yogurt, stir and turn off the stove after a couple of minutes. The milk would have curdled by the time.
3. Take another non stick pan and add sugar to it. Do not add any water to sugar. 
 
* Heat the sugar on a medium flame in a non stick pan. Just shake the pan holding the handle. You start to notice sugar melting after a few minutes.
 
* Just keep tilting the pan instead of using a spoon to stir it. When the sugar melts and attains a good amber color, turn off the stove.
 
4. Now add the caramelized sugar to the milk pan in step 2. 
 
* Cook the mixture on slow flame keep stirring the mixture  intermittently until it thickens and comes to a halwa consistency.
5.  Add cardamom powder, stir and turn off the stove.
 
 6. Garnish with nuts before serving.

Notes:
1. A tbsp. of edible gum powder was also added in the original recipe. If using it, add it to the ghee before semolina and toast it.
2. It thickens a little after cooling and so cook accordingly.
3. Using a non stick pan makes the preparation easier and mess-free. Otherwise there is a possibility of mixture getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mangalore Buns

Event: BM #47
Theme: One State - Different Cuisines
My Choice: Karnataka - Mangalorean Cuisine 
Course: Snack

From Kodagu, we are moving towards the neighboring district of Dakshina Kannada to taste one of the popular cuisines of Karnataka. Mangalorean cuisine to be precise. 'Dakshina Kannada' was formerly known as South Canara and Mangalore is the headquarters of this coastal district. Udupi district was carved out of 'Dakshina Kannada' a few years ago. And so basically, Mangalorean cuisine consists of 'Udupi' cuisine and cuisines of 'Mangalorean' communities for an easy reference. However Mangalorean cuisine collectively reflects the cuisine of 'Tulunadu' region. (Tulunadu consists of the above mentioned Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka and the northern parts of Kasargod district in Kerala.) I think it is quite confusing enough for the uninitiated.
Udupi cuisine has gone global and this vegetarian cuisine needs no introduction. The famed 'masala dose' has it's origin in Udupi. The cuisine takes it name from the temple town of Udupi, situated on the southwestern coast of India. It has it's origin in the Astha mathas of Udupi founded by Sri Madhvacharya.Whereas Mangalore / Mangalooru is an important port city situated between Arabian sea and the Western Ghats.
One of my close friends happens to be from Udupi and my parents' neighbors for 25 years had been Mangaloreans. I therefore have a fair idea about their food. Though Wikipedia says that Mangaloreans eat spicy food, I beg to differ. They prepare mildly spicy food and coconut is a must in their cooking. They use a variety of red chillies which gives a beautiful orange-red hue to sambhar but is very mildly spicy. Jackfruit, breadfruit, bamboo shoots, yellow cucumber, malabar spinach, colocasia leaves are commonly used. Rice is a staple food and fish is widely used in the non-vegetarian cooking because of the proximity to the coast.

I chose to go with Mangalore buns for today's post. They are unique to the Mangalore-Udupi region and are not served anywhere else outside, in the state. The 'bun' in the title is quite misleading, considering the fact that these are not baked. In fact these golden brown beauties are deep fried. I guess they are called so because of their soft, chewy texture. Though these buns are also referred to as banana pooris, they have no relation with pooris whatsoever. The texture is close to a bun and they are mildy sweet. These yummy buns can be served plain with a cup of coffee or with some coconut chutney if you prefer.
 Do you see now why they are called buns?

Ingredients: (Yield about 9 buns)
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting 
1 big sized banana
2 - 3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. yogurt 
1 tbsp. ghee
Oil to fry

Method:
* Peel and mash the banana finely making sure that there are no lumps. Add sugar, mix well and keep it aside.
* Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Next add banana mixture, yogurt and ghee and knead it into a firm dough. If the dough is sticky to touch, add a few tbsp. of flour to make it firm. Usually water is not needed to prepare this dough. However if the dough is too hard, wet your hands and try to fix the dough or add water in tsp. increments and work with the dough.
* Cover and rest the dough for 4 - 8 hours depending upon your convenience.
* When ready to fry the buns, heat about 2 cups of oil in a small kadai or a frying pan. Drop a small pinch of the dough into the pan. If it floats immediately to the surface then the oil is ready to fry. If the dough does not rise to the surface then heat the oil for a couple of minutes more and fry.
* Divide the dough into 9 portions and roll them into balls and keep them covered. 
* Work with one ball at each time and roll it into about 4 cm. circle. Roll it a little thicker than pooris and dust with floor if needed.
* Set the heat of the stove somewhere between low and medium. Slowly slide the rolled disc into the hot oil and fry for few seconds. Gently press the disc with the back of the spatula so that it puffs up nicely. Flip it and fry for few more seconds and remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent towels.
* Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough.
* Serve warm with coconut chutney or plain.
* They can be stored up to a couple of days.

Notes:
* The authentic version uses plain flour. For a healthy alternative, half or full quantity of the flour can be substituted with atta / whole wheat flour. However substituting flour with wheat flour would not retain the puffiness of the buns longer.
* Use overripe bananas to make these buns.
* 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds can be added too while preparing the dough but I usually skip it.
* These buns are subtly sweet and so add sugar accordingly.
* Usually these buns puff up nicely while frying. However if they don't, no need to panic since that would alter only the looks and not the flavor / taste of the buns.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kadambuttu

Event: BM #47
Theme: One State - Different Cuisines
My Choice: Karnataka State - Kodagu Cuisine
Course: Breakfast

I chose to go with the Kodagu region for today. Living in Karnataka for most part of my life, I roughly have an idea about the geogarphy and the customs of the region. Kodagu that also goes by the anglicized name 'Coorg' and often dubbed as 'Scotland of India" is located in the Western Ghats. This administrative district in the southwestern region of Karnataka happens to be one of the top hill stations in India and a great tourist spot. Most of Kodagu's economy is based on agriculture, plantations and forestry. Kodagu is famous for it's coffee plantations and in fact, coffee revenue helped Kodagu to become one of the richest districts in India. Besides coffee, Kodagu is famous for its unique variety of oranges and forest honey. I remember that when I was younger, we always used to get Coorg honey through one of my father's colleagues.

Kodagu has a rich wildlife and has three wildlife sanctuaries and one national park. The river Kaveri originates in this region at Talakaveri. The river on the banks is dedicated to Lord Brahma, one among the only two Brahma temples in India. Other attractions include Bhagamandala, Nagarahole national park, Iruppu falls, Abbey falls and others. Bhagamandala is a 'Triveni Sangama' - where three rivers Kaveri, Kanika and Sujyothi meet.

The dominant community of the Kodagu region is Kodava, an ethnic indigenous group who were chiefly farmers and militiamen in the past. Guns and swords are essential for their religion, as ritual cult objects and they hold rights to carry light arms. Even a Kodava wedding is an unique affair. No priests are involved like in other Indian communities.

Traditional Kodava Dress:
One can easily recognize kodavas based on their traditional garbs, which of course they (especially men) seldom wear when living in the other parts of the state. I think with the changing ways of the modern world, Kodavas probably wear the traditional dress only on special occasions. The traditional dress for men includes a 'Kupya' - a knee length, half sleeved black coat worn over a full sleeved white shirt. A maroon and golden colored sash is tied at the waist and an ornately carved, silver dagger is tucked into it. Whereas a traditional dress for a Kodava women would be a saree which is draped in an unique way. It is pleated at the back and pallu also comes from back to front and tucked over shoulder. The blouse women wear usually would be a full length or 3/4th sleeved one and they cover their heads with a pice of cloth that usually matches their attire. If you are interested, check this link to see how they dress. (Some info from online sources)
 
Coming to today's recipe, it is going to be Kadambuttu - a guilt-free and gluten free breakfast option from the Coorg Region. As in most south Indian homes, rice plays an important part in Kodava / Coorgi cooking too. Among the long list of rice based 'Kodava' dishes, comes this traditional puttu. Puttu generally refers to steamed rice cakes that maybe either savory / sweet. There are three puttus that are quite popular in the region made with akki thari or coarsely ground rice - paputtu, nuuputtu and kadambuttu. In the case of kadumbuttu, thari (rice rava) is cooked, shaped into balls and then steamed. It is similar to Andhra undrallu without the seasoning. While with nuuputtu, the cooked thari is pressed into strings like noodles and then steamed. 
Usually kodavas prepare kadambuttu from scratch, making their own thari, where rice is ground in such a way that each grain is approximately broken into 3 - 4 bits. Store bough rice rava / idli rava could make a quick and easy substitute. These steamed rice balls are served with a a non-veg side dish like pork or chicken curry since majority of the Kodavas are non vegetarians. Vegetarians can serve this with a vegetable curry, dal or even chutney.

Ingredients: (Make about 15)
2 & 1/2 cups water
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt to taste
1 cup akki thari / rice rava
1 - 2 tbsp. ghee

Method:
* Bring water to a boil in a sauce pan. Stir in salt. Next add rava, stirring it continuously with a sturdy ladle to avoid the mixture forming any lumps. 

* Cover and let the mixture cook on low flame until done, about 10 minutes. The mixture should be moist and well done after cooking but not dried out. (In that case, add a small quantity of hot water, mix and cook further.)
* Remove the mixture from fire and cover. Let it cool enough to handle. Grease your palms with ghee and make smooth, lime sized balls out of the cooked mixture.

* Line a stainless steel container with a muslin cloth or a thin, breathable cotton cloth and place the balls to be steamed without overlapping. Cover loosely with muslin cloth and place it in a steamer/ idly cooker or a pressure cooker without the whistle on.
 * Steam on medium flame for about 20 minutes.

* Remove and serve hot with a side dish of your choice.

Check what other marathoners are cooking during this marathon.

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