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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Che Chuoi ~ Vietnamese Banana, Coconut and Sago Pudding (Gluten-Free and Vegan Cooking)

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

I would probably never forget this sago pudding in my life, not because it was unforgettably delicious but it put me in bed for two weeks. The canned coconut stuff I used in the pudding was the culprit, at least according to my husband. 😕 I tried the dessert a few months ago because the combination of ingredients used in the preparation was unusual to me though I strictly didn't adhere to the recipe. I usually finish a cup of pudding in one sitting but that day I had only a couple of spoons but it still got me. My husband, my daughter and I all ate the same food for lunch that day except that I had this sago pudding. Coincidence or not, within ten minutes, I started noticing rashes all over my body coupled with itchiness. The rashes were like 2 by 2 inch patches everywhere and by night, my face was swollen beyond recognition. Fortunately, I did not have any breathing problems or I would have ended up in emergency room on that weekend. It took two days to see my normal face. A doctor's visit later confirmed that I had hives and it took me two weeks, on medication, to get completely cured and it wasn't a pleasant experience, I can assure.

Che chuoi is a Vietnamese sago and banana based pudding cooked in coconut cream, flavored with pandan leaves. The word 'che' refers to liquid desserts like drinks, pudding and even soups in Vietnam. Vietnamese folks prefer a variety of banana called 'chuoi su' to prepare this gluten-free, vegan pudding but perfectly ripe, (but not mushy) sweet variety bananas should work fine in lieu of those. Sweet bananas, coconut cream and sago cooked to a creamy consistency and topped with crunchy peanuts and sesame seeds is an interesting variation to the Indian version of sago kheer. 

I have used the tiny sized sago here which gets cooked in about 10 minutes. If using larger variety, soak them in water for about ten minutes and then cook the same way but it would take a few minutes extra to cook. My pudding is loosely based on this recipe and I left out the pandan leaves since I did not have them and cooked the sago my usual way, as mentioned in the recipe below. Pandan must lend a very inviting flavor here. If using pandan leaves and need to follow the traditional recipe, simmer two knotted pandan leaves in about 2 cups water for about 15 minutes to bring out the flavor. Next add the marinated banana - sugar pieces, sago, another two pandan leaves, and coconut cream and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until done.

Ingredients: (Yield 2 servings)
1/4 cup small sized sago / tapioca pearls
2 ripened but not mushy bananas (Any sweet variety)
1/2 cup sugar or to taste
3/4 cup coconut cream
1 cup coconut milk / water
For topping:
2 tbsp. roasted and skinned peanuts, slightly crushed
2 tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds, slightly crushed

* Thinly slice the bananas and toss with sugar so that banana slices are coated well with sugar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. One can do this step ahead to avoid the waiting time to marinate. I read that they can be left marinated for up to two days though I haven't tried it.
* Rinse sago well and wash away the starch powder. 
* Choose preferably a non stick pot or a non stick sauce pan to cook the sago. Add drained sago and a cup of water and cook on low flame, stirring occasionally. Cook until all the sago become transparent. It doesn't take much time to cook if using the smallest size sago.
(Starch keeps building up while cooking the sago and tends to stick to the bottom of the pan if not stirred intermittently. If one finds cooking sago tricky because of the starch buildup, follow this step. When the water used to cook sago becomes starchy, add another cup of cold water. Sago go to the bottom of the pan and then throw away all the (starchy) water from the pan taking care to not drain the sago. Add a fresh cup of water to the sago and continue to cook. This step can be repeated one more time while cooking sago.)
* Throw away all the water in the pan when the sago pearls become transparent. Add banana - sugar mixture, coconut cream and coconut milk / water (as needed to thin the pudding to the desired consistency) to the sago and continue to cook on low flame until the preferred soft consistency of bananas is reached. Turn off the stove.
* Scoop the cooked pudding into serving bowls, each topped with some crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature.



Monday, February 4, 2019

Spicy Bajra Biscuits / Spicy Millet Flour Cookies (Gluten Free, Vegan Baking)

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

Vaishali posted bajra biscuits some weeks ago and I had to try them for two reasons. We are on the millet wagon for quite sometime now and so needless to say that I keep looking for new ways to include millet in our daily diet. Any interesting recipe that catches my attention gets cooked immediately in my kitchen. The second reason being my husband who enjoys spicier biscuits / cookies to go along with his coffee / tea. 

I made them along the lines of a khara biscuit, on a spicier side to suit his taste buds. Thanks to Vaishali, we enjoyed these healthy and flavorful biscuits. These millet flour based biscuits are gluten free, vegan (free of eggs and dairy) and in a nutshell, guilt free. The flavors can be customized according to one's preferences. If looking for spicier cookies, my chickpea flour cookies and khara biscuits may interest you.
1 cup millet flour / bajra flour
1 tsp. ginger - green chilli paste
2 pinches of asafoetida
Salt to taste (I used a little over 3/4 tsp. salt.)
1 tbsp. finely minced curry leaves 
1 tbsp. cilantro
2 tbsp. oil
1/4 cup warm water

* Grease or line a baking sheet. Also grease two plastic sheets on one side each. Or cut open a ziplock bag on sides so that you would end up with a large rectangle sheet and grease on one side and keep it aside.
* Preheat the oven to 300 deg F / 150 deg C.
* Combine all the ingredients except oil and water in a mixing bowl. In case you can not paste the ginger and chillies, just run them in a food processor along with the flour. Add oil and rub into the mixture. Next add water in small increments and mix until a dough is formed. Add a tsp. or two extra water if needed.
* Divide the mixture into two portions. Place one of the dough balls between two greased plastic sheets. (Or on one side of the greased ziploc sheet and fold the other end over it). Roll the dough into 1/8 inch thick circle.

* Cut the dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters and prick them all over with a fork. 
* Place the cut biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake them until golden brown and crisp. (Vaishali recommended about 15 minutes of baking. My biscuits were 1/4 inch thick ones and so I had to bake for about 25 minutes flipping them in between since they were not browning. I left them in the oven few extra minutes after the oven was turned off. I went with checking the crispiness rather than the color for these biscuits to see if they were done. 
* Cool and save them in an airtight container. Serve them with coffee or tea.

* The biscuits pictured here are 1/4 inch thick ones. 1/8 inch thickness gives crispy biscuits while 1/4 inch thick ones gives flaky and crumbly kind ones. We liked both but I would recommend 1/8 inch thick ones if not finishing them immediately. 1/4 inch thick ones kind of lost some of the crispiness the next day. 
* I used a 1.5 inch size diamond shaped cookie cutter and got around 30 biscuits of 1/4 inch thickness. One can make them into thin, big circles.



Sunday, February 3, 2019

Quinoa - Avocado Pasta

Theme: Paleo / Vegan / Gluten-Free Recipes

This quinoa pasta in avocado sauce hardly takes ten minutes to prepare and is quite a flavor packed one. The avocado sauce here is somewhat prepared on the lines of a pesto sauce along with avocado, which lends creaminess to the sauce. The quinoa pasta by itself is gluten free and vegan and the 'no cook' avocado sauce fits the paleo bill as well. Sprinkle some cheese over the pasta if not vegan to make it more tastier.

2 cups quinoa pasta
2 ripe avocados -peeled, halved and seeded
2 handfuls of basil and/or cilantro leaves (I used cilantro.)
2 garlic cloves
A handful of almonds (optional)
3 - 4 tbsp. olive oil (or as needed)
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
(1/4 cup parmesan cheese if not vegan)

* Cook quinoa pasta according to package directions. Save some of the pasta liquid and drain.
* While the pasta is cooking, add avocado, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to a blender / food processor and blend well until the desired consistency is reached (chunky or creamy). If you have hard time processing the ingredients, add a little pasta water to facilitate easy grinding.
* Toss the pasta and the avocado sauce together. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately. (Sprinkle some cheese over the pasta if not vegan.)



Saturday, January 26, 2019

Shaak Wali Dal

I had cooked other dishes for this week but somehow ended up posting regional dals prepared with moong. Today's comforting and simple flavored dal called 'Shaak wali dal' comes from Gujarat. A lentil dish where you can sneak in all those 'not so favorite' kind of veggies and no fussy eater would figure out. And so this 'mixed vegetables' based dal is especially for those picky eaters or when one needs to finish off those last bits and odds from the refrigerator. Here dal and vegetables are cooked together and mashed to invisible bits to mask any vegetables used and tempered with ghee and spices. Any vegetable other than bitter gourd for the obvious reasons can be used. Onion, potato, tomato, carrots, peas, cauliflower, pumpkin, chayote, bottle gourd, zucchini are some of the vegetables that can go into this dal. Greens / Beets would be a nutritional addition if you don't mind the green/ red looking dal.  I used potato, carrot, peas and tomato and made it on a thicker side by not adding any extra water other than needed for pressure cooking. Also I added more toor dal than moong in my dal.

Recipe source: Here
1/2 cup moong dal / skinned and split green gram
1/4 cup toor dal / split pigeon peas
3 cups of diced vegetables 
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
For tempering:
2 tsp. ghee / oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 red chillies
a Pinch of asafoetida
1 sprig of curry leaves
Lemon wedges to serve

* Wash and rinse the dals in two exchanges of water. Pressure cook dals adding vegetables, turmeric powder and 1.5 cups of water for 4 whistles.
(Soak dals for about 30 minutes in case not using a pressure cooker for any reason. Cook dals and vegetables together in a sauce pan on medium flame adding water as needed until the dals are cooked well. Keep stirring in between.)
* When the valve pressure is gone, mash the dal and vegetables well with the back of a ladle or potato masher or a churner, until the mixture becomes homogeneous. Add the spices and 1/2 cup (or more) of water and bring it to a boil.
* Heat ghee / oil in a small pan and add cumin seeds and red chillies. When the red chillies start to brown add curry leaves and asafoetida. Turn off the stove and add the tempering over the dal and give it a stir. (Garlic can be used as well for tempering.)
* Garnish with chopped coriander leaves if preferred.
* Serve with rice or rotis, with lemon wedges on the side. 

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Bookmarked Recipes' Theme.