Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Blueberry Rice Kheer

July is almost coming to an end but the heat is here to stay. With temperatures nearing 100F in the Bay area, anything that is cold and refreshing is welcome. Whether it is popsicles or ice-cream or any dessert that is frozen, they all provide a soothing effect in this scorching heat. With the heat in mind, I was digging into my refrigerator to make something nice and cool. And out came the blueberries. I have already made these eggless yogurt muffins out of it and it is too warm to fire up the oven now. 

So i settled for this quick kheer or pudding made from our humble Basmati rice, milk and added blueberries to it. The result was gorgeous. Light violet colored milk flavored with a hint of vanilla extract gave me this amazing pudding or dessert that I chilled and enjoyed with my husband. The recipe is almost similar to the age-old kheer our grandmothers and mothers made all the time, but it has a couple of variations to it.


First, I did not use whole milk to make it. Most recipes for kheer will call for whole milk and cream etc. But I opted for a lighter version of the sweet using 2% milk and absolutely no cream. Second, I boiled the milk in a pan, no pressure cooker etc used. And lastly, the sugar is pretty less in the kheer compared to the traditional proportion. This is because I had sweet blueberries and so needed just that amount to bring in the sweetness. 

I have added Vanilla extract to flavor the milk but you may choose to skip it and still get the amazing taste of just blueberries in your kheer. Also, this recipe is for a slightly flowy kheer that has milk. If you like a more set version of the same, dissolve custard powder in milk (just as I did in this Sabudana Kheer) and add it to the boiled milk. The kheer will turn into an amazing dessert! Lastly, choose blueberries that are plump, meaty and fresh so that you also get the same violet color, off course without any colorants!! Enjoy the summer. 



Ingredients
Rice 1 cup
Milk 4 cups (I used 2%)
Blueberries 1 cup
Sugar 3/4 cup
Vanilla Extract 1-2 tsp




Method

Boil the four cups of milk in a heavy bottom pan. I have used 2% milk as I did not want a very thick pudding. However, if you like your kheer to be rich and creamy, use whole milk instead. Keep stirring the milk so that it does not stick to the bottom. Bring the milk to a boil on high flame. At this stage, add the washed and drained rice and mix well. I have used basmati, but any rice of daily use is perfectly fine. Now let the milk boil on medium flame and reduce in volume to three-fourths. Check if the rice is cooked through. Once done, add 3/4 to one cup of sugar and mix well. The amount of sugar can be later adjusted depending on sweetness or tartness of the blueberries.




Once it all comes together, add the vanilla extract and the blueberries and mix well. Let the mixture simmer on medium flame for about 10-15 minutes, till the berries pop and stain the milk light violet. Taste and adjust the sugar if needed. Once the consistency is as per your preference, turn down the flame and transfer to another bowl. 

This pudding can be served hot as a sweet along with lunch or dinner. Else, chill it for a few hours and serve it as a dessert garnished with fresh blueberries. I have used fresh berries here, but frozen ones will work just fine.  



Monday, July 27, 2015

Palak Paneer | Cottage Cheese in Spinach

Go to any restaurant that serves Indian food. The first option for most people to order will probably be Paneer Mutter or Vegetable Makhanwalla. Both these famous Indian curries are tomato based sabjis made with paneer pieces and cubed vegetables respectively. If you ever want a break from the red gravy, there are generally two ways to go:White or green. If you plan to order something green, Palak Paneer is the answer!!

Cubes of paneer dunked in thick green colored palak curry makes this dish. The method of making this varies from place to place and restaurant to restaurant. Some like to fry the paneer pieces and dip it in palak gravy, while others cube the raw paneer and add it. Whichever the method, palak paneer tastes great by all means.



This recipe is somewhere mid-way between the two recipes mentioned above. I generally do not like to fry paneer in recipes for daily lunch or dinner. Instead, I prefer to saute the paneer cubes in little oil. This makes them slightly crunchy on the top while remaining soft inside. Dip these paneer pieces in warm water to keep them soft. Make the green gravy using spinach and then dunk the paneer cubes in it. Serve the Palak Paneer with a side of Naan, Garlic Kulcha or Paratha. To make it a complete meal, you can serve Palak Paneer with Dal Makhani, breads and steamed or Jeera Rice.




Ingredients
Paneer 14 oz block
Baby Spinach 3 cup
Garlic 2 cloves, minced
Ginger, 1/2 inch piece
Green chili 2-3
Onion 1 medium, diced
Spices (Bay leavesDried Red Chili)
Condiments (Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Asafoetida, Red chili powder, Turmeric powder, Dhania powder, salt, sugar) 
Kasuri Methi 1 tsp
Oil/Butter
Cilantro, Lime juice



Method

Thaw the paneer block for a couple of hours on the kitchen counter and cut it into equal size dice or logs. Meanwhile, heat two cups of water in  a pan and add a pinch of salt and sugar to it. Drop the baby spinach in the water and boil them for a minute. Turn down the flame and drain the spinach and reserve the water. Add them in cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the green color. Once cool, grind the spinach to a fine paste. Also, grind the chili, ginger and garlic to a fine paste.

In a flat saucepan, add oil and heat. Once hot, place the paneer pieces in it and let them brown on medium to high heat. Once the bottom is brown, turn the pieces over and brown the other side. Take a medium pan and fill it with warm water and add a pinch of salt. Remove each piece of paneer from the pan and dip it in the warm salty water that has been reserved from the spinach. This helps to flavor the paneer and keep it soft till cooking.




In a pan, heat some oil/butter and add mustard seeds. Once they pop, add cumin seeds. Add the bay leaves and dries red chili. Next put in the chili garlic ginger paste and cook until the raw flavor goes away. Add diced onions, and salt and cook till they are transparent. Now, add in the spinach purée and mix well. Let the mixture come to a boil and you will see the oil separating from the gravy. This indicates that the gravy is cooked well. At this stage add the haldi, dhania jeera and red chili powder. However, add minimum amount of red chili so that the green color is not lost. Drain the paneer pieces from water and add to the gravy. Let the mixture simmer on medium flame for 4-5 minutes. 




Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with Indian breads, rice, onion rings, pickle and raita. This tastes good with Naan, Garlic Kulcha as well as paratha. To make it a complete meal, you can serve Palak Paneer with Dal Makhani, breads and steamed or Jeera Rice.






Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jalebi | First Anniversary special

Today it is exactly a year since I started this blog. It has been such a wonderful year, with so much to learn, experiment and cherish. It has been a fulfilling experience in these 365 days. And to celebrate this day, here is a sweet that is completely Indian, Jalebi. A family favorite dish that is cherished by old and young alike. This dish also has a special connection to my grandmother and my mother, both great cooks themselves and my mentors and best critics! My grandmother taught my mother this recipe and she taught me. This dish is in remembrance of my grandmother, who I lost last year. 

So back to the Jalebis, these sweet Indianised funnel cakes dipped in sugar syrup have been my favorite since childhood. They are a must make on Dashera, an Indian festival that comes around October as well as Diwali, the festival of lights. Also, Jalebi makes a common appearance in most Gujarati weddings as a sweet dish or breakfast dish. 




There are some variations in serving styles of this dish depending on when it is served. Gujarati enjoy Jalebi gathiya as a common breakfast, Indore has it's version of Jalebi Poha for breakfast. Uttar Pradesh has a sweet similar to Jalebi called Imarti, and Orissa has a similar Chenna Jalebi. Some like it hot while some enjoy jalebi with Vanilla Ice-cream. Whether hot or cold, Jalebi always tastes amazing. 

The whole fun of Jalebi is probably in making the swirls from the squeeze bottle. The experts in India make it from batter filled in a cloth and a tiny hole. However, at home that may not be a feasible method. Also, they fry it in ghee but we do not like the strong ghee flavor of ghee so we use oil instead. You can make it in either fat. If you would like a darker yellow orange color, add some food color to the sugar syrup and it should do the trick. Adding kesar and cardamom to sugar syrup is optional and some places also add dried rose petals.




Ingredients
For the Jalebi
All-Purpose flour/Maida 1 cup
Gram Flour/Besan 2 tbsp
Yogurt 1 tbsp
Water
Oil/ghee to fry

For the Sugar Syrup
Sugar 1 cup
Saffron a pinch
Cardamon 1-2 pods
Water




Method

For the Jalebi Batter

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients under jalebi and add water to it. The water should be enough to make a dough that is just like the pancake dough. Do not add too much water otherwise the jalebi will not retain it's shape. Let the mixture ferment overnight or at least 8-10 hours. The time required will largely depend on the temperature in the house, so ensure the batter is kept in a warm place. 

Once the mixture has fermented well, mix it and check the consistency. If the mixture has become too thick, add some water and if it is too runny add some flour to attain the right consistency. 




For the Sugar Syrup

In a broad bottom pan add the sugar and water. The water should just be about 1/4 inch above the sugar level. Heat on high flame till the water boils. Add a pinch of saffron and cardamon seeds. If you would like to get orange colored jalebis, add orange food color. Reduce flame to medium and make a syrup of one thread consistency. Remove from flame and keep the syrup warm. If the syrup is too cold, it will not coat the jalebi well and if it is too hot, the jalebis will be soggy.




To make the Jalebis

The traditional recipes for jalebis call for ghee or clarified butter to fry. However, we generally use oil to fry them. Depending on what you want to use, add the oil or ghee to a broad bottom pan of about one to two inches depth. Heat it well. Transfer the jalebi batter to a squeeze bottle or a ketchup bottle with a squeeze top. 




Check the temperature of the oil by dropping a drop of the batter in it. Once the temperature is right, use the squeeze bottle and make three four jalebis. Ensure you leave some space between them to allow rising. Fry them on both sides ensuring they do not burn. 




Transfer the drained jalebis straight to the sugar syrup and dip them for a minute. Drain and remove. Serve with Fafda Gathiya and a cup of Masala Chai. It can also be enjoyed as a sweet dish along with lunch or dinner.
















Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eggless Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

July is National Blueberry Month, and rightly so! It is that time of the year when the delicious, tart berries are in season. You will find them on the aisles of almost every store, on every fruit stand by the highway and most of all, on all websites featuring food and collections of recipes related to a season or ingredient. 


Blueberries are sweet, plump, juicy little orbs, and one of the most perfect fruits. Low in calories, high in fiber and antioxidants, and completely delicious. No need even to peel or pit them. They are versatile and hence there are plenty of recipes that can be made with these brightly colored berries: muffins, desserts, scones, ice-creams, yogurt, breakfast oats. The list is endless! 


I woke up last morning and a look at the calendar reminded me that this blog will be a year old in exactly two days! The occasion was right and so was the season. My luck to find a big box of blueberries between the boxed vegetables in my refrigerator. And it was almost certain that these fruits need to be converted to muffins to bring in the anniversary week of Herbivore Cucina. 

Most of my cakes, muffins and cupcakes have been with eggs. However, I thought of trying these muffins without the eggs. A natural replacement of egg is either applesauce or flax seeds, however I have used Greek Yogurt and the result was better than I expected. The muffins were dense, flavorful and yummy. So good that I popped in another batch of 12 muffins almost instantly and let them bake while I pictured the first lot! Here is how I made them:



Ingredients

All purpose flour 2 cup
Greek yogurt or any thick yogurt 1 1/4 cup
Blueberries 3/4 cup
Confectioner's Sugar 1/2 cup
Powdered Brown Sugar 1/4 cup
Baking Soda 3/4 tsp
Baking Powder 3/4 tsp
Salt a pinch
Vegetable Oil 2 tbsp
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp





Method

Wash the blueberries and pat them dry. lay flat on a kitchen towel to dry. Once dry, add a tbsp of all purpose flour or maida and mix well. This coating of flour helps in keeping the berries intact and not burst completely in the muffins. 

In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to form a homogeneous mixture. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk sugars with greek yogurt and oil. Add vanilla extract and homogenize into a smooth mixture. Pour half the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk. Once combined, repeat with the remaining mixture and whisk on medium speed to form a smooth batter. Finally add the floured blueberries and fold them in gently.




Preheat oven to 375 F and line the cupcake/muffin mold with 12 liners. Divide the mixture equally among the 12 liners, and bake for 15 minutes. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the muffins are done. If you do not like blueberries or cannot find them, you can use other fruits like raspberries, cherries and cranberries. 



Serve these muffins as breakfast with a cup of milk or coffee. They are perfect to be taken on a trip this summer and enjoyed by themselves. Make a large lot and enjoy these blueberry muffins as a guilt free dessert with vanilla ice-cream!







For more cake recipes, head straight to this link: Cakes, Muffins and Cupcakes!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Masala Puri

Breakfast, an important part of the daily meals differs from country to country. Also within the country, every place has it's own traditional breakfast. In India, the Northern regions enjoy Parathas, Chole etc for their breakfast while the Southern states boast of their Idli, Upma and Dosa. The eastern states enjoy Sattu paratha, Dal paratha and the western state of Maharashtra have their own Thalipeeth, Masala Poha and Misal Pav. Gujarat is a state known for its food and they are true to their reputation for breakfast too! They enjoy Khaman Dhokla, Poha, Thepla or Masala Puri and Pickle early morning. 

Masala Puri is a type of unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour and spices. The bread is fried in oil and served with either potato sabji, yogurt, pickles or just a cup of tea. This breakfast is pretty high and calories, but makes a great dish for weekends, when lunch is generally had at a later time than usual. The puris are best enjoyed fresh from the oil and is a dish that people can eat without stopping!


If you think puri is too much for you and your family for breakfast, enjoy it as a dinner recipe. The puris have to be soft and fried just right. Between perfectly fried and burnt, the puri only takes a couple of seconds, so do watch out! Some puris may not rise if the rolling pin has moved too hard on it, but generally most puris should puff up. Whether it is breakfast or dinner, enjoy these puris and do not forget to leave a comment on this recipe. 


Ingredients
Whole wheat flour 2 cups
Spices (Red Chilli powder, Turmeric powder, Asafoetida)
Salt
Water 1/2 cup
Oil for frying 


Method

Take the wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the spices, a tsp salt, 2 tbsp oil and mix well. Add the water as required and make a stiff dough. If the dough is soft, it will become too soft to handle in a while. Set aside for 20-25 minutes.


After 20 minutes, knead the dough again and divide it into small sized balls. Take each ball, flatten it and roll it out into a disc of about 3-4 inches and medium thickness. To ease the process of rolling out the dough, apply a drop or two of oil on it. Do not use dry flour as the flour particles will separate from the puris in oil. Roll out the puris and set aside. 


Heat oil in a pan and once the oil is medium hot, slide a puri in oil and use a slotted spoon to press it little. This ensures the puri turns into a ball. Turn over once the puri has a few brown dots, and press again. Remove from flame and drain on kitchen towel or paper. The puris is enjoyed most with potato sabji. Serve the puris either with sweet and spicy pickle or with yoghurt. Enjoy it for breakfast with a cup of Masala Chai or Coffee.


Recipe for the potato sabji: Cut one potato into cubes and set aside. Also chop 1/2 tomato and 1/2 onion. In a pressure cooker add a tsp of oil, saute mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add the onion, mix well and let the onions cook. Once they are light pink in color, add a tsp of red chili powder and increase the flame to high. In a couple of seconds add 3-4 tbsp of water to get the rich red color. Mix well and let the water evaporate. Now add the potatoes, salt, sugar, turmeric powder and mix well. Add the tomatoes next and 1/2 a glass of water. Pressure cook for 2 whistles. Open the pressure cooker and add a tsp of dhania jeera powder. Taste and adjust salt and sugar. Squeeze lime juice, garnish with cilantro and enjoy with Puris. 

For other Indian Breads, click here.