Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Come October and all we see around is Pumpkins. Starbucks has it's Pumpkin spiced drinks, all craft stores carry the felt, thermocol and plastic pumpkins and all farmer's markets have pumpkins of varying sizes!  There is much more to pumpkins than Halloween decorations and pie fillings. These orange gourds are extremely nutrient-dense, while also low in calories. 

One of the best ways to serve the pumpkins is to make a New York Cheesecake and add in Pumpkin puree and Pumpkin spice to convert it to a pumpkin cheesecake. A light orange colored cake, flavored with Pumpkin spice is almost a Halloween must-have! Here is my version of it.


For the Crust
Oreo Biscuits 1 cup 
Unsalted butter, 4 - 5 tsp melted

For the Cheesecake
Brown sugar, 2/3 cup
Full fat cream cheese, 16 oz
Pumpkin Pie Spice 1 1/2 tsp
Eggs, 3 
Pure Vanilla Extract, 1 tsp
Pure Pumpkin puree(canned or homemade) 1 cup

For the Cream Topping
Whipping cream 1/2 cup
Confectioner's Sugar 1/4 cup
Pure Vanilla Extract 1 tsp

Preheat oven to 350F/200C. Place a cake mold half filled with water and place at the bottom of the oven. This ensures the cake does not crack. In a 9 inch spring form cake mold, spray cooking spray or line it with unsalted butter. Put the Oreo biscuits in a blender/ food processor, and crush them. In a large mixing bowl, mix the biscuits with butter and press it down in the mold to form an even layer. For this layer, any biscuits other than Oreo can also be used, but Oreo generally gives a good color contrast to the light orange cake. Bake the base for about 8-10 minutes till it sets. Set aside to cool.

Beat the cream cheese using a hand mixer for a couple of minutes  until smooth. Add half the sugar and pumpkin pie spice and beat the cream cheese for a couple of minutes. Mix in the remaining sugar and spice and blend. Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl into the mixture. Slowly add one egg at a time and beat them in. Once the mixture becomes a smooth mixture, add Pure Vanilla Extract and Pumpkin Puree and finally blend everything together. Scrape the sides and mix well.

Pour the cheesecake mixture onto the base and transfer to the oven. Bake the cake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes. Lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for another 15 minutes. The required consistency is such that the sides are set but when the pan is shook, the centre wobbles. Remove the cake from the oven and cover with foil. This ensures the cake cools slowly, without cracking. The cake will shrink a little from the sides but that is ok.

Let the cake cool for a couple of hours and once it is cold, place it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Using a hand blender, mix sugar and whipping cream to form soft peaks. Add Vanilla Extract and blend. Either using a icing bag or otherwise decorate the cake as per your choice. Chill and serve.

Enjoy Halloween with this Pumpkin Cheesecake!!

Also try the Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kutchi Dabeli

A super flavorful and delicious snack, Dabeli is very popular on Indian streets. Dinner rolls stuffed with potato filling and chutneys, this one's a keeper! 

Who does not like something that is sweet, spicy and tangy all at once? When you are craving something like that, Kutchi Dabeli is a perfect answer! An appetizing and delicious Indian snack, Dabeli originating in the Kutch region of Gujarat; a state in India. 

A very common street food in Gujarat, this dish is now spreading to other parts of the country as well. This appetizer or snack gets its name from the Gujarati equivalent of Pressed i.e. Dabeli. The snack is made by 'pressing' stuffing into a plate and then transferring the stuffing to a pav or dinner roll. That is how it gets its name.

Still not clear what I am saying? Do not worry, just read on to know more about this Indian equivalent of burger! 

This dish consists of three main parts; pav or dinner rolls that are either home-made or store-bought; a sweet and spicy potato filling and finally add-ins like chutneys, onions and cilantro. To make this dish, one needs to make the stuffing and press it all down into a deep platter. That can be done upto 24 hours before serving the dabeli. 

When ready to serve, slit open a pav/ dinner roll, apply chutney, transfer the stuffing on it and crisp the top and bottom on a tava with Amul Butter! Why Amul butter you wonder? Amul is a very popular Indian salted butter that has a characteristic taste and flavor. Most street vendors have dabeli roasted in amul butter, giving it the same flavor! 

The potato mixture that is filled in the bun is essentially boiled potatoes, mixed with a characteristic masala called Dabeli Masala. A mixture of different spices, this masala is available at most Indian stores. Apart from potatoes, the same stuffing can be made using boiled green bananas as well. 

Nest are the add-ins that go into the dabeli. This dish has a characteristic garlic chutney that is used. Apart from that, there is green cilantro chutney and sweet tamarind and dates chutney. Plus, masala peanuts, chopped onions and cilantro are also added. Not to forget the pomegranate seeds and sev. Some vendors also add tutti-frutti to it, making it nice and sweet!

The pav in dabeli can be store bought or home-made. I like to use a slightly larger size bread for this recipe, so I made my own. Store bought dinner rolls can be used too. If you cannot find either, use burger bredas. They are great too! 

I made this dish after a really long time and took enough time to shoot it. Not very popularly made for lunch, I made this over the weekend for lunch to make sure I shoot it! And boy, I must say I am happy how much I have improved in two years! I shot the new ones, deleted the old pictures and finally this post got brand new bright images. See my before and after below.


Pav bread/ burger bun 4-5 (Get the recipe here)

For the potato filling

Potato 2, boiled
Dabeli Masala 3 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Sugar 1/2 tsp
Lime Juice 1/2 tsp

Finely diced onions
Masala peanuts
Pomegranate seeds
Sweet Dates-Tamarind Chutney
Spicy Garlic Chutney
Spicy Cilantro Chutney
Sev (Indian fried snack)


Potato Filling

Heat oil in a pan, add dabeli masala and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Mash the boiled potatoes and add to the pan. Add all the other ingredients under potato filling and mix well. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes and turn down the flame. Set aside.

Using a deep plate or bowl, press down the potato mixture. Spread masala peanuts, sev, onions, cilantro and pomegranate seeds on it. Press it all down and keep ready till making the dabeli.

Sweet Dates-Tamarind Chutney

Take 2 cups of dates, with pits removed. Mix with 1 cup of tamarind, half cup jaggery, a pinch of cumin seeds and 2 cups of water. Pressure cook the mixture till 3-4 whistles or till the mixture is cooked. Cool the mixture, and make a thick paste. Add Chat Masala and ground Roasted Cumin powder. This can be stored for several days by freezing the mixture.

Spicy Garlic Chutney

Churn together 8-10 cloves of garlic, 2 tsp red chilli powder, salt and lime juice. Add some cilantro, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder and water as required, to churn the mixture to a smooth paste. Remove and set aside.

To assemble the Dabeli

Slit the burger from the centre and separate the two halves. Apply butter on the inside of the bun slices. On the lower slice, apply the spicy garlic chutney and sweet chutney. Place a spoonful of the potato filling. Press everything down firmly. Apply the spicy cilantro chutney on the upper bun and place it on the potato mixture. Roll the dabeli in a plate filled with sev. 

On a tava, add butter and place the dabeli. Once the lower portion browns, turn it over and let the top part brown. Gently press down to ensure everything inside the bun sets together. Remove and serve warm.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gujarati Khatti Meethi Dal

Indian meals are almost never complete without a dal. Every state in India has it's own way of preparing it using different dals: Pigeon peas, Moong, Yellow split peas etc. Gujarati dal is one of the famous items that feature on the menu of a Gujarati Thali. Made from split pigeon peas, this dal is characterized by its Sour (khatti) and Sweet (Meethi) taste. This flavorful mixture of lentil and spices is the staple food of Gujaratis.

The ingredients that make it sour are either Amchur (Mango powder), Tamarind, Kokum or lemon. The sweet taste is generally from Jaggery. Sometimes sugar is also added. Gujarati dal is generally little thick and can also be modified to make another famous dish Dal Dhokli, Wheat dumplings in dal. Here is a quick recipe using Lemon and jaggery.

Split pigeon peas 1 cup
Peanuts, a handful
Spices: Bay leaves 1-2 , Cloves 3-4, Cinnamon stick 1 inch
Dried Red Chilli 2-3
Tomato, 1/4 cup, diced
Green chilli 1 slit lengthwise
Curry leaves 3-4
Jaggery 1 tbsp
Condiments: Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp, Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp, asafoetida a pinch, Turmeric powder 1 tsp, Red Chilli powder 2 tsp, Salt 
Juice of 1 lime
Cilantro to garnish
Ghee 2 tbsp

Was and pressure cook pigeon peas with 1 1/2 cup water and some salt and turmeric. Ensure that it is completely cooked. Open the cooker and completely mash the dal. Set aside.

In a pan heat 1 tbsp ghee and add sesame seeds and let them pop. Then add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Add the spices in a couple of seconds and then add curry leaves, red and green chilli. Mix well and add tomato and peanuts. Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes. Combine the mashed dal in the pan and add a cup of water. Season with jaggery, salt and lemon juice. Add Red chilli powder and turmeric powder and mix well. 

Let the dal cook covered and on medium flame for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it is completely cooked, turn down the flame and garnish with cilantro. Add a dollop of Ghee to enhance its flavor ( however, this is optional). This dal tastes best with plain Steamed Rice or Jeera Rice.

Another dish prepared from Gujarati Dal is Dal Dholki. This one pot dish is actually a meal by itself!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Instant Rava Paniyaram

Kuzhi paniyaram is a Tamil dish made by steaming batter — traditionally made from black lentils and rice using a mould. The batter used is the same as that for idli and dosa. Kuzhi paniyarams can be made sweet or spicy. The spicy version has sautéed onions and green chillies mixed with the batter.

This recipe is of an instant Paniyaram, using Rava Idli mix!! Takes about 20 minutes end to end and tastes really good. These idlis are midway between steamed idlis and fried ones. They are essentially pan fried mini idlis. A quick fix when you are in a rush but craving to have something tasty! This dish is good as an appetizer at a party or as a quick snack.

Instant Rava Idli Mix, 1 packet
Yoghurt 2 cups
Onion, 1 diced
Green Chillies, sliced thin
Oil/ cooking spray to line pan

Other requirements
Paniyaram Pan

In a large mixing bowl, add the Instant rava idli mix and yoghurt. I used one packet of MTR Instant Rava Idli Mix. Add little water as required and mix well. If the yoghurt is not sour, add 1 1/2 cup of yoghurt and 1/2 cup sour cream. Let the mixture rest for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, if the mixture is too dry, add some more water and mix. Combine onions, chillies and cilantro with the mixture and make a batter that is of cake batter consistency. 

Heat the Paniyaram stand and add little oil/ cooking spray in all the spheres. Put a spoonful of the mixture in each sphere. Cook covered on medium flame for 5-6 minutes. Once the top layer becomes little hard, turn them around and cook till golden brown. 

Remove and serve hot with Cilantro Chutney and Malka Podi chutney. This dish makes an instant appetizer for a South Indian themed party or a quick snack or tiffin option!

To make a different version of the same idli:
Let the idli cool for a few hours. Cut them into two. In a pan add oil and sesame seeds and let them crackle. Add a spoonful of Malka Podi Chutney and put in the idli bites. Mix well and Turn down the flame. Garnish with cilantro and serve as a snack.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Baked Farsi Puri

Farsi Puri is a crispy yet melt in mouth deep-fried Indian bread. It is the Gujarati version of North-India's Mathri. This flaky puri gets its name 'Farsi' from a Gujarati word meaning crispy. This Diwali must-have is generally made from all-purpose flour/maida and various spices. We generally prepare it as part of Diwali snacks, and it is served on New Year day to guests with tea. 

This year I made a little guilt-free version of this popular Gujarati snack, by baking them instead of frying. The result was puris that tasted just as good as the fried ones, less the calories! I made a huge lot of bite-sized puris to enjoy with tea during as well as post Diwali. Here is how: 

All-purpose flour/maida 3 cups
Wheat flour 1 cup
Clarified butter/ghee 1/4 cup
Oil 1/4 cup
Sesame seeds 1 tsp
Cumin seeds 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Carom seeds 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Warm water
Cooking spray/ oil to line cookie sheet

Mix the flours with all the other dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the ghee and oil and make a crumbly dough mixture. Add water as required and make a hard dough. Make sure the dough is harder than regular roti dough. Knead the dough well and make it smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20-30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 200 C. Knead the dough again and make a few large balls. Roll it out into a disc of about 1/4 cm thickness. Using a cookie cutter make small rounds. Line the cookie tray with Cooking spray or Oil and lay the puris on it. Bake for 8-10 minutes and turn them over. Bake for another 5-6 minutes till the top is golden brown. 

Remove the puris once done and let them cool on a cooling rack. Store in air-tight container and enjoy with a cup of Masala Chai or with sweet sour pickle.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jowar Vada: Sorghum Fritters

Kali Chaudas or Naraka Chaturdashi is a Hindu Festival that is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark half of the Hindu month Kartik in Western India, especially Gujarat. It is believed to be a day that you do away with evil and start life afresh with positivity. On this day people worship their ancestors/ Kul Devi to ward off all evils.

On this day, our family tradition is to make Jowar Vada, a delicacy enjoyed by all the members of the family. Jowar or Shorghum is a millet used in conjunction with wheat and udad to prepare these tasty fritters. This recipe has been passed on from the previous generations to the next, and I have got it from my Mother-in-law :) Pretty straight forward to make, these fritters go perfect with spicy Green Cilantro Chutney.

Jowar 1 cup
Wheat 1 cup
Gota Udad 1 cup
Yoghurt 1/2 cup
Ginger Chilli paste
Turmeric powder, Red Chilli Powder 
Sesame seeds
Cilantro, finely chopped
Soda bi-carbonate, a pinch
Oil to fry

Grind Jowar, Wheat and Udad together to form a paste. The coarseness depend on how you like the vada to be. Alternatively, mix the three flours in the ratio 1:1:1. Soak this mixture in 1/2 cup yoghurt for 8-10 hours. Add water as required to form a dough thats as thick as cake mixture.

After the mixture has soaked, add everything else except oil and mix well. Heat oil in a pan, drop the vadas slowly in the oil and fry till golden brown. Drain oil on kitchen towel. Serve hot with Cilantro Chutney or Gujarati Dal.

Also try these Green Moong Dal Fritters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A fall must have, Butternut squash soup that is almost as good as the one from Panera Bread! Super thick and perfectly flavorful, you need this through Fall and Winter! 

Crisp air, pretty leaves, pumpkin patches, hot chocolate, trick or treat hoodies and boots. All indicate that the most colorful season is back. Welcome to Fall!! And with it, this season brings in a range of vegetables and fruits. Butternut squash is one of them.It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin, with yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer. The most popular variety, the Waltham Butternut, originated in Waltham, Massachusetts. 

Although a fruit, butternut squash is used as a vegetable that can be roasted, toasted, puréed for soups, or mashed and used in casseroles, breads, and muffins. It is a good source of fibre, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin E. Here is a simple recipe of butternut squash soup, an autumn must-have!

Butternut squash, halved
Onion 1/2 cup, diced
Garlic, 2-3 cloves minced
Ginger, 1 inch piece, grated
Potato 1/2 cup
Black Pepper, Salt
Butter, Olive oil


The first step is to roast the butternut. In order to do so, cut the squash into half and remove all the seeds and stems. Sprinkle some salt, pepper and olive oil on the squash and microwave for about 8-10 minutes, until the flesh is soft. Remove the skin and cut the squash into pieces. Alternatively, it can be roasted in the oven at 350 F/200 C for 20-30 minutes.

In a heavy bottom saucepan sauté garlic and ginger in 1/2 tsp. butter. Add diced onion and sauté with black pepper. Next add the peeled and diced potato and mix well. The potato helps thicken the soup without adding any corn starch! Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Once the potato is soft, add the butternut squash. Add 2 cups water, 1 tsp. salt, mix well and cook till the mixture is soft.

Cool the mixture and blend to a smooth paste. Seive the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. The soup is ready to serve! 

Top with oven roasted seeds of butternut squash. To make them, wash and dry the seeds, put them on a baking tray and sprinkle sea salt on them. Roast them at 350 F for 10 minutes. Top them on the soup and serve!!

Enjoy this fall soup with Baked Garlic Croutons.