Monday, July 9, 2012

For me, 'Travelling' means Meeting new people, Exploring new sights, Doing new things, Discovering new cultures and traditions, Learning valuable life lessons, Developing new ideas, Gaining new experiences, Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and above all, it’s all about new 
TASTES and PHOTOGRAPHY!!



 I feel Inspired and Charged-up.. Hoping to carry back home lots of Memories, Ideas, Experiences and of course new Tastes to add up to My Creative Corner :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Masala Mix


A glimpse back to the history of spices, leads us to trails of it not only being used to make food burst with flavours, colours and aroma, but also in having served hundreds of other uses. They are known for their potential to fight diseases or for providing significant protection against various health conditions. They posses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic properties. Many are rich stores of antioxidants and some are even used therapeutically. Some spices are used as powerful preservatives, killing harmful bacteria or preventing their growth, thus retaining freshness of food.



The right blend of spices is what determines the characteristic tastes of a region's cuisine. The mix varies from region to region. Some use them in moderation and some generously.
Mixing spices or knowing it's right blend is an art. It is always best to store a spice whole and grind or crush them fresh. Most spices are added in the initial stages of preparation of a dish to infuse maximum flavour and aroma. Traditional Indian Cuisine is well known for its use of exotic and pungent spices.  They are the heart of Indian cooking.

This is my special spice mix used in many of my Indian cookery. When I mention "my masala mix" in any recipe, it is this blend. You can always be creative in blending the right masala mix for yourself. It's fun. discover the smell, taste and flavour of each spice available to you and experiment on making your magical blend.


 It's difficult to give a precise measure, but, you can see the picture and judge the quantity of each spice used. I'd recommend using all the 12 spices and herbs mentioned below for the masala mix mentioned in my recipes to give the guaranteed or intended taste and flavour.

Ingredients :







  1. Whole black Pepper
  2. Dried red Chilies (preferable seeded)
  3. Star Anise
  4. Cinnamon sticks
  5. Black Cardamom
  6. green Cardamom
  7. Cumin seeds
  8. Dried Mace
  9. Coriander seeds
  10. Cloves
  11. Fennel seed and
  12. Kasoori methi (dried Fenugreek leaves).
Blend these fresh in a grinder. Never powder them into a fine powder and make sure it's a little coarse like seen below. Once ground, store in a tightly concealed container and you can preserve the freshness and aroma for almost a month.



I love spices, and I stock almost all spices that comes in use to me in steel masala dabbas and plastic containers. This not only helps easy access, but, everything is organised and I am well aware of what is out of stock. I used spices and herbs as handy medicines for small ailments.


Here are some really beneficial tips:
  1. Have severe heartburn? Chewing some dried coriander seeds and slowly swallowing its juice is a quick fix.
  2. Boiling some fennel seeds and drinking the water warm is believed to kill disease carrying bacteria. Therefore, after a visit to a hospital or clinic, or a crowded public place, drinking this water is really good. We used this especially during the H1N1 flu season.
  3. Suffer from gastric problems?? Crush some dried ginger and drink its water warm.
  4. Crushing and biting a piece of Cloves between your teeth is helpful in reliving tooth ache.
  5. There's no mouth freshener as natural and effective as chewing some Fennel seeds. You find it in all Indian restaurants. It eliminates the odour of onions, garlic, milk etc from your mouth.
  6. During the hot summer, boiling water with fenugreek seeds and drinking it once cooled, really cools your body. Fenugreek seeds also help relieve menstrual cramps.
  7. When you have an upset stomach, drinking water boiled with dried ginger, mace, coriander seeds and turmeric powder helps.
  8. For common cold, drinking warm coffee blended with crushed black pepper, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dried ginger and turmeric powder, sweetened with a little jaggery is great! It's called chukku kaappi in the south and is very popular in reliving cold or cough derived from cold.
  9. Adding some kasoori methi in curries, not only enhances a special flavour, but, is also a good source of iron and vitamin A. It is highly beneficial in treating diabetics. For nursing moms, intake of fresh methi or even including dried methi leaves in the diet helps in increasing secretion of milk. It is also good in eliminating intestinal worse and benefits patients suffering from piles.
Let me stop there :) These are all remedies I've heard from old people and I feel it has helped a great deal. Well I am no one to certify or claim the authenticity of all this :)



Friday, March 23, 2012

Vegetable Curry

 My invention


Sometimes when you are really in the mood to experiment and try out something new using your instincts, you might luckily come up with something extraordinary. The satisfaction and confidence you get out it is amazing. This is one such dish I prepared and everyone liked a lot, even those who dislike vegetarian dishes. If you adamantly follow only traditional recipes and methods of cooking, trust me, cooking will turn out to be really boring.. Be creative and be a little adventurous, you never know, what could become a super hit..

This is a balanced vegetable curry.  It has the benefits of vegetables, the proteins from lentils, the flavours and goodness of spices and herbs and the nourishment from coconut milk, making it an all-in-one curry, easy to make and yummy. It goes well with plain or flavoured rice, pulao, roties and chapattis too. I have even tried pouring some into plain noodles and it tastes really yummy. Try it. My husband literally drinks this curry like a soup.

Ingredients :







Lentils (Mung dal - cooked)
-

1 cup
Oil
-

2 tablespoons
Mustard seeds
-

1 teaspoon
Curry leaves
-

2-3 stems
Cumin seeds
-

1 teaspoon
Dried red chillies
-

5-6 nos.
Onion (coarsely sliced)
-

1 large
Green chillies (slit)
-

1 or 2 nos.
Garlic
-

3-4 nos. or more
Ginger
-

5cm piece
Kashmiri Chilli powder
-

1/2 teaspoon
Fennel seed powder
-

3/4 teaspoon
Turmeric powder
-

1/2 teaspoon
Garam masala
-

1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder
-

1 teaspoon full
Black pepper powder
-

3/4 teaspoon
Vegetables of your choice (I'd prefer)*



Egg plant/Brinjal (cut into cubes)
-

1 cup
Carrots
-

1 cup
Beans
-

1 cup
Koosa or any other squashes
-

1 cup




Warm water
-

1 cup
Thick Coconut milk**
-

3/4 cup
Tomatoes
-

1 large
Coriander leaves / Cilantro
-

a small handful
Salt
-

To taste.

* You can choose vegetables of your own choice. But, try following the recipe exactly with exact ingredients for desired results :) However, close substitutes like green peas and cauliflower can also be used.
** For coconut milk - If you are using fresh coconut milk, then, blend fresh grated coconut in a blender adding 1 cup of lukewarm water for 15 seconds. Pour into a strainer and extract out the milk. Press down completely and squeeze out all the milk from the coconut.
You can also use coconut milk powder. In that case, into 3/4 cup of lukewarm water add 4-5 heaped tablespoons of coconut milk powder and whisk well.

Preparation Method :

Wash and drain the Mung dal and cook it in 2 cups of water until it has cooked well.


In a wok, heat the coconut oil and crackle the mustard seeds.


Tip : To avoid Sputtering and having a messy kitchen, close with lid while you do this.
Throw in the curry leaves.



then add the cumin seeds and dried red chilies.


Once the tempering is done, add the green chili, onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for 2 minutes on medium flame.


When the garlic and ginger has infused its flavour into the oil, add the powdered spices and sauté for not more than a minute.



Quickly add the vegetables, add some salt to retain colour of veggies and stir well to coat the vegetables well with the masala. Slowly raise the flame to high.


Pour in a cup of warm water, combine everything well and cover with a lid and allow to simmer on high for 5 minutes.


Then add the cooked mung dal along with its water  and combine everything well.


Pour in the coconut milk and again combine well and bring the curry to a complete boil.


Then add the tomato, add the cilantro/coriander leaves.


Cover and cook on low flame for 10-15 minutes.


Like how I mentioned in the sambar recipe, if you are a working woman or a bachelor, and you find it hard to cook every day, then you can make a pot full of this vegetable curry as well and freeze for couple of days, by pouring into small freezer proof/microwave oven proof clean and dried containers and allowing it to cool. Once cooled cover with lids and pop into your freezer. If you have prepared this curry in good hygiene, you can save it in the freezer for almost a month. I shall soon be posting tips on how to freeze curries.


Give this curry a try.. You and your family will love it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My Version


Easy chocolaty, crunchy, chewy, irresistible and yummy cookies for kids and chocolate lovers. I've mentioned earlier that my first experiments with cooking began with baking. Baking is lot of fun, especially for kids. Though your kitchen might get a bit messy initially, you can teach them a lot with a mere participation, like educating them on measures and calculations, introducing them to new ingredients, helping them in understanding and practicing basic kitchen sanitation and safety, inculcating in them an interest towards home-made fresh food etc.. Hmm.. Thanks to my mom :) I learnt a lot of the basics from her. She was indeed a great teacher. I grew up as the only child and used to feel a bit lonely. My mom used to try hard to bring me out of that lonesome feel by being there for me. She's the one who brought out the artist in me. I used to always hang around with her and observe her while she was cooking, cleaning, gardening, stitching, arranging etc. She'd play with me, read me stories and other informative articles, encourage me to do lot of craft works, fabric/glass/pot paintings, ceramic flower and decor making etc.. She's played a very crucial role in moulding me to whatever I am today :) I honour her and feel so blessed to have been sent to such an amazing mother :) All Thanks to the Almighty!

Well, that's exactly where I was taking you to :) If you are a mother, you can do so much to mould your kids and bring out their hidden instincts and talents. You might think, "I'm not sending them to culinary school anyway, then why waste time encouraging  them to cook.." Well, it's not about cooking, but, it's about educating them with basic life skills, which eventually develops thinking, understanding, creativity, attitude etc.. Just give it a try if you still haven't! :)

Back to the cookies.. :) This recipe is also from my childhood collections, from a baking book from the school library, recreated with a few improvisations. Lets bake! :)

Dry Ingredients :







Plain Flour
-

150 g
Caster Sugar
-

100 g
Soft Brown Sugar
-

75 g
Coco powder
-

30 g
Baking soda
-

1 teaspoon
Salt
-

1/2 teaspoon
Milk Chocolate chips
-

200 g
Desiccated Coconut
-

1/2 cup




Dry Ingredients :







Egg
-

1 no.
Unsalted butter
-

125 g
Milk / Dark Chocolate bar
-

125 g
Vanilla essence
-

1 tablespoon

Preparation Method :

Mix all the dry ingredients well except the chocolate chips and desiccated coconut.


Next, combine the wet ingredients -
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until they fluff up. Bring butter down to room temperature and whisk into the egg. Add the vanilla essence.


Chop the chocolate into chunks. I've mixed milk and dark chocolate to give the cookies a little sweet and bitter taste. Place into a Pyrex dish and microwave for 1 and half minutes. Remove and stir and again microwave for 50 seconds and blend until the chocolate pieces melt completely. If you haven't refrigerated the chocolate bar, you do not need too long to melt it.


Pour the chocolate into the egg, butter and vanilla mix and whip well into a fine chocolaty texture.

Slowly whisk in the dry ingredient and combine well.


Then add the chocolate chips and the desiccated coconut and combine well.


Scoop out the cookie mix onto an oven tray . Make sure you leave enough space between each scoop. Do not press it down. It will melt down on its own.


Preheat your oven to 170 degree centigrade and bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes. Do not place the oven tray too close to the flame. It will burn the base of the cookies.


Remove from the oven, and the cookies will still be moist and soft. Don't worry, that's exactly how it should be. Allow the cookies to cool completely. Do not touch or try to remove from the tray, it will break.


Once, the cookies have cooled completely and has started to firm, slowly remove them and place onto a cooling rack or kitchen towels.
Allow it to set completely. The more it cools the better, it's good to go only after a day.  
You can store the cookies in air tight jars or containers.


Enjoy your chocolaty, crunchy, chewy, irresistible and yummy cookies :) Do share your experience as a  Comment or share it on  Facebook.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kitchen Conversion Metrics



I have been receiving quite a few mails asking me for alternative measures for those who do not have measuring equipment. Given below is a guide to making metrics easy for measures referred in my recipes.

Butter/Shortenings /Ghee
100 g
8 tablespoons

225 g
1 cup
Flour
115 g
1 cup
Liquids
225 ml
1 cup
Liquids with syrupy consistency
350 g
1 cup
Caster sugar
225 g
1 cup
Moist brown sugar
200 g
1 cup
Icing Sugar
125 g
1 cup
Lentils
225 g
1 cup
Big beans like kidney beans
300 g
1 cup
Uncooked rice
200 g
1 cup
Whole almonds
150 g
1 cup
Almond flakes
115 g
1 cup
Walnuts
115 g
1 cup
Chopped nuts
115 g
1 cup
Ground nuts
115 g
1 cup

Spoon and Cup Measurements :

1 tablespoon
=
15 ml
1 teaspoon
=
5 ml
1 pinch
=
1/8 teaspoon
1 cup
=
250 ml
3/4 cup
=
188 ml
1/2 cup
=
125 ml
1/3 cup
=
83 ml
1/4 cup
=
63 ml


Notes :

While following recipes of cakes, cookies, biscuits and desserts, try to stick to the exact measures given in each recipe. Making variations in proportions may not fetch you desired results.

Invest in good measuring equipment :

1. Measuring spoons: 
This includes a set of four spoons of 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, ½ teaspoon and ¼ teaspoon measures. Some sets may consist of ½ tablespoon, ¾ teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon measures. They are used to measure both dry and wet ingredients.


2. Dry measuring cups : 
You will find them in a set of 1 cup, ½ cup, 1/3 cup and ¼ cup measures. Some sets may also consist 3/4 cup, 2/3 cup and 1/8 cup measures. They are usually used to measure dry ingredients like flour, sugar, rice, and solids like butter, ghee, shortenings etc.



Note: You might notice that in some photographs I pour out liquids from dry measuring cups. It is only for a convenience of photographing.

3. Liquid Measuring cups : It comes in both Pyrex and plastic.


4. Kitchen Scales : It is used in measuring the weight of ingredients. You will find Spring based  kitchen scales and Digital kitchen scales.


While using dry ingredients, fill the ingredients into the cup, tap the cup and level the excess off the surface along the rim of the cup. Similarly while measuring in a spoon, level the excess off the surface along the rim of the spoon. I have mentioned 'spoonful' in some places, which means a heaped spoon and do not level the excess off the surface. 


Hope this section helps. If you still have any queries or feel I've gone wrong somewhere, please Comment or write to me on Facebook .