Thursday, December 31, 2009

Almond and Chocolate chip Biscotti and Happy New Year !

This will be our last post in 2009. When we say goodbye to 2009 , we would like to wish you and your family a wonderful and successful 2010 ! May the new year bring you joy and prosperity !

The first time I saw biscotti I thought it looked like rusk. And later, I found out that rusk is indeed the English name. These double baked cookies are known by as many different names as there are languages in Europe. If its called biscotti in Italian then Zweiback in Germany. No matter the names they have a similar process of cooking even though each ethnicity has their own way of flavouring. I can't help but quote Shakespear at this time. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." You get the drift!


Talking about the first time I saw biscotti, it was in Germany. Walking down the streets window shopping I peeked into a bakery to glimpse a biscotti. Instantly I was reminded of rusks. You know what nostalgia does, right? A fresh breath of memories cruised in of rusks and coffee. In Kerala kids are allowed to take coffee and tea even black ones. So we, my sister and I, used to enjoy rusk dipped in our morning coffee. The coffee soaks into the rusk and the othewise subtle taste is tranformed into something like a wet coffee cake. But the first bite into Zweiback told me the textures were all the same but tastes far from the familiar. Zweiback has a distinct flavor of almond oil and nuts. If you have had rusks in Kerala you know that is definitely not how it tastes.

While talking over the phone with Sunitha she told me she loves the name "biscotti." And rusk being so much of a fond memory for me I decided to give it a shot at home. With the rest of the holiday baking I added biscotti to the list. Just like rusks this is usually dipped in coffee, tea or even wine in some places and can be a perfect holiday snack.You can make them and store in an airtight containers and it will last forever, so to speak. Best part of it all, eat them guilt free they don't have any butter :D.

I haven't used the traditional flavoring agent, almond oil in this recipe but feel free to do that in yours.


All purpose flour - 1 3/4 cup
Almonds- blanched and toasted -3/4 cup
Chocolate chips - 1/3 cup
Eggs- 2
Pure Vanilla Extract - 1tsp
Baking Powder -1 Tsp
Salt - a pich
Sugar -3/4 cup



1.Blanch the almond by putting them in boiling water for a minute and then washing under the running cold water.Slip the skins off.
2.Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.Line a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
3.Toast the almonds in the oven for almost 10 minutes or until they are done.Let it get cool enough to handle and chop coarsely.
4.In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
5.In another bowl, beat the eggs well. Add sugar and beat till it becomes creamy.
6.Beat in the vanilla extract to this.
7.Mix the dry and wet mixtures together well.
8.Fold in the chopped almonds and chocolate chips.
9.Transfer this dough to the baking sheet and make a log out of the dough. The log should be approximately 11-12 inches long and 3-4 inches wide.
10.Moisten your hands while doing this, since the dough is bit sticky.
11.Bake for 23-25 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool enough.
12.Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degree F.
13.Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut into slices that are 3/4 inch thick, just like you slice a log of bread.
14.Place the biscotti with cut side down on the baking tray and bake again for 10 minutes.
15.Take out from the oven, turn the sides and bake for 10 minutes.
16.At this point the biscotti is not very firm to touch, but it gets firmer when it cools down.
17. Store in a long airtight container.


Contributor : Namitha
Recipe Courtesy:Joy of baking

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fruit Cake /Kerala Plum Cake

Todays post is the result of a joint venture, from Namitha and me. After comparing notes, research and development we baked them at our respective homes.

Fruit Cake

The fruit cake recipe is an age old one and used by most Christian families in Kerala. However, like most things, we don't make a distinction of religions and unanimously celebrate each others festival. A common scene on our streets during the season are cakes lined behind the glass show cases in bakeries. You will find them in small rounds and squares wrapped in transparent plastic. Some come with sugar icing and others fresh cream they all sell like ‘hot cakes.’ No prizes for guessing, you will also see hordes of them in our homes as well. Everyone gifts everyone else these cakes for Christmas. I can say without a doubt that we all do an excess of buying, baking and eating these delectable cakes.

Getting down to the business of baking, the fruits for this cake are marinated and kept for over a year. They are soaked in rum and caramel. Being away from my home, and a queen of procrastination I did a last minute hotchpotch and did not marinate the fruits this time. Nonetheless, having tasted both the marinated and non marinated I recommend the later. The longer you marinate the fruits the better the cake.

The recipe below is given in grams. As long as you measure out the exact quantity of the ingredients in weight the cake will do well. There are quite a few suggestions for conversion to cups on google search. Namitha has given her version with cups and also the number of eggs she has used, and by the look of the cake you will agree with her judgement.

Let me give you an example to confirm rules are to be broken. My mothers, biological and in-law, follow different measurements for the eggs and fruits and yet both their cakes turn out tasty. The former uses a one:one:one ratio of all the ingredients while the later doubles the quantity for fruits and eggs. Both are good but my mom in laws is a tad better overall.

My mother in law participates in the Christmas baking in our church. She and her friends will scour the local markets and ‘hand pick’ candied fruits from the best vendors for Christmas baking. This is very important because, at the expense of sounding repetitive, the best ingredients make the best cake. I remember joining her in this hunt the first year of my marriage. We used the same fruit marinated in caramel and rum for the next two years for our baking. Now you know how long one can preserve these fruits even in humid weather conditions like in India. Neither of them, my mom nor in-law add the regular cinnamon or cloves in their recipes. All we do is add some vanilla essence and it has been unanimously accepted as best. However, you may add cinnamon and cloves in yours if you choose.
Cake Flour - 250 gms(1 1/4 cups)
Butter - 250 gms (1 1/4cups)
Sugar - 250 gms (1 1/4cups) (powder sugar after you have measured it out)
Dry fruits and nuts together -1-2 1/2 cups (soaked for a months or couple of days as time permits in rum or brandy)
Vanilla Essence - 1 tspn
Baking Powder - 1 tspn
Granulated sugar for caramelizing - 1/2 cup
Egg yolks   - 4
Egg whites - 4 (make sure there is no tinge of egg yolk)


Beating Egg White:
1. It may be a good practise to beat the egg white stiff before you start on the main cake batter.  Please make sure you use a dry bowl and a dry blade when you beat the egg white.  Any trace of water, grease or egg yolk in the white will not give the desired fluffy frothy egg white.  Beating the egg white stiff is very important to give a light and fluffy texture to the cake. Make sure all the egg white has been beaten stiff before you clean the blade and wipe it dry before you start mixing the batter.

Mixing the Batter:
1. Sift the flour and baking powder twice and keep aside (sifting allows the baking powder to be mixed well with the flour)
2. Beat the butter well first before adding the sugar.  Gradually add the sugar beating well after each addition.  Remember also to gradually increase the speed of your blender from low to medium after all the sugar has been blended in.  Taking time and beating the butter and sugar goes a long way to aerate the butter and to give a moist, fluffy texture to your cake    
3. Add in the egg yolk and beat well
4. Add the vanilla essence  beat well
5. Follow up with cool caramelized sugar
6. Spoon in the flour a little at a time alternating with the egg white
7. If you find watery egg white which did not froth do not use it or only use after beating it fluffy
5. Pour the batter in a 9 inch pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350 D F for 45 minutes
6. When a toothpick pricked comes out clear the cake is done

Caramelizing sugar

1. Add a tablespoon of water to the 1/2 cup sugar till you make it moist and lumpy
2. Heat this sugar in a pan until brown this takes about 10 minutes. Do not stir using a spoon, you may swirl the pan around
3. The purpose is to brown it well so wait till the sugar takes on a black coffee color.  You will see it smoking and the distinct smell of burnt sugar reduce the flame and pour in 1/2 cup of boiling water (Be very careful doing this because the mixture tends to splash and it is extremely hot and caramelized sugar can leave serious burns)
4. Stir the mixture and turn off the heat
5. Set it aside to cool

fruit cake

1. To ensure the cake keeps long without spoiling use dry vessels and spoons when mixing the batter
2. Use ingredients at room temperate by preparing ahead and making sure the butter and eggs are left outside the refrigerator long enough
3. Use of eggs for this cake is quite interesting because I have had cakes which tastes good both with same amount a little less and also double the quantity so once you get the standard 1:1 ratio of all ingredients the next time you can try variations
4. Grind some of the fruits in a mixer before marinating, it adds to the taste of the cake
5. You can also add one egg at time as beating well after each addition if you are using less number of eggs or else continue seperating the yolk and white.

Contributors: Namitha and Sunitha

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hyderabad Chicken Dum Biryani

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. Just over with Christmas and a new year around the corner, I decided to share my Christmas special Hyderabadi biriyani :) By the way, I had a good Christmas with family. Lots of sofa time watching movies, indoor games etc and we also ventured out to play in the snow. Eating cookies and cakes like there is no tomorrow was also a big part of the season. It was fun!
If you have been following our blog you know most of my Hyderabadi stories and how fond I am of them. However, you should be patient with me because my culinary skills took shape while there. Also, if you have had Andhra food you will agree there is so much to be inspired by their cuisine. It leaves an indelible mark in your way of cooking, eating and your stories too :D At least it has for me.

Hyderabad Chicken Dum Biryani

I lived in Hyderabad for 5 years and never tried to make this world famous biryani while there. Why? Well, when you get delicious biryani from "Paradise" and "Hyderabadi House," the restaurants renowned for their biryani in Hyderabad, who wants to make it at home. I still remember how when we drove past the Paradise circle in Secunderabad my hubby and daughter would suddenly have hungry pangs. It didn’t matter if it was day or night we would have to stop and indulge ourselves. I would secretly share their feelings though I kept a ‘not interested face.’ Giving into our cravings we would walk into the restaurant like magnet attracts iron. The aromatic goodness of the rice and meat cooked to perfection readily comes to my mind.
Talking about Hyderabad Biryani, the most famous is the mutton biryani. The biryani comes from the royal kitchen of the Nizams the rulers of the historic Hyderabad state for, until the Indian Independence in 1947, almost 2 centuries. Nizams' kitchen used to serve more than 50 different types of biryanis. This is a mixture of Mughal and Telugu cuisine and there are 2 ways of preparing this biryani ; katchi biryani and pakki biryani. Katchi biryani is cooked in the dum method, as the name suggests, raw meat is cooked over the steam along with rice. All the flavors of meat and exotic spices infuse into the rice giving the biryani the perfect flavor. In pakki biryani, the meat is cooked with spices and fried onions and then layered with rice. Today, I am going to tell you how to prepare katchi biryani.



For marination:

Chicken (with bone; I used drumsticks)- 2 lbs
Cilantro leaves - 1bunch(small)
Mint leaves - 1 bunch
Red chilli powder- 1 Tbsp
Green chillies - 3-4(cut into small pieces)
Ginger paste- 1 1/2 Tbsp
Garlic Paste - 1 1/2 Tbsp
Yogurt (preferably sour) - 1 cup
Cardamom powder- 1 Tsp
Shahjeera (Royal Cumin) - 1 Tsp
Cloves - 3-4
Cinnamon sticks - 3-4 small ones
Tejpatta/Indian Bay leaves -2

For Rice:

Basmati Rice - 2 cups
Cinnamon stick - 1 small
Shahjeera - a pinch
Onion (fried)- 2
Saffron milk- 2-3 Tbsp
Lemon juice - 2 Tbsp
Cashews and raisins fried - for garnishing
Ghee(clarified butter) -1 Tbsp
Oil- 4 Tbsp



1. Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients listed under the title for at least 2 hours/ overnight in the refrigerator.
2.Fry the onions and keep aside. Also fry the cashews and raisins.
3. Wash and soak the rice for half an hour.
4.Boil water in a pot along with salt,cinnamon stick and shahjeera in it. Add rice once it starts boiling.
5.Reduce the heat and cook till the rice is half done. I added 1: 1.5 , rice: water and cooked for about 8 minutes at medium heat.
6.Pour off any excess water and let the rice dry completely.
7.Pour 2 Tbsp of oil in a really thick bottomed vessel, in which you are planning to cook biryani and layer the marinated chicken.If you think the vessel is not thick enough you can keep it on a tawa on the stove top.
8.Level the top and layer it with half of the rice which is half done followed by fried onions and a Tbsp of saffron milk.Repeat this for the other half of the rice.
9.Sprinkle some cilantro leaves and mint leaves on the top.
10.Pour in a Tbsp of oil and the ghee over the top.
11.Cover with a tight lid. If you do not have a tight lid, use some dough to stick the lid and vessel tightly, so that the steam is not escaped.
12.Cook it on the high heat for the first 5 minutes, then on medium heat for 25 minutes and on very low heat for 10 minutes.
13. Wait for another 10-15 minutes before you open the lid.
14.Mix the chicken and rice together and serve hot with raita after garnishing with cashews and raisins.(I didn't use raisins)



1.Before you marinate chicken drain the water from chicken completely.
2.If you cook the rice well initially it will get overcooked when you layer it with chicken.
3.Originally this biryani is very hot, but I have added a bit less since I have kids who cannot take that much chilli.
4.The vegetarians can replace chicken with veggies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Russian Teacakes

     In Kerala, where I come from, the tradition for Christmas is to bake fruit and nut cakes, fry diamond cuts, rose cookies etc.  Here in US, I see the tradition is cookies.  The last two days, I got together with my friend M and we baked and baked and baked.  We made four different cookies Russian Tea cakes or Mexican wedding cakes, lemon laced cookies, pinwheel cookies and cherry wink.  This is also one reason why I could not visit all my blogger friends.  I will hopefully make amends for it today to see what you all have been upto.  

   I photographed some yesterday and it was a time well spent.  As I am writing this I am glad I spend some quality time getting into baking because I am able to share it with you.  The flip side or con of holiday seasons are we are always on a sugar high.  Now then, what is the point cribbing.. lets all indulge and have some fun and then go on a diet the next week, what do you say?  Anyways, here is Russion Tea cakes for you.. I remember something similar called nan cut when in India.  I have made those and its pretty much the same if you avoid nuts.

Russian Tea Cake

Butter - 1 cup
Confectioners sugar - 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 1 tspn
All purpose flour - 2 1/4 cups
Salt - 1/4 tspn
Nuts(add your preferred one I added pecans) - 3/4 cup finely chopped

1. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together.  I used a hand blender you could do without it as well.
2. Add flour, salt and nuts and incorporate together until the dough holds together to make small balls
3. Place the doubh balls on ungreased cookie sheets
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set but not brown in a pre heated 400F

Russian Tea Cake

Contributor: Sunitha

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pecan Pie and an Award

Marigolds and roses, Bees and flies
Oh, Isn't it a wonderful path ?
Butterflies and caterpillars, rainbows and lightning
Makes an extraordinary path together
As the Earth spins
We'll forever remember the path of Nature

   No, it's not mine. It's my 8 year old's :-) When she was wondering what to do for the talent show in her class, she was confused and couldn't decide and I was no help either. After a lot of pondering, she made up her mind and told me she wants to write a poem and recite it. She doesn't write poems that often although she writes stories and gives her own illustrations. As such, I was flabbergasted to say the least to see this poem, titled "Nature's Path". I cannot figure out for my life where she comes up with these ideas.  I knew then I had to do something to show her how proud I am of her efforts. 

  After deliberating about how to congratulate her I decided to make some goodies of her choice. There was this long awaited request from her to make Pecan Pie and being the official arbitrator on these matters made my decision.  Pecan Pie, it shall be!  I was supposed to make this for Thanksgiving but never got around to it for some reason.  Either ways, my daughter won me over and I made her her pie.  I think in all respects this was a good decision.  Enjoy!

Pecan Pie

We tasted this pie in one of the Thanksgiving parties, soon after reaching US. It tasted divine and and my husband and daughter requested me to make it at home. Then I started searching the net and collected info from friends for making Pecan pie. Once you taste this, I am sure you will never like store brought pecan pie :-)


Pie Crust:

It is the same as in Apple pie. Only thing I want to point out is that the crust becomes flaky only when you use butter and shortening together.

For Filling:

Roasted Pecans- 1 cup
Light Corn syrup - Little less than 1 cup
Brown Sugar -1/2 cup
Salt - A pinch
Melted Butter - 5 1/2 Tbsp
Pure Vanilla Extract - 1tsp
Eggs - 2

Pecan Pie

1. Prepare the dough for the crust and follow the method here.
2. Roast the Pecans in a microwave oven. This may take 2-3 minutes, turn the pecans after every minute and stop when you think it is roasted well. It took me 2 minutes in my microwave .
3.Cut the pecan halves into 2 when it is cool enough to handle.Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
4.Mix together everything except eggs listed under filling, using a spatula.
5.Whisk the eggs together in another bowl, very lightly.
6.Mix the egg also in the above mixture and see that the eggs are mixed well.
7.Roll out the dough to get a 1/8 inch thick disk.
8.Transfer this into the pie pan and cut off the extra edges.
9.Pinch the sides to get a wavy look for the sides. [Mine is not perfect, since I was in a hurry :( ]
10.Pour in the prepared mixture and sprinkle the pecan slices.
11.Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. It took me 60 minutes.
12.Take out from the oven and let the pie cool well before you cut it.Serve with whipped cream or ice cream of your choice.

Pecan Pie


1.This pie recipe will give you a moderately sweet one, not too sweet like you get from the shops.
2.Roll out the dough on a rolling pin for transferring into the pan, since it is really brittle.
3.Please do not skip the roasting step, since it makes a huge difference.
4.Be careful when you add water to the dough. Use icecold water and pour only a spoon at a time. I had to add only 1 1/2 Tbsp. When I made it for the first time I added a lil more water and I had a hard time in rolling out the crust !


Malar Gandhi of Kitchen tantra- tease your palate has shared a beautiful award with us. Thanks a bunch Malar, we really appreciate it

We would like to share it with all our blogger friends. Pl accept it and post it in your blog :-) Happy blogging and a happy Holiday season to all !!!!

Contributor: Namitha

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cut Cookies

 Today's recipe is almost the same like our last week's post. We decided to post another recipe on cookies especially because of its antique nature. This recipe was passed on by Angela to her family. Angela was born in 1911, so you can imagine how old the recipe is. It gives me goose bumps as I write about this old treasure.
Since my coming to the US, I have been fortunate to befriend a lot of people. They opened their doors to me and shared their lives and stories.  Some stories old, as they heard from their grandparents and parents. Over a board game of cribbage or scrabble we would discuss how games, family time, recipes all kinds of golden memories.  For me it has been a class on history of sorts. Life in America as it was then and its transformation into the commercial hub it is today are all lovingly reminisced. I was fascinated to know how deep rooted family values are, which Hollywood movies have ignored in my opinion, in this country. More than the shrinks, which the movies crack up to be the source to fix peoples problems, I am witnessing how communities, friends and families play a vital role in peoples lives.

      My friend J (I am not going to give the names for privacy sake) whose mothers recipe I am sharing today was second generation American. Her mother was German and a single parent who brought up her daughters during the great depression. Hers is a story of how self confidence and strength of character helped her survive in this country in the early 1900’s. The strength and will power which helped people who migrated here to make America their home. They did not know English or the ways of this country but they strived hard and brought up children who are doing extremely well today. Its an honor for me to share this time tested recipe which even today graces this families Christmas table.

Angela started this family custom (probably borrowed it from her forefathers) to bake cookies, breads and cakes for family and friends during Christmas. Now, her daughter J does the same every Christmas. It has been a wonderful experience for me to be part of this age old traditions. And so here I am sharing this jewel of a recipe to all our blogger friends.

We remember all our near and dear ones during this season of love. And here is a friendship cookie shared for you taken out from a very dear old ladies recipe. Hope you will be inspired to start a tradition at home which will be carried on for generations to come.

Flour                - 3 cups
Baking Powder - 1 1/2 t
Salt                   - 1/2 t
Sugar                - 1 cup
Butter                - 1 Cup (soften)
Beaten Egg        - 1
Milk                  - 3 tbspn
Vanilla               - 1 tspn
     Mix all the ingredients in the order given above incorporating each step by step to form a ball.  Wrap this in wax paper and chill.  We had this mix refrigerated overnight and had to leave it outside the refrigerator for a while in the morning before the dough was soft enough to roll out. 
     Roll the dough into the thickness you prefer for your cookie and cut them into the desired shapes using cookie cutter and bake at 400 F for 9 - 10 minutes on a fat lines cookie sheet.  Alternatively, bake till the cookies turn a golden hue.
Cut cookies collage

Contributor: Sunitha

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kaplanga Erissery/Papaya with coconut and green chillies

    The most common vegetable to make erissery is pumpkin and I am not sure if papaya erissery is common or well known. But I (read it, my family) prefer it over the pumpkin, and I mostly end up making erissery with papaya.

    My father is an exceptionally good cook considering in his days it was not common for a man to even help in the kitchen. Territories were definitely marked during his times and the kitchen was not a man's forte. My Father was truly an exception being liberal in his thoughts. He loved to cook and helped my mom in the kitchen every opportunity he had. When I think about it, it was only fair since my mother was employed too.


    Today’s recipe is my Dad's. When it comes to festive dishes or sometimes even the day to day dishes, my father is a better cook in our family. However, my mom would have a hard time cleaning the mess after him, but the food always paid off for the trouble she would say. If you could get my father to say “your dish is fine,” that means “it is fantastic.” Surely, a man of few words it is difficult to get more than that from my Father. I remember eagerly waiting when I started cooking, as a teenager, for a compliment from my Dad. If he even said “its fine” it was enough to make my day. Like I said, he is a man of few words and I knew he was a good cook so any positive comment even a nod was likes receiving an award of accomplishment.

    So, here is a recipe from a great food critic and cook, my father :-)


Papaya(started to ripen) cut into 1 inch cubes- 2 Cups
Turmeric powder- 1/4Tsp
Salt- To taste

For Grinding:

Coconut(grated)-1/4 cup
Cumin seeds-1/2 Tsp
Shallots-1 big
Green chillies-4-5

For seasoning:

Coconut oil/cooking oil-1 Tbsp
Mustard seeds-1/2 Tsp
Red chillies-2-3
Curry leaves-1Sprig



1.Pressure cook the papaya cubes along with turmeric and salt (for 2 whistles- or till it gets cooked really well)
2.Grind the things listed under the label (don't have to grind it smooth)
3.Mash the papaya well and add the coconut mixture into it.
4.Cover and cook for a few minutes on medium heat.
5.Switch off the heat.
6.Heat oil in a pan to do the seasoning.
7.Splutter the mustard seeds and a throw in the red chillies.
8.To this add the grated coconut and fry it till the coconut start turning golden brown color.
9Trow in the curry leaves and saute till you get the golden color for coconut flakes .
10.Mix it into the erissery and serve with rice,yogurt and thoran of your choice.


Notes;'s best when you use the half ripened papaya.But still you could make it with raw ones too.(Have done it many times like that )
2.Just like any other erissery you can add a lentil, preferably soaked red beans along with papaya while cooking.
3.As I have told any erissery, thought it will be nice to share some more erissery ideas to those who are new to this dish. Instead of papaya, add pumpkin, raw banana, elephant foot yam etc for this dish.
4.This erissery is less problematic for the people who have gastritis problems.

Contributor: Namitha

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pavakka Achar/ Pickled Bitter Gourd

   I have to employ an oxymoron like wonderfully bitter or so, when explaining the taste of pickled bitter gourd.  Also, one other opposite when it comes to this veggie is that my husband  does not like it and I love it.  That's probably why they say opposites attract.  Whatever!

   Like I said, since my husband is not a big fan of this vegetable, I generally pick one or two while at the Indian store and pickle them.  This way I enjoy it for over weeks or months without having to cook small portions for myself.  It's quite boring for me to cook for myself; but once in a while, when there are things that I totally enjoy, I don't mind going that extra mile to get it done.

    This is yet another eazy peezy recipe.   I hope you enjoy it.
Pickled bittergourd
Bitter Gourd - 1 Big
Sesame Oil  - 1 TBspn
Mustard      - 1/8th tspn
Garlic          - 1 pod or less as you like
Curry Leaves - 1 Spig
Green Chillies - 6 - 8 nos
Vinegar - 1/2 cup
1. Slice the gourd in thin rounds or small pieces (julienne style)
2. Sprinkle salt, maybe 1/4 tspn or so, and mix well and keep it aside for some time.  (30 minutes to an hour)
3. When you are ready to cook press the gourd between your palms to squeeze out some of the juice. (You can avoid this if you don't mind the bitterness.. this process just helps to tone down the strength of the bitterness)
4. Gather all the other ingredients peeled and cleaned as necessary
5. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the mustard
6. Add curry leaves, chillies, garlic and saute
7. Add the gaurds now and saute till half done or golden brown to your preference.
8. Once the veggie is tempered let it cool and check for saltiness. 
9. Add the vinegar and mix well.  Check if there is enough salt after adding the vinegar and bottle
Pickled Bittergourd
1. You can add asafoetida and fenugreek powder ,a pinch each if you want more flavor. 
2. Always check if the pickles are well salted before bottling.  The salt should be slightly on the higher side so that once the vinegar marinates the veggies you pickle should not be only sour but get the tanginess of salt and sour together.

Contributor: Sunitha

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beetroot n' Carrot Stir fry/Mezhukkupuratti

I had no clue about betanin, the dye that gives beetroot the deep red color, when I saw my friend's lunchbox with red rice during my kinder garden days. I went back home and asked my mom to make me red rice.  You should have seen the surprise on her face! From that time on I like this brilliant red color and the vegetable.

  The other major ingredient in todays dish is carrot which is rich in beta carotene.  Beta carotene gets converted to vitamin A and is good for your eyes. I used to tell my daughter when she was smaller, that if she eats carrots her eyes will sparkle like that of a bunny.

  I am not sure if they believe what I said or are fascinated with color like me, it is a hit with the kids.  Hope you will also like this simple and colorful fry with 2 smart veggies :-)



Carrot (long thin slices)- 1 1/2 cup
Beetroot(long thin slices)-1 cup
Green chillies (slit into 2)-2-3
Salt-to taste
Cooking Oil-2 Tbsp

stir fry


1.Heat oil in a pan.
2.Throw in the vegetable slices along with chillies and salt.
3.Cover and cook till the vegetables get tender.
4.Let it get fried keeping the lid open
5.Serve with rice and Sambar .

Contributor: Namitha

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moru Kaachiyathu/ Seasoned Butter Milk

        You will always find curd/plain yogurt in some form or the other in most Indian homes. We use it to flavor other dishes, to tenderize meat, or to thicken a gravy and also as a dish by itself.  Butter milk; the byproduct of curd after butter is churned, is considered a great drink.  We have butter milk both sweet and salty. Earlier days on a sultry afternoon, after running errands outside, people prefered to come home and have a sambaram or lassi, as we call it in different parts of our country.   
         Things have changed and, including me,we have caught on to soft drinks and other store bought drinks. However, the use of curd/buttermilk  in curries and as a dish has not waned. The recipe today is an easy one, just an idea of how to season it.  I think this dish probably came about as an afterthought.  After butter was churned people would have considered tempering the buttermilk to replace the lost fat and make it richer.  Now, we add water to thin the curd and use it as buttermilk and season it to our liking.  It then adorns a place on every dinning tables to be drunk or poured in the rice to make every mouthful more tasty.
Spiced Butter Milk

Curd/ Plain Yogurt - 1/2 Lb
Water - as much you want to think the curd.. you can also make this curry thick without adding any water
Curry Leaves - 1 or 2 sprigs
Ginger - 1 tspn chopped
garlic - 1 tspn chopped
shallots - 1 tspn chopped
turmeric - 1/4 tspn
Fenugreek - 1/8th tspn powdered or 1/4 tspn whole
Salt -  to taste
Coconut or any cooking oil - 1 or 2 tspn enough to temper the ingredients
Dry red chillies - 2
Green chillies - 2
Spiced Buttermilk

For The Butter Milk:
1. Mix the curd well to make it smooth.  Do this before you add any water or else it's difficult to get an  even consistency.
2. Add water a little at a time blending it to keep it smooth

1. Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard and whole fenugreek, curry leaves, red chilli, shallots, green chillies, ginger and finally garlic.  Stirring and cooking for a moment after each addition
2. Add turmeric and if you are using powdered fenugreek then use it at this time.  (Please note you only need to add either whole fenugreek or powdered, not both)
3. Keeping the stove at low to medium with continuous stirring add the buttermilk. 
4. Continue stirring in one direction until the butter milk is heated through and the ladle lifted off the curry will show smoky vapour snaking away
5.  It's important not to over heat because if you do the mixture will curdle because of the heat and look disgusting and taste bad.  If you are new to the process touch to make sure the mixture is warm and switch off the heat. 
Spiced Butter Milk

1. If you have tried this before and have had failures and the mixture curdled that is because of too much heat or you did not stir it enough.  You can avoid these pitfalls by stirring continuously in one direction.
2.  If you feel the tawa or vessel used for cooking has over heated during tempering add a spoon or two of water before you add the buttermilk.

Contributor: Sunitha

Monday, December 14, 2009

Short Bread Cookies

Hello everyone ! How are your Christmas preparations going on ? Most of you might be already set with an X'mas tree and other decorations. I thought of making some baked goodies for the holiday season and started with this simple cookie. Short bread cookies are traditionally known as a Christmas cookies and is quite versatile. You could turn it into a pecan/almond short bread cookie or X'mas sugar cookie or whatever your imagination leads you :-)Those who are calorie conscious may not prefer this Scotch cookies,because these cookies are really rich with butter as a main ingredient and if you replace butter with some other fat you cannot call it a short bread cookie. But I am sure about one thing, this will just melt away in your mouth and it is hard to stop munching on these utterly butterly cookies :D



All purpose flour- 2cups
Butter (at room temperature)-1 cup
Salt- a pinch
Confectioner's sugar-1/2 cup
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp



1.Beat the butter until fluffy using a handmixer, for 3-4 minutes
2.To this add the sugar and beat well for 2-3 minutes.
3.Mix in the salt and vanilla extract
4.Fold in the flour mixture.
5.Flatten the dough and wrap it in a plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour
6.Preheat oven to 350 degree F and line two baking trays with parchment paper
7.Flour a surface where you are planning to roll the dough.
8.Make small balls of dough and flatten it using the bottom of a glass.Use a cookie cutter or use a steel utensil (Like I did)to get a perfect shape.The ideal thickness is 1/4 inch. Prick them with a fork
9.Arrange them on the parchment paper leaving some space in between and chill them again for 10-15 minutes.
10.Bake for 9-10 minutes or till the cookies start turning to a golden brown color


1. You could roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to cut it into desired shapes.
2.I did this in 2 batches, because I was slow since I was multitasking (I have a 17 month old lil monster) and I got ~25 cookies, but some of them were small
3.You could store the cookies in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

[Recipe adapted from:Joy of Baking]

Contributor :Namitha

Sauteed Cabbage and coconut/ Cabbage Thoran

     If you are from Kerala, a southern state in India, you know 'thoran' is a dry accompaniment with rice our staple diet.  We use the same ingredients to cook this dish with different vegetables.  However, depending on the taste and time taken for cooking each of use a different method to cook this dish.

   I think, cabbage is one vegetable where I use the most amount of onions compared to any other 'thoran'.  I wish I could elaborate on why I do that except that I like its taste best this way.  The way we eat our rice traditionally is to have a soupy, watery,  liquidy dish, a dry vegetable and if you eat non vegetarian food then fish or meat fried or in a gravy.

  When it comes to cabbage thoran though the best way I like to have it is with rice, sambar, lemon pickle and cabbage thoran.  Give me a papad and its a completely delicious most satiating meal for me.  Another great combination is rice, cabbage, red fish curry and moru kachiyathu..'oooh la la!' that's what my brother would say when he reads this combo. Each of us familiar with the Kerala style of food will have their own way of eating.  We all have different combinations and all of them are great for sure.

  For my friends who are reading this recipe and not into our way to eating, I assure you if you have leftover rice add this and some chicken cubes into it and microwave it to make a nice fried rice and you can have it with or without any other accompaniments.

1. Cabbage - 2 1/2 cups chopped
2. Onions - 1/2 cup chopped
3. Coconut grated - 1/4 cup
4. Mustard - 1/8th tspn
5. Turmeric - 1/8th tspn
6. Salt - 1/4th tspn (or to taste)
7. Curry leaves - 1 sprig
8. Vegetable/ Canola /Coconut oil - 1 Tbspn (use any tpe of oil as per your taste. I use vegetable or canola oil)
1.  Mix well the cabbage, onions, green chillies, coconut and turmeric
2. Do a tempering but heating the oil in a wok and spluttering mustard followed by a tspn of the chopped onions and curry leaves
3. Add the mixed vegetables and stir in well.
4. Bring all the contents of the work into the center and and with your spatula form a smooth mound.  This is done to keep the heat inside and the cabbage will cook in its own moisture
5. To avoid burning make sure the heat is on medium to low and if you are doing if for the first time stir in less than 5 minutes. 
6. When half done add salt and stir well and with swift stirring with the spatula spread it evenly
7. Cabbage cooks pretty easily so test for doneness by tasting at this poing and if you like the crispness of the cabbage turn off the heat.

Contributor: Sunitha

Thursday, December 10, 2009

X'Mas Recipes

Just thought of sharing some dishes you might want to make for X'mas

Short Bread Cookies
Pineapple upside down pudding
Carrot Cake

Orange Milk shake

I am big on milk shakes. Give me coffee, strawberry or even rose milk and I am a happy camper. The orange one was introduced when I was young by a very close family friend. The one from whom I had the pineapple upside down cake. A lot of her cooking and dishes have inspired me and this post is dedicated to her. This is quite an easy drink and a no brainer. However, I decided to write about it because if you are like me, you will be inspired to try something long forgotten and revive old memories or share it with friends and create a memory.


  You will love the burst of orangy zest in the milk. It will get you all refreshed.  A glass of the shake in the morning and a toast will do just fine and keep you in an active zing zangy mood all day. 

Frozen Orange concentrate - 2 scoops
Sugar - to taste
Milk - 3/4 of a glass



Whip all the ingredients together. The only thing to remember is when you do an orange milk shake always make sure milk and orange are all cold. If not, it will curdle. Garnish with fresh cream and a piece of orange or like you see in the pictures on however your imagination leads you. Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Veg Pizza

It was during my college days in Mangalore that I first tasted Pizza in my life! Those were the days before Pizza hut opened up their chains in all the major cities of India.  Since then, I have had Pizza from many places around the world and always thought making Pizza is the toughest thing in the world :-)  I dared to make them myself only after coming to US.  Today I would like to share the recipe of a simple Pizza that is loved by my family and friends.  And remember, if you have the right flour; making Pizza is just a piece of cake :D



For the crust:(I have referred to the recipes online and cook books. This is my adaptation from all those and it has been working well for me for the past 2 years)

Bread Flour(I use King arthur)-3+1/2 cup(measure by scooping and leveling)
Active dry Yeast-1 packet
Lukewarm water(should be 100 degree F-body temp)-1 cup [That is the optimum temperature for the yeast to grow :-)]
Milk-1/2 cup (at room temp)

Olive oil-2tbsp

For the topping:

Bell pepper-1
Mushroom-1 cup
Broccoli-1 small floret
Parmesan cheese(grated)-1/4 cup
Mozzarella cheese-1 Big slab cut into cubes


For the sauce(this is the simple method)

Tomato Puree- 3 Tbsp
Tomato Ktchup-3 Tbsp
Oregano(dried)-2 1/2 tsp
Marjarom (dried)-1 1/2Tsp
Basil(dried)-1 1/2 tsp

You could make fresh tomato sauce by this method:

Garlic paste-1tsp
3 tomatoes- Cut into cubes
3 Tomatoes skinned and pureed (Remove the skin after immersing them in boiled water for a couple of minutes)
Heat a Tbsp olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic paste.Then add the tomato cubes and puree and cook well.(takes about 15-20 minutes).Cool it and add the spices I mentioned in the simple sauce



1.Sift together the flour, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
2.Take a few Tbsp of water from the lukewarm water and dissolve the yeast.
3.Pour 2 Tbsp of Olive oil to the sifted flour followed by the dissolved yeast.
4.Knead the dough by adding the rest of the lukewarm water slowly.Knead well and punch down the dough.
5.You should be able to make a fine ball out of the dough when you are done.Not too dry or not too sticky.
6.Pour a tspn of olive oil in the bowl and roll the dough in it and cover the bowl with a plastic wrap/a plate.This will save the dough from getting dried.
7.Keep the dough in a warm place(like a preheated oven-I use a preheated oven at ~70 degree F) for 2 hours.If you have enough patience you could take out the dough after 1 hour, knead it again and keep it back.
8.After 2 hours the dough should be, almost, doubled in size.
9.Knead it again and divide into 2.Preheat the oven at 450 degree F.
10.Take one part and flatten up on a floured surface using a rolling pin/hand to get the thickness you like.(1/2 inch is preferable)
11.Shift this onto a floured pizza pan.(If you are using a Pizza stone preheat that for atleast half an hour and slide the Pizza on to it just before baking)Pour and spread a TBsp of Olive oil on top.
12.To prevent bubbling you can make small dents in the dough.
13.Keep half of the prepared sauce and spread it evenly using a brush.
14.Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over it, followed by the vegetables.
15.Spread the Mozzarella cubes on the top and bake for 12-13 minutes/ when the cheese on the top starts turning golden brown.(after 9-10 minutes you can take out the pizza and sprinkle a few more Mozzarella cheese)
16.Take out and serve warm.
17.Repeat for the other half of the dough.


1.You could use cooked chicken cubes(after mixing with little bit garam masala and salt and turmeric)instead of mushroom and make it a chicken Pizza ;-)
2.Sauteing the vegetable for the topping is your choice. We prefer it crunchy, so I just cut the veggies thinner and do not saute them.
3.You could use fresh herbs instead of the dried ones.Parsley is also nice herb which will go well.
4.If you add too much topping the Pizza will get soggy.

Contributor: Namitha

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pineapple Upsidedown Pudding

    I first saw and ate pineapple upside down pudding at a family friend's place.  She is an exquisite cook but I never learned to make the cake from her.  I have seen her do it many times and the memory stuck.  Once I started baking and every time I think of making a cake in a jiffy which also looks good, I think of pineapple upside down cake/pudding.  Long back, I have seen that you stew the pineapple before you whip up an easy cake mix and pour over it to bake.  However, these days we have so much of canned pineapple and most recipes online and books here in US calls for canned pineapple.  Apparently, this is an easier method and thats what we have in recipe.

     How friends enrich our lives with their support and love!  A friend long ago introduced the cake to me and now with my new friend here in TN I baked it.  I have been blessed with some wonderful friends here  whom I spent a lot of time with.  We engage in some fun baking breads, cakes and the likes and its been a good experience.

  With Christmas round the corner and cold weather outside I hope you will enjoy this recipe with your friends and family.  Baking in the kitchen and having the house filled with the aroma of fruity pineapple makes this cake worthwhile.  Boil some apple cider or brew a cup of coffee to go with your cake.  If you happen to look out the window with this combination in your hands, believe me, you will see icy snow melt into joyous river.  Good food invokes pleasurable hallucinations.


Butter - 3 Tbspn
Pineapple - 1 can rounds
Marashino Cherries - to place in the middle of each pineapple round
Brown Sugar - 1/2 cup packed

Butter/ Shortening - 1/2 cup
Granulated Sugar - 1/2 cup
Eggs - 2
Vanilla - 1 tspn
Cake flour - 1 1/4 cup
Baking powder - 1 1/2 tspn
Salt - 1/2 tspn
Reserved juice of pineapple - 1/2 cup

1. Melt butter in your baking pan and add the brown sugar and arrange the pineapple as show in the picture with cut side of the marashino cherries facing you. (Once you flip the cake once baked you want the right side of the cherry to be seeing)
2. Beat sugar and butter for the cake together until fluffy.  Add one egg at a time and beat well after each addition. 
3. Add the vanilla essence and fold in the flour sifted with baking powder and salt alternating with a table spoon of the reserved pineapple juice
4. Once all of the flour and pineapple juice is folded in pour the cake mixture over the prepared baking pan with the pineapple and brown suge.
5. Bake at 350 D F for 45 - 50 minutes.
6. Let the cake stand 5 minutes out of the oven and then flip it over carefully.  You should get  the pineapple intact on top of the cake and warm brown sugar dripping around the cake giving it in a sugary wet coat.


Contributor: Sunitha

Monday, December 7, 2009

Veg Upma

As a kid I never used to like upma. Not only that, when it comes to food, I am very picky. I realized my mom's difficulties to satiate me only when I became one :-) I learned to make this upma from my MIL who is a great cook. Now this is one of the most preferred breakfast in my family and am sure you will also like it.

  We have a variety of 'upma' served in India known by different names like khara bath, uppittu, uppindi chow chow bath (when kahara bath is paired with another dish called kesari bath) and so on and so forth depending which part of South India you are from.  I would like to say they are all the same but as it goes with Indian food a little variation by an addition or subtraction of a spice and you have a different dish.  Sometimes, I think thats about how cooking goes around the world.   


  The variety posted today is a fluffy soft version as against the slightly wetter one served in restaurants in Andhra and Karnataka.  We will make the other varieties and post them in time with the names given it by the state it hails from.   Apart from the spices the quantity of water that goes into this dish makes for the difference in consistency which accounts for the variations too.


Rawa/Semolina- 1cup
Oil- 2Tbsp
Carrot grated- 1Tbsp
Beans(cut into thin pieces)-1Tbsp
Ivy gourd(thin pieces)- 1Tbsp
Long beans/Pachappayar(thin pieces)-1 Tbsp
Shallots(sliced thin)-1 Tbsp
Ginger grated-1tsp
Green chillies(slit into 2)-2-3
Curry leaves-1 sprig
Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp
Grated coconut-1/3cup
Water-1+1/2 cup



1.Dry roast the rawa till the raw smell goes.(I would do it for a couple of minutes more from that point)and spread it on a paper and let cool.
2.Heat oil in a deep pan and splutter the mustard seeds.
3.Throw in the cut veggies,green chillies and ginger into this and mix well.
4.Cover and cook this till the veggies become tender.Open the lid and stir after every 2-3 minutes.This may take 8 to 10mins.When it is almost done add curry leaves also.
5.Pour in the water and mix well.Add salt and grated coconut and allow to boil.
6.When it starts bubbling slowly add the roasted rawa (reduce the heat while you do this)and mix well.
7.Cover and cook for a couple of minutes on low heat.Mix well and serve.
8.You could save a Tbsp of coconut and add it after you mix in rawa and the fresh coconut gives a good twist to the taste.Serve warm with chips, banana,pickle of your choice,Black channa(kadala) curry or as it is.