Recipes: Sweet Aval or Poha

During the last Krishna Jayanthi festival, while I was speaking with my mum, she told me that Lord Krishna loves aval or poha which are flattened rice flakes and that I should include this dish when I make my neividhyam to the Lord. I had not made this recipe before so I asked her the recipe and this is what she told me. The result was a sweet dish which was not too rich and once that took me barely 15 minutes to make. All the ingredients are usually pantry staples, so if you are in a hurry and have these ingredients on hand, you can make a quick offering to God in 15 minutes or less. The colour of your dish will depend on your jaggery, so try and get the darkest jaggery you can find.

Sweet Aval or Poha

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup aval or poha
  • ½ cup powdered jaggery
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 5-10 cashew nuts

Method:

  • Wash the poha well, drain and keep it aside
  • In a pan, heat the ghee and when the ghee heats up, fry the cashew nuts to a golden brown colour. Drain into a kitchen towel and keep aside.
  • In the same pan, add the powdered jaggery and 1 tbsp of water and bring the jaggery to a nice rolling boil.
  • When the jaggery has completely melted, add in the washed and drained poha and mix well.
  • Add the cardamom powder and coconut and mix well.
  • Add in the fried cashew nuts, mix well and switch off the gas.
  • Remove to a serving dish and serve hot.

Note: I used organic powdered jaggery, so I didn’t have to strain it. If you are using the lump jaggery, chop enough to make ½ a cup and heat it with a tablespoon of water. Once the jaggery syrup has cooled down, strain it to remove any impurities and continue with the recipe.

Recipes: Dal Darbari

In a vegetarian diet, lentils or dals are a very important source of protein and most Indian households, especially those who follow a vegetarian diet try to incorporate some lentils in their diet daily. But then the problem comes that we end up eating the same three or four types of lentils daily. Fed up, a couple of weeks back, I tried a new recipe which was surprisingly easy to make and very yummy to boot. The addition of yoghurt and milk elevated the recipe and make it special.

Dal Darbari

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Yellow Moong Dal
  • ½ cup Masoor Dal or Orange Dal
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • ½ tsp green chilli paste or 1 finely chopped green chilli
  • ¼ tsp ginger paste or 1 inch finely chopped ginger
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 to 3 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala Powder
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi
  • 3 tbsp beaten yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp milk (either skimmed or full cream)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

Method:

  • Wash and soak masoor and moong dal in warm water for about 20 minutes.
  • After that, add half the turmeric powder and pressure cook the dals for about 3-5 whistles until the dals are very soft and mushy. This can also be done on the stovetop.
  • When the cooker has cooled down, open it and whisk the dals until they become a homogenous mass.
  • In a pan, heat half the ghee and add in the cumin seeds and let them splutter a bit.
  • Now add the green chillies and ginger and saute for a few seconds.
  • Then add the onions and saute till the onions become translucent in colour.
  • Once the onions are translucent, add in the tomatoes and saute till the tomatoes become soft and mushy.
  • At this point, add ½ the red chill powder, the balance turmeric powder, salt and garam masala and saute till the masalas are incorporated.
  • Pour this masala over the cooked and whisked dals and mix well.
  • Add the yoghurt and milk and water to bring it to the desired consistency. Keep it on a slow to medium flame until the dal comes to a rolling boil.
  • In the same pan that you made the masala, heat the balance ghee and once it heats up, crush the kasoori methi in the palms of your hands and add it as well as the remaining red chilli powder and saute for a few seconds before pouring it over the dal.
  • Cover for about 10 minutes before serving so that the flavours get time to infuse.
  • Enjoy with rice or any flatbread

Notes: The recipe called for fresh cream which I substituted with skim milk. It didn’t detract from the taste and you can add in 1-2 tbsp of cream instead of milk.

Recipes: Instant Mango Chunda

If it’s summer, then it’s time for pickles. Everyone has their favourite type of pickle and while I enjoy a good lemon or mixed pickle, any mango pickle is by far my favourite. If given a choice, I would pick mango over any other pickle. The Mango Chunda is also one I enjoy, but it is S’ favourite pickle. Every trip from India, whether it is us or my parents, had to involve at least a few bottles of the chunda.

This pickle is from the western state of Gujarat and does not involve any cooking. The pickle is made from shredded mangoes and is sweet and sour, with a hint of spice and is made by keeping all the ingredients in the sun for up to a month until the sun cooks the pickle. But because we had not been to India for a while, one day, I found the instant version of the pickle and decided to make it.  It was an instant hit, so I decided to post it here, so I can reference it later.

Instant Mango Chunda

Ingredients:

  • 2 large green mangoes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp roasted cumin powder

Method:

  • Rinse, dry and peel the mangoes. Grate them and keep them aside.
  • Measure the grated mangoes and put them in a large pan
  • In the same pan, for 2 cups of grated mangoes, add 2 cups of sugar
  • Add the salt and turmeric powder and mix well.
  • Switch on the gas and let the sugar dissolve. Once the sugar dissolves, reduce the flame to low and let the sugar syrup cook to single string consistency. This should usually take about 6-8 minutes and you will know when it reaches one string consistency when you take a drop of the syrup and your index finger and thumb and move the fingers apart and you can see a string forming.
  • At this point, and this is very important, switch off the flame and immediately transfer the mixture to another bowl. Don’t forget to do this step. If you don’t transfer it immediately, the chunda will become hard. I did this the first time I made this recipe and since then have learnt my lesson.
  • Let the mango sugar mixture cool down completely.
  • Once it is cooled down, add the chilli powder and cumin powder and mix thoroughly.
  • Store in a dry glass or ceramic container and it will remain fresh for up to a year. Though if your family is like mine, it won’t last that long.

Notes: I used country sugar instead of white sugar, hence the dark colour. You can also substitute brown sugar or jaggery. Also I used the same quantity of sugar to mangoes, but if your mangoes are especially sour, you may need to increase the sugar to compensate for the sourness. You can also increase the chilli powder according to taste.

Recipes: Badam Doodh or Almond Milk

A very refreshing drink made out of milk and almonds, Badam or Almond Milk. Flavoured with cardamoms, saffron and rose water, this exotic, but simple and easy-to-make drink is the perfect drink when you have a sweet craving. Almond milk is rich in vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant which can help lower the risk of serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease, and even cancer. You can also make this for neividhyam or as an offering to God, which is what I made it for. Tasting great hot and cold, my family prefers this cold as that is when the flavours have had time to meld together, giving you a yummy almondy drink.

Badam Doodh or Almond Milk

Ingredients:

  • litre full cream milk
  • 30-40 almonds
  • 4- 6 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 generous pinches saffron
  • ½ tsp rose water

Method:

  • Soak the almonds in hot water for 20-30 minutes, then drain and remove the skin
  • Blend the almonds with some of the milk until the almonds become a fine paste. Keep aside.
  • Heat the milk in a deep-bottomed pan on medium-high and let the milk come to a boil.
  • Once the milk starts to warm up, take a couple of teaspoons of the milk and add it to the small cup in which the saffron strands are lightly crushed. Mix this a bit and keep aside for later.
  • Once the milk in the pan has come to a boil, add the sugar and stir well until the sugar completely dissolves.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, add in the blended almond paste and stir and mix well.
  • Reduce the flame to a low and stir constantly for about 10 minutes so that the milk and almond paste do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Once the raw smell of the almonds disappears, add in the crushed saffron and the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Once the saffron and cardamom have mixed well, switch off the gas and add in the rose water. Mix well one last time and keep aside until it is completely cool.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until it is cold. Enjoy your almond or badam milk

Recipes: Gazpacho Inspired Tomato Corn Soup

It had been so hot in Singapore in summer that anything hot was anathema and so I was looking for some cold soups I could make ahead of time. I wanted to make a cold Gazpacho soup, but then realised I didn’t have all the ingredients with me. So I improvised and made this soup. It was well-received, though S didn’t like it. I also realised that BB didn’t like it cold, so I heated it and he liked it then. But this can be made and served both cold and warm.

Gazpacho Inspired Tomato Corn Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium-sized red tomatoes
  • 1 small cup of frozen sweet corn
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • inch piece ginger
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Method:

  • Defrost the corn and cook it in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes, or until it becomes tender
  • Chop the tomatoes and keep them aside
  • Peel the garlic and the ginger and keep aside. Chop the green chillies and keep them aside.
  • Peel and chop the onions and keep them aside.
  • Drain the sweet corn and in a blender, blend the tomatoes, sweet corn, onion, green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Blend first into a chunky paste and then add in the olive oil and blend to a fine paste. You may add some water if you need it while blending.
  • Using a strainer, strain the soup into a pan and reblend till everything is a fine paste.
  • Add salt and pepper and if you want, you can pop this in the fridge and have it as a cold soup.
  • If you like BB didn’t like the raw taste, add some water and boil the soup till it starts to come to a nice rolling boil and let it boil for about 5-8 minutes or until the raw taste goes away.
  • Drink it hot or cold, either way, it is delicious!