Saffron Almond katli

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I was inspired to make this dessert thanks to a going away gift i got from a coworker ~ a huge jar of mandeline almond paste. I looked up recipes of cookies, cakes and then wondered if I could use it in traditional Indian gravies and finally decided on making a different version of the famed Kaju Katli » behold the infamous Badam/Almond Katli!

Although I didn’t end up using the almond paste Tracy gifted me, I think it would make for a perfect ingredient in this dish. I went the from scratch way and the result wasn’t half as bad as I expected it to turn out.

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Ingredients:

°Whole Almonds : 225 gms
Fine Sugar : 160 gms
Milk : 3/4th Cup
Saffron : 20 strands powdered and another 20 strands for garnish
Cardamom powder: 1/4 Tsp
Clarified butter/Ghee : 2 Tbsp

°Prepping the Almonds:
Boil water in a saucepan and add the whole almonds to it. Blanch for a minute and then transfer the almonds to cold water.
Gently press on each almond to remove the skin. Pat dry.
In a grinder, grind the almonds to a fine paste adding the milk ~ a little at a time. 
In a heavy bottomed wok or sauce pan add the almond paste, sugar and mix well. On medium fire, heat this mixture while stirring constantly. Stir in the clarified butter.

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Add the saffron powder and cardamom powder and continue to stir. Continue to stir for almost 45/50 minutes. The mixture starts to separate from the sauce pan and thats when you know the dessert is ready.

Transfer to greased molds or spread onto a greased plate and let cool.

Serve warm or cold. Store for upto a week in the refrigerator.

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The mystery behind Achappams

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As a south Indian I grew up eating these for snacks - Achappams - crispy, light, slightly sweet and fun! It wasn’t until recently that I found out that they were called Rosettes out here. 

*Update: I just found out that these are also called Chinese Pretzels! Thank you Tracy!

So I jumped at the chance and got myself the molds from Kitchen Collection and didn’t wait too long to give it a try. While making them though I found that there are a lot of nuances that you need to make a note of as you go along. For example the mold has to be hot but not too hot, the batter a certain consistency, the mold dipped to a certain height - not too deep, not too shallow, the oil should not be too hot, you need to change the heat as you make it to make it more crispy. Notes I compiled so I could share it with you.

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First lets look at the ingredients you’ll need:

All purpose Flour - 1 Cup

Rice Flour - 4 Tbsp

Egg - 1 large beaten

Milk - 1/2 Cup

Water - 1 Cup

Sugar - 2 Tbsp or 3 if you like it really sweet.

Salt - 1 pinch or 1/8th Tsp

Flavouring : I used cardamom powder but you can use vanilla essence if you like or strawberry or any other flavor you like.

Natural colouring if you prefer it that way.

Oil for Frying - About 1.5 to 2 Cups . A note on the oil I used. I’ve been experimenting with grapeseed oil recently and because of its high smoking point, I’d definitely recommend it. But please feel free to use vegetable oil, canola oil or coconut oil or shortening.

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     In a glass bowl add the beaten egg, the flours and start mixing. Add milk and water and mix to a smooth ‘pancake’ batter like consistency. There should not be any lumps.

     Add the sugar, salt, flavour and color and mix well. What I did to avoid lumps is to give the mix a quick beat with a hand mixer.

     Heat oil in a preferably deep bottom, wide mouthed sauce pan. To test if the oil is ready just add a drop of the batter to it and it should sizzle and rise up immediately.

     Now join the mold to the holder and place it in the oil for about 10-15 seconds. Pat the excess oil off onto a paper towel and gently dip the mold into the batter. The mold should go in about 3/4th of the way. So when you dip it into the batter you should be able to see the top of the mold.

     Now dip the mold into the oil for about 10-15 seconds. The batter will start to sizzle and fall off the mold when you gently shake the mold. If it doesn’t come off that easy use a wooden skewer to separate the batter from the mold. I have a quick video here

     Now reduce the heat and let it brown a bit. The low heat allows the achappams to turn crispy. After about 30 seconds turn the achappam over and let the other side brown as well. 

     Use a skewer and transfer the achappams onto some kitchen towels to absorb the excess oil. 

     Keep in an airtight container and serve with tea!

I’ve been away far too long but here’s wishing you all a lovely year ahead!

           Happy 2014 Peepal!

Juicing Updates

I stopped juicing two weeks back. I am not too happy about it but change happens and one must roll with it. So heres a quick list of all the blends we have had recently. 

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Yes, this one isnt juice. One day I was feeling super hungry after a glass of juice so I treated myself to some oats, milk and honey.

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The persimmon season has taken everything by storm especially the juicing group. I enjoy the times the persimmons are tender and juicy. We have been adding chia seeds on a regular basis as well.

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This color is a dead giveaway that we have beets! Yay! the texture, taste and everything I’ve said before about beets. DO i need to repeat myself? Coz I will, you know.

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This texture I am not too fond of. If you actually bit into the juice(you can do that) you could taste the leaves. As a matter of fact , i dislike biting into the juice simply because I am afraid I might bite into one of those treacherous(but good for you) greens.

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You can be sure that this texture is thanks to avocados and bananas. Smooth, slick, green and yet really sweet!

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This blend was a little spicy and tangy.

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Not to repeat myself but this color is only because of the beautiful beets. We also turned to adding flax seeds quite regularly.

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This blend was super smooth and quite filling. I think it was the heavy greens we used in this blend.

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Not my favorite blend. The juice was more watery and also not as smooth as I usually like it.

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The beets again! Great taste and filling. We had dragon fruit in this!

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This one had a big arse beet in it, persimmon, sweet potato leaves, cranberries, apples, spinach, kale, avocado, bananas, oranges, lemon, lime, kiwi, carrots, broccoli amongst a lot of other veggies…

Personally I enjoyed every bit of this juicing journey the past 4 months. I got to eat a multitude of healthy veggies and fruits and would love to try this again in a heartbeat.

Here’s wishing you all very happy holidays!

This, that and persimmons

I never realized how much I would grow to love these weird tomato-ish looking fruit in such a short time. Mostly it was used for juicing with the juicing buddies and the fruit came straight from their family gardens. Recently a neighbor dropped by and game me some because, she said, her brother in law gave her so many, she didn’t know what to do with them all. I decided I’d make Persimmon Jam and then use that in a puff pastry! How ingenious is that! 

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Also I have been waiting a week for these beauties to ripen a bit more. Would it be weird if I offered some of the jam to the kind lady that gave me the fruit in the first place?

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I have been trying out puff pastry bite size dessert ideas for sometime now. Apricot preserve, Pumpkin butter, pineapple jam, strawberry preserve, orange marmalade, chocolate sauce, cheese, spinach - you name it. In India I used to love the egg puff although not as much the mess it made while eating though. And i think that is one of my main reasons to make them bite size - no mess. These can be devoured by the dozen, can be made healthy(using whole wheat puff pastry) and are fast and easy to make as well.

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I obviously had to pinterest all the little bite size treats i could. And I almost got lost deciding what I wanted to make. Finally i decided on giving these a try with what I had on hand before I went and splurged on fillings.

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Pretty simple, right? These are as simple and straightforward as they look. The prep time is about 15 minutes and the cook time - about 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold, they are definitely a treat to the eye and the tastebuds.

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Preheat oven to 375 F. Get puff pastry at the grocery store and thaw for about 10 minutes. Cut into desired shape and bake for 25-30 minutes. If you like to add egg wash to the top of the puff pastry, thats a good touch as well.

Once done, use a fork or your hand to make a small depression in the middle and add any pre-made topping you like!

2 notes 

Loss and Chole

Each of us deal with grief and loss in a different way. It might come as no surprise that I turn to food which is not necessarily a good thing. I decided though not to focus on the loss and instead write something about the person.

The one thing we had in common was that we loved food. I loved cooking(& eating) and he enjoyed eating. I come from a family that used to love non vegetarian food - a lot! It came as a big surprise to them when I stopped. For quite a few years after I stopped eating meat, I continued to cook it during family get togethers because people enjoyed it. 

I remember making chicken fry and having it wiped clean by the lot. I remember making baked fish and my uncle insisting on checking if it was cooked every few minutes - by tasting it. 

I have not cooked meat in a long while and have not eaten it either and so I decided to make a dish that we all loved eating and making regardless of the occasion. Chole, chickpeas in a tomato based gravy, eaten with rotis, puri or any form of flat bread or not, but always enjoyed by everyone.

I made a small modification and added a lot more fresh coriander than i usually would. The fresh greens added a flavor and color that was definitely a feast to the eyes and refreshing to the taste buds. This is not your typical chole and you will not find it at your local restaurant so if you’d like, give it a try. This recipe requires no finesse or knife skills but does require patience(waiting for the onion to almost caramelize for example) and ALL of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

Garbanzo beans - 2 cups soaked overnight, cooked and drained (You could alternatively use canned garbanzo beans)

Oil - Canola or Vegetable or Coconut oil - 1 Tbsp 

Onion - 1 Large roughly chopped

Tomatoes - 2 Cups roughly chopped

Garlic - 10 cloves

Ginger - same amount as the garlic roughly chopped up

Green chillis - 2

dry red chillis - 2 (Optional if you don’t prefer too much spice)

Curry leaves - 20-30 leaves

Coriander leaves - 2 bunches cleaned and separated

Salt to taste

How to go about it:

In a skillet, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic and ginger to it. Here is where the patience bit comes in. You need to cook it till the onion starts caramelizing about 15 minutes on medium high flame. (I put in a picture of how the onion should look, above)

This is when you add the tomatoes, chillis and the rest of the ingredients except one bunch of coriander leaves and coo till the tomatoes are real soft. Use the ladle to mash up the tomatoes and let the juice from the tomatoes cook everything else.

Turn off the heat and let this mixture cool just enough to put it into the grinder. Add the fresh coriander bunch that you kept aside earlier and grind to a smooth paste. You don’t want any unsightly lumps. Once the grinding is done add this to a sauce pan and add the garbanzo beans and cook covered for about 20 minutes and then uncovered for another 10 minutes. Make sure to taste and add salt if required. If you want this gravy to be a little less thick, feel free to add water. 

I must advise that you be careful when this gravy starts to come to a boil because it will start spluttering quite a bit. Let it boil for a few minutes and you can turn it off and serve warm. Garnish with roasted cashews and coriander leaves.

This keeps in the fridge for upto 3 days and in the freezer for upto a week (it could keep longer but I haven’t tried longer than that)

1 note 

Diwali 2013

I started writing this blog post even before I had a recipe. It’s my birthmonth and I’ll be turning the big 30 - still very young at heart though. I went through a ton of recipes, looking to make something special for the festival of lights. In the end I decided to make a simple Saffron Kheer or Payasam and light up every corner of the house.

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I also want to make some homemade granola and make some parfait with granola and fresh fruit as a topping. This year has been very happening - some good some not so good. But the one constant has been my love for food, celebrating festivals and birthdays alike. 

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I don’t know which recipe I’ll be putting or if I’ll be putting one up at all at the end of the day but I hope to click as many fun captures as I can and savour every mouthful moment today, be thankful for what I have and try to give and share more than I do today. I know some of us are not in a good place and I want you to know that someone somewhere is thinking of you…

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I ended up using saffron to make a chocolate and almond bark with raw sugar to add texture… Super easy to make and the chocolate just melts in your mouth. I made a little and stored in the fridge for later use…

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Chocolates are always handy to have if you have unexpected little guests. Or maybe thats just a reason to have chocolate handy for midnight cravings… Either way, its a win.

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Hmmm… the other thing that has been bothering me is granola… Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy store bought granola, walking around wholefoods and tasting a bit of each flavor they have and deciding on which one to get.

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But when you have fabulous food bloggers sharing their secrets on how to make a customized version at home where you can decided which flavor you want or how much you want and having all the ingredients handy, it is very hard to resist the temptation.

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So I gave in and made some… Crispy, less nuts, more dry fruits and not too sweet. Thats how I like my granola.

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Happy Deepawali to you… May the righteous win always. 

Love…

Halloween 2013:

Gave away a ton of candies and made spooky boozy treats…

I hope ya’ll had a scary halloween too…

Juicing updates

Juicing is going strong. We meet up everyday almost at the same time and finish up in 30 minutes from prep work to clean up.

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A lot of the juice buddies bring fruits from their garden. So luckily we’ve tasted guavas, persimmons, apples, grapefuits, avacados that are homegrown.

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We also have adventurous juices with ingredients such as chia seeds, dragon fruit, pomegranate. Kale and beets have become a must have and we love the color they impart.

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Sometimes thick, sometimes watery juicing updates are fun to share. I am slightly allergic to pineapple but I did taste it once and it was really good.

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This was the drink with the persimmon in it. I loved it. The only persimmons I’ve tasted are from a long time ago and they were not really tasty. These were plump, soft and juicy perfect for juicing. I even saved up the seeds to try and grow them.

1 note 

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I love beets! You’ve probably heard me say it before but I’ll say it again. I LOVE BEETS! Roasted, steamed, pickled, fried or even RAW, these beautiful roots have my heart tummy in a strong grip. The natural color that these beauties give out are something a lot of people are afraid of but they can stain me anyday, anytime!

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Roasted beets and quinoa make a great pair although its the beets that doing all the work, adding color and flavor.

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I peeled the beets, chopped it up and added it to a sauce pan with salt, pepper and garlic and cooked it for 15 minutes till the beets turned tender al through. Serve warm with some quinoa on the side :)

Cranberry Pickle

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Cranberries never fascinated me too much except when it was in my cocktail. Who knew that would change so fast, with one recipe? Cranberries have a few benefits - the raw juice form is known to help against UTIs! Yay to me for putting that info up on my food blog. I always have a bottle or two from Trader Joe’s stored up in my fridge. But I must admit that I don’t enjoy the taste at all. I gulp it down once a day like a Tequila shot.

Along came my Amma dearest with a recipe that makes the cranberry a must have in stock grocery item. She told me as she picked it from the grocery store, ‘You know Anu, this can make a tasty pickle. And you know, it accounts for two ingredients instead of just one. Come I’ll show you how to make it.’ I’ll admit, I was not too excited but extremely curious.

We reached home, and she took out a sauce pan and turned on the heat to a medium high. She asked me to wash the cranberries under running water and then dry them on a cloth. Then she put them on the sauce pan and started stirring for a few minutes. I continued to watch and then remembered her mentioning the 2 ingredients part and asked her about it. She says to me ’ There are three distinct flavors that you need to make a pickle - Salt, Sour and Spice.’ Then she thought for a minutes and tell me ‘No no, 2 basic tastes - Salt and Sour - Spice is optional. But we come from south India and no pickle can be called a pickle if it comes without spice, you know.’ I nodded in agreement. ‘Cranberries not only farm the base ingredient of the pickle but it also adds sourness.’ I blinked, and then it struck me - ofcourse that sour taste that I couldn’t stand when I gulped it down was actually a good thing here!

By now the cranberries started splitting - the skin started cracking up with the heat exactly like what would happen with tomatoes if you put them whole in heat. Amma kept stirring and asked me to get her oil, rock salt and chilli powder. She added about 1 Tbsp of oil, 1 Tsp of salt and chilli powder and kept stirring. I use the word ‘about’ because my Mom cooks w/o measuring cups. She flavors her food with her eyes, her fingers and her experience. She cooks for the family and adds ingredients based on our taste buds.

By now the cranberries has turned really soft and she kept stirring for another 15 minutes and using the ladle kept mashing up the cranberries to make it a smooth paste. I waited by her side eager to taste. She gave it to me like she always does - a little bit on the ladle, blowing it so that it wouldn’t burn when it touched her finger and a quick swipe with her finger on my tongue. 

The heat has dissipated and the sour and spice hit me right away. I knew then that this would be a favourite and I was right. Mom smiled as she saw me enjoy her food and continued to stir the potatoes on the other stove. 

Note: The cranberries used was about 300 gms - ocean spray cranberries that I got at the local grocery store.

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