Tuesday, October 13, 2015


This is healthy and delicious and tastes better the next day.
I got the recipe from a cousin, years ago. As HD loves it, I've kept improving on it till it found a place in the family 5 star cookbook.
This is what I used today as our ripe tomatoes aren't really juicy...they've travelled a long way in refrigerated trucks and are beautiful and shiny red but flavor wise I had to use other ingredients to get the taste I wanted.
If you have great tomatoes use about eight.
2 cups Basmati rice...cook and cool.
3 Tbsps Olive oil
1 oz butter or ghee.
Bay leaf, cloves, elaichi, cinnamon.
1 huge tomato, chopped.
1 16 oz can peeled chopped tomatoes.
2 ozs tomato sauce.
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional).
1 large/2 medium onions, chopped.
I really good, firm, tasty, tomato. (Chop and set aside.)
1/2 cup chopped haridhania/fresh coriander.
5 mint leaves chopped fine.
1/2 cup haridhania, 4 cloves garlic...ground fine.
1 tsp biriyani pulao masala or garam masala powder.
Salt, chilli powder and pepper powder...to taste.
!/4 tsp haldi.
Heat oil. Add bay leaf, cloves, elaichi and cinnamon. As you get the first whiff of spices, add the butter or ghee and lower the heat.
After 2-3 mins when the smell is great, put in chopped onion. You might have to remove the spices first, if you are making this for folk not used to eating 'around' our spices.
Fry onions golden brown, remove 2 Tbsp and set aside.
To the rest, add ground masala and the huge chopped tomato.
(If using all fresh tomatoes, add them now.)
Fry for about five mins on medium heat.
Add the canned tomatoes and sauce, frozen peas, chopped haridhania, salt, chilli powder, biriyani masala powder, pepper powder and haldi.
Cover and let it cook on medium for ten minutes. It should thicken to the consistency of thick dosa batter.
(I usually make extra so this is a large quantity. It freezes well and tastes great on it's own with dosa or chapati)
Mix rice lightly with your hand to make sure grains are separate. Pour tomato mix over rice (I used one cup mix for 1 cup rice but it's your choice whether you want the rice barely or richly coated...both versions taste good).
Mix well, then place on stove on low for 5 mins or while you fry the vades.
You can dot the top with a little more butter before you do this. 
Place in bowl, surround with freshly chopped tomatoes, sprinkle with reserved fried onion and finely chopped fresh mint.
The fresh chopped tomatoes were done by a chef at a catered party and are really a great idea. If the rice is a bit spicy, the fresh tomatoes cool your mouth so well.
The chopped mint gives a really good taste as well, but it really has to be fine.
The tomato rice pairs really well with the channa dal vases (especially the chill one HD says) and it tastes better the next day.
Tomato rice freezes and reheats well but I prefer freezing the mix and then adding freshly cooked/day old rice to it.

Tips: You could blanch the tomatoes first if you like.
Also chop them small or cook them longer so they disintegrate in the cooking.
I add a few pieces at the end and cook for a couple of minutes as HD likes that but that's just my twist on it.

When you can, try a recipe/veggie totally different from what you are used to...you may surprise yourself.
I've watched chefs on cooking shows use celery bulbs so many times and talk so highly about the flavor. Finally picked up one and a few hours later was wondering why I'd waited so long.
After the photo shoot (for pic 1), I washed and sliced the bulb, removed the leaves and chopped those and stored them for future use in soups.
I sprayed a frying pan and put the sliced fennel and sliced carrots, turned them over when brown and covered lightly to make sure they cooked through. I put half the amount of salt I would normally use and pepper to taste. Then I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese and pepper on top and put it in the toaster oven for the cheese to melt. (Remember the earlier comment about half the salt...that's because the cheese might make it too salty). After sprinkling some finely chopped fennel leaves on top, I served it with hot sauce on the side and it was gone in a few minutes!
The fennel did not have a strong anise/somph flavor, looked like onion slice but melted in the mouth like only fennel can...the carrots made a nice contrast. Chilli powder would go great with this too but I was making it for someone who cannot have any because of diet restrictions.
Some shortcuts for busy folk who still want to present the best dishes possible. These are made and stored in my Food Bank and I get a good return on my investment on days filled with other demands on my time.
1. Fry some rai, urad dal (use jeera instead of dal or with), karipata and red chillies with hing in oil and keep this 'agar/phodni/talchu' in a bottle in the fridge. When mixed with any cooked/steamed veggie, you have a side dish in mins. Proportion for rai is 1 to 2 urad dal for this.
2. Dry roast the above ingredients, grind and store in a small jar in the fridge. When I'm making coconut chutney, I add a spoonful and it enhances the taste.
3. Clean, cook veggies and freeze them in small bags when they are fresh and they are ready to be cooked alone or in a curry as needed. PLEASE NOTE: I also serve something fresh at the meal to compensate for the loss of any nutrients and encourage those who worry about frozen food to take a vitamin.
4. My most used ingredients are peeled and grated ginger and garlic that is frozen on a plate and then cut into cubes and stored in the freezer. The juices from the fresh ginger and garlic help 'bind' it to burfi like cubes. Ration I use is half a piece of ginger to one piece of garlic.
5. Slice a batch of onions in the food processor, fry them golden brown and bag them (one tablespoon per bag). Freeze this and use as needed.
6. In a little oil but mostly pure ghee, I fry 10 bay leaves (ours are small), 5 1 inch cinnamon sticks, 30 cloves (buds removed of course), big and small elaichi and 10 anise. This has to be done on medium till the aroma is really strong. Bottle, cool and store in the fridge.
7. In summer when it is raining tomatoes, I chop these too and freeze the surplus neighbors give me. One to two tomatoes per bag...they are easy to separate.
8. ditto with all herbs.
Having a 'no free time day'? Take out one bag of onions, one of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cilantro and a bag of frozen fried cauliflower and some peas. Add garam masala, chill powder, haldi, salt and any other masala you use. Simmer ten mins. If you like you can finish with a tablespoon of each or all of the following: coconut milk, ground khus khus/cashewnut powder.
If you're not making chapatis, cook some rice in the rice cooker with a tablespoon of the ready bay leaf/spices mix and salt. I add fried onions to this too.
While the rice and curry are cooking, chop up a salad or make a chutney/raita to finish the meal. i usually start the rice and I'm done by the time its ready or sooner. All this prep means I have fewer dishes/gadgets to wash too.
Now all you brilliant chefs, share your shortcuts here...

Try this:
When making idlis I sometimes pour half the batter in the pan (has to be thick), then put a tsp of thick chutney in the middle and then pour the other half of the batter on top and steam.
Here I've used coconut chutney (brown because of the tamarind paste plus there has to be a color contrast), but using different kinds...green, red and brown would make for a colorful and surprise presentation. 
I serve extra chutney on the side for those die hards who need to drown their idlis in chutney.
Saba Rahman and Florence Graves, the recipe link is here for the idlis:
If you don't get to it please Google Paytpooja.blogspot.com and then a search for 5 star idlis. My blog is where the best family recipes are.
Idlis depend on so many things though, the weather, the fermenting, the kind of rice...even mine don't come out the same twice in a row so it needs a little experimentation.
Re-reading my recipe I have to point out I use a Kitchen Aid blender now as I no longer have the stone electrical grinder. With the Vitamin I don't seem to get as good results as it heats up the dough while grinding it.
Pre-made powder for chutney: I have this powder ground and ready and a spoon of it goes into fresh coconut chutney. 1 rai, 2 urad dal, 1whole jeera, 1/3 methi seeds, red chillies.
Roast each in a pan or in the mic if you are familiar with that method. Grind, cool and store.
Fresh chutney: 1 cup grated coconut, 2 Tbsps fried channa/pottu kadalai, roasted gram ( ready to eat kind without the skin) 1 green chilly, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (its a concentrate so err on the side of caution and use less first), salt to taste. Halfway through I put in a tsp of the powder.
I add another red chilly here after I take out some chutney for me as HD likes chutneys spicy. This was ground in the Vitamix as it does a good job when very little water is used.
Curd chillies...a delicious accompaniment to a meal.
We are in the midst of summer here with temperatures in the high nineties/low hundreds. The heat got me trying this very old recipe from my mother and in laws, with a new twist in the way of additional spices from Aayi'srecipes.com.
Curd chillies have been preserved for ages in the summer and my in laws made them at home. These salted chillies are delicious deep fried. They are not just an accompaniment for Indian meals...when the kids were young we had spaghetti once a week and these fried and crumbled on top of the sauce would just make the dish so much better.
They are made in large quantities but as I was experimenting with the dish for the first time, I made a small amount. For those who don't want to bother with the process they are available in all supermarkets in South India.
For 10 chillies:
Powder 2 tsps cumin seed, 1/3 tsp fennel seeds, pinch of hing (aayi'srecipes.com)
Mix the above powder with 1/2 cup salt
Green chillies (use serrano if you can get them otherwise jalapeño are fine).
Wash, pat dry and slit.
Stuff with salt mix.
Soak in 2 cups curd whipped with 1 tsp salt or use very thick buttermilk.
Soak chillies for 3 days in this curd. (I refrigerated it).
Remove chillies from curd and place on plate to dry in the sun reserving curd mixture.
Every night place the chillies back in the curd and dry the next day till all the curd is used up. I just did this for three days and then let the chillies dry completely in the sun till they are really crisp.
Some people lightly fry them, store them and re fry them. 
I store them and fry them in a very little oil before eating. They have to be fried well...note the dark one (fried) on the plate below.
Mine seem to have a thick coating of curd that the store bought ones don't have...I guess they use thin buttermilk.
First picture was half way through the drying process when I just had to fry and taste one. Second pictures shows color of finished product.
Summer Bounty: Fig Jam and Mascarpone tarts.
A generous neighbor who keeps giving me figs, Sabena Winkle's comment about figs and link to a post, Sonal Gupta's help in finding her friend's recipe for mascarpone all added up to some new, delicious tarts for the granddaughter's party. What would I do without my good friends?
Crust for tart shells (can be made 2 days early and stored in an airtight container after cooling): I used the ready made pie sheets, defrosted them and rolled them out to about 1 mm thin. Cut them to the size you want, place the circles in muffin pans, dock them (prick the bottom with a fork) and bake according to package directions. You might have to gather up the sheet into a ball and re-roll to get the proper thickness.
Mascarpone (can be made a couple of days early too):
(only change in the making was I heated the cream in the microwave.)
Before using: Whip two table spoons of heavy cream into peaks, add mascarpone, 1/3-1/2 cup honey, 1 tsp lemon zest and 1 Tbsp lemon juice and mix well. (do not over beat.)
Fig Jam:
I follow the instructions on the Sure Jell pkt for making jam. For this recipe the jam has to be thick. When I want to use it as a topping I make it thinner and always freeze both versions. I make the jam with less sugar than the recipe calls for as the Sure Jell makes sure it jells.
Some assembly required: On cooled shells place half a tsp of refrigerated mascarpone cheese and top off with fig jam...do this just before serving.
My picture shows the reverse as I took the shells topped off with jam to the party and then just before serving added the refrigerated mascarpone.
The taste of the mascarpone and the combo of pastry, jam and cheese are worth trying these tarts for. You can use any jam to make this.

My neighbors have been extremely generous sharing the summer bounty from their gardens with me and to thank them I made them a tray each of bread pudding. The recipe is one of the first in my cookbook as a 14 year old and I continue to use it. The additions of toppings are 51 years later! 
4 cups of crusty bread (please use crusty bread like French bread or crusty rolls).
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (increase to taste)
Raisins... to your hearts content...I used quarter a cup fat, golden raisins.
Vanilla 2 teaspoons. (less if you're anti vanilla) OR
1 tsp vanilla essence and 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg powder.
Heat your oven to 375 degrees.
Make your bread into small chunks and layer in a baking tray (I used a foil tray).
Beat/whisk eggs, milk and sugar till combined. Add vanilla and raisins.
When you pour this over the bread make sure the bread has enough liquid to soak in properly. I turned the bread over after fifteen minutes and there was still enough milk mixture in the pan to come up to two thirds of the bread content. If the bread soaks up all the milk add a little more.
If I hadn't been giving it to the neighbor who's grandkids are over every day in the summer, one option is to add a spoon of good rum or brandy at this stage.
Stir everything after another 15 minutes, place in oven to bake. 
Check in 45 minutes...if a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, its done. Mine needed another 5 minutes as I have a slow oven. 
TIPS Do not dry out the pudding too much by leaving too long in the oven. 
Surprisingly HD liked the moist center the most.
These days there is a whiskey sauce to have with it (recipe easily found online) but we prefer it the way it is.
As a diabetic (my neighbors are too...Wait! Will Mabel Tauro say I live in Diabetic Colony now or I'm infecting everyone with my diabetic germs here?) I used less sugar...the raisins, fig jam and sugar free whipped cream gave it the perfect sweetness.
After I gave their trays to the neighbors I fixed a plate for each of us like this:
Warm bread pudding, 1 Tbspn of Fig jam which hadn't set properly yet (needs to be at the pre-set pouring stage for this), and a dollop of whipped cream. 
Chopped walnuts on top might give some crunchy appeal.
HD actually loved it enough to say, "This is really good!" twice. 
High praise from a man not fond of desserts.