Thursday, December 28, 2017

Instant lemon pickle

Instant Lemon Pickle.
A few years ago, a guest watched my dismay as people ate their way through a newly arrived jar of pickle from India.  Later she asked me for a lemon and what ensued was magic created by Mallige Arasu.  Truly, a great and easy recipe is a treasured gift.

1 lemon chopped into 1 c.m pieces (lemons in CA are 2-3 inches long and 1-11/2 inches diameter). Cook lemon in 1 cup water with 1 Tbsp salt (i used pickling salt...its like rock salt). If lemons are fresh and juicy, reduce water. While the lemon is simmering, roast one third tsp whole methi/fenugreek and one whole tsp rai/mustard seeds. Powder fine Its hard to make a small quantity so I make 1 Tbsp of each and store the powder. Heat 1 Tbsp oil (mustard oil or sesame oil gives a good flavor...I used olive oil for this batch.) Add a pinch of hing/asafoetedia and 2/3 tsp whole rai. When it splutters add 3/4 tsp prepared powder and chili powder to taste. As soon as masala blooms in oil add lemon pieces, mix well, cool and store in refrigerator. Lasts a year or more. I omit chillies powder and store with pickle powders only. Then if someone can't eat hot food I serve as is. I have used pepper powder for people with stomach problems. This is a soft pickle but tastes yummy. Salt too can be reduced. When served fresh it is usually finished at the meal so I make a lot.
It can be spread on toasted bread and topped with sliced tomatoes or cucumber or fried eggplant/potatoes, sprinkled with grated cheese, broiled for a few seconds to melt cheese...great for an appetizer, light lunch.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kheer Kadam aka Heart's Delight

Kheer Kadam with shortcuts!

Heart's delight is my own name for the sweet.  In my beloved Bangalore (of old), we have a Bengali sweet shop KC Das, which has filled us with countless pleasure from the day it more ways than one.

The fresh sweets arrive by 1 p.m and by 3 are all gone.  There are some left behind in the glass cases but our favorite:  Kheer Kadam vanishes with the same speed as it does once it is in our mouths!

I have never attempted to delve into the mysteries of making this delicacy with its pink interior and creamy white exterior and powdery coating; always thinking its origins were locked in the masterminds of Bengali sweetmakers, passed down through the generations as the Smuckers Strawberry Jam recipe!  I was wrong.  The Indian mind's generosity knows no bounds and recipes are shared and passed on through generations and now via the read on dear friend to share the way I found joy...and a way of enjoying this the culinary desert of the USA (yes I do mean desert with one s).

Of course my version has its own variations and shortcuts to befit my senior lifestyle.
I wait eagerly for the day when my beloved granddaughter comes to visit as she does all the challenging parts of the project.
One her last visit we had made almond and cashew katli following this microwave recipe from my blog:
I realized this would make a good top layer for the sweet (remember to make this with a little less sugar to achieve a great end taste).
While I waited for her, I planned the project out in great detail.
On her last visit, I opened a can of rasagullas (told you it was a shortcut recipe).  I was surprised though the famous name on the can claimed it was rasagulla, it was shaped like rasamalai but never let it be said that little things deter determined chefs!  So on to step one:

1.  We laid all the rasagullas out on a plate, gently pressed them and drained the syrup; then repeated the has to be about 95% dry.

2.  In a bowl with a few tablespoons of water, we first put in 1 tsp of red food color and then GD spread 1/2 a tsp on each gulla...notice the befitting abbreviation as it now has very little 'ras'!
We let this dry for ten minutes, then repeated the process on the other side.  At this point I was called to the door and returned to find granddaughter was anointing the second side with a much darker version of the first bowl of water.  (Ah it is such fun to squeeze out a little more color when grandma's not around!)

3.  GD took our 'katli', rolled it into a ball and then rolled it out between two sheets of waxed paper.

4.  Using different sized cookie cutters we eventually found the right size to cover each rasgulla (restored to its full title with our colored 'ras').  We used two discs for each one as that was easy, taking care every bit was covered...the rejects were put aside for early tasting...a very important part of the process to enjoy full enjoyment.  To say I was surprised by the outcome was putting it mildly...I was bowled over with our success.


1. Chilling them for 24 made this sweet El Supremo of things we've made this year!
The ras soaked into part of the cover and helped us award the sweet this title.

2. Remember the shades of water mentioned earlier.  Well, when the sweet was cut open, I discovered this added an additional element of side was darker and the white band in the middle made it look gorgeous.

3.  We had no unsweetened coconut to roll it in/sprinkle over it so skipped that.  If you're doing this, remember to use dry coconut the size of fine breadcrumbs.

4.  GD who doesn't have anything to compare what we made to was overjoyed by my delight.

5.  On the Internet the top coating is of khoa and sugar...remember this has to be less sweet than normal to bring out the full flavor of this delicacy as the rasgulla is very sweet.

6.  The Internet has several other versions of this sweet but I like mine as this taste is linked to the memory of my beloved sweet of yesteryear!

Monday, January 23, 2017

‘Bread Baskets’

As we always have a mix of vegetarians and and non-vegetarians over for any get together, I made this recipe to suit both groups making potatoes for the former and chicken for the latter as fillings.
This is a two part recipe:  filling and baskets.

Ingredients for filling:

4 red or white potatoes
1 piece chicken breast meat, 2 pieces thigh/leg meat (I used boneless)
1 tsp garam masala
4 Tbsps olive oil
1-2 large onions
4 Tbsps olive oil.
2 Tbsps ketchup
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp grated/finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander.
1 tsp jeera powder.
Pinch of haldi (for each)
Salt and chilli powder to taste


1.  Boil potatoes ( I used medium sized red ones). Cut into small cubes.
2.  Cook chicken with salt and 1 tsp garam masala till done ( I get a whole roasted chicken sometimes and chop/shred the meat into small pieces.)
Heat 4 Tbsps olive oil (any oil will do) in a pan.
Fry 1-2 large onions chopped medium fine to golden brown. ( total should be 2 cup fulls)
Remove ¾ of fried onions to a bowl.
Add ketchup, ginger and garlic, chilli powder and pepper to taste, fresh coriander/haridhania. (chopped green chillies  for potatoes are optional)
Fry till all liquid is absorbed and masala looks like medium thick chutney.
Divide masala into two pans.
Put potatoes in one, chicken in the other.
Add 1 Tsp jeera powder to chicken only.
Mash half of the potato slightly with back of spoon as it is frying.
Make sure chicken is tender enough so that when mixed pieces are almost like shredded chicken.
Fry both till all remaining liquid is absorbed...this has to be dry so it won’t seep through container!
Add salt to taste (remember chicken was cooked with salt).
Squeeze 1  tsp. lime juice over potatoes.
Mix onions that were set aside to both dishes.
Cool completely.

For the bread baskets:

24 slices brown bread (You can use different types of bread if you want. for variety….
I used multigrain for this recipe.)
½ a stick of butter.
Muffin pans...I used both large and small.

I make the bread baskets while the potatoes and chicken are cooking.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Take slices of bread and roll them out with a rolling pin.
(mine rolled out to 1 mm with one roll using slight pressure)
Cut with a three inch cookie cutter/ or katori.
Brush both sides with butter melted in the microwave for 20 seconds.
(I smeared it with my fingertips as it spread better.)
Place in muffin pans pressing down lightly to form baskets and bake at 350 for 10 mins.
Make sure they don’t burn.
Rim will turn brown though sides don’t change color much with brown bread.
Remove and cool.  (Even though they seem soft when you take them out they harden as they cool...I kept mine four hours to get the desired stiffness.)
Store in plastic bag or airtight container if making a day ahead.
Re-heat in toaster oven if you want to before you fill and serve.
Just before serving fill with chicken or potatoes.
For those who eat meat, fill with half chicken and half potato for a delicious combination.


I made both small and large baskets in small and large muffin pans to see the outcome.
My cutter for the small ones was a 2” ‘masala dabba’ container. Using a smaller one will help fit it easier into the small muffin pan...I had to do a fold in three places to fit it in.
My cutter for the large one was a 3” ‘katori’/stainless steel bowl and it fit perfectly into the large muffin pan.
The larger ones were easier to fill and made two mouthfuls, the small ones needed a little more time and care to fill.
Other tasty filling ideas: fried mince/keema with masala of your choice, cold potato salad/chicken salad, any left over vegetables or meat dishes that are dry.
The bread gives a sweetness and the filling a spiciness that go well together.
Bread baskets get firm after four hours so do plan ahead when making this.
Easy to pick up and eat as a ‘finger food’.



One of the most fragrant dishes is this rice that we had as children.  Of course no one can replicate the way my mother made it, but here's my version.


2 cups Basmati rice.
4 cups water.
1 cup sliced onion.
1 " piece ginger grated.
6 cloves garlic grated/mashed/ground
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 tsp ghee.
1/2 cup frozen or half cooked fresh peas.
1 inch piece cinnamon
5 cloves
3 cardamom pods
2 small bay leaves.
1/3 tsp saffron.
Peel of one orange.
Salt to taste.

Wash rice well and soak in four cups water.  After 10 mins drain and reserve the water.
Heat oil, add cinnamon, cloves (after removing pod on top), cardamom and bay leaves.
Let it fry on medium till it changes color, then add ghee and fry for another minute.
(At this point, kids should be running into the kitchen and saying, "What's for lunch?)
Remove all spices from oil, place in reserved water and bring to a boil.
(I do this as people here are not used to eating with our spices and some chew on them!)
Drain and reserve water.  Put saffron into it.
In the pan with the oil fry the onions till golden brown.
Add ginger and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
(At this point kids should come in and say, "When can we eat?")
Add the drained rice and peas and fry for 5 mins on medium heat.
Add salt to taste, water with saffron.
At this stage transfer to a rice cooker or follow these steps.
Bring rice and water to a boil then lower heat to medium, cover pan leaving one side open and cook for 8 minutes.
Uncover, fluff rice with a fork.
If all the water isn't absorbed, cover and let it cook on medium low for another 3-4 minutes.
Keep lid on till everyone comes to the table and then open the dish so everyone can enjoy the aroma of the pilau before they eat it.
If re-heating in microwave do the same thing.
Serve with kurma.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mary's Lebanese Sfoof Cake...and a whole lot of love.

An 'out of the blue' incident that made my day!

My neighbor, Mary, is from Lebanon and doesn't speak much English but we communicate happily with a few words, sign language and exchanging food & fruit.

Mary brings some of this cake over every time she makes it and I love it...when she brought it last Friday I asked her if she could have one of her grandchildren write down the recipe as I loved it (all this with actions and a few words). She nodded and left.
On Saturday when I got back from my walk Bob said Mary had been over. His smile was that of a man who's embarrassed.
"What did she bring?" (You can tell Mary's spoiled me/us.)
"Nothing. She wanted you. She said something that sounded like receipt."
"Ah!" I caught on. "She wanted to give me a recipe I asked for! Where is it?"
"She didn't give me anything. I told her you'd gone out." He made the motions of turning a steering wheel, looking at me hopefully.
" You did great. I'll walk across and get the recipe. Be right back!"
I rang the bell and Mary opened the door. "Come in! Come in!"
I followed her to the kitchen and she took out a piece of plastic and spread it on her counter (smart move). Then she took out baking stuff and all the ingredients. I wanted to object but wondered if that would be rude. She had it all planned. It had taken fifteen or sixteen years for us to get to this point.
She looked at the surprise on my face and as I'd voiced my protests said, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
I know a determined woman when I come across one and no one knows better than me it is easier to watch how a dish is made and learn than to try it out alone.
The end result was a beautiful cake, a delicious cup of coffee strong enough to make me want to come home and clean my house till it looked as good as hers.
When she had the cake in the oven I looked out the window.
The back garden is immaculate...I mean immaculate.
"Very nice." I said feebly vowing not to let her see mine till the gardener put some work into it.
Mike her husband is 82 and she is 78 (first she said 87 but when I wrote it down and showed her she reversed the numbers). I told her Iw as 66. "Yes?" she said. "You baby!"
A baby who apparently wasn't able to keep everything as neat and tidy as well as Mary could. She watches her 7 grandchildren; the youngest of whom is turning 3 and a regular little Denis the Menace according to her and has so many aches and pains. I didn't dare tell her about the pain in my back. The 'you baby' remark was painfully fresh in my mind.
The cake was ready, I ran home for my camera. I told her son who had come downstairs that I would put it on my cooking blog if that was okay. There was a lot of smiling and excited talk after that while I took my pictures.
I refused the whole cake, thanked Mary and came home with a few deliciously warm pieces on a plate.
I was so touched I was almost ready to cry.

P.S. My house is in the same condition as it was yesterday!

Mary's Sfoof Cake

Grease a 9 by 11 glass baking dish (It has to be glass).
Mary poured olive oil into her hand and greased the dish with that.

Into a mixing bowl she measured:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 heaped tsp Anise powder (Mary had the container from Costco, our wholesale place but I'm sure fennel/somph roasted in the microwave and powdered would give as great a flavor. I put this in before I researched the word fennel and realized what Mary had used was star anise powder not somph/saunf powder as I first wrote about. The powder in her container was dark brown)
11/2 tsp baking powder.
Separately she mixed and added to this:  
3/4 to 1 cup sugar ( Mary used 3/4)
1/2 tsp turmeric

3/4 cup corn oil

water (Mary used less than 3/4 cup water)

White sesame seeds (for topping only).

Mix the turmeric and sugar with a spoon and then add to other dry ingredients in the bowl.
Mix well.
Add oil and mix.
Add water and mix gathering dough to middle gently.
The end result has to be slightly more watery than cake dough.
She poured it into the pan, took some more oil in the palm of her hand and used it to spread the dough to the corners of the pan.
She sprinkled a generous amount of sesame seed on the top and baked it for ten minutes on the lower shelf of the oven...after seven minutes she kept taking it out and looking at the bottom of the cake.
When the bottom of the cake was as brown as the top looks in the picture, she turned the oven to broil for three minutes, moved the cake to the top shelf watching carefully till the top was a deep golden brown too.
When it had cooled a bit (five minutes), she cut it into large diamonds. This cake was about 1/2 an inch thick...the pieces she gave me with my cup of coffee are on top just to show what the pieces look like. The corner pieces were slightly darker brown and crunchy...truly amazing.
In all such a great experience.
Language isn't a barrier unless you let it become one and I'm so happy to know Mary and her family.

From Wikipedia: Anise also called aniseed, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor has similarities with some other spices, such as star anise, fennel, .... Therefore, the same name ( saunf) is usually given to both of them.

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 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 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.