Sunday, December 30, 2012

Carrot Halwa

Gajar ka halwa finds its way to every happy occasion in most Indian homes. Be it a festival, a promotion at job, last day of exams or just an ordinary day carrot halwa forms a part of the happiness. Haven’t  even Hindi Cinema and serials flaunted  Gajar ka halwa much to their advantage….a dish that the hero always looked forward to when he came home to meet his mom?..

I remember coming back home from school to find a dubba full of Carrot sweet waiting for me at the table. …I would not stop till the last spoonful went into my stomach .If my mother would put it in the fridge I would tiptoe slowly to the fridge, open it again and again to feed my Halwa hungry tummy.

I would place a bowl of halwa next to me, even late in d night at one or two o clock to accompany me while I read a book .Description about lunch and dinner and what they ate in the Nancy Drew’s and Famous Five’s would tickle my taste buds…most of the dishes were foreign to my traditional palette unheard or not tasted… I would immediately feel like eating something. Only my mother’s Carrot halwa would come to my rescue. One   more spoonful would go into my mouth and I would realise there is no better sweet. 

The day before my exams mother would make it. They were made by my mother at my special request, to help me stay awake as I did last minute studying. My mother’s intelligent inducement to keep me from falling off the chair as I delved through study materials I never read before….

The word Halwa comes from Arabic meaning``sweet’’It was first introduced by sikh traders  in Punjab during the Mughal regime and hence bears a close association to the state of Punjab.It is an inevitable dish for occasions like Diwali,Holi and rakshabhandan.Made with healthy carrots cooked in milk and sugar,they are nutritious but slightly high on sugar. The sugar free version is prepared with more milk added with less of sugar or no sugar at all. Here comes the recipe-:

Delhi carrots/regular carrots-3 Heaped cups grated
Milk-2 3/4 cups-3 cups
Sugar-3/4 cup-1 cup
Cardamom-2to3 pods or ¼ tsp cardamom powder
Saffron-a few strands
Nuts to garnish

In a thick bottomed or non stick pan add 1 tbsp ghee. Add the grated carrots and sauté for 3-5 minutes or till pale. Add milk and stir. Simmer and let the carrots cook in the milk in low flame for ½ hr-40 minutes , till the milk is fully absorbed. Stir at regular intrevals.Add the sugar. The mixture will liquefy but let it cook for10-12 minutes. Keep stirring. Then add rest of the ghee (2 tbsp) little at a time till. Cook till mixture becomes thick and ghee bubbles and seperates  and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan .Sprinkle cardamom. Fry some nuts in ghee and add along with a few crushed strands of saffron. Can be served hot or cold.  It tastes wonderful with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Some recipes use only half the milk of the quantity of carrots. But I like mine cooked with equal quantity of milk.
Cardamon pods can be added along with sugar.
Condensed milk can be added before sugar and quantity of sugar should be reduced accordingly.
You can cube the carrots, grind it in the mixie without water. The mixture should not become a paste. It should only be finely ground.
You can also pressure cook grated carrots is 1-11/2 cup milk (1 whistle) and then continue the process.

I prepared my Gajar halwa with normal carrots but Red Delhi carrots make the best Gajar halwa. The best carrot halwa in India is served in the states of  Rajasthan and Punjab ofcourse. But  it goes without saying that this truly royal dish has spread its taste and fragrance  to every Indian Home….Be it north –south-east- west.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Cheese Chilli Toast

I had my cheese chilli toast first time in Pune. My cousin Priya chechi (chechi is sister in Malayalam) had taken us out .She knows my fantasy for cheese and suggested we try the cheese chilli toast on the menu. As always she was right. I loved my very first bite of the toast- smothered with cheese, dotted with the spice of green chili and capsicum….Very simple to make but very filling.
We had a great get together that day …..Priya chechi’s  kids Rohit and Ananya were  playing around as we sat around the table ,my mother and her siblings talking about their wonderful childhood back in Kerala in a small village called  Karukaputhur,pulling each other’s leg and indulging in some harmless gossip… … …….By the time we left  all of us were burping ,our bellies full of yummy cheese,chats ,ice creams  and more…….
My mother’s sister-in law-Reshmi Ammayi (ammayi is aunt in malayalam)makes lovely cheese chilli T’s too…..  so we had another round of them again ,this time at my uncle’s place another day the same week…..The more you have the more you want..

I have been wanting to feast on cheese chilli toasts for some days now….so today I decided I’m certainly going to make them….thankfully I had some cheese and  just enough capsicum in my pantry to make them……They are really easy to make…..especially if you want to pack a fast lunch to office or go on a picnic at short notice…they’ll be ready in minutes… goes the recipe:-
Bread-2 Slices
Cheese- 4-3tbsp(mozzarella or cheddar)
Green Chilli-2
Green capsicum-2 tbsp cubed
Pepper powder-1/2-1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Chop the chillies . Cube the capsicum. Grate cheese and mix the chillies and capsicum. Add pepper and salt. Take a bread slice. Spread the cheese mixture on the top. Preheat oven to 180 C for 10 minutes. Bake at the same temperature for 3-5 minutes or till cheese melts. Then turn the switch to grill mode and grill for 3 minutes till cheese starts bubbling and becomes slightly brown.
Serve with tomato sauce.
You can add red or yellow  capsicum, tomatoes(deseeded) or onions to above cheese mixture.
You can also toast the bread on the tawa till slightly crisp.Spread cheese and put it on the tawa with cheese side up.Donot flip.Heat till cheese melts.
Garnish with coriander leaves

Little Aniket wanted to try them out with me today…He was chomping away some ghee dosa (Aniket loves dosas especially if its crisp and crunchy  and restaurant style)when his eyes fell on something cooking inside the oven…I tried to divert his attention… he wouldn’t be able to eat the toasts …. With the chilli and peppers they were a bit too spicy, especially for a 2 year old…But he wouldn’t budge until I slowly took them out, meticulously pulled out the chills and fed him some pieces of“unchillied “cheese toast….A glee on his face told me he loved it….He even asked for more….So we both  sat down… I unchillied one more toast and gave it to him. …He nibbled one  small slice…then looked at me and smiled…..My little dosa champ  suddenly turned out to be another cheese lover… 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vegetable Stew (for Palappam)

Not had palappams for a long  time…..Crispy at the sides  and soft centered….. dipped in creamy, pepper sprinkled Vegetable stew…….a tasty thought….I got up and coaxed my mom and we decided to make palappams for breakfast today…

Aniket my sonny just learned how to walk.He is almost two yrs now. He enjoys his new found  freedom…..he treads the house like a King who walks across his new kingdom. Half of my time goes running behind him all around the house,telling him not to do this-and-not to do that( regardless of the fact he understood or not),listening to his serious babble  or just going mad.I had arranged my  Vegetable stew in a nice little bowl  ready for the clicks for the blog. After I took the snaps I proceeded to the kitchen to finish an urgent chore. While I was busy I could hear Aniket cooing in the background. I walked to where he was standing only to see Aniket standing next to my Vegetable stew ready to dip his hands into its creaminess…I almost dived to where he was standing lest he should send the vessel off balance….I was just in time…to stop his highness from committing the act….and that saved our stomachs too from starving today morning or rather eating palappams alone without the stew….

In kerala this version of stew is made specially with palappams. There is another version  of stew or ``Ishtu” as we call it here served for the sadyas(feast) which is made with just potatoes,ginger,green chilli and onions cooked in coconut milk .But the one I have listed below is usually served with palappams or iddiyappams…

Mom made the palappams and me d stew….and here goes the recipe for the stew….

Carrot-1 cup cubed
Potato-1or 2 cups cubed
Green peas-1/4 cup
Onion-1 thinly sliced
Green Chilly-2/3 sliced or slit
Pepper powder/Whole pepper-1/4 tsp
Cinnamon-1 inch thick
Cardamom-2 or 3
Ginger-1 inch peice
Thick coconut milk-1/2-3/4 cup
Thin coconut milk-11/2 cup
Curry leaves
Coconut oil

Boil carrots and potatoes with ginger. Keep aside. Boil water. Put peas in the hot boiling water and boil till it is cooked. Strain and keep aside. Fry cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and pepper in little coconut oil. Add onions. Sauté till translucent. Add green chilli and curry leaves. Add vegetables. Simmer and boil in thin coconut milk 5-10 minutes. Then add thick coconut milk and boil for2-3 minutes.Add salt.Serve warm with the palappams.
You can boil the sliced onions,cardamom,cloves,cinnamon,pepper,green chilli along with the vegetables and ginger.
You can sauté ginger garlic paste(1tsp each) with the onions in case you are frying the onions and not boiling it with the veggies.
You can boil the veggies in thin coconut milk instead of water.
Garnish with mustard seeds and curry leaves spluttered in little coconut oil.
Add 2 tsps of maida or cornflour to water and add to above to make it thick.
You can  also add ¼ cup beans to the veggies listed above and boil.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lemon Rice

Last week we went to watch a movie called Barfi.What I knew from the reviews about this love triangle between Ileana D’cruz, a deaf and dumb, happy go lucky Murphy played by  Ranbir Kapoor and mentally challenged Jhilmil potrayed by Prinyanka Chopra,I was certain I am going to cry  out poodles in the theatre. But the movie turned out to be surprisingly lighthearted and funny.I still cried but not so much to make the poodles.

We came back home late and invariably overslept  next day morning.There was no time to make breakfast and a full course afternoon meal  together.  It was already so late. I decided to make a heavy breakfast of chapathi and egg curry and  a  quick fix lunch of lemon rice.This suggestion brought a big smile to my husband’s face.Satish(my husband) is not a foodie.This reaction from him surprised me.What he then said…”Good -nice lunch to make.I love it”-was least expected from him.I immediately opened my small cook book to delve for the recipe…and ah there it was-The quick fix…..  All its ingredients are always available in any Indian home.  I gathered all the ingredients,placed them in a line beside the stove ,then started to cook.

While I cooked I was mesmerized by the aroma of curry leaves fried in oil with the lentils ….hmmm… infused with a  tangy burst of fresh yellow lemons…..OOOOH...I was already ready for my quick fix feast….

 I served  steamy lemon rice  with some boondi raita and potato wafers-a perfect combo for a perfect quick fix lunch on Sunday afternoons.

Mustard Seeds-1tsp
Urad Dal-1 Tsp
Chana Dal-I tbsp.
Turmeric powder-1/2tsp
Red Chilli-2
Green chilli-3to 4
Curry Leaves-10-15
Roasted peanuts-1/4 cup
Lemon Juice-3tbsp or more
Cooked rice-2 cups(boil 1 cup rice with 13/4 th cup of water)
Asafoetida-1/4 tsp
Salt to taste


Heat oil in apan..When oil is hot add mustard seeds.After they splutter add red chilli, urad dal,chana dal,curryleaves and asafoetida.Reduce flame. Add green chilli .Then add peanuts.Fry till urad dal and chana dal turns brown in low flame.Add turmeric and salt .Add rice and sprinkle lemon juice over it..Mix well.Serve hot with  potatoes crisps or wafers or a bowl of bundi raita.
You can also mix 1 tbsp grated coconut in the above.
Some recipes use Sesame oil instead of sunflower or vegitable oil.Spread this rice on a plate to cool. Add turmeric along with 1 tsp of sesame oil (or more if you like) and mix it along with the rice.
You can also garnish with cashewnuts and coriander leaves.
You can also add lemon juice to the tempering  and refrigerate it.Take out 3 tbsp of this,heat it  and add to rice when you fell like making lemon rice.


Coconut Barfi

Coconut barfi-This was the first sweet I made.This was  in my 12th grade and all through college when you would get galvanized watching ace chefs and savvy housewives weaving their magic in the kitchen in innumerable  TV shows. During these shows I would promptly prop myself against the TV diligently noting down the ingredients and instructions of many unheard recipes ,confident that I would recreate the magic in my own kitchen.I would get up , stride into my kitchen still under the spell.But I would begin cooking only to realise that   my chapathis were , not yet, -so perfect or that  the curry had turned out to be too sour.  Experience would let me know that -Only Practice makes a man perfect.

But things were different with coconut barfi.

Coconut barfi was  my  first expedition  into the kitchen .To my surprise it came out really well, the first time itself ,and rekindled my faith that I am a Chef in the making.

And now  I was reminded of this easy to make sweet again ..May be it was the commercials aired for the movie Barfi.One cannot draw a tangent- I know.But oh!This humorous me …I did draw one.Every time I would see the trailers I don’t know why I would also feel like eating coconut barfi.Funny a`int ‘I?

So I rummaged through my grocery and found a packet full of dessicated  coconut .Making coconut barfi is easy and it was  ready in minutes-spreading  the aroma of  coconuts and cardamom  in its each bite…

Coconut-2 cups(I used dessicated coconut)
Sugar-21/4-11/2 cup depending on how sweet you want it to be
Water -¾ cup or just enough to cover sugar
Cardamom -4pods

Take a heavy bottomed pan .Add the sugar and water. Keep stirring consistently .Let it boil till it reaches two- thread consistency..Then add the grated coconut. Keep stirring consistently. When the mixture bubbles,  add  ghee and cardamom pods.Stir till the mixture becomes thick and gets frothy at the edges .  The mixture should  start leaving the sides of the vessel and It comes off easily without sticking to sides of the vessel.(Some people add ghee and cardamom now).At this stage transfer the mixture  to a greased pan.Level the mixture with a flat spatula.Let it cool .Cut it out  into squares within 10 minutes.Serve or refrigerate if it is to be used later than 3-4 days.

Please ensure that only the white part of the grated coconut is used for the preperation.Avoid the brown flakes of coconut from getting mixed with it
Run the coconut in the grater couple of times so that the burfi turns out to have a smooth surface if you donot preferit to have a coarse surface.
You can also add 1/4 cup of milk after coconut is added to sugar syrup and bubbles come.However continue stirring till the mixture thickens.

Verdict:My coconut barfi  was “coconuty”- as delicious as ever.Little Aniket,my sonny, loved it.Thats the biggest pat on my back.

Monday, April 2, 2012


This is my first post. My first recipe. My first offering to Lord Ganesha and Guruvayoorappan. I wanted to make something simple, sweet and classy. What would it be? I thought and thought and thought….Kesari or Sheera is a good choice. I could already feel the aroma of roasted semolina wafting in the air… the taste of a spoonful ghee dripping Sheera decorated with nuts and kismis…That tickled my taste buds….Yes! This is it. Off I went to the Kitchen…

I knew I had a long day in front of me. First I had to make my Sheera,then the photo session and the written matter. So I ecstatically began cooking. It was over in minutes. Nice and fast.

Now to click away the snaps..Rema cheriamma(Cheriamma is aunt in Malayalam) and Aniyan Mama(Uncle) had come over today. My Aunt is a teacher at a school here. Besides being a wonderful teacher my aunt is a bundle of creative ideas. She writes well ,paints even better. She was the mastermind behind all my novel, laborious projects in school. Like always I shared my thoughts about this blogging expedition with her. Even she was fascinated ,like me..So the whole day we connived and put our heads together…Should we click from this angle? Should we do this? Or that? My mother had a tough time running behind naughty little Aniket,My sonny. Nobody could blame him, he was doing his lil bit..Trying to pull this and that, messing up what we had arranged.
Photography was never my cup of tea. Last year my husband Satish bought me a camera so that I could send him snaps of  Aniket. The only thing I did with my camera was to religiously take some snaps of my kid to send it to his father in London. But now with blogging I’ll enjoy discovering this  Camera person in me . Yes! The shutterbug bit me .I knew it. I picked up my camera confidently ,focused  and  went Click  click and click

Then I had to write my blog..And I was falling short of time. It’s not easy managing a 1 year old and then I had these other chores to do. So I waited till Aniket fell off asleep and I slowly tiptoed to the computer. I jotted down what I had to write, made a draft and finally posted the blog.Phew! Blogging is not easy…It involves some time, a lot of thought and hard work too...Then I re-read my blog. I sat back and smiled. Now I had  stepped in to the Blogging World!


1 cup Semolina (Rava, sooji)-1 cup
Water-2 cups
Ghee-4-8 tbsp
Cardamom powder-1/4 tsp
Saffron-A pinch 
Food coloring-A few drops (optional)
Flavor essence like pineapple, mango, rose etc- A few drops (optional)
Nuts and Kismis


In a skillet heat the ghee and roast the cashews and kismis until brown. Remove and keep aside. Roast semolina in ghee(4-8 tbsp) in low flame for 2-3 minutes. Take water pour into the skillet and bring to boil.Add water to  semolina slowly.Add colour mixing it with a few drops of water.Keep stirring till semolina gets cooked and leaves sides of pan.It should not stick to the pan and should come out as one mass.Now grind sugar and add evenly.Keep stirring till it become like thick pudding.You may dissolve saffron in few drops of hot milk. Now add  nuts,kismis ,essence along with saffron.

Verdict: I served my guests  Sheera in small copper bowls topped with fried nuts and kismis .I ate my spoonful and looked at the others. Did it taste good? When I saw The “out of the world” look on their faces I knew I’d done my Magic!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

About Me

I am Lakshmi Venugopal. A simple, funloving ,enthusiastic Cochinite . You can also call me LeppiJ….Cooking has  always been an obsession,a zest .But it took real form  a year back, after the birth of my little 1 year old Aniket…maybe a wannabe –Super mom’s first foray into effective parenting….So I started cooking-Serious ,responsible cooking .Then I hit upon blogging and realized this is that wonderful place where  I can gather and assimilate information, where I can write , express and communicate. And so Recipe Adventures for you .But before I begin, a few words about the people behind my effort-:
Dad:Dad’s my Hero…Was my friend philosopher and guide,
Dad was an  optimist, very simple ....always ernest and ready to help others in whichever small way he could.He always tried to see “ the good side “of each and every person he met …was a shoulder to cry on for some…a mentor for many.. He  always said… To love is the only purpose of life…. Very easy to write very very difficult to do…He is not among our midst now…his memories are… So what I  cannot hear him…I know he is listening… ….When I close my eyes I can still see his innocent face  smiling at me all love , unassuming, unperturbed and yet so noble… So what I cannot see him ….I know he’s watching …..
Mom: I learnt the  rules of the kitchen from her. Besides being a chirpy homemaker she’s been my AlterEgo , a great friend
Satish: My husband and critical advisor-Amicus curaieAlso the idea generator behind Project Cook 'n'Cackle
Aniket:My one year old love of life for whom I cook.
And to God: The creator of tastes……..
So here I am ready with my apron, all ready to make , bake, boil, and broil,
 to dice, drain,  grease, and grind, ,
 here I am  to mash, to measure, melt, mince and  mix
and then to sprinkle sauté simmer and season …
 why wouldn’t I love to do it?Isn’t all this worth that  big  smile you will give me after you have tried and tasted my menu for today…now that’s worth a billion…It will  be a long way for me,the travel  from  need based cooking to  finding a chef in me…  but what I love is the journey…the self exhilarating  experience as I discover this facet of My Self. Ready?.Come lets cook.