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.