Panchara palpayasam

I now officially enter the week of nostalgic ramblings, please bear with me. This Friday marks the day of Onam, the state festival of Kerala celebrating the glorious days of yore. Getting together with family and friends and sitting down to enjoy a splendid vegetarian feast known as ‘Sadya” served on a banana leaf marks an important part of the celebrations. There is also a sense of relief and restfulness in my head and a lingering sense at the back of my mind that now since the exams are over I will have more time for my meandering ways. This passing sense of ease is rooted on those days eons ago when as school children we all finished the term exams just before the Onam holidays began. I am never the one to let go off such peaceful thoughts ever , even if I am not writing exams any more !


 
Payasam is THE dessert of the Sadya spread, and there are many ways to make it using different ingredients. Here is an easy recipe for a timeless classic, Panchara palpayasam- a rice payasam flavored with sugar and milk and nothing else, made the easy way using a pressure cooker.



Panchasara pal payasam ( Made in a pressure cooker)


Rice - ( broken rose matta variety) - ½ cup

Sugar - ½ cup+ 2 tbsp.

Milk -3 cup

Water - 2 cup

Wash the rice, drain, mix with the rest of the ingredients in a pressure cooker. Lock the lid on ( keep the pressure regulator off) heat till you see small wisps of steam coming out of the vent pipe. At this point place the pressure regulator weight on the vent pipe. Now wait till you feel that the cooker is going to let out the first whistle. You will know it by instinct :), or keep an eye on the regulator weight, it will begin to shake a little. Now turn the heat to low and focus on doing something else. Come back to the pressure cooker 45 minutes after and turn off the stove. Open the pressure cooker after another 30 minutes or so, after letting out any residual steam. This payasam tastes best when served at room temperature. I love it chilled as well.



Cherry almond cake

This cake is too good to be existing, really ! Whole wheat flour, cherries, whole almonds, and a no stress mixing method, but the result is a moist and tender cake which is served best with a cup of black tea.
 
 
 
Cherry almond whole wheat cake
 
Recipe

Whole wheat flour - ½ cup

Whole almonds - ½ cup

Softened butter - ½ cup

Sugar - ¼ cup

Baking powder- 1 tsp.

Eggs -2

Vanilla extract - 1 tsp.

Pitted cherries - 20-25 nos

Confectioners sugar ( Optional) - 1 tsp.


Mix baking powder and whole wheat flour gently with a wire whisk.. Pulse whole almonds with 1 tsp sugar till coarsely ground, add to the flour mix, mix again with a wire whisk. In a large bowl, using a wire whisk beat butter, remaining sugar and eggs together till it is combined ( 3-4 minutes), slowly add the flour mix and gently combine with a wooden spatula. Pour into a greased and floured 9 inch tart pan. Evenly arrange cherries on top, bake at 325 C for 20 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a skewer, it should come out with tender crumbs attached. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar.

 

Happy 4th !

To the country I have come to love, more by each passing year, HAPPY BIRTHDAY !
 

Mascarpone- berry custard tart

Almond tart shell

All purpose flour-1 ½ cup

Almonds-3/4 cup

Sugar- ½ cup

Salt - 14/ tsp.

Softened butter-9 tbsp.

Egg yolk - 1

Grind almonds with sugar in a food processor till coarsely ground. Add rest of the ingredients and pulse till the dough comes together and not more. Press the dough evenly on a tart pan, cover with cling wrap and freeze for at least 2 hrs. Pre-heat oven to 350C. Remove the cling wrap from the frozen tart shell, line the shell with Aluminum foil, arrange pie weights or dried beans on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights, bake for another 12-15 minutes or till the shell is golden brown. Cool completely on kitchen counter.

Mascarpone custard

Mascarpone cheese - 1 cup

Milk - 2 cups

Egg yolks -2

Corn starch - 3 tbsp.

Vanilla bean - 1

Sugar - ¾ cup

Unflavored gelatin - 1 tbsp.

Mix milk, eggs and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add vanilla bean, gelatin and sugar and cook in medium heat with constant stirring till the custard thickens. Remove the beans, scrape seeds and add it to the custard. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 2 hrs.

Fruits

Chopped strawberries- 1½ cup

Blue berries - ½ cup

Berry jam -2 tbsp.

Keep the prepared fruits in a bowl. Microwave jam to loosen it. Mix with fruits, refrigerate.

Assembling the tart

Remove the tart shell from the pan. Keep on a serving plate, fill the shell with the cooled custard, arrange berries on top. Drizzle some more of the cooled custard on top. Refrigerate for 6 hrs. or more before serving.
 
 
 

Egg pulav for the understocked

This egg pulav is for people like me, whose unrelenting enthusiasm to cook something special for dinner is only matched by their abundant reluctance to go grocery shopping. When faced with empty refrigerators, we dream the impossible, set our bars too low, and go about treading territories uncharted. Mostly we are lost, but at times there is a surprise. This egg pulav is one. I made it for the first time when the only vegetable that was in sight was a big and forlorn onion.
 
 
Like you, I also understand the importance of including a lot of vegetables in the diet, here is how I tackle it. After I make this egg pulav, I will ring up T to gently announce that the dinner is ready and most politely ask if he will have time to stop at the grocery shop to buy some cucumbers and carrots and yogurt (may be?) to make a raita rich in vegetables. The moment something close to a nod is conveyed, a three page shopping list is emailed. This is a recipe that works :) ,every single time.

 
 
Egg pulav

Recipe

Eggs boiled and peeled - 6 nos

Basmati rice - 4 cups

Green chilies chopped - 1/2 tsp.

Onion , thinly sliced - 1 ¼ cup

Curry leaves - 10 nos

Very finely chopped cilantro leaves - 2 tbsp. ( optional)

Lemon juice - 1 1/2 tbsp.

Ghee- 1 tsp.

Crushed cardamom - 6 nos

Cumin - ½ tsp.

½ tsp. clove powder

½ tsp. cinnamon powder

¼ tsp. nutmeg powder

Veg oil - 1 tbsp. + for frying onion (~½ cup)

salt -½ tsp + to taste


Wash basmati rice, soak in water for 10 minutes, drain and keep. While the rice is getting drained heat 1 tbsp. oil in a vessel large enough to cook the rice. When the oil is hot, add ¼ cup sliced onions, spices, curry leaves, chilies and salt. Sauté under low heat till the onions are translucent but not browned ( takes 3-4 min) . Add 6 cups of water to the sautéed mix, followed by the drained rice. Mix well, adjust the salt if needed. Bring the water to a rolling boil at high heat. Now cover the vessel with lid, bring the heat down to low, and cook covered for 12 minutes. While the rice is cooking heat the remaining oil and fry/deep sauté 1 cup onions till golden brown, drain on paper towels. In the same oil sauté cashew nuts and drain on paper towels. To the hot oil, roll in the eggs one by one and roast for 1-2 minutes, till the eggs are browned, drain on paper towels. Discard any remaining oil after it cools down. When the cooking time for the rice is over, remove the lid, add lemon juice, ghee, nuts, chopped cilantro and fried onions, fluff the rice gently with a fork. Transfer immediately to the serving bowl and cover with a lid. Let the flavors blend for at least 15 minutes. Serve topped with the roasted egg with pickles and vegetable salad/raita on the side. Yields 6 servings
 

Baked eggplant curry

This vegetable, to the best of my knowledge has neither bitten anybody, nor has it chased someone into a ditch. So I will never understand as to why some folks in a “certain” household run the other way when egg plants are served for dinner !


Keeping that matter aside, this baked eggplant recipe is my favorite. This is a curry baked in the oven.

Baked eggplant curry

Recipe


Indian eggplants/small Italian eggplants - 6-12 nos

Chilly powder – 1tsp

Paprika – 1 ½ tsp

Finely chopped ginger – 1 ½ tbsp.

Sliced pearl onions – ¼ cup

Curry leaves – 10 nos

Coconut milk – 1 cup

Oil – 1 ½ tbsp.

Salt – 2 tbsp + to taste


Using a knife make 3-4 deep slanting horizontal cuts on one side of the the eggplant keeping the vegetable intact. Soak the prepared eggplants in salted water ( 2 tbsp water + 4 cups water, scale up according to need) for at least 30 minutes. Drain, and gently squish to get rid off excess water and pat dry on paper towels. Heat oven to 450C. Take a ceramic casserole dish and smear with 11/2 tbsp oil. Neatly arrange eggplants with the cut side facing up without overlapping, bake for 20 minutes or until the skin starts to wrinkle.While the eggplants are baking, mix the rest of the ingredients with some salt to taste in a bowl and mix well by gently pressing down with a ladle or a wooden spoon. To this mixture add 1 ½ cups of water, stir to combine and keep aside. When the eggplants look ready, pour the coconut milk mixture evenly over the egg plants. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or till the gravy is thick and bubbly. Serve with rice. 

FALOODA!

The name says it all ! This is the stuff dreams are made of, if you happen to dream any dreams comprised of exemplary desserts. In non-exaggerating terms Falooda is a splendid dessert both visually and taste wise, an astounding blend of textures and colors ! There !! You just can't  describe it in ordinary terms, I tried.


There are many ways to make this dessert, but Tukmaria ( sweet basil/sabja) seeds and corn flour noodles are the ingredients which makes this parfait a FALOODA !
You know this already, but Tukmaria ( sweet basil) seeds are not Chia seeds even though the looks are deceptively similar, read why one is not the other here
Recipe
Falooda noodles cooked, rinsed in cold water, and drained - 2 cups tossed with 1 tbsp. rose syrup. You can substitute the falooda noodles with thin vermicelli

Rose syrup (I use Dabur brand ) - 2 tbsp.

Dry tukmaria( sweet basil) seeds - 3/4 cup Soak in 4 + cups of water for 30 minutes, drain, rinse with more cold water, drain and refrigerator

Strawberry Jell-O cut into small pieces - 3 cups (Make Jell-O according to packaging instructions, but with half the amount of liquid suggested, so that you will have a sturdier Jell-O to chop into fine pieces. ( Optional)

Very finely chopped mangoes, pineapples, bananas etc.- 3 cups
Finely chopped assorted toasted nuts ( pistachios, cashew nuts and almonds) - 1/2 cup to garnish
Kulfi cream
4 cups milk
½ tsp. crushed Cardamom
5 pistachios
1 ½ slice white bread with edges removed
½ cup sugar
Pour milk over bread, keep for 10 minutes. Grind the soaked bread milk mixture with rest of the ingredients in a blender till the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a thick bottomed saucepan and add sugar. In low heat, cook with constant stirring till the mixture thickens. Chill for at least 1 hr.
Rose cream whipped topping
( This is my quick fix ice cream substitute, but if you have ice cream in stock use it by all means)
Whipping cream - 2 cups
Gelatin - 1 tbsp.
Rose syrup - 1 tsp.
Cardamom powder - ¼ tsp.
Confectionery sugar - ¾ cup
Add 4 tbsp. boiling water to gelatin, stir well till the mixture is clear. Allow it to cool down to room temperature with occasional stirring. Mix all the ingredients and the melted gelatin and immediately start whisking and keep whisking till stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a freezer container and freeze at least for 3 hrs. or overnight
Assembling the Falooda
This I promise, is the best part. Take a tall Sundae glass and spoon/scoop in the prepped components in the following order. I usually eyeball the quantity and try to divide the stuff equally between the glasses that I am using . So depending on the size of the serving cup used the quantities listed here will make 12-24 servings
Noodles
Soaked Tukmaria seeds
Kulfi cream
Chopped Jell-O
Mixed fruit
Kulfi cream
Chopped nuts
Rose cream whipped topping
Now drizzle with rose syrup and top with more crushed nuts.

A simple salad

This is the closest to a real time post in this blog in a while photo-wise. Many of the other pictures you saw here recently are ancient artifacts; I am as surprised as anyone else when I discover them.

 
But for today, since it was a sunny sprightly summer kind of day, allow me to introduce you to our dinner, or more precisely to my favorite salsa-ish salad dressed with “Almost burned chili pepper lemonette”, served just barely three hours ago with a baked piece of fish.



Chopped salad with “Almost burned chili pepper lemonette”

The lemonette


Red chili flakes – 1 tsp.

Coconut oil – 2 tbsp.

Lemon juice – 3 tbsp.

Heat a frying pan. When the pan is hot, add the red chili flakes and dry roast till the flakes are deep brown (and not black :) ). Immediately transfer to a bowl. Add coconut oil and lemon juice and whisk together for 1-2 minutes. Keep aside for 5 minutes.
Chopped salad


Cucumber finely chopped – 2 cups

Tomatoes finely chopped – 1 cup

Semi ripe mangoes finely chopped – 1 cup

Red onions finely chopped – ½ cup

Cilantro minced – 3 tbsp.

Salt – to taste

Mix all ingredients for the salad together. Add the vinaigrette, toss well and serve

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