Cardamom-Saffron Panna cotta
For JFI-Milk

Thank you Vineela for hosting this month’s JFI and for choosing a delicious theme !

A milk based Indian dessert is all about milk, milk in abundance, slowly cooked down using copious amounts of patience. The texture may vary from a creamy Basundi to a soft cookie like Milk peda, but emphasis is always given to the taste of milk itself. Whatever the dessert is, if you want to do it in the traditional way, you start with liters of milk and end up in a few cupfuls or pieces of the dessert! Every spice that you add, acts as an under taste imparting layers of warmth to a comforting taste of milk cooked with sugar.

When this month started off, I looked at the event schedules and decided to participate in two, JFI-Milk and FMR-Indian dessert fusion. There was almost a two for one deal there if I made a panna cotta (cooked cream in Italian) with the usual Indian dessert spices. But the month just rushed off, and now when I look at the FMR calendar I see that the posting deadline is over, but my mind is still set on a cardamom-saffron flavored panna cotta. Panna cotta, mildly flavored, totally egg less and very milky, can well be imagined along the flavor lines of a Kesar Kulfi or a Basundi. Cardamom and saffron are used to flavor this version of the dessert with added evaporated milk for getting that slow cooked milk taste you get with many of the Indian milk based desserts. A simple fruit puree will work very well as the sauce, mango or peach is recommended.

Have fun and enjoy the long weekend !

Cream 1 cup
Evaporated milk 1 cup
Confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup
Rose water ½ tsp
Saffron strands a pinch
Cardamom-crushed 1 pod
Gelatin Powder 1 tsp
Pistachio crushed 2 tbsp
Water 3 tbsp

Add gelatin to water, stir well, let it stand for 5 minutes. Melt gelatin by double boiling or microwavin till the mixture is clear. Mix cream, evaporated milk and sugar. Cook under medium heat with constant stirring for 5 minutes or till the mixture is hot. Reduce the heat and cook under low heat for 10 more minutes. Remove from stove, add cardamom, saffron, and rose water. Mix well and keep it covered for 5 minutes. Strain it through a sieve. Add the melted Gelatin, mix well. Pour into molds and refrigerate for 6 hours or preferably overnight. For un-molding, keep the filled mold in hot water for 5 seconds and invert over to a plate. Sprinkle with crushed pistachio. Serve with fruit puree ( mangoes or peaches go very well with the flavors used in this recipe).To make fruit puree – Blend together1 cup of fruits and 1 tbsp of confectioners sugar, refrigerate.
Pad Thai

I always thought of my Indian palate as having a well accommodating leeway for chilies used in any cuisine, till the day I stepped in for the first time to a Thai restaurant and valorously announced to the lady who was managing our table that I will have my plate of stir fry ( It was something like Pad Bai Gra Prow !!!) at its spiciest best. I learned two good lessons that day.

1) I am not as good as I thought with Thai red chilies.
2) You don’t have to be “hot” all the time; there are days in your life when you can be content just by being ‘medium”!

Ever since that incident I am trying to be humble when picking my levels and my admiration for Thai cuisine has grown beyond my own expectations.

Pad Thai is one Thai dish that I prepare often, as the recipe is devoid of hard to find fresh herbs or spice blends. This recipe treads in between a milder version of Pad Thai as it is made in the streets of Thailand and a comparatively spicier preparation closer to what we find in the restaurants here.

1/2 lb Thin dried rice noodles
3 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp tamarind juice
2 Tbsp palm or coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 tbsp + 2 tsp peanut oil
11/2 cup fresh prawns, shelled, deveined
1 cup firm tofu, cut into thin I inch strips
Sweet Soy sauce – 1 tbsp (substitute with ½ tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp brown sugar)
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots, thinly sliced (or 1/4 cup finely chopped onion)
2 tbsp small dried shrimp
1-3 tsp ground dried red chilies, to desired hotness
3 eggs
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup garlic chives cut into 1 1/2-inch-long segments ( optional)

½ cup crushed unsalted roasted peanuts
1 lime, cut into small wedges
Cilantro – 2 tbsp
Green onions cut into thin 1 inch long pieces – ½ cup

Soak the dried rice noodles in warm water for 30 minutes or till the noodles are limp but firm to the touch. Drain and keep. Mix tofu strips with sweet soy sauce and marinate for 10 minutes. Mix together, fish sauce, tamarind juice and palm sugar. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok till smoking hot. Stir fry prawns at high heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle some fish sauce and remove from wok. Add the remaining oil to wok; add tofu and stir fry till the pieces are golden brown. Add garlic, shallots, and dried shrimp, stir fry for a minute. Add ground chilies, stir well, and add the noodles. Stir-Fry for 2 more minutes, move the mixture to the sides of the wok. Heat 1 tsp oil in the center of the wok, add beaten eggs to the center, and scramble lightly till the eggs are cooked. Mix in with the noodles. Add the sweet and sour sauce mix; stir well to coat the noodles. If the noodles are still firm to touch, add 2 tbsp water and cook for an extra minute. Add garlic chives, cut green onions and fry for 1 more minute. Remove from fire, serve hot topped with crushed peanuts and chopped green onions. . Serve with a cup of bean sprouts, and couple of lemon wedges. Servings -- 3

Recipe adapted from and

Weekend Cake Peek #3
Apple blossoms in baby colors !

Apple blossoms are very simple to make, work very well as elegant filler flowers in an icing flower bouquet, but I love them the most when they sit in happy clusters of their own!! Enjoy your weekend.

* This is one of the first few cakes i decorated, made for a baby shower alomst one and a half years ago.

Onion Basil Tartlets
For Green Blog Project Summer 2006

There are certain issues which elude my logic, the immoderate prices of some fresh herbs even in the peak of summer is one among them. I admit that there are herbs with special climatic and other requirements for growth, at the same time paying $ 3 for couple of leaves of fresh mint is exceptionally preposterous! From my limited experience of observing a mint plant weakling rapidly booming into a rain forest, I tend to think that this blessed plant does not demand any sort of special care, or sometimes even water to grow once planted!!
Inspired by Ingi’s call for a greener blog , we tried our hands at container vegetable gardening this summer, and needless to say we started off with planting mint. As you might imagine, we were instantly gratified. So we graduated to basil, then to tomatoes and chilies. At this point, our mint plant (plants!!!) is having a blast growing and growing. Sweet basil was harvested thrice and is still flourishing. Tomatoes are ripening and peppers are maturing. Overall our deck is greener than it used to be, thank you Ingi, you did touch our deck ! I do not seem to count basil leaves to be used for a pesto, or scramble through a pack of mint leaves to top a dessert anymore, these potherbs from our deck have finally set my spirit free.

My first entry for GBP Summer 2006 is an onion-basil tartlet, one of my favorite quick fix appetizers, filled with fresh basil, caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese. Using puff pastry sheet as the base gives it a warm and flaky personality.

Puff Pastry Sheet - 1
Sweet onions (thinly sliced lengthwise) - 3 cups
Minced Garlic - 1/4 tsp
Fresh Basil (chopped) - ½ cup
Grated mozzarella cheese - 1 cup
Butter - 1 tbsp
Salt - 2 pinches

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Melt Butter in a pan; add garlic,onions, pinch of salt and sauté till the onions are brown and translucent. Remove from fire and cool. When the sautéed onions are cold add ½ cup of chopped basil and ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese. Mix gently. Thaw puff pastry sheets, and stretch it a bit by running a rolling pin over it. Cut small squares fitting tartlet molds or muffin tins. Keep the pastry dough square in a tartlet pan, and press on to the sides of the pan. Trim off excess dough. Fill with 1-2 tbsp( depending on the size of the pans) of filling. Bake at 350 degree F for 12-15 minutes. Take out of the oven, and quickly sprinkle the top with the remaining Cheese.

Heaven on a plate- Kashmiri Pulao

For an Indian like me, who has never been to that “ heaven on earth “ piece of land called Jammu and Kashmir, a state of India, Kashmiri pulao is like the gist of Kashmir served on a plate, a heaven to relish ! This rice dish is not widely recognized as an authentic Kashmiri delicacy and perhaps never served for a Wazwaan, still no other Kashmiri dish(?) is popularized all over India as this pulao. Chances are there that your order will be happily taken for this dish even in a small town south Indian restaurant. Try ordering a true Kashmiri “Gushtaba” at the same place; you might as well be confusing everyone in there.

Each and every grain of this pulao is infused with the delicate flavor of fresh cream and mild aroma of the spices. Adorned with a blend of fruits and nuts, this one can stand on its own, a mild raita or nothing at all is all you need as an accompaniment. Just like the nuts and raisin filled Kashmiri naan which is marked by its nonexistence in traditional Kashmiri cuisine, this warm and hearty rice dish traveled wide and far and acquired immense popularity making it hard to believe that this is not a traditional Kashmiri treat. This is my float for Indian Independence Day food parade, a very refreshing event organized by Indira of Mahanandi. May freedom continue to inspire the country and peace and happiness return to the valley.

Basmati rice 2 cups
Milk 1/4 cup
Cream 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
Cloves 3nos
Cinnamon 1 inch stick
Cardamom 4 pods
Bay leaf 1
Ghee or butter 2 1/2 tsp
Water – 1 3/4 cups
Saffron strands 1/4 tsp
Rose water 1/2 tsp
Chopped mixed fruits ( apple, raisins, apricot, peaches, candied cherries etc) 1 cup
Mixed nuts 1/4 cup ( Almonds, pecan, walnut, cashews etc.)
salt to taste

Wash rice with plenty of water and drain. Heat ghee/butter in a pressure cooker (with lids off) fry cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, 2 pods of crushed cardamom and cumin seeds. Lower the heat, add rice and fry for a minute. Add cream, milk, a pinch of saffron strands and salt to taste. Mix gently, add water, close the cooker and cook on high heat till you hear one whistle. Remove from heat, wait 5 minutes. Release pressure, transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl, and keep it covered with a foil. Shallow fry nuts in ½ tsp ghee and drain on paper towels. Add fruits, nuts, 1 crushed pod of cardamom, remaining saffron strands and rose water to the cooked rice , gently mix using a fork. Keep it covered for the flavors to blend. Serve hot with a mild raita.

For making this pulao in a regular pan, add ½ cup more of water along with the other suggested ingredients in this recipe for cooking the rice, and cook it covered till the grains are well done yet separate. Turn off the heat. Add fruits, nuts and the remaining ingredients .Gently mix and keep it covered for 10minutes before serving.

Raita - Mix ½ cup of mixed vegetables ( finely grated carrots, cucumber, tomatoes), ¼ tsp minced green chilly skins, ¼ tsp minced onions, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp yogurt, pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt. Beat well and keep it covered.
Weekend Cake Peek #2
A baby shower cake for a friend whose sugar tolerance is low ! This cake was frosted with an experimental low sugar buttercream, which started running while I was half way through decorating. I loved the texture and the taste of the frosting, but would love to add some extra strength to make it easier to handle. While I work on it, learn to make your own icing daisies here. I use buttercream instead of royal icing for making daisies. Enjoy a nice weekend everyone !

JFI - Flour
Thengappal Kozhukatta- Rice dumplings in coconut milk

I am late for JFI- Flour, I almost missed it, hope Santhi lets me in. Thank you Santhi for hosting the event and selecting a fabulous theme. It is really hard to brush off flour!!!

In my home state of Kerala in south India, rice flour outdoes any other flour in the diversity of appearance in day to day meals. Be it an intricate spiral of Idiappom, or a spongy melt in the mouth Appam or an inexplicably important Puttu, rice flour reigns! There is a vast array of rice flour dishes deserving special mention right from elegant pathiris to a delightfully gritty Avalose, but the simplest of them all perhaps is the rice flour dumpling called Kozhukutta. Made sweet or savory and often steamed, these rice dumplings are too easy to make. Thengappal kozhukatta is a simpler, soupy presentation of these dumplings made by cooking rice dough balls in coconut milk. Served in coconut milk thickened with some rice flour, this recipe is all about flour, flour and more flour.

Rice flour – 1 cup + 2 tbsp
Cumin - ½ tsp
Fresh grated coconut – ½ cup
Thick coconut milk – ½ cup + 1 tbsp
Water – 3 ¼ cup
Sugar – 2-3 tbsp or Grated jaggery 1/2 cup
Cardamom – 1 pod
Salt –2 pinches

Boil a cup of water with a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp of cumin (powdered). Turn of the heat, add grated coconut, followed by 1 cup of flour. Mix well with a strong wooden spatula, till soft dough is formed. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes. While the dough is moderately hot, form into balls in the size of a cherry. Mix 2 cups of water, 2-3 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt and ½ cup coconut milk. Boil, add the formed dough balls and cook covered for 10 minutes. Mix 2 tbsp rice flour with ¼ cup water. Lower the heat and add the water-flour mixture to the cooked dumplings, and stir well till the gravy thickens. Remove from heat; add 1 tbsp of thick coconut milk, a pinch of ground cumin and 1 pod of crushed cardamom. Serve hot or cold.


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