Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Channar Payesh Pannacotta

My old friend from school, Fanny celebrated her birthday yesterday and when I posted my greetings (along with the multitude of others who are fortunate to know her) on her FB page, pat came her reply, so where's my dessert? Now its hard to refuse a birthday wish for anyone, & especially not for such a bubbly, sunny & cheerful character like her, so this was created keeping in mind the roman catholic traditions that she was born into and by marriage, the culture of West Bengal, she has so wonderfully assimilated.
Pannacotta is the Italian name for cooked cream, or so says wikipedia! I've never ever tried making this before & it was such a relief to find that it was ridiculously easy to concoct! I must confess, it tried some extra things along the way that were not really worth it... (I'll post those when i decide to blog about my culinary bloopers).
 Chenna or channa refers to the milk solids obtained by curdling milk. Bengal holds the distinction of producing some of the most scrumptious desserts in Indian cuisine and a large number of them use milk solids as the chief ingredient. It gives the dessert a  soft yet distinct mouth feel reminiscent of cheesecake.

For this you need: (makes 4 servings)
2 cup whole milk + 1/4 cup extra
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 cup condensed milk
3-4 cardamom pods, seeds powdered
2 tbsp unflavored agar flakes (china grass)
3/4 cups water,
slivered pistachio, candied orange peel for garnishing

Rub the inside surface of 4 small individual ramekin cups (stainless steel katori's should be fine) with unsalted butter.

1. In a pan boil 2 cups of milk till its  scalding hot & rises. add the lime juice & remove from stove. stire well & set      aside. After 5 minutes strain out the milk solids, squeezing out the whey completely. Transfer solids  into a mixing bowl, add cardamom powder and rub between the fingers till the consistency resembles that of bread crumbs. Set aside.
(ignore the red spoon!)

2. Combine 1/2 cup condensed milk and the 1/4 cup extra fresh milk well to make into a smooth creamy consistency. add  the milk solids and combine till mixed evenly. Set aside.

3. In a pan heat the water and add the agar flakes. (since the one I have at home is the form of long threads, I soften them in water & cut them into small bits  before heating them), bring to a boil, ensuring that the strands have completely dissolved.

Combine the agar and the condensed milk mixture stirring well to ensure even & complete mixing.

Distribute evenly into the individual cups, cover, & place in refrigerator to set. (~ 1 hr)

To serve, insert a thin blade knife between the pannacotta & the cup to dislodge, Invert onto a plate (jiggling the cup to ensure a clean transfer). Garnish with slivered Pistachios & candied orange peel ( or freestyle caramelized sugar threads!)

Bon Appetit,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ChefinYou, this one's for you! -Cranberry Rasam

Cranberry Rasam:
    Quick post.. ( If only I could get motivated so easily all the time). D from the blog Chefinyou had posted a query about what was to be done when you had excessive cranberries stuck in the freezer, Pat came my over enthu response: Cranberry Rasam.. ( I'd just whipped up some 2 days ago & the broth is a favorite of my 20 month old, so its become a staple)...since I had regurgitated the recipe w/o much effort, second thought s crept in & I decided to validate it since I had 1/2 a bag of frozen cranberries sitting in  the freezer:

For this you need:

1/3rd cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp grated orange or tangerine rind
2 tsp Rasam powder
A pinch each of turmeric & asafetida
Salt to taste
3 cups water
4-5 curry leaves torn,
1 green chilli partially slit vertically
Cilantro for garnishing

1 tsp ghee
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds

 In a microwave safe bowl combine cranberries and 1/2 a cup of water and cook for 2 minutes. Mash the berries & strain the pulp. Set aside (the seeds may be discarded)
Heat the remaining water, adding the Rasam powder, turmeric, salt & asafetida. Add the cranberry pulp, curry leaves and green chilli & bring to a boil until the raw smell of the Rasam powder disappears. Add the grated rind, simmer for 5 minutes. Heat the ghee till smoking in a separate pan, add the Cumin. When the seeds sputter, pour over the Rasam.  Transfer into a serving dish, garnish with cilantro & serve as a broth or paired with steamed rice.
Bon appetit!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pierogi potstickers

Q. Where does a Pierogi figure in Traditional Indian cuisine??
A. Nowhere really..

  My first taste of Pierogi (actually, make that the first time I'd heard the term) was from one of those freezer offerings. the prepackaged versions apparently were a staple for my husband while in grad school. Just remove from package, microwave in a bowl of water, drain liquid & scarf down...
  Pierogi (the term is plural) are basically boiled dough pockets filled with potatoes, although there are variations to be found all over Poland, eastern Europe & Central Asia where they originate. Although not as common as the ubiquitous pizza, frozen pierogis are a staple in any megamart freezer section. and yes for the most part, ovovegetarian.
  It wasn't straightforward coming up with an Indian version of this. It was on a completely unrelated recipe testing session that gave rise to this dish.
   I was trying out a recipe from the latest book in my collection, 'cooking @ home with pedhatha, specifically the 'ullipaya pachadi' (onion relish), when my 5 yr old came rushing into the kitchen asking if I was making masala dosai! The reason was that while the recipe called for tempering with a sprig of curry leaves before sauteeing the onions, I ended up adding curry leaves & cilantro much later along with onions & ginger. The end result was a fragrant aroma reminescent of the traditional potato masala served inside masala dosai & with poorie bhaji. The kid had just given me the inspiration for this weeks offering as well as reminded me how taste variations may be created simply by altering the sequence of adding seasoning!

 I have included the recipe for the Onion chutney with my variation in the technique. (Recipe credit: Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain)

For the pierogi, you need:
1 large potato boiled, peeled & mashed
1-2 tbsp Onion chutney (recipe given below)
12-15 round wonton wrappers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (8 oz) water
& yes,  a good non stick skillet.

In a bowl, combine the chutney and mashed potato, adjusting the amount of chutney as per your personal taste. Set aside.

Place a teaspoon of potato mixture onto the center of a wonton wrapper.

Moisten the edges and fold over.

With fingertips dipped in water, pinch along the edges of the closed dough pocket & create about 4-5 folds as shown.

Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and set aside.

In a non stick skillet, (this is one dish I will not use a regular pan) heat oil till smoking hot. On  medium heat, place the pierogi in the skillet. Swirl to ensure even distribution of the oil. Leave to brown for about a minute. Flip over & brown the other side. (this browning caramelizes & crisps up part of the wonton wrapper & also blends the flavors in the filling)

Increase the heat to high and add 1/4 cup (~ 2 fl oz) of water.

Immediately cover the skillet & resist any temptation to peep! when the escaping steam appears to have subsided, open the lid & let the water evaporate completely (Remember the steam is what cooks the covering dough and it has to completely envelope the pierogi)

Serve hot with a pat of salted butter & a wedge of lemon.

  For a description of what this dish tastes like, it reminded me of eating poorie bhaji. The browned part of the wonton gives it the nutty aroma that characterizes crisp poories, while the blended filling was reminiscent of the golden potato subzee that is often served with poori, redolent with the smell of curry leaves & onion. The novel mouth feel component is the chewiness of the steamed dough, which is akin to the texture of a ravioli

Bon appetit!

Onion chutney (Recipe adapted from 'Cooking @ home with Pedhatha' by Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain)

2 medium onions diced
1 inch piece ginger root, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1-2 tbsp tamarind pulp (adjust as per taste)
Salt to taste

For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds,
1 tbsp urad dal
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 red chillies broken
2 green chillies cut into 2-3 pieces
6-8 stalks cilantro, leaves & stems
10-12 curry leaves torn
A pinch of asafetida powder

In a skillet, heat the oil and add the mustard & urad dal. when the mustard sputters & the dal begins to turn golden brown, add the fenugreek seed to brown as well. Lower the flame and add the  chillies  and asafetida, followed by onion ,ginger,  cilantro & curry leaves. Lower the heat and saute till the onions turn translucent and the green leaves have wilted. add salt & tamarind pulp and blend in a food processor till smooth.
 This chutney may also be served as an accompaniment to other South Indian classics like Idli & Dosai.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: Cooking at home with Pedatha by Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain

Image courtesy:
 One of the quirkiest & memorable awards I've ever recieved was ' the resilient taste buds award' at the Medical Residence annual, while working towards my Biomedical Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town... & the single factor that made me the clear winner for this title, my ever present sidekick at the dinner table, a bottle of home made Andhra style red chilli chutney sent to me regularly from Johannesburg by my mother's friend Mrs. Satya Somaiyajulu. Needless to say, it was so essential to keeping my taste buds happy when faced with daily doses of dorm food!  So when I came across this book while browsing through, it brought back such vivid memories of the best academic experience I've been through.
 The first thing that strikes you about the book is the sepia toned photograph of a graceful lady, Mrs Subhadra Parigi, against a pastel green & olive background. She could be anyone's grandmother, paati, nonna,  aaji, (take your pick of language), the loving warm kind who would welcome you & your friends & acquaintances home for a sumptuous meal! But while the books layout may be in shades of pastel, the recipes within burst forth with a vivid palette of intense flavors.
 The recipes itself are typical of what is cooked daily in a traditional Andhra household. Keeping with Mrs. Parigi's or 'Pedhatha's (Grand Aunt in Telugu, the predominant language spoken in Andhra Pradesh) principle 'Anyone can cook', the recipes are simple and straightforward in their use of spices & seasonings. Its the solid time tested techniques that catches the eye. Most of the recipes have a callout with Pedatha's  tips for raising the flavor profile up a notch or two, resulting in a dish that is unforgettable.
 The recipes are divided in 8 sections with a chunk of the book devoted to classic Andhra dishes like pachadis (chutneys) & podis (Dry powders made with lentils & spices) that are serve as an accompaniment to steamed rice. While it is the widespread belief that Andhra cuisine is just extremely spicy & hot, The heat from the red chillies & the tartness of the tamarind is well balanced by the use of jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar) and other spices such as fenugreek to create dishes that cater evenly to all the four taste bud categories.
 As much as it is about these lip smacking recipes, its the passion about Pedatha's home cooking that has been brought out so well by the authors Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain. The book hints at  a story, a story  of food, warmth, joy & comfort that pedhatha brought to people who came into contact with her, and the culinary legacy she leaves behind, not only for her near & dear ones, but to everyone who uses this book.
 Last but certainly not the least, this is probably one of the few books on South Indian cuisine apart from 'Dakshin' (Chandra Padmanabhan), which has been published with such elegance & class. Absolutely on par with any international publication.

'Cooking at home with Pedatha' is available through
or through Pritya publications (
Image courtesy:

Lentil & cherry pepper Pachadi: Adapted from the book

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cupcake Lasagna

Disclaimer: I will not claim credit for thinking of this particular recipe even though I've experimented with cuppy versions of other stuff like Nachos.. The underlying punchline applies though... Just as the Nacho's were not made with corn chips (but with Corn Tortilla's instead), This version of the  classic Italian Pasta dish does not contain *Drumroll* any Pasta!!
I came across an article for cupcake Lasagna  being the latest fad in the cupcake series that is sweeping across the US.
As luck would have it, I had nothing but a jar of Pasta Sauce, shredded pizza cheese, a zucchini & a pack of wonton wrappers. and yes an aluminum muffin tray, one of those disposable ones from the dollar store.
"@ this point, I leave you to imagine a cacophony of clanging & clattering sounds in your head"
40 minutes and one disposable muffin tin later, what turned out from the oven was an extremely pleasant & tasty surprise. This dish is definitely one of my 1st try successes & being so easy to make, it's a great dish to serve to kids and have them make it themselves!

 You need: ( Makes 6 cupcake sized portions)

12 Wonton Wrappers from the Oriental store.
1 zucchini
Pasta Sauce
1/2 cup grated Indian Paneer cheese (works as a great ricotta substitute with less Salt)
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella
Italian Herb seasoning to taste

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F

Spoon 1 table spoon of Sauce into each cup (This ensures that the bottom layer of wonton wrapper does not dry out & become crusty)

Make 2 small, diametrically opposite  slits in 6 of the wonton wrappers and place them into the muffin tins as shown

Place a layer of thinly sliced zucchini ( Using a vegetable peeler works best)

cover with a layer of Pasta Sauce followed a layer of grated Paneer

Using a biscuit cutter or a pair of kitchen scissors cut out circles of about 2 Inch diameter with the remaining wonton wrappers. Place a circle of the dough into each cup.
Repeat layering with the zucchini, pasta sauce & paneer. You may sprinkle some seasoning as per taste in between any of the layers.. Top off with pasta sauce making sure that all the exposed wonton wrappers are covered as much as possible ( else you'll be left with crusty bits of dried brown dough).

Top off with Mozzarella cheese or a ready made Pizza cheese blend.
Bake in a 350 F  oven for ~ 20-25 minutes till the Mozarella cheese  on top is bubbly & beginning to brown.
Remove from oven & serve warm with a salad & toasted Garlic bread.

As they say in Italian 'Mangia'!  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Punjabi Dal Crostata

At some point of time in everyone's life there comes a day when 4 different members of the family want five different things for a meal & taking into account Murphy's law, its usually on days when a.) the weather outside is frightful
b.) the kitchen pantry is running with a bright orange neon equivalent of a 'low fuel' light,

On one such occasion I was stuck in the middle of making (or rather making do with ) Masoor dal when my 5 year old declares that he wanted Pizza. The good news was that I did have a pack of frozen Pizza dough, but the bad news.. just enough cheese & Pasta Sauce for one 6 inch roti sized pizza.  Once thawed, it only makes practical sense to use it up ASAP & out of this necessity came this culinary invention.

Crostatas are basically just  rustic free form tarts. One of the best descriptions i read about the dish were from this blog
The take home message: Crostatas are  tarts filled with anything you had left over & a lot of love...

My version is a savory crostata filled up with the Masoor dal subzi I'd made for supper with a bit of left over Paneer thrown in.


For the Filling (a complete recipe for Masoor dal ):

1 cup Masoor dal ( or Puy lentils)
1 large onion, diced
1/4 tsp turmeric
2-3 cardamom pods

For the Masala:
1 pod garlic
2 inch piece ginger
1 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2-3 dried Red chillies
1 tsp garam masala

Salt to taste
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp oil or ghee

To assemble:
store bought pizza dough
slices of Paneer cheese
melted butter
nigella seeds
chat masala & chopped cilantro for garnish

 In a pressure cooker combine Masoor Dal and onion, turmeric and cardamom pods with 2 cups water & cook till soft. Set aside
blend the ginger, garlic, red chillies, coriander, cumin and garam masala into a paste. In a skillet heat the oil/ghee and add the paste & cook till the raw smell disappears. Add the crushed tomatoes & salt and cook for ~ 5 minutes.
Add the cooked masoor dal, lower heat & simmer for ~ 10-15 minutes till the flavors are well combined.Ensure that the dal is thick and not runny if using for the crostata. you do not want the liquids from soaking into the dough.

Roll pizza dough into a 6" circle.

line the centre (~ 4inch circle) with slices of paneer cheese and sprinkle with chat masala,
Spoon a tablespoon of masoor dal filling over the paneer.

You may add some extra slivers of Paneer over the dal if desired.

Bring the edges of the dough towards the centre, pinching it together to form a tart.

Brush with melted butter & sprinkle with nigella seeds

Bake in a 350 F oven for ~ 15 minutes till the edges & base are golden brown.

Cut into wedges & serve with a Tall Glass of Lassi... (or Lager!)


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