Friday, 20 February 2015

Green Tea Summer cooler with Sweet Basil and Lemon

Summer is here. And so are the coolers. The temperature is already hovering around 30C in Bangalore and 'working from home' is not making it any easier to deal with the onset of summer. If I could, I would drink beer for lunch and dinner but I want my lungs to go on for at least 20 more years. That rules out the possibility of dousing the summer heat but there are always these coolers. Just a little quick thinking and innovation can bring to table a variety of coolers.

When I was in Varanasi  recently, I drank a green tea, mint cooler and quite liked it. I did not waste time to try it out at home as soon as I came back. I brewed some green tea and infused some herbs and made this cooler. I used the green tea leaves to make a pickle but that story can wait for another post!

Here is a very simple recipe of a green tea cooler. It is healthy, refreshing and a thirst quencher like no other. Again, if I could, I would use it to make cocktails by adding a dash of gin or vodka to it. I haven't tried that but you could. And let me know how that went.

Green Tea Cooler

Ingredients: (makes 4 glasses)
Green Tea - 2 bags
Water - 4 glasses
Lime - 1
Honey - 2 teaspoons
Sweet basil leaves - a bunch

Summer Cooler
Here is how you make it:

Boil water and brew green tea
Drain the tea leaves and refrigerate the brewed tea after it has cooled down sufficiently for a few hours and after adding the bunch of sweet basil leaves and squeezing the lemon
Take it out, pour it into serving glasses and enjoy!

Green Tea Cooler
Note: If sweet basil is hard to come by, just replace it with mint. You can also add / reduce the sweetness by stepping up / down honey.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Polenta Vegetable Squares with Chunky Tomato Sauce!

The first time we tried Polenta was when someone from the family brought a bag from overseas (actually, we asked that someone to get it for us). We loved the simplicity of it and the fact that it was easy to make (just like making upma). Though Indian supermarkets stock Polenta, it is essentially imported and can cost a mighty rupee.

However, we discovered that our neighborhood supermarket stocks something called corn sooji (semolina) and it is essentially the same thing. It is extremely inexpensive and after we stumbled upon it, we have used it in our cooking often. We have made corn breads and Polenta with it. And even added a spoonful or two in breakfast muffins. Also, you could scroll down or click to view a corn muffin recipe for a breakfast dish.

Polenta Squares with tomato sauce

Polenta Square as it comes out of the oven.

We found this recipe on The Kitchn (a site that we love and visit often) and figured our corn sooji would be perfect for this simple and quick recipe. As an addition, we made a chunky tomato that complemented the Polenta squares really well. The squares tend to lose their moisture and become somewhat dry as they sit and cool but pour a generous spoon of the tomato sauce and you will have the perfect dinner.

Polenta Squares with tomato sauce
You will need (serves 2 - 3)
1 cup of corn semolina (or Polenta flour if you will)
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tiny block of cheddar cheese (grated)
1 egg
3 - 4 shallots diced
2 garlic cloves
1 handful of chopped vegetables (we used Zucchini but you are welcome to use any vegetable that can be sauteed)
Salt and pepper according to taste
1 table spoon butter

This is how you make it

Grease your baking dish.
Sautee onion, garlic and the vegetables along with salt and pepper until soft. Let it cool.
In a fairly big bowl, whisk together egg, milk and olive oil.
Add grated cheese.
Add salt to Polenta, mix well and add it in the egg-milk-olive-oil mixture.
Stir in the vegetable mixture and pour it into the greased dish.
Bake it in the preheated oven at 180C until it passes the knife test (insert a sharp object and if it comes clean, it is cooked).

Polenta Squares

Click on this link and use the recipe for the tomato sauce.

After your baked Polenta is out of the oven, cool it a bit before cutting it into squares. Spoon your tomato sauce on top of the squares and serve warm.

Note: The original recipe calls for stirring during the baking process but I found it not necessary. Also, do not worry about the excess liquid in your polenta mixture, it will aid in the cooking and will evaporate soon enough in the oven.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Millet & Oats idli - quick breakfast recipes

Happy new year to you all. It has been more than six months since this blog was updated. So much has happened in our lives (only for the better, hopefully). One of the two guys is now in Germany (and hopefully will post some recipes from there) and the second guy has quit his job and plunged headfirst into freelance travel writing. Check out his blog, called The Sunlit Window, here. We have realized this blog is part of our existence and it should be kept alive. So here goes the first post of the year. We promise to post more recipe ideas and be regular at it as well.

Off to the post...

Millets have become a regular staple in our daily diet. So should it be in yours. Like quinoa in the west, there is a silent millet revolution happening in India (at least in South India). If you scroll down, you will notice a few more millet recipe ideas here. Besides their health benefits, millets also provide variety in your day to day meal.

This millet idli can be done in 20 minutes flat. It is for those days when you open your fridge and find empty trays staring at you because you forgot to buy that dosa batter previous night. And you realise there are no eggs as well. There is oats but you hate the mushy paste it makes when it is mixed with milk. Should I go on and on about the scenarios here? No, but I will tell you this much. You can get creative with the kind of millet you use with this recipe and these idlis could even make the idli haters fall in love with it because it is crumbly in texture.

Millet / Oats idli (serves 2)

Here's what you will need:

1/2 cup of little millet (coarsely ground)
1/2 cup of oats (coarsely ground as well)
1/2 cup of thick curd
1 pinch of asafoetida
1 pinch of baking soda
Salt - to taste

Millet - Oats idli is ready to serve

Here's how you make it:

1) Coarsely grind little millet. Repeat the process with oats. Mix both.
2) Lightly roast the millet and oat flour mix along with the pinch of asafoetida
3) After the mixture is cool, stir in the curd and salt and make a thick batter. Do not add a lot of water because it will ruin the consistency of your idlis.
4) Stir in the baking soda and set it aside for a minute or two.
5) Pour it into your idli cooker and steam for 7 minutes.

Millets-Oats idli

Ta-da, your millet-oats idli is ready. Serve it hot with coconut chutney.

Like what you read? Leave a comment and let us know you exist.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Spiced pancake

Why do pancakes have to be just rounds of cooked white flour that depend on syrup for taste? Try out these pancakes with the motley bunch of slightly atypical ingredients and enjoy the sweet spice burst for breakfast.

For about 8 pancakes you will need:
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp yoghurt
- 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp sweet basil seeds (sabja seeds)
- 3 Tbsp roasted wheat germ (optional)
- 1/2 cup millet flour (we used proso millet)
- 1/2 cup white flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt

Melt the butter on very low heat in the bowl that you will be using to make the batter and add the sugar to it. Mix to cool as well as to dissolve the sugar. While the butter cools, mix the yoghurt, milk and the basil seeds and keep aside for the seeds to ooze their gel. Once the butter cools completely add vanilla extract, ground mace, fennel seeds and the egg and mix well. Add millet flour and mix until well incorporated. There is no need to be extra careful as with wheat flour, as there is no gluten that will develop. By now the basil seeds would have become gelatinous. Add the milk mixture along with salt, stir well and let stand for about 30 mins. This time is necessary for the millet flour to soak in the liquid a little and for the basil seeds to further thicken the mixture. You can even make this ahead and keep it in the fridge overnight, in which case use only one tablespoon of yoghurt. The spices will be more pronounced.
When it is time to make the pancakes, sift in the white flour and baking soda (and wheat germ if using) and stir carefully till the flour is just incorporated and there are no lumps. Heat a skillet and add some oil to it. Ladle in the batter and cook on both sides. Serve with fresh fruit or honey.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pumpkin pie

Store bought pie shells or even just frozen pastry is fairly hard to come by in India. That doesn't stop one from making the occasional pie at home with pastry made at home. This is a savoury pumpkin pie.. a quiche if you will. It can by all means be converted into a sweet pie by just adding sugar and the adjusting the spices. Spices that go with a sweet pumpkin pie are cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg.

Pumpkin pie with a quirky crust

Ingredients for filling:
- 400 gm yellow pumpkin (whole piece)
- 60 gm grated cheese of your choice (cheddar is fine)
- 50ml milk
- 1 egg or 1 Tbsp plain white flour (optional)
- Lemon basil
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Black pepper
- Salt

Ingredients for the shell:
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/4 cup millet
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1Tbsp Tbsp olive oil
- 40gms chilled butter
- Salt
- Dry rosemary

The making of the shell and the filling go in tandem. Follow through in order to not have to wait between steps.

Begin with the filling. Cut the piece of yellow pumpkin in two and with the skin on pop them in a pressure cooker. Cook for about 3-4 whistles. Open once the pressure is off and let cool.

Meanwhile roast the flax seeds and the millet in a wok with 1 Tbsp of olive oil until they just begin to pop about in the wok and let them cool. Be careful not to burn them. That could make the entire shell taste burnt.

Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh into a bowl. You will find this easy as the skin being tougher would hold the softer flesh intact. Mash the pumpkin flesh into as smooth a puree  as you like. We like it a bit chunky and a even otherwise a blender/hand whisk is really not required.

The millet and flax must be cool enough to run in the blender. Blend into a fine powder. In a bowl mix this powder, the whole wheat flour salt and rosemary. Add the chill butter and break into pieces with your fingers. Rub the butter into the dry mixture until the result resembles wet sand i.e. it should be friable yet hold shape when pressed together. Also add one ice cube into the mixture and repeat the rubbing in process like with the butter. Spread this mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a pie dish and press to make it firm. Then put the pie dish into your deep freezer. It would like like this before going in.

The shell ready to be frozen!
The pumpkin mash would have completely cooled by now. Add all the remaining ingredients for the filling except the lemon basil and also reserve about a third of the cheese. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Take out the pie shell from the freezer which would be rather firm now from the butter solidifying. Pour in the filling and spread evenly with a spoon or a offset spatula. Cover the top with the reserved cheese. Use more cheese if not covered and bake for about 40 mins.

The pie ready to be baked

Snip the lemon basil into shreds and spread on the hot pie as soon as taken out from the oven. Serve warm.

The pumpkin pie is served

- The pie shell described here is a very crumbly one. If you don't like it so crumbly step up the ice water, a tablespoon at a time and knead into a dough then press into the pan.
- The egg/flour is for binding. I actually did not use it. But if you are entertaining, its better to use it as it would give a clean cut.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Millet patties with tomato coulis

The millet mania continues... Did you know that the word "rice" is actually a generic term, which has come to mean paddy rice by default. Paddy is the grass and the seeds harvested as food is rice. Similarly seeds harvested from millet grasses are referred to as millet rice. It can be substituted in meals for rice as a healthier less starchy option.

We have been doing so recently and feeling good about it. It can be eaten just like regular rice with vegetable curries, daal etc. Naturally, as with most staples there is some left over at the end of the meal and this is what was used in this recipe. Of course you can make it fresh for these patties if you don't have left overs. The patties make for a good breakfast or snack idea.

For eight patties you will need:
- 1 cup cooked millet rice (Kodo or any other of your choice)
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 2 medium or 1 large potato cooked and mashed
- 2-3 table spoons of whole wheat flour
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- Crushed black pepper corns
- Salt to taste
- Oil for shallow frying

Mix all the ingredients for patties to a firm dough and make 2 inch balls. Apply some oil on the palm of your hand and flatten the balls to 1/2 inch thick patties. If you don't apply oil on your palms you will end up wasting more of the dough as it will stick to your palm. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the patties till brown on both sides. Take out on to a kitchen towel to let oil drain off. Serve with tomato coulis explained below.

For the tomato coulis you need:
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 6-8 leaves of lemon basil
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Make a smooth puree of the tomatoes with the sugar added. In a heavy bottom wok or pot add the butter and turn up the heat to high flame. Once the butter just begins to brown and smoke, add the tomato puree. It will sizzle and turn a deep red. Do not reduce the flame. Stir lightly and keep covered for 2 mins. Open and add the vinegar and salt. Keep the flame high and stir only occasionally. At the end of 5 minutes the tomatoes should have reduced to a thick deep red paste. Add finely chopped lemon basil and turn off the heat immediately. Stir in the olive oil.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Millet Banana Breakfast Muffins

Yes, it's muffins again, but this is not so much a recipe as it is an idea that opens up to several recipes for the imaginative. So, we all know muffins, cakes and most bakery are best enjoyed when you don't make them yourself i.e. you don't see the amounts of white flour, fat and sugar that goes into them. We try to add some healthy things in them such as vegetables or fruits and try to step down the fat by substituting milk but alas these are tricky options as the gluten in the flour begins to develop when in contact with water (in the vegetables/fruits/milk) yielding a bread like chewy consistency. So we keep the healthy stuff to a minimum, step up fat and the vicious circle repeats.
Enter - the millet. If you have already jumped onto the gluten free bandwagon, you have probably started experimenting with millets. Millets are perfect if you are aiming at a gluten free diet. Considered among the most ancient of grains, millets provide you with a healthy alternative to rice, wheat and corn. They don't grow big and fat with starch like other main grains, but this is the very trait that makes them an healthier option. India is almost the top producer of millets in the entire world. If you are in India you can add 'responsible eating' to your portfolio while consuming locally grown millets.

Millet muffins
Ingredients (yields up to 7-8 muffins):

- 2/3 to 3/4 cup mashed bananas
- 1/4 cup fat: butter (or oil)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg or equal volume of thick non-sour yogurt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla or nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cup millets *
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup or 2 tbsp white flour.

* options are: foxtail millet, barnyard millet, amaranth or a mixture of these.

Here's how you make it.
Whisk butter and sugar until fluffy followed by other wet ingredients i.e. egg/yogurt, milk, bananas and vanilla.

Run the millet(s) in a blender to make a fine powder. It can be made coarse if you like some extra texture in the final product. Experiment varying the coarseness to find out what you like.

Mix salt and baking soda to your millet powder and add this dry mixture to the wet and mix. This is the step where you would truly appreciate the gluten free nature of the millets. Were this white flour, you would have to be extra careful not to over mix and your cook book will advise you to "gently fold in the flour". With millets however, there is no fear of turning the batter bready due to over mixing. Give it a good whisk until the millet powder is thoroughly incorporated.

Finally add in the two tablespoon of white flour by sprinkling it evenly over the mixture and gently folding in until just moist. This small amount of white flour is to provide some binding, else the cakes would be too crumbly.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 mins or until the cakes pass the toothpick test.