Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cornbread breakfast muffins

Though we do not make muffins as often as we would like to, we are all for the simplicity of muffins. Especially the savory ones. It is - just throw in the flour, oil / butter and some vegetables and mix it and spoon it into the tray - simple. When I found this recipe for Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins at Damn Delicious, I knew it was a must-do. As you can see, I used her entire recipe (down to the styling of the dish) but made it savory by skipping honey.

The challenge though, will be the availability of cornmeal in India. What we did was simple. We bought dried corn from the supermarket (not the frozen ones, but you get dried ones in the pulses section) and ground it coarsely. That became an effective cornmeal for this recipe. Don't let the unavailability of ready cornmeal deter you from making these little beauties. Just make your own!

Here's how I made it.

Your dry ingredients

Your wet ingredients

whisk together to form a spoon-worthy batter

Pour the batter in muffin trays and bake

This recipe yields 4 large muffins. Good enough for a breakfast for two.

1/2 cup of corn flour
1/2 cup of plain flour (maida / all purpose)
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup of cooking oil (we use rice bran)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Salt, according to taste
1 egg
1 block of cheddar cheese
2 green chillies 

Here's how you make it:

1) Combine the dry ingredients - flour, soda and salt
2) Combine the wet ingredients - buttermilk, egg and oil
3) Pour the wet over dry mixture and whisk gently to combine
4) Add shredded cheese, chopped green chillies and combine
5) Spoon the batter into greased muffin trays and bake in preheated oven for 200 F for 15 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test (poke a toothpick and see if it comes out clean, if it does, your muffins are ready)
6) Serve hot over coffee.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Cucumber dosa with green chutney - Easy Breakfast Recipes

If Tamil Nadu is the Masala Dosa capital, Karnataka stakes its claim for the Dosa crown with many easy to make variants - neeru dosa, cucumber dosa and so on. While I haven't mastered neeru dosa as yet (it is made with a super thin batter and takes good expertise to swirl it around in the dosa pan), making cucumber dosa wasn't a difficult task. It makes for an easy breakfast / dinner recipe with only a teeny bit of planning. 

When I started looking for recipes (on the internet as well as asking around colleagues who are native to Karnataka) to make cucumber dosa, I found an overwhelming number of variations to this recipe. Some suggested urad dal, some plain rice, while some fermentation. In the end, I picked and chose the techniques from various recipes and arrived at this one.

The measurements yield about 10 tiny dosas. Here is the recipe for dosa and green chutney.

Ingredients for the dosa:

1) 1/2 cup of uncooked raw rice (pre-soaked, preferably overnight)
2) 1/2 cup of uncooked boiled rice (pre-soaked, preferably overnight)
3) 1 tiny piece of ginger
4) 1 green chilly 
5) 1 cup of grated cucumber
6) 1 handful grated coconut

How to make dosa:

1) Wash and grind the rice along with the rest of the ingredients (do not add a lot of water while grinding because the cucumber has water in it)
2) Let the batter sit for about half-hour (if you are in a hurry, go on and pour your dosas)
3) Heat up your dosa pan and spread the dosas

Your cucumber dosa and chutney are ready to be served!

Here's how you make the green chutney to go with it.


1) 1/2 cup of grated coconut
2) 1 tiny bunch of coriander leaves
3) 1 tablespoon of roasted gram dal (pottukadalai)
4) 1 pod of garlic 
5) 1 green chilly
6) 1 teaspoon of oil

How to make chutney:

1) Heat up the oil and fry chilly and garlic
2) Grind the rest of the ingredients along with the fried chilly and garlic. Your chutney is ready.

Enjoy your quick-fix breakfast.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Can you make Cappuccino at home? Without a machine? With instant Coffee? Yes.

Some things hide in plain sight - like this supremely simple method of making a mug of steaming, frothy coffee with instant coffee. We are coffee drinkers (actually sort of snobs) and believe a day without coffee in the morning is a day not worth spending altogether. 80 - 20 is our blend and instant coffee is frowned upon. It is only for those days when real coffee runs out and we did not realize we are out of it. 

Recently, when we went on a weekend holiday with a friend, I discovered a new method of making coffee (actually if you are a North Indian who is reading this, there is nothing new you will learn from this post). My friend took some instant coffee and sugar and beat it with a drop or two of water until the mixture got fluffy. And voila, we all have frothy cups of cappuccinos in a few minutes.

And I became an instant coffee convert. Beating instant coffee with sugar does something to the flavor. Try it to experience it. Though it is not as frothy as your cafe cappuccino, it comes close.

Here is a three step method of making cappuccino with instant coffee.

Step 1: Take a tea spoon of instant coffee with two teaspoons of sugar in a mug

No excuse for the bad picture, but it is visually representative!

Step 2: Beat the hell out of the mixture with just a droplet or two of water until it froths up like this

You can store this mixture in the fridge for a later time, I was told
Step 3: Add hot milk and stir nicely!

Your steamy cup of frothy cappuccino is ready.

This is as close as you can get to a home-made cappuccino with instant coffee, without a coffee machine or the added froth.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Sugarfree Strawberry - Banana smoothie

Strawberries are in season, at least in India. I have only heard strawberries being inherently sweet because the ones you get here are tangy at best. Sometimes, they are just too tangy it is impossible to consume them without sugar. When I picked up a tiny packet of strawberries from the supermarket this time around, I did not have a plan. But as I placed it next to the bananas that were already at home, I suddenly knew what to make - Strawberry Banana Smoothie. 

The ingredients, well almost. Milk is missing.

Making smoothies are super simple and this one is no exception. I did not add any sugar in this but did add a couple of teaspoons of honey. You can skip it if you want it absolutely sugar free. 

Garnish with a mint leaf before serving.

Bananas - 2
Strawberries - 3 medium ones
Milk - one glass (some recipes call for yogurt, I have never tried though)
Honey - 2 tea spoons (optional)

Here's how you make it:
  • Pulse all the ingredients in your blender and pour it into an old fashioned stout glass
  • Garnish with a mint leaf and drizzle some honey on top if you like
  • Serve chilled

Simple, no? 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Spaghetti in basil & tuna pesto - Simple Italian Dinner

 I remember the first time I was initiated to the world of pesto. That first bottle of basil pesto sunk two inches deep in a thick film of olive oil must have attained the most-satisfying moksha as far as basil pesto bottles go. Because I used it on practically anything Italian from salads to grilled fish dishes and everything (read pasta) in between. And I discovered, to my absolute delight, that basil pesto is a delightful accompaniment to the humble, homegrown curd rice.

Not too long after, I stumbled upon fresh basil leaves in the supermarket and tried my first pesto from the scratch. Seriously, once you try and make basil pesto at home (which is not all that difficult, I tell you. Only if you find making chutneys difficult at home that is.), your hands will never hover over the pesto bottles in supermarket shelves deciding on which brand to settle. But again, it depends on the availability of fresh basil in the city you live.

Basil is a hardy herb that loves sunshine. It works as a great indoor plant as well. If you get a sapling, you can have a steady supply of fresh basil leaves in a tropical country like India. Seeds are easy to germinate and once you have a plant, they easily reproduce and sustain your kitchen needs.

This recipe is inspired by an episode of Jamie’s 15-minute meals but heavily adapted to work around the non-availability of ingredients (say for instance canned anchovies that I could just not find anywhere). I substituted canned tuna flakes in brine. The result was a mildly tuna flavored pasta with the roasted tomatoes and garlic giving it just the required amount of tang and crunchy spiciness. 

Ingredients you need (serves 2):

Spaghetti – 150 gms
Canned tuna in brine – ½ can (100 gms)
Fresh basil leaves – 1 cup
Almonds – 5
Cheese – just enough to garnish
Cherry tomatoes – 15 to 20 or 3 regular ripe tomatoes
Garlic – 4 cloves unpeeled
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Pepper – as required
Salt – as required

This spaghetti is super simple to make!

How to prepare:

  • Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add salt and a teaspoon of cooking oil.
  • Take a heavy bottomed pan, slit each cherry tomatoes or quarter the regular ones. Smash the cloves of garlic with the side of a knife. Mix with the tomatoes some olive oil, salt and pepper and keep it in a preheated oven for roasting for 15 to 20 minutes at 1800 C. 
  • Meanwhile, throw in the basil leaves, almonds and half of the required tuna and some salt in your food processor and grind to a paste.
  • Cook the spaghetti al dente and drain it in a colander. Add the pesto to the spaghetti and toss well.
  • Add the rest of the tuna, salt and pepper to adjust the taste.
  • Add the roasted tomatoes and garlic on top of the spaghetti.
  • Garnish with cheese and serve.
Tip: Let the dish sit for 5 minutes before you serve so the basil loses its raw taste. However, if you are using pesto from a bottle, you can serve it immediately. This pasta tastes great as a leftover too. 

Note: The header you see on the blog is picture in this post.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Spinach - Ricotta Pizza

A pizza recipe is in three parts, two of which have been explained in great detail in two previous posts i.e. Pizza Bites and Nidi. With these out of the way, we would like to concentrate on other aspects of pizza making - Toppings, pizza base stretching/shaping, important points about baking the pizza and serving it. Don’t worry; this post also tracks back the previously mentioned recipes for dough making and sauce making for your convenience.

Read on to learn how to make pizza like this. It is not that difficult. Really.
The measurements here are for two medium sized pizzas. Serves about 2 adults.

Part 1 – The Pizza Base (read this recipe for a better idea of dough making here)

For the dough

2 ¼ cups of flour (we used all purpose, if you are using maida = 2 cups of maida + ¼ cup whole wheat flour)
½ to ¾ cups of water to knead the dough
½ teaspoon yeast
Olive oil
Baking paper (greased)
  • Check the dough making process used for ‘pizza bites’. The same applies for pizza as well.
  •  The trick to get a crisp crust, you need to roll the base out not-so-thin using a rolling pin. Follow this with stretching the base using your hand till you achieve a fairly thin base.
  •  We can write any length of techniques about dough stretching/shaping. But it’s like trying to learn swimming by reading a swimming manual. Practice and practice, at one point you will zero down on the technique that works for you. A separate post on pizza dough stretching coming soon.
  • After stretching the base, lay it on greased baking paper.
Part 2 – The Sauce (read this recipe for making the most simple delicious pizza sauce here)
For the sauce

400gms of ripe tomato
1 blob of butter
10 peppercorns
2 gloves of garlic
Salt to taste
Olive oil

Prepare the sauce according to the recipe and apply it on the base

Apply a thin layer of the sauce on your pizza base

Part 3 – Toppings

A word or two about toppings – a good pizza is not loaded with too many toppings with overlapping flavors. A well developed base and the sauce have flavor and have to stand out. Go for two or three toppings at the most, the cheese being counted as one of the toppings. The cheese also does not have to cover the entire pizza as one sees on the pizza pies of fast food pizza. Unless of course you are making an exclusive cheese pizza (like Quattro formaggi) in which case you have select the cheeses you are going to use. We use cheese very sparingly on pizza and in this one we have used a fresh homemade ricotta. You may use any soft melting cheese you like.
Load your pizza with toppings of your choice.

Here is what we used for toppings.

One bunch of spinach leaves
Cheese (we used homemade ricotta and a less than generous shaving of Parmesan)
Basil leaves
  • Sauté the spinach leaves with oil after washing them thoroughly. Set them aside to cool.
  • Scatter the spinach on the base, sprinkle with cheese.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C with the cookie sheet / pizza stone.
  • Slide the pizza onto the hot cookie sheet / pizza stone and bake your pizza until done (for about 12 - 15 minutes on top rack).
  • Garnish with basil leaves after the pizza is out of the oven and shave Parmesan onto the pizza if you are planning to use. Enjoy your pizza. 

Pizza ready to go into the oven

a big slice

If you do not have a pizza stone, bake your pizza on the back of a cookie sheet. Remember, the cookie sheet has to be hot. So either preheat it in the oven or heat it on the stove.

Final word - No, you cannot use ketchup / sauce to eat with your pizza. Trust us - that ruins the entire taste and experience.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Zucchini / Pumpkin Flower Fritters - Quick Breakfast / Snack

I dream of Italy. A lot. I do. It is my culinary mecca (as it is for three quarters of the world). And when I go there someday – which I hope to – I will eat like it is nobody’s business. I will stuff my face with their glorious gnocchi, ravioli and tagliatelle in millions of sauce variations eating like a pig (and eat pig too), making orgasmic noises. But until then, I will continue to discover little Italian culinary pleasures in my own kitchen like this post.

Although you can find every single Italian dish ever invented in the restaurants, some are still far from reaching the kitchens of India. Zucchini flower fritters is one of them in my opinion. And when I planted zucchini in the backyard it grew wildly and made humongous zucchinis besides also producing numerous flowers. That is when I decided I should try making zucchini flower fritters. The internet is filled with deep fried versions of zucchini flowers but I found one at Parsley Thief that I loved. This is more like a zucchini pancake and you need not necessarily fry them in oil, which means slightly healthier than the deep fried version.
Zucchini Flower Fritters

Ingredients you would need, well almost.

Chop the zucchini flowers, shallots and garlic

Saute the zucchini flowers

Make the fritter batter

Pan fry the fritters
You will need:

Zucchini flowers - take 10 – 15 for 6 pancakes
Flour - 1 cup
Basil leaves - handful
Egg - 1 (you can totally skip it if you are not an egg person)
Yogurt - 1 cup
Garlic - 2 pods
Shallots - 4
Cheese - a tiny block (of cheese in stock, I used cheddar. Also I tried once with tofu and it tasted well too)
Baking soda - a pinch
Oil - as required
Salt - as required

  • Wash the zucchini flowers thoroughly under running water. Remove the green sepals from the flowers and chop them finely after checking for any bugs.
  • Chop the shallots and garlic.
  • Heat oil and sauté shallots and garlic for a minute. Drop the zucchini flowers and sauté them for another minute. Turn the flame down and leave it to cool.
  • Grate the cheese.
  • Break the egg into a bowl, add chopped basil, grated cheese, yogurt, flour, salt and then the cooled down zucchini flower mixture.
  • Whisk well and check for consistency and to avoid lumps. If needed, add water / yogurt / milk to adjust.
  • Add baking soda as the final step.
  •  Heat the griddle and pour the fritters, cook in low flame on both sides.
  • Transfer it into a paper towel so the towel absorb oil from the fritter.
  • Serve hot (it can be eaten plain or with Tabasco).
Note: I tried making the fritters with whole wheat flour and found that it turns out dense. I also tried without adding soda but the effect was just not the same.