Sweet Khaaja

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This recipe is from my friends mom, Dr. K.R. She can make hundreds of these in no time.  It is a fairly easy sweet to make but I failed miserably the first time I made these and then actually saw aunty make this in person and figured out what went wrong.

A simple dough is shaped into long rolls, sliced, fried and drenched in a simple sugar syrup. The fried rolls absorb the syrup and changes the texture of the rolls and turns it into a sticky confection. A lot of Indian sweets follow this same pattern. Sweets like these are in a category of its own in Indian cooking. Maybe the equivalent of making cookies or fudge in western cultures.  Sweets play an important role in happy events and celebrations in India.  They are made to celebrate religious festivals, special occasions and given to friends and families as gifts.They can also be served as tea or coffee time snacks.They are fairly sweet so usually one piece will do.

So for Christmas, I offer you all a Khaaja. Have a great Holidays!

 

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Sweet Khaaja

2 cups All purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 stick Blue Bonnet margarine

1/2 c water

2 tbs rice flour

Oil for frying

Sugar syrup:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light or dark Brown sugar

1.5 cups water

Method:

Melt the margarine and add 1/2 c water to it. In a mixing bowl add flour and salt and add the melted margarine. Knead into a soft and pliable dough for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Make the syrup by combining both the sugars and 1.5 c water. Bring to a boil and then shut heat down very low to keep warm.

Take the dough and divide into 2 sections. Take a section and roll out into a square as thin as possible. Sprinkle some oil all over surface except for one edge. Sprinkle rice flour onto oil and spread evenly all over surface. Starting at the edge with oil-rice flour mixture, start rolling into a tight swiss roll. When you come to edge that does’t have oil-rice flour mixture, smear little water and seal edges to roll. Now cut into about 1 inch sections. Then flatten them slightly with rolling pin.

Heat oil in a skillet on low flame. Add the khaaja pieces and fry slowly, once they start floating you can increase heat until they are golden brown. Remove from oil and add to warm syrup to coat.you can shut off the heat to the syrup.

Roll out the second dough ball as above and fry. When this batch is ready to remove from oil after frying, remove the first batch from sugar syrup and place on a tray and add the second batch to syrup. Served best when made fresh.

Tip: You can make these ahead of time by frying the roll pieces and then refrigerating them. When you want fresh Khaaja, place them on a baking sheet and warm them up in the oven and then place in warm sugar syrup as needed.

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Bacon Egg Cups

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imageThis is a quick and easy breakfast, especially if you have guests home for the holidays.It also is something I make ahead of time and refrigerate.Then I warm it up for a grab-and-go breakfast on the way to work. It is low carb and high  in protein and filling. Calories per serving 190, carbs 5.6 g, Protein 15g

Bacon Egg Cups

Serves 6

6 slices of bread of your choice

6 eggs

6 bacon strips- cooked

1 cup sausage crumbles- cooked

1 cup Shredded cheese of your choice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Parsley flakes

1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Method:

Preheat oven to 400. Get a large muffin pan and spray with non-stick spray. Cut bread with a circular cookie cutter to fit your tray. Place on bottom of tray. Edge with bacon strips. Add some sausage crumbles and cheese. Crack 1 egg into well. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley flakes. Bake for 15 mts. Remove and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

Variations:
I have made this with an omelette filling adding onions, tomatoes, peppers etc.

Can top egg with a little basil pesto or salsa.

 

Date Pickle

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This request is from my friend, A.R. She loves this pickle. I debated posting this recipe but finally thought….all good things are better when they are shared! This pickle is very good accompaniment to a spicy rice dish like biriyani. It is sweet and spicy at the same time.

Date Pickle
Ingredients:
3 Cups (about a 24 oz container) chopped Dates
2 cups vinegar
 1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp ginger, sliced finely
2 tbsp  garlic, sliced finely
3 green chilies, chopped finely
few sprigs of curry leaves
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Pickle masala or to taste ( can usually find at Indian stores, I like Periyar and Grandma’s brand)
1 tbsp kashmiri chili powder
Method:
Soak the chopped dates in 2 cups of vinegar to soften for 10-15 minutes. Place in saucepan and add 1 tablespoon sugar and cook until soft. Mash up big pieces.
 In another saucepan add oil and then mustard seed, After they are done spluttering add sliced ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves and fry for just a few minutes. Do not brown.  Add salt, pickle masala, and  kashmiri chili pdr. Sauté for a minute or so then add dates. Remove from heat and add little vinegar as needed to make a chutney or jam like consistency.
Place in clean bottles
 Yields about 30 oz or 2 pint jars
Can be stored in refrigerator for a few weeks.

Peanut Chutney for Idli/Dosai

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South Indian breakfast items, Idli and Dosai are usually served with Sambar (a tangy lentil dish) and an array of chutneys which act like condiments. Coconut chutney is probably by far the most common. I recently have been making this spicy Peanut Chutney instead. I love anything with peanuts and that maybe why I love this chutney.

Try it!

Peanut chutney

Peanut Chutney

2 c Dry roasted peanuts, (I use Planters)

2 tbs oil

1/2 tsp cumin

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 green chilies, chopped

1-2 tsp chili powder

1/8 tsp Hing (asafetida)

salt

For Tempering:

1 tbs oil

1/4 tsp black mustard seed, sprig of curry leaves, 2 dry red chilies. (1/4 tsp whole urad-optional)

 

Method:

Warm up 2 tbs of oil in a small frying pan and add garlic and brown, add cumin seeds, green chilies and peanuts. Roast until a medium  brown. Take off stove and add chili powder, hing and salt. Mix together and then transfer to a food processor/grinder. Grind well to an almost smooth paste with plenty of warm water until it reaches a pourable consistency.

Add tempering:

Warm up 1 tbs oil in a small frying pan and add black mustard seeds. After they are done popping add a sprig of curry leaves and 2 dry red chilies (can also 1/4 tsp whole urad) and toss into chutney. Can also grind these items together when grinding the peanuts.

Serve with idli or dosai.

Tapioca (Koppa) Biriyani

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It has been awhile since I posted but I hope this post will make up for it. Will see if I can get back into the cooking, picture taking and posting thing again.

Koppa Biriyani is a typical Kerala dish encompassing all the flavors keralites love. I think if a cooking show challenged me to make a dish that epitomizes Kerala cooking and my palate then it may be this dish that I would choose to make.

Koppa is tapioca or yucca. This ubiquitous root vegetable is an everyday staple in Kerala households (and toddy shops!) and when cooked is like potatoes. It can be eaten very simply boiled and salted served with a fish curry or a shallot chutney or cooked with turmeric yellow, coconut mixture. Koppa and Fish curry is the most commonest combination but I love the way meat goes with it. Beef is eaten widely in Kerala and added to koppa it is amazing. Any meat probably could be substituted. This is a very “meat and potatoes” meal. Biriyani is a misnomer because that dish usually has rice with some type of meat but instead of the rice this uses tapioca. Enjoy!

koppabiriyani

Koppa Biriyani

Ingredients:

3 lbs or so of Chuck Roast- Beef, cubed ( can use lamb, goat or chicken)

2 lbs  of Frozen or fresh Tapioca/Yucca pieces

2 tbs Oil of your choice-coconut oil will taste more authentic

1 lg onion- sliced

1/4 tsp Mustard seeds

2 tbs Ginger, chopped

2 tbs Garlic chopped

3-4 dried Red chilies

Meat masalas appox 1-2 tsps. each- garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, red chilly powder

Sprig of Curry leaves and cilantro for garnsh

Salt to taste

 

Method:

Boil Tapioca chunks in a large stockpot of salted water. Cook until tender yet holds it shape. Drain and remove center fibers and cube into chunks. Set aside.

Meat preparation-In a large saute pan, add oil and when hot add mustard seed. Allow to pop. Then add onions, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and saute until softened. Add red chillies. Add masala powders and saute for a few seconds then add meat. Add salt to taste. Toss well and let cook until tender. Cover the pot for the first 10 minutes or then uncover. You want the curry to be semi-dry. Add a little water if sticking to pan. This will take at least 20 minutes. You should have tender meat pieces with a little bit of thick gravy.

Combine tapioca chunks with the meat curry and mix well. Garnish with cilantro.

Kerala Diamond Cuts

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Christmas time is always a nostalgic time and these diamond cuts always recreates memories of those long gone. My paternal grandmother would make these fired, crispy, sugar coated snacks when we would visit her in Kottayam over the summer. Being a diabetic, she would reserve some without adding the sugar coating. When my dad would visit us in Muncie he would ask me and my mom to make these crunchy snacks so probably reminded him of his dear mom too.  I make these every Christmas and this year decided to use them as favors.  The cumin seeds added to the sugar syrup makes it perfect. It is a great accompaniment with a cup of afternoon coffee or tea. There is a North Indian version called Shakara para but I think they add sugar to only the dough and no sugar coating on the outside like these diamond cuts.

Kerala Diamond Cuts

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2  cup  powdered sugar

pinch salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1 tbs ghee

Sugar syrup– 1 cup sugar and 4  tbs water, 1 tsp cumin seeds—combine together and bring t a boil and set aside

Method:

Combine the flour, salt, baking pdr, cardamom pdr, powdered sugar and ghee. Rub together to incorporate all the ghee and add water little by little to make a soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 20 mts. In the meantime make the sugar syrup and set aside.

Take sectioned balls of dough and roll out onto a floured surface into a fairly thin sheet. Use a knife or pastry cutter and make vertical strips and then cut on the bias diagonally.

Heat up oil in a frying pan and deep fry diamonds a deep golden brown. After frying all the dough, sprinkle the sugar syrup over the cuts and toss until all is coated and glistening. Spread out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. I added some colored sprinkles due give them a festive flair. Allow to air dry, tossing intermittently. Once all have dried, transfer to an air tight tin.

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Decoration Ideas for any party

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For our SAMA FEST dinner we came up with colorful centerpieces that were easy to make and elegant. My friend made a multicolor peacock out of construction paper and had them color copied. I added the candle part. We found 3 royalty free indian designs and had it printed on gold Vellum paper ( available at any craft store). This acetate type paper is somewhat translucent so that when you put a light source behind it, it will shine through. We wrapped the vellum paper around a standard glass vase and added a matching ribbon.

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When I printed the paper, the red was not as bright as I would like so went over it with a sharpie.
It almost looked like printed silk fabric.

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For the hall decorations, my friend, AR, made multicolor peacocks out of fabric and glitter paper onto large poster boards. She then hot glued black ribbon to the back and we tied them to the pillars in the hall. Here are some of her beautiful creations.

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Tropical Fruit Salad

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My sister was looking for a new fruit salad recipe for a wedding she needed to cook for. I told her about this recipe and thought I hadn’t made it in awhile. My husband loves fruit salad. It is similar to Frog’s Eye Fruit salad in that you add a very small round pasta called Acini de Pepe or the star shaped Stelline pasta. It gives the consistency of tapioca.

Tropicalfruitsalad

Tropical Fruit Salad

Serves at least 10-15

Ingredients:

2 cans chunk pineapple

2 cans Mandarin oranges

4 containers of Del Monte Diced Mango–yields about 2 cups

1 pint whipping cream

1/2 block of Cream cheese, softened

1/2- 1 cup sugar, as per taste

1 cup uncooked pasta- Stelline or Acina de Pepe

1/2-1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

3 tbs chopped nuts- walnuts/macadamia, hazelnuts–whatever you like

Handful marshmallows

Method:

In boiling water cook and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the reserved fruit juice and let sit in it for a few minutes until totally cool.

Take whipping cream and start whipping until it gets frothy. Add sugar gradually and then the very soft cream cheese. Whip until fluffy and thick. Combine all the drained canned fruits in a large bowl. Reserve some of the liquid.  Drain.

Combine the pasta to fruit and gently fold in the whipped cream to combine. Add coconut, nuts and marshmallows. Garnish with more nuts and refrigerate for an hour or 2 before serving.

Variations:

  • You can add mango pulp as you whip the  cream for added flavor.
  • May omit marshmallows if vegetarian.
  • Add fresh fruits if in season.
  • Delicious when topped on warm pound cake.
  • Layer with angel food cake for a light trifle.

Egg Korma

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It has been a hectic few weeks and was not able to post anything. We had our annual entertainment and dinner program of the South Asia Muncie Association last weekendSAMA FEST 2013. I was on the Board so had many organizational things to get together as well as headaches to sort out too. The Board learned quickly that you cannot please 100% of the people a 100% of the time. Overall we had a lovely evening and had 360 guests–our largest turnout yet. Our whole decoration theme was birds to play on the fact that we migrated from other places to the US and that we should appreciate the  multicolored array of our feathers  but that we are still all the same. The centerpieces all carried the bird/multicolor peacock theme. It was a very cohesive plan.

I wrote the script for the entertainment program–Called “Yatra (means a journey) A Discovery of Heritage and Homeland” . It was about 2  friends ( one Indian and one American) are traveling to South Asia and they visit different regions and see the cultural items from that state they visit. There were dances from Punjab, Bollywood, Bengal, South India, Bangladesh and skits in between. It turned out beautifully. Isn’t it nice when what you visualize something in your head and it  becomes a reality? It was all about appreciating the regional differences and coming together as one in unity. In previous years this was called Diwali program then became named Diwali/Eid/Christmas, even though none of the evenings’ program included anything about Eid or Xmas. So this year the Board wanted it to be non-denominational and all inclusive. We decided to showcase and embrace regional differences without having religion in the mix. Some didn’t like the change, some absolutely loved it. The Americans( Which was half of the audience) enjoyed it and never realized each state in India is almost like a different country with its own language and culture.  Anyway, the next Board can go back to what was done in previous years and we will support them.

SAMA Fest

Anyway, that week I did not cook much so now back to reality.
Here is a dish I made for breakfast to go with Dosai and Idli but you can make this  for a quick weeknight dinner too. Enjoy!

egg korma

Egg Korma

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 hard boiled eggs

1/4 tsp mustard seed

Pinch of cumin seeds

1/2  medium onion diced

1 tsp ginger and garlic paste

2 sliced green chillies

1 tomato, diced

1 tsp chili powder or to taste

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp garam masala or egg/chicken masala

few curry leaves

Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

1 tbs vegetable oil

Salt to taste

To Grind:
3 tbs unsweetened coconut flakes

1 green chili

2 tbs of cashews

1 tsp Khus Khus/poppy seeds

1/2 tsp Fennel seeds

METHOD:\

Take all items to grind and puree to a smooth paste adding little water. Set aside. In a frying pan heat oil. Add mustard seeds and wait until they stop spluttering. Add cumin seeds. Then add chopped onions, slit green chilies curry leaves and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté until light brown. Add the masala powders and salt to taste. Fry until aromatic then add ground coconut mixture. Add some water to make a thick gravy. Allow to cook on simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Keep adding water if it is getting too thick.  Add salt to taste. Add the halved boled eggs gently and coat with gravy. Cook for about  5 mts and then garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve with rice, biriyani, dosai, appam ,  chapathis

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Ode to the Idli

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idli

Oh Idli…we have had our share of upsets and failures.

I have fought many battles with you, for you…knowing you could be soo much more.

You can be hard, unwieldy, unforgiving. You make me dance to your rhythm, and only yours.

You have disappointed me many a time but I keep coming back to you, knowing your potential, knowing all that you can be are at my fingertips.

You left me frustrated and sad many times after all the time and effort I spent…. honing you, molding you,

I know I can make you better than the last time we met. I know I can.

I put up with your erratic behavior and time and time again keep running back to you.

All out of love.

Oh Idli, be all that I know you can be.

Idli–a South Indian Breakfast staple ( and a finicky one at that)

Makes 30-40

Ingredients:

4 cups Idli rice (Sona masoori)

1 cup whole urad dhal

Water for grinding

Salt to taste

Idli Steamer

Method:

Rinse the rice well and soak in cool water for at least 4 hrs. Rinse the urad dhal and soak separately for 1 hr at the most. Drain off water and blend the rice first with just enough water to blend. Should be little grainy in texture ( for dosai batter you would grind to a fine paste). Now grind the urad dhal. Keep adding water as you grind because it needs to be fluffy as you puree it. This is a key. Urad needs a good amount of water or else you will end up with hard, flat idli.

Combine and fold both batters. Add little salt. Cover and let sit in a draft free warm place. Leaving in the oven with the light on is a good place. Let sit for 8-10 hrs to ferment.The batter is ready when frothy air bubbles can be seen throughout. Do not overmix and deflate the air bubbles.

Before preparing, add more salt to taste. Prepare your idli cooker plates and ladle batter into moulds. Steam cook for 5-8 minutes. Remove from cooker and let cool down slightly. Remove and serve with sambar and chutney.

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Tips: (learned the hard way, after much trial and error)

Soak the rice and dhal separately. Use cool water not too warm.

Use whole urad dhal, not split urad.

Don’t soak Urad too long—use cold water…even ice water is good. Too long fermenting can make it lose its fermenting properties. 30 mts to an hour is  more than enough.

When grinding the urad dhal it needs more water than you think. Add cold water little at a time. Even if is a paste continue grinding until it becomes  light and frothy.
Getting a Dosai/Idli grinder has done wonders to my recipe. There is a big difference in the lightness using this. Invest in one if you do make dosai and idli frequently.

Here is the one I have–

http://www.amazon.com/Ultra-Dura-Grinder-Kneader-110-volt/dp/B00AFR0ILE/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1384711447&sr=1-1&keywords=ultra+grinder

Here are some idli steamers too

http://www.amazon.com/Matbah-6-Plates-Racks-Stainless-Cooker/dp/B009CSZ9SY/ref=pd_sim_hg_3

Variations:

Make Kanchipuram Idli by adding chopped onions, Chopped  cilantro, chopped tomatoes and green chillies before steaming.

Can add grated carrots and beans and peas before steaming

Add sugar and steam to make sweet paniyaram (usually made in a small round pan for Ebilskivers I used for Unni appam)
Can make savory Paniyaram too–adding chopped onions, green chilies, cilantro leaves