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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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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Seviyan

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This a quick and easy dessert or sweet when you have company that drops in for tea/coffee or dinner. Also a good potluck item when you want to take something to a friends house and don’t know what to take. This has saved me on a few occasions. My dad used to like this (as well as Bananas foster and pineapple upside down cake) when I would whip this up quickly after eating dinner.

SEVIYAN

Ingredients:

3 cups fine vermicelli

2 tbs ghee/butter

2-3 cups water

1-2 cups sugar (per taste)

2 tsp cardamom pdr

chopped pistachios and sweet shredded coconut

Method:

Heat a frying pan and add 1 tsp or so of ghee. Add the thin vermicelli and roast until a light golden brown color. Add the water and cook until the vermicelli is soft and most of the water is reabsorbed. Keep Stirring. When cooked add the sugar and cardamom powder. When you add the sugar it may get watery again so keep stirring until most is reabsorbed. Add ghee.  Add the nuts and coconut. Transfer to a plate or tray. Smooth out and garnish with more nuts and coconut. It will get firm as it cools. You can cut it into pieces or serve warm.

Seviyan

Summer Spring Rolls

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My daughter has gone back to college (boo hoo! ) my son is with his friends at their lake houses ( wish I had more friends like that!) and my husband is away for a week at a conference.These rolls are a perfect meal for one that entails minimal cooking dish. These Vietnamese spring rolls are a family favorite and a make a nice party appetizer, especially in the summer. It is low fat but very filling. You can find the Vietnamese Spring Roll wrappers at any Asian grocery store. They are wafer thin, stiff round sheets that can be stored in your pantry for years. The wafers are softened by dipping them for a few seconds in hot water.

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Summer Spring Rolls
Ingredients:

6 Spring Roll wrappers

1 large handful of rice noodles

1 cup steamed shrimp, seasoned with salt and pepper

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 large seedless cucumber, julienned

4 green onions, julienned

a bunch of cilantro leaves, left whole

Sauce- 2–3 tablespoon peanut butter, 2 tsp Soy Sauce, chili paste to taste- microwave together for a minute or so

Method:

In a bowl, place noodles and cover with hot water. Cover and let it sit for 10 mts. It should be soft by then. Drain off water.

Set out all ingredients to start assembly of wraps.

In a flat plate add few tablespoons of hot water. Dip the wrappers in the plate and flip over until moist ( only a few seconds) and transfer to a flat surface. It will continue to soften as it sits.

Starting at one end of the wrapper, smear some of the sauce and then arrange 3-4 shrimp. Top with the approx. 1 tbs cooked rice noodles, then the grated carrot, cucumber and a piece or 2 of green onion and a few sprigs of cilantro. Before wrapping add a little more sauce on to one side of the wrapper and roll, tucking in the edges into a roll. It will stick to itself and stay sealed. Slice on the bias and serve with more sauce for dipping.

NOTE: You can make this vegetarian by adding any veggies that you like. For non veg- can add any meat you like.

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Rice papers to make spring rolls
Rice papers to make spring rolls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Zeppole Di San Guiseppe- For Father’s Day

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Don’t get scared reading the title of today’s post. Zeppole is an Italian pastry and this specific zeppole is made on the Feast of St Joseph on March 19 which is also Father’s Day in Italy. So it being Father’s Day here in the US and Feast Day for my husband’s family namesake I am making Zeppole Di San Guiseppe.

I am partial to Italian pastries, especially growing up on the east coast. In the town where I grew up there is an excellent Italian bakery—Di Mare’s Pastry Shop. (www.dimarepastry.com) Any birthday without a Di Mare cake would not be a birthday. It has been there since we moved to Old Greenwich, CT in the 70’s. This bakery is still going strong and always a destination when we visit home. Sometimes my kids and niece and nephew would visit there everyday during our stay for some of their specialties- Tiramisu cake, strawberry shortcake, Italian butter cookies, sfogliatelle, napoleons, pastries, etc. We would even try to bring back a box of their delicacies.

These Zeppole pastries are really a fritter of Pate a choux dough (used to make cream puffs) topped with a vanilla bean and lemony custard. There is nothing like a custard made with real vanilla beans. Splurge and get some, they will keep in your pantry for a long time. Many of you may not attempt this recipe but save the recipe for the custard—it is great! This basic custard can be used for other purposes like fruit salad, as a cake filling etc. or just by itself.

Zeppole di San Guiseppe

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs sugar

Pinch of salt

250 ml water

1 1/4 cup flour

6 eggs

Maraschino cherry- garnish

For the Lemon Vanilla Custard:

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 vanilla bean

Zest from one lemon

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

Method:

Make Custard:

In a sauce pan combine milk, cream, split vanilla bean an lemon zest. Bring to a boil. Remove the vanilla beans and scrape all the seeds into the milk and discard the pod. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until light and yellow. Add the flour and combine well. Take a cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk into egg mixture ( called tempering) then add all the egg mixture into the sauce pan with the milk. Return to stove and while continuously whisking, heat gently until thick. About 3-4 mts. Remove from heat and cover surface with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form and refrigerate.

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Now make the Dough:

Combine the Water, butter, sugar, salt in a sauce pan and allow to boil. Sprinkle in the flour and get ready to mix well until it forms a smooth ball and comes away from the pan.Remove from stove and with a hand or stand mixer, add one egg at a time incorporating into flour dough. Will be a thickish mixture. Ensure to beat out any lumps. Put into a piping bag and let sit for 15-2o mts.

Cut pieces of foil and grease lightly with oil. Using a star tip, pipe out circular mounds approximately 3-4 inches. Heat oil in a frying pan and when hot add the piped dough with the aluminum foil. Gently pull out the foil as it fries. Fry until golden and drain on a paper towel. Take this fritter and top with the cooled custard and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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They look perfect!

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Unni Appam, A Tea Time Snack

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This snack is one of my daughters favorites. Unni appam ( means little appam) is a very traditional Keralean tea time snack. It is also made for special Hindu festivals.It requires a special pan with multiple round wells. I had one from India but the batter kept getting stuck to the bottom so found a non stick Ebleskiver pan. (Ebelskiver is a Danish round pancake.) It works perfectly.

Though traditionally made with rice soaked for a few hours and then ground, this entailed an extra step and more time than I had so used plain rice flour. It came out well.

Unni Appam
Ingredients:
2.5 cups rice flour
1.5 cups powdery jaggery (type of brown sugar)
1/4 cup water
2 tsp cardamom powder
2 tbsp Sliced coconut, diced ( or toasted coconut flakes)
2 tsp ghee
1 banana, mashed
Pinch of salt
Sugar as needed if you like it sweeter
1 tsp baking powder dissolved in little water

Oil as needed

Method:

Step 1:
In a small frying pan, add ghee and add sliced coconut. Brown well. Alternatively could substitute with toasted coconut flakes
Set aside.

Step 2:

Heat water and add jaggery to make a syrup. Allow to boil. Set aside to cool.

Step 3:
Combine rice flour, salt, cardamom pdr, cooled sugar syrup and toasted coconut. Add mashed banana and whisk thoroughly. Add little water to make a thick batter. Cover and set aside to ferment for 2-3 hrs.

Step 4:
Dissolve baking pdr in water and add to thick batter. Mix well. Heat ebelskiver pan and add oil half way up the wells. Heat at medium heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter into wells. Use a skewer or spoon to turn over the appams when they start turning brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with tea while warm. Store in a closed container.

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Tips:

~Instead of rice flour you can soak rice in water  for a few hours and then grind into a batter.
~When mixing batter, whisk well until somewhat light and frothy.
~Keep heat on medium or else the appams will brown too quickly and not cook in the center
~You can add black sesame seeds to batter as well.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Sometimes you feel like having a cookie and if your oven is not working then this cookie is for you. This is not my original recipe, just one I like to use. It is a one pot cookie. The key in this recipe is to make sure the mixture is kept at a rolling boil for at least one minute.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie

Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
Pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups quick cooking or old fashioned Oatmeal ( not instant)

Method:
Combine all the ingredients except the oatmeal and peanut butter into a saucepan.Allow to melt and bring to a rolling boil. Let it boil for at least one minute. Then add peanut butter and mix until melted and combined. Remove from stove and add the oatmeal and mix together.
Take a piece of parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of the batter and spread to desired size cookies. Allow to cool until set. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 18-20 cookies.

Crunchy Murukku – A Tea Time Snack

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I have always wanted to try making murukku. I am definitely not an expert at this and know there are many variations. They didn’t turn out too bad for a first time and the pics came out well.

This is a crunchy snack perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

Crunchy Murukku

Ingredients:
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup urad flour
1/4 c besan flour (a.k.a-Channa dhal/Gram/garbanzo/chick pea flour)
2 tbsp softened butter ( is a must)
2 tsp red chili powder- or to taste
1/4 tsp hing or asafetida
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
Enough water to make dough

Method:
Heat up the flours individually in a dry frying pan and combine together. Do not brown, just heat up. Heat up the cumin seeds and sesame seeds the same way until fragrant. Add to the flours. Add the rest of the ingredients and add water gradually until you get a soft firm dough. Cover and set aside.
Cut squares of foil and grease.
Place dough into a murukku maker ( see pic below) with the star attachment and swirl into a 2-3 inch circle. Heat oil in a frying pan and drop into oil a few at a time. Flip over and fry until golden. Drain on a paper towel.Makes about 20-30 pieces depending on size. Store in a covered container or Ziploc bag.

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Note: You probably can make this with a cookie press or a piping bag, if you can find a really small star attachment.

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For Easter- Chocolate Nests

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I am posting this recipe before Easter if anyone wants to try making them before Sunday. I made these for a friend to practice it before making it. Sorry N. and N., you girls were the Guinea pigs! The both of them as well as my niece, M. will be making them for Easter and I will post their pictures when they are done.

These are soo cute as an Easter centerpiece and very easy to make. Enjoy!

Chocolate Easter Nests
Ingredients:

2 cups Chow Mein noodles ( these crunchy noodles can be found in the Asian section of any supermarket)
1 cup milk chocolate chips ( can use white/dark chocolate)
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut
Few drops green food color
Egg shaped M&Ms
Cupcake/muffin  tray

Method:
Mix coconut with food color until uniformly mixed. Keep aside
Melt chocolate in the microwave at 30 sec intervals mixing in between. Should be smooth and melted. Do not overheat or the chocolate will separate. (Melt chocolate in small batches if making a large quantity)
Mix the noodles in a little at a time  into the melted chocolate and coat well. You may need more or less of the noodles. Place plastic wrap onto muffin tray wells and press chocolate mixture into it. Depress the center slightly. Rim the edges with the coconut and place in refrigerator for 15-20 mts until hardened. Remove from tray and place 3 eggs in center of nest. Makes about 10-12 nests. More if you use a smaller muffin tray  and shallower depth.

Variations- You can use white chocolate  instead of milk chocolate and color the coconut pink and put mini peeps in the nest. You can also use pretzel sticks instead of the noodles. This would make a nice Easter centerpiece if displayed on a large tray with scattered peeps and eggs.

Happy Easter!!

Grape Salad

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I had bought some green grapes that were more sour than sweet so decided to make a salad out of it. I have seen a similar salad at my friends house adding pomegranate seeds. It is very light and a perfect side item anytime.

Grape Salad:

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Ingredients:
A bunch of grapes, halved
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 onion, diced
2 green chilies, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro

Method:
Toss a ingredients together and chill. Serve as side salad. Feeds 5-6.