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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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.

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

Dhaba Egg Dosai

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Dosai ( a lentil based crepe) is our family’s favorite breakfast. We sometime have this for dinner too. There is some prep time involved so not something you can whip up immediately. There are dosai Nazi’s out there that like their dosai a certain way….some like it crispy and brown, others soft and pliable. I prefer the former. I hate white colored dosai’s that are flimsy in structure. It turns out the best if made on a seasoned cast iron skillet. Non stick pans don’t produce the same amount of browning and crispiness that we like. The pan you make for dosai should not be used for anything else or else you will have it sticking to the pan.

Dosai is the base for many fillings. It can be eaten plain with chutney and sambar or filled with a myriad of stuffings. I have filled with chicken masala, beef masala, the traditional potato masala but the quickest ones are no filling of egg dosai.

Dhabas (or Thattukadas in Kerala) are street side vendors open only at night to make fast food for the truckers that travel at night. Sometimes they serve some of the best Indian food around. And Dosai is one of them.You can find a myriad of dosai varieties at some Indian restaurants that prepare more South Indian dishes. They can be almost 3 feet long if prepared on a restaurant griddle.

Here is the proportion of ingredients I have finally perfected after much trial and error  that gives me the crispy and brown color that I like.

Dhaba Egg Dosai

Ingredients:

2 cups  Basmati rice

3/4 cup urad dhal
1/4 cup toor dhal
1/4 cup chana dhal
1 tsp methi seeds
salt to taste
2 tsp sugar
Few eggs seasoned with salt and pepper
Ghee/oil
Method:
Step 1
Wash and rinse the rice well. Place in a bowl and cover with water…at least 2 inches above rice. Cover and set aside. Take all the dhals and rinse well, cover with water like the rice and set aside. Let sit for 3-4 hrs.
Step 2
Drain all the water from rice and dhals. Take the rice and add little lukewarm water in a blender and grind until smooth and pancake batter like consistency. Do not add too much water. Place into a large bowl. Now grind all the dhals the same way as the rice until a smooth batter forms.. Combine the rice batter and the dhal batter and whisk together until well incorporated. Cover and set aside on your counter or place in the oven. Let sit for at least 8 hrs for the batter to ferment.When ready the batter should be frothy and have small bubbles throughout mixture.
Step 3
Heat up your cast iron skillet on medium heat. Beat up the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Take some of the batter in a separate bowl and add the salt and sugar. Should just be mildly seasoned. Put a little of ghee or oil onto skillet to coat. Take a ladleful of the batter and spread out the batter starting at the center in concentric circles to get a thin crepe. Drizzles a  few drops of ghee or oil onto surface. Take your beaten eggs and pour a tablespoon or so to the top and spread around the dosai and let cook. Drizzle a little more ghee if needed to enhance crispiness.  It usually will cook without having to flip.
dhaba dosai
Roll up and it is ready to eat with sambar, chutney, or even chicken curry (my daughters favorite combo)
Here is a Video of me preparing this delicious dosai.

Avial, A Kerala Tradition

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The pookalam during Onam. Onam is the traditio...

The pookalam during Onam. Onam is the traditional festival of Kerala, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HAPPY ONAM!

Onam is a festival celebrated in Kerala by people of all religions. This 10 day festival time commemorates the annual return of a much loved mythical King, Mahabali from the underworld. It is also a harvest festival.The season is marked by shopping for new Onakodi (traditional Kerala clothing made of fine cotton and gold zari borders), making a pookalam (a round motif placed on the floor made with flower petals), annual snake boat race or Vallamkali and the great Onam Sadya or feast.

This feast is served on a banana leaf with course after course of vegetarian dishes, and sweet payassums (dessert). There are at time almost 18 different dishes served for this feast.

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Avial ( pronounced avee-yil) is a very traditional Keralean dish and a must for the special days of Onam. This mixed vegetable dish has ground coconut (like most dishes from Kerala) and a little yogurt. In India there are more variety of veggies that are included in this dish but here in the US, options are more limited. we can’t get Chena, chembu etc so I use vegetables we get here like bell peppers, zucchini and squash. It is quick and easy to prepare.

This recipe was requested by my med school classmate, from Ooty, NG—-enjoy!

Avial

Ingredients:
1 red and 1 green bell pepper

Handful of green beans, trimmed
1 zucchini
1 squash
1 potatoe
2 carrot
1/2 onion, sliced

If available- 1/2 a green mango, 1/2 a green plantain

6-8 curry leaves

1/2 cup plain yogurt
Salt to taste
Coconut oil to drizzle

To grind:
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chilies
1/4 tsp turmeric

Method:

The key is to cut all the vegetables in the same size and thickness- generally in long sliced pieces.
Add all the veggies in a saucepan, with salt and curry leaves, add a little water. Cover and cook until soft.Can do this in the microwave as well.
In the meantime, take all the ingredients in the “To grind” list and grind to almost a semi-fine paste.

Add this to the cooked veggies and combine. Cook uncovered until most of the water has evaporated.Will be slightly mushy. Add more salt if needed. Remove from stove and add yogurt and drizzle a little coconut oil.

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Sambar- Spicy South Indian Lentils

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I make sambar at least once a week. It is a spicy, tangy lentil dish packed with protein and flavor. Usually an accompaniment with plain rice, idli, dosai or  vada. A true south Indian meal is rarely complete without it. It always tastes better the next day. I cook the dhal in my rice cooker– it has a soup setting so no fuss. But you can cook the dhal on the stove. This is a recipe for a weekday sambar, nothing fancy, easy to prepare.

Sambar

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 cup Toor dhal, rinsed

1 tsp turmeric

3-4  cups water

2 cups mixed chopped vegetables- Zucchini, carrots, potatoes, eggplant, beans, , etc (can also use froz vegetables)

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup chopped sliced cherry or grape tomatoes

2-3  tbs sambar masala (found at any Indian grocery store, I like Periyar or Eastern brand, you may add more or less according to how spicy you want it)

1-2  tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in a 1/4 cup water and strained

1 tsp asafetida (Hing or chayyam)

Salt to taste

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Seasoning: 1 tsp oil, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (uluva), 2-3 red chilies, 1 small onion-sliced,

Method:

Wash the toor dhal well and place in a rice cooker with 3 cups water and 1 tsp turmeric and cook on medium heat until well cooked and dhal is falling apart. You can also use a pressure cooker as well for 3 whistles or use a pot on the stove. Mash up the cooked dhal– I usually use my immersion mixer and give it a few twirls to make it more smooth but some prefer to keep it a little chunky.

Place all the vegetables, except the okra and the tomatoes– in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt and a pinch of turmeric. Microwave for 5-7 mts or until cooked. With a slotted spoon transfer the vegetables to the cooked dhal. (Reserve the water to use for thinning out the sambar if too thick.)

Add sambar powder and let boil for a few minutes. Turn down heat, add the asafetida and the tamarind paste water. Do not let boil after adding tamarind or it will become frothy.

If the sambar is too thick, add some of reserved water. Add salt to taste. It will thicken some as it cools. Add frozen okra, cover and remove from stove. The frozen okra will cook quickly and won’t get slimy this way.. If using fresh okra, add and let the sambar simmer for a few minutes before turning it off.

Season Heat oil in a small frying pan, add mustard seeds, allow to splutter. Add fenugreek seeds, red chilies and sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Allow to brown. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Add this seasoning to the sambar and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves

* A Sweet Treat * Beet Root Halwa

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This is a recipe for my sister who liked it when she came over one day. It is quick and easy dessert. Halva or halwa is Arabic for sweet and served for special occasions. There are different types of halwa made from flour, dhals, some vegetables like carrot and bottle gourd. Some cities that specialize in a specific type of Halwa lend their names such as  Bombay Halwa, Kozhikode halwa etc.  Gajjar halwa or carrot halwa is fairly common and you can find this on most Indian restaurant buffets. The key for success in making these sweets are constant stirring to aid in evaporation of as much liquid as possible and lots of ghee. The sugar combined with the ghee produces a glistening texture to the sweet. Halwas are super sweet so a little goes a long way.

Beet Root Halwa has a rich color like no other and can be made with fresh beets. The drawbacks to using fresh beets are that they can taste muddy if not fresh, they are harder to grate and takes longer to cook. The canned beets work perfectly every time and are so easy to grate. This sweet tastes especially good when topped on plain vanilla ice cream when still a little warm. An impressive dessert for any guest!

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Beet Root Halwa

Serves 6-8 if serving by itself, serves 8-12 if topping ice cream

Ingredients:

A must—Plastic gloves

3 cans of Small Whole Beets ( 15 oz ea)

1 to 1 3/4 cup sugar (according to taste)

1/4 cup Ghee (clarified butter)

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 cup dedicated coconut flakes (can use sweetened coconut but then reduce the amount of added sugar)

1-2 tablespoons cashews or slivered almonds

Method:

Drain the canned beets. Put on rubber gloves and grate medium fine. The gloves are a must as it will stain. Squeeze out any excess water. In a large frying pan add a tsp of ghee and toast the nuts until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

To the same pan add few tablespoons of ghee and add sauté the beets for a few minutes. Keep stirring until most all the water is absorbed. Then add the milk . Cook for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Add sugar, and continue stirring. The liquid may increase so keep stirring until most has evaporated. Drizzle a little more ghee and add the coconut and cardamom powder. The coconut will absorb the rest of the liquid. The mixture should be somewhat dry and glistening. And the toasted nuts and remove from stove. Serve hot or cold, can also serve with ice cream.

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)

Green Tomato Pachadi

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Pachadi is a yogurt accompaniment found with any Kerala meal. It can be made with different vegetables or even fruits. It is very similar to raita that is made in north India. The yogurt is seasoned with curry leaves and mustard seeds and gently heated. Yogurt is a critical component of any Indian meal—it soothes the GI tract after a spicy meal and acts as a digestant. No meal is complete without that last bit of rice and yogurt.

Green tomatoes are firm and have almost an apple like consistency with very little water content.

green cherry tomatoes Houston, Tx

green cherry tomatoes Houston, Tx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can make a pachadi out of most any vegetable– spinach, okra, tomato, pineapple, beetroot, mango, cucumber, eggplant, and list goes on. They all will follow the same method in the following recipe.

Green Tomato Pachadi

Ingredients:

1 large green tomato- sliced

3-4 diced green chilies

1/2 a diced onion

2-3 diced garlic

few sprigs of curry leaves

1 tbs oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 cups plain yogurt

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Method

In a sauce pan heat up oil. Then add mustard seeds. After they have spluttered, add onions, green chilies, curry leaves and garlic. Add salt to taste. When onions have softened, add green tomatoes. Sauté until tomato is cooked. Remove from stove and add yogurt stirring well. Return to stove and heat on a low flam until yogurt is warm. (It will curdle if placed on a high flame. Keep stirring)

Serve with any Indian meal. Serves 6

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