DIWALI SWEETS

SANKAR PALA & NANKHATAI

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Yes, its Diwali time for us Indians. In every household in India in whatever way and whichever form everyone will celebrate Diwali, whether it lighting lamps, doing Laxmi Pooja or kids bursting crackers. It’s so Indian to celebrate Diwali, irrespective of your faith, community, class. This year we are in Singapore, with its large Indian community it lacks the festive hustle and bustle. All around there are posters wishing Happy Diwali, announcing Diwali dinners and the Metro compartements are decked up with Indian motifs but the buzz and the beat, the colour and dance and FOOD (deep fried, sweet, savoury, spicy) its just not here. To put it kindly this is a polite, watered down version of the Diwali a Mumbai girl is used to.

A true blue Indian Diwali is an assault on your senses. The noise and colour and crowds and the food is enough to drive you into a tizzy and go meditate in the Himalayas after the festivities are done. The crackers are burst a million a minute, its one continuous “rat-a-tak-tak”. If migraine is not your thing then care for some asthma please? The streets are jammed with people in all their jhatak (shiny, gaudy) finery, the loudspeekers are belting out Bollywood music and the food is the focal point. The fantastic array of sweets and savouries, makes the noise and crowds and the sudden surge in air pollution bearable. Visiting friends to wish them has a special attraction. Even Mr. Junior the sullen teenager who is reluctant to accompany us on meet and greet sessions is quite excited and doesn’t pout or show attitude. From chaklis to chivda, gulab jamuns to gathiya, from mithai to mawa barfis, it a feast fit for a king.

I can guardedly say that though I don’t miss the crackers and noise and air pollution, I did miss out on dressing up in my sari and jewellery and making the gourmet tour around the city. Yes, away from home Diwali is Rookha-Sookha (Sad and Dry). If not the buzz, I decided to re-create the food that would certainly brighten our Diwali.

Sankar pala and Nan Khatai are two popular diwali farsans (snacks).

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Sankar pala is a crispy fried cookie which is sweet and mildly savoury and an excellent accompaniment to your cuppa. Nan Khatai is an Indian cousin of Shortbread biscuits but laden with ghee and cardamom. I topped it with nuts to add to the richness. Both are easy to prep and have very similar ingredients but the final product is chips and cookies (makes sense??)

So dear ones, my readers and visitors, thanks for stopping by and reading my crazed essays and showing your “Likes”…Happy Diwali! Go on make these rich, ghee laden, sugar filled sweets and enjoy the festivities…….if you can’t then what’s the point of those salads.

RECIPE (from  vegrecipesofindia.com )

SANKAR PALA

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Semolina/ Rava

½ cup castor sugar

3 tablespoons ghee (melted)

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup warm milk

Sunflower or any odourless Oil for deep frying

  • In a bowl or thali sieve the semolina, flour and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well using your fingers.
  • Pour in the ghee and rub it into the flour.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, bringing the dough together with your hands. Keep adding the milk till you get a firm but pliable dough. You may not need to use all the milk.
  • Divide the dough into large tennis sized balls and roll it out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut the rough edges using a knife or pizza cutter. Cut into diamond shapes. Reusing the scraps roll out more dough.
  • Heat oil in a deep vessel. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Fry the cookies until golden brown, turning and flipping often. Drain on kitchen paper and store in an air tight container.

 

 

 

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MINI QUICHE (Spinach and Corn)

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My lunch girls, have been clamouring for an afternoon out for ages. Without meaning to be pricey I must have withdrawn from my lunch and /or coffee engagements; reasons ranging from fatigue to flat tyres ………… eventually they threw up their hands in despair and like good chums decided to plonk themselves in my living room (no permission asked or appointment taken). How nice is that….they could have kicked me out of the lunch group instead. Oh they were decent enough to give me a 2 day notice with strict instructions not to slave in the kitchen, a cup of tea and digestives would be great. Cup of tea and sweetened saw-dust for my girls?? I would have heard a few disappointed murmurs at a later date. The weather being the way it is, tea was out. Cold coffee and Lamingtons and my mini quiches sounded just the thing to please my “care two hoots for the waist line when good food is around” friends.image

Spending a morning with your girlfriends is one of the few pleasures of life. Nothing beats chatting aimlessly, venting your ire, crying over a bad haircut, discussing your mean teenager and using politically wrong language without being judged, without a harsh opinion or comment. On the contrary girls are so full of praise for your catty comments, they verbalise so many “oohs”, “aahs” and “yes you should have kicked his ….”, and then there are so many hugs going around for being brave, mean, greedy, lazy and all the other uncalled for behaviour. Where your male soul mate would just say “hmmm”, “oh”, “ok”, the female counterparts are so much superior in their efforts to make you feel wonderful, loved, beautiful and on top of the world. All it takes is cold coffee, lamingtons and quiche!!

Carried away with my unexpected morning affair!! Let me get to the Quiche on hand. Simply short crust pastry, spinach and corn filling and cream, eggs and nutmeg. Obviously there is a twist…..I flavoured the pastry dough with garlic powder and oregano (you pick your spices.) The cases were lined with thinly sliced gruyere (go ahead and use cheese slices, its so much easier). My recipe for the pastry makes the dough quite crumbly and difficult to handle, if you have a recipe which you are comfortable with go ahead. The quiche is light, healthy (I like to believe so) and the right accompaniment with the cold coffee. No fuss cutting it and the eternal embarrassment of the pastry falling off the filling. (LOL)

Life couldn’t be happier or simpler, a group of chatty, nutty, emotional females, sitting with their feet up on the chairs, sipping coffee without counting the calories, eating with their fingers, not bothering about my unwashed hair and flour dusted Tee, laughing, raving and ranting about their blessed life and promising to start the diet after the last bite of Quiche.

 

RECIPE

SPINACH AND CORN MINI QUICHES

MAKES 12

PLAIN SHORTCRUST PASTRY

250 grams plain flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano (any other herb will do)

125 grams chilled butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

3-4 tablespoons cold water

  • Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add in the garlic powder and oregano and mix. Add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until crumbly.
  • Combine the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Add to the flour mix. Cut with a knife to form a dough, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together gently to form a dough. I find it very handy to turn out the dough onto a plastic wrap and bring it together with the help of the wrap, wrap it tightly and then gently press it together to form a dough ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
  • Roll out the pastry between two sheets of plastic wraps or grease proof paper. Using a plain cutter or a jar cap cut rounds of the pastry to fit 12 cupcake tins. If the dough breaks in places, patch it up with little bits of dough.
  • Refrigerate while making the filling.

 

FILLING

50 grams Gruyere/ strong cheddar/ cheddar slices

1 tablespoon butter/ Olive oil

1 medium sized onion finely chopped

1 cup spinach, shredded

1/2 cup steamed corn

2 eggs

200 ml cream

50 ml milk

Freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 190oC

  • In a pan melt butter with a dash of oil. Fry onions on low heat until tender. Add the spinach and corn. Continue stirring on low to mediun heat until the spinach wilts and any extra moisture dries up. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Remove the dough lined cupcake tins from the refrigerator. Line the bases with the cheese slices. Divide the spinach and corn mix between the 12 cases
  • In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, pepper and nutmeg. Laddle the cream- egg mix into the pastry shells.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and set. Serve hot.

Mince Pie

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RECIPE

MINCE PIE

Makes 1 x 7” Pie

Serves 6

For the pastry crust make 1 ½ times the quantity needed for the Apple Pie

Filling

½ kg Chicken / Lamb mince

1 large onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon oil

2 large tomatoes skinned, deseeded and puree

1 sprig each, fresh rosemary and thyme

2 tablespoons, chopped garlic or chives

2 tablespoons barbeque sauce

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon Pepper

½ cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar Cheese

  • Fry the onions over medium heat in oil till they are glassy and change colour.
  • Add in the tomatoes and let the liquid dry out a little. Add in the mince and stir constantly to break up any lumps. Stir till it changes colour. Add in the herbs, barbeque sauce, chilli flakes, salt and pepper.
  • Add in ¼ cup water and let it cook, covered for another 15 minutes. Open the lid and on a high flame stirring constantly dry out the juices if any.

 

  • When cooled spoon the mince into the ready shell which has been egg washed. Sprinkle the cheese over the mince.
  • Roll out a thin ¼” circle from the remaining dough and lay it on top to cover the filling. Make a few slashes with a knife to let out steam or make cut outs with tiny shape cutters. Brush the top with egg
  • Bake in a preheated 190oC oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden and flaky.

Coconut and Lentil rice (Thai Style)

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Baking and Desserts are a big part of my life. Desserts are like a vacation and since we can’t be on a vacation indefinitely, we do have to get back to the humdrum world of real food and hearty, nutritious meals. There are days when I am an inspired cook wanting to cook this, that and all and then there are days when I feel like it’s a donkey’s job……same old boring kitchen chores, sautéing onions, add in the tomato, spices and on and on…..

So for those days that I am inspired and don’t consider everyday cooking a drudgery, I can whip up some mean dishes and these recipes I wanted to share on my blog (though it goes against my sweet principle)

Rice is a big part of our meals. In some parts of India, like the south, rice and other rice preparations are a part of all 3 main meals and snacks too! In my home though we aren’t largely rice-eaters, we love our rice dishes for lunch on weekends. It’s a challenge not to repeat the same rice and lentil gravy or rice and chicken gravy every weekend. But I must say besides the carb kick that you get out of rice it is so versatile, you can alter a few spices and turn it into a new dish. So you guessed it I am a huge fan of rice…easy to make, no fuss and no “eat-your-veggies-or-watch-out” threats required.

The first time I put this beautiful rice dish on the table, I was met with “how-dare you-feed-us-khichdi” looks. “Khichdi” an Indian rice preparation with yellow lentils, is flavoured with turmeric powder, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. It is on every sick person’s must-have menu. As a child after a bout of belly troubles I would have to gulp down this insipid concoction and I remember begging my sisters for a bite of mango pickle to go with it. I was at a loss to make the “culinary challenged” family understand the difference. So, the next weekend it was khichdi and so was the weekend after that and then the difference between the elegant and run of the mill dawned on them Coconut and Lentil rice is a much tastier, fresher version with a “chilly hit”, aromatic and with a subtle, fresh taste of coconut milk.

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The lentils used are Masoor ( Red lentils). The subtle Thai flavour of the dish lends itself perfectly to sweet and sour Thai preparations or spicy curries. The boys no more tease me or call it glorified khichdi, the memory of 3 weekends of khichdi overdose is not easily forgotten!!

RECIPE

COCONUT AND LENTIL RICE

(Serves 4)

1 cup long grained rice (preferably Basmati)

4 tablespoons Red Lentils (Masoor)

2oo ml thick coconut milk

1-2 tablespoons oil

1 small onion thinly sliced

2 green chillies, broken into 1” pieces

5-6 curry leaves

1” piece ginger finely shredded

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1’ piece cinnamon

4-5 cloves

1 teaspoon whole cumin

1 stalk lemon grass bruised or broken into pieces

A fistful of fresh coriander leaves chopped (for garnish)

Salt to taste

  • Wash and soak the lentils in water for 20 minutes. Boil them on high heat (rolling boil) for 8-9 minutes. Do not over boil. You want them firm and whole not squishy. Drain.
  • Wash rice and keep them aside.
  • Chop the vegetables

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  • In a heavy bottomed large vessel fry the onions till glassy (not brown), add the ginger, garlic, curry leaves, chillies, lemon grass, cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Stir around on medium heat for a minute.

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  • Add in the lentils and the rice. Pour in 1 cup water plus another ¼ cup. Add ¾ cup coconut milk. Use the same cup that you measured out the rice in. Don’t be tempted to add more coconut milk as the rice tends to remain uncooked in a thicker liquid.
  • Once the liquid comes to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, put the lid on and let it cook. Once the liquid is barely there, add in the salt and give a gentle stir with a butter knife, careful not to break the rice.
  • Add in the coriander after the rice is cooked.

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CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE (SAVOURY)

RECIPE

SAVOURY CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE PIE

Cheesecake Filling

450g cream cheese

1/4 cup / 60ml heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup / 60g shredded cheese (a strong cheese)

1/2 tsp ground pepper and ¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup spinach, chopped

1 tablespoon. Butter

½ cup corn (blanched for 2-3 mins in hot water

1 green/ red chilly de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)

3/4 cup / 115g cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

Directions

  • Heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the spinach and keep stirring on medium heat until wilted. Add in corn, chilly and a pinch of salt. Let cool slightly before using.
  • Preheat oven to 160°C Gas Mark 3.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and cream until smooth.

 

  • Beat in cheese, nutmeg and pepper.
  • Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined.
  • Add the cooked spinach and corn and mix well with a spoon.
  • Pour over prepared pie crust. Place pie in a large baking pan; add 1” of boiling water to larger pan.
  • Bake for about 10-15 mins.Top with prepared topping (recipe given below) and continue baking for another 40 minutes.
  • Place pie in a large baking pan; add 1” of boiling water to larger pan.
  • Bake 45-55 minutes or until center is just set and slightly wobbly.
  • Cool cheesecake on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

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  • I prefer it warm.

 

Crumble Topping (savoury)

7-8 Plain Crackers/ 1 cup Cheeselings (crushed to coarse crumbs)

2 heaped tsps grated cheese

2 tblspns butter melted

1 tblspn flour

Salt & Pepper

Mix all the above in a bowl with your fingers.

STUFFED SAVOURY PANCAKES (CHILLA)

You won’t find me posting too many savoury recipes, sweet is my middle name. But, come on folks, I eat real food too and I can assure you I have quite a few savoury recipes under my belt (pun intended!!). The hum-drum preparation of daily meals, is on a few occasions interrupted by my few and far between bouts of inspiration. The oat and wheat pancakes have been a staple breakfast for a particularly ”bored-with-the-same-crap” young man, on competition days.   So for my sake as much as his I decided to introduce a variation to his overly sweet existence.

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Chilla or pancake made from dals is a staple in many Indian homes, It is a sister vesion of the hugely popular South Indian Dosa which is made from a  batter of soaked and ground rice and split black dal, which is left to ferment overnight. Here in the chilla recipe soaked gram dal (moong dal) is ground to a fine paste and spread in a thin layer on a hot griddle. No fermenting required, it is a pretty straight forward process.

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I have used a spicy veg filling which is dry to prevent the pancake from getting soggy. It is a convenient, make ahead dish. Once the prep is done, you have to spread the batter on the griddle and stuff it with the filling.

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imageIt can be made into small bite sized pancakes and filled and served as cocktails. It is absolutely low-cal, vegetarian (feel free to use mince), and gluten free. Makes a very filling lunch, brunch or snack. The yogurt sauce that I served brightens it up and adds moisture to an otherwise dry-ish dish. Must warn you to eat it hot off the stove as it tends to get rubbery, sadly its not a lunch box option.

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Its my all time favourite “when-I-am-alone”, “chilla-ed out” meal and on the pretext of low-cal and gluten-free I have been greedily “stuffing” myself!

PS: I must give credit to my very dear and pretty friend Kaushi who is always sharing her very original veg recipes and inspired me to try this one. Its her superb idea to add chillies and ginger to the pancake batter.

RECIPE

STUFFED SAVOURY PANCAKES

Makes 7-8, 6 inch pancakes

Pancakes

150 grms Green gram dal (moong dal)

3 tablespoons green gram with skin (Moong)

1” piece ginger

2 green chillies

Salt to taste

Oil

 

Filling:

5-7 babycorns, diced

½ red pepper, diced

½ yellow pepper, diced

½ green pepper, diced

½ cup corn kernels

1 cup broccoli, broken into small florets

4’ piece zucchini, diced

1/2 cup bean sprouts

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic finely minced

½ tsp chilly powder/ 1 green chilly finely chopped/ 1 tablespoon thai chilly sauce

½ tspn pepper

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon oil

2 cups shredded iceberg salad

Salt to taste

 

Sauce

3 cups coriander leaves

A fistful of fresh mint

2 cloves garlic

1 tspn ground cumin

Juice of half lemon

2-3 green chillies

1 cup thick yogurt

Salt to taste

 

  • Pancake:

 Wash the green gram dals and soak for 2 hours minimum. Drain and leave the water aside. Grind them in a mixer with the other ingredients. Refrigerate. Keeps for 2 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for upto a week. Thaw before using.

On a very hot non-stick griddle splatter a few drops of oil. Drop a large serving spoon full of the batter in the centre. Spread it in a round, moving from centre to side, with the back of the spoon. Spread as thinly as possible.

The pancake cooks within a minute. Take it off the griddle.

  • Filling:

In a pan heat a tablespoon of oil. On low heat fry the diced onions till transculent, add the garlic. Add the broccoli and stir fry for a couple of minutes, add the other veges except the iceberg  and continue stir-frying till they a crisp but not over-cooked. This should take 4-5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, ketchup, and chilly powder or sauces. Stir till the moisture dries out. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

  • Sauce:

Grind together all the sauce ingredients except for the yogurt and lemon juice. Add a tablespoon of water to loosen the mixture and help the grinding process. Taste and adjust the salt.  Add the lemon. Mix atleast 2-3 tablespoons of the green chutney to the yogurt give it a good stir. Refrigerate the remaining chutney and use it as a dip or spread.

  • Assembly:

Place 3 tablesppoons of filling on the pancake. Spoon some sauce on the filling. Fold into half or roll it up.

 Use the left over sauce for dipping.