Sunday, 29 November 2009

Eggless Apple & Walnut Cake

When I went through my blog recently, I saw that I have baked quite a few eggless fruit cakes. And by fruit cakes I mean I have used fresh fruits.

Baking has been a challenge for me ... always. It goes against my experimentive nature. I love to play with stuff ... go beyond rigidity. So going by exact measures, exact proportions, exact temperatures .... nah ... is not for me. And to make things worse ... I hate reading or following cook books. I just don't have the patience.

Besides, I do not like anybody telling me what to do ... even if it is a cookbook. :-)

But then ... I love to eat cakes. And to bake them too. So I started baking them. Perfected my Coffee Cake .... the family's favourite now.

Mustered the courage and baked Eggless Coffee Cake too. Successfully.

And then started with fruits. The Eggless Pineapple cake was a huge first time success. So was the Eggless Mango Cake. I baked an Eggless Banana cake too.

I was on a roll. No complex recipes ... as with all my other recipes. I loved the smell of the fruit in the cakes ... which is why I never tried to use eggs in them ... and consequently did not need any vanilla essence. Loved every one of them.

This time there were a few apples in the fridge. This was the first time I tried making an Eggless Apple Cake. Had some walnuts at hand ... so chopped them up and added to the batter. And purposely kept the apple's age old partner ... the cinnamon ... away.

If you want the complete recipe, just go to the other fruit cakes that I have mentioned here ... and substitute the used fruit with pureed apple. And use Apple juice in place of the used liquid.

But there were some minor accidents while making it ... so the results were slightly different from the usual other cakes.
No ... do not get me wrong. It tasted heavenly. But I am writing down the mistakes more for myself than for the log of the recipe.

Firstly .... I eyeballed ... as usual. But overconfidence does not always work.

Then, the cup of vegetable oil I was using slipped from my hands .... resulting in too much of oil for too little flour. So the cake turned out a little too moist.

Next, I measured the sugar only after grinding it. Baaaaaad idea .... where was my mind? The cake turned out to be toooo sweet. But a plus .... the crust was very crisp. You win some, you lose some.

And used a tablespoon for measuring the baking powder. Result .... a cracked cake. I know ... I should be the one who should be called that. :-p

And last, but not the least ... I added vanilla essence.
So what? So this.
Every bite tasted awesome! But only till you asked "Guess the flavour?".
It was somewhere between mango / chocolate ( I guess the crispy crust ) / what not ... anything but apple or vanilla.

So there folks ... am convinced that am going bonkers. So decided to give myself a break. The cake was just as awesome as the snaps are ... believe me. But I guess I was just plain lucky.

But if I try anything new again, am positive I'll ruin something far more important than the cake. ;-)

So am taking a break. I promise to return with some great but simple recipes again .... soon. Maybe by Christmas .... or early next year.

Till then ... I'll have some fun, family, friends and of course food time for myself !! :-)
Even if it is not a 'Summer holiday' .... I still feel like singing " no more cooking for a week or two ...". :-)

Take care all !! :-)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Stir Fried Vegetables

"Trim?" The lady smiles and asks.
"Cut." I smile and answer.
And know exactly what is coming.
She tries to hide the smirk on her face. Tries to keep a straight face and asks "Around half or one inch?".
I smile again and indicate somewhere on my upper arm. And wait, knowing what will come next.

But this lady is patient. Maybe she guesses I don't know even how much an inch is after all.
So she holds the ends of my tresses between her fingers to around an inch and holds them up in front of my nose.
"This much?" I can get that tone in her voice.
"No." I smile back. "This much". I point to my upper arm ... again.

And did not have to wait for long. She gasped. " This much?!!!".
I nod ... still smiling.
She looks horrified. "But how can you cut such long hair?! Girls would happily die to have such long hair!".
I did not have the inclination to tell her that beautiful tresses won't be of much use if you are already dead.

So I hold my tongue. And assure her they grow back very fast. She had nothing to worry ... I'll be back to meet her in three months again.
She still looked unsure. And I prayed.

I prayed that someday this ordeal will come to an end. Both for me and for those nice souls who feel so guilty everytime they have to chop off my long hair.

But that is the story. I have tried visiting different places where I might find people who would happily chop of my hair without feeling scandalised or as if I am asking them to cut my head instead of my hair.

I have even tried to befriend the Chinese lady D in our society ... invited her and her dog over to tea ... ok ... I invited her and she got the dog.

Hasn't helped. Only made her more caring after that.

And I so miss our childhood no nonsense barber who used to come over to our house. After Dadu ( grandad ) and all my uncles would get their job done, it was the turn of a long line of squirming, giggling and jostling grandchildren ... most of them girls.

Moina, the barber, would bring out his special big sized scissors that he kept for us, babu ghoro chua ( children of the big house ). He couldn't tackle the straight & adamant thick tresses of us kids otherwise. After snipping the scissors menacingly in the air a couple of times, he would reach out to grab one child after the other by the scruff and snip off in no time.

Which made me ask the other half sometime back " Will you take me to your barber the next time you go for a haircut?".
And have recently noticed that he has been getting his haircut on his way back from the office. Sigh! :-(

My recipe today is a simple stir fry of vegetables. I do not like to eat cold salads for a few reasons. The first being I do not like to eat anything cold. Food has to be piping hot for me when served.

Secondly, I do not like boiled vegetables ... so steaming or boiling and then munching on flavourless stuff is not for me.

And to make them tasty I have go overboard and dunk in bottled dressings that is best not eaten regularly.

So I stir fry. Just throw in the veggies of my choice in a little oil and toss them around. And use whatever flavour of seasoning fancies me. And love to much on the steaming hot yet crunchy veggies. :-)

This stir fry has no special seasoning except freshly ground black pepper. And instead of lemon juice or vinegar, I have thrown in some fresh tomatoes ... they gave whatever little tang was needed.

So dear Rush, here's your stir fry. :-)

Need : Vegetables of your choice cut into smallish cubes .... just make sure they are of the same size for uniform cooking,
finely chopped garlic, onion cut into big cubes ( check out the snaps for the exact sizes ),
freshly ground black pepper,
a little cooking oil ( olive or vegetable oil ) , salt and sugar to taste.

You can use butter if you want to ... it makes the dish wonderfully flavourful.

How to : Heat a little oil in a non stick or heavy bottomed pan. On low heat add the garlic. Wait for a while ... do not fry for long.

Increase heat and add the onions and the rest of the vegetables. Keep tossing and stirring on high heat.

Add salt and sugar and keep tossing ... they will cook in their own juices.

If you want to you can cover it for a while .... just make sure you lower the heat .... and the veggies don't turn soggy or burn.

Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

This makes a great meal as is. Or you can combine it with some bread and soup too.

I served it with some fried chicken meatballs on the side ( I made them for the next recipe coming up ).

Enjoy all !! :-)

Other Stir Fries

Stir Fried Macaroni with Roasted Vegetables & Chicken

Stir Fried Chicken with Vegetables

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Lal Shaak diye Moong Dal / Red Spinach cooked with lentils

This is a very simple dish that I tossed up with some Red spinach leaves or Amaranth leaves lying about in my kitchen for a while now. I often make these leaves or Lal shaak, as it is known as in Bengali, the usual way ... cook it in a little mustard oil with crushed garlic and whole dry red chillies. And love it with rice.

But just after soaking the leaves in water this time, I realised I haven't cooked rice. It was not even on the menu for the day. I can't eat certain things with rotis ... and leafy veggies are one of them.

Then I saw the moong dal I had soaked earlier ... for a different thing altogether. Used that with the leaves and came up with this wonderful dryish dish . :-)

Without too many ingredients , it was quick to cook and was great as a side dish.

Need : Red spinach leaves ... cleaned and chopped, yellow moong dal / dehusked moong or mung lentils , sliced onions, sliced garlic, jeera / cumin seeds, haldi / turmeric powder, a little red chilli powder, lemon juice, salt to taste, cooking oil.

How to : Soak the moong dal ... the longer, the better. Ok ... say for around 2 - 3 hours.

Heat a little oil in a pan / kadahi / wok. Add the jeera and then the sliced onion and garlic together. Fry for a while ... do not brown.

Add the chopped leaves. Add a little salt .... very little ... just so the leaves leave water and cook well. Fry well till the leaves are well cooked and there's no raw smell.

Drain the dal from the water and add it to the cooked leaves. Add haldi, chilli powder, salt and stir well.
( Remember you have already added a little salt earlier ) .

Add a little water .... just so it skims the surface of the dal, cover and cook for a while.

Remember to remove cover and check that it does not burn. If needed add a little water from time to time.

Cook till dal is well done. It should not be mushy ... yet will break easily when held between the fingers.

Turn off heat and add some lemon juice.

Serve hot ... goes great with both rice and rotis or parathas. Do give this try folks !

Am signing off on a wistful note ... I so wish the lurkers would delurk. How much does it take to leave a line after all?

Take care all !! :-)

More recipes with the Moong Dal

Moong Dal Kachori

Moong Dal Halwa

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Spicy Soya Chunks / Nuggets Curry

As I write this, the weather outside is a far cry from these sunny snaps I took this weekend. It has been raining non stop for the last 32 or more hours ... a steady downpour that shows no signs of weakening.

It started with a cloud build up that sent the city's humidity levels soaring. As we are on a higher floor and there is a lot of greenery around, we are used to feeling the clouds and the dampness of very fine droplets if we are on our balcony when they pass right through.
{ This is not fog or rain ... it's a cloud covering. }

And then the rains started. All through the days and nights. And it is raining still.

It has been declared as cyclonic weather. I looked out to confirm. The branches were moving ... say at the most at a 35 degrees ... ok maybe 45 degrees ... angle. Bah. :-

Anybody who has grown up in Orissa or West Bengal ... or for that matter on any coast knows very well what a cyclone is. Here there is not even a normal wild, windy wind.

Still ... I can see the rain pelting down. And take heart. My knitting will not go get burried yet again ... unused. ;-)

It is real cold now and it has already been 3 hot cuppas for me. I so wanted to bake some Onion Crackers ... but there has been frequent power failures ... and my oven does not run on UPS.

So right now am balancing preferences between a quilt+ a book or knitting. Maybe some spicy hot Beguni later. :-)

Coming to my recipe today, anybody who is a frequent here knows how little masalas or onion+ginger+garlic paste I use for my dishes. But once in a while I do make that paste ... and come up with some spicy stuff ... usually chicken or fish.

This time I wanted to make Soya chunks / nuggets. Many people do not like soya chunks ... pure vegetarians for that spongy meat like texture and some non vegetarians for that distinct smell a soya nugget usually has.

The other half falls in both categories. But I had decided not to give up converting him just yet. So this time I tried to add some of my own ideas while cooking these nuggets.
And the curry came out so well.

If you are one of those who hesitate to try out the soya nugget dishes, try this version of mine.

The procedure may look very long ... but it does not take too much time to make this. :-)

Need : Soya Chunks or nuggets ( I used Nutrela's) , chopped garlic,
whole or unbroken garam masalas ( some laung /cloves, some choti elaichi / green cardamom, 1 or 2 tej patta / bay leaves ) , kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves, sliced onions,
onion paste, ginger paste, garlic paste ... in the ratio of 2:1:1 ,
haldi / turmeric powder, tomato puree,
red chilli powder, garam masala powder, enough water, a little juice of lemon,
a little ghee / clarified butter, a little cooking oil, salt and sugar to taste.

How to : Soak the Soya chunks in enough water for around 5 hours. If you plan to make this for dinner then soak them in the morning.

Squeeze out the water well from the chunks ... use your hands ... they are the best tools.

Take enough water in a big deep pan. Add the soya chunks, the whole garam masalas, the chopped garlic and salt. Cover and boil for a round half an hour ... or till the soya chunks are very well cooked.
I made up this step as it ensures the soya chunks get rid of their distinct smell.

Alternatively you can do this in a pressure cooker ... it will be faster and the chunks cook really well.

Drain the chunks in a soup strainer ... that way you get to retain the garam masalas and garlic.
Cool and again squeeze out the water well.

Shred the chunks with your hands ... they should break into little pieces. I did this step so that they soak up the gravy well. And lose that chewy feel in a bite.

Heat a little ghee in a heavy wok or a non stick vessel.
Add the shredded soya chunks and fry them well for sometime. Remove and keep aside.

In the same pan, heat some cooking oil. Add the sliced onions and fry well till they lose the raw smell.

Now add the onion paste and fry for some time. Then add the ginger and garlic pastes and keep frying till they lose the raw smell.

Crush the kasuri methi and add now.
Add tumeric, red chilli powder and keep stirring on high heat for around a minute.

Add the tomato puree and keep stirring till it is cooked and mixes well.

Lower heat, add the soya chunks and mix well.
Add enough water to cover the chunks ( remember ... the chunks will soak up water ... so add according to your desired amount of gravy ).

Adjust salt and sugar ( just a little for taste ).
Cover the pan and let it simmer for sometime on low heat ... or till you get the desired amount of gravy.

After a while remove cover , sprinkle some powdered garam masala and lemon juice. Keep it covered till serving time.

The chunks were very soft in the end ... did not have that chewy texture at all. :-)
Serve hot. Goes great with hot rotis or parathas (Indian flat breads).

Enjoy all !!

PS : Btw .. I had some spicy Jhaal muri / Masala muri with hot ginger tea for ... hold your breath ... dinner ... last night.
What? Didn't I tell you about the weather just ?! ;-)

Other recipes with onion+ginger+garlic paste masala :
Masala Chicken
Crispy Chole / Crispy Fried Chickpeas
Kosha Dim
Easy Paneer Butter Masala

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Stir Fried Chicken with Vegetables

( Vegetarians & Vegans can use Paneer / Tofu / Cauliflower and continue with the rest of the recipe including the marination).

Too much of anything is bad ... very bad. And right now there's too much of everything in my life ... and I am not liking it one bit.

Too much of cooking ... thanks to man of the house who has to eat homemade food ... my time in the kitchen has increased to ... say ... forever.
And as a consolation prize I sometimes get to order a burger and fries from Makdu ... ok ok ... McD .... if I want to eat out. Sigh. :-(

Too much work ... thanks to the pending stuff from the past two and a half months.

Too many books to finish reading ( my Puja Shonkhya ( annual Bengali literature dose ) collection is waiting patiently.

A knitting that's crawling towards halfway ... with the fervent hope that we will see at least a little cold this winter.

And at times ... too much of everything.

My mind, body, heart and soul have been crying out for a break. The man has been promising a vacation ... for a longish time now.
Knowing him ... and the dedicated procrastinator that he is ... I see no light or no immediate end.

So am back to my blogging. At least the good souls who visit here listen to my woes without complaining.

Coming to my recipe ....

Right now there has been an overdose of chicken in my life .... but it is better than having just vegetables.

And this time, after I've finished all the good portions (with bones ), I was left with the fleshy parts of the chicken breasts and thighs. I do not like the much fleshy and fibrous parts too much ... so had put them into the freezer for emergency times ... like when I have to make do with only vegetables ... I turn to them.

This recipe is real fast ... like my almost all other recipes. And healthy too. You need not even have to keep the chicken marinated for long ... all the time that is needed is to cut and get everything ready. And this dish is done in minutes.

You can use boneless cubes of chicken too. I have just sliced up the biggish pieces.

Need :
For the chicken : Boneless chicken pieces ( around 10 - 12 pieces ), 3 tbsp white vinegar , 4 garlic pods grated, 3 tbsp maida / APF, 2 tbsp cornflour, salt and sugar, a little cooking oil.

For the vegetables : Vegetables cut lengthwise ( I had only carrots and beans ... you can use any veggie you want to ),
onions thickly sliced ( I used chopped ones as I realised I had run out of onions after chopping up last one for another dish),
chopped green chillies, chopped garlic, dried herbs ( I used thyme ), salt to taste, cooking oil.

How to :
For the chicken : Mix everything together ... also add a little cooking oil to it. Keep aside for around half an hour.

Heat a little oil in a pan. Wait till it is hot enough ... and then add the chicken pieces one by one. Keep on high heat and toss well ( you will need a cover to shield yourself ... it splutters real bad).
Here I got a wonderful aroma and knew I was on the right track. :-)

Lower heat and cover and cook for around two minutes. Do not overcook ... the chicken will turn rubbery and hard.
Remove and keep aside.

Of course ... you can stop at this point and start chomping on them ... they are perfect chicken pakodas ... without the deep frying. :-)

In another pan or wok heat a little oil. Add the onions and garlic and green chillies and fry well.

Then add the vegetables on high heat and keep tossing.
Add salt and the herbs and keep tossing. The vegetables should stay crunchy.

Remove to a serving plate. Arrange the chicken pieces with it and serve hot.

You can also mix the two in a pan and toss them together.

This is great as a dish by itself. Or you can have it with fresh bread or warm rice too.

Enjoy folks!! I hope to be more regular here. Till then ... take care all! :-)

Other Stir Fries on Kichu Khon :
Stir Fried Macaroni with Roasted Vegetables & Chicken
Lau Khosa Bhaja / Stir Fried strips of Bottle Gourd Peels