My canvas for food, photography and life.....

I believe that there is a deep association between food and memories.. every recipe has a story behind it...some long..some short....
So grab a cup of coffee, pull a chair and enjoy the little stories that I share with you.....some with recipes.....some without ....

A wonderful poet once said "The universe is not made of atoms ; it's made of stories"... And I couldn't agree more.....

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet Steamed Modaks

So here goes... the sweet steamed modaks for the Ganesh festival .... not bad huh? Modaks are basically sweet steamed dumplings with the outer covering made of rice flour and the filling inside made of coconut, jaggery, saffron and elaichi essence. And I couldn't stop myself from adding my ever favourite cinnamon to make them my own. This is the first time I ate modaks with a different level of consciousness :) Ofcourse who wouldn't after toiling over them till late night!! :) But I loved every bit of it. Once you get a hang of it. You get into the flow of it...and it becomes effortless. 

Let me admit though that modak making is not something that is very new to me. It was a ritual that I have been a part of since childhood. The festival was celebrated at my mother's side of the family and on the morning of the Ganesh Chaturthi day all the women of the family, my mother's sisters and sister in laws and my cousins and my sister-in-laws would sit around in a big circle on the ground with the rice dough and the coconut filling in the middle and happily chat away while merrily making the modaks together. We little girls (at that time :)) were also given a bit of dough and some filling to try our hands at . But it was more of just a play dough thing for me.. not to be taken too seriously.. But our far from perfect attempts were also highly appreciated. One person was assigned the task of steaming them and would take them back and forth in the kitchen and steam them. Only after all the modaks were done..the prayers would begin..  followed by an elaborate traditional lunch.. The menu was fixed and it tasted super yummy especially on that day. This continued every single year and  this predictability gave a great sense of warmth and comfort to all of us....My mother was the youngest of all her siblings and had a special place in everyone's heart. And she was always super excited about this day and her absence gets amplified to the highest possible degree on this occasion especially at that place. Incidentally, it is also her birthday today...followed by my father's birthday after a gap of a day. It used to be a big birthday week for both sides of our family. How many things can a person keep running away from? Sometimes your own subconscious mind just has enough of being lost and smacks you awake.. and you wonder, what just happened? and you slowly begin to see everything with new eyes....

They say... Lord Ganesha is the lord of new beginnings.. and I am glad that guided by my little angel.. I could take a fresh canvas this year and create a new picture for him....... :)

 Ingredients (Makes about 20):
500 gms rice flour
2 and 1/2 cups water
2 cups grated fresh coconut
1/2 cup jaggery
2 tsp saffron and elaichi essence
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp water mixed with 2 tsp oil
Recipe :
For the dough :
1. Heat 2 and 1/2 cups water.
2. Put the rice dough in a large mixing bowl and mix the hot water in it slowly.
3. Gently mix and knead the dough to a rolling consistency. Add more water if required.
For the Filling
1. Take a wok and mix together coconut, jaggery, cinnamon powder and the saffron and elaichi essence.
2. Turn on the gas and roast this for about 15 minutes. There is no need to add any oil or ghee. The jaggery will slowly melt and make the mixture a bit moist. Turn off the gas and let this cool to room temperature. You can make it 3-4 days in advance and store in the refrigerator.
For assembling :
1.Make small balls of the rice dough and roll them in small circles. Put the filling inside and shape them into the modaks either by hand or by the moulds. While doing this you can use the water and oil mixture to moist your hands and the mould.
2. Steam these in a steamer for about 6-8 minutes and serve hot with ghee.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hot and Sour Mushroom Noodle Soup, Chilled Pickled Cucumbers and Preparing for the Coming Festivities....

There are some posts when there is nothing much to be written about the dish at hand.....the pictures do all the talking. This one feels like that.... Who needs an explanation on hot and sour soup?..I just loaded it with lots of mushrooms and added some noodles in it to make it more filling. Another regular in my refrigerator are these pickled chilled cucumbers. Peeled and cut cucumbers simply marinating in a sour and sweet chilled water. Really refreshing and very satisfying with some store bought schezwan sauce. Every time you want to snack on something these yummy chilled cucumbers can be really filling.

Preparing for Ganpati Bappa's Birthday : So I was having this piping hot soup and making a list of things that I need to get organised for the celebrations coming this Monday. What's on this Monday? It is Ganpati Bappa's birthday as my son puts it and innocently questioned me about our plans to celebrate it.. That got me thinking..Why not? I have never been into idol worship (except at some vulnerable points in my life) but I have some really wonderful memories of this festival from my childhood. It is one of the important Maharashtrian festivals and has been an important part of my growing annual reminder of my "roots" so to speak. So I thought it would be a great way to create some happy memories for him too and a great way to share it with all our near and dear ones. My Dad would have been highly amused by this endeavour of mine and would probably be smiling right now..:) Ironically he and this festival never meant anything to each other. It was always celebrated at my mother's side of the family and she was highly involved in it. And so I don't want to forget the purpose of this festival and I don't want to get into the rigid fixations of traditions...Its not about the correctness of rituals... It's all about creating happy memories and getting together with friends (who actually are the extended family for us nowadays) with some bit of traditional clothes and food added in this time.. ;) and probably a great opportunity to make some modaks and the lovely project of doing up the place for Bappa to keep in. My son is highly excited by all this..and excited about having all his friends over .. That's what its all about... isn't it??

Sometimes I think.... these little kids are so in tune with their needs and desires and even their bodies. It's really not funny. There are times when they will come up to you on their own and declare..  I think my body needs to eat some kind of fruit now. Everything needs to be explained with full explanations and conviction. There is no room for discrepancies. They'll catch you on that. Sometimes there will even be questions and suggestions like.. In which book did you read that, Maa? Maybe you should read some other book....It may tell you different things!! . And it leaves you completely flabbergasted. And all this is in a very innocent vein and not an ounce of cockiness in the tone... Most of these little ones are really bright, extremely vocal and have a mind of their own. Absolutely technologically friendly since the day they could sit and just tap their fingers happily on the Ipads. I am blessed to be living in a huge wonderful complex, a great place to raise children and has hoards of growing kids of all ages. It's really fun to watch these little ones interact with each other. If one observes properly, all they need is a bit of guidance and creativity in directing their high energies in a constructive way. Each one is unique and gifted in their own way.. Feeding the brains of these little ones and keeping them occupied is the biggest challenge we all face. I don't want to get into any colour coding and labelling but it is important to be aware and appreciate as parents what's been given on our plates and what have we actually signed up for at this point in time... And if our own understanding of this world we live in doesn't evolve spiritually ... we won't be able to do justice to these wise souls on whom the future depends on... Profound right?? :) It truly is... :) 
(Very soon I think I will have to move on to another blog or something to pen down all these thoughts which consume my mind..till then read on....) the behest of my 4 year old son, for the first time we will be celebrating the festival with all our friends and I will try my hand at some modak making. Will post that recipe if all goes well..:) Till then enjoy some piping hot soup and chilled pickled cucumber...

Hot and Sour Mushroon Noodle Soup :

Ingredients :
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp finely choppped ginger
1 tsp chilli garlic paste
1 packet white button mushrooms
1 sliced capsicum
1/2 cup hakka noodles
1 tsp soya sauce
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 cups water

Recipe :
1. Take a wok and put oil in it. Add garlic and ginger and saute.
2. Add chilli garlic paste, mushrooms and capsicum..
3. Add water, soya sauce, vinegar, red chilli powder, sagar, salt and let it all boil.
4. Then add the noodles and simmer for 15- 20 minutes.
5. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if required.

Pickled Cucumber :
Ingredients :
3-4 cucumbers
1 cup water
1 and 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vinegar
1 star anise (optional)

Recipe :
1. Peeled and slice the cucumber in wedges.
2. In a bowl mix water, sugar, salt, vinegar and star anise.
3. Mix cucumber in this water and chill for atleast a couple of hours till it gets marinated and serve.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Savoury Sabudana (Sago) Khichdi

"I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think" - Rumi
That is exactly the reason that I write this blog. It is just my way of singing my song...just for the pure joy of it... To me, it is important to keep some parts of my life like that...just pure sacred.. not subject to anyone's judgement. So I really don't want to give a thought to how simple or humble any recipe is or how many times it has been written before. If it makes me sing and I want to sing its delicious song, then I pen it down. This is one of my favourites and I want its presence here. So here goes.... :)
Sabudana Khichdi is a savoury dish made of Sago pearls and is a very famous Maharashtrian  recipe with cumin seeds, green chillies, boiled potatoes and crushed peanuts usually had on fasting days. Me and fasting just don't go together so I make it whenever I feel like having it. You can have it with a squeeze of lime or accompanied with a cucumber relish or some grated fresh coconut on top. Its yummy either ways. Growing up, I never realized that Sago is available in so many parts of the world so it was my utter delight to find it in the supermarkets everywhere. I was totally delighted that I could make it anywhere I wanted. :) I was also surprised to find that outside of India, Sago is mostly prepared in the form of sweets and desserts such as puddings but in Maharashtra, which is in the western part of India, the savoury versions are more popular than the sweet ones...the most famous being this khichdi (which is more like a stir fry), vadas (big round fritters) and kheers (sweet porridge).  The ingredients in this particular recipe are really simple and easy to find in any part of the world. Do try it out.. You'll love it!! :)
This particular dish reminds me of the wonderful student years that I spent in Pune for my post graduation. We would ride our scooties fearlessly(sometimes even in our cobalt blue sarees!) and go to KNP and have cheap breakfast of pohe and this yummy khichdi and then top with extra sweet ginger tea. Gosh! I could dedicate a whole blog to that and as clichéd as it may sound.. those really were the best days ever!! The student spirit somehow keeps me going and I never want to let it go.... We hardly had any money those days, had such idealistic dreams..:), such amazing friends and such lovely conversations at the chai tapri at such ungodly hours with endless possibilities of what lay ahead of us. And thanks to all the social networks and phone apps (and I mean it in a good way) we now can see how it all turned out for all of us.. how adorable all our kids look like..... what we cooked for dinner.. and whom we fought with today.. and  review the movie we saw tonite :) Really!! :) Who would have imagined that when we said such tearful goodbyes to each other?? Seriously!!
So to relive the nostalgia...cook up the khichdi and don't forget to top it up with extra sweet ginger tea.....boiled to death till the darkest brown shade possible.. Njoy!!
Ingredients :
250 gms Sabudana (Sago pearls)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp finely cut green chillies
1 softly boiled potato, chopped in cubes
3 tsp crushed peanuts
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1 tsp ghee (vegetable oil)
1 tsp chopped coriander for garnish
Recipe :
1. Soak the sago pearls in water overnight. The quantity of water should be about two horizontal fingers higher than the sago level. The Sago pearls will soak up all the water and become soft and fluffy overnight.
2. Take a wok and add ghee or oil, cumin seeds, chopped green chillies and boiled potato cubes.
3. Add the soaked Sago pearls and stir well.
4. Add salt, sugar and crushed peanuts and again stir well.
5. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes till the sago is completely cooked. Garnish with chopped coriander.
6. Serve it either with lemon, fresh grated coconut or a cucumber relish (chopped cucumber mixed with curd)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Ragi Flour!

"Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast " - I don't know who said this.. really :) I just read it once somewhere :)

So we are back to baking.... After all the heavy duty stuff out of the way some sort of "normalcy" is settling in and I may not really want to or have to say anything today but these muffins needed to get out.....So its only about the muffins today....

Ever since my baby was born my food inspirations mainly come from what I like to feed him. So these delicious looking and tasting (if I can say that myself.. :)) muffins have many hidden ingredients which otherwise won't enter his system. These are mainly made of bananas, ragi flour (millet flour ; nachni flour), wholewheat flour (regular wheat flour), clarified ghee (instead of salted butter), crushed hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Yeah... Ragi muffins!...and they taste great too.. my son happily gobbles up one whole one without any questions.. that's where the chocolate chips help :). His doc still tells me that he needs to weigh a bit more compared to his ever growing height and I'm thinking.. What?? He looks just fine to me! He rarely falls sick, has a good appetite, has amazing energy levels and is such a happy child. I don't want to make him fat unnecessarily!!.. He'll curse me when he enters his teens or much before that nowadays... So anyways.. I am always into mixing various multi grain flours into his chapatis, parathas, quiches.. wherever I can.. and nowadays reluctantly with an extra tiny dollop of ghee. So, I decided to try making these with mixed flours and ghee and it really works! I usually try a small batch first to check the taste and how it is all going to bind together and then go ahead with it. Try and use overripe bananas with the skin turning slightly black. These are really mushy and sweet so you don't have to add a lot of sugar. As for the hazelnuts part, you can easily substitute them with walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pecans.. whatever you may like. I really find it difficult to stick to a particular recipe as I tend to go with the flow and change it every time with whatever is available with me at that point....

Simplistically put, the thing about muffins and cupcakes is that while making muffins,  pour the batter till the paper cup is almost full so that they get a good height called the "muffin top" and rise above the paper cups. That's the cute part.. each muffin will rise a bit differently than the other. And since cupcakes are mostly iced/frosted later, pour the batter only till the paper cups are 3/4th full so that they rise just to the level of the cup and the right height can be achieved with the frosting later. And as they say if you throw a cupcake against the wall it will make a small "poof" sound whereas a muffin will make a big "thud".. Now we know...

As a mommy, I find these particularly helpful for a quick breakfast or a snack or especially helpful while travelling. You know what's in you are more than happy to see them being gobbled up. This particular recipe is eggless.. so my vegan friends can be happy..... The little guy anyways has his daily share of scrambled eggs, omelettes and I didn't feel the need to add the eggs here again....

If you are in Mumbai and wondering where I picked up these paper cups from.. They are from Arife which now has opened up at various places across the city. It was my greatest joy when they opened up in my neighbourhood. They keep getting new stock on and off, so pick up if you really like something, they may not have the exact same ones the next time...

Here goes the recipe......

Ingredients (Makes about 4 regular sized muffins):

1 cup ragi flour
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
3 tsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 mashed bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
4 tsp sugar
1/4th cup milk
1/4 th chocolate chips
1/4th cup crushed hazelnuts

Recipe :

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.
2. In a mixing bowl mash the bananas.
3. Add sugar, cinnamon, ghee and half of chocolate chips to this mixture.
4. Take a sieve and sift in all the flours and baking powder and baking soda in this mixture.
5. Add the milk and mix the batter well with a hand whisk.
6. Line the cupcake/muffin pan with muffin paper cups.
7. Pour in the batter till nearly full.
8. Top them up with the remaining chocolate chips and crushed hazelnuts.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven till they are done and rest on a wire rack.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Warm Baked Almond Cherry Clafoutis

Don't get intimidated by the fancy name. Basically a Cherry Almond Clafoutis is  an almond based flourless cake base topped with sweetened (macerated) fresh cherries. The other day I saw some beautiful fresh cherries at the my fruit vendor and couldn't resist buying loads of them. So I was looking up various recipes for cherries and came across this one which I really liked. My baby just never eats almonds in any form so I thought this was a great way to get some almonds into his system without him resisting them. The base is simply a mixture of almonds, eggs, cinnamon and sugar... almost like the frangipane filling. And the cherries are macerated with some sugar for a couple of hours or overnight. So these little babies add a great punch of flavour to the base. Its really very easy to whisk up and is super yummy. A great find for my personal collection of  rustic fruit desserts.

 My son loved the sweetened cherries and the almond clafoutis and I am a satisfied mother having found a solution to feed almond meal to him. Now that's a win win solution.. If you find yourself in my shoes.. try this one out..

Ingredients :

For macerating the cherries :
1/2 cup pitted fresh cherries
3tsp sugar

For the base :
1 cup almonds
3 tsp all purpose flour
1/4th cup sugar
1 whole egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 th cup milk
2 tsp melted butter

Recipe :
1. Macerate the pitted fresh cherries with sugar for atleast two hours or best overnight
2. Take a mixer and grind the unpeeled almonds into a  powder.
3. Remove in a mixing bowl and add flour, sugar, whisked egg, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, milk and melted butter.
4. Now take a baking dish and pour the base mixture into it.
5. Top the mixture with the cherries
6. Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Ultimate Comfort Food.............

No food memoir of mine can ever be complete without this delicious Maharashtrian recipe. This is just how my Mamma used to make it for us when we were kids (I can already hear my sister sighing!!). Valache Birdhe is made of flat sprouted beans called val in Marathi available in the interior region of Maharashtra. But you can easily find them in the local shops in Mumbai. I am not sure of the English word for it  because I have never come across any recipe anywhere which mentions them...Small white sprouted lima beans is probably the closest substitute that I can think of. If I had ever have to choose my last meal.. this would be it.. the yummy tangy, sweet and spicy Valache Birdhe with soft steamed white rice and a wedge of lemon. For that matter, I think any person, anywhere on this planet, no matter how well travelled they are, will always crave for the simple homemade meal that their mother would make for them. Every Maharashtrian family has their own version of this dish. So this one is my Mamma's. You have to taste it to believe how delicious it is. My Dad being the foodie that he was, was very particular about this exact orange colour and the balance between sweet, tangy and spicy  :) If we ever had this at somebody else's place.. he would always come back and tell us that.. the colour wasn't wasn't like Mamma' him, my Mamma was the ultimate cook...  

Ingredients :
250 gms peeled sprouted val
8-10 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp jaggery or sugar
1 tsp tamarind pulp
1 cup thick extract of coconut milk
1 tsp oil
salt as per taste
coriander for garnishing
Recipe :
1. Make a fine paste by grinding garlic and cumin seeds together.
2. Take a cooking pot and put some oil in it. Then add this garlic and cumin paste and finely chopped onions and sauté for a couple of minutes.
3. Then add the sprouted beans to this and mix well.
4. Now add all the other ingredients one by one...Add the red chilly powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder and mix well.
5. Now add the jaggery and tamarind pulp and mix well.
6. Let this cook for about 20 minutes or till the beans are well cooked.
7. Add the coconut milk and salt and cook for further 5 minutes till its done.
8. Garnish will chopped coriander


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Wholewheat Waffles with Mangoes and Berries


 My baby loves to eat waffles, not only eating them but also making them. Even when he was in diapers, he would sit down in the kitchen with a big mixing bowl and loved being involved in the whole activity. Whisking eggs, sifting flour and making a big gooey mess in the process and that would really thrill him and he still continues to do so. So its not me alone who made these waffles but he helped me too. Last year my sandwich maker gave way, that's when I found this awesome model which has detachable sandwich, waffle and panini grilling plates. So I didn't have to buy a waffle iron separately. Anyways somehow the space in the kitchen just never seems enough and everytime I even glance at the crockery section my hubby quickly reminds me of it.. :) 
We all love to eat hot waffles at home. So I make this healthier version with wholewheat flour so I don't have to feel guilty. And you can always get creative with your own favourite toppings. I like mine topped with apple sauce and caramelised apples. My son enjoys his with maple syrup, mangoes and chocolate sauce. My hubby really is such a gentle and a kind soul..he never has any specific food preferences and is always happy with whatever is presented in front of him as long as it is healthy.
So, here goes the recipe...............


Ingredients :
(Makes 6 waffles)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1and 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs ( separated)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
Recipe :
1. Turn on your waffle iron for heating.
2. Put the egg whites in a separate bowl and beat them till stiff.
3. In a bowl mix together sieved whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon powder.
4. In another bowl whip together egg yolks, butter, milk and vanilla essence.
5.Add the dry ingredients in the wet and mix properly. Then fold in the egg whites in to mixture gently.
6. Ladle the batter into the pre heated iron and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes till they turn crispy and golden brown.
7. Top them with your favourite fruits, maple syrup, chocolate syrup, whipped cream or whatever you like.