Cabbage payasam

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Sometimes we explore the resources we already have only in times of need. That’s how I stumbled on this recipe. A friend of mine asked me an idea for an innovative or fusion payasam for a small cooking contest she was participating in. I immediately turned to my Blogging Marathon friends and the suggestions poured in. They suggested boondi kheer, chocolate payasam, cake payasam, gnocchi payasam (potato dumplings), gulab jamun payasam, cauliflower payasam, paneer payasam and many more. These ideas are really worth exploring if you are innovative enough.

I browsed through my reliable Vasantha Moorthy’s Vegetarian Menu Book. and found this recipe for Cabbage rabdi there. So along with my friends suggestions, I mentioned the Cabbage payasam as well to my friend. A bit of online search told me that this recipe was already tried by Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen. So with two sources to fall on, my friend zeroed in on the cabbage payasam. We did a trial run and our families loved it…..until we told them that there was cabbage in it (rolling my eyes here!). There was exclamations and facial expression changes when we mentioned the cabbage part :D.

But the thing is, her payasam won the contest !! My friend had mentioned the presence of cabbage to only one of the judges to rule out any allergies, but otherwise kept it low key. So everyone tried it with an open mind I guess. The judges were very impressed and surprised when they learnt about the cabbage factor :-).

The only beast about this recipe is cleaning the vessel in which milk was cooking for such a long time. It needs a lot of soaking and scrubbing, but hey, I am not complaining. We got a winner here, you see :-).

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups milk (1 litre)
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • handful of skinned and chopped almonds
  • handful of chopped cashew nuts
  • 1/2 cup cream, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • a few chopped pistachios for garnishing

Method:

  1. This serves 4 people. Use fresh cabbage for this payasam. Boil the milk in a thick pan and add the cabbage. Cook over a slow flame stirring in between until the mixture reduces to 2/3rd the original quantity and thickens well.
  2. Add the chopped almonds and cashews along with sugar. Continue to cook until the mixture is very thick and creamy. The process took more than an hour for me.
  3. Take off the heat and add ground cardamom. Once its cool, you can add the cream, if desired. Garnish with pistachios for some bright color. This tastes best when chilled and served.

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Kerala Green Peas Masala

My Kitchen Trials

Peas_masala-001

Day two of Blogging Marathon 24 and we dine at Balaji Bhavan today. I choose one dish each from their Rice/Noodles section (easy peasy Jeera Pulao), Tandoori Kadai (Side dish- Green Peas Masala) section, Fruit extracts (Lemon Juice & ready made pomegranite juice) and Any timers (Chapati, no kurma – though!).

Now, isn’t this is a hearty meal?

Check out the other marathoners here in Blogging Marathon page.

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Jeera Pulao

Makes : 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • Basmati rice           :       1 cup
  • Ghee                         :       2 tsp
  • Jeera                         :       2 tsp
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Wash and soak the rice for 15-20 minutes. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Heat ghee in a pan, add the jeera seeds. Once it cracks, add the rice, saute for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat.
  3. I usually cook this in a rice cooker. So at this stage, I move the rice to the rice cooker, add salt, two cups of water and cook…

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Banana nutmeg pancakes

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Its a whole lot easier to photograph food than my son. With him, I expect a natural looking smile for an unnaturally long time. He has to hold the pose when I fumble through the various modes and settings. By the time I get it right, his eyes would have a murderous look and the smile would be frozen. So let’s thank God that the pan cakes don’t mind the long wait while I fiddle with my camera.

When it comes to food photography, there are good days and bad days. On a good day, picking the right kind of bowl, the perfect background and the placing of the props are a breeze. The picture is in perfect focus and its just happiness all around. But on some other days, there is no doing things right. For a long time, I blamed it on not having good wooden backgrounds. But then I had the backgrounds and I could still see no improvement in the photos. Then, I knew the answer – cloth napkins, of course! So all my energy was concentrated on buying napkins for a long time….now I have more napkins for the blog than I have clothes for myself. Yet not much improvement when it comes to photography :D.

The thing is, the camera is just a tool. Its the photographer who composes the picture. Unless I practice again and again until I am consistent with the output, its never going to work out….not for all the napkins in the world!!

I was looking at my old posts to re-do the pictures and surprisingly, I find that I am happy with most of them. The pictures aren’t great, but they make me happy. And that’s all that matters.

Well, I haven’t decided yet whether I am quite happy with the pancake pictures or not, but I can tell you for sure that I was happy with the pancakes! 3banana_nutmeg_pancakes

Recipe adapted slightly from: The Perfect recipe for losing weight and eating right

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup corn meal
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups butter milk (or milk + buttermilk in any ratio to get 2 cups of liquid)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla
  • sliced bananas for the top
  • butter for greasing the pan

Method:

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients from flour to ground nutmeg in a big bowl.
  2. Whisk the eggs with oil and vanilla. Add it to the buttermilk (and milk if using).
  3. Pour wet ingredients into the dry flour mix. Use a whisk to mix everything until you don’t see any dry lumps.
  4. Heat a skillet and brush it lightly with butter. Add 3 tablespoons or 1/4 cup batter and carefullty add the sliced bananas carefully on top of each pancake. I prefer to wait for a minute or two for the pancake to set a bit before adding the banana slices. That helps the pancakes not to spread out more because of the slices.
  5. Once the bottom is cooked, flip the pancake and cook until the top turns golden brown. Cook in batches or one at a time. Serve with syrup and fruits.

4banana_nutmeg_pancakes

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Boston Cream Pudding

3Boston Cream Pudding

Puddings have become the standard desserts at my place when we have guests coming over . After making multiple puddings, I can feel the need to switch to the other kinds of desserts. But you cannot beat the ease of making this, especially when cooking for a crowd. So until I actually make the move to other desserts, you guys are going to be bombarded with pudding recipes.

The Boston cream pudding is adapted from Clio Goodman’s book, Puddin’. I felt it was a little short on sweetness. So if I am making it again, I would increase the sugar a little bit. Its a very simple mix of milk and cream cooked with corn starch, sugar and egg yolks until it begins to thicken a bit. The cooking time is somewhere around 10 minutes. Refrigeration time is needed, so its a perfect make ahead recipe. If you are using this as a cake filling, it can be stabilized with gelatin.

Read on for the recipe.

2Boston Cream Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar*
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 egg yolks
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla essence

*I would increase it to 1 cup the next time. I felt this was a little less sweet than it should have been.

Method:

  1. Add all everything except the vanilla extract to a thick saucepan and using a whisk, combine well until no dry lumps remain.
  2. Cook this over medium heat, whisking all the time until the mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. When you raise the whisk from the pudding, it should leave a faint shadow, that’s when the pudding is done. It will thicken further on refrigeration, so its okay even if it looks runny at this stage.
  3. Take off the heat, whisk in the vanilla. Pass through a sieve and transfer it to the serving container and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Press a film of cling wrap on the surface to prevent the ‘skin’. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

1Boston Cream Pudding

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Brownie cake

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Thanks to my overstocked drafts folder, there is a post ready for almost any occasion. All I have to do is to pick and publish the post. The cake here has a good story to tell. Even without a story, its a cool cake – it has two layers of brownies filled with peanut butter pudding between them and frosted all around with a wonderful chocolate buttercream. On second thoughts, I would skip the pudding and the frosting the next time. Because the brownie underneath really doesn’t need anything to enhance it. Its the Hershey’s Best Brownies and it really is the best brownies I have ever had till now.

Coming back to the cake, it was made to celebrate one dozen years of our marriage in November. I never got around publishing the recipe on time. I also never got around making a cake for my blog’s sixth birthday/anniversary which was on March 31st. So my wedding anniversary cake is going to celebrate my blog anniversary as well. I  started the blog as a one year project and I can’t believe I am still actively doing it :-).

My family loves Peanut butter & Nutella sandwiches :D, so my thought for the cake was to fuse those flavors. But I could see that peanut butter in a cake is not everyone’s cup of tea. So I wouldn’t suggest this combination if you are not a fan of it.

The pudding is excellent in taste, but it is extremely rich. So if you are serving it directly as a dessert, I would suggest serving in small quantities. Maybe about 1/4 cup per person. You can always serve a second helping later. The quantity here will have some leftovers after filling the cake.

The recipe for the filling, frosting and the cake is all from cookbooks. The brownie is from one of the Hershey’s cookbooks I have. The frosting is from Joy the Baker’s cookbook (I got it from the library). And the peanut butter pudding is from Clio Goodman’s book, Puddin’. It is the perfect candidate for Cooking from Cookbook Challenge :-). Read on for the recipe.

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Cake : Best Brownies

Decoration on top – The roses are made with ready made fondant using a silicon mold. I used melted chocolate as a glue for the roses. 

Best Buttercream recipe : Joy the Baker I got the recipe from her cookbook, not the site. But it seems to be the same, so I thought of linking it anyway.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup or 1.5 sticks (about 150 gms) butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 2.5 to 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • about 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup chocolate ovaltine

Method:

  1. Cream butter, sifted cocoa powder and salt in a big bowl for a few minutes using a stand or hand mixer.
  2. Add the sugar (2.5 cups first and then if needed, the rest half cup can be added) and mix it in using a rubber spatula. Beat it on low speed using the mixer. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Beat it in high speed until smooth. Stop the mixer in between to scrape the sides of the bowl for even distribution.
  3. Milk cream and ovaltine in a small cup. Pour this into the frosting and beat it again until it reaches creamy consistency.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until the time of use. Bring it to room temperature before using. You might have to beat again using the mixer to get a spreadable consistency. Once the cake is filled with the pudding, frost it using the buttercream. 

Peanut Butter Pudding

  • Whisk together in a thick saucepan – 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, 2 tablespoons corn starch and 6 tablespoons of sugar until everything is combined well.
  • Cook this over medium heat whisking all the time until the mixture starts to thicken – about 8-10 minutes or so. When you raise the whisk from the pudding and it leaves a shadow on the pudding, it is done. Let the pudding cool for 10 minutes. Press a layer of cling wrap on top of the pudding and refrigerate for at least two hours. To stabilize this as a filling for a cake, you can use gelatin if you wish. But I found this to be stable enough to be used as such.

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Chitranna – seasoned rice

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Some books happen to be in your collection even if they belong to others . I am talking about my sister in law’s book (a wedding gift, actually)  Vasantha Moorthy’s Vegetarian Menu Book. I have borrowed it multiple times that I finally just stopped returning it to her. I will have more luck to permanently make it mine if I stop mentioning it so frequently. Now that this book is one of the chosen books for this year’s Cooking from Cookbook Challenge, I will talk more about the recipes in it than about the stealing part.

I tried the recipe for Chitranna from the book. I am not sure about the authenticity of the recipe, since it had sesame seeds, coconut and lemon juice in it. But Chitranna is a generic term for seasoned rice, so I guess people will have different takes on it.  I served it with Vegetable Sagu from the same book, but that recipe is for another day.

I couldn’t take the pictures on the day I prepared the rice. The next day I could click it with some new props. The cute yellow bowl is a gift from Pavani and that beautiful napkin with that perfect shade of yellow is a gift from another friend. Given the fact that I selected it from a shop at the Philadelphia Flower show, held it under his nose and insisted that he buy it for me, I have every right to be as pleased as I am with it. You guys should only concentrate on the pale yellow color and not wonder what  those French cheeses have in common with such a homely Indian dish. That piece of cloth makes me very happy, so please excuse my enthusiasm for pairing it with dishes that has absolutely no connection with it.

Enjoy the recipe as it goes to the Cooking from Cookbook Challenge. Please check out this page for more details about the event. 

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • lemon juice as needed
  • salt
  • To roast and powder : 1 tablespoon each of sesame seeds, chana dal and urad dal
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 3-4 dried red chillies

Pictorial:

  1. Cook rice with salt as needed. Let it cool completely. Set aside.

Roast 1 tablespoon each of sesame seeds, chana dal and urad dal in a little oil. Powder it in a mixie with 1 teaspoon of pepper powder. Set aside.

Heat a little oil in the same pan and roast peanuts till they are browned a bit. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan again and add the mustard seeds and red chillies. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder. Let it cook for a few seconds.

Add one cup of grated coconut and toast it lightly on low fire until its browned a bit. Add salt as needed. Now add this to the cooled rice along with roasted peanuts and the ground sesame powder. Mix well, adjust salt as needed and serve!

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Asparagus soup

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BM # 74: Week 4, Day 1
Theme : Swedish recipes
Recipe:  Asparagus Soup

My refrigerator is almost always low in essentials. As I am typing this post, all I have in the vegetable trays are tomatoes (tons of it, thankfully) and some broccoli. But as long as I have tomatoes and onions, I don’t go into panic mode. Because there is tons of Indian dishes you can make based on these two humble vegetables.

But no such easy way out when you are trying other cuisines. So I was pretty lucky that I had asparagus stocked up because that’s was my choice for my last Swedish recipe. Asparagus soup. I tried this recipe from the book The Scandinavian Kitchen. The soup is easy to prepare and tasted good. The author Camilla Plum explains that Asparagus has always been an expensive treat and the green asparagus is relatively a recent addition to the kitchens there.

Read for the recipe.

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You would need:

  • One medium onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • a handful of parsley
  • water or stock as needed
  • 3/4 cup milk or cream
  • salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar

Slice one medium onion, two stalks of celery and a bunch of asparagus. Discarded the white bottom part as it would be too fibrous. Save the tips for later. Add all this to a thick bottom pan.

Slice the middle portion (after you discard the bottom 1″ and save the tips) into small pieces and add it to the pan with 4 cloves of garlic, salt, parsley, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Add enough water or stock to cover the vegetables. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus is cooked completely.

Let the soup cook completely. Puree it and pass it through a sieve to remove any fibrous part. Bring it back to a boil, adding 3/4 cup of milk or cream and the saved asparagus tips. Adjust seasonings and serve.

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Artsoppa- Pea soup

2ärtsoppa pea soup

BM # 74: Week 4, Day 1
Theme : Swedish recipes
Recipe: Artsoppa – Swedish pea soup

I find it easier to select when my choices are few in number. When its a vast ocean of choices, I always feel lost. So when it came to this week’s Swedish theme, I picked my recipes from the library books. Since the vegetarian choices are pretty limited when it comes to Swedish cuisine, it actually made my job a lot easier :D.

All I did was to compare the two books I had and look for common recipes. This pea soup was there in both the books, though both had different takes on it. This soup usually has meat on it, but I skipped it my take of the recipe. I read it in Wikipedia that this soup is traditionally served on Thursdays along with pancakes for dessert.

So read on for this recipe that is adapted from Niklas Ekstedt’s book Scandinavian Classics.

1ärtsoppa pea soup

For 6-8 servings, soak 2 cups of split or whole peas overnight. Dried yellow or green peas would do. The next day, add 2 liters(8 cups) of water or stock, one sliced onion and 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme and oregano and cook until the peas are completely soft.

I did this on my Instant pot. About 20 minutes in Manual mode. Once the pressure releases naturally, season with salt and pepper and serve. I sprinkled some dried nuts, seeds and fruit mix on top for some crunch.

3ärtsoppa pea soup

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Cardamom cake

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BM # 74: Week 4, Day 1
Theme : Swedish recipes
Recipe: Cardamom cake 

I didn’t rely only on the internet for this week’s theme (which is Swedish recipes, BTW), but I headed out to the library too to look for Scandinavian recipes. The first trip to the library had me coming home with two books for everyday recipes. Since Swedish vegetarian choices are pretty limited, I picked up two more books the next time I went back to the library. Baking books this time!

So for Fika last week during the snow storm(Fika is coffee time, but mostly with some baked goodies), we had this soft, spongy cardamom cake with a refreshing cup of coffee. I distributed most of this cake to my neighbors and friends and the feedback has been excellent. Baking during snow storms is fun and the house smelled amazing!!

This is one of those simple recipes that gives you amazing results. Its a keeper for sure! I didn’t make any change to the original recipe other than replacing almonds with cashew nuts. There are so many other recipes I want to try from that small book aptly named Swedish cakes and cookies, but I am resisting the call of butter and sugar for the sake of fat content inside my body :D.

I am struggling with my photography now (its a phase that comes and goes), so I have not been able to do justice to this soft and light sponge. So don’t judge the cake by the picture and give it a try for sure!

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Recipe source: Swedish cakes and cookies book

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 200gms/2 sticks/1 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • Pearl sugar/chopped almonds/nuts for decoration

Method:

  1. Grease and line a 9X13″ pan with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until it turns light yellow and thick. Add the baking powder and cardamom powder, beat again.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (butter, milk and flour) and mix everything carefully. There shouldn’t be any dry lumps in the batter.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 55-65 minutes or until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle of the cake. Once its out of the pan, let the cake rest in the pan for about ten minutes. Slice and serve once its cool.

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Chia cardamom pudding

1Chia_pudding 

BM # 74: Week 2, Day 2
Theme : Are you pudding me?
Recipe: Chia cardamom pudding
My neighbor mentioned making chia payasam for her son with all Indian flavors. She cooks chia in milk over stove top with a pinch of cardamom and sugar. Then she decorates it with cashews and raisins roasted in ghee. When you top off with saffron strands, you have a great pudding style payasam. 

I liked the idea and so made something similar except that I went for the overnight refrigeration method. I skipped roasting the nuts as well since I had this for breakfast. Chia gives you the perfect pudding texture without much effort from our end ;-). 

Enjoy this simple recipe that makes breakfast an extremely easy affair!

2Chia_pudding 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cups chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar(or more per taste)
  • A good pinch of cardamom powder
  • Few strands of saffron

Method:

  1. Mix the chia with milk, sugar and cardamom powder until no pumps remain. Add the saffron as well. 
  2. Refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled or you can microwave it for 30 seconds before serving. Decorate with saffron strands and some nuts and dry fruits. 

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