Moong Dal Pulao

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It’s been a while since I visited the virtual world, so starting with baby steps again. I am here with a recipe you can try on weekends when the vegetable supply, as a rule for me, is low. This is like a stylish version of Pongal since the base combinations are moong dal, rice and pepper corns. Instead of being mashed up and lumped all together, here the aim is to bring these base flavors in a pulav style, where each grain is separate.

This recipe  is from Vasantha Moorthy’s Vegetarian Menu Cookbook. The recipe is simple and not very time-consuming compared to the regular Indian cooking. The pulav needs a few masalas, a coconut based ground paste and rice and moong. Its sprinkled liberally with fried onions at the time of serving, which adds a TON of flavor to the dish. I used the  ready-made pack, but you can saute two onions until crisp and mix it into the pulav at the time of serving. I serve this with coconut milk based egg curry , but a simple raita would do as well.

This is my submission to Cooking from Cookbook Challenge event. Do check out the link to learn more about the event and see who else is participating.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup moong dal
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt as needed
  • 1 cup fried onions (ready-made or 2 medium onions sliced thin and fried in 4-5 tablespoons ghee until crisp)

To grind and make a paste:

  • 3 tablespoons grated coconut
  • 1″ piece ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 green (or red) chillies
  • a handful of coriander leaves
  • 2 cloves, 1 cardamom, 1″ piece cinnamon*

*I used cinnamon powder

Method:

Wash the dal and rice together. Drain and set aside.

Grind the cococnut, coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, chilies, cinnamon and cloves  with a little water to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat ghee in your pressure cooker or a heavy bottom pan. Add the cloves, cardamom, peppercorns and bay leaf. Add the chili powder and turmeric powder and fry for a few seconds.

Add the masala paste and saute until the raw flavor goes away, about half a minute. The liquid would evaporate, but take care not to burn it.

Add the rice and dal mix. Fry for a minute or so until its coated well with the masala paste.

Add 3 cups of water (we had a total of 1.5 cups of rice and dal mix, so double of that), salt as needed. Pressure cook for 3 minutes if you are using your instant pot. Else cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is done.

At the time of serving, add some roasted cashews and a handful of fried onions. DO NOT skip the fried onions, they add a lot of flavor to the dish. If you donot have ready made fried onions, then cook two very thinly sliced medium onions to 4-5 tablespoons of ghee and fry until the onions turn crisp. Top the pulao with the prepared fried onions.

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This is my submission to Cooking from Cookbook Challenge event. Do check out the link to learn more about the event and see who else is participating.

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Neapolitan Goosebumps cake

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When my friend’s son asked for a Goosebumps cake last year for his birthday, I had no clue what that meant. I didn’t know then that it was a famous children’s horror book series and there was a movie as well based on the book. A Google Image search followed, but most of those cakes seemed beyond my capabilities. But this particular image with black and white stripes and eye balls seemed doable to me. The top of the cake seemed too blank for me, so I decided to make the Goosebumps logo as well.

This, without an iota of doubt, is the best cake I have ever made. I am talking in terms of the whole package of cake and decoration. The base cake is same as this one, the slutty brownie cake. The cake is not only easy to make and delicious, it makes three 9″ cakes, which makes my life easy. The cookies and oreo layer in that post are replaced by strawberry and chocolate layers, which makes this a Neapolitan cake. So a layer of chocolate cake followed by strawberry layer and then simple vanilla cake. Each layer is liberally sprinkled with about 1/4 cup of sugar syrup to make it moist.

Fondant decorations look scary, but in reality its a lot easier than it sounds. Covering the cake is something I still struggle with as I still get a lot of ‘wrinkles’ at the base. But you can always mask it with a border. Handling fondant is like handling play dough. If you have the right equipment, you are good.

Read on for the recipe.

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Recipe source: Whats Gabby Cooking

Ingredients:

Base cake:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour*
  • 1/2 cup corn flour*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk

*Use 4 cups cake flour instead of a mix of flour and corn flour

Strawberry layer:

  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam

chocolate layer:

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Filling, frosting and toppings:

  • simple syrup : boil 1 cup water with half cup sugar. Cool completely.
  • buttercream recipe, twice the quantity
  • 1/2 cup of buttercream from above plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • fondant for covering and decorations
  • 1/4 cup melted white chocolate chips colored with green food coloring for slime

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and line three 9″ pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and continue beating at medium speed. Once the four eggs are combined well, add the vanilla essence and beat it in.
  4. We have to add the flour in three batches, alternating it with the buttermilk. That means, we have to first add 1/3rd of the flour mix into the butter mix. Beat at a lower speed to avoid spilling of the flour all over. Once the flour is mixed in without streaks, add one cup of buttermilk and continue beating. Now add half of the leftover flour mix. Once that’s mixed well, add in the rest of buttermilk. Once that’s combined well, add the remaining flour. At any point, you can stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to help combine the batter better.
  5. Divide the batter into three bowls. Add 1/3 cup cocoa powder into one batch, 1/3 cup strawberry jam or preserves into another. Leave the third one plain.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes free of cake crumbs when inserted into the middle of the cake.
  7. Take off the oven, let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Then take off the pan, cling wrap it two times and return to the same pan until its time to decorate.
  8. For decorating, prepare the butter cream. Take half cup of the buttercream and add 1-2 tbsp cocoa powder for making chocolate buttercream. Fill and frost the cake only after its completely cool.
  • Divide the batter into three bowls. Add 1/3 cup cocoa powder into one batch, 1/3 cup strawberry jam or preserves into another. Leave the third one plain. Bake until a skewer comes free of crumbs when inserted in the middle of the cake. About 40 minutes or so.

When the cake has completely cooled down, level the cakes. Save the domes for making the eye balls. Anchor the chocolate cake with a little buttercream to the base. Sprinkle sugar syrup all over the cake and spread a layer of chocolate buttercream. Top with vanilla cake. Spread and level a layer of buttercream. Top with the strawberry layer.

Frost the cake with buttercream. Crumb coat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before adding one more layer of buttercream.

Cover with fondant and decorate as desired. The eye balls are the leveled cake portions mixed with a little buttercream to give sturdiness. I wrapped them with fondant without any buttercream underneath.

The green slime is MW melted white chocolate chips. I added green food coloring once it was melted completely.

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This post is a part of the Bake-a-thon 2017

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Baked Pasta with Ricotta cheese

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On most Fridays, my husband works from home. Last Friday was no different. I was busy with a cake for my friend’s son and so I had to make a lunch that’s substantial enough for the man but that’s not time consuming. I didn’t want to spend time in front of the stove when I had a lot to do. So baked pasta it was! I like this recipe as the hands on effort is less. You are almost done if pasta is cooked. The rest is just mixing a couple of sauces and baking.

I had tried this recipe two weeks back for Thanksgiving lunch. So I knew it was a good recipe. I had followed the recipe exactly that day and made a Rigatoni pasta pie. You can checkout this one minute video tutorial to see what I am talking about. But I realized that the effort of packing the pasta into the cake pan is really not worth it. I couldn’t fill each pasta with the ricotta filling and the pie collapsed when I cut into it. It was tasty but it didn’t stand by itself like a pie piece. It tasted amazing, so I decided to take the simpler route of just mixing the pesto sauce with the pasta and the baking it. It all tastes the same at the end anyway and the effort is so much lesser.

Read on for the pictorial.

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Recipe adapted from Tastemade.com

  • 1 12 oz pack pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Gemma’s hot sauce
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 1 – 1.5 cups of shredded cheese of your choice

Bring a big pot of water to boil, add pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Don’t overcook the pasta. Al dente is fine. For 12 oz pack of tricolor pasta, it was 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup basil pesto with 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper for seasoning. I added 1 teaspoon of Gemma’s hot sauce for a spice kick. Transfer pasta to an oven safe pan. Mix in the ricotta with the pasta.

Mix the ricotta well to distribute evenly, taste test and adjust seasonings if needed. Now add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the pasta.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly on top of the pasta and top with cheese. I used about 1.5 cups shredded Mexican cheese here. Shredded Mozzarella would work better.

Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Take off the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Slice and serve.

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This post is a part of the Bake-a-thon 2017

Creamy tomato soup with basil pesto

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BMN # 83: Week 1, Day 2
Theme : Soups and Stews

I used to make tomato soup only from fresh tomatoes. But recently that I came across this super easy version with canned tomatoes and I have been making this every now and then when my son asks for it. My son is a big fan of tomato soup with croutons.

When I was in India, I always used to feel a little jealous about all the ready made food items that you can pick off the shelf from a supermarket in US. Like for this recipe, its just mixing canned tomatoes, bottled pesto and cream/evaporated milk for a few minutes. Its only after moving to US that I understood how much more domestic work load is there for the families here. My day started with cooking and packing lunch. After my son and my husband left, I was sweeping and mopping the house, loading the dish washer, hand washing the pans that cannot go in it, washing the clothes and folding and ironing them later. Almost all of those chores was handled by my maid in India. By the the time I was done with all that, it was time to cook dinner and once the kid is home, your time is not yours anymore.

I am not working, so I have time to attend to all this. But  if I was working, the amount of workload would still be the same. There is no way the families can manage all this, without a little help from occasional packaged items. I would never recommend opening packages every single day. But every now and then, we need all the help we can get.

So here is a quick recipe made with some easy to put together ingredients. Read on…

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Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2  14 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons basil pesto
  • salt and pepper as needed

Method:

  1. Heat the butter in a big pan. Saute the onion until pink. Add the canned tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook it in a slow simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat. Once its cool enough, puree the soup in small batches and return to the pot.
  2. Add in the milk and cream and bring it to a slow simmer. Turn the heat off and at the time of serving stir in a teaspoon or two of basil pesto. Serve with toasted bread and salad on the side.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#83

Broccoli Soup

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BMN # 83: Week 1, Day 2
Theme : Soups and Stews

I have always loved soups and salads. Luckily my son has taken after me and not after his dad in this matter. His dad eats healthy, but definitely not raw. Soups are okay but still not a favorite. Still that doesn’t stop me from preparing soups frequently.

Coming to the recipe here,this is the kind of soup that you can start when you realize that your son is going to be home from school in fifteen minutes and be finished by the time he is home. Only reduce the quantity in half to prepare for one and you are good! All you need to do is cook the broccoli with stock, onions and garlic, purée it and then cook again with some milk. It’s a simple, delightful treat for me. I prefer butter over olive oil in this recipe, the flavor of garlic cooked with butter is delicious.

Bread croutons are a must with soup for my son, so that’s an addition as well. This soup is perfect for a light meal, serve with a salad and bread on side to make it the main meal.

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Recipe adapted from: All Recipes

Serves two

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cups broth
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil or butter in a pan. Saute the garlic and the onions. Add broccoli and the broth and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender.
  2. Take off the heat and puree in a blender once its cooled down. Pour it back to the soup pot, add milk and seasonings. Bring it to a slow simmer and take of the heat.  Serve with bread croutons on top.broccoli_soup1

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#83