Onion Bhaji/Fritters

Deep-fried Pakoras and Bhajis have always been my favorite and love having them as a side with rice/Sambar/Rasam. My mom regularly made these and regardless of what type she made (potato, raw plantain, etc), there always had to be onion bhajis as well made specially for my sister who always insisted on these! It worked out well for me as I got to enjoy more than one variety! This recipe is one step above the basic bhaji and uses aromatics such as garlic, cumin and curry leaves for an enhanced flavor. Enjoy these as a side for lunch/dinner when you are out of veggies or as a snack on a cold rainy day with some piping hot chai!

Ingredients:

Onion, sliced lengthwise – 1 cup
Besan/ Chickpea flour – 3 tbsp
Rice flour – 3 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped – 1 to 2
Curry leaves, finely chopped – 6 to 8
Baking soda – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Oil – for deep frying

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  • In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients except the onions

  • Gradually add water to make a thick paste. Start off with 2-3 tbsp of water and add more if needed. The consistency must be like a paste, slightly thicker than you would use for potato or plantain bhajis

  • Add the sliced onions and mix well. The batter should only lightly coat the onion

  • Heat oil in a kadai/wok
  • When the oil is ready (a small piece of the batter dropped should immediately rise to the top), add the onions. Use your fingers to separate them out as you are dropping them in the oil so as to not form big lumps. Also, do not overcrowd them or they will become soggy
  • Fry until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel
  • Serve as a side with any meal or as an evening snack

Whole Wheat Pizza with Vegetables

I love love love pizza! It’s one of those decadent dishes that instantly improves my mood. As a kid, I remember buying those white pizza bases from the neighborhood grocery store and cooking them on the tava with our favorite toppings. But I’ve been meaning to try making the base at home using whole wheat flour and finally got around to it. The idea of making your own pizza dough can be quite intimidating but it’s really not that different from making chapathi dough. The only difference is the addition of yeast and waiting a few hours for it to rise. While the entire process is a tad time-consuming, the effort is well worth it. Topped with my homemade tomato sauce, vegetables of your choice and lots of cheese, this pizza makes me very happy! And hope it does the same to you!

Whole Wheat Pizza with Vegetables

Ingredients:

For the pizza dough:

Warm Water – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Active Dry Yeast – 1 envelope (2.25 tsp)
Whole Wheat Flour/Atta – 2.75 cups
Parmesan Cheese – 1/4 cup (optional)
Salt to taste

Toppings:

Tomato Sauce – 2.5 to 3 cups (you can find recipe here)
Mozzarella Cheese – 2 cups
Bell Peppers – 2
Onion – 1
Chilli Flakes – 2 tsp (optional)

Method:

Making pizza dough:

  • In warm water, add sugar, oil and yeast; set this aside

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • In a wide bowl, combine the flour, salt and cheese

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • To this, slowly add the water mixture and form a dough; the dough must not be too soft or hard but firm

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • Wrap the bowl with cling film and set aside in a cool place for at least 2 to 3 hours till it increases in size

Whole Wheat Pizza

Assembling the pizza:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit or 215 degrees Celsius
  • Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with oil 
  • Divide the risen dough into 4 portions (you can either make 4 small pizzas or 2 large ones)
  • Take the first portion and roll out as thinly as possible (I don’t pay much heed to shape and focus on making it thin instead)

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • Transfer to the prepared baking tray
  • Using a fork, prick the rolled out dough (This is to prevent the dough from puffing up)

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • Spread the tomato sauce all over the dough (use a little more than half cup for each of the 4 small pizzas)

Marinara Sauce/Tomato Sauce on Pizza

  • Add sliced onions and bell peppers (about 1/4 cup each for every pizza)
  • Sprinkle mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup for each of the 4 pizzas)
  • Sprinkle a teaspoon of chilli flakes if using

Whole Wheat Pizza

  • Bake for 20 minutes till the edges begin to brown and the cheese melts
  • Serve hot!

Whole Wheat Pizza

Note:
– I have adapted the pizza dough recipe from here
– I used active dry yeast. You can even use instant yeast in which case you can make the pizza immediately
– I used a red and green bell pepper and had some leftovers. You could use just one if you like
– I have refrigerated leftover dough for about 3 days and it has been usable. You could try for longer if you like
– While spreading tomato sauce on the base, I like to cover the edges as well as I don’t like them getting crusty
– Other toppings you can use include baby corn, mushrooms, chicken, paneer, fresh basil or even just cheese
– I used home-made tomato sauce. You can use the store-bought kind as well

Butter Chicken

Ok, so this isn’t a dish you should be making often. This is my first attempt at making Butter Chicken and it turned out pretty decent! While this isn’t something I order at a restaurant (because I prefer spicy food), I enjoyed trying my hand at it. This recipe is from my sister who in turn got it from her friend back when they were in college together. I’ve made slight variations to the original recipe like the use of unsalted butter instead of salted. It’s great for a special occasion or when you have guests and goes well with steaming hot ghee rice.

Butter Chicken

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
Chicken – 500 gms
Yoghurt – 1 cup
Salt 
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Garam Masala – 2 tsp

For the gravy:
Tomatoes – 6
Unsalted butter – 50 gms
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp
Cashewnuts – 1/3 cup
Chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Milk – 1.25 cups
Cream – 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Tandoori Masala – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 1
Sugar – 1/4 tsp
Bay leaf – 1
Salt to taste

Method:

Marinating the chicken:

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together with the chicken and allow to rest for at least 2 hours in the fridge

Making the gravy:

  • Grind the tomatoes to a fairly fine paste
  • Soak the cashewnuts in hot water and allow to sit for about 15 minutes before grinding to a smooth paste 
  • Heat a wok and melt the butter
  • Add the bay leaf and stir
  • Add ginger-garlic paste and fry till the liquid evaporates
  • Add the ground tomatoes  and cool till it turns very dry and the fat separates
  • Add the cashewnut paste
  • Add chilli powder and fry till the fat separates
  • Switch off the stove and then add the milk and a cup of water to get a gravy
  • Turn on the heat again and bring to a boil
  • Cover the wok and simmer for about 7 minutes
  • Once again, remove from heat and stir in the 3/4 cup of cream
  • Add garam masala, tandoori masala, sugar and salt
  • Add the chicken and cook on a low flame till it becomes tender
  • Garnish with 2 tbsp of cream and green chillies

Note:
– I didn’t use store-bought tandoori masala but instead made my own following this recipe; I left out ground ginger, ground garlic, nutmeg and paprika since I did not have these ingredients
– Adjust the amount of milk and cream in this recipe depending on how rich you want it to be and how much gravy you would like
– You can also add tandoori color to the marinade which I left out since I didn’t have any

Open Faced Breakfast Tacos

This is another dish that I came up with, with what was available in my pantry that day. The mashed potatoes is very healthy with no butter or cheese plus, it has avocados that makes it tastier. This is also a good way to make use of any leftover chapatis/tortillas from the previous night’s dinner.

Ingredients:

Tortilla/ Chapati, cooked – 6
Eggs – 3
Pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 3 tsp
Salt – to taste

For the mashed potatoes:
Potato, medium – 2
Avocado – 1
Garlic clove – 1, optional
Milk – 2 tbsp
Green chillies, finely chopped – 2 to 3
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 5 stalks
Lemon juice – 1 tsp

Method:

  • To prepare the mashed potatoes, cut the potatoes into half and boil them
  • Once the potatoes are cooked, peel the skin and mash them
  • Scoop out the flesh from the avocados and add to the potatoes. Add milk and mash them well
  • Follow by adding crushed garlic, green chillies, coriander leaves, lemon juice and salt. Mix well and set aside
  • Beat the eggs with salt and pepper
  • Heat a pan, add 1/2 tsp of oil and pour little bit of the egg mixture to make an omelette
  • After 2 minutes, flip it to cook the other side. Then, remove and repeat until you have 6 of these
  • To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate, then place an omelette over it. Top it with a big dollop (approx. 3 -4 tbsp) of the mashed potato mixture
  • Garnish with cilantro and few strings of onion. Server hot with a sauce of your choice 

    

Brownies

Brownies are a favorite at my place. These brownies are the firm-kind, not gooey. I incorporated the recipe from Hersheys. Tried and tested, it’s my go-to recipe when I am looking to whip up some brownies quickly. They are a great gift as well 🙂 Happy holidays!

Brownies

Makes: 15

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter – 1 cup
All-purpose flour – 1 cup
Unsweetened cocoa powder – 3/4 cup
Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
Vanilla extract – 2 tsp
Eggs – 4
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Chopped walnuts – 1/2 cup (optional)
Chocolate chunks – 1/2 cup (optional)
Brown Sugar – 3/4 cup

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius
  • Grease a baking pan or line it with parchment paper and set aside
  • Place the butter in a microwave safe bowl and melt by heating for about 2 minutes
  • Mix in the sugar and vanilla extract once the butter cools down slightly
  • Using an electric beater or whisk, add one egg at a time and combine till well-mixed
  • Add sifted cocoa powder and mix well
  • Stir in sifted flour, baking powder and salt
  • Combine the walnuts and chocolate chunks with a teaspoon of flour and stir into the above mixture
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes
  • Keep the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely

Brownies

Note:
1. You can use regular white sugar if you don’t have brown sugar. I use brown sugar as it makes the brownies more moist and rich.
2. If you don’t have walnuts, you can even use chopped almonds and cashew nuts. 

Hummus

Hummus

Ingredients:

Boiled chickpeas – 3 cups
Olive oil – 9 tbsp
Tahini – 4 tbsp (refer note below)
Juice of 1 lemon
Garlic – 1 clove
Black pepper powder – 3/4 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or mixer
  • Blitz till you get a smooth consistency
  • You can add more lemon juice or olive oil to reach the desired consistency
  • Transfer to a dry container, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle a little cumin powder to garnish
  • Serve with chips or vegetables like carrots and celery

Note:
1. Instead of using canned chickpeas from the store, you can boil your own. Soak dry chickpeas in water overnight or for about 6 hours. Then, place in a pressure cooker with water about an inch above the chickpeas. Pressure cook for about 5 whistles till cooked. Once pressure is released, drain the chickpeas and set aside to cool completely
2. Tahini is a paste made using roasted sesame seeds. To make this, dry roast white sesame seeds till they turn golden brown.

Tahini

Tahini

Set aside to cool. Then, place in a mixer and and grind for about 2 minutes till you get a crumbly powder. Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of sesame seed soil and blend again till you get a thick paste

Tahini
3. Traditionally, extra virgin olive oil is used to make hummus. Since I didn’t have this, I used regular olive oil
4. Before transferring the hummus into another container, check for seasoning. Add more lemon juice and cumin powder if desired and blend again
5. Hummus can even be used as a spread in sandwiches

Rajma Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Wild-Rice Stuffed Squash, this recipe, with an Indian twist to it, will make a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal and will be a delight for vegetarians. The rice itself is kept simple with minimal ingredients and the sweetness of the squash compliments the beans very well.

Rajma Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

Acorn squash – 2
Basmati rice – 1 cup
Rajma/ red kidney beans, boiled – 2/3 cup
Green chillies – 2
Onion, finely chopped – 1/2 cup
Garlic cloves, minced – 3
Coriander powder – 3/4 tsp
Pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves, finely chopped – 3 tbsp
Olive oil – 3 tsp
Salt – to taste

Method:

  • Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 450°F
  • Cut the squash into halves lengthwise and remove the seeds
  • Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil that has been slightly brushed with oil
  • Cover tightly with another sheet of foil and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until tender and can be pierced with a knife
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan
  • Add green chillies and garlic and saute well
  • Add onions and coriander leaves and saute for few more minutes
  • Add coriander powder, cumin powder and pepper powder and mix well
  • Add the beans and rice
  • Add 2 cups of water and salt. Mix well
  • Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is cooked well and fluffy
  • To serve, place the squash on a plate with the cut side facing up and fill the center with the rice

 

Rajma Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash Tips:

  • Slice off any pointy ends from the squash while still leaving the outer cover intact, so that it sits flat on the baking sheet.
  • The Rajma rice can also be served by itself with mint chutney or raita
  • Do not overcook the squash as you want the outer shell to be intact so that eating from with it easy

Roast Turkey with Homemade Gravy

Last Thanksgiving, my sister wanted to roast a turkey, something neither of us had done, ever. We took the plunge and it turned out to be so much fun! We followed Ina Garten’s recipe that you can find here and made a few changes as well. My sister did most of the dirty work, and I was more than happy to assist. While the turkey was the star of the show, everyone was apprehensive about the gravy and wasn’t too sure if we should make it. But I decided to go ahead and followed Ina Garten’s recipe, which you can find here. The gravy turned out to be a highlight and tasted so good with the turkey! If you have never done this before, and have always wanted to, this is your cue! It’s not that hard as long as you aren’t tackling this dish alone. So go for it and Happy Holidays!

Roast Turkey

Ingredients:

For the Roast Turkey

Turkey – 9 pounds
Salt – 2 tsp
Ground black pepper – 1 tsp
Fresh thyme, chopped – 1 tsp
Fresh thyme – 1 bunch
Butter – 1/2 cup, softened
Spanish onion – 1, quartered
Lemon – 1, zested and juiced
Lemon – 1, halved
Garlic – 1, halved, cross-wise

For the Homemade Gravy

Unsalted butter – 8 tbsp (1 stick)
Yellow Onion – 2
All-purpose flour – 1/4 cup
Salt – 1 tsp
Freshly ground black pepper – 1/2 tsp
Turkey drippings + Chicken stock – 2 cups

Method:

Roast Turkey

  • Wash the turkey under cold, running water and pat down dry
  • Make a mixture of butter, lemon zest and juice and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Rub some of the above mixture under the skin of the turkey using your fingers and the rest all over the bird
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper in the cavity of the turkey and outside as well
  • Stuff the cavity with the halved lemon, garlic, onion and bunch of fresh thyme
  • Tie the legs with cooking twine and tuck the wings as well

Roast Turkey

[We used a frozen turkey and took it out of the freezer two nights before Thanksgiving, and left it in the refrigerator to thaw. We did the marinade the previous night. At that time the turkey was still frozen in parts and so we let it thaw in the microwave for a few minutes. The giblets were in a separate bag and we discarded it. The neck was also separate and we let it roast in the pan for flavor and discarded it later. This entire process is a messy job, so be prepared!]

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Once ready, place the turkey and cook for about 2.5 hours (time would vary according to the size of the turkey. If needed, use a thermometer, but we didn’t. If the juices released into the baking dish are clear, it’s an indication that the bird is cooked)
  • Once the turkey is roasted, remove all the juices using a baster (you can use this to make a gravy)
  • Cover the turkey with foil and allow to rest for about 20 minutes before cutting
  • Slice and serve with gravy!

Homemade Gravy

  • In a pan, heat butter till it melts and then add chopped onions
  • Fry the onions on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Do not rush this step
  • Add the all-purpose flour and whisk well
  • Add salt and pepper and cook for a couple more minutes
  • Add the turkey drippings and chicken stock mixture
  • Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes
  • Serve with turkey!

Home-made Gravy for Thanksgiving

Note: The original recipe calls for the use of white wine, cream and brandy/cognac. I didn’t use any of these ingredients and the gravy turned out delicious!
Turkey drippings are the juices left in the pan after roasting a turkey in the oven. Use a baster to remove these juices once your turkey is cooked. I got over a cup of these drippings and used chicken stock for the rest. You could even use just two cups of chicken stock instead of the drippings.

Adhirasam

With Deepavali just around the corner, what better way to celebrate this occasion than with some delicious Adhirasams. This is a very traditional South Indian dessert and it also happens to be my most favorite! The preparation itself does take a bit of an effort, but with the right ingredients, proportions and consistencies, one should be able to make some great Adhirasams. It is very important that the right type of rice is used. Traditionally, this sweet is prepared with red rice but if you cannot find it, you can use regular Sona-masoori rice.

Adhirasam

Ingredients:

Rice, raw – 500 gms
Jaggery – 250 gms
Water – 100 ml
Oil – 4 tbsp + for frying
Poppy seeds – 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds, lightly crushed – 3/4 tsp
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp

Method:

  • Wash and soak the rice in water for 30 minutes
  • Drain the rice and spread it on a thin cotton cloth or paper towels and let it dry

Adhirasam2

  • When the rice is 80% dry, grind it into a fine powder. You don’t want the rice to be completely dry before grinding and you should be able to feel the moisture in the powder
  • Pass it through a sieve to remove any large, coarse particles
  • Add the poppy seeds, fennel seeds and cardamom powder and mix well
  • Take the jaggery and 100ml of water in a pan and bring it to a boil
  • Keep stirring and check for single string consistency. To check the consistency, take water in a small cup and drop a little bit of the jaggery in the water, If it does not dissolve in the water and you are able to roll it into a ball, then it has reached the right consistency

                                        

  • Pour it into the flour and mix well. The dough might seem loose but over time it will absorb all the moisture and get harder
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of oil if needed while mixing. Pour the remaining of the 4 tbsp of oil over the dough and let it rest for a minimum of 2-3 hours or overnight

Adhirasam5

  • When you are ready to make the Adhirasams, heat oil in a wok or wide pan
  • Divide the dough into small balls
  • Using an oiled banana leaf or wax paper, press them into flat circles using your fingers. Use oil to avoid the dough sticking to your fingers. Do not use rolling pin unless you place the dough between two sheets of wax paper but you might get the best results using your fingers to roll the dough

                 Adhirasam6                   Adhirasam7

  • Make sure the oil is hot enough. Right before dropping the Adhirasam, lower the heat a bit
  • Once you drop each of them, do not move away from the pan as it will cook pretty quickly
  • When it rises to the top, flip it and cook the other. It shouldn’t take more than a minute to cook an entire Adhirasam

                                  

  • Remove from oil and with the help of another ladle or spatula, squeeze out the excess oil right into the wok and place it on a plate covered with paper towel and repeat the process

Tips:

  • Do not use Basmati or Ponni rice. The Adhirasams will not hold their shape and disintegrate when frying
  • If the dough is very loose, add some rice flour
  • If the dough is very hard, add few tablespoons of milk
  • After frying, do not leave the Adhirasams on the paper towel for too long as it might become very dry

Guacamole/Avocado Dip/Butter Fruit Dip

My husband and I absolutely love guacamole. This creamy dip is super healthy (if you leave out the chips!) and is perfect for snacking. Avocados aren’t easily available in India except in some gourmet food stores. It’s known as Butter Fruit in India and in Coorg (Karnataka) is mixed with sugar and eaten like a dessert. (Google tells me it’s largely grown in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Sikkim) In the US, guacamole is widely popular and is even sold pre-packaged in grocery stores. I have been fortunate enough to eat really good guacamole in the land of its origin, Mexico. And I now make it regularly at home because it’s the closest you can get to the real deal.

Guacamole/Avocado Dip/Butter Fruit Dip

Ingredients:

Avocados – 3
Lime – 1
Jalapeno pepper – 2 tbsp, chopped
Onion – 1/4 cup, chopped
Tomato – 1/2, chopped
Fresh coriander – 1/4 cup, chopped
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Scoop the flesh out of the avocado using a spoon
  • Then, use a fork to mash the avocado till only a few or no lumps remain
  • Add the juice of one lime and mix well
  • Mix in the onion, tomato, coriander and salt
  • Serve immediately with chips or as a topping for tacos or eat as is!

Note:
– It’s important that the avocados you use are ripe and not hard. They should mash easily with a fork. If they aren’t ripe you will not get a creamy texture
– Guacamole is best consumed immediately. The addition of lime juice not only adds flavor but also helps preventing it from discoloring

– If you do not have jalapeno pepper, use half a green chilli without the seeds; you could even use green capsicum
– You can even add a tablespoon of parmesan cheese to this dish; that’s how most restaurants served it in Mexico

Guacamole/Avocado Dip/Butter Fruit Dip