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

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

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

Hash Browns

My husband and I love the hash browns that is served in American breakfasts. He was the one who made them at home the first time and they turned out pretty good! We don’t cook with potatoes too often and on the rare occasion that we do, we enjoy going the extra mile to make something special. Hash browns are a delicious accompaniment to scrambled eggs or omelette and butter toast. If you make them really small, it can also be served as an appetizer. 

Hash Browns

Serves: 5

Ingredients:

Potatoes – 4
Butter – 5 tsp
Oil – 2.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Ground Black Pepper to taste

Method:

  • Peel and grate the potatoes using a food processor or a hand grater
  • Place the grated potatoes in a tea towel or muslin cloth and squeeze out all the water (you can do this in small portions)
  • Heat a pan with a teaspoon of butter and half teaspoon oil
  • Place the potatoes in the pan to form a thin layer and a rough circle (about 10 cms in diameter)
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper
  • Using a spatula, press down on the potatoes
  • Cook on high heat till the potatoes turn a lovely golden brown
  • Flip the potatoes and cook till the other side browns as well
  • Serve immediately

Note:
– This recipe makes about 5 hash browns, each having a diameter of approximately 10 cms. This size also makes them easier to flip
– I use a combination of butter and olive oil to cook the hash browns. You can use either
– It’s important to cook the hash browns on high heat as that helps the potatoes to turn a nice golden brown
– Do not worry about the shape of the hash browns. Just ensure you make a thin layer

Bhel Puri

Chaat for me, is a meal in itself. And bhel puri might seem like a snack but I can have it for lunch and dinner! Anyway…my constant disappointment with the chaat we get here in Austin is what led me to even try making bhel puri at home. This bhel puri is not the kind you get in chaat shops in India, which is wet from the addition of lentils. My version is the dry kind, which you get from push carts in Bangalore.
If you have all your ingredients chopped up and ready, this can serve as a quick weeknight dinner. Just try making it once, and you will be hooked! You can make it as healthy as you like and play around with what goes in it. In this recipe, you do not have to go by the exact quantities mentioned. Feel free to experiment and alter them according to your taste. Enjoy!

Bhel Puri

Ingredients:

Puffed Rice – 3 cups
Roasted peanuts – 1/4 cup
Onions – 1/2 cup
Tomato – 1
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric – a pinch
Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
Chaat Masala – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Puri – 5-10
Flat puri/Papdi – 5
Fresh coriander – 1/2 cup

Green chutney
Green chillies – 4
Fresh coriander – 1 cup

Tamarind chutney
Tamarind – lemon-sized
Sugar/Jaggery – 1 tsp

Method:

  • Grind the green chillies and coriander with a little water to make the green chutney
  • Grind the tamarind and sugar with a little water to make the tamarind chutney
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
  • Add 1 tablespoon each of green and tamarind chutney
  • You can adjust the quantities of each ingredient as per your liking
  • Serve immediately

Note: You can add grated carrot and finely chopped cucumber to the bhel puri

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

Sweet Potato – 3
Salt to taste
Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Oil

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Line a baking tray with wax paper or aluminium foil and spray with oil
  • Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into long strips
  • Transfer on to the tray
  • Add a teaspoon of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss using your hands
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes

Potato Bajji

When it comes to pakoras and bajjis, potato bajji is my all-time favorite. Very rarely have I come across someone who doesn’t like potatoes and if it is deep fried, who wouldn’t want it. This is a quick snack and can be served as a side with rice or as an evening snack with coffee or tea. I have used Kasmiri chilli powder instead of regular chilli powder for some added color.

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Ingredients:

Potato, large – 1
Besan – 1/3 cup
Rice flour – 1/3 cup
Kashmiri chilli powder – 1 tsp
Baking soda – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Sunflower oil – for deep frying

Yield : 12 to 15

Method:

  • Peel the potato and cut into thin slices. You can use a mandoline but I prefer using a knife as I like the slices slightly thicker
  • Wash and pat dry with a paper towel
  • In a bowl, mix together besan, rice flour, chilli powder, baking soda and salt with water into a thick batter, just thick enough to coat a thin layer on the potato slices. Using rice flour helps make the batter light and also gives the bajji a crispier texture

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  • Heat oil in a kadai
  • Add a small drop of the batter to check if the oil has reached the desired temperature. The batter should immediately puff up and rise to the top
  • Dip each potato slice in the batter and fry in the oil till golden brown
  • Serve hot with rice and sambar/rasam or as a snack with coconut chutney

Eggless Condensed Milk Cookies

It was one of those days when you would return home from work starving. I had some leftover sweetened condensed milk from making carrot halwa the other day and was wondering how can I put it to use with what was available in my pantry and something that can be quickly prepared. I came across this recipe here and didn’t think twice before trying it out. I have made slight variations to the proportions, with an intention of making it less fattening ;).

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Ingredients:

Unsalted butter, softened – 1/2 cup
Sweetened condensed milk – 1/2 cup
All-purpose flour – 1.5 cups
Baking powder – 2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Chocolate chips – 1/3 cup

Yields: 20

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 350F
  • In a bowl, mix together the butter and condensed milk
  • Sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt and add to the wet ingredients
  • Mix until well combined. Use your hands if needed to roll into a nice dough
  • Add the chocolate chips and knead just enough to mix them
  • Roll them into little balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

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  • Bake for about 12-15 minutes
  • Remove the cookies on to a cooling rack and allow to cool before serving or transferring to an air-tight container

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IMG_4024Tip: This cookie resembles a shortbread cookie in terms of texture, softness and taste. You can increase the butter quantity as in the original recipe to get a crispier texture.

Date and Nut Balls

This is a no-cook energy snack that can be prepared in minutes. It is a good way of including dates and nuts into your diet and can very well fulfill your sweet cravings. You can pack this as a snack for your kids or stash them up in your office desk and pop one when hungry. This is one recipe where you can vary the proportions of the ingredients to your liking.

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Ingredients:

Dates – 20
Raisins – 1/2 cup
Almonds – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup
Semi-sweet chocolate chips/
grated chocolate – 1/4 cup
Shredded unsweetened coconut – 1/3 cup (optional)

Method:

  • Coarsely grind the almonds and walnuts in a food processor or a mixer
  • Add the chocolate chips/ grated chocolate and coconut and pulse few more times. Transfer to a mixing bowl
  • Coarsely grind the dates and raisins in the food processor. Add them to the nuts
  • Mix all the ingredients well and roll them into medium sized balls
  • Transfer to an air-tight container

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Tip: Instead of adding the chocolate chips to the date and nut mixture, you can melt them with a couple teaspoons of olive oil and dip the balls in them and let them dry on a sheet of parchment paper before transferring to a container.

Pottukadalai Murukku/ Chakli

Murukku is a South Indian snack typically prepared during festive seasons. You can find the traditional Murukku maker/press in almost every Tamil household and I have not come across a person who does not like this savory delicacy. This is a very easy recipe and if you follow the proportions, you cannot go wrong.

IMG_3094

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 1 cup
Roasted channa dal, powdered – 1/2 cup
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Hing/ Asafoetida – a pinch
Poppy seeds/ Khus khus – 1 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Warm water – approx. 1 cup
Oil – for deep frying

Yield: 12-15 nos

Method:

  • In a wide bowl, mix together the rice flour, roasted channa dal flour, hing, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and salt
  • Heat the ghee for 15-20 seconds in the microwave and pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Slowly start adding the warm water as required and knead the dough. The dough should be soft and little moist  

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  • Heat oil in a deep pan/kadai
  • Fill the dough inside the murukku maker fitted with a 3-star plate/disc as shown below and press lightly onto a large spoon
  • In case they break while pressing, sprinkle some water on the dough and try again

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  • Check if the oil is ready by dropping a small piece of the dough into the oil. It should rise to the surface immediately
  • Start sliding the murukkus from the spoon into the oil. Do not overcrowd them. I usually stick to two or three at a time
  • Fry until light golden brown and remove onto a paper towel
  • Once they cool down, transfer to an air-tight container

Tip: Do not leave the murukkus in the oil for too long in order to get a darkIMG_3439er color. They continue to cook for few seconds even after being removed from the oil and you will notice a change in color between the time you removed them from the oil to when they are completely cooled down.