Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vegetable Biryani and Simple Onion Raita

I had been wanting to make vegetable biriyani for a long time. Even D was asking for it from quite some time. The time came when I saw the picture of mouth watering veg biriyani pics on Hema’s photo blog. She passed on the fool proof recipe that she had used and it made my temptation harder!

So the next chance I got, I made it and it was pretty good for a first timer - there were of course some improvements and adjustments needed to suit our taste - mainly, it turned out a bit too spicy for us... the gravy part had to be reduced. Never the less it was too tasty and vanished off.

Next time, I made it again within a couple of days for a small party at home, and made those adjustments... it turned out to be a huge hit! I was overwhelmed with the compliments that I got for it! Thanks Hema, for a wonderful recipe!

Here goes the recipe...

Veg Biryani

Rice - 3 cups, Basmati variety
Ghee / clarified butter - 1 tbsp
Cooking oil - 2-3 Tbsp
Vegetables (Beans, Carrot, Capsicum) - 2 cups, chopped
Tomatoes - 2 chopped fine
Green peas - ½ to ¾ cup
Soya chunks - a handful, optional (if using, soak in hot water for a couple of minutes and squeeze)
Cardamom - 3
Cloves - 3-4
Cinnamon - 1” stick
Salt - ½ tsp
Cashews - 1 Tbsp, broken into pieces
Onions - 2 medium sized, chopped into fine strips, length wise
Coriander - a handful, chopped fine

For masala paste
Onion - 2 medium sized, chopped into chunks
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tsp (I used 1” raw ginger and 5-6 cloves garlic)
Green chilies - 3-4, as per taste
Cardamom - 3
Cloves - 3-4
Cinnamon - 1” stick
Garam masala - ½ tsp
Salt - ½ tsp
Red Chili powder - ½ tsp (adjust as per your taste)
Coriander leafs - a small bunch
Curd - ½ cup

Making the masala vegetable gravy:
• Cook vegetables including green peas and tomatoes till ¾ th either in a microwave or on stove top in a pan with some oil or in boiling water
• Grind the ingredients for masala paste into a smooth paste. Use curds to facilitate the blades
• In a pan, heat a tbsp of oil and add the masala paste and cook till the raw smell goes
• Add the semi cooked vegetables and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add more curds to adjust the consistency to a thick gravy
• Turn off the heat and let it sit till the rice is cooked

Making Rice:
• Wash and soak rice for 30 minutes in enough water and a tsp of ghee and ½ tsp of salt.
• In a pressure cooker, heat a tbsp of oil and some ghee
• Add cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and sauté
• Add the soaked and drained rice and fry for a couple of minutes
• Cook with 1.5 times the quantity of water, with a tsp salt for just 1 whistle
• Once the pressure is down, spread the cooked rice in a wide bowl and add a teaspoon of oil so that the grains do not stick
• Keep aside for 5 minutes to cool

Frying the Onions:
• In a pan, heat a tbsp of oil and add the cashews
• Once cashews are almost done, add half of the onion strips and sauté well on medium heat till it becomes brown
• Make sure not to char it, by stirring frequently
• Keep aside till assembly

Assembling the Biriyani:
• For dum effect, use a shallow, heavy vessel or a deep pressure cooker - I used my 3 liter deep pressure cooker
• Grease the bottom and sides with some ghee / oil/ butter
• Taste the gravy and the cooked rice for salt and if needed add more to the gravy; adjust chili powder as well.
• Add a tbsp of the gravy and spread it as first layer
• Layer about half a cup of cooked rice evenly over it
• Layer the sautéed onions evenly
• Repeat with the rest of the gravy and rice and onions, forming several layers
• Use the raw onions in the middle layers and also keep some for the top most layer
• Add chopped coriander on top
• Cover the lid and keep it on very low flame; put on the weight if using pressure cooker
• Keep it on heat for 20-25 minutes for the spices to blend into the rice
• When ready to serve, gently mix the layers - do not over mix
• Serve hot with a nice raita and enjoy!

• Making rice with a 1.5 times water, with ghee or oil makes the grains separate and not sticky
• Handle the basmati rice with utmost care as it is very delicate and can break
• Do not over cook the veggies - a crunchy effect will make it nice. And it will get cooked again, anyways
• A bit of butter can also be used for a richer effect in between some layers
• The raw onions add a unique taste, flavor and texture to the end product

Simple Onion Raita

Onion - 1, medium sized
Cooking oil - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Green chilies - 1-2, vary according to your taste
Coriander - 2 tsp, finely chopped
Garam Masala - ½ tsp
Red Chili powder - ½ tsp, optional
Thick curd - 1-1½ cups
Salt - ¾ tsp or as per taste

Chop onions very finely
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and allow to splutter
Add slit green chilies and sauté for a minute
Cool slightly and mix the rest of the ingredients. Beat the curd slightly before adding
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Carrot, Potato and Cashew Soup

In my quest to bring variations to the regular soups, I tried this out. I had read somewhere on using cashews to thicken the soup... and since I like the taste of potato also, this was the combination, finally...

It did turn out very nice and creamy... it was absolutely fatless, as I didn’t add any butter nor cream... but still it had a rich texture and taste when compared to the usual carrot soup, and we all loved it. I can say this was the best soup that I had ever made...

Here’s the recipe...

Preparation time : 5 min
Cooking time : 15 min
Serves : 4 -5

Carrot - 1-2 medium sized
Tomato - 1 small
Potato - 1 medium sized
Cashews - 8-10
Ginger - 1” cube
Black pepper powder - 1 tsp
Red Chili powder - ¼ tsp (optional)
Salt - ½ tsp or as per taste
Sugar - ¼ tsp or as per taste
Water - 2 cups, change acc to consistency
Milk - ¼ cup
Mint leaves - a ahandful

• Peel and chop carrots and potato into large chunks
• Cook the chopped carrots, potatoes and tomato in a pressure cooker with a little water and a few mint leaves for one whistle
• Let it cool for a few minutes
• Soak the cashews in a little water
• Grind the cooked carrots, potato, tomato and ginger, along with soaked cashews adding the water used for cooking the veggies if necessary, to make a fine paste
• Strain the puree to a vessel
• Add salt and chili powder and let it boil for 2-3 minutes.
• Add milk and enough water so that a right consistency of soup is maintained – neither too thick nor too thin
• Let it boil for a couple of minutes more.
• Put off the heat and add fresh cream and stir well
• Add more pepper powder as needed, garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve hot

• A small onion can also be added to give a different flavor

• Use chili powder only if you want the soup spicy. Normally, the ginger and pepper are enough for spice.
• Corn flour is not needed for this soup, as the potato and cashews make the soup thick already.
• You can add cream if you want the soup richer - bu as I said, it was rich enough even without it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eggless Basic Sponge Cake

On the birthday of one of my nieces, I have made it a routine to visit her in the evening after office and after her school and take something for her. It is usually some toys or stationery and sometimes a cake from a baker.

This time, however, since she had exams the following day, there was no formal ‘cake-cutting’ party, but a small get together of the family. Since I’ll be looking for an opportunity to bake cakes, I decided I’ll carry a cake for her - a simple one, with no decorations. And it had to be eggless.

A search into my linked blogs pointed me to Madhuri’s lovely blog where I had seen this eggless sponge loaf and drooled over some time back. After seeing the ‘tastymonials’ I knew this will be the recipe that I’ll try. I followed the recipe as is and the cake was in the oven in less than 20 minutes. And at the end of next 40 minutes, the kitchen was smelling so good! The cake looked lovely!!

I had used a second small pan to make a smaller one for ourselves, along with it. I couldn’t resist but cut the other one and taste it ;). It did taste great, with no tinge of curds or oil, which were the main ingredients used. Yay! I had a reliable basic sponge recipe now!!

It got over in no time, with cousins, and nieces having bite after bite :)

Thanks Madhuri, for a wonderful recipe!

Preparation time : 15 min
Baking time : 35-40 min

All-purpose flour/Maida – 1 1/2 cups
Sugar – 3/4 cup (The original called for 1 cup)
Baking powder – 1 1/4 tsps
Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
Salt – a pinch
Thick curd – 1 cup
Cooking oil – 1/2 cup
Vanilla essence – 2 tsps

• Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. Grease a standard-sized loaf-pan and set aside. I used 2 small pans - one heart shaped and one star shaped
• Powder the sugar and in a bowl, mix the curd and sugar till the sugar dissolves.
• Stir-in the baking powder and baking soda into the curd mixture. Mix well and set aside for 2-3 minutes. The curd will turn frothy and start rising and increasing in volume.
• In the meanwhile, sieve the flour thrice and set aside.
• Add the oil and vanilla essence to the curd mixture. Stir gently so that the air in the mixture is not lost.
• Next, gently fold in the flour. Don’t stir very vigorously; do it very gently. The batter should have a dropping consistency.
• Pour the batter into the readied pan and bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.
• Lower the temperature to 180C/350F, and bake for another 35-40 minutes, till the toothpick inserted comes out clean
• Once it is done, using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the loaf with milk and keep it back in the oven for 2 minutes at 200C/400F. This is what gives the loaf that wonderful glazed finish on top.
• Once done, remove from oven and let the tin cool on a wire-rack for 10 minutes. Run a serrated knife around the edges and upturn the cake from the tin and let it cool on the wire-rack for a good amount of time before you can slice it.
• Once fully cooled, slice the cake with a serrated knife and enjoy it with a cup of tea or as is!

• Do the measurements of the ingredients accurately - the first time I made it it was extremely good. The second time, however, I was a bit more lenient in the addition of oil and it turned out to be more. The half cup measure mentioned here is just perfect - does not leave any oily smell or feel and at the same time keeps the cake moist enough. Do not increase it even by a teaspoon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sweet Potato Raita

A raita to go with a flavored rice is almost a must in many households... and ours is one such. Raita is basically a vegetable - cooked or raw, in a yoghurt sauce, tempered with some mild spices. A good raita not only makes a good combination with flavored rice, but also adds up to the taste.

Usually, these raitas are very simple to make and with variations. This one uses sweet potato as the veggie and is not very common... but it does taste awesome, with a sweetish taste combined with sour-ish curds, tempered with spicy chilies and salt to taste.... Try it out and serve it with pulavs/puliyogare/vanghibath/biriyani, or lisck it off as is, that too tastes great!

Preparation time : 5 min
Cooking time : 10 min + 2 min
Serves : 4-5

Sweet potato - 1, medium sized
Cooking oil - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Green chilies - 4-5, vary according to your taste
Coriander - 2 tsp, finely chopped
Coconut - 2 tsp, grated
Thick curd - 1-1½ cups
Salt - ¾ tsp or as per taste

Wash and cook sweet potato till soft. I use pressure cooker till 2-3 whistles
When cool enough to handle, peel off the outer skin and slightly mash it into smaller pieces
Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and allow to splutter
Add Urad dal and roast till golden color
Add slit green chilies and curry leaves and sauté for a minute
To the mashed , mix the tempering prepared above, salt and grated coconut
When ready to serve, add the curd and mix well. If it is too thick, thin it down with a little water
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve

Tips n Tricks:
Let there be some small pieces of the sweet potato. Do not mash it very fine
This raita is not very thin, and don’t add too much of water, which will spoil the taste

The same can be prepared with potatoes also.