Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Banana Chocolate Cake - Vegan and low fat

I don’t seem to tire with banana based bakes! For one, it is quite easy to prepare with no hassles and another, bananas are generally in plenty at home, and very often, it ends up unconsumed and over ripe. The best way to use it up would be to bake something with it!

And when there are so many different varieties of bakes with it, I tend to use a different recipe every time. And the main source for my bakes would be Champa’s Versatile Kitchen. She too doesn’t seem to tire with variations in banana cakes and breads and muffins :)

So this one was baked in between a very hectic schedule, just to use up some over ripe bananas. I baked it in two mini loaf pans and took one of them for a gathering. The phone in the pic below shows Champa’s blog on it - that’s how I refer to recipes while baking!
Thanks Champa!

So, here’s the recipe…
Banana Chocolate Cake - Vegan

Preparation time : 10 min
Baking time : 45-50 min

All purpose flour - 2 cups (I used 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup APF)
Sugar - 1 cup; don’t skimp on this; I did and mine was a little less sweet
Baking Soda - 1 ½ tsp
Salt - ½ tsp; I used only a pinch
Cocoa powder - 2/3 cup
Vegetable oil - ½ cup
Warm water - 1 ½ cups (I used ½ cup thick coffee decoction + 1 cup water for a more chocolate flavor)
Vanilla - 2 tsp
Banana puree - 1 cup (I used 7-8 of those tiny ones - elakki variety)

• Preheat the oven to 350 F
• Spray 2 loaf pans of size 8 X 4
• In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa. Set aside.
• In another bowl, whisk together oil, water or coffee, banana puree, vanilla and sugar till well mixed.
• Dump the dry ingredients to wet and whisk to combine without over mixing. Be gentle and stir or fold if needed.
• Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
• Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn on to the wire rack to cool completely.

• Champa says you could dust with powdered sugar or pour a simple glaze, but I left it as is.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bitterless Bitter-gourd Curry / Hagalakai Palya

I LOVE bitter gourd. Right from the time I was a kid. Mom used to make a gojju/tangy gravy out of it and I’d lick my fingers clean. Everyone would be surprised that a kid can love bitter gourd! Later in school days, I’d share it with my friends and not tell them that it is bitter gourd, and they too would fall in love with it. And when I told them, they’d not believe that bitter gourd can be bitter-less!

Now, my MIL makes this palya out of it, and it is equally tasty. Little niece Hima, no follows my suit and loves it like anything. Her meal would get over in a fraction of usual time, if the menu includes bittergourd palya! And even after a meal, she’ll come with a spoon and take the curry in it to lick it clean!

The secret to remove the bitterness in the bittergourd is to fry it on low flame for quite a bit of time. Alternately, you can soak it in some water mixed with turmeric and salt for some time and then squeeze it, but I’d prefer the former. It does take some time to cook, but the end result is awesome. And it stays for at least a week if refrigerated, so it is well worth the effort.

Here’s the recipe...

Bitterless Bitter-gourd Curry / Hagalakai Palya

Preparation time : 10 min
Cooking time : 45 min

Bitter gourd / Hagalakai - 5-6 medium sized
Onion - 3-4 medium sized
Cooking oil - 2 Tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Turmeric - ¼ tsp
Curry leaves - 2-3 sprigs
Tamarind paste - 1 Tbsp, thick
Salt - 1½ tsp or as per taste
Jaggery - one medium lime sized ball
Rasam / Sambhar powder - 3 tsp

• Chop bitter gourd into thin pieces and slice onions into thin slices, vertically
• In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds and allow to splutter
• Add curry leaves, and when they turn crispy, add turmeric
• Add the chopped bitter gourd and sauté it for a couple of minutes
• Put it on low flame and cover and cook for about 25 - 30 minutes, till cooked. Take care not to burn, but sautéing frequently.
• When almost done, add onions and continue cooking for 5 more minutes till the raw smell of onions goes
• Add tamarind paste, salt and crushed jaggery and sauté till the jaggery and salt are dissolved and tamarind water is evaporated
• Add sambhar / rasam powder and mix well and sauté for a few more minutes for the flavors and taste to blend well
• Serve with chapathis / dosas / rice
• When cool, store in a container in fridge

• Use a heavy bottomed pan for this, as otherwise the bottom gets charred soon
• Usage of onions is optional - either ways taste different
• Rasam powder or sambhar powder or a mix of both can be used. Each lends a slightly different flavor and tastes equally good

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Peanut Chutney Pudi

Where was I all these past days? Well, I was busy with my brother-in-law’s wedding. The wedding was on last weekend and now some breather for us, before my sis’s wedding in a couple of weeks!
With an already hectic schedule, my MIL met with an accident 4 weeks before the wedding! And that needed a few days of hospitalization, a nasal surgery, some dental treatments, etc… Being a person who had never been admitted to a hospital, it was too much for her to get over this. And the responsibilities on our shoulders more than doubled, with hospital work added to the wedding work. Somehow, by God’s grace, the difficult times seem to be over and the wedding went on pretty smooth.

Well, when things were like this, all I wanted every day, was to finish off the cooking part soon, but still not disappointing people’s expectations, so that I could concentrate on other work including office. Jars of Chutney pudis do come in very handy at such times. But unfortunately (or fortunately for me) the always-almost-filled jars of chutney pudi had just reached the bottom! And I knew making it once, spending some time would save up a lot of time subsequently.

This version of chutney pudi is actually a quick fix in our households. The conventional, traditional one using different lentils is what is generally made, but is quite laborious. Whereas this one, uses just peanuts and red chilies making it the simplest to make! But the taste, however, is quite rich because of the oil from peanuts and is quite addictive.

Learnt from mom, I call it the simplest and easiest chutney pudi ever.

Peanut Chutney Pudi

Preparation time : 10 min
Cooking time : 5 min
Shelf life : 2-3 months

Peanuts - 2 cups
Red chilies - 1 cup, packed; I use Byadagi variety. Guntoor variety may be used for a spicy version
Salt - 2-3 Tsp, depending on taste

• Dry roast peanuts in a skillet or in microwave, till the husk begins to show cracks
• Dry roast chilies separately till they are crisp
• Allow both to cool completely
• Add salt and grind all the three ingredients to a coarse powder
• Ensure not to grind too much as it forms into lumps
• Spread it out on a dry tray and allow to dry for half an hour
• Transfer it to an air tight jar
• Tastes great when mixed with steam cooked rice and a spoonful of oil
• Also good with dosas, rotis, etc

• Ensure that roasted items are cooled before grinding, to avoid lumping
• A small marble sized ball of tamarind may also be roasted and ground together - But I prefer the simpler version

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Southern Flavours | Book Review

My first book review as part of the Blog Adda book review program, tough I’ve done some reviews earlier. When I volunteered to review books on Blog Adda, I was excited and eagerly waiting for it, in spite of the super busy times I’m having currently. May be I’ll work well, when under pressure! The last post I did was for an even hosted by a friend, that too on the last day, and so is this review as it has to be done within 7 days.

The author, Chandra Padmanabhan, has collated some every day South Indian dishes and given recipes in simple steps in this nice book named Southern Flavors.

• First impression of the book (very important to me!) is impressive with a hard cover, and a comfortable size, though I did not find the cover pic that attractive.
• As you flip through the pages, there is some introduction to South Indian food, South Indian cooking and paraphernalia required for some dishes.
• You see a variety of recipes categorized into different sections as per the course of a typical South Indian meal and ingredients and recipes neatly laid out in easy to follow manner.
• Rice being the staple in most South Indian cooking, can be made in various ways and the author has laid out clear instructions on making rice in 3 different ways, with detailed steps, making it ideal for even beginners.
• Along with detailed step by step method for preparation, every recipe also contains information about the time required to get the dish ready, and the yield of the final dish using the quantity of ingredients mentioned.
• The quantities of ingredients are clearly mentioned, along with the common names sometimes in Hindi / local language from where the dish originates.
• The original local names of each dish is preserved, while giving a translation in English for anyone new to roughly get a picture of what each dish is about.
• On the flip side, I personally did not find the pictures very attractive mostly because of my expectations of food photography for books has risen after seeing fellow bloggers’ food pictures. Though there are not pictures of each and every dish, the ones that are present are named appropriately unlike some books with no names on pictures.
• The little illustrations of ingredients/vegetables below every recipe makes the book interesting.
• The author gives credit to whomever she learnt each recipe from, be it her Mother-in-law, or a friend, or a cook or a friend or a chef or some Shiela aunty she met at a health camp.
• I personally felt the book contains more of recipes from Tamil Nadu when compared to the other states (has some recipes mostly from specific regions of the other states). May be a few more from other regions would have balanced it better.
• Also ideal for gifting for to new brides married into south Indian families.
• However, I found the book slightly overpriced at Rs.599/-

Overall, it is a good keeper of a book, with everyday cooking recipes from South India, ideal for beginners with basics and for experienced cooks with the array of dishes. A good work by the author Chandra Padmanabhan, who is a graduate from Calcutta University, did her post graduation in education at Delhi University and has long been associated with the publishing industry, with cooking that has been her forte for nearly four decades.
Thank you, BlogAdda for this opportunity to review a cook book.
Pic Courtesy - The Hindu epaper.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!