Rava Kesari (Sweet Semolina Dessert)

In October, we celebrate Navaratri/ Dasara over 10 days (9 nights). It is celebrated all over India and each part of India celebrates it differently. In Mysore, the Dasara procession draws people from all over the world, in Calcutta it is the Durga Puja celebrating Goddess Durga. In Gujarat they celebrate Dasara with dhandia and garba events all over the state. In Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, people display dolls and figurines with different themes over the 9 days (called golu or gombe habba), inviting people over. Every day an offering is made for the Gods and also served to the guests. Rava kesari or kesari bath (as it is called in Karnataka) is one of those quick desserts you can whip up. In Karnataka, you will find kesari bhat (sweet) and khara bhat (savoury) (similar to uppittu or upma) served on the same plate and called chow chow bhat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rava (semolina) – usually the fine variety. If you cannot find the fine one you can whizz it in the mixer for 30 seconds
  • 3/4 cup sugar (increase to 1 cup if you want it sweeter)
  • 6 tbsp ghee
  • 2-3 tbsp cashewnuts
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 cup water (some people add milk)
  • a pinch saffron mixed in a tbsp of water or orange colouring
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder

Directions

  • Heat 3 tbsp ghee in a pan or wok
  • Add cashews and fry. Remove and set aside. In the same ghee, fry raisins and keep aside.
  • Add rava/ semolina to the same ghee and roast till golden brown. Set aside
  • Heat water in the same pan.
  • Slowly add and mix in the rava till the water is absorbed and there are no lumps
  • Add sugar and keep mixing till the sugar dissolves. If you think you like it sweeter add more sugar.
  • Add cardamom and saffron water. Mix.
  • Add rest of ghee and mix well
  • Add cashew nuts and raisin and serve
  • This can be served both hot or cold

Crispy Delicious Falafel

Crispy Delicious Falafel

My first introduction to falafel was almost 25 years before. I had just moved to Sweden and missed Indian food and the indian weather. I landed in Sweden on a sunny, warm (according to the Swedes) day. I spent much of that winter wearing a bright blue ski jacket. I realized that year that sunny does not equal to warm. I slowly got to love the weather, eating ice cream when it is cold; best time to eat icecream as it will not melt. In those days there were no indian stores and one indian restaurant which served really bad indian food. We did find a middle eastern place serving falafels and for me the closest I could get to masala vada. Over the years, I have eaten some really good falafel around the world, some of the best at Oasis, a small eatery in Iowa City. I have been making falafels forever. I usually serve it with hummus, baba ganoush, some salad and pita bread. Stuff the pita bread with some lettuce, falafel, baba ganoush and hummus and you have a hearty sandwich. I tried a new recipe for baba ganoush which was really good. Stay tuned for the recipe. You can use the leftover batter, if you have any, to make a vegan burger ; add some veggies and shape it like a burger and fry or grill.

I have at times decided to go healthy and bake the falafel. Oil a baking pan, place falafels (flatten slightly) on pan, drizzle oil and bake at 375ºF (190ºC) for 20-25 minutes, flipping the falafel halfway through the baking time. They are quite good but I much prefer the fried ones of course.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry garbanzo beans/ chickpeas
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper/red chilli powder
  • 1-2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour/chickpea flour/ besan or all purpose flour- use garbanzo bean flour for gluten free option
  • 1 small bunch coriander/cilantro or parsley leaves
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • vegetable/ canola oil to fry

Directions

  • Soak chickpeas for 12 hours in water. Make sure there is at least 3 inches of water above the chickpeas as they will double in size
  • Drain and rinse chickpeas
  • Pour chickpeas in a food processor/mixer and blend with the garlic, cumin powder, coriander powder, seranno chilli, cayenne pepper. Add a tbsp of water if required. Add onions, cilantro/parsley and pulse till the texture is like sand
  • Place in a bowl. Add salt and 1 tbsp garbanzo bean flour and mix. You should be able to make balls and it should not fall apart. If it does, add another tbsp of flour and mix
  • If you have time, refrigerate for an hour or two
  • At this point you could add baking soda to make the falafel fluffy
  • Heat oil in a wok or pan to around 350ºF. I just drop a small ball of falafel to the oil, if it rises the oil is ready to fry. If not, heat oil for some more time
  • Once the small piece is fried, taste for salt. Add salt if required
  • Make balls and fry in batches of 5-6 till golden brown. Some of them I dipped in sesame seeds for a different texture and taste
  • Drain on a paper towel
  • Serve hot as an appetizer or as a complete meal with pita, hummus, baba ganoush and salad.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Tomatillo is my new favourite vegetable. It looks like a green tomato but has a husk around it. When the husk is removed, you see a vegetable that looks like a green tomato. It is sticky and needs to be washed. The taste however is very different. It is more tart than a tomato. I would say it has the taste of a raw tomato and amla (gooseberry ) combined. It has this wonderful tart and slightly sweet taste and you could whip up a salsa in no time. The salsa thickens the next day. I tried it with dosa the next day and it went really well as a chutney. I have used raw tomato as a substitute with some extra lemon juice but would next time throw in some gooseberry or a piece of raw mango instead.

Ingredients

  • tomatillos 6 nos
  • garlic 2-3 cloves
  • seranno or jalapenos 2-3 (increase or decrease according to spice level)
  • onion- chopped 1/4 cup
  • cilantro 3-4 tbsp
  • lime/lemon juice (optional)- depending on the sourness of the tomatillo
  • 1 tsp vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  • Turn on the oven to broil
  • Chop 1/4 cup onions and soak in cold water
  • On a baking tray, place aluminium foil or parchment paper
  • Remove husk from tomatillo and wash well
  • Place on pan. Add garlic and chillies. Drizzle with oil
  • Place under broiler for 3-4 minutes
  • Remove garlic and chillies and place aside. Turn tomatillos and grill for another 3-4 minutes
  • Remove and add all ingredients (including the juices on the pan) except lemon juice to food processor/mixer and grind to a fine paste
  • Add salt to taste and lemon juice if required.
  • Serve with chips or on tacos/ quesadillas or with idli or dosa as chutney

Roasted Cherry tomatoes with Pasta and breadcrumb Topping

There are days when you get back from work and need a quick dinner. If you have some cherry tomatoes in the fridge this is a dinner you can throw together while you have a cup of tea or coffee.

I saw a similar recipe in a food group on Facebook. Emily who is in the group makes some beautiful food and caters food. She is generous with her recipes and I adapted this from hers. She got the recipe from Bon Apetit Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipes . Emily grilled the tomatoes at 200ºF for 5-6 hours, mixing occasionally. I am sure that the flavors intensify. I did not do that. She also used anchovies; I used capers and olives instead. I modified this recipe with a recipe I saw in food network by Valerie Bertinelli and used eggplant too. Emily used toasted breadcrumbs and that really pops and I have started using it for a lot of pasta dishes. This recipe is an easy weekday recipe as most of the work is done in the oven. Relax with a cup of tea while the oven does the work.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • crushed chilli peppers
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I made my own with leftover bread and lots of herbs, some walnuts and chilli flakes)
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil or parsley
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp capers and olives
  • 3-4 chopped garlic
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 1 eggplant, cubed
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • parmesan cheese 3 tbsp (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC)
  • Place tomatoes, salt, 2 cloves garlic, sliced and 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast for 1 hour. (Or preheat oven to 200º F and roast for 3-5 hours. Keep mixing). Set aside
  • Mix breadcrumbs with herbs, salt and pepper. Add a tbsp of oil and mix to resemble damp sand. Add capers and chopped olives. Spread on a pan with parchment paper. Drizzle with a tbsp of oil
  • Increase heat to 400ºF (200ºC). Bake for for about 5 minutes till golden brown
  • Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain; reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid
  • In a pan heat 2 tbsp oil
  • Add garlic, stir for 30 seconds. Add eggplant and stir fry till cooked, but not overcooked
  • Add tomatoes Crush some tomatoes and cook for a few minutes
  • Add spaghetti and some of the reserved pasta water if dry and cook till well mixed
  • Pour into a serving bowl. Add some basil and drizzle some olive oil. Top with the breadcrumbs and serve
  • Sprinkle some parmesan cheese (optional)

Congress Kadalekai (Roasted Spiced Peanuts)

Congress Kadalekai- Congress is a political party in India and kadalekai is peanuts in kannada, the language spoken in the state of Karnataka. How did this dish get the name. There are different stories, one being, that this was named after the congress party split in 1969 as the peanuts used here are always split and not whole. You can read more here: http://www.expressfoodie.com/the-guide/bangalore/the-spicy-congress-peanuts-of bangalore/#:~:text=Legend%20has%20it%20that%20since,split%20to%20make%20this%20snack

The peanuts are relished by all, whatever the party affiliation of the person. This is healthy and tastes so good. In Bangalore, you can buy this in every Iyengar bakery and now even in stores. Iyengar Bakeries are small bakeries typically selling fresh white or milk bread, rolls, stuffed potato buns, vegetable puffs, cakes and snacks. They are cheap and affordable. When I was in India, I would but this and make masala peanuts as an appetizer when I had guests. It is easy to make. Now, I make the congress peanuts at home and sending a batch with my son to college to snack.

Congress peanuts goes really well with coffee, tea or a cold glass of beer. In a lot of pubs, you will find masala congress peanuts. To the congress peanuts, add some chopped onions, grated carrots, chopped tomatoes, lemon juice and cilantro and you have bar food. After you have this, you will wish every pub serves this instead of the plain peanuts.

Recently my colleague made this and she and her family and friends loved it. Give it a try, super easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 2 cup skinless peanuts (raw or roasted)
  • 3- 4 tsp vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1-2 pinches (1/4 tsp) asafoetida
  • 20-30 curry leaves about 2 sprigs, washed and dried
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder (Kashmiri chilli powder is less spicy than the regular chilli powder and it imparts a red colour. You can use regular chilli powder too. Add according to how spicy you would like)
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • salt to taste (about 1 tsp depending if peanuts are salted or not)
  • a pinch sugar

Directions

  • Heat a heavy bottom pan
  • If using raw peanuts, add to pan and roast. Be careful not to burn. Set aside on a plate. If peanuts have skin, rub them against your palm to remove skin and seperate skin and nut. (I used roasted peanuts and skipped this step)
  • Place pan on stove and add oil.
  • When oil is hot, reduce flame to medium heat and add asafoetida and curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds
  • Add spices and fry for a minute on low heat. Do not burn
  • Add peanuts and mix well
  • Take off heat and let cool before you serve
  • Store in airtight container

To make Peanut Masala: To 1 cup congress peanuts, add 3 tbsp chopped onions, 3 tbsp chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp grated carrots, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, a tsp or two of lime/lemon juice, salt to taste and mix. If you want it even more spicy, add 1 chopped serrano chilli pepper or some more chilli powder and mix. Serve with coffee, tea, beer or as a salad.

Indian Street Style Grilled Corn

Monsoons bring a vivid picture to all those who have experienced it. Each one with different memories and mostly about food. I remember one day, returning to the office (I was working in marketing just after college) on my moped. I was at on the street my office was on, could almost see it at the end of the road. It started raining; I was sure I could make it to the office in a minute or so and therefore did not stop at a shelter. The skies opened up and I was soaked to the bone. I literally had to squeeze the water from my clothes. The experience of soaking wet or standing under a tree or under a bus stop shelter, trying to keep dry; umbrellas flying in the wind; a chaiwalla at the corner of a street selling chai; a person frying hot pakodas and bhajjis (fritters); a person selling grilled corn at the street corner.

Grilled Corn- The thought of it makes my mouth water, the spicy chilli and the tangy lime and the green chutney. The cart would have a small charcoal grill (a metal bowl filled with coal). The person would grill the corn, embers flying; you standing close to the grill to stay warm but trying to avoid the embers. Once he grills the corn, he would ask you if you want chutney on it. It is a green liquid in a bottle with a brush. If you are brave (not worrying whether the water is filtered or not), you would say yes. He would then brush the corn with the chutney and put it back on the coal. He would then dip a piece of lime in a mixture of salt and chilli powder and rub it on the corn. Taking the first bite, there would be a rush of flavours; the dry spices sticking to your lips, the mixture of herbs and spices and the charred grill corn.

This is really easy to make and after you eat this, you will not want to eat plain grilled corn. In Mexico, I saw them grilling corn on teh roadside and added spices and sprinkled some cheese on it. I have grilled corn and sprinkled mexican spices (tajin) and the taste is very similar.

Ingredients

  • 4 corn on the cob, cleaned
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chat masala or garam masala (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut in half
  • green chutney- grind 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, salt to taste and 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper to a paste with 1/4 cup water (optional)

Directions

  • Clean corn- remove husk and silk. Brush oil over it
  • Heat a coal or gas grill
  • In a bowl, make a mixture of salt, chilli powder and chat masala
  • If using, grind ingredients for green chutney and set aside
  • Place corn and roast on all sides. Keep turning to uniformly roast.
  • Take off heat and brush chutney all over the corn and put it back on the grill for a minute. Turn. Be careful not to burn
  • Take off heat
  • Dip lemon slice into the salt chilli powder mixture and rub on all sides of the corn.
  • Serve