Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Peanut Butter Fudge And Vegetable Steak For A Happy New Year

HAPPY 2014 
These are the yummy results of the culinary experiments conducted by my dear grand daughter with my assistance during her Christmas holidays. 
Peanuts - 2 cups
Olive oil - 2 tbsps
Butter - 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar - 3 cups
Salt - 1 pinch
1. Dry roast peanuts till it emanates a pleasant aroma.
2. Cool and then blend with salt till it starts giving out oil.
3. Add olive oil and blend till it becomes a thick paste.
4. Melt butter and half a cup of the peanut paste together in a microwave oven for a minute and stir the contents well.
5. Mix in the powdered sugar and knead into a dough.
6. Pat the mixture on a greased plate.
7. Mark the pieces using a sharp knife so that it is easy to remove them later.
8. Chill the fudge in the refrigerator for an hour till it sets.

Cut, eat and enjoy the melt in the mouth Peanut Butter Fudge any time you crave for a sweet.
Beans ( Stringed and chopped) - 1 cup
Carrots (Peeled and chopped) - 1 cup
Chayote ( Peeled and chopped ) - 1 cup
Onion  ( Finely chopped ) - 1 cup
Capsicum ( Finely chopped ) - 1 cup
Peas  - 1 cup
Tomatoes ( chopped ) - 1/4 cup
Potatoes - 6
Whole Green gram  - 1 cup
Salt - 1 1/2 tsps
Sambar powder - 1 tsp
Cinnamon  - 2'' piece
Cardamom - 3
 Cloves - 6
Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Garlic - 6 cloves
Oil for sauteing and cooking
1. Pressure cook whole Green gram adding 2 cups of water.
2. Place the potatoes in another vessel without water on top of the vessel containing green gram and cook both together until the cooker gives out three whistles.
3. Heat  2 tbsps of oil in a kadai and add 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds.
4. When it splutters add the chopped onion and fry till it becomes golden in colour.
5. Add the chopped capsicum and cook till it wilts.
6. Add the chopped carrots, beans, chayote and peas and saute till the vegetables are almost done.
7. Blend in the salt and sambar powder and cook till dry.
8. Powder the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and cumin seeds into a fine powder. Add the peeled garlic cloves and crush them along with the spice powder.
9. Add the powdered spice powder and the tomatoes to the vegetables, stir well and cook till you get a very pleasant aroma.
10.  Peel and mash the potatoes along with the cooked green gram and add the mash to the cooked vegetables.
11. Blend the vegetables well and keep the mixture thick.
12. Heat one spoon of oil in a shallow frying pan.(We used the aapa chatti).
13. Take a big scoop of the prepared vegetable mash, flatten it like a vada on your palm and place it on the pan.
14. Cook on medium flame till the underneath becomes brown in colour.
15. Gently flip the steak using a spatula and dribble few drops of oil around it.
16. Cook till it becomes golden brown or dark brown on both sides.
17. Lift up the frying pan and slide the cooked vegetable steak on to the serving plate.

Relish the Vegetable steak with green mint chutney and tomato sauce.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kalli Curry - Cactus And Pinto Bean Gravy


I wondered why a bag of Chappati Kallis / Cactus was sitting  in my daughter-in-law's refrigerator along with the other fresh and colourful vegetables! I almost had a panic attack when she said  that she intended cooking the Cactus  for dinner! I have never seen or heard anyone cook or eat Chappati Kalli in all my sixty five years of existence! I have seen them flourish in waste lands. I have also seen them planted  in rows as borders to demarcate agricultural properties in rural areas. But eating the 'kalli' ? It seemed a bit far fetched! I browsed through the internet to make sure of the edibility of  the 'thorn' considered to be a vegetable before I made an attempt to eat it. I came to know that the  Nopales or the Prickly Pear Cactus or the  Chappati Kalli also known as Opuntia   is widely  cultivated in Mexico  and is extensively used in Mexican cuisine.
After all the panic and research work, I finally did relish the 'dethorned' and scraped Cactus which my daughter - in - law stir fried with other vegetables. 
The next time my son guided me in the preparation of a Mexican dish using Cactus and Pinto Beans. It was fun learning to 'tame' the monster with thorns and prepare it for cooking!
Cactus pads - 2

Pinto beans - 2 cups

Onion  - 1 (Sliced)
Elephant Garlic  - 1(Sliced)
Jalapeno peppers - a few
Vegan Bouillon cube -1
Refried beans - 1 can

1. Carefully hold the nodule at the base of the cactus pad in one hand and scrape out the thorns using a sharp knife.

2. Similarly scrape the thorns on the flip side.
3. Chop and discard the nodule. 
4. Lay the scraped cactus pad on a cutting board and cut the edges and discard.

5. Make sure that all the prickly thorns are gone and wash the pads thoroughly under running water. 
6. Cut the cactus pads into lengthwise strips.

7. Hold the cut strips together and chop them into small pieces like you would cut green beans.

8. Boil the chopped pieces in 4 cups of water adding a pinch of salt.

9. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetable becomes soft.
10. Drain the cooked cactus pieces and wash with cold water. This removes the slime in the vegetable.
1. Soak the dry Pinto beans in warm water for 4 hours.

2. Drain the now softened  beans and add 4 cups of water in a pressure cooker.

3. Add the drained beans, chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno peppers and the Vegan Bouillon cube.
4. Pressure cook until two whistles, switch off flame and allow to cool.
5. Stir in the Refried beans and the already cooked cactus to the pressure cooked beans.
6. Add more water if the curry is too thick.
7. Since the fried beans already contain salt additional salt is not needed.
8. Stir well and cook the curry for three or four minutes so that the ingredients blend well.

Garnish with more jalapeno pepper slices and enjoy the Mexican Cactus and Pinto Bean Gravy /Kalli Curry with Mexican Red Rice or Rotis.

UPDATED ON - 2/9/2016

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mushroom Pepper Masala

 One of my son's favourite dishes is the Vegetable Pepper Masala which he relished often at the Samrat Restaurant during his boyhood days at Bangalore.  He remembered the most flavoursome gravy and the juicy bites of mushrooms that soaked in it along with the Peppers. Various guesses and suggestions started pouring in during our discussion about the ingredient which rendered the awesome flavour to the gravy. I tried out the dish with a "secret" ingredient which my son suggested  hoping that it would bring out the Samrat flavour.

Mushrooms -  20
Peppers   -  1 green and 1 red
Onion      -   1
Tomatoes -  2
Grated ginger  - 1tsp
Green chilly chopped -  1 tsp
Cinnamon powder -  1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds   -  1/4 tsp
Butter     -  2 1/2  tbsps
Chilly powder  -  1 tsp
Cumin powder  - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder -  1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Salt               -  1 1/2 tsps
Cashew nuts   -  1 cup
Milk        -   2 cups
1. Roast the Cashew nuts in  1/4 tsp of butter and grind them into a smooth paste adding half a cup of  milk and keep aside.
2. Thoroughly wash the mushrooms, remove the stems, slice and keep them aside.
3. Finely chop the onions,  and cut the peppers.

4. Heat the butter in a pan  and add the cumin seeds.
5. Add the cinnamon powder and  then the finely chopped onion.
6. Add the ginger gratings and chopped green chillies and fry till the onion turns golden in colour.
7. Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder, chilly powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and salt.

8. Stir well, cover and cook on low flame till the tomatoes turn into a paste.
9. Add the peppers and cook till half done.

10. Stir in the cashew paste and then the sliced mushrooms, and  cover and cook on low flame for 5 minutes.

11. Add milk and cook till the mushrooms are done ( for about 10 minutes ) and till the gravy thickens.

Enjoy the Mushroom Pepper Masala with any variety of rice or roti of your choice.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie


One fine morning all of us woke up shivering with a bone-piercing chill . My son figured out that the furnace had broken down just when it was most needed - the onset of winter! Since it was week end, servicing could be done only on Monday. My son and daughter-in-law pulled up their socks and started a fire in the fireplace. An  electric heater started working day in and day out on the opposite side. My daughter-in-law started baking morning and evening so that the oven too played an important part in keeping the house warm. She remembered to call the 'paparazzi' ( that is how she playfully calls my husband! ) every time she started baking a delicious meal. Here are the paparazzi's clicks of the Shepherd's pie she baked, followed by a briefing on  how she baked it .We enjoyed every bit of the delicious pie sitting in the warmth of the fireplace which set a perfect holiday mood for the whole family! 

1. Peeled and cubed potatoes were cooked till soft.

2. The cooked potatoes were riced or mashed well.

3. Milk, salt , pepper and butter were mixed with the potato mash.

4. Onion, beans, potatoes and Brussels sprouts were chopped and kept ready. Tofu pieces were slightly roasted in butter and kept aside.

5. Chopped onions, beans, Brussels sprouts and potatoes were added to hot butter in a pan in that order and sauteed well. 

6. Frozen peas and corn were added next.

7. A scoop of vegetable base was stirred into the vegetables  along with the roasted tofu, salt, and pepper. A paste of arrowroot powder and water was added. The vegetable medley was cooked till it thickened. 

8. The oven proof  pan was removed from stove and the potato mash was spread evenly on the prepared vegetables.

9. The pie was baked at 350 degree F in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until the crust turned into a golden brown colour.


10. We enjoyed every piece and scoop of the hot and delicious Vegetable Shepherd's Pie with tomato sauce and chips.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Orzo Pilaf / Pulav


My son is the only one in the family who is a very organised cook. The vegetable peels go directly into his bin as and when they are chopped. The knives, peeler and the cutting board are arranged in the dish washer immediately after use. The cooking range is wiped clean and dry. The ingredients needed for cooking are all ready within his hand's reach. And only then he starts cooking. His kitchen is ever ready for a photo session! I was amazed at his orderliness and the ease with which he prepared Orzo Pilaf for us on a lazy Sunday.
Orzo is a form of pasta and it looks like long grain rice. Here is how my son cooked  pilaf / pulav using this pasta.


Orzo- 2 cups
Chopped onion - 1/2 cup
Chopped red bell pepper - 1/2 cup
Slit green chillies - 4
Fresh ginger ( slivered) - 1 tsp
Carrots ( chopped ) - 1 cup
 Frozen peas - 1 cup
Salt - 1 1/2 tsp
Vegetable broth - 2 1/2 cups
Olive oil - 2 tbsps
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Cloves - 6
Cardamom- 3
Star anise - 1
Cinnamon - 1'' piece

1. Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds.
2. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and star anise and fry.

3. Add the onion, bell peppers, ginger and  green chillies and saute till onions turn transparent.

4. Stir in carrot and peas and cook for three minutes.

5. Add orzo and keep stirring till dry.

6. Finally add the vegetable broth and salt.

7. Cook till the orzo absorbs all the broth stirring now and then.

8. Add more broth or water if necessary and cook till the pilaf is done.

Thanks dear sonny, we enjoyed your Orzo Pilaf garnished with so much of your love and care.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

LAN SU And Chinese Vegetable Dumplings


 Drenched in splashes of  yellow, orange, red, brown and  chocolate brown, the trees stand tall against the vast canvas of a clear sparkling blue sky. The sprawling landscape is fresh with the shimmering colours of Autumn leaves still dribbling all over the ground like wet paint. Some trees  seem to have gone into a long penance with their bare branches  upraised like arms, as though pleading to be covered by the emerald foliage once again.The scenic pictures framed in by the windows of our car, flash by  as we zoom past the nature's beautiful art gallery called Portland.
We stop by a busy road in the middle of downtown and walk towards a high compound wall with latticed windows. 

Latticed window
As we enter the four petaled or clover shaped door way, we are overwhelmed by the unexpected expanse of greenery that welcomes us. 

Beautiful blossoms everywhere

The garden consists of hundreds of species of flower bearing and fruit bearing plants and trees, mini rocky mountains, gurgling water falls, bridges and a lily pond were the colourful fish swim peacefully.

Fish Pond
The koi fish is known for its power and energy to swim upstream against the current. Hence it is symbolic of perseverance, courage and good fortune.
We walk on the rough pebbled pathways bordered with shrubs and blossoms, experiencing the acupressure effect on the soles of our feet. More and more door ways of different shapes open up into different breathtaking vistas and pavilions connected by wooden bridges.

Pathway bordered with blossoms

One of the wooden bridges

Another pathway through a floral door.

Pebbled pathway

Moon locking pavilion


Painted boat in misty rain
 Artifacts depicting the Chinese culture and Chinese paintings by renowned artists are displayed in the pavilions.

A Chinese artifact on display

Intricately carved Gingko wood panel 

The architecture, the plants, the elements of nature  are all used to convey a message for a peaceful and harmonious living.
The two Dragonfish on the roof of the Hall Of Brocade Clouds protect the entire garden from evil influence and fire.

Dragonfish on the roof
The bat shaped drip tiles running along the roof represent the five blessings - long life, fortune, health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing. 

Bat shaped tiles

The plum tree which blooms in winter, the bamboo that bends and does not break in storms and the pine which is ever green - even in winter - are together called as the Three Friends Of Winter.They teach us the art of endurance as they rustle in the cool breeze.

Window flanked by bamboo
Under water rocks that are  naturally eroded and turned into beautiful shapes have been used to create the Rock Mountain And Water Fall effect.

Rock mountain
It is a known fact that, everything in the universe is connected by a cosmic life force. This life force called as Prana , Ki, or Chee in Chinese, is attracted by Mother Nature. The Chi flows unhindered in the garden though it is only a replica of nature aesthetically created by man. We experience its invigorating effect as we walk through the peaceful garden.
We enter THE TOWER OF COSMIC REFLECTIONS to enjoy our tea. The restaurant aptly named as THE TAO OF TEA offers a  wide and varied selection of tea.

The tea menu book

Eight Treasure Tea in a three piece tea pot 

I order for a tea called as The Eight Treasure Tea which is prepared using eight types of flowers, berries, dry fruits and herbs.We sip our tea slowly as we enjoy a window view of the PAINTED BOAT IN MISTY RAIN   - a pavilion in the middle of the lake. The cool breeze sweeps over the lake. Small waves lap up at the base of the pavilion, making it look like a house boat moving gently on the cool waters of the lake.
One of the guardian lions 
We enjoy the Chinese Moon Cake and the Chinese Vegetable Dumplings to the accompaniment of a very pleasant musical recital by a Chinese girl. Waves after waves of pleasant music fills the atmosphere as her graceful and delicate hands gently fly over the Guqin, an ancient Chinese instrument. The musical sounds are similar to that of Jal Tarang and Sitar.
When we finally step out of the tranquil Paradise called LAN SU CHINESE GARDEN we feel as though we are woken up after a deep meditation. We are overwhelmed with a sense of peace, joy and bliss ! 

Here is a  brief recipe for the Chinese Vegetable Dumpling which I tried out at home the next day.


Cabbage ( Finely chopped ) - 1 cup
Carrots ( grated ) - 1 cup
Onion ( finely chopped ) - 1/2 cup
Ginger and garlic ( grated ) - 1 tsp
Sesame seeds - 1 tsp
Sesame oil - 2 tsps
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Pepper ( powdered ) - 1/2 tsp

1. Heat oil, add sesame seeds and allow to splutter.
2. Add ginger, garlic and onion and saute till it emanates a pleasant aroma.
3. Stir in  cabbage and carrots, sprinkle water, cover and cook on low flame.
4. When the vegetables are slightly mushy mix in salt and pepper. 

1.Add a pinch of salt to one cup of plain flour/ maida.
2. Add ice water little by little and knead the flour into a smooth non sticky dough. 
3. Allow it to rest for one hour.

4. Pinch out plum size balls from the dough and roll them into small circles.
5. Place a ball of of filling on one half of each circle.
6. Fold each circle in the middle over the filling, press the edges together using wet fingers and seal the filling tightly inside the dumpling. Mushy filling tightly stuffed will make the dumplings smooth and fat. I ended up with slim dumplings as my vegetables were al dente.

7. Steam the dumplings in a steamer for ten or twelve minutes.

Enjoy the Chinese Vegetable Dumplings while they are still warm.