Breaking Bread With Shanta Gokhale

Shanta Gokhale’s autobiography

Shanta Gokhale’s writing is effortless, flowing like rich smooth cream and fresh as the scent of lemon. I don’t know why I didn’t discover her sooner. I’m making up for precious lost time. I read her book without a break. It was unputdownable.

She was born a few years before both my parents, in 1939, and lives in the grand old city of Bombay, where my parents grew up and went to school and college, before my dad left to join the Air Force and then married mom.

I love her simple writing style. She writes with finesse. A woman of the world.

One of the author’s favorite dishes, Bombay Bhelpuri.

She’s original. She’s written about her life through her body and she treats us to exquisite pirouettes (she’s learnt Indian dance, among her many talents) with her life. She’s courageous. She’s had more than her fair share of ups and downs with two unsuccessful marriages, illness, shortage of money and bringing up two children all on her own. Still she is honest, sensitive and witty. The lady is a tough cookie!

She’s lived life on her own terms, not hankering for fame or fortune. And she’s written this book at the age of 78 and remembers names and incidents from her childhood!

I didn’t know that TV personality Renuka Shahane was her daughter, before I read her autobiography.

I’m thirsting for more of Shanta Gokhale’s writing, what a massive contribution she has made to the performing arts with her voluminous writings in both Marathi and English and her translations from English to Marathi and vice versa.

In her book she writes about a trifle pudding she had many many times as a navy wife during her first marriage and when she was being courted. I think she has bittersweet memories of the pudding. Perhaps, I’m reading too much into her writing.

I looked everywhere for a tasty Indian Navy trifle pudding recipe but I couldn’t find one so I asked one of my good friends who is married into the navy if they still make trifle puddings like they made all those years back. She reasoned that the English influence has been overruled and the current crop of Taj and Oberoi trained cooks and chefs do make a favorite trifle called Trunk of Tree.

Here is a delicious trifle pudding recipe that I’ve adapted from Kikky Sihota’s book The Ultimate Army Cookbook: A Memsahib Cooks. She calls it Boozy Trifle because it contains delicious amounts of rum in it, but her trifle contains no fruit, like the usual trifle pudding. I changed some of the ingredient quantities and added dry fruits to it. I used less cake and less cream. Turned out yum.

Trifle pudding adapted from Kikky Sihota’s Boozy Trifle.

Here’s the recipe.

Boozy Trifle

This recipe turns out yum. Go ahead and add more cream or whipped cream to the recipe and more sugar too, if you will.
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 6 servings
Author Kikky Sihota

Ingredients

  • 450 gms sponge cake
  • 5 tbsp jam
  • 4 tbsp rum
  • 3 heaped tbsp custard powder
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 heaped tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 200 ml fresh cream
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup mixed nuts and raisins

Instructions

  • Cut the cake into 1/2 inch cubes.
  • Mix the jam and 4 tbsp rum and heat till it melts.
  • Now lightly mix the cake pieces with the rum jam mixture.
  • Mix the custard powder, sugar, and milk and cook till thick. Remove from heat.
  • Add the cocoa powder, 2 tbsp rum and butter and mix well.
  • Gently mix the chocolate custard with the cake and jam without breaking or mashing the cake pieces. Fill this into a mold and freeze it for 4 hours.
  • Remove and put in a serving dish.
  • Cover the trifle completely with the cream.
  • Now sprinkle nuts on the layer of cream and cake.
  • Chill and serve.

Breaking Bread With Jerry Pinto

Jerry Pinto’s autobiographical novel.

Living life with a mentally ill person is difficult, especially if she’s so close, esepcially if she’s your mom. Jerry Pinto’s autobiographical novel, Em and the big Hoom is about suffering, it is endearing and touching and funny too.

It sure takes courage to write about it. People talk, they say all sorts of things. How could you write about a loved one for the money? How could you write about ‘shame’? But perhaps it’s a kind of catharsis, this writing. It saves you and heals others.

Not in the whole wide world is it easy to imagine the trauma that a mentally ill person and their family members go through. The mentally ill are stigmatized and society disclaims them as mad or retarded. If only we’d realize that this is an illness like any other, like diabetes or osteoporosis. It’s nobody’s fault, especially not the one who suffers. Anyone, you, me or somebody else could fall prey.

This book of stories edited by Jerry Pinto about a loved one with a mental illness.

Your serotonin and dopamine levels play havoc and no one, least of all you know what to do about them. Sometimes family and friends think you’re ok and all is well, but then disaster strikes.

But I can also tell you that sometimes, love wins the day. It is difficult, but love and care and support do win the day.

Does the illness creep in through your genes or is the devastation caused by environmental factors, or both? Depression, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, doctors say they’re genetic but.. a hundred questions, science still doesn’t have answers.

In the book Em and her family drink tea by the gallons. Em, the mom has a sweet tooth. She loves to douse her tea with spoonfuls of sugar and eat chocolates and mithai.

These very chocolatey muffins are made in memory of Em. She would have delighted in the loads of chocolate in them.

The recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s book, Baking, From My Home To Yours.

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins

You can call them muffins or cupcakes, whatever you like, and anytime is a good time to eat these full of chocolate muffins, at breakfast, tea, or maybe even as a sweetdish.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword Eggetarian
Servings 12 muffins
Author Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 150 gms bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all purpose or plain flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda or soda bicarb
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the muffin molds in the muffin pan or fit them with paper muffin cups.
  • Mix the butter and half the chocolate in a thick bottomed pan and melt over a saucepan of simmering water. Or, melt in a microwave.
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a medium sized bowl whisk the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract until well combined.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted chocolate and butter onto the dry ingredients and mix lightly and quickly. Don’t worry if there are some lumps in the batter. But don’t overmix the batter.
  • Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. And divide the batter equally between the 12 muffin cups.
  • Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean. Remove the muffin pan from the oven, transfer to a rack, cool for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins from their molds.

This beautiful song then, True Colours, for God’s specially loved ones.

Breaking Bread With R.K. Narayan

R.K Narayan’s book of short stories.

R.K. Narayan’s books are a delight to read. There is an endearing simplicity and innocence about his writing. A sweetness and an earthiness. He managed to be innocent and yet an astute observer of people at the same time. The beauty of Natayan’s writing was that his humor was gentle and he rarely ever came across as nasty or mean, just like his younger brother R.K. Laxman, the eminent cartoonist. He also chose to write on many subjects other than the man woman relationship.

I’ve been reading Narayan’s autobiography, My Days. He was born in 1906. At the age of three or four he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in Madras because his mother was too delicate to look after the entire brood. Here in his grandmother’s house he had a pet monkey and peacock. With such great flair does he begin his autobiography, writing about the antics of his two pets, that whatever your age may be you’ll be enchanted.

R.K. Narayan’s autobiography

As a child Narayan didn’t like going to school and hated drill and examinations. Poor Narayan, at one stage, after he had finished his studies, and with no luck on the job front, he was made to take up a teacher’s job….and teach drill and mathematics! and how he hated both. He walked away from the teaching assignment never to return. Thank God, for what a loss it would have been for readers all over the world had he not become a writer. He also went against the grain about the education system all his life. He said he learnt more from books outside than the ones he was forced to read in school and in college.

In his early days most people poked fun at him for wanting to be a writer and thought he was being irresponsible by not taking up a job and supporting his large family when his father had just retired.

But he did become a writer, and how stylish, magnificent and priceless is his writing. He won many accolades for his brilliance, among them The Sahitya Academy award for his book The Guide, and the A.C Benson Medal by the Royal Society Of Literature in 1980. He was made an Honorary Member of the American Academy And Institute Of Arts And Letters In 1982. He was honored with the Padma Bhushan in 1964 and the Padma Vibhushan In 2000. He died in May 2001 at the age of 94.

In her book Tiffin, which I loved reading, Rukmini Srinivas reveals that Narayan was vegetarian. He liked eating curd rice, ulundu vadai or deep fried, spicy, split black bean batter vadais which she often made for him. He also loved his filter coffee. And his packet of scented betel nut which he kept with him at all times.

One of Narayan’s favorite dishes on his visit to America, curd rice.
Spicy and tangy onion coconut chutney
Ulundu Vadai with onion and coconut chutney. An R.K. Narayan favorite.

Here is the recipe of ulundu vadai or deep fried, spicy, split black bean batter vadais, as I have adapted it from Rukmini Srinivas’s book.

Ulundu Vadai

These delicious deep fried vadais were among Narayan’s favorite food when he met Rukmini Srinivas and her husband in America.
Course Snack
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Vegetarian
Author Rukmini Srinivas

Ingredients

  • 2 cups urad dal or split black beans, soaked for two hours and drained
  • 1 tspn salt, or to taste
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • 6 coursely ground black peppercorns
  • 8 curry leaves, torn in pieces
  • 1/4 tspn asafoetida powder
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh coconut
  • 1 tspn grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups oil for frying

Instructions

  • Grind the split black beans in the food processor to a thick, creamy batter, adding approximately 1/4 cup water while grinding. Remove in a vessel and keep aside.
  • Add the salt, green chillies, black peppercorns, curry leaves, asafoetida, coconut and ginger. Mix well.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan to medium heat, not smoking hot. With wet hands make balls out of the batter, flatten each slightly, then make a hole in the centre and drop them one at a time into the hot oil. You can fry approximately 5 or 6 vadais in one batch depending on the size of your pan.
  • Initially the vadais will sink to the bottom and as they fry they will rise to the surface. Gently separate them if they stick to each other. Fry them on all sides to a golden brown color.
  • Once done, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. A well done vadai will be crisp on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside.
  • Serve hot with onion coconut chutney.

And finally this wonderful music from the title track of Malgudi Days which enthralled us when it appeared on television many years ago.

Breaking Bread With Rahul Pandita

The pain and loss are heartrending. An entire community exiled in its own country. The anguish and the hurt, but no mention of this chapter of our recent history. Of brutality and savageness inflicted on Kashmiri Pandits whose only fault was, there was nothing to fault in them. Of human and political callousness at its worst. Targeted and hounded as infidels. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is shocking. It is the true story of Rahul Pandita, now a renowned journalist, the Kashmiri Pandit community, his parents, extended family and his cousin Ravi, his hero.

History forgotten is bound to be repeated, and Rahul Pandita is brave in his writing. His father is my hero. In the toughest of situations in his childhood he guided the author to stay on the right path. His mother is brave, struggling on a daily basis to keep the family going, when they are driven out of their huge home that her husband built with every penny of his savings, and have to live as refugees, shunted from room to room. Her health deteriorates. There is so much trauma. In happier times she used to hum a lovely song from the film Awaara where Nargis wishes that the moon would turn its face away so that she could love Raj Kapoor.

I’m posting a recipe of Chana ki dal from Krishna Prasad Dar’s book Kashmiri Cooking. He is the father of cartoonist Sudhir Dar. They are Kashmiri Pandits too.

Krishna Prasad Dar writes, Kashmiri Pandits prefer to use asafoetida and curd in their cooking as opposed to onions and garlic. But with outside influences, people today do use onion and garlic too. In this recipe he keeps the onion optional, but I did add an onion to my dal and it tasted very good. Have this dal with a vegetable dish, Indian breads, a curd dish and a sweetmeat to make a full meal. The Kashmiri Pandits, although they are Brahmins are great meat eaters.

Before I go on to the recipe, I’d like to let my readers know that this post is inspired by Valerie Stivers’s blog from the Paris Review. I found it stimulating.

Here is the recipe for Yellow Split Lentils or Bengal Gram or Chana ki Dal

Chana ki Dal or Bengal Gram Dal

This recipe is adapted from Krishna Prasad Dar’s recipe in Kashmiri Cooking.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 3 persons
Author Krishna Prasad Dar

Ingredients

  • 150 gms bengal gram or chana dal
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 10-15 gms ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 onion finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tspn sauf or fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • Some fresh or dried mint leaves, finely chopped if fresh
  • A little jaggery
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Soak the bengal gram dal in water for an hour or two.
  • Drain the water from the dal and put it in a pressure cooker. Add salt to taste and pressure cook for two to three whistles. When you open the cooker the dal should still have grains but they should be soft. Most of the water should have evaporated.
  • Add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water to the dal. Add the turmeric powder, crushed fresh ginger and ginger powder and slow cook for a few minutes.
  • In a frying pan, heat the ghee. Add the chopped onions and fry till golden brown. Add the cloves, asafoetida and fennel seeds. Fry for a few seconds.
  • Overturn the fried onions with the ghee and spice tadka onto the dal. Sprinkle the mint leaves and add a little jaggery. Stir the dal. Serve hot.

There are many versions of the song Imagine but this particular version by Eva Cassidy strikes a heart touching chord.

Stuffed Green Chillies

At last the rains are here in Ahmedabad. I’ve waited so long for them. It’s delightful to open my window and smell the frangrant wet earth after a parched summer. Feel the rain bearing winds upon my face and skin. See the trees shining as if they are brand new, all dressed in vibrant chlorophll green. See peacocks dance their shimmery dance. See the trees, and the birds and the animals dance the dance of life.

I think to myself, this is the best time to start something new. So, dear friends, from now on with my blog posts, I will post a music video. What’s the connection between the food and the music video? Maybe some, maybe not. Just that I love cooking, music is close to my heart, and reading gives me a high. Do you see the connection now?

Potato stuffed chillies are a delicious tea time snack or can be had with an evening drink. These are made with the large, plump and chubby Bhavnagri or Pepsi chilly variety. These chillies aren’t necessarily spicy by themselves. It’s the stuffing or the filling with chilly powder and other spices which makes them masaledar and chatpata. Of course you can reduce the pungency if you wish by adjusting the spices in the potato filling. But it adds that extra zing.

Here is a lovely song to enjoy. This the original, you must know is sung by Louis Armstrong. I will post some of my favorite music, both Hindi and English, in my posts from time to time. I must agree wholeheartedly with Vikram Seth the author when he says, music to him is dearer than speech.

The recipe of Stuffed Green Chillies.

Stuffed Green Chillies

Spicy and slightly sour, these potato stuffed chillies, fried in a gram flour batter are simply heaven eaten during the monsoons. They’re made in most homes in India, with a slight difference of spices, but taste just as delicious.
Course Snack
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 10 chillies
Author Meenal Jhala

Ingredients

  • 10 Bhavnagri or Pepsi chillies
  • 500 gms boiled, peeled and mashed potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tspn carom seeds
  • 1/2 tspn turmeric powder
  • 1 tspn raw mango powder
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • Oil for deep frying

For the batter

  • 1 cup gram flour
  • 1/2 tspn chilly powder
  • A pinch of soda
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Slit the chillies vertically.
  • Mix the mashed potatoes, crushed garlic, carom seeds, turmeric powder, raw mango powder, chopped coriander, green chillies and salt well and then divide this mixture into 10 equal parts.
  • Stuff each chilly with one part of the mixture.
  • To make the batter, mix the gram flour, chilly powder, soda, asafoetida, and salt with about 1/2 cup water. The batter consistency must be thin, not too thick.
  • Put a deep bottomed pan on the stove with oil. When the oil is hot dip the chillies one by one into the batter and drop them in the hot oil and fry until golden brown all over. You may have to adjust the heat while frying so that the chillies don’t burn.
  • Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
  • Serve hot with tomato sauce or a chutney of your choice.

Sweet Dough Lemon Loaf

I had forgotten how tasty this loaf is until our next door neighbor in the village brought us a whole bunch of juicy lemons from the lemon tree in his garden. Seeing the lemons brought back memories of this lemon loaf that was my first bake from the book Home Sweet Home by Tarek Malouf. I haven’t baked too many cakes from Tarek Malouf’s book yet but I’m sure that if the recipes taste as good as this cake I’ve baked, then I will try more recipes from his book.

Tarek Malouf has a fantastic bakery in London called Hummingbird Bakery. I’ve visited the branch in the Dubai Mall in Dubai and tasted some yummy goodies there.

So here is the recipe.

Sweet Dough Lemon Loaf

Lemon cakes and lemon loaves are too tempting to resist and this one is extra special because it has yeast in it. Eat it fresh. It gets stale if kept too long.
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Keyword Eggetarian, Yeast
Servings 10 persons
Author Tarek Malouf

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 75 ml luke warm whole milk
  • 60 ml tepid water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50 gms caster sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp dried active yeast
  • 350 gms plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 55 gms unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 60 gms unsalted butter
  • 100 gms caster sugar
  • Grated zest of three lemons

For the topping

  • 90 gms full fat cream cheese
  • 40 gms icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp whole milk
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus extra to decorate

Instructions

  • Grease the loaf tin and dust with flour.
  • In a small bowl, mix the warm milk, water, salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the dried active yeast. Set aside for 30 minutes or until a foam forms on the surface.
  • In a large mixing bowl mix the flour and remaining sugar. Make a well in the centre.
  • Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. When the yeast liquid is ready add the eggs, vanilla extract and melted butter to the yeast mixture.
  • Pour the liquids into the well of the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula to form a dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
  • Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover tightly with cling film and allow to prove in a warm place, for approximately 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size.
  • While the dough proves, make the lemon sugar filling. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. In a medium bowl mix the sugar, lemon zest and melted butter together. Set aside in a warm place so that the butter doesn’t solidify again.
  • Once the dough has proved remove it from the bowl. Gently knock the dough back. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is 12 x 15 inches. Cut the dough lengthwise into 4 equal strips with a sharp knife.
  • With a pastry brush coat each strip with the lemon sugar filling. Carefully lift the strips and pile them on top of each other. Cut the pile of strips into 6 equal square stacks. Carefully lift each stack and place it in the loaf tin, cut side facing up. Place each stack next to each other in the tin, packing them to form a loaf.
  • Wrap the tin in cling film and set aside the dough to rise again for 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius, 325 degrees Fahrenheit, Gas mark 3, and bake the loaf for approximately 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Keep aside to cool slightly.
  • To make the lemon cream cheese topping, with a hand held electric whisk or a free standing electric mixer mix the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest and milk and mix well until smooth.
  • Once the lemon loaf has cooled slightly, remove it from the tin and top with the lemon topping and lemon zest. Serve warm.

Date And Split Gram Lentils Halwa

It was my birthday the other day and I didn’t want to bake a cake for a change. Actually, I wanted to try out a new recipe that I’d read about in this little book by Nita Mehta called Taste Of Hyderabad.

Ahmedabad is a cauldron in the summers. On my birthday too, the temperature soared. We didn’t feel like stepping out in the sun, so we didn’t eat out, or shop, but instead I cooked a feast for family and friends. I made date and split gram lentils halwa, mango ice cream, paneer kulchas and sambharia, a mouthwatering Gujarati stuffed vegetable dish. Those who have eaten it will vouch for its yummyness and I’ll post its recipe on my blog one of these days. But first, the recipe of the delicious halwa.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Nita Mehta’s recipe, as I said. However, I used 500 gms seedless dates instead of 500 gms seeded dates in the recipe and it came out delicious. You may want to adjust the quantity of sugar in the recipe though.

Date And Split Gram Lentils Halwa

This sweet dish tastes delectable. Make it and your guests will drool!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Arabian
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 8 persons
Author Nita Mehta

Ingredients

  • 500 gms seedless dates
  • 1 1/2 cups split gram lentils ( channe ki dal)
  • 1 1/2 litres milk
  • 1 1/2 cups clarified butter (ghee)
  • 2 drops screwpine (kewra) essence
  • 15 almonds blanched, peeled and slivered
  • A few pistachios chopped
  • 1 tspn cardamom powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste

Instructions

  • Was the split gram lentils or chaane ki dal and put them in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the milk and once it begins to boil cook on a low flame for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the milk has dried up. Stir every few minutes to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep the milk and lentils mixture aside to cool. Grind the mixture to a paste.
  • Wash the dates and boil in 1/2 cup of water for 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Remove from fire and let cool. Mash the dates with your hands.
  • Mix the mashed dates with the lentil paste.
  • Heat the ghee in a clean heavy bottom pan. Add the dates and lentil mixture and fry well. Check for sweetness and add sugar if required.
  • Add the kewra essence and cardamom powder and stir. Decorate with slivered almonds and chopped pistachios. Serve hot or warm.

Whole-wheat Flour Ladoos

When my 9 year old nephew was younger, he loved watching Chota Bheem (Chota Bheem which literally means little Bheem, is an animated TV series that focuses on the adventures of a boy named Bheem and his friends in the fictional kingdom of Dholakpur. In this series, Bheem and his friends are usually involved in protecting Raja Indravarma, the king of Dholakpur, and his kingdom from various evil forces. Sometimes they also help other kingdoms. It is one of the most popular animated series for children in India- Wikipedia). Chota Bheem loves ladoos and therefore so do all little kids who watch it, I don’t know of a single kid who watches Chota Bheem and doesn’t demand the energy giving ladoos that he eats. My nephew must have ladoos, the owner of the beauty parlor that I go to, her grand daughter must have ladoos too!

So this time I’m posting a recipe of ladoos made from whole-wheat flour that my nephew loves. We make ladoos from many different ingredients in India but atta or whole-wheat flour ladoos are delicious and easy to make.

Ladoos are also served as an offering to Lord Ganesha. He just loves them.

These whole wheat flour ladoos are popular among the Sindhi community in India.

You can buy whole-wheat flour and the other ingredients required to make these ladoos at any Indian store.

Here’s the recipe.

Whole-wheat Flour Ladoos

Kids and adults alike will love this Indian sweet.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 11 ladoos
Author Meenal Jhala

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup ghee or clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup ground sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts and raisins

Instructions

  • Melt ghee in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium flame. Roast the whole-wheat flour in the ghee on a slow flame for about 10 minutes or until it turns golden brown and a nice aroma emanates from it.
  • Remove from the stove and spread the roasted flour on a tray to cool.
  • Add the ground sugar and chopped nuts and raisins to the flour, mix well, and make table tennis sized balls with the mixture. You might need to apply some ghee on your hands to make the balls. There you go. The ladoos are ready to eat!

Almond Pudding

This recipe for almond pudding is a middle eastern one, and I got it from Anissa Helou’s book, Sweet Middle East. The pudding is subtly flavored with almonds, and garnished with pistas. It is delicious, to say the least, eaten at room temperature or better still, cold from the refrigerator. And oh! I added regular granulated sugar instead of organic cane sugar to the pudding.

It is a simple pudding to make but I love its fresh, delicate taste. I must admit I had no clue how it would taste before making it, I’d never tried making something like this before, but I was pleasantly surprised when the pudding was ready.

And, here’s an interesting tidbit. This pudding is called Kishk Al-Fuqara in Arabic. Fuqara means poor in Arabic, but as the author herself says, none of the ingredients in this dish are associated with poverty so how the name came about is a mystery.

We’ve all relished a variety of middle eastern savory dishes but the sweets and desserts of this region remain unknown to many of us. Try this dessert at home, whether you’re a novice, cooking expert, traveler, or just a TV food programme addict.

Almond Pudding

Make this delicately flavored almond pudding for an occasion or anytime. Your folks will love it.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 4 persons
Author Anissa Helou

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 60 gms or 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 40 gms or 1/4 cup rice flour or cornstarch
  • 60 gms or 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Some slivered or chopped pistachios

Instructions

  • Put 3 1/2 cups milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally-watch it toward the end so as not to let it boil over. As it starts to boil add the almond meal. Turn the heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring regularly, until the almond meal has softened, about 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mix the rice flour or cornstarch with the remaining 1/2 cup milk, stirring until completely smooth. Slowly whisk the starch mixture into the simmering milk and cook, whisking all the time, for about 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
  • Add the sugar and continue whisking until completely dissolved. Taste and adjust the sugar to your liking. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract.
  • Pour the pudding into one large serving bowl or 4 to 6 individual bowls. Let cool. Serve at room temperature garnished with pistachios or refrigerate to serve chilled, garnishing the pudding just before serving.



Punjabi Pakora Kadhi or Dumplings In A Sour Curd And Gram Flour Curry

This curry or kadhi as it is called in Hindi and Punjabi is a delightful yellow in color. The color being fabulous besides, it tastes great too. It is much sought after in Punjabi food restaurants and is made a lot in Punjabi homes. I’ve eaten it very often in my North Indian friends’ homes when we were in the Air Force.

I can’t help but think, that those times in the Air Force were so different. We lived in Air Force camps, all of us united as one family, no difference whether we were Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians or Jews. We never gave a thought to our neighbour’s religion. We shared our food, books, games, school, our feelings and our friendships. Our mothers were our backbones while our dads were out flying. Our parents were our strength and taught us never to discriminate. I’ve kept alive many friendships from those days, some forty years later. These are sad times when people fight over the most petty of matters and violence is the rule of the day. I hope my blog serves as a path to love and peace through cooking and food.

This recipe is inspired by one from Nita Mehta’s Vegetarian Curries, a small book which packs a delightful punch of vegetarian curries and other vegetarian recipes. It’s also reasonably priced. So you can get it from your favorite bookstore or online.

If you have elderly people in your home you can make the pakoras with grated onions and potatoes instead of finely chopped ones. The pakoras will literally melt in the mouth.

Punjabi Pakora Kadhi

Make this mouthwatering Punjabi style curry for your loved ones.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Vegetarian
Servings 4 persons

Ingredients

For Curry

  • 3/4 cup gram flour
  • 2 cups sour curd or yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • chilly powder to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3-4 dry red chillies
  • 4-5 curry leaves

For Pakoras or Dumplings

  • 1 big onion, finely chopped
  • 1 big potato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilly powder
  • A pinch of soda bicarbonate
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup gram flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Oil for frying

For Tempering or Tadka

  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red chilly powder

Instructions

  • Mix curd, gram flour, salt, turmeric, red chilly powder and 5 1/2 cups water. Beat well till smooth and no lumps remain.
  • In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil and put in the cumin and fenugreek seeds.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to turn brownish, add the dry red chillies and curry leaves. Fry for one minute.
  • Add curd-water mixture and stir till it begins to boil. Then lower the flame and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring in between. Keep aside.
  • Now to prepare the pakoras, mix the gram flour with water to make a paste like consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients for the pakoras except the oil which you must keep for frying them. Mix well.
  • Heat the oil for frying and drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and fry, gently turning the pakoras around, till they’re golden brown all over.
  • Add pakoras to the curry a few minutes before serving. 
  • To temper the curry, heat the oil in a small pan, reduce the flame and add cumin seeds, when they turn golden brown, add the red chilly powder and quickly remove the pan from the fire and overturn it onto the hot curry. Serve hot.

Notes

If you don’t have a love for chillies, like my dad, then add just the green chillies and no chilly powder anywhere else, like I have done.
Taste the curry when it is cooking and adjust for seasoning.
You may also sprinkle some finely chopped fresh coriander leaves as garnish before laying the curry on the table.