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Badam Kheer | Badam Milk | Almond Kheer


Badam kheer is a rich and healthy drink made with almonds and milk delicately flavored with saffron and cardamom. This delicious sweet drink is one of the popular Indian welcome drinks and it can also be served after spicy meals for soothing the stomach. Badam milk can be served either warm or cold. Chilled badam milk is an excellent cooler for the hot summer days. 

Almonds are a fantastic source of many vitamins, minerals and fiber. Just a handful of nutrient-rich almonds daily helps in the development of brain, keeps your bone strong, skin glowing and aids in weight loss. It also fulfills some of our daily protein needs. You can have few almonds with or without skin everyday night and occasionally enjoy the goodness of almonds with this delicious badam kheer.

BADAM KHEER / BADAM MILK RECIPE

{Indian milk based drink with almonds, saffron and cardamom}
Serves 2


Ingredients:

500 ml milk
½ cup almonds / badam
½ cup sugar
Few saffron strands
½ tsp cardamom powder

To garnish:
1 tsp chopped pistachios
1 tsp chopped almonds / badam

Method:

1. Soak almonds in hot water for 1 hour. Peel the skin. Grind the almonds with ½ cup boiled milk to a smooth paste.

2. Soak saffron in 1 tbsp warm milk and set aside.

3. Heat the remaining milk. Once it comes to boil, add sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

4. Then add the almond paste and mix well. Allow the milk to boil on medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until it starts to thicken.

5. Add the saffron milk, cardamom powder and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and garnish with almonds and pistachios.

Notes and Tips:

1. I prefer the badam milk to be mildly sweet. If you want more sweetness add ¾ cup sugar.

2. Refrigerate the badam milk if not serving immediately and do not reheat it.

3. I have used full fat milk for a creamier kheer, but you can also use low fat milk too.

4. If you want a thicker kheer, boil the milk for some more time after adding almond paste till the desired thickness is reached.
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Green Beans Paruppu Usili


Paruppu Usili is a quintessential Tamil Brahmin dish, made of steamed lentils mixed with a vegetable. It is a very nutritious dish, especially for vegetarians as it got lentils to fulfill the daily protein needs. Green beans or cluster beans are the most commonly used vegetables to make paruppu usili, but other vegetables like cabbage and banana flower (vazhai poo) can also be used. Paruppu usili can be served with mor kootan / mor kuzhambu, sambar and rasam.

The lentil crumble can be made either with toor dal or chana dal, or a combination of both lentils. The lightly spiced lentil crumble is a delight to have by itself. In some households, the lentil are fried in oil until golden. This of course needs more oil, so I prefer this healthier version of steaming lentils. Mor kuzhambu and paruppu usili make a classic combination, but it also goes well with other South Indian gravies too.

GREEN BEANS PARUPPU USILI RECIPE

{Green beans with a steamed lentil crumble}
Serves 2-3


Ingredients:

200 gms green beans, chopped (around 2 cups)
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste

For the dal / lentil mixture:
¼ cup toor dal / pigeon peas
¼ cup chana dal / kadalai paruppu
2 dry red chillies
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing
Salt to taste

For the tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp split urad dal
2 dry red chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida / hing

Method:

1. Wash the dals together and soak them along with the red chillies for 30 minutes. Drain well and let them rest in a colander for 15-20 minutes.

2. Grind the dals, red chillies, asafoetida, salt to a coarse mixture. Do not add any water to grind.

3. Boil water in a idli pot or steamer. Spread the dal mixture on greased idli plate or steamer plate and steam for 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Once cool, remove from plates and crumble them with hands. Set aside.

5. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Once it splutters, add urad dal, red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida.

6. Once the dal turns golden, add the beans, turmeric powder, salt and combine well. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes or until beans is cooked.

7. Now add the crumbled dal mixture and combine well with the beans. Fry for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.

Notes and Tips:

1. The moisture from the dals in enough to grind it, so do not add any water.

2. You can also grind the steamed dal mixture in a mixer instead of crumbling with hands, if you want smaller and finer lentil crumbles.
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Malai Kofta


Malai Kofta is a classic North Indian dish, originating from the Mughlai cuisine. Malai means cream and kofta refers to the deep fried paneer and potato balls. Malai kofta is one of the popular dish in many of the Indian restaurants. The mildly spiced and slightly sweet gravy is fragrant with fresh spices and rich with cream, milk and cashews, thus this Mughlai specialty is apt for special occasions and parties. The best accompaniment for malai kofta is naan and kulcha, but you can also serve with roti, jeera rice and pulao.

South Vs North Challenge, started by Divya of You Too Can Cook, is a great event to learn traditional regional cuisines. Nupur of UK Rasoi has challenged the Southern team with this malai kofta recipe for this month's SNC. To get the authentic taste I would highly recommend using cream in this recipe, after all we don't make malai kofta too often and little indulgence once in a while is okay! Serve with sliced onions, lemon wedges and any Indian flatbread of your choice.

MALAI KOFTA RECIPE

{ Deep fried paneer and potato balls in a creamy cashew tomato gravy}
Serves 3-4


Ingredients:

For the koftas:
100 gms grated paneer
2 medium sized potatoes
1 tbsp chopped cashew
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
¼ tsp red chilly powder
¼ tsp cumin / jeera powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp milk powder
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry

For the gravy:
1 bay leaf
1 inch cinnamon
1 black cardamom
2-3 green cardamom
A pinch of mace
2-3 cloves
2 medium sized onions, roughly chopped 
½ inch ginger, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 cup tomato puree / 5 medium sized tomatoes, pureed
12-15 cashews
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp garam masala
1 cup water
½ cup fresh cream
½ cup full cream milk
1 tsp kasuri methi /dry fenugreek leaves
½ tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

For garnish:
1 tbsp grated paneer
1 tbsp cream
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves

Method:

To make kofta:

1. Boil the potatoes and peel. Mash and add to a mixing bowl.

2. Add paneer, cashew, coriander leaves, red chilly powder, jeera powder, garam masala, corn flour, milk powder and salt.

3. Mix everything well using hands to form a soft dough. Divide into 8-10 portions and make small lemon sized balls.

4. Heat oil and deep fry the kofta balls in medium flame until golden. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

To make gravy:

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil and add bay leaf, green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, mace and fry till aroma of spices is released.

2. Then add ginger, garlic, onions and fry till the onions start to turn brown. Remove from heat and let it cool. Blend into a smooth paste.

3. Heat 1 tbsp oil and add the ground onion mixture. Saute for 1-2 minutes and then add tomato puree. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

4. Then add turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala and mix well. Cook this mixture covered on medium flame for about 8-10 minutes.

5. Then cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes or until oil starts to leave the sides of the masala.

6. Grind the cashews with 2 tbsp milk to a smooth paste. Add the cashew paste and water to the masala and mix well.

7. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10-12 minutes on low flame or till the gravy begins to thicken.

8. Gradually add the cream and milk and keep stirring the gravy to avoid curdling of cream and milk. Simmer for 4-5 minutes or till the gravy becomes thick and saucy.

9. Lastly add kasuri methi, sugar, salt and mix well. Simmer for a minute and remove from heat.

To serve:

Add the kofta balls into the gravy and heat the gravy for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with grated paneer, cream and coriander leaves.

My Notes:

1. You can add cooked vegetables like carrot, beans, green peas to the kofta mixture.

2. Make sure cream and milk is at room temperature otherwise the gravy might curdle.

3. Add the kofta balls just before serving, otherwise they will turn very soggy.
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Vegetable Fried Rice | Chinese Veg Fried Rice


Fried rice and manchurian are probably the dishes we order mostly when we go to a Chinese restaurant. I would say, our version of fried rice is a more of a fusion of Indian and Chinese cooking. Making fried rice at home is not a big task, its quite easy and much healthier too. It does involve a bit of chopping, but once the chopping part is done fried rice can be done in no time.

I have used basmati rice here though traditionally long grained rice is used to make fried rice. Leftover rice works best for fried rice, but you can also use freshly cooked rice. Just make sure to cook the rice with grains separate and cool them completely.

Before starting to make fried rice, make sure you have done all the chopping, cooked and cooled the rice. I have been making this fried rice for sometime now and I can say this recipe tastes very close to restaurant style fried rice. Serve this fried rice hot with any manchurian like gobi manchurian or vegetable manchurian, or you can have it with some tomato sauce/ketchup.

CHINESE VEGETABLE FRIED RICE RECIPE

{Rice with stir fried vegetables flavored with soya sauce, green chilly sauce and pepper}
Serves 2


Ingredients:

1 cup basmati rice
2 tsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
¼ cup finely chopped spring onion (white part)
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ cup finely chopped green beans
¼ cup finely chopped cabbage
1/8 cup finely chopped capsicum
1 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp green chilly sauce
1 tsp white pepper powder
½ tsp white vinegar
Salt to taste
2 tbsp finely chopped spring onion (green part)

Method:

1. Wash the rice and soak for 15-20 minutes. Cook the rice with 2 cups water. Spread the rice on a plate, add 2 tsp olive oil and gently fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

2. Heat oil in wok/pan over medium-high flame. Add garlic, ginger and saute for a minute. Then add onion, white part of spring onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.

3. Then add carrot, beans and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add cabbage and saute for a minute. Lastly add the capsicum and saute for 1 minute.

4. Add soya sauce, green chilly sauce, pepper powder and saute for 2 minutes. Then add rice, salt and gently mix everything till well combined.

5. Add vinegar and green part of spring onion. Stir for a minute and remove from heat.

My Notes:

1. To get a smoky flavor like in restaurants, cook the fried rice in a wok and saute everything in medium-high heat.

2. Take care not to overcook the vegetables, they should retain some of the crunchiness.

3. Make sure rice is not overcooked. Allowing the rice to cool is important else fried rice will turn mushy.
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Blonde Brownies | Chocolate Chip Blondies


Blondies are similar to traditional brownies, but are based on brown sugar instead of cocoa. Blondies may have white or dark chocolate chips and nuts like walnuts and pecans. Blondies are not usually frosted because the brown sugar lends enough sweetness. Blondies are sometimes served in sundaes, often topped with caramel sauce.

This month, Sharanya of Just Not The Cakes is the host for Home Bakers Challenge, a baking group started by Priya of Priya's Versatile Recipes. The theme for this month is American Food Holidays. One of the holidays was National Blondie Brownie Day which falls on January 22nd. Am glad I chose these blondies as they turned out soft and delicious, and it was a perfect treat for this Valentines.

BLONDE BROWNIES /  BLONDIES RECIPE

Recipe Source ~ All Recipes
Yields 24 square pieces


Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
170 gms brown sugar
½ cup / 115 gms butter , softened
2 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla extract
225 gms chocolate chips

Method:

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

2. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract.

3. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Preheat oven to 180 C | 350 F. Grease a 13 x 7 inch brownie pan. Spread into prepared pan.

5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cool the pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

My Notes:

1. You can add a mix of white and dark chocolate chips.

2. Add chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans to give some nuttiness.
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Kathrikai Poricha Kuzhambu


Poricha Kuzhambu is a healthy and flavorful South Indian gravy for rice. Poricha kuzhambu is somewhat similar to sambar. It is made with lentils, vegetable and a special ground paste made of spices and coconut. The roast urad dal and pepper adds a great flavor to the kuzhambu. The kuzhambu can be made with vegetables like brinjal, drumstick, chow, chow, raw banana, bitter gourd etc. You can use just one vegetable or combine 3-4 vegetables.

The preparation of the kuzhambu varies from one household to another. This is typically how it is prepared in a Tamil Brahmin household. Since the kuzhambu has vegetables and lentils, you just need some papad and pickle as sides. Or you can also make a mezhukkupurati or a non coconut based vegetable fry to serve along the kuzhambu.

KATHRIKKAI PORICHA KUZHAMBU RECIPE

{ Brinjal in a lentil, roast spices and coconut gravy }
Serves 3-4


Ingredients:

2 cup chopped brinjal
1/3 cup toor dal / pigeon peas
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp tamarind paste / gooseberry sized tamarind
Salt to taste

To roast and grind:
1 tsp oil
1 tbsp urad dal
¼ tsp peppercorns
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing
2-3 dried red chillies
3 tbsp grated coconut

For the tempering:
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves

Method:

1. Pressure cook the dal with enough water and a pinch of turmeric powder. Mash the dal well and set aside.

2. In a small pan heat oil and add urad dal, peppercorn, asafoetida and red chillies. Fry till the urad dal turns red.

3. Then add coconut, curry leaves and fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Grind to a smooth paste adding little water.

4. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water. Extract the juice. Add the brinjal, turmeric powder, salt to the tamarind juice and bring to boil.

5. Let it boil for 8-10 minutes or until the brinjal is cooked and the raw smell of tamarind goes.

6. Add the ground paste and combine well. Add ½ cup water and bring this to boil. Once it starts to boil add the dal and combine well.

7. Bring it to boil again and let it boil for 2 minutes. Then lower the heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

8. Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds. Once it splutters add curry leaves and pour over the kuzhambu.

My Notes:

1. Take care not to overcook the brinjal. It should not become too mushy.

2. If you feel the gravy is too thick, add little more water and adjust the consistency.
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Ven Pongal | Ghee Pongal | Khara Pongal


Ven Pongal is a traditional South Indian dish. After idli and dosa, pongal is one of the most common dish for breakfast. Ven pongal is also made during the Pongal festival and served as a neivedhyam in temples. Pongal tastes best when served piping hot with kathrikkai (brinjal) gothsu. Coconut chutney and sambar also goes well with pongal. 

The main ingredients of ven pongal are raw rice and split yellow lentil which are cooked until mushy. It is then tempered in ghee with pepper, cashews, cumin seeds and ginger. The only tricky part in making pongal is getting the right consistency. It should neither be watery nor dry. Ghee adds to the taste and soft texture of the pongal, so do not skip on the ghee. Also the quality of rice and the amount of water should be right to get the correct consistency. 

Making pongal is really easy and can be put together very quickly. Though I have never been fond of pongal much before, I have started liking it now. After few trials and errors, I have perfected the secret of making good pongal. So here is my version of ven pongal, also known as khara pongal (spicy pongal).


VEN PONGAL / GHEE PONGAL / KHARA PONGAL RECIPE

Serves 2

Spicy rice and lentil pudding tempered with pepper, cumin and cashewnuts in ghee


Ingredients:

1 cup raw rice
¼ cup + 1 tbsp yellow moong dal / paasi paruppu
5-6 black peppercorn
½ tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp ghee
Salt to taste

For the tempering:
2-3 tbsp ghee
2 tsp black peppercorn
6-7 cashewnuts, halved
1 tsp grated ginger
1 sprig curry leaves
¼ tsp asafoetida / hing
1 tsp cumin seeds / jeera

Method:

1. Wash the rice and dal together. Drain them well and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pressure cooker pan and add the peppercorn. Fry for a minute and add the ginger. Fry for few seconds.

3. Add the washed rice, dal and salt. Fry them for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Add 4 cups of water and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or until mushy.

4. Once the pressure releases, open the cooker and mash the rice and dal well.

5. Heat ghee in a small pan and add peppercorn. Once it starts to splutter add cashewnuts and fry till golden. Then add ginger, curry leaves, asafoetida and jeera.

6. Pour this into the pongal and combine well. Serve hot.


My Notes:

1. Roasting the rice and dal and adding ginger and peppercorn while cooking the rice and dal gives a nice flavor and aroma, so do not skip it.

2. If pongal turns out watery, then cook it in the open pan for some more time till water evaporates.

3. If you do not like to bite into full peppercorns, you can crush them coarsely and add them.

4. The standard ratio of rice : water is 1:4, but the quantity of water depends upon the quality of rice.

5. You can reduce the quantity of ghee and substitute with oil for a low calorie pongal.
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Cucumber Thayir Pachadi


Pachadi is a curd and coconut based traditional dish of Kerala cuisine, made with a variety of vegetables and some fruits too. The freshly ground coconut with mustard and the tempering in coconut oil are the elements that enhances the taste of this thayir pachadi. You can use any of the following to make pachadi - ladies finger, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, pumpkin, pineapple etc. The ingredients and preparation are more or less the same. Today am sharing the recipe of pachadi with cucumber.

Cucumber pachadi is a simple and healthy dish that needs little time and effort in making them. You should get a kick of heat from the green chillies, so adjust the chillies accordingly. This pachadi can be served as a main dish with rice and any non-coconut based vegetable fry or mezhukkupuratti. Or you can serve this as a side dish to sambar and rasam. Pachadi is also a famous side dish to molagootal in Brahmin households. I made a carrot and potato mezhukkupuratti to go along with this flavorsome pachadi.

CUCUMBER THAYIR PACHADI RECIPE

Serves 2

Cucumber in a mildly spiced curd and coconut gravy


Ingredients:

1 medium size cucumber
½ cup thick curd
Salt to taste

To grind:
¼ cup grated coconut
2-3 green chillies
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp curd

For the tempering:
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves

Method:

1. Peel the cucumber and cut them into small cubes. Whisk the curd until its smooth.

2. Grind together coconut, green chillies, mustard, curd to a slightly coarse paste without adding water.

3. Add this ground coconut paste to the whisked curd and mix well. Add the cucumber, salt and mix well.

4. Heat oil in a tadka pan and add mustard seeds. When it crackles, add curry leaves and pour into the pachadi.

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Marillenstrudel | Austrian Apricot Strudel


This month, for the International Food Challenge, we are cooking from the Austrian cuisine. The regional cuisine we are exploring is from Lower Austria, which is the north eastern most state of Austria. Lower Austria cuisine is striking for the differences within its regional cuisine due to its size and the variety of its landscape. Briju is the host for this month and she selected four popular and famous recipes from Lower Austria. Out of them, I chose to make this Apricot Strudel.

A strudel is a type of layered pastry with a— most often sweet—filling and is most often associated with Austrian and German cuisine. Marillenstrudel is a popular strudel from Lower Austria. 'Marillen' is the Austrian term for apricots. Lower Austria, is famous for fruits, in particular its apricots which are known to be the best and finest tasting. This strudel is a light dessert and tastes best when served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.


MARILLENSTRUDEL / AUSTRIAN APRICOT STRUDEL RECIPE

Recipe Source ~ Food.com
Yields 8 pieces

Strudel with apricot, breadcrumbs and hazelnut filling


Ingredients:

 1 sheet puff pastry
 500 gms apricots, cored and cubed
 75 gms butter
 60 gms breadcrumbs
 60 gms ground hazelnuts
 60 gms brown sugar
 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
 1 vanilla bean, scraped
 10 ml milk for pastry dough

Directions:

1. Melt butter in a pan and add breadcrumbs, hazelnuts and sugar. Stir until mixture is lightly toasted and fragrant.

2. Remove from heat and add cinnamon and vanilla bean scrapings. Stir until evenly distributed.

3. Preheat oven to 180 C | 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the puff pastry sheet on the baking sheet.

4. Brush sides of pastry with milk. Place apricot cubes on 2/3 of the pastry, leave sides free. Sprinkle bread crumb-hazelnut-sugar mixture over apricots.

5. Fold in pastry sides and start to roll dough into strudel-shape. Press seam of dough firmly together so the strudel is closed on all sides.

6. Brush surface with milk and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes until lightly brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


My Notes:

1. Use apricots that are sweet but not too soft.
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