Thank you Thali

A big thank you to Meera, Ashwini and Nupur for making my thali! I hope to do this on a fortnightly basis, set aside atleast one day where I make everything from the snack to dinner with recipes from fellow bloggers. I tried out Ashwinis Batata Song, Nupurs Chavli Amti and Meera's Khatta Dhokla sandwich. They were delicious!


Harvesting Clove: A pictorial

My entry for Think Spice: Clove hosted by Gretchen at Canela & Comino.

Disclaimer:This is the process as described in Spice: The history of a temptation by Jack Turner. The drawings/sketches are mine. Iam not sure if this is still followed.


Mexican Series #7: Chorizo-style TVP Veggie Burger

I have been trying to integrate soy into my plate for a long time. Tofu, nuh-ive tried it fried, baked, soft , firm- it just doesnt work for me-not yet anyway. Ive made Soya Kheema from TVP before and that worked for me. TVP or textured vegetable protien is made from soy flour that is passed through a machine- an extruder, to make small pellets or granules, commonly available at your local health store or organic food store bulk bin.

I wanted to make an healthy and hearty alternative to the potato cutlets that H. likes so much. I first tried this recipe for a veggie burger from CHOW. It has about every healthy thing you can imagine, from brown rice to grated zucchini to nuts. That makes the recipe a mile long ,fussy and this burger also sat in my stomach like a stone. I wanted something much quicker to make and tastier and lighter.

I was reading Rick Bayless's Authentic Mexican and his recipe for Chorizo, a traditional Mexican pork sausage. I liked the flavors in it, but I wanted a veggie version. After about three trials, Ive now arrived at a stable :) veggie version packed with soy and bean protien. You can have these at breakfast with bread or in a salad with veggies or just plain with ketchup or green chutney.

It keeps in the fridge very well, I usually mix up a big batch and fry it up on a non stick skillet whenever I want to eat it. You could also shape patties, put them on a large baking sheet, freeze for an hour and then put it in a zip lock bag. Then you could just skillet fry them whenever you like, except you should do that on low heat.

I am proud that for once I not quoting the recipe from either my mother or a book! This recipe is all my own.

For today, Ive paired this burger with roasted red and yellow peppers and cucumber. The Bread is Kamut Brown bread.

Chorizo style TVP Veggie Burger Recipe

2/3 cup refried beans, canned, vegetarian and without lard
1/2 cup cooked brown rice( I used brown basmati, you could use any brown rice you have. Brown basmati is drier, other rice types might be a little wetter. Adjust bread crumbs accordingly)
1/2 cup bread crumbs

11/2 cups tvp

5 tbsp hot sauce (texas pete)
2 finely chopped jalapenos
1 tsp cumin
1/2 cup enchilada sauce
1/2 an avocado
1/4rth cup tomato paste (I used Hunts Tomato Paste- donot use Puree, it is a lot wetter)
salt to taste

The method is fairly straightforward. If you have left over rice, great, other wise get that done first. Peel the avocado( technique video here).

Now dump all the ingredients into one bowl and mix it up. It should form a fairly stiff dough. Referigerate overnight. Form into patties and fry into cutlets on a non stick skillet.

Substitutions: Hot sauce- this is cheap about a buck, but a good substitute is lemon juice and red chilli powder. Make it about 5 tbsp of lemon juice and half as much chili powder as you like ( the jalapenos are hot too!)
Enchilada sauce- This really puts the chorizo in this veggie burger. If you are pinched for time , you could use a bottled mexican brand enchilada sauce.
Avocado- The avocado gives a nice creaminess because of its high fat content, skip and increase water if you want to avoid saturated fats.


CLICK Au Naturel: Last Shower

When I read the post on CLICK Au Naturel, the image that popped into my head was the admittedly rated R image of somebody showering! Dont get more au naturel than that :) CLICK Metal winner Gopal Seshadrinathan had photographed a single water droplet in the air. I also went through CLICK Liquid Comfort, Manisha of Indian Food rocks had a beautiful image of water splashing out of a martini glass. I was curious as to what went into high speed photography.

So I combined both these ideas into taking an image of Spinach in the shower!( with a blood thirsty cry in the background and a deep snarling voice) His last shower before I chopped off his many many heads! :)

It has been a learning experience. Seriously. Manisha of IFR had a beautiful explanation of how she took that photograph. I am really grateful for that guideline. I know I have not come anywhere near to achieving her perfection, but I have learnt enough of the process to have some serious appreciation of the work and craft that went into that image. Manisha , tussi to stud ho!

I used two reading lamps for extra light, my flash gave me very funny results. The Olympus C 5000 is actually a pretty darn decent, if a little old, digital camera. It has some manual functions including setting shutter speed to around 1/800 and also Setting the ISO from 50 to 320. But I donot really understand the interaction between these settings and how exactly it works in digital camera. A classic case of having more information and less knowledge.

Thanks jai and bee for hosting this wonderful event, every time I participate I learn something new.


Pear Frangipane with Pate Sucree Tart shell

I was originally making this for AFAM: Pears hosted by Raaga of the The Singing chef for the month of March. I am posting this recipe after she has even finished with the round up! Talk about Indian standard stretchable time:) I wanted to explore frangipane tarts more thoroughly before writing about them.

The frangipane tart in terms of taste was a great contrast of slightly tart fruit with the crisp chewiness of the macaroon like almond filling.

Frangipane in the pastry world is a sweetened almond filling used in tarts and pastries. I was very delighted to discover that it has an Indian connection. Frangipane is the name of a flower, which was originally used to flavor the almond paste.Look familiar?

I love this flower, called the Temple Tree flower, it has a sweet intoxicating smell which usually denotes summer for me.

For the Frangipane itself I followed this recipe from the Washington Post.For the shell instead of going with the cream cheese tart shell as in the WP recipe, I went for a Pate Sucree ( Sweet Tart Pastry Shell) from the Bakers dozen cookbook.

Couple of important pointers for anyone who might want to attempt this. One is that The frangipane receives equal billing with the fruits. This is not a tart you want to stuff with fruits. The picture I have of my pear tart is actually a good example of what not to do with a frangipane tart. You want give the frangipane enough space to puff up and develop a nice brown crust. A very good example is Spittoon extra's Apricot and Fig Frangipane Tart.

You can substitute the pear with any stone fruit, Apple or Plums being favorite choices. You can also flavor the almond frangipane filling like I did with cardamom or even perhaps nutmeg. I made a Plum filled one as well, but I donot have any pictures because my little daughter really liked it. She polished it off with the ten teeth she has!

This tart shell is perhaps one of the easiest bcause it does not depend too much on the correct mixing of the butter into the flour, which is perhaps the most technical part of forming a good tart shell. So it is good for newbies.

Pate Sucree( Sweet Tart Pastry Shell)
from the Bakers dozen Cookbook.

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cool but not chilled
2.5 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1. In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer on medium high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Break the egg into a cup, mix it thoroughly with a fork, and measure 2.5 tbsp. Discard the remainder. Beat it in with the vanilla and salt just until blended. Scrape down the bowl. On low speed, add the flour all at once and mix just until the ingredients are moistened. Donot overmix.

2. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Quickly finish combining the ingredients by smearing small amounts away from you. Using a bench knife or plastic scraper, scrape up the dough and gather it together. Form into a flat disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap. Referigerate until firm, atleast one hour.( The dough can be prepared upto a day ahead, wrapped, and referigerated.)

This dough tends to break, but it is easy to repair.


Dosa Mela: Body Builder Dosa

Last minute entry for Srivallis Dosa Mela

Srivalli is surely going to throw stones, rotten eggs and tomatoes at me for this entry! :) While i sat on the sidelines twiddling my thumbs, the entire blogging community has come up with some amazing dosas. My only excuse for this last minute entry is that i was too busy trying and eating their entries( Sia's Moong chilla and Srivallis Curds Dosa really delicious)

I was all out of ideas, when i re read srivallis original announcement. It helpfully had a link to the wiki post on dosa, which led me to the wiki on crepes- which briefly mentioned a crepe called body builder crepe.

I was intrigued. It is getting to summer now and H. and I have just started hitting the gym to exercise away the cakes and rich foods of winter.A protein rich low carb dosa/crepe sounded like just the thing we needed. After much googling, I found a recipe to a protein rich pancake here. I am reproducing the recipe below:

Cindy's Protein Crepe/Pancake / Body builder dosa:


1/4 cup slow cooked oats raw
1/4 cup light cottage cheese
5 egg whites
cinnamon to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend about 15 seconds. Heat skillet and put half of your batter on the pan. Watch your heat! Too high can really destroy it. My skillet is usually about 325-350 degrees. Don't forget to flip your crepe!"

I adapted it to an Indian palette. I replaced the slow cooked oats with quick cooking ones, removed the cinnamon and added green chillies, coriander leaves and whey protein powder(2 tbsp).

I was not sure what I would get at the end, but i went ahead and made a dosa with the mixture.

The verdict: Wow. It was really good. It tastes almost exactly like an omlette, but it really fills you up. Two eggs make one utthapams style crepe. A quick back of the envelope calculation- and one crepe made from two eggs is approximately around 120 calories.(cottage cheese: Around 25 calories
Quick cooking oats: Around 30 calories
Two egg whites at 17 calories each: 34
Protein powder: Around 30 calories)

I am sure you can use egg beaters for this recipe. It does not have egg yolks, so it does not have cholestrol. It has fibre from the oats. I am sure you can add any vegetables you like, like tomato or shredded cabbage, spinach and any cheese that you like. Or have it with fruits as per cindys post.

So happy summer gym-ming with the body builder dosa.


VoW Bharela Karela: Mango stuffed Bittergourd

I HATE Bittergourd / Pavakka / Karela. Or did, until I tried my Mothers recipe for Stuffed Karela. I had not eaten it for a good fifteen years, until Pooja's VoW Bittergourd event forced me to try it again.

But the things I do for Vow, sigh. Pooja owes me big time!

So I called up my mom to get the actual recipe, and she was ecstatic that I was making it. It is amusing that I now voluntarily make and eat the things my mom used to have to twist my arm to even try.

I tried it. And surprisingly enough....liked it! If a karela hater like me can be converted, I am sure karela enthusiasts will love this recipe.

So here it is.

I only had the heart to try out the recipe for two karelas, so please scale up as necessary.

1/2 unripe mango, peeled and roughly grated
1/4 small onion, finely sliced in long
1 tsp saunf
2 tsp dhana jeeru powder ( equal amounts of dhania and jeera , toasted and powdered)
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
2 tsp Besan/ kadala maavu

First,take a knife/ peeler and remove the outer rough skin. Then slit the karelas along its length. Remove the seeds. At this point, add salt, the turmeric and half the red chilli powder to the karela. Rub it in and let it rest for about half an hour or so. This should draw out some of the bitter juices.

Prepare the mango and onion, and saute in a pan with a little oil with the red chilli powder, dhana jeeru and saunf until cooked through.Cool.

Add the besan to this mixture and stuff the two halves of the karela and join them together again. My mother used to tie it up using a string. I was too lazy so I just placed the stuffed karelas in a pan with a little oil and fried them up.

The verdict:
The tangy sourness of the mango is really good in counteracting the bitterness of the karela. Next time I would steam the stuffed karelas in an idli steamer or microwave it for five minutes before frying it. That would make it a little easier to bite. Also feel free to increase the quantity of the saunf seeds- they refresh the mouth very well too.

So Pooja, heres one for you!


Fondant Welcome Home Cake

I made this quick and easy cake on Saturday for my cousin G. in Baltimore and her cute new baby daughter. The cake itself is a chocolate chiffon cake with vanilla buttercream. The cake topper is a white chocolate baby pram with royal icing decorations.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake recipe from here


Food Crisis: Grains Gone Wild & Maps

Paul Krugmans OpEd: Grains gone Wild published in the NYT today talks about the sudden sharp increase in Grain prices , so sharp as to qualify as a Worldwide food crisis. He says and I quote,"Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months".

He goes on to identify the some of the causes of this crisis, The war in Iraq, the Australian drought, increasing Chinese demand for meat, global warming etc. Modern Agriculture is dependent on Oil prices. Any increase in oil prices reflects in Food prices.

It would seem that a part solution to this problem is fairly obvious, an increased emphasis on Organic Food and Local Food. Organic Food uses non Fertilizer / pesticide based techniques of farming. The amount of miles your food travels adds to the total fuel cost and impact on the earth.

To give an example from my pantry, I have two packets of Frozen Okra or Bhindi- One bought in my local supermarket- comes to me all the way from China and the other- bought in the Indian Grocery store- comes from India. This brings me to the new map feature at Sometime Foodie.

I wanted to introduce a map feature to Sometime Foodie for a while now and finally did so yesterday in a panel in the left hand side. I am going to use it to keep a log of all my favorite foodie places in India and now after this article, to keep a log of the sources from which my food comes from. I want to see the mileage on my food.

I will end on a more positive and less alarmist note with this map from my favorite mapsite, American Memory on the Library of Congress website.

Pittsburgh 1902Map from Library of Congress


Cakeworks for Mahanandi: Devils Food Chocolate Cake

I am really lucky and honored that my first order in my new Cake baking venture, CAKEWORKS, came from Indira of Mahanandi. I am much obliged to her for her thoughtfulness and support. Indira ordered this cake for an event in Philadelphia, the 29th of March.

Indira says via email,"Cake looks yummilious!:) Great job with the decoration. I like it."

This cake is an all butter devils food chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling. The two buildings on top of the cake are the Liberty Place buildings in downtown, that I have modeled out of vanilla chiffon cake. The cake is covered with chocolate and white fondant. The roofs of the buildings are non edible and carved out of foam.

I hope to develop a professional career in baking over the years. I will be posting detailed recipes and instructions on my baking blog, Cakeworks.


RCI Bengal: Saak er Ghanto with Home made Boris

My entry for RCI Bengal hosted by Sandeepa

I know next to nothing about Bengali food, the cooking that is :). The eating, well now that is a long list, from mishti doi and sandesh to the egg cutlet and puchkas of Chittaranjan park in delhi. This stomach has seen them all. I first tried a Bengali Recipe for Brinjal from Ajanta, but it had a strong, pungent mustardy flavor that caught me by surprise.

This time around, I had just finished Chitrita Banerjis book, Eating India. Although I was not impressed by the whole of the book, parts were lyrical and insightful. She had a delightful description of Boris, little pellets of urad dal that are some times added to vegetable dishes, also called saak in Bengal. She goes on to describe that many villages in Bengal and Bangladesh specialize in producing the lightest of Boris. They are similiar to Punjabi Wadis, in a very broad sense.

I wanted to try these delighful protein packed dumplings, so I decided to make them for RCI Bengal hosted by Sandeepa. Now, I did find a recipe for Boris here but no real information on how to make them.


My first attempt at making Boris was an entire and complete FLOP. Exhibit A on the right hand side of the above picture. Flat, disk shaped and no airy goodness. Gloom Doom. Too much water in the dough.
In my second attempt, I was careful to not add any water during grinding the urad dal and Eureka! Success was mine. Note the successful conical bori on the left with the huge airpocket.

The final recipe is deceptively simple.
1/2 cup of Urad dal
1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Ginger powder
1/2 Aniseed powder
1/2 tsp Asofoetida powder
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp baking soda

Soak the urad dal for an hour. Drain completely. Grind finely with the other seasonings and leavening, adding a maximum of 1 tbsp of water. Put in a zip lock bag.

Meanwhile, take a baking sheet and line with aluminium foil. Spray with pam or similiar non stick oil spray. Cut the zip lock bag. Squeeze out hershey kisses shaped piece of bori. Bake at 200 F for about two hours making sure to turn the Boris at the 1 hour mark. Think meringue and you will instinctively do it right.

Saak Er Ghanto Recipe from Hare Krsna here

I then made a saak or sabji with the boris according to the recipe from the Hare Krsna site. Keeping in mind my earlier brush with the Bengali love of mustard, I decided to tone it down this time. I skipped the mustard powder the recipe calls for, although I did use a combination of mustard oil and canola instead of the ghee. Also I made the panchphoran using 1/2 tsp. of each of the spices. Seemed quite right for the amount of vegetables specified in the recipe.

The verdict: The pumpkin was utterly delightful and next time im going to up it to 2 cups. The overall flavor of the saak was very different and very delicious. And what of the sweat of my brow Boris? Well- They were deep fried for this recipe. Once they soak up the juices of the vegetable, they offer some textural contrast. But next time I will try them without deep frying them.

It was real fun participating in this RCI Bengal, because I learned something about Bengal. Perhaps I should call this post, Eating Bengal? :)


Mexican Series #6 WW Burrito with Hongos Guisados

As a bookish cook, I usually try various recipes from different books. For the first time, I find myself cooking through a book- Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless - all the vegetarian recipes i.e. The Mexican Series is a chronicle of this cook through.

Whole wheat burritos uses whole wheat tortillas which are a variation on this recipe from Authentic Mexican. I substituted one cup of the all purpose flour with Whole wheat flour. The texture of the tortillas and their taste was quite good.

Update: This weekend I was at an Mexican restaurant with good reviews in Philadelphia. The texture of their flour tortillas was silken smooth and soft. Quite unlike the texture of my flour tortillas. The flour tortilla recipe needs more work.

As for fillings I usually turn towards sauted peppers and onions with jalapenos and oregano. Yawn. After trying some of the various quesadilla/enchilada/empanada fillings recipes in his book, I highly recommend the Stewed Mushrooms with Onions and garlic - Hongos Guisados. Ive also used this Mushroom recipe as a layer in lasagna and it works beautifully. It has become my go to recipe for Mushrooms.

To assemble the Burrito, Lay out a line of the Hongos Guisados Mushrooms in the middle of the tortilla. Top with a little canned Refried Beans, some chopped lettuce , grated cheddar cheese and onions. You can optionally grill it at a high temperature for a delightfully smoky flavor. Wrap and serve with a fresh salad.

Hongos Guisados Recipe:

12oz Fresh mushrooms, washed and chopped in half
1/2 medium onion diced
1 Jalapeno , diced
2/3 cup broth
1/2 small lime, juiced
1 tbsp oil
1 large tomato, roasted or boiled, cored, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
11/2 tbsp epazote(or cilantro)
Salt to taste

1.Cooking the mushrooms:Place the mushrooms, onion, chile, broth , lime juice and oil in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil ove rmedium high heat, cover and cook 3 min. Uncover and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to fry in the fat.
2. Finishing the mixture. While the mushrooms are cooking, puree the tomato with garlic in a blender or food processor and optional epazote and cook for about 5 min, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick. Season with salt and cool before using.

Other fillings I tried:
1. Potatoes with Swiss chard Acelgas Guisadas
Tastes a lot like aloo palak. Not very mexican to my palette.
2. Potatoes and Green Chiles Papas con rajas
Aloo sabji again. Yawn.

I just love the look of the fresh green swiss chard. The folds of its leaf recall some distant hidden valley. If you are still reading the post, and are curious about the swiss chard potato recipe, here it is!

Swiss Chard with tomatoes and Potatoes.
Acelgas Guisadas

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 chile jalapeno
1 ripe medium small tomato, roasted or boiled
2 small boiling potatoes, diced
1/2 cup broth
1/2 bunch small swiss chard , stems cut off and leaves sliced crosswise into 1 inch strips

1. The flavorings: In a medium size saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chile and cook, stirring frequently until the onion ins lightly browned. Roughly chop the tomato, add it to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes longer to reduce the liquid a little.
2. The poatoes. Stir in the potatoes, broth , optional epazote and salt. Cover, and cook over medium low heat until the potatoes are tender about 10 minutes. Check the amount of liquid, If too much boil down.
3. Steam cooking the chard: Mix in the chard, cover and cook over medium heat until the greens are tender. Uncover and taste for salt. There should be enough tomatoey broth to coat the vegetables. Serve right away.