Sizin Portal: July 2008

Mango Salsa

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mango Madness is right ... more like Mad that there aren't any mangoes yet! I guess according to the mangoes, summer hasn't truly begun (the weather begs to differ...!). I bought one mango, fully ripened at Rs. 20 (about $0.50), which is still a lot for a mango - just because I couldn't wait any longer. And I used it to make this mango salsa!!

So here goes a precious mango over to Arundati at Escapades for her WBB's Mango Madness. Hopefully, by the time the round-up happens, there'll be lots of mangoes in the market to use! WBB was originally started by Nandita at Saffron Trail.

Mango Salsa for Breakfast

For the Salsa:
1.5 cups ripe Mango, diced
1 red Onion, chopped
1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Hot Sauce (I used Sriracha)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

For the Wrap:
3-4 Rotis/ Chapattis or Tortillas
3-4 Eggs, scrambled soft

Mix everything together for the salsa. Let it rest covered in the refrigerator for about 1/2 hour for the flavors to combine.

To assemble, just lay some eggs in the middle of a tortilla. Cover with mango salsa. Enjoy.

Didn't realize that mango salsa would taste good with eggs - it does! The only thing I would change next time is to dice the mango and the cucumber a little smaller.

Kuwaiti Tea

Its funny how tea, originally from China, has been changed and adapted to fit the tastes of different nationalities. Tea spread to Japan from China and became a drink of the upper classes (from it was born the famous Japanese tea ceremonies). In Britain, tea is still very traditional - steeped in hot water, mixed with warm milk. In the US, tea has become synonymous with Chai, except for the southern states, where sweet iced tea is common.

India has the largest tea drinking population in the world! Taiwan is home to the bubble tea, or tea mixed with tapioca pearls and condensed milk. In the Middle Eastern countries, tea is steeped in hot water with saffron and spices. And that's what I've made today. And it was quite lovely. Tea is so versatile that it absorbs the flavors of the spices and/or fruit/flowers that you add to the hot water while steeping.

Kuwaiti Tea
(adapted from here)

1 pinch saffron
1 cup water
2 cardamom pods, broken
2 tea bags
1 tsp ginger, minced

Heat the water in a saucepan, adding the ginger, cardamom and saffron. When it reaches a boil, add the tea bags and allow to steep for about a minute. Strain and serve. Add sugar, if you'd like.

Traditionally, there is no ginger, but I wanted that extra zing.

This is off to EC at Simple Indian Food for Think Spice - Think Cardamom. Thanks for hosting - I've now discovered a new tea option!

I'm also sending this to Siri for the AWED: Middle Eastern Cuisine event. This is going to be so much fun - what a cool theme, Siri! AWED was started by Dhivya with a Mexican theme - you can see the fabulous round-up here.

And this is part of the RECIPE MARATHON. Do check out the other recipes posted today as part of the Marathon:
Bhags' Tomato Shorba.
Dhivs' Bhindi Jaipuri
Swati's Dum Ka Murg Zafrani
Divya's Peas Kurma
Valli's Chicken Semi Gravy.
Raaga's Masala Lauki Chana Dal
Lakshmi's Sour Cream Cake and
Siri's Baked Cauliflower!

And believe me, if I could've sent it to any more events, I would have! :)


I love the Taste & Create event. It allows you to go through someone's blog - I mean thoroughly. Like you would never have normally, and search for that one recipe that calls out to you. Its easy to choose a drink or something extra simple, but sometimes you just stretch a little bit and tell yourself that this is the chance to try a recipe that gets you out of your comfort zone.

I was paired with Katie at Other People's Food (go check out her blog - it's awesome), and I literally bookmarked DOZENS of recipes to try. The problem was which one to make and that took longer than usual. I finally decided I have to try making pierogies only because we loved them when we lived in the US and have missed them a lot.

Pierogies with Potato and Jalapeno Stuffing
(The original recipe here- I've put my changes in italics)

For the dough:

3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Egg
3/4 cup Water, at room temperature
2 tbsp Butter, melted
1 tsp Salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes. Set aside for at least 1/2 hour. You can even make the dough up to 2 days ahead and store in the refrigerator.

Roll out the dough as thin as possible. Cut into circles and keep aside.

For the Potato and Jalapeno Filling:

1 lb potatoes, washed and peeled
1 tbsp salt
3 cups cold water
1/2 cup Butter (I left out the butter at this stage - its in the photograph but I didn't use it - and trust me, you don't need it)
1/2 cup Onion, chopped
2 tbsp Jalapeno Peppers, chopped (I used about 4-5 tbsp because I wanted it really spicy)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes in a saucepan with the cold water and salt. Cook until soft. Remove from heat and mash the potatoes.
In another saucepan, add a teaspoon of oil and the onions and saute until onions are soft or browned (if you like the caramelized onion taste, which I do and I did).
Add the sauteed onions, chopped jalapenos and black pepper to the potatoes and mash together to combine.

To assemble:

Put about 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold over and crimp to seal (I also used water to get the dough to stick since I was worried that it might open while boiling). I made those pretty marks with the tines of a fork. Easy.

Now bring some water to a boil in a saucepan and gently slip in the prepared pierogies (a few at time). Cook for about 10 minutes. Drain. These pierogies can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator.

When serving, heat some oil or butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the pierogies and brown the edges and serve hot.

It makes a great lunch with some veggies. And of course, you can experiment with lots of fillings.

Katie, thanks for taking me out of my comfort zone and for the awesome recipe - its a definite keeper. And thanks, Nicole, this event totally rocks!

This is part of the Recipe Marathon. Check out other posts to the marathon for today:
Lakshmi's unique Coconut Dosa
You could almost smell Valli's wonderful Sambhar Powder
Raaga made Chickpea Sundal.
Check out the photos on Dhivya's Peas Pulao!
Chaat Masala and Bread Upma from Swati
Bhags made a scrumptious looking Coffee Cake and
Siri made a delicious and cool Kosambari

Grape Jam

I just can't believe I made jam. JAM, people! Quite a regular little cook, huh?! I have to say that this blogging thing has made me all confident and happy! I still can't believe I made Jam! Okay, I'll stop being modest.

The thing is, it was so so easy - I never did realize how easy it was, until I saw other people making it all over the blogosphere. And I figured if I can make complicated rasams and sambars, which require grinding, measuring and tasting, this jam thing should be a piece of cake... um, ok, jelly doughnut!

Grape Jam
1.5 cups Green Grapes, washed thoroughly
1 cup Sugar (It was very very sweet - next time I'm going to use only 3/4 cup. I think a 2:1 fruit to sugar ratio is a good guide)
Juice of one large lemon
1/4 cup water

Sterilize the jam jar and let it dry completely.

Heat a large saucepan and add the grapes and some water (I don't think its a done thing to add water - most people seem to just let the juices ooze from the fruit but I wanted to get things cooking).

Crush them as they cook. Add the sugar and continue crushing. Add the lemon juice (I needed the acid to preserve the jam and also didn't have any pectin, but the juice did the trick).

Let it cook down - this will take about a half hour. To test whether the jam is done, put a tiny spoonful onto a cold plate. Let it cool, tilt the plate, if the jam stays in place, it's done. If the jam is still too watery, continue cooking and testing every 5 minutes. Pour the jam into the jar and let it cool off before you refrigerate. That's it, folks. All done.

This is my second entry for Pixie and Rosie's Putting Up event, which is totally the force behind me making JAM! :)

And this is part of the Recipe Marathon Day 3. Other participants in the marathon:
Siri made a lovely looking Middle Eastern appetizer
Srivalli made my all-time favorite Moor Milagai
Ranji made my favorite kind of muffins - blueberry!
Raaga made a jackfruit curry which I've now got to try out on my husband
Lakshmi made Onion Kulchas
DK's Spicy Rotis look absolutely fabulous and
Swati made stuffed capsicum
Divya's Muffins made with sour cream look delicious enough to eat off the screen!

Dipping Sauces

You will not go wrong with these dipping sauces. They are amazing. I got them from a chef a long time ago, and then tweaked them a lot - and this is the current recipe.

Delicious Dipping Sauce #1: Peanut Red Chilli (spicy and sweet)

2 Scallions, chopped fine
1/2 cup Hot Water
4-5 Dried Red Chillies, chopped extra fine
1/2 cup Chunky Peanut Butter (you could use Smooth, if you prefer)
3 tbsp Soy Sauce (lite)
3 tbsp Brown Sugar
3 tbsp White Vinegar
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped fine

Heat a tsp of oil in a saucepan. Add the scallions and garlic and saute for a minute.
Add the rest of the ingredients and bring it to a simmer. Continue to simmer until well combined and smooth. Remove from heat, and allow it to cool to room temperature. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

This tastes great as a satay dipping sauce or even a marinade for barbequed veggies and meat. And fabulous spread on toast!

Delicious Dipping Sauce #2: Chilli Pepper-Soy (Asian Flavors with a kick)

2 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 red Chilli Peppers, chopped fine
1 tbsp White Vinegar
3 cloves Garlic, chopped fine
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Sugar
2-3 Spring Onions, chopped fine
2-3 sprigs Cilantro, chopped fine

Combine all the ingredients with a whisk.
This is great with spring rolls, fried rice and as a sauce over sauteed veggies.

This goes to Dee for AFAM:Raspberries - where chillies wormed their way in (since they are classified as berries by Wiki!).

This is Day 4 of the Recipe Marathon, folks. I'm still up and (wheeze!) running! Here's how everyone else is doing:
Valli made this traditional dish - I might need her to translate that for me. It looks really lovely.
Swati made a pumpkin curry. Siri made a great vegetarian Moroccan Spaghetti. And thanks to Lakshmi we finally know how to make curd/yogurt. DK made a great looking Banana Cardamom Bread. And let's not forget the dosas - Ranji made Methi Dosa and Raaga made a Vegetable Dosa. And Bhags made a lucky Moroccan couscous.

Bell Peppers

When I left India, I knew absolutely no cooking. I was a little nervous that I might be homesick for the food. Being vegetarian, the thought of being in the then-Meat and Potatoes-eating midwestern United States, was going to be a little difficult.

So, I armed myself exactly a week before I left with 10 recipes that are easy to make (under 20 minutes) and easy to prepare (minimal authentic Indian ingredients - since I wasn't sure if there would be an Indian store around). One of those was spicy potatoes, and another was this one.

Bell Peppers with Gram Flour

1 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Asafoetida
1 Bell Pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp Gram Flour (Besan)
Salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Add the cumin, salt, asafetida and bell peppers and stir fry until the bell pepper is 3/4 done. Add the gram flour and toss to combine with the bell peppers. It will start to form a crunchy brown layer (which is so good!). Remove from heat.

This is perfect for a tortilla filling, and tastes great with steamed rice.

Besan Bell Peppers are off to Pooja for the VoW-JFI event.

What's everyone in the Recipe Marathon up to on Day 5? Let's see:
Lakshmi has a delightful mango and chocolate "fool". Siri made a great-looking Hash Brown Melt. Divya shared her lovely carrot rice. Valli got some meat into the mix with her Mutton Fry. Swati got inspired by Beckham to make some Aloo Gobi! . After looking at Dhivya's post, you might have to go for a run! :) (to burn away the "virtual" calories - absolutely gorgeous!). And let's not forget Bhags' Spanakopitta and Ranji's Banana Chips!

Raspberry and Blueberry Muffins

I got a surprise package of dried raspberries and blueberries from a relative in the US. They knew how much I missed the berries, and sent it to me.

And it was just after I rallied to get chillies included as berries in this month's AFAM: Raspberries, hosted by Dee! So, you see, when word gets out, I might have to go into hiding, from my fellow Indian bloggers, who made chilli dishes! The only redeeming part is that I posted a recipe with chillies too!

Muffins with Raspberries and Blueberries
(adapted from a recipe by Cooking with Amy)

4 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Buttermilk
3/4 cup dried Raspberries
1/4 cup dried Blueberries

Preheat oven to 220 deg C.

Combine the butter and sugar. Add the flour, egg, salt and baking powder. Blend till moist.

Slowly add the milk and then the buttermilk. Add the dried fruit.

Spoon the batter into greased muffin pans.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool.

This is my entry for AFAM: Raspberries, hosted by Dee.

Find out what my fellow runners are up to on Day 6 of the Recipe Marathon:
We have Valli leading with Onion Chapatis. Raaga has a delicious looking Vegetable Foccacia. We are featuring two chutneys today - Siri's Tomato Chutney and Swati's Mint Chutney. They would probably go really well with Bhags' Baked Chapati - you'll have to try it and see. Of course, you'll need some curry on the side, and here Divya comes in with her lovely Cauliflower Peas. Or you could be really healthy and just have Lakshmi's Kashayam to settle that stomach. Or you could forget this whole meal and go with Ranji's Simple Jhovan or Konkani meal!

Steamed Wontons

I tried hard and couldn't find wonton wrappers in Chennai - I even called a woman who gives Asian Cooking Classes! - but it was nowhere to be found. And then, I found these Thai rice paper rolls, which worked very well.

I made them very basic and healthy and it was delicious. You could dress it up by adding some authentic Asian ingredients like bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, vermicelli noodles, tofu, eggs...

Steamed Wontons

1 Carrot, grated
1 cup cooked Corn
1 Onion, chopped
2 tsp Soy Sauce
1 Spring Onion, chopped (green and white portions)
A few sprigs of Cilantro

Heat a tbsp of oil in a saucepan, add the onions and saute for a minute or two, until soft. Next, add the corn and stir for another minute, while adding the soy sauce. Toss to combine. Remove from heat.

Dip each rice paper roll in some water - swirl it around for a minute or so until the roll begins to soften.

Take the roll out of the water bath and lay it on a flat surface. Lay a cilantro leaf first on the roll (it'll look pretty when you turn it over), then a tbsp of the corn onion mix. Now add the grated carrot, and then sprinkle some chopped spring onion on top.

Fold the roll to make neat squares.

Place the wontons in a bamboo steamer.

I put the bamboo steamer in the microwave in a shallow bowl filled with an 1" or so of water.

Microwave for about 2-3 minutes (depending on the microwave). Remove and transfer to a plate and serve immediately (it doesn't lend itself to reheating - though you could steam it again). Its perfect with these dipping sauces (especially the 2nd one)!

This is my contribution to Valli's MEC: Steamed Dishes. Never used my bamboo steamer in the microwave, though the directions for the Microwave come with the steamer. I'm so glad I did - now I don't think I'll go back to using it on the stove top!

In the Recipe Marathon, one week down, and here's what everyone's been up to today: Siri recreates her mother's yummy Egg puffs. Lakshmi has Pudina Sadam (Mint Rice). Dhivya gave the plain old Hummus a new twist of color. Srivalli made an all-time favourite, Puliyodarai (tamarind rice). Ranji made Papdi Pizza, and Swati made some homemade Dimsum! For dessert, we have Divya's Reva Kesari. And let's see how Bhags' got hooked!

Garbanzo Beans

I was planning to take some fancy photos for Click this month and my mind has been constantly thinking about the prep for the photograph. And then I made this garbanzo beans curry, and took some photographs - and there it was - I never did realize when I was taking it. Here's my entry for Click:

I like the photo because you can almost feel the heat off the screen! And I love the look of the curry bubbling and simmering - a beautiful base for lovely beans.

And it follows with a recipe too:

Garbanzo Beans Curry/ Channa Masala

2 cans Garbanzo Beans (about 3 cups), drained and rinsed
3 medium Tomatoes, chopped
2 large Onions, chopped
5 small Green Chillies, sliced lengthwise
3 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Ginger Paste
1 tbsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
3 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Fenugreek Leaves, chopped
1 cup Water
1 tbsp Oil
Salt, to taste

(its a long list - but really not difficult to put together!)

Heat some oil in a pan. Add cumin and onion and saute till onions are brown. Add ginger, garlic pastes and green chillies. Allow it to cook until the raw garlic smell disappears.

Add beans and saute till well blended with the spices. Add chilli powder, turmeric, coriander powder, salt and mix well. Let it cook for 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Toss in the fenugreek leaves while the water is boiling.

Reduce to medium and let it continue to cook until the curry gets a thick consistency. Add chopped cilantro leaves as garnish. Serve with rice or roti.

Day 8 of the Recipe Marathon is off to a slow start on a lazy Saturday. Valli made a south Indian favorite. Siri brought in a little sunshine to cool off! Raaga made a beautiful looking soup. And Divya made a hot spicy bhajji. Bhags' made her own mustard. Lakshmi has some roasted taro. I just want to reach in and grab Ranji's Mango Kulfi! So let's finish off this great round of recipes with a cold beer! :)

Cutlets - Your Recipe Rocks!

Everyone loves cutlets. Especially my daughter. She gets this big grin on her face when she's offered cutlets for dinner - at her grandparents' house! I know it's really easy, but I've just never gotten around to making them.

Yesterday, she specifically asked if she could have them for dinner, and I realized I've got to learn how to make them at some point. So, I did a blog search and found this recipe by Raaga at The Singing Chef. It really did sound easy.

I made a few modifications. I didn't want it to be spicy and I didn't want to fry it. So, I toasted them on a pan and it turned out really well.

Vegetable Cutlets

(original recipe here)

4 Potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
1 Carrot, boiled, peeled and diced
1/2 cup Beans, boiled and diced
2 Onions, chopped fine
1/2 tsp Garlic Paste
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp Oil
1 cup Breadcrumbs

Heat some oil in a saucepan, and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic paste and continue to saute, until the raw smell of garlic disappears. Now add the cooked vegetables. Mash them together as you stir. Remove from heat.

Let the mixture cool. Form small balls of the vegetable mixture, and flatten. Roll each one in breadcrumbs.

Heat a saute pan with a little bit of oil. When hot, add the cutlets to the pan. Flip over when one side is golden brown. Remove from heat when both sides are browned.

These came out really well, and were an instant hit. Thanks, Raaga!

Cutlets are great for dinner with ketchup. Or you can make it more substantial by layering cutlets, lettuce, tomato, mustard in a burger bun!

This is off to Madhu @ Eggless Cooking for an awesome event, Your Recipe Rocks! Her blog rocks too!

In the recipe marathon today, we have a whole meal for you:
Let's start with some soup. Bhags' made this amazing Tofu-Coconut soup. You can have that with Siri's fabulous Home Baked "fries". That's followed by Ranji's Dal and Rice, or you can have Valli's Pancakes. Maybe you can try making that with Dhivya's Masala Oil. Or you could go a whole different menu and have Swati's healthy Upma with a range of chutneys: Raaga's Onion Chutney and Divya's Ginger Chutney.

Saffron Risotto

The International Food League was so much fun! Basically, you have to pick a mystery box which contains a spice, a grain, a vegetable or a fruit. When you decide which box, you are sent a riddle. You have to crack the riddle to guess the ingredient. Then use the ingredient to make a dish and blog about it.

I, seriously, cracked the riddle in One Second (and I'm usually so bad at these things!). There's one very big clue. Here's the riddle:

I am the queen or am I the King
A very little of me goes a long way

I am part of a team and we all cling

including me will make your dish yellow and gay

You can include me in all

All you have to do is to pinch and call
Tell me what you think of me and don't think twice
Cos I am royal spice of all and will cost u every single penny!

The clue that gave it away was that it would cost me every single penny - it just had to guessed it, Saffron. And if you didn't guess it... um...nothing much to say about that!

I was excited about it (as much as you can get excited about saffron). I had been wanting to do a risotto for a while, and was wondering if I could combine the two. When researching on the Web, I realized this was a very common dish. I basically combined lots of similar recipes and came up with this one. I put asparagus in it because I found some great asparagus in the market (very unusual for my city!).

Saffron Risotto with Asparagus

8 cups Vegetable broth/ stock
2 tbsp Butter
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1.5 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Asparagus, steamed and chopped
1/2 tsp Saffron threads
1/2 cup Dry White Wine
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Add the saffron to the broth and bring to a gentle simmer in a saucepan over low heat.

In another large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chopped asparagus and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat (the better coated the rice, the less mushy it will be in the end).

Add the wine, and stir until fully absorbed. Add the hot broth, a 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it's almost fully absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.

Cook for about 20 minutes. The risotto is done when it is tender, but still firm to the bite. Turn off the heat, add the parmesan and stir vigorously to combine with the rice. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

This turned out so well, and I half didn't expect it to, so I didn't take step-by-step photos!
Also, if you don't drink wine or won't use it in your cooking, then don't make the risotto - it absolutely needs the wine. (Okay Okay, if you really really won't use the wine, here's a recipe without it - but try it with the wine - it's so much better!).

In the Recipe Marathon today, here's what everyone's cooked up: Siri starts things off with a lovely drink. Valli's dosas continue with this interesting one. There are three veggies on display - Lakshmi's eggplant, Raaga's spinach and Divya's ladiesfinger. Swati made some very professional looking chole-bhatura. Ranji contributed some chicken for those non-vegetarians out there. Bhags made a fantastic middle-eastern favorite, Tzatziki. And you can finish the meal with Dhivya's fabulous looking brownies!

All about Chennai

A lot of you have expressed surprise at being able to get stuff in Chennai. Yes, lots of stuff is now available here. I guess it's just a question of knowing where to look.

For kitchen pans/gadgets: My dear friend Rachel pointed me to Currimbhoys and Poppat Jamals. Currimbhoys is where I got the bamboo steamer as well as the muffin pan that a lot of you asked about. A lot of stuff is also available at Lifestyle Home Center.

For food stuffs: Obviously all of you know that the everyday stuff is available at Nilgiris. But if you really looked you'd find they have ingredients that you haven't bothered to look for before (atleast I haven't). For example, Demerara Sugar. The other store that I've found to have great unusual stuff is Food World (or now Spencers) which has a section for International Foods (which is where I found the rice paper rolls), but they also have different kinds of dried mushrooms, vegetables and spices.

I also shop at Amma Naana and Maison de Gourmet, if I really have to find something and it's not available in any of the above shops. They are more expensive but the chances of them having it are very high. For specialty cheeses, sauces and jams, the place to go is Maison.

Amma Naana is great for people who have moved back to India from the US, and are still craving things like Trail Mix, Granola Bars, Starbucks Frappuccinos or Post Cereal! (I could go on, but you get the general idea). They also have lots of unusual vegetables (like asparagus and zucchini) that are not available in neighbourhood supermarkets. It's also where I found the Arborio Rice that a lot of people asked about.

If I do use an unusual ingredient, I shall include my source from now on, so that may help Chennaiites locate it. I hope that helps. Also my other blog, Rediscovering Chennai, is all about how Chennai has now become a lot more global than it used to be - stores, restaurants and mindset. (P.S. I've also just completed my 100th post there! :))

Good Luck, Chennaiites! If you know of any other really good resources for kitchen implements/ foodstuffs in Chennai, do let me know in the Comments section. Thanks.