Easy Chatpata Bhindi! Okara with sesame and peanut masala

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Weekends are meant to relax, sleep, eat, clean, party, outings etc. Some times things do not workout as you plan. Every year I make loads of plan before coming to India during vacations but, with either kids falling ill or other unforeseen emergencies coming up  oops! your plans take a back seat.

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It’s 11am here and every one at my mum’s place is in a rush to reach to one of our relative’s home for a funeral. Not news of the news paper but a sad news of one of my maternal uncle’s demise came up with our morning tea. Now at this point I chose to stay back home and take care of my kids and my brother’s kids, while others left for the last rituals.

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Ting-tong.. the door bell rings, I opened the door and was glad to see two of our family friends after ages who came to meet me. Here’s a situation now, it’s almost lunch time, I have guests at home,  have to cook, and  don’t have the luxury to go or send someone to the market. Alas my mind says, ” lady cook a palatable lunch with whatever you have”.

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With few fish pieces in the fridge and some boring veggies I had to create a decent lunch. I don’t want to bug you by narrating the whole story, but yes! it is indeed worth mentioning how a regular Bhindi became the STAR BHINDI(star oakra). This bhindi masala was relished by kids just as how the Minions relished their bananas.

MAKEOVER FOR YOUR REGULAR STIR FRY VEGGIES IN 15 MINUTES

The secret here is the peanut and sesame masala mix

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 kg okra( bhindi)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • Dry red chilies 2
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds for tempering
  • Few curry leaves for tempering (optional)

For the peanut and sesame masala mix

  • 4 tbsp peanuts
  • 2-3 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1 dry red chili
  •  A pinch of hing( optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black/pink salt

Secret ingredient : To enhance the flavor of the masala mix add a tsp of mustard seeds along with the above ingredients in the grinder 

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DIRECTION ( For the masala mix)

  1. Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds with the red chili separately in a pan on a low flame. Just be careful not to burn it. Keep it aside and allow it to cool down.
  2. Transfer the roasted peanuts, sesame seeds and the chili into a grinder jar. Now add the hing( asafoetida), black salt and grind them all together into a coarse masala powder.
  3. Store it in air tight container

TIPS: *Add 1-2 tsp of gram flour( besan) along with the masala powder to your                          bhindi. This will prevent your bhindi from getting soggy.

Add a tsp of jaggery and tamarind paste each after adding the masala mix                    and the gram flour to give chatpata flavor.

DIRECTION ( For the okra/bhindi masala)

  1. Wash the okra/ bhindi, pat it dry with a kitchen towel and slit it lengthwise.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the dry red chilies and mustard seeds. Now once the mustard starts crackling, add the okra and fry it uncovered on a medium to high heat for a 3-4 minutes. When you see the okra/bhindi roasting, lower the flame a little, cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Don’t let the bhindi cook completely, just a 70 percent would be fine. Now add 2 tbsp of the peanut sesame masala, season it with salt and toss it well so that all your bhindi is coated with the masala. Leave it on the pan and allow it roast on a low flame for 2-3 minutes more.

Relish your bhindi masala with rice or roti

Note: Always season with salt at last as the masala contains salt too.

 

 

 

FALAFEL- My Turkish Falafel, yumminess that cannot be resisted!

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Its that time of the year again, when shops, supermarket, and hypermarkets in particular, wear a festive look with colourful posters, banners, and irresistable offers and dispalys of various items and you know ramadan is round the corner and once Ramadan sets it can Eid be far behind.

Here I bring you quick lip smacking Ramadan special recipes and making your Suhoor and Iftars super special.

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FALAFEL, where did it come from? Well, the Wiki theory suggests falafel was invented by the Egyptians, some says Israeli’s, where it is the national food of the country. Wherever it may have originated but it has widely conqured almost all the Middle Eastern countries.

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INGREDIENTS

  •  2 cups dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans ( when I say dry it must dry chickpeas and not canned one, else you will end up making humus)
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
  • 1 large bunch chopped parsley
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 11/2 tbsp flour
  • Salt according to taste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup white sesame white seeds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

DIRECTION

  1. Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them by about 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight. They will double in size as they soak – you will have between 4 and 5 cups of beans after soaking.
  2. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.
  3. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere the texture of a course paste. The mixture should be such that it holds together to form a small ping-pong shaped ball or a small patty , and a more paste-like consistency will help with that, but donot over process, else the mixture will turn to humus!
  4. Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.
  5. Now add in the baking soda ( which is absolutely optional) and the sesame seeds. I like the sesame seeds to be mixed together, because this gives a nice nutty taste with every bite you have, instead of coating it at the last.
  6. Fill a skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches. I prefer to use cooking oil with a high smoke point, like canola. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat. Meanwhile, form falafel mixture into round balls or slider-shaped patties using wet hands or a falafel scoop. I usually use about 2 tbsp of mixture per falafel. You can make them smaller or larger depending on your personal preference. The balls will stick together loosely at first, but will bind nicely once they begin to fry.
  7.  To test, fry just one in the center of the pan, before frying the first batch of falafel. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown. If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the center. Wait till the oil cools down slightly and  then try again. Once the oil is in right temperature, fry the falafels in batches of 5-6 at a time till golden brown on both sides.
  8. Once the falafels are fried, remove them from the oil and keep it on plate with paper towel to drain out the excess oil. Serve the falafels fresh and hot; they are perfect with some pickled salad or a  plate of hummus and topped with creamy tahini sauce.

To make a Pita sandwich, you can stuff them into a pita with fresh salad and humus.

THANDAI Panacotta

 

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This year I was not very excited about Holi, perhaps because of kids exams and being a mum I was quite occupied with helping them with their studies and nursing them as bothwere down with flue, until a few days ago when i saw the hoardings of Holi celebration to be held at quite a few places in Bahrain. A fair not to be missed where there will be various food stalls serving traditional delicacies, crafts, splash of colors and DJ lifting up your spirits. Mere seeing these advertisements were more than enough to lift my spirits in celebrating the festival of colors.

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Holi celebrations without “Thandai” and sweets is incomplete. This flavorful drink is quite common in India during Holi. Its is a fragrant and refreshing  drink with richness of milk, almonds and cashews, spiced with peppercorns, fennel, cardamom, poppy etc and the rose petals gives a truly royal touch to the drink.

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Thandai masala is very easy to make and taste way better than the store bought ones. You make the masala in a batch and store it in an air tight cointainer so that it is readily availabe for you to use whenever necessary.

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This fusion recipe is surely going to win every ones heart

INGREDIENTS

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For Thandai Masala

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup cashew
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • 2 tbsp watermelon seeds( magaz)
  •  1 tbsp fenel seeds ( saunf)
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds( khus khus)
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn( kali mirch)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg ( jaiphal powder)
  • 10-15 green cardamom( elaich)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1 tbsp gulkand or rose petals

DIRECTION

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a grinder except the gulkand and grind into a fine powder. Once done store it into a glass air tight container so that you can use it whenever needed for 2-3 weeks.

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For Thandai Panacotta

  • 400 ml thick cream
  • 1 tbsp gelatin
  • 1 tbsp gulkand
  • 4-5 tbsp powdered sugar
  • few saffron strands
  • 2-3 tbsp thandai paste ( mix 2 tbsp thandai masala with 3 tbsp milk and blend it into a fine paste)

DIRECTION

  1. In a deep bottom sauce pan heat the cream on a low flame but Do not boil. Meanwhile in a separate bowl mix the gelatin with little lukewarm water and keep it aside to bloom.
  2. Now add the gulkand, sugar, saffron and the thandai paste and mix well until well combined.
  3. Once the cream starts boiling remove from  heat do not let it boil. Once the thandai cream mixture cools down a little take few table spoon full and mix with the gelatin. Now por the gelatin cream mix into the thandai cream mixture. Stir well until all the ingredients are very incorporated.
  4. Now transfer the thandai cream mixture into your desired mounds or bowls.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 . Garnish your panacotta  with some gulkand or rose syrup or simply finely chopped  pistachio and almonds before serving.

Healthy Quinoa Dosa with fresh fenugreek leaves and onions

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Take regular Dosa to a whole new level. Breakfast to me is the most important meal of the day and I don’t mind taking  efforts to prepare one. I even don’t mind waking up half an hour early to have a good satisfied breakfast.

Here’s a healthier take on a classic dosa. I don’t say traditional dosa is unhealthy, but for those who are gluten intolerant this recipe serves well.  Frankly speaking, experiment like this has been truly a gift for my family. I always look for ways to increase the nutritional value of my food and wanted my girls to somehow eat and like quinoa. I tried many other ways but this ended up to be the most loved quinoa recipe.

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Quinoa is considered to be a super food because of its high protein content, high in iron and magnesium, added to this they are rich omega-3. This super grain dosa works fantastic for a post workout meal. since it is gluten free this seed has become increasingly popular among the vegans for its rich source of protein.

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Yellow or green lentil mixed with quinoa results in increased nutritional value compared to the regular Dosa.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup skinless whole or split Urad or Yellow split lentil( urad dal or yellow/green moong dal)
  • 1 tbsp Fenugreek seeds( methi seeds)
  • Virgin coconut oil or any other cooking oil
  • Salt as per taste
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh fenugreek leaves.

DIRECTION

  1. Soak the quinoa, lentil and fenugreek seeds together for 6 hours or minimum of 4 hours.
  2. Grind into a smooth batter of flowing consistency. Transfer into a large bowl, mix salt and let it ferment for overnight or 6 hours at least. You will notice the batter has risen due to fermentation.
  3. Heat a Dosa pan or a flat griddle and spread a big ladle full batter evenly in a circular motion. Now spread some chopped onions and chopped methi. Drizzle a tea-spoon of oil to make the crepe crisper. This is optional.
  4. Once the Dosa/crepe becomes golden brown on both sides and becomes crispy, for this shouldn’t take more than two minutes on each side. Now your super crispy quinoa dosa is ready to serve.

You can serve with any desired chutney or sambar or can have just like that.

 

NO BAKE VANILLA CHEESECAKE With blueberry coulis and strawberry compote

 

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Traditionally its been observed that , everyone goes all out to let their special someone knows how much they are appreciated on this day and everyday. A valentine can be a spouse, lover, parent, sibling, child, or a friend who is happy for you and cares about you. one who is always there with you and walks with you, lifting your spirits and for whom your presence means a lot.

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It is fine and good to have a no bake cheesecake for a busy weekday dinner to make that usual evening an extra special one, because it’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air, in stores, at florist, every damn place at least for this day. This takes no time to impress your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s day to all!!

Occasions are endless these days, at least one to two a week and hence i wanted something light, i meant light in calories and not in texture. This has come out to be perfect with right amount of sweetness, luxuriously smooth and creamy.

*Here I had set the cheese cake into individual 3.5 cm moulds for individual serving.

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (200g  graham crackers)
  • 2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 4-5 tbsp melted butter

For the filling

  • 3/4 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 450g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup icing sugar

For the Blueberry Coulis

  • 4 cups of fresh blueberry
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

For the Strawberry compote

  • 2 cups fresh chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp butter

DIRECTION

  1. For the crust–  In a  bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and sugar. Add in the melted butter and mix until well-combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the springform cake tin about 2 inches thick . Now refrigerate for half an hour , in the meanwhile you can prepare the filling .
  2. For the filling– In a large bowl, in goes the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar. With the help of  an electric handheld mixer, mix it until the texture becomes smooth and light. Now add the sour cream and whipping cream and mix until thick and creamy,for about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Spread the filling mixture evenly into the prepared tin with the crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Serve plain, with fresh fruit or a fruit sauce (see note above).
  4. For the Coulis– In a saucepan combine the blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved, for nearly about 10 minutes. Now transfer the mixture into a blender and blend it until you get a smooth puree. your blueberry coulis is ready.
  5. For the strawberry compote–  In a medium combine all the ingredients  for compote in a saucepan and  simmer with continous stirring , until thick and syrupy (adjust the  sugar if needed depending on the fruit as well as adding a little water slowly if the sauce is overly thick).

PANEER BAINGAN LAZZEEZ ( No onion garlic cottage cheese and eggplant)

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I call it “Spiritual paneer baingan lazzeez”.  This story started  15 years ago in Pai Layout, Bangalore now Bengaluru. Biman and I started meeting each other on a regular basis. He invited me home for a Sunday lunch. I knew he used to cook his meal daily in those days but I had no clue how good a cook he was. He used to be a pure vegetarian then. All his dishes were absolutely a no onion garlic dish. In fact there was no existence of onion and garlic in his kitchen.

There was mixed thoughts in my mind, wondering how tasty will the curries and veggies be when made without using onion and garlic. Will it be :/ ?  Contrary to my thoughts, Biman used to tell me that all the recipes without use of onion and garlic are equally yummy or some even tastier than those dishes with use of onion and garlic. Only on certain religious occasions I used to have a no onion garlic meal.

Moreover in college days cooking used to be mostly quick meals, chicken and rice, dal chicken and rice or a gravy and rice. Something which is quick, easy to prepare, tasty and light on my pocket. Experimenting with these few things was always exciting for me but rarely tried anything without using onion and garlic except for when my kitchen ran out of stock of onion and garlic.

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Coming back to the Sunday lunch, it was simple vegetarian menu with a rice and dal, two sides, a paneer dish, salad, yogurt & sweets. To my surprise, Everything was so tasty that I couldn’t believe they were made with just the regular spices and ginger only. Amongst all, paneer baingan was the highlight of the lunch. An unusual combination of eggplant and cottage cheese sunken in a tomato based gravy with the richness of whole spices and ghee. This is why I used the term Lazzeez. According to Biman the authentic taste or flavor comes when the entire dish is made with Desi ghee(clarified butter).

Ghee is basically a pure combination of fats, without any milk residue and that’s why it does not require refrigeration. If eaten in moderation, ghee can provide your body with higher concentration of essential nutrients that are not available in butter. Omega-3      (mono saturated fats) is an important form of healthy fat found in ghee. apart from it good source of Vitamin A,E and D. It is energy booster, reduces bad cholesterol, powerful antioxidant, giving a glowing skin. Ghee is staple in traditional Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine.

Though I grew up having ghee almost daily made at home by my mother, but eventually with the exposure of media, use of ghee remained bare minimum, until we stepped into the fitness world. The fitness trainers and many renowned nutritionist here in Bahrain and globally encourage taking moderate amount of ghee in our regular meals. Now pure home-made ghee is an essential ingredient in my kitchen and my lifestyle.

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In this recipe the eggplant and paneer sautéed separately with ghee and then combined together and cooked gently in a puree of tomatoes, whole spices and masala, resulting in a unique rich succulent flavor of eggplant and  buttery cottage cheese. This year as we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary I decided to treat him at lunch with exactly similar yellow rice and paneer baingan that he made for me 15 years back. For the first time I tried making this dish and was glad that I could nail it perfectly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300 gm paneer or cottage cheese cut into cubes
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp finely chopped green chilies
  • whole spices( 2 small stick cinnamon, 3 cardamom, 4 cloves, 1-2 bay leaf)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp oil for frying
  • 2 tbsp ghee( clarified butter) for cooking
  • 1 cup water

DIRECTION

  1. Heat oil in a shallow pan and fry the paneer cubes marinated with salt and a pinch of turmeric evenly for a about 2 minutes or until slightly golden on all sides, over a medium heat. Now take out the paneer cubes on a plate with a kitchen towel to drain out the excess oil.
  2. Cut the eggplant into an inch thick half-moon shape, toss some salt and a pinch of turmeric in it. Now in the same pan shallow fry the eggplant over medium heat by covering until the eggplant pieces becomes tender and golden on both sides. Once done drain out the excess oil on a plate lined with a kitchen towel.
  3. Heat the ghee/clarified butter in another pan over medium heat. First add the whole spices and chopped ginger, then add the tomato puree and cook for a few minutes. Now add all the spice powder, the turmeric, cumin, coriander, kashmiri red chili, salt and sugar.
  4. Add half cup water, then fried paneer cubes and eggplant . Cover with a lid and let it cook on low heat for about 4-5 minutes until the spices, paneer and eggplant are well combined. Add the remaining water if needed.
  5. Remove the lid and bring it a final boil and adding the garam masala powder and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Enjoy your Paneer Baingan Lazeez with some hot rotis or saffron rice.

 

GRILLED HALOUMI SPINACH OPEN SANDWICH

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With a heart full of enthusiasm and happiness I welcome the winters in Bahrain.  This is the season perfect for outdoors, catching up with friends over a cup of coffee. I love the pleasant winter of Bahrain. The warm sunshine brings a bright smile on my face.

Why not jump-start your day with a healthy breakfast while grabbing every little moment of happiness with your loved ones out in the sunny winter morning.

My grilled haloumi spinach sandwich is easy to prepare, quick , with a mouth full of flavors and health.The delicious flavor of haloumi cheese with spinach is simply wonderful, and the roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds gives it a perfect nutty bite. To top it with an egg, a sunny side up is my all time favorite. What more could you ask for to start a lovely weekday morning.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 multi grain or whole meal baguette
  • 150-200 gm holoumi cheese cut into an inch thick strips or slices
  • A bunch of fresh roughly chopped spinach
  • 1 sliced medium red bell pepper
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  • 2 eggs poached or omlette sunny side up
  • 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • Butter for the baguette

DIRECTION

  1. Butter the baguette generously and keep it aside
  2. Take a pan and very lightly drizzle with some olive oil . Toss the haloumi cheese strips for just a few seconds on both sides. Transfer them into a bowl and keep it aside.
  3. In the same pan toss the sliced bell peppers and the cherry tomatoes.
  4.  To assemble the sandwich, take the buttered baguette and top it with the chopped spinach, then the grilled haloumi, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes
  5. Top it with a sunny side up egg and some fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle some more extra virgin olive oil.

An amazing breakfast packed with protiens, calcium, minerals and  carbs to kick start your day .