Thursday, 31 January 2013

Kaju Katli (Cashew Cakes)

Kaju Kathli became special to us at home after a certain incident involving my little girl.

I was particular about not giving her sweets, lest she develop a bad eating habit and fill up on sweets. Getting her to eat her meals was difficult enough without added distraction. But my father has a sweet tooth and he has the habit of getting a box of sweets from A2B (Adayar Anandha Bhavan) often, under the pretext of going to fill up petrol in the bike, and visiting A2B as it is just next to the petrol bunk. Kaji Kathli and the Dharwar Peda are his favourites from there. So she was slowly introduced to these goodies, much to my chagrin. So to keep everyone happy, we started hiding the sweets from her view.

Once, a family friend who visited us after their son's wedding, gave us a box of Kaju Kathli as a part of some custom where they distribute sweets to those who came for the wedding. Since this happened in her view, we could not hide it from her. She finished the entire box over the next 3-4 days with little help from the rest of us.

Seeing how much she relished this cashew cake, I relaxed the restriction and since then Kaji Kathli and other sweets with loads of nuts (like fruits halwa) etc, were allowed to be given to her.

For Diwali, I decided to make these for her, as it was more than two months and she had not tasted her favourites owing to my dad being out of town for a long time. I followed the recipe from Vardhini's Cook's Joy.

Cashews - 1 1/2 cups - raw whole cashews
Ghee - as needed to grease
Parchment paper - 2 sheets

For the sugar syrup:
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Water - 5 tbsp


Powder the raw cashews into a coarse powder. Sugar syrup:
Heat the water and sugar in a pan. When the sugar dissolves completely, it starts boiling. First the sugar syrup will be sticky when you touch. Then it starts pulling out in a string, without breaking, when you hold a couple of drops between your thumb and index finger. It is called Kambi padham in Tamil. Alternately, start testing the syrup consistency by pouring a few drops in a plate with water. When you push the drops around, it will form thick strands in the water that do not dissolve immediately.

Kaju Katli: Add the powdered cashew to the sugar syrup when it is of the right consistency as tested above. Keep stirring and you will see the mix coming together. Wet your fingers and pinch a small portion of the mixture and see if you can form a ball. If so, turn the stove off. If the dough is not runny and you can gather it with your ladle, transfer the dough to a plate greased with ghee. If the mixture is still watery, stir in the pan for a minute or so. Then transfer it. The dough will look coarse. Grease your hands and knead the dough and you can see it turn soft. Work quickly from here on. The dough will be hot to touch, if you let it cool down before working on it, you will not be able to roll it and shape it. Roll between parchment paper into a sheet with uniform thickness of 1/4 of and inch and slice into diamonds. Kaju Katli is ready to serve.

Verdict: Well, this tastes exactly like the store (A2B) bought one. She devoured these for the next week or so. Do try it out in small batches owing to the quickness with which the dough sets.
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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Rava Laddu (Sooji Laddu)

Rava laddu is a simple, easy to make Indian sweet. It stays fresh for about a week and can be easily packed away in boxes for travel. We always make rava laddu for Diwali, other than the athirasam ofcourse. I usually do not post festival specific recipes on the blog, since those are really busy days and I often do not even get a chance to click pictures. But this time, I made it a point to take some pictures, albeit of lower resolution. But since then, I had no time to write up the recipe and post it. So without much delay here comes the recipe.

Rava / Sooji- 500gm (I used the chirotti rava)
Sugar-1 1/2cups
Broken Cashew-1/4cups (optional)
Cardamom Powder-1tsp

1. Roast rava until it changes colour. Do not let it brown.
2. If using normal rava, grind it to a fine powder in a mixer grinder. If using chirotti rava, skip this step.
3. Grind sugar into a fine powder and add it to powdered rava.
4. If using cashews, heat 1/2tsp ghee and add broken cashews.
5. Fry until golden brown.
6. Add it to the rava mixture along with cardamom powder.
7. Mix well.

8. Heat ghee and add a ladle full of hot ghee into one corner of the mixture. Mix well with a spoon.
9. Shape it into medium sized laddoo. When the ghee mixed flour is over, again add hot ghee to a portion of the rava mixture. Shape the laddoos before the ghee cools down.
10. Prepare laddoo in batches. If more ghee is added then the laddoo will not firm up, and if ghee has cooled down, the shaped laddoo will crumble. If the shaped laddoo does not crumble, but does not retain the spherical shape under its own weight, then there is too much ghee.
11. Arrange on plate and allow it to firm up.
12. Store in airtight jar, for upto a week.

Verdict: These are simple laddoos and relatively healthy compared to other Indian sweets.
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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Apple Preserve

Fruit preserves are awesome no-hassle, sides to bread, bun or chapati. Especially so, when it is home made, without any artificial coloring or preservatives. So whenever there is more fruit than we can consume and if we are using up our last bottle of jam, then I go ahead and make a bottle of fruit preserve or jam. That is how this apple preserve came about. There were 8-10 apples lying about for a week and hardly no sign of anyone consuming them. So I decided to use up a 2-3 apples and make a bottle of preserve.


Fuji Apples - 2-3 large
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Pectin - 1 tsp

Skin the apples, and shred them using the grater. The shredded apple should measure to about 1 cup. Mix the shredded apple with the sugar, lemon juice and pectin. Let it all rest for 5 mins. Heat the mixture up in a saucepan and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring the whole while. Switch it off once cooked and transfer it to a prepared bottle (see note) and seal it immediately. Wait until it cools down completely (preferably overnight) and then store in refrigerator.

Dip the glass bottle in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the bottle from the boiling water with tongs and drain the excess water. Leave the bottle to dry it out completely.

Verdict: Despite the pectin, the apple preserve turns out spreadable and does not set like gel. I prefer it that way. You might want to completely mash the apples instead of shredding it, if you like it too smooth.

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Monday, 28 January 2013

Spinach-corn Cutlet

How many of you remember the adorable Zoo-Zoos, the cute Vodafone characters of 2009? Check out this video if you wish to have a good laugh :).I particularly remember the "daily prayers" when two of them are hanging from a tree off the cliff. I showed this video to my daughter a few days back. She was particularly struck by the zoo's caretaker leaving the crocodile's plate of food and carefully leaving only for the phone to ring, leading him to possibly getting caught by the crocodile. She was curious as to what the green bite sized pieces the crocodile was being fed. I jokingly told her that it is green cutlet and wham, she wanted to taste green cutlets. So the following weekend, off I went to buy some corn and spinach and make some "Green cutlet" for my little girl.

I had read about spinach-corn cutlets in the blogging world, but I had not tried them myself. I was used to making the vegetable cutlet, so often I had not tried any other variations. I am yet to post that recipe here. Since this turned out good, I clicked a few pictures and decided to post it.

Spinach (Palak) - 1 bunch
Corn - 1 kernel
Garlic - 1 tsp
Green chili - 1
Cumin - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Potato - 2 medium sized
Bread crumbs - 1/2 cup
Oil - for shallow frying

Boil the potatoes and keep aside. Boil corn kernel, shell it fully and keep aside. Wash and clean the spinach well. Drain the excess water and chop the spinach finely, including the stalks. Mash the potatoes and add the corn and palak. Make a coarse paste with these three ingredients. Add the spices and mix it well into the paste. Make lemon sized balls of the mix and roll them into the bread crumbs. Flatten the balls slightly and shape them.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Place the cutlets and shallow fry them for a few minutes on each side. Alternately they can be baked in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees C) in grill mode for 15-17 minutes.

Serve hot with chutney or tomato sauce.

Verdict: The cutlets are mildly spiced and taste great as an evening snack or starter. They are very healthy too owing to the spinach and corn and minimal use of oil.

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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Thuvarai kai Kozhambu

October - January months are such a welcome season in Bangalore for two reasons. One is the awesome cold weather and second is the availability of tasty fresh lentils, avarakkalu (mochai kottai) and thuvarekalu (thuvara kottai). Ofcourse, the menfolk just dread this season for reason number 2 :).

This is a simple recipe for making thuvara kalu gravy, basically very similar to the pidukku paruppu recipe in terms of the spices and flavouring used.

Thuvara kalu (shelled) - 1/2 kg
Onion - 2 medium
Green chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 8-10
Tomato - 1
Ginger - 1/2 tbsp
Garlic - 1/2 tbsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp  (I use 1/4 tsp Amti masala)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp

Coriander leaves - for garnishing

Wash the thuvarai kottai and keep aside. Slice the onions, tomatoes, slit the green chillies into two and chop the curry leaves. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add the onions, green chillies and curry leaves. Fry for a few minutes until the onion turns golden brown. Add the chopped tomatoes. Fry till the raw smell of tomatoes is gone. Add the ginger and garlic paste, chilli powder and salt and keep frying until the raw smell of masala is gone. Finally add the beans. Add some water just to cover the beans, stir and close the lid. If using a pressure cooker, just 1 whistle, with the cooker on high flame, should suffice. If using a kadai, cover and cook until the beans are cooked throughout (approximately 5-7 minutes)

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve as a side with dosa/idli/roti or mix with rice.

Verdict: This is an extremely tasty legume. Make the best of it during the winter months. Adjust the spices to your taste.

Thickening the gravy:  In most of these curries, there is a necessity to thicken the gravy. When we add potatoes to the preparation, we can directly mash the potatoes to get the desired consistency. At other times, you could make a paste of rice flour, besan or corn flour. Just dissolve half a tablespoon of the flour to a couple of table spoons of water. Add the paste to the gravy, bring to a boil and let it keep boiling for a minute or two to get rid of the raw smell.
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Friday, 25 January 2013

Mixed Vegetables in Cashew gravy

How many varieties of side dishes can one come up with using the regular vegetables available? Sometimes I am perplexed by the perpetual question, "What is for dinner tonight?", day after day. If cooking the same mundane vegetables, can be a such a boring experience, how boring will it be for those who consume it. That is why one can never get slack on this particular question. I try to spruce up the regular stuff by using different combinations of vegetables, different spices. This particular recipe is just a twist to the regular vegetable kurma

Potatoes, diced - 1/2 cup
Carrots, diced - 1/2 cup
Beans, sliced - 1/2 cup
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Onions, medium - 2
Tomato - 1
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green chillies, sliced - 2
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt -  to taste
Oil - 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves - for garnishing.

Cashews  - 8-10 
Water - 1/2 cup

Heat the water and soak the cashews in the hot water.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel.
Add the onions, green chillies and saute for a few minutes.
Add the tomatoes and fry for a couple of more minutes.
Add the masala pastes and powder and continue frying.
Finally when the raw masala smell is gone, add the vegetables and fry for a few minutes.
Add very little water and cook the vegetables until soft. Remove the green chillies.
Grind the cashews with the water into a smooth paste. 

When the vegetables are cooked, add the cashew paste and heat for a couple of minutes. The cashew gravy tends to thicken after cooling down, so switch off the flame when the gravy is slightly thinner than expected.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with Rotis or Puris.
Verdict: What is not to like about vegetables with the richness of cashews. This recipe yields a mildly spicy kurma. You can increase the green chillies if you prefer it spicier.

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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Awesome giveaway from MABH and Jabong

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