Thursday, May 31, 2012

EP Series - Herbs & Spices ~ Basil and Cardamom 'Event Announcement'

Dear All,

I'm really glad and excited to announce the guest hosting of Julie's EP Series-Herbs & Spices for the month of June 2012. Thank you so much dear Julie for giving me this opportunity. As many of you know that Julie started this monthly event which I believe helps us know the health benefits and use of all the herbs and spice much better. Of course we all use many herbs and spices in our daily menu, but when you are asked to cook with some particular herbs and spice as a main ingredient I'm sure you will definitely give it a second thought which will make you explore much innovative recipes. What say??? Don't you think so?? Give it a try and I'm sure you'll come up with new, interesting and excellent  recipes. 

The Herb and Spice I choose for the month is Basil and Cardamom both being my favorite. 
Did you know Basil is originally native to India? Me neither, I believed Holy Basil(Tulsi) was of Indian origin and Basil are of Italian as I see them being used in Italian cuisine more till I read about it in Wiki.Where ever may be the origin it is treated as the 'king of herbs' by many chefs and is treated with great respect in many parts of the world. Does Cardamom needs any description?? Not really, I know. But do you know Cardamom is the world's third most expensive spice by weight, outstripped in market value only by saffron and Vanilla(says Wiki). 

Before moving onto the important aspects of the event let me mention some of the benefits of Basil and Cardamom. (Health benefits mentioned here are based on the info found in wikipedia and other sources found on web. If you are told to use it for any health related medication don't rely on the notes here, please check with your physician.)

Benefits and Use of Basil:-

Compound in basil is considered to have potent antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial properties and potential for use in treating cancer.
Fresh Basil leaves are an excellent source of Iron.
Basil contains good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium.
Basil is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India. 
Holy Basil(Tulsi) is used as a healing agent for cold, cough and fever.
And yes, it is used as a main ingredient in many Cuisines. 

Benefits and Use of Cardamom:-
  • Cardamom are used as flavorings in food and drink and as a medicine
  • It is said to be used to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders.
  • It is also used to break up kidney stones and gall stones.
  • It is used as a healing agent for cold, cough and fever.
Now let me walk you through the essentials of this Event:-
  1. The event runs through the period of June 1st - June 30th 
  2. The theme for this month is Basil and Cardamom. You can use one ingredient in a dish or use both but that ingredient should be one of the main ingredients.
  3. It can vary from starter,main dish ,dessert or any other recipes,sweet or savory anything.(No recipes which don't follow this rule will not qualify for the event) 
  4. Bloggers and Non bloggers can participate. Bloggers can link their recipes with the linky tool below. Non-bloggers and blogger who find it difficult who has issues linking the recipes can send in their recipes to email id:- with the following details:-
Your Name:
Recipe Name:
Recipe Details:
Pic of the Dish:
(If blogger send in recipe link)

       5.  Recipe must be linked to this event announcement page and to Julie's Event Announcement  page.
      6.   You can link both Veg and Non Veg recipes.
      7.   Send in any number of entries.You can link in your old entries too (limiting 2 per person), just add the logo and the link under the post (2 archived posts)
      8.   Usage of the below logo is appreciated for all the entries.


So, friends put on your innovative caps and think tight, do right and send in your recipes at the earliest before 30th June.

1.   Either Basil or Cardamom pods can be used or both can be used.
2.   When I say Basil, it can be Fresh basil leaves, dry basil leaves, Holy Basil(Tulsi), Lemon Basil or any variety of Basil. But make sure it is a compulsory ingredient and at-least 1 tsp of them should be used.
3.   If Cardamom is being used at-least 3-4 cardamom pods should be used.

Best Wishes to All, Happy Cooking !!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Eggless, Butterless Dates Cake ~ A Date You Can Never Refuse

These Dates Cake have become our family favorite from more than a year now, my kids who are not a big fan of dates finishes this cake in no time and they don't even know its dates cake. Because of its color and the very soft and moist texture it has a glimpse of chocolate cake but the taste resembles a bit of our Kerala Fruit Cake with its cinnamon flavor and melt in mouth moist bites.

So do you believe you can bake a very moist cake without butter, eggs or even milk?? Of course for sure, I've already posted a recipe of Chocolate Chip cupcakes before and since then I believe anyone can bake eggless and butterless cakes. But the complete credit of this dates recipe goes to Lakshmi Nair's show Magic Oven where she narrates the making of this cake so well. I even I love the fact that majority of the work is done stove top before you proceed with adding the dry ingredients. You can as well prepare the dates mix ahead of a day, leave them overnight to cool and use it the next day and bake the cake.
So try out this very simple and ezee to bake super moist dates cake at home and Enjoy!!!!!!

Ingredients I used:-
  1. All Purpose Flour/Maida - 2 Cups
  2. Dates Finely chopped - 1 Cup
  3. Sugar - 1 Cup
  4. Water - 2 Cups
  5. Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp(I used pumpkin pie spice which contains cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder etc)
  6. Vegetable Oil - ½ cup
  7. Baking Soda - 2 tsp
  8. Salt a pinch
How I made It:-
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 Defree F. Grease and flour the baking pan and set aside.
  • Sieve twice together - flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.
  • Add chopped dates, spice powder, sugar, vegetable oil and water in a pan or kadai, stir and mix well.
  • Heat up the pan and bring the dates mix to boil by stirring them occasionally. Simmer to medium heat and let it boil for seven to ten minutes, stir in between so that dates do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Switch off the stove and let it cool completely. Make sure the mix is not even a tiny bit hot.
  • Now add the flour little by little to the dates mix, stir well with a whisk or wooden spatula making sure no lumps are formed. 
  • Pour this mix to prepared cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or till a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Take out from the oven, let it cool completely, slice and Enjoy!!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Coconut Cilantro Chutney/Biriyani Chammanthi

Coconut and Cilantro Chutney rather known as Biriyani Chammanthi is normally served as the side dish for Malabar Chicken Biriyani. Its quite simple, perfect for Biriyanis or any flavored rice. Normally this is made without adding much water or Yogurt/Curd to make a dry chutney but you can add yogurt or water and alter it according to your taste. Try it out and Enjoy!!!!!

  1. Grated coconut ~ 1 ½ cups
  2. Cilantro/Coriander leaves chopped ~ ½ cup
  3. Green chilly ~ 4(adjust accordingly to ur spice level)
  4. Ginger a small piece chopped ~ 1 tsp
  5. Salt ~ ¾ tsp(check and adjust accordingly)
  6. Water ~ 2 tbsp
Preparation Method:-

Combine all the ingredients except water and grind. Add water little by little just enough to grind. Serve with Biriyani's and any flavorful rice.

Sending this to The Kerala Kitchen Event hosted by Jehanne at The Cooking Doctor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thalassery Chicken Biriyani/Malabar Chicken Biriyani

I have been getting plenty of request for Malabar Chicken Biriyani recipe but it got postponed mainly because I didn't have some good pictures. I don't believe I still have some great pictures but yes I'm always trying to click the very best possible with a normal Point and Shoot digital camera. I try to add the detailed description or step-wise pics if possible which kept me away from posting this awesome Biriyani till now. Even though I still don't have a really satisfying picture I thought of posting it at-least now since I've been planning to post this from so long, in-fact every time I make it at home I decide to post it immediately and that happens on almost every Friday eve. I know some of my best buddies are even a bit offended for not posting it till now (so sorry for posting it late Deeps). Now a days I see a lot of variations in Malabar Biriyani itself, I remember last time when I went to India, for my sis wedding the biriyani was made with brick red color chicken which looked like tandoori chicken(was fried chicken pieces with masala I guess, yet to find out the recipe), it was just awesome. Malabar Bistha Biriyani(Bistha is nothing but fried onions) is yet another delicious and well known Malabar Biriyani which I love to prepare for a change from regular biriyani.  

In Malabar and many parts of Northern Kerala, Biriyani is normally made with a small rice called Kaima Rice also known as Jeerakasaala Rice or Jeera Rice which is approx half the size of Basmathi Rice. I love to make biriyani's with Jeera rice which in itself have a very nice aroma and a very unique and great taste that adds the best taste and special aroma to make the authentic Malabar Biriyani.  Its hard to find this Jeera rice in USA(though some particular Indian stores have it), I use Basmathi rice instead to make Biriyani. You can make the Chicken masala in advance and make the rice at the time required. Don't make the rice first or make the rice and keep it for long time as it loose the freshness and the aroma of ghee and spices. Biriyani is always garnished with ghee fried onions, cashews and raisins(I fry onion in normal oil only). It is mostly served with raita, beetroot pickle and coconut-coriander chutney.

Not much spice powders are used in Malabar biriyani, it is very simple and straight forward recipe. Though many people don't marinate chicken before cooking I prefer to marinate fish, chicken and Mutton atleast with salt and turmeric as I believe with salt even the inner meat get a well balanced season and turmeric helps keep poultry free from any bacteria. Normally a generous amount of Ghee/RKG is used to make Biriyani and even onions are deep fried in ghee to get a better taste. Since I make it often I use minimal amount of ghee, you can increase the amount of ghee to add more taste or reduce ghee or even substitute with low fat/cholesterol free oil(like olive oil) if you are on any specific diet. Curd/Yogurt is not used in the preparation of chicken masala, tomatoes brings in the required sourness and I generally add some freshly squeezed lime juice as well. Orange food color is mixed in water or milk and is sprinkled on top of the rice to get a yellowish mixture of rice but I use Saffron instead. You can dum the biriyani either by layering the ghee rice and chicken masala alternatively or add the masaa at the bottom of the vessel and top it with the whole rice and then dum. Now off to the Malabar Chicken Biriyani recipe, do definitely try out and Enjoy the delicacy :-)


For Chicken Masala:-
  1. One Chicken(bone in) cut into medium size pieces ~ 2.2 lbs(1Kg)
  2. Turmeric ~ ¾ tsp
  3. Chilly power ~  ½ tsp(optional, I add them mostly)
  4. Salt ~ 2 tsp(Will have to check  for the salt at the end of masala preparation and adjust)
  5. Big Onions finely sliced - 4(~ 5 cups)
  6. Tomato finely sliced - 2(~ 2 ½  to 3)
  7. Fresh Ginger crushed or finely chopped or paste ~ 2tbsp
  8. Fresh Garlic Crushed or finely chopped or paste ~ 2 tbsp
  9. Green chilies crushed or paste or finely chopped - 12 to 14 numbers(can add more to make it more spicy, I make it medium spicy)
  10. Garam Masala powder ~ 1½  tsp
  11. Coriander leaves chopped ~ ¾ cup
  12. Mint leaves chopped ~  ¼ cup
  13. Curry leaves two sprigs
  14. Freshly squeezed Lime Juice from a Lime ~ 2 tbsp
  15. Oil ~ 2 tbsp
For Ghee Rice:-
  1. Jeera Rice/Basmathi Rice - 4 Cups
  2. Water - 6 to 6 ½ Cups 
  3. Cinnamon Stick - 2 inch size broken into halves
  4. Green Cardamom Pods - 5
  5. Cloves  - 8
  6. Bay leaves 2(optional)
  7. Whole Pepper corns ~ 10 nos(optional, I like to add them though normal recipes do not call for it)
  8. Curry leaves a sprig
  9. Ghee ~ 2 tbsp
  10. Freshly squeezed Lime Juice ~ 1tbsp(optional)
  11. Salt to taste ~ 2 tsp(check and adjust accordingly)
To Garnish:-
  1. Cashews a handful
  2. Raisins a handful
  3. Finely sliced Onion - 1(~ 1 cup)
  4. Oil to deep fry onion (~ ½ cup)
  5. Saffron ~ 1 tbsp(can use orange food color instead)
  6. Milk ~ ½ cup
  7. Chopped coriander leaves ~ 2tbsp
  8. Ghee/Oil ~ 2 tsp(used at the end for layering and doing dum)
Getting Ready:-
  1. Deep fry the onion(using ½ cup oil mentioned) till golden color and set aside(don't fry till brown color as they tend to cook and change color even after taking out from the oil).
  2. You can fry cashews and raisins in the same oil if you like or saute it in ghee before making rice.
  3. Bring  milk to boil by adding saffron, simmer and let it boil for 3-4 minutes. Take off the stove and set aside.
4. Clean the Chicken, wash well, drain of the water and pat dry. Marinate with 1 tsp salt, turmeric powder, chilly powder and set aside for 30 minutes or more if possible.

Preparation Method:-
Making Biriyani's Chicken Masala:-
  • Heat up a thick bottom vessel, pour 2 tbsp oil, add the onion, ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves, remaining 1 tsp salt and saute in medium heat till onion turns translucent. 
  • Add tomatoes and saute again well till they become soft and start to breakdown leaving its juice. 
  • Now add the chicken pieces, stir well to mix everything, cover with a proper lid and let it cook till chicken is almost done in low-medium heat. It should be a slow cooking process where chicken will cook in its own moisture along with onion-tomato gravy. So always let it cook in low heat.(Chicken should not be fully cooked here, It takes around 10-15 minutes and will continue to cook another 5-10 minutes after adding other ingredients)  
  • Open the lid, add the chopped coriander leaves, mint leaves, lime/lemon juice and stir well to mix. Add the garam masala powder and saute again to mix everything. Cover it with a tight lid and let it cook again so that chicken absorbs all the flavor of garam masala and other ingredients and is fully done. It takes around 5-10 minutes in low-med heat.
  • Take off the stove and set aside till ghee rice is ready.
Making Ghee Rice:-
  • Wash rice three to four times in water till you get a clear water, drain the rice fully and set aside. 
  • Heat up a wide vessel, add ghee, saute the cashews till light brown and set aside. Add the raisins and saute till they pop up, take out and set aside. 
  • Now add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, pepper corns and saute well till you start getting a nice aroma of spices. 
  • Pour water to it, add salt, squeezed lime juice, few curry leaves and bring to boil. Add rice, stir gently with a spatula till the bottom of the pan just to remove any sticky rice from the bottom. Simmer the heat to medium, cover with an air-tight lid and let it cook until almost done.  
  • Open the lid once the water is absorbed(rice should not be fully cooked, but will continue to cook during the dum process) and take off the stove.
  • Let it cool for couple of minutes, say around 10-15 minutes, if you try to flip or toss the rice when it is very hot it will tend to break and stick. 
  • Stir gently with a spatula when the high steam subsides, move to two-three platters so that they don't form lumps and don't stick together. This way you will get a very nice non-lumpy, non-sticky rice. Proceed for the final stage of layering and dumming :-)

Final stage: Layering and Dumming the Biriyani in low heat:-
  • Now Stove top Layering can be done in two ways

  1. very simple and my favorite way is:
  • Heat up a thick bottom pan, add 2 tsp oil(or ghee), simmer the heat to medium. Now Dump the chicken masala to the bottom, top it with half the rice, fried cashews, raisins, fried onions, coriander leaves, drizzle few drops of saffron milk all over the rice. 
  • Top it with the remaining rice, followed by cashews, raisins, fried onions, coriander leaves. Pour the rest of the saffron milk all over the rice. 
Just before doing dumm, look at the saffron milk floating on the raisins n cashews :-)
  • Cover it with an air tight lid or place a kitchen towel flatten on top of the vessel and cover to seal tight with the lid. Cook in low heat until you see steam releasing from the sides of the vessel. Its is the right time to take them off the flame, the rice will be cooked fully absorbing all the flavor of chicken masala and will be very light, fluffy with individual grains.
See the steam coming from the top sides of the vessel, not that clear though :-)

After the dum process, looks yumm right?
  • You can gently move the rice with a sauce pan or spatula from the top to the sides, take the biriyani masala from the bottom and  move to the serving plate.
  •  Now take a generous amount of rice with the saucepan/spatula and top over the chicken masala. 
  • Spread some more raisins, cashews, onions, and coriander leaves and Serve with pickle, pappads and raita. Yummy yumm 

2.  Layer Rice and Biriyani masala alternatively and dum.
  • Heat a wide vessel, keep in low heat, pour 2 tsp of oil, spread half the rice on the bottom of the vessel, top it with masala gravy and chicken, topped with fried cashews, raisins, fried onions, coriander leaves and few drops of saffron milk.
  • Repeat the process with remaing rice, masala, fried cashews, raisins, onions and saffron milk. Cover with an air tight lid and cook in low heat till steam starts to release from the sides of the pan.
  • Move to a serving plate, garnish with more raisins, cashews and fried onion. Serve warm with pappads, pickles and chutney.

Conventional Oven Method:- You can do dum the biriyani in conventional oven also. Pre-heat the oven to 350 Degree F in baking mode. Take an oven proof dish or silver foil tray, layer with half the rice, top with half the chicken masala, nuts and onions. Repeat the same process alternatively. Seal it air tight with the oven proof lid or silver foil sheet. Bake around 30-40 minutes.

Sending this to The Kerala Kitchen Event hosted by Jehanne at The Cooking Doctor

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kerala Style Egg Puffs With Puff Pastry

Frozen Puff pastries are so very easy and handy, great and quick way to prepare snacks, may it be sweet or savory choice is all yours. Every time I buy them I end up making these egg puffs first, as they are easy to make, very filling and satisfying snack especially for kids and even grown up kids like us ;) Some boiled eggs, puff pastry and a simple onion masala cooks up this awesome snack.

Many of my friends ask me where to buy the puff pastries, so just in case you are confused check out for them in the frozen sections where you find other frozen foods. Its normally available in most of the super markets, so next time you find them you know what to make. Try out the recipe by yourself and enjoy some warm homemade egg puffs with a cup of Hot Chai!!!!!!

  1. Puff Pastry - 1 Sheet
  2. Boiled Eggs - 5
  3. Pepper powder ~ ¼ tsp(optional)
  4. Turmeric powder ~ ¼ tsp
  5. Garam masala ~ ½ tsp
  6. Salt ~ ¾ tsp +  ¼ tsp(check for the taste and adjust accordingly)
  7. Onion finely Chopped - 2
  8. Ginger, Garlic finely chopped or crushed in a mortar ~ 2 tsp
  9. Green chilly
  10. Curry leaves a sprig
  11. Oil of your choice ~ 2 tsp

Preparation Method:-
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 Degree F.Thaw the Puff Pastries according to the package instructions, it normally takes 45 mins to 1 hour. 
  • Peel of the shell from boiled eggs and cut them vertically into two equal halves. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top of the boiled eggs from the ¼ tsp pepper powder and salt(Sprinkling salt n pepper is optional, I do it though)
  • Heat a frying pan, pour oil, saute the onion till translucent. Add the crushed/chopped ginger-garlic, green chilies and saute till raw flavor disappears.
  • Add curry leaves, turmeric powder, garam masala and saute well till the masala leaves it raw smell and combined well with onion mix. Make sure the masala mix should be dry(You can add some chopped veggies as well like carrot, green peas etc if desired)
  • Once the pastries are thawed cut them vertically into three pieces through the folded lines. Cut them again horizontally into three again to get nine pastry squares

  • Take a spoonful of onion masala and keep in the middle of each pastry squares, top each of them with egg halves. 
  • Dip your finger in water and apply it on the edges of the pastry squares.Pull the corners towards the center diagonally and seal them.
  • Line them in a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15- 20 minutes or until the pastry top becomes   golden brown and crisp.
  • Take out of the oven and let it cool for couple of minutes. Enjoy warm with a cup of tea!!!!!!!

Notes :- 
  1. I cut the pastries into 9 squares but I would suggest you to cut into 6 pieces (3 through the folded  lines and 2 horizontally) to make six puffs as I felt the egg filling was heavy compared to pastry sheets. or cut one egg into four pieces and keep one small piece in each squares. But either way you won't have any problem in folding or making them.
  2. Instead of applying water and sticking the pastries together you can beat an egg well to make egg wash. Brush the egg wash on four sides before folding and top of the pastry after folding to get a shiny, crispy and perfect finishing when you bake.
Sending this to The Kerala Kitchen hosted by Jehanne at The Cooking Doctor

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