November 27, 2009

Ashoka Halwa /Moong Dal Halwa

 I was watching a travel show in a Malayalam channel. The hostess takes the viewers through a culinary journey. In one episode, the recipe was Ashoka halwa and the cooking episode is shot at a normal house and cooked by the lady of that house. That aunty mentioned it was famous in Thiruvaiyar/Tanjore area. And its also called as Thiruvaiyar Halwa similar to the halwa of Tirunelveli. Ashoka halwa is made using moong dal and its lot simpler to make. Watching the episode, I was tempted to make it immediately and made a mental note of the ingredients and measurements. I have made it long time back and the recipe was missing in my book. The aunty who made it was mostly eyeballing the measurements. Considering her age, she must be quite experienced in making it and she doesn't need cups and spoons as we swear by. The hostess tried to get across the measurements partially in weight and cups.

This is how I went about doing it.

Moon dal - 1/2 cup

Sugar - 1 1/2 cups

Maida - 1/4 cup

Wheat flour -1/4 cup

Ghee- 1/2 cup

Caradamom powder - 1 tspn

Red food color - a pinch

Cashew nuts - 10 nos

Dry roast the moong dal till light brown. I usually roast the dal before storing them. Wash and pressure cook in 1 1/2 cups of water for 2 whistles. Mash the cooked dal well. There will not be excess water in the cooked dal.

Heat a kadai with a tablespoon of ghee. Roast cashewnuts to golden brown. Drain them and roast both maida and wheat flour separately for few minutes. Keep them aside. In the same kadai, mix cooked and mashed dal and sugar. Heat the mixture. When it starts bubbling, slowly stir in both the flours and a pinch of red color. Add ghee at intervals. When the whole mixture comes together and starts leaving the sides, remove from fire. Add roasted cashewnuts and cardamom and give a good stir. 
This halwa is not very sweet and with comparitively less amount of ghee used, its not dripping with ghee kind.

This Tanjore special is joining the WYF: Speciality food  hosted by EC

November 25, 2009

Besan Ka Chilla from TT for T & T

Planning breakfast is a big deal for me. Bread, cornfalkes or other cereals doesn't qualify for breakfast at home. It has to be the Dosa, idli kind. Hope you got the idea. I am not the kind who has the dosa/idly batter stocked up in the fridge at any time. I grind for idli/dosa only once in 10 days. I get bored of dosa and idly very soon. When there is no batter for any kind of dosa (appam/set dosa etc), instant breakfast comes handy. On one such day, I didn't have many of the ingredients needed to whip up an instant breakfast like rava,semiya, rice flour etc. I remembered about the Besan Ka Chilla at Tongue Ticklers. All you need is besan flour and some spices to flavor it up. No fermentation required.

Harini has soaked bengal gram dal and made a batter of it. As I said, I was looking for an instant option, I used the bengal gram flour.

You need

Bengal gram flour/besan - 2 cups

Red chilli powder - 1/2 tspn

Grated ginger, coconut and finely chopped onions - a tblspn of each

Salt to taste

Water to prepare the batter


Mix all the dry ingredients together and add water. Whisk well to get a lump free batter. The consistency should be similar to the usual dosa.

Heat a skillet. When moderately hot, take a ladle of the batter and spread it like dosa. Don't make it too thin. Slightly thicker dosa gives a nice texture to it. Flip and cook the other side too. Serve with chutney or molagapodi. I served with onion chutney.

For onion chutney

Onions - 2 medium sized

Red chilly - 2 nos

Chana dal - 1 tblspn

Grated coconut - 2 tblspn

Tamarind - a small bit


Oil- 1 tblspn

Roast chana dal and red chilly in a tablespoon of oil. Remove and saute the onion in the remaining oil. When cool, grind all the ingredients together. Add water to get the desired consistency.

The measurements for the chutney are indicative. Little more or less will not do any harm. I always eyeball the measurements and in turn the chutney tastes different each time. You can even add few sprigs of curry leaves or coriander or mint too.

Check Harini's has kids friendly version  of the chilla here.
This is off to T&T hosted by Raaga, an event started by Zlamushka, where the spot light is on Tongue Ticklers this month.

November 23, 2009

Honey Gooseberries- Indian gooseberries soaked in sugar-honey syrup

Gooseberries/Nellikkai/Amla are rich source of Vitamin C. The gooseberry from an integral part of various traditional home remedies and is an essential ingreident in most of the Ayurveda medicines. The gooseberry fruit contains as much as 20 times of vitamin C as that in an orange. Iron in the food is best absorbed when taken in combination of food containing Vitamin C. In that scenario, honey and gooseberries form a perfect pair.  I first saw gooseberries soaked in honey at Wayanad.   At first, I did not know that it was soaked in honey. When I saw similar jars at different tourist spots, I asked the cab driver and he enlightened me on that. I jusst bought two pieces to taste it. I loved it. From then on, I wanted to try it at home. But did not search for a recipe though. It was in the back of mind.  Later I found it in Meenakshi Ammal's Samaithupar Part II.

When I was preparing the post I googled to find the benefits of Goosberry to include as part of  the post. I found a recipe for honey berries. I felt it more healthy with out the addition of sugar and think these are the kind I had at Wayanad.

The gooseberry can be preserved using honey, and thus used throughout the year. Take required number of gooseberries and clean them in running water. Pierce the gooseberries using a sharp stainless steel edge at various spots. Now immerse these pierced gooseberries in a jar full of pure honey. Cover the mouth of the jar using fine white cloth and place the jar in sunlight for an hour for 15 days. 

A tablespoon each of fresh gooseberry juice and honey mixed together forms a very effective medicine for several ailments. Its regular use will promote vigor in the body within a few days. When fresh fruit is not available, dry powder can be mixed with honey.

For more info on gooseberries and how it can be used as home remedies, check here.

While writing the post, I am reminded of a popular Malayalam saying -
"Moothavar chollum muthunellikkayum Aadhyam Kayakkum, Pinne Mathurikkum "
(മൂത്തവര്‍ ചൊല്ലും മുതുനെല്ലിക്കയും ആദ്യം കയക്കും പിന്നെ മധുരിക്കും).
It translates as "Both elders's advice and goosebrries will taste bitter at first but will turn to be sweet later ". Have you tried drinking water after a bite of gooseberry. If not, try it. Then you will understand the meaning of the above.

Now on to  the recipe I followed.

You need

Gooseberries - 1 heaped cup

Sugar 3/4 cup

Water - 1/4 cup

Honey - 2 tblspn

Cardamom - apinch


Wash and dry the berries. Prick with a skewer/toothpick at few places on each berry.  Prepare sugar syrup. When the syrup is sticky, i.e. prior to one thread consistency, add the berries and turn well. The moisture released from the berries will make the syrup thin. Continue cooking till the syrup attains the one thread consistency. Add honey and cardamom powder. Cook for 2 minutes and remove from fire. Cool and store in dry glass jar.

Since the berries are also cooked, it gets soaked faster. You can eat the berries the next day itself. But as it ages, it gets more soft and tastes better with soaking. You drizzle the syrup on poories, rotis or bread too. The syrup tastes delicious with the juice of the gooseberries blended in.

November 19, 2009

Carrot Halwa ~ A popular winter dessert

My appa is here with us for a short stay, from Gurgaon. Among the list of items to be sent through Appa, I asked Amma to send some carrots too. Yes the red, juicy Delhi carrots. Those variety is hard to get in my place. You guessed it right, I wanted to make carrot halwa. Its long time since I tasted halwa made with the red carrots. I made a batch on the same day Appa arrived.

Appa likes to chop veggies and during his stay, I am relieved of that job. I am not the kind of person who is ready to entrust the veggie chopping to anybody who offers to do the same. But Appa insists on doing it. And needless to say he grated the carrots. Half the job is done. I proceeded with the cooking. I made in two batches on different days. On the first day, I cooked the carrot in MW and rest of the process on stove top. The next day, I made it entirely in the microwave oven. I did not find MW making the job easier. The time taken was almost the same. May be a gain of 10 minutes or so in the MW. But opening the MW door, carefully taking the glass bowl and giving a stir at regular intervals, made me feel stove top is the better method. I shall give how I did bothways.


Grated carrot - 3 cups

Milk - 1 cup

Sugar - 1 cup

Ghee 3 tblspn

Cardamom powder - 1 tspn

Cashew/raisins - 10 each


Grate the carrot using the large eyed grater. This will ensure the carrots don't get cooked mushy. And you will be able to bite into the pieces while you eat. But if you prefer a softer kind of halwa, grate it fine.

Cook grated carrot and milk in pressure cooker for one whistle. Or it can be cooked on stove top, till the carrot is fork tender and the milk is almost dried up. I cooked it in MW for 8 mimutes. In the kadai, heat a tablespoon of ghee and fry the cashews and raisins. Transfer the cooked carrot along with milk to a thick bottomed vessel of kadai. Stir in sugar and continue cooking for low flame. Keep giving a stir now and then. When the milk and sugar is fully absorbed by the carrots, add ghee and powdered cardamom. The mixture should not turn too dry but should be moist. Finally garnish with fried cashews and raisins.

Serve warm, ideally with a scoop of vanilla icecream.

Microwave method

Cook carrot and milk for 8 minutes. Stir in sugar and cook for 20 minutes. Give a stir at 5 minute intervals. Add ghee and cardamom and cook for 6 minutes. Garnish with fried cashews and raisins. I have used carrot, milk and sugar in the ratio 3:1:1. If you want it to be sweeter, you can increase the sugar by 1/4 cup.

November 15, 2009

Gulab Jamuns ~ For October ICC

Sweet and juicy gulab jamun is the chosen recipe for October ICC. In this age of instant mix available to make them, Srivalli chose to do it from scratch. So we were required to make the Khova at home. The earlier posting date for ICC was last day of the month. After the over dose of Diwali sweets, I wanted to stay away from sweets for the rest of the month ( i.e only around 10 days). For sweet tooth like us, thats a long period. At first I had thoughts of giving this month's challenge a miss. On the other hand, I wanted to make it too. So I casually mentioned to my husband about the month's challenge and my thoughts of not doing it. He suggested making in small quanity and that was the gentle push needed and I went ahead with the preparation. Infact the day after I made, Srivalli mailed the challengers informing the change in posting date ie its going to be the 15th of every month. So that gave extra two weeks for us. But I had already made.

Out of the three recipe, I decided to follow the Yum Blog recipe. I used half litre of milk to prepare the khova and ended up with 3 tablespoons of it. I adjusted the quantity of ingredients accordingly and got 12 jamuns. Needless to say, we both finished it the same day. I am giving the measurements I used. So those of you, who are craving for jamuns and want to try in a small batch, here is the recipe for you.

You need

Khova - 3 tblspn

Maida - 1 tblspn

A tiny pich of soda

Milk - 1 tblspn (you may require )

Oil  - 1 cup to deep fry

For the sugar syrup

Sugar - 3/4 cup

Water - 1/2 cup

Saffron+cardamom syrup - 1 tspn

Rose essence - few drops


Preparing Khova is easy but time consuming. You have to continue boiling the milk till the solid residue is left behind. If you plan to make khova, make sure you have plenty of time to spare. While making khova for jamuns, stop the cooking when the khova is moist and not too dry.

Mix khova , maida and soda. Don't knead it too much. If the mix is dry, add few drops of milk and bring the dough together. Divide the dough into12 portions and roll them into balls. Don't press hard while rolling. Else the inner portion will not get cooked properly and later doesn't soak in the syrup well.

Heat oil in a kadai. Don't heat it to smoking point. When the oil is moderately hot, carefully drop the balls into the oil and fry the jamuns till golden brown in medium heat.

Meanwhile prepare the syrup by heating sugar and water. The syrup should be slightly sticky to touch. If you have saffron add it along with powdered cardamom and few drops of rose essence. I have the saffron cardamom syrup with me. So I used that. Adding saffron is purely optional.

Drop the fried jamuns in the warm syrup. You can add the drained jamuns directly to the syrup. After one hour, the jamuns must have soaked in the syrup and is ready to serve. You can chill and serve or serve warm with a side of vanilla ice cream.

November 13, 2009

Manathakkali Vathal

Manathakkali/Balck Nightshade are tiny berries to the size bigger than mustard seeds. They are green in color and on ripening turns deep purple. Ripe berries always reminds me of my childhood days. Those days, the ripe ones was a favorite among the kids. We were four kids at home, me, my sister and two cousins. It was a joint family. Being kids, we used to eat ourselves, if we get something like a chocolate from school or anything like that. But my sister was different. She had the habit of sharing with each one of us before she ate. Her sharing quality is to the extent that she will count the tiny ripened berries and divide it among four of us. But if it was me or my cousins, we would have easily gulped it down within seconds  of picking them.  Even today at family get-togethers, my sister's manathakkali sharing is talked about.

The green berries are used to make vathals. This is common in Tamilnadu. In Kerala, I think only the Palakkad Iyers patronize this vathal. This plant comes on its own like the curry leaves tree. That is to say we don't usually sow the seeds. It has been appearing in our backyard at one place or the other as far as my memory takes me back. It grows to a height of 1 metre with many branches. It needs sunlight to grow. Picking these tiny berries is a very tedious task. The berries are then washed and soaked in buttermilk, added with salt and turmeric. The following day, the liquid is squeezed and the berries are dried in the sun. After sun drying, its again soaked in the remaining buttermilk. This is continued till no liquid is left. After that, with a day of sun drying, it will turn dry and crisp. Store it in airtigt bottles and will stay good for nearly a year, if it lasts so. The dried berries will be 1/4 in quantity to the fresh ones used.

The vathals can be used while preparing Vethakuzhambu or its simply fried in ghee/nallennai (gingely oil( and mixed with hot rice and had. You can also add some finely chopped onion / garlci to the oil and saute till brown. Then add the dried berries and fry them. While frying the berries puff well and turn brown in color. some berries pop when fried.

The leaves/ manathakkali keerai is used to cure mouth ulcers. Its found to be effective. Leaves can be cooked  as keerai chundal or slightly sauteed and mixed in curd with a dash of salt to make a raita. The slight bitterness will be offset by the addition of curd. Fresh berries can be added in Uppadam. Other than using in uppadam, I have not cooked fresh berries on its own.



November 3, 2009

Eggless Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple upside down cake was on my list for a long time. I have been buying pineapples with the idea of cake in mind. But it eventually ended up in juice or jam. Recently, Sowmya of Creative Sage posted one. That brought the idea to the front again. during the weekend veggie shopping, I got one ripe pineapple. Decided to bake it on Sunday. But we had other plans. I thought this time too I should give the cake a miss. But somehow managed to bake it on Monday evening. I had bookmarked a recipe from JoyofBaking. I made it eggless with the use of flaxseeds powder and with slight changes in the ingredients. I got a moist cake
and was very happy with the result. The cake recipe can be made with variations to make different flavors. It had a perfect texture and not very dense in spite of using some whole wheat flour. It remained moist the next day too and has soaked in the flavors better.


Butter - 2 tblspn

Powdered Jaggery - 1/2 cup

Fresh pineapple slices - 7 nos

For the cake

All purpose flour - 1 cup

Whole wheat flour (Atta) -1/2 cup

Baking powder - 2 tspn

Salt - 1/4 tspn

Butter - 1/2 cup

Sugar - 1 cup

Vanilla essence - 1 tspn

Milk - 1/2 cup

Powdered flaxseeds - 2 tspn in 1 cup of water.


The original recipe asked for brown sugar which I didn't have. I was thinking of caramelizing white sugar instead of brown sugar. Then I remembered Sunita's recent dessert, where in she has used jaggery. I didn’t want jaggery to be overpowering so reduced to 1/2 cup in place of 3/4 cup of brown sugar as said in the recipe. Also used 2 tblspn less butter.

Add the grated jaggery and 2 tblspn of butter in a pan. Soon both will start melting and when it starts bubbling, remove. Transfer the melted jaggery and butter to the greased cake tin. I placed the slice pineapples on the syrup when warm.

Preparing the cake

Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Mix the 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds in a cup of water. Add milk, flaxseed meal mixed with water and vanilla essence to the butter sugar mix. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients and mix it without any lumps, after each addition.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 50 minutes or till the top starts browning and the cake pulls from the sides. After removing from the oven, cool it for 10 minutes and invert it on a plate. With a scoop of ice-cream, the cake will make an exotic dessert.

Note: In place of fresh pineapple, canned slices can be used too.

The baking bug has caught on my sister too. After the recent Diwali purchase of a MW convection oven, she too is on a baking spree on weekends. I am delighted to see her first cake attempt turning successful, with my instructions over phone, inspite of the recipe on my blog.

My sister's first cake - Eggless Dates Cake

P.S. This is my 200th post. Thanks to all my fellow bloggers and readers for the inspiration and encouragement.