August 31, 2010

Ginger Capsicum Fried Rice from The Mainland China and a review

I'm sure all of us must have tried at least once to recreate our favorite dish from a restaurant from which we have ate once or we frequent often. We usually try to guess that secret ingredient that gives the dish a unique flavor or taste. So how will it be when you have a ready reckoner to whip up a complete meal with the dishes from your restaurant coming from the person who started the chain of restaurants.  Yes, I am talking about The Mainland China chain of restaurants, started by Anjan Chatterjee. Anjan Chatterjee has come up with a cookbook to help in cooking Mainland China's signature dishes right at our homes.

The book starts with an introduction from the author and moves on to a briefing on Chinese regional cuisines, the utensils and various cooking methods, to  give a sneak peak into the Chinese cuisine. Notes about the ingredients commonly used in the book and with possible substitutes is quite helpful. The recipes for basic sauces, dips and pastes are interesting. The recipes are neatly divided into sections as starters, vegetables, fish, chicken to name a few.

A recipe is more interesting with a snapshot of the dish along with. Probably, coming from a famous restaurant, I guess, the recipes have taken the priority since the readers must be familiar with the dishes. This is not to say that the book is devoid of any pics. There are few drool worthy pictures in the middle of the book. 

I liked the two column lay out of the recipe with ingredients and method. There is ample space on each page to jot down your notes too. The only downside of the recipe is that there is no uniform format followed for the the measurement of ingredients. Its a mix of gm, ml, tblspn and tspn. Some of the recipes calls for 2gms of ginger/onion etc, which could have been made simpler and easier to comprehend. And a kitchen scale is not very common in Indian kitchens. I don't own one. But our Indian style of cooking with eyeball measurements comes in handy here.

When I received a mail from the publishers, I wondered if  I could do justice to the book, being a vegetarian. I was happy seeing the book, since I had enough choices to try from. Already I have tried their Ginger capsicum Fried Rice and crackling spinach. I have bookmarked many more - Hot and Sour vegetable Soup, Steamed Rice rolls with Vegetables, Cashew and chilly fried rice to name a few and their basic sauces and dips which are doable too. 

Here is the recipe for Ginger Capsicum Fried Rice as given in the book. The measurements I used is given in brackets


  • Long grain rice, cooked - 500 g (2 cups of cooked rice)
  • Groundnut oil - 30 ml
  • Ginger, shredded - 40 g ( 2inch piece)
  • Capsicum, shredded - 80 g (half of a capsicum)
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • White pepper - 1 tsp
  • Spring onion, chopped - 2 

Heat the wok till it is smoking hot

Add oil and moderately heat to 120 C. You can either use a thermometer or put a cube of stale bread into the oil. It should get brown slowly and not immediately.

Add the ginger and stir-fry.

Add the capsicum and stir-fry til you can smell the aroma.

Add the rice, salt and white pepper. Toss well.

Add the chopped spring onion.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

The dish is simple yet very flavorful and delicious. Ginger is a favorite with me and loved biting the  crunchy ginger.

August 30, 2010

Mathan Pradhaman - Pumpkin cooked in jaggery syrup and coconut milk

Before I move on with posting the other recipes in my drafts, let me finish off the dishes that I made during the festivals in the last week. Last week, for two days together, it was festive lunch on account of Onam and Avaniavittom. For Onam, I made paladapradhaman. While I was chatting with my cousin over phone, who is a great foodie himself, asked me the payasams I am planning for  the oncoming festivals. I had decided paladapradhaman to make from scratch and I was contemplating on various options for another payasam. It was then he suggested about mathan paradhaman. He reminiscenced that our grand father had prepared this for grihapravesam after my parents wedding. And then, no one could find out the ingredient in the pradhaman. Recalling those instances were enough for me to decide that I will make this for Avaniavittom, provided I get ripe pumpkin.

You need

  • Cooked and pureed pumpkin - 1 cup heaped
  • Powdered jaggery - 1 1/2 cups
  • Coconut milk - 3 halves of coconut
  • Coconut bits fried in ghee - 2 tblspn
  • Dry ginger powder -1/2 tspn


Chop pumpkin into cubes. Pressure cook with just enough water to cover the pieces for 2 whistles. You can cook on stove top also till it is mashable. Drain the water and mash the pumpkin pieces till smooth. Alternatively can pulse for few seconds in the mixer grinder. The drained water can be used in soups.

Extract three sets of milk from freshly grated coconuts. I have written here about extracting milk.

Melt jaggery in a cup of water and strain for any impurities. Heat the melted jaggery syrup in a thick bottomed vessel. When the syrup thickens, stir in the pumpkin puree. Continue cooking till it thickens to a flaky consistency so that the pumpkin must have absorbed the sweetness very well. Add the third, thin coconut milk and keep stirring. When it reduces to half in volume, add the second, slightly thick coconut milk and continue cooking till it reduces to almost half in volume. Switch off the heat and stir in the first, thick coconut milk. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the coconut bits till brown. I did not have any coconut left so fried cashews instead. Add dry ginger powder. 

My husband and mother-in-law and friends who tasted this payasam could not guess the ingredient as pumpkin. It was very tasty and creamy, similar to parippu pradhaman.

P.S Watch out for the review of  a cook book, which contains recipes from a leading restaurant chain in India.

August 28, 2010

Olan- ash gourd, red pumpkin and cowpeas cooked in thin coconut milk

Olan is a bland dish with the flavor of coconut. It is part of the traditional Kerala meal. It is a very simple dish yet very flavorful. Red pumpkin adds slight sweetness to the dish. Olan can be made with just ash gourd and pumpkin alone. You can throw in few long yard beans also to it. And cow peas (small brown colored beans) can also be added. Sometimes, few pieces of taro root/arbi is also added. You can mix and match the ingredients according to the availability.  The vegetables can be cooked in water or thin coconut milk to add up the flavor. 

You need

  • Ash gourd/Kumbalanga - 250 gms
  • Pumpkin/Mathanga - 250 gms
  • Long yard bean/Payar - 5 nos (optional)
  • Cowpeas/vellapayar - a handful
  • Green chilli - 1 no
  • Thick Coconut milk - 3 tblspn
  • Coconut oil - 1 tspn
  • Salt to taste


Pressure cook cow peas till soft. I have used black eyed beans. Peel the skin from the vegetables and remove the seeds. Chop both pumpkin and ash gourd into thin squares. Trim the edges of long yard beans and cut into 1 inch long pieces. Dilute 2 tablespoon of coconut milk in 1 1/2 cups of water. Add the chopped vegetables to it. Add a slit green chilly and salt to it.

While its half cooked, add the cooked cow peas to it. Be gentle while you mix the veggies when it is cooking so as not to break them much. Cook till the veggies are soft yet firm. Remove from heat. Add the remaining coconut milk and mix gently. Drizzle a teaspoon of coconut oil and cover it, for the flavors to steep in. Serve hot. The aroma of veggies cooked in coconut milk and of  coconut oil is very tantalizing. If cowpeas is used, it will slighty color the olan to light brown.

August 25, 2010

Palada pradhaman from scratch ~ Kerala Special

Hope all of you who celebrate Onam had it in a grand way. This Onam, I wanted to make the most favored payasam of Kerala - Palada pradhaman. Now a days making palada isn't a big affair when you can have ready made ada packets off the shelf from stores. But I wanted to try it from scratch i.e prepare ada at home.

Traditionally the batter is spread on banana leaf and is rolled and tied with the string from the leaves itself. Then these rolled leaves are dropped in boiling water and cooked. The adai is peeled from the leaves and cut into pieces. I was thinking of doing it the same way. But I haven't seen this myself and all I have is the theoretical knowledge of it. Just before making, called my amma to clear my doubts. My sister picked up the call and I said the reason for my calling and she was like I am enough to clear your doubts. And she told she she has made ada twice from scratch. She suggested me to use the vadam stand which will be easier to manage.

Preparing the ada

You need

Raw rice flour - 1 cup

Salt a pinch


Soak rice for 5 hours or overnight.Grind to a smooth paste with a pinch of salt. The batter should not be very runny. While grinding the rice, take care not to add to much water and end up with a runny batter.
Spread the batter slightly thick on the greased plate.

Steam for 10 minutes. Remove the ada from  the plate and cut into four.

 Score into strips and chop into tiny bits.

By this time, the ada would have dried a bit and it will not be sticky. Transfer the bits to plate.

Repeat the steps with the remaining batter and store the ada in the refrigerator if you are not using it right away. If you have good sunshine, you could sun dry it and store in an air tight container for a long time. 

The ada measured to 1 cups heaped.

To prepare the palada pradhaman

You need
Ada - 1 cup heaped

Sugar - 2 cups

Milk - 2 litres


Usually, the ada is cooked in  a mix of water and milk , till it turns soft. Then milk is added in installments and cooked till it is thick and then sugar is added to it and it is further cooked to attain a creamy consistency. All this will take loads of time. So I tipped all the ingredients to my 7 litre  cooker and pressure cooked for one whistle and kept the heat in lowest flame and continued for another 15 minutes. By then the pressure had build up inside and milk started coming out of the pressure vent along with the whistle. I switched off the heat and left if for half an hour.

Opened the pressure cooker and went on to cook till it had a creamy consistency which took nearly an hour on medium heat. Cooking in the pressure helped to get that pink color which intensed on further cooking and could cut down the cooking time and constant stirring. Leave it for an hour or so to let the pradhaman mature the flavor further.  The test for doneness is when you pour a ladle of the pradhaman on a plate and draw a line it should not join immediately.

Tasting just one spoon of the luscious pradhaman will make you forget all the work that went into it.

August 22, 2010

Inji Puli /Pulikachal - Ginger in tamarind sauce ~ Kerala Special

Today is Uthradam, the day preceding Onam and it is as important as the Onam day. The last minute shopping rush on Uthradam, to get every thing ready for Onam is termed as "Uthrada Paachil ". All those who will be celebrating Onam will be busy shopping for veggies, bananas, chips and Onakodi ( new dress to be worn on the day of Onam). The streets will buzzing with people. At home, preparations of the Sadhya/feast will be going on full swing. As I mentioned in my last post, apart from the vadukapuli achar, inji puli is the other star pickle for the sadhya. This will also be prepared in advance and it tastes better as it ages a day or two. 

The preparation of inji puli is quite easy but there is some amount of cooking time involved since the tamarind extract has to be simmered till it is half of the original quantity. As the name suggests, inji is ginger and puli is tamarind. So this is essential a harmony of these two tastes complimented by green chilly, salt and a bit of jaggery too.

You need

  • Tamarind - lemon sized ball
  • Green chilly - 5 nos
  • Ginger, finely chopped - 2 tblsn
  • salt to taste
  • Grated jaggery - 1 tblspn
  • Turmeric - a pinch
  • Red chilli powder - 1/2 tspn
  • Fenugreek powder - 1/4 tspn

To season

  • Gingely oil - 1 tblspn
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tspn
  • Chana dal - 1 tblspn
  • Curry leaves - 1 sprig
  • Red chillies - 2 nos, broken into two


Soak the tamarind in 3 cups of warm water for 10 minutes. Soaking in warm water helps to  fully extract the juice easily. Extract the tamarind pulp and keep it aside. If you need add some more water as you squeeze but let it not exceed another half cup. If you add too much of water,then you will have to simmer to longer to thicken.

Heat oil in a kadai. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters, add chana dal, broken chillies and curry leaves. When dal turn light brown, add finely chopped green chillies and ginger. Saute for a minute. Add the extracted tamarind water, turmeric and salt. Let it simmer and reduce to half the quantity. Add red chilly powder and grated jaggery. Let it simmer to a thick gravy. Check the salt and tanginess and add more spice accordingly.
It will stay good for a week if kept outside.

The measurements need not be very accurate and you can go by your instinct and add accordingly. If you like to have a bit of sweetness to taste, then increase the jaggery.

Wishing all my readers and friends a very happy and colorful ONAM.

August 21, 2010

Vadukapuli Naaranga Achar - Onam special pickle

Onam, one of the biggest festival of Kerala is round the corner. This is the one festival which is celebrated for a longer period spanning 10 days. The pookalam (flower arrangement), Onakodi (new clothes) and Onasadhya (feast) are the highlights of the celebration.When it comes to the sadhya, the preparations start earlier on. Banana chips and sarkkaravaratti( deep fried raw bananas coated with jaggery) will be prepared 2 or 3 days before the Onam. Pickles will also be prepared before hand. Vadukapuli naaranga and inji puli are the common pickles served.

Vadukapuli naaranga is a kind of citrus fruit which is very juicy and sour level is high compared to lemon. It isn't bitter like Narthangai. I'm not sure of the English name of this. On searching the net, I understand Citron is narthangai. If any of you know the English name for vadukapuli, do leave a comment and shall update it here.  Update This is called kadarangai in Tamil and wild lemon in Enlgish. Thanks Hema for the info.

This naaranga can be pickled with just salt, green chilly and ginger or the usual way of pickling with the regular ingredients of red chilli powder, fenugreek and mustard seeds. I prefer the salted version and love it very much. I like the chillies and the ginger in this pickle more.  This pickle is very easy to make. The only work involved here is chopping the fruit, chillies and ginger. Then its just mixing all the chopped ingredients with salt and the pickle is ready.

You need
  •  Vadukapuli naaranga - 1 nos, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Green chillies - 10 -12 nos, finely chopped
  • Chopped ginger - 2 tblspn
  • Salt to taste


Take these measurements as pointers and you are free to increase or decrease the quantity of chilly and ginger.  Mix all the ingredients in a dry vessel. Transfer to a clean, dry glass jar. Cover tightly and leave it for a day. The juice will be released from the fruit. The juice combines with salt will have a consistency of honey. It tastes great with curd rice.

It will keep good for a week wit refrigeration. If you want to increase the shelf life to another week, make sure you add some more salt because that's the only preservative added here.

August 18, 2010

Eggless Dates Banana Cake

During my initial baking days, I tried a banana cake using a recipe from a blog. The cake came out well in terms of texture and taste. But the flavor of banana was so overpowering that I could hardly finish a slice. Things have changed now. I have tried pairing banana with dates or chocolate powder to mask it flavor. In this cake, I have pureed the dates and added it to the batter. I used only 1/3 cup of brown sugar. The cake is mildly sweet. I did frost the cake so that took care of the lack of sweetness. In case you are not frosting and would like your cake to be sweet, increase the sugar to 1/2 cup.

You need

  • Wheat flour/Atta- 1 cup
  • All purpose flour/maida- 1/2 cup
  • Deseeded dates - 15 to 20 nos 
  • Mashed banana- 1/2 cup
  • Brown sugar - 1/3 cup
  • Curd - 1/3 cup
  • Oil - 1/3 cup
  • Baking powder -1 tspn
  • Baking soda- 1 tspn


Sieve together wheat flour, maida, baking soda and baking powder.

Soak seeded and chopped dates in half cup of warm water for an hour or till it turns soft. Alternatively you can microwave the dates in water for 2 minutes and it turns soft. No soaking required. Grind the dates to a smooth paste. Add in  mashed banana, curd, oil and sugar to the mixer jar. Pulse to blend.

Transfer the wet mix to a bowl. Fold the dry ingredients to the wet mix, with mixing after each addition. Pour the batter to a greased and dusted tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 30 minutes.

For icing

Powdered sugar - 1 cup
Corn flour - 2 tspn
Butter -1 tblspn.

Whisk all the ingredients till smooth and light. Cool the cake. Spread the icing on the cake. If you find it difficult to spread the frosting, add few drops of milk  to make it easier to spread. To the remaining icing, I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder and did a swirl on top of each piece.

August 10, 2010

Chapathi Ladoo ~ Leftover magic

With the onset of monsoon, most of the days, we have roti for dinner. Earlier, roti wasn't a favorite with my husband for dinner. He doesn't have problem eating it for breakfast, but when it comes to dinner, I will have to make parathas with various stuffing. Of late, he has started liking roti for dinner. I always count and make. But when guests are there, I tend to make more, just in case it falls short. Some days, I do have one or two as leftovers, which will be used up during lunch. Once I had four rotis from previous day's dinner and I made ladoos. I have been wanting to try this for a long time, after seeing the same in many blogs. It was enough to satisfy the sweet cravings during the day.

There isn't much of a recipe here. The rotis are to be made crisp so that it can be powdered. The roti powder is mixed in melted jaggery and cooked till it gets together. Its then shaped into balls while warm. The measurements are approximate and take it as cue. You can add some roasted cashews or raisins or some roasted coconut too.  Next time, I wanted to try it with dates in place of jaggery.

You need

  • Roti - 4 nos, preferably a day old
  • Jaggery powdered  - 2 tablespoons
  • Ghee -1 teaspoon


Heat a tawa. Roat the roti one by one till it is crisp. Alternatively, you can MW it for a minute and give another minute of standing time. It will turn crisp, like papad. Break the crisp rotis into pieces and pulse in the mixer grinder to powder. The consistency of the powder is up to you. If you want you can powder it fine or coarsely, as I did.

Heat a kadai.Add a teaspoon of ghee. When ghee is hot, add the powdered jaggery. When the jaggery melts and starts bubbling, tip the roti powder. Mix so that it comes together. Remove from fire. When it is warm, shape into lemon sized balls. If it doesn't hold, add few drops of milk.

You can serve this as after school snack for kids.

This goes to PJ's  scrumptious delights from left overs

August 7, 2010

Vegetable Stuffed Wheat Naan

First let me say a BIG THANK YOU, to all my readers and friends who took time to watch the cookery show on TV or the  video I shared through face book/mail. I was overwhelmed seeing the comments. These are moments which I will always cherish. Now on to the recipe. I have made Naan with all purpose flour/maida before. Later I have tried with half and half of maida and wheat flour. This time I made with whole purpose flour only. I could not feel any difference in taste. It was very soft. To make it a complete meal on its own, tried stuffing some sauteed and slightly spiced veggies too. With a cup of home made curd and a dash of pickle, a sumptuous meal is ready.  

You need

For the dough
  • Wheat flour - 2 cups
  •  Oil - 1 tblspn
  • Salt- 1/2 tspn
  • Instant yeast - 1 tspn
  • Lukewarm water to prepare the dough

For the stuffing
  • Crumbled paneer-1/2 cup
  • Onion- 1 nos, finely chopped
  • Carrot - 1 nos, grated
  • Green chilly - 1 no, finely chopped
  • Kasuri methi - 1 tblspn
  • Chili powder - 1/2 tspn
  • Salt to taste
  • Kitchen king masala - 1 tspn
  • Oil - 1 tblspn


Mix all the ingredients mentioned for dough, except water. Add enough water to make a soft dough. Leave the dough to double. Punch down and leave for a second rise. If you are not using instant yeast, prove the yeast in warm water and sugar and then add.

For stuffing

Heat oil in a kadai. Add green chilly and chopped onions. Saute till onion is transparent.
Add grated carrot, crumbled paneer, red chilly powder and salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
Add kasuri methi and garam masala. Mix well and leave it to cool.
Adjust the green chilli and red chilli powder to suit your spice levels. You can omit the green chilly altogether if you don't want to bite into the chllies, especially if you will be serving the kids.  I like it, so have added.

To prepare naan

Divide the dough into five portions. Shape each portions into balls. Take one and roll it into a 2 inch circle. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling on the centre. Gather the edges and shape into a ball again. Carefully roll into oval shaped rotis. Pull the naan on one side to get a tear shape.

Heat a tawa. Apply water on one side of the naan, preferable the down side, while you rolled it. Stick the naan on to the hot tawa. Show the tawa upside down over the flame. Keep moving it to ensure even cooking. When it is fully cooked, the naan will fall off easily. Alternatively you can cook directly on the tawa as we do with rotis.  With the 2 cups of flour, I got 5 naans.

This will make a good lunch box option, since it stays soft for a long time. This can be baked in an oven too. But I haven't tried it, since I find the stove top method easy.

 Note: Make sure the tawa is hot while sticking the naan.