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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Coleslaw - The Healthy Version

So, the other day I was looking at the cabbage in my fridge and wondering what I could do with it. I was tired of making the same old stir fry and wanted to try something different. Suddenly a thought struck. “Why not make coleslaw?!” I really enjoy coleslaws. But, I haven’t really made coleslaw too often because of the large amount of sugar and mayonnaise that is needed to make the dressing. So, this time I thought, maybe if I figured out  a way to make a healthier version of the recipe, I would make it more often and eat it without any guilt. The healthier version turned out great and my family really couldn't tell the difference till I pointed it out. This is definitely going to be my go to coleslaw recipe.

1/4 large cabbage shredded
1 carrot shredded
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp sugar
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Mix together the yogurt, milk, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Using a whisk, mix it well so that all the ingredients are well blended. This is the dressing.
In a bowl, mix together the cabbage, carrot and onion. Add the amount of dressing that you want over the vegetables and toss well. Let the salad chill for at least an hour before serving. It is the perfect side with a sandwhich.

There should be enough dressing to coat the vegatables but not so much that it drowns the vegetables. If you want, you can add a little mayonnaise to the recipe as well, or if you want to go with the original, substitute the yogurt with mayonnaise.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The temperatures have dropped, the skies are grey and the weather is cold. This is the perfect weather to have a warm bowl of soup for lunch or dinner. I enjoy soups, especially during winter. The lighter ones serve as great appetizers while the heartier ones are complete meals. Broccoli cheddar soup is a hearty soup. Add a dinner roll and you don’t need to prepare anything else. I hadn’t tasted broccoli cheddar soup for the longest time, as I was under the misconception that there was a lot of cheese in this soup. It was after a few years that I found out that the base of the soup is a white sauce and doesn't really have much cheese. You can add as much cheese as you want, so you can even make a low calorie version of the soup by adding less cheese.

1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic pods, finely chopped
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup milk
1/2 carrot, grated
salt to taste
pepper to taste
cheddar cheese, to taste

In a pan, boil water. Add broccoli florets to it and let them cook till they are bright green and tender, about 3-4 minutes. At this stage the broccoli will be partially cooked, and not mushy. Process 3/4 of the broccoli through the blender and process it coarsely. Keep a few small florets aside so you can eat them in the soup.

In a deep pot, heat the oil and butter together. To this add the onions and garlic and stir fry it, till it is cooked. It should get cooked through but not brown. Then add the flour to it and fry it. The flour should get cooked through and not smell raw. However, take care not to let it brown. Add a half cup of water, while stirring it continuously. The white sauce base is formed. Then add the broccoli puree as well as pieces. Next add the the shredded carrot. Add a cup of milk and bring the mixture to a boil. At this stage, if the soup is too thick, add additional water and boil. Now, add the cheddar cheese and let it melt through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve piping hot.

You can vary the proportions of broccoli and carrot. The more carrot you add, the oranger it gets. In case you add more water and it gets too dilute for your taste, you can dissolve a tsp of corn starch/flour in a little water (about a couple of tsps) and then add it to the soup to thicken it up. To make the soup richer you can also add some cream.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kesar Pedha/Peda

My last post was about "Mava/Khoya". So, it was natural to follow it up with the easiest and one of the most traditional Indian sweets - "Pedha".  Pedha is possibly the easiest Indian sweet that you can make if you have mava at home (whether home made or store bought). It is a great mithai to make for potlucks too, being very easy to scale up. Cooking time is around ten minutes or so and you can serve them as soon as the rolled out pedha cools down to room temperature.

There are many kinds of pedhas and the easiest one is kesar pedha or pedha with saffron. Of course, there are also the more complicated ones that take a lot of cooking time and are more effort intensive like the kandi pedha(Dharwadi pedha). Pedhas are a staple at any traditional Indian function.

2 cups mava
3/4 - 1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp cardamom/elaichi powder
10-15 flakes of saffron
1 tsp milk
1 tsp ghee

Grate or cruble the mava into small pieces and measure 2 cups.  Warm the milk a little and add the saffron strands to it, mix and keep aside. In a pan, add some ghee and the mava and cook on low heat. Stir so that it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. You will need to cook for about 7-10 minutes and you will start getting the aroma of mava being roasted. At this stage the color of the mava will start to turn a very light brown (almost beige). Then add the cardamom powder and the saffron milk and mix well. Let it all cook together, till the milk evaporates and then take it off the heat. When the mixture cools down where it is warm to touch, add the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.

Then, apply a little ghee to your hands and take small amount of this mixture and roll it into a ball and flatten it to form a disc. The disc should be around an inch in diameter. Your pedha is ready. Let the warm pedhas cool down and serve at room temperature.

 These will last without refrigeration for a couple of days. For longer term storage, store in the fridge. You can store it in the fridge for two-three weeks.

I added on 3/4 cup of sugar when I made pedhas, but if you want it to be sweeter, add more to taste.
An extremely easy method to make pedhas is to reduce condensed milk and roll pedhas from it when the mixture solidifies. However, the major drawback of this method is that you are not at liberty to choose the amount of sugar that gets added to the pedha. Condensed milk tends to be very sweet and hence your pedhas will also turn out very sweet.
Upon creating the flattened pedha disc, you can add a slice of almond or pistachio on top of the pedha to decorate it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mava - Also known as Khoya, Khava and Khoa

Mava is probably one of the most essential ingredients when one wants to make Indian sweets like pedha, laddoo or barfis. Mava or Khoa is milk that has been cooked for so long that the water content has evaporated and you are left with the milk solids. These milk solids contain all the fatty and protein content of the milk and are extremely delicious. Now, to make mava from milk is a lengthy process. You need to let the milk simmer and cook at a low temperature making sure that it doesn't boil over and keep stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn't burn.

The only person I ever saw make mava at home from milk was my grandfather. He used to enjoy milk and mithai made from mava. So, instead of buying mava from the store, he used to reduce milk and make mava at home. It used to take the entire afteroon but by evening we used to have a feast of freshly made milkcake or kalakand.

When I wanted to make mithai, I realized that the local Indian store didn't carry this all essential ingredient. So naturally I had to cook it at home (if I ever wanted to eat mithai). I wasn't keen on spending many hours reducing milk, so I looked up many different methods. Over the years after some experimentation I think I have perfected the art of making mava at home. This is a quicker process than reducing milk and tastes exactly like the mava made from milk that has been cooked for hours.

1 tbsp clarified butter/ghee
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk powder

Mix together the ricotta cheese and milk powder till they are well blended. The ricotta cheese is generally grainy and when you mix these two together, the texture will also smooth out. In a broad pan, heat the ghee and add the ricotta cheese and milk powder mixture. Stir occasionally and cook on low heat, so that it doesn't burn.

The mixture will start boiling and bubbling and slowly the moisture will evaporate. Stir so that the solids don't burn and finally you will be left with a cream colored mixture. At this point, the aroma will also change from smelling like ricotta cheese to something that smells like a mixture of ghee and milk. At this stage taste it and check if the raw ricotta taste has gone and if so, your mava is ready for further use.

I generally blend the ricotta cheese and milk powder in a blender to get a smooth texture. If you cook on low heat, you don't have to pay constant attention to it and so the process while time consuming will not seem cumbersome. Mava is used in all kinds of barfis and pedhas, but it is also added to gajar halwa, kheer and dudhi halwa to enhance the taste of these sweet dishes.