Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Palak ani Dalichi Vatun Amti - Coconut based Dal curry with Spinach

I follow the blog monsoonspice and love all that Sia has to say there. Her writing is wonderful and the person reading it just does not wish to stop. I also like all her pictures - she is an amazing photographer. Her recipes are simple and tasty. 
The other day she posted a dal recipe also called ambat in Konkani - the link for which is here. This is a staple in konkani households. Infact, I cook this dal atleast once a week and I make it with spinach, malabar spinach, dill, fresh fenugreek leaves, red amaranth leaves - I have even used raddish with its leaves in this dal. We love the use of coconut in our cooking - thats the konkani blood in me and my husband speaking.
Her post made me realise that such staple and simple things which are everyday food we savor and eat can also be a part of the blog and they indeed should be there. I thank her for making me realise this.
My palak Amti/Ambat is very similar to how she cooked - except that I grind the onion along with the coconut and chillies. But, this is simple yummy food with steamed rice and poppadoms and the humble lime pickle. We savor this Amti/Ambat with fried fish too. 


2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
1 cup toor dal
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 to 3 dried red chillies (I used 2 byadgi and 1 kashmiri) - you can use more if you like
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (akha Dhania)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 to 5 curry leaves
1 tablespoon coconut oil (you can use olive oil, groundnut oil or canola oil too)


Wash the dal well, add 2 cups of water, the asafoetida and turmeric, spinach and a few drops of oil and pressure cook the dal untill 3 whistles. Release the pressure and mash the dal with the back of a spoon and let it stand.
Mix together grated coconut, roughly chopped onion, garlic, dried red cillies, tamarind paste and coriander seeds in a blender, add about 1/4 cup water and blend this mixture to a fine paste. If the mixture becomes too dry and difficult to blend, add 2 tablespoons water at a time and blend again.
In a kadai/saucepan, take the coocnut oil, when it gets hot, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter, now add the curry leaves and let them saute for about 10 second. Now add the dal and the blended spice mixture and mix well. Add salt to taste and let this mixture boil. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about a 15 minutes to half hour.
Serve with boiled white rice and poppadoms. This goes well with hot and soft phulkas too.

Hokkaido Milk Bread - We Knead to Bake # 3

This month 'We Knead to Bake' was all about an easy fluffy and yummy bread called the 'Hokkiado Milk Bread' also known as the 'Asian Milk Bread' or the 'Hong Kong Pai Bo'. A bread very popular in South East Asia. Well, now its very popular here at our home too.

This bread is super soft because of the use of 'Tangzhong' - thats the secret (well, not so secret now) weapon.

The Hokkaido Mild Bread owes its texture and height to the use of an interesting ingredient called Tangzhong. Basically, the Tangzhong method involves cooking 1 part of bread flour with 5 parts of water (by weight) at 65°C (149 °F) to form a roux.  
At 65°C, the gluten in the bread flour and water mixture would absorb the moisture and create a “leavening” action.  When the Tangzhong is added into other ingredients that go into a bread dough, it produces light, tender and fluffier bread.
This method of using Tangzhong is often seen in South Asian breads and was created by a Chinese woman, Yvonne Chen, who describes this method in her book which translates to “65 degrees Bread Doctor”.
(Picked this note up from the information about Tangzhong as mentioned by Aparna in her blog)


For The Tangzhong (Flour-Water Roux) 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk

For The Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon sugar
1teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered milk
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1/2 cup milk (and a little more if needed)
1/8 cup cream (25% fat)
1/3 cup tangzhong (use HALF of the tangzhong from above)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)


I have mentioned the recipe exactly as Aparna wrote in her blogpost (for Hokkiado Bread) on her FoodBlog

The Tangzhong  (Flour-Water Roux)

Whisk together lightly the flour and water in a saucepan until smooth and there are no lumps. Place the saucepan on the stove, and over medium heat, let the roux cook till it starts thickening. Keep stirring/ whisking constantly so no lumps form and the roux is smooth.

If you have a thermometer, cook the roux/ tangzhong till it reaches 65C (150F) and take it off the heat. If you don’t have a thermometer, then watch the roux/ tangzhong until you start seeing “lines” forming in the roux/ tangzhong as you whisk/ stir it. Take the pan off the heat at this point.
Let the roux/ tangzhong cool completely and rest for about 2 to 3 hours at least. It will have the consistency of a soft and creamy crème patisserie. If not using immediately, transfer the roux to a bowl and cover using plastic wrap. It can be stored in the fridge for about a day. Discard the tangzhong after that.

The Bread Dough

I made this dough in the food processor. This dough can be made by hand but the dough is a bit sticky and can take some time and effort to knead by hand. If you have some sort of machine which will do the kneading for you, use it. Don’t punish yourself. And do not add more flour to make it less sticky either!
Put the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and instant yeast in the processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. In another small bowl mix the milk, cream and Tangzhong till smooth and add to the processor bowl. Run on slow speed until the dough comes together. Now add the butter and process till you have a smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky.
The dough will start out sticky but kneading will make it smooth. If the dough feels firm and not soft to touch, add a couple of teaspoons of milk till it becomes soft and elastic. When the dough is done, you should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking right away.  When it does break, the break should be form a circle.
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl turning it so it is well coated. Cover with a towel, and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes or till almost double in volume.
Place the dough on your working surface. You don’t need flour to work or shape this dough. This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9” by 5” tin), 2 small loaves (6” by 4” tins) or 1 small loaf (6” by 4”) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins). Depending on what you are making, divide your dough. If you are making 1 loaf, divide your dough in 3 equal pieces. If you are making two smaller loaves, divide your dough into 6 equal pieces.
The shaping of the portions, whether for the loaf or the rolls, is the same.
Roll out each portion of the dough with a rolling pin into an oval shape, about 1/8” thick. Take one end of the dough from the shorter side of the oval and fold it to the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold so it slightly overlaps the other fold. (See the collage)
Roll this folded dough with the rolling pin so the unfolded edges are stretched out to form a rectangle. Roll the rectangle from one short edge to the other, pinching the edges to seal well. Do this with each of the three larger pieces and place them, sealed edges down, in a well-oiled loaf tin. Cover with a towel and leave the dough to rise for about 45 minutes.
To make the rolls fold them in the same manner described above, but before rolling them up, place some chocolate chip on the dough. Roll the dough rectangles carefully and pinch to seal the edge. Place each roll of dough in a well-oiled muffin cup and cover with a towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes.
Carefully brush the tops of the rolls and the loaf with milk (or cream) and bake them at 170C (325F) for about 20 to 30 minutes till they are done (if you tap them they’ll sound hollow) and beautifully browned on top. Let them cool in the tins for about 5 minutes and then unmould and transfer to a rack till slightly warm or cool.
Serve or else store in a bread bin. This bread stays soft and delicious even the next day. This recipe makes enough dough to make one loaf (9” by 5” tin), 2 small loaves (6” by 4” tins) or 1 small loaf (6” by 4”) and 6 small rolls (muffin tins).

Loaded Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is a very favorite at our home. My husband actually has this soup along with half a sandwich during his business trips at a Panera Bread if he can find one in the city that he travels to.
My kiddo has loved this soup since she was what six months old. We used to puree the soup and give it to her and she would lap up an entire bowl without any fuss. Well, now we do not need to puree it like before.
We have been making this soup at home with chicken, carrots, onions, garlic, celery and ofcorse chicken with some Italian spices. Thought of just taking it a little bit further and making it a compete meal by adding a few other ingredients. It was a good meal in a bowl with some nice easy peasy home made artisan bread


2 carrots
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
3 to 4 celery stalks
2 cups of small bits of chicken (I use breast meat) - about 2 to 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 can cannelloni beans
1 to 1 & 1/2 cups broken spaghetti (you can add more or less - or any pasta of your choice)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
5 cups chicken stock (to make it quick) OR 7 cups water and let it simmer for longer


Finely chop the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Add the oil to a big saucepan and add these veggies to this oil. Once they start to sweat, add some salt and add the chicken pieces. Mix well till the chicken turns a nice white color (the pink is gone). Now add drained cannelloni beans, chopped spinach,  dried Italian herbs, pasta, pepper powder and mix well. Add water or stock and mix well. Bring it to a nice boil. Once this mixture boils, bring the heat to medium low and cover the saucepan and let the soup simmer.
If you are using stock, the simmer time becomes less, as stock has a lot of flavor. maybe in an hour or so the soup is ready to savor. However, if you are using plain water, it takes some time for the water to become flavorful. Soup should be ready in about 3 to 4 hours.
This tastes good with bread and salad - becomes a complete meal in a bowl.

You can make this into a vegetarian soup by not adding the chicken - and substituting vegetable stock for chicken stock, if you plan to use stock/broth

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Knead Bread

Artisan Breads look so beautiful and it always seems like a lot of work has gone into baking them. Also, it has that unique homemade feel to it. The shape, the colors everything says 'its beautiful'. 
Sourdough Bread is one such bread and an all time favorite. Baking a sourdough bread was a dream come true for me. I mean baking the final bread was easy - but, getting the starter done and waiting for it to ferment over a couple of days was the tough part. Moreover, you need to keep baking sourdough breads regularly to keep the starter alive or atleast keep feeding the starter to keep it alive. In my case, I used to just feed the starter to keep it alive (as I did not bake this bread frequently) - and well, as you can guess......... I had more of the starter and I could actually open a bakery for sourdough bread.
I had to finally discard the starter with a very heavy heart.
I then came across this book Artisan Bread in five minutes a day - and the basic 'Boule Bread' recipe. It looked like the sourdough bread and it was very very easy to make. Takes just about 4  hours to get the bread ready on your table. - and you have an Artisan Bread that you made at home by yourself to boast about.
This has been a regular bread at home. Holds stuff well for sandwiches & paninis, goes great with soups and is divine when it is toasted lightly with a little bit of butter.


6 and 1/2 cups - All Purpose flour
1 and 1/2 tablespoon - Active Dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon - Salt
3 cups - Lukewarm Water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
Cornmeal for dusting - I used flour as I had no cornmeal at home


In a large mixing bowl, add flour, yeast and salt. Pour the lukewarm water  and with a wooden spatula mix this mixture till a lump-free sticky dough forms - about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest for minimum 2 hours.
Spread the cornmeal or flour on kitchen counter (you can use a wide mouth plate too) and put the risen dough on this. Cover the dough also with flour and form into a ball by rolling gently on the counter. Place this ball on a baking sheet (I used a pizza pan) and let it rest for 30-40 minutes for a second rise. With a sharp knife, make 3 lines to help the steam out while baking. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place the baking tray/sheet into the oven. On the oven floor (below the baking tray) place bowl with water (this helps to keep the bread moist). Bake for 30-35 minutes or till you hear a hollow sound when you tap the top of the bread. once done remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
I made two round breads with the entire dough mixture.

If you are not going to use the entire dough mix - then, you can freeze this dough up to 2 months.  After the first rise of 2 hours - wrap the unused dough tightly in cling foil and freeze.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

oats and cardamom cake

I take my 2.5 year old daughter to a mommy and me spin and stretch class in our community. She loves it there and goes about doing all the stretching exercises along with the instructor.
It has been a good 10 weeks and the class is coming to an end now. We mommies along with the instructor decided to have a small party (potluck) for the kiddos and also us adults. We wanted it to be a pizza party - but, the instructor seems to be very good at maintaining her diet and avoids sweets, all purpose flour, cheese etc etc. It was hence decided to be a fruits and popcorn party.
I was the chosen to bring bite sized pineapples.
However, the instructor had said if I could bake something healthy, she would love that too. Hence, I started to explore healthy baking options.
Well, this is a trial recipe - which turned out good int eh first go itself. I love the taste of cardamom and the bite from the oats. 
I hope they all like it tomorrow at the party too.


1 and 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 and 1/2 cups Quaker oats (quick oats)
1/2 cup all purpose flour OR wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 tablespoon milk masala (optional)


powder the oats in a grinder till its fine. In a mixing bowl add the oats powder, flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom powder and milk masala and mix well.
In another mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, vegetable oil and eggs and mix/whisk well till the sugar dissolve. Now add the milk and mix well till its an integrated mixture.
Now add the dry ingredients and mix everything well till it becomes a nice and smooth cake batter.
Pour it into a greased cake container and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted inside comes clean.
You can even bake muffins out of this. They would take about 15 to 20 minutes to bake.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ananas Bhat (Pineapple Rice)

I love pineapples. There is something about the aroma of this fruit that takes you to a tropical paradise. The sweet and sour notes that tingle your tastebuds and the pale yellow color. Well, I am sure you know that I am a huge pineapple fan.

The other day I had purchased this beautiful huge pineapple from the super-market. Nicely cored and cut into pieces, I savored this yummy fruit continuously for 2 days. My husband is allergic to pineapples and my kiddo is not a fan I guess.

The cut pineapple pieces were just lying in my fridge and I was wondering what to do with them. And, it dawned on me - why not make ananas bhat. My mom had made this once and I had loved it a lot. 


1 cup basmati rice
2 cups pineapple juice (I used fresh juice)
1 cup chopped pineapple pieces
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamoms
6 cloves
1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup of coconut powder (unsweetened)
3/4 cup sugar - if you want it a little more sweeter, you can add 1 cup sugar too
2 tablespoons milk masala
    you can use chopped nuts of your choice too
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
4 to 5 drops of yellow food color (optional)
few strands of saffron (optional)


Wash the basmati rice well and let it soak in water for about an hour. In a saucepan, add half of the ghee. When it heats up, add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and let it infuse the ghee and bring the heat to medium low. Drain the rice and add it to the infused ghee and mix well. Add the pineapple juice, food color and saffron and cover and let it cook on medium low flame untill the rice is nice and fluffy - this will take about half hour. Fluff the cooked rice with a fork and add the pineapple pieces, coconut powder, sugar, milk masala (or chopped nuts), cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and the remaining ghee and mix well. Cover and let it cook on medium low flame for about 15 more minutes.
Savor it warm or at room temperature.

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