September 30, 2012

Palak Pulao

Do you have a kid who hates even the word "SPINACH"? Are you one of those mom's who desperately look for ways to add spinach into your kid's diet? Here you go! Palak pulao - a perfect recipe for all spinach haters (including adults) out there! No one can make out that this recipe has spinach in it - I bet!

My daughter just craps & runs away if she hears the name "spinach". And, I literally cannot give up spinach-is-good-for-you habit. But, on the contrary she loves pudhina (mint). Good news is both mint & spinach share the same color. Today, I had a flash of a brilliance, I should say! I decided to make a puree out of spinach & mint and make palak pulao. That way, it is easy for me to disguise spinach in the name of mint.

Believe it or not, my daughter loved it and still thinks that it was mint pulao! And, why would I even want to confess to her that pulao has spinach in it.. Nah! Never!! The sweetness of mint, the cozy warm green color, pleasant aroma from mint & saute 'ed onion takes over your palate even before you know that spinach is there! Even if you know, it'll be too late. By then, spinach would have already become a happy passenger to your tummy! 

Try for yourself and see what a relief it brings to see your kids enjoy palak .. errr ... mint pulao!

Spinach - 2 cups (1 bunch)
Mint leaves - Handful (or) 1/2 bunch
Basmati rice - 1.5 cups
Green chillies - 2 nos
Ginger - 1 inch (finely grated)
Garlic - 2 cloves (finely grated)
Onion - 1 big (finely chopped)
Tomatoes - 1 no (Medium sized, finely chopped)
Water - 2.25 cups
Oil - 1-2 tbsp
Salt - as required

Star anise - 1 no
Cinnamon - 1 inch
Cardamom pods - 2 nos
Cloves - 3 nos
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Poppy seeds - 1/2 tsp

Grind Spinach, Mint leaves, green chillies with 1/2 cup of water into a smooth paste.

In a pressure cooker heat oil, add all the spices one by one and fry them. Add chopped onion, grated ginger, grated garlic and saute till onions are transparent. Add tomatoes and saute until they cooked & mashed.

Now, add ground spinach-mint-chilly paste and saute for few minutes.

Wash and add rice, remaining water, required salt and pressure cook for 2 whistles.

Wait for the rice to cool and fluff it up with a fork.

Serve hot with raitha and chips. I made raw-banana fry to go with it.

September 28, 2012

Bindi Masala

"It’s not that people hate cooking, they hate deciding” - I remember reading this somewhere. Have you ever felt that planning a menu is harder than the actual cooking itself ?!?!? I know a lot of you would agree! Yeah, finalizing a menu on a day-to-day basis is a daunting task for me!!

I don't know about others, but this is what happens in my home .. 

Scene 1: (@ 7 AM, when VJ leaves for work ..)
ME: "What's for lunch?"
VJ: "How about this?" (suggestion 1)
Me: "No, that 's boring!"
VJ: "How 'bout that?" (suggestion 2)
Me: "Err .. some other day! .. may be"
VJ (in an irritated tone): "Ok, cook whatever you like and is easy"

Scene 2: (@ 8:30 AM, while dropping my daughter at school)
ME: "What would you like to have for lunch?"
KID: "hmmmm.. Veg Biriyani .. wait .. how about potato fry ... no no .. Okra fry .. errr ... I don't know" (Best part is, this would be her exact same reply.. everyday :))

So, here I am - still clueless about what to cook. I come back home working my mind - thinking what to cook. Then, I spend some good 15 - 20 mins scanning the entire fridge looking for some inspiration, without any use ofcourse! Okay, next what? After thinking really really hard (read wasting lot & lot of time), I finally decide on something and start the day in my kitchen.

Bindi Masala is one such menu item that I came up after a lot of thinking! But, I don't regret the time spent in finalizing this as it was a BIG hit with VJ & my kiddo. 

It served a perfect side for avocado parathas.

Okra / Bindi / Ladies Finger - 3 cups
Medium sized tomatoes - 2 nos (finely chopped)
Large onion - 1 no (finely chopped)
Ginger - 1 inch (finely minced)
Garlic - 2 pods (finely minced)
Green chillies - 2 nos (finely chopped)
Raw cashewnuts - 8-10 nos (soaked for 10 mins in 4-5 tbsp of milk)
Grated Coconut - 2 tsp
Yogurt - 1/2 cup (well beaten)
Red chilli powder - 1 (or) 2 tsp (according to your spice level)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Amchur / dry mango powder - 1 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf -1 no
Cinnamon stick - 1/2 inch
Oil - as required
Salt as per taste

Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a pan. Add okra pieces and little salt to it. Shallow fry them in high flame till they turn brown retaining their crispiness. Keep them aside.

Grind soaked cashews and coconut into a smooth paste with milk (used for soaking). Keep it aside.

Heat oil in a pan and fry bay leaf, cinnamon, fennel seeds. Then add minced ginger, garlic  and sauté for a while (you can also use ginger-garlic paste). To this, add onion, green chillies and sauté until onion turns translucent. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander power, salt, garam masala and amchur powder to it. Fry for a minute in a very low flame. To this, add finely chopped tomato and saute till they completely mash up with this masala and the tomato mixture starts leaving the oil.

Now, add cashew and coconut paste to it and saute continuously for a minute or two. Add water according to the required consistency. Let it boil in a medium flame for a minute or two.

Now add well beaten yogurt and mix well. Finally, add fried okra to this yogurt mixture and mix it well. Cook it for another 2-3 minutes in a low flame.

Remove from heat and serve with rice/parathas.

September 24, 2012


What a rough week it was! Both my kids were down sick with severe stomach infection. I think the toughest part of parenting is to see your child sick - it is physically & emotionally exhausting - don't you agree?

Coming to the good part, I had 2 quart of whole milk sitting in my fridge which was just 2 days shy of expiry (stomach flu directly translates to no dairy for the kids). I had 3 good options in front of me - make yogurt, make paneer, make thirattipal (also called as Pal Khoa / Milk Khoa). At first, I was inclined only towards the first 2 options.

As I know that making thirattipal is very time consuming (close to 2 hrs) & needs utmost patience (attending the dish every 5-10 mins), it was in the least of my options. But, I was really curious to attempt because I have never tried it before and VJ (my hubby) is a great fan of this sweet! Though thirattipal is a time & effort consuming recipe, it is one of the simplest recipes too. All you need is milk, sugar, cardamom, little ghee and a whole lot of time & patience!

My dad is also a big fan of fresh Aavin thirattipal that you get in India. I was fondly remembering him while making this recipe. Thirattipal turned out to be absolutely tasty with perfect consistency and it all got over in just a blink of an eye! I also made few cute palkhoa packets just like the ones we used to get in India.

Milk - 2 quarts (about 1.75 Litres)
Sugar - 1 1/4 cups
Cardamom powder - a generous pinch
Ghee - 2 tbsp

Pour milk into a thick & wide bottomed vessel and bring it to a boil on medium flame. Let the milk continue to boil on medium flame until almost all the water evaporates and milk starts to solidify. Keep stirring the milk often (every 10 mins) to make sure that the milk doesn't boil over and it doesn't stick to the sides/bottom.

When the milk starts to get thick and reduces to 3/4 th of the vessel (it takes about 1.5 hrs), add sugar and cardamom powder. After adding sugar, mixture becomes a little watery again. Continue to simmer for 15 - 20 more mins. Finally, add ghee and mix it well.

Remember that thirattipal will be a little sticky/gooey when hot. Let it cool and enjoy with family & friends.