Friday, October 02, 2015

Milk and Cashewnut Biscuits - Variar Bakery Style

I personally like biscuits, that too local bakery made ones. Bakeries used to sell very few kinds of biscuits during my childhood days, and the basic Milk Biscuits and Cashewnut biscuits were very popular. They were crunchy and nice to bite into. Cashewnut Biscuits used to have either a glossy golden surface with cashewnut bits and sugar crystals sticking to them, while the plain milk biscuits had just the glossy surface. Needless to mention, that I used to love them.
When I visited my brother Dr Kamalakanth Shenoy at Rajajinagar Bengaluru in early 1980, he introduced me to OG Variar Bakery that was close to his home. I was fascinated to eat some of the finest biscuits there, that crumbled and melted in the mouth! I later relocated to Bengaluru and was a regular buyer of Milk Biscuits and Cashewnut Biscuits there. I have liked Karachi Bakery Cashewnut and Chai Biscuits as well, but I always wanted to make Variar Bakery Milk biscuits at home. 

The other day I was going thorough various recipes for Milk Biscuits and found a good recipe on Vahchef channel that suited my expectation. Having made cookies/biscuits with different formulas, making these milk and cashewnut biscuits was not difficult for me. With single dough, I made two types of biscuits.

So here I go with slight changes that I made to Vahchef's recipe. They turned out very crunchy and tasty as against Vahchef's softer version. I also made the healthier version with whole wheat flour for a change. The recipe given here is with 2 cups of flour for making 20 Milk Biscuits and 20 Cashewnut Biscuits, but you can also make them with one cup flour like I did, if you are on a diet, or if you want them to get consumed within hours! 
Refined Flour(Maida) or Whole Wheat Flour - 2 Cups + 2 Tbsp(For rolling dough)
Salt - 3/4 Tsp
Baking Powder - 2 Tsp
Butter - 120 Gms(Max 140 Gms)
Powdered Sugar - 1 Cup
Custard Powder - 4 Tbsp
Milk Powder - 40 Gms(Optional)
Vanilla Essence - 2 Tsp
Milk - 1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp(For milk wash)
Cashewnut Bits(1/8 cut) - 25 Gm
Sugar Crystals - 1 Tsp(Optional, for sprinkling on cashewnut biscuits)

Preheat oven to 180° C.
Sift flour along with salt and baking powder.
Cream butter with powdered sugar by beating well.
Add vanilla essence, custard powder, optional milk powder and beat until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
Add the sifted flour mixture and knead well, adding milk little by little.
If you want, add some more milk or water, but make a soft but non-sticky dough.
The dough must be brittle, and must crumble when you try to break it.
Make two portions of the dough.
Add cashewnut bits to one portion(saving a tablespoonful for sprinkling on top), and knead well.
Make balls out of the two parts of dough.
Flatten, dust with maida and roll on the kitchen work area into 1/3 inch thick sheet.
Sprinkle cashew bits on one of the sheets that has cashewnut bits, and run the rolling pin once to embed the nuts.
Using a spatula or a bread knife, press the edges and shape the sheets into perfect squares.
Make equal size markings and cut each sheet into 20 square pieces.
Arrange the pieces on baking trays lined with butter paper, or on greased trays.
Brush milk on all the squares and sprinkle the optional sugar crystals over the ones with cashewnuts.
Bake at 180° C for 12-15 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown.
Remove and allow to cool on the rack.
Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Spicy Fish Curry with Coconut Milk

Meena has her own formulas in making fish curry. She does not stick to conventional type curries, rather tries fusion of two or more, to come out with something entirely new. She says, ultimately the spices, tamarind and coconut make any seafood curry delicious. This spicy fish curry, which is a fusion of Goan and Mangalorean style of fish curries, is also one such formula which tastes too good.
We had few steaks of Anjal(Surmai or Seer Fish) with which she made this curry. You may try with any good fleshy fish available, but preferably try with sea fish. Sea fish taste very good in this curry. Essentially boiled red rice and ay fried fish and a glass of cold buttermilk complete the meal. Please use coconut oil while making fish curry, as it blends well with seafood, imparting a fine aroma. Chillies, coconut milk and salt maybe adjusted according to your taste.

Any Fleshy Fish - 500 Gms
Red Long Byadgi or Kashmiri Chillies - 6
Red Short Ramnadu Chillies - 6
Coriander Seeds - 1 Tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Fenugreek(Methi) Seeds - 1/4 Tsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Caraway Seeds(Ajwain/Oama) - A pinch
Tamarind - Chickpea size ball
Ginger - 1 inch
Garlic - 4-6 flakes
Onion - 1 big
Tomato - 1 big
Coconut Milk - 2 cups
Coconut Oil - 4 Tsp
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Green Chillies - 3-4 slit lengthwise
Salt - 3/4 Tsp or to taste
Dry roast chillies, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and ajwain.
Heat 1/2 Tsp oil and fry ginger, garlic, chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, until raw smell disappears.
Grind the roasted and fried ingredients along with tamarind into a fine paste.
Heat 2 tsp oil in a thick bottom pan and fry curry leaves followed by green chillies.
Add the masala paste and fry until oil leaves the sides.
Turn the flame to medium, and add salt, coconut milk, 1 cup water and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the gravy thickens a little.
Place the fish in the gravy, cover and allow to simmer for 5 mins.
When the fish has cooked, pour remaining oil on top.
Serve with boiled red rice and fried fish.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tender Coconut Kulfi

Kulfi, the Desi Indian ice cream mostly sold by street vendors, has won global acclaim today as a traditional dessert. Master chefs and ice cream manufacturers have introduced kulfi in their menu. A Mumbai based ice cream manufacturer has created record for selling kulfi based natural ice creams and today Natural Ice Cream has become a house hold name in nooks and corners of India. Kulfi is made with creamy milk, sugar and some fruit pulp or chunks. Dry fruits are added to make it more rich and also add to the crunchy taste. Tender Coconut Ice Cream by Natural's has won my heart, the success of making Tender Coconut Pudding has inspired me to try making Kulfi with tender coconut malai at home.

Some years ago, we have ventured into making vanilla and pista ice cream at home. It works out very expensive and also does not come out as smooth as Ideal Ice Creams, which are also cost effective. Hence we stopped making ice cream at home. I was not much into eating Kulfi in the past. Once or twice I had tasted kulfi at the Gajalee Restaurant Mangaluru. Ideal Ice Creams also make kulfi, but I have not tried it as yet.

I love tender coconut, and I drink water from one everyday. We also have coconut trees in our garden, and obtaining the malai(tender coconut kernel) is not a difficulty. I reserved one full malai from a tender coconut for making kulfi. It was slightly grown and I minced it lightly by running in pulse mode in the mixer. I also added half a cup of very thin malai chopped into tiny bits. That gives a better taste if added along with thick malai. I don't boil the malai along with milk like suggested in some online recipes. That changes the taste of kulfi. Malai better be added after the milk cools down completely.

Whole milk with full cream is recommended for making this. I used 1/2 liter packet of Nandini Good Life milk. Also added 1/2 can of condensed milk for that rich creamy taste. If you add condensed milk, cut the amount of sugar because condensed milk is already sweetened. Avoid adding cardamom, vanilla, saffron or other flavouring, as the flavour of tender coconut blended with rich creamy milk gives a better feeling. You may add some cream if you want, to make the kulfis more smooth. Adding some chopped nuts like almonds or pistachios gives that crunchy taste as you bite into this wonderful creamy cool dessert. As the kulfi melts in your mouth, tit bits of coconut malai make chewy bites and that also adds to fun. Kids will definitely love eating these.

My friend Shibrur Mukund Kamath, Managing Partner of Ideal Ice Creams has tasted this Kulfi and has approved it as perfect. What more can we ask for!
Whole Milk - 1/2 Liter
Sugar - 1/4 Cup
Condensed Milk - 1/2 Can(200 Gm)
Tender Coconut Malai - 1 cup

Chop tender coconut malai into tiny bits.
If the malai is thick, chop into small pieces and run in a mixer in pulse mode twice.
Mix milk and condensed milk thoroughly and heat in a thick bottom pan.
Bring to a boil and on slow heat, stir the milk and cook for 10-15 minutes or until milk thickens and gets a custard like consistency.
Take care not to burn the milk.
Add sugar and continue stirring for another 5 minutes.
Switch off the flame, keep the pan for cooling and allow to cool dwn to room temperature.
Add the coconut malai and mix well.
Pour into kulfi moulds or muffin moulds and freeze for 8-12 hours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Oats Paneer Khaara Bhaat(Masala Upma)

Indian chefs adapt just about any global ingredient in local cuisine. Oat being a popular American cereal, is also one of them. Oats are used in India mainly in making bread, biscuits, idlis, dosas, fried chicken and the ever popular South Indian breakfast staple Upma.

I had read about 'Champion Oats' in comic books and magazines when I was young. I used to wonder how that may taste. They highlighted it as a healthy choice and showed really energetic and masculine models dressed up like cowboys in the ads those days. However, by the time I saw what real oats look like, it was almost past 3 decades.

Oat meal is considered to be one of the best source of fiber and necessary supplements for healthy living. What we get in the market is processed rolled oats that resemble beaten rice or phova, and  many people consume it by way of making porridge for dietary reasons. I personally can't stand the smell of oats, but I could tolerate it when I tried to eat it mixed in yogurt with added sugar. That tasted like avalakki mosaru(Phova in curd).

Some years ago, when I was active in an Orkut group, my young friend Anitha Prabhu had posted picture of Oats Upma. I made fun of her saying, "Oats are supposed to be eaten for health reasons. Here you are adding excess fat and masalas to suit your taste buds!" She confessed that oats upma indeed tastes very good and has an edge over Bombay Rava(Semolina) as far as nutritional value is concerned. Somehow, I was not ready to experiment with it then, since I was not a fan of oats!

Eventually Meena started eating oats on daily basis, and we always have stock of oats at home. I did try making Kentucky Fried Bread Fruit using oats for the outer crust, after I understood that oat is the key ingredient to make the fried chicken crusty. It tasted even better than Kentucky Fried Chicken.

We had a piece of paneer in the fridge, left over from making some dish. I think it was around 50 grams in weight. Thought, I will make upma using paneer. Then an idea struck my mind. Why not try my luck with oats upma adding paneer? I started to mentally choose the ingredients that I can add. I have made upma, khaara bhaat and rava bisibele bhaat before. It is not difficult for me to make upma with any combination. Hence I decided to make Oats Paneer Khaara Bhaat, and also decided to add some vegetables like capsicum, peas and carrots. I didn't want to overload the khaara bhaat with vegetables, since I wanted paneer to dominate the taste. Paneer by itself has just flavour of milk fat and proteins. So I decided to spice up the upma with garam masala and crushed black pepper, also to add ginger and capsicum for better flavour. End result can be seen in the pictures.

I personally loved the taste, flavour and consistency of the snack. Why don't you give it a try too? After all, you should take good care of health of yourself, and your family members!
Oats - 2 Cups
Water - 4 Cups
Ghee - 2 Tbsp
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Urad Daal - 1 Tsp
Chana Daal - 1 Tsp
Cashewnut Bits - 1 Tbsp
Curry Leaves - 1 Sprig
Green chillies - 2 finely chopped
Ginger - 1/2 " piece, finely minced
Paneer - 50 Gm, chopped into small chunks
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Tomato - 1 medium, chopped
Carrot - 1/4 Cup, chopped
Fresh Green Peas, - 1/4 Cup
Capsicum - 1/4 cup, chopped
Turmeric Powder - 1/4 Tsp
Black Peppercorns - 1/2 Tsp, crushed 
Garam Masala Powder - 1 Tsp
Lemon - 1/2
Salt - 3/4 Tsp(or to taste)
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves - 1/4 Cup, chopped

Keep 4-5 cups water for boiling.
Once water starts boiling, simmer and keep on standby.
Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a thick bottom kadai(Wok or deep frying pan) on medium flame and add mustard seeds.
Once they splutter, add both the daals and fry for 30 seconds. 
Now add the cashewnut bits, curry leaves, chopped ginger, chopped green chillies.
Fry well until cashewnuts turn golden.
Add the oats and fry for 2 minutes on medium flame.
Remove from pan and keep aside.
Wipe the pan clean with a kitchen paper or cloth, and add remaining ghee.
Allow the ghee to heat up, then fry the paneer chunks for 1 minute , drain and keep aside.
To the same ghee, add chopped onions and fry until transparent.
Add carrot, green peas and tomatoes.
Fry for 2 minutes on high flame.
Add salt, sugar , turmeric powder, crushed pepper, garam masala powder, capsicum and stir fry for 30 seconds.
Now drop the fried paneer chunks in.
Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, squeeze lemon, add fried oats along with the seasoning.
Allow to sizzle on medium flame.
Keep upsetting the contents gently, don't allow the mass to form lumps or stick to the bottom.
After 2-3 minutes, oats absorb all the water and swell up.
Switch off the flame, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and keep the open pan on the kitchen platform.
After 5 minutes, mix the contents and serve with hot coffee or tea.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Anjal Tawa Fried - Dhaba Style

Dhaba style tawa fried fish is delicious, because it has added yogurt in the marinade, which gives the fish a very succulent taste and soft texture. Punjabis add garam masala and other spices to the marinade. They also cut the fillets of fish into small pieces. I have tasted very good dhaba style tawa fish at Angeethi Restaurant in Bengaluru, three of years ago. I have been planning to make similar tawa fish, but I changed my style to suit our Mangalorean taste.

I found out an easier method to make little more spicy tawa fried Anjal. I had Kundapur Masala made at home with my own recipe. That masala has a distinct aroma which even commercial quality masala doesn't have. We also had anjal fish steaks in the freezer. Thus, formulating my own recipe and making this fried fish was a cakewalk for me! Using nonstick pan for frying them ensures minimum use of oil. 

This awesome dish can be served as a starter or as a side dish with fish curry and rice. Meena made some special anjal curry with red boiled rice. What else does one need for quality dining and happy living!
Anjal/Seer Fish Steaks - 6(600 Gm)
Kundapur Masala Powder - 3 Tsp
Plain Yogurt - 2 Tbsp
Tamarind - Pea size ball
Salt - 1/2 Tsp(or to taste)
Rice Flour - 2 Tbsp
Coconut Oil - 4-6 Tsp
Chopped Coriander Leaves - A handful

Wash and pat dry anjal fish steaks.
Take 2 Tbsp water in a mixing bowl.
Soak tamarind and extract pulp.
Add salt, Kundapur masala powder, yogurt and rice flour.
Beat well to make a thick wet paste.
If necessary, add some more water.
Apply this paste on anjal steaks and marinate for 15-20 mins.
Heat 2-3 Tsp oil in a shallow nonstick pan.
Place 3-4 steaks in the pan and fry on medium heat for 3-5 mins until crusty.
Sprinkle shopped coriander leaves and flip the pieces to roast on the other side for 2-3 mins, or until crisp.
Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle more coriander leaves.
Serve hot with a lemon wedge and choice of salad.
Vegetarians can use the same masala for frying thinly sliced bread fruit, raw plantain, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, yam, kantola or parval.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Phaagil Ghoint Phodi - Spicy Kantola and Parval Fritters

As more and more kitchen gadgets flooded the market, life has become easy for modern cooks and home makers. My memory rewinds to the Sixties, when my mother was making everything the traditional way, manually. She used to manually powder masala ingredients in the mortar of the grinding stone using an iron pestle called balayi in Konkani. She used to manually pound sweet/savoury coconut chutney for phova in the wooden mortar with a black stone. She used to make gojju and bajji using similar method. She also used to grind masalas for curry, batter for dosa and idli and red chillies for pickles and spicy chilli masala fritters that we call Phodi.

Chilli paste otherwise called in Konkani as 'Mirsaange Gooli' ground with the grinding stone manually, adding calculated amount of rock salt, tamarind and asafotoeda made the fritters taste too good. Old timers also soak rice and grind along with spices to make perfect marinade for fritters that coats and binds them properly, remains crisp and intact even after getting cooled down! Now a days you may find mostly caterers making fritters like these with various vegetables for feasts. 

When one of our neighbours in Ballal Bagh got their first mixer grinder by name Ricoh, I was stunned to see its uses, and I also told mother about it. She could not lay her hands on one, as my father was not in favour of such electric gadgets those days. He said, it is very flimsy, meant for making only fruit juices, may breakdown easily if she tried to grind masalas in it. However, in 1970 soon after my eldest brother Shashikanth married and settling down in Bombay, he bought a Sumeet Mixer Grinder. He had all praises for it, but my father still would not agree with him then! In 1972 , a metal fabricator in Bunder by name Sundar Gatti was making electric grinders fitted with granite grinding stone. My father got first hand feed back from my uncle Kudpi Vishwanath R Shenoy, proprietor of Om Mahal, and booked one. After a month or so, we got the first electric grinder for home, which also had a coconut scraper attachment and a tray at the top! So, my mother's job became easier while making dosas, idlis, curries , pickles and of course the mirsaange gooli' for making phodis.

In recent years, we have been adapting an easy method of mixing red chilli powder with asafotoeda and tamarind extract to prepare the marinade, roll the marinated vegetable slices in rice flour and deep fry them. Fritters made that way get soggy soon, lot of droppings fall into the oil while fryingm, making it get denatured fast and even taste is not as good as when you use freshly ground marinade. After I developed interest for traditional cooking, I have been always wanting to make phodis the traditional way. Yesterday I got an opportunity, when I made Phaagila(kantola) Phodi and Ghointa(Parval) Phodi for ganesha festival.

This is very easy to make, but you need some patience to get the right formula. Raw dosa rice is soaked in water for 2-3 hours, calculated amount of chillies, tamarind and salt are ground to a fairly smooth paste with it and that paste is applied to sliced Kantola or Parval, they are marinated for just 10-15 minutes and then deep fried in temperature controlled hot oil. I prefer to add a pinch of turmeric powder to the batter to make it more aromatic. Other veggies like cauliflower, potato, sweet potato, baby corn and rfaw plantain also can be used to make phodis this way. These phodis are spicy ones, compared the rather bland chickpea flour based bhajia, bajji or bajo. This batter can also be used for making awesome naked fried fish, prawns, squid, Mussels or similar seafood.

Phaagila(Kantola/Made Haagalakaayi or Teasel Gourd) - 4
Ghointa(Parval) - 4
Raw Dosa Rice - 1/4 Cup
Red Short Chillies(Ramnadu) - 2-3
Red Long Chillies(Byadgi) - 3-4
Tamarind - A tinyl pinch, or 1/2 tsp tamarind extract
Asafotoeda - A tiny pinch, or 1/2 Tsp asafotoeda powder
Turmeric Powder - 1/8 tsp
Rock Salt - 1/3 Tsp or table salt 1/74 Tsp
Oil - About 250 ml For deep frying
Wash, trim the ends and slice kantola and parval lengthwise, about 1/2 cm thick.
Wash and soak rice in water at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
Drain and grind along with chillies, tamarind, turmeric powder, salt and asafotoeda adding 1/4 cup water to a rather thick dosa batter consistency, but it should feel slightly coarse when you rub little paste on your finger tips.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan and allow it to start fuming, then reduce the flame to medium or sim.
Dip the sliced veggies one by one, apply the batter to cover and coat them as thinly as possible and drop 4-5 at a time in hot oil.
Allow to fry on one side for 2-3 minutes, flip them over and fry further for 2 minutes, or until they cease to release bubbles and become crisp.
Drain and serve hot with rice and daalithove or rasam.
Preferably fry all the kantola phodis first and then the parval phodis, since they both have different level of water content within.
A friend of mine Venugopal Prabhu from Vadodara suggests that you peel off the skin of parval, slice it and then marinate it if you don't want it to curl up while frying.
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