Saturday, December 26, 2015

Coorgi Masala Powder by Munjandira Appaiah Venu

Some people have asked me about instant Coorgi Masala Powder. I tried to find it in many stores, but never found good one. I was told, it is available in bulk in Madikeri made by the locals, but we don't use it regularly. Making it in small quantity calls for same amount of efforts as making it in considerably larger quantity. Like the Kundapur Masala Powder, I thought of presenting a recipe to make Coorgi masala Powder that may last for 5-10 uses.

This dark aromatic spicy masala powder is the secret behind excellent Coorgi dry dishes prepared with Pork, Mutton or Chicken. Pandi Curry, the world famous Coorgi dish can not be made without this masala powder, Kachampuli or Coorgi dark vinegar extracted from Kodampuli or Garcinia fruit, and the green chutney. You can make this powder following the given recipe, to cook 5 kilo pork, 7 kilo mutton or 10 kilo chicken.

This is commercially not available easily, unless you have some source in Madikeri or such places in Coorg. Kodavas traditionally make this by roasting coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns and mustard seeds in calculated proportion until the seeds get a dark brown colour. Then they pound the roasted ingredients in a wooden mortar with wooden staff or pestle, store the powder in an air tight jar for year long use.

I got the authentic recipe from my Coorgi friend Munjandira Appaiah Venu who also taught me how to make excellent Pandi Curry. He is kind enough to give us Kachampuli, the vital sour agent that adds to taste and flavour of Coorgi preparations. Why not try making this masala powder at home? It is very simple and easy.
Coriander Seeds - 7 Tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 2 Tbsp
Mustard Seeds - 2 Tbsp
Black Peppercorns - 3 Tbsp

Dry roast the ingredients in a nonstick shallow pan or a thick bottom kadai on medium flame until the mustard seeds splutter, cumin seeds crackle and light coloured ingredients turn into dark brown colour.
Keep tossing the seeds continuously to avoid them getting charred.
Once dark roasted, allow to cool down completely.
Grind into as fine a powder as possible in the mill.
Allow to cool again.
Store in an airtight jar, preferably keep in a fridge.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Fruit Cake(Rich Plum Cake)

"Wish You All Merry Christmas and Happy New Year"
In the Sixties, I grew up in the cosmopolitan surrounding of Ballal Bagh Mangaluru, where we had friends from all communities meeting and playing together. However, at home, we had restrictions, were discouraged by our parents about walking into any Christian friend's home during Christmas, giving reasons that it is not good manners to attend Christmas parties uninvited. Yes. We never used to be invited by our Christian friends for Christmas because we were vegetarians and were living in a house owned by the Dharmasthala Heggades!

However I used to buy basic sponge cup cakes at a Christian's shop near our home whenever I felt like eating cake. That was made by Vas Bakery and was ultimate according to my experience. Later on, we moved to our own house and then slowly some Christian friends started to invite me for Christmas and offer cake, kuswar and juice. I used to wonder what that brown slice of cake was made of. It had French Polish like aroma and bits of dry fruits and nuts within. I was very fond of Christmas Fruit Cake, which they simply called as 'Christmas Cake'. That was light brown in colour and not very rich. Some of the best cakes were made by M D'Souza And Sons, Vas Bakery, City Bakery, Famous Bakery, Ganesh Bakery and Pinto Bakery.

In the Eighties, I moved to Bengaluru when I was working for a Bank. Then my brother Kamalakanth used to get Rich Plum Cake from Nilgiri's on Brigade Road. I too was regularly buying that whenever I went that side on weekends. Rich Plum Cake at Nilgiri's has loads of prunes, dry fruits and nuts within and is very moist and heavy. The name Rich Plum Cake suits Nilgiri's cake well. They still make awesome cakes, and Nilgiri's is undoubtedly my most favourite hangout for cakes and bakes. VB Bakery in South Bengaluru also has very good cakes and pastries.

Meanwhile in Mangaluru, as the city expanded geographically and people from all parts of India settled down for education and job, bakers came of age and started making exotic cakes. Moti Mahal and Manjarun started making birthday cakes and a variety of other cakes to order and also opened sales counters. We have seen many small and big bakers invading Mangaluru with exotic cakes. Hassan Iyengar Bakery opened on KS Rao Road sometime in the late Eighties and they had very good cakes. Focam Bakery and Bon Bon started supplying cakes to local Bakery outlets and their products are also good. Then we had Nilgiri's in Balmatta which closed down few years ago and now there is a big departmental store with bakery run by Mohtisham Group in Empire Mall under franchise from Nilgiri's. Crumbz by Food Pearls and Bon Bon's own outlet sell very good cakes. Every shopping mall has good bakeries within. Just Bake has outlets in prime locations and Cochin Bakery has many branches too. Monginis' Smokie and many more in the list. Dinoo's is one of the best bakers in Mangaluru making perfect cakes. Getting good cakes today in Mangaluru is not at all a problem when every major street has more than one good bakery!
Yet, making cakes at home has its own beauty. Taste of home made cake is anytime better because we add pure ingredients and avoid adding margarine. Margarine is bad for health, as it is made from refined vegetable oils with hydrogenation process. Using pure butter or ghee, we can make healthier and more aromatic cakes at home. Besides, when we share the cake with nears and dears, their happy faces and gratification speak volumes! Cake classes are run by youngsters and the middle aged, Shashi Shetty a veteran culinary expert used to run such classes in the Eighties in Kantharaj Shetty Lane Mannagudda, as far as I remember. Meena has attended baking classes by Mariam Mohiudeen and Meena bakes many cakes as a pastime. However, she hadn't ventured into making Christmas Fruit Cake or Rich Plum Cake any time. I decided to make it this time, as my zeal for baking is increasing day by day!

I must confess that am just a toddler in baking cakes, having baked very few cakes over the last month or two. I have an idea about rich plum cake, the ingredients and the method by reading recipes on books and magazines, but I wanted a demo of how to make it perfectly. So I browsed through online recipes, and found Joy Of Baking the best website with perfect recipes. Meena also follows Joy of Baking mostly and her cakes have been quite outstanding. The recipe I followed is this, but I made few changes here and there. Soaking dry fruits in alcohol for at least 2 days gives the cake a better taste and flavour than just pouring it into the cake batter. Adding spice powders like cinnamon, dry ginger and nutmeg enhance the flavour and give the cake a spicy touch. Adding fruit crush like the one I have added, enhances the taste and adds a fruity flavour. I avoided adding lemon zest and orange zest, but I added caramel, which is readily available. I also added dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar. Thus the colour of the cake became as dark as the Rich Plum Cake made by Nilgiri's. Dry fruits used are mostly sourced from local stores like Nilgiri's and Phalguni's, but we procured almonds and walnuts freshly from Kashmir, through Kashmir Box. They have very good Kashmiri dry fruits and nuts at reasonable prices. I baked these cakes with double the quantity of ingredients mentioned and the total weight was over 4 Kilos.

Whenever he visits home from Barbados, my brother Radhakanth brings me 'Barbados Great Cake by A Mill Yard', one of the best in the world. It is made from finest Mount Gay Rum. To make cake as fine as that one, we need to spend a fortune over finest rum and soak raisins for at least one year in rum! I have never fancied spending huge money on alcohol for making cakes! I deem our local brand Khodays good enough for making rum based cakes. You can also use any other alcohol like brandy or sherry, but Khodays rum is inexpensive and has its own unique aroma good enough for making this awesome soft, moist, rich Christmas Fruit Cake.
Unsalted Butter - 200 Gm
Dark brown sugar - 200 Gm
Eggs - 3
Alcohol (Grand Marnier, brandy, sherry, rum, etc.) - 90 Ml
Caramel(Or caramalise 2 Tbsp sugar with little water) - 1/4 Cup
Orange Juice - 1/2 Cup
Almonds, Walnuts, Cashew Nuts, Pecans, or Hazelnuts - 100 Gm coarsely chopped
Assortment of dried and candied fruit (Apricots, Figs, Prunes, Raisins, Sultanas, Dates, Black Currants, dried Cranberries, dried Cherries, mixed Candied peel and/or cherries) - 1 Kg deseeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
Mixed Berries Crush(Strawberries, Blue Berries, Black Berries) - 1/4 Cup
Refined Flour(Maida) - 2 Cups
Finely Ground Almonds(optional) - 3/4 Cup
Baking Powder - 1 Tsp
Salt - 1/2 Tsp
Grated Nutmeg - 1/4 Tsp
Cinnamon Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Dry Ginger Powder - 1/2 Tsp

Be sure that you use all the ingredients at room temperature.
Mix in 45 Ml alcohol(I used rum) with the chopped dry fruits and candied peel in an air tight jar and allow to soak for at least 2 days at room temperature.
You may soak the fruits in alcohol for upto one year, but keep adding alcohol once in two weeks.
Preheat oven to 160° C.
Grease an 8" nonstick square or round baking pan. 
Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. 
Also preferably line the sides of the pan with a strip of parchment paper that extends about 2 inches (5 cm) above the rim of the pan.
Add 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and mix into the alcohol soaked dry fruits.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, grated nutmeg, cinnamon powder, dry ginger powder, salt, and baking powder.
Beat the butter until creamy with a hand mixer in a wide bowl. 
Add the brown sugar, caramel and beat until light and fluffy. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl as needed. 
Add another 30 Ml alcohol(I used rum), orange juice and blend well. 
Fold in the chopped nuts and berries crush.
Next fold in all the dried and candied fruits. 
Then fold in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and, if desired, decorate the top of the cake with blanched almonds. 
Cover the pan with aluminum foil if you want the cake not to get too browned on top.
Place the pan inside the preheated oven and bake for 30 mins.
Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 30 mins.
Insert a bamboo skewer into the center of the cake.
If it comes out clean with few moist crumbs sticking to it, your cake is ready.
If the cake is still wet, reduce the oven temperature to 150° C and continue to bake for further 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. 
Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. 
Then, with a skewer, poke holes in the top surface of the cake and brush with remaining alcohol (brandy, Grand Marnier, sherry, rum or whiskey).
Slice and serve with choice of juice or hot beverage.
Serves about 16 people.
Preserving the Cake: 
Wrap the cake thoroughly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place in a cake tin or plastic bag. 
Store in a cool dry place or store the cake in the refrigerator.
Brush the cake periodically (once or twice a week for about two to three weeks) with alcohol. 
This cake will keep several weeks or it can be frozen.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dum Ka Rote (Ash Gourd Semolina Cake)

I had presented the wonderful sweet dish famous in Bengaluru called 'Dumrote Halwa' couple of years ago. Dumrote is based on Dum Ka Rote, a kind of semolina cake mostly baked by the Muslims of Hyderabad but we also find it in Tamil Nadu. I think these delicious cakes made by Muslims is basically from Persian origin and the Sindhis of Karachi have brought it to Hyderabad.

Dumrote Halwa is cooked traditionally on dum, that is slow heat in a closed vessel. I have seen original Dumrote at Balepet Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan and also at Venkateshwara Sweet Meat Stall having golden brown crust on them. Last time when I made the halwa, I made it in a kadai just like we make Sheera or Kashi Halwa. I had a vague idea then to bake dumrote in the oven like a cake. Dum Ka Rote is almost like a cake with a crusty outer and soft inner as per few recipes I glanced. It is made with semolina, milk, ghee and sugar adding flavours and dry fruits. I thought of making it with added ash gourd.

Just when I was thinking about that, my friend Dr. Sai Giridhar Kamath, a leading ophthalmologist in Mangaluru sent me message, asking if I want ash gourd grown in his garden. He said, today is Manjeshwar Shashti, a festival during which majority of GSBs cook ash gourd at home. Though I don't follow that festival, now is holiday season, and baking a cake with ash gourd should be a fine example for all. So, I didn't hesitate to say yes! 

He brought an ash gourd weighing just above 2 Kilos, which is suitable for my recipe. Then I had to think about how to bake it. Halwa is normally a very moist and sticky sweet dish whereas cake should have a moist but fluffy and grainy texture. Using the right amount of solids and liquids, adding right amount of leavening and shortening agents make a cake perfect. Apart from that, one needs guts to experiment with a cake that has expensive ingredients going in. I had that courage and self confidence. So I formulated the recipe according to the following scientific explanations.

1. I increased the amount of semolina and also used chiroti rava, which is superfine Bombay rava.
2. I didn't roast the semolina but just coated it with ghee, so that each grain swells up slowly as liquids heat up and get absorbed by the grains.
3. I chopped the raisins so that they mix well in the batter. I roasted the cashew nuts in ghee so that they remain firm.
4. Adding one cup of milk and avoiding adding water ensures homogeneous mixing of khova with the wet ingredients.
5. I covered the baking tin with aluminum foil for half the time, so that the upper crust of the cake remains golden and does not get burnt. This is a vital step in baking any crusty dishes.
6. I added calculated amount of salt, baking powder and baking soda to make the cake taste better and become fluffy.

So once I decided to make the cake, I didn't waste any time. Ash gourd was fresh, all other ingredients were in stock and most of all, the electricity department MESCOM was kind to me by not shutting down power! The end result can be seen in the pictures, but those who tasted the cake have given a Hi Five. What more can I expect than seeing happy faces! You too can make your family and friends happy this Christmas by baking this delicious moist fluffy Dum Ka Rote Ash Gourd Semolina Cake.
Ash Gourd(Well grown one) - 2 Kg
Chiroti Rava(Semolina) - 2 1/2 cups
Salt - 1/4 Tsp
Baking Powder - 3/4 Tsp
Baking Soda - 1 1/2 Tsp
Ghee - 180 Ml
Sugar - 2 cups(Reduce or increase according to taste)
Khova - 200 Gms crumbled(Or Condensed Milk 100 Ml)
Milk - 1 Cup
Cashew bits - 25 Gms
Raisins - 25 Gms chopped
Green Cardamom - 6-8 pods, peeled and seeds crushed
Edible Camphor(Pachcha Karpooram) crystals - A pinch
Orange Red Food colour - A pinch dissolved in little warm water

Saffron(Optional if you are not using food colour and camphor) - A pinch dissolved in little warm milk

Wash peel and cut ash gourd into thick wedges.
Grate them and collect the grated ash gourd in a bowl.
Using a juice strainer, squeeze out the juice from the grated ash gourd and collect the juice separately.
You should get 3 cups of the grated ash gourd and little more of the juice.
Heat 3-4 Tbsp of ghee in a nonstick pan.
Fry the cashew bits, drain and keep aside.
To the same ghee add grated ash gourd on high flame, mixing continuously, so that it doesn't get burnt.
Keep stirring for about 10 mins when the mass gets partly cooked, changes colour and ghee starts leaving the sides.
Now add the collected ash gourd juice and keep mixing.
Stir fry on high flame for another 10 mins when the mass gets mushy and semi dry.
Allow to cool and then mix in milk and crumbled khova.
Add chopped raisins, nuts, camphor and cardamom powder.
Mix well.
Preheat oven to 225° C for 10 minutes.
Grease a 12" x 8" baking tin and keep ready.
Mix semolina with salt, baking powder and baking soda.
Add remaining ghee and mix well to coat the semolina.
Now fold in semolina and sugar into cooked ash gourd milk and khova mix.
Add food colour or optional saffron in milk and mix gently.
Pour the mixture into greased baking tin.
Bake at 225° C for 10 minutes and then at 180° C for another 30-35 minutes, or until edges turn brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool on the rack for about 1 hour.
Once cool, slice into pieces and store in an air tight cake box.
All measures are in standard cup of volume 200Ml.
If you add condensed milk instead of Khova, reduce the quantity of sugar.
You can also make this cake by replacing ash gourd with cucumber.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Karela Chips(Bitter Gourd Chips)

There's a saying in Tulu, "Kanchala itthunda enchala unoli" which means if you have bitter gourd, you can dine well.

Yes. Haagalakaayi/Karaate/Kanchala/Karela or Bitter Gourd is an exotic oriental vegetable that adds taste to your dinner with its bitterness. Since you can't just eat bitter stuff as it is, you need to dress it up with some spices and taste makers. Best ingredients that neutralise the bitterness within this vegetable are salt, tamarind and jaggery. However, when you plan to make a deep fried fritter with this, you have to skip adding jaggery, but you can add little sugar. So just load it with salt and tamarind and don't worry about your health. Bitter gourd has goodness within its bitterness to sublimate any possible variations in your health.

These Karela Chips are popular in Mangaluru, especially at feasts following religious rites. Some of the rituals are not complete without Karela Chips. Now a days you get them readily packed at many local Bakeries. Caterers, especially Kusum Caterers in Mangaluru make them perfectly, and you may get them at their outlet in Lower Car Street, but home made ones always have a special taste and purity. You can make these when bitter gourd is cheap especially during monsoons and store them for days. They taste very good with rice congi or rice and curd. They turn out so crisp and crunchy, you may even like to relish them as its is!
Karela(Bitter Gourd) - 250 Gms
Red Chilli Powder - 4 Tsp
Turmeric Powder(Optional) - 1/4 Tsp
Salt - 1 Tsp(Adjust according to taste)
Tamarind - Chickpea size ball soaked in little water(Or 1 Tsp pulp)
Asafotoeda - A generous pinch dissolved in little water(Or 1/2 Tsp powder)
Sugar - 1 Tsp
Rice Flour - 2 Tbsp
Corn Flour - 1 Tbsp
Oil - For deep frying + 1 Tsp

Wash and cut bitter gourd into very thin round slices.
Apply tamarind extract and salt.
Marinate the bitter gourd slices for 24 hours in the fridge.
Make a thick paste of idli batter consistency with chilli powder, turmeric powder, asafotoeda, sugar, 1 tsp oil, rice flour and corn flour, adding water little by little.
Apply this paste well over the bitter gourd slices and keep them marinated for further 30 mins.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan and maintain medium low temperature.
Drop the masala batter coated bitter gourd slices into the medium hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes on both sides.
Drain and allow to cool down completely.
Fry as many batches as you can, but isolate them on a platter for easy identification and second frying.
Fry them a second time for 3-5 minutes or until crisp and brown.
Drain and transfer to a colander lines with absorbent paper.
Once cool, store in an airtight container and serve as and when you need them.
Best preserved in a fridge after 2 days.
The oil used for frying the chips can be saved and same oil can be used for frying kantola fritters or even for re frying karela chips when you want them crisp and hot.
Just take as many chips as you want from the fridge, heat oil and fry them for 2 minutes on medium low heat.


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