19 July 2014

Recipe for Instant Coconut Laddoo | Coconut Fudge - 3 Ingredients, 2 Minutes

My son is 5 and a half. While he's quite unfussy over food in general (KALA TEEKA!!), he's always running away from all Indian sweets. Sometimes, I manage to be creative and give posh names, like calling these cocoa burfis as chocolate fudge, and he may agree to taste one. The only Indian sweet he cares for is Jalebi, that I get for him once in a while from our local sweets and chaats place, which makes absolutely delicious Jalebis in ghee on weekends. Those are worth every calorie they come laden with. 

We have one kids' channel on TV and this week, I was watching the program Little Krishna with him. One of the ads that came in the commercial break had us both riveted to the screen. It was Nestle Milkmaid's new TVC for coconut laddoo. And my son, the Indian sweets hater, was suddenly all wide eyed, as he saw the lovely little story roll out in 30 seconds. He watched with great interest the mother and son make coconut laddoos and he said, "Mummy, I want to make those with you. Please get the ingredients." I told him that laddoos will be sweet and he may not like them. He was so enamoured by the ad that he insisted that he would love them. He reminded me every single day for the last 3-4 days and I finally got around to making them this afternoon. He even sneaked in his finger into the stream of condensed milk like the kid in the ad does. Talk about absorbing every little detail to the T!!

While the ad doesn't spell out the exact recipe, I have made these laddoos earlier. A friend once made this for Diwali and I had one little taste and I was hooked. It's the simplest sweet you can make for a festival. While I made this in the afternoon, my househelp, who's quite a good cook herself, looked on in wonder and declared that it was so easy that she was going to make it for Varalakshmi Pooja herself.

These laddoos are soft and gooey as soon as you make them, and totally fudgy when you refrigerate them. I love them both ways. For 3 ingredients and less than 5 minutes of your time, this is a brilliant recipe. Try it and you wont be disappointed. My son popped a couple of them into his mouth immediately and declared me the best mommy in the world (for the second time today). 

We are inching closer to India's first exclusive food bloggers' meet- IFBM 2014. Catch all the action on our blog, Facebook page and follow us on Twitter

Instant Coconut Laddoos

Instant Coconut Laddoo / Coconut Fudge
Makes 24 pieces
Time taken: Under 5 minutes

200 grams desiccated coconut*
1 tin condensed milk (400 gram, but you wont need all of it)
3-4 elaichis, seeds removed and coarsely powdered (optional)
2 tbsp milk powder
few drops of ghee 

In a non stick pan or heavy bottomed steel pan, on a low flame, toast the desiccated coconut for 1 minute until slightly aromatic. Remove 3 tablespoons of the coconut in a flat dish. To the remaining coconut in the pan, add the elaichi powder, milk powder and almost all the condensed milk, reserving 4-5 tbsp as you may not need all of it.
On a low flame, stir them all together. In 2-3 minutes, they will come together to a ball that doesnt stick to the sides.
Grease palm with a few drops of ghee. Divide fudge into 24 portions and roll each into a ball. Roll the ball in the plate with desiccated coconut. Do this for all 24 laddoos and then refrigerate them in an airtight container, but not before eating a couple of them while they are still warm and gooey.  
To impress the kids, you can place each laddoo in a colourful cupcake liner and may be add a few sprinkles over the top!

*In Hindi, this is called Nariyal ka burada. If you don't find it, use fresh coconut, or frozen coconut scrapings. Make sure they are unsweetened though.
I've tried it without milkpowder and it turns out just fine. You may reduce the condensed milk by another 2-3 tbsp, and add a little more if mixture is too dry.
With the leftover condensed milk, try my recipe for Vietnamese Iced Coffee, another addictive thing!!

15 July 2014

Quick lunchbox recipe: Pita pocket pizza sandwich

Lunchboxes need to be quick, healthy AND tasty, and something that will stay tasty 4 hours after you fill them up. Even though I am an early morning person, a number of chores miraculously line up for my mornings, no matter how well I try to organise them. I am on most days left with no more than 15 minutes allotted to prep-cook and pack the son’s lunch.

While making things from scratch is a done deal for most part, some cheats help in keeping things fun while being easy on parents. These mini pitas I picked up from Foodworld were just that. Cut them through the center and they make a nice pocket to fill up with whatever you fancy. The Splitz tomato paste is another such ingredient that leads to umpteen cheat meals – instant rasam, pasta sauce and in this case, a faux pizza sauce. Keeping a couple of veggies handy, that kids will never say no to, such as red bell pepper is another winner in my book. Also, I find the humble tava such a quick alternative to, preheating the oven, and while they do need a little monitoring on the tava, you can clean up on the side, so it’s not entirely a time killer.

Pita Pocket Pizza Sandwich
Makes 4 pieces
{lunchbox / sandwich recipes}

2 pitas, roughly 3” in diameter
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5-6 leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped or 2 fat pinches of dried basil, crushed
Ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp of diced red bell pepper or a mix of onion, bell pepper, zucchini
2 tbsp of pizza cheese, cut into strips or grated
1-2 tsp of ghee or butter to cook

Slice the pitas horizontally through the center to separate into two layers, but not through and through, so that they are still attached at one end.
In a small bowl, with a small spoon, mix the tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, finely minced fresh basil, black pepper and salt, until well combined.
In a pan, heat a few drops of olive oil and sauté the bell pepper for 1-2 minutes until just a little soft.
Gently spread the prepared tomato sauce inside both the cut open pita breads.
Divide the cheese strips between the two pockets, and divide the sautéed bell pepper on the top of the cheese equally.
Close the pockets by pressing down gently.
Heat a non stick pan or heavy bottomed pan. Spread a thin layer of ghee or butter.
Place the stuffed pitas on the hot pan and on medium heat let it turn golden brown on one side. Flip them around and let the other side turn a nice golden. By this time the cheese melts and holds on to the vegetables.
Slice into two semi-circles each-wrap tightly in cling wrap or foil and pack in a hot casserole lunch box so that the sandwiches are still warm at lunchtime.

You can prepare the same thing for an older kid’s lunchbox or an adult’s lunchbox, by adding more complex veggies like mushrooms, wilted spinach or marinated tofu, and adding some chilli flakes to the faux pizza sauce. A bean salad on the side would make it a heartier lunch. I would not recommend preparing this sauce with tomato puree as you need to cook it for quite some time to make it thicker, and a thinner sauce will make the sandwich soggy, and not suitable for a lunch box.

If you don’t find pita breads easily where you live, you can buy pizza bases, cut them through the center and use them similarly. One medium sized pizza base can be used instead of two pita bread rounds.

9 July 2014

Recipe for a healthy veggie burger

Who says veggie burgers aren't awesome? Once in a while I make veggie burgers for dinner-they are quick and easy to combine all the good stuff in one patty- easily accepted as fun food by adults and kids alike!

veggie burger, healthy burger, vegan burger

 Take this burger for example, the flavours from each of the six vegetables, tofu for extra protein, plus healthy binding agents like flaxseed and oats and the crunch from sesame seeds makes it quite a nutritious little burger. Place it in between a bun of choice with a couple of crisp lettuce leaves and some homemade mayo, along with your favourite sauce on the side, and it's the easiest quickest weeknight dinner. Not to mention, it sneaks in six vegetables! Make sure you keep a portion shaped and frozen for your kid's lunchbox the following morning :) As there is no flour used in the recipe, it is also conveniently gluten free and vegan!

If you don't believe me that veggie burgers are super-awesome, check out Buzzfeed's compilation of 26 of the best veggie burgers!

Check out the details of my forthcoming workshops in the sidebar on your right!

veggie burger, vegan burger
Veggie Burger

Healthy Veggie Burger
Makes 4-6, depending on the size
Time taken: Around 30 minutes

1 potato, boiled and peeled*
1 carrot
100 grams cauliflower
100 grams peas
1 medium onion
1 small capsicum / green bell pepper
100 grams tofu
3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tsp very finely grated ginger
1 tbsp flaxseed powder
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2-3 tbsp porridge oats
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp dried herbs of choice
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tbsp oil, divided

In a small pressure cooker, place the roughly chopped carrot, cauliflower and peas in a bowl. Place water in the cooker, not inside the bowl, and pressure cook for 3 whistles, until veggies are cooked. Open once cool enough to handle. Drain off any liquid and keep aside.
In a large bowl, grate the tofu. Add the potato, cooked veggies and mash with the back of a wooden spoon. 
Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Add the ginger, garlic, finely chopped onion and capsicum and saute until almost cooked and soft. Remove from flame. To this add all the mashed veggies-grated tofu, flaxseed powder, sesame seeds, cumin, pepper, herbs, salt.
Add enough oats to hold the mixture together. Make 5-6 round patties.
Heat 2 tsp oil in a non-stick pan or heavy bottomed, wide steel pan.
Place the burgers gently and allow to cook on medium flame until crispy and golden brown. Turn and cook similarly on the other side.
The mixture may not be suitable to place on a grill, but brushing oil on both sides, it may be okay with baking, place on a lined tray, and bake at 190°C for 10 minutes on each side.

*Quick way to boil a single potato is to slice it in half, place in a small microwavable container with a lid with a few spoons of water. Close lid (which will have a vent) and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. Cool for few minutes before peeling the potato.

I served the burger inside a pesto roll sliced midway, but use sliced bread or any burger buns you find, with some sliced tomato or lettuce, ketchup or mayo inside and enjoy it hot!

2 July 2014

How to make your own breakfast cereal | Recipe for homemade granola

The more I make resolves to blog regularly, the more irregular I become. The A-Z of Tambrahm cooking, didn't quite reach Z but I promise I'll work on it each time a recipe presents itself. If you're wondering what I've been up to, the answer is 'a few things'. 

I'm one of the four bloggers in the organizing team of the first all India Food Bloggers' Meet which we're holding in Bangalore on 1st and 2nd August, 2014. Did you spot the shiny green button added to the sidebar? We have a wonderful line up of speaker sessions and activities, not to mention the company of some of the best food bloggers in the country. Check out our blog, Facebook page and Twitter, even if you can't make it to the event, you can catch all the action and gossip on these platforms. I'll be giving a little talk on Social Media tailored for the Food Blogger in the event and sharing my secrets to make your blog a little more famous and get more bang for your blogging buck. So if you are a food blogger in India, stay in touch with the event on various social media platforms.

I've been writing a parenting column for Yowoto - on kids and food. If you get a chance to catch my previous columns there, I'd appreciate you sharing with me your feedback and I'd love to know what else you'd like to hear from me on children and nutrition.

The other little secret is I'll be one of the Bangalore food experts for Burrp.com - so you'll see more food stories, restaurant reviews from the mad food city that is Bangalore.

If you are in Chennai on 12 July, and you love salads, YOU MUST NOT miss this demo organized by Brown Tree store (and of course to come say hello). Be quick to register yourself as it is a free event, and hopefully the seats will fill up fast.

Coming to blog post: how to make homemade cereal or homemade granola

 I'm a true blue South Indian when it comes to my love for steaming hot breakfasts like upma, pongal, idlis or crispy dosais. Add to that my Mumbai-girl background and there is kaanda poha, sabudana khichdi, thaalipith and so on! But on lazy mornings when I'm in no mood to make a hot breakfast for one, or on hurried mornings, when every second counts, including kicking the (old) fridge shut after pulling out the milk, nothing beats cereal and milk. These days with the FIFA world cup running at the oddest possible times in India, it also makes the perfect midnight food to console a stomach ravaged by hunger pangs.

What's the difference between muesli and granola, you may wonder! For one, granola originated in the United States, while Muesli was created by physician and nutritionist, Bircher-Benner, in Switzerland. Given that muesli was created as a health food by a physician, it is fat free, sugar free and even salt free. It's a bunch of grains, fruit and nuts mixed together. The mix not cooked or baked before packaging. It's soaked in milk or yogurt and had as it is for breakfast. Now the American version, like all other American foods, it loves its fat and sugar (don't get me wrong, God bless America). Here, the grains, fruit and nuts are tossed in sweeteners and fat and baked until crisp, and of course this tastes delicious, but it's not exactly the healthiest breakfast for you.

Granola bars have quite become the in-thing in Indian metros these days, whether it is carrying your breakfast bar as you rush out for work, a post workout bite or a post school healthy munch for your kid. You do get some commercial brands but one look at the nutrition label will tell you that they are very high on sugar, fat and sodium, three things you want to eat judiciously if you are concerned about your health or your waist line. Most use liquid glucose, sugar syrup, soy lecithin and many other additives and preservatives too. Also, if you further analyse that nutritional label, in some of these bars, nearly half the calories come from fat, so it is hardly a balanced nutrition product. 

So how do you make a breakfast cereal mix at home, that aims to be as healthy as a muesli but tastes as good as a granola? Choose your favourite grains, whatever dried fruit you have on hand, some bran for extra fibre, nuts and seeds to provide the healthy fats, flavouring such as vanilla, cinnamon or ginger and good quality honey, mix together, press down in a baking tin and bake until set and crisp. You have a delicious yet healthy breakfast mix ready. When you prepare this at home, you can control the salt (I add just a pinch), you can use the best quality ingredients and just enough sweetening. Commercial brands need to add a LOT of sweetener otherwise it wont bind as a bar. When you make it at home, you can always store in a jar and crumble it in your bowl before adding the milk or yogurt. 

This is also a fun snack to munch on as it is, for kids, when they come back from school. Mix in some fresh fruit and you have a healthy source of calories for a tired kid. Check the table below on what to add to your cereal mix. Feel free to play around with your favourite ingredients and make your own flavour of the week :)
I'm often asked this question, how to make granola if I don't have an oven. The logical answer would be to dry roast all the grains, nuts and seeds until crisp. Warm up the honey mixed with the flavourings, toss all the ingredients in this and allow to set in a wide tray. Once cooled, crumble and store in airtight container.

Homemade Healthy Granola / Breakfast Cereal
Makes 12 servings or so

2 cups puffed rice or wheat
1/2 cup steel cut oats (omit if you don't have)
1 cup rolled oats (porridge oats, any brand)
3 tbsp whole flaxseeds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup peanuts 
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
1/2 cup chocochips or chopped bar of chocolate
1 cup chopped cranberries or raisins or any other dried fruit
1/2 cup good quality honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
pinch of salt
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil

Line a 9" square baking tray with baking paper. Lightly grease with fingertips dipped in ghee/oil and keep aside.
Preheat the oven at 150°C for 10 minutes.
Place the grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocochips in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, slightly warm the honey with the salt, vanilla and cinnamon, until it is a little runny and whisk well till all the flavourings are mixed into the honey.
Wait for the honey to cool a little. Add it to the big bowl of ingredients and toss until well combined along with the ghee or oil.
Tip this into the lined tray, press well into all the corners with your fingertips. Smoothen the top with the back of a bowl or glass.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake at 150°C for 45 minutes or so. Make sure the top doesn't burn.
Once cooled, break into chunks and store in airtight container.
If you want to make clean bars out of this, add 1/3 cup of melted jaggery or 1/4 cup golden syrup to the honey, and warm them together. It makes it a tad too sweet though, so you may want to stick to the original proportions.

This should stay for a week or so in an airtight jar.

To serve: Crumble 1/2 -3/4 cup of granola in a bowl. Add cold milk or yogurt and eat immediately. You can add chopped seasonal fresh fruit to this if you wish.


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