Friday, September 30, 2011

Exotic Cupcakes(2) - Chai Latte Cupcakes

Many Americans (including my own daughter) prefer cinnamon to cardamom in their dessert. I was thinking of some cinnamonny cupcake. In India, we use cinnamon mostly for savory recipes. I came across Betty Crocker's this recipe for Chai Latte Cupcakes. I thought, these cupcakes might just work since Americans are increasingly getting fond of Chai Latte. I made a slight change in the recipe where I added green tea. [I repeated the same trick for my Kahva cupcakes too, but more about them later!]

Verdict - I think among all the cupcakes that I baked for the event, Chai Latte Cupcakes were the most popular among the crowd.

Chai Latte Cupcakes - (24 count)
1 packet Betty Crocker French Vanilla or White cake mix
3 tbsp instant Chai Latte Mix [I used Pacific Chai brand]
2 Green tea sachets [I used Matcha brand from Costco]
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

1/2 tub Betty Crocker Cream cheese frosting

A generous pinch of cinnamon powder
A generous pinch of Chai Latte instant mix
1. Brew the green tea using 1 cup water per directions. I used 2 sachets of green tea. Let it cool down to room temperature.
2. Using electric blender, mix cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, chai latte mix and cooled green tea.
3. Preheat oven 350 F. Bake cupcakes per directions on the back of the cake mix.
4. Let them cool down completely before frosting.
5. Frost the cupcakes using cream cheese or vanilla frosting.
6. Sprinkle cinnamon powder and chai latte mix on top.
7. Enjoy!

Note -
1. Green tea mixture should be completely cooled off before adding to the cake mixture.
2. Do not frost the cupcakes unless they have completely cooled off.

A batch of Chai Latte cupcakes getting ready to be transported.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exotic Cupcakes(1) - Mango Cupcake

I got a unique opportunity to bake cupcakes for a local charity event recently. It had an international flavor. I had signed up for the dessert portion. I always like to know the taste range of the people I am cooking or baking. But here, there was no way of knowing it. I decided to go "American Desi" way. I wanted to make something with the best of both of my beloved countries - India & America. I decided to make cupcakes with a distinct Indian flavor. That's how these exotic cupcakes were created.

It might have been a small scale project for a professional baker, but for an amateur one like me, it was a daunting task. I baked the cupcakes in the morning. Let them cool down completely and frosted them at night. I then kept them in the covered container in the refrigerator. When my husband transported them successfully to the event, I heaved a sigh of relief.

The first one in this series was Mango Cupcake. I am hoping to share all of my creations on my blog soon.

Mango Cupcake - 24 cupcakes
1 packet Betty Crocker Yellow cake box
1 cup mango pulp (I used Ratna brand from Indian stores)
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

1/2 tub Betty Crocker Vanilla frosting
1 tbsp mango pulp


1. Preheat oven to 350 F as recommended on the back of the box.
2. Mix cake mix with mango pulp, oil and eggs. Using electric mixer, mix to make batter. Add spoonful of water at a time. You may need about 3 tbsp.
3. Grease the cupcake holders. Pour the cake batter.
4. Bake for about 16-18 minutes or as recommended on the back of the box.
5. Take the cupcakes out.
6. Let them cool down completely.
7. Mix ready made cake frosting with mango pulp. Frost using frosting/cake decorating gun.

Note -
1. Betty Crocker cake mix calls for 1 cup water. I substituted it for 1 cup mango pulp. Please note that since their consistencies are different, I had to use about 3 tbsp water. Use spoonful at a time to get the correct batter consistency.
2. Instead of using piping bag/decorating gun, you can use a ziploc bag and snip off a corner and frost the cupcake.
3. Instead of using mango pulp in the frosting, you could use just yellow food color drops if you do not want to have an overwhelming mango flavor.

A batch of Mango Cupcakes

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lunch at Ram Nayaks

Lunch at Ram Nayak's Udipi Shri Krishna-  undoubtedly the best GSB style vegetarian restaurant in Mumbai

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Serafina Sandwich

Gudiya wanted to stroll in and around Central Park. She has been reading "Pee Wee & Plush & Lexie" books. These are the critters who live in the Central Park. So we decided to go for a run/jog/stroll in the central park. Now, Central park is huge and we walked a lot. We were famished. So we went to "Serafina". Their sandwich seemed healthy after all it was a "Spa Sandwich".

I had to create my own version.

Serafina Spa Sandwich - My way! (Serves 4 or 2 very hungry people!)
2 kaiser rolls
Few arugula leaves
Few Boston Bib lettuce leaves
2 Fontina or Mozzarella cheese slices
2 Sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, sliced
Few pieces of Avocado
Italian salad dressing

1. Slit and stuff the ingredients one after the other. Add some salt and pepper if you like
2. Drizzle Italian Salad dressing
3. Cut into 2 halves.
4. Serve 4 people

1. You can use any other bread of your choice.
2. As a variation, you can spread some basil-garlic pesto on the bread slices.

Serafina, NYC

Central Park, NYC

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gawar - BhopLa (Cluster beans with red pumpkin)

While mom's gawar-batata (cluster beans & potato) always has onion in it, her gawar - bhopLa (cluster beans & red pumpkin) has peanut powder (daaNyache kooT) & sesame powder. It is generally made during "shraddha" - time to pay respects to the departed souls.

Gawar BhopLa
गवार भोपळा
Cluster beans with red pumpkin
2 cups cluster beans, cut/torn by hand into 2" pieces
1 cup red pumpkin chunks
salt to taste
2 tbsp unsalted, roasted peanut powder
1 tbsp roasted sesame powder
1 tsp jaggery
1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tbsp goda masala

1 tbsp freshly scraped coconut

1. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add tempering. Saute goda masala for 2minutes.
2. Now, add cluster beans and pumpkin. Saute and add 2 tbsp water.
3. Cover with a lid and pour water on the lid.
4. Let it cook on a medium flame.
5. Now, add salt, jaggery, peanut powder and sesame powder, chili powder.
6. Simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Garnish with coconut.

Note -
1. Butternut squash can be substituted instead of red pumpkin.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Snake Gourd plant

Hisssss! It's a snakegourd!!!:-D

"Who knew!" those were the first words that escaped my mouth when I saw those beautiful snakegourd flowers. I mean, that humble padwaL (and one of the veggies which tortured me all throughout my childhood!) could have such cute flowers, was just beyond me.

I emailed this picture of snakegourd flowers to my mom with a note - "Had you ever shown me that padwaL gets such pretty flowers, probably I would have eaten padwaLachi bhaaji without bothering you so much!!"
Mom replied - "Who knew!" :-D

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bitter Melon

There is a difference between Vietnamese/Chinese bitter melon and Indian bitter gourd. They even look different. Bitter melon is a lighter shade of green and its ridges are softer compared to its Indian counter part. and according to me, it bitterness is mild comparatively.

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Bittergourd Plant

These are the seeds that I dried in the winter, when I had made Karela-kanda nu shaak.

I planted them to get the freshest bitter gourds.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thai Eggplant -GooLa plant

Thai eggplants are known as gooLa in Konkani. The major difference between those that we find at the local farmers markets here and that are available in Mumbai is that here they are really small in size and they are too seedy. The ones that we use in Konkani cuisines are bigger, less seedy and fleshier. So this time, I grew my own Thai eggplant using the seeds that I found at Chinatown. I didn't pick the tiny green ones but let them grow a bit bigger.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

PokLyachi Bhaaji - Green Amaranth Stir Fry

I am sharing Kolhapuri style "PokLyachi Bhaaji" that I learnt from my friend. We call this vegetable "Hirwa MaaTh" in Mumbai but apparently the same leafy greens is known as PokLa in Kolhapur, which is green amaranth plant. My friend shares that they have a saying "PokLa karto poat mokLa" - to indicate its natural laxative property.

PokLyachi Bhaaji
पोकळ्याची भाजी
Green Amaranth Stir Fry
1 bunch hirwa maaTh/pokLa/green amaranth, cleaned, rinsed, roughly chopped
salt to taste

Pound coarsely
4 - 5 garlic cloves
3 - 4 green chilies
A pinch of salt

1 tbsp oil
Pounded chili-garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tbsp fresh coconut (optional)

1. Clean, rinse and chop green amaranth leaves.
2. Pound garlic and green chilies, adding a pinch of salt.
3. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add turmeric powder and pounded chili-garlic paste
4. Saute for 2 minutes.
5. Add chopped amaranth.
6. Sprinkle water as needed. Cover with a lid. Keep water on the lid.
7. Let it cook on a medium flame. Stir from time to time to make sure that it doesn't stick or burn.
8. When cooked, add salt as needed - remember a pinch of salt is added to chili-garlic paste. So adjust accordingly. Garnish with coconut -  if using.
9. Serve with chapati or bhakri along with Thecha.

Note -
1. If possible, use stone mortar and pestle for pounding green chilies and garlic.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Hirwa MaaTh/ green amaranth plant

Hirwa MaaTh or green amaranth is a leafy green vegetable from India. I recently came to know that it goes by the name "pokLa" in Kolhapur. I will certainly share a delicious "pokLyachi bhaaji" which I learnt from my friend from Kolhapur.

For more information about this plant -

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Tadgola Kulfi - Toddy Palm Ice cream

There are certain fruits that are available abundantly in Mumbai, which I miss tremendously here. I do not get tadgola(toddy palms), Jaam, Jambhul, seetafal - custard apple/chirimoya, Chickoo -sapota, Lychee, Mosambi - sweet lime, velachi kela. Sometimes, some of these are available in some ethnic stores here but I probably do not go on the right day because most of the times they appear over ripe or rotten.

TaDgoLa is what we call Toddy Palm in Marathi. I discovered that it's available in the cans at the Chinese Markets. I picked two containers, placed them in the fridge. We used one container for just eating as is and the other, I used for making kulfi. Remember that these canned ones are immersed in heavy sugar syrup so I soak them in water to get rid of that cloying sweetness.

TaDgoLa Kulfi
Toddy Palm Ice Cream
1 can Toddy Palms, drain heavy sugar syrup and soak in water

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Soak toddy palms in water for 1 hour. Drain and chop into small pieces. Keep some slices aside for garnish.
2. Mix condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream.
3. Stir in chopped toddy palm pieces.
4. Freeze in kulfi molds.
5. Cut into small circles and serve with some sliced pieces of toddy palms if desired.

Note -
1. Look for "Toddy" palm. There are also "Palm seeds" available in chinese markets which are much smaller in size comparatively.
2. Chop the toddy palms into small pieces else they may taste too icy.

TaDgoLe - Toddy Palms

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Check King Cake

I used to jump with joy when dad would bring this check king cake from Venus Bakery, Bandra.

I have been dreaming about baking this cake from a long time. I kept wondering how did the Venus guys manage to get 4 distinct squares. The cake never had a marble effect. Finally, last time when I was in India, I visited Venus and they had the last check king cake on the shelf. I grabbed it instantly and realized that they used icing to "glue" those 4 slabs.

Since Gudiya just loved this cake, I decided to bake it. I was happy to see the result. It did have a typical homey feel as I am not a baker. But I served it to Gudiya and exclaimed triumphantly - "From my childhood to yours....":-D

This is my interpretation -

Check King Cake
1 packet Betty Crocker Yellow or white Cake Mix
1 container of Betty Crocker vanilla icing

For Pink layer
2-3 drops of red food coloring
1 tbsp Nesquick Strawberry powder

For chocolate layer
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

For Green Layer
2-3 drops of green food coloring
2 -3 drops of pistachio extract (optional)

For Yellow Layer
2 -3 drops of yellow food coloring (Needed if you are using Betty Crocker's white cake mix)
2-3 drops of pineapple extract (optional)

1. Using oil, water and eggs as given on the back of the Betty Crocker cake mix, prepare the batter.
2. Divide the batter in four equal parts in four different containers.
3. Mix coloring, extract - if using, powder as given for each layer and prepare four batters.
4. Grease mini cake loaf pans. Pre-heat oven to 350 F
5. Prepare 4 separate cakes (Pink, Green, Chocolate and yellow). Bake per the directions.
6. Let the cakes cool down completely. Cut the top and side crusts to make the cake uniformly smooth from all sides. Now, cut it lengthwise to get 8 slabs (2 of each color)

7. Refrigerate for at least half an hour to make it firm. Crumble all the crusts that you have cut off and set aside.
8. Now, you have 2 rectangular pieces of yellow, green, pink and brown cakes each.  Now, spread icing on tops and sides of all eight slabs. Place pink slab next to green slab. Using icing as a glue, hold it together with pressure while taking care not to break it. Then, glue yellow and brown slab together with icing. Place yellow and brown slab on top of pink and green slab. Use icing on top and sides of the cake.

Below is the picture of my previous attempt of making this cake. I didn't cut the crusts properly and there wasn't enough icing between the slabs to hold them. I have shared this picture to give you an idea.
9. Use crust crumbs to cover the sides and tops of the cakes which has vanilla icing.
10. Refrigerate again for 1/2 hour.
11. Cut carefully into slices.
12. Enjoy!

Note -
1. You do not need the entire tub of ready made icing. I take out the necessary icing in a bowl and freeze the remaining in the tub.
2. If you have your own recipe for sponge cake and icing, you may use it to create this cake.

Venus Bakery
Near Mount Carmel Church
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400050

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tadka ma sukhaveli Guvar - Sun dried cluster beans

My cluster beans plant produced a very good harvest. After making the usual bhajis, upkaris and shaaks, I decided to make the sun-dried version. I remembered eating this in Gujarati restaurants in Mumbai. My MIL shared her version here.

We had a sweltering summer here. But making sun-dried items always remain a challenge for me. I always worry that just in case if it rains, then I won't even know as I would be in the office and all my sun dried items will need to be thrown away. So I checked the weather channel every morning before placing my cluster beans outside for drying. I was happy with the result.

Please note that these sun dried beans do have their unique, bitterish taste.

Tadka ma sukhaveli guvar
Sun dried Cluster Beans
20-25 cluster beans

1/2 cup plan yogurt (preferably sour)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafoetida
salt to taste
1/2 tsp ajwain/ajmo/owa/ajowan/carron seeds
1/2 tsp milk chili powder (optional)

1. Rinse cluster beans and dry them completely.
2. Mix yogurt mixture.
3. Dip few cluster beans in the yogurt mixture, at a time and spread on a steel tray with a good distance between each cluster beans.
4. Keep outside to dry in the sun for 2 days. Take inside home at night.
5. When the cluster beans seem completely dry, again make a new mixture of yogurt using the same proportions. Repeat steps 4 & 5.
6. The cluster beans should be totally dried. Their yogurt coating may come off in the end. Store in a dry, airtight container.
7. While serving, deep fry the cluster beans and serve immediately.

1. check the weather and make this delicacy. There should not be moisture in the air.
2. After frying these beans, serve immediately. If kept for a long time, they may not taste good.
3. They have a unique bitterish taste of cluster beans.
4. Before frying, make sure that the cluster beans are totally dry and there is no moisture left. Do not over crowd while frying. It tends to splutter while frying and gets fried quickly. So do not let it burn and take utmost care.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laal Vaal ni Daal

Daal made from these laal vaal of Valsad is simply called laal vaal ni daal. MIL makes a dry side dish with this daal. It is served, garnished with finely chopped red onion, finely cut green chilies and raw peanut oil. Add these garnishes just before serving. This recipe is similar to Surti Mag.

Laal Vaal ni Daal
1 cup laal vaal ni daal soaked for 2 hrs
salt to taste
1 tsp mild chili powder
1/2 tsp dhana jiru/coriander-cumin powder

2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chopped garlic

Garnish (optional)
1 tbsp minced onion
1 - 2 green chilies, minced
1 tsp Gujarati sambhaar/Pickle masala
1 tsp raw peanut oil

Suggested accompaniment

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the tempering ingredients. Fry till garlic is golden brown.
2. Add drained vaal daal along with 2 tbsp water and salt. Let it cook by partially covering it. add spoonful of water from time to time to avoid sticking.
3. Stir in the remaining ingredients after daal is cooked
4. Just before serving, add some garnish in the individual servings.

1. Do not forget to cover the pot partially when daal is cooking. We do not want a mush but each daal should retain its shape.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tindora-Paatra nu Shaak

Addition of paatra to the daily, ho-hum shaak certainly makes it droolworthy. Try this unusual combo once, and you will get my point.

Tindora - Paatra nu Shaak
Ivygourd Stir fry
2 cups sliced tondli/tendli/tindora/ivygourds
1 log premade/readymade paatra/aluvadi - chopped to bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp jaggery
2 tsp coriander-cumin powder/dhaana jiru
1/2 tsp mild chili powder
salt to taste

2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp ginger-green chili paste

1. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add the ingredients for tempering.
2. As they splutter, add sliced tindora. Saute for 5 minutes.
3. Add 1/4 cup water. Cover and let it cook.
4. Add jaggery, chili powder, coriander-cumin powder.
5. Add more water if it is too dry.
6. Now add paatra pieces and salt to taste.
7. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Note -
1. Though paatra has salt in it, the shaak will need some more salt.
2. This recipe can also be made with parwar

Some similar recipes -

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Paatoli For Ganapati Bappa

In the month of Shravan, you start getting fresh turmeric leaves in the markets of Mumbai. My grandmother generally made "PaatoLi" on the NagPanchmi day along with cheppi kheer. Since I didn't get a chance to make paatoli and my kitchen garden produced a wonderful harvest of fresh turmeric leaves, I decided to offer this as a Naivedya to Lord Ganapati.

PaatoLi -  count 7 
1 cup rice flour
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

For stuffing (called chun)
3/4 cup freshly scraped coconut
1/2 cup grated jaggery (use more or less per taste)
5 green cardamoms, peeled & crushed

1. Add coconut and jaggery to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute till the mixture is dryish. Add powdered cardamoms. Let it cool down completely.
2. Whisk rice flour, salt and water till there are no lumps.
3. Wash turmeric leaves and set aside.Pat them dry.
4. Heat water in a steamer/pressure cooker.
5. Place a turmeric leaf on a platform. Spread rice paste on the leaf.

6. Add coconut -jaggery mixture only on the half part of the leaf as below.

7.  Imagine the middle horizontal stem of the leaf for the symmetry. So one half of the leaf will have a rice paste topped with coconut-jaggery and the part will have just rice paste. Now fold the leaf with the rice paste over the coconut mixture.
8. Place in a steamer plate carefully.
9. Cover and cook for 21 minutes.
10. Serve hot patoLis.

Note -
1. I used Chinese bamboo steamer for steaming my patoLis.
2. I used Laxmi brand rice flour.
3 This is a vegan recipe. However, patolis are traditionally served with a dollopof ghee/toop/clarified butter.
4. Turmeric leaf is used as a flavorful wrapper. It is not meant to be eaten.
5. Pressure cooker can also be used. Do not use the pressure.
6. Depending on the size of the turmeric leaves, the count of patoli may change.

Ganapati Bappa Morya!

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