Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram| Healthy Finger Millet Snack

I’m sure all of us are aware of the many health benefits contained in ragi aka finger millet. I myself have waxed eloquent on this subject several times over, on this blog. Rich in fibre, iron and calcium, among other nutrients, low in calories and easily digestible, ragi is an excellent food for weight-watchers, healthy eaters and diabetics, as well as babies, toddlers and growing children. Today, I present to you the recipe for a delicious, healthy snack made using ragi – Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

Roasted ragi porridge was the very first food we fed the bub, when she was ready to take solids. She still eats the porridge for breakfast every once in a while. I, however, didn’t grow up consuming ragi, and was not very fond of it per se, to be honest. Life in Bangalore and parenting acquainted me with the many delicious things that can be made using ragi, and I am now quite in love with some of the dishes we use it in at home often. This Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram, for instance.

With the sour buttermilk, curry leaves and green chillies that go into them, these Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram are supremely delicious. They are quite easy to make too, and make for just the perfect snack when you are looking for something healthy but delish and filling.

This dish can be easily be made gluten-free too, if you only skip the asafoetida used in the tempering.

Check out the recipe for the Instant Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram!

Ingredients (makes about 28 pieces):

  1. 2 cups ragi (finger millet) flour
  2. 4 tablespoons rice flour
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 cup sour curd
  5. 2-4 green chillies
  6. A handful of curry leaves
  7. About 2 teaspoons Eno Fruit Salt
  8. 1 teaspoon oil + more as needed to make the paniyaram
  9. 2 pinches asafoetida
  10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Method:

1. Take the ragi flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in the rice flour, salt to taste and sour curd.

2. Chop the green chillies into large pieces and add to the mixing bowl.

3. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them to the mixing bowl too.

4. Heat the oil in a small pan, and add in the mustard. Let it sputter. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. Add this tempering to the mixing bowl.

5. Mix the contents of the bowl well to a thick batter, similar to idli batter. You may add a bit of water while mixing. Ensure that there are no lumps in the batter.

6. Heat up a paniyaram pan on high flame, and add some oil in each of the cavities.

7. You will be making the paniyaram in four batches or so. Take the batter for the first batch in a separate bowl, and add in about 1/2 teaspoon Eno. Mix well. Pour the batter into the greased cavities of the paniyaram pan, till about 3/4. Cook covered on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until they fluff up into balls and are well done on the bottom. Then, use a fork to turn the balls over. Drizzle a little oil around the balls and cook, covered, till they are done on the other side too – about 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked paniyaram to a serving plate.

8. Make paniyaram using the rest of the batter in the same way, in three more batches. Serve hot, with chutney of your choice.

Notes:

1. I have used store-bought ragi flour here.

2. For best results, use curd that is quite sour.

3. Add just enough water to make a thick batter. Too much water will make a runny batter, resulting in imperfect paniyaram.

4. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt in each batch of the batter, just before it goes into the paniyaram pan. This is critical. Adding all the Eno at one go will not yield fluffy paniyaram.

5. Use 2 fresh packets of Eno Fruit Salt, for best results. Do not use old packets.

6. Use regular, unflavoured Eno Fruit Salt.

7. Baking soda can be used in place of the Eno too. I have not tried it out yet, though.

8. Finely chopped onions and other veggies can be added to the paniyaram too. I haven’t.

9. I prefer cooking the paniyaram covered, so they are done evenly and are crisp on the outside.

10. I use ordinary refined oil in these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

11. I have a small pan that makes 7 paniyaram at a time. So I have divided the batter into four parts, cooking one batch at a time. If you have a larger pan, you can reduce the number of batches you cook the paniyaram in. Adjust the quantity of Eno you use accordingly, in that case.

12. A simple coconut chutney goes beautifully with these Ragi Kuzhi Paniyaram.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop that I am part of. Every Monday, a group of us food bloggers get together to present recipes based on a pre-determined theme.

The theme this week is #RagiTales, suggested by Poonam of Annapurna. Poonam’s blog is something you must check out, for her very well-explained recipes from around the world. For the theme, we are all showcasing dishes made using the very versatile ragi aka finger millet.

I’m also sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #279. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas & Spoons and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Phool Makhana Namkeen| Roasted Foxnuts Recipe

The seeds of the lotus plant – called Foxnuts or Gorgon Nuts – were always quite commonly used in North Indian households. Called Phool Makhana or simply Makhana in Hindi, the seeds are typically used to make Makhane Ki Sabzi (a gravy-based curry), Makhane Ki Kheer (a sweet dish), Makhane Ka Rayta (a yogurt-based dish), or Phool Makhana Namkeen (roasted and salted foxnuts). Considering that they are a ‘seed’ and not a ‘grain’ per se, they are extensively consumed in North India during fasts, too. Today, with the growing awareness about the numerous health benefits of foxnuts, they have begun to be considered as a ‘superfood’, with people the world over beginning to use them in various forms.

Makhana or foxnuts are low in calories, fat and sodium, but rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and calcium. This makes them a great snacking option for those in-between-meals hunger pangs. Moreover, they are low in glycemic index (GI) and gluten-free, due to which they are just right for diabetics and weight-watchers. The high potassium and magnesium content in foxnuts helps regulate blood pressure, regulate kidney functions, and control heart diseases. They are rich in a flavonoid called kaempferol too, which has a positive effect on inflammation and also slows down the process of ageing. Foxnuts grow organically, without the need for any pesticide or fertiliser, and hence perfectly safe for consumption.

Makhana was something I would only ever occasionally pick up while grocery shopping, before the bub happened. Then, one fine day, the bub tried some roasted makhana and the world changed for us. It instantly became one of her favourite foods, and stays so till date. And, then, makhana began to inevitably wrangle its way into our shopping bags regularly. πŸ™‚ I must say I haven’t experimented with the seeds much – I use them only to make a simple roasted namkeen, the way the bub likes it. This Phool Makhana Namkeen or Roasted Foxnuts Recipe is what I am about to present to you today.

Let’s now check out the Roasted Foxnuts Recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 3 cups foxnuts or makhana
  2. 1 tablespoon ghee
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Method:

  1. Heat ghee in a pan.
  2. Lower flame to medium and add in the foxnuts. Roast on medium flame till the foxnuts get crisp, 6-7 minutes. You must stir intermittently, to avoid burning. The foxnuts are done when you press one between two fingers and it does not crumble.
  3. At this stage, turn flame to low. Add salt to taste and the turmeric powder to the pan. Mix well for about a minute, ensuring that all the foxnuts are evenly coated with the salt and turmeric powder. Avoid burning. Switch off gas.
  4. This Phool Makhana Namkeen can be served hot, immediately. If you plan to store it for later use, allow it to cool down completely before transferring to a clean, dry, air-tight container.

Notes:

  1. You can use oil, butter or ghee to make this Phool Makhana Namkeen. I prefer using ghee.
  2. You can add other ingredients like red chilli powder, amchoor powder, garam masala and/or chaat masala to the Phool Makhana Namkeen. There are other flavour combinations that you can explore too – garlic, tomato, onion, peri peri and the likes. I prefer keeping it really simple, as the bub likes it this way.
  3. The Phool Makhana Namkeen stays well for up to 10 days when stored at room temperature, in a clean, dry, air-tight box.
  4. You can mix the salt and turmeric powder in a little oil and then add it to the pan, to ensure even spreading. I usually don’t do that, and add them in directly.
  5. For the best Phool Makhana Namkeen, roast the foxnuts on a medium flame to avoid burning, stirring intermittently . Add in the salt and turmeric powder after turning the flame down to low.
  6. You may use more ghee if you so prefer.

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A to Z Recipe Challenge

This post is for the A-Z Recipe Challenge. Every alternate month, the participants cook with an ingredient beginning with a particular letter of the English alphabet. This month, we are cooking for the letter F. I chose ‘foxnuts’ aka makhana or phool makhana as my star ingredient for the theme.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #265. The co-hosts this week are Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding| Steamed Fruit Cake

It’s almost Christmas! I absolutely have to share this Christmas-sy recipe with you – one for an Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding!

Bangalore is extremely beautiful right now. There’s a nip in the air, the weather just gorgeous, the diffused light perfect for photographs. Big Christmas trees, Santa Claus cut-outs, reindeer, red and green bobbles, lanterns, silver snowflakes and golden stars are everywhere. Plum cakes and other Christmas treats have started making an appearance in the bakeries of the city. There are Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and Christmas-special menus galore. Little and big shops, homes, and shopping malls (and food bloggers too!) are getting ready to usher in Christmas.

Our humble little Christmas tree is all set up, but we are yet to decorate it. That will be an afternoon project for the bub and me, one of these days. Did I tell you that the bub’s year-end holidays have started? She is already running amok in the house, wreaking havoc. πŸ˜› This Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding was prepared with her in tow, over the weekend, to keep her from getting into too much trouble. πŸ˜€ Well, I can’t say the pudding served its intended purpose, but I did have loads of fun making it! Also, it did turn out absolutely delicious, a sweet treat just perfect for the holiday season! You can make a sauce to go with this pudding if you want, but you don’t really need one – just dust it with powdered sugar, and it turns into one stunner of a looker!

What do I say about this pudding? The name says it all. It is an eggless dessert, a steamed one made in a pressure cooker. It contains loads of fruit and nuts, cinnamon and cloves, like a Christmas fruit cake. Texture-wise, this is less dense than a fruit cake, a bit softer. Taste-wise, this is an almost-fruit cake.

If you are looking for something different, yet awesome to make for the Christmas season, do try this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding out. The process is a bit time-consuming, but I wouldn’t call it laborious. Put the pudding in the cooker to steam, turn the flame to low, and you don’t need to hover around the stove-top. Not really. The end result is totally, totally worth it, I can assure you of that.

Now, without further ado, let’s check out the recipe for this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Lite Bite

Ingredients (makes 1 medium-sized pudding, serves 8-10):

  1. 2-1/2 cups of mixed fruits and nuts
  2. Juice of 2 oranges
  3. 1-1/4 cup demerera sugar
  4. 1 cup maida
  5. 1 cup bread crumbs
  6. 4 cloves
  7. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon
  8. A small piece of nutmeg
  9. A pinch of salt
  10. 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  12. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  13. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  14. A little butter, to grease the pudding mould

Method:

1. Chop all the nuts (like cashews, almonds) you are using into small bits. Similarly, chop the candied fruit (like oranges, ginger, kiwi, pineapple) into small pieces. If you are using fresh apples, grate them medium-fine. Take all the prepared fruit and nuts in a bowl.

2. Squeeze the juice out of the 2 oranges. Pour this over the prepared fruit and nuts in the bowl. Cover and let the fruit and nuts soak for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

3. Pound the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg using a mortar and pestle. Powder them together in a small mixer. Keep aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, place the maida, bread crumbs, salt, the cinnamon-cloves-nutmeg powder, the baking powder and baking soda. Mix together. Keep aside – these are the dry ingredients for the pudding.

5. Place the demerera sugar in a pan, and place it on high heat. When the pan gets hot, reduce the flame to low. Wait till the sugar is dissolved, and switch off the flame – don’t cook the sugar for too long, otherwise it will turn hard. Immediately, pour 1/2 cup of room-temperature water into the sugar and mix well. You should get a dark brown caramel syrup.

6. Pour the caramel syrup into the fruit and nuts, once they are done soaking. Add the oil and the vanilla essence to it, and mix well – these are the wet ingredients for the pudding.

7. Add the wet ingredients little by little to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix well, ensuring that all the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated together. The batter should be thick, and not very runny.

8. Grease a medium-sized vessel or pudding mould with a little butter. Pour the batter you prepared (in the step above) into the greased mould/vessel. Cover the mould/vessel with aluminium foil, and secure it with a piece of string. Keep ready.

9. Take 10 cups of water in a pressure cooker bottom. Place it on high heat and allow the water to come to a boil. Place the covered pudding mould/vessel with the batter (which we prepared in the step above) into the water. Cover the pressure cooker with the lid, and turn the flame down to low-medium.

10. Let the pudding cook on low-medium heat for 2 hours. It is ready when a knife or toothpick inserted into the centre of the pudding comes out clean. You can serve this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding warm or at room temperature, dusted with some powdered sugar.

Notes:

1. The mixed fruits and nuts should come to roughly 500 grams. I used one apple (grated), 50 grams of broken cashewnuts, 50 grams of black currants, 100 grams of raisins, 100 grams of candied oranges, 100 grams of candied pineapple and a few chunks of candied ginger.

2. You can use any odourless oil to make this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding. I used refined sunflower oil.

3. You can use ordinary white sugar to make the caramel here, instead of the demerera sugar. However, demerera sugar adds a lovely dark brown colour and a beautiful flavour to the pudding, so I would suggest you use that instead.

4. Make sure you don’t burn the sugar while making the caramel. Keep the pan on low heat, and switch off the gas as soon as the sugar dissolves. Add water immediately. If these steps are not done correctly, the sugar might become too hard, making it difficult to prepare the caramel.

5. Stand away while pouring water over the dissolved sugar. It sputters.

6. You can use any permutations and combinations of fruits and nuts, while making this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding. However, I would suggest you not miss out on the candied orange and ginger, grated apple, cashewnuts and black currants, for it is these ingredients that add a lovely touch to the pudding. Bananas, candied mixed fruit peel, cranberries, dates, cherries, candied kiwi, slivered almonds, etc. are some other things you might use.

7. Ensure that you place adequate water (10 cups) in the bottom of the pressure cooker while steaming the pudding. Keep checking at intervals, and refreshing the water in case you find it has come down.

8. The time that this pudding needs to get completely steamed would differ, depending upon the make of the cooker and ingredients used. Keep checking after 1-1/2 hours (by inserting a toothpick in the centre of the pudding – it should come out clean), and steam till fully done. Mine took exactly 2 hours to get done entirely.

9. Cover the pudding mould securely with a sheet of aluminium foil, and tie a piece of string around it. This will prevent any water from getting into the pudding.

10. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use any large vessel or pan with a lid to steam the pudding.

11. Allow some space for the pudding to rise, in the mould that you use. I didn’t have a pudding mould, so I used an ordinary steel vessel for the steaming.

12. I have not tried making this Eggless Steamed Christmas Pudding with whole wheat flour yet, but I think it should be doable.

13. I have used store-bought bread crumbs here. You may make the bread crumbs at home, instead, too – just pulse 6-8 slices of day-old bread in the mixer till you get crumbs.

14. Make sure you steam the pudding on a low flame, to ensure even cooking.

15. You can soak the fruits and nuts in the orange juice a day in advance, before you make this pudding. In that case, take the fruits and nuts in a bowl, pour the orange juice over them, and allow them to soak in the refrigerator, covered. I just allowed the fruits and nuts to soak for about 30 minutes, before I started making the pudding.

16. Once the pudding is completely steamed and ready, set it aside for 20-30 minutes before unmoulding and slicing it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘#ChristmasSpecial Recipes’.

I’m sending this recipe for Fiesta Friday #254. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Grand Palace & Temple Of The Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

The temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok was one of the reasons the husband and I finally undertook that long-pending trip to Thailand, this October. 9 long years ago, while we were honeymooning in Thailand, it was at this very temple that I made a vow – a vow to come back later, with any children that the future might bring into our lives.

Our secret connection with the Emerald Buddha

We were shy newlyweds then, on a tour to the temple not unlike many other Indian tourists. The Thais place immense faith in the Emerald Buddha, housed in the Grand Palace (the former residence of the country’s royal family), and strongly believe that no prayer goes unanswered here. When we visited, back then, the aura of sacredness came off the place in waves. When our tour guide mischievously suggested that the husband and I should pray to the Emerald Buddha for a cute baby girl, I went ahead and did just that. I prayed for the husband and I to lead happy, healthy lives together, vowed to Him that I would come back with our cute little one to see Him again. I kept my pact with Him this October, introducing Him to the cute and little (but also, super naughty and super frustrating) bub. The experience made me feel all light-hearted and warm inside. Touchwood.

People’s expressions range from ‘Whhhhhatttttt?’ to ‘Squeee! Just howwww romanticcccc is that!’ when they hear this story. I’ll leave you to decide on that. I’ll just say that, back then, the prayers came straight from the heart, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do. This post is a glimpse into the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha, through my eyes.

About the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha

The Grand Palace in Bangkok refers to the former residence of the royal family of Thailand, since 1782, which is when it was constructed by King Rama I. It is not a single structure, but rather a collection of a number of buildings, halls, lawns and open courtyards, and a temple. Considering that these buildings were slowly added on over the years, their styles of construction are quite different from each other. This asymetry is evident as soon as you enter the main gate of the Grand Palace, but the painstaking detailing and prettiness of each building will not fail to blow your mind away.

The various buildings that the Grand Palace houses, visible as soon as you enter. Can you notice the mixed architectural styles?

By the year 1925, the royal family had completely moved out of the Grand Palace. However, there are a few royal government offices that are still functional here. Parts of the palace grounds are open to visitors, who come in droves. Even as I write this, the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha within are among the most visited sites in Thailand by tourists.

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The entrance to one of the structures in the Grand Palace. Can you spot the crowds of tourists?
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Just how beautiful is this structure at the Grand Palace!

Wat Phra Kaew (more commonly known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha) is a chapel located within the palace grounds. Apparently, King Rama I had the temple constructed in 1782 to house the 60-foot tall statue of the Buddha that he had carved out of green jasper stone. This statue exists in the chapel till date, and is considered one of the most important Buddha idols in Thailand.

Our experience at the Grand Palace

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A pretty mural we came across in the Grand Palace. This was a part of an entire series of similar murals, all of which apparently depict the Thai version of the Ramayana.

It is a hot and humid October afternoon when we visited the Grand Palace for the second time. The taxi we hire drops us off at the designated spot for the same, from where we proceed walking towards the palace. Only to be stopped by a smiling local, dressed formally and wearing some sort of a tag around his neck – he goes on to tell us that the Grand Palace was closed till later in the day, that we should probably head out to some of the other surrounding tourist attractions and come back post that. The husband and I sense something fishy about this, and walk away saying we would check with the tourist information desk at the Grand Palace anyway. Only later do we come to know this is a popular scam around here – a way to make tourists part with some of their cash by making them go on unnecessary tuk-tuk rides and visiting spots they hadn’t planned for in the first place.

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A structure inside the Grand Palace. Just how pretty are those ‘ball’ trees?
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One of the many ‘bearers’ we spot at the Grand Palace, holding up the many pillars and blocks present here

The Grand Palace is very much open, as we suspected already. We buy our tickets and head inside, not opting for the services of a guide or an audio tour. Instead, we decide to rely on the maps freely available to tourists at the ticket counter, and tour the premises ourselves. Swarms of tourists walk in with us. Thankfully, the Grand Palace premises are huge (almost 2,20,000 sq mt., to be precise), and it does not feel stiflingly crowded inside.

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A demon guarding the temple of the Emerald Buddha within the Grand Palace compound. Check out the detailing on the idol! There were six huge ‘demons’ like these, every single one crowded with people who wanted selfies with them!
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Check this out! Beautiful detailing on one of the walls within the Grand Palace premises

The premises of the Grand Palace are extremely neat and well-maintained, just as I remember them from our visit all those years ago. The traditional golden-coloured Thai monuments glitter as they catch the rays of the sun, as does the fine detailing in crystal, glass and gold detailing that seems to be everywhere. Personnel from the Thai Army and Police are everywhere too, infusing order to the movements inside the palace compound. All over again, I am entranced by the place at the first glance.

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A beautiful, beautiful white-and-blue structure within the Grand Palace premises
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Statue of a Chinese guard spotted at the Grand Palace

I can understand why a visit to the Grand Palace proves to be quite overwhelming for some tourists. The droves of tourists, the hordes of uniformed guards, all those monuments, all those different architectural styles, all that detailing and bling, a highly sacred Buddha in the midst of it all – it can be too much to take in and process. The husband and I take it really easy, for this very reason. We have no agenda in mind; we are not there just to check the place off a long checklist. We have come prepared to stay for a few hours’ time, simply walking around and taking in the scenes and sights and sounds, one little piece at a time, taking breaks in between just to sit in silence. I can’t say we understand the entire layout of the Grand Palace or figure out the many stories associated with the place, but I can definitely say we thoroughly enjoy exploring it at our own pace. This way, our visit turns out enriching and oh, so rewarding.

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The surroundings of the Emerald Buddha temple. Again, the same mix of different architectural styles.
Outside the temple of the Emerald Buddha

Walking around, we reach Wat Phra Kraew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha, and get inside to pay our respects. The inside is cool and refreshing, a welcome respite from the heat that is beating down outside. Photography is not allowed inside the temple, so I have no pictures of the idol to show you. However, we are surely left breathless by all the ornate work in and around the temple.

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Some of the detailing on the walls outside the Emerald Buddha temple
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A mythological Thai creature that is half-woman, half-animal

We sprinkle some of the holy water from the temple over our heads, and gear up to walk around some more. By then, the sun was at its hottest best, and we are quite tired. We realise we should be heading out soon, and that is just what we do. On the way back, we capture a few more of the charming, painstakingly done sights that the Grand Palace has to offer.

A model of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat temple, in the Grand Palace premises. Cambodia used to be a vassal state to Thailand (erstwhile Siam) in those days, and legend has it that King Rama I had this constructed so he could show people this beautiful temple from the other country that was also under Thai rule.
Rows and rows of cannons spotted in the premises of the Grand Palace. I kind of shudder to think that these must have been in actual use at some point of time.

Tips for travellers

  1. Visiting the Grand Palace can be quite an overwhelming experience for some travellers. It helps to take this place easy and explore it at one’s own pace, like we did.
  2. You can hire the services of a guide at the Grand Palace, if you so wish. He/she will help you understand the history of the place better. However, make sure he/she speaks good English, and do fix a price for the tour beforehand to avoid heartache later.
  3. Beware of tourist scams in and around the Grand Palace. Be careful with your belongings.
  4. Dressing conservatively is a must at the Grand Palace. Shorts and dresses that expose knees and/or ankles are a strict no-no. If needed, you can rent a wraparound from a stall located near the ticket counter.
  5. Photography is allowed everywhere in the Grand Palace, the parts that are open to public I mean, except inside the temple of the Emerald Buddha. The chapel is highly sacred to the Thais, and it is advisable to follow the rules and maintain the sanctity of the place.
  6. Entry fees at the Grand Palace are 500 Thai Baht per head, for foreigners, which is actually pretty steep.
  7. The palace remains open between 8.30 AM and 3.30 PM daily, except on special holidays which are usually announced well in advance.
  8. The Grand Palace gets really, really crowded with tourists! If you would like to explore it quietly, you would do well to reach before it opens, before the maddening crowds descend upon it.
  9. Walking around the huge premises of the Grand Palace can be a tiring, draining affair, especially in the months of summer and monsoon. Ensure that you don’t carry much while you walk around, wear loose and breathable clothes, and have a bottle of water with you as you explore.
  10. Do read up a bit about the history of Thailand and the Grand Palace, as well as a bit about Thai culture and mythology, and I can bet you will have a fascinating experience here. No time to do that? Check out the place at leisure, and then do your reading after you get back home – like we did.
  11. There are several places that you can visit around the Grand Palace – the temple of the reclining Buddha aka Wat Pho, for instance, Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, and the famous Khao San Road. You may combine a visit to the Grand Palace with any of these places.
  12. You can use a cab, the BTS Skytrain or river taxi to get to the Grand Palace, or just walk down if you are staying nearby. We used a cab.

I hope you liked this post, and found it useful! Do tell me in your comments!

 

Cocktail Idli Flowers| Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

The days are long, but the years are short.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

I think the above quote sums up parenthood (motherhood, in my case) just about perfectly. The countless sleepless nights, never-ending tantrums, spilled food, the tears that seem to come suddenly out of the blue, the endless reasoning and chastising – all of it did seem overwhelming and interminable when I went through it with the bub as a toddler. However, there were also innumerable sloppy kisses, toothless grins, tight hugs, endless cuddling up, reading, visits to the park, baby talk, playing peek-a-boo, dressing up, pretend cooking and what not. These were the good parts, which kind of balanced out the overwhelming bits.

Looking back, I wonder at just how quickly time has passed – the bub is 4 already! I remember a lot of the moments, the memories, we created together, a few of the not-so-good times too. But, really, I wonder, should I have just hugged her, cuddled her, coddled her, a little more, focused a little less on the imperfections? How long will it be before the bub is no longer a small girl, and will no longer want to be held or hugged? 😦

Toddlerhood – the time when a child is between 1 and 3 years of age – is a precious phase. This is the time when kids are at their most notorious, driving their parents up the wall every so often – yet, this is when they are at their most vulnerable and adorable best. This is also when the time when they are exploring the world around them, food included. They are slowly learning to navigate the world, understand what they like and what they don’t and, as parents, it is our duty to help them do just that. In terms of food, toddlers should be exposed to a variety of finger foods – stuff they can easily hold in their little hands and eat on their own. This has a number of benefits, from improvement in gross and fine motor co-ordination and sensory integration to improved bonding with the parents and a deeper sense of ‘home’.

This week, the theme at Foodie Monday Blog Hop is just that – #ToddlerFingerFoods, as suggested by Poonam from Annapurna. For this theme, which is super close to my heart, I decided to prepare pretty Cocktail Idli Flowers, naturally coloured mini idlis arranged into flowers. I have added pureed beetroot, carrot and spinach to home-made batter, to create three different colours of idlis. This has always been a favourite with the bub and when I made it again for her last week, she happily gorged on them all over again.

Cocktail Idli Flowers or Beetroot, Carrot & Spinach Mini Idlis

Let’s now see how to go about making these coloured mini idlis, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 70 mini idlis of each colour):

  1. 3 cups idli batter, separated
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 10-12 large spinach (palak) leaves
  4. 1 medium-sized carrot
  5. 2 pinches of turmeric powder
  6. 1/4 of a medium-sized beetroot
  7. Fresh coriander, as needed
  8. Capsicum, cut into sticks, as needed
  9. Oil or ghee, as needed to grease idli plates

Method:

1. Take 1 cup of idli batter in three separate mixing bowls. Keep it tick, without adding any water to it.

2. Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly under running water. Ensure no mud or dirt remains on them.

3. Bring about 1 cup of water to a boil, and add in the spinach leaves. Blanch the spinach – let the leaves stay in the boiling water, on high flame, for 1 minute. Switch off gas, and transfer to a colander. Let all the water from the spinach drain away. Allow to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, peel the carrot and beetroot. Cut them into large-ish pieces, separately.

5. Pressure cook the carrot and beetroot separately, with a little water, for 3 whistles. Use very little water. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

6. When the blanched spinach has completely cooled down, chop it finely. Grind it in a small mixer, with a little water. Add the spinach puree to the idli batter in one of the mixing bowls. Add salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

7. Drain out the water from the cooked beetroot. Chop finely. Grind to a puree in a mixer, using very little water. Mix the beetroot puree to the idli batter in the second ball, along with salt to taste. Mix well. Keep aside.

8. Similarly, drain out the water from the cooked carrot. Chop it finely, and grind to a puree using a little water. Add the carrot puree to the idli batter in the third mixing bowl. Add salt to taste and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep aside.

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When idli batter looks so pretty!

9. Grease mini idli plates with oil or ghee and keep ready.

10. Spoon a little idli batter into each cavity of the greased plate, one colour at a time. Steam for 12 minutes. Allow to cool down a bit and then remove the cooked idlis.

11. Arrange the idlis in the shape of flowers on a serving plate, warm or at room temperature. Decorate them with sticks of capsicum and fresh coriander. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Don’t add any water to the idli batter. Keep it thick, since you will be adding pureed vegetables to it later.

2. You may add a little ginger and green chilly paste to the batter too. I haven’t.

3. While chopping the cooked veggies and pureeing them, make sure the colours don’t mix. Do the chopping and grinding one vegetable at a time, washing the knife and mixer thoroughly in between uses.

4. Since we are grinding very small quantities of veggies here, use the smallest jar of the mixer.

5. Add very little water while grinding the cooked veggies, otherwise the batter will become runny and the idlis will not turn out well.

6. You can serve these mini idlis with sambar, chutney or podi of your choice, but they don’t really need any accompaniment.

7. I have used a gas-based mini idli cooker to steam these colourful idlis. It is a time-consuming and laborious affair, indeed, to make them, but the end result is totally worth it. You may use ordinary idli plates with big cavities to steam the idlis instead, too.

8. Don’t steam the idlis for any more than 12 minutes. First, let the water in the idli cooker base come to a boil, then place the plates with the idlis on, and cook for exactly 12 minutes. More than this, and the idlis stand a chance of becoming hard.

9. You may add a couple of pinches of baking soda or Eno Fruit Salt (plain) to the batter, just before steaming. I haven’t.

10. Allow the steamed idlis to cool down slightly before removing them. Otherwise, they’ll be too sticky and might lose their shape.

11. 70 idlis of each colour might seem like a very large number, but I’m talking about very small, ‘baby’ idlis here. An adult can easily have 20 of these at a go, at the very least.

12. Any leftover mini idlis can be made into a stir-fry or upma the next day.

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This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is #ToddlerFingerFoods.

I’m also sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #253. The co-hosts this week are Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles

The Montessori school my daughter goes to follows a lovely system for snack time. One set of parents send snacks for all the 12-odd children in their child’s class, every day. The snacks are supposed to be home-made and healthy. There’s a rotation system in place, ensuring every parent gets a turn once a month. I love how this system exposes kids to tastes beyond those of their homes, how this brings about a learning of what foods each kid favours. Yes, there are a few pitfalls to this system too, but I think the advantages far outweigh them. Why am I talking about this? Because the recipe I’m going to share today – Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles – came about because of this snack system.

The bub returned all happy from school one day, having discovered a new-found love for vegetable noodles. This surprised me, because she had been used to only South Indian snacks – idlis, dosas, pongal and the like – before then. This instance made me pour more thought into what I cooked for her, to get my creative juices flowing, to experiment wildly, to come up with healthy yet satisfying and delicious meals for her. To me, ‘noodles’ had always meant a sauce- and oil- and calorie-laden dish, but this instance had me thinking up ways to make them healthy, yet finger-lickingly good. A few trials and errors later, these fusion Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles were born, something that is now a regular at our table and is much loved.

I make this dish using wheat noodles, with no sauces or any other bottled products. Just a hint of home-made garam masala and freshly ground black pepper add oomph to the noodles, as does the bit of raw cane sugar I put in. Further, I fortify the noodles with loads of veggies. Lots of yum, the simple, healthy and desi way!

Here’s how I make these Healthy Indian Vegetable Noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  1. 150 grams hakka noodles
  2. A small piece of cabbage
  3. 1 small carrot
  4. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  5. About 3 large florets of cauliflower
  6. 5-6 beans
  7. 1 small onion
  8. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  9. Salt, to taste
  10. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon oil
  11. 2 generous pinches of black pepper powder
  12. 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  13. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Method:

  1. Fill a pan about 3/4 with water, place it on high heat and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil. Break the noodles and add them to the boiling water. Let the noodles cook on medium flame till they are soft, but not overly mushy (al dente).
  2. At this stage, switch off the gas and transfer all the noodles to a colander placed in the kitchen sink. Immediately run cold water over the noodles, to stop the cooking process. Let the noodles rest, and let all the water drain away.
  3. Meanwhile, we will prepare the veggies that we need to make the noodles. Peel the carrot and remove strings from the beans. Chop the onions, capsicum and cabbage length-wise. Chop the coriander, carrot and beans finely. Chop the cauliflower florets into medium-sized pieces. Keep the veggies aside.
  4. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add in the chopped onion, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot and beans. Add a bit of salt and a pinch of black pepper powder. Cook on medium flame till the veggies are cooked, but still retain a bit of a crunch. Stir constantly, to ensure that the veggies do not get burnt.
  5. Now, add the cooked and drained noodles to the veggies in the pan. Add some more salt, one more pinch of black pepper powder, the garam masala and the raw cane sugar. Mix thoroughly, but gently. Let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. Switch off gas.
  6. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Serve piping hot, on its own or with a bit of tomato ketchup drizzled on top.

Notes:

1. I used 1 packet of Ching’s hakka noodles, which is equal to 150 grams. They are, apparently, made of wheat as opposed to the regular maida-based noodles.

2. Since I was cooking this for the bub, I have avoided using any kind of sauce. You may add green/red chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and/or soya sauce, if you want to. You might want to skip the sugar in that case, since the tomato ketchup has added sugar too.

3. I have used garam masala and coriander here, for an Indian touch, and we absolutely love it. If you are using sauces, you can skip these two ingredients.

4. These vegetable noodles taste great if the salt is just a tad on the higher side. However, be careful while adding the salt, so as not to make the noodles overly salty.

5. Adjust the quantity of pepper powder you use, to suit personal taste preferences.

6. You can use any veggies that you have on hand, to make these vegetable noodles. I have skipped adding ginger-garlic paste here, but you could add it in as well.

7. Make sure the noodles are cooked al dente, before adding them to the veggies. Remember that the noodles will cook some more with the veggies. Overcooking the noodles will lead to a mushy end result, which might not taste great.

You like? I hope you will try out this recipe, and that you will love it too! Do let me know your thoughts, in the comments.

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I’m sending this to Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

Pussycat Dosa| Food Art For Kids

You eat first with your eyes,’ some wise person once said, and just how true is that! Well-presented food has a huge impact on building one’s appetite, making one want to eat the said food.

Food art, or the artistic presentation of food, is more than just building appetite in the diner. It is a way of creating drama on a plate, of letting imagination run wild, of creating masterpieces on a blank plate. It is a way of having fun as a cook, and making sure the diner has some too.

I think it is very important, though, to make sure the food that is presented very beautifully tastes equally good as well. It is all too easy to get caught up in the task of always presenting beautiful platters, so caught up that it doesn’t matter how tasty or healthy the food is. All show and no substance – that is just not the way to go, in my humble opinion. There are too many high-end restaurants losing track of the balance between healthy, tasty and beautiful, these days, a sad state of affairs.

Why am I talking so much about food art today? Well, because ‘Food Art’ is the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week. I am no high-flying artist, food or otherwise, but I did try out a very simple Pussycat Dosa for the theme and absolutely loved the experience! The bub loved the dosa and could recognise the pussycat figure (though I think it looks a little like a monster, in hindsight), so I’m happy. And I think this little experiment in food art has put me on a new track – now, I so want to continue doing this, building beautiful plates with the simple food that I cook at home, to bring some drama into our kitchen! Wait and watch! πŸ™‚

So, here’s the sort of Pussycat Dosa that I made for the theme.

foodart

Let me tell you how I went about making this plate, now.

Ingredients (for one pussy cat dosa):

  1. Dosa batter, as required
  2. About 2 tablespoons of cooked kidney beans aka rajma
  3. A few pieces of pineapple
  4. A couple of pieces of capsicum
  5. 2 kernels of sweet corn
  6. A small piece of carrot
  7. Salt, to taste
  8. Red chilli powder, to taste
  9. A dash of roasted cumin (jeera) powder
  10. About 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon oil

Method:

  1. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a pan. Add in the cooked kidney beans, the corn kernels, and the carrot and capsicum pieces. Add in salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder to taste. Saute on medium flame till the carrot, corn and capsicum turn slightly tender, just a couple of minutes. Make sure the kidney beans are all evenly coated with the salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder. Switch off gas and keep aside.
  2. Heat a dosa pan until droplets of water dance on it. Then, lower the flame to medium. Make a medium-sized circle in the centre of the pan, then make a smaller circle exactly above it – the pussy cat’s belly and head, respectively. Make ears and a tail for the pussy cat out of the batter. Spread 1/2 teaspoon oil around the dosa. Cook on medium flame till the dosa browns at the bottom, then flip over and cook on the other side till done. Transfer the pussy cat dosa to a colourful serving plate.
  3. Shape the pussy cat’s eyes out of the sauteed corn kernels.
  4. Pinch the cooked carrot piece to make a smiling mouth out of it, and place it below the eyes.
  5. Place the cooked kidney beans below the pussy cat dosa.
  6. Fashion a small flower out of the pieces of capsicum and pineapple, adjacent to the pussy cat.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. I have used home-made dosa batter to make this dish. You can use multi-grain batter, adai batter or multi-millet batter as well.
  2. I have used whatever ingredients I had, handy, to create this dish. You can let your imagination run loose and use the ingredients you have lying around in your pantry, too!

Do let me know how you liked this Pussycat Dosa, and if you’d like to see more such food art for kids on my blog. I’m no expert, I’ll repeat, but, hey, I promise to try my best!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Food Art’.

Healthy Walnut Laddoo| Kid-Friendly 3-Ingredient Recipe

These healthy laddoos are my mother’s attempt to get the bub to eat walnuts aka akhrot, which are supposedly laden with health benefits. The bub refuses to eat walnuts, but she will at least sample these laddoos whenever the mood strikes her. πŸ™‚ Her mommy and daddy love them, so finishing them up is never an issue. πŸ˜›

Healthy walnut laddoos are a breeze to make, and require just three ingredients – walnuts, raw cane sugar, and a bit of ghee. They have the goodness of walnuts in them (and the teeny-weeny bit of ghee you put in!). Free of refined sugar, they are an easy-peasy snack to make for kids, especially ones that have a sweet tooth!

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Here is how to make these healthy walnut laddoos.

Ingredients (makes about 6 medium-sized laddoos):

  1. 1/2 cup walnut kernels
  2. Raw cane sugar, slightly less than 1/2 cup
  3. About 1 teaspoon ghee
  4. 2 cardamom (elaichi) pods (optional)

Method:

  1. Add the walnut kernels, raw cane sugar and ghee to a small mixer jar.
  2. If using cardamom, open the pods and add the kernels to the mixer jar too.
  3. Crush everything to a fine powder in the mixer.
  4. Grease your hands lightly and shape balls (laddoos) out of the mixture. That’s about it!

Notes:

  1. A mix of cashewnuts, almonds and walnuts can also be used to make the laddoos.
  2. Jaggery, coconut palm sugar or dates are some other substitues that can be used in place of raw cane sugar, here.
  3. A couple of drops of vanilla essence can be added in place of the cardamom.

You like? I hope you will try out these easy and healthy walnut laddoos too, and that you will love them as much as we do!

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This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘3-ingredient recipes’.

Foodie Monday Blog Hop

Ahmedabad, after ages

So, so, so, that long-pending trip to Ahmedabad finally happened! On New Year’s day, the husband got confirmation for a work trip to Ahmedabad, and he asked if the bub and I would accompany us. We did just that, flight tickets were booked, and we were off the very next day – as simple as that. After 6 long years, I finally visited the place where I grew up, and it happened Just.Like.That!

Did I find traces of the city I loved so much or has it changed drastically?

Read on, to find out!