Nei Payasam| Kerala Rice Kheer

This year, the festival of Onam falls on August 27. I am eagerly waiting for the day to arrive, so I can lay my hands on a typical Onam sadya (a traditional plantain-leaf feast served on the occasion of Onam). ๐Ÿ˜‰ Till then, I plan to herald the festival on my blog through a series of Onam-special recipes, courtesy of my mother-in-law who hails from Palakkad.

Today, I present to you the recipe for Nei Payasam, a Kerala-style kheer made with matta rice. This payasam is typically served in the course of an Onam sadya. It is also commonly prepared during weddings and other festive occasions, and as an offering to God in the temples of Kerala.

Nei payasam‘ literally translates into ‘kheer with ghee‘, and, true to its name, this kheer is redolent of the goodness of ghee. All of us at home are big fans of this nei payasam, with its coconut-ghee flavour, and slurp it up by the bowlfuls. Yes, the bub included! ๐Ÿ™‚

This kheer is traditionally made with jaggery, and is really sweet and rich and heavenly, especially to those with a huge sweet tooth like us. In fact, this dish is often referred to as ‘Kadu Madhura Payasam‘ or ‘kheer that is very sweet’ in Kerala households. I have slightly reduced the quantity of jaggery, ghee and coconut than what is usually used, but the payasam still tasted absolutely beautiful.

Now, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe for this Kerala nei payasam aka kadu madhura payasam, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1/2 cup broken matta rice
  2. 1 cup jaggery
  3. 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  4. 2 pinches of dry ginger powder (optional)
  5. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  6. 4 tablespoons ghee (divided)
  7. 8-10 cashewnuts
  8. 1 tablespoon raisins

Method:

1. Wash the broken matta rice thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.

2. Pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 1 cup water for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the jaggery together with 2 cups of water. Keep on high flame till the jaggery melts completely. Let the jaggery syrup come to a boil.

4. Now, turn the flame to medium. Add the cooked broken matta rice to the melted jaggery in the pan, along with the fresh grated coconut.

5. Cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, till the mixture begins to thicken.

6. When the mixture starts thickening add in 2 tablespoons of ghee. Cook for a minute or so more, or till the mixture is thick, yet slightly runny.

7. Add in the dry ginger powder and cardamom powder. Mix well. Cook for a few seconds, then switch off the flame.

8. In another pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add in the cashewnuts (broken) and the raisins. Once the raisins plump up, switch off the gas. Ensure the cashewnuts and raisins do not burn.

9. Add the plumped raisins and cashewnuts to the rice-jaggery mixture in the other pan. Mix well.

10. Serve the nei payasam hot, at room temperature or chilled.

Notes:

1. I have used broken matta rice here, which is also called Palakkadan rosematta rice or Kerala red rice. You can use any variety of Kerala rice to make this nei payasam.

2. You can even add slivered almonds to the nei payasam. I haven’t.

3. I have used yellowish-coloured jaggery to make this payasam, which has contributed to its light colour. Traditionally, in Kerala homes, reddish jaggery is used, which gives the payasam a deep reddish-brown hue.

4. Some people add in slices of banana to the payasam, after it is cooked. I have skipped that.

5. The quantities of rice, jaggery, water and ghee above were just perfect for us. You may increase or decrease the quantities of these ingredients, as per personal taste preferences.

6. Make sure the cashewnuts and raisins do not get burnt.

7. For best results, use good-quality grainy ghee and jaggery. Also, ensure that you use freshly grated coconut.

8. You can add in a few slivers of coconut while frying the raisins and cashewnuts. I haven’t.

9. Do not overcook the payasam, as that will lead to the rice getting overly hard. Also, add in the rice when the jaggery has fully melted and the syrup is beginning to boil.

10. Remember that the rice needs to be pressure cooked well, but should not be overlooked. A slightly grainy texture works best for this nei payasam.

11. Switch off the gas when the payasam has thickened considerably, but is still quite runny. It thickens quite a bit more on cooling.

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

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme this week is ‘Onam Recipes’.

I’m also sharing this with Fiesta Friday #236, whose co-hosts this week are Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes.

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Fresh Fruit Platter| How To Make A Fresh Fruit Tray For A Party

Holi is just around the corner! Just a few more days to go before the festival of colours arrives!

If you are looking for an easy-peasy recipe that you can present at your Holi party, your search ends here. This fresh fruit platter is so very simple to prepare, yet so delish that it will surely win you accolades. The platter is as healthy as it gets, so you need not worry about calories either. Present the varied colours of Holi to your guests on a platter, all natural of course!

You can get as creative as you want with the arrangement of this fresh fruit platter or keep it really simple, as I have done here.

Here is how to make a fresh fruit tray for a party.

Ingredients for 1 fresh fruit platter (serves 2):

  1. 4-5 slices of pineapple, core and thorns removed
  2. 1 small Robusta banana, chopped into rounds
  3. 4-5 segments of orange, seeds and strings removed
  4. A handful of seedless green grapes
  5. 1/2 of an apple, chopped into thin slices
  6. A handful of pomegranate arils
  7. 4-5 medium-sized strawberries, cut into halves
  8. A few almonds
  9. Chaat masala, as required
  10. A dash of lemon juice
  11. Honey, as required

Method:

  1. On a wide platter, arrange all the fruits artistically.
  2. Drizzle some honey evenly over the fruits.
  3. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruits.
  4. Drizzle chaat masala evenly over it all.
  5. Arrange the almonds here and there, on the platter.
  6. Serve the fresh fruit platter platter immediately, with toothpicks on the side.

Notes:

  1. There are several ways to make a fresh fruit tray for a party, to present the cut fruits on the platter. I have kept it really simple here. You can go as creative with the arrangement as you want to.
  2. I haven’t peeled the apples here (I never do!), so I get the benefit of the beautiful red colour of the skin showing through.
  3. You can add in other fruits of your choice, mixed nuts, cheese, et al, to the fresh fruit platter. I have restricted myself to just a few Indian fruits here, and some almonds to add a crunchy effect.
  4. We like the lemon-honey-chaat masala dressing on fruits, so I have used the same in this fruit platter. You can choose any other dressing you want to.
  5. You may use slightly chilled fruits to make the platter. I have used all the fruits at room temperature here.
  6. I have used MDH chaat masala and honey from Bee Bliss to make this fresh fruit platter.
  7. You can use roasted peanuts (skins removed) for the crunch factor, instead of almonds, too.
  8. You can prepare the dressing by combining honey, lemon juice and chaat masala well together, and then drizzling it over the fresh fruit platter. I just used each of these ingredients separately.

How did you like the recipe? Do let me know in your comments!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Holi On My Platter’.

 

Kite Fever In Ahmedabad: A Photo Story On Uttarayan

The best time to visit Ahmedabad (anywhere in Gujarat, actually) is during Uttarayan or Makara Sankranti, in my humble opinion. That is when the citizens go all out to enjoy themselves, when the kite mania is on, when you get to see the city in a whole new avatar. This is apart from the Navratri season, when the city is decked up at its glorious best, of course.

Gujarat and kites are inseparable. Yes, you can see kites being flown in a few other parts of India as well, but nowhere is it as frantic and frenzied and grand and alluring as it is during Uttarayan in Gujarat. When I used to live in Ahmedabad, about 9 years ago, the entire city would come to a standstill the two days of the festival – on Uttarayan, January 14, and Vasi Uttarayan, January 15. On these two days, every single Gujarati family would practically live on their terrace, eating tal-gol ni chikki (sesame brittle made with jaggery), undhiyu and jalebi and a whole lot of other delicacies, blasting loud music, flying kites, competing with the other kites that threatened to cut theirs off. Now, the kite-flying fervour is, more or less, contained to the Old City, the ancient pols of Ahmedabad, where people gather with their extended families to enjoy the festival big-time.

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Kites, hats, plastic noise-makers, and a variety of other things on sale, just before Uttarayan, in Ahmedabad

Makara Sankranti is when the sun begins its transit into the zodiac of Capricorn (‘Makara‘ refers to Capricorn, in Gujarati), commonly on January 14 every year. This day signifies the end of winter and the beginning of summer, hopes for a plentiful harvest and good times. While South India celebrates this harvest festival as Pongal, by making overflowing pans of sweet and savoury pongal, Gujarat celebrates by flying kites, on a BIG scale.

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A store selling kites and assorted paraphernalia for flying them, just before Uttarayan, in Ahmedabad.

Come January, and little make-shift stalls start appearing all over the city, some selling a variety of kites, threads, finger caps, sunglasses and many other small and big things that make up the entire experience of flying kites. Some of these stalls offer ready-to-buy thread on firkis for flying kites, many boasting of the best-quality one from Surat.

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Firkis or spools of thread on sale, at Ahmedabad, for flying kites

At some stalls, you can spot craftsmen busy at work on spools, getting thread ready for the big day, lacing it with glass to make them stronger, dyeing it pink or yellow or blue or a myriad of other colours.

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Yellow thread being readied for kite-flying, in Ahmedabad
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Black thread in the making, at Ahmedabad, before Uttarayan

Some of these stalls sell chikki, undhiyu, jalebi and fafda, those quintessential snacks that are a pre-requisite for a Gujarati’s celebration of Uttarayan.

The last couple of days before Uttarayan, there is much hustle and bustle on the streets. These make-shift stalls (specially those in the old part of the city) burst to the seams with people choosing the kites they want to fly, the right sort of thread, the other accompaniments they would need, lanterns that would go up in the sky at night, snacks to nibble on as the family flew kites, and so on.

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A family heading home, having chosen their kites and thread for Uttarayan

On the days of Uttarayan and Vasi Uttarayan, shouts of ‘Kaipo chhe!’ ring out from terraces as families indulge in warfare in the skies – kite-flying competitions which sometimes go on for hours on end. Latest Bollywood songs and remixes add to the feeling of josh on the terraces. This, for sure, is something you must experience at least once in your lifetime.

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A Gujarati family all set to fly a huge, golden kite
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High, high, high up the kites fly!

The sad part about Uttarayan is the huge number of humans, animals and birds who die on the streets, their bodies cut deep and ugly by stray pieces of sharp thread. Pick up a newspaper in Gujarat just after Uttarayan, and the kite-thread death statistics are as astonishing as the stories are gory. As a preventive measure, it is best not to walk or ride around the streets in open vehicles just before and during Uttarayan.

On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, just before Uttarayan, I noticed a new wire contraption affixed to several two-wheelers in the city. I hear this is an innovation born out of necessity, a device that shields the faces and necks of two-wheeler riders from any bits of thread that might cut their bodies, as they drive. This is something very new, something I saw for the first time this year, being sold on the streets and used by quite a large number of two-wheeler riders. It is quite effective in preventing accidents too, I hear.

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A wire contraption that shields two-wheeler riders from stray bits of thread, a quite recent phenomenon in Gujarat

Watching hundreds of colourful kites flitting in the sky on the days of Uttarayan and Vasi Uttarayan is a sight in itself. Even more breath-taking, though, is the sight of the sky at night on these two days – when it is lit by hundreds of tukkals, paper lanterns with candles in them. The latter is a scene straight out of a fairytale, surely.

Kites, stuck in trees, post Uttarayan, which is when all the revelry ends, and life is back to normal.

The kite fervour in Gujarat is something that you must absolutely experience. My heart is full of memories of beautiful Uttarayan days gone by, and I hope you build some of your own too. Ahmedabad – well connected by train and air from different parts of India – is a great place to do just that!

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my other posts about Ahmedabad. If not, please do! ๐Ÿ™‚

Rose-Flavoured Bonda Sherbet| Tender Coconut Drink From Udupi-Mangalore

It was the husband who introduced me to bonda sherbet.

Till I got married, ‘bonda‘ to me meant a deep-fried snack that tasted extremely delicious. Then, one fine day, the term ‘bonda sherbet‘ popped up in a conversation between the husband and me, and I went ‘Whaaaattt?! How you can you make sherbet out of a bonda?!’ immediately. ‘It is not a juice made out of a bonda, the way you know it,’ he explained patiently. ‘Bonda is what tender coconut is called in the Udupi-Mangalore region. Bonda sherbet is a beautiful, refreshing drink that you get in these parts of Karnataka, made with tender coconut water and lemon,’ he said. And that was how my love affair with this charming, old-fashioned drink began.

With time and practice, I began to recreate bonda sherbet at home. It is a simple drink to make, after all. Just as the husband had promised, it is a very refreshing, very enjoyable thing to have, especially on a hot summer’s day. We prefer this sherbet – with all the goodness of tender coconut water – over a packaged soft drink any day!

This Valentine’s season, I present to you bonda sherbet with a twist – the same beautiful-tasting drink with the hint of rose to it. The rose makes for a lovely addition, I have discovered, to the sherbet, making it all the more delightful. You’ve got to try this out!

bondasherbet

Here is how you can make the rose-flavoured bonda sherbet.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. Water from 2 tender coconuts
  2. A pinch of salt
  3. 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar, or to taste
  4. Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  5. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence, or as required
  6. About 2 tablespoons of tender coconut (malai)

Method:

  1. Chill the tender coconut water in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours.
  2. Make small pieces of the tender coconut.
  3. In a large vessel, mix together the chilled tender coconut water and pieces, salt, sugar, lemon juice and rose essence. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Do not refrigerate the coconut water for too long after breaking it open. This might alter the taste of the drink. For best results, break open 2 tender coconuts, chill the water for about 2 hours and use immediately.

2. Very mature or chewy coconut malai will not really suit this drink. Use malai that is very tender.

3. If the tender coconut water you obtain is very sweet, you may skip adding the sugar altogether or use it in a lesser quantity than I have here. Ordinary refined sugar can also be used in place of raw cane sugar.

4. Use more or less lemon juice and rose essence, depending upon your personal taste preferences.

5. Soaked and drained chia seeds can be added to the drink as well. Roughly torn mint leaves would make a great addition to the bonda sherbet too.

Like it? Do try out this beautiful rose-flavoured bonda sherbet this Valentine’s Day!

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Roses for Valentine’s’.

 

Pressure Cooker Bombay Sagu| One Pot Aloo Sagu For Pooris

Here’s wishing you a happy, happy new year, people! May 2018 bring loads of warmth, love, peace and happiness to all of us!

So, what are you eating this New Year’s day?

I’m making some Bombay sagu with pooris for breakfast today, which the family absolutely adores. We don’t do much of pooris, so it has to be a wonderful occasion (like new year’s day!) to warrant for some frying.

I follow a very simple proceedure to make the Bombay sagu (I’ve no clue why it is called that!), the way my mother and my grandmother before her have always done. It is a recipe that is super easy to put together, yet tastes beautiful. Pooris and aloo sagu = simple comfort food that speaks of home for both the husband and me.

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Here’s how we make the Bombay sagu!

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

To pressure cook:

  1. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 1 large onion
  3. 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  4. 2 green chillies, or to taste
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. About 10 fresh curry leaves

Other ingredients:

  1. Salt, to taste
  2. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  3. Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
  4. 2 teaspoons oil
  5. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  7. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  8. Lemon juice to taste (optional)
  9. 1 tablespoon of gram flour (besan)
  10. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into halves. Chop the tomatoes into halves. Cut the onion length-wise. Peel the ginger and chop finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Take the chopped potatoes, tomatoes, onions, ginger and green chillies in a pressure cooker container. Add in just enough water to cover the veggies and the curry leaves. Place the container in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the coriander leaves finely. Keep aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the gram flour with about 2 tablespoons water. Keep aside.
  4. When the pressure has released completely, remove the container from the cooker and slightly mash the cooked veggies with a masher. Keep aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the cumin and asafoetida, and allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.
  6. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Add the cooked and mashed veggies (along with the water the veggies were cooked in), as well as salt to taste, red chilli powder to taste (if using) and turmeric powder. Cook for a couple of minutes.
  7. Now, add the gram flour-water paste to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame till the gravy thickens, 2-3 minutes. Add a little more water and adjust seasonings, if needed. Switch off the gas when the gravy has thickened but still quite runny. It thickens further on cooling.
  8. Mix in lemon juice to taste (if using) and the finely chopped coriander. Serve piping hot with pooris or rotis.

Notes:

  1. If you think the heat from the ginger and green chillies is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.
  2. Adjust the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon how hot you want the sagu to be.
  3. Use country tomatoes (nati tomatoes) for best results.
  4. Adjust the quantity of gram flour you use depending upon how thick you want the gravy to be.
  5. You can use ghee instead of oil to make the sagu.
  6. Skip the lemon juice if you think the tanginess from the tomatoes is enough.

Do you like aloo sagu aka Bombay sagu? How do you make it?

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘New Year Recipes’ (of course!).

 

 

Christmas Buffet At Plaza Premium Lounge, Bengaluru International Airport

The uber-luxurious Plaza Premium Lounge at the Bengaluru International Airport served a special lunch buffet for Christmas this year. The honour of getting an exclusive preview of this Christmas menu was bestowed on me, along with a few other food, travel and lifestyle bloggers. Read on, to know how I found the spread!

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This menu, specially curated by Executive Chef Ankit Mangala for the occasion of Christmas, was served at Plaza Premium Lounge on December 24 and 25, 2017. 

Apart from a sumptuous Honey-Glazed Turkey (of course!) served with cranberry sauce, the extensive spread also included some Christmas-sy desserts like Pumpkin Pie, Plum Cake and Yule Log, as well as some very traditional Indian dishes like Daal Makhani, Butter Rice and Peas Pulao for the benefit of international travellers who would love a taste of India.

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Some of the dishes from the Christmas-special buffet: The turkey in the centre, surrounded by Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon & Basil Salad, Paneer Butter Masala, Creamy Pesto Chicken Casserole, Parsi Chicken Dhansak, and Peas Pulao (clock-wise direction from bottom left)

I tried out the vegetarian dishes, and found most of them to be well-executed, beautiful in taste and presentation. Though I felt several of the dishes didn’t really have a Christmas-sy touch to them, the menu was well thought out, from the angle of an international traveller who might have a couple of hours to kill at Bengaluru Airport on or around Christmas day.

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A close-up of the Honey-Glazed Turkey, presented beautifully with assorted vegetables

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Here’s what I loved the most from this spread.

1. Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup

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Pumpkin & Roasted Garlic Soup at Plaza Premium Lounge

The pumpkin soup was simply beautiful, expertly prepared. It had just the right texture to it, neither too thick nor too watery. It tasted lovely, with bits of roasted garlic adding a lovely depth to the flavour. I loved this one to bits – it was perfect for the cold evening we visited!

2. Roasted Potato Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad, served cold, tasted absolutely lovely. The potatoes were cooked just right, and the lemon vinaigrette – mild and subtle – made for a beautiful complement to them.

3. Daal Makhani and Peas Pulao

The daal makhani was the star of the meal, for me. It was rich and creamy, without being greasy or overwhelming. The taste was stunningly gorgeous, and it coupled just perfectly with the mild and simple peas pulao.

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Top left: Peas Pulao, Top right: Roasted Potato Salad With Lemon Vinaigrette; Bottom right: Garlic Vegetable Fried Rice; Bottom left: The star of the meal for me – the Daal Makhani

4. Stir-Fried Vegetables With Tofu, Ginger & Chilli Sauce, and Garlic Vegetable Fried Rice

This was yet another beautifully executed dish at Plaza, a huge hit with me. The runny gravy had a lovely gingery flavour to it, without being overloaded with spice, just enough to warm the cockles of your heart. The curry had a generous amount of vegetables and tofu in it, and made for a lovely, lovely complement to the mildly spiced garlic vegetable rice we were served.

5. Butterscotch Pastry

We were served a tasting portion of a few of the desserts that would be part of the Christmas-special buffet at Plaza Premium Lounge. Of these, I loved the butterscotch pastry the most – it was light yet sinful, delicate yet full of flavour. Very well done!

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A few of the desserts from the XMas-special buffet at Plaza: Christmas Star Cupcake, Butterscotch Pastry, and (don’t miss this!) an Oreo-And-Strawberry Santa!

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What could have been better

  1. I loved how the menu offered a taste of India and how the team had added little Christmas-sy touches to certain dishes (the Couscous Salad, With Zucchini, Mint & Cranberries, for instance). That said, with all due respect to the Chef and his team, the menu (main course, especially) could have been a bit more festive, a bit more significant of the occasion.
  2. I felt the vegetarians had limited (albeit delicious) options to choose from. Vegetarians should have had something equally enticing as the Honey-Glazed Turkey or the Chicken Dhansak or Creamy Pesto Chicken Casserole.
  3. Taste-wise, the desserts (except for the Butterscotch Pastry) could have been better. 

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Plaza Premium Lounge, a warm note of thanks for making this sneak peek possible!

So, people, the next time you have a few hours to kill at the Bengaluru International Airport in between flights, you know where to head to! Christmas or not, Plaza Premium Lounge dishes up some wonderful meals all right!

Home-Made Strawberry Butter

Merry Christmas, people! ๐Ÿ™‚

What are you eating this XMas? I must tell you that you’ve really got to try out this home-made strawberry butter!

It takes but a few minutes to put together, and tastes absolutely delicious. Apart from a lovely spread for bread, toast and bagels, this home-made strawberry butter makes for a simple and beautiful icing for cakes and muffins. The pretty pink of this butter is eye-catching, just perfect for the Christmas season.

This is a great way to use the beautiful strawberries that are in season right now.

Here’s how I make home-made strawberry butter. The idea for the spread came from Pinterest, and I perfected the recipe after a bit of trial and error.

Ingredients (yields close to 1 cup):

  1. 100 grams of salted butter, softened
  2. About 10 medium-sized strawberries
  3. 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste

Method:

  1. Wash the strawberries and pat dry gently, using a cotton cloth. Remove the green leafy stem. Chop them up and puree in a mixer.
  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add in the sugar and the pureed strawberries. Reduce flame to medium.
  3. Cook on medium flame till the strawberries and sugar meld together and begin to form a thickish mixture, 2-3 minutes. Don’t overcook it, otherwise it will become too thick.
  4. Allow the strawberry-sugar mixture to cool down completely.
  5. When the strawberry-sugar mixture has cooled down fully, place it in a mixer along with the softened butter. Blend for a couple of seconds, stopping in between to mix the ingredients together with a spoon. Done!
  6. Store in a clean, dry, air-tight box, refrigerated, when not in use. This strawberry butter can be used as a spread for bread, sandwiches, plain cakes, toast and bagels.

Notes:

  1. You can use unsalted butter to make this as well. Just add in a pinch of salt while blending, in that case. I used Amul salted butter to make this.
  2. You can skip pureeing the strawberries and cook the chopped pieces directly, with the sugar. I prefer pureeing them.
  3. Use more or less sugar depending upon your taste preferences and how tart/sweet the strawberries are.
  4. Don’t use butter straight out of the fridge to make this. Ensure that the butter has been kept at room temperature for a couple of hours and has softened enough, before proceeding to make this.
  5. Refrigerated, this butter stays well for up to a week. Make sure you use only a clean, dry spoon to remove the strawberry butter.

You like? I hope you will try this out too, and that you will love it as much as we do!

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Christmas recipes’.

Foodie Gifts For The Holiday Season| Gifts I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me This XMas

It’s XMas season! The festival is just around the corner, and there’s festivity in the air. There are Christmas trees and fairy lights and lanterns and snowmen everywhere. There is a nip in the air, and the pictures of gingerbread and hot chocolate and fruit cake make you want to eat something sinful, too. Letters are being written to Santa, wishlists are being made. Why should I not, as well? ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s my foodie wishlist for Santa – 10 foodie gifts that I absolutely wouldn’t mind Santa bringing me this XMas.

Read on!

  1. Wooden spice boxย ย ย 
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Wooden multi-purpose boxes that we saw for sale, in Kashmir

I love, love, love the look and feel of wooden spice boxes. I think they would make a perfect gift for cooking enthusiasts, with their charming, very Indian looks.

Wooden spice boxes are available on websites like Amazon and Pepperfry, but I would prefer picking them up from an arts-and-crafts fair or something similar.

2. Quirky spoons

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A random picture I took at a blogging workshop I attended, earlier this year. Check out those spoons!

I have always been in awe of the very unique, sometimes quirky, spoons that some bloggers use in their food photography. You know the ones with beautiful artistry on them, or ones with cute messages? I would love to own a few of these as well, but have never been able to get my hands on them.

Check out this and this on Amazon. That said, I would like for these spoons to come directly from the artisans, maybe from a handicrafts fair.

3. Sprig’s gourmet food products

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Sprig’s Mango & Jalapeno Sauce that I absolutely loved!

My love for Sprig’s very interesting gourmet food products is not unknown on this blog. I have used a couple of these products and been absolutely thrilled by them. This Christmas, I would love to receive a few more of their beautiful products, to experiment with in my kitchen.

Hint to Santa – I’ve been eyeing Sprig’s Classic Salted Caramel, Extract of Natural Culinary Lavender, and their all-natural food colours for quite some time now! Psst, psst!

4. Artisinal cheese

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A platter of cheese!

 

I’m game for cheese any time! I absolutely love cheese, love using it in my cooking. Lately, though, I’ve been slowly moving away from commercially produced cheese and gravitating towards hand-made, artisinal cheese.

I would be thrilled to receive some gorgeous artisinal cheese from The Creamery, India or 10 Cuts Of Cheese.

5. Plum cake

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The very lovely plum cake from Fathima Bakery, which we got home last XMas

It’s Christmas time! How can I not think of plum cake, the Indian term for fruit cake that is?

We have come to love the plum cake from Koshy’s and Fathima Bakery in Bangalore. If Santa could get us some, it would be simply fabulous!

6. Jams from Big Bad Wolf

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Red Pepper & Jalapeno Jam from Big Bad Wolf, which I thoroughly loved!

I got to know about the hand-crafted jams from Big Bad Wolf recently, and am totally in love with them. These are not just any ordinary jams, but ‘jams for adults’! Wondering what I mean? These are artisinal jams made for adults, not the same old sweet fruity stuff that we have always been eating. Some have a splash of wine in them, some a dash of rum, some have the kick of chilli. They have some really amazing flavours on board – Chilli Chocolate & Coffee Mole, Salted Caramel & Coffee, Red Pepper & Jalapeno (my personal favourite!), Pineapple & Rum, and Christmas Jam (with plum and wine). Fantastic, right?!

This XMas, I would be thrilled if Santa would come bearing a couple of jars of these beautiful jams.

7. Fabelle chocolates

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Assorted chocolate truffles!

In recent years, Fabelle has set a benchmark in terms of exquisite chocolate. I have heard so much about the gorgeousness of these chocolates that I am dying to try out a few.

Is Santa listening? ๐Ÿ™‚

8. A wok from Wonderchef

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That’s one of the super-handy woks I use now. I’d love to have a Wonderchef wok, too! Oh, and BTW, that’s Spaghetti Aglio Olio cooking. ๐Ÿ™‚

For the longest time now, I’ve wanted to cook in a granite wok by Wonderchef, a brand by the famed Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Here’s hoping Santa gets me some lovely cookware from Wonderchef, and that some of Sanjeev Kapoor’s culinary magic rubs off on me too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Santa, may I have this one, please? ๐Ÿ™‚

9. Herb seedlings

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A picture of a herb we had at home long, long ago. The nursery guy told me it was lavender, but I don’t think so. It tasted absolutely fantastic, anyway!

My little balcony garden has almost entirely died and dried up. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Among the myriad tasks that I want to undertake in 2018, I do want to take up the task of getting our home garden back to life. I want there to be a little patch of herbs whose smell will carry to me on the wind, and bring a smile to my face. I want to be use these hand-plucked herbs in my cooking, rather than those out of a packet off a supermarket shelf.

Italian basil, Indian mint and coriander, some thyme and lemon balm for starters, maybe. Where from? From any local nursery, of course!

10. Glare knife

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That’s me cutting some home-made paneer with the knife I have right now. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t Glare. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I believe a good knife, like Glare, is a must for satisfactory cooking. I have used a knife from Glare in the past and absolutely loved it. Sadly, I lost the knife a couple of years ago, and have missed it ever since. This XMas, I would love to get my hands on a Glare knife again.

Glare knives are available on Amazon.

So, that’s all about my foodie XMas wishlist? What’s on yours?

PS: All pictures in this post are mine. The pictures are for representational purpose only.

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Join us for a wonderful Christmas celebration! Here’s introducing you to ourย Christmas Blog Train. 16 popular Indian bloggers will be sharing some amazing posts with you, specially for the XMas season!

 

8 Christmas Party Outfits To Must Try In 2017

Clickย hereย to find out which bloggers are a part of this blog train.

#ChristmasBlogging

๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„๐ŸŽ„

Did you like reading my Christmas foodie post? Donโ€™t forget to read what the next three other bloggers have in store for you today!

Sneha – www.blogsikka.com

Papri โ€“www.throughmypinkwindow.com

Dayita –ย www.keepingitstylishdayita.com

 

 

 

Easy Basundi Recipe (With Condensed Milk)

When I think of the years we lived in Ahmedabad, I cannot not think of basundi. It used to be a favourite, favourite sweet dish, rich and creamy without being overly so, loaded with nuts. This cousin of the North Indian rabri is something I associate with festive times, specifically Diwali.

It isn’t easy to find good basundi in Bangalore city, so we prefer making our own at home. Traditionally, this sweet dish is made by boiling milk and cooking it constantly, reducing it and reducing it and reducing it till it becomes thick and creamy and utterly delectable. The recipe that we use, though – the cheat’s basundi or the easy basundi recipe, as I refer to it – is super simple. It uses condensed milk for the thickening, and doesn’t require standing by the stove for hours on end. It might not be the authentic recipe, but this version tastes just as delish, I can vouch for that.

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Let’s check out our easy basundi recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 6 servings):

  1. 1 litre full-fat milk (I used Nandini)
  2. 400 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence (optional)
  5. 7-8 cashewnuts, chopped finely
  6. 7-8 almonds, chopped finely

Method:

  1. Take the milk and condensed milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Mix well.
  2. Place pan on high heat and bring to a boil, stirring intermittently.
  3. Now, turn down the heat to low. Add in the sugar. Mix well.
  4. Cook on low-medium flame till the mixture reduces to about half of its original size – 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cream will begin to form on the edges of the pan – keep scraping it back down into the pan with a spoon.
  5. When the mixture has reduced, add in the chopped cashewnuts and almonds. Mix well.
  6. Cook more on low-medium heat till the mixture reduces further. Meanwhile, keep stirring intermittently and scraping the cream back into the pan.
  7. When it reaches a thick but still runny consistency, add the rose essence. Cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring intermittently, continuing to scrape the cream back into the pan. Switch off gas.
  8. Serve piping hot, warm or after chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Personally, I think the basundi tastes best when chilled.

Notes:

  1. Increase or decrease the quantity of sugar you add, depending upon personal tastes and preferences. If you think the sweetness of the condensed milk is enough, you could skip adding sugar altogether. Personally, though, we prefer adding 2 tablespoons of sugar, considering that we have huge sweet teeth.
  2. Intermittent stirring throughout the process of making basundi is necessary, to prevent too much sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. The rose essence can be omitted altogether, if you don’t want to add it.
  4. Cardamom powder can be used in place of rose essence. Add it in at the same time when you need to add the rose essence – it adds a beautiful fragrance and taste to the basundi. We like both versions, but I am slightly biased towards the rose essence one.
  5. You could slightly roast the almonds and cashewnuts before chopping them and adding them to the basundi, too. I usually add them raw, though.
  6. It is important to keep scraping back the cream from the sides of the pan, into the pan, throughout the proceedure. This is what will give a beautiful, creamy consistency to the basundi.
  7. You can keep the consistency of the basundi as thick or as runny as you like. We like it slightly thick, still runny. The basundi thickens slightly on cooling.

Do you like basundi? How do you make it? Do you like this easy basundi recipe? I hope you’ll try this out!

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Diwali recipes’.

 

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.