Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pau Bhaji

Today is going to be carb overload day. I have only myself to blame as I give in to temptation. Sunday lunch is a toss up between burgers and pau bhaji...and it is the latter that prevails by popular demand. To choose a veggie over meat does say a lot for male appetites!!! I'm not complaining, just commenting.

Of course my choice is Yukon Golds. But we are having steak and potatoes for dinner and I would rather eat buttery mashed potatoes with my rib eye.  As usual, I have a choice of potatoes stashed in the larder. I ponder over fingerlings and Red Bliss, ultimately choosing Russets. Actually, they make a much better pau bhaji than any of the others. It's just the way they melt into the bhaji, not quite holding their shape, adding much needed texture. You get a spreadable mash that goes on ever so smoothly on crusty bread. 

Pau bhaji, one of the many street foods of Bombay, reigns supreme at Sardars. This soupy plate of masala potatoes, cauliflower and peas comes swimming in butter, complemented with a generously buttered bun. It is sinfully rich, a plateful to be indulged in rarity...hey! I'm talking about myself. Mine is a much sanitized, less greasy but altogether delicious version.

Serves 4

6 medium sized Russet Potatoes
1 large Onion
2 large Carrots
1 cup frozen Peas
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
3 tablespoons Pau Bhaji Masala ( Everest or Badshah brand )
1-2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/2 cup Water
Red Onion, cut in thin slivers
12 Slider Buns
1/2-3/4 cup Butter or Smart Balance butter.

Wash potatoes. Place in a large saucepan, cover with water and boil till done, about 15 minutes. 

Peel and chop into bite size chunks.

Boil carrots in water till done. Chop them into chunks.

Peel and cut onion into fine dice.

Heat oil in nonstick saucepan on a high flame. When hot, add onion and saute for a few minutes till translucent and pale.

Add potato and carrot chunks and saute.

Add peas, frozen or defrosted.

Sprinkle pau bhaji masala and salt and stir to mix.

Lower flame so potatoes do not scorch. 

Add water, mix well and cover with a lid. Let potatoes cook for 10 minutes to absorb masala.

Stir and smush them from time to time. The more you smush, the creamier the texture gets. You want a smooth, almost runny consistency. 

Start broiler. Set it to high.

Open slider buns so they lie flat. Place them on a sheet pan.

Butter generously.

Slide them under the hot broiler for 4-5 minutes. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY AT THIS POINT. Or else be prepared to eat singed, charred buns.

Drop a heaping spoonful of pau bhaji on one half of a bun. Top with sliced onion. Place another bun half over bhaji and chow down. Or put some bhaji on a plate and use the bread like you would a roti or chapatti. 


Use any potato available to you. Russets and Burbanks make the perfect gooey mess. Yukons hold their shape too well, though I love their taste.

You could saute the buns stove top on a nonstick pan or tava. That takes forever and I am not prepared to eat my lunch when everyone finishes. Selfish me. So I broil the buns in one shot. Everyone gets to eat them hot, fresh and golden brown. Sometimes singed.

Buns emerge from the oven crusty, some singed, some golden brown. Pau bhaji is portioned out generously. Rehan separates bhaji and bread. Thats his thing. The rest of us obediently follow the recipe. There is not much conversation to be heard as we chomp away. There aren't too many vegetarian favorites in my house so I'm happy this lunch ends well. Then I begin the Yukon Gold mash for dinner..... Potato / potaato... All in all, a day of carb heaven.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pedhas or Milk Balls

It must be Divali!! My daughter serenades me with the Diwali song! Every year she belts it out, cracking me up, but most of all enveloping me in a warm hug from miles away. Boy, her dulcet tones could give Steve Carrell a run for his money! If only my parents could've heard this irreverent holiday tune. The look on their faces would've been priceless. We have to settle with my sister Prassy, who doesnt quite know what to say!!!

The Festival of Lights in my house is usually a torrid affair with food and ritual. Small diyas or earthenware lamps are lit. The mango leaf toran goes up. Rangoli adorns the front steps. And my kitchen hums with fragrant vibes. Karanjis, besan ladoo and kheer usually fill three/four days of festivities. Prayers are always offered along with some sweet confection. I don traditional clothes as we celebrate the New Year. 

This year I try my hand at something new. Pedhas, or literally translated, balls or discs of milk. Powdered milk is thickened with milk and cream. The mixture sits overnight, is then rolled and flattened into discs. Pistachios are embedded in centers. I can honestly say I cannot remember whose recipe this is. Maybe Vini? Might've been Prassy. Well, if its yours, own up!! 

Makes 24

2 cups Milk Powder
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Butter
1/2 cup whole or 2% Milk
1/2 cup Cream
A large pinch of Cardamon powder
1 tablespoon Pistachios

Whisk sugar, butter, milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to boil. Stir often. Let the mixture bubble vigorously on a medium flame for 5-7 minutes. 

Lower flame and add milk powder and whisk well to incorporate.

Stir milk mixture for 5-10 minutes till the milk thickens. 

As it cools it will get very thick.

Cool, cover and refridgerate thickened milk for 7-8 hours or overnight.

Work fast with cooled dough. Gather a walnut sized ball. Roll between the palms of your hands till smooth. Flatten into a disc.

Embed a pistachio in each disc center and serve.

This year I haven't found my rangoli stencil, so I resort to the old fashioned way of yore, my fingers. The porch light is out. But the diyas are lit. The house is ablaze as I'm on fire in the kitchen. The steadfast camaraderie of old friends fills my house and warms my heart. We sit down to Kolhapuri chicken, fish kalvan, stuffed eggplants, patvad subji, potato katchori, masala karela, dal, chapattis and rice. The pedhas are the perfect bite-sized treat, along with shahi tukra and kaju katli. One person is absent. Miss you Bubs!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wild Rice and Farro Salad Bowl

I love the notion of eating my lunch out of a bowl. Especially when I am by my lonesome self. What's better than a perfectly composed plate of greens. A work of art piled high. Well that's how this one looks as I have the time and pleasure to work on the aesthetics. it looks like something Asian. and that takes me to my chopsticks. I am one in my family who will unearth chopsticks when I make Asian food. The rest of them plop their noodles and meat on their plates, while I do the same in a bowl. And then I set to the task of lift and drop! Albeit I eat my meal slower but I relish every single morsel that I can successfully eat without dropping. It really is an learned process, finishing a meal with chopsticks!! I watch people in Asian restaurants surreptitiously as they do that elegant chopstick shuffle with small titbit's of fried fish, huge spring rolls and sometimes rotis or flat breads!!! I think it must be a genetic thing as I clumsily fish for a morsel.

My bowl fascination transverses many cuisines. Right now the craze for ramen runs rampant. Simplified, it is noodle soup in a wide bowl with veggies added in.  But my taste buds yearn for some thing chewy and healthy.  I boil some wild rice and farro. The last of the heirloom tomatoes beg to be used. A huge avocado that's been in the fridge for a while is sliced and diced. I made a quick dressing with soy sauce and Sriracha. I start layering with greens. I scatter spoonfuls of wild rice and farro over greens. The grains are topped with sliced tomatoes, red onion and avocado. A drizzle of dressing finishes the bowl. No chopsticks here. Only forks needed.

Serves 2

1/2 cup Wild Rice
1/2 cup Farro
1 cup packaged prewashed Mesclun Lettuce
1 Haas Avocado
1 Tomato
2 tablespoons sliced Red Onion
4 tablespoons low sodium Soy sauce
2 big squirts Sriracha (1 tablespoon!) [less if you don't care for spice]
2 tablespoons Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 Lime

Put wild rice in a saucepan and add 3 cups water. Bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain rice and put back into saucepan. Cover with a lid and let rice sit for 10 minutes. Fluff and keep aside.

Put farro into another saucepan and add 1 cup water. Bring to boil. Cover and turn flame to low and cook for 8 minutes. Cool and keep aside.

Whisk soy sauce, olive oil, Sriracha and lime juice till thickened. 

Cut avocado and tomato into small chunks.

Assemble by placing half the lettuce in a bowl.

Top lettuce with half the wild rice. 

Scatter half the farro over wild rice.

Arrange half the avocado, tomato chunks and sliced onion on grains.

Drizzle half the dressing on the salad.

Repeat for the second bowl.

It's best eaten at room temperature!! With a fork!!

And it is with a fork that I enjoy this slightly chewy, a tad salty, a bit spicy and altogether wholesome salad with gusto! Buttery avocado and chunks of heirlooms give me such pleasing textures. I am delighted with my healthy concoction. Methinks this salad makes my belly 'ingrained' to the good stuff!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Potato and Corn Soup

As the temperature dips, out come my ladles. It's soup time. This season of cold days invokes a steady stream of hearty soups. Lunches seems more satisfying. The 'soup n salad' mantra works better as the former fills me up and the latter takes me over the edge. I would like to think I gravitate towards thick hearty soups. Something about resting your spoon on it rather than in it. Then again, I love a French onion soup with its thick bread and cheese crust. I love the spicy tum yums of Thailand. It's a worldwide gravitational pull!!

Today's soup is from South America. A wonderful amalgam of potatoes, yams, corn and cilantro. Yes! Cilantro, which imparts an unusual flavor, is the only herb I add. As the potatoes and yams cook, they thicken and flavor the broth. Corn takes but a few minutes. And the milk adds a touch of creaminess without all the calories. Best of all are the silky cubes of avocado. Avocado lends a buttery end note to this herb and vegetable soup.

MAKES 4 bowlfuls

2 Russet Potatoes
2 medium sized Yams
1 cup Corn, fresh or frozen
I Onion
2 cloves Garlic
3 tablespoons Cilantro +1 tablespoon for garnish 
1 tablespoon Olive oil
4 cups Chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup 2% Milk
1 Avocado 

Wash and peel potatoes and yams. Cut into small 3/4 inch cubes.

Cut onion into small dice.

Peel garlic and slice into thin slivers.

Chop cilantro finely.

Heat oil in a deep saucepan.

Add onion and garlic to hot oil and sweat for 3-4 minutes.

Add potato and yam cubes, cilantro, chicken stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Lower flame to medium and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or till starches are almost done.

Add corn and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the milk and stir to mix.

Using a potato masher, crush potatoes and yams to thicken the soup. Leave some starches intact for toothsome texture.

Cook soup down for another 5 minutes.

Just before serving soup, dice avocado into small pieces.

Ladle soup into bowls.

Top with avocado and cilantro.


I like Russets because they melt and thicken the soup as they cook. In this recipe I used small Red Bliss potatoes which I left unpeeled. Peeled...unpeeled.. Your choice.

Cilantro gives the soup it's distinctive flavor. Parsley could be an adequate substitute if you are averse to cilantro.

To me soup is the balm that soothes the soul. More so in winter than any other season. I sit before a steaming bowl of goodness. The aroma of freshly cut cilantro fills the kitchen. My bowl is chock full with bits of potato, yam, corn, cilantro, flecks of cilantro and avocado. Green, orange, white, beige, yellow.....this color palette is happiness in a bowl.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quatro Leche

Eating a spoonful of tres leche is like having an out of body experience. Rich, squishy, spongy, sweet, a moist cake. And immensely satisfying. A small portion quenches my post dinner penchant for dessert. But for some it's quite the opposite! I make this milk-soaked cake for girlfriends who love to dessert!! They eat vast quantities, topped with spoonfuls of freshly whipped cream with gay abandon!!! I can only watch and gape! Teresa, married to a Nicaraguan, extols the virtues of my version, after seconds. Sabrina makes inroads into the cake and cream. Joann, pops her Lactaid and delves into her portion. Nooshin eats with her eyes and stomach. Vini eats little bit at a time, over days. Geets, oohs and aahs as she forks a mouthful. I watch these slim figured girls consume this calorie laden delight, Where does it go, these calories??? Into thin air I presume!! 

This is the second recipe of tres leche I have tried. I do love the first but it makes a sparse portion. Emeril Lagasse's cake is better for bigger crowds. Having made his version a few times, I find it better. More cake-like. More sliceable. Just plain better. I follow his baking instructions to a T. I tweak the leche part though!! A little bit of this, a little bit of that and I love the result.

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoons Flour
2 cups unbleached Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
6 Eggs at room temperature 
2 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole or 2% Milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
2 cans Condensed Milk
1 cup heavy Cream
1 cup Coconut Milk

Butter 9x13 glass baking dish.

Dust with a tablespoon of flour. Flour should be all over the buttered dish in a thin layer.

Sift 2 cups flour and baking powder. Keep aside.

Separate eggs.

Heat oven to 350F.

Whisk whites with a hand or stand mixer, using a whisk attachment. Whisk till soft peaks form, for about 3-4 minutes.

Scatter sugar over egg whites and continue whisking till eggs are stiff for 2-3 minutes more.

With the mixer on low, add egg yolks one at a time.

Add vanilla extract.

Divide the flour/baking powder mixture into 3 portions. 

Add one portion of flour to eggs. Beat on low to incorporate.

Pour in 1/4 cup milk and mix.

Add the next third of flour. Mix.

Pour the leftover milk and mix.

Add the last portion of flour and whisk gently to blend all ingredients.

Ladle eggs into prepared dish. Smooth the top.

Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes. The top should be golden brown.

Stick a toothpick or skewer in the middle of the cake. It should come out clean and dry. The cake is now ready to come out of the oven. 

Take cake out of the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

Assemble the milks by mixing evaporated milk, condensed milk, whole milk and coconut milk. Whisk well to blend them smoothly. 

Pour the milks over the warm cake. Start with 1 cup at a time. Do this every 15 minutes till all the milks has been absorbed by the cake. 

When cake is cool, cover with cling film and refrigerate.

Serve cake cold with whipped cream.


Eggs HAVE to be at room temperature or else whites take forever to stiffen.

I have used both a stand mixer and a hand-held one. It is easier with a stand mixer as the work is done for you by the machine!! The end result is the same for both!!

You could leave out coconut milk if you do not care for the taste. Replace it with more cream.

On occasion I have served the cake with fresh strawberries too. 

So it isn't the traditional Latin American version. Tradition and I don't go together often. This time I take a classic and twist it a tad. The girls prove their love by polishing off large portions. Restraint flies out the window. We  live in this dessert-filled moment.  Our friendship is cemented in sweetness but not light!