Dec 7, 2011

The 3C Cookie - Coconut, Cinnamon and Candied Orange Peel

It's holiday season all over the world and wedding season in India. Moral of the story- It's time to celebrate! While we don't really do much for Christmas other than start packing our bags to head out for the New Year parties, I wanted to make something 'Christmasy' for my friends in New York. The cookies are on their way as I write this and will be part of the festive season in NY. How I wish I was on my way instead.

In all my cookie making experiences, I have learnt that it is very important to have a good oven to make your cookie. I made these using as many organic ingredients as I could in the lovely shape of a star. It's not common to see cookies other than round or square here, so when I do other shapes it draws a lot of amusing stares. Cookies store so much more better than cakes and it's always fun to make your cookies yourself so you don't end up eating as much as the store bought hydrogenated ones.

This recipe yielded 40 cookies for me, but it depends on how thin you roll out your dough.

You need:

1 and 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold pressed oil (any neutral oil)
1/2 plus 2 teaspoons cup organic cane sugar or a any sweetener of your choice
1 tbsp flax seed powder
1 tbsp water
1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
6-7 candies orange peels chopped

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Mix the flax seed powder with the 1tbsp water and set aside.

Mix the rest of the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. The flax seed mix should have become a thick pulp by now. Add that and the rest of the wet ingredients to the mix. Knead and roll out the dough and cut it in any shape you wish. You could even just make them round using a small bowl to cut it out. Poke holes using a fork in every cookie.

Arrange in a tray and put it into a freezer for 5 minutes. Bake for 10-15 minutes till the edges are firm. Remove and let it cool completely for it to firm up.

Don't forget to share some!

Dec 5, 2011

UFO attacked my pasta- How I saved the world one bite at a time

As I was walking down the supermarket aisle I noticed an odd looking pasta shape. I picked it up thinking we could use it for dinner that night and then kept it back because we decided to make our own pasta. But then when I looked at it again I actually noticed what it was. It was UFO shaped pasta! I remember seeing all kinds of unmentionable shapes and colours in Italy. But UFOs?! As weird as it may sound, the pack was filled with the cutest little durum wheat alien vehicles. How could I not pick it up?!

Uncooked UFOs

Cooked UFOs

We ended up making Lasagna for dinner that night, but the next morning our pasta quota wasn't over just as yet. It was almost brunch time till I decided I was going to attempt the American junk classic Macaroni and Cheese. I searched the internet for inspiration and then finally came up with my own version using whatever I had and thought was healthy enough to be added into the sauce.

Here's how it went.

You need:

1 cup whole cashews
1/3rd cup Nutritional Yeast
3 cloves of Garlic
1 small Onion
1 tbsp Corn Starch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

2 cups Cooked Pasta

Blend the cashews till they are a fine powder. Don't let it get to the butter stage. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion and blend. It might all clump up together. Add a little water to make it a fine paste.

In a saucepan, mix the corn starch, soy sauce and mustard powder. Add a little water and bring to a boil. Add in the cashew paste and add water little bit at a time till it gets to a nice thick consistency. Add salt, pepper and take it off the stove.

At this stage I added some chopped capsicum but you could leave it out if you want or add any vegetables of your choice.

Mix it with the cooked pasta in a bake proof dish and bake for 10 minutes at 175C till the top browns a bit.

Serve hot.

We're safe now. I ate the last UFO.

Dec 3, 2011

Raw food with Lisa and a month of surprises.

Lisa Pitman was in town and what a week that was. Lisa is a raw food chef from Canada who was travelling though India talking about her journey with raw food and sharing some lovely recipes. She had two events in Bombay one of which was a talk followed by a lovely raw vegan lunch, the other was a cooking demo done by Lisa followed by a lunch of the recipes she showed. Fresh salads, date cookies, Zucchini rolls in a marinara sauce, PAd Thai Salad and an amazing raw cheesecake were a few of the things we got to try. I also got to accompany Lisa to Elephanta caves. It was the first visit for both of us!  It is such great fun to hang out with a fellow foodie who shares a similar love for food and travel. I wish Lisa had more time in Bombay!

For more pictures of Lisa's talk and demo check out SHARAN's album

I love making lists of things I need to get my hands on for my kitchen and I love it even more when I can tick certain things off my list. November being birthday month was special not only because I turned a year older, but also because I had many Santa Claus moments this month. K was in London shopping for things for me and working whenever he got free from shopping and my two Yankee friends (Ara and Sri) got me lots of things I'm going to keep using in my kitchen!

I finally got my hands on a Pasta Machine and it is so much fun. I don't think I'll ever buy a sheets of Lasagne again! I made me some Semolina Lasagna in a tomato sauce with my depleting stock of Daiya on top. 


We love mushrooms in this house and K called me from Borough Market all excited about how excited I would be if I was there. He picked some Chanterelle, dried Portobello and one huge Portobello from someone selling tonnes of mushrooms.

Avocados from UK v/s BIG Avocado from Bangalore!

Portobello Mushroom

After keeping the Portobello for 5 days, it started showing signs that it was time to use it quickly. I made a quick lunch of Portobello Risotto from an old cookbook that belongs to my mom called Traditional Italian Food by Laura Birch. I also made a soda bread and an Arugula & Roasted Yellow Pepper salad to go along with it. You could use regular button mushrooms or avoid the mushrooms completely if you prefer them on the trees. 

November also saw the addition of the newest member to our family. (K's brother and wife welcomed a baby girl) Babies are so much fun! And I spotted a dog I have never seen before. He was massive with enough hair for two St Bernards and the sweetest face ever. I don't know why but the bigger the dog gets the more friendlier they are! This one is called a Leonberger and they are native to Germany. I saw him after two nights and he instantly recognized me and jumped up to lick my face. If my neighbour wasn't trying his best to hold him back he would've knocked me down. He was easily 6 feet tall while on his hind feet. Unfortunately he was just visiting for a few days.

It's hard to believe how big he is!

Dec 1, 2011

Quick Dessert: Chocolate Agar Agar Mousse

A lot of times we have impromptu film screenings or friends pop in and I can never let anyone go without eating something. On one such 45 minute notice period I made a quick dessert for our visitors since they were coming post diner.

This recipe uses agar agar also known as china grass or as I heard someone on Master Chef Australia call it Aey-gaar Aey-gaar. (I bet they must be making fun of our accents. Have you ever wondered if there is ONE true accent?)

Agar Agar calls for some experimentation on your part. Sometimes it's hard to get it right but you will learn from your mistakes. I have previously made a Lime Nutmeg Jelly with Agar Agar which is a bit more work than this recipe. For this recipe, I used the strips of Agar Agar which are available in the grocery stores if you ask for China Grass. Each pack of Agar Agar has one thick strip which is enough for half a litre of milk. 

This is the plain, unflavoured Agar Agar (China Grass) I like to use

Since this wasn't planned with enough time, I used sweetened chocolate flavoured soy milk which I had. But you could do the same with any other non dairy milk if you prefer. You can do it with cashew, almond, coconut or even rice milk.

You need:
1/2 litre (roughly 2 and a half cups) of Chocolate Soy milk at room temperature
1 Strip of Agar Agar (Cut and powdered in a dry mixer)
1/4 cup water

Mix the powdered agar agar flakes with the water and bring it to a boil. Stir frequently and make sure most of the agar agar has disappeared. A few small lumps are okay. Now, little bit at a time, while stirring continuously, add the chocolate soy milk. Keep it on the stove for about 3 minutes more till the soy milk is hot and take it off the stove. Pour into a big glass bowl or small moulds to set. Keep it in the fridge and let it set for at least 45 minutes.

It always has a better texture after about 6 hours, but it's like a perfect mousse after an hour.

Top with some grated/ chopped vegan chocolate (Bournville, Mordes) and serve cold.

Nov 6, 2011

Organic Mung Daal and Bottle Gourd Crepes (Chillas)

I emphasize on the Organic for a reason.

As an agrarian nation, we are probably more connected to what we put on our plates than many other countries. Or at least we used to be.

Do we know what is in season anymore? Do we know where our vegetables and fruits are sourced from? What about the hybridization of our food? Do you know our food is in the danger of being genetically modified?

Lately I have been buying more organic food than ever. Yes, it is only slightly more expensive than the poisoned food (thanks to inflation). We have many choices in Bombay now with a multitude of organic stores cropping up and the Farmers Market. While the stores source the organic produce and send it to you, at the farmers market you can buy directly from the farmer. Many stores claim to be selling 100% organic produce, but it is up to you to find out and decide whom to trust. Dry grains, pulses, oils, etc are easy to find organic since everyone is riding the 'Green Wave'. But be careful and compare prices. In the guise of it being organic there is no excuse for it to be exorbitant. I have a few links on a FAQs at the end of this post in case you are wondering.

I recently signed up for a very interesting initiative, something I have been wanting to do for a while. This group of volunteers (MOFCA - Hari Bhari Tokri) are aiming to connect the consumers with the organic farmers and have them grow seasonal, local veggies and supply on a weekly basis. I cannot wait for my first basket of the winter vegetables!

I'm quite the lazy cook in the morning and thinking up new and exciting ideas for breakfast is a task. My cooking tube light only shines towards the evening. I never used to be a morning person, but these days I'm all bright and chirpy in the mornings and unfortunately not creative enough to come up with breakfast ideas. So that usually means I have to think it up the previous night, or dig into the fridge for the dosai batter or serve up some cereal! K never complains, but sometimes I wish he would.

The good thing about this Chilla or crepe is that it doesn't require the whole previous night planning bit. If you have the ingredients you can make it in half an hour. The mung daal is what takes about half hour to soak, you could soak it longer, but if you forget worry not because half an hour is fine.

You need:

2 cups Organic Yellow Mung Daal (you could use the green ones with the skins too) Soaked for at least half an hour
1 cup Organic Bottle Gourd (Dudhi) grated with the skin
2-3 Organic Green Chillies
1 inch piece of Organic Ginger
1 teaspoon Organic Cumin (Jeera)
1 teaspoon Organic Turmeric Powder
1/2 teaspoon Rock Salt (kala namak)
Sea Salt

Grind the mung daal little bit at a time till it is a nice smooth paste. Add in the green chillies and ginger while grinding or chop them fine and add them to the batter. To the grated bottle gourd, add the cumin, turmeric and both the salts. Add the ground mung daal and mix well.

On a hot iron pan or tawa spread out the batter evenly and flip over to cook the other side.

You don't need to use oil if you have a well seasoned tawa.

Serve with coriander chutney or ketchup or as we like to have it with some French's Mustard. Mustard is the new ketchup.

This post is going to Kavitha's Healthy Cooking Challenge over at her blog Edible Entertainment. Thanks for hosting the challenge Kavitha and Smita!

Chunky Pumpkin n' Pasta

I make Italian food at least twice a week. Usually it's on weekends when we don't feel like paying through our noses for restaurant food and I still have a few tricks up my fridge from my shopping spree in Italy. There's nothing like eating a home cooked bowl of pasta while sitting on the sofa watching a film about a chef. The film I'm referring to is Toast, about chef Nigel Slater. The film is co-written by the chef himself and chronicles his early childhood memories from his canned-food loving mother to his sneaky but excellent cook step mother. His love for food started young like many of us and he was able to turn his life around to become a leading chef of Britain. 

In India and particularly in Bombay, sandwiches are available on every street. The Khau Gallis (streets where only food is made and sold) have a minimum of 3 stalls selling toasted sandwiches. Only in Bombay, you can find a sandwich that costs anywhere from Rs.15 to Rs. 150 on the street! They have endless stuffing choices and you will be charged depending on how posh the stall is. I also see many places have different rate cards for the weekends now.  The toasted ones are surely not vegan since they smother the bread with butter on top before toasting. The reason I rant so much about the sandwich is because I am getting to the ketchup served along with these sandwiches. On a recent junk food binge, I happened to read a label of a ketchup bottle at a sandwich stall. You usually associate ketchup with lots of tomatoes. But in this country we have found a cheaper alternative - Pumpkins! This particular ketchup had no tomatoes. Pumpkins, sugar, salt, preservative and some food colour! You can tell the difference if you are a ketchup geek because usually they are lumpier and tend to look a little more orange than red.

So here I was wanting to make some pasta for lunch and I didn't have any tomatoes. What's the next best alternative? Why Pumpkin of course! Pumpkin is very commonly added to pasta sauces, I haven't really invented anything new here. K was very skeptical about this attempt of mine because I left the pumpkins in big chunks and didn't puree them. But if you prefer a purée, just go ahead and blend it up at the end of the cooking and you will get a nice bright orange pasta sauce.

You need:

1/4 kilo Yellow Pumpkin cut into bite size chunks
1 onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
6-7 Mushrooms (which you could avoid and add capsicums instead)
Fresh/ Dried Oregano
Fresh/ Dried Sage
Red Chilli Flakes
Olive Oil
Nutritional Yeast (Optional)
Pine nuts as a garnish (optional)/ you could also use walnuts

Cooked Pasta of your choice (I used Penne)

Sauté the garlic, herbs and onion until the onion is translucent. Add in the yellow pumpkin and chilli flakes. Cook till it is nice and tender. I covered it so it cooked faster and kept checking on it in intervals. Add nutritional yeast (optional), salt and mix with the pasta. Garnish with nuts.

Nov 2, 2011

A Vegan Lunch in Bangalore

A whirlwind weekend trip to Bangalore got me to meet all the lovely vegans who live in the city with the most awesome weather! It was a vegan buffet at In the Pink, an organic vegetarian restaurant. The menu was customized for us and what a spread we had. A lot of great food, a lot of great new friends and lots of talking.

It was very hard for me to click pictures because one, I was hungry and two there were so many new people, I absolutely had to meet them! Unfortunately I forgot to click a picture with all of them! Sigh.

That Saturday was well spent!

My plate (Before) : Pumpkin Ravioli in a Bechamel sauce, Veggie Pizza, Falafels, Hummus, Potato Salad, Tabouleh, Cucumber Peanut Salad, Chilli Bhajjis, Curd Rice

My plate (After)

Dessert: Strawberry and Lemongrass Pudding
There was also a chocolate soymilk ice cream

Pretty Vegan!

No points for guessing what this means! It's not that difficult.

Oct 28, 2011

Fostering Puppies and Awards!

This week has been really busy for me. I volunteered to foster two puppies for two and a half days while their caretaker was away. He's more angel than care taker. Currently he has 19 animals that he is taking care of. (Yes that's right EIGHTEEN! I only had two pups and I am dead by the end of it.) Of the ninteen, 14 are his own (they include dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, puppies and kittens). I didn't realize how much goes into taking care of puppies. They sleep a lot, but when they are up and about they are all over the place. It is a lot  of fun to see the silly things they get scared of, the crazy lengths they go to just to get what they want and the most adorable is the way they intently listen to what you are saying by tilting their heads from side to side. By the end of two days I was as attached to them as they were to me.

Here is my excuse for the lack lustre Vegan MoFo performance last week! What's yours?

 Pulling at my camera strap!

The exceptional Richa of Hobby and More, the wonderful Sarah of Winged Snail and the amazing Louise of Louise by Degrees  were kind enough to honour me and so many other bloggers with the 'Liebster Award' (Liebster in German means 'dearest' or 'beloved')! My blog has never gotten an award! So THANK YOU SO MUCH Richa, Sarah and Louise!!

More than an award it is an appreciation of friendship over food. It is so nice to be connected to so many people who I have never met and who share the love of food, specially vegan food. There are so many deserving food bloggers out there sharing their hard work with millions of people. What do they get in return? For me it is when people try out the recipes and tell me how much they liked it, or call me up in the middle of making the recipe with a 'Help!' or experiment with new ingredients. Everyone makes the recipe their own and that is what I love about food. You may have read millions of cookbooks and blogs but you get the most out of it when you make the recipe your own.

The idea behind the award is to give recognition to blogs that have less than 200 followers. Here is what you do when your blog is nominated for an award:
1. Show your thanks to those who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Link to 5 of your top picks and let them know they've been nominated by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the the award on your blog.
4. Enjoy the love and support of some wonderful people on the interweb! : Who writes about the lovely food she eats from her travels and her home town : A vegan mom with the cutest little 4 year old who cooks up some yum food I'd love to eat! : Giving us the vegan scoop from London. : For some lovely photos and the cutest fanged pumpkins! : Whose Marmite-baked Chickpeas I'd love to try!

It's been a busy week for me and tomorrow I head south for a power packed weekend which includes a vegan lunch meeting at an organic restaurant and the Metallica Concert!

Oct 27, 2011

Diwali in Pictures!

It's Diwali in India and I thought I'd give Vegan MoFo a peek into what it is like here in India right now.

Diwali is a once in a year phenomenon in India that goes on for almost a week. The roads are full of people, the shops are decked to attract maximum crowds, lanterns and lights adorn balconies and the kitchen is a mess! It's that time of the year when you get together with family and eat from the time to wake up till the time you sleep. It also involves a lot of noise and bad air in the form of pollution, but I have to admit, this has been one of the quietest Diwalis I have experienced so far and that is such a boon.

This post is a dedication to all the women who toil day and night in the kitchen to make the best traditional recipes for their visitors. It's also for all those people who did not burst crackers. All the birds and animals thank you!

This post is more of a picture essay of my Diwali day spent with the best cooks in my family making the best food. 

A Common sight in most houses - Chivda (Flattened rice which is roasted and seasoned with mustard seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, green chillies, peanuts and dried coconut) 

Baby Potatoes with mustard seeds, turmeric and red chilli powder 

My grandmother making a vegan Chakkai Payasam (Jackfruit Pudding in Coconut Milk)

The vegan Chakkai Payasam

Fried Plantain Chips 

My Lunch! Clockwise from top: Baby Potato Curry, Appam, Rice and Mung Dal Pongal, Avial, Spicy Potato Chips, Kosumalli

A very potent Diwali 'Medicine' (Ginger, Jaggery and Coriander)

My sister's Payal 

Athai's Kolam (A fine powder is made with rice and geometric designs are made outside houses every morning. On festival days, the designs get bigger and elaborate. These geometric designs are considered to invite special energies in to the houses and also serve as food for the ants!)

My mother's Kolam (I forgot to click a picture during the day!)

By night, everyone lights tiny lamps and candles all over the house and outside.

 My sister made that lantern!

Probably the best time to play with Bokeh

Neighbour's Hand Painted Lantern

Another neighbour's terracotta lampost

Starry Lantern

Firecrackers in the sky

My apartment complex

My contribution to Diwali - Carrot Payasam with Cashew Milk

An unfortunate end to my Diwali - a tree on fire. I hope they managed to put that out.

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