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Having considered for quite a long time, a more permanent blogging platform where I have a bit more freedom to blog the way I like, I am now happy to announce that I have moved to my own domain. Although this process has taken me through a lot of trouble and an unplanned blogging break, I have learnt quite a lot of things along the way.

I thank everyone who has visited me at my wordpress blog and I hope you will continue to give me your support on my new domain as well. Please do check out http://www.ohtastensee.com and give me your feedback on what you think of the new site.

There are a lot of new exciting posts waiting for you in the new space.:)

Butternut Squash Pongal

Butternut Squash is a very new veggie to me, and I had come across it only after moving to the US. I had already tried a butternut squash soup and loved its sweet and mellow flavor. The most common recipe I have seen for butternut squash apart from soup is in a risotto. I wanted to try it too…but decided on putting an Indian spin to it. The closest thing that comes to the Italian risotto, on the Indian menu is ‘Pongal’. The creamy texture the Italians claim to love in risotto is matched in the flavors of pongal, thanks to the moong dal that is added.

You could make the pongal, sweet or savory, but I made a sweet version, so that I could feed it to my toddler son. I first roasted the butternut squash in the oven, coss I believe the roasting brings out the sugars in the butternut squash, accentuating the sweetness of the pongal. If you would like to, you may just grate the raw butternut squash and cook it along with the rice and dal.

Ingredients:
1 cup sona masoori rice
1/2 cup moong dal
1 1/4 cup jaggery, grated
1 small butternut squash(approx. 1 lb)
1 tbsp cashews
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp cardamom powder

Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Soak the rice and dal with enough water to cover for about 15 minutes.

Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until soft, when pierced with a knife. Let cool. Scoop the flesh out of the butternut squash. Discard the outer skin.

(NOTE: Don’t throw away the seeds of the squash, it is very tasty, toasted and sprinkled with some chaat masala. To get the stringy stuff and the seeds separated, place in a bowl of water. The seeds float up and the stringy goop settles at the bottom. Rinse the seeds, pat dry and roast in the same oven for 10 minutes, drizzle with some olive oil. Toss with some chaat masala and enjoy!)

Pressure cook the soaked rice and dal adding 4 cups water. Dissolve the jaggery in half cup of water and bring to a boil. Stir until the jaggery dissolves. Switch off stove, pass this jaggery water through a sieve, to get rid of any impurities. Bring the filtered jaggery water to a boil again. Let it simmer over medium heat until thick and sticky. Add the jaggery syrup and the roasted squash to the cooked rice and dhal. Stir to combine over medium heat, until the mixture gels together and thickens, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the cardamom powder.

In a seperate pan, heat the ghee, fry the cashews and raisins in the ghee and add it to the pongal. Serve hot!

Verdict: Sweet and creamy, this is not only a tasty meal, but a nutritious one too. The moong dal adds protein, the jaggery iron and the butternut squash, plenty of veggie goodness. Sweet, but still healthy.

Sending this to ‘Only – Original Recipes’ Event hosted by Nivedita and concept by Pari.

Kesar Mango Kulfi

I should have named this Mary’s Mango Ice cream. Yep, this recipe is from my friend Mary and has been her no fail recipe when it comes to potluck dinners. She says its a no fail, stress free dessert that can literally be put together in minutes. And it really is true, if you know to stir things together, you can make this dish.:)

Ingredients:
1 30 oz can kesar mango pulp(available in most Indian stores)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 8 oz tub frozen whipped topping(eg. cool whip)
1 tsp powdered cardamom seeds
1 tbsp chopped pistachios(for garnish)

Method:
Open the cans, add all the ingredients(except pistachios) into a bowl and whisk to combine. don’t stir too much or you will lose all the fluffiness that the whipped topping renders. Place this mixture in the freezer for up to 4 hours or longer, for it to set. Serve scooped to get a soft serve texture. If serving as a kulfi, pour this mixture into kulfi/popsicle moulds and freeze up to 4 hours. To un mould the kulfis dip the moulds in hot water for a couple of minutes. If you don’t have popsicle moulds, you can use steel tumblers and insert an ice cream stick into it when it is halfway set, at around 2 hours.

Sprinkle the unmoulded kulfis with chopped pistachios and serve.

Verdict: Smooth, creamy kulfis with a great cardamom mango flavor. Tasted awesome with the nuttiness from the pistachios. Eating it was so much easier than photographing it..:)

Sending this to ‘Cooking with Fruits’ event and ‘JFI – Re -runs: Mango’ event.

Brown rice Dosa

This is another version of dosa that uses whole grains – brown rice and lentils, rather than white rice. I found this recipe here, when googling for a brown rice dosa recipe. I have modified it to suit my taste. The great thing about this recipe, is that it tastes exactly the same as regular dosa, and is extra crisp too. If you are a fan of ‘Paper Roast’ type of dosa, then this is the recipe for you.

Ingredients:
1 cup short grain brown rice
1/2 cup masoor dal
1/4 cup urad dal
1/2 cup chick peas/garbanzo beans
1 tsp methi
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds

Method:
Soak all the ingredients together except the cumin seeds, for about 8 hours, or overnight.Grind in a mixer/blender until you get a fine paste like batter. (Don’t use grinder, as the garbanzo beans get stuck in between the rollers and it takes way long to grind than in the blender). Mix in the salt and cumin seeds and let this batter ferment for about 8 hours.

When ready to make the dosa, heat griddle to high. Drop a ladle full of batter on the hot griddle and swirl to form a dosa. When crisp and brown on one side, flip and cook the other side. Serve hot with chutney or sambar of choice.

Verdict: Crispy crunchy paper roast dosa, without too much oil(I used cooking spray) and too much carbs. I am very happy with the way this turned out, and I’m planning to make this recipe more often. My husband who isn’t very fond of dosa alterations, didn’t even know this was altered.:)

Sending this to ‘Brown Rice for Dinner’ event, series by Sanjeeta.

Although being colonised by the British, was one of the tainted pages of Indian history, there is no denying the fact that the English influence did India some good. From rail roads to education, their influence is probably one of the reasons India has been able to grow as much as it has today. English culture, at least to me, has never been a very foreign one. Almost all the books we read in school were written by someone from Britain, all the poems that we had to memorize and recite were by Wordsworth and Shelley, heck I even remember a passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth by heart, which I had to learn when I was in 10th grade. Even apart from that, reading for pleasure included Sherlock Holmes, Enid Blyton books: The Famous Five, The Secret Seven etc.

One image that I couldn’t get out of my head, about all of the English reading, was an English high tea. English folks mostly take tea between 3-5 PM, and it served as a leisurely affair, of catching up and socializing and most often gossiping. Most tea menus included some type of mini sandwiches, scones with Devonshire clotted cream and shortbread cookies of some sort. I have attempted to create the famous cucumber sandwiches here…

Ingredients:
6 slices white bread
2 tbsp salted butter(I used I can’t believe its not butter spread)
2 tbsp cream cheese(I used neufchatel cheese)
1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 an English cucumber slices
pepper, a pinch

Method:

Wash and dry the mint leaves. Chop the mint leaves finely, but without bruising it. Stir the softened butter and cream cheese into a bowl until well mixed. Add the chopped mint leaves and stir to combine. Cut the crusts off of the bread and slater one side of each slice with this herbed butter. Line one buttered slice with the sliced cucumber. Top with a smidgen of pepper and close with another butter slice. Cut either into finger sized rectangles or across to form triangle shaped sandwiches. Serve!

Verdict: Have you experienced how tasty the very simple preparations are? This is one of them. We couldn’t stop eating them, and the mint gave it a very vibrant kick to it.

Sending this to ‘Celebrating Sandwiches’ event and to ‘A.W.E.D – British’ event series by DK.

Also to ‘Only Cooking with bread’ and to ‘Herbs and Flowers – Mint’ event.

Strawberry Shrikhand

Shrikhand is a sweetened yogurt dish made with hung yogurt. It is often the sweet dish found in Maharashtrian thalis and not only is it a sweet component, but a very healthy one too. Shrikhand is often served flavored with saffron, and at times fruit flavored variations of shrikhand are also enjoyed. The most popular flavor being mango when its season. Its called amarkhand. I have flavored my shrikhand with some strawberries, which gave it a pretty pink color.

Ingredients:
1 cup yogurt
6 strawberries
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 tbsp sliced almonds for garnish

Method:

Place the yogurt on a tea sieve or on a cheese cloth and drain it over a bowl, overnight. If using the tea sieve place a layer of plastic wrap over the yogurt to prevent it from drying out. When ready to make the shrikhand, wash, hull and slice the strawberries. Sprinkle the strawberries with 1 tbsp of granulated sugar. Set aside to macerate for about 20 minutes.

At the end of 20 minutes, the strawberries would have lent all their juice. Drain the juice and puree the strawberries. Fold the strawberries with the strained yogurt along with the cardamom powder. Sweeten with confectioners sugar as needed, it depends on how sweet your strawberries are. Pour into serving glasses/cups and let sit in the fridge to set. Again line the tops with plastic wrap. When ready to serve, sprinkle with almonds and garnish with strawberries. Enjoy!

Verdict: Sweet, thick and creamy. This is a simple yet guilt free dessert that you can enjoy any time of day. The strawberries added a great fruity touch to the shrikhand.

Sending this to ‘Fruit/Veggie of the Month – Strawberry’, event series by Priya Mitharwal and to ‘Flavors of Maharashtra’ event series by Nayna and to ‘Cooking with Fruits’ event.

Ginger Peanut chutney

To go with my Multi grain oothappami, I made a quick ginger peanut chutney. The ginger is added along with the peanuts to aid in digestion and to to add a warm spice to the chutney.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup peanuts(with or without skin)
5 green chillies
2 inch piece ginger
1/2 cup grated coconut
small marble sized tamarind
salt to taste

For tadka:
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp urad dal
sprig of curry leaves

Method:
In a pan over medium heat, dry roast the peanuts until you get a nice aroma and the oils are released. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Grind everything listed together with some water, just until it comes together. Do not grind too much or you will end up with peanut butter. Remove to a bowl.

For tadka, heat up oil. Add mustard and let it splutter. Add the urad dal and the curry leaves. Top the chutney with this seasoning.

Serve hot with idli or dosa.

Verdict: The flavor of ginger combined with the tamarind, cuts through the richness of the peanuts and coconut and makes it a delicious side dish for dosas or idlis.

Sending this to ‘Healing foods – Ginger and garlic’ event, series by Siri.

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