Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rasmalai with ricotta cheese

Making Rasmalai the traditional way is a time-consuming process and you should get each step right (paneer, rasgulla) for your rasmalai to taste yum. There's this short cut way of preparing this dessert by using Ricotta cheese. Actually, kudos to the brilliant mind who came up with the idea of making an Indian sweet with cheese. Got the recipe from my cousin. Her recipe with my modifications is what I made for Diwali and it tasted so good. Couldn't resist eating them all myself.

  1. Ricotta cheese - 15oz tub
  2. Sugar - 1/3-1/2 cup for making the patties; about 2-3 spoons for the milk syrup
  3. 2% milk - 2 cups
  4. Half-and-half milk - 1 cup
  5. Elachi pods - about 7,8
  6. Pista and badam - handful
  7. Saffron strands - a pinch
  1. Boil the 2% milk in a non-stick pan on a low flame with 2 spoons sugar added. Make sure you stir the milk now and then in between so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
  2. Warm a spoon full of milk and soak the saffron strands in it. Slightly twist the strands with your fingers so that milk gets the saffron flavor and color.
  3. Mix the ricotta cheese and sugar (1/3rd - 1/2 cup) in a bowl by constantly whipping with a spoon until a smooth mixture is formed.
  4. Take a muffin pan and spoon the cheese mix into the cups. 15oz ricotta makes about 12 rasmalai patties. So, evenly distribute the cheese into 12 parts.
  5. Cook on 350F for atleast 20 minutes in the oven. After 20min, keep pricking the pattie every 5 minutes with a toothpick until its done.

  6. Using a spoon carefully remove the patties from the pan. They'll be quite soft, so handle them carefully lest they should break.
  7. After the milk has thickened in consistency, pour in the half and half milk. Now, half and half is already enough thick. So add it towards the end of the boiling process, otherwise it would taste buttery when boiled for a long time.
  8. Take some pista, badam and grind them along with elachi/cardamom to a somewhat fine powder. Add this to the boiling milk. Doing so, imparts a rich badam-milk kind of flavour to the milk. Use just a few elachi pods, rasmalai has a very subtle flavour of elachi unlike kesari or kheer.

  9. Continue boiling the milk for about 5-10 minutes after adding the half and half. Remove from gas and let it cool. Add more sugar if needed. Add the milk containing saffron to this and stir.
  10. Arrange the patties in a tray and pour the milk.
  11. Sliver the remaining nuts and garnish over rasmalai.
  12. Refrigerate for atleast 6 hours before serving so that the pattie absorbs the milk.
Of late, most of my posts have been centered around sweets. Now that Diwali, the last festival of this year is over, no more sweets for me until the New Year. But you know what, while making rasmalai I figured out something interesting. The pattie soon after baking tasted so much like the milk-sweet Kalakand. On the next occasion to prepare a dessert, I'll try to make Kalakand with ricotta. Till then, adios to sweets!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pineapple Sheera

A typical Maharastrian sweet served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Until I started working in Pune, I did not know that sweet can be had at breakfast time too. Back in the lunch room at our office, the caterer would make pineapple sheera for breakfast. I loved it so much that I would usually skip lunch that day by eating 3-4 rounds of this sweet alone.

Actually, making this at home is pretty simple. No different from the traditional rava kesari excepting for the pineapple part. For the recipe, I followed veggiescookbook.blogspot.com. The blog, however, has been removed recently. For the recipe, I'd say keep the ingredients for rava kesari ready, along with fresh pineapple chunks and a pinch of saffron.

  1. Fry the rava
  2. Boil the pineapple chunks either on stove-top or in microwave. Dont let them get mushy.
  3. Take the leftover water from boiling the pineapple and bring it to a boil on the stove-top.
  4. Add rava while stirring constantly. Cook on low flame, adding more water as required.
  5. Add ghee, and continue stirring until the rava gets cooked. Add required quantity of sugar after this. For a cup rava, I add a cup sugar.
  6. Take the boiled pineapple chunks, cardamom powder, ghee roasted nuts, saffron soaked in milk and ass them all to the kesari.

Few things to note are:
  1. Don't even try to make this with canned pineapple. Its going to suck! I trashed away the entire pot full of kesari I once made with canned pineapple chunks. That was 1/2 hour of effort... Sigh!
  2. Use fresh pineapple that's really sweet. Otherwise, unless you tell people its "Pineapple Kesari", it would easily pass for the plain old rava kesari.
  3. If you take x cups of rava/sooji, take 2x cups of the pineapple chunks.
  4. And finally, the typical kesari tip. Be cautious with the amount of water you add, otherwise it'll turn watery. For fine rava, I use like 2.5-3 cups water for a cup of rava. Cooking with lid on low flame ensures that the rava gets cooked without requiring too much water.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Vijaya Dasami - Dasara - Dussehra: However you call it, its a festival that marks the victory of Good over Evil. A very special festival for the Hindus in India. Dasara and Deepavali are usually spaced 3 weeks apart with Ramzan somewhere in between, before or after. So, all in all, 3 festivals to be celebrated in a short period of 1-1.5 months. The retail stores cash in on this, and put up lighting, sales banners, what not, to attract customers. Ah! Love the festive look on the market streets back in my hometown. Visakhapatnam.

While living in India, I used to look forward to these festivals since mom would feed us all those yummy delicacies. Sadly here, I got away with the Dasara celebration making just one sweet - Chandrakanthalu. Its a sweet popular in the north coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh. Kind of tastes like burelu without the crust. Looks something like this:

Oh! no.. they are not meat balls :) Made it for the first time, wasn't as good as what my aunt (who's an expert at this sweet) makes looks-wise, but taste-wise they were okay.

  1. Moong dal - x units
  2. Sugar - x units
  3. Elachi/cardamom - as required
  4. Fresh Coconut - like 2 spoons for 1 cup dal
  5. Oil for deep frying
  1. Soak the moong dal for atleast 3 hours
  2. Remove all the water and grind the dal to a coarse paste in a mixer. Add water in small quantities while grinding. You don't really need a smooth paste. The mistake I did was adding lot of water while grinding.
  3. Take a thick bottom vessel and add the required quantity of sugar. Pour just sufficient water so as to cover the sugar and boil to make a sugar syrup. Again, be careful with the amount of water used in this step too.
  4. Once the sugar has all melted, add the moong dal paste and cook on low flame with constant stirring. Essentially, moong dal should cook in the sugar syrup. even if you stop stirring for a moment, the dal would burn. Takes about 5 minutes for 1 cup dal to cook completely. Since its already crushed into smaller particles, the dal shouldn't take long to cook.
  5. Once cooked, add grated coconut and elachi powder.
  6. Assuming all went well, that is, you got the amount of water right, the cooked dal should have a halwa-like consistency. Pour it on a greased flat plate and cut it into small squares just like you cut mysore pak or other such sweets. The squares shouldn't be thicker than half-an-inch else when you fry, the interiors would remain raw.
  7. Give it some time to cool.
  8. Meanwhile heat sufficient oil in a kadai. Take out each square that you just cut and drop it in the oil. Fry until it turns golden brown and flip sides. They can burn quite quickly, so remove as and when they turn golden-to-deep brown.
  9. Serve hot and crispy chandrakanthalu! This sweet is a perfect example for "no one can eat just one". Try it yourself, and you'll have to agree with me.
Because my moong dal paste was slightly watery, I could not cut out the cakes. So took spoonfuls of the paste and fried.

After snacking endlessly on chandrakanthalu, we decided to visit the temple. And guess what, there was this amazing "bommala koluvu" put up for public viewing. I always loved the idea of kolu but never saw one directly, since none of my friends and relatives follow this tradition. And here, in a land far far away, I got a chance to appreciate an Indian tradition. Strange, huh? Actually, even in India, if bommala koluvu is kept in temples like here, more and more people will be able to look at it. I just couldn't take my eyes off all those little dolls, they were all so cute and pretty. Mostly the kondapalli wooden toys sold in Handicrafts showrooms like Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh. Some pictures from the Shiva-Vishnu temple, San Diego:

Signing off, looking forward to Diwali!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Vegetable Omlette

I know there isn't much to write about the making of an omlette, one of the several quick eats that can be had at home. But then, a couple of tips that would result in a really fluffy omlette are what I wanted to share.

When I first started to make an omlette, they would end up looking like a dosa while tasting like an omlette. I mean, they were so flat unlike the ones we have at these good breakfast places like IHOP. I was told that the only way to really puff up your omlette is to add lot of oil or butter. The calorie freak that I am, I would prefer a dosa-like omlette to a pancake-like high calorie omlette any day. But now, after lots of Googling, I figured out the way to make really fluffy omlettes.

Here are the tips:
  1. The secret zero calorie additive that makes a soft and fluffy omlette is water. Yes, you read it right - water! Beat the egg, add 1-2 spoons water per egg and whip the mixture really well. The color should change from deep yellow to lemony yellow with lots of froth.You don't really need an electric blender for this, a simple whip will do.
  2. If you plan to add veggies like onion, tomato, chillies, do not add them to the egg mixture. Add some salt and pepper to the whipped egg and pour it on a slightly greased pan. After a minute or so, add the veggies. Earlier for my convenience, I would add the veggies after whisking the egg and pour them all at once. But no, don't do that. Give the basic egg mix a little time to cook, before adding the toppings.

This one right here should give you an idea of the thickness of the omlette. Used just one egg for this.

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