Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Diwali!

Sparkling diwali wishes to everyone!!! Today is the Hindu festival of lights - Diwali. For those who are not familiar with the festival, you can find some information here.

I'm celebrating this joyous festival in India today! I surprised my parents 4 days back by dropping in unannounced :). Waking up bright and early to the sound of firecrackers, decorating the house with rangoli, diyas and flowers, relishing the delicious sweets prepared specially on this day and spending time with the most important people in my life, my family - this is real diwali! 

I'm absolutely busy enjoying the festivities here. While I'm taking a break from cooking, I'll be posting a lovely recipe ASAP shared by one of my favorite blogger friends. Stay tuned .

Diyas - to light up our lives.

My rangoli in my in-laws house :)

Rangoli in my house

Lantern decorations in my house

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Puff of Magic

Long before I was introduced to the wide array of pastries, I drooled over Veg Puffs at the Corner Bakery by our house. Puff pastry sheets were completely unknown to me at the time, not available at any grocery stores. It amazed me endlessly how someone managed to get SO many paper-thin layers on the crust. The only logical explanation I had come up with was, someone rolled the dough into ridiculously thin sheets and layered them. Well, I was naive and ignorant. Veg Puff was one of those things I believed only bakeries could magically produce. Something home cooks couldn't fathom recreating. Of course, it dawned upon me later that making a delicious puff pastry was as easy as 1-2-3. 1: Buy pastry sheets 2: Bake with your favorite filling 3: Gobble, gobble, gobble! One could make the pastry dough at home, but sometimes I go for convenience.

Veg Puff is a popular pastry pocket with a flaky, golden brown crust that everyone loves. Tucked inside is a mashed vegetables filling seasoned with all the aromatic spices we Indians love. And of course, what's not to love about that combination! The fluffy, slightly sweet buttery crust tones down all the spices and the crunch from it provides a great contrast to the mashed vegetables. You sink your teeth into it and without fail give out that 'ohh, this is so comforting' sigh. The filling has all sorts of vegetables and they are so wonderfully masked that any picky eater will love them. It has mashed potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, peas and onion. You can add bell peppers, beets or I imagine cabbage too! You can change up the quantities of vegetables per your liking. Veg puffs were one of my favorite (yes, B+I) after school snacks. Recreating childhood 'magic' in my very own kitchen was simply marvelous! The list of ingredient looks long, but trust me, it's a very simple recipe. 

Veg Puff 

Frozen puff pastry sheets. Thaw for 8-10 minutes or until they are soft and pliable. Cut them into 5'x5' or 6'x6' squares. Alternatively, you can buy the pre-cut square sheets.

2 Medium white/yellow potatoes - boiled and mashed
1/2 Small onion - finely chopped
Handful of green peas
1/2 Cup finely chopped vegetables - I used cauliflower and carrot
1 Teaspoon ginger-garlic paste (optional)
Finely chopped cilantro
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon red chili powder - adjust according to taste
1/2 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garam masala
1/4 Teaspoon Chaat masala/Aamchur powder
Pinch of asafoetida
Pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
2 Teaspoons oil

  • Preheat oven at 350F
  • Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let them splutter. 
  • Add asafoetida, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and onion and saute for a couple of minutes until the onion is golden brown. 
  • Add all the vegetables except mashed potatoes, all the spices and salt and let the vegetables cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Then add mashed potatoes, a splash of water if the mixture is too dry, mix and let everything cook together for 3-4 minutes. The cooking will make all the spices and vegetables come together. 
  • Sprinkle some finely chopped cilantro on the filling. 

  • Place about two tablespoons of the filling at the center of the puff pastry sheet, fold it in center to form a rectangle and close the ends by pressing together. You can make triangles alternatively, or any creative shape you can come up with. 
  • Bake the pastry in the oven until golden brown. You may have to turn it once (carefully) to make sure the bottom of the pastry is baked also. 

Enjoy the warm, flaky pastry with some ketchup! Yes, that's the 'sauce' of choice for most Indian snacks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quick Corn Usal

Today, I'm going to leave you with a quick and easy recipe for a great snack. That's it. No blabber. And I will more than make-up for the void of stories very soon, I promise.

Usal is a generic name for spicy curried or sauteed beans or sprouts. Corn comes under the grain category, but I guess this dish is called Usal because of the other common ingredients used in the preparation. It's a popular Maharashtrian dish prepared especially in early winter when corn is bountiful. The cooking process enhances the sweetness of corn, and is wonderfully balanced by the touch of spiciness. A dish of warm savory corn usal is very comforting on balmy fall evenings.

Corn Usal/Kanasachi Usal

2 Large sweet corn cobs/ 1 packet frozen corn
1/2 Small onion - finely chopped
1 Serrano chili
2-3 Garlic cloves
1/2 Inch fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon grated coconut
1/3 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnishing
Lemon juice
  • Husk and clean the corn. Hold the stem in your hand, rest the other end on the cutting board and cut off the kernels with a sharp knife. Or, just open a bag of thawed frozen corn :D.  
  • Run your knife through the kernels to give them a rough chop. The starchy juice that comes out helps it cook well, bring the dish together and give it that wonderful caramelization. You can also give the kernels a quick pulse in the food processor. 
  • Grind chili, garlic and ginger to a paste.
  • Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a wok/kadhai. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then add asafoetida, turmeric, onion and chili-ginger-garlic paste and saute for a a couple of minutes.
  • Add corn, grated coconut and salt and mix everything well. If the corn is dry, you can add a splash of water. 
  • Cover and cook, checking and stirring occasionally, on medium heat. 
  • The dish is done when the corn is cooked completely, most of the water content will evaporate(8-10 minutes). Don't worry if the corn gets slightly brown and caramelized. This is the tastiest part of the dish! 
  • Garnish with lots of chopped cilantro, some lemon juice and more grated coconut if you like. 


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