Friday, May 31, 2013

A taste of Hyderabadi cuisine-Qubani Ka Meetha (Stewed Apricot dessert)

Dear Readers,

Let me introduce you to a very traditional and beautifully simple Indian dessert - Qubani ka Meetha. Qubani ka Meetha is a Hyderabadi specialty and a common feature at Hyderabadi weddings. Qubani is the Urdu name for apricots and meetha mean sweet. It is a dessert made from stewed dried apricots and served with malai (clotted cream). 

I have a little anecdote to share with you about apricots. During my childhood and well even now whenever I see dried apricots, I eat a lot of them not because I like dried apricots but because I love the almond like nut in its stone. As a kid I used to quickly eat the apricot flesh to get to the stone and then crack open the stones using a mortar and pestle to enjoy the delicious nuts. This used to be my afternoon past time while my mother was taking an afternoon nap. Everytime she would find me sitting with a bowl full of nuts and a lot of broken shells. Those were the days! Unfortunately I could not find whole dried apricots in Sydney, so I am using pitted dried apricots. I did go looking for them but unfortunately they weren't available even at the Indian Grocers :(

This also happens to be my first South vs North Challenge. South vs North is a fun challenge started by Divya of You too can cook where two teams challenge each other with regional Indian dishes. This challenge is hosted by Roha of Hyderabadi Cuisine. It was a great challenge for me as this was my first time making Qubani ka Meetha and I loved the flavours and the simplicity of the dish. I gave it a little twist with the addition of honey and cinnamon, It goes great with thickened cream, custard or even as a side to pancakes. Yumm!


Recipe                                                                                            Print Recipe

(Part of SNC challenge, Adapted from Hyderabadi Cuisine)
Serves 4


1/2 cup dried apricots
2 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 cinnamon stick
5-6 cardamoms - ground to a fine powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
a pinch of saffron threads
Thickened cream - to serve
8-10 Blanched Almonds - chopped


Soak the dried apricots overnight with enough water to just cover the surface. The apricots should be plump and rehydrated the next day.  Do not throw the soaking liquid as this is the stewing liquid for our apricots.

Dried Apricots

Soaked Apricots

Plump and juicy soaked apricots

Now pour the soaking liquid into a pan and allow it to simmer, once it starts simmering add the apricots and the sugar and honey. Add the lemon juice, zest  and cardamom to balance the sweetness. Add a cinnamon stick to the stewing fruit and let it cook till the syrup is reduced and the apricots soft and mushy. Remove the cinnamon stick after 10-15 minutes as we don't want it to over infuse into the syrup. 

Apricots stewing in the soaking liquid

Mash the apricots with the back of the spoon.  Keep stirring continuously and add more liquid (water or lemon juice) to prevent caramelisation and burning.Cooking time will be approximately 45 minutes.

Serve with some thickened cream or malai (clotted cream) and garnish with saffron and almond slivers.

Roast Cauliflower Soup

Dear Readers,

Winter is definitely here in Australia. The nights are chilly and the days are fresh. It's time for my flannel pjs and soft bunny slippers to come out and also my winter warmer recipes. I love making hearty, thick, homey soups in winter, they are so comforting. I am sharing with you one of my favourite winter soups - Roast Cauliflower soup. This soup is quite special, roasting the cauliflower does something magical to it, adds a depth to the soup which you don't get by just boiling the cauliflower. It also has a good hit of nutmeg and thyme and other aromats making it beautifully fragrant and delicious. I hope you enjoy this little winter warmer. I will keep 'em coming.


Recipe                                                                                              Print Recipe

Serves 3-4

1 small Cauliflower (approx 400 grams) cut into florets
1 Carrot- cut into 3 cm pieces
1 medium sized Onion - roughly chopped
5 Garlic cloves - crushed
3 tsp ground Nutmeg
2 Bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
3 cups Milk 
1-2 cups Water 
3 tbsp Olive oil
ground Black pepper (to taste)
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius (160 C if fan forced). Take the cauliflower florets and the carrot chunks and put them n a roasting tray. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of salt, pepper and nutmeg to it. Give it a good rub and put the bayleaf and thyme sprigs in it too. Roast the vegetables for 20-25 minutes till tender and cauliflower turns golden.

Once the cauliflower and carrot is roasted, take it out of the oven and keep it aside. remove the bayleaf and thyme sprigs from it.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic to it. Saute till onion is translucent and garlic is cooked off. Don't let it brown. 

Add the cauliflower and carrot to it and mix well. Check the seasoning and add salt, pepper or nutmeg according to taste.Add the milk to the pan and let it start simmering. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.

Use a liquidiser or a stick blender to puree to get a nice thick and smooth soup. Add water if the soup is too thick to get the desired consistency. 

Heat the soup before serving and garnish with a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg and thyme leaves.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creamy Vanilla Custard

A deliciously easy, rich and creamy custard. I have adapted it from our very own Aussie cooking legend Margaret Fulton's recipe and was very pleased with the results. 

Recipe                                                                                    Print Recipe

(Adapted from Margaret Fulton's Recipe)


11/2 cups milk (I used low fat and the result was still delicious)
1/2 cup thickened cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (if not available use 1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste)
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp cornflour ( use1/2-3/4 tbsp for a less thick custard)
¼ cup caster sugar

This makes a very thick and creamy custard, if you want to have a thinner consistency use less cornflour and vary cooking time accordingly when you reach the desired consistency.


Take the vanilla bean and split it across its length and scrape the seeds out with a small knife.

Vanilla Bean
Vanilla Bean Seeds

Combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over a moderate heat, until simmering. 

Milk and Cream mixture with vanilla seeds

Remove it from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes and then remove the vanilla bean after it has infused in the milk mixture.

Beat the egg yolks with the corn flour and sugar till pale and fluffy.. 

Reheat the milk back to simmering point. Pour onto the egg yolks, whisking continuously. Pour into a clean saucepan and cook on a low heat for 8 minutes. Keep stirring till the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. 

Custard coats the back of the spatula

Remove from heat and let it cool before serving. 

Cooled custard

Custard served with almond and berry friands


Almost French-Mixed Berry Friands

Dear Readers,

Friands are a French cake made of egg whites, almond meal, butter and sugar and usually flavoured with berries. The cake is dense, moist and really delicious. I absolutely adore them, I have a little dream where I am sitting in a little French Cafe eating friands and crepes listening to La Vie en Rose, how touristy I know but it's my little French fantasy. 

I used to work at an architecture firm in Melbourne, we used to have morning tea every Monday morning and I was in charge of getting the goodies for it. It so happened that there was a cute little bakery called Almost French close to the office, which is where I used to get the sweet treats from and they made such good friands that I almost always bought them for morning tea. Good times!

My version is a mixed berry friand with a hint of vanilla. You can replace the almond meal with hazelnut meal or pistachio meal to mix things up and feel free to try different fruit combinations. I am thinking of trying orange, apricot and white chocolate friand next so watch this space. 

I really hope you enjoy these little French beauties,  I am feasting on one right now with a little side of creamy custard (I know its not traditional but who cares!) I was really looking forward to baking today as I got to try out my new novelty softy kitchen timer - cute isn't it :)  

Ok enough said, get baking y'all :-)


Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

(Adapted from Exclusively Food)
Yields 6


100g butter
4 large egg whites 
45g plain flour
140g  pure icing sugar
85g almond meal
40 g Mixed berries
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Icing Sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius or 170 degree Celsius if fan forced. 

Grease a 6 cup non stick friand pan or a muffin pan and keep it aside. 

Now melt the butter and keep it aside to cool. In a medium sized bowl whisk the egg whites for about a minute till they are aired and frothy. No need to whisk to soft peaks.

Sift the flour, icing sugar and almond meal into the egg whites and fold them in.

Add the melted butter and vanilla and mix till combined.
Pour the mixture equally in all the friand or muffin cups and top with frozen or fresh berries of your choice.

Bake for 25 minutes in the pre heated oven or till the friands turn golden brown in colour and spring back when the tops are pressed. A wooden skewer or knife inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Remove the friands and let them cool on a cooling rack. 

Once they have cooled sprinkle some icing sugar on it. You can serve the friands at room temperature or slightly warmed. Enjoy!

What to do with the remaining egg yolks? Why not make a creamy custard along with the friands! Here is the recipe.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kheer-of traditions and family

Dear Readers,

My brother moved into his new home this weekend. I had planned to visit him on Sunday to drop off the goodies I got him from India, his favourites, sweets and snacks all packed with love by mum. Anyways moving houses just got me thinking of the little rituals and traditions surrounding starting life in a new home. I had done my final year thesis on the qualities of home, place making and the rituals that make home "home". Having grown up in India, and having seen the values and traditions across different cultural groups and communities was deliciously fascinating  

In Hinduism the first act of cooking in the kitchen is that of boiling milk mixed with sugar and saffron and letting it overflow. This symbolizes the overflowing and abundance of prosperity, wealth and happiness in the new home. The left over milk is then distributed amongst the family members to divide this abundance equally among them all. The other thing we have always done is that a sweet/dessert is the first dish cooked in the kitchen. Now I know my brother wasn't going to think about it or even realise it but these little traditions are a part of our little world and also fun. Its funny I have never really paid much importance to rituals, absolutely have no regard for superstitions and am agnostic in my beliefs. But family traditions and rituals that are inclusive of everyone in the family spread cheer and happiness. As humans we all need these little celebrations to look forward to. And nothing wrong with eating yummy desserts now is there ?! Also I am always looking for reasons to make kheer so I was only too happy to get into it. 

Kheer or Pal Payasam (name used in South India) is an Indian rice pudding made with milk,rice,sugar and flavoured with saffron,cardamom and nuts. It can be enjoyed both hot and cold and is a delicious dessert. My mom makes it the traditional way- by reducing the milk for a few hours and letting it thicken - very delicious but a little time consuming. It is definitely worth the time when you taste it, but for now I am going to show you my cheats way of making a delicious and quick kheer, hope you like it. Also tell me readers, what are your moving into a new home rituals?


Recipe                                                                                              Print Recipe

Serves 10
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time 1 hour


1 cup Basmati rice
2 litres whole milk or 1l whole milk and 1l Skim milk
400 g condensed milk
3-4 tbsp Sugar (to taste)
10-12 green cardamoms - ground into a fine powder
15 blanched almonds - chopped or flaked
10 strands of saffron


Wash the rice till the water you wash in is completely clear. Put the rice in a bowl and soak it in water for 15 minutes. 

In a deep pot add the milk and put it on heat. Once it starts to boil add the drained rice and let it cook on a low to medium flame for 15 minutes. Keep stirring as we do not want the rice or the milk to burn. 

Once the rice is cooked add the condensed milk, cardamom powder, sugar (to taste) and saffron and give it a good mix and let it cook on a medium flame for another 15 minutes, stir often so that the rice doesn't stick. 

Kheer should have reduced and should be of a slightly thin porridge like consistency. Garnish with chopped almonds and pistachios (optional) Enjoy straight out of the pot - steaming hot or chilled for a beautiful creamy dessert!

If you are in a real hurry to make it, I suggest putting all the ingredients in a pressure cooker and cooking for 15 minutes or use pre cooked rice and add it to the milk and condensed milk mixture and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Use fresh green cardamoms and grind them to a fine powder, the fragrance and flavour will be phenomenal. Avoid pre packaged super market cardamom powder.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cucumber and Mint Raita

Dear Readers,

Have you ever made something that you consider very ordinary and got unexpected rave reviews for it? During my final year of University study we had to go away to camp for a few days to start off our thesis year. It was meant to inspire us and also set a good vibe for the coming year. We got to talk to our supervisors and spend time with friends after the Summer break. We had set up camp at Wye River near the beautiful town of Lorne in Victoria. 

The place was idyllic and very beautiful. We were all divided into groups of 4 and had a cabin to ourselves. One of the student requirements was that on the last evening each cabin had to cook a dish and bring for dinner which was meant to be shared by everyone. I had put up my hand to do the cooking for my group and everyone was happy to pitch in. We were preparing vegetable Pulao and raita. Vegetable Pulao is a common dish in India, it is similar to the Biryani but milder in my opinion and also it is not layered like the Biryani. 

Pulao is a fragrant rice dish, flavoured with different spices and mine was a beautiful vegetarian version with lots of vegetables and herbs. I paired it with a simple raita and with the help of my other three friends we whipped it up in no time for the common dinner. And my what a reaction we got, it was totally unexpected. From an array of dishes like ravioli, spaghetti bolognese, sausages, fried rice, Beef Stir fry and what not, our dish was scraped clean first and everyone wanted more. People asked me for recipes, even people I didn't know - it was a happy and proud moment that we all savoured. I always felt that maybe my home style Indian cooking would not impress the Aussie palate, I am glad I was proven wrong. It just goes to show that simple, honest cooking and good flavours are appreciated everywhere. So my dear readers I am sharing with you my simple raita recipe today, the Pulao shall follow soon. Hope you enjoy it.



Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

yields 3 cups


2 Lebanese Cucumbers

1/4-1/2 cup Mint leaves - finely chopped

2 tbsp Coriander Leaves - finely chopped

21/2 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder

1-11/2 tsp Kala Namak (Black Salt)

2 cups Greek Yoghurt ( I like the creaminess of it, but you can use plain natural yoghurt also)

1/4 cup Milk (you can choose to replace milk with just water)

2-3 tbsp Water

a pinch of Red Chilli powder

Salt to taste


Pour the yoghurt into a bowl and thin it by adding the milk and water. Do not add too much liquid as we do not want it watery, thickness should be like pouring cream. 

Chop the cucumber into a small dice and add it to the yoghurt. Add the Black Salt (use sparingly if you do not like the taste) a little regular salt, a pinch of chilli powder and 11/2 tsp of roasted cumin powder. 

Following this add the mint leaves and coriander leaves, leaving a little for garnish. Give everything a good mix, so that it is well combined. 

Now pour the raita into the serving bowl, sprinkle the leftover cumin powder and garnish with a few mint and coriander leaves. Serve with your choice of rice dish. Enjoy!

1. Black Salt or Kaala Namak is a salty and pungent smelling salt used in Indian cooking. It is a component in Chaat Masala and is also used widely as a seasoning in raitas, fruits, chutnys and salads. Black salt is made up of mostly Sodium chloride with traces of sodium sulphite, the presence of sulphur contributes to its pungent smell. It is easily available in Indian Grocery stores.

2. To make roasted cumin powder, dry roast the cumin seeds in a pan till they colour dark brown. Use a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind it to a fine powder.

Pumpkin, fetta and walnut tart

I have posted before about my Pumpkin and fetta salad, this time around I decided to convert the ingredients into a tart. Roasted pumpkin, salty fetta and crunchy walnuts paired with crispy, flaky puff pastry - yumm! It's perfect for entertaining, just cut them into slices and reheat before serving.

Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

Makes 1 tart


1/2 sheet of Puff pastry

11/2 cups Pumpkin cubes

3 tbsp Fetta

1/4 cup walnuts - roughly chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

Olive oil spray

1 tsp thyme

Salt to taste

1 tsp Cracked Pepper


Roast the pumpkin cubes with a spray of olive oil on them for about 15-20  minutes at 190 degree Celsius till they are nice and tender. You can choose to nuke them in a microwave for 4-5 minutes instead of baking them to save time.

Take the puff pastry and score (not all the way through) a 1.5 cm border along the pastry. This ensures that the outer ring puffs up nicely and the inner area remains flat. Prick the inner area with a fork and apply some olive oil using a pastry brush. To the pumpkin pieces add the thyme, salt and pepper and a tbsp of olive oil and mix well. Arrange the pumpkin on top of the pastry. Now sprinkle the fetta and walnuts on top, put it in the oven for 20 minutes at 190 C or till the pastry is cooked through and golden.

Cut the tart into slices and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pasta Melanzane (Eggplant Pasta)

I have always found Italian language very sexy and I have to confess I try and use Italian names for food wherever I can - not to sound pompous but merely because it sounds good. Melanzane is the Italian name for eggplant and is the star of this pasta dish. The sauce is of an olive oil, chilli, garlic base and is quite light and goes very well with the gooey eggplant. It's a really fresh pasta dish, and keeps well as a pasta salad at room temperature too making it great for entertaining. I hope you enjoy my Pasta Melanzane - another little Italian adventure.

Recipe                                                                                               Print Recipe

Serves 2-3 

250 -300 g Fettucine Pasta

2  Eggplant - cut into large cubes

2-3 long Red Chilli - finely chopped (use less if you don't like it too hot)

6 cloves of Garlic - finely chopped

3 tbsp Olive oil

a generous glug of Extra Virgin Olive oil

2 cups Cherry tomatoes - cut into halves

3/4 cup Parsley - chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - grated

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Note: To make this dish vegan leave out the parmesan cheese


In a large pot boil about two litres of water, add a generous sprinkling of salt and carefully place the fettucine into the pot to cook. In another pan heat some olive oil and add garlic, chilli and saute for a few minutes. Add the eggplant and mix well so that the eggplant pieces are coated with the garlic and chilli. Cook for ten minutes till eggplant is tender.

Drain the pasta and keep it aside. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook them till they are gooey and begin to release their juices to become a sauce. Now add the salt, pepper and 3/4th of the parsley and mix everything till combined. Mix the pasta in to the eggplant, chilli and tomato sauce and mix it well. Remove from heat and add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, this adds to the sauce making the pasta moist and delicious. Sprinkle some parmesan and cracked pepper and garnish with some fresh parsley. Pasta Melanzane is ready to be served.



My love affair with Bhindi (Okra) continues

" I had eight, how many can you have?" 

These were the words uttered by a very proud, over stuffed 8-9 year old me. I was referring to the fact that I had 8 chappatis with bhindi (okra) and was teasing my cousin who claimed to be another bhindi lover, and was obviously not in the same league as me. The fact that I was a skinny 9 year old  who usually ate 1-2 rotis did not matter at the time, all I wanted was glory and lots of bhindi. 

Not much changed over the years, even during dinner parties at home mom would keep a secret stash of bhindi fry for me. During my undergraduate studies when I used to return to India every summer this was my first meal - Bhindi Fry and Roti. It's a relatively humble meal but I absolutely adore the crispy yet gooey vegetable doused in a spicy masala accompanied by hot inflated balloon like rotis. I have once eaten almost a kilo of bhindi at one time, talk about dedication!

Bhindi/Okra/Lady's finger whichever name you prefer is a green vegetable with a slimy interior and gooey seeds. It is very popular in Ethiopian, West African and South Asian cuisines. It has great health benefits too, high in Vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium, antioxidants and fiber content.

I am of course showing you the Indian way of making okra. There are numerous ways of preparing the vegetable, bharwa bhindi (stuffed bhindi), Jaipuri bhindi( crispy bhindi with besan coating) and bhindi fry - the little rounds cut and fried with onion and spices - all delicious. Some preparations keep the okra/lady's finger long and some short so as a kid I used to call it choti bhindi (small) and badi bhindi (big) to make my choice clear.

So my dear readers I give you choti bhindi fry - one of my most loved vegetable dishes of all time. 

Recipe                                                                                              Print Recipe

serves 2-3


500 g Okra

2 Medium sized onions - small diced

2-3 tsp Cumin Seeds

1/2 tsp Asfoetida Powder

3 tsp Coriander Powder

1/2 tsp Red Chilli Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

11/2 tbsp Vegetable/Sunflower oil

Salt to taste


Wash the okra thoroughly and wipe them dry with a tea towel. Slice the okra into thin rounds and keep it aside. (you may need to wipe your knife as the slime will stick to it when you are cutting the okra)

In a wok heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and asfoetida powder. let the cumin turn a little dark brown and add the chopped onions. Saute till the begin to colour. Now add the sliced okra followed by salt and spices. Give it a good mix so that the spices are uniformly coated. 

Now cover the pan and let it cook on a low flame for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes give everything a good stir, the okra should have softened. Now cook it uncovered for another 10 minutes on a medium flame to get it slightly crisp.

Choti bhindi fry is ready to be served. Enjoy with hot rotis.