Quiescent – Baked Pumpkin Soup

Last whole month I was totally on move, up and down between Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Paris. It was exciting and wonderful trips but…..not that I’m going to complain about travelling, I thought I should have schedule at least 3 week breaks between each trip. Well, after the storm, I curled up into my den for couple of weeks recovering (much needed I say!).
During the days of recovery only thing I was eyeing, on the way to work through fields, was pumpkins. Belgium autumn so far has been bit nice, moist, humid and foggy. Every day the density of fog amazes me, wish there were some lakes here it would have been picturesque…..anyhow last weekend I walked to Saturday market, my most favourite activity during weekend to hunt for some fresh treasure. I did come back with last few honey melon, in season corn, pumpkin, peanut and fresh fresh walnut (This is delicious!) and lots more. Nothing makes my happier when my see my refrigerator filled with happy looking fruits and vegetable saying “eat me”. Very obediently pumpkin was transformed in to this delicious pumpkin soup. It did get some good grade from fellow colleagues. I’m totally in love with pumpkin soups, if you have any other version do drop a note would love to try!
Happy spooky autumn!

Basics – Sambar Powder and Brinjal, Okra Sambar

I typed, retyped and deleted already 5 times now, will not keep this post waiting for another day…all I have to say is I’m enjoying doing basic recipe’s. Fortunately or unfortunately I don’t get all required spice powder’s here, which has kicked the basic instinct in me to start everything from scratch. Thanks to coffee powder maker, it grounded my sambar powder beautifully. This post is heavly loaded with pictures…I did the shoot on a bright sunny day with good light diffusor (2 white curtains) and also made proper use of camera stand. Took the pictures in raw format and did minimal editing. Totally it was enjoyable recipe to make and to shoot!
Sambar powder recipe is from mom and aunt, it does’t taste like commercial or something from restaurants, but i can say it has simple, beautiful and fresh flavour. I’m proud of making sambar powder by myself, considering my limitations of vegetarian cooking ability!
Though there are so many varieties of sambar and every house has a unique way to prepare it, this is how its made at home. I prefer thicker consistency for rice and more runny for idly and vada.
Geek note: using camera stand brought great clarity and sharpness to pictures. Will stick to it from now on, can’t trust my wobbly hands anymore. Also thumbs up for pictures in raw formant, you can play a lot with it. Happy cooking peeps!

Spring time! Aviyal – Mixed Vegetable in Creamy Coconut Sauce

“People are like stained windows, they sparkle and shine when sun is out” – Elisabeth Kubler-Rose

Happy, spirited up are the day when vitamin D is activated. Yes much awaited Sun is finally here in my part of the world. Warmth, colourful blossoms and green “the” colour is just wonderful.  And all of sudden there was big shift, slipping to few 10’s of degree, rain and grey sky….I was said welcome to Belgium! But flowers are still smiling, dancing along with rain and green is getting intense!  The weather and nature are like artist and poems quite unpredictable yet beautiful! 

Spring time reminds me about fresh vegetable in India and this recipe is loaded with many vegetables in coconut sauce. This is very popular recipe from south India Kerala – God’s own country, which is usually is made with coconut paste, mum makes them with fresh thick coconut milk, more rich and creamy. When mum visited me in Finland in 2011, she smuggled brought all veggies and our home grown coconut and we prepared this recipe, yes two years back…I did tell you my hard drive cries most of the time for some fresh air! 

Till I enjoy the sun, rain and weekend…..you enjoy the aviyal (Mom’s version, not an authentic version) and glimpse of spring from my part of my world!! 

                 Airy light papads …or call it as flying breads

                 My mint plant is growing very happily at home!

Ingredients

Vegetables (All together you need 300 grams)
White pumpkin
Beans
Carrot
Yam
Raw Banana
Potato
Brinjal / Eggplant
Drumstick

100 ml Yoghurt
200 ml Thick Coconut milk (or coconut cream)
1/4 tspn Turmeric powder
1 spring of Curry leaves
4 to 5 Green chillies (ground to paste)
Salt according to taste

For Tempering 
2 tbspn Coconut oil
3/4 tspn Mustered seeds
A pinch Asafoetida
2 spring of Curry leaves

Method
Steam all vegetable along with some water, till it is half cooked, along with green chilli paste, turmeric, salt and one spring of curry leaves.
(You can steam all the vegetable in pressure cooker without weight, or pot boil till it is half cooked.)

After vegetable is half cooked, add coconut milk along with water from vegetables and slowly bring it a boil till it thickens, then add yoghurt and give it a boil for just two minutes. (Don’t over boil them, else the yoghurt will curdle)

Next do the tempering. Warm coconut oil, add muster seeds, let it splutter then add Asafoetida and curry leaves let it splutter. Then add to the vegetable mixture

Rich, flavourful aviyal is ready to serve with rice and crispy papad! 

Doll House – Zucchini chocolate cake

I finally started to go through my hard drive. These pictures are from summer 2010 (couldn’t skip though it is old) when I visited a friend’s baby girl’s first birthday party. A doll house was exclusively built for her, in their garden beside the lake. The doll house was extremely adorable, with little bed, dinning table, kitchen utensils, toys and chairs. Party was filled candies, chocolate, desserts and kids high on sugar. Those were the days when I was learning portraits, still learning, it is tough with kids, so it was a fun evening. The b’day girl was center of attraction, a social baby and she enjoyed her day completely. I had this cake at the party, I couldn’t come out without asking for the recipe simply because it was delicious, later I paid back her mum with party pictures. Today is writers block day for me, it took more than one hour to write this (in state of shock to see pic untouched from 2009). I tweaked this recipe to my own choice, but unfortunately didn’t note down the changes. So i’m giving you the original recipe, this makes a  large portion, coffee table at work saved me, feel free to half it or just go by this! Happy baking! 

                                       she wasn’t happy when so many were entering her territory

                                             She had great fun seeing what everyone gave her

Ingredients
(It is according to finnish conversion in a day or two will give the measurement in gram)
6 dl  wheat  flour
4 dl sugar
1.5 dl cocoa powder
2 dl oil
5 dl grated zucchini
2 teaspoons  baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
2 eggs
70 gram chopped walnuts
dash of cream

Preheat the oven to 175 C
Mix everything together, pour the mixture in a prepared large rectangular cake pan or any cake pan. Bake for 45 min till the knife inserted comes out clean. Could be served with whipped cream or vanilla sauce.

A guest post by Anamika Arun from Taste Junction – Aloo Paneer Kofta in Makhni Gravy

My fingers are still dancing on key boards non stop! I never thought that writing thesis would need creativity, it not only needs some but a LOT taking away all the oxygen and blood from brain. There is no realization of what day it is or if at all it is morning or night. Though I knew this how it will be, living thro’ it is very challenging. Am waiting for my mom to arrive to give me a hug and a bowl of warm food…sometime to get to kitchen for a simple dinner is like moving a mountain!
With this scenario Anamika of Taste Junction wholeheartedly volunteered to write a post for me. Not so long ago Anamika stopped by my blog, I visited hers just few time, sincere apology to her and to many others, since i’m doing no justice, but shall return back to normal mode within two months! Her blog as it says is a junction where cuisines from world meets. I was seriously surprised when she gave me options to pick for a guest post, she sounded like a pro chef! From all her great recipe dahi vada stole my heart, exactly what i would like to enjoy now …so why wait for here is very talent Anamika from Taste Junction. And thanks  bunches Anamika for understanding and coming over you saved my nerves
Just like any home reflects the personality of the resident; so do I feel about the virtual window or the blog. The moment I visit a new blog, I immediately personify the blogger with the cues of the space. And though technical aspects have a huge role to play in that, yet there are some sure sure-shot giveaways, like the choice of color schemes, fonts and writing style.
So the very first time I visited Ananda’s blog (which unfortunately was not too long ago), I felt a sense of calmness and aesthetics. And after lingering a little more than I needed to, admiring her beautifully captured images and thoughtfully prepared delicacies, I knew it was not going to be a short stay. 
So here I’m, pleased to take this appreciation a step further with a guest post, while she dedicated herself to some meaningful research. I’m sure her tired body and mind can get a bit re-engerised after having some home made comfort food.
I’m sharing with you all a popular North Indian curry – Aloo paneer kofta in makhi gravy. You might even be knowing this dish as “Malai kofta”. Difference is that malai kofta is sweeter with cashews/ rasins/sugar and richer with cream, while this is lighter and bit on the spicier side than sweet. But to offset the spicy koftas, I add it to sweet makhni sauce to get a good balance.
Koftas are deep fried dumlings of spiced and mashed vegetables. This one is made with potatoes and cottage cheese. But ‘kofta” of spinach, carrots and cauliflowers, lauki are also very popular. If you prefer you can bake the dumplings than frying, but of course the taste and texture will be little different.
Aloo Paneer Kofta in Makhni Gravy Recipe
Ingredients
For the Kofta:
3-4 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
3 tbsp of crumbled paneer
2 tbsp of grated carrots
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
1- 2 finely chopped green chillies (as per taste)
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp chaat masala (optional)
½ tsp red-chilli powder
Salt To Taste
Oil for frying
For the gravy
½ kg tomatoes – chopped
1 tbsp cashews
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
2-3 black peppercorn
1 cinnamon
1 clove
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp butter
Pinch of sugar
Salt as per taste
1 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp dhania powder
1/2 tsp kasturi methi
½ tbsp oil 
1 tbsp butter
Method – for kofta:
Heat oil for frying in kadahi/ deep pan. Mix all the ingredients of the kofta in bowl. With a lightly greased palms, make small balls of the mixture. 
Check if the oil is hot enough by putting a small drop of mixture. If it immediately comes on top, oil is ready. Now place koftas in it at high (gas mark 6) and then reduce it to medium-high (gas mark 4) to get crispy koftas. 
Once well browned on both sides, drain on tissue and keep aside. 
Method – for gravy:
Add ½ tbsp oil in a pan. Then add butter to it. Once butter melts, add bay leaf, cumin, peppercorns, clove & cinnamon. Let the cumin splutter 
Then add the cashews & fry it for a while till lightly browned 
Now add chopped tomatoes along with salt, sugar and all spices, except garam masala & kasturi methi 
Add milk & cook tomatoes till all pulpy. Remove from stove & let it cool. 
Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon and put in blender and blend it as puree with very little warm water (I like to keep some texture, but depends on you) 
Put it back in the pan and bring it to a boil. Add kofta balls and add garam masala and crushed kasturi methi. 
You can finish the dish with a tbsp of cream and chopped coriander. 
If serving later:
Always add koftas to gravy only 10-15 mins before serving, since once added to gravy, kofta becomes soft and breaks. You can even warm up the kofta and gravy separately before adding it so that they do not beak and are at same temperature.