Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bele Chutney Pudi

If you live in Karnataka, you are no stranger to Chutney Pudi. Pudi means powder, so this is roughly, chutney in powder form for you. You will always find a big box of this on the kitchen shelves of every self-respecting Kannadiga, albeit different versions and different recipes. Most plates of steaming fluffy idlis and crispy dosas have a tiny heap of this powder along side the chutney (the wet kind) and sambhar

Some of us from the North of Karnataka will be miffed at the idea of eating avalakki vaggarane, mandakki vaggarane, and uppittu (upma) without chutney pudi. No actually, we eat chutney pudi with uppittu and avalakki. To the extent, my mother gets annoyed every time there is a holler for some more chutney pudi.  ''We need a person to manufacture only this pudi exclusively for this household!!''  you can often hear her grumble. Not that anyone ever sacrifices a second and third serving  to placate her! 

All wedding preparations start with the making of kilos of chutney pudi and menthyada hittu, another versatile, very flavorful but bland powder made with mixed lentils. Mention wedding preparations at home and you can bet your next dose of filter coffee, at least one person around will ask " Is the chutney pudi and menthyada hittu ready? These are packed in covers, small ones for guests, big ones for close family ; )  along with chakli, mandakki unde and other snacks to be given along with the tambula and the mandatory 'return gift'. Of course, there is invariably feedback, comments and ratings on these from folks who receive them! 

And then there is the small army of people you need to feed in a wedding household. Having chutney pudi and menthyada hittu around is a life saver as it fills up any empty spaces on the plantain leaf. Often after the first 'batch' of dinner is served, you can hear the kitchen in-charge for the evening (one of the elderly Aunts mostly) whispering about an unexpected shortage of rasam/sambar/ kootu . No panic! We will serve some chutney pudi! Hungry kids bawling for a snack or (more) visitors in the bedlam? There will be a huge box of chutney pudi avalakki (a dry snack made with rice flakes) and the usual snacks all ready. I am too lazy to grind chutney for the dosa / idli today? No worries, we will eat it with the pudi doused in oil or melted ghee. Oh did I mention, its also heavenly mixed with hot rice and a dollop of ghee! 

I know by now, it is all coming out of your ears. But this is one tongue tickling spicy pudi we all love to have around. Handy, spicy, versatile, lip-smacking. Time consuming yes, but keeps well. If your mother or mother-in-law or 'expert' Aunt doesn't pack pouches of this for you, and you don't already have that family heirloom recipe, here is how my mother makes it. 

Bele Chutney Pudi

This version is called Bele Chutney Pudi  as it is made with a larger proportion of lentils, making it a healthier, protein rich one. This is a rough guide (OK Amma  eye balled and I measured it, hence the odd measures),  do go by your taste,  please refer the note below.

Ingredients (makes a generous 5- 6 cups or more) 

Chana dal -  2.75 cups
Urad Dal - 1.5 cups
Peanuts - 1 cup
Dry coconut - 1 large, grated
Red chilli powder - 1/2 heaping cup (or more)
Peanut or vegetable oil - 8-10 tablespoons
Hing - 1.5 teaspoons
Jeera - 2 tablespoons
Coriander seeds  - 2 tablespoons
Curry leaves, washed and dried. - 1 cup loosely packed
Tamarind - 1 large lemon sized ball
Jaggery roughly bashed and measured - 1/3 to 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

Method : Measure and set aside all ingredients separately. In a heavy pan, dry roast each ingredient on low heat separately till light golden and aromatic. Cool on separate plates. Grind the chana dal, urad dal, coriander, jeera and peanuts one by one till slightly coarse. Dump in a large vessel. Toast the coconut till light golden, curry leaves till crisp. Warm the tamarind till it is slightly crisp. 

Take a small portion (about a cup) of the ground lentils, add the tamarind, curry leaves and process till fine. Then add the coconut and process very briefly till it is done, do not over do or it will turn oily. 

Roughly mix together all of the above ground ingredients, add the jaggery and grind again very briefly just to combine. 

Heat the oil, switch off once hot, reserve 2 tablespoons of it. When it is just barely warm, add the chilli powder and hing Mix thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients with your hands adding salt to taste. The powder should not be very dry. Add the reserved oil if needed. Store airtight.

Please  note : Too much urad dal will make the pudi smell odd, the proportion of chana dal needs to be almost double this. You can use more of peanuts and coconut, but then you may need less oil later. Be sure the hing is strong and of good quality. Do not shy away from using enough chilli  powder and the spices, or your pudi may taste bland.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Strawberry Quark Cream Cake

                                Birthdays are nature's way of saying eat more cake! 

So it was hubby's birthday last week and of course there had to be cake! With the pretty blush of strawberries dotting the carts and supermarket aisles all around,  a strawberry cake was waiting to happen. Baking layered cakes is fun but involves time and effort.  Nothing that can't be planned ahead and spread over a couple of days to make it easier though. If you want homemade quark in the filling, pre-planning is absolutely necessary. I made the quark first (you will need at least 40 plus hours for this!), baked the sponges later,  struggled to get neat layers (and failed), made and filled the strawberry filling the next day. Let it sit in the fridge a good 16 hours and decorated it on the birthday.  Turned out to be a light and moist, slightly tangy, relatively low fat Strawberry Quark Cream Cake we enjoyed.

This sponge has been a favorite,  one I have been using since ages.  About time I stopped just saying and actually tried a new recipe ! Finally tried a slightly more substantial fat less sponge from Deeba's blog.  The eggs are warmed over simmering water and then beaten,  a touch of baking powder lightens the cake.  Love these sponges as nothing soaks and holds up syrup better. If you are yet to try one of these, please do! I like having pieces of this cake in my freezer for trifles and would probably store whole ones too if I had a freezer big enough!  

Strawberry Quark Cream Cake


For the sponge from here: ( You will need 2 of these if you want a large 6 layered cake)
  • Eggs - 4 large / 192 grams 
  • Sugar  - 100 grams, I used powdered, Deeba uses granulated
  • Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
  • Plain flour - 100 grams
  • Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
  • pinch salt
For the Strawberry Puree

Fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped roughly - 12-15 
Butter - 1 teaspoon
Sugar - 3-4 tablespoons (adjust depending on the tartness of strawberries)
Vanilla bean - 1/2 scraped

Strawberry Quark Cream (You may need all of this baking a 6 a layered cake, better more than less)

Strawberry puree - 1/2 cup
Homemade Quark- 2 cups (from about 1 liter milk) 
Sweetened Whipping cream ( I use non-dairy) - 2 cups (to make 4 cups of whipped cream)
Powdered sugar - about 1/3 to 1/2 cup as needed depending on the proportion of quark to cream
Vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons
Pink Gel color - a couple of streaks (optional)

Simple syrup 

Water (1 1/2 cups) and sugar ( 3/4 cup) heated together. Cool and stir in a bit of vanilla. Make more if needed.

Method to make the sponge :  

It would help to remember that it is most important to whip the eggs to the specified stage and so is folding in the flour right. The baking powder helps make the sponge lighter, a saving grace! I need more practice, it petrifies me each time! Watch this and this video of Rose Levy Beranbaum if you will baking this kind of sponge for the first time. 

  • Preheat oven to 190C. Line a 9'' (Deeba uses 8'' loose bottomed tins) round baking tin with parchment paper. Grease the bottom and sides, dust sides lightly with flour.
  • Make 1 sponge at a time 
  • Sift the baking powder, salt and flour together. Set aside.
  • Place the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a large steel bowl. The bowl should sit snugly in a preferably heavy, sturdy bowl with a handle. I used my pressure cooker.  The bowl with the eggs should not touch the hot water in the bowl below. 
  • Whisking constantly, heat until the eggs are slightly warm to the touch (it was about 102 F on my instant read thermometer)
  • Take off the heat. Using a hand mixer on highest speed, beat the eggs until they have tripled in volume, and become very thick and mousse like, 5-8 minutes. 
  • Sift 1/3 of the flour over the eggs, fold in with a large spatula or slotted skimmer gently till you see most of the flour disappear. Repeat with 1/3 more of the flour. Add the remaining flour and fold in making sure all flour is mixed thoroughly with no lumps. Please do watch Rose's videos for this technique. 
  • Turn batter into the tin (do NOT rap the tin) and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly colored and a tester comes out clean. If in doubt, err on the side of over baking slightly.
  • Run a sharp knife around the sides to release the cake, immediately invert it on a rack, then re-invert so that the cake cools top crust up. When completely cool, trim the top and bottom crusts, cut the cake into 2 or 3 layers as needed. If you do not trim the crust, the syrup won't be absorbed well. 
For the fresh  strawberry puree / compote - To make a generous half cup

Put all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook on low heat for 5-8 minutes till the mixture is thick and syrupy. Be sure this is not watery as it will thin your cream. Mash roughly with a fork to keep it chunky or puree in a blender for a smoother puree. 

Strawberry Quark Cream 

Whisk the quark, vanilla and powdered sugar till well blended. Fold in the strawberry puree. Mix in half cup of whipped cream to lighten the mixture.  Gently fold in the whipped cream in the proportion you desire. ( Try with a tablespoon of quark, sugar, 2 tablespoons whipped cream and some puree to get an idea about the proportion you will prefer. More quark makes the cream tangier as the puree will be tangy too. Use sugar as needed)

To assemble :

Place one layer of the sponge on a platter, brush the simple syrup over it, making sure it is thoroughly moistened or the cake will be dry. Dollop some cream in the center, spread evenly using an offset spatula. ( I will never learn this in a 100 years!!) Repeat with two more layers. Frost the top and sides. There are always chocolate collars to the rescue! Chill at least overnight or even up to a day to let the flavors meld. Decorate as you wish. Serve chilled. 

Please note : If making this sponge first time, it s a good idea to use the extra layer of cake to test how much syrup it will absorb. Brush and chill, top with some cream, chill for an hour or so, then check the taste and texture.  Alter the amount of sugar in the syrup if needed. The sponge will be moist but not soggy or pasty. One of the layers here is very similar sponge from Roland Mesnier. Deeba's is easier and faster. 

The fresh strawberry puree lent a nice but subtle flavor and tang to the fillingIf strawberries aren't quite your thing, just wait for the mangoes to arrive or use chopped ripe sweet kiwi fruit instead (do not cook either fruit). That should be delicious too!  

Adore strawberries and love tangy sweet ? Try this cake before the season is over! I liked the sponge too, a Tres Leches next perhaps?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Easiest Dark Chocolate Brownies - Easy Baking For Beginners

Watch the video here. You can also subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Click to subscribe now!

Wish you a very happy new year! Hope this year brings some much needed harmony and peace to the world.  Progress, growth and everything else can come next.  Hope the worst is over and we get a better and safer world to live in.  Makes me think, it is now more important than ever to reinforce and instill values, tolerance, broad mindedness and humanity in our children.  And of course, live and love each day, count the blessings.  As these thoughts rule my mind today, I can't help but think how insignificant the next post or some bad pictures are while there are much bigger victories to be won!

Here are some easy, rich, creamy, moist and extremely chocolaty brownies with a truffle like texture.  This is no snack with a glass of milk nor are these for the faint hearted.  This is dessert best enjoyed with some coffee or orange whipped cream.  With barely any flour here, these brownies vaguely reminded me of the Chocolate Idiot Cake , only these are even more idiot proof!  Just the kind of thing you can throw together at the last minute for a weekend dessert or party.  This is the easiest recipe for chocolate brownies a beginner can attempt as there is no risk of scorching or seizing the chocolate.  Enough said,  why not let these be your first batch?  I promise, if you adore chocolate, you won't regret! 

If you are an absolute beginner, please do drop by here before you begin.

Helene's Brownies - Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • Ingredients : Please weigh all ingredients. 

  • Bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped - 200 grams / 7 ounces 
  • Water - 60 ml / 1/4 cup 
  • Instant coffee - 1.5 teaspoons (optional, but recommended especially if  using local brands of chocolate)
  • Soft unsalted butter, cut into small pieces - 115 grams / 4 oz
  • Sugar, powdered - 150 grams  
  • Flour/ Maida - 16 grams / 2 tablespoons
  • Almond meal / ground almonds - 2 tablespoons 
  • Eggs - 192 grams / 4 large
  • Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon

  • Method 
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350ºF . Mise en place
  • 2. Line an eight (8) inch square baking tin with baking parchment, leave an overhang.  (David uses a 9'' round spring form tin) 
3. Take the chocolate, water, coffee and butter in a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Put it on low heat (on your gas stove is fine), stir constantly till the chocolate is melted and smooth. 

4. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the sugar.  Then the vanilla, almond flour and the flour.

5. Whisk in the eggs in 4 additions, making sure the egg is well combined each time. Remember you want to be gentle here, whisk just enough to combine. There is no need to work up a volume. The batter will be quite thin, almost pourable.

6 . Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, until the center feels just about set. (this was at 20 minutes for me) . You won't see any wet batter on top and a toothpick inserted in the center must come out with a few moist crumbs attached to it. Let the pan remain in the oven as your check for doneness. Bake a minute or two more if the center looks wet.  The baking time depends on the pan size and your oven too. Err on the side of underbaked a little if you want a creamy center. 
5. Let cool completely, lift the brownies out of the tin (parchment and all) and cut into squares. 
Serve as is at room temperature or with a dollop of whipped cream. I liked these best the day I baked them. They turn more fudgy the next day, more like biting into a creamy bar of rich, buttery chocolate. 

Please Note :
Baking time : This probably will be the only slight glitch if you are a beginner.  As mentioned above, err on the side of under baking (by two minutes at the most), it may be gooey, but still good! Do note down the baking time so that you can adjust by a minute or two next time. 
David's note on Storage: The brownies can be frozen for up to two months, if well wrapped. Because they are quite moist, they’re somewhat fragile so pack them carefully if you freeze them.  If frozen, I would  prefer to simply bring them to room temperature rather than heating them in the microwave. 

I have not added nuts or chocolate chips as I wanted the texture smooth. Do add some if you wish.

Please do not go by the color you see in the pictures here, I am just plain terrible at taking pictures of anything chocolate. If you do try these, please take a moment to tell me how you liked them!