Jun 24, 2013

PazhamPori (Ripe Plantain fritters) ... our favorite tea time snack!

PazhamPori (pronounced – Param pori)  needs no special introduction to any Malayalee. It is a deep fried fritter made with ripe plantains. As the fritter is made with Ripe plantain or Ethapazham (pronounced - Etha Param) , it is also called as Ethakapoli by few.

My mom used to make this quite often when we were kids, but do you know when I actually started to love and crave for this tea time snack? During my college days and stay in hostels.
After a long and exciting day in college, my main motto would be to get back to ladies hostel before the evening snacks got over ;-P
In the hostel canteen, they would just cut a whole ripe plantain in half and dip them in maida batter and fry them until golden brown. I guess more than the fritters I guess it was size of the fritters that allured me :-)  I mean , my mom never served a plantain fritter that was half the banana itself!! The only downside was, we were allowed to take only One…so our next mission would be to wait till everyone finishes their tea and snack and hope for leftovers, thankfully by now my friends would also join in the waiting :-P  

PazhamPori with some sweet elaichi-ginger Tea is my absolute favorite way of having an evening snack and a few weeks back when I saw some super ripe and huge plantains at our downtown farmers market I had to grab a few. And I din’t have to think twice as to what I wanted to make with them.  

Mildly chewy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside and golden brown, there's nothing you won't love about this snack and it's a fried snack I (we) don't mind enjoying anytime! And if your plantain is super ripe, then they literally melt in your mouth like how mine were. Delicious!

Mummy still doesn't prefer serving up half a plantain as a fritter, so I had to cut them up into small pieces…oh well, just eat few extra pieces and that’ll make your half plaintain :-P

And as it was made on a lazy weekend evening and my lil’Appu was happily sleeping, I took few step-wise pics as well. Ahem! those glasses are my dad’s, borrowed for my quick little photoshoot  ;-) 

Here's a pictorial on how I made these:
Peel and cut the ripe plantain however you like.

Into a wide bowl add 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Then add a heaped tablespoon of rice flour (the rice flour adds a bit of crunch once fried)

Add some turmeric, sugar and salt. Add enough water to make a smooth batter.

Batter shouldn't be lumpy and neither too thick nor too runny, just good enough to coat the plantain slices.

Fry the ripe plantain on both sides until they are nice and golden brown and mildly caramelized.

PazhamPori (Ripe Plaintain fritters) 

You’ll need:
Ripe plantain – 2 large or 3-4 small ones
All purpose flour (Maida) – 1 cup
Rice Flour (Ari podi) – 1 heaped tblsp
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – a pinch
Water – ¼ cup (more or less as needed)
Oil for frying (I used Canola oil and shallow fried)

1.  Peel and cut the ripe plantain. I cut them in half and then into thirds.
2.  In a wide bowl mix the All-purpose flour, Rice flour, Turmeric powder, Sugar and Salt with enough water to make a batter that isn't too thick nor too runny.
3.  Heat oil in a pan. Coat the ripe plantain slices on all sides with the batter and fry them until golden brown.

1.  If your plantain isn’t too ripe or sweet add more sugar to the batter mix (about 3-4 tsp).
2.  You may cut the plantain however you like , only make sure it is coated and fried well.
3.  You can deep fry if you’d like.
4.  Using Coconut oil would bring out a very authentic Keralite taste. 
5.  I have seen recipes that add baking soda or baking powder while making the batter, but I've never added it while making at home.


Jun 20, 2013

Father's Day Farm visit

Last Sunday June16th was Father’s Day and I thought I’d share some lovely snaps of the beautiful day we had at a local farm.  I had planned to post this on Monday itself but I cut my fingertip badly and just couldn't go ahead with typing or posting, so though a bit late here’s the beautiful farm visit we had.

We hadn’t planned anything for Sunday or rather I hadn’t planned anything special b'coz I had a bad sinus attack and was struggling with some terrible headaches. But it had turned out to be a beautiful sunny day and though we spent the first half of the day with lawn activities, Manish found a farm location online and we decided to go to a there around noon.

We went to Oliver H. Kelley farm, a beautiful farm still maintained in  an old-fashioned way. To know more about the farm check this site. We reached there around 1pm and as it was Father’s Day, the dad’s got to go in 'free'.  They gave us a map with 10 different spots on the farm worth visiting, but we went straight for the area where they kept the farm animals and that’s where we spent all our time.

My little guy was simply ecstatic seeing real live Ba-Ba’s and Moo-Moo’s which he only saw in nursery rhyme videos.  There were Sheeps, Pigs , Oxen, a littel Calf and Horses. Apparently they even had a Chicken farm, but we never went there.
Being a huge animal lover myself,  I enjoyed just as much as Lil’Appu and I guess even my sinus issues disappeared :-P

The sheep were simply too busy to notice anything but the grass…even lil”Appu was curious as to why they just kept their head down all the time ;-) And he screamed and laughed with joy everytime they moved!

Oh! And not to mention the naughty little pigs. Such playful  little things, they kept going behind the sheep and the sheep kept kicking them away. It was fun and Appu was in the middle of all of them  :-)

Even the Oxen with their thick and long horns were pretty tame and let us scratch their head and even ate some hay that dadda n lil’Appu offered to them.

We loved the calf, who was resting in its little barn and we all had our share of giving him head and neck scratches and Appu even gave him a kiss. 
Later the calf simply ran out of his barn and chased the sheep around and came by to drink some water and I again had a fun time petting and hugging him and he happily stood there enjoying every bit of attention he got.

And the horses, they looked so mighty and shiny and one beautiful black beauty came around and allowed us to give him a small scratch on his face and then he went about grazing with his other horse buddies. 

And I'm so glad that my dad was also there with us this year to celebrate Father's Day and that made it even more special!

We absolutely enjoyed our Father’s day farm visit and all credit for the farm visit goes to the best Dad my lil’Appu has…yaaayyyy!! 

Hope you all enjoyed the virtual farm visit! I can't wait for another visit and I (and Appu too) do hope that we don't have to wait till next Father's day for that ;-)


Jun 10, 2013

Kallappam - fermented rice pancakes, super soft and white as clouds!

What makes weekends special at our place, apart from the fact of getting to sleep in late are the elaborate breakfasts. Apparently I have always had the excuse of being a working person and now a working mom for not getting enough time to prepare elaborate breakfasts on regular weekdays, making it mostly breakfasts on the run! So weekends are something I myself look forward to, to experiment in the kitchen and actually relax and enjoy a decent  breakfast/brunch with my family.
Even if its making a simple dosa I like to try different varieties, one example is the Instant Rava dosa which I make often. Or else we are open to trying Omelettes, Pancakes, French toasts , sandwiches or homemade bread varieties etc and any authentic and naadan kerala breakfast items are always welcome and everyone’s favorite!

Such was the case when what was planned to become a simple Palappam for our Saturday breakfast turned out to be become a very popular keralite dish called Kallappam. Kallappam is a form of rice pancake in which ‘Kallu’ (toddy or palm wine) is used for fermenting the batter. The unique sour taste of toddy along with some garlic, shallots, cumin and grated coconut ground together with soaked rice or rice flour gives these pancakes a very distinct flavor. These days if toddy is not easily available Yeast is used as a substitute to ferment the batter.  

I used yeast for fermenting my batter and they turned out to be really flavorful, spongy and like a friend on facebook mentioned ‘white and soft as clouds’. They tasted quite nice even without any side dishes but my mom quickly made our favorite Potato Stew and added some boiled egg in it as well to serve along with the Kalappam.  Even spicy Egg masala or Chicken curry or Chicken stew would be a good choice to serve with this Kallappam.

It was a super duper hit at our home, specially b'coz my little guy ate two whole appams without even needing to run behind him to eat them. 

Now for some after breakfast activities....Lawn mowing has become one of our weekends tasks of late apart from cleaning the house and laundry. My dad actually seems to enjoy it more than us. So while I was busy taking Kallappam photographs, daddy was busy mowing our lawn...look at his green hands ;-) 

Few of our neighbors and their pet dogs stopped by to say Hi seeing us outside. I wonder what they thought about all the food kept out to be photographed :-P   
Anyway, I went about taking snaps of my freshly bloomed roses and of the newly found Lilac tree almost hidden behind our house. The Lilac flowers smelled amazing. Oh! and not to forget our little garden patch slowly bringing out their fruit. Our tomato is still green but looks promising. 

I had posted a pic on facebook via instagram while I was making these Kallappams, asking my readers and friends to guess the dish and I got such a lovely response. You all just made my day even more special!!  And here’s the recipe for you all.  Try it out and I bet you will enjoy it as much as we did.

This recipe prepares around 15-20 or more medium pancake sized Kallappams.


You’ll need
Yeast – 1 ½ tsp
Warm water – 2 tblsp (to soak the yeast)
Sugar – 2 tblsp
Rava (Sooji/ Semolina) – 3 tblsp
Water – ½ cup
Raw Rice – 3 cups (I used Idli rice)
Fresh grated Coconut – 2 cups
Shallots or pearl onions – 3 or 4
Garlic cloves – 4 or 5
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Water – as needed to make a thick batter
Salt – as needed

1. Soak the rice in water for about 6-8 hrs or overnight.  Drain away the excess water later.
2. Soak the Yeast in some warm water and let it foam.
3. Make Rava Kappi or Kurukku by bringing ½ cup water to a boil and add 3 tblsp rava and cook it until it forms a thick pudding like consistency. Keep aside to cool.
4. In a mixer grinder or blender, grind together the grated coconut, cumin seeds, shallots and garlic along with water. Need not finely grind.
5. Grind the rice with enough water, making sure the batter is thick like idly batter (or as thick as than pancake batter)
6. Add the yeast, 2 tblsp sugar, rava kappi and the ground up coconut-cumin-garlic-shallot mixture into the rice batter and mix gently and keep it in a draft free and warm spot and allow to ferment for atleast 4-5 hrs or overnight.
7. Once fermented add enough salt and mix gently.
8. Heat a non-stick pan or cast-iron dosa pan and spray some oil on it. Pour a small ladle full of batter (about ¼ cup) on the pan and do not spread it. Cover and cook until bubbles are formed on the top and it looks done. Flip to the other side and cook for a minute.
9. Serve hot and thick Kallappams with preferred side dish or enjoy it plain.

1. If you want to avoid grinding rice, use Rice flour. Use 3-4 cups Rice flour and add the remaining ingredients with enough water to make a thick idli like batter.
2. I used Instant yeast, but I still let it ferment overnight as the flavors mingle more as the batter sits. 
3. A suggestion I got from a reader was to grind 1 cup cooked rice along with 2 cups raw rice to get more softer Kallappams (mine was pretty soft without adding cooked rice,but its a good option)


Jun 5, 2013

Funfetti Cake for Appu's best bud's birthday!

The month of May had been busy…super busy and for all good reasons. Which is why I hardly ever got much time to share recipes except for Instagram pics shared every now and then on Facebook and Twitter.  But we’ve been eating…yes , a lot! And I’ve been taking snaps…again A LOT! So a lot of recipes are coming your way!!

It was back to back weekend outings, friend's gatherings and lots of fun and food. One of the outings were organized by our good friends whose son was turning 2 and they wanted to have a fun celebration along with a fun trip. And I happily volunteered to get the b'day cake.  
I had a lot of ideas in mind and as usual went crazy deciding on what to make and finally decided on a colorful Funfetti cake. This cake is  super fun , very colorful and really easy to 'make from scratch'.  I think this is one of America’s top cake choice for children’s birthdays from what I've read and I'm so glad it turned out great!

He is my Lil’Appu’s best bud from 6 months of age, they both went to same daycare while we were at our old apartment and are literally chaddi buddy’s in every way  ;-P and almost behaves like twins! They copy everything each other does and it's a true delight to watch them play and they definitely had a hell lot of fun. 

As we had planned to start on our trip on a Friday evening after work, I had to make the cake on Thursday night, pack it up tightly without any frosting and take it with us to the cabin resort,  where we were gonna spend the weekend. The birthday wasn’t until Sunday, so I refrigerated the cake until then (we had made sure in advance that the resort had a fridge :-) )

I baked two 9x2" cakes so that the cake would be tall. A simple Whipped cream frosting was the easiest choice and all I had to do was take some whipping cream, powdered sugar and my electric hand mixer with me, also some sprinkles for decoration. 
On Saturday night, after a super fun day at the water park and once everyone had gone off to sleep, the ladies got down to the business of decorating the cake (it was almost midnight by then). I made the whipped cream and covered it over the cake and my friends (the b’day boy’s mommy and her friend) helped eagerly in decorating the cake with the colorful sprinkles and chocolate sprinkles.

And guess what , I had totally forgotten about writing over the cake and Avyay’s mom came up with a brilliant idea, use Bournvitta mixed in some whipped cream to form a Chocolate colored cream to write the name with. So I sifted some bournvita into a little bit of the whipped cream until I got the deep chocolate color I wanted and poured that into a Ziploc bag and snipped off the end and wrote the lil’ guys name on the cake! Genius idea I'd say...

The B'day boy was so excited seeing his colorful cake the next day that he immediately dug his lil'finger into the chocolate sprinkles and licked it all up, even before we cut the cake...can you see a tiny dent in the chocolate sprinkles? ;-) The extra candles were just to add some extra light and color!

And both lil’Appu and his lil friend were totally interested in the colorful sprinkles on the cake and kept going back again and again to lick up the cream and eat the sprinkles, giving me a tough time to take a pic ;-) But I'm so glad that the cake had the effect I was hoping it would have and the boys were stuck on to it like bees on a flower!!

And for a few minutes after the cake cutting the only scene in the room was everyone licking their fingers ;-)

The cake was moist, crumbly, flavorful and slightly dense (but I guess the denseness was  due to being refrigerated for almost 2 days before we cut the cake) , but that never affected the taste of the cake. So this a good cake to make ahead. 

Happy B’day once again dear Lil’Avyay and may you and lil’Appu remain friends all life long and hope you will remember and enjoy these moments in your life someday through these pictures and stories. 

Speaking of birthdays my Lil'Appu is turning 2 next month....and I'm as usual confused with all the ideas I have in mind. I'm just crazy about fun colorful themes for kid's b'days but I already did a colorful Rainbow B'day party last year for the champ...Any ideas anyone?? 

Funfetti Cake - made from scratch!

Recipe source:  Sally's Baking Addiction
(Recipe makes One 9" x 2" cake - I doubled it for above cake)

You’ll need
All-purpose flour - 1 and 2/3 cup
Baking Powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Baking Soda - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt – a pinch or 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Light Brown Sugar - 1/4 cup
Unsalted Butter, melted - 1/2 cup (1 stick)
Large Egg - 1
Yogurt - 1/4 cup (plain or vanilla; or greek yogurt; or sour cream)
Milk - 3/4 cup  (cow's milk; or soy milk; or almond milk)
Vanilla extract - 1 Tablespoon
Sprinkles - 2/3 cup (I used 1/3 cup colorful sprinkles + 1/3  cup chocolate sprinkles)

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform or baking pan (round or square) with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps - mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Slowly stir in sprinkles, but do not overmix because the sprinkles will bleed their color.
3. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 35-40 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. (If top is browning too quickly, cover the top loosely with aluminium foil around 20 mins and continue baking)
4. Once Baked, let cake sit in the cake pan for another 5 mins and slowly release the sides of the cake pan (if using springform pan) and  invert the cake onto a wire rack and allow it to cool.
5. Frost with whipped cream or vanilla buttercream and decorate as desired.


Jun 3, 2013

We Knead to Bake #5: Bialys (Chewy Rolls topped with Carmelized Onion-Bell pepper filling)

This month’s bread for the ‘We Knead to Bake’ group were Bialys (and by this month I mean May :-) )  I know I’m late in posting this, lots of personal excuses, so I won’t bore you with that. But I’m glad I did make these.  
Bialy is pronounced as Bee-ah-lee and looks quite similar to a Bagel, but its not, as the cooking/baking style differs. Bagels are first boiled and then baked whereas Baily’s are just baked. 

Here’s a bit of insight about this bread, copied verbatim from Aparna’s blog.
“The name Bialy comes from Bialystocker Kuchen which translates as “bread from Bialystok” which is in Poland. Apparently, Bialys are rarely seen or made in Bialystock these days (I wouldn’t know if this was a fact and I’m going by hearsay). In the days when there used to be Bialys in Bialystock, it seems the rich Jews ate Bialys with their meals, while the Bialys were the whole meal for the poorer Jews.
In the early 1900s, many Eastern Europeans, including the Polish, immigrated to the US and settled down in New York. Naturally, they also brought their Bialy making skills with them and that is how the New York Bialy became famous.

A Bialy is round with a depressed middle, not a hole, and typically filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds. So it is not shiny on the outside with largish puffy bubbles on the inside. A good BIlay should have a springy soft crumb and a chewy and floury crust. A lot of people slather Bialys with butter or cream cheese but the best way (in my opinion) is to eat them as they are. Bialys are best when eaten within 5 to 6 hours of making them.

What lends Bialys their signature chewiness is the use of flour that is high in gluten. So to make Bialys, use bread flour if you can find it. Otherwise use all-purpose flour and add 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (for the 3 cups). If like me, you can find neither bread flour nor vital wheat gluten, go ahead and make it with plain flour. You’ll still have very nice Bialys that are slightly softer, that’s all. "

Last Saturday I was planning to make these for evening tea time and got the dough ready after first rise by 1pm, and let it sit for second rise. But it wasn’t until 7:30 or so that I got to making them. So all the pics were taken around 8pm, thankfully there was some decent natural light still left for me to quickly take some pics from my patio. And finally we ate them for dinner.  My lil’Appu found them a bit too chewy for his liking, but he did pull, bite and chew and play around with a small piece and ate up all the filling :-) End result, we all liked it and as for Lil’Appu he liked it as well, if only he had more teeth to enjoy them better…Lol!

The suggested filling was caramelized onions flavored with some garam masala (to suit our Indian palette) and topped with crumbled paneer. Now to my luck, I had only half an onion and no paneer , so I modified the filling a bit by using the half onion along with a quarter piece of green and red bell pepper each diced into small cubes and instead of paneer, I topped the Bialys with a little bit of mozzarella.  

I’ve copied the recipe for the Bialys directly from Aparna’sblog and just modified the recipe for the filling. She also provided videos that demonstrates how to make Bialys and also on how to eat them :-)

(Adapted from KingArthur Flour)

For the dough:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour (use bread flour if you can find it or all-purpose flour + 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten)
1 tsp salt
Milk for brushing the dough

For the Onion Filling:
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (I used ½ large onion)
¼ piece Green bell pepper (green capsicum) , finely diced
¼ piece red Bell pepper (red capsicum) , finely diced
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Shredded Mozerella cheese - for topping  (Else use 100gm crumbled Paneer )

1. Make the dough first. If you are using bread flour or vital wheat gluten, then your dough will be tougher to knead so if you have a machine you can use, I would say go ahead and use it. If you’re doing this by hand, just adapt the instructions to that.
2. Put the yeast, sugar, salt and flour in the food processor bowl. Pulse a couple of times to mix and then add the warm water in a steady stream. Knead until the dough comes together as a mass and then let the dough rest for 10 minutes. This will help the dough absorb water. Knead again, adding a little more water or flour (not too much) if you need it, until your dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky.
3. Shape it into a ball and put it in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough till it is well coated. Cover and let it rise till about double. This should take about 2 hours. If you’re not making the Bialys right away, you can refrigerate the dough overnight at this point. When ready to make them, keep the dough at room temperature for about half an hour and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
 4. In the meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oil in a pan, and add the cumin seeds. When the crackle, add the onions, and sauté over low to medium heat. Sprinkle a little salt and continue sautéing until they become soft and turn golden brown in colour. Add the green and red bell peppers and cook until they turn soft. Add the garam masala and stir well. Keep the caramelized onions aside to cool.
5. Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour and place the dough on it. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and shape each one into a roll by flattening it and then pinching the ends together to form a smooth ball. (See this video for shaping rolls, if necessary)
6. Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover them with a towel. Let them rise for about one hour (about  1 1/2 to 2 hours for refrigerated dough)  till pressing with a finger on the top leaves a dent.
7. Work on one piece at a time, while you keep the others covered so they don’t dry out. When the rolls are ready, pick them up one at a time and using your fingers, form the depression in the middle. Hold the roll like a steering wheel with your thumbs in the middle and your fingers around the edges. Pinch the dough between your thumb and fingers, rotating as you go and gradually making the depression wider without actually poking a hole through.  
8. Remember not to press on the edges, or they will flatten out. Once shaped, you should have a depression about 3” in diameter with 1” of puffy dough around the edge, so your Bialy should be about 4” to 5” in diameter. Prick the centre of the Bialy with a fork so the centre doesn’t rise when baking.
9. Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined (or greased) baking tray leaving about 2 inches space between them. Place the caramelised onion filling in the depressions of each Bialy. Brush the outer dough circle with milk. If you’re using crumbled paneer, add it to the Bialys in the last 5 minutes of baking or it will get burnt. ( I used Mozerella, which I added two minutes before baking was done)
10. Bake the Bialys at 230C (450F) for about 15 minutes till they’re golden brown in colour. Cool them on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. I found that the Bialys keep well in an airtight container for a day or two and just need to be warmed up slightly before serving. This recipe makes 8 largish Bialys.