Anu, a close friend of mine and a fellow member of our Book Club formed in the eastern part of Singapore, is an avid cook. I have known for many years and each time I go over to her place or she comes to one of ours, she'll bring one of her delicious treats. Once we savoured pizza toast using her own homemade pizza sauce, another time Anu made little dough balls using leftover dosa batter with a very delightful coconut chutney. Last week on Monday, we had a taste of her delicious Briyani using her own home made Briyani Masala.
We all cook for our family and friends but where do we have the time to make our masala powders from scratch? Roasting the whole spices and then cooling and later grinding them into a fine powder. And the proportions must be in the right amounts otherwise you will have in hand either a very bland masala or an overpowering one. I found Anu's Briyani Masala just right and very balanced. Not too spicy, not too pungent. Anu makes all her masalas from scratch - Briyani, Sambar and Rasam as well. She shared her Briyani Masala Powder recipe with me on Monday. Unfortunately, I will not be sharing the masala powder recipe here in this post as I am encouraging her (and empowering her) to start selling her masala powders to all who want a less pungent overpowering store bought ones. Hopefully, Anu will have a thriving home business selling spice powders soon!
This is how her Briyani Masala looked like :
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2-3 tbsps canola oil
1 cup Basmati Rice, soaked for 30 mins and drained
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 and 1/4 tsp of Anu's Briyani Masala
1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (for the gorgeous red hue without the heat)
Salt to taste per your preference
1 medium sized potato peeled and cut into 1 inch long thick pieces
1 small sized carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch long thick pieces
2 long beans, washed and cut into 1 inch long pieces
A stalk of coriander leaves, chopped
1) Take a large pot and fry the onion and ginger garlic paste in canola oil.
2) Add the briyani masala, chilli powder and salt and stir for 2-3 mins.
3) Add in the vegetables and 1 cup water and stir and cook on low heat till water evaporates
4) Then, add in the drained basmati rice and stir gently ensuring you dont break the soaked rice. Stir till the oil is evenly coated on all grains of rice.
5) Transfer to your rice cooker. Add 2.5 cups of water and check for salt. Switch on your rice cooker and cook per normal.
6) Serve warm with plain dal and cucumber yoghurt raita.
Along with delicious pizzas and pasta dishes, Minestrone Soup originated in Italy. It can be either thin or a thick soup made with vegetables often with the addition of pasta or rice (gluten free), sometimes both. Common ingredients of Minestrone Soup are onions, celery, carrots, zucchini and stock. You can substitute with gluten free pasta, sweet potato or quinoa for the carbs.
Why is it called 'minestrone'? Minestrone means 'big soup' in Italian thanks to the multitude of vegetables thrown in. Minestrone is made differently across Italy depending on available ingredients and seasons. It is a very healthy soup that will keep you full for a long time. For my version, I have added kidney beans as well for protein to keep us full longer. Toast a few vegan garlic bread and you have a complete meal which will be devoured in minutes!
Ingredients (Serves 2 generous portions)
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get hold of a delicious vegan cake? As vegan cakes lack eggs, butter and milk to create that soft pillowy texture of the regular cakes, finding one which is delicious and soft is not easy. Many a times, I have bought vegan cakes and brownies but only to get home to a dry crumbly one which is not worthy of its name at all. So I decided to attempt to make one of my own albeit trepiditiously. I'm more of a cook not so much of a baker.
I came across this following recipe in veggie desserts and it turned out quite good. My vegan girls loved it and it didn't last long in the fridge! The ganache was totally lick-worthy but I felt the cake itself could use more sugar and moisture as it was a little dry. The following recipe yieds a 6x3 inch high cake which can be cut into 10 reasonably sized slices.
300ml (1 and 1/4 cups) unsweeteened dairy free milk - soy milk, almond milk)
1 tbsp lemon juice
150 gm (2/3 cup) vegan butter or margarine
3 tbsp golden syrup/maple syrup
2 tsp instant coffee granules
2 and 1/4 cups (275gm) plain flour
1 cup ( 225gm) caster sugar
4 tbsps unsweetened cocoa
2tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup (75gm) vegan butter
1 and 2/3 cups icing sugar
4 tbsps unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsps water
1) First, preheat the oven to 180 deg C or 350 F. Lightly grease 2 round baking pans of 6x3 dimensions.
2) Get a small bowl and mix the lemon juice into the dairy free milk. Set aside to curdle into buttermilk consistency.
3) Next, get a small pot and melt the vegan butter on low heat. Add the coffee granules and golden syrup. Stir till mixed well, switch off fire and let it cool
4) Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
5) Now, mix in the coffee butter mixture and the curdled dairy free milk into this sieved flour mix. Mix well but don't over mix.
6) Your batter should be of slightly thick consistency.
7) Pour the batter into the 2 prepared baking tins and bake in the oven for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
8) For the ganache, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl.
9) Slice off the top layer of one of the cakes so that the ganache can be applied evenly onto a flat cake. Start icing the top of the sliced cake. Sandwich with the other cake and spread the icing over the top of the cake. Freeze it for 30 mins to an hour to set the ganache.
10) Serve with a hot cup of plain tea to enjoy it to the fullest.
Baby Eggplants in Tangy Tomato Gravy was a hit in my Diwali gatherings in Oct and Nov last year. It is my mom's quintessential dish and I must say it is quite a flavourful one After receiving several requests for her recipe, I decided to post it here. I have tried to make it numerous times but without success. Today's version, however, seemed close to what my mom churns out for us whenever we request for our gatherings and celebrations. Choose baby eggplants as they can be fried whole and they present well but other types of eggplants can also be used as well. If you are using other types of eggplants, please note that they should be cut into 2 inches. I have used coconut milk to give the gravy its thickness and also to keep it vegan but you can substitute with cooking cream.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish)
500gm baby eggplants
2bsp canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large tomato, cut into medium sized chunks
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp chilli powder
Tamarind Tomato Mix
1 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 2 cups of water
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 (three quarters ) tsp cumin powder
1/2 (half) tsp black pepper powder
1/2 (half) tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt (or to your preference)
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsps coconut milk
coriander leaves for garnishing
1) Wash and cut the eggplants but not all the way through so it still remains intact at the stem. Soak in salted water for 10 mins. Then, drain away and rinse twice in plain water. This is to remove any bitterness present in the eggplants.
2) Prepare the tamarind tomato mix while the egglants are soaking. Dissolve 1 tsp of tamarind paste in 2 cups of water. Throw away any seeds and skin residue and only keep the tamarind solution. In this solution, add all the masala powders, tomato chunks, salt and sugar.
3) Deep fry the eggplants. This is not very healthy but I'm posting a very authentic recipe to show how it was orginally done. Please do try shallow frying or airfrying. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
4) Take a skillet or a flat pan and heat 2 tbsp canola oil. Fry the onion and curry leaves for 2-3 minutes. Add in 1 tsp chilli powder and be careful it doesn't burn.
5) At this point, add in the tamarind tomato mix and let the mix boil for 5- 10mins till the liquid is half in quantity.
6) Once the liquid has reduced in quantity, add in 2 tbsps coconut milk and stir. Followed by the fried eggplants. Its important you don't stir the eggplants too much as we are keeping them whole. Stirring them too much will dissolve them into the gravy.
7) Serve warm garnished with coriander leaves. Goes particularly well with Vegetable Korma and plain basmati rice.
Winter season in Singapore? How unlikely but its happening right now. Siingapore located right on the equator is facing winter like temperatures...a cool 23 deg C ! Its so unusual for a country in the tropics which faces average temperatures of 33-34 deg C. Singapore and the surrounding regions are in the Northeast monsoon period which sets around mid Nov and lasts till March which brings in all the rains and winds at this time of the year.
This cool climate has seen restaurants selling soups a higher patronage. Even at home, we are all craving for hot soups to warm our insides. Just the other day, my older daughter craved for tomato soup and not being a fan of the Campbell version which is laden with preservatives and tastes so artificial, she ventured into the kitchen to make her own home made version. It was fortunate we had in stock all the ingredients she needed.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 tbsps EVOO
4 shallots, sliced thin
800 gm canned tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tsp dried oregana
Salt and chilli flakes
2 large basil leaves, chopped fine
A swirl of cashew cream (see tip below)
1) Heat a saucepan and add in the olive oil. Fry the shallots for 3-5 mins.
2) Now, add in the canned tomatoes and 1 cup water.
3) Now add in the dried oregano, salt and chilli flakes and let it come to a boil. Reduce the fire and simmer for 5 minutes.
4) Add in the basil leaves, simmer for 5 more minutes.
5) Blend the mix to a thick soupy tomato mix.
6) Garnish with a dash of pepper, more basil leaves and a swirl of cashew cream. Cashew cream can be made by soaking a handful of raw cashew nuts in hot water for 15 mins. Then blend to form a thick vegan cream.
(Recipe No : 225)
Hi guys! I'm Nilofar Iyer and I have shared my dishes here for you to cook for your own family and friends with love and most importantly with their long term good health in mind.