Moolangi sambhar or A thick lentil-based Daikon/Radish soup

I will use these terms interchangeably in this post – moolangi, mooli, daikon, radish.  Moolangi or daikon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daikon) is a long, white, carrot like vegetable and brings back many childhood memories. As a child, I absolutely hated it. Not because it tasted bad, but every time mum cooked it, the house smelt like half a dozen cows were simultaneously having tummy problems. Mum would make moolangi rotis using grated daikon but the first step to that was squeezing out all the liquid from the grated daikon. The juice was particularly pungent and I would avoid loitering around the kitchen whenever moolangi was on the menu. As I said before, the smell was the main deterrent but the taste of the soft rotis and the mollangi sambhar that mum made was always very good.

As a mature adult (ahem), when mum or I cook moolangi now, I don’t go around with my fingers pinching my nose any more. Having lived away from home for so long, I crave moolangi sambhar every now and then. I happened to spot daikon in our local supermarket one evening and got very very excited. This recipe is a result of my excitement.

If you are wondering what “sambhar” is, it is a thick, tangy, lentil-based soup. Like a lot of South Indian dishes, the centre piece of sambhar is the spice mix or sambhar powder. Unlike its South Indian companion Rasam, sambhar does not contain any tomatoes but often contains various vegetables including moolangi.

Moolangi sambhar with rice and poppadum

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Quick dinner series: With olive bread and soft goat’s cheese

I think I have confessed before that I am a slow cook. Cooking relaxes me and is my unwind at the end of the working day and so I take my own sweet time at it. However, we all have those days when we just can’t be bothered and I’m no exception. I still like to pretend I’ve put some effort into my dinner and try and jazz up our dinners even if they are simple. Here I present one such pretence with olive bread and goat’s cheese. They were dinners on 2 consecutive days. Easy and tasty!

Please note: I love avocado (much to my partner’s dismay) and will throw it on everything I can but please don’t feel obliged to.

a. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with mushrooms sautéed with thyme and finished off with fresh tomatoes and avocado
b. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with a salad of tomatoes, olives, croutons, avocado, olive oil and lemon juice and served with fresh rocket.

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Aloo paratha or unleavened potato-stuffed bread

This dish takes me back to my school days. There were 4 of us in what we called our “gang” but there’s only so much a “gang” can do for fun in an all-girls Catholic school so we were a pretty harmless “gang”. One of the gang members’ mum would make this every time we went over to her place and it was the yummiest thing ever. Every now and then, she would bring it to school as lunch. and the other two (not me) would somehow get to it before she did and finish it off. I didn’t care much for writing down recipes back then so this one is my take on aloo paratha. Hope you like it.

Image

Aloo paratha ready to eat

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Kulich or Russian Easter sweet bread

THIS RECIPE IS NOT MY OWN !!

The long Easter weekend was a very busy one in my kitchen and I made this on Easter Monday as the grand finale dish. I found it on a blog that I follow that has some very interesting Russian recipes. The bread was more like a cake and was amazing as it came out of the oven.  We ate it all up in the week to follow so I’d say it was as success.

Source: http://russianmomcooks.com/2012/03/30/russian-friday-kulich/

Notes:

1. It is a very nice recipe but be warned that it takes a while to make. I started at 9 in the morning and the cake was ready at 3:30pm.

2. There are 3 stages of rising so don’t rush it – it is worth the wait.

3. “Poolish” is the French name for a fermentation starter.

 

Changes:

1. I halved the recipe to get one standard loaf tin worth of cake.

2.  I used only 1/2 the recommended sugar in the recipe.

3. I didn’t have rum so used brandy instead.

4. I used sultanas and slivered almonds which went quite nicely in the cake.

5. I didn’t use any icing as neither my partner nor I care much for it.

 

Tips and Avoiding mishaps:

1. To make the batter rise on a cold English day, I used my old trick of keeping the oven at 50 degrees while mixing the ingredients and then turning it off just before placing the bowl in it. Worked like a charm (Pictures 9, 20 and 23).

2. The batter rises a LOT as I learnt the hard way (Picture 23). So do use a deep dish if you can. If not, build a strong baking paper and silver foil fortress in your baking dish before pouring the batter in it.

3. I found all the raisins settle in the bottom layer of the cake (Picture 27 – it is upside down so the raisins are on top). There were 2 reasons for this

(a) I forgot to add the raisins to the batter before pouring it into my loaf tin so don’t do that

(b) I’ve always dusted raisins/fruit in flour before mixing it into batter which I again forgot as I was following the recipe religiously.

So toss the fruit in half a cup of flour before adding them to the batter and this will make sure they are evenly spread through the cake/bread.

4. I put half a cup of brandy into the fruit and this made for a very boozy cake so don’t go overboard.

5. The cake got a bit dry after the first couple of days so store it in a really airtight container if you can.

Kulich – Russian sweet bread
1. Heat milk and water until luke warm 2. Sprinkle dry, active yeast on top of the milk 3. Frothed up yeast after 20 minutes 4. Add a cup of flour to a large bowl 5&6. Soak sultanas and slivered almonds in brandy/rum 7 & 8. Add the yeast to the flour and mix well to make a thick batter 9. Let the poolish/starter rise for an hour in a warm place 10. Melt 125gms of butter 11. Separate 3 eggs into small bowls 12 & 13. Beat eggs yolks and ½ cup of sugar until thick and creamy 14. Make sure the butter has melted completely 15. Beat the egg whites to a stiff peak 16. Add the remaining flour and egg yolk mix to the poolish and combine 17. Add the melted butter and combine 18 & 19. Finally incorporate the egg whites into the batter using a metal spoon 20. Let the batter rise in a warm place for 1.5 hrs 21 & 22. Mix in the sultanas/almonds and pour into a loaf tin lined really high with non-stick paper 23. The batter is allowed to rise again for an hour and the paper fortress fails to hold 24. Silver-foil reinforced loaf tin 25. Cake after baking for 45 minutes 26 & 27. Remove cake from loaf tin, peel off the baking paper and eat while warm.

The Green Refractory’s Breakfast Stack recreated

If you are ever in Melbourne (why wouldn’t you be in the most liveable city in the world), you have to find a place for brunch (breakfast + lunch) on a Saturday morning. Of the places that I have been to, the place that is at the top of my list is the Green Refractory in Brunswick. The locals call it Cafe Green. It is quintessential Brunswick – hip and hippie, organic, caters for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and other diets and makes incredible coffee and chai lattes – especially the soy kind.  So I’d highly highly recommend venturing out to find this place if you like brunches.

Amongst the things I have eaten at the Green Refractory, their breakfast stack is my favourite. Layers of home-made potato cake, tomato chutney, grilled halloumi, spinach, bacon (ask for without if you are a vegetarian), grilled tomatoes and poached egg. In the part of England that we currently reside in, finding brunch is a fantasy leave alone finding good brunch. Deep fried hash browns and baked beans served at 11am really does not equal brunch *sigh*.

So, on weekends that I am motivated enough,  I try and bring back the things we miss about Melbourne – brunch being one of them. This particular weekend, we had our lovely neighbours  over. I made this and my healthy Cranachan to share.

The Green Refractory's breakfast stack in my kitchen...

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A healthy Cranachan

It wasn’t until January this year that I heard about Burns’ night and of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Burns). For those of you who are blinking now like I did when I first heard of it, here’s a little spiel about Robbie Burns. He is Scotland’s most famous poet know for several popular songs including “Auld Lang Syne” which is often sung at midnight on New Year’s Day. He was also known for his many love affairs some of which he captured in his poetry. Robbie Burns is the most popular of poets who wrote in the Scots’ language.  As it seems to happen with a lot of famous people, Robbie passed away at the not-so-old age of 37 after several months of deteriorating health and mental state. It was a few years after his death that some of his friends got together and started celebrating his life and work in what is today called “Burns’ night’.

In several places around the UK, Burns’ night dinners are organised with great enthusiasm. They feature a Scottish menu of Haggis (the vegetarian version is also available), broth, a dessert known as Cranachan and tastings of Scotch whiskey. The Haggis is often ushered in by Scottish men in clan kilts with the song “Ode to the Haggis” being played on bagpipes. This song too as one of Robbie Burns’ pieces. After stuffing yourself full of food and drink, you are challenged to take part in Céilidh (pronounced : Kay-lee) dancing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9ilidh)  which I highly recommend.

Overall Burns’ night’s dinners are a lot of fun and hope this recipe will give you a tiny feel for it. The original Cranachan is made of thick double cream but I used Greek Yoghurt instead.

Cranachan for one....

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Rasam (Tamil) or Saaru (Kannada) – A spicy South Indian tomato soup (with pictures)

The recipe for ‘rasam‘ was my very first recipe post and rasam is what my site is named after. However, I realised recently that I hadn’t posted any pictures for this lovely dish. It just so happened that I made some this weekend and I took some pictures this time. So here they are along with some minor changes to the recipe.

The essence of this delicious dish is the spice mix called  rasam podi or saaru pudi. This is the mixture of spices that gives Rasam it’s unique taste. It is pepper and chilly based and is the cure for many a common malaise (Read about them in my Old wives’ page for Rasam).

The rasam or saaru powder is special in that every south Indian household has their own take on it. This is passed on through generations of mums, grandmas and greatgrandmas and in my opinion is the most valuable form of inheritance – knowledge. Needless to say, every south Indian person tends to be partial to their mum’s/grandma’s/greatgrandma’s take on the dish and I’m no exception. My mum’s rasam is the best rasam in the world and she makes it exactly like her mum did. Even as a child, I was unimpressed with the other rasams in the area and would report back to mum about how the rasam next door wasn’t the greatest. Never mind being thankful for the invitation to eat there.

Without much ado, let me give you the recipe for mum’s rasam podi and rasam itself.

Saaru or Rasam

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