Akki rotti or rice flour pancakes with vegetables

Don’t ask me why, but I love the word “quintessential”. My problem lies in using it in the correct context and after a few chats with my partner, I think I have got it. So it is with great confidence that I say that “Akki rottis” are a quintessentially Kannada dish. These rice based flatbreads comes from the state of Karnataka where I grew up and are a popular breakfast or light dinner option. The word “akki” means rice, usually uncooked. The word “rotti” means bread, usually unleavened. This flatbread is soft and crunchy at the same time, is full of tasty veggies and has a slight sweetness because of the cucumber and rice flour which I love.  I always took a lion’s share of “rottis” when mum made them at home and wolfed them down with a smattering of butter.

This was my first attempt at making it myself after I’d spent the entire afternoon at work day-dreaming about it. It was a big hit with my partner and at lunch the next day. I’ll be making some more soon I’m sure. Hope you try it and like it too.

Akki rotti, turned over in its pan

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Kadlekai usli or boiled savoury peanuts

Dasara is a ten day festival of dolls that is celebrated in the months of September/October in India (lunar calendar). It is a Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Each of the 10 days is dedicated to a different God/type of prayer. As part of the celebration, most homes in South India erect a temporary staircase indoors. The staircase has odd numbers of stairs (from 3 upto 11), is covered with a white cloth and  idols of Hindu Gods and dolls that recreate many tales from Hindu mythology are places on the stairs. The putting up of stairs was my favourite annual project with dad. Dad being a mechanical engineer had  metal stairs custom made to fit our home and the dolls that my mum had collected over 2 decades. I was in charge of passing dad the tools, nuts and bolts to put this framework of stairs together. Fun days!

The other part of the ceremony is for little kids is to visit every home in the street to see their display of dolls and to collect the day’s offering which was usually a snack of some kind and a piece of fruit. More often than not, the snack would be a little bowl of “usli”. This recipe is dedicated to my “usli” collection days and the fun days of Dasara.

Kadlekai usli

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Madeleines : Lemon & rose water or Orange & vanilla

At work, we have this tradition of bringing back goodies from a holiday/conference destination. It was one such occasion  that someone came back from France and brought back these little, buttery, shell-shaped parcels of goodness. I can’t say I have seen them in the UK very often (surprised anyone ?) but I learnt their name – Madeleines. Since that day I’ve been wanting to make them. I decided to demand a Madeleine tray for a birthday present and it was dutifully delivered by my partner. As a thank you present, I decided to make some the following weekend.

I looked around for a few recipes and settled on David Leibovitz’s one for proportions. I got tips on how to get the browned butter taste/smell into the madeleines  from the Asutralian SBS website. The inspiration for orange flavoured ones came from Chez Pim  though I didn’t actually use her recipe. Finally, the rose water was my little addition to the lemon madeleines. Hope you try them and like them – we sure did. I gave a whole batch and half away and everyone who received it loved it too.

Fresh madeleines anyone?

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Methi Aloo Bhath (Mixed rice with potatoes and fenugreek leaves)

Bhath ( pronounced “bath”) in Kannada means mixed rice. It refers to an almost inexhaustible family of vegetarian friendly dishes. It is great for when you have many guests and you don’t want to spend the evening explaining what goes with what and how to eat it. All you need to do is serve bhath hot or cold, on its own or with a bit of raita (plain unsweetened yoghurt with salt and grated cucumber). One thing you do need to make in advance is the bhath mix which is a powdered mixture of all the spices required. The mix keeps for months so you don’t have to make it each time. I have a recipe for the bhath mix, the bhath itself and a simple raita. Hope you like it!

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Raspberry and White chocolate Brownie

THIS RECIPE IS NOT MY OWN !!!

A picnic in the park is always a lovely way to spend a sunny spring day in England. As one such day happened to be my birthday, I invited some friends along to the park. I had a lovely cheesecake made for me by my partner which I didn’t want to share (Myyyy precious!). So I decided to bake something myself to take along to the party. This chocolate brownie recipe is one I just chanced upon while looking for a recipe the very first time I tried making brownies. I’ve never looked back. I hope you think so too!

I forgot to take a picture of the whole brownie when it was done baking so all I had remaining was the last few slices – sorry!

Source: http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/food/1008232/raspberry-and-white-chocolate-brownie

Notes:

1. The recipe is perfect and gives amazing results so I wouldn’t change much about it in terms of proportions.

2.I’ve baked it in shallow trays, baking dishes and even a pie-tray so don’t panic if you don’t have the right baking equipment – the taste is what you are after.

3. If you eat it straight out of the oven, the white chocolate bits are still gooey and the raspberry still liquidy – yumm!

4. It is a really easy recipe and a sure-fire party hit. I’ve never had any leftovers.

Changes:

1.  I swapped vanilla for almond essence and that turned out quite well.

2. I would toss the raspberries and white chocolate in a little bit of flour before adding them to the chocolate just to make sure they don’t all settle down at the bottom of the baking tray.

3. Use 3/4 cup of sugar or less if you are watching your sweeth-tooth.

Tips:

Watch the top of the brownie, especially if you have a dinky oven like I do. Brownies can burn easily and they are not very tasty if they do.

Pictures:

White chocolate and raspberry brownie
1. Melt chocolate and butter using a double-boiler set up 2. Glossy, melted chocolate and butter 3. Add sugar 4 & 5. Add eggs one by one and stir well after each addition 6. Toss white chocolate in cup of flour 7. Add white chocolate to the brownie mix 8. Toss frozen raspberries in the second cup of flour 9. Add raspberries to the brownie mix 10. Mix well until uniform 11. Put the dense brownie mix into a baking tray – I’ve used a tart/pie tray lines with brown paper (to make cleaning easy) 12. Cut into pieces or slices

Chinese vegetarian dumplings

Having lived in  Melbourne, I got accustomed to being able to have vegetarian dumplings whenever my heart desired them. There is the infamous Camy Shanghai Dumpling House on Tattersall’s lane off Little Bourke St with its dinky staircases, Dumplings Plus on Swanston St where you can see the chefs make them and more authentic ones in Doncaster whose names I don’t know because I cannot read Chinese characters. You could get anywhere between 12 and 16 dumplings for AUD 6 and between my partners and his friends, they would easily wolf down 6 plates of these delectable dumplings.

There is something very comforting about these little steamed balls of rice filled with vegetables. Dunking them in dumpling sauce and biting into them while they are steaming hot always brought me great joy. Then we moved to England and where we live, dumplings are very hard to come by. When you do come by them, they are very expensive and not so great in variety and taste. As in most situations like this, I decided to have a crack at making them in our kitchen. The raw materials were very easy to find and while making them was a bit finicky, then end result was pretty satisfying. Do try them and let me know how you go.

Tsingtao and dumplings for dinner

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Yennegai or Eggplant in a spicy peanut-ty sauce

This recipe takes me back to my early teens in Bangalore. Yennegai and its common companion “jolada rotti” are dishes from the northern part of Karnataka, the state I come from. “Jola” is the Kannada word for sorghum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorghum) which is  a gluten-free grain and jolada rotti is flatbread made out of finely ground sorghum flour. In Hindi, it is known as “Jowar” so you might want to look for jowar/sorghum flour in your local Indian grocer if you ever want to make bread out of it. As you can see in the map below, my former city of Bangalore is in the bottom-right of the state so almost the entire state is north of it. However, there is a green blob in the mid-top-left that says “Uttara Kannada” and “Uttara” means north so let’s say that this dish if from there upwards.

Left: The state of Karanataka with Bangalore being an orange blob in the bottom right Right: A sorghum/jola plant Websites: http://www.besttofind.com and http://www.wikipedia.com

In Bangalore, there is a very famous hotel called Kamath Yatrinivas which boasts a roof-top restaurant dedicated solely to North Karnataka food. I was only taken there once or twice as a teenager because a decade ago, it was an all you can eat for INR 25 (25pence, 33 euro cent, 50 US cents) and you didn’t want to take a fussy child and waste your money. What I found the most fascinating that the dining area was actually quite small because the rest of the roof-top was covered with women hand-making “jolada rotti” on little kerosene stoves. So when you ordered a plate, the rotis would be hot and fresh of the stove. They were served with yennegai, raita (yoghurt and cucumber dip) and a generous blob of home-made butter. I’ve always had a fondness for butter (I can see my partner screw his nose up because he absolutely doesn’t) and would go back for seconds on my trips to Kamath Yatrinivas.

The recipe for this dish came from a dear friend who is an amazing cook. I’ve never seen her or heard of her using store-bought packet mixes/spice mixes. Everyday, she cooks everything from scratch, despite being a mum of two and working full-time. Whenever I go over, she goes completely overboard in cooking for me. The spice combinations she puts together are pretty amazing and this is one of them. Hope you like it too.

Yennegai with corn bread

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