Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Avocado Basil Pesto Pasta

When it comes to eating pasta, basil pesto is by far my favorite as compared to tomato sauce. There is something about the fragrant basil leaves that makes me want to it more and more :P. Moreover this sauce is super easy to put together. You can easily make this sauce while your pasta is being cooked which saves a lot of cooking time, so bonus points for that. 
The use of basil pesto sauce is not limited only to pasta but can also be used as a sandwich spread and also as a pizza base. The traditional basil pesto recipe calls for lots of basil, pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese and I absolutely love love the flavor. But what makes me even more happy is the fact that it can be given a healthier twist without compromising the taste. So when I came across avocado basil pesto recipe I knew I had to try it. Avocado works beautifully as a healthy substitute for parmesan cheese. It not only adds a wonderful creamy texture to the pasta but also tastes awesome. So on days when I lean more towards eating healthy, avocado basil pesto is always my go to sauce for pasta. 


 Serves - 2 

Ingredients:

For the pesto:
1 ripe avocado 
1 bunch of basil leaves (1.5 oz)
1/4th cup of walnuts 
2 cloves of garlic 
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp of lemon juice (or adjust as per taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
This recipe will yield somewhere around 3/4 cup of sauce

For the Pasta:

Roughly 3 - 4 cups of organic whole wheat fusilli (approximately 9- 10 oz)
1 small onion chopped
3/4 cup of chopped button mushrooms 
1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper 
1 cup of spinach leaves
1 clove of garlic chopped (optional)
1 - 2 tsp of olive oil for sautéing the veggies 
Salt and pepper to taste 

You can add any veggies of your liking or simply skip the veggies and make the pasta only using the sauce. I didn't have any chicken breasts but if you do have it then I would highly recommend adding it. 

Note: This sauce will stay good for a week in the refrigerator if stored properly. Place a cling wrap/plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce (to avoid browning of the sauce due to avocado) and store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. 

Method:

1) In a stock pot or sauce pan boil water, add salt and cook the pasta till al dente as per package instructions. Strain the pasta and reserve around 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. 

2) In a food processor add walnuts, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Give it a few pulse until it looks coarse in texture but is combined. Scrape of the sides of the bowl while doing this. 

3) Scoop out the flesh of the avocado with help of a spoon and add it to the food processor. Also add the extra virgin olive oil and again give a few pulse until everything is nicely combined. Set this aside. 

4)  In a sauté pan add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic and onions and cook till the onions are translucent. Now add the rest of the veggies, salt and pepper. Sauté until the veggies are cooked. 

5) Now add around 3 - 4 tbsp of the avocado pesto sauce (or add as much as you like :P). Stir it with the veggies. And then add half a cup of the pasta water. Finally add the cooked pasta and toss everything together and cook for a min so that all the flavors come together. 

Thats it. Yummy pasta is ready to be served. I also added a bit of chili flakes for a little spice :P. 
















Thursday, 27 October 2016

Karanji (Diwali Special Recipe)

Diwali, the festival of lights, is right around the corner and it is certainly incomplete without this sweet snack item called Karanji. Karanji, as known in Maharashtra, is made along with other Diwali snack items like chiwda, besan ladoo, rava ladoo and chakli all across India. But I personally feel that it is the star item amongst all. Karanji is a deep fried pastry which has a slightly crispy flaky outer covering and a sweet stuffing that is made with dry coconut, sugar and dry fruits. Its super delicious and totally addictive. Karanji is also known as Gujiya in North India, Kajjikayalu, Karchikai in South India and is made with different stuffings. Apart from Diwali this sweet snack is also made during the festival of Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi. 

Oh how I miss celebrating this beautiful and colorful festival In India. You will see each house decorated with lights, flowers, lamps (kandils), the sweet smell of clarified butter/ghee emanating from every household, beautiful rangolis welcoming everyone at the doorstep and of course the constant noise of fire crackers in every neighborhood :P. As per tradition neighbors exchange sweets and snacks with each other in a beautifully decorated plate and that is how we always ended up with loads and loads of Diwali sweets including lots of Karanjis at our home :D. Don't ask me how many I would gobble down at a given time...hahahaha....

The recipe I am sharing today is the Maharashtrian Karanji recipe. Traditionally in Maharashtrian Karnaji the outer pastry cover is made in layers which needs a little practice but I will be sharing the other method which is easier and most commonly used. 



This recipe makes around 10 - 12 Karanjis
Recipe adapted from Ruchkar Mejwani and Madhuras Recipe.

Ingredients:

For the outer cover/pastry:
1 cup of all purpose flour
2 tbsp of semolina/rava
1 tbsp of clarified butter/ ghee 
1/2 cup of warm milk (or as required)
Salt to taste

For the filling:
1 cup of grated and roasted dry coconut
1/2 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
1/2 cup of confectioners sugar/powdered sugar 
1 tsp of poppy seeds/khus khus
Chopped dry fruits of your choice. I used almonds and pistachios 
1 tsp of cardamom powder/ elaichi powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder/ jaifal powder 
1 1/2 tbsp of ghee 
Oil for deep frying

Method:

For the outer cover/pastry for karanji: 

1) Start with making the dough for the outer cover or pastry. In a bowl add the all purpose flour, semolina and salt to taste. Mix nicely. 

2) Heat up the clarified butter and add this to the batter. It should sizzle when added. Mix the ghee thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients. 

3) Now start adding the milk in parts and begin to knead the dough. I ended up using a little less that half a cup of milk. Do not add a lot of milk at a time. The dough needs to be somewhat stiff and not too soft. 

4) Knead the dough till it looks smooth. Cover it with a moist cloth and keep it aside for 15 - 20 mins.



For the filling:

1) Heat up ghee in a pan. Now add the semolina/rava and roast it on a low to medium flame till it turns light brown in color. This will take around 7 - 8mins. 

2) Now add the poppy seeds and roast it for a minute followed by pre roasted grated dry coconut. Roast it for a few minutes. I didn't pre roast the dry coconut so roasted it for a little longer than required. 

3) Now add the chopped dry fruits, cardamom powder and nutmeg powder and saute for a minute. Switch off the gas and remove the mixture into a bowl. To this now add the powdered sugar and mix well. I found half a cup of sugar sufficient. Give it a taste test and add more as per your requirement. 



Assembling and frying the karanjis: 

1) Take the dough and knead it once again for a min. Now make a big log or 2 small logs of the dough and cut it in 10 - 12 equal portions. Make small balls of it and keep it covered with a moist cloth at all times. 

2) Now take one ball and press it between your palm and flatten it and start to roll the ball in 5 - 6 inches in diameter. Dust the board with dry flour if required. 

3) Now add around a tbsp of the stuffing only in the centre of the rolled dough. Do not add too much stuffing or else you will not be able to shape and close the karanji properly. 

4) Apply water or milk on the entire edge of the circle and then carefully fold one side and bring it to meet the other side of the circle. 

5) Now gently press the edges to seal it completely. Cut off any excess if needed with a pizza cutter. In India we get a specific cutter for karanjis. If you have that then cut the edges with it and you are done. 

6) Otherwise you can also shape the edges with pinch and fold method or simply design it by pressing a fork on the edges. (As shown in the below pictures).  I am still learning the pinch and fold method so its not perfect. :P




6) Repeat this procedure with rest of the dough. Meanwhile in a saucepan or kadai heat up enough oil to deep fry the karanjis. Many people also fry the karanjis in clarified butter. So if you want to then by all means go for it :D.

7) Fry the karanjis on medium hot oil for few mins. The karanjis puff up while frying so avoid adding too many karanjis at a time. Add only 2 to 3 at a time. Also do not rush with the frying procedure. Make sure that the oil is not too hot else the karnajis will brown quickly and the outer cover will remain raw. Fry the karanjis till it is lightly golden brown.

8) Place the fried karanjis into a plate with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.

9) Let the karanjis cool completely and then transfer them into an airtight container. They will stay good for a few weeks if stored properly.




I hope you liked this recipe.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and safe Diwali. :) 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Banana Sheera made with Jaggery

Food is an integral part of our life. I am sure that for many of us it is not just something that satiates our hunger, but also the feeling of nostalgia that comes along with it. Sometimes it just amazes me how the taste and smell of a certain food/dish instantly connects you to an old memory and everything just comes rushing back to you. 

Banana sheera also popularly known as "prasadacha sheera" from the state of Maharashtra is one such dish that brings back fond memories of my childhood. As the name suggests, this special and sweet delicacy is made as a holy offering to God during Satyanarayan puja and on various other auspicious occasions. And that is how I ate this sweet delicacy for the very first time as a child at a temple situated near our building in Mumbai, Maharashtra. I don't remember what age I was exactly at that time, but I vividly remember me, my sister and my friends going to the temple every Thursday for special prayers. For me it was like part of my childhood routine. School in the afternoon, playing in the evening and then going to the temple with friends every Thursdays for prayers. The people at the temple used to make different kinds of prasad on Thursdays and one of it was prasadacha sheera. And it was one of the things that I used to eagerly look forward to after the prayers :P. 


The original dish of prasadacha sheera is very simple and has very few ingredients yet is very very rich and delicious. This melt in your mouth dish is made with semolina, clarified butter/ghee, bananas, milk and sugar. The secret for its yumminess lies in the fact that you add equal amount of semolina, sugar and clarified butter/ghee. Hmmmmmmmm......sighhhhhh.
However unlike my childhood days, I now avert from anything that is too sweet. I guess for most of the people this will be the perfect amount of sweetness but for me its a bit too much and same goes for my husband. It goes without saying that nothing compares to the deliciousness of the original recipe.

Having said that I still crave for this sweet delicacy every now and then. And yesterday I decided to give in to my cravings and that is when I remembered my mother in law telling me about how we can make sheera using jaggery. My mother in law visited us few months back and I remember how we were discussing about making sheera using jaggery but never ended up making it. 

So I decided to make it a little healthier by substituting sugar with jaggery and reducing the amount of clarified butter/ghee. So my version is a little less sweet, a little less rich and dairy free. :P.
I know.... I knoww.......its not the original version... I wanted to eat a good bowlful of it without feeling guilty so thought why not give this healthy twist a try. Since I ran out of milk I used water instead. And it turned out to be yummmyyyy.  Do try this dish when you want to opt for a healthier option. :P :P

Serves 3 - 4

Ingredients:

1 cup of semolina/rava (fine quality)
3/4 cup of jaggery/gur (shaved or grated)
2 -3 tbsp of clarified butter/ghee 
1 large banana or 2 medium sized bananas (I used two small- medium sized bananas)
2 cups of water 
1 tsp of cardamom powder/elaichi powder
Few raisins and halved cashew nuts as per your liking

Method:

1) Heat a non stick tawa or pan. Add the clarified butter/ghee. Once the ghee is hot roast the cashew nuts and raisins. Roast till the cashews turn brown and the raisins are plump. Remove them and keep them aside.

2) Roughly chop or mash the bananas and keep them aside.

3) In the same ghee add the semolina/rava and roast it on a slow flame for around 10 minutes till it gives out a nice aroma and turns light brown. This way the rava will be evenly cooked. Do not roast the rava on a medium or high flame else it will burn quickly and will remain raw. I have roasted the rava till it was light brown but you can roast it further till it turns a little deep brown color.

4) Meanwhile heat two cups of water in a saucepan. Once hot add the jaggery and let it melt on a low to medium flame.



5) Once the semolina/rava is nicely roasted and turns light brown in color add the mashed bananas and cardamom/elaichi powder and mix everything nicely.

6) Finally add the water with diluted jaggery through a seive (to remove any impurities from the jaggery) and the cashews and raisins. Mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps.

7) Mix and cook until the semolina absorbs all the water and starts leaving the sides of the pan.

Delicious banana sheera is ready. Serve warm. :)








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