Friday, September 18, 2009

Almond Halwa (Almond Kheer depending on consistency)

I organized the Indian-style house-warming aka Grihapravesh Satyanarayan puja. Organizing this puja was quite a experience - particularly in terms of cooking. This was one event when every single thing was taken care of by me. I won't deny that it was quite stressful, however, all's well that end's well. Now when I look back, I did have lots of fun and made some lovely memories for the lifetime to cherish and treasure.

Getting back to cooking, one excruciating factor was that the cooking had to be without onion and garlic. Vegeterian food by itself is quite a challenge in my culinary pallate. Googling for "Puja menu" (try it) was not helping too..for one time, Google was not my best friend! :( Try this search and you will understand what I mean! :) Who else but my mom came to my rescue. She came up with a menu that was not just delicious but easy to make and manage with a morning puja before lunch. Sharing the menu so that it will benefit people in similar dilemma.

Sweet dishes to put for pooja:
Kheer Sagar (recipe here)
Almond Kheer (recipe immediately below)
Kalakand (recipe here)
Besan Laddoo (recipe here)

Fruits for pooja:

Main course:
Jeera Rice

Aloo curry (recipe here)
Gobi Mattar (recipe coming soon)
Kaju Paneer (my mom's recipe coming soon - my favorite Paneer recipe now!)
Palak Dal (recipe here)
Dahi Baingan (recipe coming soon)


2 cups almonds
1 cup milk
1 cup (8 oz) condensed milk
10 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) - melted
6-7 strands of saffron + more for garnish
3/4 cup sugar (optional, if needed)
2 drops yellow food color (optional)
slivered almonds & pistachios - for garnish


Soak the almonds in the milk for an hour or more till the almonds become soft to touch.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the almonds and milk together into a fine thick paste.

Soak the saffron in 2 tbsp warm milk and set aside to bleed.

Take a deep skillet, set it on low-medium heat, and add the almond paste and keep stirring continuously.

After 10 minutes, add the saffron and the melted ghee slowly into the pan (in small increments) while stirring continuously, and cook till the ghee is absorbed by the almonds.

As the mixture thickens, add the condensed milk and the food coloring, then again stir for another 10-15 mins, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. Keep stirring for some more time if the consistency appears too liquid-ish!

Remove from the heat and allow to cool just slightly. Lightly grease a square baking tray (about 1/2 inch deep). Transfer the mixture to the tray while it is still warm.

Garnish with some chopped almonds and pistachios, and the remaining saffron strands.Now allow to cool, about half an hour. Then cut into diamonds or squares.

If its still soft, refrigerate for 15 mins then cut. You can store the burfi in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for upto a week.

Mine came out with an consistency that could not cut as burfi. So I served it like a halwa as shown in the pic! :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Entry for My Legume Love Affair Fifteenth Helping - Palak Dal


Any menu, particularly pooja menu that needs to be san onion and garlic, is kinda incomplete without a lentil-based item aka dal. Wikipedia entry for dal or lentil is here. This is very easy to make. It was the first item that I made while prepping for the pooja celebrations.


Toor dal - 2 cups
Salt - per taste
Turmeric - 1 tbsp
Dry red chilli powder - 1 tsp or per taste (optional)

For tempering:
Canola oil - 1 tbsp

Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Dry bay leaves - 3-4
Green chilli or dry red chilli - 2-3 (optional)

Ginger - 1.5 inch to 2 inch, finely grated

Spinach bag - 1, chopped

Tomato - 2 chopped and cubed
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp

For garnish:
Fresh coriander leaves - 2 handful

Pressure cook the dal with twice or thrice the amount of water based on desired consistency. Remember to add salt, turmeric and chilli powder before putting the pressure lid on. Wait till the whistle goes off and let it cook in medium-low heat for another 5 mins.

Note - You can also cook this in a heavy-bottom container with the lid on. It just takes longer to cook in the container.

Once the pressure cooker has released the pressure and the lid can open without any effort, add the tempering ingredients. To prepare the tempering, take a container and add the ingredients in the tempering ingredient list one after the after as they are getting cooked. Finally, garnish with coriander leaves.

This is one item that I always like to have handy in my fridge. For days when I don't feel like cooking, this goes down well with rice or roti with some egg scramble, papad and pickle. And when I am all for cooking some more, even then this dal is a great side-dish. No matter what - this is a winner! :)

This is going for the event "My Legume Love Affair Fifteenth Helping" being hosted by dear Sia of Monsoon Spice. The event announcement is here. This event is the brain-child of Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook and the link to her event page is here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My greenery...

New house meant lot of new decor items. Being a horticulturist's daughter, plants have always fancied me. To add on the closed spaces out here, particularly when the chills sets in, needs plant to provide the greenery and freshness. Am trying to fill up my house with living plants how much ever I can maintain rather than the artificial greenery available in most home decor stores.

Following are some of the plants that are part of my growing collection - my treasure troves! I cherish them and hope that they grow to being bright would think I am talking about children! ;) Nazar na lagana (Hindi saying..English translation - Don't put an evil eye on it plzzzz) :)

The Tulsi aka Holy Basil

Indoor Plants including Money Plant :)

Demure and Beautiful Orchids

More pictures from my tiny little herb-garden to follow soon! Watch out. Ciao!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aai's Nadiya Laddoo (Nariyal ke laddoo)

Hey All,

Sorry for missing from action for so long. Life just took over and whatever little time was left, I just could not get myself to blog. Though have been cooking and feeding relentlessly (hubby may differ on this coz regular lunch-dinners have not been that regular) and trying out different and new stuff.

I cleared my Ph.D. qualification process exams with flying colors. Now when I look back, it was a stressful and eventful seven months with several exams and presentations with plenty of grilling (not bbq, my dear foodie blogger friends ;)) sessions. Every successful completion of an exam had me jumping and rejoicing. During the exam, we liked a house we saw and went swooning for it. Yes, we bought a new house - a house of my dreams near a lake and park with plenty of open space. And a huge kitchen to keep me on my toes and keep my culinary journey kicking! I love my new house. Moving has been stressful, no doubt. But setting it up more than makes up for it...won't exchange it for anything in this world! :)

Almost three months after moving into the house, I organized the Satyanarayan pooja and Ganesh puja. Had planned to do it the day we moved in, however it just did not work out. Better late than never..I had a gala time prepping for the pooja and organizing it. Will post some other day the details of the menu. It will need a separate post as I did not find even a single good link to pooja menu without onion-garlic. Will share my menu just in case someone else needs it. Will also share the prepping schedule soon to help you plan and timely prepare stuff.

As part of the pooja, we had a few coconuts offered. Used part of them to make coconut chutney for uttapam, idli and dosa. Still had quite a few remaining. Got reminded of nariyal laddoos that my nani (I call her "Aai", as most Oriya's call their maternal grandmom's) used to make for me as a kid. Anytime she used to visit us, she will get my favorite nariyal laddoo and Cuttack Peda. Used to finish a good number of them in no time...ah, I so miss those good-metabolism days :) :) I have always mentioned about learning cooking from MIL-SIL and dearest of all mom..guilty of having missed mentioning my sweet ever-loving Aai. Aai has been and will always be a big influence on the way I am. She was one of my best pal in my growing days. I still fondly remember that when I was leaving for hostel for undergraduate study, she had so many beautiful words of advice which even apply in my day-to-day life today. I love you, Aai, for everything that you have ever done and for just being there in your lovely simple ways! As a toddler, being as enthusiastic for setting sail paper boats as me. As a teenager, getting me all those goodies and teaching me card games that kept a number of summer afternoon everyone engaged and having a great time. And as a housewife today, everything that I can think of....

This Nariyal laddoo recipe is dedicated to her. She presently suffers from Alzheimers...due to this, I will not be able to get her recipe. :( Whoever is reading this, please just take a moment and wish her recovery and best wishes. That will mean a lot to me! Thank you!


Grated coconut - 1.5 cups to 2 cups
White sugar - 6 tbsps
Condensed milk - Less than 1/2 can
Ground cardamom powder - 1 tbsp

Take a heavy container. Add all the ingredients one after the other. Heat and stir regularly till the mixture thickens and coconut is cooked. The coconut will become grayish. Cool the mixture slightly and make round balls of the mixture while it is slightly warm. Enjoy it as-is. Or refrigerate and enjoy cold.

Some lovely quotes about grandma's that I would like to share here from

  • Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting. ~Author Unknown
  • Grandmothers are just antique little girls. ~Author Unknown
  • Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends. ~Allan Frome