Doughnuts – Indian Style

Warning: You won’t be able to eat just one!

I have a confession to make. Just a few weeks back hurricane Sandy visited the East Coast, and in anticipation of power outages, I decided to cook several dishes. I wanted to be prepared, because when my children lose power in their homes, they end up at my place since I rarely lose power. In anticipation of their arrival, I made these doughnuts. Fortunately, my children did not lose power, but guess who ate all the doughnuts? You’re right – me! They were gone in a couple of days, and it might have been sooner, if I didn’t exercise some self control. Make these doughnuts at your own risk!

Doughnuts – Indian Style

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted ghee
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup milk
Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

In a bowl, sift flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl whisk together egg, oil and vanilla. Add egg mixture into the flour and gently mix until crumbly. Add milk little by little until the dough hold together. Knead until it forms a nice smooth dough. Cover with a damp paper towel, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into two portions. Turn one portion out on to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a ten inch round. Cut using a doughnut cutter which is dipped in a little flour. This helps the doughnuts to slide off the cutter easily. Do the same with the other portion of the dough. Line a platter with paper towels.

In a deep, heavy saucepan, pour in oil to a depth of two inches, and heat. When oil is hot place a few doughnuts at a time in the hot oil. Using a slotted spoon remove doughnuts when they turn golden brown on both sides. Place them on paper towel lined platter to drain. You can use a fine mesh sieve to dust the doughnuts with confectioners’ sugar. However, I like them plain so the picture doesn’t have the dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

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Vegetable Biriyani

This is a simple, flavorful rice dish that I learned to make when I lived with my family in Manipal, India. I tasted it for the first time in Dr. Meera Baliga’s home. She shared her recipe with me, and I started making it for my family for weekend lunches. It pairs well with raita – a salad made with yogurt, tomato, cucumber, and onion.

Many times when I cooked this dish in Manipal, students from the nearby university would drop by and linger way past lunch time, until we were all so hungry, that I would have to invite them to join us for lunch! I soon learned that I would need to make a huge batch, because every time I cooked it, the heavenly smell wafted all the way down the street and into the dorms! So, this recipe is for those young, talented students that made me feel like I was the best cook on earth! See, what you turned me into – a blogger and foodie for life! I love each one of you and think of you often.

For the masala mix

2 teaspoons coconut oil
5 cardamoms
5 cloves
2 1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup grated coconut
½ cup chopped cilantro

Heat coconut oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Fry for a minute, remove from heat, and cool. Add the fried ingredients, onion, coconut and cilantro to a blender, and purée.

For the rice

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup cubed potatoes
½ cup cubed carrots
6 French beans, cut into diagonal pieces
½ cup fresh green peas
½ cup chopped tomatoes
3 finely chopped green chillies
½ cup grated coconut
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups Basmathi rice, washed and drained
4 cups water
Salt to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large pan. Add the masala mix and fry for five minutes. Add the vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, grated coconut, turmeric, rice, and salt, and fry for another five minutes. Add water, and bring to boil. Once it boils, turn heat as low as possible. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff up rice, and vegetables gently with a fork, and serve piping hot.

Amma’s Chicken Curry

Amma’s chicken curry calls for a lot of ingredients, but this recipe never fails to impress. Don’t let the long list of ingredients frighten you. The process is not difficult once you get all the ingredients together. I sometimes add a couple of quartered potatoes to this chicken curry. The fennel, mace petals and star anise gives this dish a very distinctive South Indian flare.

My brothers and sister. I’m on the tricycle!

 

This dish brings back a lot of childhood memories that I cherish. It reminds me of sitting around the dining table with my parents, brothers and sister, and celebrating birthdays, and other special occasions. I hope it will help build some memories for you too!

 

 

3 lbs chicken, remove skin and cut into large pieces
10 dry red chillies
1 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1-inch piece cinnamon
4 cloves
4 green cardamom
2 teaspoons whole black pepper
½ of one star anise
2 mace petals
1 bay leaf
½ cup grated coconut
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 chopped green chillies
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon mustards seeds
1 sprig curry leaf
2 cups finely chopped red onion
Coarse salt, to taste
1 cup finely chopped tomato
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Heat one teaspoon oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat and roast the dry red chillies, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, whole black pepper, star anise, mace, bay leaf, and grated coconut until it smells fragrant and the coconut turns light brown. Add chopped ginger, garlic, chillies and remove from heat. Cool completely and then grind in a blender, with about half a cup of water, to a smooth paste.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a heavy bottomed dish and add the mustard seeds. When they sputter add the curry leaves, onion and salt. Fry until the onion turns golden. Add the ground paste, tomatoes, and turmeric and sauté for two minutes. Add chicken and mix well so the chicken pieces are well coated with the onion and spice mix. Add two cups of water, cover and cook on medium-high heat until the chicken is done. Add lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves.

What’s in My Masala Dabba (Indian Spice Box)

First, for those of you that are not familiar with the masala dabba, let me describe it. A masala dabba is a round, stainless steel container that holds several removable bowls. The bowls are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Each of them holds traditional Indian spices, depending on the region you come from, and based on the spices and lentils you used in everyday cooking. My masala dabba saves me from hunting for spices when I’m ready to cook.

Right in the center, in bold yellow, is turmeric powder (haldi). Ground turmeric is used to flavor and color Indian dishes. It has a warm, pungent, earthy aroma and taste. It comes from the ginger family, and it is the root of the turmeric plant that is dried, powdered and used as turmeric powder. Turmeric has great digestive properties and it is good for weight loss as well. I’ve even heard Dr. Oz sing its praise.

In vibrant red is Kashmiri chilli powder (lal mirchi). It is moderately hot and it adds a rich red color to the gravy in curries. It is made from dried, ground red chillies seeds. A little goes a long way.

The next item is coriander powder (dhaniya). It is the same plant as the cilantro, but coriander powder refers to the seeds that are dried and ground. It has a sweet and slightly tangy taste.

Bengal gram (chana dal) comes next. It is a type of split chickpea and belongs to the same family with a similar flavor. I use it to season my dishes. The process of seasoning in Indian cooking is called “tadka.”

Black gram dal (urad dal) is a lentil that is rich in protein and iron. It is used a lot in South India to make vadai, dosa, and idli. I use this to season my dishes.

Next come mustard seeds (rai). These tiny seeds are powerful and they pop and add flavor to the oil. I use mustard seeds in almost every savory dish that I make. I guess I like it when they sputter in hot oil like applause at the opening of a show!

Last, but not the least, are cumin seeds (jeera). These beige beauties are aromatic and have a nutty, warm flavor. The full potential of cumin seeds are released when you put them in hot oil and the air is filled with their fragrance. Seasoning the dal with cumin seeds is often the final step in making an Indian meal. No need to ring the dinner bell as the aroma of cumin seeds does the job.

There is no rule as to what goes into your masala dabba. Create your own as you experiment and feel free to modify over time. Mastering the essence of each spice and lentil is a sign of an accomplished Indian cook.