Cheesy Rice Cakes

It feels good to be back after a mini break from blogging. Life has been wonderful with our family having grown two more feet..yes, we have a ‘mini me’ but a boy version who is cooing and wailing, giggling and gurgling his way into our hearts. 

Now that we are settled and getting into the hang of things, my hands have been itching to cook and bake.Thanks to everyone for checking in on here, for your emails and messages…exactly the reason which has me coming back no matter what!

Now that my update is done, lets get down to the cooking part.. having mom here has made life so much easier, she pretty much takes care of everything around the house which includes the kitchen. Most importantly, I have had a chance to spend some quality time with her discussing our culinary experiments, showing her new ingredients available here, and the best part of all exchanging recipes and tips. One such recipe is for a quick snack or an appetizer which makes use of left-over cooked rice - Cheesy Rice Cakes

Being a South Indian, rice is a staple at atleast one meal in a day and left-over rice might as well be salt in the pantry. The more uses for it the better. 

1 cup Cooked rice
1 medium potato, boiled peeled and grated
¼ cup bread crumbs plus more for rolling
1 tbsp chopped scallions
1 tbsp Chopped cilantro
½ tbsp Green chili paste (Thai chilies ground to a paste)
½ tsp chili flakes (optional) 
½ cup grated Mozzarella 
Salt & Pepper to taste 
2 tbsp Corn starch (flour) 
Oil for shallow frying 

Mash the cooked rice with a fork in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine to form small patties. Make a thin paste of corn starch and water. Dip the patties in for a briefly and then dip in bread crumbs to coat evenly. Set aside for 15 minutes. Heat ½ inch of oil in a non-stick pan and fry the patties on both sides until golden brown. Have the heat on medium so that they cook through.

Serve hot with ketchup. These are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

The next time you have left-over rice remember to make these!

Daring Bakers Challenge – Crackled Loaves with Dutch Crunch Topping

This month’s challenge was to make bread with the Dutch Crunch Topping. The highlight of the challenge is the topping which gives bread its signature ‘crackled’ look when baked.

“Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!”

Technically, Dutch Crunch doesn’t refer to the type of bread, but rather the topping that is spread over the bread before baking. In Dutch it’s called Tijgerbrood or “tiger bread” after the tiger-like shell on the bread when it comes out of the oven. The final product has a delightful sweet crunch to it that makes it perfect for a sandwich roll. It’s a common option at sandwich shops all over the Bay Area and is often one of the first breads to run out.

Recipe Source: The recipe for the Dutch Crunch topping came from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. The recipes for the breads we’ve suggested came from The Bread Bible and an adaptation of a recipe found on

The main ingredient in the Dutch Crunch Topping is Rice Flour. This flour is a staple in Indian households, more so in South Indian households. So diving into this challenge made it a snap with all the ingredients on hand. 

NOTE: I followed the recipes as they were provided except I added 1/2 tbsp of Hot Sesame Oil to the Dutch Crunch Topping which helped the tops brown up nicely to give the tiger/giraffe effect. 

Preparation time: Dutch Crunch Topping: 15 minutes active time, 15 minutes passive time; Soft White Roll: 20 minutes active time, 2 hours passive time; Brown Rice Bread: less than 1 hour active time; 2-3 hours passive time. 

Equipment required:
Small bowl
2 large bowls, or a large bowl and a stand-mixer bowl
Stand mixer with paddle (or whisk) and dough-hook attachments (optional)
Wooden and regular spoon(s)
Knife or dough cutter/scraper (optional, depending on your recipe)
Bread pan(s) or baking tray(s)
Plastic wrap or something else to cover the dough while it rises
Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9x5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls. If you make only 6 rolls in the first soft white roll recipe, you can cut the topping recipe in half.

We’ve provided this recipe first because it is the mandatory aspect of the challenge. Note, however, that you should not prepare the topping until the bread you’ve selected to bake is almost finished rising (~15 minutes from baking). 

2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115º F) (41-46°C)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.

Soft White Roll
Servings: Six sandwich rolls
This recipe approximates the quintessential white sandwich roll found throughout the Bay Area. The recipe is simple, quick, and addictive.

1 tablespoon (1 packet) (15 ml) (7 gm/ ¼ oz) active dry yeast
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water (105-110º F) (41-43°C) (No need to use a thermometer – it should feel between lukewarm and hot to the touch).
1 cup (240 ml) warm milk (105-110º F) (41-43°C) (We’ve tried both nonfat and 2%, with no noticeable difference)
1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) (20 gm/ ⅔ oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil (plus additional olive or vegetable oil for greasing bowl during rising)
1½ teaspoons (7½ ml) (9 gm/⅓ oz) salt
Up to 4 cups (960 ml) (600 gm/21oz) all purpose flour

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes (The mixture should start to bubble or foam a bit and smell yeasty).
2. Add in vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together. (The photo to below is with the first 2 cups of flour added).
3. Add remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, as shown in the photo below (For us, this usually required an additional 1½ to 2 cups of flour).
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
5. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled (or more) in size. 

6. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions (if you’d like to make rolls) or 2 equal portions (if you’d like to make a loaf) (using a sharp knife or a dough scraper works well). Shape each into a ball or loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (try not to handle the dough too much at this point).
7. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.
8. Coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping as described above. While the original recipe recommends letting them stand for 20 minutes after applying the topping, I got better results by putting them directly into the oven.

9. Once you’ve applied the topping, bake in a preheated moderately hot 380ºF/190°C/gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

I used the rolls to make one of our favourite sandwiches, its light and refreshing. Cut the rolls in half, slather with home-made Basil Walnut Pesto, top with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, season with a little salt and pepper. Top with a light dusting of parmesan and place top half of roll. Nothing fancy or one-of-a-kind, but we are not big on sandwiches and stick to the simple stuff. The Dutch Crunch was super delicious and the roll had a slight chew to it.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Store as you would any bread – in a bread box, a paper bag, or loose plastic wrap. Both varieties suggested are best in the first couple of days. The loaves or rolls can also be frozen in plastic – simply toast to reheat.

Spicy Avocado & Carrot Chapatis

Spring seems to be finally here; hiccupping on its way here since it’s been warm, cold, rainy and freezing all in one week. I enjoy watching the squirrels chase after one another in my back yard and birds chirping and flying into my patio. I do pity my plants this time though because some of them budded prematurely thinking Spring is here a few weeks ago when we had very warm weather and all of a sudden temps dipped putting the plants in a state of well, confusion! To bud or not to bud..! I think nature has its own way of setting things right, plants included. 

A friend had us over for dinner last weekend and she made these wonderful silky smooth Avocado and Paneer chapatis. They were mildly spiced, melt in the mouth kind and boy was I delighted! When she told me there was an avocado in there, I couldn’t believe it. I kept thinking why I hadn’t thought of trying this before. Very simple ingredients but a whole lot of flavor and not to forget all the nutrition packed in these chapatis. 

I tweaked it a bit to suit our taste and to keep it healthy. You can add grated Paneer too. I left it out so I wouldn’t feel guilty about indulging in an extra chapati. 

You will need:
1½ cups Whole-wheat flour
1 large ripe Avocado
1 Carrot, peeled and grated
1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 clove of Garlic, minced
1 tsp Chili powder
1 ½ tsp Cumin powder
3 tbsp chopped Cilantro
1 tsp Salt
Water as required

Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed. Scoop out the ripened flesh and mash with a fork. Combine all the ingredients except water in a medium bowl. Add water only as required, about a tablespoon at a time till the dough comes together. This chapati dough will be much softer and smoother than your regular chapati dough. Avocados have no taste of their own except for a silky smooth mouth feel. So you can choose to spice up this dough any way you like.You if you don't want any flavors, you can leave out all the seasonings and add only the mashed Avocado.

Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes. Knead for a minute and then divide dough into equal sized balls. Roll into chapatis and roast on a non-stick or cast iron pan, on both sides until done. I used a cast iron pan, which gave the chapatis a distinct color and taste.

I made mom’s Channa curry to go with these, but the chapatis are tasty enough on their own too. Serve it up with some yoghurt and you have a lip smacking healthy meal. Thanks to friend S for a scrumptious variation on the humble chapati.

Daring Bakers Challenge – Meyer Lemon Loaf:

It’s been a while since I tackled a Daring Bakers Challenge. This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was Quick Breads and I got it done just in time before the month ends. 

Epicurious define Quick Breads as “Bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time. That's because the leavening in such a bread is usually baking powder or baking soda, which, when combined with moisture, starts the rising process immediately. In the case of double-acting baking powder, oven heat causes a second burst of rising power. Eggs can also be used to leaven quick breads. This genre includes most biscuits, muffins, popovers and a wide variety of sweet and savory loaf breads.”

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Lisa provided us with some simple delicious base recipes to begin with but one glance at the Meyer Lemon Loaf recipe and I was sold. I’ve always wanted to make a Lemon loaf and quickly seized the opportunity. I know Lisa wanted us to build on these recipes but I couldn’t resist trying the original recipe first. Other variations and versions of quick breads, I’ve best left for another day. 

Meyer Lemon Loaf

Makes two 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaves
Adapted from Recipe Girl’s Meyer Lemon Loaf

You will need:
2 2/3 cups (640 ml) (375 gm/13¼ oz) All-purpose (plain)unbleached flour
¾ teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3¾ gm) Baking powder
Zest of 3 Meyer lemons (I used regular lemons)
2 cups (480 ml) (450 gm/16 oz) white granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup (180 ml) sour cream or creme fraiche, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum
1½ tablespoons (22½ ml) fresh Meyer lemon juice (regular lemons are fine too)
Pinch of salt
9 tablespoons (135 ml) (125 gm/4½ oz/1 stick + 1 tablespoon) butter, melted and cooled

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
Juice from 1 medium Meyer Lemon (or regular lemon)

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Butter and flour two 8” x 5” (20 x 13 cm) loaf pans.
2. Sift together flour and baking powder; set aside.
3. Place sugar, lemon zest, and eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until the mixture is a light lemon color and thickened a bit. This can also be done with a mixer. Whisk in sour cream, then salt, then rum (if using) and lemon juice.
4. Gently whisk in the flour in four parts, then whisk in the butter in three parts. You’ll have a thick, pourable batter flecked with lemon zest.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
6. While the loaves are baking, prepare simple syrup. Heat together sugar and water and stir until sugar is dissolved - do not boil. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.
7. Turn the loaves out of their pans onto a cooling rack and brush liberally with the lemon syrup, repeat brushing as you feel necessary. Let cool.
The loaves soak up the syrup beautifully and create a nice glaze on top. Quick breads can have a huge crack on top of the loaf, which is normal. I dressed up my loaf with thinly sliced lemon twists to conceal the crack. Another way is to dust powdered sugar on top.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Loaves can be kept wrapped tightly on the counter or in the fridge for approximately 5 to 7 days. Loaves last for 6 months if wrapped tightly and kept air tight in the freezer. 
I loved the flavor and texture of this loaf. The brushed syrup made the loaf super moist and needless to say delicious. The heady aroma of lemons is quite intoxicating and will certainly make you grab a second slice. Its also a perfect balance of sweet and tart.
Thanks Lisa for a quick and easy challenge!

Tindora Fry & Chunky Vegetable Sambar:

Tindora or Ivy Gourd is one of my favourite vegetables. Since childhood I’ve always been accustomed to one way of eating and now making Tindora – boil it and season with ground garlic, coconut and chili powder. Tindora Fry is how it’s made in Andhra, also known as Dondakaya Fry. It is a very popular dish served along an array of mouth-watering Andhra dishes.This is now my new favourite way of making Tindora.

You will need:

3 cups Tindora
1 Onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp fresh grated coconut
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp Urad Dal
½ tsp Chana dal
1 tsp Cumin powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Wash the Tindora and trim the ends. Cut Tindora in half lengthwise and cut each half into fourths. You should have four thin pieces from each Tindora.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan that is wide enough to accommodate all Tindora in one layer. Add the Tindora and sauté on medium-low heat. The key is to cook the Tindora until the edges are crisp and the Tindora shrinks. Stir every now and then to prevent burning and to ensure the Tindora cooks on all sides. It takes about 12-15 minutes, the wait is well worth it!

When the Tindora is almost done heat the remaining oil in another pan. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When it begins to splutter, add the urad and chana dals. Saute until light brown for a few seconds. Add the sliced onions and ginger garlic paste. Saute until the onions are translucent and soft. Now add the cumin powder and grated coconut. Saute for a few seconds and add this to the Tindora. Toss and season with salt. Cook for a minute more until the cumin is fragrant. Turn off heat, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Chunky Vegetable Sambar:

Nothing hits it home like a yummy and aromatic Vegetable Sambar which brings back a host of memories from India. The Sambar is a quintessential part of a South Indian meal. The way it’s made varies widely from household to household – what goes in the sambar as well as the spices used to make it. The most comforting and a family favourite is the Vegetable sambar.

You will need:

½ cup Tuar Dal
1 onion, cubed into pieces
2 carrots, sliced
1 small white Radish,sliced (Daikon variety in the US)
2 tomatoes, cubed
1 cup Green Beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Chayote Squash, peeled and cubed*
½ cup Lima Beans, fresh or frozen (Valor Lilva)**

*White pumpkin can be used instead of Chayote squash
** In the US, I prefer to use frozen Lima beans which cuts cooking time. I buy it at my Indian grocers – Surti Lilva is the tender smaller lima beans; Valor Lilva is the larger lima beans preferable in this sambar since it holds shape better. 
***You can add all or one of the following - potatoes, peas, white or brown chickpeas (soaked). Avoid Cabbage, Cauliflower,Broccoli

To Roast:

2 tbsp Corriander seeds
2 tsp Cumin seeds
6-7 Whole black peppercorns
½ tsp Fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp Urad Dal
1 tbsp Chana Dal
8 Byadige Dry red chillies
6 Guntur Dry red chillies

Dry roast each of the ingredients above in a small pan, until light brown and fragrant. Cool and grind to a fine powder.

To Grind:

Prepared powder from above
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1 clove of Garlic
Water as required

Grind to a smooth paste with water as required.

Wash Tuar dal and drain. Add the prepped vegetables to the tuar dal, add water until everything is just submerged, about 2-2.5 cups of water. Add a pinch of turmeric and ½ tsp of oil. Pressure cook for 3 whistles in a pressure cooker. Let cooker cool before opening the lid.


2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
¼ tsp Asafetida (Hing)
Few curry leaves
1 tbsp Tamarind paste
1-1   ½ tbsp Powdered Jaggery
Salt to taste

In a wide pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing. When it begins to splutter, add the pressure cooked dal and vegetables. Add the tamarind paste, powdered jaggery, salt to taste and prepared ground paste. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil on medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and then garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with white rice.

Maddur Vade

Maddur Vade(Va-dey) gets its name from the town of Maddur in Karnataka. If you have ever traveled enroute Mysore to Bangalore, it would have had to be through this town known for its famous vade.

This vade brings so many memories to mind. Summer trips to grand mom’s place in Bangalore meant starting early from Mysore for the then 3-hour journey by road or by train. Much that I hated waking up early, I eagerly looked forward to breakfast at Maddur, which happens to be mid-way. If we traveled by train the first brief stop was at Maddur. Breakfast included steaming hot idlis or Masala Dose with chutney that flowed like a river served up on a piece of banana leaf supported by a piece of newspaper; which Dad would precariously balance and make sure it reached our laps before the train chugged off.Maddur Vade came later on in the journey with bisi-bisi coffee. If we traveled by car, breakfast was much more relaxed with car-side service at the famous Maddur Tiffanys. Piping hot Maddur Vade was the highlight..crispy on the outside, slightly soft on the inside and the fried onions …mmm.. definitely hard to stop at one Vade.

I made these a few weeks ago when I realized I hadn’t posted this family favorite yet. Every bite took me back to those memorable days and I’m certain you will enjoy it just as much.

You will need:

2 onions thinly sliced
6 green chillies, finely chopped
8 curry leaves, finely chopped
3 portions fine Semolina (Fine Rava)
1 portion Rice flour
½ portion All-purpose flour
1 tbsp Butter, melted
1 tbsp White sesame seeds
3 tbsp Hot oil
Salt to taste
2 tbsp chopped Peanuts, roasted and skinned (optional)

Oil for frying
Water as required

Note: Portion here refers to any container you choose to use; same measure for listed ingredients

Heat 2 inches of oil to in a deep pot on medium high heat.

Combine ingredients from sliced onions to peanuts (if using) in a wide bowl. Add a tablespoon of water at a time, until the dough just comes together. It should be a soft ball of dough but not sticky. Oil the palm of your hands and break off a small piece of dough. Flatten it and fry in hot oil on both sides until golden brown. It is important to keep the oil at a constant temperature to ensure the insides cooks and the outside browns evenly.If the oil is too hot the onions will get burnt and make the vades bitter.The key is to caramalize the onions while cooking the vade all the way through.

Drain vade briefly on a paper towel to remove excess oil . Serve hot with coconut chutney or can be eaten as is.

Cream of Tomato Soup – Restaurant style with home-made croutons

Wishing all my readers a very happy and joyous 2012! May this year bring good, scrumptious and healthy eating :)

I had gone into an hibernation of sorts on the blogging front and decided to breathe some life into my space here which has kept me company on my culinary adventures and experiments. I made a healthy tomato soup a few weeks ago, even took pics when the sun decided to shine on us amidst the bleak gloomy overcast days, but never got around to sharing it on here. So here it is, the Cream of Tomato soup made restaurant style but within the confines of your own home kitchen. 

Cream of Tomato soup is one of the most popular soups served in almost any restaurant across India that takes pride in serving up multi-regional cuisine. Tomato soup is a crowd favorite and undoubtedly the most ordered too. Heck, even the Indian Railways serves up a thinned down, remotely tomatoey tasting version of this soup. There are a zillion versions on how to make tomato soup; this is just one of them adapted from the recipe used at our family restaurant back in the day.

The Indian version of the Cream of Tomato soup, is a thick creamy soup topped with deep fried bread croutons that make the soup taste sooo good albeit the croutons aren’t screaming healthy. Most restaurants also use food color to get the bright red soup. When you make it at home however, you get to choose to what’s in your soup and what’s not.

You will need:
For the soup:
8 fully ripened Roma tomatoes
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup leeks, chopped * (see note below)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp Olive oil or any cooking oil
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
½ tsp Black pepper powder
½ tsp sugar (adj. to taste)

*Note: Leeks aren’t traditionally used in cream of tomato soup, they are not easily available in India either. I chose to use them since I had them on hand. Can substitute with chopped celery too or leave it out altogether.

Wash and chop the tomatoes into chunks. In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the bay leaf. When it begins to sizzle, add the chopped garlic and onions. Saute for 2 minutes. Now add the chopped carrots and leeks. Cook on medium heat until the carrots are soft. Now add the tomatoes and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked and all the veggies are done. Season with salt and pepper powder. Allow to cool completely. Remove the bay leaf and discard. 

Blend the cooled mixture until smooth. Use as little water as possible. I didn’t have to use any. Return the blended soup to the same pan and turn heat to medium. Simmer on low, if it feels too thick add little water. It should have a pourable consistency. Taste and add sugar if the soup is sour, the tomatoes impart tanginess. Adjust sugar and seasonings as required. Simmer for 2 minutes and turn off heat.

For the Croutons:
8 slices white/brown bread
1 tbsp Olive oil
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Garlic powder
Large baking sheet

Preheat oven to 300F. Trim the sides of the bread and cut into bite sized cubes. Toss with the olive oil, garlic powder and salt on a baking sheet. Spread evenly and bake in pre-heated oven for 15-18 minutes until crisp and golden. Toss cubes once while baking. 

Store cooled croutons in an air-tight container and use as required.

Ladle hot soup into bowls, top with croutons and serve immediately. Voila! A healthy home-made soup is all yours to slurp on. I resisted the temptation to garnish my soup with cream, staying true to the healthy part. But if you don’t mind some cream in there, then go ahead and garnish it like this. This soup is so creamy and delicious the way it is, I promise you won’t miss the deep fried croutons ;) Enjoy!

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