Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes (and in a Jar)

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You might have bought this one many times from Vons, Costco or other grocery stores. After today, you won’t do that; rather you will prepare your own Red Velvet Cake.  This particular cake is famous for its bright red colored gorgeous look and its creamy white frosting. People in USA and Canada love this cake from the decades for any celebrations or V-day. Not only the looks, it’s just yummy in every bite. It has a mild chocolate flavor with a moist and tender crumb. The chocolate flavor comes from adding cocoa powder to the batter and buttermilk makes it moist. Butter milk always makes any baked goods very tender. If you don't want to buy buttermilk from store, you can easily make it at home. Take a cup of milk, add 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to it and let this mixture rest for 5 to 10 minutes before using it.

This beautiful cake generally comes with amazing cream cheese topping; I too used the same for frosting. Cream Cheese is perfect for any cake and very easy to use too. Some people like me love having cream cheese alone and kind of addicted to it. If you have any leftover, mix it with some fresh fruits and then have it, it’s super yummy!

Whenever it comes to any recipe related to baking, I am never tired of trying it out several times. I did Red Velvet Cupcakes couple of times at my kitchen and this time it was for some of my close friends. Though my family generally avoids any artificially colored food, this cake is an exception. This has been favorite to both the boys at home. If you want to avoid red food color, can try it with beetroot juice. The version that I would share here today, is inspired by two famous sites -  food network and joy of baking. I tried to give it a new look by making this in a jar, something different from the traditional cupcakes look.

Let's come to the recipe:

Recipe of Red Velvet Cupcakes : ( for 12 cupcakes )

Ingredients :

for Cakes : 

All-purpose flour - 1 1/4 cups
Baking powder - 1/4 tsp 
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Regular or Dutch processed cocoa powder - 1tbsp
Butter ( unsalted ) 1/4 cup at room temperature 
Granulated White Sugar - 3/4 cup
Large Egg - 1
Pure Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Liquid Red Food Coloring - 1 tbsp
Buttermilk - 1/2 cup
White Vinegar - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp 

For Cream Cheese Frosting :

Cream Cheese - 1 lb ( around 500 g ) softened 
Butter ( softened ) - 1 sticks 
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Sugar - around 2 cups or as per the taste.

Method :

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C. Line 12 cups muffin tin with cupcake papers.

2. In a large bowl, take the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and mix it well.

3. In a large bowl, (or you can use electric mixer) beat the butter with a hand mixer until it gets soft. Add sugar to it and again beat the mixture until it becomes light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat it until incorporated.

4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add vanilla extract and mix it well.

5. In a cup take the buttermilk and red food coloring and whisk it

6. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the butter mixture and beat the mixture with hand mixer on low speed.

7. In a cup, take vinegar and baking soda. Let it rest until it becomes foamy and then fold into the batter.

8. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups. Take a offset spatula, and smooth the tops.

9. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

10. Let the cakes cool down for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting :   

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract, until the mixture becomes smooth.

2. Gradually add the sugar, beat on low speed, until incorporated. Increased the speed to high and mix it until it is light and fluffy. 

3. Check, if sugar is needed, check the consistency. Frost the cupcakes with butter Knife or pipe the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Assemble in Jars : 

Slice the cupcakes horizontally to get layers.

Place a layer into the bottom of the jar, pipe a layer of cream cheese frosting on the cake layer. Repeat the process, until you reach the top of the jar.

Red Velvet Cupcakes are ready! 


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pineapple Cream

I am very excited today because this would be my 50-th post!! Initially photography or experimenting new dishes were my hobbies and never thought of starting a blog. Because I was bit skeptical if I would be able to spend enough time to continue once I start this. In first couple of months, I was posting the recipes without opening it up for readers. Finally when I gained some confidence and started loving blogging too, I made it public. It’s been two months since then and was very satisfying experience. I am receiving huge encouragement and constructive feedback from friends. I am really thankful to these friends and other readers, to inspire me to do some good works.

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As it is a celebration, so without some sweet or dessert, it’s not complete. When I came to USA, honestly speaking I was a novice in making any dessert. Then slowly started learning one by one from different cooking groups. Today I will share once such recipe - Pineapple Cream. The recipe needs only 3 ingredients and doesn't require either cooking or baking. Just mix the ingredients and let it rest for couple of hours. Yummy Pineapple cream is ready!! This one is so easy to make that it becomes perfect dessert for any small party. Whoever had this pineapple cream at my place, appreciated the taste and asked for the recipe. So let’s come to the recipe.

Recipe of Pineapple Cream : Serves - 5 

Ingredients :

Pineapple - 1 can ( crushed or chunk ) drained 

Sour Cream - 1/2 cup

Sweetened Condensed Milk - 1/2 cup

Method :

1. Take a large bowl, add pineapple, sour cream and condensed milk. Mix together well.

2. Refrigerate it for 1 hour. Pineapple Cream is ready, garnish with some dry fruits (optional) and serve cold!  

Note : you may use any fruits in the place of pineapple.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fish Pulao ( Indian Fish Pilaf )

This is fish time again! Hope anybody will not complain! Since fish is most popular in any Bengali home, you will often see one or another form of fish dishes in my blog. Nowadays most of my friends are great cook and showing more interest in cooking. This recipe was inspired from the the lovely dish 'Fish Biryani' that one of my San Diego friends made, when we visited to her home last month. I really liked the taste and asked her for the recipe. Today I will share the recipe of 'Fish Pulao' ( Indian Fish Pilaf ) which is mouth-watering  as well as stomach filling. I already tried this dish three times at my kitchen and every time it was a big hit. It is the most comforting one-pot meal, not so spicy, still flavorful and delicate. 

If you don't have much time but want to prepare something tasty and quick, then it is the perfect choice. It will take less than thirty minutes and with a bowl of Raita ( yogurt based vegetable salad ), it's a complete meal. It's also a perfect for office or kid's lunch box. Pulao is rice based dish made of vegetables/ meat / fish. Long grain and flavored rice like Basmati are often used to make Pulaos.

The English term of Pulao is Pilaf, very popular in South-Central Asia, Middle East, South America and Eastern Europe. Many types of Pulao are available, for example, Chicken Pulao, Peas Pulao, Vegetable Pulao, Sweetend Pulao  (click here for the recipe) or Saffron Pulao are few of them. There are many recipes and versions to make Pulaos. Whatever is the process, the result is always delicious. The basic recipe of Fish Pulao is a combination of fish, flavored rice and aromatic flavor of some whole spices. Sometimes the rice and other ingredients are cooked together in spices. There is one more way when rice is par boiled and the vegetables / meat / fish are cooked in the spice. Then rice and other ingredients are added and stir-fried. Now Coming to the recipe : 

Recipe of Fish Pulao / Indian Fish Pilaf : ( Serves 4 )

Ingredients :

for making Rice :

Basmati Rice - 2 cups
Onion - 1 (thin sliced)
Green Chilies - 1 tbsp (chopped ) optional
Cashew nuts - a handful ( halved )
Golden Raisins - a handful or little less ( soaked in half a cup of water )
Green Cardamom - 3
Cinnamon Stick - 1 inch
Cloves - 3
Oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee ( clarified butter ) - 2 tbsp
Salt -
Sugar -

for Making Fish :

Fish - 1 lb / around 500 g (any white fish or fish fillets like Bass / Swai / Tilapia / Bhetki cut into medium sized cubes )
Salt -
Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
Onion - 1 small ( chopped )
Ginger - 1 tbsp ( paste)
Garlic - 1 and 1/2 tbsp (paste)
Tomato - one medium sized ( chopped )
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Red Chili powder - 1/2 tsp or as per the taste
Oil - 2 to 3 tbsp

Method :

1. Wash and then soak the rice for about 15 minutes. Take a dip-bottomed pan, add 5 to 6 cups of water and heat it up. Once water starts to boil, add the rice and cook until rice is almost done.(90 % done). Make sure that rice is not overcooked.

2. Drain out the excess water out and spread the rice on a flat surface. Let it cool down completely.

3. Wash the fish pieces, sprinkle salt and turmeric and mix it well.

4. Take a pan, add oil to it and heat it up. Once oil is ready, add chopped onions, saute it till it is light brown, add ginger and garlic. Stir it and let it cook until raw smell goes off. Add tomato, sprinkle salt and again give some stirs.

5. Once tomato becomes cooked and soft, add turmeric powder, coriander powder and red chili powder. Stir it and mix it well until oil comes up from the sides of pan.

6. Add fish pieces, gently mix it with the other spice mixture and give a nice coat of spice. Lower the flame, cover the pan with lid and cook for 7 to 10 minutes.

7. Open the lid, check the taste and add salt or chilies if needed.

8. Take a wok or a big pan, add 2 tbsp oil and 1 tsp ghee and heat it up. Once it is hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. When they are fragrant, add sliced onion, fry it until it is golden brown and add the green chilies ( optional )

9. Add the cashew, give some stirs and add the raisins to the pan. Within couple of minutes add rice, mix it well and add salt and sugar. Add the fish pieces and again gently mix it with the rice.

10. Add 1 tbsp of ghee, check seasoning and cover it with lid. Lower the flame and let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes.

12. Fish Pulao or Pilaf is ready !! Serve hot with raita ( yogurt based salad )!

Note : You may try this recipe with Paneer ( home-made Cottage Cheese) to make this dish vegetarian. Don't need to cook the paneer separately like fish. ( skip Step 3 to 7 ) Fry the paneer pieces to golden brown before adding onion and set it aside then follow the rest except in Step 9, add paneer pieces in the place of fish.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Kashmiri Dum Aloo ( Baby Potatoes cooked in Yogurt gravy)

Last few days, I received several emails and messages from the readers that they would like to see posts on some vegetarian recipes. This recipe is especially for those vegetarians readers. To my vegetarian readers, who regularly follow me, I already had few posts on vegetarian recipes, which you can see under the title 'veg dishes'. Either you can get those by searching or find them in the recipe index. I agree that currently my posts on vegetarian dishes are not that many, though I am planning to add more in near future. There is a common perception that Bengalis are non-vegetarian and don’t like any vegetarian dish. This is entirely false. Our regular menus will have at least couple of veg dishes, obviously along with one non-veg preparation J

Last weekend some of my friends came for lunch and I made couple of dishes. Kashmiri Dum Aloo was one of them. Today I will share that recipe. Dum Aloo is one of favorite preparations to any Bengali. “Luchi-Aloor Dum” is a great combination and my many Bong friends may be licking their lips as soon as they heard these two words together. Luchi or Puri means Indian Puff Bread. Aloor Dom or Dom Aloo has so many versions, ( see here another type of Dum Aloo ) Kashmiri Dum Aloo is one of them, it  is generally served with paratha (Indian fried flat bread) or Pulao (Pilaf).  It belongs to specifically Kashmiri cuisine. In Kashmiri Dum Aloo, baby potatoes are cooked in spicy-yogurt gravy. It makes the preparation very yummy. It has a sharp flavor of some roasted dry spice powder. Kashmiri Dum Aloo has a distinct red color and rich thick gravy that make the dish more attractive. The recipe is simple, needs no onion, no garlic, but outcome is really tasty! The source of the recipe is partly from one of my friends and partly from Internet. Kashmiri Dum Aloo has also different different recipes, I don't have any idea which one is authentic, but personally I liked this recipe.

Recipe of Kashmiri Dum Aloo ( Baby Potatoes cooked in rich yogurt gravy ) : Serves - 6

Ingredients : 

Baby Potato - 15 
Oil - 4 tablespoon + 2 tablespoon
Kashmiri Red Chilies : 2 / 3  ( paste ) or Kashmiri Red Chili Powder : 1 tablespoon
Yogurt - 1 and 1/2 cup  
flour - a pinch 
Green Cardamon - 2 
Dry ginger powder ( soonth ) - 1 tsp or grated ginger - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Fennel powder - 1 tsp
Roasted Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida ( hing ) - a pinch 
Salt - 
Sugar - to taste

Method :

1. Wash the potatoes and parboil. Once they are done, peel the skin and prick the potatoes all over with a fork or a toothpick.

2. Take a frying pan, add oil and heat it up. Once oil is ready,  fry the potatoes until they are crisp and golden brown in color.

3. Drain on a kitchen towel and set it aside. 

4. Dry roast the fennel, cumin separately and grind them to a powder.

5. Whisk the yogurt with salt and a pinch of flour.

6. Heat oil in a pan, add green cardamoms and asafoetida, then add ginger or ginger powder, cumin powder and red chili powder. Cook for couple of minutes until oil starts to separate from the sides of pan. Lower the flame and add the yogurt mixture, stir it and mix it well. 

7. Keep stirring until oil separates from the spice, add the fried potatoes and add salt. Add half cup of water if needed. Cover it and cook till the potatoes are well cooked and get a nice coat of yogurt mixture. When gravy starts to thicken and oil starts to separate from the sides of the pan, add sugar ( if needed ) and check seasoning. Kashmiri Dum Aloo is ready !! Serve hot.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tom Yum Soup / Tom Yum Goong

Any kind of soup is hot favorite at my home. Especially my son is crazy about soups. Sometimes we go to Chinese or Thai restaurant just to have soups for him. This is one of our favorite soups in Thai restaurant. Recently we had this in a party at one of our family friend’s home. So I thought why I don’t try myself! Then I took the recipe from her and also checked out the same recipe in couple of Internet sites.

Tom Yum Soup, also known as Tom Yam Goong, is a very exotic and flavorful Thai dish. Goong in Thai means shrimp. This is one of the most loved and celebrated dish of Laos and Thailand, equally popular in other South-East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Today’s global economy helped to spread different Asian cuisines to other parts of world. So even in USA, wherever you live, would always find several good Thai restaurants nearby.

The word Tom refers to the boiling process and Yam is a kind of hot and spicy salad. Tom Yum Soup is a spicy clear soup with a distinct hot and sour flavor, yellowish to reddish in color. It uses fresh Kaffir lime leaves, crushed lemongrass, chilies, prawns, lime, oriental fish sauce and chopped coriander leaves for garnishing. Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal are natively grown produce in Thailand. Sometimes, you may add pieces of shellfish, pork, beef or chicken. You can serve this dish as a soup or along with noodles or steamed rice. It’s not only easy to make at home, healthy too. The ingredients are easily available at any grocery store. Recently I could find a local store where all the Thai ingredients are available.

Recipe of Tom Yum Soup : Serves - 3

Ingredients :

Chicken stock : 3 cups ( I used home-made chicken stock ) you can use store-bought one.
Shallot - 2 (chopped)
Lemongrass - 1 stalk cut into 1 inch-long segments.
Galangal - 3 big slices ( if you don't get galangal, use 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger )
Kaffir Lime leaves - 5/6 torn ( not chopped )
White Button Mushroom - 1 package ( sliced in half )
Thai Chili Peppers - 3-4 ( whole) ( optional)
Tomato - 2 medium sized (roughly chopped)
Shrimps (with head or without) - 1 lb cleaned and diveined ( you can use frozen prawns too )
Fish Sauce - 3 tbsp
Chili Oil - 1 tbsp or as per the taste 
Lemon juice - 1-2 tbsp
Cilantro / Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup (torn)
Salt - ( if needed)

Method :

Chicken Stock : If you want to make chicken stock at home, take a pressure cooker, add 3 and half cups water and add 1 lb big cut chicken pieces with bone. Let it cook over medium flame for 15 minutes. Then switch off the gas but don't open the cooker, let pass the steam automatically. Once it is done, Drain the chicken stock and discard the chicken.

1. Take a medium sized soup pot, pour the chicken stock. Add the shallots, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil.

2. Add mushrooms to the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for couple of minutes. Add tomato,shrimps, fish sauce, chili oil and chili peppers(optional).

3. Cook until the shrimps turn pink. Switched off the gas. Add lemon juice and coriander leaves. Check the seasoning, adjust accordingly. Cover it and remove from the heat. Let the soup soak for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

4. Tom Yum Soup is ready! Serve hot.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bhapa Sandesh / Steamed Home-made Cottage Cheese Fudge

Today, I came up with the recipe of a dessert that I prepared on 4th of July weekend! It is one of most loved and traditional sweet dish in Bengal. Very easy and simple to make, need only four ingredients to make this mouthwatering dessert. It takes only 15 minutes for preparation and another 15 minutes of cooking time! So Bhapa Sandesh would be ready only with half an hour of your effort! To make this delicious dessert, you need a steel container with lid and a pressure cooker. If you don't have those, use microwave instead.

'Bhapa Sandesh' doesn’t need any introduction to any Bengali. To rest of the people, Sandesh is a specific type of sweet or dessert created with chenna (Indian Cheese) and sugar, sometimes milk with sugar. They are available in many types and shapes. This particular type is made by steaming home-made cottage cheese and that's why the name is Steamed Sandesh. 'Bhapa' is Bengali word for steamed. Sandesh is usually decorated with some dry fruits, or rose petal or saffron streaks. Since I prepared this dish on America's Birthday, I sprinkled with some blue, white and red sugar decors. This is my east met west Steamed Sandesh :) You can use 'Nolen Gur' (Date Palm Jaggery ) or brown sugar in place of powdered sugar, which I tried in last winter and came out awesome.

Recipe of Bhapa Sondesh or Sandesh : for 10 pieces

Ingredient :

Whole Milk / Full Fat Milk - 2 liters
Sugar - 6-7 tbsp or as per the taste
Vinegar or Lemon Juice - of a big lime mix with 2 tsp of water.
Cardamom (crushed ) - 2 or Cardamom Powder - a pinch
Chopped Pistachios ( optional ) - 2-3 tbsp
Saffron - few strands ( optional )

Method :

1.    Boil the milk in a big pan and stir continuously. Once the milk starts boiling, lower the flame. Pour the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir the milk. Once the milk starts curdling, and it changes into chenna (cottage cheese) and greenish water, remove the pan from oven.

2.     Leave the chenna / channa in this condition for 5-7 minutes.

3.     Put it over a soft cotton cloth / or a cheese cloth (if you have any). Let all the water drain away.

4.     Now put this cloth with the chenna under running cold water for 2-3 minutes. This will help to remove the smell of lemon.

5.     Hang the chenna along with the cloth on the kitchen tap / faucet for 30 minutes. Please note that the Chenna shouldn’t get too dry. If it gets dry, the Sandesh won’t be soft enough.

6.     Now in a big bowl, take the chenna out, add sugar and mix it nicely. Once it gets soft and smooth, add the cardamom powder. Again knead it nicely, until you feel oily on your palm. Add the chopped pistachios. ( you can use food processor for the mixing and kneading )

7.     Take a steel container, grease it with non-stick spray or butter. Pour the cheese mixture into the container, sprinkle the saffron strands and cover it with lid. If you don't have any container with lid, take a steel bowl and cover it tightly with aluminium foil. 

8.   Take a pressure cooker, add 1 cup water and place the container carefully. Cover the cooker's with lid. But don't put the pressure regulator weight over the vent pipe. Let it cook on low to medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you want to avoid the pressure cooking method, take a microwave proof bowl, grease it, pour the mixture and cook it for 5 to 8 minutes.

9.   Once it is done, let it cool down first at room temperature. Then put the container into the refrigerator for half an hour.

10.  Cut it into the pieces. Bhapa Sandesh is ready!! Sprinkle or decorated with some dry fruits and serve!  

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Patol Chingri ( Pointed gourd with Prawns)

We are in the peak of summer season in southern California. The pleasant cold wind from the ocean is missing. Though we Indians are used to with much warmer season, near-perfect San Diego weather pampered us. So we start complaining and feel tired even before it reaches 80 F. On top of that, my son’s summer activities are in full swing. I have to take him to swimming and soccer classes. So I had little time either to spend in my kitchen or to clear up backlog of my recipes. There were couple of dishes pending to be posted in the blog. One of them was Patol Chingri, which I will share with you today.

Patol Chingri is very common and simple preparation in any Bengali household. Before coming to the main dish, let me introduce Patol and Chingri. Patol is a summer vegetable whose English name is Pointed Gourd. It is widely available in West Bengal, eastern part of India. We are lucky enough that nowadays it is available in US too, courtesy to some large Indian grocery chains. Though it is pretty expensive here and not as good as what you get in India, it still makes us delighted, whenever we see Patol in the store.

As Patol is very common vegetable in summer, we are seeing from our childhood that many dishes are being cooked with the same in my mom's kitchen. Patol Chingri is one of them. Other dishes are Patol Bhaja (fried Patol) and Alu-Patol r dalna ( pointed gourd cooked with potato ) (click here) which are also very popular.

'Chingri' is the Bengali word for Prawns, most popular seafood among native West Bengalis. Chingri vs. Hilsha is a traditional rivalry between Western and Eastern parts of Bengal. Pointed gourd and Prawns, a perfect combination and make the final gravy so flavorful and Yummy, which goes well with rice. 

Recipe of Potol Chigri ( pointed gourd with prawns ) : serves 4 

Ingredients :

Patol / Parwal / Pointed Gourd - 1 lb / around 500 g
Potato - 2 medium sized peeled and cut into medium cubes 
Prawns - medium sized deveined and cleaned 

Onion - one small ( finely chopped )
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder -1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri Red Chili powder - 1 tsp
Salt -
sugar -

Oil - preferably mustard oil - 5 - 6 tbsp
'Kalo jeera' / Nigella seeds - 1/2 tsp
Green Chilies - as per your tolerance  

Method : 

1. Cut off the ends of the Patol, scrape the skin and chop in haves. Sprinkle salt, a pinch of turmeric powder and mix it well.

2. Add salt and turmeric to the prawns, mix it well and let it rest for 10 minutes.

3. Take a heavy-bottomed pan, add 2 tbsp oil and heat it up. Once oil is hot, add the patol and fry it till it is golden brown and set it aside.

4. Add the prawns to the pan and saute it until it becomes pink and keep it aside.

5. Add oil in the same pan, add the potatoes, sprinkle salt and fry it till it changes color to light brown.

6. In the same pan, add remaining oil. Once oil is ready, add green chilies and nigella seeds. Once it starts to spatter, add the onion, sprinkle salt and saute it till it is light brown. Add ginger paste, stir it and mix well.

7. Take a coriander powder, turmeric powder and Kashmiri red chili powder, add half teaspoon of sugar, add 2 tbsp of water and make a paste. Add the paste to the pan.

8. Stir it continuously until oil starts to separate from the sides of pan. 

9. Add the potato, Potol to the pan and give some stirs until oil comes up from the sides of the pan.

10. Add 1 and half cup water ( as per desired consistency ), add salt and cover the pan with lid. Let it cook until potol and potatoes become soft and gravy starts thickening.

11. Add the prawns, mix it with gravy and again cover it. Cook it again for 4 to 5 minutes, check the seasoning and the consistency.

12. Add green chilies (optional) give some stirs and mix well. Patol Chingri is ready!! Serve hot with a bowl of rice.

Note : You may cook Cauliflower or Zucchini  following the same recipe, just add cauliflower / zucchini in the place of Potol / pointed gourd.

Happy Cooking!!