Onion Crispies (Pyaaz Pakoras)

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I don’t know what is it about the rains and pyaaz pakoras. If you are in India during the monsoons, you’ll know what I mean. Showers almost invariably call for indian chai and hot pakoras- I guess we’re just celebrating the rains, so important for our crops. At this point, we are not really counting our calories and it’s tough to reach the point of taste satiation.

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Looking through the window and seeing the showers takes my mind to the song by BJ Thomas, “Raindrops keep falling on my head”. I love every word of the song as much as the music.  This song was released in 1969 and had won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song. True, I wasn’t even born then. I got introduced to the song through my mum and dad who used to keep humming this song (and actually most of the classics I know today are because of my parents and … “I thank you for the music…. for giving it to me (-Abba)“).

“Pyaaz”= Onion, “Pakora”= Fried crisps or fritters, are a delight. They’re best had hot and fresh. It has a simple batter made from “Besan” or Gram Flour salt, and couple of Indian spices. When I had initially tried making the pakoras at home, I used to add water to the flour to get a thickish consistency. After deep frying, my crispies weren’t as crisp as I wanted them to be. Back in my graduate study days, one of my friends made these pakoras and invited me over for a taste. So inquisitive was I to see how her pakoras got so crisp, I stormed into her kitchen and I remember I telling myself, “Aha! So that’s the trick“.

These flavorful onions, as we all know, are used in plentiful dishes. If you go to an Indian restaurant, you’ll often times find “Pickled onions” being served on the table, since they go very well with tandoori snacks and curry dishes. But, I, for one, have still not developed a taste for raw onions. That’s probably because when I was little, I bit into an onion slice and I didn’t very much like getting sprayed by the juice from the onion. Onions have a relatively high water content. And keeping this basic fact in mind, my friend had got her pakora just right. All you need to do is coat the cut onion slices with gram flour  and leave undisturbed for a good 30 minutes- the water released from the onions does not necessitate you to add more water to make the batter.

What you need:

1/2 yellow onion (large), sliced

2 tbsp Gram Flour (Besan)

2 big pinches of Chaat Masala

Little Mirchi Powder (depending on how much heat you want in your pakoras)

1 tsp Coriander Powder

Salt to taste

Combine the onion slices and flour in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt on the onions (this will help release the water from the onion quicker).  Let this rest for about 30 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Meanwhile, heat oil in a kadai (pan) for deep frying. You can check if the oil is ready for frying by just dropping a little batter in the oil. If it rises to the surface immediately, it your indication that the oil is hot enough for deep frying. Now, carefully drop the onions in to the hot oil and fry till they color changes to deep golden brown. Savor these with a hot cup of tea or your favorite chutney or tomato ketchup.

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Gustoso Pizza

Okay, so who doesn’t love pizzas. It is one of our best-loved eats while watching your favorite shows, the ballgame, or just a weekend meal with beer. My husband and I were (till a few months) regular pizza eaters and being vegetarians, we used love the all-veggie-topping-pizza. A large pizza would easily suffice two meals. Why we all love pizza? Well, we don’t look for reasons. We just love it.

I generally don’t try something in my kitchen unless I’m totally convinced that its doable. Since I wasn’t that sure about making pizza from scratch, what I did a couple of times earlier was to get pizza crust and top it with my favorite toppings (veggies, mozarella cheese, pineapple)and 20 minutes later our home was welcome with a bouquet of essences. What I was glad about what was the power of control I had over the ingredients (especially cheese).

A few days back, I was motivated to bake a pizza right from scratch and googled the recipe to making the pizza dough. I was surprised by the number of results. My recipe was closest to the one below:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 packet active dry yeast (7 gms)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup warm water

First, I mixed all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Yes, I skipped the step of proofing the yeast. Added the olive oil and warm water, in batches, as I was kneading. i tweaked the recipe in that I added 1 part all-purpose flour and 1 part whole wheat flour. (The next time I am inclined to try the recipe with only whole wheat flour to make it a healthier option). It is important that the dough should not be kneaded a lot.

After that, just spray oil in the same bowl (of course, after taking out the dough. I actually kneaded my dough directly on the counter- just gave me a lot of working space). And gently roll the dough in the bowl to coat it with oil. Wrap the dough now with a shrink wrap and leave the dough undisturbed for about an hour.

In he meantime, I cut all my veggies. Onions, tomatoes, baby, spinach, green peppers, black olives. I missed adding pineapples this time, but will next time.

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The next step is to roll out the dough with a rolling pin sprinkling the dough with flour to prevent it from sticking to the counter. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 475 deg C. Spray some oil and pizza sauce on the flattened dough and arrange all the veggies and mozarella cheese. I then sprinkled some salt, crushed pepper, and garlic powder and put it in the oven for baking.

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And what came out after 20 minutes was a delectable pizza, which tasted as good as it looked.

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Alternately, the next time I bake a pizza I will be replacing the all-purpose flour entire with whole wheat flour and active dry yeast with baking powder.

Although making this pizza took a good 2 hours, yet it was a great experience, especially for a first-timer and the results were quite impressive. My next venture would be making a plum torte. In fact, I will be running to the store this evening to get some plums (hopefully I find some). So, stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting my blog!!

Inspired by smittenkitchen.com

Flower Pops

After designing the fringed flowers, I was still looking for ways to use them as decorations. Then I noticed some unused wine glasses lying in my kitchen cabinet. So I picked a few and filled them with beans/ lentils (Yes, I have quite a few varieties of lentils). All I had to to do then was to stick a toothpick at the base of the fringed flower and push it in the glass filled with lentils. You can go a step further and buy some glass paint and make designs on the wine glass. I will be doing it soon- so keep following this post. 

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I hope you enjoyed these pictures and creations. Suggestions/ comments are dearly welcome.

 

How to make Fringed Flowers…

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This is a tutorial (in pictures) on how to make these amazing looking fringed flowers. This comes as a request from my sister who read my previous post and was eager to make these flowers…or in her words “almost gerberas”.

The pictures are self-explanatory. Just play with the colors and papers. I’m sure you’ll definitely come up with something just as good.. or even better.

Start making the coil first. I used two tones of paper in this example.

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Fringe the ends of the paper strip. Apply glue on the unfringed end of the paper strip and roll the coil over the strip and proceed wrapping the strip over the coil. I used to tones and two widths of paper for the petals as well. The last step is simply to open up the petals. And your fringed flower is ready.  Hope you like it, sis!

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Floating Concoctions

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There’s a lot one can do with paper quilling. And believe me, it’s a rattling good hobby to pursue.I had posted some of my creations on perkypulp.wordpress.com in the past few days. This one is a rather new creation, which I call “Floating Temptations”. Yeh, yeh, I know water wets paper, but there’s gotta be a way around this.

I came across some exquisite floating candles on my last visit to a home and furniture store. Just then I thought to myself, why not have floating quilled flowers since quilling creations are very light (being made of paper). But I had to find a way to keep the paper flowers floating on water. So I grabbed a couple of plastic lids (which I wasn’t using anyway) and placed the fringed flowers on it. I used double-sided tape to secure the flowers to the plastic lid.

I filled a glass bowl with water and gently placed the lid on the water. I used a mixing bowl for the purpose. But you could take a shallow bowl and I bet it’s going to look just awesome.

Fringed flowers are not tough to make. All you need to do is cut a broader paper strip. Then with the help of scissors, fringe the ends (make sure you don’t cut all the way through). Make a tight coil and wrap (and glue as you proceed to make sure the flower does not unwrap) the fringed paper around the coil. The coil becomes the flower center and the fringed ends, petals. Open the petals. Your fringed flower creation is ready. You can vary the designs by cutting fringes at an angle, taking two paper strips of different widths such that you get two distinct rows of petals. I have experimented with a few designs- here they are for your viewing.

IMG_3205This is how they look as Floats. You can go the extra mile and make papers leaves too. We always welcome a dash a green around us.

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There are more creations coming up. Stay tuned… and keep creating!!

Green Lentil Flatbread

This is a rather simple recipe to use leftover lentils. It is healthy, delicious, and quick to prepare. I used boiled Green Mung Beans. This variety of beans is a great source of proteins and is high in soluble fiber. I pressure cooked the 1 cup of the beans in 2 cups of water. I had some left over from the previous evening’s meal, so I thought of incorporating it in a flatbread (also called paratha).

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Approach:

Green Mung Beans (Boiled): 1/4 cup

Whole wheat Flour: 1/2 cup

Water (Lukewarm): 1/4 cup

Milk (at Room Temperature): 1/8 cup

Cumin seeds: 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Put the beans/ dal and other dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, while gently crushing the boiled beans. Slowly add milk and knead. The dough will be dry at this point. Add water in batches such that you can knead the dough to the desired consistency. Cover the bowl (in which you kneaded the dough) with a lid and let stand for about 10 minutes.

You’re now on your way to savor this delicious Indian Flatbread. Hold on, not so fast. You still have to make the flatbread. Take a small ball (about the size of a golf ball) from the kneaded dough and roll and press it between your palms gently. Now flatten the ball with a rolling pin. You don’t have to make it superthin (like chapati/ roti).

Preheat the pan. Gently lift the bread and place it on the pan. Drizzle some clarified butter (ghee) on the bread. When the bread browns slightly, flip it and brush some more butter/ ghee on this side too. Lift (with tongs, don’t burn your fingers) to check whether the other side is cooked. You’ll know it when you can see brown spots. Your flatbread is cooked and ready to be savored.

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Serve hot with yoghurt or pickle or green chutney.

Quilling me softly…

Sorry for the late guys. I am posting my new creations after quite a few days. During my last visit to the crafts store, I stumbled across neon shades of paper. They looked so irresistible that I ended up buying an entire bundle (5 shades, 100 papers). Cut them strips of various widths with my 40% discounted paper cutter and voila! here are my creations.

There are some basic techniques to paper quilling that you can easily learn from YouTube videos which are easy to follow. Before you start, make sure you have the tools at your disposal. Below are the tools I use for my creations. Scissors, quilling needle, glue, crimping gears, cork board for diameter measurements, quilling combs, and the absolutely necessary paper strips.

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The quilling comb can easily be substituted with a wide-toothed hair comb. Initially, when I just got my hands in to quilling, I used to roughly cut strips of paper from old newspapers or magazines.  This, I believe, is the best way to start. I used to make basic shapes, but assembling different creations in patterns that looked appealing, was a task that took me sometime. The birthday card was my first assembled creation. Hope you all liked it.

After creating a few quilled earrings, I made a couple more. I call them ‘patterns on hoops’.

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For this one, I took a three-part approach. I made six of the orange half-leaf designs, one brown tight coil, and one long pink crimped strip. After putting the leaves together, I glued on the tight coil, crimped one pink strip, dabbed glue at the peripheral end of the petals, and stuck the pink strip all around such that it looked like a flower inside a hoop. I then hung the design making a loop via a jewelry wire. Pretty simple, eh?!

In my next creation, I used another quilling technique- the cascading loop using my quilling comb.

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This is not a tough design to create. All you need to do is make a hoop from a sturdy jewelry wire and alternate with a pearl bead and cascading loop inside it. If you notice closely, I hung each of the paper loop with a smaller loop (which I created from the same roll of jewelry wire). This way the loops don’t stand stiff. You can create many designs following this pattern. If you’re out of beads, use tight coils. You can also replace the cascading loop with other patterns.

These earrings serve as great giveaways since they have a personal touch. Think about it when planning for that baby shower, birthday; if not, just share your flair.

Thanks for stopping by. And remember, keep blogging!

The intricate art of Paper Quilling

“Quilling” and not “quilting” is the art of transforming paper strips into elegant patterns. Much to my lack of knowledge, this art has been alive since the Renaissance. Practiced all across the globe, this art has gained immense popularity owing to the cheaper material costs, less number of tools, various form factors that paper strips could be made in to, and the 2D and 3D designs that could be used to make creations (greeting cards, jewelry, picture frames, boxes et al). And thanks to quilling, I got myself another hobby.

First introduced to the art of paper quilling by my sister-in-law (who has “shaped” some exquisite jaw-dropping quilled creations), I would have never imagined that myself getting so involved in the art. After spending some brief quilling sessions with my S-I-L, I experienced my fingers getting the knack of the art. So I started reading over the internet and googling images of quilling work. This was an eye-opening moment for me. I just had to get my hands in to this art.

Quilling is not an art requiring expensive gizmos. To begin with, all the creator needs is a quilling tool (a needle of sorts with a slot to hold and coil the paper strips over) and colored paper strips. For practice purposes, you can also make use of newspapers or unwanted sheets of paper by cutting them into strips of varying width (This is how I started off with quilling). Seeing this light of inspiration in me, my bro-in-law ordered a paper quilling set- this was him encouraging me to not give up the art. Some of the quilling techniques that I am aware of today is more of an internet-based learning. To prove to myself that I am a sincere quiller, I presented a self-made birthday card to my Dad for his 59th birthday, applying the various techniques Image

of quilling. Dad was ecstatic to get it, although he was secretly wishing it was his 29th (and not 59th) birthday. Age is only a number after all, right!

So you see, you can design creations as far as your imagination takes you. Limitless. From simple to complex, 2D to 3D patterns, there’s a lot you can do with quilling. My very recent quilling creations include something you can flaunt off. Earrings. Image

Enthused, I went to the crafts store and bought rings and jewelry wire. Thanks to the 40% off coupon I had, I could also buy a paper cutter (at a cheaper price) and loose sheets of paper to make customized quilling strips. For this, you have to be careful about the thickness of the paper since they curl differently. I have read some quillers recommending 100-120 gms (where paper thickness is measured in grams per square meter such that the greater the weight, the thicker the paper). I was not sure about the nitty-gritties, so I picked up the paper I felt would work best for me. This way you can cut the strips in to widths per your requirements. There are pros and cons of both pre-cut and self-cut strips. It’s up to you to decide. I wanted to explore both options.

I am very fond of these quilled earrings myself since they are almost feather-weight. Unlike most of my dangle-downs which are heavy, these ones are not. For the first pair of earrings (hanging on the swans), I cut my own paper strips and for the rest two, I used pre-cut strips. I used pearl beads (that I had saved from my broken pearl necklace) to add in a dash of elegance. I am experimenting with more designs and techniques. Please keep reading/ following my blog. If you like my creations, make sure to “like” them before leaving the page. This serves as a great encouragement for a novice.

Stay tuned and keep blogging!

QuickBerry Lassi

Hailing from India, Lassi is one of the drinks that cools you off in the hot weather. Lassis have also come of age. Many flavors, many colors. I am so used to having Lassi as a breakfast drink that I wanted to try out something innovative and quick. This ‘QuickBerry Lassi’ is a perfect drink to quench your thirst or satiate those in-between-meal-cravings.

IMG_3123Ingredients:

1/2 cup Plain Yoghurt

2 tsp Strawberry crush or preserves

1 tsp Sugar

Water (Per the desired consistency)

Blender

Put all the above ingredients in a blender and blend it till a homogeneous mix is obtained. Serve chilled.

Notes:

1. To watch those calories, you can always substitute Full Fat Yoghurt with Low Fat Yoghurt and regular sugar with sugar substitute.

2. If you don’t have Strawberry crush, use Strawberry jam or jelly. You can also experiment with other flavors like apricot, raspberry, black currant.

3. Although you can make this recipe with fresh strawberries, it is for times when you’re out of strawberries at home (and don’t want to run down to your local grocery store) or if they are not available in your area.

La vida bonita

La vida bonita. After all.

No matter how much you suffer (or think to suffer) in life, it is beautiful. I have always felt that God has put more ‘bad luck’ eggs in my basket than anyone else. I have borne troubles that generally people of my age don’t. Or so I think. On my very recent trip to my homeland (which was more a spiritual one), I thought of discussing “life” with my mother. Having a spiritual conversation with her is something which I have never in my 28 years done before. We used to have a gamut of conversational topics (cooking, weight loss, actors, movies, politics, clothes, and all the rest, which all you mother-daughter duos know what I mean), to talk about but we never treaded the spiritual path together, which was more than refreshing (than odd). What she told me is something I will never forget in my life. As she spoke, I could see some sadness in her eyes and she probably was thinking that wish she could never have had to have this ‘talk’ with me, wish we could still talk about movies, recipes, et al. She told me that we come in to this world with our own baggage and we have to carry it all along. You drop your bags and you succumb to your problems and let them get the better of you; you carry it (don’t lug) and you have the strength to face your challenges rather than running and hiding away from them. Because ultimately there is no escape. Just listening to mother gave me a heightened sense of courage and rejuvenated my spirit. In the two months that I spent at home, she would tell me this every other day till she felt that her words were not falling on deaf ears and she could actually see the ‘firmer’ me. We came back to our recipe discussions and the do nots in cooking, and I’m glad that I turned out to be a better cook than I was.

Observing the dialogues that my mother and I were having, and happy that there were topics to which even my father could contribute (just kidding, Dad), he unfolded yet another fact of life in front of me saying that God gives troubles to those who have to strength to face them. This linked up very well with what my mother told me about our baggages. So really the baggage we carry is commensurate with our endurance limit. Everyone out there who feels that their troubles are surmounting the Mt. Everest, feel special, feel blessed that God has made you so powerful. Don’t sulk because it’s time to fight your battles. You were born a winner. Savor your success. Life is more than beautiful, after all.