Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good-bye 2005...with a favorite dish!

The past few days, a knee injury has kept me out of commission, but I am healing slowly in time to say good-bye to 2005 with one of my favorite dishes. 2005 has been an eventful year, and 2006 promises to be even more so. To bid farewell to 2005, I chose Idli-Sambar. A meal that is nutritious, wholesome and affordable. Idli-Sambar is a traditional Southern Indian breakfast recipe, but now finds its way into homes all across India, and indeed Indian restaurants all over the world. The recipe for the idli is from my mom and we make no claims to authenticity, but it is a tried and tested recipe that always turns out!
The idlis themselves are steamed dumplings made from a fermented rice-lentil batter. They are served with sambar, a tasty spicy dal that I add lots of fresh veggies to. There are other reasons why this dish is a favorite for me: the idlis can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. They reheat *beautifully* in the microwave and taste as good as new! The sambar can also be made ahead of time, making this an ideal brunch dish.
In fact, I had planned a New Years brunch for some of our friends today...with an international brunch menu including idli-sambar (India), huevos rancheros (Mexico), spinch-mushroom quiche (France?) and brownies (America). But the knee injury left me in so much pain, unable to stand for long, that I had to cancel the brunch :( Maybe next time...
For making idlis, you do need some special equipment in the form of idli molds, pictured here beautifully by Shammi. Of course, in a pinch, any greased vessel will do.


(The pretty red serving dish was a thoughtful holiday gift from my lovely friend L!)

For the Idlis
1 cup urad dal
2 cups idli rava (coarsely ground rice)
salt to taste
Non-stick spray (such as "Pam") for greasing molds
1. Soak urad dal overnight in warm water. Grind it to a fine paste.
2. Soak idli rava for 30 minutes in warm water.
3. Mix the soaked idli rava and ground urad dal in a bowl, cover and leave overnight to ferment.
4. Once the batter is doubled in volume, use it right away or place it in the refrigerator until needed.
5. To make idlis, spray the molds with non-stick spray (or brush with oil). Add salt to the idli batter, mix lightly and scoop into the molds (half-full).
6. Steam for 10-15 minutes till a knife inserted into the idli comes clean.

1 cup toor dal (split yellow peas), cooked
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 fresh curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 small onion, minced
2 cups mixed diced veggies of your choice (I used eggplant, peas, carrot, cauliflower)
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp sambar powder (available in stores)
2 tbsp cilantro, minced
1. Make a "tadka" by heating oil and adding cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.
2. Add onion, turmeric, salt, chilli powder and saute for a minute.
3. Add veggies and saute for a minute.
4. Add enough water to cover the veggies, tamarind paste, sambar powder and let the veggies simmer till just tender (5-7 minutes).
5. Add cooked dal, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Garnish with cilantro.

Here's to a wonderful new year 2006. My wish: a wholesome meal in every home on this planet and enough food and love for all!

Friday, December 23, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

O is for Onion Bhajjis.

We come now to the letter 'O" and unfortunately I can't really think of too many Marathi foods here. One possibility is "Olya naralachi karanji"; sweet turnovers made with a filling of fresh coconut (the literal meaning of "olya" is "wet") but that is a pretty complicated recipe that will have to wait for another occasion. Instead, I made a dish that is a favorite of people all over India, onion fritters/pakodas, called "bhajjis" in Marathi. Here is a dish that is found on the menu of every Indian restaurant, whether North Indian or South Indian. It is found on every street corner in India, often eaten stuffed between slices of bread (a way to convert a cheap snack into a filling meal). It is a favorite of all home cooks, a way of serving up a hot tasty snack using ingredients that are found in every pantry. Chai and pakodas is a match made in culinary heaven, and the perfect snack for Indian monsoons and North American winters alike.
The recipe is a mere guideline; go easy or heavy on the spices as you like. I love that the sliced onion forms these funky-looking odd shaped pakodas when fried. This is a very easy crowd-pleasing snack for beginner cooks to make. Making smaller pakodas will ensure that the inside gets cooked well. People who do not like the sharp pungent taste of onions might find that the onions cooked as bhajjis have a pleasant sweetish taste that they enjoy. A variation on these is to add some finely sliced spinach leaves to the batter...they add a wonderful flavor.

Onion Bhajji (Pakodas)

(serves 3-4)
2 medium onions
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup minced cilantro
3-4 minced green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
Oil for deep-frying
1. Peel the onions, halve them and slice them thinly (using a mandoline if you own one, or a sharp knife).
2. Mix salt into the onions and leave them for 10 minutes. This softens the onions and brings out their juices.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except oil) into the onions, add a little water to make a thick batter.
4. Heat the oil and add teaspoons of batter into the oil, fry till bhajjis are golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with tamarind chutney or mint chutney or even ketchup!
We'll meet again soon with "P" which is a letter with many many interesting possibilities, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 18, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

N is for Naaral Wadi.

N does not stand for many Marathi foods. But that is totally compensated for by the one food that it DOES stand for : the naaral or coconut. The importance of the coconut tree to human life and culture in the coastal areas of India cannot be overstated. Every single part of the coconut tree is used, for food, clothing and to earn a livelihood: The tall trunk of the tree is used for carving out boats, the husk of the coconut is used as fuel, coconut oil is used as cooking oil and to make products such as soap, the tough coconut shell can be carved into many useful and decorative items. Here is a coconut shell cleverly crafted into a beautiful ladle, it was a gift from my darling friend M.
The coconut also has a very important role in religious rituals; a coconut is cracked open at every important occasion as an offering to the gods (an act reminiscent of the animal sacrifices of ages past).
But coming back to food, the coconut dominates the cuisine of many regions of India and is certainly well-represented in Marathi food. Tender green coconuts are sold at road-side stalls for their delicious coconut water, the most refreshing beverage in the tropical heat. At this stage the flesh of the coconut is very tender, almost transluscent, and delicious. More mature coconuts are used for cooking: the coconut is cracked open to reveal coconut water (which is quickly drained into a glass and consumed as a beverage) and a thick layer of sparkling white coconut "meat". It is the meat which is ground together to extract the coconut milk. People who have backyards often have their own coconut trees; here in the US, coconut is easily available in three main forms: as tinned coconut milk, as dry shredded coconut (available sweetened and plain) and "fresh" frozen grated coconut.
The most common uses of coconut are as a curry base, as we did when making egg rassa, and in several desserts such as narali bhaat (sweet coconut rice) and naaral wadi (coconut fudge), and the latter is what I decided to make today. The recipe is adapted from this recipe. The traditional way to make the sweet is to pour the hot fudge into a greased plate, let it cool and cut it into bite-size squares. Instead I patted it into muffin cups for a variation. I used condensed milk as I had some in the fridge, but you can totally omit it and add more sugar instead.

Naaral Wadi (Coconut Fudge)

(makes 15 small cups)
1 cup frozen grated coconut, thawed in the microwave
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp condensed milk (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cardamom powder
8-10 sliced almonds
1. Combine coconut, milk, condensed milk, sugar and ghee in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat, stirring often till the mixture gets thick and almost dry.
2. Stir in the cardamom and most of the sliced almonds, leaving a few for decoration. Turn off heat.
3. Spoon the mixture into mini muffin cups, decorating with a couple of almond slices. Let it cool. Serve at roon temperature.

This is a delicious sweet and so easy to put together! We shall meet again with a look at the letter "O".

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Simple Dinners: Potato "Song"

Friday nights, I often plan my dinners around finishing stuff from the fridge, getting ready for Saturday (market-day). Last night, a quick peek in the fridge revealed 3 boiled potatoes (left over from a few days ago), some left-over crushed tomatoes, half an onion. Plus some ready-made rotis (Indian flat-breads). One easy recipe jumped to my mind: Potato "song", a Konkani (a coastal region of India) potato curry with a wonderful sweet-spicy-tangy medley of tastes. I have no idea why the curry is called "song"; it is a recipe my Konkani grandmom had taught Anji (our cook) to make, so it would be on the menu often.
This curry uses the simple trio of red chillies-cumin-coriander for its spice base, jaggery (unrefined/brown sugar) for the hint of sweetness, both tamarind and tomato for the tang and cilantro for the fresh note. The result is delicious. I am experimenting with a different way of writing this recipe, breaking it down, so to speak, so maybe it will be easier for readers unfamiliar with Indian cooking to see how a curry comes together. It might make a long list of ingredients seem less daunting. Let me know if it helps or not.
Almost all curries have these 5 components: a main ingredient, a tempering, spices, curry base and garnishes. The different permutations and combinations of ingredients and spices is what makes each curry unique.

Potato Song

Main ingredient:

3-4 boiled potatoes, peeled and diced
Tadka (tempering)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, minced
5-6 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
Curry base:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tbsp jaggery (brown sugar)
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1. Mix all the ingredients for the curry base and set aside.
2. Start with the tempering. Heat the oil in a saucepan, and then add all the tempering ingredients. Stir them around so that they flavor the oil, keeping the heat medium.
3. Add all the spices and saute for a few seconds so they toast and release their flavors.
4. Add the potato cubes and saute for a minute.
5. Add curry base, stir around, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Taste and adjust the balace of salt-spice-sweetness-sourness if necessary.
7. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
This curry tastes better if you let the flavors blend for 15-20 minutes after cooking. Enjoy with flatbreads/rotis or steamed rice, with a dollop of pickle and some yogurt.

There: a simple dinner and some good use of left-over bits of food!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tea with Cathy!

Guess who came to visit me on Sunday? Cathy from my My Little Kitchen was in NYC briefly and took the time and effort to navigate the subways and come uptown to share a cup of tea with me. It was my first time meeting a blogger face-to-face and that made it so exciting!
We chatted non-stop about food and our holiday plans and can I just say that she is the warmest and nicest person ever? Cathy is the person who inspired me to start blogging...I was reading her blog for a while and timidly participated in an event (IMBB:Beans) that she hosted by mailing her my entry. Her kind encouraging words finally helped me take the plunge and start "One Hot Stove" and for that, I will always thank her.
Cathy came bearing gifts (which was TOTALLY unnecessary of course):
The box of home-made candy was a fantastic treat: chocolate-covered nut brittle. With supreme self-restraint, I managed to eat the candy over three days instead of gobbling it up in an hour (It tasted like a better grown-up version of "Cadbury's nutties" that I loved as a kid). According to Cathy, it is very easy to make so now I have to wheedle the recipe out of her :)
The other awesome gift is "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies" which is such an appropriate gift coming from Cathy, because she is working her way through the whole book trying each and every recipe and getting it rated by a panel of cookie-connoisseurs. This is the perfect season for me to try some recipes from this book! Thanks Cathy, for being so thoughtful and coming all the way to meet me!

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Menu For Hope II: Chai Hamper

Food bloggers come together every holiday season to share their good fortune with people who need a helping hand: This year we are going to have a fun fund-raising event to raise money for UNICEF for their relief efforts in Kashmir, to help the millions of people affected by the massive earthquake in October. This event is a foodie raffle being organized by the wonderful Pim of Chez Pim. Many many food bloggers have come forward to make a pledge for the raffle. How does it work?
Step 1: Go to this web site this site to find a listing of dozens of amazing foodie prizes. Choose your favorite(s).
Step 2: Go to this site to donate. For every 5$ you donate, you can enter to win one prize. Be sure to specify your chosen prize as you donate.
If you win the raffle, your prize will be shipped to you. If you lose...hey, you never lose, because all your donated money will go to this worthy cause!

What I am pledging:
A Chai Hamper, filled with
1. All the ingredients to make Masala chai (and the recipe)
2. Two sweet snacks (one of them will be home-made Kesar-Pista Nankhatai , the other will be a surprise)
3. Two savoury snacks (one of them will be home-made Chivda , the other will be a surprise)

The lucky winner will get to sample a true Indian-style tea party in the comfort of their own home! If you want to win this prize, go on over and donate 5$ and specify "Nupur/Chai Hamper". If not, there are tons of other prizes you might like. Thanks in advance for your generosity!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Happy Birthday V: An Indo-Chinese Feast

To celebrate V's birthday, some friends came over to join us for lunch. The menu: Indian-Chinese ! In decades past, Chinese cooking has become a major food trend in India, and as with all transplanted cuisines, there has been the evolution of a unique Indo-chinese fusion cuisine. Chinese food carts dot every city in India, and many Indian restaurants will obligingly include some Indo-chinese dishes on the menu. In the past several months, this trend has crossed over to NYC and if anyone would like to try it in a restaurant, I would suggest "Chinese Mirch" (28th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan).
V loves Indian-Chinese and when you are the birthday boy, what you want is what you get, so this is the menu I made (I was a bit rushed with all the prep, so some of the photos are quite awful but they still give an idea of what the food looked like). All recipes are for 6-8 servings.
To start with, some Sweet corn soup, just perfect for this cold weather. It could not be simpler to make but is very hearty and comforting.
3 boxes frozen cut corn
2 green onions (green parts only), chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 vegetable buillon cube (I use "Knorr" brand)
fresh ground pepper
For chilli relish
1/2 cup white vinegar
6 green chillies
Make the relish by mixing chopped green chillies and vinegar. Set aside. Cook the corn in 6 cups water till tender (I used a pressure cooker). Using a blender/ immersion blender, puree the corn, leaving some kernels intact. Add the soy sauce, green onions, sugar, vinegar, buillon cube and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot topped with a spoonful of chilli relish.

The first appetizer:
Korean pancakes
This one is not Indian-chinese at all, but it uses all the ingredients of a spring roll and so fit in very well with the menu. I participated in blogging-by-mail 3 and Sima generously sent me a huge package of Korean Pancake Mix. I mixed 2 cups of pancake mix with 1 grated zucchini, 1 chopped green pepper and 2 chopped green onions, and added water to make a thick batter. Then I made mini-pancakes in a non-stick pan. For a dipping sauce, I mixed equal parts of red chilli paste (store-bought) and soy sauce. The result is a delicious appetizer just bursting with veggies!

The second appetizer:
Gobi Manchurian This is everyone's absolute favorite and I was so thrilled that it turned out tasting just like the real deal. I made it in the appetizer style, not very saucy, and the sauce given in the recipe just serves to coat the florets and make them really tasty.
For florets
1 large head cauliflower, cut into neat florets
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornflour
salt to taste
oil for frying
For sauce
5 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 inch piece of ginger, minced fine
5-6 green onions (green+white parts), minced
5 green chillies, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1. Toss the florets with soy sauce and ginger-garlic paste and set aside for 1-2 hours
2. Mix the all-purpose flour and cornflour with enough water to make a thick batter. Add salt to taste.
3. Dip the marinated florets in the batter and deep fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
4. To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet. Fry the ginger, garlic, green onions, green chillies for under a minute. Take off heat, then stir in the soy sauce and ketchup.
5. Toss together the fried florets, sauce and minced cilantro. Serve immediately.

The entree ...
Mushroom-Egg fried rice This is a simple stir-fry of rice with veggies, with strips of omelet adding to the nutrition and the heartiness of the dish.
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 green pepper, sliced fine
4 green onions, chopped
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 veg buillon cube (I use "Knorr" brand)
3 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash the rice in 3-4 changes of cold water. Add 2 1/2 cups water to the rice and cook till just tender. It is important that the rice is not overcooked and mushy.
2. Heat 2 tbsp oil and quickly stir-fry the green onions, green pepper, carrots and mushrooms. Add the rice, soy sauce, pepper, buillon cube and mix well till everything is heated through.
3. Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper. Make omelets with the eggs. Cut the omelets into strips and serve atop the rice.

Now for the sweet ending to the meal:
Dessert: Dulce de leche flan There are no authentic desserts in this fusion cuisine, so I went with a dessert that V loves. I normally make a very plain and easy version of caramel custard but this time I wanted to try something new, so I chose a recipe for Dulce de leche flan made by Angela of "A spoonful of sugar" for a sugar high friday many months ago (how I love these foodie events! I can always refer back to the round-ups for some great recipes.) I followed the recipe exactly, boiling an intact can of condensed milk for 3 hours to get the dulce de leche. This is what happens to condensed milk after that treatment:
Nice and caramelized! The flan was very easy to put together and the results were astounding! I don't have a picture of the flan (people gobbled it up before I had a chance!) but you can see it on Angela's blog. We all loved it...this recipe is a keeper!
That was a great party, and here's to V having a wonderful year ahead!

Friday, December 09, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

M is for Moogambat.

Following closely on the heels of "L", we come to the letter "M". It starts with a trio of spices, mohri (mustard), the similar-sounding miri ( black peppercorns) and the all-important ingredient of Indian food, mirchi (chilli peppers). These are generally added in small quantities to spice up foods, but mirchi is considered an ingredient in its own right...fresh chillies are ground up with salt to give a amazingly spicy paste called mirchi cha thecha (smashed chillies). The most famous M word is, without a doubt, masala which means the dry spice mixtures and spice pastes that form an integral part of Indian cooking, but is a word also used to describe spicy gossip and all matters of a tabloid nature!
M is the word for maida (pronounced ma-ee-da) or all-purpose flour, which has many uses in the kitchen but still is not as widely used as its healthier whole-wheat cousin, luckily for us. M stands for some popular vegetables including maka or corn, mattar or peas, and methi or fenugreek, a mildly bitter and very nutritious green leafy vegetable. The most popular M lentil is moong, often used in its sprouted avatar.
One delightfully sweet M is a dumpling called modak. These sweets resemble onions in shape, round at one end and tapering at the other; and are made by stuffing a coconut mixture into dough which is then either steamed or fried. Modaks are a special treat made at the festival honoring Ganesha, the elephant-god.
I know the "M" that everyone is waiting for is misal, a delightful snack made with a base of lentil curry, then sprinkled with all kinds of fried garnishes and chutneys and eaten with bread. This street food is my favorite too, but its not what I made today (wait! hear me out!). The reason is that the base of misal is a curry called "usal" and I am saving it for the letter "U", when I will make usal and misal together. So misal is coming around in just a few weeks!
The dish I decided to make for "M" is actually influenced by the cuisine of the konkan coast. It is a curry made with sprouted whole moong. The name moogambat is a combination word of moong+ ambat (sour) indicating that it is a tangy curry. A reader has kindly corrected me by saying that, "in konkani ambat means amti", so this dish actually translates to moong amti. My apologies for this error. My paternal grandmother was konkani and hence the influence of this style of cooking.


3 cups sprouted moong beans (Primer for sprouting beans), cooked till tender
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
1 tbsp jaggery (brown sugar)
For the paste
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 cup onion, coarsely chopped
4 dried red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1. Make the paste by heating the oil in a skillet and toasting all the ingredients for the paste together. Then grind into a fine paste and set aside.
2. In a pan, heat the oil. Make a "tadka" with cumin, mustard, asafoetida. Add the cooked moong beans and the rest of the ingredients and some water if necessary and simmer the curry for 5-10 minutes. Taste for salt and the sweet-sour balance of flavors. Garnish with cilantro.

This curry could not be simpler to make. It is very tasty with some plain boiled rice. Let's meet next week with "N"!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

L is for Lasun Chutney.

We continue our journey with the letter "L". It is certainly the letter for spicy, fiery foods, representing lasun (garlic) and lavang (cloves). Cloves are not merely a spice, but an important part of the first-aid kit: toothaches can be relieved by chewing on cloves (the clove oil has a rapid numbing effect). Another fiery "L" food is laal rassa or red curry (the same concept as the egg rassa I made earlier. The most exciting "L" is definitely lonche or pickles, and these come in an infinite variety. In the days before refrigeration, pickles were an all-important way to store vegetables for the leaner months; the high salt content of pickles keep them from spoiling. Unlike "pickles" in the US, which generally refer to veggies packed in salt and vinegar, Indian pickles are choc-a-bloc with spices. They come in all flavors: sweet, spicy, sour and every combination thereof. If ever you are in an Indian home and someone mentions home-made pickles, I suggest you lay on the charm and get a bottle for yourself, for every family will have their unique recipe. What about "L" foods in the produce section: I can think of two, limbu or lemons (an important candidate for making pickles!) and laal bhopla or pumpkin, a hardy vegetable that is found in even the most arid regions of the state. Deccanheffalump recently wrote a beautiful post about this veggie along with a tasty, easy step-by-step recipe. After these spicy food, we need a sweet food to end with, and that would be ladoo, those sweet dessert balls that also come in infinite variety. Some popular kinds are besan ladoo, made with chickpea flour and rava ladoo, made with toasted cream-of-wheat.
For our "L" dish today, I had to go with the flow and make something spicy, and so I am making a signature rustic Marathi condiment, lasun chutney or garlic chutney. For many rural folk in Maharashtra, when food budgets are tight, the humble chutney is much more than just a condiment. When only thick dry flatbreads (bhakri) are available for sustenance, the lasun chutney and a side of raw onions makes the meal palatable. For helping millions of people through lean times, the lasun chutney gets pride of place in the Marathi A-Z.

Lasun Chutney

(makes about 1 cup)
1/3 cup dry shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1/3 cup peanuts
10 cloves garlic
5 dried red chillies
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp dry tamarind
salt to taste
Method: Dry roast each ingredient (except tamarind and salt) seperately on low heat till toasted. Grind all ingredients together to form the chutney. Store in a dry container.

This chutney can be served as a condiment with almost any Indian meal. I love it simply as a topping with bread and butter! See you next week for a look at the "M" of Marathi food.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Weekend Dog Blogging: Dale, the Fitness Freak

Move over, Yogi bear, Yoga Dog is here. Dale is maintaining his sleek figure by trying some yoga poses. Here he is practising his Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose).
Check out all the pooches hanging out with Sweetnicks!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

An exciting day for One Hot Stove

Today, I am shocked to tell you, my picture won (!!) first place (it was a tie with the amazing Stephen of "Stephen Cooks") for "Originality" in the "Does my blog look good in this" (DMBLGIT), a competition for best food-blog photography every month. I *totally* don't belong in this gallery of talented photographers but am very grateful for this pat on the back. Thank you, judges, and thank you, Moira for hosting this event so beautifully. You made this girl's day!
Here is the winning picture:

Sunday, November 27, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

K is for Kothimbir Vadi and Koshimbir.

I'm excited about the letter "K". The "K" of Marathi food is rich in foods that are used for day-to-day cooking: kanda (onion), kakdi (cucumber), kobi (cabbage) and karle (bitter gourd), which is about the only vegetable that I do not eat with gusto, although I will still manage to eat it. Kela (bananas) are the ubiquitous, affordable, nutritious fruit that I love. Another "K" word finds its way into almost every savory dish: kothimbir (cilantro), the one herb that I use a bunch of every week. Among prepared dishes, koshimbir (raita) is a side-dish that is served in some form at almost every meal (note how kothimbir and koshimbir sound very similar but are really two different things!). Some special "K"s (no pun intended) are kaju (cashews), kismis (raisins), kesar (saffron) and karanji (fried turnovers filled with a sweet coconut-poppy filling, containing kaju, kismis and kesar!). One "K" that is the universal Indian comfort food is khichdi-kadhi.
For "K", I chose two dishes that complement each other perfectly as part of a single meal. Kwords
{Foreground left: fried kothimbir vadi, Foreground right: koshimbir or raita}
The first is Kothimbir Vadi, a savory cilantro cake which is first steamed and then fried until crisp. This is a quintissential Marathi dish, and I so wanted to try making it myself! I am happy to report that is very easy to make and turns out very tasty indeed. Cilantro is my favorite herb and this dish really showcases cilantro instead of giving it the seemingly superfluous role of a garnish. Kothimbir vadi can be served as a snack with any chutney but I really love eating it as a side dish with dal and rice. I took this recipe from the Mumbai Masala site (it sounded quite authentic) and simplified it further. The one special equipment you need to make this dish is a steamer. If you own a pressure cooker, it was be used without the "weight" to steam this vadi. I chose to fashion a steamer from a pot of boiling water with a steel sieve fitted into it and the vessel placed on the sieve and covered (there is a picture below illustrating this contraption). If you own an *actual* steamer, well, you're lucky aren't you?
The steamed vadi is perfectly fine for eating on its own (a very tasty and healthy snack indeed). Of course it tastes even better when fried and crispy :) Alternatively, if you would like something in between, make a "tadka" of oil, mustard and cumin seeds and pour over slices of steamed vadi.

Kothimbir Vadi
(serves 4-6)
2 cups packed cilantro leaves, chopped fine
1 cup chickpea flour/besan
1 tbsp. rice flour
1/4 cup mixed flours (ragi or millet flour/ atta or wheat flour/ any other you have on hand)
4 green chillies, minced fine
1 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. poppy seeds
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. turmeric
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
salt to taste
Oil for frying
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, except for the oil.
2. Add enough water to make a thick batter and stir well to remove all lumps.
3. Grease a flat vessel. Pour the batter into the vessel.
4. Steam for about 30 minutes till a skewer inserted in the middle comes clean.
5. Let cool, unmold and cut into slices.
6. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet and fry the slices till crispy and golden.

Our next dish is koshimbir. This Marathi version of raita is distinguished by the presence of peanut powder, which just makes it so much tastier! The koshimbir can be made with yogurt or without (in which case you might like to add a dash of lemon juice for the tang).

Koshimbir (Raita)

(serves 4-6)
1 cucumber, peeled and diced fine
1/2 onion, diced fine
1 tomato, diced fine
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
2 tbsp. roasted peanuts, powdered
1 tbsp. cilantro, minced
4 tbsp plain yogurt
few tbsp. milk
Method: Mix everything together in a bowl, using milk if necessary to thin down the consistency.

That was a very satisfying meal! We meet next week for the letter "L"...wonder if there are any suggestions for this one?

Friday, November 25, 2005

IMBB and SHF: Holiday Cookie Swap

Two themed foodies events I look forward to every month are "Is My Blog Burning" (IMBB) and the dessert event "Sugar High Friday" (SHF) and this month, they have been consolidated into one HUGE Holiday Virtual Cookie Swap, hosted by Jennifer, the creator of SHF and Alberto , the creator of IMBB. They challenge us to come up with our favorite cookie recipes and share them, so we each will have a stash of tried-and-tested recipes to turn to.
All regular readers of this blog know that I am not much of a baker. My cookie-baking experience is rather limited, and I have definite problems:
1. The cookie recipes I use that use eggs end up tasting rather eggy. That is what happened when I tried making biscotti.
2. My cookies always burn at the bottom, while the top remains undone. What's up with that? Anyway, I decided to plunge right ahead and give cookies another shot.
Almost every culture has their favorite cookies, and some of my favorites are the Italian biscotti, American gingersnaps and the East European rugelach. What about India? Well, cookies (or biscuits as they are called in the British tradition) are very popular in India. Numerous varieties are sold and consumed in vast quantities with "chai" (tea). But these are store-bought cookies...the ones made in huge factories and packaged for sale. Cookies are rarely made at home. The reason? Very few Indian kitchens own an oven! Indian cooking is all stove-top and may involve clay ovens like the tandoor. But a conventional oven like the one you find in US kitchens? It certainly does not come as part of a kitchen unit. If you want an oven in India, you have to go out and buy a little one that can sit on the counter-top.
Having said that, in all Indian cities, there exist a few beloved bakeries. Bread loaves, cakes and yes, cookies are sold at these places. These foods are western-influenced recipes uniquely adapted to the Indian palate. For instance, you will get "veggie puffs", puff pastry parcels stuffed with a spicy vegetable mixture, and "masala toasts", little crunchy toasts spread with a dry chutney mixture. Here too, you will find the one truly Indian cookie, called "nankhatai". I have no idea what the origin of nankhatai is, but these are little shortbread cookies, rich and tasty. They come in a variety of flavors...spiced with cardamom, studded with of my favorite varieties is coated in cornflakes.
For my version of nankhatai (a first attempt at making these), I chose the classic combo of kesar-pista or saffron-pistachios. Kesar-pista ice cream is as popular in India as say, strawberry ice cream in the US. The color combination is also that of the Indian flag! As my friend SR reminded me, nankhatai also comes in savory forms, flavored with salt and cumin seeds. I looked up many nankhatai recipes from the internet, and came up with my own variation, given below. A shortbread cookie is ALL about the fat, and I never use margarine, so I used a combination of butter and ghee. I think it worked rather well. [Recipe edited on 11/30/05: After making the cookies once more, I realized that shortbread-style cookies HAVE to be made with cold butter cut into the flour instead of softened butter as I used before. The cold butter gave the cookies much better texture the second time around and I modified the recipe to reflect that]

Kesar-Pista Nankhatai

(makes 18 cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 cup powdered pistachios
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp saffron
pinch of salt
For decoration:
Pistachio slices
strands of saffron
Method: "Cut" the butter into the flour using two blunt knives or a pastry blender till the mixture is sandy. Mix other ingredients into the dough. Knead very gently to form a dough, using a little water as necessary. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes if it is too sticky. Form 18 balls with the dough. Flatten each ball to form a fat disc. Decorate with some pistachio slices and 2-3 strands of saffron. Here are the cookies before they went into the oven:
Place on ungreased parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes till the bottom of the cookie is just browning. Turn off the oven and let the cookies stay inside the warm oven till the top is slightly golden. Cool completely on a rack.

The verdict: These were delicious! Duh, you mix flour, tons of butter and sugar and it better be good. All the same, they were a bit more crunchy than "real" nankhatai should be, so I will keep working on this recipe. The best way to enjoy these rich sinful cookies is to share them, so you don't wolf 'em down all at once. I sent a box off with V to his workplace, and everyone there seemed to like them very much. Thanks, Jennifer and Alberto for hosting! This event was really fun!
12/9/05: I just found out that these cookies made it to the top ten of the virtual cookie swap! Thank you, all you lovely folks who voted for my little cookies!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A "Fall Flavors" Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving last night. It is my favorite American holiday, centered around food and friends/family. Every year, I make an effort to make dinner for a few friends (all far from home and with no family around) and last night was no different. Unlike celebrations of previous years, when I made "nice food" without it being traditional Thanksgiving fare, this year I wanted to make all seasonal fare, although we pardoned a turkey and made it a meatless celebration! The best part was that my darling friend Laureen and I cooked together to put the meal together, it was really a team effort. The tally:
# of people who ate dinner: 11 (plus 3 friends who showed up to share dessert)
# of dishes cooked: ~12
# of desserts: 5
# of hours spent eating: ~6
# of hours the oven was on: ~6
# of sticks of butter used: 9
# of things I am thankful for: too many to count
Here are some highlights of the meal...
Soup: roasted butternut squash soup using Lindy's recipe. What a flavorful soup...I took a picture before I started roasting the ingredients
The finished soup disappeared before I had a chance to take pictures! I served it with a garnish of cream and spiced pumpkin seeds. Thanks Lindy for sharing a wonderful recipe.
The appetizer table:
cran-relishesJPG consisted of a crackers-and-cheese tray, a wonderful cranberry tea bread (made by Laureen), two cranberry relishes: one with cranberries macerated in Grand Marnier and mixed with toasted pecans, and another cranberry-orange chutney; both were also made by Laureen. Here is a closer look at the delicious cranberry tea-bread.
cran-tea bread
I also made mushroom gratinate based on Lidia's recipe that I got from Mika's post.
V made a delicious champagne cocktail to go with the appetizers, using an idea from a Jacques Pepin show:
Fruit juices (orange, mango, cranberry-grape) were frozen in ice-cube trays. The fruit cubes were added to a glass (one can choose any combo of flavors) and topped with champagne. The taste changes as the cubes melt. It was delicious!
The entree was egg pilaf, my nod to my Indian traditions, and I made a side-dish of mashed potatoes based on Elise's recipe, I only modified it to include roasted garlic. As Elise promises, they turned out perfect! The second side-dish was a really unusual one: Laureen made quinoa with caramelized onions, a recipe she got from the NYTimes.
The sweet onions were perfectly complemented by the nutty quinoa.
I also tried making stuffing for the first time. It is so interesting to make something that you have never eaten before and have no clue what it should taste like! I used Rachel Ray's recipe and modified it to include soy sausages to make it even more like the real thang.
In addition, we had a mixed greens salad and dinner rolls.
And for dessert...
Laureen made traditional pumpkin pie (!) using the recipe at the back of "Libby's canned pumpkin" but she tweaked the recipe according to her Mom's instructions. Look how beautiful the pie is!
pumpkin pie
Our French-Italian friend BG showed up with this wonderful Italian Christmas bread called Pantenone (he can always be relied upon to bring the most amazing desserts!):
Laureen and I also made apple clafoutis using Amy's recipe, and Amy, this recipe is a keeper! I wish I could have served it piping hot, but it was fine even after it cooled down.
I also made walnut-fig kulfi, plus our friend OA brought wonderful chocolate chip cookies...I will put up the picture later today.
What do you think of this feast? Excessive enough for ya? :) I want to thank all the bloggers with their wonderful ideas and recipes for helping me put together this meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
Note: I ALMOST forgot to add this wonderful link...Sub Rosa does a unique take on thanksgiving. Going back to the time when Columbus discovered America accidentally while looking for India and its spices, they have put together a wonderful East Indian Thanksgiving Dinner, do take a look!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BBM3: A Holiday Package from Sima!

I am one lucky girl...just a few days after getting a lovely book from Alice, a huge package arrived today from Sima! A few weeks ago, Cathy of My Little Kitchen proposed a theme of "Home for the Holidays" for the Blogging-by-Mail #3, a swap where bloggers make up gift packages and mail them to each other. The idea was to share our own holiday traditions, recipes and goodies!
Here is what Sima sent me:
Sima comes from an amazingly multi-cultural heritage and her package was bulging with goodies that reflected all her family traditions...Korean: a package of Korean pancake mix, which will be tried this Saturday for a lovely breakfast, green tea, which I know I will love, and seaweed sheets, which I plan to roll into sushi-style rolls!
and Persian: a package of dried favorite herb and sumac the spice which I have heard so much about and am very excited to use! The amazing thing is that all these foods are rather new to me, so you will be hearing reviews as I sample them :)
As if this were not enough, Sima sent a home-made Buttermilk Pound Cake which I have started gobbling up already, and I can tell you that it is very tasty indeed! Sima also included grocery flyers from her local store, the recipe for the pound cake (will be used often, I can tell you) and a lovely letter telling me about her Thanksgiving holiday traditions.
Thank you so much, Sima, for the generous and thoughtful package! I love it all!
Check out the BBM#3 round-up here and take a look at all the goodies flying around the world. Cathy is such an amazing hostess to keep track of so many packages! I must also remember to thank Nic for creating this fun event.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Indian Kitchen: Meet the Mandoline

Today marks the debut of another great blogging event called the "Indian Kitchen", a brain-child of Indira. In this event, Indira suggests that we focus on the tools of the trade for making Indian cuisine, as well as unique ingredients that we use. What a great idea!
Just yesterday, I made meshed potato chips so for this episode, I decided to show off the little mandoline that helped me make them:
I have to confess that I don't even know the Indian word for "mandoline", I think they are just called "slicers". On my last visit to India, my mom and I went shopping and ended up in a kitchen supply store. I love these stores...filled from floor to ceiling with pots and pans and so many interesting kitchen tools. This is one thing we bought at the time, for the princely sum of Rs.65 (about US $1.50). I love this mandoline and use it very often. There are two blades on it, one straight and one crinkled. Made of metal, I think this sturdy mandoline should serve me for quite a few years.
The two most common uses of a mandoline in the Indian kitchen are:
1) To cut potatoes into plain, crinkled or meshed slices, dry them in the summer sun and store the dried slices for use throughout the year. VKN of "My Dhaba" has written a very informative post about this.
2) To cut cucumbers, radishes and beets into slices that are arranged decoratively on a platter to serve as a salad.
Thanks Indira, for thinking of this event, and I know I will be an eager participant!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

J is for Jaali Chips.

After a one-week break (last weekend being too hectic for me!), this series continues with the letter "J". My favorite "J" word is a tropical fruit called jambool (jamun in hindi and java plum in english). This little one-seeded berry is deep purple in color and as a kid, the best thing about eating jambool was the bright purple tongue I could sport for hours later! Later, getting my Bachelors degree, we had to learn to make wine in Biotechnology class (no,really!) and I remember making tons of amazing jambool wine. Now there was an experiment with a happy ending!
Another great J is jardaloo or dried apricot. The dried apricot is tasty to eat by itself, but the best part is the tiny kernel hidden inside. You eat the outside and end up with a hard seed. Then you go into your grandmom's kitchen and root around for something heavy, like a pestle, then crack the seed to get the *tiny* kernel out and eat it. A lot of work but so worth it!
Two other very important J's are both spices: jaiphal or nutmeg and jeera or cumin. Cumin is one of my favorite spices, bringing a warmth to every dish. Cumin is being investigated for its anti-cancer properties and by all accounts, this is one spice you should eat a lot of!
The sweet delight of J is jalebi. In my home town of Kolhapur, jalebi is associated with patriotism! On two days of the day, 26th January ( Indian republic day) and 15th August (Indian Independence day), little jalebi stalls sprout all over town on every street corner. We would gorge on jalebis on these two days. The other occasion associated with jalebis is weddings...the traditional Marathi wedding lunch would be incomplete without a serving of this sweet at the end of the meal. These wedding jalebis are served with a type of lassi or spiced buttermilk called "mattha". Recently, I got to "virtually" enjoy some amazing jalebis made by Bilbo and Shammi.
But the dish I made for J is none of these...I am making jaali chips translated as "mesh chips". These are potato chips cut into pretty meshed slices. During summer, my mom would make slice kilos and kilos of potatoes into these chips and dry them on the rooftop under the blazing sun. Once these are completely dry, they can be stored indefinitely and many times during the year, small amounts would be fried to a crisp and eaten as snacks. These pretty chips were a favorite for me and I decided to make them from scratch. This being November in the Atlantic north-east, there is barely any sun around at all, let alone the blazing sun required to dry these babies. So I simply cut the chips and cooked them, to eat as a one-time snack. Taking a cue from Nic and her discovery of microwaved chips, I nuked them instead of frying them! You do need a mandoline for this one though. Mandolines can be very expensive in US stores, but my Indian one costs less than 2$. Such a great tool to have on hand!
Jaali Chips

For a plateful of chips, you need
1 large baking potato, scrubbed clean
salt and pepper to taste
oil spray
1. Using the wavy (crinkle) side of a mandoline, slice the potato once, then turn the potato 90 degrees horizontally and cut again. This criss-cross way of cutting results in hatched (meshed) slices.
2. Place the slices on a microwave-safe plate sprayed with oil spray, in a single layer.
3. Microwave for several minutes (6-8 minutes) till chips are lightly browned and crispy.
4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

An easy and yummy snack!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Spicy Holiday Blog Party!

It is time for yet another Blog party, the monthly "do" where food bloggers gather together for a virtual party of tasty bites and drinks. This time around, in keeping with the holiday spirit that is being kindled everywhere, our hostess Stephanie has chosen this as the "Holiday edition". Personally I am still in Diwali mode, and decided to make a couple of Indian-themed snacks to take to the party.
Nuts are integral to any party! This is a favorite Indian snack that makes the round at every party. Traditionally, these masala peanuts are fried, but here is a more convenient microwave version that saves on oil without skimping on taste.
Masala Peanuts

1 cup peanuts
1 tbsp. chickpea flour/besan
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red chilli powder
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. oil
Method: Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle some water and mix well so that all the peanuts get a light coating of the spices and besan. Spread them on a microwave safe plate in a single layer. Microwave on high for 9 minutes (not all at once, 3 minutes three times, stirring in between). Your microwave may need a different cooking time, so keep a close eye on it. Let the peanuts cool down completely before you eat them!

Another party favorite is papads, served just by themselves or with a chutney dip. I adapted these into little bite-size canapes.
Papad Canapes

2 urad papads (I used "lijjat" brand cumin-spiced ones)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
2 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1. Using kitchen scissors, cut the raw papads into little triangles. Each circular papad can give about 8 triangles.
2. Place the pieces on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for about a minute till papads are roasted.
3. In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Place a small amount of the filling on each little papad canape and serve right away.

This was tasty, if a tad too "oniony" and next time I may use more herbs and less onion. But its easy to make and really fun to eat.
This spicy duo needs a drink with it. Mango Lassi is the perfect choice for a sweet refreshing beverage. I always stock the pantry with some cans of mango puree, once you have the puree on hand, mango lassi is a few seconds away. Canned mango puree is sweetened so you don't need to add sugar to the lassi.
Mango Lassi

1/2 cup canned mango puree
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk/soymilk
1/2 cup water
Method: Blend all ingredients together. It's that easy! Serve over ice for a refreshing drink.

I can't wait to see the rest of the eats and drinks at the Holiday Party. Thanks for hosting, Stephanie!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hugs to Clare and Kiri

Clare is one of the most beloved bloggers out there, and recently she and her kitty Kiri were hurt after a traumatic encounter with a nasty dog. On behalf of his species, Dale wants to say "Sorry, Clare" and send his love and hugs. Get better soon!
Check out all the other pups, hanging out this weekend at Dispensing Happiness. And don't forget to visit Masak-Masak, where Boo is collecting many e-wishes for Clare and Kiri.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Street Food: Ragda Patties

Today I made yet another chaat dish, one of those tasty treats from the family of Indian street foods.

This is what it is: A fried potato patty topped with a tasty peas curry and garnished with tangy sauces. It is yet another snack that makes an easy transition to a one-dish meal. Piping hot and layered with several flavors, it is also a cold-weather favorite for me.

This dish is called ragda patties where I come from, ragda being the spicy curry ("ragda" comes from the word for "churned" reflecting the way you vigorously stir the curry to blend the flavors). The word "patties" means, well, the potato patties but the word is pronounced "pattice" (rhyming with "lattice") for some strange reason! Versions of this dish are popular all over India, and the North Indian version is called aloo tikki chaat.

In the kitchen, this is one dish that is a snap to make. It is actually one of the very first dishes I ever tried to make as a teenager in my aunt's kitchen in the Western suburbs of Bombay.

It is also one of the few street foods that I have actually eaten on the street. Most Bombay street vendors are not exactly winning awards for hygienic food prep, and many Indian parents will warn their kids to NEVER eat at street stalls, no matter how tempting the food. The fear did keep me in line for the most part, so much of the street food I have eaten was in fact enjoyed in small "proper" restaurants. But a block away from my college is a row of street food vendors who have been there for so long that the stalls are coverted to semi-storefronts. Well, based on that little technicality, a friend and I would troop over once in a while and enjoy the ragda-patties, a steal at Rs. 10 a plate (US $0.25 or so). Our argument was also that this dish is well cooked and fried thus making killing whatever may be lurking in there. Safer or not, I lived to tell the tale and dish the dish :) Still, don't go telling my mom!

My version of ragda patties is very easy to make together as an almost-one-dish meal. In the patty-curry combination, one can make a spicy patty and serve it with a less-spicy curry or the other way around. Or one can make both components spicy to make it a really fiery dish. I usually make the patties very plain and the curry quite spicy. This is a good dish to make if you have a bunch of eaters with differing tolerance for spice. The patties can be eaten just by themselves or dipped into tamarind chutney. Kids also devour these little patties, I remember my friends' twin girls loved them the last time I made these.

I add some bread to the patty mixture to help hold it together better. This is optional. For me, it is one way to use up odd bits of bread. I stick them in the freezer and thaw them out when I am making patties.

As for the tamarind chutney that is used as a topping, it can be home-made or store-bought. A bottle of store-bought tamarind chutney is a condiment that is always found in my fridge, but if anyone would like a recipe, just ask!

Ragda Patties
(serves 3-4 as a main dish)


For Patties
4 large or 6 medium potatoes, boiled
2 slices bread
salt to taste
oil for shallow frying

For Ragda
1 cup white vatana (dried whole yellow peas)
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
12 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. red chilli powder
12 tsp. cumin powder
12 tsp. coriander powder
1 tbsp. jaggery
1 tbsp. tamarind paste
salt to taste
1 tbsp. oil

For Garnish
Tamarind chutney
Minced onion
Minced cilantro
Whipped yogurt


  1. Soak the peas overnight, then cook them on the stove-top or pressure cooker till fully cooked.
  2. To make the ragda, heat oil and saute the onion for a few minutes till transluscent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a minute more. Add salt, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and saute for a few seconds till spices are aromatic. Then add the cooked peas, 2 cups water, tamarind and jaggery. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash some of the peas to make the curry thicker if needed. Taste the curry and adjust the balance of sweet/sour/salty. Set ragda aside.
  3. To make patties, dip the bread slices in warm water, then squeeze out excess water and place in a bowl. Add boiled potatoes and salt, then knead everything together to mix well. Form patties with the potato mixture. Then shallow fry the patties in a small amount of oil and drain on paper towels. 
  4. To assemble, place 2 patties on a plate. Top with a ladleful of peas curry. Then garnish with dollops of tamarind chutney, minced onion, cilantro and sev and yogurt if desired.

Enjoy the explosion of flavors!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday Soup

'tis the season for soup, although here in NYC, the weather is amazingly mild for November...famous last words, right? I want to share my all-time favorite soup recipe with you. My mom calls this tuesday soup although I can assure you that you are allowed to make it any old day of the week. Tuesday soup is very easy to make and calls for very basic ingredients, making it a good choice for a busy weeknight supper.
Tuesday Soup

Makes 3-4 servings
For croutons:
3 slices day-old bread
1 tbsp olive oil
For soup:
1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large tomatoes, cut into chunks OR 1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. butter
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnishes:
shredded cheese (swiss/cheddar/your favorite)
light cream
1. Make croutons: Cut bread into small even cubes. Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry the bread cubes on low heat, stirring occasionally, til bread is golden and crispy. Set aside.
2. Combine veggies in a pot, add just enough water to cover the veggies. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then simmer till veggies are tender. This step can also be done in double-quick time in a pressure cooker if you own one.
3. Puree the veggies using a blender. Return to pot. You may need to add some water depending on whether you like your soup thin or brothy. Add milk, butter, sugar, salt and pepper to soup and reheat.
4. Serve the soup garnished with a swirl of cream, shredded cheese and a few croutons.

Enjoy the soup and stay warm!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

I is for Imperial Cocktail.

I is really a hard Marathi food letter. The only authentic recipe is a fried jalebi-like sweet called imarati. I confess that I have never eaten it and don't have a recipe either, so this is something I need to taste on my next visit to India. Other "I" foods names exist in Hindi, like imli or tamarind and ilaichi or cardamom but the Marathi terms for these foods are different: "chinch" and "velchi" respectively, not "I" words at all. So I settled on a dessert that has a cult following in my home-town of Kolhapur: Imperial cocktail.This is not a drink as you may think, but a colorful and exotic ice cream sundae. I think the "cocktail" may be an actual reference to a colorful rooster tail. The name "imperial" probably comes from this Kolhapuri love for royalty: one of the hallmarks of Kolhapur is that it was ruled by a royal family for centuries, and even in the era after Indian independence, Kolhapur's royal family is well-beloved and much respected.
Ice cream is not a traditional Indian dessert, so how did a small town like Kolhapur become famous for its ice cream. The answer comes from the days of British rule in India, and how an enterprising businessman obtained a soda machine to provide refreshments to foreign soldiers. This article tells the interesting story of this ice cream store.
My memories of this ice cream go back many many years...a visit from out-of-town guests would be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Imperial for the "special cocktail". Imperial is a tiny unassuming store-front in the heart of the city near the Mahalaxmi temple, and walking in through the doors transports you to another age, of slowly rotating ceiling fans and a rickety wooden staircase that takes you to a tiny upstairs seating area. The menu has plenty of variety, with sodas and single scoops being the most inexpensive choices and the cocktail sundaes, the most pricey ones. For some strange reason, the regular cocktail came with a layer of sponge cake, and the special cocktail came without. We always chose the special because I remember that the cake would often be none too fresh. The ice cream came in a tall glass, layers and layers of fruits like chikoo and apple, bits of candied fruit called tutti-frutti, small cubes of multi-colored jelly, hand-churned ice cream in flavors like rose and vanilla, and the whole stuff drowned in a yummy mango milkshake and topped with nuts. A special cocktail is a meal in itself and the trip to Imperial would keep me happy for weeks! So in a tribute to that wonderful creative sundae, I tried to make it myself:
Imperial Special Cocktail

Makes 4 servings
1 cup chopped mixed fruits (apples, pears, oranges, grapes)
1/2 cup canned mango puree
1 and half cup milk or soymilk
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 scoops other flavor ice cream (rose/strawberry/raspberry/chocolate)
4 tbsp chopped cashewnuts
4 wafer cookies, cut diagonally into triangles
1. Mix canned mango puree and milk to make a mango milkshake.
2. In a tall glass, layer 1/4 cup of fruits. Top with a scoop each of vanilla and other ice cream. Pour on 1/2 cup mango milkshake. Top with 1 tbsp cashewnuts and a wafer cookie triangle.

The verdict: This is a poor imitation of the real thing, so if you get a chance, go to Kolhapur and try it for yourself! But its a tasty sundae all the same, and very easy to put together. Give it a try, and meet me next week for a look at the letter "J". See you then!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Spooky Cookies!

My friend Laureen made my halloween realllly scary (and special!) by bringing me this plate of dismembered fingers!
They tasted, not of bone and gristle, luckily, but of wonderful almonds! How cute are they?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Diwali!

Tomorrow Indian homes everywhere will celebrate "Diwali", the festival of lights...
This is a traditional earthenware diya that I lit for diwali...I wish everyone everywhere a wonderful festive season and a year filled with peace and happiness, and good food and good friends...everything that makes for a rich life.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

H is for Hirvi Chutney.

This week finds us at the letter "H"...not the most inspiring letter for Marathi food. It does stand for a few delicious things though, such as halwa, that lovely dessert found in most Indian and Mid-Eastern cuisines. The most common halwas in Marathi food are doodhi halwa (made with white gourd, a member of the squash family) and gajar (carrot) halwa. Being Diwali, it is the season of halwa but this weekend turned out to be too busy work-wise so it will have to wait.
The other "H" word that I love is a green legume called harbara. These look like miniature bright green chickpeas. Fresh harbara is quite a seasonal delicacy in my home-town: you buy it in bunches, still within its pod. After shelling it, the fresh harbara can be roasted and sprinkled with salt, red chilli powder and lemon juice to give a delicious snack called "chatpate". Dried harbara is available in Indian grocery stores. I love making harbara chaat by boiling the harbara and tossing it with some minced onion, tomato, boiled potato, chillies, salt and lemon juice. What a tasty and healthy snack.
"H" also stands for a color: Hirava meaning green. So today I decided to make my favorite "hirava" food: Hiravi chutney or green chutney. This is a very versatile chutney that can be put together in minutes: a simple blend of hot green chillies and fresh herbs (which also happen to be green). Bombay is street-food paradise, and a favorite street food is sandwiches made with this green chutney, as we shall make today. My mom calls them "Raju sandwich-walla sandwiches"...I suppose she knew a vendor named Raju who made these! These sandwiches are really the healthiest of street foods, being
a) not fried, which is a miracle in the street food world
b) full of fresh raw veggies.
Hiravi (Green) Chutney

2 cups packed fresh cilantro
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup roughly chopped onion
2 green chillies
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
1 tbsp yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp cumin powder
salt to taste
Method: Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend with a little water to get a thick chutney. That's it!

To make sandwiches, spread softened butter, then a layer of chutney on a slice of bread. Top with thinly sliced tomato and cucumber, then season with salt and pepper. Cover with another slice, also spread with butter and chutney. This is delicious lunch-box or picnic food. The butter usually keeps the bread from getting soggy.
Variations on the sandwich:
a) Try other veggies, such as beets, radishes and boiled potato.
b) Add a slice of cheese.
c) Grill the sandwich. Mmm :)
That concludes the letter "H". See you next week with "I"! As usual, suggestions are much-appreciated!

Weekend Dog Blogging

Dale is playing in the 59th street dog run in Manhattan. He loves going there on evenings and weekends and hanging out with his buddies. This dog run is at the eastern edge of the city, the water is the "East River" and you can see Roosevelt Island beyond it. Beyond Roosevelt is Brooklyn and Queens. New York City adores its canine population and there are many dog runs sprinkled throughout the city.
Check out all the pooches at Sweetnicks.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

IMBB #20: The Souffle Also Rises

This month, Kitchen Chick has set us a make a souffle! In the classic dishes yearbook, I think the souffle traditionally wins the title "Most likely to collapse and ruin your nice dinner party" so it is a dish many cooks fear to make. I for one can't even remember if I have ever eaten a souffle. But the idea of a delicate concoction of eggs and cheese, puffy and golden to be savoured right after it comes out of the tempting, right?
First things first: sweet or savoury? I will take savoury every time. Next issue: choosing a recipe. I found a whole bunch of recipes on BBC food that I liked. But again, I don't own a souffle dish or ramekins. It was a choice between running to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a souffle dish, or making do with a shallow gratin dish. Then I came upon this recipe on BBC food that calls for baking the souffle in a hollow bread loaf! Perfect: an edible souffle dish. I modified the recipe to include mushrooms and spinach, because I love the combination of mushrooms, spinach and cheese; and also to get some vegetables in.
Bread Bowl Souffle
1 country loaf (I used a country white boule from Balthazar)
1 small Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs
2 eggs, separated
1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1/2 bunch fresh spinach
1 tbsp butter
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Hollow out the loaf of bread. Save the hollowed-out bits for another use.
3. Rinse the spinach and place this wet spinach in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Press out all the water and chop the spinach.
4. In a skillet, heat the butter and saute the spinach and mushrooms for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. In a bowl, break up the cheese into little bits. Add the mushroom-spinach mixture and the egg yolks and mix well.
6. Beat the egg whites to soft peak.
7. Gently fold whites into the cheese-egg yolk-vegetable mixture.
8. Pour the mixture into the hollowed loaf.
9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the soufflé is cooked.

The verdict: We loved it! I still have no idea if the souffle rose as much as it could have. It was puffy but not outrageously so :) The souffle never deflated which makes me think it did not rise too well to begin with. The baking toasted the bread, while the mixture inside was creamy, fluffy and delicious. The combination was so good together. I will make this dish again and again! Next time I might add some nutmeg for the extra flavor. Thanks Kitchen Chick, you really made me expand my culinary horizons!
Tagged with: +

Saturday, October 22, 2005

G is for GHARGE

This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

G is for Gharge.

G is an important letter: it stands for two staples of the Marathi diet. The first is Gahu or wheat. As far as diet staples are concerned, India can be divided more or less horizontally across it's middle: the upper half or Northern India eats wheat as its staple carb, refected in the wonderful North Indian breads such as puris, parathas and naans. The Southern half is the rice bowl of India, with its famous flavored rice dishes and idlis and dosas made with rice flour. Maharashtra is right in the middle: neither Northern nor Southern, and the Marathi diet relies almost equally on wheat and rice. The gharge we make today will contain both wheat and rice components.
The second important "G" is gul or jaggery. Traveling through many parts of Maharastra, one can see gracefully swaying fields of sugarcane. Much of the sugarcane is sent off to refineries for the production of processed white cane sugar, but another important product is jaggery, made in small-scale industries called "gurhal". Jaggery is a smart choice for a is unprocessed and rich in many minerals, including iron. Jaggery also has a wonderful deep taste of its own, much unlike the stark sweetness of refined sugar. We will use plenty of jaggery when we make the gharge today.
"G" also stands for two ever-popular vegetables in Marathi food: gajar or carrot and guvar or cluster beans, a type of bean with a subtle bitter aftertaste, wonderful for making stir-fries.
The gharge or sweet pumpkin puris are so appropriate to make in October! The markets are overflowing with pumpkins of all sizes. In India, I have never seen whole pumpkins being sold. Vendors cut them into reasonably-size wedges. Pumpkin is very popular and is used in a variety of dishes, mostly savoury. But the gharge I am making today are a sweet tea-time snack.
This was my first time buying and cooking pumpkin (yes, I know, I have so much to learn!). I was at Union Square yesterday, a neighborhood of Manhattan beloved for its great Farmers Market. I picked up a pretty small pumpkin for this dish. My ambitious plan was to use the flesh for this dish and to try and carve a little jack o' lantern with the shell, and to make toasted pumpkin seeds. The first surprise came when I tried to cut the pumpkin open. This stuff is hard to cut, but I managed to lop the top off the pumpkin. Next time: scooping out the seeds, along with all the fibers. This was easy and I saved the seeds to roast. Then I wanted to scoop the flesh out but that turned out to be quite impossible. I finally had to hack the pumpkin into pieces (bye bye jack o' lantern) and use a knife to remove the skin from each section before chopping up the flesh.
So now my theory is that carving pumpkins are huge and thus contain enough flesh to be actually scooped out. The one I bought was probably too "baby" to both eat and carve. Am I right? Also people must be using power tools to carve these pumpkins! I know my knife ain't going to work. On to the recipe...

Gharge (Sweet Pumpkin Puris)
(adapted from the book "Lajawab Mishtann" by Sudha Maydev)
Makes 12-16 medium-sized gharge
1 cups grated/minced pumpkin
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup rava (cream of wheat)
1/3 cup atta (Indian-style whole wheat flour)
1 cup grated jaggery
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp warmed vegetable oil
Oil for frying
1. Combine grated pumpkin and jaggery in a saucepan and cook together on medium heat till pumpkin is cooked and the mixture is a thick sticky mass.
2. To the warm mixture, add the warmed oil, cardamom powder, salt and all three flours. Knead well.
3. Make small golf-ball sized balls of this mixture. Pat each ball into a circle (puri-shaped). This can be done easily on a greased plastic sheet. Mine turned out pretty rustic-looking :) which is to say, all kinds of odd sizes. But it can be done more neatly.
4. Deep fry the gharges till golden-brown in about 1 inch of oil.
5. Drain on paper towels. When gharges are cool, store them in an airtight container.

The verdict: these are easy to make and quite delicious! The outside of the gharge is crisp and the inside is quite chewy. I enjoyed the deep taste of the pumpkin and jaggery. It is a healthy and filling snack. I also enjoyed my first experience cooking pumpkin from scratch.
Two important notes:
1. When frying these, I noticed that sometimes there would be a "pop" in the oil, I think this is due to the fact that the dough has tiny pockets of water from the pumpkin mixture. Do be a little careful while frying.
2. I tried making some, and while they looked fine, they became really hard and a torture to eat. So I would recommend the deep frying. If done properly, very little oil gets absorbed.
Next week we look at "H". This is quite a difficult letter and I would really appreciate some ideas!

Weekend Dog Blogging #6

Dale is just hangin' out, staying dry and warm on yet another wet chilly weekend. Check out Dale and his other pals having fun with Sweetnicks.

Friday, October 21, 2005

SHF #13: Black Forest Cake

This month, the food-blogging community is celebrating the first anniversary of that wonderful event called Sugar High Friday (SHF) , first started by the The Domestic Goddess. One Friday of every month, bloggers make a dessert based on a common theme. Unlike most people, I don't have much of a sweet tooth...I enjoy small bites of dessert once in a while, but my sugar threshold is low. So when I was making my recipe index a few days ago, I was startled to see that the dessert category had the longest list of recipes. I have to credit SHF with expanding my horizons and getting me to try many wonderful dessert recipes. Every time I make an entry for SHF, I end up with a big delicious dessert, and always invite some friends over to share it with me. So each SHF entry is also associated with the different people who came and shared those sweet moments. Home-made desserts are so much better than what I did before, which was buying a cheesecake or pie from the local bakery. So thank you Jennifer, for thinking of this event!
This month, SHF has come full circle with a theme that is probably the most popular flavor for dessert: Chocolate, chosen by our hostess Lovescool.
I do have quite a list of chocolate desserts that I enjoy: brownies a la mode (called "Ebony and Ivory" by a restaurant in Bombay), chocolate mousse (the best I have ever eaten was made by my Swiss boss at his holiday party), or hand-dipped chocolates (my grandma made these when I was a kid). But I finally decided to make black forest cake. In my opinion, this is hands-down the favorite cake in my part of India, a pastry that is much beloved at all celebrations. Black forest cake is a German creation of dark chocolate cake, filled with cherries and cream, topped with cherries and cream and blanketed with chocolate shavings. Is that decadent enough for ya? :)
For a recipe, I turned to the internet. My constraints were (a) The only cake-baking dish I own is my standard pyrex 8 inch X 8 inch dish (b) I don't own a kitchen scale so I had a find a recipe with cup measures and not weight measures. I finally adapted the cake from this Chocolate Ganache Cake recipe from Epicurious, and the general black forest method from this Black Forest Gateau recipe from BBC food.
For all the fancy, expensive pastry that I have always known black forest cake to be, it was really easy to put together. There are quite a few ingredients and quite a few steps, but it all goes very quickly once you get started. The final taste was delicious and everyone who tried some loved it. The hardest part for me was making the chocolate shavings. The traditional way is to use cold chocolate and a vegetable peeler. When I tried that, all I got was a fine chocolate powder. When I stood in the kitchen, panicking at a bar of chocolate rapidly melting, it was V who rescued me by suggesting that I use a mandoline. It worked a lot better...although I still did not get those gorgeous chocolate curls, I ended up with large-enough shavings to be happy. This mandoline is such a great kitchen gadget. My Mom bought it for me, for the princely sum of Indian rupees (Rs.) 66, less than US $0.50. A bargain if ever I saw one.
The one disappointment was the canned cherries. I had never used canned cherry pie filling before, and I was dismayed when I saw the gummy red syrup with cherries floating about. Next time I will make the filling myself. The canned filling did taste OK in the context of the rest of the cake, but it's too artificial for words with that lurid red color.
Black Forest Cake

For cake:

1/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
For filling and topping:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp powder sugar
1 can cherry pie filling
1/2 cup cherry cordial/ liqueur/ kirsch (or 1/2 cup sugar water)
1 bar good quality bittersweet chocolate
1. Make cake layers:
a) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and butter and flour it.
b) Whisk together water, cocoa, and espresso powder until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.
c) Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
d) Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing at low speed until just combined.
e) Pour batter into baking dish, bake for 20-25 minutes till tester comes clean. Cool completely. Set aside.
2. Whip the heavy cream till it forms soft peaks. An electric beater does this job quickly. Fold in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp powder sugar and set aside.
3. Open the can of cherry filling and drain and reserve the syrup. Set cherries in a bowl. Mix 1/2 cup of the syrup with 1/2 cup of the alcohol or sugar water.
4. Slice the cake in half horizontally so as to get two layers. I was afraid of doing this with the whole 8X8 cake, so I sliced the cake half length-wise first, then made layers with each half. In the end, the top gets frosted so the seam is not seen in the end. On a cutting board, set all the layers cut-side up and drizzle with syrup-alcohol mixture so that the cake gets moist. Let it steep for 10 minutes.
5. To assemble, place the lower layer on a cake dish. Spread with the canned cherries, saving a few for decoration. Spread with 1/3 of the cream filling. Lay the top layer over this. Spread the top layer and sides of the cake with the rest of the cream mixture. Decorate with some cherries and sprinkle on the chocolate shavings liberally.
6. Chill for a few hours, then serve!

Wishing everyone a happy Friday and a sweet weekend ahead. Thanks for hosting, Lovescool!