Monday, February 25, 2013

Banana Flower stir fry


Hey dear readers, how was your weekend? Here it snowed a bit, weatherwise (is there even a word like that??...but you got the meaning right? ;-)
Me and Bub have not been keeping well from last month. In other words or in my Hub's words, it's a case of "Ping Pong ball". Meaning, we have been transferring our stuffy nose and coughs for a while now. Just when I thought Bub was over his cold, I just transferred mine (which I caught from him apparently)....hmm, well yesterday was the worse of the lot , and hopefully this will go away in another few days...
Hub has this way of shopping groceries where he picks up some unique product which both of us have no clue about, and would curiously wait to see what I make out of it. He leaves the R & D part of the product to me. There were successful ones that have since been a staple , and some others that still intrigues us and they eventually either rots in refrigerator making their way to the trash can, or gets bumps and bruises by being used as a pretend play toy by Bub when I run out of ideas :-P
One of the successful ones is the Swiss Chard, they were pretty easy to figure out, and have been a staple ever since. Some that got the fag end of the deal from me includes Belgian Endives ,.... after I used it, the taste was not something I could adjust even on a parched and hungry day. It might have something to do with the way I cooked or the seasoning I added (or the lack of it in both cases :-\ ...Either ways, it's never made a re entry again, lol. Do you have a mystery ingredient that made it or didn't make it ? I would love to hear all about it :-)



All this talk about unique and mystery ingredients has nothing to do with today's post about Banana Flower, since it's something I grew up seeing, tasting, playing etc....But to those who have never seen, heard or used it, it can very well be a mystery ingredient and the chances of it ending up in trash due to insufficient knowledge of handling/cooking it is relatively high :-).....So my intention here is to give a step step pictorial representation, from handling it, to cooking it to delicate perfection :-) (yes you read it right, "delicate perfection", meaning it doesn't need any roasting or super high flame to roast it , unlike what the pic of a Banana Flower might make you believe....read on so that you might not end up tossing it away just yet :-) ....

"Banana Flower" is the dark magenta colored conical thing that you can see on a Banana plant. You may refer wikipedia for all kinda scientific information and terms that might describe it to you. But I was not satisfied or even understood half of the scientific jargons.on wiki this time. Hence I googled further and found this website extremely well explaining it in simple words. It's basically the male bud characterized by it's red/magenta color and conical shape.

It would be incomplete and unfair if I didn't mention that I could not have done the preparation , cooking etc without Bub "helping" me :-) ,you can see his hands doing some serious scrubbing in one of the pics, while playing with the petals in another :-)
How to prepare the Banana Flower for cooking:
Note: This process can stain your hands and maybe clothes, so take precautions accordingly. Also it's quite labor intensive, so it's not for a time pressed day.



Start by peeling of one petal at a time. You will see a neatly arranged layer of finger shaped flowers. Pluck them together away with care. You basically don't use the purple petals, only the finger shaped flowers , that has to undergo some more preparation. Keep peeling the petal, and the flowers. What you will notice is that the petals , flowers, and thereby the cone gets lighter and lighter in color. Continue until the petals can no longer be peeled away. Do not discard of what remains of the cone (cut the stalk at the base of the cone at this point, it's not used for cooking like the petals). The cone can be chopped into smaller bits to be used in the stir fry.



Remember I mentioned that the flowers too gets lighter in color? They also get too delicate to dissect with hands. Why I mentioned the dissect part is because, there is a stalk inside each one of those flowers, that needs to be discarded, else can completely spoil the dish. It's distinguished from the rest of the stalks by a round nub like tip (you can see that I marked this stalk in the pic) . Just pluck them out and away from the flower. Do this for all the dark colored flowers. The ones inside the lighter ones are tender and don't matter when it's cooked.
Once this is done, the preparation part is as good as over, ....just mince the prepared flowers. Add the flowers and the chopped cone in lots of water. Swirl with your hands to separate any debris. Discard the water. Do this three times to get rid of dirt and maybe a bit of the sticky sap like residue.


How to make stir fry:
You need these ingredients:
Grated coconut: 1/2 cup
Garlic minced : 1 tablespoon
A pinch of turmeric, hing, and salt to flavor oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons oil
Salt



In a pan heat oil, and reduce flame to medium. Splutter mustard seeds, a pinch of chilli powder, and hing (asafoetida), and pinch of salt to flavor the oil. Add the minced ingredients, and a pinch.of turmeric. You may also add a teaspoon of minced garlic for extra taste :-) .Cover and cook until it's lost the raw flavor (it tastes extremely starchy while raw, think raw potato), and after cooking, tastes less starchy, yes that's all I can come up with to describe it's taste.It tastes great with grated coconut.
So once it's all cooked, add grated coconut, mix well, then cover and let it cook another minute for the flavors to infuse. Check for salt. And it's ready to serve with hot rice, and dal.
Hope this post has inspired you to try this vegetable. And it's less a mystery than before ? :-)
Happy experimenting !
MK

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Green Mung Bean Pancake


It feels like I have been sick almost every month this winter. And because my little one just doesn't understand the meaning of "let me take a breather" yet (though he is slowly getting aware that it's not much fun when I am not well), it feels like a drag to do everyday chores. Why , oh, why does the cold virus have to be this adamant and nasty !! ? It's come to a point where no amount of chinese take outs , soups are making the mark they should when one falls sick (you know what I mean, don't you?)...

The thing about Parenting I learnt through this experiencd is, you can't just take a decision like " I am not feeling upto it today, so I won't do it. I am going to sleep to oblivion today " , and neither will this kinda thought, cut it : " Maybe I will just order from out just until I feel better ", no....coz, (1) There is a pair of little hands and feet all excited about playing peekaboo (2) take outs works for max two afternoons, then it's just "blah" for little tastebuds :-P .....hmm

So with these thoughts, I decided to go the middle way, do something easy as well as healthy . These whole green Moong Bean pancakes are super easy because the batter does not need fermentation, and it's tasty and loaded with fiber and nutrients (did I get your attention now ? ;-) , well then read on.....

I had posted the recipe of lentil pancakes a very long time back. This one is different though, since it has Mung Bean as the main ingredient than several lentils. Infact it's a cup of mung beans, and a little less than1/4 cup of rice ground with onion and ginger for the awesome flavor. You can sprout the Mung Bean if you like before grinding it (though it will take few says), or buy sprouted ones (according to me, not worth buying as it's every bit expensive, when you can as easily sprout at home).

I made these Pancakes today and topped it with sliced onion before flipping it to cook both sides. It was very well enjoyed by me and bub.

Here goes the recipe:

To soak together:

1 cup Green Mung Bean
White rice : 2 tablespoons

To grind with the above soaked ingredients:

1/2 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon ginger minced
Salt
Leftover Cooked rice : 1 cup (optional, but I believe, helps crisp the pancake)

Water: just enough to run your grinder or blender.

How to make the batter:

Make sure the beans and rice are soaked atleast until the beans look well hydrated. I soaked overnight to make things easier. Grind everything to a smooth batter.

How to make pancakes:

The batter will be thick, bit spreadable. I will share a tip that works everytime for me when I make "dosa" or Indian Pancakes. I hope it works for you too.
Make sure your (nonstick) pan is fairly hot, not very very hot (else the batter will disintegrate while spreading), but  medium high hot. Then reduce the burner to low, just before dropping the batter and spreading. Once you finish spreading in concentric circles starting from center, again increase the heat back to medium high.

Arrange few thin slices of onion when the batter is still raw so that the onion sticks. Apply few drops of oil along sides and few drops on top. Cover for few seconds (10-15), uncover, if the edges start looking a little more than light brown , flip over to cook the other side. Reduce heat. Then fold it and stack it on a plate. Don't forget to again crank up the heat before making the rest of the pancakes the same way.

These go well with Ginger chutney, Coconut chutney or Sambar. But we enjoyed it as it is for breakfast. Bub enjoyed it with his cup of "Meekkh" (as in milk ;-) and I enjoyed it with my Ginger - Lemongrass chai :-)

Hope you liked this post as much as I loved sharing it with you :-)

Stay warm this remaining winter dear readers :-) ..... Spring is not far far ahead !

Cheers
MK :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blueberry muffins and mini cupcakes and Homemade fondant icing


Happy Valentine's day ! Well, it's that time of the year when you can see heart shaped this and that , but honestly, i think, just like Mother's Day, or Father's Day, this one too should really be celebrated on a daily basis rather than devote just one day according to me. That really helps long term you know :-) But one thing I agree with these "Hallmark" inspired celebration days is , the excuse I get to bake a dessert in my oven. These Blueberry muffin and mini cupcakes are a result of that labor of "love" ;-) , well with a toddler running around and constantly demands that I inspect his helpful gestures and actions in the house, the labor I mentioned earlier should not just be taken as a phrase, it was every bit of action packed ,....from inspecting the lego blocks, to cleaning the onion shells, to playing peekaboo atleast five times in a row, to soothing the boo boos on tiny elbows .....I tell you, sometimes I wish I could clone myself (like in the film "multiplicity"), coz, I love to actually do these things with my little buddy, along with pursue my passion in the kitchen :-) So without further delay, let me get to the point with,the recipe. I used a store bought cake mix to make this. I have never posted a recipe here using store bought mixes, as I always bake from scratch. But I have been taking a realistic approach these days, and thought that if I have to make these muffins with no help from my better half to entertain the busy body of our house, and sift the flour with a small tea strainer, it's just a disaster waiting to happen. So, cake mix it is :-)

Recipe adapted for Blueberry Muffins : Semihomemade Mom

1 cup Pound Cake mix (the original recipe calls for yellow cake mix)
1-2 cups blueberries
3 large eggs slightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon orange juice (optional)

Note: The batter is a lot, and it rises a lot too. Next time I am planning to reduce the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon.

In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Then add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and mix well, but careful not to mix too much , just until no specks of yellow from egg or dryness from flour is visible. Then add vanilla and orange juice. Finally add Blueberries and mix slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 F (differs with oven, mine has a feature called quick bake, where the recommended temperature in recipes should be reduced to 25 deg less than the recipe calls for, hence I preheated mine to 350 F)

Pour the batter into greased and floured muffin pans lined with cupcake liner. If you dont have a cupcake liner, just grease the moulds well. I did that with my mini cupcake pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the batter is completly cooked which you can test with a toothpick.

Once done, switch off oven and let them cool in oven itself or outside.I kept my cupcakes in my oven overnight and decorated with the fondant icing today.

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff Fondant:

I found this to be a workout for my hands , not joking ;-) This is the first time I handled fondant, or even fluff for that matter. So I am a complete novice as you can tell from the picture here :)....But I learned some very valuable lessons which novice fondant makers like me will find it useful the next time they are planning to experiment with making fondant with Fluff. Fluff is basically Marshmallow cream. You might as well use regular marshmellow, but you will need to melt it with few tablespoons of water in microwave. I have not tried that method. Hence I cant elaborate more on it. Fluff basically omits that step. But this one is supposed to taste much better than the expensive store bought fondant. It tasted fine to me. I have never tasted or even seen the store bought one. So can't vouch for whether it tastes any different.

You will need:

1 jar (around 16 oz of Fluff) room temperature
2 Lb of Confectioners sugar (around a little close to 1 lb of this will get used when the end product is finished, but you better stock up in case you run out of it )
Crisco : a small can
Food grade color (optional)

Scoop out all the fluff you can on a fairly big mixing bowl. This stuff is very very sticky. So grease your hands very well with Crisco. Also add around 2 cups of sugar into the mixing bowl. Mix in the color at this point (This is the mistake I did, thinking I will add color once the fondant is formed. Its really worth mixing at this point, if you are starting out as a novice like me). Start mixing with a rubber or silicon spatula , adding powdered sugar , mixing until it can no longer be mixed with the spatula. Then knead with your bare hands until a smooth, pliable dough is formed. If the dough is too hard, add a bit of crisco, else if its sticky, add more sugar.

To store: Apply a bit of crisco to the fondant dough, cover with plastic wrap and inside a ziploc bag, inside the freezer. To use: Take it from freezer and roll it slowly, it will start out hard, but believe me, it will soften, but dont wait for it to soften to room temperature else , you will not be able to use it well without it tearing or stretching. Yes that too I learned the hard way.

Hope you liked this post :) It took quite a lot of multitasking to do the baking, unmoulding , levelling, decorating, clicking the pics (you can make it out with the chubby hands of my little helper ;-) , and then now finally posting this , while my sweet Valentine is entertaining our busy body :)....So I would like you readers , especially the ones who are silent readers , to please post comments ....It would make my day ! :-) ......If you don't I still thank you for visiting my space :-) and hope you would visit again :-)

Love MK

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