Monday, October 22, 2007

Lauki Kofta
(Bottle Gourd dumplings in Tomato gravy)

Many a times when I returned home from school, I used to see my mother at our doorstep waiting for us to return home, chatting away with our neighbour, who was waiting on her doorstep for her children...Our neighbours had become an extended family for us, since our own immediate family was nowhere in the neighbourhood..we celebrated festivals together, played games with the children, shared our successes at school and generally had a good time.
Its only after coming to the US that I realize how important those relationships were and how much I miss them here...For the past few years that I have been living here, I never had neighbours at my front door, coming in to chat about inconsequential matters, inquiring after me, my work or my kid, sharing food or sharing some new recipe...
But all that changed when we moved into our home..I discovered to my delight that my next door neighbours were a full fledged Indian family, complete with kids and in-laws :D. Their kids come to my house and play with my toddler, the mom-in-law (henceforth known as Aunty-ji) comes in to talk and the lady of the house is also very friendly..It reminds me of what would have been if we were living in India and makes me less homesick...Its just good to have a nice relationship with your neighbours, because you can then be there for each other in times of need! The fact that they keep plying me with home grown fresh squashes is not that bad either ! (Just kidding, am not that selfish ! )
But its true that they have been offloading some extra produce this year, in the form of the bottle gourd (lauki, sorekaayi, haalu kumbalakaayi, doodhi).Initially I used them in subzis and sambhars. I even made a lauki halwa one day.
Then I remembered that Aunty-ji had mentioned that they made koftas with it and had even rattled off the recipe..Well...that was it then...I would try my hand at making koftas...

Recipe for Lauki Kofta


1. Aunty-ji (Elderly Neighbour)
2. Adapted from this recipe.

What You Need:

For the kofta:
1 medium bottlegourd
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp chile powder
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 cup gram flour (besan)
oil for deep frying

For the gravy:
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup Finely chopped Onion, almost pureed
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Cumin Powder
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp chile pepper (add more for increased heat)
1 cup Tomato Puree
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1 tsp kasoori methi (Dried Fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

How to proceed:


1. Peel the gourd and grate it.
2. Put the gratings in a paper towel and give it a slight wring to take out excess water, if any.
3. Add the salt, A.P flour, baking soda, chile powder to the grated bottle gourd.
4. Sprinkle in the bread crumbs. Mix well
5. Let stand for 15 minutes.
6. Make balls, roll in dry gram flour.
7. Deep fry the koftas in hot oil over medium heat until golden brown.
8. Drain on paper towels.
(Note: Use a small - medium pan for deep frying and use only the optimum amount of oil. That way you can minimize the use of the oil.)

1. Add the oil to a pan. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion is translucent.Make sure that the garlic doesnt burn.
2. Add the turmeric poweder, cumin and coriander powders and the chile powder. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, taking care that the spices dont burn.
3. Add the tomato puree, nutmeg powder, cinnamon powder, kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Bring to a boil.
4. Simmer on medium heat for about 7 - 8 minutes.
5. Add the water and bring to a boil again.
6. Adjust the seasonings according to taste. Add more water if consistency is too thick.

Add the koftas to the gravy and simmer for an additional 2 -3 minutes.
Garnish with fresh chopped coriander and serve with any kind of indian bread.
(rotis, naans or parathas)

Verdict :
The koftas were delicious(if I say so myself ! ). The thickness and the flavour of the gravy complemented the creamy flavour of the koftas. Mind you, these koftas are nothing like the malai or paneer koftas that are served at restaurants. Nonetheless, these taste good when accompanied with bread and can be savoured with rice as well !
Although I loved the outcome, I am not sure I will make these very often. But that is only because I detest deep frying ! The dish itself is quite simple and finger-licking good, if a tad time consuming !
(Aunty-ji was quite gratified that I had made good use of both her produce as well as her recipe ! )

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nupur's All American Carrot Cake

The food blog world has become an invariable part of my culinary adventures. Why, you ask ? well, because no longer do I wring my hands in despair and frustration when I cant think of any ideas for lunch and dinner ! I just have to match up the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator to whatever catches my fancy amongst the scores of wonderful recipes and voila ! Dinner is served !!
(or breakfast, lunch or snacks as the case maybe :D )
The added advantage is that these are tried and tested recipes with mouthwatering photos alongside...the comments left by other readers also helps in deciding the vote :) Its no wonder then that this world of food blogs is a veritable treasure trove..and its also no small wonder that so many recipes tend to become family favourites.
I happened to see this carrot cake featured on Nupur's OneHotStove. This is one beautiful, well written blog and is a regular stop for me. Nupur mentioned that she had used very little oil in the recipe and the sugar could also be reduced as per taste.
I decided to try it out and I was not disappointed !

The cake was delicious, moist and healthy too, with carrots and pineapples in it ! I made a few changes to it, basically to replace the eggs, since I do not use eggs. I substituted with half a cup of pureed tofu.

Also, I varied the frosting recipe a little:
4 tbsp Pineapple flavoured Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
2 tbsp butter (softened )
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix these ingredients thoroughly and you have yourself a delicious frosting !

The above picture shows a generous slice of cake with (...ummm..ahem) a little frosting.

I would recommend this cake to everybody !
I sure will be making this again !!!

P.S Nupur has mentioned that she adapted this recipe from Cooking Lite magazine.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Southwestern Fettucine

Growing up in Pune - India , I was familiar with most of the regional Indian cooking - south Indian (ever present idli , dosas , sambhar and various rice items etc), maharashtrian and gujrati (matki usal, pav bhaji, kadhi, dhokla, etc) and north Indian dishes (chhole, rajma, paratha, paneer dishes, etc)
However, when it came to continental dishes, I hardly had any experience there was only when I started working that I tasted pizzas, baked vegetables and vegetable burgers, noodles and the like. But pasta dishes were still something that I knew only through books or TV.
It was later when I came to the US that I had my first taste of pasta and liked it immediately. Though the ingredients of the dish were familiar, the preparation and the end result were so very different from the traditional mom-cooked fare that I was used to having.
As a major pasta lover, I am constantly on the lookout for new adaptable recipes (read low-fat and vegetarian)..thats one thing that I like about these can easily make them low fat by holding back on the cheese and you can easily make them vegetarian by substituting veggies for meat !
With resources galore, it wasnt difficult to find the following recipe and the required ingredients. Try for yourself !

Source: Low Fat Vegetarian Cookbook

Southwestern Fettuccine


12 oz dried fettuccine
1 can cream style corn
2/3 cup low fat milk
1 tsp salad oil ( I didn't have salad oil...I used regular canola oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion
1 large yellow or red bell pepper
1 pkg frozen corn
1 cup (or less) jalapeƱo jack cheese ( or just use whatever cheese you have)
1/4 cup cilantro
1 1/2 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes


1. Cook the pasta until tender. Set aside
2. Blend the cream style corn and milk until smooth.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cumin seeds, onion and bell pepper. Cook until the onion is soft. Add a little bit of water, if pan gets dry.
4. Stir in the pureed corn, corn kernels and cheese.
5. Stir in a handful of frozen peas
6. Reduce heat to medium and cook until cheese melts and corn and peas and heated through.
7. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and lime.
8. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir gently.
9. Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and chopped cilantro leaves.

The result was surprisingly delicious. The creaminess of the pureed corn, the crunch of the peas and whole corn and the bite of the pasta made for an amazing range of textures and tastes. The husband said he wouldn't mind having the dish again and little P kept coming back for bites of pasta and peas !