September 30, 2012

Of autumn warmth and Nan-Khatai

Long before terms like shortbread and cookie were introduced into my jargon, nan khatai ruled a special corner in my heart exclusively reserved for warm and gratifying baked goods. My first introduction to this nutty shortbread dates back to days when the only way my Ma would agree to serve us tea (the milky version that too!) was if it was with nan khatai. Haven’t tried dunking nan khatai in tea yet? Hmm….you might definitely want to :)

Sweet or salty, soft and powdery or crunchy and crumbly – this simple, few ingredient cookie has been an all-time favorite ever since. The basic recipe from my Ma had been tucked away neatly in one of my folders until that trip to the bakery last week. I tasted something so similar to nan khatai that it rejuvenated me with renewed energy to try it out. With the beginning of Fall, baking seems the best way to warm up the kitchen as well as memories with age old recipes. So, this is my first real baking venture of fall this year and what better way to start than with our own indigenous baking wonder- the nan khatai.

There are several recipes for nan khatai and of course several proportions to be mindful of. Since I find baking a little bit constricting, this recipe seems very soothing and welcoming for a baking novice like me since it allows me to experiment and that for me, is absolutely liberating. Nan khatai is basically made of all purpose flour or maida with varying proportions of chick pea flour or besan to bring in that nuttiness. Some add in rava or semolina for crispiness but I opted out of it for now. I desired for that flawless balance of nuttiness and crunchiness that would make me swoon in delight.


This egg-less Indian shortbread represents an unique blend of nuttiness from chick-pea flour (besan) and warmth from Indian clarified butter (ghee) melding effortlessly with the richness of cashews. Soft yet firm and crumbly yet crunchy, it represents the quintessential basic Indian shortbread.


1¼ C ghee / Unsalted Butter
¾ C Powdered Sugar

Sieve together:
½ tsp baking powder
2 C All purpose flour / Maida
½ C Chick Pea flour / Besan
¼ tsp salt
2 T Cashew powder (Coarsely ground) 

Egg wash (Optional) - 1 egg mixed with 1 T water
Cashew powder for garnish (Optional)


1.   Warm the ghee till it has just melted.
2.   Add in the powdered sugar and mix well to smooth out any lumps.
3.   In another bowl, sieve all purpose and chick pea flour along with salt, cashew powder and baking powder to mix uniformly.
4.   Then add in the melted ghee & sugar mixture into the flour mixture and knead well to form a dough.
5.   Let it rest to come together for about 2 minutes.
6.   Preheat the oven to 350oF.
7.   Form smooth, round ball with the dough. I used the tablespoon to measure out uniform sized biscuits. Flatten the balls slightly with cashew on top so that they have smooth edges.
8.   Optional: To add that shine onto your biscuits, whisk one egg with 1 T water and brush the biscuits before they go to bake.
9.   Place them to bake in the oven for 14 minutes till golden brown on top. Once out of the oven, transfer them to a cool plate/surface and let them cool till they crisp up.

The nan khatai turned out to be exactly as I wanted. This trial taught me that the delicate balance of chick pea flour and all purpose flour is very essential, since both of them are not interchangeable. Point to note, besan has more fiber content than all-purpose flour and when added in more quantities it results in the dough not being cohesive enough. So the proportion even though changeable, should be so taken care of that the dough adheres properly but by not compromising the nuttiness. Delighted by being able to replicate the delicate, nutty, crumbly and flavorful shortbread, I bring to you this recipe which I am looking forward to make several variations of.

Cheers to the official beginning of Fall, guys!

I am submitting this recipe to:
- "Celebrate Navratri and Diwali" hosted by Nayna and Jagruti Dhanecha.
- " Diwali Bash" hosted by Vardhini
- "Kid's delight: Healthy Makeovers" hosted by Rasi
- "Bake fest" hosted by Sumee and Vardhini.
- "Let's cook/bake for Valentine" hosted by Simply sensational food.

September 19, 2012

Unassumingly festive ~Kaju Badam Barfi~

Driven by intense conversations regarding “Barfi” (the Ranbir Kapoor one people!), I couldn’t help but think about the real and the first connotation the word “barfi” has had for me since childhood. In fact, it has also been the only thing I have been thinking for quite a while. Sounds strange??..well might be..but I just couldn’t help but think about the real barfi when that’s the word all over and I am very sure most of you must have lingered on the same too ;)

So with my injury healing quite fairly and with the upcoming Ganesh Utsav, I had been burning to make something new and exciting. It had been a while since I had done something rousing in the kitchen and should I say, I was dying to do so. But to be very frank, I had never thought of making Barfi EVER until last weekend and this was the first time I had even dared to look up recipes to help me make it. No matter how rich and delicious it might taste, this humble sweet had an awful impression of being cumbersome to make. Now since my Ma hadn’t tried it either, I turned to the usual help - our very own Google. As I scoured the internet for a recipe, the first recipe to pop up was that of talented Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Each Sunday I was as excited to watch him at noon as much I was to watch Disney World at 9. Completely contrasting and confusing right? Well it seemed so to me too when I thought about it and it wasn’t until recently that I did.

This recipe is adapted from his version of the classic but there were certain steps  I decided to modify for ease and add in my own signature. The first change was to add in toasted almonds and little did I know that I was in for a pleasant surprise. Adding the toasted almonds gives a toasty undertone to the barfi and adds in a layer of additional jazz. The second change was the time I boiled the syrup. I wanted to boil the syrup till it was just ready and THEN add the nut mixture so that it too got a chance to simmer in the syrup. This way the mixture as well as the syrup got a chance to cook unlike other ones where it tastes raw. My first try was more of an experiment since I was yet to figure out the making and workings of the recipe. The end product turned out to be good regardless of the many follies I committed. Now equipped with the workings, I tried it again with my own twist and now I have a basic recipe for life. 

Kaju Badam Barfi/ Kaju Badam Katli

The inherent rich creaminess of cashews along with the toasty undertone of roasted almonds provides a pleasant twist to the usual candied cashew diamonds (aka barfi). Surprisingly simple and easy to prepare, this unassuming and dainty sweet is sure to wow your guests this festive season.

Adapted from this recipe by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor
(Makes 10-15 depending on the size)

½ C sugar
½ C water
¼ C Peeled & toasted almonds 
¾ C Raw Cashewnuts

¼ tsp rose water (Optional)
Roasted cashew halves for garnish (Optional)


1. Grind the cashews and the toasted almonds to a fine powder and keep aside.

2. In a non-stick pan over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Boil the syrup over medium heat for ~ 5 mins till it gets viscous (one string consistency). 

3. Lower the heat and add in the cashew and almond powder while stirring consistently to avoid lumps. Add in the rose water and stir while simmering the mixture for ~ 7 mins till the mixture starts leaving the sides. Take off the stove while the mixture looks slightly runny. Don’t worry since the mixture soaks in the extra water while resting.

4. Let it cool till it’s touchable. Knead well till the dough is shiny and leaves oil. 

5. Roll out the dough into a thin layer and cut in the shape of diamonds. Garnish with toasted cashews to add the authentic hint.


To check for one string consistency, add a drop of the syrup onto a thin layer of water, it will appear as a viscous drop when ready.

2. To test if the mixture is cooked, wet your fingers and roll the dough in between your fingers. If it rolls into a ball, it’s done.

3. If the dough is runny still, cook it over the stove for a few mins till you achieve the required consistency.

4. If the dough hardens, use some milk to knead it.

5. Knead the mixture while it’s still warm. The dough seems less pliable, when it cools down completely. In between if it becomes difficult to roll, warm it briefly in the microwave and roll.

6. After rolling out the dough, use a piece of wax paper to smoothen out the surface of the barfi for a shinier and smoother finish.

7. To avoid wastage, roll out the left over sides while rolling out the barfi and roll again.

8. It stays fresh upto 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator and upto 1 week at room temperature.

While my second try at this sweet delight was a success, I am sure to try out different versions of this. I have been rattling my brains to think of new variations to this age old loved sweet and will sure update when I try any.
Here’s wishing you all a happy Ganesh Chaturthi! 

Have a great rest of the week,

P.s: I am submitting this recipe to:
- "Kid's delight" hosted by Valli.
- "Show me your dessert" hosted by Pari
- "Celebrate Navratri and Diwali" hosted by Nayna and Jagruti Dhanecha.
- "Diwali Bash" hosted by Vardhini
"Kid's delight: Healthy Makeovers" hosted by Rasi
- "Lets celebrate-Indian sweets" hosted by UK Rasoi
- "Diwali food fest" hosted by Anu
- "Bon Vivant #10: Festive feast" hosted by Sumee.
- "Diwali Bash-2013" hosted by Vardhini from Cook's joy

September 7, 2012

Usual fare - Unusual way ~ Spiced & baked cauliflower bhaja~

What happens when life hands you a lemon? well of course, make a lemonade right? now don't get me wrong over here..this post has nothing to do with lemons, lemonade or anything remotely citrusy for that matter...but it most definitely has to do with that unfateful day when a normal walk down a classroom turned fatal for my wobbly left ankle. It decided to take a twist leaving me immobile for a while (seems like eternity though .. *sigh*). Now that means me being away from my haven - the kitchen (if you didn't know that already..duh!) for a while. I accepted the challenge (err the lemon) and the message - with a lot of grace. It was high time I took things slowly and literally keep my feet up. This creation actually signifies that laid back approach to making something absolutely gorgeous sans the scrambling around. It signifies the ultimate ease of preparation for anyone who wants the break or wait- gets handed over that break ;)

Now without digressing any further and running the risk of losing your interest..let me say this recipe was the brainchild of my utterly immobile condition teamed with the desire to make something scrumptious for my loved one who untiringly and unselfishly looked after me. Like they always say..any emotion is best expressed in the form of good food. So here I was scrambling my brains to make something mouth watering when this big cauliflower blob stared right back at me. Instantly I was flooded with memories of fried cauliflower florets tossed with potatoes and spices. Mmm..A yum staple at my place. Since frying was out of option, baking was the next best treatment I could think of. Honestly, I had always wanted to bake veggies in the oven, but the hands-on person that I am, watching the food simmering over the stove gives me an unknown satisfaction. So this was just the perfect time to toss everything together and let it bake till golden brown, soft, sweet and utterly delightful, while I kept my feet up. It turned out to be so good that I have been warned of dire consequences if I didn't blog about it. So you see I HAD to share this with you.

Does anyone remember the sogginess of the cauliflower florets when cooked for slightly longer in the effort to get them thoroughly cooked? I confess that I have been the victim many a times and that's what has kept me away from cauliflower for a long time. But here I am, back to being friendly with the cauliflower. The sweetness with the spiciness, the softness with the crunchiness provides the perfect blend of textures and flavors and who can forget the melt-in-the-mouth buttery-ness of roasted garlic. It literally took me to new highs.

Spiced & roasted cauliflower bhaja

Surprisingly and delightfully addicting- this roasted and spiced Indian cauliflower-potato-garlic side dish has the perfect blend of sweetness, crunchiness and the charred undertones essential to kick this simple dish up a notch. Must I say - it's as simple as 1-2-3. 

P.S. Bhaja is an Odia term for any dry and sauteed side dish.

Ingredients: (Serves 2-3)

1 medium sized Cauliflower
2 small potatoes - Cubed
7-8 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp Pav bhaji masala (Optional)
1/4 tsp salt (Adjust according to taste)
1/4 tsp sugar
4-5 T Olive oil
Dash of lemon juice (Here comes the lemon!)
Chopped cilantro for garnish (Optional)

Like I said- 1-2-3 ;)

Step 1: Cut the cauliflower into medium and equal sized florets. Peel the garlic and cube the potatoes.

Step 2: Mix all ingredients together and make sure to rub the florets well with the oil and spices. Everything should be coated well with oil. Add more oil if required.

Step 3: Pre-heat the oven to 400oC. Spread out the cauliflower mixture on a sheet pan so that it forms more or less a single layer. Bake for 30-40 mins while tossing every 10-12 mins.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or rotis.

- Preheat the sheet pan in the oven too. The sizzle that you hear when the cauliflower mixture is added to the pan is what gives it the nice crust.

- Just learned on Dr. Oz that olive oil retains its properties much better when tossed with veggies prior to adding to the pan rather than heating the oil IN the pan. So this method earns brownie points for retaining the health benefits of the oil too. Very interesting.

Truly, this recipe has made me very happy about being able to use my oven for anything else than baking the occasional cake/ brownie/ cookie. I am glad it now feels a lot less neglected since I am sure to use it a LOT in the coming months experimenting with ALL kinds of veggies. Try it and you will know what I am talking about. 

Have a great weekend all you mobile folks!

Submitting this recipe to:
- "Bake fest" @ Zesty Palette and by Vardhini
- "Kid's delight" hosted by Valli.
- "Kid's delight: Healthy Makeovers" hosted by Rasi
- "Cauliflower recipe link Challenge" hosted by  Sliceoffme and to Citrus Spice UK