Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Third Anniversary Deserves Something Sweet

My WordPress Notifications informed me that today is this blog’s third anniversary. As a blog that has evolved over time and become what I did not imagine even in my wildest dreams would become, it is time for some celebration indeed. Hence, I decided to do it with something sweet, Rava Laddu.

You might have seen a Boondi Laddu, even a Motichur Laddu but not even in your wildest dreams would you have come across the Rava (Semolina) Laddu… unless you are India, of course. No, your local Indian restaurant or store is not going to carry this delicate sweet. You have got to go online and find the recipe. Since it is a specialty in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which happens to be my mom-in-law’s hometown, I did not have to go looking for the recipe anywhere.
rava laddooAfter rummaging through my pantry a month ago, she came across a packet of pre-made Laddu mix (that she had made the year before when we visited home) and was slightly horrified bordering on miffed to know that I hadn’t made it yet. So praying to all the deities that it shouldn’t have gone bad, she ventured into making delicious Laddus for snack one day. The Rava Laddu, what can I say about these beauties? Semolina is gently fried until slightly brown and then sugar is added along with cardamom powder. This is sauteed again on gentle heat until golden brown and aromatic. Fried nuts are mixed into this powder, along with a generous amount of Ghee (brown butter) and this mixture is gently molded into small spheres by loving hands.

The result is a very decadent sweet that is extensively made during Deepavali in India. But Amma made it as a snack at home. Can you blame me for making a dinner out if Rava Laddus?
rava laddoo2


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Hot Carrot Halwa for Winter

Halwa is the most diverse of all sweet treats/desserts in the world. From the Middle East to South Asia, Halwa finds its rightful place in a whole repertoire of cuisines. Halwa (or halva or sometimes Alva as we call it in the Indian down South) is typically made out of flour, sugar, butter and dry fruits and nuts which are added in the end to the dish. My most favorite kind will forever be the wheat Alva we get in Tirunalveli, a city in Tamil Nadu. Oh my gosh, the taste. I seriously cannot do justice to this wonderful dish on a single blog post that is not about Tirunalveli Alva. Let me just say this: if I had to choose one dessert and I was allowed to eat only that all my life, I would choose this sweet. And I won’t regret it.
carrot halwaiA couple of days ago, we decided to take advantage of the fresh carrots at home and make carrot Halwa. This is one of the easiest sweets I’ve ever made and it is also one of the yummiest. The condensed milk gave it a wonderful depth to the halva. So it really is a win-win situation. My only regret was that we made very little. I cannot wait to make more and eat it hot out of the pan, a kick in Winter’s cold a**.

Winter Carrot Halwa

Ingredients:
Four huge carrots finely grated (I used the bigger holes on my grater because I hate the mushy texture of the smaller side)

One cup condensed milk

One Tbsp Ghee/brown butter

Few slivered almonds and raisins

Five pieces salted roasted cashews (unroasted would do too, just add them with the almonds and raisins)

A generous pinch cardamom powder (or crushed whole cardamoms)

Method:
Cook the carrot and condensed milk along with cardamom powder on medium hear. It is done when the carrot becomes completely soft and all the water from the milk and carrot condenses. Melt the Ghee, add the slivered almonds and raisins. Let them brown. When done, mix them into the Halwa along with the salted cashews.

Carrot Halwa tastes the best when eaten hot off the pan with vanilla ice cream. So good!


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Birthday Means Cake

Yep, it is that time of the year when I make chocolate cake with shameless abandon- the hub’s birthday. If you have been keeping up with this blog since 2011, you would see the pattern here. I am a sucker for chocolate cake. I also feel that no other flavor of cake is worth making so I generally refrain from it. This time, I decided to make Kishore’s favorite cookie ever in cake form, the Oreo. When I say favorite, I am probably understating his love for Oreos because not only does he have the capacity to empty a whole carton of Oreos in one sitting but he also orders milkshakes and ice creams in the flavor. At the make your own froyo bar, he will replicate the Oreo with freaky precision and a madcap glee in his eyes.

So to make sure he really did have a wonderful birthday, I decided that this was it. The bottom is a devil’s food cake that was made from scratch at home and it has two kinds of frosting: the cream cheese OD’d on crumbled Oreo cookies that was used as the filler and the frosting, and the chocolate ganache slathered on the sides. We cut the cake last evening and I can tell you that he will be in serious Oreo heaven for a long time to come. The recipe is from Kraft’s website which I modified a little and it has five star reviews from around 700 people. Do I need to say more?!

Happy Birthday, honey, and for your sanity’s sake (and mine), may the world never run out of Oreos!
Oreo cake


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Something Sweet

Phew, I am so tired! This is the birthday weekend- I had mine on Thursday, Aarabhi turned three months today and the hub has his coming up tomorrow. I’ve been trying to get lots of things done this weekend and ultimately ended up doing nothing. Oh I did edit a few pictures, click new ones and made a birthday cake for Kishore (shhh!). I have four huge projects/case studies to complete in Financial Accounting and a paper I should be working on for Information Systems. Yet, I sit here all careless and free and write about the wonderful Kesari Amma made for my birthday. Daredevil much?
semiya kesariKesari is a kind of pudding made with Rava, a by-product of wheat. It has a coarse, cornmeal like texture and a nutty flavor. I once replaced it for couscous in a salad I made and called it semolina salad. Kesari is also made with Semiya or Vermicelli, a kind of noodles we use quite a bit in Indian cooking.

My mother, well aware of the fact that I am mentally-allergic to Rava Kesari (thanks to a gluttonous incident that happened more than ten years ago), made Kesari with Semiya last month. I fell in love with it and nearly replicated the afore mentioned incident (some people never learn!) but good sense stopped me on time. Well, that and a husband who fell equally in love with the dish. So when Amma asked me what sweet I wanted for my birthday (making sweets for birthdays is a tradition quite common in India), it was only natural that I pounced on another opportunity to eat the wonderful Semiya Kesari.

This time, she stepped it up a notch by adding pineapple to it. Before you make unappetizing noises, let me tell you this. It was wonderful!!! So wonderful that I am already making plans to go eat the leftover Kesari after I write up this blog entry.

Semiya Kesari

Ingredients
One cup Vermicelli or Semiya (from your Indian grocer) or broken up angel hair pasta

One and a quarter cup sugar

One cup frozen pineapple finely chopped

Ten almonds coarsely chopped

Ten raisins (any kind!)

One tsp powdered cardamom (or four pods of cardamom, slightly broken)

One Tbsp plus one tsp clarified or melted butter

Half cup milk

One and a half cups water

Method
Heat the clarified butter on medium heat in a pan. Slightly toast the Semiya. Add the milk and the water when it releases a nutty fragrance. When it starts boiling, add the sugar, powdered cardamom and pineapple and mix. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Let it cook, absorb the water and melt the sugar. When the Kesari turns semi-solid, turn the heat off. In a separate pan, add the one tsp of butter and fry the almonds and raisins until brown. Mix it with the Kesari. Eat with vanilla ice cream to attain dessert Nirvana.


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Black Bean Rajma for Lunch

This is probably the most basic recipe for Rajma and I am pretty sure most people are wondering why I am putting it up. Well, it was uber yummylicious and I figured it would be a sin not to click a pretty pic of it and share it with the world! Mom made it and she added a darn secret ingredient to it which made the dish pop with flavor and color. We had some left-over tamarind Chutney from all the food our friends ordered for my surprise baby shower last weekend (the shower was so wonderful that I am not done gushing about it yet. I cannot believe that my family drove all the way from New Jersey, Virginia and Atlanta just to give me a huge surprise! How awesome are they!!).
rajma
Although the spring rolls and Gobi Pakoras (cauliflower fritters) are long gone, the dipping sauces are still gracing our refrigerator in air-tight take-out boxes. So this morning,  after Amma made the Subzi and tasted it, she felt that something was missing. Putting her creative cap on, she quickly emptied half a container of the chutney into the Rajma. The result was a tangy-sweet and spicy curry that we ate with Roti and Basmati rice.

And as always, I have a cup waiting in the fridge for tomorrow with my name on it. Man! Do I love leftover delicious food!


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Chai in a Glass

Oh boy! This post is going to make my aunt in Malaysia so happy that I am already dizzy with excitement as I type. Su Athai (dad’s sister in Tamil) is a tea drinker and coffee hater. When I say hater, I mean the most powerful hate for caffeine ever. There was only one problem with this: It meant deeming most of the household untouchable during coffee-time in the morning and evening because South Indians generally love their filter coffee with a vengeance.

Hence, when I became old enough drink coffee (18 years was the “acceptable” age at home), I joined the bandwagon of coffee drinkers much to the dismay of Su athai. We share a special bond and I think she sub-consciously felt that I was cheating on her. This didn’t stop us from enjoying our rare coffee/tea-time tête-à-tête back at home when she visited, of course. Every time she would stay over, my sister and I would crack the same old joke: we would take deep swigs off our coffee mug and ask her if she wanted some. This goofing around never gets old because I remember doing it to her during my 2012 India trip too.

So imagine my dismay when I learned a few months ago that I was gradually starting to hate coffee and love tea! I only hope this is a pregnancy thing or not having my mom’s wonderful filter coffee thing. Either way, I hope it passes and I get back to my java soon. Anyway, I am making the most of my Chai-love phase by indulging myself in wonderful Masala chai everyday and I can tell you this- it never ceases to please me. And every time I make it, I think of my Athai a little as I sit at my table and sip away 🙂

masala chaiHot Masala Chai

Ingredients
One and a half cups milk (I used 2%)

Half cup water

Three tsps any Indian black tea leaves* (suggested brands: Brooke Bond Red Label or Three Roses)

Four tsps granulated sugar

One tsp ground cardamom powder**

Five mildly crushed cloves

One inch piece fresh ginger***

Method
Boil the milk and water over med-low heat until it starts forming a layer on top. Skim it and add the spices. Let it boil for two minutes more. Add the tea leaves and sugar. Switch to low and let it simmer for ten more minutes. The idea is for the tea leaves and spices to steep in the milk and flavor it as much as they can. When done, strain through a tea sieve. Enjoy!

*I’ve always found that Indian tea works the best for this Chai because of its wonderful strong flavor. Unfortunately, Indian tea producers haven’t started making decaf teas yet so I am pretty sure your favorite brand of decaf tea would work too.

**It doesn’t matter if you don’t have cardamom powder at home. You can use five mildly crushed green cardamom seeds

***Normally ginger powder would work too but I strongly suggest that you use fresh ginger for a delicious earthy taste. It is exactly like choosing fresh basil over dried in pasta dishes.

I have served the tea in glasses because that’s how they do it in Indian roadside tea stalls. The taste of their Masala tea is unparalleled, of course!