Happy Sweet Diwali –Published in DNA Newspaper, October, 18, 2009

Gazar Burfi, Baked Karanji, Date Burfi
In addition to the festival of lights, Diwali is also known as the festival of sweets. The planning of the making of ladoos, karnajis, and burfis is tradition. The faral in earlier years was carefully homemade with women congregating in the kitchen, gossiping while artistically molding the karanjis and shankarpale. These days these sweets are available in plenty throughout the year and no longer considered very special.
Well, it is time to bring the cookery tradition back (the gossiping has of course remained) by giving a twist to the customary fare. With a growing obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in the country among all ages and classes, this is the perfect time to rethink our ingredients as well as cooking methods.
Cutting down sugar and fats without sacrificing taste is always a challenge but these recipes are easy, tasty and unrecognizable as “healthy” or “low fat.”

Gazar Burfi – I was told that sugar will not go well with gazar. After testing this myself, I was pleasantly surprised…my family, the finicky master tasters loved it.
Ingredients: 2 cups grated carrot 2 cups jaggery, cut finely ¼ cup cashews
Method: Melt jaggery in kadai by constantly stirring. When the consistency appears sticky, add gazar. Stir frequently until gazar is cooked. Add cashews and cook for another 5 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooling, flatten mixture onto a plate. Cut after completely cooled.
Baked Karanji
Coconut filling: Mix the following ingredients well. 1 ½ cups grated dry coconut 15 cashews,roughly cut 1 ½ tsp elaichi powder 1 cup grated jaggery
Outer crust: 1/2 cup rava ½ cup white flour ½ tsp baking powder 2 tbsp besan powder,3 tbsp ghee, melted
pinch of salt. Milk, enough to knead the dough
Ghee paste: ¼ cup paste of ghee and flour(used for making outer crust)
1) Mix all the dry ingredients, then add ghee. Rub the ghee evenly. Add milk and make medium consistency dough. Cover for 15 minutes.
2) Divide the dough into 15-20 (each ball approx 1 inch diameter).
3) Roll one ball into a round shape, fold in half and spread ghee paste, fold again making a triangle shape. Fold again and roll into the same round shape. Put 1 tbsp coconut filling in the center. Cover the filling by folding other half area. Join the edges and seal. You can make a design with your hands or by a fork.
4) Prepare all the karanjis, Apply some ghee all over the karanji. Spray baking sheet or spread ghee so it does not stick.
5) Preheat oven over 160C. Bake for 15 minutes or slightly brown. Turn over and bake andother 10 minutes.
Do not make them too much brown. It will burn the filling
Date Nut Burfi – No sugar or ghee and easy to make!

Ingredients: 1 cup pitted and finely chopped dates ½ cup grated coconut ½ cup grated carrot 1 tsp elaichi powder 3 tbsp milk ¼ cup pistachios or almonds, roughly cut
1) Soak dates in milk for 15 minutes 2) Stir all ingredients on low flame for 15 minutes 3) Add nuts and cook for another 5 minutes. 4) After it is cooled, spread on a plate, leave for 30 minutes and then cut into squares. Decorate with nuts.


OktoberFEAST–Published in DNA Newspaper October 7, 2009

Menu: Chicken Sausages, Braised Red Cabbage, German Potato Salad, Carrots in Beer, Roast Chicken and Chocolate Fondue
Oktoberfest is not just about beer(although that is the main part) but Germans also enjoy a variety of hearty traditional food during this fest. Visitors consume large quantities of food that is readily available on the fairgrounds. Hendl, whole chickens grilled on a spit and typically sold in halves. Roasted meats, especially pork, and potato dumplings are served up with the traditional red cabbage and apple dish (Blaukohl). Meats and sausages are served with tasty sweet mustard and sauerkraut.

Vegetarians won’t go hungry; there are large warm, soft pretzels and cheese plates with bread. With vegetarianism on the rise there are also meatless dishes on offer at stalls. Desserts are equally important with Dampfnudel, a steamed honey-dumpling served with vanilla sauce, apple strudel, and Kaiserschmarrn, a sugared pancake with raisins.
Has this tickled your appetite for good food and a cold beer? Then plan an Oktoberfest party at the comfort of your own home. Here are a few German recipes tweaked so that one can easily make right here in Pune. Served with your favorite beer, some traditional German folk music and a group of beer loving friends you will be instantly transported to Munich…
Menu: Chicken Sausages, Braised Red Cabbage, German Potato Salad, Carrots in Beer, Roast Chicken and Chocolate Fondue.

Braised Red Cabbage
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 red cabbage, sliced 1/4 inches thick
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 red onion, sliced
• 2 sweet apples, quartered and sliced thin
• 1/3 cup red wine
• ¼ cup red wine vinegar(works with plain vinegar if unavailable)
• 1/4 cup molasses(locally called Kakwi)

Directions: Melt butter in a deep sauté pan with a cover. Once the butter is melted, let the foam subside and add cabbage. Add salt and pepper to taste, red onion, apple, and, cover the pan and lower the flame to low-medium, turning once in a while until the cabbage is soft, but still slightly firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove lid and deglaze with the red wine, on high heat cook uncovered, until the wine is reduced by at least half. Add the red wine vinegar and reduce heat. Add the molasses and toss to coat. Cook 2 to 3 more minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste once again.

Hendle(Easy Roast Chicken)

• 1 whole 1.5 kg chicken, washed and patted dry
• 60 g butter
• 1 bunch fresh parsley, washed and chopped
• 2 1/2 teaspoons salt .
• a pinch of ground black pepper

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 195°C. Add salt and pepper to both the inside and outside part of the chicken. Rub evenly. Rub butter evenly to chicken.
Mix parsley with a small quantity of butter. Stuff mixture into chicken.
Put chicken breast-side up on a roasting tray. Cook for one hour or until the chicken becomes golden brown.
Baste chicken regularly using the fat from the tray.

Homemade Potato Salad Recipe
• 8-10 large potatoes
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup of warm meat broth, substitute with chicken or vegetable broth
• white wine vinegar
• sunflower oil
 salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Steam the potatoes in their skins until tender. Peel them and let them cool slightly until just warm. Slice the potatoes thinly with a potato slicer or a vegetable knife. Place in a large bowl.
Add the onion and enough warm meat broth so that the potatoes are moist but not watery and leave to soak for an hour.
Lastly add enough sunflower oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Start off with a couple of tablespoons of each of the oil and vinegar and then add more to taste. For a healthier variation substitute olive oil for sunflower oil.
Mix thoroughly. The potato salad should not be too dry, but quite moist.

Karotten im Bier(Carrots in Beer)
• 4 large carrots
• 1 cup dark beer; any brand
• 1 tsp. sugar
• 1 Tbsp. butter
• 1/4 tsp. salt
Directions: Peel and slice carrots into long, thin slices. Melt butter in medium-size fry pan; add beer and carrots. Cook slowly until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in salt and sugar. Cook for another 2 minutes and serve hot.

Chocolate Fondue
• 12 ounces sweet German chocolate or Toblerone chocolate bars
• 1 cup milk or cream
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions: Before melting the chocolate, prepare the fruit dippers. Select a variety of available fresh fruit such as grapes, apples, pineapple and guavas. Wash and cut to the perfect dipping size. Arrange all the fruit on a large platter. Squirt lemon juice on the apples and guavas to keep them from browning. Cover the platter and set it aside.
To prepare the fondue, break the chocolate squares into pieces and drop them into a saucepan. Add milk or cream and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is smooth. Add the vanilla extract and stir.
Transfer the chocolate sauce to a fondue pot. Use a fondue fork to spear the fruit, then dip in the chocolate and enjoy. If fondue pot is not available then serve in individual bowls with toothpicks.