Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cardamom - The Queen of spices


Green cardamom pods

Cardamom, Elaichi, Elakkai...

Ah, cardamom! This is probably my favorite spice. With its unique fragrance and flavor, it lends itself to both savory and sweet dishes. I have cardamom/elaichi every day in the morning in my morning cuppa tea/chai. My senses truly wake up in the morning, when I get a whiff of the cardamom powder that I add to the boiling chai. I grind the pods to a fine powder(pods with the skins) about once a month. A pinch goes into my tea every morning. Cardamom has excellent digestive properties and is also believed to help fight infection, congestion, colic, asthma and prevent kidney stones.

One sweet dish which showcases cardamom very effectively is Besan Burfi (at least that is my name for it! It may have a different name.) This recipe is from my mom and is one of the easiest sweets to make. The flavor is not unlike that of mysore pak, (another traditional sweet) but far simpler to make.

besan burfi

Besan Burfi: melt-in-the-mouth goodness


1 cup besan (Chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar (more if you have a real sweet tooth)
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
pinch saffron
4-5 almonds, cut into slivers
4-5 pistachios, cut into slivers


Sugar, ghee, besan, pistachios, saffron, almonds, cardamom


Melt the ghee in a heavy bottom wide vessel. Add the besan and roast it quite well. Roast over a very low flame and stir constantly. The color of the besan should darken to a deep golden brown. The mixture should be a little fluid as well i.e not too dry. If it is very dry, add a little more ghee. The besan (and in fact your whole kitchen) should really smell very fragrant at this point. Add the sugar and stir. Take the pan off the heat. Add 1/2 of the cardamom powder. Spread the mixture on a tray to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with the remaining cardamom powder, the chopped nuts and saffron strands. Let cool completely and cut into squares, diamonds or rectangles.

burfi cooling on the tray, waiting to be cut

Here's another picture of the burfi:

burfi closeup
Besan Burfi

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My New Home!

I came across the fascinating world of food blogs a few weeks ago. Agog with excitement, I trawled the web for more such sites and soon decided to create my own. Thus was born holyjalapeno.blogspot.com !

I spent hours with the camera trying to get the perfect picture of a lone jalapeno for my profile picture.

In my enthusiasm, I negelected to check if the name holyjalapeno had been taken. Much to my disapointment, there is a company that makes sauces and condiments by the same name :-(

Anyway, after some more brainstorming I came up with saffronhut. Back to the camera again and those pesky strands of saffron :-)

Welcome to my new home!

I am trying to figure out how to move blogs from my old home to another. Meanwhile there is a new recipe for besan burfi. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Saffronhut (the blogger formerly known as HolyJalapeno)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Simple Supper - Tomato Rice

tomato rice

Tomato rice with boondi raita and green tomato pickle

It was a hectic start to the week and when evening rolled around, I was too tired to cook anything elaborate. Some basmati rice, some frozen veggies from the freezer, a few stock ingredients from the pantry and piping hot tomato rice was ready in 20 minutes. Paired with soothing boondi raita and homemade green tomato avakkai pickle, it was a simple, satisfying weekday supper.


2 cups basmati rice
2 generous tbsp canned tomato paste
1 small red onion chopped
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1 small potato
2 tbsp dessicated coconut
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp jeera
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 small piece of cinnamon
a few curry leaves
salt to taste

tomato rice1
All the ingredients ready to cook

tomato rice2
Tomato rice cooked to perfection!


Heat the oil in a wide saucepan. Add jeera and then cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and the curry leaves. When the spices sizzle, add the chopped onion and saute lightly.

Add the ginger garlic paste. Add the frozen veggies, potatoes and tomato paste. Fry for a few seconds and then add the basmati rice. Fry the rice lightly as well.

Then add the coconut, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and salt. Add the water and let it come to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover the lid. Let it cook undisturbed for 15-20 minutes.

Fluff up the rice and savour with some tasty pickles, raita and papad.

You can also fry all the ingredients and for the last step, just transfer everything to the rice cooker and let cook for a fuss-free dinner. I've done this when I need to step out of the house for 1/2 an hour, but want the rice to continue cooking when I'm away.

Tomato Rice - Super simple weekday supper.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Perennial Favorite - Malabar Adai

Malabar Adai
Malabar Adai with tomato pickle, green chillies dressed with yoghurt and jaggery

me: It's your birthday today...what special dish would you like for your birthday?
him: How about Adai?

me: What should I make for breakfast for Diwali day?
him: How about Adai?

me: They are coming over Saturday night for dinner and will leave sunday afternoon. Any ideas for sunday brunch?
him: How about Adai?

me: I was so tired running around with errands today, I haven't make dinner yet. Can you think of something that we can whip up quickly?
him: How about Adai?

me: I'm bored of the usual breakfast dishes, what should we make today?
him: We haven't had Adai in a while, how about Adai?

him: Sweetie, you looked so tired, I decided to make a special breakfast for you today.
You guessed it... "Adai" !!!

We all have our favorite dishes and his happens to be "Malabar Adai". Being from Palakkad district of Kerala, nothing brings back memories of childhood as the aroma of fresh adais sizzling on the griddle. It is the ultimate comfort food for him. I didn't have it much growing up as it was considered as a "heavy" i.e. hard-to-digest food. I have taken a liking to it now however!

The version we make now, is chock full of protein from the various dals (lentils) that are much needed in a vegetarian diet. We also omit the coconut from the traditional recipe as a compromise to the dreaded LDL/HDL ratio that rears its head every year at our annual checkup. No compromises are made with the taste though and this version is every bit as tasty as the original recipe.

Here's the recipe :


2 cups rice
3/4 cup tur dal
3/4 cup channa dal
1/4 udad dal
1/2 tsp asafoetida
a handful of dried red chillies
a few curry leaves
salt to taste


Soak the rice, dals and red chillies in slightly warm tap water for a minimum of 1/2 hour and upto 4 hours. Grind to a very coarse paste. You can add a handful of chopped cilantro leaves, ginger, green chillies for more flavour. Add salt, curry leaves, asafoetida and mix well.

Heat a well seasoned griddle until smoking hot. Pour a laddle of batter onto the griddle and swirl in a concentric circular motion starting from the inside to the outside. Make a small hole in the center of the adai. This is so that you can pour a little bit of oil in and crisp up the center too. Sprinkle a little oil around the edges and roast till golden brown. Flip and roast the other side till done. Serve with accompaniments of choice.

Adai cooking

Adai cooking on a hot griddle

Adai Flipped

Adai flipped over to cook the other side


  • Green Chillies dressed with yoghurt: Finely chop or crush green chillies. Add coarse kosher salt to taste. Add fresh plain yoghurt and mix.
  • Tomato Pickle
  • A lump of jaggery
  • Sometimes a pat of fresh homemade butter is also served

Malabar Adai: Pallakad on a platter !

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Request a Recipe

If you are looking for a recipe for a favorite dish, mail me a request, or respond as a comment to this post. If I can, I will try to post the recipe for you. Please be warned though that I may not be able to respond to your request right away :)


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Friday, February 24, 2006

Melting Snowman & Minestrone Soup

Minestrone SoupMinestrone Soup

Have you seen the commercial where the snowman comes in from the cold and starts to eat a bowl of soup? As he eats, the snow on him melts aways and in his place is this cute little boy with freckles on his face. I was reminded of this commercial today when my little one came back from school. I always feel so sorry for him when I see him with his backpack heavy with textbooks, a layered jacket, boots, hat and mittens. My memories of school are those of carefree days playing in the sun for hours on end till mom called me home for dinner. sigh...

Anyways, my little one has always loved soup, and cream of broccoli is his favorite. He wanted some soup today and since I had made c-o-b just yesterday, I decided to make some minestrone soup for him. It took 8-10 mins to make and he slurped it up without looking up from the bowl. What can be more satisfying for him and for me - the mom?

Here's how I make it:

Vegetables: tomatoes, carrots, pepper, onions, spinach

Pantry Ingredients
Pantry Ingredients: pasta, chickpeas, garlic, herbs, crushed red pepper, black pepper


1/2 of a small white onion, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato paste, or 1/2 small can of tomato sauce
1 garlic minced
2 tablespoons each of chopped carrots, green pepper (any veggies really)
a handful of spinach leaves (I used baby spinach from the salad section)
a fistful of pasta
a fistful of chickpeas (either soaked overnight or from a can)
1 tsp of italian seasoning
1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
salt, sugar and pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the italian seasonings, pepper and crushed garlic. Immediately add the chopped onions. Saute for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes. Saute till the tomatoes turn soft. Add all the remaining ingredients except the spinach and add 2 cups of water. Let boil for about 8-10 minutes till the pasta is cooked. Add the spinach at the end and boil till the leaves wilt. Sprinkle with parmesean cheese if desired ( not for the little one, but I love it)


This soup can be varied in so many ways. Sometimes I add cubed potatoes, zucchini, corn. Sometimes I use rajma beans or black beans instead of the chickpeas. I add a spoonful of pesto if I have some, to kick it up a notch. All versions are equally delicious.

Minestrone Soup - simple, delicious heartwarming food for the body and soul.

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Holy Jalapeño - Here we go!

Birthday "cake" made by little 'uns for Dad

The inspiration for starting a food blog :)

It was hubby dearest's birthday and the little ones wanted to bake a cake. Out came the EasyBake oven and after much measuring, mixing, stirring, splattering, crying, fussing, this scrumptious looking 2 inch "cake" was presented with pride.

The candle was no match for the beaming faces all around!