Sunday, October 11, 2009

Banana Delight - Creamy Rice pudding sweetened with Bananas

I am not sure what is the first image this title will conjure up for anyone who reads it. A quick google search revealed that people have called a wide variety of things 'Banana Delight'. I got this title from the mater whose first reaction after tasting this was, its delightful! Why not call it 'B.. Delight'? So delighted at this reaction, I decided to go ahead with this title! :D

I had a bunch of very ripe bananas sitting on the counter. I am not a big banana fan, and I lose interest once they start giving out a strong smell, and the skin turns black. I wanted to make use of this in some disguised form, and also needed to make some kind of dessert for my company. After looking at some banana recipes on a bunch of websites, a sort of hodge podge formed in my brain and I finally came up with something simple and closer to home. In India, the rice kheer or rice payasam or pudding is more of a south Indian delicacy. In Maharashtra, and especially in our family, this dish is made only on certain sad occasions, like when someone passes away, or ceremonies related to people who have passed on. Queer though this may seem to some, it is true. Hence, I have never really seen this kind of kheer made much in my family. The few attempts I did make, the rice ended up being far more than the milk, or it mostly looked like a 'dudh bhat' or milk and rice.

Having learnt a few lessons, I decided to try a new proportion, and add a few other ingredients to enhance the creaminess. I also decided to use the banana here for sweetness and also for its own unique taste and flavour. The result turned out to be extremely creamy, sweet and flavourful. There are no artificial sweeteners or sugar in this, making this all natural and sugar free. Of course it has the sugar from the bananas, so please keep that in mind if you need to seriously watch your sugar levels. The banana literally dissolves but you get this intense flavour of the banana in each bite, making this so much more than a simple rice pudding. In fact, you can see neither the rice nor the banana, you just spoon a thick creamy mixture bursting with flavour. Without further ado, the recipe for my Banana Delight follows -


1.5 litre milk

2 Tbsp Rice grains

10-12 almonds

2-3 ripe bananas

3-4 strands saffron

nutmeg to taste

2-3 elaichi or cardammom

1 tsp butter or ghee

pistachios or nuts to garnish



1) Take a thick bottomed pan or wok and start heating the milk. I used full fat milk, but 2% can also be used. I will not recommend anything lower, since this is predominantly a recipe made from milk/cream and should be indulged in sparingly anyway

2) Melt the butter in a small pan and roast the rice grains till they are pinkish in colour. This will release their aroma. You can use basmati rice if you have it, or any other regular rice

3) Roughly chop or dice the bananas and fry them in the remaining butter. The bananas will caramelize. Check that they do not burn and keep stirring. Depending on the
ripeness, some or all the bananas will dissolve or disintegrate. This is OK since we are going to mash and mix it in the milk later anyway. This step will give a subtle caramel like flavour to the whole dish

4) Soak the almonds for some time and remove the skins. Roast them lightly.

5) Grind the rice grains and the almonds in a grinder to make an almost fine powder, between coarse and fine.

6) By this time, the milk should be boiling. Bring it to a simmer and add the rice and almond mixture. Keep stirring. After 10-15 minutes, it will thicken considerably as the rice cooks.

7) Soak some saffron strands in 2-3 tbsp of milk and add them to the rice and milk mixture. You can omit the saffron if you do not like it or do not have it on hand.

8) Mash any remaining bananas, so that most of it becomes puree like. Add this whole mixture to the milk. Keep stirring to avoid burning.

9) Add some grated nutmeg and 1 tsp of freshly ground or ready made elaichi powder or cardammom powder.

10) Also add some chopped pistachios, cashews etc. for crunch.

11) The dish is done once all the ingredients have mixed well and formed a thick pudding like consistency. This will thicken even more after it cools, so please factor that in.

12) Refrigerate and serve chilled garnished with a few chopped nuts

This is a very simple and economical dessert that can be made from stuff in your pantry. The whole process will take 45-60 mins, but you can also be cooking something else while you stir the milk. I hope you try this simple sugcar free treat and let me know how you liked it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hara Bhara Kabab Masala ( Spinach cheese balls in a creamy tomato sauce) - Favourite appetizer goes mainstream

This recipe is an adaptation or enhancement of something that I learned years ago - the Hara Bhara Kabab, when it was not common to see this kind of a 'kabab' on restaurant menu cards. They served a version of it at our club. Very different from now, when almost every small joint that opens up in our Pune neighbourhood has things like Hariyali kabab, Hara Kabab etc. So one fine summer many moons ago, when we kids were being especially troublesome, some family elder heard about a cooking class and dispatched self and cousin there, hoping to keep us busy for at least a few hours. The 'class' turned out to be much better than expected, and I am pretty sure it lent a hand in developing some of my culinary instincts. Some things I learned there are even now coming into vogue, and I really admire the lady who taught us and wonder how she was sort of advanced for the time. There used to be 2-3 things made everyday and we could take some home, so by the time we got home, there used to be a bunch of rowdy kids - cousins and siblings - waiting on the doorstep, ready to sample the exotic fare we had 'cooked' that day.

We were taught this Hara Bhara ( Green) Kabab recipe in the 'Appetizers' section and it has been the star of several cocktail parties at our home. The basic ingredient is spinach, and to balance it there is potato and paneer and a bare min of spices. Since I did not have much else, and needed something for dinner, I decided to make a sort of kofta curry out of this and serve it with rice to make a complete meal. The initial part - the Kabas - can also be eaten by themselves with some dipping sauce - yogurt and mint will go well with this. I have made an additional Makhni type gravy or a tomato cream sauce to accompany these balls/croquettes/koftas.
I used the Appe Patra or Ableskiever pan to 'fry' the kababs, instead of shallow or deep frying them. This is one gadget which is certainly NOT overrated. My only peeve is that it did not reduce the smoke generated, as compared to using a frying pan.
The recipe is as follows -

For the Kabab -
1 cup frozen/blanched spinach tightly packed
1 cup boiled and mashed potato
1 cup Paneer shredded ( Can use tofu or farmers cheese or Queso Blanco)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

For the Sauce -
1 cup crushed tomato
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup half and half or cream ( low fat or fat free)
1 tbsp crushed Kasoori methi
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

1) Mix and knead all the ingredients of the Kabab given above. Make sure that all the water is drained off from the spinach. This should make a thick mixture.
2) Adjust pepper such that the mixture tastes strongly of pepper. Pepper is the dominant flavour here, like in a vegetable cutlet
3) Make small balls with it, roughly the size of a ping pong ball
4) Heat the Appe pan on the stove top and add one drop oil to each mould. Place one ball or kabab in each mould and keep turning with the skewer until all sides are uniformly crisp and brown. Drain these on a paper towel.
5) Now for the sauce - Puree the crushed tomatoes and cashews in a blender until smooth. Alternately you can add cashew paste to the crushed tomatoes.
6) Heat the tomato cashew mixture till it bubbles. Add all the spices like garam masala, salt and honey.
7) Add the half and half. I use low fat or fat free versions. This is optional and we are adding a little just to lighten the colour and get a 'creamy' look. The creamy taste is obtained from the cashews and they will lend a richness to the sauce. So although there is some fat content added through the nuts, it is of the healthy kind and not dairy fat.
8) Crush some kasuri methi and add it to the sauce. Simmer for five minutes and take off the stove.
9) While serving, place 2-3 kababs in an individual serving bowl and ladle some sauce on top. DO NOT add the kababs to the sauce in advance, as they will very likely dissolve or soften and crumble.
10) Serve with Hot Parathas/naan or steamed rice