Ria's Collection

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


The kids and I love to spend a lot time in our home library as well as public library. Everytime we go to the public library , we end up spending way too much time and bring back home way too many books. No matter how many times this has happened, I still carry just one reuseable bag to bring the books home. And after checkout, there will be so many more to carry and I would struggle to bring them all to the car in one go,while making sure Zarakutty doesn't wander away in the parking lot. She sometimes asks me to carry her on my hips as well while I am struggling to carry just the books alone!
Anyway long story short, I've been cooking a lot from such borrowed cookbooks lately. I get bored very easily if I have to cook the same recipes over and over again. That list does not include our daily fare like Kachiyamoru, Meen Varuthathu, Thoran, Mezhukkupuratti , Beef Olathiyathu, Meen Vevichathu etc. Now you must be wondering what are the other things that can get me bored. Well, I like to have the above mentioned items for lunch and for dinner, something else. That's when I like to make to different things.
This dal recipe comes from the celebrated author Madhur Jaffery's cookbook At Home with Madhur Jaffery and it's fantastic! It pairs really well with rice as well as rotis. I like to serve this kind of dal with plain white rice where as the dal made with ground coconut, basically our parippu curry with Matta rice. So I always have stock of varieties of rice at home. Basmati, Jeerakashala, Matta, Sona Masoori, Idli Rice...these are my pantry staples!

I have bookmarked so many other recipes from this book to try. Her recipes are so simple and easy to follow.
Serves 4-5

1 cup masoor dal *, washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 packed cup chopped cilantro
1/2 -3/4 teaspoon red chili powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, chopped
10-15 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 big grated clove of garlic

Method: Pressure cook the dal with 3 cups of water and turmeric powder for 4-5 whistles. Once the pressure has settled, open the cooker and mash it completely.
Add the tomatoes,salt, cilantro and red chili powder. Bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 10 mins.Stir and turn off the heat.
Pour the oil into a small pan and on medium heat pop the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Add the onions and curry leaves and fry till the onions start to brown. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute. Then empty the contents into the cooked dal and stir to mix. Serve hot!

* You can use 1/2 cup masoor dal and 1/2 cup moong dal instead. This is what I used and it was delicious!

Whenever I share pictures of my dal on Instagram, I get questioned as to how I make it. Well, this is one way of cooking some delicious dal and it's incredibly easy as well. It pairs really well with white rice, chapathi, poori etc. I really hope you enjoy this curry as much as we did!

Friday, February 15, 2019


Smith Island Cake 2
Hello everyone! I am back and I have lots to tell you! January was a busy month for us since we were travelling back and forth. We came back from Atlanta and then in less than two weeks, we flew to Los Angeles and then embarked on a cruise ship to Ensenada, Mexico. It was a fun filled trip and we came back home with lots of good memories to last a lifetime! Then the mighty winter storm hit us along with Polar Vortex and all I wanted to do was to hibernate until June. Jobin left for India on work for two weeks just hours before the storm began. This year, we've seen a huge amount of snow.
Smith Island Cake

 Today, we complete 9 years of married life. I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by. It feels just yesterday that I was talking to you about our wedding preparations. Now times have changed. We both don't seem to be that enthusiastic about it but Ian on the other hand was just too excited about our wedding anniversary. He has made three cards for us and even decorated the house in whatever way he could. When I was planning on what cake to bake, he insisted that I should sit back and relax while he bakes it for us. He even wrote down a recipe that he found in a cookbook in his own words. It was too cute to see how much our little offspring has grown. Zarakutty just repeats whatever her Cheta has to say and follows him around the house. She is turning out to be a non-stop talker.
Smith Island Cake
I found this recipe in a cookbook called Perfect Cakes that I borrowed from our library. It has some very special recipes for simple and elegant cakes...just the kind I like to bake for us on our special occasions. Nothing over the top fancy for us please. This recipe may seems daunting to you but trust me, it's a very simple one. It's funny how so many people have a feeling that I make complicated things where as in reality, it's really simple. Just read through the recipe and you will know what I am talking about.
Smith Island Cake

Smith Island Cake 2 (1) Makes one 9 inch 9 layered cake

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs,separated plus 3 large yolks, room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch cream of tartar

Frosting: Place chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream, sugar and salt on medium heat stirring occasionally until sugar melts and the mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Take off the heat and pour over chocolate. Whisk to combine. Add vanilla and butter and whisk well to combine. Cover and chill for 1 hour until the icing is firm but still spreadable.

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 F and generously grease two 9 inch round cake tins, line with parchment paper, grease parchment paper. I used four 9 inch round tins, so it was much easier.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 cup sugar. In another bowl, mix together melted and cooled butter, buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla.
Pour the butter mix into the flour mix and beat on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape and beat on medium speed until well combined, 15 seconds. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until glossy stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the flour mixture in two batches.
Pour 2/3 cup batter into the cake tin and bake for 11-12 mins until golden around the edges and firm to touch. Let it cool in the tin for 5 mins and then remove cakes from the pan. Let it cool completely. Continue baking the remaining layers the same way. I got 9 layers.

Sandwich the cake layers with 1/4 cup of frosting and spread the remaining frosting on top and sides of the cake. Decorate as you please.
The response I got when we cut into the cake was phenomenal. Imagine, you slice into a cake and when you gently pull it out, 9 super thin slices sandwiched using a sleek chocolate frosting comes out? It's so exciting and I must say, this cake is mighty delicious. I will really consider making it again. It's simple to make yet so fantastic to look at. The four of us couldn't stop with one slice. Nothing fancy yet incredible!

Sunday, January 20, 2019


I know it's been a short while since I've posted something here. Let's just blame how crazy December gets and how lazy we can get after all the crazy busy days! We've been travelling quite a bit after Christmas and life in general has been extremely busy at our end. But today, I am back with an excellent recipe for a chutney that will steal your hearts...be warned! It's so quick to make and tastes fabulous!
Amma never really made Tomato Chutney when we were kids. It used to be just the good old,regular Coconut Chutney sometimes with an addition of yogurt to go along with our Dosa's, Vada's & Idli's. The only time we would eat or get an opportunity to eat Tomato Chutney was when we would travel outside Kerala.I must also mention that I was not quite fond of tomatoes other than in Ketchup while growing up. So I don't recall asking Amma to try recreating the chutney's we ate at restaurants outside Kerala. But when I grew up, I slowly started developing a major liking towards all things made with tomatoes and with tomatoes alone.
Tomato pickles were one of my most sought after things during hostel days. That pickle along with some steaming hot white rice and dal would satisfy the hunger pangs on most days! Tomato Rasam was another favourite.
Offlate, I've been making this particular chutney to go along with our Dosa & Idli for breakfast. It has kind of replaced the coconut chutney that I grew up eating. This is an extremely easy chutney to make and has a great texture and body to it that it makes an amazing dip to serve alongside an assortment of crackers besides breakfast items. It hold up well without making the crackers soggy.
When I was contacted by The FeedFeed to know if I would like to partner with Muir Glen to try out their tomato products, I was super excited because it brought together many of my favourites! I've been a long time fan of TheFeedfeed & Muir Glen tomatoes. We buy them from Wedge, our local co-op. Wedge is our most favourite co-ops to shop for groceries because of their quality products and excellent service. We've been shopping there for almost 9 years now and it's one of my favourite places in town to buy fish as well. So when this opportunity came along my way, I decided to make our current favourite Tomato Chutney using Muir Glen Organic Petite Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic. Their stuff is too good, and they even have a sale until January 29th for 10/$10 14.5oz canned tomatoes! Muir Glen has a wide range of tomato products and they are easily available at your local co-op stores. Find you local co-op here using their store locator!

My own recipe
Prep time : 5 minutes
Cooking time : 10 minutes (including the cooling time)
Yields approx 1 1/4 cups

1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal
2 dried red chilies a few curry leaves
1/2 cup chopped onions
One 14.5 ounce can Muir Glen Organic Petite Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic, drained
1/4 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut

Method: Heat oil in a saute pan on medium high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Then add in urad dal, dried red chilies, curry leaves and onions. Stir them well and let it saute for 1 minute. Add the drained tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes or until the moisture has mostly evaporated,stirring occasionally. Add the grated coconut and mix to combine. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Grind it using a blender or food processor. Add salt to taste and serve it at room temperature along with crackers of your choice.

This post is sponsored by Muir Glen and TheFeedfeed, but all opinions are my own.

We love this chutney and it always manages to vanish in no time at all! So these days when I make it, I make it in bulk and leave the rest in the fridge. You just have to warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds before serving it. I think these would make terrific tea sandwiches as well!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Gingerbread House
This month really has been driving me crazy! It's usually my most favourite time of the year but this time, it's been too too busy. With so many events, we just don't have any time for personal stuff. We still haven't bought any gifts for each other, can you imagine! Luckily, the coming weekend if pretty slow,maybe we can hit the mall and buy some stuffs for the kids atleast.
Gingerbread house (2)
I've never made a Gingerbread House before so I wanted to make it this year, especially for Ian. He has been asking for one since last year and I had promised him that we will make one this year. I planned to make it around Thanksgiving break and we did just that. We made the dough,rolled it out, cut out the pieces,baked it and built our own Gingerbread house and used up all the leftover candy from Halloween to decorate it. I even took pictures to share it here during the first week of December.
Gingerbread House (1)
Then things happened. I mean, life happened. With everything that was going on, I just didn't feel  like sitting down with my laptop to talk about the house. It got pushed and pushed and finally today, I found sometime while Zara was napping to talk about it and share it with you all. Trust me, it's such an easy thing to do and it is really a fun thing to do with kids as well. This recipe for one of the best tasting gingerbread house comes from Beatrice Ojakangas.
Gingerbread House (3) Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup or light molasses
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoon water

For assembly:
Royal Icing:
1lb powdered sugar
1-2 egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice or almond or vanilla extract

Gingerbread house: In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, molasses,spices & baking soda until smooth. Add flour and water and mix to form a stiff dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Gingerbread house templates: 
Front & Back of the house -Two rectangles 3 by 5 inches
Roof - Two rectangles 3 by 5 1/2 inches
Ends of the house - Two pieces, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom.

Roof and sides of the entryway - Four smaller rectangles,  1 1/2 by 1 inch
Front of the entryway - One piece 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom.

Roll the chilled dough onto a parchment paper and cut out the pieces using a template made from the measurements given above. Leave the pieces intact and remove the excess dough. Bake for about 15 minutes until the dough feels firm. Place the templates over the pieces and trim if necessary. Do this while the cookie is hot.

Royal Icing:  Mix all the ingredients together using a hand mixer until the mixture is smooth and is pipeable. Transfer it to a piping bag and use as needed. Cover unused icing as it will dry up. If you need to thin it out, use lemon juice.

Assembling: Decorate the pieces with royal icing and let it harden, about 10 minutes. Start building the house by gluing the front and back and sides using the icing. Hold it for a few seconds till it dries up. Then attach the roof and then continue to build then entryway. Don't rush, take your time.

Even though it looks like a lot of work, it isn't. Make your templates the day before and even the cookie dough. Next day, bake and build the house. It will be one of the most memorable things you will be doing this holiday season for sure!

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Meen Pollichathu (1)
Ilove fish and my family loves it too! I try to cook with fish as often as I can. It's almost always as a Meen Vevichathu or Meen Varuthathu. I've been making Fish Moilee quite a few times over the last few weeks along with homemade bread. There's something so comforting in that combination. This Meen Pollichathu is a made with a twist from the traditional one.
Meen Pollichathu (6)
When I posted a photo of this dish on Instagram, I received a lot of questions regarding where to buy banana leaves here. I buy it from Oriental stores and I've seen it at Malayali store around Onam. We rarely shop at our Malayali store. These leaves come frozen in small trays. I find them very handy. Just pull out how much you need and the rest can stay in the freezer. The leaf is limp because it's frozen so we can use it without taming it over fire.
Meen Pollichathu final
Meen Pollichathu is best made with Karimeen.Even though we get them here in frozen form, I rarely buy it. The last time I bought it was when Appa & Amma came here for Christmas last year. Amma made a Karimeen Mappas with it and it was delicious!! This recipe uses a slightly different masala and uses sambar tamarind instead of Kudampuli. It's a very quick dish to make, just like most fish recipes and has a charm to it because it's wrapped and served in banana leaf.
Meen Pollichathu (6)
400 grams cleaned fish
2 sprigs curry leaves
3/4 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar*
1 cup sliced pearl onions
4 tablespoon oil

Grind together:
1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
4-5 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp (homemade)
8 pearl onions

Method: Heat 3 tbsp oil and crackle mustard seeds and curry leaves. Saute the ground ingredients, till the oil separates. Add the shallots, stir well and pour the vinegar and salt. Add the fish and move it gently to coat the pieces with masala.

In an oil paper or banana leaf *, arrange the fish with its masala. Pour the remaining 1 tbsp oil over it and fold into a neat parcel /parcels. Put the parcels into a dish and bake at 400 F till the outside is golden for about 30 minutes. Once it's baked, take it out, open the parcel and serve hot !

* Use your own judgement here because we are already using tamarind pulp.
*If you are using fresh banana leaves, you will have to tame it over fire. 'Vaati edukukka'.
*You can cook this on the stovetop as well. Cook on medium flame for 8-10 mins flipping once in between till the leaves are a bit brown.
Mrs. B.F.Varghese's cookbooks are a very common sight in most Malayali households in Kerala.I have them too and I found this recipe from one of them. It's name intrigued me at first and then when I remembered the frozen banana leaves that I had been hoarding for a while, I decided to make use of it. Ian gave me the biggest thumbs up ever and said that the fish is very good! Jobin said the same too! I used Tilapia filets for making these and hence the tiny packages. The recipe was meant for one piece of fish. This is a very good twist to traditional Meen Pollichathu. Do give it a try sometime during this festive season!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Doughnuts (3)
Doughnuts are one of the most satisfying things to make for me. That's the yeast magic. The dough grows in front of your eyes and when fried, grows even more into these puffy,cloud like rings! These particular doughnuts are baked. Baked doughnuts have been in trend for a long time now. Their texture is not like a raised / yeasted doughnut. It's more or less like a cake but a bit  denser. But that shouldn't keep you away from trying these goodies. They are different from a cake. It doesn't feel like you just poured a cake batter into a doughnut pan. It is different.
Doughnuts (4)
Ian has been asking me for something chocolate-y for a few days now. He gives me subtle hints every now and then and Zara is catching up on that as well. She loves to imitate her older brother! I usually bake things in the afternoon when Zara is napping so that it's ready by the time she wakes up,which is  around the same time that Ian gets back home from school. Then it's non-stop play & eating time. So I get mentally prepared for that before it's 4 o'clock!
Doughnuts (5)
The very second he gets into our mud room, he kind of makes a guess as what I would have made for him as an after school snack. He did not know that I had bought the doughnut pan so he was super excited to see what I had in store for him. Whenever I need a new recipe, I always go to one of my favourite sources and this time, it was no different.

You need a doughnut pan to bake these goodies. They are easily available online. I found mine at a store nearby. The only thing you need to be mindful while making these doughnuts are that the pans should be filled only to it's three-fourth capacity, so that when the doughnuts rise in the oven, it wouldn't end up being a big huge blob without the hole in the middle. But, if that happens, don't worry, you can easily use a spoon to dig out the extras.No matter how you make it, it's a delicious one!
Doughnuts (1) Makes 12

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

Chocolate icing:
1 cup chocolate chips
4 tablespoons milk

Method: Preheat the oven to 350 F and lightly oil your doughnut pans.
Doughnuts : In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients from flour through chocolate chips. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, vinegar. It might look curdled and that's okay. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients along with the melted butter and stir until it's all combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Fill them only three-fourths full and bake for 12-15 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Once removed from the oven, let it be in the pan for 30 seconds,then invert the pan onto a cooling rack. The doughnuts will fall off easily. Let it cool completely.

Chocolate Icing: Combine chocolate chips and milk in a microwave safe bowl and heat it till the milk starts to steam and bubble. Mix it well till the icing is smooth. Dip the cooled doughnuts in it and set them icing side up on a rack /plate till the icing sets. If you want to sprinkle the top with something, do so before the icing sets. 
The kids gobbled up a couple as soon as I was done baking them and before glazing it. The glaze is super easy to make, a light ganache. It sets well and you can stack the doughnuts after the glaze has set, about 30 minutes. I recently bought some sprinkles in X'mas colours because we all know that the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner! So I couldn't help sprinkle some over these beautiful doughnuts. These make beautiful gifts too!
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