Ria's Collection: November 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011


So, this little space of mine crossed 800,000 hits and I want to celebrate it with something sweet,something simple yet something simply delicious. If it has chocolate in it, it's an added bonus!I have a special liking towards shortbreads,especially these Ultimate Shortbreads! I love the fact that they are super easy to bake and it tastes like a piece of heaven! These 3 tier bars are another version of my favourite shortbreads and they are an instant hit whenever and wherever I have served them.It's quite a complicated looking one but trust me, you can pull it off in less than 30 mins (cooking time)!
Milllionaire's Shortbreads
Now that we both (Jobin & myself) are back to our regular routine,we are enjoying looking at our new home from different angles,keeping things straight , moving the furniture a bit that side just to see if it looks better being closer to the wall, we painted together. Oh yes, we painted 2 walls in our condo, together. One in our bedroom and one in our living room. The bedroom has an olive green paint with white bold stripes and the living room one has a nice ocean blue colour. I hope to stencil my kitchen wall, very soon. I have a pot of mint growing steadily even now and it keeps me company while I roll the chapathi's for Jobin, for his lunch.I always thought I never had a green thumb but the truth is every living plant need some water, every now and then ;-)
This recipe has been mentioned here before but I thought it needed more attention just like my Chocolate Biscuit Pudding, as it is something you all should try, atleast once in a lifetime. OK, so what if you are on a diet? Atleast, make this for someone else so that you can experience what I experienced when I cut into the layers. It's such a monochormatically (?) perfect dessert/snack which is equally heavy on the stomach as it has quite a lot of  butter in it :-) Hmmm, that reminds me of the days in Kannur when there was a butter shortage and I how I used to miss baking then! :-)

120g butter
60g sugar
175 g flour

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C and line an 8x8inch square tin with foil with some extra foil hanging over the sides.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Add the flour and mix to form a dough.Pat the dough into the tin and prick with the tines of a fork.Bake for 20 mins or until pale golden brown in colour. Keep it aside.

Caramel filling:
120 g butter
60g sugar
2 tbsp caramel syrup (melt some sugar till golden brown)
200ml condensed milk

On medium high,boil all the ingredients together till it starts to leave the sides of the pan. Pour over the baked base.

Melt and pour 150 g of dark chocolate over the caramel layer. Let it set in the fridge till the chocolate firms up. Cut into bars and enjoy!
I demonstrated these bars for a class of mine in Kannur, a month ago and all of them loved it. Go on, try this immensely satisfying goodie and let me know how you liked them! This is perfect for birthday parties, lunch boxes or even as a midnight snack, which is what I would chose this to be :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Ulli Theeyal

Till I was in 5th standard, Perappan  & Peramma (Amma's elder sister)used to live just 100 m away from our school which in simple words meant, I get to eat piping hot lunch everyday! Their youngest daughter, Prinu ,who was in 10th then would wait for me with her friend, Fairooz by the school gate, after the lunch bell. We three would walk together talking , actually they would be talking and I would be listening to the big girl's talks. As we approached their house,I could tell what we were having for lunch because it used to smell so good! If it was fish fry then it's easy to tell :-)

Peramma makes the most awesome sauce fish fry (esp.Sardines/Mathi/Chala)! She had this little pan, maybe a 6 inch fry pan which had some dents and no handle. She used that only for fish fry and I used to tell her I wanted that pan when she was planning to throw it away because I believed that that pan gave the fish fry some extra taste. I think and still thinks, it did!

So fish fry was a regular at their house and another thing was a regular too! A Theeyal! It could be a 'pavakka'/bittergourd theeyal or someother theeyal. If that was there, I wouldn't even need a fish fry because the theeyal was delicious on it's own! I would finish up my rice and curry very soon and lick my fingers and every last bit of the curry left on the plate.Then I would go wash my hands (without soap!) and wait for Prinu to wash her's so that we can go to her room and tie our plaits once again :-) Peramma used to tie our plaits after lunch. I had just shoulder length hair (even now!) and Prinu had a little more longer hair. So,the two things I envied in her then, was the length of her hair and height. I used to stand on my toes to reach her height and I used to bend my head back so that my hair touched my waist! :-)
On our way back to school, I would cover my nose with my right palm and smell it, so that I could get the 'Theeyal' smell, till it lasted! Now you know why I didn't wash my hands with soap :-)
Ulli Theeyal

Now, when I look back, it feel so funny to realise that I am 5'10" tall...3 " more than Prinu but my hair is still shorter than hers. She lives in Kenya and the last time I saw her was before our wedding. Peramma still makes the best theeyal and fish fry. When I was home this time, I asked Amma to make a Theeyal for me and she said she will but ,Peramma's is still the best :-) Yesterday,when I spoke to Amma, I asked her for the recipe because for the last 2 days I so badly wanted to have Theeyal and therefore thought of trying it at home and compare the taste of mine with Peramma's. The method of cooking was exchanged and I made a mental note of it. After we hung up, I went straight to the kicthen and started cooking.I knew it's a simple recipe and all I wanted was that exact taste,like the original.

My own recipe

1c pearl onions/kunjulli/chommanulli
5 green chilies/serrano
11/2 c freshly grated coconut
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Tamarind, lime size soaked in 1/2 c water.

Cook the pearl onions, green chilies & salt in 1 cup water till the onions are soft .I don't chop the onions, I use them as whole.
In another wide pan, on medium heat, fry the grated coconut till they turn dark brown in colour. This decides the colour of the curry. Make sure you don't burn it but it should be dark brown. Take it off the flame and add the spices. Keep mixing for a minute or two so that the spices don't burn from the heat of the coconut and the pan.Let it cool.
Grind the roasted coconut to a smooth paste with just enough water to aid in the process.
Add the ground coconut to the pearl onions and cook till it boils.
Extract the pulp from the tamarind and add it to the curry.Check for salt.
Let the curry boil to a consistency you like. I like it thick.This curry will thicken as it cools. You will see a thin layer of oil floating on top, which comes from the coconut that was used.I would say, that's the way a perfect Theeyal would look like :-)

* We don't temper anything to pour over this curry but if you want you can temper some mustard, dry red chillies and onions in coconut oil and pour over.

I'm so happy that it tasted just like the original. When I say original here,I am not saying it's the original recipe for a theeyal but it's the taste I grew up with. Do try this with Pavakka but when you do that you will have to add more tamarind to compensate for the bitterness of the gourd.This is just too perfect with a bowl of hot Kanji/Gruel and Motta porichathu/Indian Omlette.This is my comfort meal :-)

I just hung up my daily call home and when we were talking Amma asked me,'So did you make the Theeyal?' and I said,'Yes! Nallathayirunnu!' . How can I say otherwise when I'm gobbling up a childhood favourite curry of mine like soup! :-)

We are back to our regular routine now, so you should be seeing some activity here, more often! :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

GIVEAWAY(S) !! CAKE, COOKIES & some more!

Those of you who have been reading this blog of mine, for a while, will clearly know my favourite month of any year! It's December! Even though we are just in November and when people are gearing up for Thankgiving, I'm waiting for the day after Thanksgiving so that the FM stations starts playing Christmas Carols 24/7 ! I am waiting for it to snow when I listen to 'I'm dreaming of a White Christmas' since I've always pictured Christmas to be full of snow on evergreens and sloping roofs of houses. Cannot blame me, blame the Christmas cards we get in India ;-)

Anyway, I'm back ,after almost a one month break. So much happened in between. I got back to Minneapolis on 19th October and the very next day we got the keys to our own Condo in Downtown Minneapolis :-) Then the remaining days of October was busy spent packing up, teaching a class of 25 at the same place where I taught before I left for India in July & finally moving to our new place on 28th October. From 28th till yesterday, it was just unpacking and days without internet. I must say, I never missed being online, catching up with my friends because I was so busy planning where to place our new furniture, crockery etc in our brand new home! The only thing that was giving me company was F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I love that show! I really wish they ran forever! :)
Fruit Cake

Now, let's get back to the topic, shall we? Well, some of you have baked it at home beofre and I have baked it many many times including last month for a Magazine shoot. That's the best thing to bake during Christmas.Any guesses what that thing could be? No? It's my Christmas Fruit cake, people! Yes, I am giving away a 6 inch Ria-baked Christmas Fruit Cake for ONE lucky reader of mine! Don't forget to make a claim for it because I can honestly say, that's the best Fruit Cake you will ever ever eat! My Amma, a hater of Fruit Cakes claims it to be the best :-) So that's going to be Giveaway no.1 :-)
The Gingerbread Man!

Hmmm, now since it's gonna be Christmas time and we all since atleast some of us love Gingerbread Man, I'm giving away a dozen of  Ria-baked Gingerbread Man, yes with full decor on them to another ONE lucky reader of mine. That's Giveaway no.2 :-)

IPad cover
                                                        (Photo courtesy -Anu Menon)
So a few months back, Anu and I were chatting away on Twitter and as we discussed life and other things, she asked me if she could join me in my monthly giveaways (which I have not been doing for a while!).I was so happy about the offer and I instantly agreed! As you all know, I am a big fan of everything handmade and all things homemade! Anu knew that and therefore offered me an IPad Crochet cover which she stitched to be given away for my dear readers! How cool is that? Very cool! So that's going to be the Giveaway no. 3 :-)

For entering the giveaway :
1. Tell me your best memories of Christmas or even the month of December! Is it your wedding anniversary? Is it your birthday? My Grandmother's birthday was on December 25 th! :) Whatever it is, tell me...don't worry, your chances of winning the above mentioned 3 things does NOT depend on the length of your stories, but definitely it's content :) So write away!

2. Like my page on Facebook  and leave another comment saying so, which gives you an extra chance to win! :-) [ I have to get something cleared out here after reading a comment below.This is just for pure fun, this option! You can totally skip it. I had double thoughts while putting this up but went again just to see how many of you actually do that! If it were for me, I wouldn't like a page just because I want to win a cake or a cookie but only if I really like that page's extension on Facebook. For me, in many cases, I never realised that my favourite blogs had a page on Facebook until they mentioned it on their blogs mostly during giveaways! It did help me at many instances because I get to interact with the author directly over their pages on FB :-)So please decide how you want things to be :-)No hard feelings and no way are you gonna lose your chance to win something I am giving away! I am doing this for you and it will always always always be for you, I am not expecting anything in return :-) This is not a camouflage to get more followers :-)  I did think of taking off this option after reading the comment but decided not to do so because I didn't want to sit back and pretend as if I never wrote a thing like that! I hate pretense! :-)]

3. Now,tell me, what would you really like to win! I have to pick 3 winners and I'm  hoping that it would help me :-)

This giveaway is only for the US residents (rather for an address in US, so you can win it for a cousin, friend or even a pet! :-) This giveaway ends on December 10th.

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