Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spring onion and carom seed (ajwain/omam) chapaties

I like making chapaties with spring onions because you get their lovely delicate flavour and you can still have a romantic evening without worrying about allium breath. Not that I had a romantic evening when I made these yesterday – I was by myself because Pete’s in Scotland on work… or so he says. Personally I think it’s because he wanted to take the new love of his life – a Range Rover Sport Supercharged – on a long journey, hoping to find a Porsche or Ferrari en route that would be willing to take him on. Not that I was bothered. I mean, if you had a choice between spring onion chapaties and a road trip in a supercharged Range Rover, which would you go for, huh? The spring onion chapaties, right? Right?
*sighhhhhhhhhhhhhh* Still - the chapaties are very yummy. Just not as exciting as the road trip.

Recipe for: Spring onion and carom seed (ajwain/omam) chapaties
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Ingredients:

3 cups wholewheat flour
5-6 spring onions, green and white parts chopped fine
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1/2 tsp Kitchen King or other garam masala
1 tsp carom seeds/ajwain/omam
Milk as required
Salt to taste (optional)

Method:

1. Put the flour, garam masala and ajwain/carom seeds along with salt to taste in a large bowl and mix well.
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Then add the chopped spring onions and stir them in.
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2. Make a well in the centre and add milk, a little at a time.
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3. Stir the milk into the flour mix until it comes together, then knead into a pliable but fairly stiff dough.
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4. Pinch off lemon-sized pieces of dough and roll them into chapaties, using more flour to dust the chapaties and stop them sticking.
5. Cook the chapaties one by one on a tava, spraying each side with Pam, occasionally pressing down lightly with a spatula to let them acquire golden brown spots.
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6. Keep warm in a cloth-lined tin and serve hot with dal and any curry.
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RECIPE: SPRING ONION AND AJWAIN/CAROM SEED/OMAM CHAPATIES

Ingredients:
3 cups wholewheat flour
5-6 spring onions, green and white parts chopped fine
1/2 tsp Kitchen King or other garam masala
1 tsp carom seeds/ajwain/omam
Milk as required
Salt to taste (optional)

Method:
1. Put the flour, garam masala and ajwain/carom seeds along with salt to taste in a large bowl and mix well.
Then add the chopped spring onions and stir them in.
2. Make a well in the centre and add milk, a little at a time.
3. Stir the milk into the flour mix until it comes together, then knead into a pliable but fairly stiff dough.
4. Pinch off lemon-sized pieces of dough and roll them into chapaties, using more flour to dust the chapaties and stop them sticking.
5. Cook the chapaties one by one on a tava, spraying each side with Pam, occasionally pressing down lightly with a spatula to let them acquire golden brown spots.
6. Keep warm in a cloth-lined tin and serve hot with dal and any curry.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Arachuvitta vengaya sambar - Version 2 (onion sambar with ground coconut masala)

This variation on the classic arachuvitta vengaya sambar, that I posted way back when, came about thanks indirectly to my cousin Chitra, who is not only a fun person but also a really good cook. She’s in Seattle now on holiday and I deeply regret that I did not get the opportunity to invite myself over for a meal at her daughter’s place while I was there – mainly because I had to leave pretty much as she arrived, and there was no time.

I still vividly remember the chole she had made when we were in Madras – this is going back well over 10 years – which was hands down the best I’ve ever had, EVER. I haven’t had the opportunity of pigging out on her food in years now, and she can only have got better and better.

Anyway, the other day when I was Skyping with my mother, she mentioned Chitra's variation on arachuvitta sambar, so of course I had to try it out rightaway. It came out absolutely spectacular, and I kid you not, I was more than happy to eat it morning noon and night – with plain rice, with curd rice, with dosas, with idlis, with Greek yogurt... it was the star turn every single time. Needless to say, the sambar didn’t even last three days – and I was the only one eating it! If there was anybody else to share it with, I’d have had to make TWO bucketsful!

Note: If you can get the little Indian sambar onions or shallots, use those. I think they’re far more flavourful than regular onions – especially if you’re going to the trouble of making this arachuvitta sambar.

And for my fellow Tamils... this literally IS "arachuvitta vengaya sambar" :-)

Recipe for: Arachuvitta vengaya sambar - Version 2
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Ingredients:

1 cup tuvar/toor dal/thuvaram paruppu, to make 2 cups well cooked and mashed dal
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2 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 5-6 cups water OR lime-sized ball of tamarind, pulp extracted to make 5-6 cups tamarind water
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1/4 cup green beans sliced
1/4 cup fresh peas
10-12 sambar onions or 1 medium onion sliced
1/4 cup capsicum, cut in 1/2" pieces

Ground masala 1
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1 tsp oil
5-6 cloves garlic
10-15 sambar onions (preferably), to make 1/4 cup sliced
2 small tomatoes, cut into pieces

Ground masala 2
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1 tsp oil
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp kadala paruppu/chana dal
5-6 dried red chillies (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 tbsp fresh coconut (pieces or grated)
For tempering
1 tsp oil
1 htsp mustard seeds
a few fresh or frozen curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
3-4 tbsp coriander leaves chopped, for garnish

Method:

1.  Heat 1 tsp oil and add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder and asafoetida powder.
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Let the mustard seeds pop, then add the green beans, peas, sambar onions and capsicum, sauteing for 3-4 minutes.
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Pour in the tamarind water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer till the vegetables are cooked - 10 minutes or so.
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2. While the vegetables are cooking, make the tempering. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan and add the garlic, sliced onions and tomatoes.
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Cook till the onions are soft and the tomatoes are breaking down. Remove from the heat. Once they are cool, grind them to a smooth paste. Reserve.
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3. To make Ground Masala 2, heat a tsp of oil and add the ingredients, stir frying till the red chillies turn a darker shade and the dal and coriander seeds are aromatic and turn colour. If you are using pieces of coconut rather than grated, fry them for a little bit longer, but make sure not to burn any of the ingredients.
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Remove from the heat and let cool, then grind to a smooth paste using a few tbsp of warm water as required. Reserve.
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4. Once the vegetables are cooked, stir the tomato-onion paste into the tamarind water and let it boil for 2 minutes.
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5. Now stir in the mashed cooked dal, making sure there are no lumps.
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6. After a couple more minutes, add the ground coconut masala
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and salt to taste, then bring the sambar back to a gentle simmer. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes longer, till the contents are well homogenised.
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7. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve hot with rice and any dry vegetable curry, or with dosas and idlis for an extra-special meal.
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RECIPE: ARACHUVITTA VENGAYA SAMBAR - VERSION 2

Ingredients:

1 cup tuvar/toor dal/thuvaram paruppu, to make 2 cups well cooked and mashed dal
2 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 5-6 cups water OR lime-sized ball of tamarind, pulp extracted to make 5-6 cups tamarind water
1/4 cup green beans sliced into 1" lengths
1/4 cup fresh peas
10-12 sambar onions or 1 medium onion sliced
1/4 cup capsicum, cut in 1/2" pieces
Ground masala 1
1 tsp oil
5-6 cloves garlic
10-15 sambar onions (preferably), to make 1/4 cup sliced
2 small tomatoes, cut into pieces
Ground masala 2
1 tsp oil
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp kadala paruppu/chana dal
5-6 dried red chillies (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
3-4 tbsp fresh coconut (pieces or grated)
For tempering
1 tsp oil
1 htsp mustard seeds
a few fresh or frozen curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
3-4 tbsp coriander leaves chopped, for garnish

Method:

1.  Heat 1 tsp oil and add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric powder and asafoetida powder. Let the mustard seeds pop, then add the green beans, peas, sambar onions and capsicum, sauteing for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the tamarind water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer till the vegetables are cooked - 10 minutes or so.
2. While the vegetables are cooking, make the tempering. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan and add the garlic, sliced onions and tomatoes. Cook till the onions are soft and the tomatoes are breaking down. Remove from the heat. Once they are cool, grind them to a smooth paste. Reserve.
3. To make Ground Masala 2, heat a tsp of oil and add the ingredients, stir frying till the red chillies turn a darker shade and the dal and coriander seeds are aromatic and turn colour. If you are using pieces of coconut rather than grated, fry them for a little bit longer, but make sure not to burn any of the ingredients. Remove from the heat and let cool, then grind to a smooth paste using a few tbsp of warm water as required. Reserve.
4. Once the vegetables are cooked, stir the tomato-onion paste into the tamarind water and let it boil for 2 minutes.
5. Now stir in the mashed cooked dal, making sure there are no lumps.
6. After a couple more minutes, add the ground coconut masala and salt to taste, then bring the sambar back to a gentle simmer. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes longer, till the contents are well homogenised.
7. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve hot with rice and any dry vegetable curry, or with dosas and idlis for an extra-special meal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stuffed green peppers with nutty rice

While vegetarian food is not hard to find in most pubs, hotels etc, the choice is woefully limited – usually pasta of some kind, vegetarian chili, bean burger, sometimes a vegetable curry or Mediterranean-veg lasagna chock full of gross aubergines/eggplant and zucchini (because, you know, they’re Mediterranean vegetables and apparently no other veggies are known to ever be used in Mediterranean cuisine). Some places offer two vegetarian options, if you’re lucky. But usually it’s just one of the above, and vegetarians have to like it or lump it.

I should be glad that there’s at least SOMETHING non-meaty and non-fishy to eat in Western restaurants, and I suppose I am... but I still can’t help wishing that their chefs would show just a little imagination for vegetarians. Which is why I like a little pub in Wem (Pete’s hometown), called the Old Post Office (Pete’s home-away-from), which is owned and run by Pete’s business partner Guy, and a couple of his friends. The pub is called the Old Post Office because before it was converted to a pub, it used to be the old post office premises before they moved lock stock and barrel to the new post office premises – well, why did you think the pub’s name is what it is?

Anyway, I like the pub for all sorts of reasons – one, the younger crowd (the noisy, binge drinking, annoying kind) stay away because it doesn’t offer them much in the way of a “hep” ambience. Two, the pub plays good music on an excellent sound system (which Pete set up). Three, the d├ęcor is homely (I especially love the squashy-soft sofas from whose hug it’s difficult to get out) but with an exotic touch in the way of beautiful sculptures and paintings and wall-hangings which Guy brought back from his trips to Africa. The effect is casual and comfortable.

And now for the fourth and most important reason - the food. The pub offers a carvery every Sunday, with at least two different choices of meat, which Pete loves. The Sunday carvery has had very good reviews in the local newspapers, because the servings and accompaniments are generous – and all freshly cooked that day, nothing from frozen. I would be happy to eat just the accompaniments that are available – roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, cabbage, peas, cauliflower or broccoli cheese, roast parsnips, carrots, leeks, stuffing balls, Yorkshire puddings - a veritable feast!

But I get a special entree just for me as the only vegetarian who goes there for Sunday lunch. The two lady chefs make it a point to try out a new recipe  for me, even though – or perhaps especially because – vegetarian food is not their comfort zone. It’s not even as if I’m a guinea pig… apparently they try out their new recipes during the week on the regulars (the pub makes it a point to provide sandwiches and other finger food on the house, in the evening), asking them for feedback. And then, on a Sunday, the recipe makes its formal debut – just for me (or any other vegetarian, assuming any comes along. It hasn’t happened yet, they say.)

Since I know that there won’t be any aubergine in anything (the staff all know of my loathing for this gross slimy-when-cooked vegetable), I’m always delighted to try whatever they've made – and so far, every single thing has been a hit. It's really nice of them to take the trouble to make anything, just for one person, especially when they've got their hands full catering for all the regular guests.

One time it was peppers stuffed with a really nice rice mixture, and since I had peppers at home last Sunday (when Pete and Bex were having a Sunday lunch at home), I decided to make my own main course and share the accompaniments (called “trimmings”) with my husband and stepdaughter for our family meal. Pete served everything in a giant Yorkshire pudding - yummy!
Recipe for: Stuffed green peppers with nutty rice
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Ingredients:

2 green peppers (capsicum/bell pepper)
1/4 cup paneer, diced into 1/2 cm cubes
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1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 green chilli, sliced into thin rings
4 tbsp shredded methi leaves (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coriander leaves
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1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp mixed nuts (peanuts, cashewnuts, pecans), chopped
2 tsp raisins or sultanas
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Slice off the tops of the peppers and carefully remove the seeds and pith. Make sure the peppers can remain upright; even up the bottoms if required so that they sit flat. Reserve the tops, don't throw them away.
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2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, paneer and chopped nuts. Stir fry till the nuts and the paneer are pale golden brown.
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3. Add the coriander and methi leaves and fry till they wilt.
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4. Add the sultanas/raisins.
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5. Now mix in the rice, garam masala, black pepper powder and salt to taste. Heat this stuffing thoroughly, then turn the heat off and let it cool.
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6. Spoon the filling into the prepared peppers, pressing down with the back of the spoon to get as much of the stuffing in as possible,
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then put the tops of the peppers back on.
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7. Place the stuffed peppers on a baking tray and spray them with Pam on the outside, or brush them with a little oil. Bake in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes or so, or till the peppers are a soft and wrinkled. Don't overcook them.
8. Serve the peppers hot as a main course with a selection of vegetables, and vegetarian gravy.
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RECIPE: STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS WITH NUTTY RICE

Ingredients:

2 green peppers (capsicum/bell pepper)
1/4 cup paneer, diced into 1/2 cm cubes
1 cup cooked basmati rice
1 green chilli, sliced into thin rings
4 tbsp shredded methi leaves (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coriander leaves
1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp mixed nuts (peanuts, cashewnuts, pecans), chopped
2 tsp raisins or sultanas
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Slice off the tops of the peppers and carefully remove the seeds and pith. Make sure the peppers can remain upright; even up the bottoms if required so that they sit flat. Reserve the tops, don't throw them away.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chillies, paneer and chopped nuts. Stir fry till the nuts and the paneer are pale golden brown.
3. Add the coriander and methi leaves and fry till they wilt.
4. Add the sultanas/raisins.
5. Now mix in the rice, garam masala, black pepper powder and salt to taste. Heat this stuffing thoroughly, then turn the heat off and let it cool.
6. Spoon the filling into the prepared peppers, pressing down with the back of the spoon to get as much of the stuffing in as possible, then put the tops of the peppers back on.
7. Place the stuffed peppers on a baking tray and spray them with Pam on the outside, or brush them with a little oil. Bake in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes or so, or till the peppers are a soft and wrinkled. Don't overcook them.
8. Serve the peppers hot as a main course with a selection of vegetables, and vegetarian gravy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pineapple rava (semolina) kesari

The most common South Indian item made with rava or semolina is upma. Upma is not my first choice of breakfast or tiffin items, as I might have mentioned before. I don’t hate it, it’s just not my first choice. If I do have it at home, I like it plain, without anything added to jazz it up - like onions or tomatoes or ginger or any other vegetables – but with sugar sprinkled on top, or on the side – I’m not fussy (oh, the irony).

But when it comes to rava kesari, I have no objections at all. A friend who knows of my tepid feelings towards upma once commented that rava kesari is just sweet upma. I’m not certain now, but I think she might have been trying to put me off my serving of kesari – too bad for her it didn’t work. There was no sharing involved from my side, I can tell you.

When I first read about pineapple kesari, a great big light bulb seemed to go off in my head, illuminating every last cobweb in there – now WHY hadn’t the idea of pineapple kesari occurred to me? Adding one of my favourite fruits to a sweet that I liked even “plain” – how perfectly delicious!

And so it was – perfectly delicious.

Note: I have to add that my kesari was a bit on the dry side (ok by me) because I skimped on the ghee – well, slightly skimped. If you, on the other hand, weigh in on the skimpy side of the scales, by all means add another generous tablespoon of the good stuff. Your pineapple kesari will not suffer for it, I assure you.

Recipe for:
Pineapple rava  (cream of wheat) kesari

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Ingredients:


1/2 cup rava (semolina)
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1/4 tsp saffron strands
4 tbsp warm milk
1/2 cup hot milk
1/4 cup crushed/chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
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1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
4-5 cashews, broken in pieces
1 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp raisins or mixed dried berries
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Method:


1. Add saffron to 4 tbsp warm milk and set aside to soak.
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2. Mix the sugar, pineapple and water together and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave it for 3-4 minutes while you get the rava ready.
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3. Melt the ghee in a small pan and add the cashews and raisins/berries.
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Fry on medium heat till the cashews turn golden brown and the raisins/berries puff up. Remove from pan and reserve.
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4. Toast the rava (semolina) on low heat in the same pan till it turns a darker shade and becomes aromatic.
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5. Now carefully pour the boiling pineapple mixture over the toasted rava, stirring briskly to avoid lumps forming.
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6. Stir in the hot milk as well. Cook the rava for 2-3 minutes longer, then add the ghee-fried cashews and raisins/berries. Serve hot.
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RECIPE: PINEAPPLE RAVA (SEMOLINA) KESARI

Ingredients:
1/2 cup rava (semolina)
1/4 tsp saffron strands
4 tbsp warm milk
1/2 cup hot milk
1/4 cup crushed/chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
4-5 cashews, broken in pieces
1 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp raisins or mixed dried berries


Method:
1. Add saffron to 4 tbsp warm milk and set aside to soak.
2. Mix the sugar, pineapple and water together and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave it for 3-4 minutes while you get the rava ready.
3. Melt the ghee in a small pan and add the cashews and raisins/berries. Fry on medium heat till the cashews turn golden brown and the raisins/berries puff up. Remove from pan and reserve.
4. Toast the rava (semolina) on low heat in the same pan till it turns a darker shade and becomes aromatic.
5. Now carefully pour the boiling pineapple mixture over the toasted rava, stirring briskly to avoid lumps forming.
6. Stir in the hot milk as well. Cook the rava for 2-3 minutes longer, then add the ghee-fried cashews and raisins/berries. Serve hot.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Alphonso mango milkshake

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Ok, I’m just boasting because I had Alphonso mangoes to spare (because they were too squishily ripe to eat, really, by the time I got to the last two or three.) If you don’t have Alphonsos, don’t fret, you can still make this recipe. Just use any really ripe mangoes, although preferably the kind that aren’t stringy. Meanwhile, I’m going to continue calling this recipe “Alphonso mango milkshake”, because yeah, I’m still boasting. Those Alphonso mangoes are just SO gorgeous!

Anyway, I like my home-made mango milkshakes (or smoothies – what’s the difference, if any?), Alphonso or otherwise, to be on the liquidy side rather than thick; or if not, I like them to be whizzed with plenty of ice, like frappes.

Sometimes I combine the two styles. I don’t have a name for this hybrid, mainly because I haven’t found a way to combine “frappe” and “shake” to make anything meaningful or catchy, no matter which way around I try it. Could “shakeapp” mean anything to you, apart from sounding vaguely like something that might be downloaded onto your iPhone or Android?

Okay - remember, if you come across the term on either appliance, the copyright belongs to ME and if I’m not acknowledged as the creator, I shall sue for millions! Yes, MILLIONS (of £££s)! You heard it here first, Steve Jobs.

Yeah, that threat should really “shake” ol’ Steve “app”.

HAHAHAHAHA.

*koff koff*

Recipe for: Alphonso mango milkshake
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Ingredients:

2 ripe alphonso mangoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup vanilla icecream
1-2 cups cold milk (as required)
A couple of drops of vanilla extract OR rosewater OR 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
Sugar if required
Ice cubes or crushed ice as required

Method:

1. Put the mangoes, vanilla icecream, 1 cup milk, sugar to taste and ice-cubes/crushed ice in a blender.
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Blitz them till they are liquidised.
2. Blend in more milk or crushed ice as required to make the milkshake the consistency you like.
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Blend in the vanilla extract, rosewater or cardamom powder, if using.
3. Serve the milkshake immediately in tall glasses.
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RECIPE: ALPHONSO MANGO MILKSHAKE

Ingredients:
2 ripe alphonso mangoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup vanilla icecream
1-2 cups cold milk (as required)
A couple of drops of vanilla extract OR rosewater OR 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
Sugar if required
Ice cubes or crushed ice as required

Method:
1. Put the mangoes, vanilla icecream, 1 cup milk, sugar to taste and ice-cubes/crushed ice in a blender. Blitz them till they are liquidised.
2. Blend in more milk or crushed ice as required to make the milkshake the consistency you like. Blend in the vanilla extract, rosewater or cardamom powder, if using.
3. Serve the milkshake immediately in tall glasses.