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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Annapoorna: Festive and Everyday Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Self published 2002. Shiva Vishnu Temple, 1232 Arrowhead Ave, Livermore, CA 94550. (925) 449-6255. Donation $15.

The nice thing about vegetarian cookbooks is that you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy them. A desire for healthy dining is all you need. Annapoorna is a compilation of traditional recipes put together by Mukta Goel. The recipes are contributions of the priests, devotees, and visitors to the Shiva Vishnu Temple in Livermore, CA.

The idea came to Goel when she started volunteering at the temple several years ago. She realized that the temple was in need of a kitchen. With donations a kitchen was born. She then got some friends who provided their time to cook. Traditional south Indian fare was served to the devotees. For a change they also included chole (garbanzo bean curry) and whole wheat puffy breads (puri).

Along the way, she was captivated by various prasadam that was brought to the temple by devotees. She became curious about these recipes. “A book began to evolve in my mind,” she said. She requested the disciples, priests, and chefs to share their recipes. Soon there were piles of them—written in Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, and English, by people of all ages.

Then there was the monumental task of translating the recipes. A stunning book cover designed in multi colors was a banner years ago, Goel said. She reworked it with a friend’s help and they adapted it to a standard book size.

Annapoorna is for those who are looking for flavorful recipes to enjoy with friends and family. The book is user-friendly with a simple layout. Recipes are written clearly and directly. Throughout the book Goel has sprinkled adages, which makes for interesting reading. I particularly enjoyed this one: “God comes to the hungry in the form of food,” Mahatma Gandhi.

There is also a glossary of ingredients, techniques for basic preparations, health related tips, and other kitchen tips. Filled with delicacies from appetizers to desserts, this book also presents a complete section on prasadams and exclusive temple dishes. The chef in me yearned to try Mewa Mave Ke Seekh (a combination of paneer cheese, dried fruits, nuts, spices, aromatics, mixed together, skewered and glazed with butter is baked in the oven!).

I have selected the following three recipes from the book. Start off with Dhokla and chutney as appetizers followed by a main-course offering of Malai Kofta accompanied with crusty breads and a bowl of baby greens dressed with vinaigrette and steamed rice. Conclude with microwave peda–fudge balls. This Indian-inspired menu is a guarantee for a successful evening.

By Renu Bubna
1 cup cream of wheat
½ cup of besan
2¼ cup buttermilk
½ tsp. fresh ginger paste
2 fresh green chilli paste
1 tsp. Eno powder
pinch of turmeric
2 tsp. oil (for the mixture)
½ tsp. mustard seeds
½ bunch coriander leaves for garnish
2 tsp. oil for seasoning
1 tsp. salt or to taste

Mix cream of wheat and besan together in a mixing bowl. Stir in buttermilk, ginger and green chilli paste, salt, turmeric, and oil. Mix well. Set the mixture aside for half an hour. In a big pan, bring half an inch of water to boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, add Eno powder to the batter, mix quickly, and pour into the pre-greased and pre-heated dhokla tray. Steam for 6 minutes.

Check dhoklas by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the dhokla, to ensure that a clean toothpick comes out. Cool for 7-8 minutes. Heat two tsp. oil and pop the mustard seeds. Pour over dhokla. When cool, cut dhoklas into cubes and garnish with coriander leaves.

Dhokla can be served with coriander chutney. Serve warm. Serves 6-8 portions.

By Urmila Gupta

1 gallon whole milk
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. besan
1 medium potato
½ tsp. garam masala
½ bunch chopped coriander

15 almonds soaked in water
6 cloves
4 cardamom
1 inch stick of cinnamon
6 black pepper
½ tsp. cumin seeds
cooking oil for frying
1 tsp. khus-khus
2 medium sized yellow onions
1 inch piece chopped ginger
2 green chilli peppers
¼ tsp. turmeric
1½ quarts of half and half
salt to taste

KOFTA: Boil 1 gallon milk. Add lemon juice to split the milk. Strain it in a cheese-cloth. Press the paneer with a heavy weight for half an hour to remove moisture. While still soft, knead it with your hands. Boil potato and mash it. Add besan, salt, coriander, garam masala and mashed potato to paneer and mix well. Make it into log shaped patties. You should get about 40 patties. Fry them on medium heat till golden brown.

GRAVY: Finely chop the onions and fry them in oil, adding finely chopped ginger and green chillies. Remove the skin of soaked almonds. Dry roast all the spices except cumin seeds and then blend them in a blender. Heat a tsp. of oil and add half tsp. of cumin seeds and brown. Add the roasted spices to the cumin seeds. Then add the onion, chilli masala and turmeric. Add half and half and bring to a boil.

Arrange patties in a shallow flat container. Pour a part of the gravy on top. Just before serving, heat it in an oven, without stirring. Add the remaining gravy, garnish with coriander.
Serve hot. Serves 10-12 portions.

By Rashmi Rustagi
1 stick unsalted butter
1 can condensed milk
2 cups powder milk
pistachio powder, saffron and rose water for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a large microwavable dish. Add condensed and powdered milk and mix well. Microwave the mixture on high-power for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave oven and mix well. Microwave again for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let it set until it is cool to touch. Make small lime-sized balls and indent them at the top.

You may sprinkle ground pistachios in the indent for color. You may also drizzle saffron and rose water mixture on top.

Serve at room temperature. Makes 20-25 pedas.