Besan Ladoo in microwave

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Yesterday was the Bengali New Year… “Poila Baishak”, that is, first day of the month “Boishak”. Of course India being a multi cultural, multilingual land we could not suffice with just a financial year and a calendar year, we had to have a separate Bengali calendar year (and there are separate regional calendars !!) which begins in mid april, Baishakh being the first month. There are separate names for all the months. The first day of the new year, like every other occasion, is celebrated with good food, new clothes, cultural events and paying respect to elders and sharing greetings by calling up friends and families. This day is also celebrated in other parts of India with different names and associated history. For further info on this you might have to refer to Wiki.

In West Bengal Poila Boishakh is also associated with “Haal Khata”, a festival celebrated mainly by shopkeepers and is marked by closing of the old ledgers, settling old debts and opening a new ledger. Jewellery shops would give you steep discounts on making charges of gold ornaments. Boxes of sweets and snacks would be distributed as a token of goodwill between the trader and the customers.
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This year ours was a quiet affair, involving weekend house cleaning and chores, sharing greetings with friends and family – not on WhatsApp or facebook but actually calling them up and chatting with them. That took most of the morning. My MIL cooked us a “Doi Mach” for lunch, to keep it simple and to prep our digestive system for the upcoming dinner invite to one of our cousin’s place. No Bengali occasion is ever complete without sweets and non veg so we had plenty of that and concluded the night with small doses of ‘Unienzyme’ and ‘Gelusil’.
Hangover from last night resulted in a no breakfast mode for us and a simple lunch. Thanks to my MIL I did not have to bother much about food and got time to write a post for you all.
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Todays post is a Microwave recipe for besan laddoo that was pending since I last made them during Dusshera 2014. These laddoos were one of the biggest (food related) projects done till date :-). That year, while living in New Britain, CT, I got associated with the Bengali community of Stamford, CT and being one of the volunteers I had agreed to make some 200 laddoos, ultimately making 250 so that I could share the extras with my friends and keep some for myself too. Since it was supposed to be for the Durga Puja I was not comfortable using my regular utensils and hence decided to do it in Microwave. I made it in small batches and it took me 3-4 days to complete them. Since these laddoos store well if kept in an airtight container, time was not a bother and I had plenty to spare then. I would make 3-4 batches of the laddoo mixture in the microwave and keep them aside to cool. As time permitted I would form them into balls while watching a movie, or listening to music or just thinking and contemplating on life. Many of my friends would wonder at the effort I was putting in but honestly it was fun to do. By the second day I actually had a rhythm going on and on completion was amazed myself at the achievement.
I had clicked some good pics out of it and should have posted this long time back. Better late than never. I found this microwave recipe much easier than the traditional style of roasting the besan on flame.
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Ingredients:
  • Ladoo Besan/Coarse chickpea flour – 3 cups. You can also use the regular besan or chickpea flour as well. The only difference will be in the texture.
  • Ghee – 1 1/4 cup approx. Adjust accordingly.
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Sugar (fine or powdered) – 1 cup to 1.25 cups or to taste
  • Chopped nuts of your preference – optional, you can add them into the ladoo mixture before forming the balls or you may garnish the ladoos on top with chopped nuts. I did not use any.

Method:

  • Take a microwave safe bowl and add ghee to it. No need to cover it.
  • Microwave it on high for 1 min.
  • Add the sifted ladoo besan and mix it well with a spatula or a big spoon so that there are no lumps.
  • Microwave it on high (uncovered) as follows:
    • 2 mins, then take out and mix everything well.
    • 1 min, again take out and mix well
    • 1 min, take out add 1 tsp of water to it and mix everything well. This step is supposed to add on to the grainy texture of the ladoos.
    • 1 min, take out and mix well.
    • 1 min, take out and mix well.
    • 30 sec, take out and mix well. Besan should have a light brownish (or deep golden) color due to the roasting. If making in large quantities and feel the besan has not been roasted well enough, you might have to add another minute of half.
  • Keep aside to let it cool a little bit.
  • Once the roasted besan has cooled off a little bit, add sugar, cardamom powder. Add sugar gradually, do a taste test in case you need to adjust the quantity according to your preference. Mix everything well and keep aside for it to cool even further.
  • Once cool to touch, grease your hands with a little bit of ghee, scoop out a small portion of the mixture and try to form a ball out of it. If it is crumbles and cannot hold the structure then add some more ghee and try making ladoos again.
  • Once done store them in airtight containers and they will store well for quite some time.

 

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Shubho Mahalaya and a Kalakand recipe (in Microwave)

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My city, like all others, is always buzzing with activity, with people and their busy lives, but this time of the year it is at its peak. This is the festive season, season to celebrate, to rebond with friends and families, to share smiles and exchange furtive glances with your special one. It is the time when everything else is forgotten and forgiven… everything other than love and happiness. Mahalaya brings about the final countdown towards 10 days of maddening glee. Hands filled with bags of bargained and non bargained items, bellies filled with food which is a must after hours of shopping, minds filled with ticking off items from the to do lists while adding some more to it, and hearts filled with content. ‘Pujo ashchey…’

My city, the city of joy, is not always filled with joy. Most often you see it struggling with the nuances of daily lives, with the shackles of its non progressive approach to simple things and competing feebly and, may I add, complacently with the other fast growing cities. The city which was once the capital of this country, which was once and still is the abode of great men and women, the centre for literature, art and culture, now appears to be saddled by its own legacy. Do not get me wrong,  I am completely in awe with this place. I came here unwillingly, fell in love with it inspite of all my prejudices and then lived here for 10 years. So I am already a victim of its irresistible charm. I know there is something so special here that will touch your heart and make you yearn for it when you are far far away. May be that is why when I look at other cities and countries, I realise that there will never be a place like Kolkata, but on the other hand I also wish it was so much more… So much potential and yet the stagnancy here drives all us Kolkata lovers away from it. Bengal has always and will continue following the “Cholchey – Cholbey” policy irrespective of who is in power. There was a time when I would defend this city with all reasonings, and with hope. Sitting miles and miles and mountains and oceans apart I am confused at the mixed emotions this city arises in me – to just give up and move on with my life or to hold on to that blind faith that someday something good will happen out of it.

Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee
Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee

However this isn’t why I am here. Today I wanted to convey my best wishes for the coming days. “Mahalaya” which in Hindu mythology means Homecoming of the Goddess Durga and the dawn of this day marks the ceremony of ‘Chakshudanam’ – literally meaning giving eyes to the Goddess (the artists, who make the idols, paint the eyes of the Goddess on this auspicious day). And Durga puja, being the main festival of Bengal,  is now in its final stages of preparations. I can see it all infront of my eyes… the roads all lighted up, the streets scurrying with innumerable people with their last minute puja shopping before they start pandal hopping, bamboo barricades being set up for the visitors, long queues for big and small restaurants, no place to walk in almost any part of the city.

But amidst all this I can not resist writing about the irony of this day and the bizarre situation of the city with the recent events. While on one hand we are all set to wroship the epitome of feminine power and strength, there is a section of the city (if not whole) which is hurting. Hurting against injustice, struggling against the inaction against female attrocities, fighting against a failing system. While one half of the city is getting together to celebrate, the other half is hoping that their rage will bring some change, will stir the conscience of a dying world, will empower people to have the right to walk and talk freely without being questioned about the lateness of the hour or the length of the dress. As we embark upon the celebratory mood, let us not forget this other half, let us keep reminding ourselves that we have to fight against the disappearing humanity. It might be a long time before we reach that goal, but lets hope and act for a better tomorrow!

So Shubho Mahalaya and may you all have a safe and delightful time!

I have a quick recipe for you – ‘Kalakand’ in microwave. This is an Indian sweet/dessert usually made with milk. Inspite of the hustle bustle of the Puja days, this sweet will take just 18 mins of your time and 2 main ingredients. Although, if in India, you can easily buy it from the local sweet shop wouldn’t it be nice to surprise your guests with this homemade version? This recipe is taken from Showmethecurry

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Ingredients:

  • Ricotta cheese – 15 oz
  • Condensed Milk – 14 oz
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional, but preferred)
  • Chopped nuts – for garnishing, I used chopped pistachios. (optional)

Method:

  • Pour the condensed milk into a microwave safe bowl, preferably a square or rectangular one. That way it becomes easy to slice the sweets.
  • Add the ricotta cheese to it and mix it well witha  spoon/ whisk.
  • Cook it in the microwave as follows:
    • 5 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix everything well.
    • 3 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – cross covered / partially covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
  • Once done, sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Level out the mixture evenly by pressing it with a spatula or a flat spoon.
  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts for garnishing and press it lightly onto the surface of the prepared sweet.
  • Cover it and allow it to cool down and set a couple of hours. You may set it in the refrigerator (if in a rush) for an hour but I avoided it as I did not want it to harden too much.
  • Once set, take a knife and cut into the desired shape – squares / rectangles / diamonds.

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Chicken Dum Biryani

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This post is specially for my brother who is trying his hand in cooking for the last couple of months. And every time I call up I find him cooking chicken. Earlier I would have been impressed but as they say “I ain’t dumb no longer”. (Sorry Bro, its my blog and I get to say whatever I feel like.) Basically the point I am trying to make is that chicken is probably one of the easiest and a no-fail thing to cook. All the basic ingredients with some twist here and there and it always comes out good. So I was thinking maybe he was taking the easy way out. And then he surprises me by making some authentic Bengali fish preparations that even I have never tried. And that knocked me down… well at least the pics did! So I told him to try something from my blog … what kind of a food blogger would I be if my own brother does not refer to it once in a while. On his request of Chicken Dum Biryani recipe here comes today’s post.

I already have a post on chicken biryani (Pakki) (see here), but that was a long time back when I had first started cooking, clicking and blogging. Since then I feel I have come a long way and hence the need for a newer version of the recipe was in my mind for a long time. More so because now I know that there is no one right method of making biryani. Wikipedia shows an impressive list of the types biryani (see here), but that is a little too overwhelming for me. For now I will stick to the types I have tried.

Kachchi Biryani – Here the raw chicken, marinated with spices is cooked with parboiled rice on Dum (sealed air tight condition) over low heat. You could either do this on stove top or in the oven.

Pakki Biryani – Here the chicken and rice both are cooked to 90% and then layered and cooked on Dum (sealed air tight condition) over low heat. You could either do this on stove top or in the oven.

Irrespective of which method you decide to cook the ingredients remain the same. This recipe is the kachchi biryani style.

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Ingredients: Chicken to rice ratio is usually 2:1. Whole /freshly ground spices are preferrable, but most of the times I end up using the store bought Shan’s Biryani Masala and whole cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

For Chicken:

  • Chicken 1 kg
  • Yogurt – 3/4 cup
  • Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Green chillies, chopped – 7-8 or to taste
  • Onions, thinly sliced – 2 large onions
  • Whole peppercorns – 4-6
  • Shah Jeera/Caraway seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1 tsp or to taste (adjust with the proportion of green chillies added)
  • Whole garam masala / spices
    • Green cardamom – 3-4
    • Black cardamom – 1
    • Cinnamon sticks – 2 one inch sticks
    • Cloves – 6
    • Nutmeg (Jayfal) – 1
    • Mace (Javitri) – 2-3 (depending on the size)
  • Lemon juice – 1 lemon
  • Oil / Ghee / Clarified Butter – 3-4 tbsp + as required for frying onions
  • Coriander leaves, chopped (Save some for assembling) – 1/2 cup (I usually skip this)
  • Mint / Pudina leaves, chopped (Save some for assembling) – 1/2 cup (I usually skip this)
  • Salt – to taste

For Rice:

  • Long grain Basmati Rice – 500 gms
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Whole Garam Masala:
    • Green cardamom – 2
    • Cinnamon sticks – 1 inch stick
    • Cloves – 2
  • Whole peppercorns – 2-3
  • Shah Jeera/Caraway seeds – 1 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil / Ghee / Clarified Butter – 1 tbsp
  • Water – as required

You can also use Mace and Nutmeg along with the whole spices, but I usually skip that.

For assembling the Biryani:

  • Onions, thinly sliced – 2 large
  • Potatoes – 3 medium sized
  • Oil / Ghee / Clarified Butter – as required for frying onions and for assembly.
  • Food color (optional) – I always skip this.
  • Saffron soaked milk (optional) – 1 tsp saffron added to 1/2 cup. I usually skip this.

For Dum: Chapati dough or foil paper

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Method:

Stove-top method:

  • Heat a pan with sufficient oil and fry the thinly sliced onions till they are nice brown in color. Take care not to burn them. You can fry all the onions (mentioned for chicken and assembling) together and then divide them into equal halves, one for marinating chicken and one for the assembly.
  • Cut the peeled potatoes in halves and sprinkle some salt and garam masala. Lightly fry them till it gets a light golden color. Drain and keep it aside. These will be cooked completely along with the biryani.
  • Grind the spices mentioned for chicken – Green & Black Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Mace, Nutmeg, Shah Jeera, Peppercorns.
  • Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned for chicken and keep it in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or more.
  • Wash and soak the rice in sufficient water for atleast 30 minutes before cooking.
  • In a big pan add sufficient water (for cooking rice) and put on boil.
  • Take a clean cotton cloth and a put the spices mentioned for rice (Whole Garam Masala, pepper corns, Mace & Nutmeg,  if using ) and tie it to make a small bundle. I usually add the whole spices directly to water. However if done this way you will get the flavor of the spices and can remove it if you don’t like to bite into the whole spices.
  • Add the bay leaf and the spice bundle along with salt and oil into the boiling water.
  • Next add the drained rice to the water and give it a light mix. Let it come to a boil. Once the rice has come to one full boil it will be 50% cooked. Turn off the stove and drain the parboiled rice. At this stage you can remove the bundle of spices. Do not throw away the drained water from the cooked rice as we will be using a portion of it later.
  • Take a heavy bottom pan for assembling the biryani, put it on high heat and add 1-2 tbsp of oil or ghee to it.
  • Add the chicken with its marination to the pan, spread evenly and let it fry on high for a couple of minutes, then lower the flame to medium.
  • Add the fried potatoes.
  • Layer half of the parboiled rice on top of the chicken layer and spread evenly.
  • Sprinkle some of the fried onions saved for assembly (from step 1) and a few drops of ghee.
  • Add little (maybe 1/8th cup) of the drained water (from cooking rice) to it. If using saffron milk add it in place of the water.
  • Add the remaining rice and spread evenly.
  • Top it with the remaining fried onions, a couple of drops of ghee, chopped coriander and mint  leaves saved for garnishing.
  • Again add little (approx. 1/8th cup) of the drained water (from cooking rice) to it. If using saffron milk add it in place of the water.
  • Place the lid of the pan and seal it with the chapati dough. Alternatively. Seal the pan with a foil paper and then place the lid over it. The chapati dough works better.
  • Lower the flame to low and let it cook for 45 minutes approx. Then turn off the flame and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the hardened dough with a knife and carefully open the lid.
  • Check if the rice is tender. Gently insert a spatula or a wooden flat ladle at the edge of the vessel and lift up the chicken from the bottom of the pan. Do it along the edges of the pan to lightly mix the biryani. Do not over mix the whole thing.
  • One way of checking the doneness of the biryani is by checking the potatoes. Usually everything will be well cooked by now. If for some reasons it is still not done, place a flat heavy bottomed non-stick pan on heat, once hot, lower the flame and place the biryani pan on top of it, cover it with the lid and let it cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Serve it with raita and salad.

Oven method:

To cook the biryani in oven, assemble the whole thing as described above in an oven proof pan. Cover it tightly with a foil. Cook it for 45 – 50 minutes in a preheated oven at 350F. Once done, mix gently.

Note: The process may appear to be a little overwhelming but as with all kinds of cooking, repeated practicing is the only way to go. The process was a little lengthy to write down and I was getting lost in between, so dear readers, I apologise for any vagueness or confusion. Do get back to me if you think I need to explain it better.

The pics were taken a while back and am using it for this post.

Nan Khatai / Indian Eggless Cookies

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Last time it snowed this heavily (at the beginning of this year) I remember taking out my baking gear, kneading a dough and whipping up a bunch of cookies. What is it with winter that we crave for warmth in silly things like a cup of hot chocolate or a plate of cookies or croissant, warm and fresh out from the oven. And no … the store bought ones cannot give that balmy feel. What is winter if your home does not fill up with the aroma of freshly baked goods. While there is nothing like curling up on the couch, snuggling happily under the comforts of a soft plush throw flicking through the pages of a gripping thriller, it is equally rewarding to bake up something sweet or savory for the cold weather. And well who can say no to a little respite from the chill outside as you open the oven door to check on the progress.

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Now the  year has almost come to an end and the first heavy snowfall of this winter inspired a baking spree yet once again. This time I thought of making NanKhatai from Arundhati’s blog. I had already tried this recipe before and it was such a super success that I did not bother looking for an alternate recipe.

For those who are hearing this name for the first time and wondering what on earth it could be – well its another name for Indian egg less cookies, primarily made with clarified butter called ghee (or butter). But they have an Iranian/Persian origin as I concluded from some research on the web. To know more read this article.

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As a child we would get these cookies/biscuits from the bakery man who would come to our doorstep with bread and baked goods. They were always special and less accessible than the usual Marie or ParleG biscuits. As the article rightly says – The soft crumbly nankhatai brings back many a fond memory! To be able to make it at the drop of a hat gives a lot of joy to me and brings it all back home. Sharing this wonderful and super easy recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • All Purpose Flour/Maida – 1 cup
  • Gram Flour Besan – 1/2 cup
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp
  • Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Butter/Ghee – 100 gms or 7 tbsp
  • Powdered Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Milk – 1-2 tbsp. as required
  • Chopped nuts for garnishing, I used chopped cashews and pistachios

Note – The recipe suggests butter or ghee but strongly recommends using ghee. However  I made these using butter.

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Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or grease it with some butter/ghee.
  • Seive All Purpose Flour, Gram flour, Baking powder, Baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  • Add cardamom powder to it.
  • In a separate bowl beat the softened butter or ghee and sugar together.
  • Next add the flour mixture and knead it into a dough. At this stage, if you need, add little milk at a time to help in the kneading process. I added 1-2 tbsp but you can adjust the amount as required.
  • Once the dough is done make small balls and flatten them a little with your palms.Top them with chopped nuts for garnishing and press them a little.
  • Place the cookies onto the lined baking sheet, a little apart from each other.
  • Bake them at 350F for 12-15 minutes or till done. Oven timings may vary. The recipe suggests 18-20 minutes, but mine were done in 12 minutes. Test the ‘doneness’ by inserting a toothpick till it comes out clean.
  • Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Always remember that cookies continue to cook for a while even when out of oven, so prevent over-baking.

Sooji/Rava Dhokla

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A pending post, yet once again, from before I disappeared for more than a month. Not that I was doing anything significant. I was busy… just busy with something or the other and then came all the festivities and celebrations and of course the main reason – I was playing games on my iPad. Games which are silly but addictive like Candy Crush. And that doesn’t mean I had not been cooking. Infact I have cooked and clicked a lot in these few weeks, just never got around to write about them. And then yesterday when B left for a week long office trip and the lives on the Candy Crush game had expired and would not be active for 2-3 days (because of the date manipulations that I did … oh I really dont want to get into e) I realized I had blog which needed reviving badly. So here I am.. almost about to delete the games from the iPad and I find this draft lying unfinished from one afternoon. Here it goes.

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Dhokla is a snack from the Western parts of India, mainly Gujarat. It is usually made from fermented batter of rice and pulses, but we the Gen X folks have a quick and easy version for everything which does not take long hours of fermentation. My recipe here is made of Sooji/ Semolina/ Cream of wheat and I use fruit salt/ENO , though I have read that baking salt can also be used which is something that I still have to try out. Usually a dhokla steamer/stand comes very handy but I have a makeshift arrangement (explained below) for steaming the dhoklas that I have now got a hang of. Also you can make it in a microwave though I still have to try that out. Dhoklas are great for serving with evening tea or for breakfast and I usually serve it with a coconut chutney or a mint-coroander-tamarind chutney.

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Ingredients:

  • Sooji / Semolina – 1 cup
  • Ajwain / Carom Seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Yougurt, well beaten – 1/2 cup
  • Ginger – 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp or to taste
  • Green Chillies – 2 or to taste, finely chopped
  • Water – 1/2 cup approx. or as required
  • Oil / Spray Oil
  • Eno fruit salt – 1 tsp

For Seasoning:

  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Sesame seeds or Cumin Seeds (optional) – 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves, roughly chopped – handful

For Garnishing: optional

  • Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
  • Coconut flakes or grated coconut

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Method:

  • Combine sooji, ajwain and oil in a mixing bowl till they are well mixed and there are no lumps.
  • In a separate bowl beat the yogurt well, add ginger, turmeric powder, salt and green chillies and mix well.
  • Mix the yogurt mixture with the sooji mixture and till everything is well mixed.
  • Gradually add sufficient water to make a thick batter (like idli batter). Let the batter rest for 20 mins.
  • Meanwhile prepare the dhokla stand by oiling the plates lightly. I do not have a dhokla stand so here is my makeshift arranegement. I use a steel tiffin box and spray oil the base and a normal pot with a lid where my tiffin box fits nicely. I place the lid of the steel tiffin box in the boiling water (top side facing up) and then place the box with the dhokla batter on top of the lid uncovered. You can use any plate or bowl instead of the lid and then place the steel box on top of it. Instead of the pot you can also use  a tall pressure cooker without the whistle.
  • Fill the steamer or pressure cooker or the pot with 1 to 1 1/2inch of water and Bring it to a boil.
  • Once the water comes to a boil add eno to the batter and mix well. Immediately pour the batter into the stands / tiffin box
  • Place the stand inside the steamer / pressure cooker /pot and cover the lid and steam for 12-15 mins approx. Test the ‘doneness’ by inserting a toothpick till it comes out clean.
  • Once done remove the stands or the tiffin box and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
  • Meanwhile prepare the seasoning by heat 1 tbsp of oil and tempering it with curry leaves, mustard and cumin seeds.
  • Taking a knife gently loosen up the edges of the dhokla and take the whole thing out on a plate.
  • Pour the seasoning on top of it and garnish with chooped coriander leaves and grated coconut.
  • Cut it into square pieces and serve it with any chutney of your choice. I use a coconut chutney or a mint-coroander-tamarind chutney.