Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kadamba sadham- truly delicious


I did not realize there were this many different cuisines in India- the RCI event amazes me, the regions the hosts come with! So when Priya announced Kongunadu as this month's theme I knew there was something to be learned there. Kongunadu comes from kongu meaning nectar (honey) and the region's history dates back to the 8th century AD. You can read all about it here, here or even Priya's blog.
After going through a minor episode of "dad is sick back home", I made this dish for dinner the night of Sarawati puja/Ayudha puja/ the ninth day of navratri and trust me even in simplicity this dish rose to the occasion (believe me this was the only thing I made- did not even make a payasam/sweet dish for the puja).  I must thank Ramki of One page cookbooks for this recipe.

Ingredients


1 cup rice
1 cup tuvar dal
1 cup coconut milk
Pulp extracted from lemon sized ball of tamarind
2 cups chopped vegetables, I used green tuvar (frozen, need not chop), cauliflower, potatoes, red peppers and beans
3-4 green chilli peppers (adjust this for heat) 
salt and pepper to taste
Oil
Mustard, hing, jeera/cumin seeds for tempering


Method


In a pressure cooker, heat oil and add the mustard, jeera and hing. 
Once the seeds splatter, add the chopped vegetables and saute them with some turmeric, salt and pepper for about 3-4 minutes.
Wash the rice and dal, add them to the pot.
Add 2 cups of water, tamarind pulp and the coconut milk (total liquid should be around 4 cups). 
Close the pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles.
Serve warm with pickle and yogurt.

 Judgement

It was very flavorful and really delicious. In fact I liked it better than the regular kichdis. Try it, I am sure you will love it too!

Puff pastry- a challenge indeed!



This challenge brought back a flood of memories, memories of McRennet or any bakery that would serve tasty vegetable puffs. I loved those and since my mom knew this she would always come home with a handful of these for an evening snack whenever she could. The bliss of biting into a warm puff pastry filled with spicy vegetable mixture is something inexplicable, you should taste it yourself to know the feeling! So when this month we were asked to tackle puff pastry as a part of the Daring Baker's Challenge, I unwittingly thought- how cool is that, I could make  my own puffs! Little did I realize that my first attempt at this challenege would result in a horrific half-baked dough in a pool of molten butter, yikes!!! "How am I ever going to have a go at it again?" I muttered to myself and for the next 30min or so could not shake myself out of this horror story. But thankfully with some talking from the WISE GUY and my own sobriety being brought back by a big bowl of icecream- I decided to go for it just one more time and let me tell you- though there were some minor debacles, I was able to complete the challenge and biting into the warm puffs (though I did not fill it with anything, you can imagine- I just got out of the "I-cannot-even-make-puff pastry" mode!) brought back all those wonderful memories. I knew immediately that from now on making puff pastry would become a part of me (I know it is going to take a few tries before I can even claim success, but hey that is life!)

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry DoughFrom: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

 Ingredients
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter plus extra flour for dusting work surface 

Mixing the Dough: Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them. Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade.

The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.) Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.  

Incorporating the Butter: Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently.

Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps. Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.  

Making the Turns: Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.)

With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!). With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn. 

Chilling the Dough: If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns. The total number of turns needed is six.

If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, it is advisable to let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chunks or break through the dough...you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. To keep the sides straight and at 90-degree corners cut the edges of the paton with a bench scraper to.

Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.
Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vol-au-vents).

Forming and Baking the Vol-au-Vents 
Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vol-au-vent or 4 4” vol-au-vent
You will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe above)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice
Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vol-au-vents than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage.
(See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting. (This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vol-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vol-au-vents, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vol-au-vents, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles.

Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vol-au-vents, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vol-au-vents, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for your vol-au-vents, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise).

If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.Refrigerate the assembled vol-au-vents on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vol-au-vents, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.Fill and serve.

For additional rise on the larger-sized vol-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vol-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vol-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

Shaped, unbaked vol-au-vents can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Apricot-mascarpone filling/topping

Since my Vols-au-vent did not come out great, I just topped the smaller rounds (the caps) with some of this filling (the amount given here is enough for 4 such caps)

3 tbsp mascarpone
3 tbsp lingonberry jam (Ikea rocks!)
3 tbsp chopped apricots
2 tbsp powdered sugar
a slash of kewra essence

Mix all of them together until smooth. Top the puffs and enjoy!


PS I am having computer issues so photos have to wait

Thursday, September 10, 2009

daily buying

Check this article in NYtimes, நம்ம ஊரு தான் பா பெஷ்ட், தினமும் காய் வாங்கி சமைக்கணும். But I guess even in India the trend is changing, even my mom now buys veggies in bulk and stores it in the fridge!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heirloom recipes


When Jai and Bee of the famed Jugalbandi announced Heirloom as this month's theme for monthly mingle, I was excited. Well not because we have recipes that have been passed down generations in our family but because we have a tradition that involves food and that is close to all our hearts. On the days when it rained in Chennai (that used be one of the many excuses), my ma or grandma would make some lovely வெங்காய வேத்தகுழம்பு and some spicy உறுலைகிழங்கு கறி (Onion vetthakuzhambu with spicy dry potato curry). The kuzhambu would then be mixed with rice and heavenly smelling நல்லெண்ணை (Sesame oil) in a big bowl. We would gather around the bowl (did not use a dining table back then) extending our hands with pleasure. My grandma (or ma) would keep the small ball of rice in our palms and top it with some of the spicy curry. I remember how hard it was to make my sister and I eat any food (we were really poor eaters) but this trick of feeding us worked every time! What is interesting is that my mom also remembers her chithi (wife of her father's brother) doing the same thing (my patti claims that while this was all she knew to cook, she did make it incredibly well and her food were always timely!).

The recipe is quite simple, you cannot go terribly wrong with it.

Ingredients
1 onion, sliced
1 1/2 tsp sambar powder
1 lemon-sized tamarind ball, soaked in hot water and the pulp extracted

Seasoning
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1/2 to 1 tsp Methi seeds
1 tbsp Chana dal
Oil
1 - 2tbsp Rice flour, as a thickening agent, dissolved in about 2-3tbsp of water

Heat the oil, add the seasonings. Once it splatters, add the onions and saute it.
Add sambar powder and saute till the raw smell is gone
Add the tamarind water and cook for about 10 min
Add the rice flour mixture and cook for about 5min or until the kuzhambu is thick

See I told you, it was easy and yes it is what I call comfort food!


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