Friday, December 30, 2011

Something new for 2011!


So finally before the year ended I learned something new- sourdough bread! Thanks to daring bakers- I am late in posting this not because I made it late but because with friends visiting town it was hard to get to setting up the post. The bread lasted for about half a day- so I have no pictures either but I do, now, have the mighty sourdough starter. Hopefully I will be able to keep it alive and kicking!

 Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

For more on how to let nature do the work, check here.

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
Directions:
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
Ingredients
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
Ingredients
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
Directions:
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
Ingredients
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
Directions:
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqS3raEGdwk
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPO97R4iO4U
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDoJRCMfclE
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.
7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.
8. Cool on a cooling rack.


Judgement: This bread is quite forgiving, I did make mistakes in few of the steps and despite that the bread was awesome. Too bad I did not make any soup to go with it!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sindhi Majoon for ICC


This month's Indian Cooking Challenge is a Sindhi winter special sweet called Majoon. Vaishali of Ribbons to Pastas shared this wonderful recipe. This event was started by Srivalli of Spice your life.

Interestingly if you google "Majoon", the top search results have something to do with marijuana :D. Majoon is an Arabic word for goodies that contain cannabis!

Ingredients 

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup 2% Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
2tbsp Poppy seeds
1cup Khoya (unsweetened)
1 1/4 cups nuts (Almonds,walnuts, Cashews, Pistachios)
1/4cup Ghee
1tsp Cardamom powder
1/4cup Dry dates (chopped or pulsed)

Method

Bring milk and sugar t boil. Add the poppy seeds, khoya,cardamom powder and dry dates, and boil until the mixture is reduced to half.

Coarsely grind, or mildly pound the nuts and add them to the boiling mixture. Let this mixture cook in low flame stirring in between, add the ghee slowly.

Cook until the mixture seems dry (looks like a brownish milk halwa). It took me about 1 hr from start to finish.


Serving: Take 3-4tbsp of the majoon and heat in microwave oven for 2minutes with 2tsp of milk, serve hot for breakfast.

Judgement: I am not sure I will have it for breakfast but it sure does make for a great nutty dessert! Loved it especially when served piping hot.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Povitica- daring bakers

Posted by Picasa

The temperatures have finally cooled down and I can turn the oven ON....!! Nothing else would even compare to take a shot at a Daring Bakers Challenge.

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I made a quarter batch (in retrospective I should made at least the half batch and frozen some- it was that good!)
Quarter Batch Dough Ingredients (Makes one loaf 1.25 lbs/565 grams)

To activate the Yeast:
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2¼ gm) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Warm Water
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/3½ gm/0.125 oz/½ sachet) Dry Yeast

Dough:
½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
3 Tablespoons (45 ml/43 gm/1½ oz) Sugar
¾ Teaspoon (3¾ ml/9 gm/0.17 oz) Table Salt
1 Large Egg
1 tablespoon (30 ml/30 gm/¼ stick/1 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz/0.62 lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Topping:
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/7 gm/¼ oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

Quarter Batch Filling Ingredients (enough filling for one loaf)
1¾ Cups (420 ml/280 gm/10 oz) Ground English Walnuts
¼ Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
¼ Cup (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk From A Large Egg, Beaten (I omitted the egg)
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/4 oz) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) Cinnamon

Method
To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes
To Make the Dough:
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 3/4 cups of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick.
8. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size. 
To Make the Filling
9. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
10. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
11. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
12. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
13. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
14. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
15. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
16. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
17. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
18. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
19. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
20. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
21. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.
22. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
23. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
24. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.

25. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
26. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of of cold STRONG coffee and sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this. 
27. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
28. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
29. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
30. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
31. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
32. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
33. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
34. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Notes:
I made my dough in the stand mixer (first time using this piece of kitchen equipment- hurray for many more to come!). 
My dough did not rise too well (it was quite chilly inside- I finally put mine in the oven with lights on for about an hour)
I also could not get the dough too thin- this is where I had the hardest time. So the end result was not flaky...

Judgement- ...but it tasted damn good! I will surely make this again, thanks Jenni- this was a wonderful challenge! You can check what other more talented DBers have made here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bring on those beans...


These days I rarely watch any cooking shows at all but I am glad I chanced upon this one- Mad hungry with Lucinda. This particular episode caught my eye because most dishes were vegetarian and the few that were not, could easy be turned into a green meal :D. This recipe has been adapted from that show- hers was almost the bare bones rice and beans while mine has a few bells and whistles.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups black beans, soaked for 8-12hrs
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 bunch scallion, chopped (because I love scallions)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin
2-3 tsp ground roasted cumin powder
2-3 tsp ground coriander powder
red pepper flakes, I use a lot
oil
salt and pepper to taste
water to cook beans

Brown rice- 1 1/2 cups cooked (I did toast them lightly in about 1 tbsp butter and a bay leaf)

Garnish

Lemon wedges and avocado (I did not have any)

Method
Pressure cook beans in about 3 cups of water and some salt
Drain the beans and keep aside
Heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the red pepper flakes and cumin seeds. Roast them for ~30sec or so. Then add the onions, celery and carrots- add the cumin and coriander powder, a dash of salt and pepper. Saute until the veggies are translucent and tender.
Add the beans and saute for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, garnish with some fresh cilantro.

Serve it with some hot lightly salted- bay leaf smelling brown rice! Squeeze some lemon and scoop some avocado on it- and ENJOY!

Judgement: I was worried since it was a dry side dish it might not go well with rice but boy was I wrong! I could not get enough of it :D . This one's a keeper my friends!

A HAPPY DIWALI


A very Happy Diwali!
It is the season of lights, warmth, gifts, peace and love! I wish everyone all the happiness in the world- enjoy what you have been bestowed with and share what you been given with everyone else! 

I knew someone like that- a larger than life personality. I am in denial and shock- a tragic road accident in Haiti ended her life-that is it, just like that..... reminds one of how fleeting life can be

I was not going to make anything then I thought you know why not- she loved to celebrate and share her happiness with her friends. I did not know her that long or that well but that did not matter...

I made thattais and pedas (from store-bought khoya!) this year- 

For the thattais

Ingredients

Rice flour (best if you made this yourself, unfortunately mine was store bought*)- 2.5 cups
Urad dal flour- 0.5 cups
Butter, softened- 25 gms
Salt- as necessary soaked in water
Hing- a pinch soaked in water

Garnish
~1 cup Pottukadalai (I roasted these too lightly)
~ 3-4 tbsp Omam (caraway seeds)
~ 3 -4 tbsp Toasted sesame seeds
My mom also adds some dried grated coconut (I did not)

Oil, for frying
Water, for kneading

Method

1. Roast the rice flour and urad dal flour separately until the raw smell of the flours is gone (just takes a few minutes)
2. Mix the flours, butter, salt water, hing water just until everything is loosely combined- then add the pottukadalai, caraway seeds  and toasted sesame seeds and make a  dough (you will need extra water)

3. Flatten the dough out and cut circles- fry in them in nice hot oil

Ingredients

Store bought khoya ~ 700gm
Sugar 250 gms
Pistachios, walnuts- to your taste (I had chopped them to tiny pieces and used them as garnish)
Gulkand* 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp to mix with rose petals
Dried edible rose petal 1 tbsp
Nutmeg powder, a pinch
ground cardamom- 1 tsp
Rose water- 1-2 tbsp

Method

Microwave the khoya (in a microwave-safe bowl of course) for 2min- remove it and give it a good stir. Repeat this process 2 more times (you will some of it turning brown).

At this point, I took half out into a separate bowl for making gulkand pedas

1. Mix 1/2 cup gulkand and about 100 gms sugar (this gulkand I have is really sweet) with khoya.  I also added some pink color
2. I used oiled moulds to make different shapes- before I pressed the khoya mixture- I first added the garnish (rose petals mixed with 2 tbsp gulkand and the nuts), then pressed the khoya mixture into the moulds. I removed the pedas off the mould in like 5-10 sec- that is it.

For the plain pedas

1. Mix in 150 gm sugar, nutmeg, cardamom and rose water with the khoya.
2. Again before you press them into moulds, add the nuts (I omitted the rose petals for this one) and then press the khoya mixture
3. Few seconds later carefully take them out of the mould

Place the pedas on a greased sheet pan and let it dry for a few hours.

 *: the store bought rice flour is too dry and therefore the dough was quite dry- you could also taste it in these thattais!
*: Learn more about gulkand here, here and here



Monday, October 24, 2011

Have a blank canvas...




Posted by Picasa

I decorated this blank photo frame (made from recycled material) for my patti- it has the news article about her thoughts on independence in DNA India. I have always been proud of my patti! Love you Savi...

PS - do you recognize the pencil shaving?!!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fried rice- a quest

Posted by Picasa


I am constantly churning out fried rice recipes- its like I want to perfect it! Well here is a picture of one- brown rice with broccoli, tofu, carrots, scallions seasoned with low sodium soy sauce, ground roasted cumin and coriander, a pinch nutmeg, some sriracha and sesame oil!

It was heaven, I hope I remember the exact recipe at some point :D
 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Its raining lauki here...



Posted by Picasa


When you too much lauki on hand- this is something you can try.

Ingredients
1 medium sized Lauki, cubed
1 tbsp 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
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
Oil
1 - 2tbsp Rice flour, as a thickening agent, dissolved in about 2-3tbsp of water

Method
Heat the oil, add the seasonings. Once it splatters, add the lauki 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.

You can also use drumstick  and other berries in this recipe. But the all-time favorite is this one here.

Judgement: It tasted great as always- for some reason I thought laukis would turn sweet but thankfully they tasted amazing

PS: A halloween horror story about these good ol' cousins of cucumber. Well take this bit of news with a pinch of salt, especially since its on TOI.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Maxixe- cute little cucumbers!

Brazilian cucumber- a farmer's (Harvard University ) market buy!


Use them as you would in any salad- mine had carrots, sprouts, cilantro and the star MAXIXE with a minimal lemon-olive oil dressing. Oh and by the way don't be scared the spiky looking skin- they are harmless.

You can read all about it here

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jalebis for Indian cooking challenge

Posted by Picasa

This month @ ICC we were challenged with Jalebis. I made them as soon as the challenge was announced- experimented with it for Ganesh Chathurthi. I am not going to post the entire recipe here- I followed  the one here very closely. While it tasted great, it was too thin to form any shape- hence the ugly clawy photograph (but do not be fooled by the looks- they tasted like jalebis, I was quite proud of it :D)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things I have been doing

A plain mirror (the one I had was from Ikea)- decorated with left over wall paper- I love this wall paper and love the fact that I can see some wood through it! I cut out different parts of the wall paper and hot glued it on to the mirror (the back is covered too)


Wall shelves need not be boring- the plain MDF board has been transformed using citron green outdoor paint with Martha Stewart stencil in brown (again outdoor paint). This shelf is to house more plants in the teeny-tiny balcony that we have in our apartment. I did paint one more to hang above my desk (that was painted in teal blue with some flowers as a border)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An afternoon with Clara and Mr.Tiffany

Since I am home these days- my lunch is usually something extremely simple (like 2-minute maggi noodles withe some veg). On those rare occasions when I cook for lunch, it tend to be one-pot meals like this lauki dal or lauki-lentil soup.

Ingredients

1 medium lauki, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup washed toor dal or masoor dal (I used toor)
1/2 can (16oz) whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 green chilli pepper, slit in the middle
1 tbsp ghee/ oil
2 cups water/ veg broth
For tempering

2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp roasted crushed coriander powder
a pinch turmeric

1 tbsp shredded coconut for garnish

Method

In a pressure cooker, heat the ghee- add mustard seeds, once it starts to splatter add cumin, fennel, green chilli peppers- saute these for about 10sec

Add the tomatoes, lauki, ginger, turmeric and crushed coriander seeds- saute for about 4-5 minutes.

Add the dal and saute for another minute or two.

Add 2 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste- pressure cook the whole thing (I let mine go for about 5 whistles); you can do this even without the pressure cooker but it will take longer for the lentil to cook.

Once the pressure is all gone- open the lid, taste it- adjust for seasoning, check if everything is cooked- garnish with cilantro and coconut.

Serve hot with chappatis, rice or even as a soup!

Judgement

I love these multi-functional one pot meals- you eat 'em with rice/ rotis one day and the next day think 'em out and ladle some out in a big bowl- you got yourself some nice warm soup. I loved everything about this dal- a delicious light any-time meal. I enjoyed it while reading Susan Vreeland's Clara and Mr.Tiffany.


Did you know

Bottle gourd or calabash gourd (lauki) actively flowers at night- the nocturnal insects help in pollination

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Reminds me of a cool spring

It has been hot, hot, hot here in Houston. Ever since we landed here, the temperatures have been in the triple digits. Add to that "stay-at-home" all day situtation- you get one cranky little lady (well may be not little but definitely cranky). So to remind me of some cooler weather- here is an easy dessert that combines most of my favorites- strawberries, lavender and whipped cream

Ingredients (adapted from the minimalist's version)

1 cup strawberries
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp vanilla powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lavender- I just crushed it using my mortar and pestle

Method

Hull strawberries, wash them and chop into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Toss with half the sugar, and wait 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they give up their juices.

Place half the strawberries and all the juice in a food processor, and purée. Pour purée back in bowl with the remaining strawberries.

Whip the cream with powdered sugar, crushed lavender and vanilla extract until cream is stiff and holds peaks easily. Fold berries and cream together, and serve immediately.

Judgement

The heat had just subsided (albeit temporarily, may I add) because of a thunderstorm. I mean one spoon of this ever-so simple dessert and I was transported to an English gardens(I have never been to one) filled with roses that are fragrant, grass made greener by the rains and heavenly  smells as the first few drops of cool rain kisses it.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Candy for this month's Daring bakers

Who does not love candy? I certainly do and it is just the perfect challenge to come out of hibernation!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Fruit and Nut chocolate bark

To temper: With tempered chocolate pieces, also called “seeding”

Tempering Ranges:

Fahrenheit
Dark: 113°F-122°F > 80.6°F > 89.6°F

Chocolate is melted and heated until it reaches 45°C / 113°F. Tempered un-melted chocolate is then stirred and melted in until it brings the temperature down to 27°C/80.6°F. It is then put back over heat and brought up to its working temperature of 32°C/30°C/29°C /// 89.6°F/86°F/84.2°F depending on the chocolate you’re using. It is now ready for using in molds, dipping and coating.

Tempering using the seeding method with couverture callets
• Finely chop chocolate if in bar/slab form (about the size of almonds).
• Place about ⅔ of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
• Set aside ⅓ of the chocolate pieces
• Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water)
Tip: Make sure that your bowl fits snuggly into the saucepan so that there’s no chance of steam forming droplets that may fall into your chocolate. If water gets into your chocolate it will seize!
• Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly
• Once it’s melted, keep an eye on the thermometer, as soon as it reaches 45°C / 113°F remove from heat (between 45°C-50°C / 113°F-122°F for dark chocolate)
• Add small amounts of the remaining ⅓ un-melted chocolate (seeds) and stir in to melt
• Continue to add small additions of chocolate until you’ve brought the chocolate down to 27°C/80.6°F (You can bring the dark chocolate down to between 80°F and 82°F)
• Put it back on the double boiler and bring the temperature back up until it reaches its working temperature of the chocolate (milk, dark or white) as seen in the above chart. (32°C/89.6°F for dark, 30°C/86°F for milk and 29°C/84.2°F for white)
• If you still have a few un-melted bits of chocolate, put the bowl back over the simmering water, stirring gently and watching the thermometer constantly.
IMPORTANT: You really need to keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t go over its working temperature
It’s now tempered and ready to use

Directions:
1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper
2. Temper your chocolate using your preferred method
3. Once tempered, spread the chocolate over the parchment paper
4. Sprinkle your ingredients over the chocolate
5. Leave to set
Tip: To help speed up the setting, you can put it in the fridge for about 15-30min. Don’t leave it in the fridge to avoid the chocolate from sweating (water droplets will form on the chocolate)
6. Either break or cut into pieces
7. Store at room temperature in an airtight container

I made chocolate bark with toasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts) and raisins

Citrus Paté de Fruits (Base Recipe)

Recipe created by Jen King and Liz Gutman
Oprah.com | From the October 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes plus overnight
Ingredients:
½ cup (120 ml) Citrus Juice (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
1½ cups (360 ml) Applesauce, plain (no sugar added)
2 teaspoons (10ml/10 g) powdered pectin
2½ cups (600 ml/20oz/560gm) Granulated White Sugar
Zest – use 2 small (lemon or limes), or 1 medium to large citrus (like oranges or tangerines)
Gel or paste food colouring, yellow green or orange depending on the citrus you're using, optional
Directions:
1. Lightly oil (or line with parchment paper) an 8”x8” (20cmx20xm) square pan; set aside.
2. Combine citrus juice and applesauce in a medium, deep saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together the pectin and 1/2 cup sugar, and blend into the lime mixture. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Add remaining sugar and boil, stirring, until mixture reaches 225°F / 107°C (you may need to stir constantly toward the end to prevent burning). Remove from heat and stir in lime zest and colouring (optional).
3. Pour into prepared pan. When slightly cool, sprinkle sugar on top, and allow to set, about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch (25 mm) squares, or use a lightly oiled cutter to make other shapes. Dredge in sugar and dry on a cooling rack overnight. Scraps can be re-melted and reset.
4. Store in a box or paper bag at room temperature for up to two weeks

Judgement:

Loved the soft and chewy citrus candy, the bark mm..not so much (my fault- did not have the time to make truffles this time). But this was an amazing challenge perfect for Texan summer (did not have to turn the oven on!)
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 15, 2011

And I take on my first ever Indian cooking challenge...

Its been 2 months since my last post, isn't it? Our move from Boston to Houston was a long wonderful winding road. We flew to Denver, CO and drove from there to San Diego CA. On our way we did devour some great food. From San Diego the wise guy flew to Boston for some last bits of work while I set sail to SFO and had a great time there- oh so much to eat, so little time!

More on that in a later post- but today read on for my first Indian Cooking Challenge post

The melt-in-your-mouth tirunelveli halwa

Ingredients

Wheat berries- 3/4 cups
Sugar- 1 cup
almonds & walnuts, chopped- 3/4 cup, reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
Ghee- 5 tbsp
cardamom- 1tsp
Pachai karpooram- a pinch
Food color

Method

Soak the wheat berries overnight.
Grind in a blender with about a cup of water. Strain the milk into a bowl. Return the husk to the blender and grind again with water. Strain and repeat the process about 4-5 times.
Note*: Clean the strainer and blender immediately, otherwise you would end up with hard crust
Let the milk stand for about 4-5 hrs. A thick precipitate will deposit on the lower part and the scum will float over the excess water that was added to aid grinding.
Decant the excess water and save the thicker milk portion.
Keep the nuts, cardamom, pachai karpooram and food color ready.
Place sugar with some water in a heavy bottomed pan on fire. Boil this down to a thick syrup 
Note: It should form a very strong thread while pressed and pulled apart between the thumb and forefinger.
Add the milk, nuts, cardamom, karpooram and food color. Stir constantly. The wheat will cook to a transparent mass.
When it is thick add the ghee in small quantities. The ghee will initially float and then mix well with the cooking mass. It should get thicker and harder to stir.
Note: It will resemble a sheet of glass falling in a neat ribbon if dropped from a small height. The gloss will be distinct. 
Turn the stove off. 
Note: Leave the utensil on the stove for sometime. The heat of the stove and the thickness of the utensil aid further thickening of the halwa.
 
source for the notes- http://lata-raja.blogspot.com/2009/11/tirunelveli-halwa.html

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Potluck-Poker-Party

A few weekends ago, we were at a potluck-poker party (yes, a really sweet couple from wise guy's work had this party to celebrate our marriage!). I did my part for the potluck and the wise guy did his for poker (oops, that is a teeny-weeny lie now- he did his part for both the potluck and the poker game!). I rarely talk much and when it comes to parties I become super-calm (except before the party when it looks like a rioted kitchen and a nail biting-me), and super-quite. I love to watch people, listen to conversations around me and gather the most inconsequential pieces of information. I do love food talk, so when someone asks me what I brought for the party- they better be prepared for a long may be even boring monologue. This party was not much different except a big bunch (read six) of kids running around. We had great food- our Japanese friend brought a gorgeous Japanese vegetarian soup, the host had roasted beautiful green nori with olive oil, salt and pepper and even told us how to eat it- just eat it with some rice, she said (you know like crackers with all sorts of good toppings), and beef. An Indian friend had brought rajma and jeera rice. I had made aloo chops (bengali style) inspired by the well known Bong Mom and a ginger cake (adapted from David Lebovitz's book- Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes). We had other gorgeous desserts- some home made, some store bought (of course can't blame them can I? I used to do that too).



Thursday, June 2, 2011

DB- May 2011





The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

The vegan recipe that I used were created by Ashlae of Ladycakes, thanks Ashlae!

Vegan Chocolate Pudding


(http://ladycakesbakes.blogspot.com/)
Ingredients
1 package Mori- Nu soft silken tofu (approximately 12.3 oz.)
1 cup up vegan chocolate chips (approximately 6 oz.)
1 Tablespoon vegan butter (approximately ½ oz.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. In a food processor, blend the tofu until it is creamy and lump-free; keep in food processor and set aside.
  2. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the butter into the chocolate chips until smooth. Once melted, remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour chocolate mixture and vanilla extract into food processor; blend with tofu until combined.
  4. Pour into molds and freeze for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  5. Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don't do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue, caramel, spiced nuts, cocoa nibs) are ready. The cubes need to sit in the fridge to slowly thaw so plating components can be done during that time. They don’t need to be ready before the cubes are rolled in the cocoa powder.
    Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled caramel sauce, and toss spiced almonds and cocoa nibs around for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they've softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements, you'll get creamy and crunchy textures with cool, spicy, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations on your palate.
Notes: Make sure you do not use water-packed tofu, it will not work with this recipe Mori-Nu is available at Whole Foods and on Amazon. If you like an intense chocolate flavor, try using 1 ½ cup chocolate chips (or 9 oz.) instead of 1 cup. Also, make sure you do not instantly pour the hot chocolate into the tofu – it will make it curdle. Vegan Meringue

Ingredients
1 cup water, cold
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoon EnerG egg replacer
1 teaspoon agar-agar powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Directions:
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine ¾ cup water and the egg replacer; beat on highest speed for 6-8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
  2. While the base is mixing, combine the remaining ¼ cup water and agar-agar powder in a saucepan over medium heat; stir constantly, just until the mixture starts to thicken (this should only take1-2 minutes).
  3. Once the base mixture forms stiff peaks, pour in agar-agar mixture, vanilla extract and lemon juice; mix until combined.
  4. Turn off mixer and sift in powdered sugar. Resume mixing on high speed until the stiff peaks return.
  5. Transfer to piping bag and use immediately. 
I did not have  blow torch so I used the broiler setting for just about 5 minutes or so for it to brown (did look spotty, not as elegant as the end result from a blow torch)

Vegan Caramel Drizzle

Ingredients
¼ cup water
1 cup cane sugar
2 Tablespoon vegan butter
¼ cup coconut milk
dash of pure vanilla extract (or molasses)
Directions:
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the water and sugar; stir until just combined then allow the mixture to bubble for 3-4 minutes, or until it is amber in color.
  2. Stir in the vegan butter, coconut milk and vanilla extract; whisk for 1-2 minutes (it should be bubbling during this time).
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 75 minutes before using - for best results, overnight.

Judgement- Loved the pudding (I did not doubt this part at all since I make vegan pudding quite often). This is my first time making caramel- it was not so bad and oh it tasted like a drizzle of heaven. The vegan meringues though- did not like the flavor at all and may be I did  something wrong- it turned out to be this spongy chewy cloth like texture. Although with the vegan pudding, caramel, walnuts- the even the spongy-chewy meringue tasted great. I did not make my own chocolate base (no an iota of time on my hand!) so used store bought fudge (which needed to be finished before I pack the kitchen).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red Lentil- A restaurant review

Warning: I am no professional restaurant reviewer by any measure but I have come to learn "good food" in the past few years. I decided to do this now because I am leaving Cambridge to go to Houston, Texas and this is a tribute to all those foodie joints (good and not-so-good) that I visit often!

This one is yet another fave, an all vegetarian and vegan place in Watertown (now that is the only disadvantage since it is not on any T line)- The Red Lentil. Every dish that I have tried is actaully different from the other- unusual flavor combinations are a big draw (for me anyway). I will surely miss their Nirvana Delight and ooh the gobi manchurian. I also love their entire line of brunch menu (think I can safely brag that between the wise guy, my mom and me- we have tried most of what is on their menu).While their food is great- there are times when I have been frustrated with their wait staff.



In fact this year's Mother's day was celebrated at The Red Lentil. Well so was last year's and ma distinctly remembers because there was big group of people at the restaurant each giving gifts to their mom while me...all I did was take her to Red Lentil.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paruppu thuvaiyal- MLLA 35 entry


My mom is visiting and one of the things I ask her to make every time she visits is some form of paruppu thuvaiyal (a kind of pesto that you eat with rice, similar to chutney except a lot more thicker)

This recipe uses yellow moong dal- skinned and split mung beans that are easy to digest.


Ingredients

1 cup yellow moong dal
1 clove garlic
2 dried red chillies *
a pinch of asaefotida (hing)
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
water, minimal quantity for grinding

Method

Heat oil in a pan. Add the garlic, red chillies, asaefoetida- saute for about 30 seconds. Then add the yellow moong dal and roast till the dal is golden brown.

Cool it down and grind with minimal amount of water.

Serve with hot rice, ghee (clarified butter) and some fried papad!

Judgement

With the garlic and the heat from red chillies, it sort of warmed me up- exactly what I needed after kind of weather we have been put through here in the area. (I guess I cannot complain about it being cold when people down south have lost their lives, homes and livelihoods to the monstrous tornadoes- my hearts go out to them).

I am sending this simple, no-frill drill to MLLA 35 hosted by Smitha of Kanada Cuisine. This event was started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and has been going on for a while now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Four Burgers- a review

Warning: I am no professional restaurant reviewer by any measure but I have come to learn "good food" in the past few years. I decided to do this now because I am leaving Cambridge to go to Houston, Texas and this is a tribute to all those foodie joints (good and not-so-good) that I visit often!



Tucked away in a neat little spot in Central Square, Cambridge (MA) is this great burger joint- Four Burgers. I chanced upon it accidentally on my walk from Harvard square to Central square. There are not too many choices- basically they have an organic vegan black bean burger which is served with either salsa or guacamole (your choice).

So you go in- choose your bun (or not), the burger, toppings and fries if you want any that is (including cheese). The vegan burger in itself tastes really good- I had it with guac while the wise guy had it with salsa. Each of us had a couple of toppings and each of our burgers tasted different (and good!). Now that is a rarity even today- veggie burgers tasting like you want to take another bite out of it.

I remember when I first landed in the US- vegetarian food was pretty much unheard of and even if we did find something, it was usually nothing short of pathetic. On campus there was very limited choice. One of those choices was Taco Bell (well ....we had another name for it!)- most of our daily lunch consisted of a bean burrito or a bean chalupa. You can imagine our plight fresh from the land of good if not great food and we ended up eating ooey-gooey not very good bean burrittos (but hey there were super cheap).

And veggie burgers- I had given up all hope of finding a good one after repeated taste assaults with the King's veggie burger or subway's veggie sandwich on our road trips (they were not terrible and they did fill us up).

But now things are getting better and almost every burger/sandwich place here in Cambridge has at least one veggie burger on their menu (they range from things that taste like a BK veggie burger to fabulous burgers). I am on a mission to identify the best veggie burger-fries combo in town.

The vegan black bean burger and fries from Four Burgers is definitely one of them (though it is more pricier than your average burger joint). You can actually taste all the wonderful flavors coming from the burger itself and any veggies or toppings you might have. The fries- oh I could die eating them sistah, love them!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What can you do in 20 minutes?



Plantains are something that I grew up with. Although, I never liked the ripened version much- my mom or grandma would eventually have to force it down my throat (well, I would eat it myself once they have uttered their few choice words :D). But the raw plantains, now that is a different story...

If you do use bananas and plantains interchangeably- then you would be wrong, because they are different. You can find the differences between these cousins here. The key difference is that plantains have more starch content than their sweet cousin (I read somewhere that you should think of bananas as the dessert wine). I remember my peeps telling me how everyone should have at least one of these herbs in their backyard (that is right, it is an herbaceous plant). My mom would tell us how every part of this plant is useful, it got compared to the kamadhenu (the cow that keeps giving)- you can eat the stem (வாழைத்தண்டு), the flower (வாழைபூ, I never liked this either except when cooked as a paruppu usili), the fruit of course (வாழைபழம்) and you can eat these out of the most organic plate - the leaf (வாழைஇலை). If you have never eaten out of the banana leaf- you are missing out on something divine. I can almost conjure up the image right now- hot food with some ghee (clarified butter) on the banana leaf- what divine smells, nothing else can beat it!

Anyway here is a simple snack recipe with raw plantains

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and grease with some oil (I used canola oil spray)

Mix a teaspoon each of roasted cumin powder, coriander powder, caraway powder, salt, pepper and chilli powder with 3 tbsp coconut oil

Peel and slice two raw plantains (these are huge so adjust the seasonings as you want them) as thinly as possible (make sure to dunk them in a bowl of water until you are ready to use- to prevent it from blackening).

Mix the plantains in the oil mixture and let sit for 5 minutes or even more if you like

Arrange the slices on the prepared sheet tray, pour the left over oil evenly
Keep in oven for about 15 minutes (rotate the pan halfway through). Of course the timing will depend on the thinness of the slices.

Once they are nice and crisp, take it out the oven- let it cool a little (take the pieces out when they are slightly warm) and store them in an airtight container

Judgement- What can you not like about a simple snack like this especially when you think of the alternative heavily salted store bought version (really, so much so that I have stopped buying them). Except my container was not quite air tight :(

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do not underestimate

the creativity of this month's Daring Bakers challenge. By virtue of its simplicity it provides us bakers with a wide-range of opportunity to explore our creative side. Go on over to the daring kitchen site listed below to check out and vote for some amazing concoctions!

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

As for me, I decided to keep it simple- my edible container was a vegan mocha cupcake which I filled with this extremely light and mildly sweet maple mousse.



Vegan maple mousse


Ingredients
1 package (12 oz.) soft silken tofu
¾ cup (14 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup
2 tsp agar-agar
2 tbsp dark brown sugar

Method

Let tofu come to room temperature. Using a food processor, blender, or hand mixer, blend tofu until just smooth.

Sprinkle agar-agar on the maple syrup and let it rest for 10 minutes. Heat maple syrup on the stove to a boil and then let it simmer 5 minutes until the agar-agar has dissolved. Add the sugar and just stir until it dissolves too.

In a food processor, blender, or a large bowl, blend the tofu with the maple syrup until creamy.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove from the fridge and divide among your edible containers.

Vegan Mocha Cupcakes (Source: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Ingredients
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs instant coffee granules

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with paper liners.

Whisk together soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Once milk is curdled, add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract and whatever other extract you’re using to the almond milk and beat until foamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, beating until there are no large lumps. Some small lumps are OK.

Fold coffee granules into batter.

Pour into liners, filling 2/3 of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a rack.

Note:  I am sure I measured some leavening agent wrong or used the wrong kind of fat- but my cupcakes were too moist and therefore crumbling on me. I only could fill a couple for the photograph!

Judgement

If you look beyond the crumbling cupcake, you would taste an amazingly moist, extremely light (left to my own devices I could eat them all in one sitting- give me a few shows of law and order), mocha-ey cupcakes that go very well with the maple mousse (yes, I was apprehensive at first). Thanks Evelyne for this lovely challenge!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sambar and curry


Methi/ Fenugreek, a relatively under-utilized herb that belongs to the Fabaceae family, a family with more famous members such as chick peas, peanuts and alfalfa (the poor methi does not stand a chance now, does it?). Despite having its roots in the Mediterranean region, this herb is widely used in Indian cuisine and I guess this is not really surprising given that India is the largest producer of fenugreek. 

Sources: wiki, spice pages

The recipe for this lovely sambar comes from Shyamala's blog- I did not change much here.  

Ingredients

1/2 cup toor/tuvar dal
Fresh methi (fenugreek greens), leaves and tender stems chopped finely
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1.5 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 4 cups water
2 tsp oil
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp (heapful of homemade powder) sambar powder
1 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Method:

Pressure-cook the tuvar dal 2 cups water with 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Once cooked, mash the dal smooth.
Heat oil in a deep pan and add mustard seeds, cumin and asafoetida powder. Once the mustard seeds have popped, add the sliced onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat till the shallots start to soften.
Add the chopped tomato and let it cook till it begins to turn mushy. Now add the chopped vendhaya keerai (fenugreek greens) and stir till it's well mixed with the contents of the pan. Let it cook till completely wilted.
Pour in tamarind water and bring it to a boil. Add the sambar powder and salt- mix it in.
Let this boil for 10-15 minutes (until the raw sambar powder smell vanishes), then add the cooked dal and the rice flour dissolved in 4-5 tbsp water. Bring the sambar back to the boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for another 5 minutes (check salt and you are DONE).
Sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve hot over plain rice, or better yet curd rice. 
  
  
This recipe is off to Kalyani Herbs & Flowers in my platter event started by PJ

Vendaka (Okra) curry-
Ingredients
1 lb okra
salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, to taste
For tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal (wiki entry here)
pinch asafoetida
1 tbsp coconut oil


Heat the oil in a pan (I used my beautiful cast iron pan- helps a lot). Once hot, add mustard seeds. Once these pop, add the urad dal and asafoetida powder. Let the urad dal brown a little, then add the okra. Let it cook thoroughly- do not add water or close the pan (water is evil when it comes to cooking okra this way). Just a minute or two before it is completely cooked, add the salt and red chilli powder. 
The entire process in a cast iron pot on medium heat took about 15 minutes and the result a non-gooey simple tasting okra. Now this is what I call sada khana (simple comfort food)!


Tip:  Now for a non-gooey okra, wash the okra and pat it dry (this does wonders). Cut the ends off. While cutting okra it also helps to wipe the goo off the knife  every once in a while.


Now if you were at all wondering about my dissipation from the world wide web- here is why!
 
For those of  you who do not know what is going in the picture above- I got married, is what is going on!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sweet potato panna cotta for the daring bakers!




The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookie.

Well I have given up-  I do not even feel an iota of guilt for posting so late these days. I am the "lets-do-everything-last-minute" kind of person- I do it even the most important things- like paperwork for soon-to-expire passport! I tried fighting it- no more because it is simply not who I am! This month's DB challenge was no different- I had everything planned as soon as the challenge was announced but clearly the execution of it left much to be desired! So here goes my version- had fun with it all the way!

Ingredients:
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats (I soaked the oats in 2 cups warm water and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar for 24 hrs and then dried it in the oven using the warm setting, temperature around 170F for almost 7-8hrs)
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup (I used molasses)
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate (dried cranberries)

Directions

Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.

Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).

 This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Sweet Potato Pannacotta, recipe source here

3 tsp agar-agar powder
3 tablespoons water
3 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
5 tbsp dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup vanilla-powdered sugar

Method

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the agar over the water and let stand until softened, about 3 minutes. In a pan on medium heat, combine the sweet potatoes with the almond milk, evaporated milk, sugar and salt. Microwave the agar mixture at high power until melted, then whisk it into the sweet potato mixture and let the panna cotta mixture cool.

Lightly rub six ramekins with vegetable oil. Pour the panna cotta mixture into the ramekins and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Serve it cranberry sauce, recipe source from Elise of Simply recipes fame-I adpated it to add some nutmeg and finish off with arrowroot powder

Judgement

The cookies tasted amazing- very chewy and light. The panna cotta was hardly sweet (the sweet potatoes were not as sweet as I thought, should have cooked them with some sugar!). Served with the cranberry sauce and crumbled cookies on top,we had forgotten that the pannacotta was not sweet at all!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fancy-schmancy chocolate cake?


Well it tastes like a fancy-schmancy cake but it was definitely a breeze to make it especially if you own a food processor. Nigella Lawson, if I have to sum up what I feel in one sentence- love her recipes, hate her eyes-rolling, up-close camera tricks cooking show!

Ingredients 

Recipe source from Food network

Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup barley flour + whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 stick Vegan butter + 1/2 stick soft unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup yogurt + 1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped candied orange peel (homemade)

Syrup
1 tsp cocoa 
1/2 cup water 
1/2 cup sugar
1-ounce dark chocolate (from a thick bar if possible), cut into splinters of varying thickness, for garnish

Equipment: 2-pound loaf tin (approximately 9 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 3 inches deep), lined with greased foil, pressed into the corners and with some overhang at the top.

Method

Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, putting in a baking sheet as you do so.

Put the flour, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt into the processor and process until a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Turn it off and stir in the chocolate chips and candied orange peel.

Scrape and pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and put into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle (a toothpick will pretty well come out clean).

Not long before the cake is due out of the oven (when it has had about 45 to 50 minutes), put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes (need a fairly thick syrup)

Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack, still in the tin, and pierce here and there with a cake tester. Pour the syrup over the cake.

Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sprinkle the chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.

Judgement

Don't be like me- impatient. Firstly I added the garnish well before the cake cooled down so we had a sauce over a sauce kind of an effect (which was fine, it tasted awesome) and secondly I even tried to cut the cake well before it had a chance to cool and ended up mostly with big crumbs- half way through cutting the warm cake, I realized I was being impatient and managed to salvage the rest of the cake. I made it for Super Bowl and it went quicker than I expected it to- I guess that says something eh? This gooey chocolate cake is off to Maison Cupcakes Forever Nigella #2 Seduced by chocolate.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I love nothing more

than twisting the traditional. I find myself constantly experimenting (I guess it makes sense because I am a scientist!) with food. And the one thing I love to make over are the idlis- my favorite dish in the whole world. When I am feeling low or when I am supremely exhilarated- the one that calms me down: idli-sambar. When I go home on vacation and on occasion when ma is too busy to make breakfast- dad hops on his hero winner (now this deserves a post in itself), gets to his favorite food joint nearby (either saravana bhavan or vasantha bhavan) and gets me sooda-sooda (hot-hot) idli-medhu vadai-sambar combination.

Ingredients

2 cups idli rice
1 cup brown rice
a handful methi seeds
1 cup urad dal
1/2 cup whole urad dal with skin
1/2 cup green gram sprouts
2 tbsp wheat germ
2 tbsp ground flax seeds

Method

Soak the rice, dal and methi seeds separately (you don't have to soak the sprouts) for about 4-5 hrs
(next time on-I am going to soak it longer)

Grind the dals first along with sprouts, methi seeds, ground flax seeds and wheat germ

Then grind the rice- mix the ground dal and rice together

Add a pinch of salt and let it ferment for 12-24 hrs depending on the temperature (I leave it in the oven)

To make the idlis, you will need an idli stand. Make sure the dough is not too runny (you will need runny dough for crispy dosas)- the dough for idlis is more like the pancake batter or may be even a bit thicker too.

Oil the idli pan (I use sesame oil)- add about a spatula-ful of the dough. Pressure cook it for about 12-14 minutes and you are done!

Serve with pretty much anything you like- the wise guy had made some really YUMMY thakkali thokku (tomato chutney/pickle)- so kept making idlis to polish off the thokku!

Judgement
In my book- one can never go wrong with idlis and the fact that it allows so much room for experimentation is something that gets me everytime. I am sending this off to Twist the traditional event started and hosted by Satya of My Innovative Kitchen.