Monday, August 10, 2009

Fig- Walnut- Brie Canapes

I absolutely love having friends over any time of the day or night. I dont like to stand on ceremony however and I completely prefer an informal sort of scene where everyone grabs a drink and conversation and traffic flow seamlessly from room to room... and spills outside if its a beautiful day.
And non-fussy food fits perfectly in that scheme of things. Take these Fig-Walnut-Brie Canapes for example. Simple ingredients, perfect fusion of tastes. And done in 30 minutes.
The sweet plump fig, the silky smooth mouth-feel of the salty brie, the crisp crunch of the puff pastry and the snap of the toasted walnuts.

Imagine yourself outside enjoying the sunset with a couple of these canapes and a glass of chilled white.
Soul-satisfying. And just perfect.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Please, pretty peach

Is there anything called Costcoholics Anonymous? No? There should be. I'd so be there everyday. And I certainly know a few others who'd sit right next to me.
What is it about warehouse stores that gets to the Indian in you? You know, the one that's constantly looking for sales, deals, a few cents "savings" and FREE SAMPLES. Oh lets not forget the free samples.
I've heard of Indians on deputation going to Costco for "lunch"... I suppose when you have to live on a tight budget, you could eat 3 nuts, a shmear of dip, a cake crumb, a piece of cheese so tiny you could accidently inhale on the way to your mouth and a sip of zero-calorie, zero-cholesterol, zero trans fat you-just-have-to-buy-this-if-you-want-to-look-cool bottled water and call it lunch.
Does a family of three really need 24 apples, 17 Scotch-brite scrubbing pads, 43 toilet rolls, 4 pounds of grapes, 2 gallons of milk, 3 dozen eggs and half a side of a cow?
Not unless you are part of some scientific experiment. Do we all come back loaded though? Of course!
So last week I came back with 12 huge peaches. The first two days, after dinner I heard "Oh peaches!!". As the days wore on, it changed to "Oh peaaa...cheese". The big and small people were circumventing the fruit tray for the cheese tray.
You know how your cheeks start to sink in to your face as you get older?? Well...nobody told me that if you keep peaches around for more than a week, it's like looking into a mirror. And who needs that reminder?
I had to do something with them. So I came up with this tea cake with peach puree.
The cakes are perfumed with subtle peach flavor. Pistachios add a beautiful crunch and the demerara sugar takes it just over the top.

Note: I made individual 4" cakes but you could just use a 8" cake pan.

Peach and pistachio tea cake
flour- 1 cup
baking soda-1/2 tsp
baking powder-1/2 tsp
cinnamon- 1/2 tsp
ginger - 1/4 tsp
unsalted butter -1/4 cup
sugar-3/4 cup
peach puree - 1 cup
Pistachios- 1/4 cup
Demerara sugar- 2 tblsp
salt- a pinch

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Whisk the flour and next three ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar very well. Add the egg and mix till incorporated. On low speed, add about half a cup of the flour mixture, then the peach puree, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and mix just until well combined. Add the ginger. Pour into the prepared molds. Top with the pistachios and sugar and bake for about 35 minutes or till done.

When the cake is done let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to finish cooling. When cool cut into wedges and serve topped with whipped cream, peaches or peach preserve.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers bake Haloed Mallows

I tend to think of Indians of snackophiles. We pretty much graze throughout the day.
One of my best memories of childhood is sitting in the kitchen with my mom and sister, watching mom make these wonderful savory and sweet things...it would take the better part of a day and we would just sit there and chatter away. All the heavy issues in the world... you know, like music, boys, clothes and food got discussed in that little kitchen. We would sneak little bits of dough and batter and dried fruit when she wasnt looking. At least we thought she wasnt looking but of course she had eyes in the back of her head.

She was into baking and would come out with variations of cookies and cakes. You have to understand though, there werent many resources she could consult or varied ingredients she could experiment with, at that time and place but that didnt quite stop her. She loved making cookies and oh man! she absolutely loved snacking on them. And still does.
So this post is for her. For my mom who gave all three of us a childhood to cherish and cookie dough to sneak. Thanks Amma!

As for this month's challenge, unfortunately I wasnt very impressed with the results.
I made the Milanos, halving the recipe. I followed the recipe exactly for one batch and flavored the other with Key-Lime extract. It looked like the taste test team (read guinea pigs...) preferred the Key-Lime ones. Still, on the whole the cookie didnt work for me.
In my opinion the Mallows also really weren't worth all that trouble. The shortbread base was quite dry and could have done with a bit more flavor. Having said that, I should also say that am glad to have had the chance to make marshmallows again. It had been a while.
So will I bookmark these recipes? Umm, nah.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chettinad Chicken Pepper Fry

Here's a question: Does chicken, beef or seafood taste better in India? To me, the answer is most definitely yes.
I've tried free range chicken, poussins, and fryers. Ive noticed that chickens here, whichever the variety, cook very quickly and seem to be mostly made up of water judging by the amount of water they release. Also if you make it Indian-style, the masala you spent so much time, frying, grinding, sniffing at and standing over tenderly just doesnt seem to get into the chicken.
Whats the point then if the flavor is all outside?You might as well not bother with the chicken. Just scoop the masala straight from the stove into your mouth and chomp some chicken after it.
But not if you slow-cook it. Then it becomes meltingly tender, oozing with flavor and character.
I now get my chicken from the halal store...all nicely cut up and ready to cook. No mess, no fuss. Is there any truth to the premise that Halal chicken tastes better? Unfortunately, I dont see any difference. What I like is that its all cut up for you.
As for cooking it, I have to say that J is the man when it comes to Indian non-veg dishes. And our friends know it. The response when they hear his kerala style beef fry is on the menu verges somewhere near the intersection of giddiness and ecstasy. (You know who you are.hmmph)
We wanted something different for dinner today so we made chettinad chicken pepper fry.
It was a collaborative effort. I bought the chicken from the store and J made it.
Hey! why mess with a good thing?
The dish itself brings good memories of a restaurant in Chennai- a regular haunt for many of us. The chicken is redolent of pepper, spice and all things nice... It looks like a million bucks and tastes like more.
And we think it attained a higher level of deliciousness because we used the tomatoes from our garden. Of course we do.
The recipe was adapted from a couple of books and a website, so here's our version...
Chettinad Chicken Pepper Fry
chicken- 1 (cut into small pieces)
Vegetable oil- 2 tbsp
Garlic- 2 cloves
Ginger- 1 inch piece
Onions - 2 diced fine
Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
Chilli powder- 1 tsp
Coriander powder- 1 tsp
Crushed black peppercorns - 1 1/2 tbsp.
Tomatoes (peeled and diced)- 3/4 cup
White vinegar- 2 tbsp
Salt- as needed
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Marinate the chicken pieces with half the chilli, coriander and turmeric powders.
Place a heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Heat the oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger till golden brown.
Lower the heat to medium and add all the powders and the peppercorns and saute till the raw smell disappears, about 4 minutes .
Add the tomatoes and salt and saute till the tomatoes cook, about 5 minutes. At this point the masala should become so well integrated that it forms a ball in the pan. Add the vinegar.
Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat them thoroughly with the masala.
Lower the heat to medium low, cover the vessel, and let it cook for about 30 minutes. The chicken will release water so there should be no need to add more. Check occasionally and add water if needed.
In the meantime, hard-boil an egg.
When the chicken is almost dry, remove from the fire and serve hot. Garnish with the boiled egg and coriander leaves. Serve with fragrant basmati rice or rotis/paratas.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bread- Part 2 - Sticky Pistachio Rolls

In my previous post I mentioned making beignets using the enriched dough recipe from the book Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. The Sticky Pecan Rolls sounded really tempting and I had some enriched dough left over from the batch. I substituted pistachios for the pecans. I also made the topping with olive oil instead of butter just to keep it a little bit more heart-healthy...

I am happy to report it came out beautiful. Golden brown and yeasty with the caramel topping and the pistachios, it was just the perfect after-school/work snack!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beignets! Who doesnt love fried dough

I love bread. Yup, I love bread. Whats not to love! Soft yeasty slightly sour pillows slathered with either savory or sweet spreads. Crisp and crunchy on the outside, soft, meltingly soft on the inside. And the smell of bread baking puts all my senses into overdrive.
I kept reading that it wasnt too difficult to make bread at home so I went to the library and picked out Bread Bakers Apprentice. The first time I tried it, It came out perfect. Gloriously soft and yeasty.
It didnt even get to the table. I pulled it out from the oven and placed it on the counter. J said "lets taste" so I made a little dipping sauce with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper and we ripped into the warm boule.
Guess what? We stood there and finished the whole thing!
I thought I had a winner though it involved quite a few steps and a whole day! Unfortunately the second time I made it, it fell totally flat. All that effort and no reward?!
So I kept checking for something new that would give me consistent results everytime. And I found it! Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. Is the title catchy or what?
I love the book and it makes it so easy to make bread with just a little planning. I've tried the recipes out and it comes out perfect everytime!
I wanted to try out the enriched dough section and just loved the idea of making sticky pecan rolls and beignets. I tried the beignets first and it was just perfect! I filled it with blackberry and strawberry preserves. Dusted with a little powdered sugar and a cup of coffee, its a perfect beginning to a weekend.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Colorado omelette and problem solved for a day

I am sure everyone agrees that making breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday becomes a chore sometimes. Its not even the cooking that gets to me... Its the WHAT to make that drives me up the wall.
And it doesnt help that my husband loves a cooked breakfast. Really though, I am NOT about to oblige everyday. Sorry honey!
The regular cereal, oatmeal, bread and eggs can get pretty boring pretty fast. But eggs are the easiest cooked breakfast that I can think of and I usually fall back on the different variations- scrambled, full-boiled, half-boiled and sunny-side up. But last weekend J wanted something different and suggested a Colorado omelette.
And I obliged.
Colorado omelette
Eggs- 4
Diced Onion - 1/4 cup
Diced garlic-2
Diced red bell pepper- 1/4 cup
Diced cooked chicken sausage- 1/4 cup
Diced tomatoes- 1/4 cup
Jalapeno- 1 diced
Shredded cheddar- 1/2 cup
oil- 4 tsp
Place a saute pan on medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil and add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute till translucent. Remove and reserve. Add a teaspoon of oil and saute the sausage till browned. Remove and add to the onion- bell pepper mixture.
Beat the eggs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to low. Add a teaspoon of oil in the pan. Pour half the egg mixture in the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Sprinkle half the onion- bell pepper- sausage mixture. Add half the diced tomatoes. Sprinkle half the cheddar cheese. Cover and cook till done. Fold in half and plate the omelette. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Repeat with the remaining egg.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ginger-lime mango mousse tartlette

Have you seen some of the food blogs these days? the pictures and the creativity put the so-called professionals to shame. These women and men who go about the daily business of living...doing the things they HAVE to do have found the perfect outlet to unleash their creativity. There are no boundaries, no egos to soothe and no red-tape. Just their brilliant minds and ingredients anyone can afford (for the most part) and their little kitchens.
I cant begin to list all the blogs that are on my favorites...but I have to say that among the people who inspire me the most are Helen and Aran. Women after my own heart. I LOVE what they do with everyday ingredients...And lets not go into the pictures on their blogs. Unbearable really! They make even the simplest dessert look stunning!
After seeing so many petite tartelettes on their sites, I figured why not...
Let me tell you... the ginger and lime add a wonderful dimension to this mousse. Combined with the flaky puff pastry, its just perfect to share with your partner after a light summer lunch.

Ginger-lime_mango mousse tartelette
puff pastry rectangle- 6 inch
grated ginger - 1 tsp
lime zest - 1/2 tsp
whipped cream - 1/2 cup
mango pudding- 1 cup (recipe follows)

To make the Mango Pudding
Hot water- 1 cup
Evaporated milk - 1 cup
Unflavored gelatin-3 packets
Mango Puree- 1 1/2 cups
Sugar- 1/3 cup
Put the gelatin in a glass bowl and soften with the hot water. Let stand for about 4 minutes. Add the evaporated milk and the sugar and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Add the mango puree and mix. Pour into a glass mold and chill in the refrigerator till set.

To make the ginger- lime- mango mousse
In a mini food-processor, add the grated ginger, 1/4 tsp lime zest, 1 cup of the mango pudding and the whipped cream and pulse a few times till well blended.

To make the tartelette
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place a 4 inch tartlet ring on the cookie sheet and line the ring with the puff pastry square. Bake in a 400 F oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Detach the pastry from the mold and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

To assemble the tartelette
Pipe the mousse into the pastry shell and decorate with the reserved lime zest on top.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Whole -wheat Choco-Nut cookies for my lil cookie monster

My son could live on cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every. Single. Day.
I am not kidding. And this was a child who didnt quite like anything very sweet before.
He doesnt discriminate against any kind of cookie. All cookies are welcome in the chomping machine called his mouth. But when there is chocolate in some form or the other in the cookie, he becomes a model child...all smiles and hugs and kisses and thanQs and I love you mamas.
So when he starts acting like a two-year old again...and believe me he DOES, its a beautiful image to remember and find solace in the thought that this too shall pass... Sigh.

Whole- wheat Choco-Nut cookies
Oil - 1/4 cup
Unsalted butter, room temperature - 1/4 cup
Light brown sugar, packed- 1/2 cup
Granulated white sugar - 1/4 cup
Egg, large- 1
Vanilla extract- 1 tsp
Whole wheat flour- 1/2 cup
All purpose flour- 1/2 cup
Chocolate ganache-1/4 cup (instructions below)
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/8 tsp
Roasted almonds, chopped- 1 cup (Instructions below)

Roasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Spread one cup of almonds in a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Turn off the oven. Leave the baking sheet in the oven till it cools. Chop the almonds roughly when cooled.

Chocolate ganache

Melt 1/4 dark chocolate chips with 3 tblsp of heavy cream in a double-boiler and reserve.

To make the cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter, oil and sugars for about 2-3 minutes till light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the chocolate ganache and mix till incorporated. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well. Finally add both the flours and mix till just incorporated. Fold in the nuts.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, place scoopfuls of batter about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 15-20 minutes till the edges are firm but the center is still soft. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before placing them in a wire -rack to cool completely.

Makes about 20 cookies.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Assorted Bakewell Tartelettes

Summer's arrived and so has the busy social calender. 
June has been quite a busy month... Birthday parties, baby showers and just entertaining friends and family. It left me so little time that I barely had time to finish the challenge. 

When I first read the Bakewell Tart (um) Pudding challenge, I was wondering if I would have enough time to finish all the different steps... Sounded complicated just while reading it. But when I finally got down to it, the entire thing was done in a couple of hours.

I halved the recipe and baked individual "tarts" in cupcake/muffin molds. I filled two with blackberry preserves, two with strawberry jam and two with nutella. 

I think everyone loved it indeed!  

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Assorted Bakewell Tartelettes

Sweet shortcrust pastry:
4 oz all purpose flour
0.5 oz sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 oz unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
1 egg yolks
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 Tbsp cold water

2.25 oz unsalted butter, softened
2.25 oz icing sugar
1.5 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
2.25 oz ground almonds (or other nut of your choice)
0.5 oz all purpose flour

Blackberry preserves, strawberry jam and nutella

Prepare the dough:
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the frangipane:
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Assemble the tartelettes:
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pans, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Place the tarts on a baking sheet line with parchment paper and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Crispy spring rolls- Dare you to eat just one...

Spring rolls have to be the most recognizable dimsum dish. Even in the "Chinese" restaurants in India where the only thing Chinese about the menu is probably the use of soy sauce and MSG, spring rolls are pretty passable.

Why do they call them 'spring' rolls? According to Wikipedia, spring roll is the most common English translation of Chả giò, a traditional Vietnamese food, which means minced pork roll. Apparently it has nothing to do with spring.

It is one of the easiest and absolutely delicious appetizers you could make. I almost always have wonton wrappers in the freezer. Its so very easy then to make appetizers
when the craving hits or when my housemates (read husband and son) come begging for munchies.

Crispy Spring Rolls

Asian fish sauce- 2 tbsp
Lime juice- 2 tbsp

Serrano chillies, seeded and chopped fine-1

Sugar-1 tsp

Mushrooms, coarsely chopped- 4 oz

Garlic cloves, finely chopped- 1

Small onions, finely chopped- 1

Minced chicken-4 oz

Scallions finely chopped- 4

Egg, beaten-1

Fresh grated ginger- 1 inch piece

Five-spice powder- 1/2 tsp

salt- 1/4 tsp

pepper -to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves- 1 1/2 cup

Wonton wrappers- 8

Vegetable oil- to fry

Mix half of the following to make a dipping sauce: fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chillies.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms till browned. Remove from pan,. Add a little more oil and add the garlic and saute till the raw smell disappears. Add the onions and cook for 5-8 mins till softened.

Mix the remaining fish sauce, chillies, chicken, egg, ginger, scallions, five-spice powder, salt and chopped cilantro in a bowl. Add the sauteed mushroom and onions. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and fry it to test the seasoning. Adjust as needed.

Lay a wonton wrapper on a clean surface. Place a tbsp of the filling from the edge nearest to you. Fold in the two sides and roll tightly away from you. Seal the edge with egg wash. Alternately use a toothpick to seal the edges.

Pour enough oil in a pan to deep fry the rolls. Fry till golden brown.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I say toe-may-toe, you say toe-mah-toe...

If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that a dish is only as good as its ingredients. And an ingredient that really drives home this point? Tomatoes.

How many different ways are there to prepare tomatoes? Baked, pureed, mashed, stuffed. An integral part of world cuisine one way or the other.

My favorite though is to simply saute luscious cherry or pear tomatoes with good extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt, pepper and sliced garlic and garnish with basil. Fingerlicking, lipsmacking, LOLing kinda stuff that.

A close second to that is stuffed baked tomatoes. If you get less than spectacular beefsteak or roma tomatoes, baking them brings out the inherent sweetness and makes each bite unbelievably good. And with aromatics and fresh herbs, this is a winner every time.

Stuffed baked tomatoes

Beefsteak or large roma tomatoes- 3
Bread crumbs- 1 cup

Parmesan cheese -1/4 cup
Basil leaves shredded- 5
Coriander leaves or parsley - a bunch
white wine vinegar- 2 tblsp
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Scoop out the inside of the tomatoes using a spoon.

Spray the inside of a baking pan with oil or smear butter. Place the tomatoes scooped side up in the baking pan so they fit snugly.

Drizzle the inside of the tomatoes with white wine vinegar .
Mix the bread crumbs, basil, herbs, salt, pepper and cheese in a bowl. Scoop the mixture into the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes till the top is crisp and golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Banana Nut Muffins

Have you ever had a situation where you buy a bunch of bananas and you eat most of it but the last one or two? There it sits with the peel slowly turning into various shades of black and then you throw it away?

If you are one of those people, you are just gonna thank me in a second.

The freezer is a girl's best friend. I cant count the number of times I've gone overboard at the Farmer's market and come back with more produce than I could finish in a week. When mid-week rolled around, I hated opening the crisper drawer because I would have to see the vegetables glaring balefully at me. I was racked with guilt. More often than not I wasted half the produce.

Then I became 30 and wise.

Now I use up produce that spoil fast ...like herbs and greens during the week and freeze what I cant finish. Besides reducing the amount of waste, this way, I can whip up (ahem) impressive dishes superfast when I have company because the vegetables and fruits are already prepped.

All I have to do then is soak up the adoration. Ehh..

Banana Nut Muffins

Note: Use all white sugar if you dont have brown sugar. If you would like a richer muffin, you can use all butter instead of butter and applesauce.

all-purpose flour-2 cups
baking soda-1 1/2 teaspoons
salt-1/2 teaspoon
overripe bananas-3

white sugar-1/2 cup
brown sugar-1/2 cup
unsalted butter, melted and cooled-1/2 cup
Applesauce-1/4 cup
pure vanilla extract-1 teaspoon
walnuts, chopped-1/2 cup
Turbinado sugar-1/4 cup (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash the bananas with a fork. With an electric mixer, whip the bananas and sugar together on high for a 2 minutes. Add the melted butter, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Dont overbeat. Fold in the nuts with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Sprinkle the top with Turbinado sugar if using.

Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge- Sweet and Spice and all things nice

I love baking.
It wasnt always like that. I remember my mom begging, pleading. arguing and using every trick in the book to get me to try my hand at cooking. I would flat out refuse.

Then one fine day I announced I wanted to go to university to get a degree in Nutrition. Mom almost fell out of her chair.
And then she couldnt stop laughing.

Its not like I had an epiphany or something. I dont even know what the turning point was.
I just started to enjoy whipping up desserts. Even then I knew I was more interested in baking than cooking.

Which brings me to why I decided to join Daring Bakers.
I decided that instead of doing variations of the same desserts all the time, I would join Daring Bakers- which would certainly make me stretch and challenge myself.

While my husband appreciates all the baking I do, he doesn't really have much of a sweet tooth. And it leaves me with trying to polish it all off. Not very good for me- wardrobe-wise.

With the monthly challenges I can switch it up a bit whenever possible- something spicy, something sweet...

And it would only be once a month which works out perfect for a busy working mom.

So with this month's Strudel challenge, I did an apple filling and a potato filling.

I had made Aloo chat and I decided to make a strudel with the filling. Sort of my version of an aloo chat samosa if you will...

I also made the apple filling. The apple strudel didnt turn out as flaky as I would have liked. I did stretch the dough so thin I could read a card through it. But it was a thicker casing around the filling.

So for the potato version I made sure it was REALLY thin. So thin in fact that I had a bit of trouble peeling the dough from the paper. But the end result was so flaky it could have passed for (2 sheets of ) phyllo.

Of course I couldnt stop crowing about it. Wouldnt you?

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Strudel dough

from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.

Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.

Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stuffing myself on Stuffed Artichokes

Oh Artichokes!

Last Sunday at the Farmer's market, with a fiercely blazing sun- and a fiercely blazing-past-everything son, I almost speed-walked past a stall with the usual suspects: beans, carrots, zucchini...
And almost missed it.

There they were...perfect green globes just waiting for someone to take them home.

Everyone keeps talking about the amount of time and effort it takes to make them. Seriously, have you ever tried making authentic Indian curries?

Yeah. I DIDNT think so.

I agree that for the hour of peeling, cutting, boiling, making the filling, baking there seems to be precious little to actually enjoy of the Artichoke.

But that little bit goes a very long way!!

Can you tell we LOVED it?

Stuffed Artichokes

Medium sized artichokes - 2
Garlic cloves, minced- 5
Shallot, minced-1
Breadcrumbs - 1/2 cup
Basil leaves, chopped fine - 5
sausage chopped fine and sauteed-1
Lemons, juiced
- 1
Grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup
Extra-virgin olive oil
-1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the artichokes under running water.

Cut off the tops of the artichokes. Remove and reserve the stem of the artichoke. Peel off the tough green outer leaves and discard.

In a large saucepan, pour 3 inches of water, add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the artichokes and the stems, cover and cook for 25 minutes, until tender. Drain, cool, and set aside.

Remove the fibrous outer part of the stem and chop fine.

In the meantime, combine sausage, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, shallots, basil, salt, pepper, Parmesan, oil and the chopped stem.

Cut the artichokes in half. Use a small knife to remove the spiny choke.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the artichokes in a shallow baking dish. Season the cavity of each artichoke with salt and pepper and stuff in and around the leaves with the stuffing mixture. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and let rest 10 minutes. Serve immediately, or serve at room temperature.

Aloo chat and pulling double duty

There is a place a few miles from my house which serves the most awesome chat.

For the novice, chat (pronounced chaat) is Indian street food. I like to think of it as the Indian version of tapas. Small bite sized portions, intensely flavored and found in every street corner in India.

The balance of flavors have to be just right. Sweet, salty, sour... The spice mix involves a pretty complex blend of spices and who has the time for that? So I use a ready-made chat mix you can get from any Asian store.

As part of the monthly Daring Baker's challenge, I had to do a strudel and decided to do something sweet and something spicy. So I figured I'd let the potatoes pull double duty.

Its really easy to make and the flavors just explode in your mouth! If you have pomegranates, try adding a few seeds. The crunch and the sweetness will only enhance this dish.

Aloo chat

Potatoes, diced small- 2
Red onion, diced small-1/4 cup
Sprouts-1/4 cup
Garlic cloves, minced-2
Chat masala- 1 tsp.
oil- 2 tblsp
salt to taste
pepper to taste.

Boil the potatoes in boiling water till crisp tender and drain.

Add oil in a pan and add the garlic. Add the potatoes and fry till golden brown. Add salt, pepper and the chat masala and fry for a minute. Add the sprouts and mix and remove from stove.
When it cools, add the onion and mix well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ayam golek - Malaysian roast chicken

What did the chicken do after it crossed the road?

It went up to the poussins and said "I am golek" .

Too much? sigh. sorry.

I had a poussin in the freezer and I wasnt in the mood for a regular roast chicken with the usual salt, lemon pepper, rosemary...though thats nothing to scoff at.

All of us love southeast asian flavors and I had made a curry sauce with shallots, ginger, chillies and galangal a few days before. So I figured I would use the same ingredients as a rub for the chicken and roast it.
The result? Crispy crackly skin, succulent and moist meat inside. Roasting it at a high temperature guaranteed an amazingly flavorful crisp skin.

Try it. You'll love it!

Ayam Golek

Dried red chillies- 2 (soaked in hot water to soften)

Garlic clove-1
Ginger- 1 inch piece

Galangal-1 inch piece
Poussin- 1 cleaned

coconut milk-1/4 cup

sugar-1/2 tsp

lime juice- from 1/2 a lime

oil- 3 tblsp

salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Drain the red chillies and blend shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal and salt with enough water to make a paste.
Rub most of the spice mix on the poussin inside and out and let marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
Mix the rest of the spice mix with the coconut milk and sugar in a microwavable bowl and microwave till reduced by half.
Place the poussin in a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
Baste with the coconut milk/spice mix mixture every 5 minutes alternating with the oil till the skin is crisp and the meat is tender.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vegetable Kootan with a difference...

Have you ever had days when you looked at the crisper draw of the fridge and found absolutely nothing in there that inspires you to make dinner?

All those who have, say Aye.

I had a couple of carrots and a zucchini and I just didn't know what to make with it. My two guys prefer boldly flavored vegetable dishes and I have to really try hard some days not to drown the vegetables in spices but still flavor them enough so my two year old ASKS for more. That, my friends is a successful recipe.

So I came up with this one. I added some dried shrimp to make it more interesting.. The crispy crackly shrimp, carrots caramelized to golden perfection, juicy zucchini, plump peas... It was a party in the mouth...texture and flavor-wise.

Vegetable Kootan

Carrots- 2 medium dice
zucchini-1 medium dice
peas- 1/4 cup
garlic-1 chopped fine
coconut-3 tblsps
dried shrimp-3 tblsp
mustard seeds- 1/4 tsp
cumin seeds- 1/4 tsp
garam masala- 1/4 tsp
turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Cayenne powder- a pinch
soy sauce-1 tsp
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard and cumin seeds.
Once the mustard seeds pop and cumin seeds brown, add the carrots, zucchini, peas, salt, turmeric powder, garam masala, soy sauce and cayenne powder.
Mix well, turn the flame to medium-low and cover the pan.
Stir as needed so the vegetables dont stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add the coconut and shrimp and mix well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fenugreek Arugula Parata

Paratas are the quintessential Indian pancakes. Sooo fragrant and adapts so well to breakfast lunch or dinner.

I used to employ an Indian nanny for A. She used to make the most amazing paratas with pretty much any vegetable I had in my crisper. Spinach, potato, peas, fenugreek leaves... It was parata heaven for a while there... Its a great way to sneak vegetables into my little guy's diet.

It takes a bit of skill to make these little guys. Mine used to turn out looking like single-celled biology specimens. Till she taught me.

I still get a couple of them that look like they just came off a map. But for the most part they do come out great- if I say so myself.

I had some left over Arugula from my last trip to the farmer's market. So I decided to mix peppery Arugula with slightly bitter Fenugreek leaves. I added some sugar to balance out the bitterness. The result was a nice hearty parata with a bit of a bite.

All you need with a stack of these is a small bowl of Yogurt and a teaspoon of spicy Indian pickle.

Fenugreek Arugula Parata

Wheat flour -2 cups
Fenugreek leaves- 1 small bunch
Arugula- a handful
Garlic- 1 clove
Onion- 1/4
cumin powder -1/4 tsp
Ajwain seeds- 1 tsp
green chillies-1 or 2
turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Salt -1/2 tsp
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp

Clean and pulse the fenugreek and arugula in the food processor for a minute. Put it in a microwave- safe bowl with turmeric and salt and cook in the microwave for 2 mins.

Add the onion, green chilly and garlic clove in the food processor and pulse till it is finely ground.

Add the oil, salt, sugar, wheat flour and the cooked greens with its water and pulse. Add just enough warm water -if necessary- to form a soft dough.
Keep it aside for 30 mins.

Pinch small balls off the dough and roll them out.

Roast in a hot pan smearing a little oil or clarified butter on both sides till done.

Honey Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta will always be one of my favourite desserts... So easy to make and ohhhh so decadent.

It couldnt be simpler - just cook cream with gelatin and include any flavourings you may be in the mood for... There are many fancy ones out there. But my favourite remains Honey Panna Cotta.

Honey adds a subtle floral sweetness instead of that in-your-face sweetness of sugar.And with strawberry season, could there be a more mellow sophisticated canvas to showcase those ruby red berries?

So go on. Indulge!

Note: The original recipe is made completely with cream. For the figure conscious (read buzzkills), swap out the cream with half and half.

Honey Panna Cotta

2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch ground pepper

Place the milk into a heavy saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. Turn on the stove and stir the gelatin-milk mixture over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes. Whisk for a minute to make sure all the gelatin is incorporated into the milk.

Add the cream, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat when you see bubbles start to appear along the sides of the pan.

Pour into 6 wine glasses so that they are 1/2 full. Cool slightly.

Refrigerate until set, overnight or at least 6 hours.

Hull and quarter the strawberries. In a bowl add the berries with the balsamic vinegar, sugar and pepper 10 minutes before you plan to serve the panna cotta.

Spoon the berries atop the panna cotta and serve.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Tart

I discovered Meyer Lemons recently and I just cant get enough of it. I found a few at my neighbourhood Trader Joe's and at Costco (the very last box).

I made this fantastic whole lemon tart in January and I have to say what a brilliant idea to use the whole fruit!

I made a few different desserts with the lemons but I froze most of them so I could indulge any time I wanted.

There is nothing like a dessert with Meyer Lemons... Try this. The next time you take a bite of a Meyer Lemon tart or mousse, close your eyes, roll the bite around with your tongue and exhale- pushing the taste from your mouth through your nose and out... The elusive floral sweetness just makes you crave more.

Today I decided to treat myself with a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Tart to share with friends tomorrow. It is my birthday after all :)

Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Tart

1 pack honey graham crackers, processed into crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tblsp Turbinado (raw) sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temp.
scant 1 cup sugar
3 eggs
dash salt
1 whole Meyer Lemon cut into slices and seeds removed
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°

Pulse graham crackers in a food processor till it becomes crumbs.
Mix the crumbs and butter and pulse till it resembles coarse sand.

Press evenly into bottom and sides of a tart pan with removable bottom.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Wipe down the food processor and process the meyer lemon, salt, vanilla and eggs till smooth. Add the sugar and process till the meyer lemon is completely blended into the mixture. Now add the cream cheese and pulse to combine.

Pour into pan and bake on middle rack of oven for 40 minutes.

Cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 10 pieces; 5 if you are me.

Life happened....

And thats my excuse...

Enough said.

Since my last post... a year ago... I got so absorbed in other food blogs that it got me thinking pessimistically of what I could contribute...

Then I had a Eureka moment...My sisters!

I have two younger sisters who live in different corners of the world...

S is not too bad in the kitchen though she is just starting out. M, however, the youngest one, living alone for the first time, had to read up online on how to boil an egg.

Yes I know. And no, I dont think she is beyond help.

This blog hopefully will be the start of a journey that will be the stuff of family legend.

Here's to new beginnings....