July 31, 2008

Announcing Monthly Blog Patrol, August 2008: "Fruit Fare"

This August, I have the honour of guest hosting Monthly Blog Patrol (or MBP as it is popularly known) on this blog.
MBP was started by Coffee of Spice Café, and involves searching through food blogdom (for want of a better word to describe the world of food blogs) for a recipe and cooking it up based upon the theme chosen by each month’s host.

Last month’s MBP host was Nupur of One Hot Stove and the round-up of “Less is More” can be found here.

I have chosen”Fruit Fare” to be this month’s theme. We eat fruit mostly its natural form because we enjoy it that way. I am, however, always looking for ways to incorporate more fruit into our diet, especially because it is the one way I can get our daughter (who is not very partial to most fruit) to have some.


This does not mean that you would be looking for desserts only. Think of everyday breakfast, lunch and dinner fare such as salads, soups, smoothies, shakes, to mention just a few. Exotic fruit fare and dessert is also most welcome.

The picture I have used in this logo is a drawing our daughter, Akshaya, did when she was eight.

The rules for this event:

1) You have to cook something, based on the theme “Fruit Fare”, from fellow bloggers’ recipe collections (only blogs) and not from other cooking/ food sites.
2) Post a picture of your re-creation with a link to the original recipe from which you cooked. If you wish, you may write a post about it or highlight any changes/ substitutions you might have made. In your post, please also link to this announcement and Coffee’s MBP event page. Please feel free to use the logo, if you wish.
3) Send me an e-mail at aprna00@gmail.com [aprna(zero) (zero)@gmail.com], with “MBP Fruit Fare” as subject. In your e-mail, please include
• Your name
• The name of your blog and location
• A permalink/ url of your post
• The permalink/ url of the recipe from which you cooked
• A picture of your dish (300 pixels, please)
You may send in as many submissions as you want. Please remember that your entries must be vegetarian (eggs allowed).

If you do not have a blog but would like to a part of this event, please send me your post with all the required details and I will be happy to include it in the round-up.
The deadline for submissions to this event is the 25th of August, 2008 (till midnight your time) . I hope to have the round-up done by the beginning of September.

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July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau With Praline Buttercream: Daring Baker Challenge July 2008

It’s that time of the month again, when the Daring Bakers take over the food blogging world for a few days with their baked creations. This July, over a thousand (yes, I did say thousand) of us are once again going to overwhelm you (and ourselves) with the sheer variety that comes from imagination and creativity while working on a single recipe.
Our hostess for this month, Chris of Mele Cotte, chose a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, from Great Cakes by Carol Walter, for us to bake.




What’s a filbert?
Apparently, that’s another name for a hazelnut. This doesn’t matter much to me for this challenge, because where I live we don’t get hazelnuts. Even if we did, it would probably cost the heaven and the earth put together! So I made do with almonds.
As is usual, we were provided with all the required information along with the recipe. For those who aren’t aware of this, the host(s) for each month tries out their chosen recipe and gives us their feedback and suggestions with pictures so that we are reasonably prepared to meet the challenge.
A printable version of this month’s challenge is available here.

My Filbert Gateau Experience:

I reduced the ingredients to half to make a smaller cake and made the cake in stages, over three days. I like recipes like this.

Sugar Syrup:
I made the syrup required for moistening the cake but left out the liqueur as we don’t use alcohol. I substituted the same amount of unsweetened orange juice to get the orange flavour.

Praline Paste:
I used almonds, which I skinned at home, to make the praline. Everything went as it should have. I couldn’t help sneaking a taste and it was good though a bit sweet (for my taste), but I guess that’s what praline is supposed to be.
Broke up the praline and used my mixer-grinder to powder it. Further processing didn’t turn it into a paste, so I added a little butter. It still refused to become a paste. I couldn’t bring myself to throw this out, so I added this as it was to the buttercream.
We were allowed to use either the given recipe for Swiss buttercream or any other to make the buttercream. I chose to make a cream cheese buttercream as I could avoid using eggs and also make a less sweet buttercream. I used the following recipe and left out the rum.

Cream cheese frosting:
2 ¼ cups cream cheese (I used Amul paneer)
¾ cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk



It came out well. I added the praline paste to the buttercream and the result was a very tasty but slightly grainy (from the praline paste) buttercream.

Fruit Glaze:
I used orange marmalade as I felt it would definitely pair well with chocolate and take away a little from the overall sweetness of the cake. Ok, the real reason was that the only preserves/ jam I had, when I was making this cake, was marmalade! But it worked very well with this cake.

Ganache Glaze:
I left out the liqueur, used cream with 25% fat (I don’t get heavy cream here) and substituted honey for light corn syrup (another thing I couldn’t find).think
I didn’t think all this made too much of a difference as my ganache looked and tasted good.

The Cake:
Making this cake was easy. I used almonds instead of hazelnuts (which are not found in the stores here) and skinning them wasn't easy. Getting pieces of almond under your fingernails can be really painful and after doing it a previous challenge as well, I think I’ve had enough of it for a lifetime!
I kept thinking the cake might turn out too delicate to work with, but it was quite sturdy. I used dental floss to cut the cakes into three perfect layers. I couldn’t find cream with enough fat to whip up so left it out when sandwiching the layers.
I won’t go into the details of assembling the cake, as it is given in the recipe, but let me just say that I had no problems till I reached the buttercream decoration!
I had made the cake in stages over 3 days, so my buttercream was sitting pretty in my fridge. I knew I could do this decoration (though my skills here aren’t anything great) so I filled the piping bag and started off.
I encountered my first problem when the little bits of praline in the buttercream partially blocked the nozzle and left some weird looking squiggles on my beautiful shiny chocolate ganache. I could have cried, but that wouldn’t have helped much. So I held back the tears and slowly scraped the buttercream off the cake.
By now the buttercream was slowly softening so I put it back in the fridge. It had to be that the one day I was doing the buttercream piping had to be the hottest day during the monsoon! So I changed to a star nozzle, and tried piping out a design (can it be called this?) while attempting to cover up evidences of the piping that went wrong. Not very successfully as you can see.
Since I was going to serve this cake at my daughter’s birthday get together I was going to add the silver sugar balls she wanted. The next accident happened here. Some of the little balls fell on the buttercream, mostly in the middle, making another mess. There wasn’t too much I could do without making an even greater mess so I left it like that.
So I took a few pictures of the cake. The pictures weren’t very good (the one here was the best of the lot), but by now I was tired and in no mood to set up everything for a good picture. And my daughter’s friends would be over soon.
I had plans to take pictures of a slice, once the cake was cut, but then the ultimate accident happened. After serving the cake out to the girls and ourselves, I kept the remainder in the fridge. However, while the fridge was opened to take out something else, the cake fell out on to the floor!
At this point, I sat down and cried. So no pictures of any slices, which was a pity because for the first time I had managed beautiful layers of cake and buttercream topped with the chocolate ganache. Ah well, there’s always another cake and another time.

Verdict:
A really good nutty cake. The marmalade and the semi-sweet chocolate ganache balanced out the sweetness of the cake.
The kids didn’t seem to be particularly bothered by my poor decorating skills and dug into the cake, only like twelve year olds can. My husband asked for a second helping, which was a good thing as the rest of the cake ended up in the bin!
To see the how beautiful this cake can get, please visit the other Daring Bakers and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.


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July 28, 2008

A Tea Break & CLICK: July 2008 - Coffee and Tea

Though the monsoon has “officially” been here since the first week of June and the weather guys (not the ones on TV but the guys doing real scientific predictions) have been giving us all sorts of explanations as to why the rains aren’t quite here! Whatever the reasons, the monsoons have suddenly set in here with a vengeance this last week. Its much cooler now and the perfect weather for hot, spicy tea, not that I need much of an excuse to drink tea.
I have done a post on South Indian Filter Kapi/ Coffee, where I mentioned that while I do have the occasional cup or “tumbler” of coffee, the tipple of my choice is and always will be “chai”. It would be unfair in the general scheme of things on my blog for me to ignore tea so this post is dedicated to Indian chai.
It is a bit unusual to find tea lovers in coffee kingdom and Palakkad Iyers are famous for their filter coffee. My sister and I are the only staunch tea drinkers in our homes. My husband drinks the occasional cup of tea because I make it, but he’s really a coffee lover.
So, how did I become a tea drinker?
I’m really not sure. I remember that tea was served in the evenings at my maternal grandmother’s house, yet my mother and her sisters prefer coffee. The same goes for my dad. I think I started drinking tea in college. Quite a few of us would get together for studying late at night, and someone would offer to make tea for us all. Tea was supposed to keep us awake, but it never worked that way for me. My friends would be up all night and I would have slept off around midnight! Even today, a late cup of tea or coffee has no effect at all on my night’s sleep. I even suspect that I actually sleep better!!

Chai, as tea is commonly known in India, is supposed to have origins as a beverage in China. According to one legend, a breeze blew some tea leaves into a Chinese emperor’s pot of boiling water. He found the resulting brew tasty and to have medicinal qualities as well.
Another legend says that a Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma went to China for meditation. During meditation, he found himself falling asleep. To prevent this, he cut off his eyelids and threw them down. The eyelids are supposed to have sprouted into tea bushes! Whatever the true origin of tea, there is no doubt that it is a popular beverage all over the world in its various avatars.

Apparently, tea was growing in the wild in India as far back as 1598, according to Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, a Dutch traveler who noted that the Indians ate the leaves as a vegetable with garlic and oil and boiled the leaves to make a brew. And in 1788, a British botanist Joseph Banks discovered that tea plants were growing well in the British colonized parts of North east India and even suggested that tea could be cultivated in India. It was only when the monopoly of trading in tea from China was no longer viable, that the British woke up to the possibilities of growing tea in India. They imported tea seedlings from China which unfortunately couldn’t survive in India and ultimately the native Assam variety of tea was cultivated successfully. This eventually led to tea being cultivated in other areas including Darjeeling, the Kangra Valley and the Nilgiris. Today India is one of the largest producers of tea in the world.
(Source: The Teamuse)


Picture: Courtesy of Wikimedia


There are three main geographically different tea growing regions (there are others) in India and they each produce very distinct teas. The fine and delicately flavoured Darjeeling tea that is grown on the foothills of the Himalayas (North Eastern India) is one. The other is a rich full bodied tea grown in Assam in the far North Eastern part of India. Most Indians, who like their tea strong, prefer this variety. The third variety is the fragrant and flavoursome Nilgiris tea which is grown on the slopes of the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains) of South India.

There are many ways of making and drinking tea depending on which variety is being used and which part of the world it is being drunk. One example is the Tibetan butter tea or Po Cha which is made with yak butter, milk and salt.
Even within India, there are numerous ways chai is made and drunk. Some drink it out of the cup while many enjoy drinking it from the saucer. This may be socially a no-no, but for the person who’s drinking it, this is the height of tea heaven. Then there are many who will drink tea only out of a glass, nothing else would do. While many people insist that there is a “correct” way to making tea, I feel that whatever method makes the tea that satisfies a person is the “perfect” method for that person.

Having said this, I love my tea steaming hot, strong, milky and not too sweet. Masala in my chai would be an added bonus. I really don’t know what’s in my chai masala because I buy a freshly made blend from a spice shop in Kochi (the 4th picture here is my spice shop in Kochi). My untrained palate recognizes cardamom, ginger, clove in it but the rest is a mystery. Again, there are many varieties of chai masala, but most have these three spices plus others.
The best tea with spices, in my opinion, is what is called Irani chai and served in Irani cafes in certain parts of India. Perhaps the name comes from the fact that type of tea was made famous by Irani immigrants to India.





Irani chai is made by boiling together black tea leaves, milk, sugar, cardamom and ginger. The resulting tea, drunk piping hot and in small quantities, is sweet, milky, thick and out of this world. I know you can find good Irani chai in Mumbai, but I understand that Hyderabad is famous for it. Hyderabad apparently also serves a version of Irani chai called “Khade Chammach” (meaning standing spoon in Hindi) so called because it has so much sugar in it that spoon would stand upright in it!!

How do I make my tea then?
Depends on my mood, really! Most of the time I drink it plain, sometimes with chai masala and some other times with ginger and cardamom. The masala chai and the cardamom and ginger version are especially soothing if taken when suffering from a cold.
I also like iced tea (made at home with a hint of lemon, chilled but without the ice), which is perfect for the Indian summer, but not the commercial fruity and flavoured varieties that seem to have taken over the supermarket shelves!





These days, we even get something being marketed under the name of “dessert” tea (whatever that means) in very exotic sounding flavours. These are basically smelly premixed powdered milk + tea + sugar + god knows what, to be mixed up in boiling water.

Getting back to the matter of making tea, I prefer to make mine using tea leaves. I really do not like using tea dust, as the tea made with this is almost always too strong and no matter how well I strain the decoction, there’s always a bit of residue at the bottom of my tea cup! I don’t think tea bags are filled with good quality tea (I may be wrong here) and find that “dip” chai (this is what the tea sellers on Indian trains call tea made with teabags) doesn’t have much flavour and is never strong enough.

Plain Chai:
(to serve 3)
2 tsp black tea leaves
2 cups water
1 cup hot milk
sugar as per taste

Boil water in a pan. Add the tea leaves and allow to simmer for a minute. Take off the stove. Strain the tea decoction into another vessel. Add the milk and sugar and mix to dissolve sugar. Then pour the tea into another vessel from a slight distance and back a couple of times to create a froth, pour out into tea cups and serve hot.
This brings the temperature of the tea down to drinkable levels while improving the taste tremendously. The tea honestly does taste better. I don’t have any scientific explanations but it works. Just be careful while doing this, or you may end up with no tea to drink, a messy floor to clean up and being scalded in the bargain (and perhaps a visit to the hospital)!
Very occasionally I do put all the above ingredients (with some cardamom and ginger) together and bring it the boil, simmer it for a minute and then strain it to make tea, pseudo Irani style! I can see some raised eyebrows and a few shocked looks at my tea making (maybe murdering) style, but I like my tea this way!!

Masala Chai/ Tea:
(to serve 3)
Use the same ingredients as for plain chai but add 1½ tsp chai masala along with the tea leaves. Then strain the decoction and proceed with making the tea.

Cardamom and Ginger Chai:
(to serve 3)
Again, use the ingredients for plain chai but add ½ “ piece of crushed ginger and crushed seeds from 4 cardamom pods along with the tea leaves. Strain the decoction and continue making the tea.
So try any of these ways of drinking chai, or explore the world of tea to come up with your own special and perfect “cuppa”.

The theme for CLICK at Jugalbandi this month is Coffee and Tea. The picture immediately below is my submission for the event.


I end this post with a quotation by Samuel Johnson, an English author (1709 – 1784) who described himself as “A hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.”

Some "Chai/ Tea" posts on other blogs:
Holidays. Thoughts. Yogi Tea: A Recipe
Masala Chai (Indian Spiced Tea)
Masala Chai
Ginger Scented Chai
A Few More Ways To Drink Tea
There's Chilli In My Chai




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July 26, 2008

Spiced Apple Cake With Streusel Topping


This is a recipe I saved from a magazine I had collected so long back that I don’t remember its origins. Over time I have made some adjustments to suit our taste, and sometimes to suit the ingredients I have on hand. I have made this apple cake more times than I can remember and it has never failed to elicit appreciation from the family and friends who have had it.
I usually make this cake with apples, but it tastes just as good if made with pears.




Last week, I bought some apples which turned out not particularly sweet and so there were no takers for them. I’m also hosting Think Spice, Think Nutmeg this month and hadn’t yet got around to making something “nutmeggy” for it. It doesn’t seem right not to have a submission for my event, somehow. So I tweaked the recipe once more and it now includes nutmeg!
Spiced Apple Cake With Streusel Topping



Ingredients:


3/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp grated nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (loosely packed) mixed with1 tsp lemon juice

(about 2 apples, I have used Royal Gala/ Red Delicious)



Streusel Topping:


2 tbsps all-purpose flour

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

2 tbsp butter, softened (oil also works)



Method:


Cream the butter and sugar well. Gradually add the egg, and mix till well combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as well.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together and alternately add a little of this and the milk, mixing till all the ingredients and milk are finished. Now fold the apple pieces into the batter and scrape the batter into a greased and floured 9” cake tin.

The batter would be a little bit thicker than for some cakes, so do not be tempted to add a bit more milk to adjust the consistency. If you do, you will end up with a cake where the streusel sinks into the cake! This is experience talking. Of course, the cake would still taste as good.

Run the oats a couple of times in a mixer/grinder (do not powder) if you do not like to see the oats in the streusel. Mix this well, using your fingers, with all the ingredients for the streusel topping. Sprinkle this evenly over the cake batter.




Bake the cake at 180C for about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the tin for about 15 minutes, remove and cool on a rack. This recipe serves 4 to 6.

Slice and serve plain with coffee or tea. This cake makes for a light dessert if served with a dollop of sour cream, or lightly sweetened whipped cream, or even with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

 This Spiced Apple Cake is my submission for Think Spice, Think Nutmeg.
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July 24, 2008

Onion Paneer Calzone

C
alzone are a sort of folded over pizza like dough or turnover with filling, originally from Naples. Think of it as a baked sandwich and the filling is typically includes meats, vegetables or cheese. While Calzones are usually savoury and come in baked or deep-fried variations, but there also Calzones with sweet fillings which are served for dessert.



 
The name Calzone originally comes from the Latin word “Calceus” which means shoe. Today it is generally accepted that it means “stuffed stocking or trouser leg” supposedly because the Calzone dough swells up to somewhat resemble a  stocking/ trouser leg.
While pizza is something most people love, it’s not exactly something you could pack for lunch. This is where the Calzone is a winner. Not only does it make good lunchbox fare or even great on picnics, the dough is easily made and the Calzone is very flexible when it comes to a choice of fillings to use.



 
Calzone may be filled with a variety of vegetable combinations of choice. Here, I used sautéed onions and paneer  (a fresh Indian milk cheese) with bell pepper and cheese. 
Onion And Paneer Calzone
 

Ingredients:

For the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (or herbs of choice)
1 tbsp olive oil

For filling:

1 tsp olive oil
 
3 big onions, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper (juliennes)
1 cup paneer, crumbled
1 cup processed cheese, grated (this is what I had on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
 

Method: 

The filling:

Heat the oil, add the onions and a bit of salt and sauté the onions till soft and light brown. Add the pepper and the bell pepper juliennes and stir a couple of times and take off the heat. Crumble the paneer and grate the cheese. Keep aside till required. 

The dough:

Put the flour, herbs, yeast, sugar and salt in the food processor bowl. Add the yeast mixture and enough water to the flour to make a soft yet elastic dough. This may be done by hand too. Now add the olive oil and knead well. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to double.
 
 
Take the dough, press out the air and divide into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a circle about 6” in diameter. Place the onion filling on one half making sure the edges of the semi-circle are free. Put some crumbled paneer over the filling and top off with some grated cheese. Moisten the edges with water and carefully fold the filling free half over to form a semi circle. Using the tines of a fork, press the edges down.
Place the calzones on a greased tray and cover with a cloth. Allow to puff up a bit, for about 5 - 10 minutes. You can see that my calzones puffed up quite a bit so that the fork marking are almost invisible!
Bake the calzones at 180C (350F)for about 20 minutes or till brown.
Serve hot for dinner, with a soup and salad, or as a snack either plain or with Marinara sauce.
This recipe makes eight calzones.

You can freeze leftover calzone or even make a double batch of this recipe and freeze the extra for later use. Let them cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer them o a plastic freezer bag and freeze.

To reheat, unwrap the calzone from the plastic wrap and thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge and heat in the microwave or your oven.




 
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July 23, 2008

Make It At Home : My All-Purpose Marinara Sauce

M
arinara is a red Italian sauce that is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. It is easy to cook and is usually a bit spicier than most tomato based sauces, and accompanies Italian dishes like pasta, calzone and can be used as sauce for making pizza.


 
Marinara sauce supposedly had its origin in 16th century Naples in the sailor community. Marinara sauce can be loosely translated as “sauce of the sailors” and is is thought to come from “marinaro”, the Italian word for "seafaring." The very high acid content from the tomatoes and the cooking down of this sauce ensured that it did not spoil very easily in an age where refrigeration was unknown.

I make my own version of Marinara which may not be authentic because I also add a bell pepper to the mix. My version is an all-purpose sauce which I use to serve with pasta and calzone, use as a pizza sauce and wherever else an Italian tomato sauce would do well.

 


I make these in large quantitity and then freeze it into single use portions so that I almost always have this handy to use.  almost always have in my fridge as I make large quantities and freeze it in smaller portions.
My All-Purpose Marinara Sauce
 
Ingredients:
1/2 kg tomatoes, pureed
3 (200g) packs of tomato puree
2-3 onions
1/2 tsp garlic paste (more if you prefer)
1 large bellpepper/ capsicum, green
3 heaped tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning/ mixed herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage, etc.)
2-3 tbsp oil
salt to taste
 
Method:
Chop up the onions and capsicum and blend to a paste with garlic paste.
Heat the oil and fry this paste till the raw smell of onion disappears. Then add both the tomato purees and all other ingredients, except the seasoning, and stir well. Allow to come to a boil and then turn down the heat.
Cook till quite thick, stirring occasionally. When almost ready, add the seasoning. Cook for another 2 minutes and the sauce is ready.


 
Cool and bottle. This keeps in the fridge for 7-10 days. This sauce can also be divided into smaller single portions and frozen.
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July 22, 2008

Laura's Portuguese Sweet Bread, A No-Knead Bread from Jugalbandi and Meeta's Achari Aloo


Laura’s Portuguese Sweet Bread

For this month’s Taste & Create, Nicole at For The Love of Food paired me up with Laura of the Spiced Life. This event requires us to recreate a recipe of our choice from the collection of the blogger we have been paired up with.
Being a vegetarian living in India, I sometimes find myself narrowed down on choices of what to cook from the assigned blog. First because, of course, I’m vegetarian, and then I find that many of the listed ingredients are just not available here.
Going through Laura’s blog I came upon a Portuguese Sweet Bread which I thought I would try.






My bread doesn’t look like any Portuguese sweet bread you’ve probably seen. My fault entirely. I thought the amount of dough I had wasn’t enugh for two small loaves and I didn’t have a big loaf tin. So I used my cake tin thinking I would get a nice roundish bread. Well, the dough had other ideas! It rose quite a bit and ended up looking like this.
I followed Laura's recipe with two exceptions, one intended and the other one accidental. I used only one egg instead of the two she suggested. But after I had kept the dough for rising, I realized that I had misread 6 tbsps of sugar as 6 tsps. So I went back to the almost doubled dough and kneaded it again adding 2 tbsps of honey. Then I allowed the dough to double again before baking it.




The bread was just sweet enough for us (so maybe it was a good thing I misread the recipe) with a soft and spongy texture with a very dark yet soft crust. It made great toast the next day.

Jugalbandi’s No Knead Bread

Anyone who has been following my posts would know that I enjoy baking, especially bread (so much that my blog is close to becoming a bakers’ blog). Sometime back Bee had suggested that I could try making their No Knead Bread. After all, what could be easier than swishing all the ingredients together, plopping everything into a bowl, allowing the mass to rise and baking it into a great bread?





So make it I did. Not just once or twice, but many more times. But I have neglected to post it or acknowledge the recipe. So when Nupur of One Hot Stove, who is hosting this month’s Monthly Blog Patrolling (MBP), announced “Less is More” as the theme, this was the perfect opportunity for this bread to see the daylight on my blog. This bread is made with four ingredients – flour, yeast, salt and water. As Nupur’s event guide lines state that water and salt would not count as ingredients for this event, this bread is made with only two ingredients!!





The recipe is the one at Jugalbandi but I couldn’t resist substituting half the flour with whole wheat flour. The result has always been a very crusty wonderful bread which is soft “holey” inside. This bread is on the way to becoming a “regular” at our table.

Meeta’s Achari Aloo

Zlamushka of Zlamushka’s Spicy Kitchen has chosen to showcase Meeta’s blog, What’s For Lunch Honey, through her Tried and Tasted event. Meeta’s blog has a varied collection of recipes and extremely beautiful photographs.
I chose to make her Aachari Alu - Potatoes in Mango Chutney Sauce to serve with chappathis and plain yogurt.






I stayed with Meeta’s recipe except for the mango chutney sauce. I didn’t have this so I used 1 ½ tbsps each of mango chundo and mango thokku. The result was a delicious potato preparation with a wonderful mingling of spicy, tangy, salty and sweet flavours. This is a dish worth trying.

I would like to finish this post by saying a “Thank You” to the Foodbuzz team for the lovely tote bag and badges they sent me.


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July 17, 2008

Lump-Proof Vegetable Rawa Uppuma/ Upma (Semolina Cooked With Vegetables)

Printable recipe here.

What is Uppuma (or uppumavu)?
In Tamil, “uppu” means salt and “ma” means flour. While this doesn't quite explain it, uppuma is a savoury dish somewhat like couscous. This south Indian preparation, usually served for breakfast, can be eaten as a snack or brunch and is a wholesome meal in itself. Usually made with coarse rawa (semolina), uppuma can also be made with broken/ cracked wheat, broken rice and semia (vermicelli).
There are plenty of people (including my husband and daughter) who don’t particularly like uppuma (or upma as it is mostly referred to as), but I’m not one of them. I really like uppuma, especially when it is served hot, and made with lot of vegetables.
Traditionally, in our homes, uppuma is made using coconut oil and without vegetables or onions. Sometimes, freshly grated coconut is also added at the end, just before taking the uppuma off the heat.
Uppuma is usually served with coconut chutney, though it can be eaten with Indian pickles/ sugar/ banana or even plain yogurt! I like it without any accompaniment and occasionally with the small sweet variety of bananas.



But one thing I avoid eating is lumpy or sticky uppuma. I know many people make it and enjoy it this way. Then I’ve seen some people adding a lot of oil to the uppuma just before taking it off the stove to ensure it doesn’t cool down to a lumpy mass. I prefer my uppuma to have a crumbly and fluffy texture and learnt how to make it this way from my mother. And it has worked for me every time, well almost. Occasionally, though, the quality of the rawa (semolina) can play havoc with the best of recipes. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups rawa (coarse semolina)
1 ½ tsp ghee/ oil (optional)
3 cups water
salt to taste
1 cup finely chopped assorted vegetables (carrots, peas, cauliflower, beans, potatoes, sweet corn)
1 big onion, finely chopped
2” piece ginger, minced
1 -2 green chillies, chopped
2 tsp oil or coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal (black gram dal)
2 tsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
1 sprig curry leaves

Method:

If pre-roasted rawa is available, then that’s best for this uppuma. Otherwise, heat the ghee/ oil and add the rawa. Roast the rawa over low to medium heat till golden in colour and an aroma emanates from the rawa. Using ghee gives the uppuma a very nice and unique taste. If you prefer, you can avoid the ghee and oil here and dry roast the rawa. Keep aside.
Add salt to the 3 cups of water and keep to boil. Cook the chopped vegetables (not onions) in the microwave till just done. If not using the microwave, add the vegetables to the water kept for boiling. They will cook by the time the water boils.
In a wok, heat the 2 tsp oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the urad dals and sauté till golden brown. Now add the ginger, onions and green chillies. Sauté till the onions are soft. Add the curry leaves and vegetables (if microwaved), stir and add the rawa. Stir everything so that the rawa uniformly coats the vegetables. Turn down the heat to low. Slowly add the boiling water (with or without the vegetables) because at this point the mixture tends to spit. Stir everything so it is well mixed. Keep mixing occasionally till the rawa absorbs all the water and the uppuma is fluffy. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
Serve hot. This recipe serves 3 to 4 people.
Sia of Monsoon Spice is guest hosting Nandita’s WBB and this month’s theme is Summer Feast. My Vegetable Uppuma goes there. Mansi of Fun and Food reminded me that this preparation would be right for the event she's hosting right now. Uppuma is a great way to start off the day as it is full of vegetables, fibre, low in fat and extremely filling. So this is goes to Healthy Cooking too.

I just realised (actually my husband pointed this out, or I wouldn't have noticed) that this is my 101st post.





Natashya of Living In The Kitchen With Puppies has been kind enough to think my blog deserves a Yum-Yum Blog award. Thanks Natashya for your kind words too.

Reminder:
Just a reminder that the last date for entries for Think Spice, Think Nutmeg is the 27th of July and BBD #12 - "Small Breads" is the 1st of August.




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July 10, 2008

A Mango Coconut Kulfi and A Peachy Mango Milkshake

Printable recipe here.

This is a recipe which started out as with a different end result in mind. I gathered all these ingredients planning to make a mango fudge when halfway through I realized that the fudge wasn’t going to materialize. So I froze the custardy mixture and to make it a kulfi. This recipe could qualify as a gelato as well but it had all the classic features of a kulfi (milk, sugar, cardamom and pistachios).
A kulfi is an Indian frozen dessert some what like an ice cream. Traditionally, kulfi is made with full fat milk, sweetened with a lot of sugar and boiled to reduce it to a thick creamy custard. It is then flavoured with cardamom, saffron and pistachios and frozen. The best kulfi is the one that comes in matkas (small earthenware pots) with no other flavour additions.



This kulfi has mango and the coconut milk in it lends a barely discernable flavour but gives the kulfi a very creamy taste and texture. And needless to say a lot of calories!
I haven’t mastered the art of photographing frozen desserts and the temperatures here don’t help in this matter. So please don’t be driven away by this picture. This kulfi is absolutely delicious, especially on a hot summer day.

Ingredients:

1 can (400g) sweetened condensed milk (I used Nestle Milkmaid)
1 ½ cups fresh mango puree
1 cup milk
1 pack coconut milk (or thick coconut milk from 2 small coconuts)
¼ tsp salt
3 – 4 tbsp chopped pistachio
1 tsp powdered cardamom

Method:

Put the condensed milk, milk, mango puree and salt in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes. Now turn down the heat and add the coconut milk and mix well till blended. Make sure the mixture does not boil as the coconut milk will split. Take the pan off the heat. Add the chopped pistachio and cardamom. Mix well again and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming on the kulfi custard.
Pour into kulfi or popsicle moulds and freeze. If you don’t have either, pour into a metal/ plastic container and freeze. Serve like ice cream.
Kulfi becomes very hard when frozen like icecream. So you may have to keep it at room temperature to soften slightly before serving.
I'm sending this to Meeta for her Monthly Mingle: Mango Mania.


Peachy Mango Milkshake

Why am I doing a two recipe post today, and pairing these two recipes?
No particular reason, I’m just doing it. If you really want to connect up the two recipes, the common elements would be milk and mangoes. This recipe got made up because I needed to empty my fridge of perishable items as I would be away from home for about a week. So some peaches left over from my last recipe and some mangoes became a milkshake and my fridge is fruit free for the present.



This is one of the few devious methods I use to get my daughter to have certain fruits she doesn’t like!

Ingredients:

4 small peaches
2 mangoes
½ litre cold milk
Sugar as required (depending on how sweet/ or not, the fruits are)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Method:

Chill the fruits till quite cold. Peel and chop the peaches and mango. Put all the ingredients into the blender/ liquidiser and blend into a smooth milkshake. Serve immediately. This would make 3 large or 4 small milkshakes. This is great with breakfast.

This recipe of mine is going to join others at Culinarty's Original Recipes and the event I'm hosting Think Spice, Think Nutmeg.

I shall take this opportunity to thank Sireesha of Mom's Recipies who has bestowed my blog


(and me) with a Bear Hug and Ivy of Kopiaste who made my day by giving me a You Make My Day award.




I truly appreciate the gesture and my apologies to both of you in taking some time to acknowledge them.
I shall be travelling out of Goa and be away for the next six days and so will not be able to acknowledge your comments or e-mails till I get back. See you all next week.


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July 8, 2008

Confetti Cupcakes for a Birthday Girl

It was Akshaya’s birthday on the 6th. We aren’t really celebrating anything these days and she just wanted to have a couple of friends over for tea, this birthday. I had promised to make her a frosted cake this year. This was a big step for me. I have baked any number of cakes but cutting them up, sandwiching them with buttercream and decorating them is an entirely new and frightening thing for me. After making a few Daring Baker cakes, I’ve lost a bit of that fear but realized that there are many things that can and will go wrong while decorating a cake! So I did make her a chocolate covered buttercream sandwiched cake, which I will post later.
So what else did she want? Lots of chips (the Lays kind) and fruit juice to drink (we avoid buying fizzy drinks).
And croissants. Croissants?
Ok. The thing is, for us here, bread is really not breakfast. Well, maybe on those occasional days when I’m not feeling good or we’re pressed for time, bread features in breakfast along with fruit, cornflakes and milk. Otherwise, bread sometimes is dinner with soup. Or for sandwiches at snacktime.
She wanted “plain” croissants, without chocolate or anything else! So I made some of those using the Danish pastry dough that was last month's Daring Baker's challenge.




Then she wanted “white” cupcakes (as in no chocolate, because she's tired of chocolate cakes) with frosting! A bit of a surprise for me, because she doesn’t really like very sweet things and has never been very keen on icing/ frosting. But then Akshaya’s tastes in food (and clothes) have been changing quite a bit so I should have expected this.
So I decided to go searching for cupcakes to make and finally found the perfect cupcake at Baking Bites. Baking Bites is a great blog if you’re interested in baking and Nicole has a wonderful variety of baking recipes.



I chose to make Nicole's Confetti Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting. I especially liked the idea of a frosting without butter. I kept to the original recipe, but used honey in place of corn syrup, vinegar instead of cream of tartar and reduced the sugar for the frosting by ½ a cup as I find most frostings very sweet. The recipe is for 12 cupcakes and I got 14. I also had a little under half of the frosting left over (maybe I was meant to use more on the cupcakes).




The cupcakes were soft and very attractively speckled with colour. I've never tasted frosting like this and quite liked it. It was quite soft yet stiff enough in texture to hold its shape.
The evening ended with 4 very happily stuffed girls and 2 not so stuffed, but rather tired adults clearing up after them.


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July 5, 2008

Announcing Bread Baking Day #12: Small Breads

In the southern part of India, where I come from, bread and baking is, traditionally, not a part of our food and cooking. One reason for this could be that the predominant grain in our part of the world is rice and wheat is grown in the plains of northern India.
However, the idea of making my own bread, tasty and free from the additives of commercial baking, has always appealed to me. Yet my early disasters (and there were so many) at making bread nearly made me give up the idea. A couple of years back, a good friend showed me how to conquer yeast and since then I have been enjoying my discovery of the world of breads.
Some time back I also came upon Bread Baking Day (BBD), an event started by Zorra at 1x umrühren bitte, dedicated to getting bread makers together every month. The themes put forward by the hosts every month has opened up a wide variety of breads to me.
Last month’s BBD was a first anniversary special and hosted by Zorra herself with “Bread with Sprouts” as the theme. You can find a round up of breads chock full of health here.



This month, Zorra has given me the opportunity to host Bread Baking Day and I have chosen “Small Breads” as the theme. By small breads, I mean individual serving size breads. That would bring to my mind breads like buns, rolls, biscuits, bagels, waffles, beignets, doughnuts, croissants, bread sticks, pretzels, etc. There are many more small breads I do not know of so I am waiting to learn about them from you.

You can make them sweet or savory, plain or stuffed, or add fruit/ vegetable/ nuts/ seeds/ herbs/ spices, etc. You can get creative and shape your bread decoratively. The sky’s the limit for possibilities. The only two things to keep in mind are that the bread should be “small” and should be made with a leavening agent.
Since this is a vegetarian blog (eggs are okay here), I must request that all entries be vegetarian.
So I’m looking forward to all your entries. To be a part of this event, you just need to do the following:

1. Bake some “small bread”.
2. Post it on your blog anytime between today and the 1st of August and link back to this post.
3. Then send me an e-mail at aprna00@gmail.com (aprna zero zero@gmail.com), with BBD #12 as the subject and the following details:
Your name
Your location
The name of your blog along with url of your blog
The name of your bread and url (permalink) to your post
A 300 pixel wide picture of your bread, if possible.

If your blog is not in English, then please send me a translation of your post in English or do the BBD post on your blog in English.
If you do not have a blog but would like to be a part of this event, please send me your recipe and write-up (with picture, if possible) and I would be happy to include it in the round-up.
Remember, the last date is the 1st of August and I will post the round-up around the 5th of August. And feel free to use the banner with your BBD post.
Happy Baking!


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July 3, 2008

Spiced Peach and Honey Gelato

Printable recipe here.

I came up with this recipe for four reasons.
- Some very beautiful peaches, all yellow with a blush of pinkish orange, tempted me at the market and I bought quite a few. Appearances are truly not everything as these peaches proved. They were not as sweet as they looked, so there were no takers for them.
- I had some extra milk in the fridge.
- We don’t need excuses to eat ice cream in this house. Anytime is ice cream time!
- Mike at Mike’s Table is having a “Frozen Dessert Party”. This wasn’t a reason at the time this recipe was put together, but it is now. So Mike, this comes to your event.


I wanted to make some ice cream without cream in it. Actually, I’ve never made ice cream at home using cream, except once. And a gelato seemed a good idea.
A gelato is a sort of Italian ice cream made with milk, sugar, eggs and fresh fruit/ chocolate/ nuts. Northern Italy is known for its milk based gelatos where as southern Italy is known for sorbettos, a gelato made from fruit but without milk.
Gelatos have a softer texture and are best served fresh (because of the fruit).
I try to avoid eggs if I can, so I’ve used readymade custard powder (which is largely cornstarch) here to make the custard. The spices add an interesting warm and spicy note to the gelato.
My picture doesn't do this gelato justice (its all melty here and I'm not the greatest photographer) but trust me when I say this is really good. And no calories from cream and fresh fruit too! You can have your gelato and eat it!!

Ingredients:

4 cups milk (3% fat)
4 large peaches, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
4 tsp vanilla custard powder (or cornstarch and vanilla extract)
2 points star anise (from 1 flower)
3 pods cardamom
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
¼ tsp salt

Method:

Add the lemon juice to the peaches, mix and puree. Keep aside.
Heat 3 ½ cups of the milk in a thick bottomed pan. Add the brown sugar to the milk, stir, and bring to a boil. Powder the spices and add to the remaining ½ cup of milk. Also add the custard powder to this milk. Whisk well and add to the boiling milk. Keep stirring continuously while doing this to prevent lumps from forming. The milk mixture will become a little thicker (a custard of pouring consistency). Turn off the heat and allow it to cool, while stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming over the top.
Put the cooled milk custard and the peach puree in a blender. Blend well.
Pour into a steel or plastic container with a tight lid and freeze. As soon as the gelato starts freezing around the sides, break the ice crystals using a blender. Do this twice more to get a creamier texture. Freeze till ready to serve.
The gelato will be very hard, so you may need to set the temperature a little lower than for freezing ice cream. Otherwise, let it sit outside for a little while before serving. Ideally, the gelato should be a bit soft and melt on your tongue.This recipe makes plenty of gelato. We got roughly three servings each (not all at once!).
This gelato is also going across to Mythereyee at Paajaka for her Sweet Series.


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July 1, 2008

Announcing Think Spice, Think Nutmeg

Think Spice, Think……, an event that Sunita of Sunita’s World came up with to showcase individual spices, has created a spice route of its own and stops here this month.
I am delighted to host this edition and have chosen the Nutmeg to be this month’s spice.


Why Nutmeg?
I will be honest and tell you that it is because I have this on my kitchen shelf and haven’t really put it to much use, so far. So I’m really looking forward to discovering the many ways in which it can feature in foods. If you have any recipes using nutmeg, then this is the opportunity to blog about it. Or if you are like me, then this is when we can figure new ways to cook with nutmeg.
But before we go further, a little about the Nutmeg.

The Nutmeg:
The nutmegs Myristica are evergreen trees indigenous to tropical southeast Asia and Australasia. Two spices derived from the fruit, nutmeg and mace.
Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20 mm to 30 mm (1 inch) long and 15 mm to 18 mm (¾ inch) wide, and weighing between 5 g and 10 g (¼ ounce and ½ ounce) dried, while mace is the dried "lacy" reddish covering or arillus of the seed.
Several other commercial products are also produced from the trees, including essentia oils, extracted oleoresins, and nutmeg butter.
The outer surface of the nutmeg bruises easily.
The pericarp (fruit/pod) is used in Grenada to make a jam called "Morne Delice". In Indonesia, the fruit is sliced finely, cooked and crystallised to make a fragrant candy called manisan pala ("nutmeg sweets").
The most important species commercially is the Common or Fragrant Nutmeg Myristica fragrans, native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia; it is also grown in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada. Other species include Papuan Nutmeg M. argentea from New Guinea, and Bombay Nutmeg M. malabarica from India; both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans products.

Culinary uses:
Nutmeg and mace have similar taste qualities, nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light-coloured dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like colour it imparts. Nutmeg is a flavorful addition to cheese sauces and is best grated fresh.
In Indian cuisine, nutmeg powder is used almost exclusively in sweet dishes. It is known as Jaiphal in most parts of India and as Javitri and
Jathi seed in Kerala. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala.]
In Middle Eastern cuisine, nutmeg powder is often used as a spice for savoury dishes. In Arabic, nutmeg is called Jawzt at-Tiyb.
In Greece and Cyprus nutmeg is called moschokarydo (Greek: "nut that smells nice") and is used in cooking and savoury dishes.
In European cuisine, nutmeg and mace are used especially in potato dishes and in processed meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces and baked goods. In Dutch cuisine nutmeg is quite popular, it is added to vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and string beans.
Japanese varieties of curry powder include nutmeg as an ingredient.
A Norwegian bun called kavring includes nutmeg.
Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and eggnog
(Source: Wikipedia)

Some interesting history about the Nutmeg can be found here.

To be a part of this event, you just have to do the following:

1. Cook up something in which nutmeg features as the main spice. This is a vegetarian blog ( eggs are ok) so please ensure that you send in vegetarian entries.
2. Post it on your blog anytime between today and the 27th of July and please link back to this post and Sunita's Think Spice post. Feel free to use the logo with your post.
3. Then send me an e-mail at aprna00@gmail.com (aprna zero zero @gmail.com), with Think Spice, Think Nutmeg as the subject and the following details:
Your name,
Your location,
The name of your blog along with url of your blog,
The name of your dish and url (permalink) to your post,
And a 300 pixel wide picture, if possible.

If you do not have a blog but would like to be a part of this event, please send me your recipe and write-up (with picture, if possible) and I would be happy to include it in the round-up.
Happy cooking with Nutmeg!
Updated on 18th July, 2008:
Angela of A Spoonful Of Sugar has pointed out "Morne Delice" is actually a brand of nutmeg products. Looks like Wikipedia made a mistake there!
Angela also says that "The soft pericarp is turned into nutmeg syrup--delicious on pancakes--nutmeg jam and nutmeg jelly. I've also had it caramelised and layered in a tart with pastry cream.
Incidentally, the outer shells of the nutmeg are used in place of gravel in a few resorts in Grenada. The scent made me perpetually hungry!"


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