February 28, 2009

Chocolate Valentino- A Flourless Chocolate Cake: Daring Bakers Challenge February 2009


With this month, I complete one year of Daring Baker challenges. I joined the Daring Bakers in January of 2008 but because I couldn't do two of the challenges in between, this happens to be my twelfth challenge.

"The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge."
When I read these lines, at the beginning of this month, it seemed fitting that I would be celebrating this milestone using one of my favourites ingredients, Chocolate!




Given that Valentine's Day is celebrated in February, I was expecting to see something chocolate, but what was really surprising was that that this flourless cake required just three (yes, I said only three) ingredients!
Now don't ever assume that just because a recipe is minimalist means that it's going to be a breeze. Experience has taught me to look at such recipes with a lot of respect and my rather pathetic French Bread was a perfect example. However, I am happy to report that this challenge caused me no real problems.

This is one cake that couldn't be easier to make, with just one pre-condition. Make this cake only if you love chocolate (or have someone who loves chocolate to serve it to) because this cake is just that, almost pure chocolate!!
Our hosts also wanted us to serve this cake with home-made ice-cream. We had to make the cake with the option of making our ice-cream with the given recipes or using any other recipe and in a flavour/ falvours of our choice.


My Flourless Chocolate Cake:


While we don't celebrate Valentine's Day in particular (as my husband says "why restrict to one day when we have the whole year?"), we are always ready to celebrate especially if it involves good food and then chocolate at that.
Never having made a flourless cake before, I decided not to experiment but follow the given recipe, eggs and all. I just halved the recipe and made the cake in my 6" round cake tin.

Everything worked out fine. I baked the cake for 25 minutes and the cake looked dry on top. I don't have an instant thermometer so I just used a knife to check if it was done. The knife came out wet, so I baked it for another 7 minutes and it was done.

The cake rose quite well and it looked pretty good when it came out of the oven. I think the discovery that it was no longer in a nice warm oven must have come as a shock to my cake. It just decided to sit down!
I know the cake was meant to sink a bit, but I never thought I would have a crater in the middle of my cake. So I tried to camouflage that a bit by dressing it up and filled the crater with some white, milk and dark chocolate curls.


The Ice-creams:


Yes, we were required to make one ice-cream but ice-cream is another thing we like and I make very often. It also helps that we live in a part of India where it is ice-cream weather all the 12 months of the year.




I made eggless ice-creams in two delicious flavours – fresh mint and spiced carrot.  This is the season for juicy and sweet winter carrots it seemed right to try turning them into ice-cream. I do not have an ice-cream maker and have always made them by hand. The recipes for both flavours are below.
I have developed this standard eggless recipe for my ice-creams and I adapt that to whatever flavour I am making at any given time. Most of the time, I leave out the cream but use fresh fruit to flavour my ice-cream (or gelato since ther's no cream in it) as this makes for a much healthier dessert.


Fresh Mint Ice-cream:

Ingredients:

500ml milk (I used 3% fat)

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 cup milk powder (I used skimmed)

100ml cream (25% fat)

1 tsp lemon juice


Method:


Put the sugar, milk powder and milk in a heavy and thick-bottomed pan and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and allow to it to cool a bit. Roughly tear the mint leaves and drop them into the milk. Stir well and keep this aside for about an hour so the mint flavour infuses into the milk.

Now strain the milk into a plastic or metal container (in which you will freeze the ice-cream) and discard the mint leaves. In another pan, put the cream and cornstarch and mix well. Place on the stove and heat the cream, stirring constantly until the cornstarch in it causes the cream to thicken a bit. Take this off the heat.

Add this to the mint flavoured milk and beat well with a whisk or electric mixer. Add the lemon juice and mix again. Allow to cool to room temperature and freeze, taking the ice-cream out every 45 minutes or so and mixing well to break up the ice crystals. Do this about 3 to 4 times.


Spiced Carrot Ice-cream:

Ingredients:

500ml milk (I used 3% fat)

1/2 cup sugar*

1 cup grated carrots, tightly packed

100ml cream (25% fat)

cardamom seeds from 4 pods

1" piece cinnamon, broken

4 leaves of star anise

4 cloves


Method:


*Adjust this amount according to the sweetness of your carrots.

Keep aside 1 cup of milk.
Put the sugar, milk powder and remaining milk in a heavy and thick-bottomed pan and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and cloves to the milk and take the pan off the heat. Stir the milk and keep aside for about 2 hours so the spices infuse into it.
Now strain the milk into a plastic or metal container (in which you will freeze the ice-cream) and discard the spices.

In the meanwhile, cook the grated carrots in the reserved 1 cup of milk till really soft. Take off the heat and allow it to cool and then blend this mixture into a smooth puree. Keep aside.

In another pan, put the cream and cornstarch and mix well. Place on the stove and heat the cream, stirring constantly until the cornstarch in it causes the cream to thicken a bit. Take this off the heat.

Add the pureed carrots and the thickened cream to the spice infused milk and beat well with a whisk, electric mixer or in a blender. Freeze the ice-cream, taking it out every 45 minutes or so and mixing well to break up the ice crystals. Do this about 3 to 4 times.


I served the mint ice-cream in chocolate cups. To make chocolate cups melt the equal quantities of semi-sweet and milk chocolate with a little butter. Coat the inside of a few cupcake cases with an even layer of melted chocolate, using a paint brush. Place them in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Once the chocolate has hardened, take them out and paint one more layer of melted chocolate on the inside of each cup. This ensures that your chocolate cups don't break. Place them in freezer for another 10 minutes till the chocolate hardens. Now carefully peel off the cupcake cases. Store the chocolate cups in an airtight container in the refrigerator till needed.

The idea for the spiced carrot ice-cream chocolate sandwiches came from David Lebovitz's detailed post on making Simple, Little Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches.

I used the left over melted chocolate from making the above chocolate cups. Place a plastic transparency sheet or a greased sheet of aluminium foil (or parchment paper) on a baking sheet.
Drop about 1/4 tsp melted chocolate on the sheet or greased foil and spread it into a thin even circle, using the back of the spoon. Repeat, for as many chocolate discs as you require. Refrigerate so the chocolate hardens. Peel off the discs carefully (they have a tendency to break) and store in an airtight container in the fridge till needed.

To assemble the sandwich, make small scoops of ice-cream and place them on a chilled plate and freeze. Take them out to soften slightly and sandwich each small scoop between two chocolate discs. Freeze the sandwiches till ready to serve.
I also made candied carrot curls to garnish my spiced carrot ice-cream sandwiches.
Both ice-cream recipes will make enough to comfortably serve 4 to 6, depending on the serving size.


Verdict:

My flourless cake sank more than I expected it to, but other than the fact that it perhaps didn't look stunning (or very pretty) we weren't too worried. The cake was quite good. After all, appearance isn't everything, right?

The cake was dense, as expected, and much like a very fudgy brownie. It tasted better and more deeply "chocolatey" the next day. I had made my cake using half semi-sweet chocolate and half milk chocolate yet the cake wasn't anywhere near being very sweet. So this makes for a very adult dessert and definitely needs the ice-cream to complete it. And a small serving of this flourless chocolate cake really does go a long way.

On the other hand, if there are going to be children eating this cake, I suggest that making it with milk chocolate alone would be a good idea.
Our daughter took one bite of the cake and then never came anywhere near it. She enjoys chocolate, but found this cake too bitter for her taste.
Having said this, I'm not sure I was happy with the texture of this cake. Maybe it's that I'm used to cakes with flour and this needs getting used to.
As for the ice-creams, I had never made either flavour before, though I enjoy mint ice-cream. The spiced carrot ice-cream was an experiment which, I'm happy to say, turned out really well.

So this month's challenge ended on a happy note for me and left us with the satisfied feeling that only chocolate and some ice-cream can bring. Now please go over and see what my fellow DBs can create with some butter, eggs and a whole lot of chocolate!



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February 27, 2009

Thandai (Spiced Almond Milk)


Thandai means "that which cools" in Hindi and is a cold milk based drink made with sugar, almonds and spices. The spice mix used in thandai can vary quite a bit from one recipe to another, but mostly contain saffron, cardamom, fennel seeds, black and/ or white pepper and melon seeds (sometimes a mix of 4 different melon seeds called charmagaz). Some recipes also call for fresh or dried rose petals, of the variety used to make gulkand.





This drink, popular in the northern part of India but virtually unknown in the south, is a great summer cooler and served as an offering to Lord Shiva during Shivarathri and during the colourful festival of Holi. The holy Indian city of Benaras/ Varanasi is supposedly the most famous for its thandai.

Another more well known, perhaps, version of thandai is the intoxicating bhang thandai served in many public places as a mood setter during Holi celebrations. This is made by adding bhang (a preparation from the buds and leaves of the Cannabis plant) and was central in various Holi song and dance routines in some Hindi films of the seventies!





Holi is a North Indian festival and we don;t celebrate it being South Indians. We have however, lived throughout most of our lives in places where Holi is celebrated and have invariably been drawn into the celebrations. While I am comfortable with the traditional type of Holi celebrations where neighbours and well-wishers turn up with colours and sweets and just lightly smear the colours on your cheeks or arms, the unihibited kind of colourful celebrations with being doused with coloured water and powders makes me uncomfortable.

Our daughter used to spend the first few years of her life hiding under her bed on Holi, totally scared of colour bearing friends who would knock on our door. That was only until she was old enough to join her large group of friends having fun all Holi morning coming home at lunch time stained with the colours of the rainbow!





Holi is not yet here and it may seem a little odd to many of you, who are probably still enjoying (or not!) the last bit of winter that I am making and serving a summer cooler right now. While it is not officially summer here, our days have already started getting quite warm and a cool drink is always welcome and this particular one is absolutely delicious as well.
The day time temperature touched an unusual high of 36 C on last Sunday, so you know what I'm talking about.
And as far as I'm concerned one doesn't need to wait for Holi to drink Thandai. Try this as a warm drink during cold days, and you will find it very refreshing, somehwat reminiscent of a spicy hot Posset or a Hot Toddy.
Thandai (Spiced Almond Milk)

(Adapted from Tarla Dalal's website)



Ingredients:


1 L full fat milk (I used 3% fat)

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp rose water

A few strands of saffron

some slivered pistachios and a few saffron strands for garnishing


Grind into a fine powder:

1/4 cup almonds

2 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus khus)

2 tbsp melon seeds (magaz)

2 tbsp fennel seeds (saunf)

15 black peppercorns

seeds from 6 or 7 cardamom pods


Method:


Add the sugar to the milk, stir to dissolve the sugar completely and bring to a boil. Take the sweet milk off the heat and add the saffron strands. Allow the milk to cool to room temperature.

Add the powdered almond-spice mixture to the milk and stir well. Refrigerate this for about 4 to 6 hours. This allows the flavours to infuse into the milk. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Add the rose water and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve chilled after garnishing with slivered pistachios and a few strands of saffron. This recipe serves 6.


This goes across for Sunita's Think Spice which is hosted this month by Ivy of Kopiaste who is thinking Fennel seeds.


 
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February 26, 2009

Black-eyed Beans, Vegetable and Pesto Minestrone


I guess if you have been following my blog you would know by now that soups are not exactly my favourite food. In fact, I have only one soup recipe on my blog till date! My husband and daughter, on the other hand, enjoy their soup. But Akshaya always tells me that I am not very good at making soup and I have to agree with her. Maybe it has something to do with my indifferent attitude towards soup in general.

Some time back, I decided to work on improving my soup making skills. On one hand, soup is a great thing when you want a light but filling dinner. On the other hand if you are careful about what you eat or garnish your soup with, it is an excellent meal which is low in calories. One does have to worry about these things as one gets older (and heavier)!




Minestrone is an Italian soup which takes its name from "minestra" which refers to a hearty or chunky soup. There are probably as many different recipes for minestrone as there are people who cook it and every region of Italy has its traditional minestrone soup that it is famous for. However, all minestrone soups usually feature a tomato based broth (this could be thin or thick) with onion, celery, beans, seasonal vegetables and sometimes pasta or rice. Some versions also include a bit of meat.

So minestrone is a soup that very easily adapts itself to what is available in one's kitchen. And given the ingredients it accommodates, it makes for a nutritious and filling one-dish meal.

I have adapted this recipe from Tarla Dalal's The Complete Italian Cookbook. She says that this particular minestrone with pesto is from Milan. The pesto lends the minestrone a nutty flavour and can be made ahead, but add it just before you finish making the minestrone. This minestrone is best served as soon as it is made.


Ingredients:


1 big onion, finely chopped

3/4 tsp garlic paste

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini

1/2 cup finely shredded cabbage

1 1/4 cup cooked black-eyed beans

1/4 small shell pasta (or any soup pasta)

3 tbsp tomato purée

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


For the pesto:

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves

3 to 4 walnut halves

1 tbsp olive oil


To serve:

3 to 4 tbsp grated parmesan or processed cheese (optional)



Method:


Prepare the pesto by pounding all the ingredients together. Keep aside.

Heat the oil, add the garlic paste and onions and sauté till the onions become transparent. Add the celery, carrots, zucchini and cabbage and sauté for a minute. Add about four cups of water, the tomato purée, salt and sugar. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Simmer until the vegetables have cooked but are firm. Add the beans and pasta and simmer again for about 10 minutes, until the pasta has cooked. Add the pepper and pesto and mix well.
Serve out into individual bowls and sprinkle with cheese, if using. This recipe serves 4.

This is my submission to Susan's Eighth Helping of My Legume Love Affair.
Since we had this soup without the cheese, it also goes to Vaishali's Its A Vegan World where the flavour of the month is Italian.



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February 25, 2009

Vegalicious's Dalmatian (or my Polka Dot) Pudding


I was searching for something, on the net, the other day when I was struck by a beautiful photograph at Vegalicious, a food blog dedicated to vegan and vegetarian food. The post was a lovely coconut pudding with chocolate spots, very aptly named a Dalmatian pudding!
I had all the ingredients on hand and it seemed a perfect choice for dessert. I followed the original recipe with some minor changes.




The recipe says coconut, but I wasn't sure about whether it meant fresh or dessicated. Since coconut is something we're never short of in Goa, I used freshly grated coconut which I ran a couple of times in my blender to obtain finely shredded coconut. I increased the sugar and cornstarch a bit and added some powdered cardamom to the pudding.

All I had were mini chocolate chips, so I used them to "spot" my coconut pudding. To give your pudding a true "Dalmatian" look, use regular sized chocolate chips or follow the method suggested in the original recipe. As you can see, my pudding doesn't have quite the "look". My cousin, who was here for a short holiday, suggested that I could call my pudding a "Polka Dot Pudding" instead!!

Dalmatian or Polka Dot, this pudding is very easily made and quite good. My picture doesn't do justice to the pudding but this is the best I could do considering that I had to serve it immediately after, but do go across to see it in all it's glory at Vegalicious. You won't be disappointed.
Here is my microwave adapted "Polka Dot version" of the original Dalmatian Pudding.



Ingredients:

400ml of very thick coconut milk (packaged)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp finely shredded fresh coconut

1 tsp powdered cardamom

a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips



Method:


Place the coconut milk, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, salt and cornstarch in a microwave safe bowl. Whisk, by hand, a couple of times till the suagr has somewhat dissolved. Add the coconut and stir a couple of times.

Microwave, uncovered, at 100% for 2 minutes. Take out and stir well. Microwave for another 2 minutes at 100%. Take out and stir again. Now microwave for another 2 minutes at 80%.

By now the pudding would have thickened to the consistency of a thick custard. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Allow the pudding to cool a bit, stirring occasionally, and pour into microwave safe serving bowls. Refrigerate till solid.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips carefully on top of the pudding to produce a "Dalmatian" pattern. Place in the microwave for about 2 minutes at 80% or till the chocolate chips melt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This pudding serves 4.

The chosen book for this month's "This Book Makes Me Cook" was Agatha Christie's short story collection titled Adventures of a Christmas Pudding. Having been a confirmed fan of Agatha Christie books I had read this one before but did not have the time to re-read it this month, for various reasons. Hence I decided to use the title as inspiration and this pudding is my contribution.
Other Agatha Christie inspired creations were Simran's A Tale of Two Puddings and Sweatha's Quick Blackberry Tart.

This pudding is also my submission for Srivalli's MEC being hosted this month by Jayasree of Kailas Kitchen with the theme Microwaved Puddings.




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February 23, 2009

Carrot Coconut Thogayal (Thick Chutney)


As I have mentioned in a previous post, a thogayal is a thick and coarsely ground coconut chutney which accompanies a meal of rice and mulagootal. While coconut is indispensable and the main ingredient in a thogayal, sometimes certain vegetables are sautéed in a bit of oil and added. Small Madras onions/ shallots, ridge gourd (peerkangai/ peechingya) and pumpkin (mathan) are a few such vegetables.




This being the season for winter carrots, I have used them to make this thogayal. These carrots lend a faintly sweet flavour to an otherwise spicy and slightly tangy chutney.


Ingredients:


1/4 cup freshly grated coconut

1/4 cup grated carrot

1 tsp oil

1 tbsp black gram lentils (urad dal)

2 tbsp Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

3 dried red chillies

2 sprigs curry leaves

a small piece of tamarind (size of a grape)

1/4 tsp asafetida powder

salt to taste


Method:


Heat the oil and sauté the lentils, over medium heat, until they turn golden. Add the red chillies and asafetida powder and stir a couple of times, ensuring the asafetida does not burn. Take the pan off the heat and add the curry leaves, allowing it to wilt slightly in the heat of the pan.

Allow to cool a bit and grind this with all the other ingredients, adding just enough water, into a slightly coarse chutney.
This recipe serves about 3.
Serve with mulagootal and rice.

This is my submission to Harini's Food In Colors which is Orange this month.
May I also remind you all that the deadline for FIC submissions is the 28th of February, which is 6 days away. So if you have planned to send in something "Orange" but haven't done it yet, this is the time to do it. I am looking forward to the rest of your entries.



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February 20, 2009

Grilled Bell Pepper (Capsicum) Salad


I was at the market the other day, when I came across some very pretty looking lettuce, which I had never seen before. I am not very fond of salads (though I like the Indian versions like kosmalli/ koshimbir, raithas/ pachadi) and lettuce is probably my least favourite part of salads. Yet this particular lettuce was so attractive that I bought some, even though a little voice in my head kept telling me that I really shouldn't spend good money on something we don't like.



After coming home, I tried to figure out just what sort of lettuce I had bought. It looks like my lettuce goes by the name of "Lollo Rosso", and it features in this salad recipe. Does anyone know much about this lettuce and what else I could do with it other than use it in salad? I would appreciate any suggestion or more information.
My lettuce looks like some exotic coral and has ruffled light green leaves with a deep reddish brown colour towards the edge of the leaves.



Some days back, a friend who just discovered my blog and seems to be following it, asked if I could post something which was a bit sweet, had some nuts, was healthy and low on calories. I promised her I would think of something during the weekend, so M (I'm not sure she would want to see her name on the net), this salad is for you.

I had to use up the lettuce, and just made this salad by adding ingredients that I had on hand. I kept adding a bit of this and that, and so I have listed only approximate quantities. Do increase or decrease them according to your preference.


Ingredients:


1 green bell pepper/ capsicum

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 tsp oil (for grilling the capsicum)

about 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

some lollo rosso lettuce

a handful of chopped spring onion whites

a small handful toasted walnuts, broken

a small handful of golden raisins

a few leaves of mint

some low fat paneer, crumbled


For the dressing:

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 to 3 basil leaves, chopped

salt and crushed black pepper to taste



Method:


Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl (or a stoppered bottle) and whisk (or shake well a couple of times) and refrigerate till required.

Brush the bell peppers/ capsicum with the oil and grill them, till the surface starts blistering or light brown spots appear. Turn them a couple of times while grilling so they're uniformly cooked. Allow to cool, cut the peppers and remove the stalks and seeds. Dice the peppers.

Line your salad bowl with the lettuce. If you are not a lettuce lover, like us, you may prefer to tear the lettuce into smaller pieces or replace the lettuce with shredded cabbage. Of course, if you dislike cabbage then lettuce might be preferable. Lollo rosso lettuce has a faintly bitter taste (though it is not very noticeable in this salad), so you might want to use some other kind like iceberg lettuce.

Put the peppers and other ingredients, except the paneer, into the salad bowl.
Just before serving, whisk (or shake) the dressing a couple of times and add to the salad. Toss well so the dressing is well incorporated. Crumble the paneer and sprinkle it over the top. Mix a couple of times and serve.
This salad serves 3.

I have been a bit busy with various things during the past week, including guests at home and so haven't been able to find too much time for blog related matters. So please excuse me for slight delays in replying to your mails and acknowledging your submissions for FIC Orange. I shall also do my best to get around to checking what's been going on at your blogs as soon as I can.
I also want to thank Yasmeen of Health Nut who has been very nice to pass on a token of gratitude to me.



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February 15, 2009

Spicy Potato and Pea Bolsos (Filled Pocket Breads)


When my first few (actually, many) attempts at making and baking bread were pathetic at the best, it was a good friend of mine who came to the rescue. She is an excellent cook and in fact, it was eating her spicy potato filled rolls that encouraged me bake my own bread. I got her to come home one afternoon and give me a hands-on demonstration on how to make those rolls. They were so good, I can still remember the happiness at seeing my first successful batch of bread rolls!

So when this month's Bread Baking Day theme was announced as "Bread And Potatoes", I knew it was time to post those rolls of hers. I do make these rolls on and off, and each time the potato filling tends to change a bit, depending on what vegetables I have at home and what spices I choose to add. So there are no hard and fast rules here with this recipe. But this filling is a typical Indian "potato masala" filling which is spicy and good for filling samosas or bondas.




A couple of days back, I was going through my copy of the Tassajara Bread Book when I came across a recipe for Ricotta Olive Bolsos. "Bolso (masculine form)" (or bolsa-feminine form) means pocket/ bag in Spanish and Portuguese. So Bolsos are small "pocket" breads which are baked with filling in them, a sort of ready-made sandwich. So I decided to call my filled bread a spicy potato and pea bolso. This sounds much fancier than a filled roll, doesn't it?

Whatever, the name these rolls (or bolsos) are very tasty and filling. They are good for a meal with a salad or a soup, as a filling snack and very convenient to pack and carry in a lunch box.
I have adapted the dough for the bolsos from the above mentioned recipe, but used my own version of a potato and pea filling here. My dinner roll dough can also be used to make these rolls.


Ingredients:


For the dough:

1 3/4 tsp dry active yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup skimmed milk powder

1/2 tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp oil

3/4 cup oat flour*

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all purpose flour



For the filling:

2 cups roughly mashed potatoes**

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp oil

1 1/2 tsp minced ginger (or paste)

1/2 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

salt to taste

1 or 2 green chillies, chopped

1 to 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves



Method:


For the dough:

*I don't get oat flour here, so I powdered rolled oats in my grinder and used this.

Dissolve the honey and the yeast in the warm water and allow the yeast to prove. Put all the other ingredients for the dough in the food processor (or in a bowl, if kneading by hand) and run a couple of times to mix well.

Pour in the yeast-honey mixture and enough water to make a soft, smooth and elastic dough. Shape into a ball and place in a well-oiled bowl, turning the ball of dough so it is coated with the oil. Cover and allow to rise till double in volume (about an hour).


For the filling:

** Do not mash the potatoes into a paste. Just mash well, till slightly lumpy. You can do this by breaking up each boiled potato by hand. About 5 to 6 medium sized potatoes should give you approximately 2 cups mashed potatoes.
You can make this filling while the dough is rising, or make it the previous day and refrigerate it.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the ginger and the garlic paste and sauté for half a minute. Then add the onions and chopped chillies, and sauté till they are translucent and beginning to turn golden.

Now add the turmeric, coriander, cumin and garam masala powders and sauté for a minute on low heat. Add a quarter cup of water, stir and add the frozen peas and the salt. Simmer for a couple of minutes till they're cooked. Add the mashed potatoes and mix well, cooking for about two minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped coriander and mix well again.

Divide this filling into 6 equal portions. Each portion will measure about 2 to 3 tbsps.


To make the bolsos:

Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, take one piece of dough and roll out into an approximately 4" by 4" square (or a circle). Place one portion of filling on one half of the dough square/ circle leaving about 1/4" of dough free at the edges. Moisten this edge with water and fold the unfilled half over the filling. Seal the edges by pinching together well so that it doesn't open up while baking.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, cover and allow to rise slightly for 20 minutes. Brush with milk (or egg wash) and place on a greased sheet. Bake at 200C for 20 to 25 minutes till done and golden brown in colour. Cool on a rack and serve.
This recipe makes 6 bolsos.




This is my submission for BBD #17 being hosted this month by Lien at Notitie van Lien. This also goes to Susan for YeastSpotting.

Also featured by the Chicago Sun-Times.



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February 12, 2009

An Eggless, Slightly Healthier Chocolate Zucchini Bread


There are many fruits, vegetables and foods whose existence I discovered only after I started blogging and following other food blogs, as they were not available in India. In the past 5 or 6 years, many of these have started losing their mysteriousness as they have become regulars on the store shelves or at the market. Some of these fruits and vegetables are now grown in India, or else are imported from countries all over the world. So it is perfectly normal to find kiwi fruit from New Zealand, apples from the U.S., pears from China and guavas from India sharing the same shelf space.




The zucchini/ courgette was one of such vegetables that I "discovered" a couple of years ago. And it occasionally puts in an appearance at the market here too, though with a ridiculously up market price tag to it!
Every time I have done a net search for ways of cooking this, zucchini bread was one of the more popular results that always came up. The only problem (for me) was that most of the recipes seemed to call for about 4 to 5 eggs and a lot of oil. The eggless recipes all seemed to use egg alternatives or vegan alternatives which are unheard of/ or not available here.




So I put together an eggless chocolate zucchini bread recipe by adding grated apple and yogurt. I also cut down on the fat a bit by reducing the oil used and using cocoa instead of chocolate. I am not sure if this bread is meant to be a bit heavy, but my loaf rose well but was a bit dense and tasted more like cake to me than bread. But I guess because of the method of putting together the batter is more like that of a quick bread than cake batter, this is definitely bread.




My husband liked it, though our daughter didn't find it to her taste. I thought it came out pretty well and tasted good. I liked it better the next day, after it had been in the fridge. I think this bread is a pretty nice way to use up zucchini!!
Here is my recipe, which I arrived at by adapting various other recipes with some inspired additions of my own.



Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup packed, grated zucchini

1/2 cup grated apple

1/2 cup thick plain yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar (or brown sugar)

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp vanilla extract



Method:


Put the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, yogurt, sugar and vanilla extract together. Pour this into the dry ingredients and using a wooden spoon, mix everything together very well. Now add the grated zucchini, apple and walnuts and fold this in till well blended.

Scrape this thick batter into a well greased and floured loaf tin and bake at 180C for about 1 1/2 hours, till a skewer inserted in the loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes and then loosen and cool on a rack. Slice only when completely cool. If not serving immediately, refrigerate.

This recipe makes one loaf.




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February 8, 2009

Green Peppercorn Pickled in Brine


Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

How well can you twist your tongue around this rhyme?
Many of us would have memories of trying to accomplish this tongue twister in our schooldays. I know I did, and was successful with a few but never this particular one! I just remembered this Mother Goose rhyme as I was trying to phrase an apt title for this post's recipe.




Peppercorns are the fruit of Piper nigrum, an evergreen climbing vine native to the jungles of India's Malabar Coast (my home state Kerala is a part of this). Today, pepper is one of spices that are exported in large quantities from India.

Black, white and green peppercorns are all products of the same plant but each is harvested and handled differently. Green pepper is harvested when the berries are immature (haven't ripened) and bottled in brine to preserve them. These make a wonderful pickle to serve with plain rice and yogurt (or curd rice as we call it here). The green peppercorns have a fresh flavour and are less pungent.

I remember this green peppercorn pickle from my teens, while visiting various relatives during our summer vacations. This pickle was often one of the "pickle" options offered when it was time for the rice and yogurt part of our lunch. It has long been one of my favourite pickles; it’s a tough decision choosing between this one and mango pickles!

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to sample this pickle often enough, simply because I haven't been able to find green peppercorn easily. Even in Kerala, it's not always easy to find green peppercorn, probably because of the good prices that black/ white pepper fetches for the spice farmers.

Green peppercorn seems to be easier to find in Palakkad as my Periamma (my mother's elder sister) usually has a couple of bottles pickled and ready to be served everytime we go visiting her. In fact, the last time we were there she gifted me a bottle of the pickle and that was when our daughter discovered "the pickle".

Last month, Akshaya and her classmates were taken to see a spice farm, as part of a school trip. I had told her not to bring back any spices from the farm, as my spice shelf has more than enough stuff on it already. During the course of the trip, they sat down somewhere on the farm and Akshaya discovered green pepper growing on some vines just next to them. Being very enterprising, she enlisted the help of her friends and brought home a whole bunch of fresh green pepper stalks.

So I called my aunt and pickled the peppercorn according to her instructions. I don't think pickle making can get any easier than this. This pickle doesn't even require you to chop up anything!
Most of our traditional cooking has been and is done without exact measurements and the amounts of ingredients are perfected through practice and intuition. My aunt gave me approximate amounts and I just went with them. I have quantified the ingredients for this pickle but please use them as a guide rather than an exact measurement.

The brine solution will be quite salty and after about a week, the peppercorn will have absorbed enough of the salt to also taste just right. If you feel that the peppercorn isn't salty enough, you may add a little more salt to the brine solution at this time.




(This picture is not very good and overexposed, but this was the only way I could get a picture where the peppercorn could be seen in the brine.)

It is important to remember a few things while making this pickle.

- The green pepper should not be removed from the stalk as you pickle them with the stalks. A few loose peppercorns are fine, though. Just put them into the bottle/ jar.

- The pepper has to be pickled fresh, preferably the very day it is plucked from the vine. Don't postpone the pickling beyond the next day or the peppercorn start discolouring and turning black.

- When the stalks are pickled, ensure they are completely immersed in brine or they will turn blackish in colour.



Ingredients:


10 to 12 fresh green pepper bunches

250 ml of water

3/4 tsp turmeric powder

the juice of 2 lemons

2 heaped tsp of salt



Method:


Wash the peppercorn and dry them by wiping gently with a towel, making sure the stalks are intact. Keep aside.
In a pan, bring the water to a boil and add the salt and turmeric powder. Simmer for a couple of minutes and take it off the heat. Allow the brine solution to cool down. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Pour this into a sterile glass bottle/ jar. Put the peppercorn stalks into the bottle/ jar, ensuring they are completely submerged in the solution.

Close the bottle and keep it at room temperature. After a week, the pickle is ready to be served. This pickle does not require refrigeration. The peppercorn stalks will change to a somewhat dull and dirty greenish colour after being in the brine. This is normal and doesn't change the quality of the pickle.
This recipe makes one medium sized jam jar of pickle.

This pickle goes to Andrea's Grow Your Own.



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February 4, 2009

Gajar Ka Halwa (An Indian Carrot Confection)


It is difficult to translate “Halwa” into English. A halwa is a sweet/ confection that is made from different kinds of grains/ flours or vegetables and contains sugar/ jaggery, ghee, lots of dried fruit and nuts and sometimes milk. The consistency of halwa can vary from dry and crumbly, through sticky to fudgy and thick enough to be cut into bars.

So the word halwa would conjure up different pictures in different peoples’ minds. Considering the widespread presence of various types of halwa (also halva or halvah) in the countries of the Middle East, and even Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Albania to mention a few, I think it is reasonable to assume that this confection arrived in the Indian subcontinent along with the invaders/ traders from Persia.





In India, the most common type of halwa is probably that made of grainy wheat semolina known as "Sooji Halwa" in Hindi, "Kesari" in Tamil and "Sheera" in Goa. Halwas are also made from broken wheat, wheat flour, all purpose flour, lentils/ gram, nuts and vegetables.

I’m not very fond of most halwas though I can always find space in my tummy for a bit of badam halwa (almond), kaju katli (cashewnut) and my all time favourite, which is gaajar (carrot) halwa. Halwas are very rich so a small portion is usually more than enough.






I learnt to make carrot halwa from my cousin, and making it had become an annual affair for me till 5 years ago. Unfortunately for me, these carrots were not available when we moved to Cochin and my annual halwa making ritual cam to an end!

The usual orange variety of carrots can be made into halwa, but halwa made from the long red variety of carrots is just something else. These carrots grow in the cooler climates of India (mostly the north) and are available only during the months of December, January and Februuary. They are juicier and very sweet so halwa made from them is more carrot and less sugar.





Now we are back in Goa and it’s once again the season for those carrots, and I’m back at making halwa. You can grate the carrots in the food processor or hand-held/ box grater. Naturally, its easier with the former though I grated the carrots by hand for last month's match of halwa (it's been ages since I grated such a large quantity by hand) because my food processor went into a temporary sulk!





One good thing about this halwa, is that you can make a large quantity of it and freeze it. I know it keeps well for about 2 months, because that's how long it took to finish what I had made!

Gajar Ka Halwa

Ingredients:


11/2 kg carrots, peeled and grated*

1 L milk (I use 3% fat, but full fat milk gives a richer taste)

1 cup sugar

1/2 to 3/4 cup ghee

1 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup halved cashewnuts

*Do not grate the carrots very fine or your halwa will turn mushy, though it would still taste good.



Method:


In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp ghee and fry the raisins, over low to medium heat, till they puff up and just start browning. Remove from the ghee and keep aside. In the same pan, heat another tbsp of ghee and similarly fry the cashewnuts till they are lightly golden. Remove them from the ghee and keep aside. If there is any ghee left, use it while adding the rest of the ghee while making the halwa.

Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed and deep pan. Add the carrots and cook over medium to high heat while stirring frequently, till the carrots are done and the milk has reduced to less than half the original quantity.

You can do this in the microwave too, which is what I do. I prefer doing this part of the cooking in the MW, because it saves time and ensures that the carrots don't become mushy. If using the MW, then divide the grated carrots into half. Cook one half with 1 cup of milk (loosely cover the deep glass bowl) for 8 minutes at 100%. Repeat this with the other half too. Then Put the cooked carrot-milk mixture and the remaining milk in the heavy bottomed pan and bring it to a boil and reduce the milk to about half the original quantity.

Now add the sugar and keep stirring till its dissolved and the mixture is thicker and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the ghee, in two separate lots, stirring well after each addition. Keep stirring until the halwa turns a slightly deeper red in colour and no liquid is visible at the bottom of the pan. The halwa should be soft and moist but not wet.
 
Take the pan off the heat. Now add the powdered cardamom, raisind and cashenuts and mix everything well. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
This recipe should serve about 10, depending on the serving size.

Gajar/ Carrot halwa tastes best when served slightly warm. So just before serving, slightly warm the halwa. Many people in India prefer to serve/ eat this halwa with vanilla ice-cream but I prefer the halwa just as it is, warm and fragrant with cardamom.

This is my entry for WTSIM hosted this month by Johanna, the Passionate Cook.





 
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February 2, 2009

ANZAC Biscuits


The first time I saw an ANZAC biscuit was a couple of years when Unibic decided to enter the Indian consumer market with their varieties of biscuits/ cookies. These were endorsed by the great cricketer Don Bradman, which was great marketing strategy (hopefully) for selling biscuits to the cricket mad Indian nation!

If you happen to be in the U.S., then read "cookies" for "biscuits" here, but in the Commonwealth countries of the world, these are still biscuits even though we also eat cookies now. .

ANZAC stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on the 25th of April every year in the memory of all their soldiers who have fallen in wars.
There are different versions on the origin of these biscuits. Some say that ANZAC biscuits are a variation of Scottish oatcakes, but the most popular one is this version which certainly put ANZAC biscuits on the world map.



ANZAC biscuits, originally known as Soldiers' biscuits, were made by the women back home to send nutritious food to their soldiers who were fighting in World War I. Made from the few ingredients available then, these slightly hard biscuits kept and shipped very well. It used to take about 2 months for the biscuits to reach the soldiers in those days!
Anzac biscuits also contain no eggs, unlike most biscuits/ cookies, as a large number of poultry farmers had joined the army and eggs were scarce.

I have seen many recipes for these biscuits and all of them use most of the ingredients listed here, only differing in the use of either white or brown sugar and the golden or corn syrup. I used honey as neither corn syrup nor golden syrup is available here.
I also read somewhere that the coconut used in these biscuits has to necessarily be dessicated. This makes sense as these biscuits were made to last.


Ingredients:


1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup brown sugar (or regular sugar)*

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup dessicated coconut

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter

2 tbsp honey (or golden/ corn syrup)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3 tbsp very warm water

* I had run out of brown sugar and used half of white sugar and half of Demerara sugar as there are versions of this recipe suggesting the use of treacle or molasses. I also used only 1 tbsp of honey because of this.
Brown sugar also results in a darker biscuit.


Method:


In a bowl, mix the first five ingredients well.
Melt the butter in a pan. Take it off the heat, add the honey and stir well. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water and add it to the honey-butter mixture and stir well.

Now add the liquid to the ingredients in the bowl and mix well to form a firm dough. The dough will be somewhat dry. Take about a tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball and flatten slightly with your hand or the back of a fork. If the dough is of the correct consistency, you will be able to roll it into a smooth ball which doesn't crack when flattened.

With these proportions, my biscuit dough was perfect. If your dough is sticky, add a little more flour, and if it is too dry, add just a bit of water to get the right dough consistency.
These biscuits are meant to be a bit thinner than cookies so flattening them a bit is fine.

Place the flattened biscuits on a greased tray and bake at 160C for about 12 to 15 minutes till they look dry and brown. Mine took 12 minutes. These biscuits tend to brown quite a bit (especially if you use brown sugar) but do check on them after 10 minutes of baking to ensure they don't burn.

When taken out of the oven, the biscuits will be very soft. Let them cool on the tray for about 10 minutes, then remove them and allow to cool very well on a rack.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen ANZAC biscuits. They are slightly sweet, crunchy on the outside and somewhat chewy in the middle the day they are made but can get soft if not stored in airtight containers.
If they do soften, re-crisp them in the oven at about 130C for 10 minutes.



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February 1, 2009

Let's Paint It Orange This Month! Announcing Food In Colour


Frank Sinatra apparently said that orange is a happy colour. So shall we all get into the mood and spread some cheer around by colouring our blogs with at least one "orange" post this February?
And how do we go about doing this?
Well, Harini (better known as the Sunshinemom) of Tongue Ticklers has given me the opportunity to host this edition of her "Food In Colors" event and I have chosen this month's colour to be ORANGE.




Orange is a colour associated with warmth, energy and vibrancy.
Orange coloured foods are rich in antioxidants (these neutralize harmful free radicals in our body) and bioflavanoids (naturally occurring plant pigments).
They also are very good sources of beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene which can be converted to produce Vitamin A. As we all know, Vitamin A is very important for good vision, healthy bones and skin, and a healthy immune function.

Many orange coloured foods contain high levels of Vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that the beta-carotene in orange coloured vegetables and fruits may contribute to reduced risk for certain types of cancers.
The deeper the orange colour in vegetables and fruits, the more of these nutrients they contain. Vegetables and fruits which celebrate the colour orange include carrots, mangos, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, papayas, peaches, apricots, guavas, persimmon.



And here are the rules for this event:


1. Cook and post, between the 1st and 28th of February, any food where the colour orange plays the leading role. The finished dish/ preparation must be orange in colour. Please note yellow is not acceptable.
While the process of cooking does convert many foods into an orange colour, it would be really nice if you could showcase the colour of an orange ingredient in your dish, but this is not compulsory.

2. Your orange preparation could be a juice/ milk shake, an appetizer/ starter, a soup, a salad, the main course, a side dish, the dessert or a snack. It must be vegetarian (eggs are allowed) and raw vegetables are allowed only in soups or salads.
Please do not re-post earlier posts for this event.

3. Please also link your "orange" post to this announcement and Harini's "FIC" page on her blog.

4. If you have cooked something "orange" from a recipe taken from a blog or site, please link to that post/ site by name instead of using a link with "here".

5. Then send me an e-mail at mdk(dot)aparna(at)gmail(dot)com replacing (at) with @ and (dot) with . with the following details:

Your name:


Your location:


The name of your blog:


The name of your "orange" preparation:


The link/ url of your post:


A 300 pixel picture of your preparation (optional).

Feel free to use the "Orange" logo on your blog, if you wish. A smaller version is on the right side bar.
Please remember the deadline for "orange" submissions is the midnight of the 28th of February, 2009 (your time).
6. If you do not have a blog and would like to participate, please e-mail me your recipe and a picture, and I will include it in the round-up.

Harini and I are counting on your support, this month too to make this event a success. Let's go paint our blogs ORANGE!


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