February 27, 2013

Raincoast Crisps – Golden Raisin & Pecan/ Cranberries & Hazelnuts : Daring Bakers Challenge, February 2013

T
his month’s hostess chose Raincoast Crisps and Crisp Flatbreads for us Daring Bakers to bake. Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!
I had never heard of Raincoast Crisps before. Apparently they are a gourmet crisp/ cracker snack, made in a variety of flavours by a company owned by Parisian-trained chef and bestselling cookbook author Lesley Stowe.  A little research on the net suggests that these crackers are wildly popular in the US and some of the phrases being used to describe them included “Everyone’s favourite cracker”, A quick elegant snack”, “Truly amazing and crisp”, “Perfect with a glass of wine”, “Unbelievably fabulous”, and “The most fabulous cracker ever made”!


 
People seem to find them addictive and though they’re said to be on the expensive side, the one redeeming quality (apart from their taste), is that they’re made from natural ingredients.
After looking at photographs, reading descriptions, and baking them for myself confirmed it, that the Raincoast Crisp is very similar to what we call “Rusk” or “Toast Biscuit” in India but is thinner and loaded with dried fruits and nuts. Or you could compare it to Biscotti, which is also a twice baked and crisp biscuit.





So this Raincoast Crisp was beginning to look very attractive to me, all the more so because of the added attraction that this recipe calls for very little sugar and no butter, oil or fat in any form. No added fat in a bake? That is probably a mentionable first in a Daring Baker challenge!
This month’s challenge includes recipes for other crunchy stuff like Spicy Corn Crackers,Onion & Poppy Seed Crackers and Herbed Flatbread.
I live in a country where things like cranberries, hazelnuts, pecans and the like are not grown locally. These days they are available as imports but are quite expensive. Luckily, I still had the last of the stash of these that my sister brought me when she last visited, and it was about time I put them to use before they became unusable.  I didn’t have pumpkin seeds so I used watermelon seeds instead.





This recipe is pretty accommodating that way and you can really substitute whatever dried fruit or nuts or seeds you have on hand so you can flavour the Crisps according to your taste. The challenge recipe said the recipe made about 8 dozen crisps, and it does provided you slice the loaf into really thin slices. Now that may sound like a lot but it really isn’t. What the recipe makes is two small loaves which are sliced to make a hundred crisps!
 



Since I was making these Crisps for the first time, and I wanted to try out both the Golden Raisin & Pecans and the Cranberries & Hazelnuts versions, and I’m always happy to snack on a little non-calorific bit of crunch, and I didn’t want over 200 Crisps, so I worked the recipe a little differently.
 



I divided the recipe equally (half of every ingredient and then half quantity, that is 1/4 cup each of  the golden raisins and pecans in one bowl and the same of dried  cranberries and hazelnuts in the other one) between two mixing bowls. So I had 4 dozen Crisps of one kind and 4 dozen of the other. 

Raincoast Crisps
(Adapted from the February Challenge recipe sourced from Dinner With Julie)
 

Ingredients:

 2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
 2 tsp baking soda
 1/2 tsp salt
 2 cups buttermilk
 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
 1/4 cup honey
 1/2 cup golden raisins (or dried cranberries for version 2)
 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or chopped hazelnuts for version 2)
 1/4 cup roasted watermelon/ pumpkin seeds (optional)
 1/4 cup sesame seeds
 1/4 cup flax seed, ground
 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
 

Method:

As I metioned earlier, I baked this batter into two small loaves each flavoured differently. The above recipe will make two small loaves of the same flavour. If you want to do what I did, have 2 mixing bowls ready and put half of each ingredient listed above into each, except the nuts and raisins. Then in one put in 1/4 cup each of golden raisins and chopped pecans and a 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries and chopped hazelnuts in the other.
Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few times till partially mixed. Add the raisins (or dried cranberries), pecans (or hazelnuts), pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and stir just until blended. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into two7” or 8”x4” loaf pans that have been oiled/ greased. Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool the loaves on a wire rack.
Let the loaves completely before slicing them. Even better, wrap them in cling wrap after they have cooled and then freeze them over night because the cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice really thin. Take the loaves out of the freezer and leave them at room temperature for about 20 minutes, Using a sharp and serrated knife, cut the loaves into very thin slices (as thin as you can manage without breaking them) using a sawing motion.
 
 
 
 
Place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake them at 150C (300F) for about 15 minutes. Then flip the slices and bake for a further ten minutes or so till they have become quite crisp and a deeper golden colour. Make sure they don’t burn. The crisped slices will turn crisper when cool.  You can cut the slices into halves before baking them, if you prefer smaller sized Crisps.
Once completely cooled, store the Raincoast Crisps in an airtight container at room temperature. They should keep for up to 1 month, and upto 3 months if frozen. I wouldn’t know because my Crisps were gone in under a week!
This recipe makes about 8 dozen Raincoast Crisps.
 
 
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February 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #2 : Classic Croissants

W
hat do you think would be the ultimate croissant experience?
Eating a croissant (or more) in Paris, perhaps? I wouldn’t know. I’m not an authority on croissants or things French, but I did eat my first ever croissant in Paris. This was ages ago while I was a teenager, with very little interest in food beyond knowing good food from bad food, and being frequently hungry and able to put away huge quantities of food which never showed on my then skinny frame.  However, I have memories of buttery, flaky and light croissants that have haunted me ever since.


 
I never had a chance to eat croissants again for a long time since we lived in parts of the world where the average person on the street had probably not even heard of or seen croissants. So it was a very happy me that discovered croissants in a couple of local bakery windows when we moved to Goa. They looked huge, all puffed up and flaky but were a big disappointment when I bit into them. All I was left with was a fatty mouth feel one invariably gets in baked/ fried foods that are made with solid vegetable fats or margarine! Even the more expensive “butter” croissants were a disappointment.

That’s when I decided to try my hand at making croissants at home. My first couple of attempts were a disaster enough to make me think I was never going to succeed at them until a third attempt at them turned out passable croissants.
I still dreamt of the day when I would make almost perfect if not perfect croissants. It took the coming of this baking group for me to venture at them again using a recipe of Jeffery Hamelman at Fine Cooking. I had this recipe saved simply because I’ve seen so many home bakers wax almost lyrical about how good a recipe this is and how their croissants turned out great.



 
So this month at “We Knead To Bake” we made Jeffrey Hamelman’s Classic Croissants.  I adapted the recipe a bit and I’m one more home baker who has found this a Croissant recipe worth keeping.  It’s also a reasonably forgiving recipe provided one doesn’t mess up the lamination or let the butter melt!
I have even made these Croissants with just 210gm butter against the original 280gm (my adapted version uses 250gm) and have them turn out great. For one batch of Croissants, I rested the laminated dough in the fridge for just 2 hours (instead of overnight refrigeration suggested) before shaping, proofing and baking them. I still had a batch of excellent Croissants. You can also use this dough to make Pain au Chocolate.

Croissants are basically yeasted puff pastry that is baked in the shape of crescents. If plain, they’re shaped into crescents (Croissant ordinaire/ croissant au beurre) but usually left as straight rolls if filled with chocolate (Pain au Chocolat), almond paste (Croissant Amande )or other fillings of choice. Like other laminated doughs like puff pastry and Danish pastry, the process involved enveloping a slab of butter with the dough, rolling it out and then folding and resting the dough repeatedly before shaping it.
It turns out that Croissants have been around for a long time, and they came into France from Vienna. The Croissant is thought to have been adapted from the Viennese Kipferl (a crescent shaped pastry).  A Viennese baker called August Zang is supposedly credited with introducing the modern day Croissant to Paris sometime around 1830. Before this Croissants were made in Vienna where they were crescent shaped pastries which bore very little resemblance to the Croissants we know today.
Of course there are more colourful stories about the Croissant’s origin. One tells of a baker who was working late at night in Vienna during the 1683 siege by the Ottoman Turks. He apparently heard them tunnelling under the city, alerted the military who managed to collapse the tunnel and save the city. In commemoration of this triumph, the baker supposedly made a crescent shaped pastry resembling Turk’s Islamic emblem (the crescent moon) so that when his fellow Austrians ate the Croissant, they would be symbolically devouring the Turks! This story is also told in Budapest, Hungary with appropriate changes of names and places.
Yet another story attributes the Croissant to Marie Antoinette. Having left her home in Austria at 15, she apparently asked the royal French bakers to make her favourite Austrian pastry, the Kipferl. They in their wisdom went on to create the Croissant form her descriptions of the Kipferl, which then became indelibly connected to France.
 
 
Making croissants is not very difficult, but it takes some time, a lot of attention to detail, tremendous patience, a lot of rolling out dough, and making sure that everything is cold – especially the butter.
The recipe looks long because it is detailed. Once you go through the recipe slowly and watch the video on croissant making, it will become much simpler and easier to approach. I have made this recipe quite a few times now and can almost laminate the dough in my sleep!
This dough is made over 3 days but only a small part of each day is spent on working with the dough. The rest of the time the dough sits in the refrigerator and does its thing. I made my dough at about 9:00pm the first day. I did the lamination over 2 hours on the next day after lunch, and shaped and baked my croissants after lunch on the third day in time for tea.

If you’re comfortable using eggs, you can use an egg wash on your croissants for the deep colour and shine. Otherwise use milk or a mixture of cream and milk (this gives a better browning and shine).
You could use this dough to make Croissants with chocolate (Pain au Chocolate), almond frangipane, apple pie filling or something else before baking them. The filling should be added just before you roll/ shape the croissants. For pain au chocolate, instead of triangles, just cut out straight long strips of dough, place the chocolate at one end and roll them up into “logs”. You could try Danish style pastries too. You can find some suggestions for fillings here.



 
After lamination and overnight refrigeration, you can cut the dough in half and bake them in two lots if you like if you don’t need 15 croissants at one go. I baked one batch of 7 croissants and some minis with the scraps and refrigerated the remaining half (you could wrap it and freeze it too) after 2 days.
 

Some tips that could your Croissants turn out right:

1.       Ensure that your butter is cold – cold enough that it is pliable enough to smoothly roll out; not hard (or it will break) or soft (it will melt). If the butter is too hard and breaks while rolling out the dough, you will not get the layers in the croissants.

2.      Do not over-knead / develop the dough too much, too much gluten will not help during the lamination process. The lamination process itself is a kind of stretch and fold anyway and will strengthen the dough. So keep to the 3 minutes the recipe says.  You want a soft dough, not an elastic one.

3.      When you cover the butter square with the dough, make sure you seal the dough well, otherwise the butter will leak out when you roll out the dough, and there’s no way you can manage to put the butter back in. You will also end up with butter leaking during the baking.

4.      Always, always make sure your dough and butter inside it are cold. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Once the butter has melted, it is difficult to get the dough to produce layers because the dough tends to absorb the butter and will make greasy croissants. So, while working with the dough, or when rolling it out, if at any point you feel the dough becoming warm and soft, put it back in the fridge immediately. Also work as quickly as you can so the butter stays cold.

5.      During the lamination of the dough (rolling and folding repeatedly), chill the dough in the freezer and NOT the fridge. The overnight refrigeration is to be done in the fridge NOT in the freezer. Resting the dough is an important part of the croissant making process.

6.      Plan ahead and make sure you do all this when you have the time for it. You will need more time than you think you, believe me. You cannot leave this and attend to something else, unless you want to set yourself for failure!

7.      You also need a lot of patience to keep rolling out the dough with just enough pressure to stretch it. The rolled out dough before shaping should be somewhere between 1/4” and 1/8” thick.

8.      Make sure your dough is shaped with straight lines and square-ish corners. All the time you are rolling your dough out, keep this in mind. This way you will minimise waste of dough. More importantly, the edges where there is no butter would get folded in during lamination and affect your layers. So trim off those bits if you have any of them.

9.      Keep lightly flouring your work surface (not too much), just enough to keep working smoothly without tearing the dough. However, dust with a light hand or you could end up adding more flour than desirable.

10.   Do not be tempted to fold more than three times. A fourth fold will give you more layers, but thinner butter layers between them, and your croissants will not puff of as much as you would like them to.

11.    And most important, as funny as it sounds. If you like to and do wear rings on your fingers like I do, take them off while working with this dough and the dough will thank you! Rings have a habit of inadvertently tearing the dough. If the butter comes out, patching it up by dusting a little flour can help but doesn’t always work.
Classic Croissants
 

Ingredients: 

For the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour, and a little more for dusting/ rolling out dough
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp cold milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
40gm soft unsalted butter
1 tbsp plus scant 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt 

For the butter layer:

250 gm cold unsalted butter 

And

1/4 cup of cold milk (or 1/8 cup of cream + 1/8 cup cream) to brush the dough
Or 1 egg for egg wash
 

Method: 
 

Day 1:

Make the dough (and refrigerate overnight)
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  You can also use a food processor with the plastic blade, or do this by hand.
Mix everything on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Then mix further on medium speed for 3 minutes. Lightly flour a 10-inch pie pan or a dinner plate.  And place the ball of dough on this.
Gently shape the dough into a flat ball by pressing it down before storing it in the fridge, this makes rolling out next morning easier. Making a tight ball will strengthen the gluten which you do not need. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.  

Day 2:

Make the butter layer
The next day, cut out 2 pieces of parchment or waxed paper into 10” squares each.  Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Place these pieces on one piece of parchment/ waxed paper so they form a 5- to 6-inch square. Cut the butter further into pieces as required to fit the square. Top with the other piece of parchment/ waxed paper.
Using a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to stick together, use more force. Pound the butter until it flattens out evenly into a square that’s approximately 7-1/2”. Trim the edges of the butter to make a neat square. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate this while you roll out the dough. 

Laminate the dough

Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it out to a 10-1/2-inch square, and brush off the excess flour. Take the butter out from the refrigerator —it should be cold but pliable.  If it isn’t refrigerate it till it is. This so that when you roll out the dough with the butter in ti, neither should it be soft enough to melt, or hard enough to break. Unwrap the butter and place it on the square of dough in the centre, so that it forms a “diamond” shape on the dough.
Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the middle of the butter square. Bring the opposite flap to the middle, slightly overlapping the previous one. Similarly repeat with the other two so that the dough forms an envelope around the butter. Lightly press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough to ensure the butter doesn’t escape when you roll out the dough later. 
 
 
Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press along the dough uniformly to elongate it slightly. Now begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Roll the dough into an 8” by 24” rectangle. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush off the excess flour. Mark the dough lightly equally into three along the long side. Using this as a guideline, pick up one short end of the dough and fold 1/3rd of it back over the dough, so that 1/3rd of the other end of dough is exposed.
Now fold the 1/3rd exposed dough over the folded side. Basically, the dough is folded like 3-fold letter before it goes into an envelope (letter fold). Put the folded dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 15 to 20 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends (from the shorter sides to lengthen the longer sides) until the dough is about 8” by 24”. Once again fold the dough in thirds, brushing off excess flour and turning under any rounded edges or short ends with exposed or smeared layers. Cover once again with plastic wrap and freeze for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll and fold the dough exactly in the same way for the third time and put it baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides and refrigerate overnight.   

Day 3:

Divide the dough
The next day, unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough along the longer side into halves. Cover one half with plastic wrap and refrigerate it while working on the other half.
“Wake up the dough up” by pressing firmly along its length with the rolling pin. Don’t widen the dough but simply begin to lengthen it with these first strokes. Slowly roll the dough into a long and narrow strip, approximately 8” by 22”. If the dough sticks as you roll, sprinkle with flour.
Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling.  
 
 
 Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides and prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end so that when you trim the edges to straighten them, you have a strip of dough that is 20’ inches long. Now trim the edges so they’re straight.
If you’re good at “eyeballing” and cutting the dough into triangles, then forget the measuring rule, marking and cutting instructions.  Otherwise, lay a measuring rule or tape measure lengthwise along the top length of the dough.
With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 5-inch intervals along the length (there will be 3 marks in all). Now place the rule or tape measure along the bottom length of the dough.
Make a mark 2-1/2 inches in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 5-inch intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough. You’ll have 4 marks that fall halfway between the marks at the top.
Make diagonal cuts by positioning the yardstick at the top corner and the first bottom mark. Use a pizza wheel/ pie wheel or a bench scraper and cut the dough along this line which connects each top mark to the next bottom mark and then back to the next top mark and so on. This way you will have 7 triangles and a scrap of dough at each end.  

Shape the croissants

Now work with one piece of triangular dough at a time. Using your rolling pin, very lightly roll (do not make it thin but only stretch it slightly) the triangle to stretch it a little, until it is about 10” long. This will give your croissants height and layers. You can stretch it by hand too, but if you don’t have the practise, your stretching could be uneven.
Using a sharp small knife, make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long notch in the centre of the short side of each triangle. The notch helps the rolled croissant curl into a crescent.
Place the triangle on the work surface with the notched side closest to you. With one hand on each side of the notch, begin to roll the dough away from you, towards the pointed end.
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the notched “legs” become longer. Roll the triangle tight enough but not too tight to compress it, until you reach the “pointy” end which should be under the croissant.
Now bend the two legs towards you to form a tight crescent shape and gently press the tips of the legs together (they’ll come apart while proofing but keep their crescent shape).
Shape all the triangles like this into croissants and place them on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet leaving as much space between them as they will rise quite a bit.  
 
 
 If you choose to make Pain au Chocolat, cut the dough into long strips (rectangular) 5" wide instead of triangles. Place the chocolate at one end and tucking it in, start to roll the dough strips reasonably tight, right upto the the other end, in Swiss roll/ jelly roll style. Lightly press down the end and seal it and place them on baking trays with the sealed side down. Now proceed as for the Croissants. 

Proof the croissants

Brush the croissants with milk (or a mix of milk and cream). If you use eggs, make an egg wash by whisking one egg with 1 tsp water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush this on each croissant.
Refrigerate the remaining milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) for brushing the croissants again later. Place the croissants in a cool and draft-free place (the butter should not melt) for proofing/ rising for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  
They might need longer than 2 hours to proof, maybe as much as 3 hours, so make sure to let croissants take the time to proof. The croissants will be distinctly larger but not doubled in size. They’re ready if you can see the layers of dough from the side, and if you lightly shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle.  

Bake the croissants

Just before the croissants are fully proofed, pre-heat your oven to 200C (400F) in a convection oven or 220C (425F) in a regular oven. Brush the croissants with milk/ milk+cream (or egg wash) a second time, and place your baking sheets on the top and lower thirds of your oven (if regular) or bake one tray at a time in the convection oven.
Bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes till they’re done and golden brown on top and just beginning to brown at the sides. In a regular oven, remember to turn your baking sheets halfway through. If they  seem to be darkening too quickly during baking, lower the oven temperature by 10C (25F). Cool the croissants on the baking sheets on racks.
Serve warm. This recipe makes 15 croissants.


My Croissants are being YeastSpotted!


The Breads that have been Kneaded & Baked so far -
 
 

 
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February 19, 2013

The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style! – A Book Review, A Giveaway & Boror Tenga (Assamese Tomato Curry With Lentil Dumplings)

E
ating vegan in India is not an unusual thing especially if you are vegetarian. A large part of traditional Indian vegetarian cuisine is actually vegan. In fact, the traditionalcuisine of my community is vegan if you do not consider those recipes that use milk or ghee. Butter in our cooking, is mostly served on the side whenever it is used. Milk is mostly used in making sweets which are not really daily fare but festive fare. The ghee that is used not so frequently is easy enough to replace with oil.
Yet, consciously eating vegan is not something that is “normal” in India, though there a small steadily increasing number of Indians who are now vegan. If you’re not sure what being a vegan entails, veganism a lifestyle choice where people do not eat any food (or use anything) that is of animal origin.
This means apart from not eating meat, fish or eggs, vegans also do not use honey, milk or any dairy products including cheese butter and yogurt. Many also do not use sugar if it has been processed using animal products.

 



Westland recently sent me a copy of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style by Anuradha Sawhney which is publicised as India’s first ever vegan cookbook. Since a lot of the food I cook is Palakkad Iyer fare, a large part of our diet is vegan though we are vegetarians. Naturally, I was interested to see what this book was all about.
The author of the book, Anuradha Sawhney, turned vegan when she was diagnosed with lifestyle induced health problems that required her to take prescription medications. She chose to make a change in diet habits to bring her down her use of medication and improve her health.


 

The Vegan Kitchen is a collection of 50 vegan recipes mixed with some Bollywood glamour. Each one of the recipes in this book have been collected from various well known Indian celebrities in and around Bollywood including Vidya Balan, John Abraham, Hema Malini, Wendell Rodricks, Sushmita Sen, Kalpana Lajmi, Dilip Kumar, Om Puri.
One thing that caught my eye was that the unusual cover of the book as it lists all the recipes in it! The recipes are of course, divided under various chapters in the usual manner expected of a cookbook with forewords from two internationally known doctors as well as fitness expert with details about a how a vegan diet can help reverse heart disease, manage diabetes and reduce obesity and also promote fitness.



 

The recipes in the book mostly use ingredients that usually found in the Indian kitchen. They are quite simple to cook and dish up and most are accompanied by photographs of the dish. Each recipe is also accompanied by a photograph of the celebrity who contributed the recipe. I found the celebrity photographs to be of much better quality than the photographs of the food which ought to have been the focus of the book, in my opinion.
While the book has a nice variety of recipes, I personally was a bit disappointed with the selection of recipes. While there a few unusual recipes, a lot of them are of food that many of us are already quite familiar with.
I would have been excited to see vegan food beyond the usual Sambhar, Rajma, Mixed Sprout Salad, Hummus, Brown Rice Poha, Palak Raita, Methi Pulao, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Date-Walnut Muffins, Fresh Fruit Extravaganza (just fresh fruit salad with lime juice!) and Gaajar Ka Halwa.
 

About the Author :

Anuradha Sawhney has been an active campaigner for animal rights and environmental issues and is considered an authority on animal rights issues in India. She headed the PETA India office for nine years.  The Femina magazine ranked her amongst their 50 most powerful women in India. She has won many awards for her work, and been published in many major newspapers and magazines in India as well as internationally.
 

 

I always try out at least one recipe from the books I review and one recipe in this book that was new to me, was the Assamese Boror Tenga which is a tomato curry with lentil dumplings. This particular Tenga (which is Assamese for a tangy curry) is also known as “Boror Bilahi Tenga” where the “Bora” refers to the dumplings and the “BIlahi” are tomatoes. Traditionally, the dumplings are pan-fried or deep-fried but in this recipe they’re steam cooked for a more healthy approach.

Boror Tenga (Assamese Tomato Curry With Lentil Dumplings)

(Reproduced with permission from Westland)
 

Ingredients:

For the dumplings:

1 cup masoor dal (red split lentils)
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
A pinch of red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt 

For the curry:

3 medium-sized tomatoes
1 tbsp oil (optional)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder 

For the garnish:

1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

 

Method:

Make the dumplings:

Wash the dal (lentils) and soak it in water for an hour. Drain and grind it with the spice powders to a fine consistency. Taste and add salt. Mix well. Shape the paste into tiny dumplings. Put a pan of water to boil.
Meanwhile, place the dumplings in a steamer basket. When the water boils, place the basket over the pan and cover it. Steam them for 5 to 7 minutes, till they’re slightly hard to touch. Do not let them harden too much. Remove the cover and set aside.

Make the curry:

Wash the tomatoes and grind them well. Transfer the tomato purée to a pan and put it over moderate heat. Cook until the tomatoes thicken and remove from heat.
Put a non-stick pan over moderate heat. When hot add the oil (optional). Now add the mustard seeds and let them splutter.
Add the thickened tomato purée and spice powders. Sauté over moderate-low heat till the masala comes away from the sides of the pan.
Pour in 1/4 cup to 1 cup of hot water, depending on the gravy consistency you want. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Add the dumplings and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
Taste and add salt. Remove from heat.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed brown rice or whole wheat chappathis. This recipe serves 3 to 4.


I am giving away the review copy The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style by Anuradha Sawhney to one randomly chosen lucky reader of this blog.
If you would like to try your luck at winning this book, please leave a comment at this post telling me why you would think this cookbook might have a place on your bookshelf and in your kitchen.
Please also leave your mail-id or a link to yourself that I can find easily in case you happen to be the lucky winner. If I have to search and dig around to find you, I will choose an alternate winner for the book.
This giveaway is open only to readers in India. If you live outside India you're welcome to participate so long as you have a shipping address within India.
The giveaway is open till the midnight of 28th of February, 2013.
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February 14, 2013

Pickled Jalapeños, Onions & Carrots & The Winner Of The Giveaway!

I
know I have delayed announcing the winner of the giveaway of a copy of The PondicherryKitchen by Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Louis. This is a lovely cookbook with traditional recipes from Pondicherry cuisine. I'm happy to announce that the lucky winner of the book is Archana Vijay. I’ll be getting in touch with you soon so look out for an e-mail from me.
Now that announced the winner, we’ll get to the other part of this post. If you know me weel, you'll know that I don’t particularly relish shopping, whether it is for clothes, shoes or groceries. The only kind of shopping that I really enjoy is for books, and I’m not sure whether it is the browsing through the books or the actual purchase that makes me happier.


 

I do however enjoy my trips to the local market for our regular quota of vegetables and fruit, especially during this part of the year. There’s an excitement waiting to see what produce has arrived, including those that are not usually available in our markets. Every season seems to bring some new variety of vegetable and fruit. There used to be a time, not so long ago, when I could not dream of buying things like basil, celery, herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage, zucchini, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, leeks, Brussels sprouts, Kiwi fruit, galangal, to mention a few. Nowadays, I take a lot of them for granted because they are easily available though many are still quite expensive because though some of them are grown in India, many are imported.
 
 
 

This year, I have been seeing salad leaves like rocket/ arugula and some kinds of lettuce, and Jalapeños (pronounced hah-lah-PEH-nyoh) ! Lettuce is not something we’re very fond of as despite being vegetarians, Indians rarely eat vegetables raw and eating raw vegetable salads is a recent trend borrowed from elsewhere.

Having blogged food for something like 5 years now, I am able to recognise and identify a lot of food produce that I have never seen before. So when I saw the slightly plump triangular deep green chillies, I recognised them as Jalapeños, and knew I was buying some so long as they didn’t burn a hole in my purse.
For those who are not very familiar with Jalapeños, they are thick skinned and a moderately hot variety of Mexican green chillies (also known as huachinango and chile gordo ) which become “hotter” as they turn colour and become red. A smoked and dried Jalapeño is called “Chipotle”.

 


They get their name from the town where they were initially grown in Mexico, in a town called Xalapa. The ancient Aztecs were supposedly the first to use jalapenos, not for eating but by drying and smoking them!
I understand that Jalapeños cannot be dried because they are so thick and fleshy tthat they will rot before they dry out. They can however be used fresh like most chillies, smoked and dried or pickled by themselves or in combination with other vegetables.
I have reserved some of my Jalapeños so that I can hopefully raise some plants from them. The rest I made into a vinegar based Western style pickle. I don’t usually like vinegary stuff, but I decided to try it this time. It turned out much, much better that I expected and it’s good to serve on the side with Mexican food like Nachos or Tacos, Chinese style food or in sandwiches.



 
This pickle requires very little work and its made in one pan, putting all the ingredients into it! The recipe that follows is a just a guideline of sorts, so feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste. 

Pickled Jalapeños, Onions & Carrots
 

Ingredients:

10 Jalapeños
1 large/ 2 small carrots, sliced into roundels
1 large onion, chopped into 16 pieces
1 1/2” long piece of ginger, sliced thinly
2 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
 3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp honey
Salt to taste
 

Method: 

Put all the ingredients into a non-reactive saucepan (because of the vinegar) and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Turn down the heat and simmer till the Jalapeños have change from deep green to an olive green in colour. Turn the heat off and allow it to cool.
Transfer to a sterile bottle. They will keep for some time refrigerated. This recipe makes one medium size jar of pickles.
 
 
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February 10, 2013

Eggless Chocolate Pots de Crème – An Easy, No-Bake Dessert

I
n my books, it’s almost always a good time for chocolate but if there had to be a season for chocolate then it seems like it would be Valentine’s Day!  As I’ve mentioned on this blog more than quite a few times, I don’t subscribe to the commerce that seems to drive every celebration these days. Get on the internet and every other food site or blog has something strawberry or chocolate or heart shaped to ‘share” with you, and before you know it, you’re thinking about chocolate!

 


Which reminded me that I had a chocolate post waiting to be posted, the Chocolate Pots de Crème I had made a couple of months back. Usually, when I'm irregular with my posts, one of the reasons is that I have some form of blogger's block or a photography block. This time around, I have a a lot of photographs and the raw material for my posts, and its just about sitting down and getting it written up that's not happening. 



 

A Pot de Crème (plural : Pots de Crème) meaning “pot of cream” ( where Crème refers to custard) is a French dessert custard that is a lightly set baked custard  that is softer/ looser than custards like Crème Caramel or Crème Brûlée. Apparently the "traditional" egg to liquid for a Pot de Crème is one whole egg to every five egg yolks for 2 1/2 to 3 cups of liquid!


 

This dessert has its origins somewhere in the 17th century and is made with eggs, egg yolks, cream, milk, and the traditional flavouring was vanilla though chocolate and other flavours are more often used these days.  The Pots de Crème are then baked in a water bath at low heat which allows the egg custard to cook evenly.
 


Pots de Crème also refers to the small lidded pots this dessert is served in. In the 18th century, special cups were made of porcelain to serve the Pots de Crème (dessert). Many of them featured either a single handle and lid or two handles and a lid, and are collectors’ items to day.



 

Whether you eat chocolate for the sake of love or for the love of chocolate, you can’t go wrong with these Pots de Crème. They’re made without eggs, are creamy and intensely chocolate-y. They’re also a little less rich though you wouldn’t know it from the taste, take very little time or effort and are a lovely “make ahead” dessert. Since they don’t contain eggs, they don’t need to be baked and just require less than 10 minutes of cooking on the stove top. 
Eggless Chocolate Pots de Crème
 

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup cream (25% fat)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup finely chopped milk chocolate
1/3 cup dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp corn starch
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
1/4 cup milk

 

Method: 

Put the cream, milk, sugar and salt in a pan, and bring it to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Turn the heat off and add all the chopped chocolate to the milk-cream mixture. Keep stirring till the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is smooth.
Put the pan back on the stove, on medium heat. Mix together the vanilla extract, corn starch and instant coffee powder in 1/4 cup milk and add to the pan while stirring constantly. Turn down the heat a little and keep stirring making sure no lumps form. Once the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of your ladle, take it off the heat.
Let it cool to room temperature. Keep stirring on and off to prevent a skin from forming while it cools. Once cool divide the “custard” equally between 6 cups or “pots”, depending on the serving size you want.
Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with a little whipped cream and crunchy cookies on the side. This recipe serves 6.
 
 
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